Point of View - Point of View March 2011

 

A Good Fence

The US-Mexico border wall, photo courtesy thecurvature.com Robert Frost’s maxim about good fences and good neighbors probably works very well if you’re a small landowner in rural New England. It gets a little more complicated when applied to international boundaries. But Ronald Rael, assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is suggesting that there might be some truth in…

Virtual Lesson

Photo: Luke Brummer. How many liters of virtual water does it take to make one pot of tea? Close to 90 liters, depending on where the tea was grown. The virtual water content of a product is the volume of freshwater used to produce it, illuminating the fact that—from source to glass—much more water goes in to making a product…

To Save the World

Ulrike Rose’s “Sehen Lernen Sehstation,” Photo: Paul Clemence. As Milan’s design week readies to showcase the newest, shiny furnishings by world-renowned designers at the Salone, the world is obsessing over oil spills, earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear radiation. We’re thinking interconnectivity — the delicacy and art of human-to-earth relationships and activities. Our exploration of art, green, design, and architecture has led…

A Portuguese Pritzker

Casa das Artes by Souto de Moura Arquitectos, photo: Luis Ferreira Alves. When I first entered a house by Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, winner of the 2011 Pritzker Prize, I was not impressed. The sun was setting and a bitingly cold wind had just started, causing me to rush through a small white gate and an over-porportioned door…

Exhibition Design in the App Age

Photo: Tom Hennes, Thinc Design. When you walk into the Park Avenue Armory over the next two days you are likely to gasp at your first glimpse of  Infinite Variety: 3 Centuries of Red and White Quilts, 651 American quilts on loan from collector Joanna S. Rose. Suspended invisibly from the 8 story high ceiling of the 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson…

Eduardo Souto de Moura

Eduardo Souta de Mora. Photo: Francisco Nogueira At the youthful age of 58, Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura has won architecture’s most prestigious award, the Pritzker Prize (regarded as architecture’s Nobel Prize). He now enters the ranks of an elite lineage of architects who have been honored with the Prize since its inception in 1979. One of Mr. Souto…

A BIG Winning Streak

BIG's proposal for Greenland's National Gallery of Art. We’re having a hard time keeping up with all the competitions the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has won, and all the prestigious projects they’ve bagged, just in the past three months. It’s certainly a wonderful start of the year for the maverick Danish firm, but what is truly impressive is the consistency…

A Home of the Future

Fantastically futuristic, there’s something eerie about this geodesic sky-dome. Like a 1950s vision of the future coming to life, it’s otherworldly — something out of a science fiction movie. In late 2011, this dome, aptly named The Home for the Future, however, will become a reality. Providing a year-round microclimate that showcases cooperation between man, technology, and nature, The Home…

Publishers of the World Unite!

The back cover of the book Green Patriot Posters, published by Metropolis Books. Seems like we have been predicting the end of the printed matter for a while now.  But whatever happens to newspapers and magazines, books are here to stay – for the simple reason that people love them.  Books, to some, are objects of worship.   Now, I am…

Helping Japan

John Pawson’s “Ribbon for Japan.” Image courtesy dezeen. The catastrophe that ripped through Japan on March 11 seems like the worst amalgam of every disaster we have ever seen – earthquake, tsunami, fire, and to top it all, nuclear radiation. 2010 and 2011 are undoubtedly the Design for Disaster years: architects and designers are still rising to the challenges of…

Healthy Made Easy

Last Spring I enrolled in a sustainable construction development class thinking it would be nice to know a thing or two about healthy building material alternatives. Despite the section of my bookcase now dedicated to green manuals and alternative materials catalogs, I have learned an important lesson that most building professionals, concerned with health and sustainability, have learned before me:…

Beyond Energy

When Bob Berkebile approached the American Institute of Architects in the late 1980s to seek funding for research into sustainable architecture, he was told that it sounded more like an environmental problem than a professional problem—in short, “No, thanks.” Fast forward to 2011 and his firm, BNIM, has won the AIA National Architecture Firm Award, for its achievements in sustainable design….

Q&A: Frances Anderton

Los Angeles radio host Frances Anderton is the voice of architecture and design. In fact, through her radio show on KCRW, DnA: Design and Architecture, she has become the voice of design for the city. Architecture is one of those disciplines that has no shortage of voices. There are the architects themselves with their theoretical tomes and public explanations of…

Visit Isola during Salone

Like forgotten weedy islands, most neglected inner city neighborhoods adjacent to transport lines remain isolated, even as art, commerce, and design create vitality around them. One such industrial neighborhood in Milan, actually called Isola ( “Island”) Zona 9, once on “the wrong side of the railway tracks,” is now being touted as “an oasis in the city” by international architects…

Q&A: Norman Foster and the Dymaxion Car

Photo: Gregory Gibbons, courtesy Ivorypress. Norman Foster is not an easy architect to get on the phone. We’ve covered a number of Foster + Partners’ projects in the past, and requests for interviews with the boss were often met with “Lord Foster is traveling in Asia” or “out of the office until the end of the month.” So, while reporting…

Sustainism

Naming “movements” can be a tricky business. Naming a worldwide shift toward systems thinking, social responsibility, and “all things green” has been particularly dicey. For better or worse, all these things, together, have been summed up as the sustainability movement. But the word sustainability has left many designers as well others feeling less than satisfied. (Well-known green design thinker William…

Farmhack MIT

Standing in the lobby of the Microsoft -funded MIT NERD lab this past Saturday felt like a trip into the future.  Opaque glass paneling lined the walls spreading ambient light upon concrete surfaces. A well-spoken man rose from behind a sleek black desk and guided me to my destination.  I arrived in a room with high ceilings and a picturesque…

Q&A: Memphis

Grace Designs: Memphis showroom designed by Sottsass Associati. World Trade Center, Dallas, TX, 1984. Rumor has it that the short-lived design movement, Memphis, got its name as group of designers sat around late one evening in Milan with their leader, Ettore Sottsass Jr., while American music played on the radio. The story goes that Bob Dylan was singing “Oh, Mama,…

Water Guns

Photo: Tomas Kauneckas. Lithuanian photographer Tomas Kauneckas has an important message to tell us all: don’t play with water. That message is the title of his photography campaign on water conservation that he and his team created in 2009. The photographs are still circulating as a cutting-edge campaign aimed at our global view of water consumption. Privatization of water, farm irrigation, and…

Q&A: The Energy of Jugaad

Many developing countries have highly developed cultures of making-do: ingenious strategies that help people work with the realities of economic disparity, growing populations, and rapidly developing cities that put constant pressure on scarce resources. Out of things like old oil tins and discarded car parts, people put together remarkably creative products. In Kenya they call it Jua Kali, in Brazil…

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