Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cleaning Up Detroit One Orange Object at a Time

Metropolis Magazine discusses Detroit's confrontation with its deterioration here. A group of former Cranbrook Academy of Art students, appalled by the number of deteriorated houses in the city, formed Object Orange. They painted the dangerous and dilapidated houses orange so that they could be exposed and dealt with. Both things happened. The houses they painted orange were clearly seen and shortly demolished, one may assume from embarrassment, by the city.

“At this point in Detroit there are so many abandoned spaces,” says Christian, a New Jersey native who recently began teaching at a university in Colorado. “Living around these neighborhoods and experiencing the product of the blight and seeing what happens to the children and the landscape, we’re just kind of questioning it and saying, ‘Why is nothing done? Why is this happening?’”
There also seems to be a whiff of art object to us. Art and social action? Art as protest?
If nothing else Object Orange has produced a new typology for site-specific art installations: art as a possible agent of demolition. “I tell my students that if you’re in Detroit you don’t need a studio,” Christian says. “The city is one big studio.”
We like their attitude.

Blu Dot Goes Undercover with Real Good Chair

On November 4-5, 25 Real Good Chairs were dropped around NYC, free for the take. Many were GPS-enabled. Watch the film to see what happened. It is a little lengthy (that is, longer than :30), but more fun than numerous "action" films we've seen lately. This is a great example of "gorilla advertising."

Small House Flickr Slide Show

As we step across the dividing line between this year and next, let us celebrate the small, the reasonable, the wee.

via Small House Style

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Reason to Celebrate

This evokes the all-embracing spirit of the holiday. Thanks, again, to TED.

Thought for the Holiday.

"I have about reached the conclusion that, while large industry is important, fresh air and clean water are more important, and the day may well come when we have to lay that kind of hand on the table and see who is bluffing." Barry M. Goldwater

Monday, December 21, 2009

Social Media and Its Unnerving Creepy Facts.

There is no going back.

What to do with Empty Space in Depressed Areas of a City?

(The pitch starts at :58)

RIBA Guerrilla Tactics 2009: Space Invaders Live Pitch

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is striving to address many of the same urban issues we struggle with here in the United States. At each year's annual meeting, a problem is posed for a "Guerrilla" (cheap, under the radar) solution.

How would you propose to use abandoned space?

This year's Guerrilla Tactics Live Pitch was titled Space Invaders and was designed to respond to the Arts Council "Art in Empty Spaces" movement that is rolling across the country. Piercy Connor Architects went up against Feix and Merlin to pitch their solutions in front of a panel of industry experts, architectural peers and clients. Not an easy crowd. The moderator's comment at the end, made to the winning team was a gentle, whack in the face of designer illusions.

Most Puzzeling Patents of 2009

(Click image to enlarge)

Creative minds flock to the U.S. Patent Office to assure that their ingenious idea is not ripped from their hands by someone who beat them to it. Designer extraordinaire, Paula Sher, has taken this year's most thought provoking submissions and created a jovial graphic to represent them. Click on the chart above. It will pop-out to set your mind humming with new thoughts, inventions, bright ideas you have been meaning to get to and all manner of folly. Note the categories that border the panel. Click!

Pentagram Pulls Back the Curtain, a Little.

Wallpaper, the magazine of design cognoscenti (and a few poseurs!), has just published the Pentagram holiday cards that have been mailed to a select design community since 1974. Pentagram, founded in London, and now with offices around the planet is one of the most prestigious design firms in the world. Wallpaper explains:

Each Christmas, Pentagram designs and publishes a small book and sends it to a very select group. Intended to provide diversions during what, for many, can be a hectic period, the booklets traditionally avoid any direct reference to the festive season, adopting a strong graphic vocabulary, setting them apart from the myriad of cards received at this time of year. Since John McConnell's first design in 1974, they've grown to become a cult collectors' item.

In the spirit of goodwill, Pentagram opened their archives for us so we could celebrate the history of their unique way of celebrating Christmas, without any tinsel or fairy lights in sight. Which is just how we like it.

