Unfolding Playful Design






When I first saw the conceptual design for the Polish Expo 2010 for Shanghai’s World Expo via BLDBLG I smiled at the pattern that created the building. Through further investigation on the building’s web site there was an aspect to the concept that I just loved. In theory the whole thing could be a cut out which is shown in the first image. Each of the shapes merge with each other on one sheet. Inside that there’s a pattern that is overlaid to create some great shapes. The playfulness is taken one step further with the idea that you could walk on the building to the top. Who didn’t want to climb on the roofs of buildings when they were younger and didn’t know any better. Each of those elements together make it a great building that I hope is built.


I ended up printing the first jpg and cut the pattern out – above is the model put together…

Last Night at Princeton Architectural Press

Inside Princeton Architectural Press

Atlas of Novel Tectonics by Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto

Over the last year Princeton Architectural Press has been pretty good to me. Every so often Russell Fernandez would send me a couple books that they published for review purposes. I’m embarrassed to say that some of those books are still in my half read pile. I really wish that there was an extra six hours in a day which would help me get some of those books finished. Last night Princeton Architectural Press opened their office up for a year end mixer. I didn’t actual meet Russell to thank him but I did have a pretty interesting conversation with another person that works inside PAP. Staring at the back wall (a wall that any designer would salivate at) that had most of their titles, Becca Wendy Fuller would pull down a couple books that she felt really strongly about that had something pretty cool to talk about. For someone that had a background in architecture she also had a really good sense about some of the other fields in design too.

Atlas of Novel Tectonics by Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto

There was two books that really stood out that she showed me that I wasn’t aware of. The first was the Atlas of Novel Tectonics by Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto. Becca Wendy Fuller mentioned some of the great graphic deign features that made this book part of the PAP family. It had a really fascinating tactile quality when I was flipping through it. It wasn’t light nor heavy but seemed just right. On the content side the second last chapter really interested me. All about common errors to avoid, the chapter breaks down the Abuse of Accident, the Abuse of Data, the Abuse of History, the Abuse of the Diagram, the Abuse of Logic, and the Typologist’s Error. Pretty interesting stuff for most designers today to think about. Becca Wendy Fuller also asked me about LTL. I had no idea who or what LTL was. There wasn’t a copy of the book at the back so we ended up going to the front of the office/studio where she pulled down the book Lewis. Tsurumaki. Lewis’s Opportunistic Architecture. As a collection of work it from the Architect’s it read surprisingly well. Let’s be honest, most architects don’t really know how to make something readable – perhaps livable but way too many of them don’t get typography. This book though actually proved me wrong. With a lot of images and understandable stories behind the work it’s a book that someone would want to spend part of their day with.

Lewis. Tsurumaki. Lewis's Opportunistic Architecture

It was refreshing to see a design machine in action where they really believe in what they do. Those walls with all their books really mirror what interests them. That’s helpful when a lot of the world is in a mode of just pushing stuff out as opposed to considering if something should really go out there to be read.

Only in New York: West 14th Street Apple Store Poster

 Only in New York: West 14th Street Apple Store Poster

West14 Apple

What sets context in great architecture versus standard buildings so I’ve been told is how the surrounding environment influences the design of the building. For instance if the building were to be set in a different location chances are it would look differently. If the building could be dropped anywhere and would have the same effect it’s perhaps not as good as it could be. Relating that environmental context I really thought that the new Apple Store posters in New York are pretty great. Ya the subway context is nothing new, but the thing is that this poster could not work in any other city. As a pattern when one poster is placed beside each other both horizontally and vertically it very attractive. It even feels natural to be on the walls that I saw it on today.

Comparing the New York Times Building Top with Other Building Tops in the Area

Comparing the New York Times Building top with other building tops in the area

One of the first buildings I see when I wake up and the last one before I go to sleep, the new New York Times Building is in my view from my apartment. What’s ironic is that up until recently I still thought the top of the building was still under construction. I just thought that there was scaffold left to be taken down. I’m not sure if that view is entirely seen from street level, but from high up it looks kind of weird during the day. Not so much at night. I’ve walked by the New York Times Building and close up it looks pretty cool. But from a distance it’s not the landmark shape you would have expected.

In the context of comparing tops of building in the surrounding area, the New York Times Building isn’t so out of place. There’s other tops that are equally looking like they’re unfinished. To take the examination one step further I then compared them at different periods during the day. You can be the judge of which top looks the best during each period of the day.

