Wi-Fi Wonderland: A Guide to Smart Home Holiday Decorations
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Wi-Fi Wonderland: A Guide to Smart Home Holiday Decorations

Surround yourself with colourful, connected cheer

By John Eliot
Tue, Dec 8, 2020 3:51amGrey Clock 2 min

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—when you get the opportunity to outfit your home in all manner of illuminated goodness.

Whether you’re a fan of bold decorations or understated elegance, classic or contemporary styles, smart home technology can help you achieve the look—and manage it—with ease.

Below, a few options for high-tech holiday cheer.

Twinkly

Perhaps the name in connected Christmas lighting, Twinkly offers multi-color LED lighting options in a variety of forms—strings, icicles, curtains, clusters—all with clever and convenient smart technology. In addition to providing a palette of over 16 million colours, Twinkly makes it simple for users to get the exact look they want. In addition to offering voice control via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, Twinkly’s user-friendly app allows owners to program the colours they want down to the exact bulb—even letting them draw and customize the light scheme they desire by tracing with their finger. And if you’re not feeling particularly creative, no worries. Twinkly has a suite of pre-programmed lighting effects and animations that can be simply selected via the app or voice command. And, of course, as you would want from any holiday light, Twinkly lights are IP44-rated weatherproof, making them ideal for indoor or outdoor use.

Twinkly multicolour LEDs range from approx. $70 to $263, depending on size and configuration.

AtmosKIT Plus (M1)

Multicolour LEDs aren’t your only opportunity to play with light and magic this holiday season. The AtmosKIT Plus is a ViewSonic M1 short-throw projector that can quickly and easily drape your home in cinematic digital decorations. The endlessly portable projector, which weighs under two pounds and features a built-in, 360-degree smart stand, is capable of projecting on to surfaces 40 to over 100 inches away—and comes with 12 holiday decoration projections, with hundreds more available for download from AtmosFX.com. Or you can find and create your own. The AtmosKIT is able to wirelessly mirror and project anything you can play on an iOS or Android device, meaning you can loop snowflakes falling on your window, or play the entirety of “It’s a Wonderful Life” on your wall.

The AtmosKIT Plus (M1) is available for approx. $448.

Meross Smart WiFi Indoor/Outdoor Plug

The holiday season is all about traditions and perhaps you have some decorations which you use every year; maybe they’ve even been passed across generations. Well, never fear—you, too, can take advantage of smart technology. The Meross Smart WiFi is a dual port, indoor/outdoor plug that works with Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and can easily handle any of the weather conditions that mark the holiday season in colder climates. In addition to offering users voice control, app control and the ability to schedule when to power on and power off devices, the Meross lets you control each outlet independently—meaning you can power your decorations together, or decide to alternate between various holiday cheer scenes.

The Meross Smart WiFi Indoor/Outdoor Plug is available for around $40.



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I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”