FEATURED THIS WEEK : MATTHEW STADLER
On any given day the storefront is home to book production, a small bookstore, endless packing and shipping, a staff of four, a half-dozen hangers-on, curious drop-ins, lost tourists, the mailman, and one or another public gathering — a party, a dinner, a reading, a puppet show, a concert, sometimes all of these at once — staging the social life of the books we make.
OBSERVERS ROOM : MARK LAMSTER
In the mid-1950s, Philip Johnson designed a synagogue for Kneses Tifereth Israel, a congregation in suburban Port Chester, New York. Johnson, in the 1930s and early 1940s, had been a proponent of Nazi Germany and a writer of anti-semitic tracts, so the job was presented as a kind of atonement, and completed without fee. It was also his largest institutional commission to date (at the time, he was primarily an architect of refined modernist homes), so a handy resume builder.
PLACES : ADELHEID FISCHER
What does it mean when a famous contemporary novelist — often praised for the precision of his prose — makes careless errors in his depiction of the natural world? Environmental writer Adelheid Fischer sees this kind of "eco-confabulation" as symptomatic of a larger ignorance of nature and natural history, of what she calls "the webbiness of life" on the planet of which we humans are but a part. Is our ignorance, Fischer wonders, somehow enabling us to ignore the accelerating degradation of our environment?
OBSERVERS ROOM : ROB WALKER
Over the last five or ten years, more people have gotten more comfortable with the notion of “digital goods” having real value. People collect and covet objects made of bits and existing only in online games or virtual worlds or other non-physical realms. Increasingly, though, things from the digital world are crossing over into physical manifestations that can be bought and sold.
OBSERVERS ROOM : THE EDITORS
We are pleased to announce that Rob Walker is joining Design Observer as a contributing writer — and as the newest blogger in our Observers Room.
CHANGE OBSERVER : ROBIN CEMBALEST
Pedro Reyes’s Sanatorium,
a project sponsored by the Guggenheim Museum that can be visited in Brooklyn this weekend, wobbles between reality and parody as it channels art therapy, theater exercises, speed dating, Lucy van Pelt and Joseph Beuys.
CHANGE OBSERVER : WILLIAM UNDERHILL
Imagine the plight of the blind guest at a party of sighted friends. Chatting becomes a challenge when it’s tricky to know where others in the group are standing. One solution: hand out chunky glass swizzle sticks which create a chink loud enough to identify a person’s location.
PLACES : KAREN PIPER
"Imagine bands of protestors surrounding Yellowstone, waving black flags and blocking the exits with burning tires. Imagine the lodges of Yosemite running short of food and gasoline and tourists beginning to panic. Imagine the press remaining oblivious even as thousands are being held against their will and people are ending up dead. Imagine all this and you'll have a sense of what was happening in January in southernmost Chile." Karen Piper tells the tale of her trip to Torres del Paine, and wonders whether tourism itself is an endangered activity, "threatened by dwindling energy resources, a withering middle class, and the rising inequality that is fueling instability, protest and terrorism."
OBSERVERS ROOM : RICK POYNOR
For the cover of a new DVD of the classic film noir Kiss Me Deadly, the Criterion Collection designers have used publicity shots from 1955 rather than imagery from the film, or some other visual interpretation. It’s a counterintuitive piece of art direction because at no point in the movie does Mickey Spillane’s infamous private eye Mike Hammer menace the Lily Carver character with a gun while she’s tied up in a chair.
OBSERVERS ROOM : JESSICA HELFAND
Paul Rand famously despised marketing, and had a personal loathing for focus groups. While he believed almost religiously in the power of good design — and arguably, had he lived, might have been a spirited advocate of the role of branding in visual culture — he pretty much hated any club that would have him as a member, making it hard (if not impossible) to imagine him on Facebook.
PLACES : ALEXANDRA LANGE, MARK LAMSTER
"Cronocaos," curated by OMA/Rem Koolhaas, opened this spring at the New Museum in New York City. The exhibition examines the "global taskforce" of architectural and ecological preservation, which, Koolhaas argues, has made a large part of the planet effectively "immutable." In the latest installment of Lunch with the Critics, Mark Lamster and Alexandra Lange visit the exhibition, and debate its success.
D-Crit: Design as subject matter.
Criticism as literary genre.Learn at SVA >>
CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE
The latest material (and sustainability) adventure from the great Japanese fashion designer.
PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2000
New York City photographer Elizabeth Felicella focuses on what she calls "landscape of security."