Monday, June 30, 2008

Heartening Baltimore Design News

*Bruce Mau
"It's not about the world of design. It's about the design of the world."

The Baltimore Sun provides the synopsis below of the meeting last week at the Load of Fun gallery space to investigate the formation of a design collaboration here in Baltimore.
More than 75 architects, educators, planners and others turned out Thursday to attend a public brainstorming session for people who would like to see the formation of a local "design center" or "urban center" for those interested in design issues.

The meeting was sponsored by the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects and others to gauge the level of support for a design center comparable to those in many other cities. Organizers said they were pleased to see that many relatively young architects came to the meeting.

"I believe we have just witnessed a coalescing of emerging design energy in Baltimore and, in part, a generational shift with new blood entering the system," architect Craig Purcell said after the three-hour meeting. The key, he said, "will be to meld the advice and counsel of the elders with the youths who have the passion, sprightliness and get up and go to effect change."

The next steps include identifying a source of funds and a possible location for a design center and determining a shared vision for who would be part of it and what its mission would be. At the end of the meeting, more than 40 people volunteered to spend time working on various task forces to make the project a reality. Another public event likely will be held in the fall.
We were there. Design matters. (See following post if you doubt us.)

*Massive Change is a project by Bruce Mau and the Institute without Boundaries to promote design (urban design, information design, graphic design, new materials) as a tool to create a better future on a global scale. Posters were created to expose the utopian possibilities of design, an exhibition was held in Vancouver in 2004/2005, and a book was produced by Mau and Jennifer Leonard to explore the future role of design and its potential.

Baltimore: A Design City to Watch

Ed Gunts of the Baltimore Sun reports that Baltimore almost made the Top Ten list of great design cities. Honest. But for its lack of planned sustainable architecture and the absence of mass transit, we coulda-been-a-contenda. Here's the article on the research that was completed. A pity quote:

"Good design makes better communities by boosting the economy, creating jobs and, particularly today, sponsoring environmental strategies," said Peter Schubert, design director of RMJM Hillier. "We conducted this study to see which cities are the most forward-thinking in their planning and development strategies and to applaud those that are doing it right."
Baltimore was designated a "city to watch."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Astonishing news.

In less that seven years, Mercedes says it will eliminate all petroleum-fuel engines for the Mercedes line of vehicles!

Friday, June 27, 2008

DIY Project!

YOU can make this! Here are the instructions. Yes, yes, they are in Dutch, but the photos are so clear you get the drift. Grab the glue gun. Do it!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Recycling Meets Design

This cube of 3.5 meters was produced by means of the mechanical union of 166 recycled stainless steel sink basins. The idea was to create a space on the beach in direct contact with the sun that acts as a solar filter, projecting rays through the orifices of the sinks into the interior of the cube, creating light that changes direction depending on the moment of the day. It was created by Spanish artist collective trashformaciones .

The mission of trashformaciones is the creation of artistic actions and installations from recycled objects. Seeing their work, we would say mission accomplished, again and again. A visit to their site reveals what they can do with a bath tub, in a city park, too.

The International Creative Recycling Festival, sponsored by Barcelona's Center for Contemporary Culture (CCCB), was the landing spot for the sink installation. The 2008 Festival will be held 16 December - 21 December. Be there or be trashed.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

30 Buck Bike

English product design student, Phil Bridge, has created a cardboard bike! Accessible to just about everyone who needs one. A cool solution for a quick trip to the store or a ride in the park. How do we get one? Like Phil, we have to wait for a sponsor to help him mass produce it.

This is the bike no one will steal. Though, I guess a foul-spirited, hooligan could set the thing on fire. We'll take our chances. We want one!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The New Trophy House. Green?

An environmentally friendly, LEED-certified home in
Venice, Calif., designed by Melinda Gray, an architect.

The New York Times offered the idea that a green house is the new trophy home. It is a good review of the state of green home building in the United States. They suggest that "green homes are a new arena for LEED ratings, environmental badges of honor usually given to commercial buildings."
While other ratings are widely recognized, like the federal Energy Star for appliances, the LEED brand stands apart because of its four-level rankings — certified, silver, gold and platinum — and third-party verification. So far this year, 10,250 new home projects have registered for the council’s consideration, compared with 3,100 in 2006, the first year of the pilot home-rating system. Custom-built homes dominate the first batch of certified dwellings. Today, dinner-party bragging rights are likely to include: “Let me tell you about my tankless hot water heater.” Or “what’s the R value of your insulation?”
As a firm committed to green building, we sort of long for the day when certification will be irrelevant, that architects will simply build green because they should. The article is helpful in providing an overall picture of what green means. We noticed, too, that in the "Comment" section a green battle rages!

Architecture of Authority

Metropolitan Police, Holding Room, London

This book, The Architecture of Authority, by photographer, Richard Ross, has been exploding around the design world for a few months now. It is such a powerful book that we thought we would like to memorialize it here for our readers. Just in case you missed it.

With photographs ranging from the United Nations Assembly Hall to the segregation chambers at Guantanamo, Cuba, we see, in the words of a Los Angeles Times reviewer, "...stripped down hard-edged rooms designed to facilitate systems rather then individuals, places where power is exercised and suffered." Ross' work forces the viewer to ask serious questions about the dark side of architecture.

Energy Fields - The Movie

And you thought there was just a sleepy old space around your days. The physicists at Berkley have been modeling magnetic fields. Using 3D Computer Generated Graphics (CGI), they have designed a wild world, the one we live in, the fields we live in daily. This is not a film showing actual energy fields, but CGI models of energy fields as they exist all around us. The secret lives of invisible energy are revealed as chaotic every-changing geometries. They are a design inspiration.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

An Eye on Design.