Speaking at Design Week in Saskatoon

Design Council of Saskatchewan, Design Week 07

I’m excited to mention that I’ll be heading back to my hometown today for Design Week 07 in Saskatoon to speak. If you happen to be there, be sure to say hello. After the presentation is over I’ll be placing my slides on SlideShare. Every speaker has their favourite venues for different reasons – for me to be invited back to where things all started means a lot. It also means that I might see real snow for the first time in over a year. I don’t really consider what happened last year in New York to be much of a winter…

The Future of Design Now with Michael Surtees
Friday, November 16, 7PM to 9PM
Lower Lounge, Mendel Art Gallery

The rules of design are changing as fast as the speed of communication today. Michael will be talking about his offline/online experiences in New York and sharing the questions he’s asking to keep ahead.

About Design Week
The Speaker Series is the heart and soul of Design Week. Distinguished professional designers from Saskatoon and far beyond give their views on projects and issues vital to applied design and to the general public. All the lectures are FREE, and drinks and snacks are available.

Come out and learn about how professional applied design is shaping our world and show your support for this important event.

What to see at Open House New York…

P.S. 260

This upcoming weekend is Open House New York, an annual event where the public can visit private and public buildings and other areas that they would otherwise not have access too. Last year was my first opportunity to get inside some of the places that were part of the event. I was really looking forward to this years offerings though I’m now disappointed to see who’s not on the list. I would have luved to see Frank Gehry’s IAC Building and Foster and Partners Hearst Building. Unfortunately neither of those nor the P.S. 260 (which is pictured above) is available. On the plus side I did get one of the lucky spots on the High Line walking tour that sold out almost immediately. Last year it seemed like there were so many options while this year I’m still at a loss as to what to see. If you have any suggestions please let me know!

Circular Design


I couldn’t help but notice the circular shape of the Spaceport America building concept. The ariel view looking down shows some cool abstract shapes that really speak to the new frontier in travel. The building is designed from the top down as much as from the inside out. Even the road sweeping curve carved into the earth reinforces the overall shape of the complex. I could imagine returning to earth and seeing that abstract circular shape hundreds of miles up. It got me to think about other circular shapes that may have been used as an influence for deciding to make the building round.

Old Lucent logo

If we go back a little ways there’s the old Lucent Logo. Loved by some and hated by others – this symbol goes back to primitive times of mark making. It’s one of my favourite logos of all time.

With a bit of digging around I gathered a couple other meanings for circles: Ensō (円相) is a Japanese word meaning “circle” and a concept strongly associated with Zen. Ensō is perhaps the most common subject of Japanese calligraphy, symbolizing enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and the void; it is also an “expression of the moment”. And: An ancient and universal symbol of unity, wholeness, infinity, the goddess, and female power. To earth-centered religions throughout history as well as to many contemporary pagans, it represents the feminine spirit or force, the cosmos or a spiritualized Mother Earth, and a sacred space.

Power button

But let’s take it a bit further – how about the common power button from a computer laptop. Again it’s a circle, but this time with a line inside it. It might be a stretch but I sort of see a similarity between that button and the building too.

The perfect book to read in the bathroom if you’re a designer

the metapolis dictionary of advanced architecture

With definitions for words like negotiate: Today, the architectural project is not designed, but negotiated... and Net, the: The net is where fragments are seized, and where the rest is assiduous. The net also encompasses the roads, the paths that are crossed, the vegetation that surrounds them, the earth that buries them. in the book the metapolis dictionary of advanced architecture, it’s hard to argue that this is the perfect book to read in the bathroom if you’re a designer. That’s why I had to pick it up tonight at the Strand while walking home.

3 things I haven’t read yet – though two are online for you to look at

3 things I haven't read yet

In the last day I’ve collected a couple new pieces of material to read – all hard copies, I thought it was interesting that two of them are available online.

