Point of View

October 2012

The Business of the Design of Business

10/31/12

The Business of the Design of Business

People Design strives to bridge the gap between designers and businesspeople.

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Book Review: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Stripes

10/30/12

Book Review: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Stripes

Stripes are a simple, yet dramatic design statement.

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Q&A: Graeme Bristol

10/30/12

Q&A: Graeme Bristol

CAHR works with designers to protect human rights across the globe.

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Architecture 3.0 and Open Source

10/29/12

Architecture 3.0 and Open Source

Open Source architecture can give everyone access to design, but it has a long way to go before it can solve everyone's problems.

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Architecture: Ready for Its Close-up

10/29/12

Architecture: Ready for Its Close-up

The Architecture and Design Film Festival invites non-designers to learn more about both crafts.

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Stoking the Furness

10/29/12

Stoking the Furness

Philadelphia played a large role in ushering in an age of modernism, and architect Frank Furness was a major part of the movement.

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Book Review: An In-Depth Examination of Graphic Innovation

10/28/12

Book Review: An In-Depth Examination of Graphic Innovation

The Book of Books is the definitive guide to the complex graphic design innovations in books.

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Water Out or Water In?

10/27/12

Water Out or Water In?

New York could learn how to handle water near the city from Dutch methods.

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New Photography Book

10/26/12

New Photography Book

Balthazar Korab was an expert architectural photographer, capturing the soul of design in his work.

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Wicked Connections

10/26/12

Wicked Connections

We have a wicked problem. As a society we waste an awful lot of materials. Consider, for instance, the sheer volume of packaging that hits the recycling bin after we open cheap consumer electronics and then replace them in rapid succession, and discard easily. Yes, we can recycle, but we're still using a lot of raw materials when we don't need to. This, of course, is an unsustainable system. There are many new ways of looking at this problem and to solve it. These may include better recycling practices, minimal packaging, designing longer-lasting products, and things we haven't thought of yet. This is what Dr. Kyle Whyte, professor of philosophy at Michigan State University, calls a wicked problem. Many companies are working hard to solve these wicked problems....

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Interior e-Design for the Masses

10/26/12

Interior e-Design for the Masses

An interior designer is empowering clients to do their own design work.

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Zaha Hadid's Pleated Shell Structures

10/25/12

Zaha Hadid's Pleated Shell Structures

In an installation, Zaha Hadid investigates new forms and explores new conversations outside of architecture school classrooms.

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Who in the World does Research Anymore?

10/25/12

Who in the World does Research Anymore?

Research is an important part of the design process, and doing it right can make a big difference.

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A Talking Head Talks

10/24/12

A Talking Head Talks

One auto expert's take on the future of cars.

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HOK Pushes for Early Energy Modeling

10/24/12

HOK Pushes for Early Energy Modeling

An outline of HOK's plan for sustainable energy systems.

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The Green Team: Part 4 - Planting for the future

10/23/12

The Green Team: Part 4 - Planting for the future

If they are to thrive, all living things-plants included-require space to grow and reproduce.

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Hearing the Future of Architecture

10/23/12

Hearing the Future of Architecture

New technology allows architects to make digital models of how sound will work within their buildings.

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Ecomimicry Principle Two - Being a Keystone Species

10/23/12

Ecomimicry Principle Two - Being a Keystone Species

Humans need to interact with their environment in the same way that keystone species do.

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10/22/12

Duravit Design Week with Metropolis

An overview of events involving Metropolis at Duravit Design Week.

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Guilt by Association

10/22/12

Guilt by Association

What happens when architecture is intertwined with politics?

