Point of View

January 2011

Wanna Buy Some High-Speed Rail?

01/31/11

Wanna Buy Some High-Speed Rail?

The writer argues for a sustainability movement that creates an image of hope and possibility, but also does not shy away from the urgency and moral imperative of our dilemma.

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Touching Light

01/28/11

Touching Light

Spanish lighting designer Arturo Alvarez experiments with materiality in new objects.

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Javier Mariscal for Kids

01/28/11

Javier Mariscal for Kids

The celebrated Spanish designer's first retrospective geared toward children.

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A Very San Franciscan Transit Center

01/27/11

A Very San Franciscan Transit Center

The new Transbay Transit Center offers a wide range of possibilities to California transit while integrating sustainable features.

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Science and Design

01/25/11

Science and Design

Nature should inspire design on a deeper level than merely aesthetics

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Letter from Ecuador

01/24/11

Letter from Ecuador

Although vernacular architecture is more suitable to specific environments, it is often overlooked for mass-produced alternatives.

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Behind the Scenes

01/21/11

Behind the Scenes

Experiencing historic spaces, and sometimes just gaining access to them, can be a journey itself.

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A Postscript

01/20/11

A Postscript

In our January 2011 issue, we featured just a few of the works included in Postcards of the Wiener Werkstätte, a recent exhibition at the Neue Galerie of about 500 postcards from the Leonard A. Lauder collection. If you missed the show, which closed a few days ago, take heart: the curator Christian Witt-Dörring has edited the museum’s visual feast down to a digestible bite of six postcards. Here he presents his personal favorites and explains what makes them special. Postcard n° 540 Meat Market: Old Roofs (1911) by Adalberta Kiesewetter The topic of this postcard is the unspectacular or, to put it another way, the familiar. It tries to capture the atmosphere of the fast disappearing old city of Vienna around 1910. Nostalgia embraces contemporary artistic expression—the...

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The Marine Stadium's Makeover

01/19/11

The Marine Stadium's Makeover

Since we last heard from them two years ago, the Friends of Miami Marine Stadium have been making slow but steady progress.  In 2009, the volunteer group was still fighting to get local and national support for preserving this remarkable building on Miami’s Virginia Key Island. Since then, they’ve achieved something of a turnaround, with a new design proposal, partial funding, and most importantly, full commitment from Miami’s mayor Tomas Regalado. Their web site shows an optimistic visualization of the stadium’s glorious re-opening in December 2012 – flashing lights, boats on the water, and fireworks in the sky. The city administration was the original bad guy in this story. The Marine stadium was designed in 1963 by Hilario Candela, and it was a very popular venue –...

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Why We Look at Architecture

01/18/11

Why We Look at Architecture

The Broad Art Foundation with its parametric concrete “veil”.  Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro "It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible."  -- Oscar Wilde I’m drawn to John Berger’s essay “Why Look at Animals” for many reasons but primarily because it takes something obvious and turns it inside-out to reveal dimensions that were completely unexpected. The way he describes our cultural and personal engagement with animals got me thinking about how we look at architecture and why we look at it. What are we trying to see there? And is there a there there? Architecture, like animals, multiplies through imagery and narrative to occupy a position in culture that makes it over-exposed. What Berger...

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Defining Roles

01/17/11

Defining Roles

Those of us who watch the architecture and interior design professions from the sidelines can’t help but feel that we’re witnessing a squabble between a brother and a sister. Perhaps their contentious history can be attributed to growing pains, or it may be a result of poor definitions. After all, the skills necessary to design and erect a memorable building, are very different in scale and intent from making it delightfully habitable and functional. The current president of IFI, the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers, Shashi Caan, thinks it’s a matter of definition. So, this woman of action who, by the way, is trained as an architect and industrial designer and has a stellar career in interior architecture and design, has decided to make the global...

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Construction Toys Make Better Boys

01/14/11

Construction Toys Make Better Boys

Every year the National Building Museum in Washington, DC offers one accomplished researcher the opportunity to study its full collection in order to expand  the practitioner’s work while he or she learns more about the collection. So I was pleased to have been selected as the 2010 Field Fellow, and am examining thousands of building and architectural toys in their impressive collection.  This fellowship has also given me time to observe the many ways that experts and non-experts influence one another when building with Legos, the subject of the current exhibit. And to feed my academic interests, I have been reading hundreds of archival documents like manuals for building toy kits, research on pattern recognition in the military, and rapid spatial cognition. In my own work, over...