New York Magazine: Don’t Call David Adjaye a Starchitect
Lauren from Renegade passed me on this link before I even had the chance to open the mag…

Below the Fold: http://belowthefold.org/v1n4.html#
I get this mailed to me on a regular basis…

The Architecture of Parking: www.thamesandhudson.us/new/fall07/534237.htm
I don’t think this book has come out yet, but if you’re one of those people that luv’s to photograph parking lots – this book will be for you…

An interview with Ilkka Terho, CEO of Valvomo

Ilkka Terho

Last week Ilkka Terho, CEO of Valvomo located in Helsinki Finland took some time out of his trip to NYC to have lunch and talk design with me. If you don’t know much about Valvomo, you can see their work at MoMA or places like MOSS in NYC. I found Valvomo almost by accident. I was walking through the meatpacking district on a Saturday afternoon during design week. Noticing a building with a sign that mentioned Finnish design I stopped right away and walked on in. Taking a number of pictures that would eventually find themselves on flickr, Illka mentioned something on one of my photos. A conversation through email ensued and as luck would have it, Ilkka was going to be in NYC. So on a Thursday afternoon in June he came to visit Renegade where I work and then found our selves at the high line for lunch. Below is the conversation that followed.

You can also download a pdf of the interview for your off-line viewing pleasure at http://designnotes.info/interviews/valvomo_interview.pdf (1.0 MB)

Ilkka, can you talk to me about Valvomo. We’re 7 designers, been together for almost 15 years. We meet while in school studying architecture in 1989 have been together ever since. We’re a large group of equal partners. It’s almost by coincidence that we’ve been together for so long. We rented a small space to enter some competitions which then led to the creation of the company – we ended up liking to work together. At the time it was the deepest recession in europe during 93/94 – there basically was no work, so we had to find something – that lead to designing products and interiors.

Did you have a business plan when you started? We were just trying to do anything, not really a plan, just a bunch of guys in their twenty’s trying everything. It was through the little breakthroughs, especially the media around the world who have published some of our more exciting work – a lot of the attention comes through the exhibitions that we attend in different countries. Since the last show in may in NYC over 25,000 people have hit our website b/c of the attention of blogs, web publications and other outlets – over 3,000 a day. And through that attention lots of people are contacting us – between manufactures interest, media, people looking for work – and most rewarding are the common people just wanting to let us know that they like what we do. How has technology influenced how you market the company. In the last couple of years we’ve been very aware of technology in the plan. We’re primarily looking for assignments to design products and interiors, especially in NYC.


How does the process start for a project? In the case of an advertising agency they’re either moving or expanding. The work needs to be done anyways, so they look to the best designers to do it – it becomes corporate identity if the architecture is done well. Since we’re one of the best in Finland we’re often asked to come along to see what it would cost – through discussion and quote we’ll start working. The project time often varies, though it can be up to a year. How many partners will work on a project? Usually there’s two to three partners on a project – they don’t have to say much to each other b/c we understand each other so well. If that’s the case are you still learning? Yes everyday we’ll learn something new.

There’s a lot of talk about green today in the media. Are clients in NYC/Europe asking for more sustainable green materials? Yes, we encountered those type of questions a lot in NYC and Chicago – the show that were at everyone was talking about it – but to be totally honest i think it’s totally hypocritical in some cases – the amount of things being thrown out w/ out being recycled , it’s nominal and looks horrible to the outside world. Do you think that waste material process to create new spaces – will that be taken into account – yes. For an interior space to be considered more sustainable – the design in general is timeless that you can use, let’s say a chair that you can use for a couple generations – that’s sustainable, it’s not so much the materials that you use. Even a plastic chair is sustainable if you can use it for a couple years if it’s nice enough. There’s so many variations, the environmental is a natural consideration – it’s hard to give a general answer. We do think of coatings, they need to be as environmental as possible. Many of our products are half accident, the materials are both recyclable and and we only realized it afterwards.

What is design in Finland like? In the 50’s just like Italy it was one of the leading countries in design – after the 2nd world war it was government policy to use design as a marketing policy to market Finland – and then it went away for a couple decades – and then within the last 15 years finnish design is out there a lot – magazines around the world – there’s a lot of Finnish issues. It differs a lot from Swedish design for example – there’s more of a pure and strict line. There’s some sort of angle to it, humour or stories – we like to make it more colourful, then again more pure in form and function. In terms of language – how is that expressed in terms of relating Finnish to english? – do you need to understand Finland to get the joke? Not really, we recognized that a long time ago – for example the chip lounger. A New Yorker sent me an email that I saved – he mentions that he bought it within a minute of contemplation at Moss – when he comes home he smiles about it – because it’s humorous. The chair itself is a colourful lounger that sits on the floor, so it’s like a rocking chair that you lie on. It’s got a very human quality to it.