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Q&A: Dan Sturges

10/22/12

Q&A: Dan Sturges

The industrial designer Dan Sturges may have more perspective on electric cars than anyone in the automotive industry. He began working on what he calls “small local vehicles” as early as 1988. He founded trans2 in 1991 and four years later commercially introduced the first “neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV).” Given this long history, Sturges is a firm believer in the potential of EVs, as well as an utter realist. Currently a faculty member of the graduate transportation and design program at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, he is also collaborating with Clean Tech Los Angeles to create a transportation think-tank modeled on the MIT Media Lab. An edited version of our far-ranging talk (in preparation for my story on BMW in the October issue of...

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Freeing Up Freeways

10/21/12

Freeing Up Freeways

Midtown section of the plan with building labels Freeways have sliced through the hearts of many communities, creating derelict wastelands that destroy neighborhoods and sever connections. Our cities have buried, covered, or dismantled the massive structures required for high-speed automobile infrastructure. With our virtual vacuum of public finance for such projects going forward, we need to ask: What’s the prognosis for more such transformative, big-budget efforts? And what methods work best to integrate ribbons of concrete into our communities? Let’s look at some instructive examples. Seattle’s Downtown Freeway Park, designed three decades ago by Lawrence Halprin, bridged Interstate 5 with five acres of green space; the city’s more recent Olympic Sculpture Park by...

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Wall of Words

10/20/12

Wall of Words

Typographers, educators, designers, and type enthusiasts from around the world gathered at the annual ATypI conference this past week. Hosted by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University from October 10-14, this year marks ATypI's first meeting in Asia. The five day conference includes daily presentations and workshops on a variety of topics surrounding typography--with this year's special interest on multilingual issues. One worshop that was especially popular was the Zi Wut: Chinese-English Blingual Letterpress Demo Workshop. Zi Wut is a tiny letterpress shop located in an old industrial warehouse in the Kowloon district. Zi, means word, and Wut means alive. If read backwards, Wut Zi translates to moveable type. The founders of Zi Wut have made it their mission to use the newly aquired...

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NJ Reports an Uptick in Residential Architecture

10/19/12

NJ Reports an Uptick in Residential Architecture

Philip S. Kennedy-Grant, FAIA, keynote speaker and principal at Kennedy-Grant While the American economy continues to slumber, one area of business in New Jersey is, optimistically, waking up. The architecture community is seeing a resurgence of growth in residential building, and, as a result, an increasing need for the services of architects. (According to a report by the AIA, for the first time since 2007, the industry has reported two consecutive quarters of increased demand for residential architects.) In response to this trend, AIA New Jersey chapter is sponsoring a new seminar on the business and ethics of architecture. The program will educate architects, particularly young ones looking to set up shop, in the basics of administering a successful practice. “We’ll talk about...

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Q&A: Andrew Blauvelt

10/18/12

Q&A: Andrew Blauvelt

Andrew Blauvelt, photo courtesy of Walker Art Center Since taking the position of design director at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1998, Andrew Blauvelt’s title and responsibilities have expanded steadily. In 2005 he added curator to his title, then in 2010 he also became chief of audience engagement and communications. During his 14 year tenure at the art center,  he has curated internationally recognized shows, increased the museum’s community involvement through such projects and public programs as the upcoming skyways show that will surely provoke discussion, and has been the leader of the Walker’s design studio, a recipient of more than 80 design awards that recognize the institution’s renowned graphic communications. The Walker Art Center, Herzog & de...

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We Need Us and Them to Become WE

10/17/12

We Need Us and Them to Become WE

I’ve written about Simran Sethi here before. She’s an inspiring, energetic green diva—a strategist, educator, and journalist. She’s had a worldwide career, yet somehow she landed in Lawrence, my hometown in Kansas, and taught for some time at the University of Kansas School of Journalism (my alma mater). Sethi has been doing some big thinking about the problems we have in communicating environmental issues. Photo couresty of Marino Scandura. Big problems. Yet we have people, on the Congressional Science Committees no less, who deny evidence reported by swarms of scientists around the world. So it’s become urgent that we ask now, and persistently: How do we find ways to talk to each other? How can we move beyond bickering over willful misinterpretation of real data, and get...

