The Letter Writing Project

Lee Mingwei's "Letter-Writing Project," an interactive installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art, encouraged visitors to stop, sit or kneel and write "the letters they have always intended to write but have put off with excuses." Missives were left on the rungs of its translucent walls; addressed letters were collected and mailed, while letters to the dead were burned by the artist. Underlying these actions is the Buddhist notion of transforming an everyday act into a ritual. 

A sense of quiet was a critical factor in suggesting that visitors take a private moment in a public place, and the quality of the concept's execution, by New York architect Stephan Freid, carved a psychological space conducive to composing personal thoughts out of the surrounding bustle. 

The apparent simplicity of the space came from the architect's handling of scale, proportion, materials, illumination, texture and tactility, which the jurors found meticulously rendered. "There's a modesty to this project that I find admirable, both in concept and execution," declared Harpman.

The New York Times

Holly Block, the executive director of Art in General, a nonprofit arts organization in TriBeCa, did her renovation on an even smaller budget. She and her architect, Stephan Freid of Manhattan, tore down the wall enclosing the 8-by-11-foot kitchen in her one-bedroom 
co-op in Chinatown, exposing views of the Empire State Building and the Queensboro Bridge through the living room's north-facing windows.
Ms. Block discarded the brown appliances in the old kitchen in favor of a stainless steel Premier Pro stove ($795) and a Frigidaire refrigerator ($525) and dishwasher ($349). 
For the main prep counter, she refurbished a granite-top sideboard, painting the wood white and raising the counter to a more comfortable height with a new base. On the side facing the living room, the unit has white-painted cedar panels — a touch of eastern Long Island, where she spends much of the summer.
She spent extra on the custom woodwork: white-painted cabinets ($2,865) and a poplar bar ($750). "I've had Ikea cabinets, which lasted five years," she said, "and I wanted something longer-lasting."
The rest of the kitchen looks custom-made as well, largely because of a single attention-getting architectural gesture: a curving strip of 
stainless steel ($300, including installation) that Mr. Freid created to define the cooking area and to serve as a smoke barrier. The whole renovation cost $9,000, including labor.

The New York Times

The indoor mineral salt pool is heated with geothermal and solar energy. Manicures and pedicures can be done poolside.

“The people who work at Buttermilk describe the property — a 70-acre farm with two ponds filled with ducks and geese and landscaped with pear, cherry, peach and apple trees as well as opulent flower and herb gardens — as “ ‘Dirty Dancing’ meets ‘Jurassic Park.’ ”

A 10-room inn built in 1680, where prices range from $225 to $425 a night (separate and much more spacious carriage houses range from $325 to $650 a night), Buttermilk opened nine years ago and had a small, cramped spa in one of the cottages with tiny treatment rooms separated by screens. But last year the owner, Robert Pollock, who also owns the Great Jones Spa in Manhattan, built the new solar-powered spa.

The spa, which is open to people who are not guests at the inn, is spare and sleek and has seven treatment rooms and a small steam and sauna room. Mr. Pollock said he was planning to bring yoga and a gym to Buttermilk, and possibly dinner and cooking classes. A 60-minute deep-tissue massage or a basic facial costs $100.

For those looking for a fitness vacation, Buttermilk would not deliver, though there are some running trails on the property and plenty of biking, kayaking and other outdoor recreation in the Hudson Valley.

Included in the cost of lodging is breakfast, made with eggs from the chicken coop and fruits and vegetables from the organic garden, and afternoon tea, but the inn does not serve dinner. There are several restaurants in New Paltz and on the Newburgh waterfront, about a 20-minute drive, and the four restaurants of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, about 25 minutes away, which are closed the first three weeks of July and between Christmas and New Year’s.