Considering where the company is now, where do you see it going within the next couple of years? We’re thinking about that right now actually, the last couple years we’ve been in a recession though in the last year and a half we’ve been growing again. It was a difficult time, most companies were looking to each quarter as opposed to thinking of their future in terms of marketing dollars. That made us think how to grow internationally. An old friend has joined as a business consultant who’s going to help the company – currently we feel like seven creative directors and no workers, that’s a funny combination. How did you become CEO? It was just my personality, its about leadership – I’m more of a leader then a manager. My friends and colleagues feel comfortable with that and so do I. I like to be in charge, it’s natural to me.

How do you stay informed of everything that is going on these days? Internally and externally – it’s up to individual designers to decide how much they want to look at what other people are doing. Some are keen to go to all the design fairs and photographing everything and learning all the time, and I’m on the other opposite end. I don’t want to look up to what other people are doing. To not get confused. There’s so many influences for design in life in general, I don’t need to waste my time on what competitors are doing. I’d like to make up my own mind. City, nature, movies etc – it can be anything that is an influence.

How small is the design community in Helsinki – does everyone know each other? It is very close, in part due to the Design University. Though we’re bit of the outsiders because we went to the technical university to study architecture. and the design university is very much like a family. We’re a part of that, but mainly outsiders. What are some of the things Finland exports? Nokia though most people might not know that – they don’t advertise that they’re a Finnish company , IT and electronics in general, steel, machines, and forestry.

In terms of new materials, what’s green that you’re considering? A lot of them are still in the early stages and aren’t ready for production yet. Often they’re being created in someone’s garage in middle America and are still being tested. People are reading about the materials, but they don’t work yet. It’s confusing for us b/c they’re available.


What is a favourite product Valvomo has designed? One of the best is a wall panel system – acoustic aesthetic (SOUNDWAVE®), 100% recyclable – and made with 100% recyclable material – it’s from the technique that you use to make car and train door panels technique. It’s a porous soft fiber, soft cushion, heat pressed with a mold into a hotter felt. That’s how the panel is made. How did the design come together, was it a happy accident or was there a purpose that you were able to execute on? It was a typical thing, we were visiting a plastics factory in Finland. We saw them making these car/train panels and we loved the material. It felt like “felt”. A couple months later we were designing a restaurant in Helsinki and the were acoustic problems so we thought we needed something to help with the problem. One of my colleagues came up with the idea to make sculptural panelling out of the felt material for the panelling system and that’s the start of the success story. The Swedish company that manufactures it sells over 50,000 panels a year, it’s a great number for us. The panel is sold in 25 countries around the world.

Will a manufacturer come to you with a specific need, or is it that you have something and are looking for someone to specifically manufacture and distribute it? It’s really difficult, for years we tried to push ideas to manufacturers, but the only way to get them interested in what you do in general and wait for a brief. They have a need for something for “x” purpose “x” purposes and then we give them ideas, that’s how it goes. Because there’s a 100 times more designers then there are design brands, so everyone is sending their design portfolios. Do you ever want to just manufacture things yourself – in the 90’s we did that, we had our own brand but it became a confusing story so we decided to manufacture things elsewhere and concentrate on being designers.

One last question – what is your favorite design item that you personally own? A couple years back I went to Germany and bought this 71 Mercedes Benz convertible, the one that they drove in the television series Dallas. That’s a nice piece of machinery. Once I bought it I drove back to Finland, it took a couple days. Finland is a cold country, we have short summers – sometimes mostly not. But I try to make the most of it by taking these instant holidays every-time the sun is shining, I take the roof off and go for a spin. It’s nice.

My Saturday afternoon at Postopolis!

Postopolis! at the Storefront for Art and Architecture

Postopolis! was nothing less than a five day marathon for those interested in blogs and architecture/urbanism/design. I could only imagine how the four main blog people (BLDGBLOG (Los Angeles), City of Sound (London), Inhabitat (New York City), and Subtopia (San Francisco)) were able to maintain their questions and presentations over the week. I was following online each day though I was only able to watch in person for Saturday which was the last day of the conference. I was there from 2 pm to 6.30 pm and was exhausted afterwards. So for individuals to be there on a consistent basis for a span of five days is truly a feat. As Keller Easterling referred to the heat inside the Storefront for Art and Architecture – it’s like Baptist Church in here.

