Point of View

May 2012

Inside the Design Mind

05/31/12

Inside the Design Mind

Heroic. Contemplative. Grieving. Victorious. The rebirth of the former World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan has engendered significant public reaction and reflection. With implications as complex as they are profound, it is not surprising that it has taken more than a decade to heal the urban scars of September 11, 2001. I had the rare opportunity to sit down with three architects working on the site, Santiago Calatrava, David Childs, and Daniel Libeskind, at the recent AIA Convention in Washington DC, where they were honored along with four others, as “Architects of Healing”.  We discussed their experience of reshaping one of the most culturally significant sites in the history of the United States. With this interview we begin a series of conversations, “Inside the...

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Science for Designers: Scaling and Fractals

05/28/12

Science for Designers: Scaling and Fractals

Patterns of growth in nature are also prevalent and important in good design.

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Lab Report: XXIX

05/25/12

Lab Report: XXIX

Last week we explored different energy efficient, cost-efficient, and resource-conscientious approaches to architecture and construction. This week, we continue the conversation with ITAC director, professor Ryan E. Smith. Let’s begin by examining the architect’s role in society. Too often they are seen as people who produce individual structures. And so architects and their structures seem disconnected from their physical environs as well as from larger social discourses. But professor Smith argues that architects who teach and practice must reframe their understanding of how they and their buildings function in society: “It is well documented by the Department of Energy that buildings account for 39% of the overall energy consumption and contribute 39% of carbon dioxide...

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If we love it, will it last?

05/23/12

If we love it, will it last?

If we love it, will it last? This is a question at the heart of architect Lance Hosey’s new book, Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design (Island Press, 2012). Because the book is just out I want to offer you a quick peek, as Hosey starts talking about it; his first talk since the book launched this week was at SPUR in San Francisco. And in the interest of full disclosure, I must also point out that Lance, who is CEO of the nonprofit GreenBlue, an organization dedicated to making products more sustainable, is also a friend. He and I co-authored Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design five years ago. There’s an ongoing disconnect between what is perceived as “good design” (like the Vanity Fair “A-list” published in 2010) and “green design,” as Hosey...

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Lab Report: XXVIII

05/22/12

Lab Report: XXVIII

New ways of envisioning architecture, design, and construction are being created at ITAC (Integrated Technology & Architecture Center) by a team of professors, students, and industry professionals. The lab focuses on what co-director, professor Ryan E. Smith calls a “building ecology.” Specifically, it centers on what many in the architecture and building profession know as “green” building. Unfortunately “green” is often the latest trend in establishing design cred, and fortunately the approach at ITAC is much more thoughtful and comprehensive. Professor Smith offers some insight into the work at ITAC and on the larger discourse on “green” building. He begins with the terms people use such as “eco,” “enviro,” “sustainable,” and “green.” Many of...

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What if

05/15/12

What if "sustainability" meant just doing the right thing?

Business consultant, regenerative systems thinker, planner, business consultant, regenerative systems thinker, and author of The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability & Success (2011), Carol Sanford gave a keynote address on the last day of the Living Future “un-conference” in Portland, Oregon. Working as a land planner, she began to explore ways to think about “the whole system,” which led her to regenerative systems thinking. She began to believe that the leverage points in our system were often in the business world, and started consulting private companies, such as Kingsford, manufacturers of charcoal for home grills. “We never said ‘you should care about the environment,’ or exhorted concern for ‘the community.’ We just talked about how the...

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Letter from Ecuador

05/08/12

Letter from Ecuador

One video on the Inside Out website explains how to make a homemade glue from flour, sugar and water.  Another shows the best way to plaster paper portraits onto outside walls. The website suggests finding approved locations for the exhibits, but doesn’t seem to insist on it; the mission of Inside Out, which prints and ships oversized, black and white photographic portraits, is rooted in activist public art, and its m.o. is akin to writing graffiti, only tamer. Mama Suela I read about Inside Out last year and wrote to the organization, asking them to subsidize a project I hoped to realize in the indigenous town of Guangaje, Ecuador, where I had been working. Over the course of a month, I took photos of residents, waylaying them on their errands to snap quick portraits against...

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Eva Zeisel's New e-book

05/08/12

Eva Zeisel's New e-book

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR. Click on the images for more information. Eva Zeisel, the beloved industrial designer of ceramics, whose sensual forms were among the first to define a more organic modern aesthetic, once wrote at the ripe age of 98, “Whether we make things or they just happen, whether we grow them or form them, things speak to us.” And she held that all things conveyed these unspoken languages, between user and object, and between the object and its maker. For Zeisel, however, her most protracted inner dialogue was kept at arm’s length for a good deal of her beautifully creative life. Her other story, lesser told and deeply personal, has finally seen the light of day in the nebulous form of a new e-book, Eva Zeisel: A Soviet Prison Memoir, independently...

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An Alternate Sustainability Reading List

05/05/12

An Alternate Sustainability Reading List

We all fondly remember our college days and our favorite professor’s ‘additional reading’ list that always followed the 15 page syllabus. Those pages were chalk full of titles that, not being the classics, didn’t make the cut to be required reading. And while some of us still have those lists sitting painfully free of any check marks, others of you need to continuously find new books to feed your knowledge appetite. So take out your pens, ready your computer’s copy function, because here is another list, and it’s one that will further your understanding of the great topic of sustainability. If you’re not familiar with the topic of sustainability, there are of course the classics, Silent Spring, The Ecology of Commerce, Biomimicry, and Cradle to Cradle, and some of my...

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Lab Report XXVII

05/01/12

Lab Report XXVII

What is a fab lab? You may already know it as a workshop or laboratory that allows digital fabrication of all sorts of interesting products. But while fab labs are ubiquitous at universities, few conduct research aimed at humanitarian ends. Enter Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where the d[fab]lab is not just used to help students realize their projects. It's a place to explore concepts that can help real people. Now. Take for example the project conducted on versioning, which the team at CalPoly defines as  “a methodology that uses digital tools to compress design, testing, assembly and production into a single process.” They are, in essence, giving a different definition of design/build, one that is not often associated with architecture. In versioning, there are no in-house or...

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