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Adventurous Student Work

01/13/11

Adventurous Student Work

Trawler jig, Silvertown Ship Breaking Yard, by Jonathan Schofield. It’s brilliant, even breath-taking at times – the current exhibition of the best students’ work at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London. RIBA, the self-proclaimed “oldest and most influential architectural institution in the world,” has been awarding its President’s Medals, commendations, and cash to the most talented students since the 1850s. Can there have been a more impressive year than the one just past? As a recently graduated architecture student myself, I came away from the exhibition with one overriding feeling: awe. Portfolios are also on shown this year, so you can see just how much quality work a student has produced, sometimes in just one semester.  As if that were not enough,...

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Elephants in the Classroom

01/07/11

Elephants in the Classroom

Some design concepts never stop making sense. Elephants are always an extraordinarily good fit for children’s products – they are large, kind-hearted creatures, with just the right eccentric features to make them instantly loveable. And for Indian and Nepali children, elephants are omnipresent in their mythology and folktales, where they have a much deeper cultural significance, not just as playful companions but also as models of good behavior. So Stephen Pennington seems to have hit upon just the right idea for his Elephant Walk Desk, a classroom furniture solution that has just been selected as a finalist in the INDEX: Design Challenge 2010. The challenge, developed by Dutch non-profit INDEX and UNICEF, invited students to send in concepts for education in developing...

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Designing to Heal: Luxury Healthcare

01/07/11

Designing to Heal: Luxury Healthcare

Where can one find world class doctors, highly customized medical plans, a five star spa, health club, and restaurant? The Chaum Center, in Seoul, Korea, designed by KMD architects, combines all these things in an attempt to transform health care. Housed in a futuristic building with lavish amenities and design elements, the Chaum Center is certainly a far cry from your average drab hospital building. KMDs intention: to create an inspiring space that fosters relaxation. Here, futuristic elements, like the examination pods mimicking cell structures, continuous walls that snake through the interior, as well as the use of sleek materials, create a luxurious aesthetic. Dr Kwang Yul Cha, founder of the Chaum center, believes it is this aesthetic, combined with innovative medical...

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The Farnsworth's Sustainable Descendant

01/06/11

The Farnsworth's Sustainable Descendant

The Lumenhaus in Chicago. VirginiaTech’s Lumenhaus – the solar-powered house that won the International Solar Decathlon in June 2010 – is now biding its time in a cornfield. Before you think that’s a step down from the South Promenade of Chicago’s Millenium Park – where it was proudly displayed in conjunction with the GreenBuild Convention in November – you should know that the cornfield is on the grounds of Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois. The Lumenhaus is the cutting edge of sustainable home design, using several advanced systems to generate and conserve energy. But as its name suggests, the basis of its design concept is the optimal use of light. The Farnsworth House was in fact its architectural inspiration, providing the template of...

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Places that Work: Art Gallery in Christchurch

01/05/11

Places that Work: Art Gallery in Christchurch

Courtesy of The Buchan Group. Photographer: Murray Hedwig At the Christchurch Art Gallery in New Zealand, you can observe how the building’s   design connects to the natural environment that surrounds it, as well as its cultural ties to the town after which it’s named. The shimmering, undulating glass façade is reminiscent of the ripples in the winding River Avon which has become a symbol of the old, as well as the new settlements. Punting along it is a well-established Christchurch pastime, now made a little glitzier for tourists (tourism being New Zealand’s largest industry).  To David Cole, the design architect and director of the Buchan Group, the link between the building and the Avon are not accidental. He says the “glowing glass and metal sculpture wall is intended...

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A Philatelic History of Design

01/04/11

A Philatelic History of Design

We can thank the United States Postal Service’s art director Derry Noyes for once again putting some design history on our mail. After the Masterworks of Modern Architecture stamps in 2005 and celebrating Charles + Ray Eames in 2008, its time for the golden age of American industrial design to get some philatelic love. The new issue is a set of 12 stamps featuring iconic products designed by some of the “nation’s most important and influential industrial designers.” The focus is on the years after the Great Depression in 1929, when the economy pulled itself up by the bootstraps, and Americans looked to industrial designers for a new vision of their future. The designers of the era that gave us not just streamlining and chrome plating, but also design management and human...

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Lost Generation

01/03/11

Lost Generation

An upbeat article in a 2008 architectural magazine featured chirpy stories of enterprising young architects who, unable to find positions in their chosen profession turned to alternative professions.  Now, twenty months on, it’s doubtful they’ll ever come back. Many economists predict a slow, plodding recovery beginning in the third quarter of 2011. Others are less sanguine. In either case, the durability of the present recession will elongate the period in which young graduate architects leave the profession and inevitably reduce the number of young people choosing an architectural education in the first place. One has to ask, how will this influence the practice of architecture? The breathtaking rapidity of the 2008 economic deceleration and the collapse of credit distinguish it...

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