I’ve learned from experience of planning design talks that one should expect the unexpected. I’m not sure how much advance notice Postopolis! had that presenter Mark Wigley (Dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation) would be unable to be in NYC at the time, but the group managed to pull off a decent phone interview that was audible to everyone that attended. It ended up being mostly a moderated discussion with each of the four Postopolis! organizers asking questions and at the end one audience member. I won’t try to summarize his talk but will point out some of the more interesting notes that I wrote down between the moderators and Mark.
· talked about breaking the limits (blogs) or/vs becoming and expensive xerox machine – are people looking for duplications or trying to do something different
· the risk of breaking the limits is that you bring in the idiots – more in the context of the comments that follow a post – that reminds me of the Op-Art piece of a diagram of a blog that Paula Scher did
· brilliance vs stupidity – again about challenging the fine line of ideas
· the question of blogs influence came up, who has more – a blog that a lot of people read and talk about or a professors book that sits on a shelf that no one reads – but then the question became: 1. what type of influence – effecting people or popularity – or in Mark’s position influence is if it changes the discourse 10 years from now
· email – there’s no barrier for communication like face to face
· a blog allows someone to step out of the marketplace, time for thought and reflection

I’ll be honest, I don’t have any notes from the second presenter. It wasn’t that Keller Easterling (Associate Professor, Yale University School of Architecture) talk wasn’t interesting, it was more of something that I just took in about how important blogs are.

Many times I’ve talked about my dislike for design magazines in general, but I’ll have to give credit to Randi Greenberg of www.metropolismag.com. She was quite enthusiastic and appreciative of all the traffic that blogs bring to the site that she oversees. Here are some of my notes from her moderated talk.
· the readership is considerably more online then the print magazine of Metropolis
· article’s life is extended on the site, a number of Inhabitat posts were cited that brought attention that the articles would never have seen
· the print side people seem to be more interested in finding out who the readers are and why they are reading a particular article
· on the writing side there’s the perception and reality that the web offers a way for new writers to start out, and that the print side is still where the money is
· the question of image use came up – is it bad to pull from a website? the consensus was that if your using the image to actually promote an article that you are linking to, it’s probably not that bad – though the line is still very gray at best
· Subtopia asked a brilliant question to Randi – had there been any consideration of letting a number of bloggers know ahead of time about a particular subject that the magazine was going to cover and then essentially do a group talk about it once the particular article came out

I’m familiar w/ Archinect or so I thought, a lot of the contributors of the site talked about their experiences. Ironically I’ve never looked for any of the names of contributors to that site so I was surprised to see quite a range of people talking in front of me. Ok if there’s on gripe of that site, I wish they would redesign the home page, I find it way too cluttered, once you’re inside it’s easy to read and understand. Of all the architecture sites out there, Archinect has a lot of power to influence (I think this is where the question of influence was rooted when asked to Mark). The thing was, the contributors didn’t hit anyone over the head with arrogance suggesting that they were part of a select club. In a sense the site continually refreshes itself with new contributors that want to be there. The influence comes from the community that is based around the discussion, and in turn people get a lot of learning from it. Now from hearing all of them speak I’ll be paying closer attention to their site.

The final discussion of the day was the Blogger open house (George Agnew, Alec Appelbaum, Abe Burmeister, John Hill, Ryan McClain, Miss Representation, Aaron Plewke, Enrique Ramirez, Quilian Riano, Chad Smith). I thought this was a great way to end everything, it allowed some more familiar and less familiar blogs a forum to explain what they’re all about.
· it seemed like they all did it for various reasons, though there were some similarities: on the question of having an editor most welcomed the idea of it – if for no other reason to clean up grammar
· on web traffic again there was an unexpected similarity, whether if they posted something or not, the traffic stayed fairly consistent, of course keeping in mind that there were traffic spikes occasionally
· other questions asked included the lack of female participants though the audience seemed to be fairly gender mixed, the lack of ethnic diversity and wealth
· miss representation was a dude – I certainly had no idea
· for those that live in Edmonton, aggregät 4/5/6 gets a lot of hits from the capital of Alberta and where I had been living for the last ten years – though he’s not sure why that is – perhaps it comes from madeinedmonton.org members?

