Point of View - Point of View May 2011

 

Trending Green

While in our previous post we expressed our disappointment in the home furnishings market for the level and amount of green and sustainable designs we saw at ICFF and the satellite showrooms, we also saw many signs of life and innovation, proving that there are deep trends afoot which promise to provide the way for others to follow. Trends we…

Places that Work: The Gensler Chicago Library

The library at Gensler’s Chicago office is a satisfying space in many ways. By being situated on one of the design firm’s main circulation routes, this resource room naturally occupies the center of the action. The materials and catalogs that fill the shelves communicate, to employees and visitors alike, how much this group of designers value knowledge. The library shouts…

A School on Stilts

Image courtesy World Monuments Fund. The Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School in New Orleans looks like no other school anywhere else. Designed and built in 1955 by the architect Charles Colbert specifically for the historic African-American neighborhood of Tremé/Lafitte, the now-decrepit modernist glass box appears to float above the ground. Colbert managed to set back the columns needed to hold the…

Julius Shulman’s Unseen Los Angeles

Julius Shulman knew everybody. That’s how he worked. He moved through the city not merely photographing, but orchestrating and choreographing images that helped define what it meant to be modern and in Los Angeles through the buoyant optimism of the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. He kept it up until his death in 2009. In the new book Julius Shulman Los…

Deep Energy Retrofit

Castle Square Apartments, before the retrofit. On May 19th, Castle Square Apartments (a 1960s, 192 unit, mid-rise-tower low-income housing in Boston’s South End) welcomed Shaun Donovan, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and Congressman Capuano. They were there to see for themselves the nation’s “largest and most aggressive energy savings project of its kind”. The…

Commencement Address

In this season of commencement speeches we were happy to read one that holds great meaning for us. It was delivered on May 16th by our friend John Cary, a 2003 MArch graduate from the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design. Addressing the class of 2011 at his alma mater, John delivered a talk that is sure to have resonance for…

Q&A: Practical Experience

To get a behind-the-scenes view of how the Metropolis Booth came together for this year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair, I went to the people in charge of making it happen. The interdisciplinary group in David Stark’s class at Parsons was a handful of students, both grad and undergrad. As a group they took on the assignment of conceiving, designing, making,…

Mercedes Diesel w123

There is a hidden world of structure, grace, and functionality in a car. What about simplicity? Designers talk about it. But each new model seems more complex than last year’s. This has frustrated tinkerers for some time now. While we could once replace components ourselves, today’s mechanics connect to the car’s computer and diagnose the problem in cyberspace. Your days…

Bucky Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome Renewed

Buckminster Fuller with the Fly’s Eye dome and the Dymaxion Car in Snowmass Colorado, 1980. Technologically complex yet sculpturally elegant, Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye dome was an iconic, mid-20th-century solution for mass-produced, low-cost housing. As the last dome scheme Fuller proposed in his lifetime, the prototype, fabricated in 1967, has been traveling around the nation for more than four decades….

Waterlogged Agriculture

Few people consider the sheer volume of freshwater that goes into the food they consume. The water isn’t just what’s on the surface. It includes the virtual water that seeps into production and distribution of the food products that line grocery stores. This lack of awareness is changing as findings emerge from a newly funded National Science Foundation study, leading…

Architect in the Middle

Early this May, MoMA launched the second iteration of its Issues in Contemporary Architecture series, Foreclosed. Directed by Barry Bergdoll, Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, the project is an on-going experiment that expands the role of the museum, and the curator, beyond the collection and display of ideas and artifacts. This new approach is more pro-active, it…

Places That Work: A Chicago park bench

A curving bench dominates the pocket park next to the Chicago Temple, at the corner of Washington and Clark. The first time I walked by it, I realized that this piece of furniture is a masterpiece, psychologically speaking. Research tells us that we flourish in places where we feel in control, and this bench provides all sorts of options.  I’ve…

Many Voices, One Village

Six students and one professor from the University of Minnesota Architecture School head to Haiti to help design and create an urban infrastructure for a town.

Six students and one professor from the University of Minnesota Architecture School head to Haiti to help design and create an urban infrastructure for a town.

Q&A: Architects’ Sketchbooks

“I worry about students who might feel that the power of sophisticated computer equipment has somehow rendered the humble pencil if not obsolete, then certainly second rate. The pencil and computer are very similar in that they are only as good as the person driving them.” This quote, attributed to Norman Foster, the architect known for his technically-sophisticated buildings, gives…

The State of Green Furnishings

Photo: Paul Clemence. A chair could change a century and perhaps a planet. It will have to, eventually, but the greening of the home-furnishings industry is taking longer than we hoped for. Though we see evidence of one or two singular aspects of sustainability, systems-thinking is harder to find when it comes to residential furniture design and manufacturing. Asked for…

Learning to Take the Lead

The 100 Mile Challenge, by students from the Maryland Institute College of Art and the University of Washington. The student exhibits at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair stand out by default. On a floor filled with big-name businesses, emerging designers, and suppliers, you can tell the school teams not by the signage, but by the extremely enthusiastic young talent waiting…

What’s in the Water?

The Kansas River, photographed in Lawrence, Kansas. A glance at the 2010 Water Quality Report reveals a plethora of contaminants in our local water supply. From atrazine – a type of herbicide – to arsenic, the contents of the report are surprising but not unique. We are residents of Lawrence, Kansas, and our water comes from the Kansas River, commonly…

ICFF 2011 by Nationality

On the first day of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, I decided to go for a little globetrot – a task made easy by the fact that so many exhibitors this year were grouped by country. As I stepped out of Spain and into Japan, strolled through Austria toward Germany, I was struck by just how definitive geography still is…

Design Without Baggage

Designers always talk about being open at the start of projects, entering into the process without preconceived ideas or forms. They claim that their brains are sticky blank slates awaiting any and all good ideas. Today it’s fashionable to claim that you wouldn’t dare even begin sketching a form, however provisional (even on a cocktail napkin like Frank Gehry), without…

Celebrating the Car

Ok, so New Yorkers may not get the fuss, but we understand that special bond between a person and his car… and that Lamborghini driving down the street… or that blue VW Bug that reminds us of childhood. We may envision a future of vehicles fueled by renewable alternatives, and we  may have had a collective heart attack when the…

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