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Q&A: Don Norman

10/16/12

Q&A: Don Norman

For my recent story on BMW’s new i-3 electric car, I interviewed a number of transportation experts, including the legendary (and altogether charming) industrial designer Don Norman, who as it turned out currently serves as a consultant to the German automaker. Norman, the author of eight books and more academic papers than even he can count, was limited in what he could talk about concerning his client, but he did offer some fascinating insights into the future of cars and urban mobility: Martin C. Pedersen: You consult for a number of companies, including BMW. What are you working on these days? Don Norman: Obviously, I’m not allowed to talk a lot about what I do for BMW, but I can say that I’m working on electric vehicles with them, mostly in Munich, and a little bit in...

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Concrete

10/15/12

Concrete

Concrete, edited by William Hall with an essay by Leonard Karen, $49.95 US/CAN, Phaidon March 2013, www.phaidon.com When I encounter a book dust jacket that’s textured to the touch I usually assume that it’s a willful distraction from the contents within; not so with Phaidon’s Concrete. Its striated cover perfectly evokes its complex subject.  Concrete, despite its historical roles from the Roman Pantheon to Fallingwater,  is a much-unloved material, rough to the touch and to the popular imagination.  Both the volume’s introduction and essay make immediate acknowledgement of its unpopularity. William Hall writes: “Despite its range and ubiquity, many people associate concrete with rain-stained social housing, or banal industrial buildings,” writes William Hall....

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The Art of Art Browsing: Art.sy

10/14/12

The Art of Art Browsing: Art.sy

In an era when images abound everywhere on the web, and the experience of visiting a legendary museum or architectural landmark can be simulated in seemingly real time without leaving your armchair, the experience of art isn’t what it used to be. Enter the latest platform for finding art online—www.art.sy—which seeks to canvass all time periods up to the present by integrating new modes and nomenclature for searching, discovering, exploring, sharing, collecting, and possibly even buying art online. The site represents a collective of more than 300 galleries, museums, private collections, and foundations currently serving the art world. And what appears to give it its edge is the fact that it’s powered by the Art Genome Project, which it describes as “an ongoing effort to map...

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Places That Work: Mayan Temples, etc.

10/13/12

Places That Work: Mayan Temples, etc.

We get definite psychological benefits from feeling a sense of awe, so says recent research by Rudd, Vohs, and Aaker. Places that work can make us feel that rare emotion, as these researchers learned. In their study of people “who felt awe, relative to other emotions [such as happiness], felt they had more time available . . . and were less impatient . . . [those who] experienced awe were also more willing to volunteer their time to help others . . . more strongly preferred experiences over material products . . . and experienced a greater boost in life satisfaction.” Case in point, the Mayan ruins of El Castillo/Temple of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza in Mexico (shown here), inspire wonder, admiration, and respect for human knowledge and accomplishment. Clearly, other spaces/places...

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Icon or Eyesore? Part 6: Materials and Building Components

10/12/12

Icon or Eyesore? Part 6: Materials and Building Components

        Our most recent post on Debating the Value of Mid-Century Modern discussed the architect as multi-party advocate and mediator. It was the last in a series that explored the interactions among the stakeholders of these buildings and how original design intent may hamper or encourage their rehabilitation and reuse. With this post, we begin a series that will focus on the technical aspects of modern materials and assemblies, including how construction methods of the period affect today’s decisions about the repair and improvement of mid-century building envelopes. From the beginning, materials were significant to the design intent of modern architects and to the performance of their buildings. This trend first emerged in Europe before...

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Children's Books on the Built Environment

10/11/12

Children's Books on the Built Environment

I have two kids, ages almost 6 and 3, and while they love reading books, I enjoy reading their books as much, if not more, than they do. I love the nostalgia and silliness of Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl and the clever stories and terms that Mo Willems churns. The way my kids respond to books has shown me the power within their pages. One book can spark a new interest that lasts days, months – even years. One book can lead to the insistence that we read tens more on the same topic. So naturally, I try to select books on topics that are also interesting to me (after all, I’m equally invested in reading these). This prompted an unofficial research project on children’s books about the built environment. With the exception of the immense stock of books about construction, trucks,...