Like I mentioned before I only was able to attend the last day in person, but like all things blog there’s talk before an event, during an event and even more discussion after the event. I’ll be interested to see how the discussion follows and how Postopolis! evolves next year if there is something done again. I was thinking about who the audience for something like this is. I think it would be a mistake to not go b/c you’re not an architect or urban planner which I am neither of. When you distill something like this from my pov, it’s trying to understand how to communicate something and events like this help the dialogue of that.

and here’s some of my pics the day on flickr

Creative Time, the book and the street

creative time

Most mornings when I walk to work I go an extra block to 10th Street to see at what activity is going on near the Hudson River and to take a glimpse of the IAC Building. Today I was pleasently surprised to come across the poster promo for the book Creative Time. If I’m not too late at work tonight I take some more pics close up.

Lunch, the blog

lunch blog

Explaining to my friend Ray about how I use flickr to find new places to eat in NYC (roboppy being one of the busiest and best), he comes back with a great link of his own. He has a couple friends that have started the blog Lunch. Conceived by two architects, Michi and Yen go on to talk about what they had for lunch, where they went, add commentary and photograph it. While this does sound like a lot of writing – it’s usually very concise and doesn’t go on and on. Ironically my fav. post of theirs doesn’t even have to do with lunch, but about their 4:00pm ritual with Francis Francis! Live vicariously through them at http://lunchstudio.blogspot.com

and since we’re on the topic of food, go visit Noah’s blog post about the great swich. I think he really nails down the philosophy of the company.

Design Life Now is design light

Design Life Now: National Design Triennial 2006

Coming into the Design Life Now: National Design Triennial 2006, I didn’t have any expectations. I was aware of Speak Up’s contribution and had read the NYT’s review. As I walked through I tried to see it through the eyes of someone that may not be aware of what design influences are around them daily. Unfortunately afterwards I don’t think the show made a convincing argument that design is actually that important.

I understand that this is a “national” design triennial, not an international affair so I won’t even bring up the argument about who it included and didn’t from around the world. Part of my experience was spoiled before it even really began. No photographs allowed. While I can understand that kind of policy at the Neue gallery, I’ve almost taken it for granted that institutions like MoMA, the MET and the American Museum of Natural History allow their pieces to be photographed. If the exhibition was really design life now, the ability to photograph examples should be expected. Adding to the tone were all the signs displayed say “do not touch”. While I understand that some of the items are fragile, it really makes you wonder if they are trying to be art or functional design pieces. So no photos allowed + stuffy signs = weak pretentiousness.

As I did walk around both floors seeing it through the eyes of an average civilian, what other impressions did I have? Slight awkwardness, I viewed fashion items that really didn’t have context, buildings that I wondered why were included and what the qualifications were to get in. I saw materials that belonged in a gallery and not in real life. I wondered why Kid Robot was included and why the displays that relied on technology weren’t working properly. There were three large corporate players that deserved to be there (Apple, Nike and Target). However Target’s Clear Rx was the only one shown in context of design as function instead of pure consumption. Google was included, though there was no nod to the digital photography explosion of the last couple of years.

Afterwards I did visit the gallery store. Ironically I felt more comfortable walking around there than in the exhibition space. You could pick things up, go through the books and if a person was so inclined take their object home. In that small space there was probably as much to learn about design in the past three years as there was to the two floors of curated design.

IKEA in the House

IKEA Filming at Renegade

As Renegade has been growing, the need for a larger space has been in the works for a while. While I’m not involved too much in the actual plans for the move, it has been interesting to watch as the office prepares for the trek to the new space in a different area of Chelsea Market. IKEA has been interviewing and filming people in the current space and will be doing the same in the new area once things settle down. Pretty good timing as I noticed an article in todays NYT titled Home Sweet Office for Ikea’s Workers

Clip/Stamp/Fold in NYC Review

From the Clip/Stamp/Fold Exhibition held at the Storefront for Art and Architecture

