PLACES : DOROTHY TANG & ANDREW WATKINS
In the late 19th century, Johannesburg was a boomtown, the setting for an extensive network of gold mines. Today many of these mines are played out, and they've become the site of informal settlements — communities now challenged by the ecological degradation that is the legacy of deep-shaft mining. Here — as part of Design Observer's focus on South Africa — landscape architect Dorothy Tang and urban designer Andrew Watkins explore how the defunct mines might be rehabilitated to create socially and environmentally responsible urban landscapes.
OBSERVERS ROOM : JULIE LASKY
I hope my family likes it or it will be back to the secondhand shop, a treasure for some future scavenger of dislocated bits of peripatetic people’s lives.
OBSERVERS ROOM : JESSICA HELFAND
It's difficult, perhaps impossible to imagine a designer whose eye is not drawn to ephemera — the flimsy, forgettable, never-meant-to-survive bits of two-dimensional matter that circumscribe our daily lives — and by conjecture, to paper's wondrous reincarnation in collage. Does this not make collage the most sustainable of art forms?
OBSERVER MEDIA : DEBBIE MILLMAN
In this audio interview with Debbie Millman, Gail Anderson discusses making little magazines as a child, having Paula Scher as a teacher, her first job at Vintage, working at Rolling Stone
for fifteen years, leaving magazine work for theater work and what the next chapter in her life holds.
OBSERVERS ROOM : ALEXANDRA LANGE
John Swansburg's Slate essay, "I hate my iPad" is just what design criticism needs to be.
OBSERVERS ROOM : RICK POYNOR
I didn’t see the original 1970 hardback of Playpower
until many years after I read the book. I bought it immediately. As with all Martin Sharp’s underground art, an ambivalent satirical malaise taints the liberated psychedelic fantasy and the joke is probably on the reader.
CHANGE OBSERVER : MEENA KADRI
Delivered in installments by phone, and later collected on a website, Yoza stories are directed to African youth who are book-poor yet mobile-rich.
OBSERVERS ROOM : JOHN THACKARA
A decision by the Indian government set up four new National Institutes of Design (NIDs) in the country has sparked a lively debate about the kinds of design they should teach.
OBSERVERS ROOM : ALEXANDRA LANGE
Isn't organizing things neatly what modernists do?
PLACES : LISA FINDLEY
South Africa Week
In celebration of Design Indaba, the annual international design conference in Cape Town, the Designer Observer Group will post articles related to South Africa throughout the week.
It has been almost two decades since the end of apartheid in South Africa, and since then, as architect Lisa Findley writes, the nation has been exploring ways to "commemorate and curate an era that will define all that came before and after." Here Findley analyzes two very different apartheid museums, both of which reflect the difficulties of memorializing a complex and terrible history.
OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER
Welcome to Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment.
OBSERVERS ROOM : NANCY LEVINSON
Eleven-and-a-half inches tall, made of polyvinyl chloride and synthetic fibers, Barbie made her debut in March 1959 at the toy fair in New York City. With her zebra-striped swimsuit and top-knotted ponytail, Barbie looked ready-made for fun. But in fact she's always been a career girl: fashion model, ballerina, doctor, astronaut, firefighter, ambassador for world peace, McDonald's cashier ... you name it, Barbie's been it. But somehow she's never been an architect. Until now.
CHANGE OBSERVER : JULIE LASKY
The people who gathered at the New York Art Directors Club on a Thursday morning in January were nothing like a wedding party — and yet they appeared to be obsessed with marriage.
OBSERVERS ROOM : MARK LAMSTER
This afternoon I will be participating in "The Empire Tweets Back," a program sponsored by MoMA and WNYC attendant with MoMA's recently opened exhibition Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures
. The premise is this: a series of writers provide live running commentary on Twitter during a marathon screening of Warhol's 8-hour film "Empire," which is basically one very, very, very long shot of America's favorite skyscraper, the Empire State Building.