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Moonrise Over Architecture

10/10/12

Moonrise Over Architecture

Design me a structure that is open to the sky, partially enclosed, all natural materials, fragile, permeable, no heat, no electricity, no plumbing...and only lasting 7 days. What? Simple structures, complex and rich with meaning can still be irresistible to designers. A recent national design competition, “Sukkah PDX (Portland, OR), Ancient Tradition Contemporary Design” was sponsored by the Oregon Jewish Museum, under the enthusiastic direction of Judith Margles, calling for designs for a contemporary sukkah (sue-kah) – a temporary dwelling, traditionally erected each fall in observance of the harvest, the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The holiday of Sukkot is particularly evocative of the season as the sukkah's open roof is decorated with plant materials, fruits, and boughs of...

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Archtober in New York

10/09/12

Archtober in New York

New York City is hosting a month-long celebration of architecture and design with its second annual Archtober festival. Scores of events are being held throughout the five boroughs to honor the city’s built history. The program—hosted by AIA New York, the Center for Architecture, and dozens of institutions—includes rare site tours, exhibitions, lectures, film screenings, walking tours, and even an architectural boat tour; a complete guide can be downloaded from the Archtober website. Select highlights include: This past weekend the Center for Architecture hosted, Walking Tour of the 9/11 Memorial and World Trade Center Site: Urban Planning and the History of the New and Original WTC, led by Doug Fox. The tour began at the southeast corner of Liberty Street and Trinity Place. The...

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Augmented Possibility

10/09/12

Augmented Possibility

                                  After we got our dream team of architects and designers to come up with their brilliant solutions for the inclusive city of tomorrow, we needed a cover for our October issue that would be worthy of the ideas inside. So we decided to take a step into the future ourselves, with augmented reality. This incredible technology has to be seen, to be believed. We suggest you get out your smart phone or tablet now and download the Metropolis New City App (For Android devices, go here. For Apple devices, go here).  Point your device at the cover (or the image in this blogpost), and watch a visualization...

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Techno-systems are not Ecosystems

10/08/12

Techno-systems are not Ecosystems

Since the 1990’s, the term ecosystem and/or ecology have been used to refer to the complexity of how people, businesses, and technologies interact.  I’ve always found this metaphor misplaced; it clouds the fact that systems of commerce and resources are not ecosystems at all.  They are something different all together.  According to biologists, an ecosystem is built from a community of plants, animals, and microbes that interact and assist each to survive and thrive. In contrast, business ecosystems are for the good of only one species. Biological definition points toward how many living organism strive within a natural ecology.  I think it’s time we stop calling the humanized supply chain of goods and services ecosystems – and call them what they are: techno-systems....

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Architecture for Bats

10/07/12

Architecture for Bats

Bats are awesome. How could you not love something that uses echolocation, lives in caves, and is the only truly flying mammal? They also are really important to humanity. Bats fill a unique and important niche in our ecosystem, “one bat eats about 2,000 to 6,000 insects each night” according to BatConservation.org. And Bat Conservation International says, “A single little brown bat can eat more than 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in just one hour.” So while they are good at keeping our ankles bite free, they also help our economy. According to The Nature Conservancy, “A recent study estimated the value of bats to Tennessee agriculture at over $313 million annually”, certainly not chump change. Not to mention how mosquitos are carriers of diseases. And while these little...