As much as the word inspiration is a cliche – Clip/Stamp/Fold was was indeed inspirational if for no other reason than it gave the viewer a lot of reasons to want to enter the world of publishing with their own ideas as opposed to sitting back and accepting what is being composed in your time. The fact that we now have the tools to compile, publish and distribute ideas easier than ever before is worth the effort. But I digress slightly. For my first show at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, it didn’t disappoint. As I entered the space for the first time, opening the door not knowing what to expect I was surprised that I wasn’t overwhelmed by the visuals and sound. The space was composed with a number of visceral elements that fit together nicely. The large plastic timeline draws you in, displayed in a scale that takes you through the years 196X – 197X. The magazines displayed were predominantly written by architects, either as students or practitioners. Each magazine had a brief summary below the image that was essentially the ideas and intentions behind the writing. Going through each of the summaries drew up a lot of ideas that could easily drive a design blog or two. Looking back to these magazines on the timeline, it’s easy to get nostalgic for a better design writing period now for magazines or blogs. In my opinion it seems that the motivation is questionable today. There’s the vanity pieces, critiques that barely dig deeper than the surface and promotion of personalities as opposed to understanding the work and why it’s relevant. Then there’s the social and political questions that seem to be all but forgotten. The intentions of the publishers of the little magazines in the Clip/Stamp/Fold exhibition seem more about sharing issues, stats and hits were not the motivation as much as getting something out on paper.

From the Clip/Stamp/Fold Exhibition held at the Storefront for Art and Architecture

On a secondary level of the exhibition, there were plastic bubbles that contained some of the original magazines on the other side of the timeline. You couldn’t pick them up, but it made the timeline real. Not all the magazines were in pristine comic book condition, but that made it better. People read these things, they weren’t collected for archival purposes. Behind the bubbles on the other wall was an assortment of past covers from the timeline. You could get lost in the visuals – so much action represented behind each of the images. I really appreciated how all the elements came together. But there was more. On the third wall there was a number of magazines re-created digitally and printed for people to thumb through. They were all different designs, sizes, and content that was as original as each title. It wasn’t important that these things were printed from a digital printer, it had to do with the content and getting a feel for what it was and represented.

From the Clip/Stamp/Fold Exhibition held at the Storefront for Art and Architecture

But did you catch earlier when I mentioned sound? In a number of plastic clusters there were interviews being conducted and projected through some pretty interesting looking speakers. While I usually find this type of thing inconsequential in museum environments, it fit in there. I could focus on reading text on the wall, stop to look at the visuals and float into the sound of what was being talked about. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I did find the collection inspirational. It wasn’t because of the aesthetics as much as what the visuals contained. I think we tend to confuse personality with skill, and visual fireworks confused with importance in what it offers for others to build from. In this case it’s about what some designers decided to do because they thought it was important enough to say.

Clip/Stamp/Fold Timeline Graphic

Clip/Stamp/Fold is at the Storefront for Art and Architecture till January 31st, 2007 in New York. If you have a spare hour I would highly recommend stopping by. Be sure to grab one of the newsletters on the way out as it contains a number of excellent interview captions of people involved in the magazines. And besides that, it’s nicely designed.

I’ve also published a number of photos from the exhibition on my flickr site HERE.

From the Clip/Stamp/Fold Exhibition held at the Storefront for Art and Architecture

Learning to Spectacle

Architecture and Books: Spectacle

Tonight’s design lecture was sponsored by the Architectural League and the Municipal Art Society. I came into the talk tonight without knowing much about the new book Spectacle by David Rockwell with Bruce Mau. Sometimes a little ignorance goes a long way. No preconceived ideas nor expectations. Just a guy sitting in on the conversation.

The night started off with David talking about the influences of growing up in both New Jersey, going to theater and then moving to Mexico at a young age. Reflecting on not how things looked, but what they felt helped influence some of the theories behind the book. He then moved on to defining what the working meaning of “Spectacle” means for the book. The breakdown for the what they are included Big, Bold, Brief and the what they do contained Connect, Transform and Immerse. With each of those headings he broke into simple examples that were in the book. A short two minute movie of the examples followed.

The discussion followed with Chee asking if the book’s premise was an oxymoron. Design brings order to chaos, yet under the subject headings that are Spectacle it seemed as though it was about creating chaos. The quick response was that it was more about creating opportunities, planning for spontaneity. Bruce followed that up by talking about the culture of no, regardless of the emotional effect. As opposed to cutting things down, think about the possibility. Emotional connections become real experiences.

