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Design Observer

WEEKLY EMAIL: APRIL 21, 2011


Standard Deviations: Types and Families in Contemporary Design

FEATURED THIS WEEK : PAUL SHAW

Standard Deviations: Types and Families in Contemporary Design

When the Museum of Modern Art decided, at the beginning of this year, to expand its purview and include typefaces among the artifacts of modern design it collects, it was a moment of celebration not only among the type designers whose works were selected but among all of us in the design community who care about type. However, the feeling of elation quickly gave way to puzzlement over the specific fonts that were chosen and the multiple rationales proffered for their inclusion.
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OBSERVATORY : HUGH DUBBERLY

892 Unique Ways to Partition A 3x4 Grid

We recently published a poster depicting “the 892 unique ways to partition a 3x4 grid into unit rectangles.” This project was inspired by a patent received in 2006 by William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand of Winterhouse ("Method and system for computer screen layout based on a recombinant geometric modular structure," Patent No. 7124360) that modeled screen-based grid systems. However, their early work with grid systems never mapped all possible combinations within a given screen space. We made this our challenge.
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Mohawk launches new Recommendations section: Use the online Paper Wizard and find the perfect paper for the project. Design Observer readers get 10% off! Enter THX10 at checkout.
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On May 4, in NYC join us for: Present Tense: 2011 D-Crit Conference, Rob Walker is the keynote speaker. While your there, check out our MPS/Branding program, taught by the best in the business.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : JOHN THACKARA

Off-Grid Water

Up to 1,500 litres of water are needed to grow enough biofuels to move one car 10 kilometers. Two thousand liters are needed a day to feed each one of us. It takes 140 liters of water to grow enough beans for a single cup of coffee.
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PLACES : RADEK SKRIVANEK

The Dying Sea

For several years photographer Radek Skrivanek has been documenting the ongoing death of the Aral Sea, widely acknowledged to be one of the great ecological tragedies of our time. Once the fourth largest lake on the planet, the Aral Sea is today mostly a toxic desert, a result of extensive irrigation-canal projects begun by the Soviet Union and continued by the Central Asian republics that share the Aral basin. Skrivanek describes a haunting landscape: "Walking on the desert that is the former sea bed, you hear a constant crackle under your feet, and are startled to find that you are stepping on piles and piles of seashells."
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OBSERVERS ROOM : ALEXANDRA LANGE

City Beautiful of Kazakhstan

Where ETFEs are as good as marble: Foster + Partners' Kazakh capital.
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PLACES : TIMOTHY BEATLEY

Blue Urbanism: The City and the Ocean

"One year ago this week the Deepwater Horizon, a massive drilling rig operated by BP off the coast of Louisiana, exploded, opening a sea-floor gusher that began spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The disaster that unfolded — some five million barrels of oil would be spilled in the three months before the well was capped — was a gut-wrenching reminder of how profoundly American dependence on fossil fuels affects our marine environments." To planning professor Tim Beatley, the Deepwater Horizon disaster underscores the vital connections between our terrestrial systems and lifestyles and the health of the planet's oceans. Urban designers need to think not just green but also blue.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : MARK LAMSTER

Yesterday's Future, Today

Last week I travelled up to the Canadian Centre of Architecture, in Montreal, to review Architecture in Uniform, a new exhibition on architecture and World War II, curated by Jean-Louis Cohen. That review is forthcoming (in AR), but for the moment let it be said that this fascinating, disturbing, and provocative show was absolutely worth the trip. Among its discoveries: the modernist landscape architect Dan Kiley designed the courtroom of the Nuremberg Tribunal. 

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OBSERVERS ROOM : JOHN THACKARA

Why Does Laura Bush's Friend Want to Poison Our Water?

Dr Martin Schuepbach from Dallas, Texas, has the following plan, concerning natural gas, for the Cevennes region of France, where I live. He will take millions of gallons of our clean mountain water, to this he will add a cocktail of up to up to 600 toxic chemicals including highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene, and radioactive elements like radium.
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Accidental Mysteries, 04.17.11

Welcome to Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : MARK LAMSTER

Postmodernism Returns (Or Maybe It Never Left)

Is there any more pejorative word in the architectural lexicon than postmodernism? There is no style more reviled, not even modernism itself. I've come to know this first hand studying the work of Philip Johnson, and it was repeatedly emphasized to me as I was reporting my story on the history of postmodernism for the (must-read) 30th anniversary issue of Metropolis.
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OBSERVER MEDIA : DEBBIE MILLMAN

Steve Frykholm, Herman Miller

Steve Frykholm has worked for Herman Miller for the last 40 years. In this audio interview with Debbie Millman, he discusses the ups and downs in his long career with the National Design Award-winning furniture company — and talks about an extraordinary series of posters he has made for the annual company picnic.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : MICHAEL MURPHY

The Poverty of Starchitecture


On March 25th, Zaha Hadid Architects laid off more than 90 employees because of “unforeseen events in North Africa.” The reason was the democratic uprising in the Middle East, and specifically Libya, where Hadid’s new conference center outside of Tripoli had been “put on hold” while the beleaguered dictatorship’s post-meltdown kleptocracy returned its financial priorities to maintaining its grip on power.
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Audio: Design Matters Archive

AUDIO: DESIGN MATTERS ARCHIVE

Paula Scher

Paula Scher, co-founded Koppel & Scher in the 1970s and is now a partner at Pentagram.
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CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE

Project

Conflict Kitchen

Report on Conflict Kitchen, a project by artists affiliated with Carnegie Mellon to foster cross-cultural understanding through food.
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OBSERVATORY ARCHIVE

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PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 1995

Splendid China

A tour of Splendid China, the "world's largest miniature scenic spot.
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