Its hard not to like Pentagram, although, envy does get in the way.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Landscape Wonder from Norway's NRK

In honor of our little mashup of snow and ice here in Baltimore, we thought we'd post this gorgeous video. It is just ten minutes of a train ride through Norway, the place where snow really falls. The original was 7 1/2 HOURS long. It aired in Norway on November 27. It was watched, beginning to end, by 1.2 million Norwegians, one-quarter of the population.

The full length video shows every minute of the scenic train ride between Bergen on the Norwegian west coast, crossing the mountains to the capital of Oslo. You can download the entire video here. The NRK has also thrown open the door to the creative world. Designers and videographers are invited to edit it, remix it, share it, cut it, color it, digitize it. Whatever. (The Creative Commons license applies.)

The full-length video was a wild idea by the staff at NRK, the state run Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. The wild idea turned out to be a wild success. Besides the size of the viewing audience, there were over 1,500 tweets (and still growing) posted (#bergensbanen). From our perspective, it seems like a orgy of landscape devotion. The NRK deserves some praise. That they invited people to simply observe the landscape of their country was a daring notion and a wonderful gift. No spectacle. No drama. No screaming, talking heads. Just the natural world.

Let it snow!

Here's the situation in Baltimore today: the Blizzard of 2009. We like how snow rounds things and softens the world. Too, noise pollution disappears. There is just the wonderful, white, quiet. If only we could wrap the city in the equivalent of insulation noise control batts year-round!

If you like a slew of wonderful images for inspiration or just for feasting, we recommend a leisurely cruise on the blog "Feasting Never Stops."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Unchop a Tree - Maya Lin, "What is Missing?"

Maya Lin - Unchopping A Tree from Unchop A Tree on Vimeo.

Maya Lin, from her groundbreaking project "What is Missing?," provides a moving video on the shocking effects of deforestation. Imagine: the equivalent of Central Park is destroyed in 9 minutes. Don't miss the unchopping at the end! rebmiT!!

Dirty Ugly Design - The Decade of

(From left) Cover of Steve Heller and Mirko Ilic’s book Handwritten (2006);
and Jon Gray’s book jacket design for Everything Is Illuminated (2002)

Jonny Hannah’s hand-drawn lettering for the Starbucks Birmingham International
Jazz Festival 2005 (left) and the book Telling Tales (2004).

Steven Heller Speaks
Steven Heller of the School of Visual Arts In NYC makes the argument that graphics of the 90s were driven by the concept of "dirty design." It is an interesting and, by any measure of the comments section, a controversial point of view.

Apple, Target and Ikea, Too
We tend to think it is an oversimplification of the graphics for the age of George W. Bush, especially considering the potent graphics of Apple, Target and Ikea . But, the "dirty" style was a breath of fresh air in the midst of tight, conservative memes that predominated the decade.

Praise to it all.

I.D Magazine Folds!

ID Magazine, America's foremost design magazine, has devastated the design world by announcing it is ceasing publication. The bible of the design cognoscenti is gone. Awful news.

Citing the dramatic drop in advertisers and the rise of unique, segmented web resources, some free of charge, the magazine announced its closing---the day after "Employee Appreciation Day."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Design and Web 2.0 Distractions

"We can't see the garden."

The Washington Post offers a critique of the PDA / laptop world. This one has great meaning for designers. This trend portends the demise of awareness of one's surroundings as a consequence of spending oodles of time with one's head down reading the latest on a Blackberry, iPhone, and all manner of gadgets and apps. Robert Harrison, professor of Italian Literature at Stanford offered this nugget:

The difficulty, Harrison argues, is that we are losing something profoundly human, the capacity to connect deeply to our environments.

Landscape designers talk about bestowing on a garden its genius loci, or spirit of the place, that bubbles up into your consciousness if its presence is strong enough and the visitor meditative enough to receive it.

Harrison says a garden truly reveals itself only when its own depths and those of the beholder flow together. But that takes time. "For the gardens to become fully visible in space, they require a temporal horizon that the age makes less and less room for."