A public forum is scheduled for June 26 to gauge interest in the creation of a design center in Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun looks at the issues in this article. A design center would be more than the customary showcase for interior products and furniture. The idea is to create a place where design ideas can be generated to raise the quality of architectural design and urban planning.

We are continually astonished by the lack of direction and care given to the planning and design of the city. This forum looks like a good place to address these issues. The forum will be at Load of Fun studios, 120 W. North Ave. Be there or be continually bereft.

A Mighty Mower

It isn't our wish to promote products on this blog...however, our leader, Rob Brennan, bought one of these babies above. His purchase was inspired by a torn rotator cuff (see Illustration A below) in his shoulder. One more summer of pulling the gasoline engine cord to start the lawn mower was not going to happen. The solution to preventing bodily and environmental harm caused by the gasoline engine was the Neuton Power Mower. You can find it here.

Illustration A

There is a rumor that Rob Brennan has mowed his lawn every night this week with his new Neuton. Neuton is the only battery powered mower in America. So if you have to mow, and you:
1. want to save energy;
2. don't want to contribute to the pollution of the gasoline engine;
3. don't want to chance cutting an electrical cord with an electric plug-in mower;
4. and, you value peace and quiet, this is your weapon.
Rob's generous yard was mowed with battery power to spare. The hardest part about using the Neuton is stopping frequently to answer the questions of your curious neighbors. It is a great little, environmentally smart product. To start the engine you simply squeeze the handlebar and it starts humming. And, yes, Rob's shoulder is much better.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What a water feature!

The MIT-designed building with walls made completely of water is opening at the Zaragoza World Expo in Spain.

"The design for the water pavilion grew out of a central challenge: How to make fluid, reconfigurable architecture?" said Carlo Ratti, head of MIT's SENSEable City Laboratory. "Our building aims to stand as a possible answer to this endeavor."

The bar just got higher.

The No Dig Garden

The Los Angeles Times features an article on Pat Marfisi and his no dig garden. The no dig garden offers a dramatic reduction in the need for water and labor. You can find the article here. Comments by Marfisi, photos of the garden and specific directions for creating your no dig option are included.

Veteran gardeners will say that the greatest amount of work in creating a successful vegetable garden goes into soil preparation. One of the best things about this sustainable alternative: You don't have to break your back digging and pulling roots.

"It's a wonderful movement," says landscape designer and garden writer Rosalind Creasy, author of "The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping." "So many gardeners presume you have to start with a rototiller. That only destroys the soil structure and burns the organic matter."

Links to publications detailing the process are footnoted at the end of the article. Marfisi is a member of WWOOFer, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. He learned his skill working on an organic farm in Australia as a volunteer. Hmm. What are your vacation plans this year?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Working with Filth

Paul "Moose" Curtis is dedicated to cleaning up our mess. He makes graffiti with a pressure washer and stencils. He draws in grime, soot and dust. The effect is pretty wonderful; a beautiful work of art while at the same time making a clear statement about our impact on the environment. If art's role is to help us see things, Moose does it on multiple levels.

LINK: The man who shot this video, David Pray, also shot the movie "Scratch." Here is the trailer for any vinyl vultures who may be passing through. Big hit at Sundance in 2001. Still great, hilarious. Netflix here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Building Buildings

Build Buildings is Ben Tweel, musician, scientist, philologist. Ben was born in Columbus, OH and now lives in New York City. As Build Buildings, Ben makes music with computers, instruments, household noises and records. We appreciate Ben's use of building sounds in his compositions. We have posted before about the "sounds" of architecture. Ben incorporates them and we like his good sense. His album, available on his website, could be a must have for design-sensitives.

Ben Tweel has created a cycle of songs without vocals that may well be worthy of your attention. Using rhythms painstakingly assembled from household sounds, customised drum patches and random intrusions, he creates music to accompany the slow accumulation of dust in corners, the passage of clouds across windows and the gentle exertions of the coffeemaker working away in the kitchen. The way Tweel's music accepts the proliferation of such tiny moments without complaint or comment should make it recommended listening... - Wire Magazine

Architecture and Media

We know that blogs are more about a quick touch down, a quick read. But this presentation by New York's WYNC, the NPR radio station on their June 1, Sunday Morning "On Media" show featured discussions about space, as in, interior and exterior. We were especially interested in "Building Hype." It offers a critique on the role of renderings in the architectural process. Check it out. It is so rare to find on-air media devoted to space and architecture!

Architecture of Hair

We just couldn't resist this photo of Erykah Badu's palatial doo. It's a penthouse! A whole block of row houses! It's major real estate! We love it!

UPDATE: Badu fans the Vortex Tour has opened to raves.

Gastronomic Landscape

Follow this link to some delightful and graphically fabulous photos. The French are playing with their food! Such a "non-non."

Friday, June 6, 2008

Preserving the Modern

We tend not to want to shill for commercial products, but this new offering from Moleskine seems too compelling. The Glass House sketch book features 29 sketches by various architects, designers and artists inspired by the Philip Johnson Glass House site. It includes relevant quotes by Philip Johnson and many blank pages for your notes and sketches.

The legendary Moleskine was effectively abandoned in 1986 by its last manufacturer. But, in 1998 a small Milanese (thank you, again, Italy!) publisher brought these books back for writers, designers, travelers and, as the brand declares, "all free-thinkers around the globe."

We can't live without ours. Not sure if we will like one that is interspersed with graphics, but maybe further inspiration will flow from the offerings. Philip Johnson, wherever you are, we raise our glass, so to speak. Cheers!

BTW: ALL the tickets for 2008 tours of The Glass House...are sold out.