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Technology and the Importance of Play in the Workplace

10/06/12

Technology and the Importance of Play in the Workplace

AIA Technology Symposium from KPFF Cinema on Vimeo. While attending the recent AIA Portland Technology Symposium I was inspired to think about the importance of play relative to technology’s emerging impact on the design professions. I went into the conference knowing that successful companies often foster a culture of experimentation and exploration. They encourage employees to explore tangents, push boundaries, and chase down hunches knowing that it may have little to do with how a company’s goods and services are delivered. Employees are simply asked to play and see how far they can take an idea.  Play helps you keep your finger on the pulse of innovation and connects processes to adjacent possibilities. Presenters at the Technology Symposium came from brands like Nike, Laika,...

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Connecting by Design

10/05/12

Connecting by Design

Boomspdesign Q&A/debate session with ( left to right): Mekal's Chritian Kadow, architects Rodrigo Loeb and Rodrigo Ohtake, Luminaire's principal Nasir Kassamali, architect Marcelo Faisal and event's organizer Beto Cocenza. The everyday practice of design can be an isolated activity, with most communication limited to the parties involved in the projects we work on. And these days most of this communication tends to be via some bland electronic means. So, in order to keep design current and relevant, we need to stay tuned to what’s going on outside our immediate circle, personal or electronic. We find these learning opportunities in conversations, such as the real time dialogs I experienced recently in Sao Paulo. Love & Art Children's Foundation sculpture "Reach" ( by Dror...

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The Sound of Architecture

10/04/12

The Sound of Architecture

When the symposium “The Sound of Architecture” kicks off this evening at the Yale School of Architecture, designers in skinny jeans and square black glasses may well be outnumbered by a cast of artists, musicologists, engineers, and even an archeoacoustician for good measure. Though Friday’s keynote will be delivered by architectural luminary Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the weekend’s program will be populated by some decidedly un-architectural figures. The lineup of speakers and performers, drawing upon a broad array of disciplines, is designed to take the aural dimension of architecture beyond the exclusive domain of the acoustic technicians who meticulously tune the contours of concert halls and theaters. “Acoustics have been important to designers...

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Stones in the Clouds

10/04/12

Stones in the Clouds

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) Photo: Anzai “Sculpture to be Seen From Mars” Model (left)1947 (destroyed) Photo: Soichi Sunami Isamu Noguchi's prodigious and expansive artworks spanned the world of sculpture in stone, metal, paper, wood, and ceramics. His striking vision conquered territory in architecture, landscape design, playground and park design, furniture and lighting design, and theater set design in collaborations with Martha Graham. Born of an errant Japanese poet father and American mother whose mission in life was to have her son become an artist, Noguchi struggled with the duality and ambiguity of his origins all his life. He bridged both cultures with a restless, modern, and exquisitely crafted oeuvre rooted in Japanese aesthetics. He lived and had...

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Opening Up Long-term Care

10/03/12

Opening Up Long-term Care

For decades the popular image of the typical nursing home has been one of confinement—a sort of hybrid hospital/prison. It features zonked-out old people tied to wheelchairs nodding off in long, featureless corridors or crying out for help from steel-framed beds. Small wonder that elder moms and dads pledge their offspring to “never send me to a nursing home, I’d rather die first.” Actually that forlorn image was bombed not once, but twice, by the same individual. William H. Thomas, MD, or “Bill” Thomas, as anyone who’s known him more than 5 minutes calls him, redefined the long-term care environment twice over. His most recent and architecturally relevant innovation turns the old nursing home model upside down. The Green House model, as it’s called, presents the...

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Productive Recovery

10/01/12

Productive Recovery

The European Design Leadership Board recently made 21 proposals to promote design, signalling  that the European Commission may be, finally, aware of the issues at stake. A small book, published earlier this month in Helsinki by European Commission, presents a study by international experts in innovation. Design for Growth and Prosperity details the recommendations of the European Leadership Board. Its objective is to promote the role of design in all the innovation policies conducted in Europe. The 21 proposals are presented to turn design into a key discipline in public strategies for economic development. Although these are quite general, the proposals have the merit of increasing the awareness of institutions involved in the subject. As it turns out, there is an answer to the...

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