Designers, architects, take note: the "cloaking device."
"Most of the groves, courtyards, gardens, fountains, artworks, open spaces and architectural complexes have disappeared behind a cloaking device, it would seem," he writes in his book "Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition."
What will it take to bring us back to our context? Or, how will our environments change in order to elicit interactions and bestow a sense of place? Or, what will become of our relationship to the constructed world? Only questions, it seems.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Architectural Freedom Compromised by Swiss

Minarets Banned
The Washington Post reported that in a referendum last month, 57.5 percent of Switzerland's voting citizens endorsed adoption of a law banning minarets, and only minarets, the often elegant towers attached to mosques throughout the Islamic world.

University of Maryland Architect Responds
Roger K. Lewis, a practicing architect and a professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland, offers this reasonable thought in his recent blistering rebuke of the Swiss in the Washington Post:

During this holiday season of glad tidings and goodwill, perhaps the Swiss will reconsider their reactionary vote. Rather than outlawing minarets, a fundamental component of mosque architecture, the Swiss should do the right thing: ensure that a mosque and its minaret comply with the same laws and standards as churches and other buildings serving citizens of the community.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Font Favorite

When the Salahi's crashed the State dinner, they not only created Washington's newest verb, to be "Salahi'd," it looks like we have a new typeface as well. Sorry, we couldn't resist. Politico article.

Give me an "S!" Give me an "A!" Give me an "L!" Give me an "A", "H," "I!" What did we spell?!

Pursuit of Happiness

Click to enlarge image

A terrific photo essay by Maira Kalman, who blogs once a month for the New York Times. The subject, Back to the Land, was a Thanksgiving reflection for her NYT blog "And the Pursuit of Happiness." We won't elaborate, but the innovative design graphic with text is a breath of fresh air. And, Alice Waters and democracy get involved.
"The United State of America could be less fastly, fastly and more slowly, slowly."
As far as moving back to the land, a theme in Kalman's essay, we are urbanists. We suggest: Stay in the city. Make your home greener; spend more on real food; enjoy life where you are. Others may differ.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Advice to a Young Architect

The brilliant and somewhat adorable, Ma Yansong, 34 year old Chinese architect of renown, and founder of MAD architects, was recently interviewed by DesignBoom. Ma's career is nothing but remarkable. Trained by Yale and Zaha Hadid, he seems to be creating the future with each new, amazing structure. When asked what advice he would give to young architects, he responded:

Don't hesitate.
Make a decision fast. Follow the first 5 seconds instinct.
If you think you need to compare and you hesitate,
then it must be a wrong decision. As in your life one
decision comes after the other and if you realize you do
something wrong, you know it is because of a previous
decision, which was a mistake. I think everyone should
follow their heart. Robert Stern, the Dean of the Arts and
Architecture at Yale says this to all the students on their
graduation day : 'You should forget everything you learned
from school and start on your own. No matter who said
what, you should believe only in yourself'.
We thought this suggestion that one have faith in one's instinctual response was particularly good advice in these cautious times. This "5 seconds instinct" taoism-like exhortation, could also reflect the kind of twitter-world we live in. However, judging from Ma's work, he is at the peak of his some fabulous 5-second increments. We are passing his advice along, on an impulse.

How Not to Take on Climate Change Deniers

His first words are, "Perhaps I ought not to have accepted the invitation." Gregory Norminton tells the story of appearing at The University of St. Andrews in England to debate climate change. As he explains, his confrontation with the opposition's distortion of known facts turned him into "a bug-eyed fanatic," a mirror image of his foes. We, too, recently confronted a denier at a local meeting and felt the same kind of extreme frustration. What to do? Mr. Norminton speaks:

I can now offer the following hard-won tips for anyone considering debating climate change deniers:

  1. Don’t.
  2. If you must, consider ingesting some form of tranquiliser.
  3. Study the stagecraft of Bernard Manning.
  4. Be up-to-date: know your Aristotle!
  5. No matter the provocation, avoid Nazi analogies like the plague.
  6. Bring plenty of friends.
  7. Just don’t.
Not hopeful.