The Year in Review
What are the most important buildings, products, or events of 2013 that have ramifications for the future?
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We asked 20 critics and thinkers from around the world to identify the most significant developments from this year. Their intriguing responses illuminate some of the ideas now driving architecture and design.
New Ways of Making
Neri Oxman and her team at MIT (above) deployed 6,500 silkworms to weave a cocoon over a network of digitally placed threads to create the Silk Pavilion (below).
Courtesy Steven Keating
GLENN ADAMSON: BIO-CRAFT
Neri Oxman explores how traditional ways of making can be reinvented for the twenty-first century. This project utilizes an amazing, intuitive combination of an old technology—silkworm cultivation and the creation of textiles through these little creatures—and CNC-controlled fabrication technology. So, it’s not a matter of displacing old techniques; it’s about adding another layer on top of them, like a geological stratum.
Adamson is the Nanette L. Laitman Director of the Museum of Arts & Design.
Illustration by Lief Parsons
STEVE HELLER: THE MAKERS RULE
Entrepreneurship is endemic to designers. They make things, and there are many things, from books to apps, from the quirkiest to the most mainstream, being created by designers who now see ways of marketing them directly to an audience through the Web. Unit Editions in London is on the top of this list. They’re working in books, but with a totally new, designer-driven business plan. And let’s not forget Etsy, making it so easy to make, test, and profit. Designers need more revenue streams. Businesspeople may have a good idea for a product; the designer with the same idea simply will make it happen. The distribution networks have changed as radically as they did a century ago with the establishment of interstate roads and railways. Design entrepreneurship is not new, but it’s more accessible because of technology and the new business models it enables.
Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Design: Design as Author & Entrepreneur program.
The Renzo Piano Building Workshop recently completed a 70,000-square-foot addition to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
Courtesy Nic Lehoux
ROBERT CAMPBELL: HIGH-TECH NOSTALGIA
I was a member of the building committee for the Renzo Piano addition to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the experience got me thinking about a phenomenon I’d call RetroTech: It’s the passionate love affair with the visual and physical intricacy of the products of the Industrial Revolution, as compared to the sleek products of the current digital age. A good example: the watch ads in the New York Times Magazine, each of which looks like a tiny glass museum of the bolts and gears and other gadgetry of a world that is disappearing. Just as Arts & Crafts rebelled against the Industrial Revolution and recalled an earlier time, RetroTech now rebels against the digital age and harks back to the gritty Industrial Revolution.
Campbell is the architecture critic at the Boston Globe.