What was really interesting was what was written on the cover of the book. Spectacle, David Rockwell with Bruce Mau. I’ve never seen a designer of the book placed in the same sentence as the author. I asked them about the line afterwards. Was it conscious or did it just happen? With some laughter it seemed like they had spent a lot of time with exactly how that was going to be expressed. David then went on to say that “it was the right thing to do”. During the discussion Chee asked Bruce about how he worked to place 3 Dimensional experiences into a book. For him it was about a cinematical experience – a sequence, flavour of expressions.

As for the overall talk tonight, the three of them shot out a lot of good sound bytes. Enough that I was curious about the book itself. With a bit of salesmanship it was mentioned that the first run of the book was sold out and that they were lucky to have enough for sale tonight. I’m not sure if I totally believed it, but it sure made people pick up the book quickly.

The Meaning of Clean

image via curbed
image via curbed

I’ve been pretty lucky since arriving in NYC. People have been really helpful and friendly, actually more so in a lot of cases then in Canada which surprised me. I don’t get that flustered when I recognize someone from TV on the street, though for some weird reason I’m starting to get nervous around people that write a lot. Usually when I’m asked how long I’ve been living here it’s a no brainer “Oh I’m pretty new, about four or five months”. Yes, I did actually think that I had been here that long. But when I look back it’s only been like three and a half months. I arrived near the end of July and have been swept up with the fact that there’s something to see, do or meet all the time.

I also was also lucky enough to know where I was going to work before I moved here so I could possibly plan to find a place where I could walk to work. What a cool idea I thought, until the heat wave came, and I’ll probably swear at the cold once it really hits. But with the slightly bad comes the great. I was tipped off that 20th Street is beautiful – which it is – trees, buildings with lot’s of features to look at, and the ability to forget what city you’re actually in – (I start my walk from 6th Ave). I usually walk all the way to 10th Ave., even though I work on 15th Street and 9th Ave. Why walk an extra block west? It’s b/c I get to see the above photo, though not from that exact view. Though some days I’ll totally miss the building and get caught up in the gallery sign that is now broken glass, yet somehow still looks great or my eye will follow the old high line that I hope I can walk across some day. But what’s cool about the window in the Frank Gehry’s almost completed building is that sometimes perfect isn’t perfect unless one of the elements is upside down. It just fits right. I hope that north facing window isn’t turned around b/c it would make things just a bit too clean.

National Design Awards Winners Panel Notes

National Design Awards Winners Panel

Taking advantage of the fact that I finally live in NYC, I went to the National Design Awards Winners Panel. I really enjoyed the talk, though at times I wondered if the entire audience did. They filmed the whole event and the online video should show up soon. But until it goes live, here’s some of my notes.

· Design for somebody you already know

· Design is a political act

· Nature to culture

· What is the difference between style and vision

· I don’t get called up by accident

· A project is what you make of it

· Art is not above life – it was a fuck you piece (art)

· Approachability

· Form follows finance

· The problem needs to be addressed

· Democracy: lowest common dominator or the best…

Please hear this Architects

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I hate moving, but so does probably everyone else out there. Yesterday Tamara and I spent six or seven hours moving our stuff into our new apartment (see image above). Our first mistake was not booking a time for the loading dock, so we had to wait three hours before even starting. Once I learned how to back into a loading dock with a moving van, the real fun began. There was only a two-hour window to get everything out of the van into the dock. No that big of a deal, the loading elevator will take us to our floor or so I thought. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the loading elevator actually goes down to B3, and than I have to walk around a really long corridor to get to the normal elevator that takes everyone up and down in the Caroline.

So we moved everything to the loading elevator, took that stuff to the basement and than moved it again to another elevator and than carried it to our apartment. My challenge to the future architects out there that are designing elevators and apartments, please make it easier for people like me to move.

Brand Attributes

Today is my last day in the D3 team at NAIT as I head out to NYC on Tuesday. One of the smaller things that I noticed during my time at NAIT was how people interacted on one particular stairwell. The west side of the college is connected to the newer HP Centre with a long walking platform. To get to this platform you have to walk up a single person staircase. What’s funny is that this is one of the highest traffic areas in the college. When the staircase was originally built, it was never intended for the connection with a newer building and hence the small width. What surprised me the most was how people were willing to share this staircase. One group of people will go up while a group will be waiting to go down. You would never think that this system would really work, but it does. I think it speaks to the culture at NAIT. People go to NAIT so they can get a better job, but while they’re there people are also in a support mode. It’s one of those brand things that NAIT will hopefully remember as the do their “reBrand”.

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