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Design Observer

WEEKLY EMAIL: JUNE 16, 2011


What I Learned from Architect Barbie

FEATURED THIS WEEK : DESPINA STRATIGAKOS

What I Learned from Architect Barbie

"In February Architect Barbie made her industry debut at the Toy Fair in New York City; in May she made her professional entrance at the AIA convention in New Orleans. But Architect Barbie's real beginnings were political." Architectural historian Despina Stratigakos describes how she came to lobby a multinational toymaker to view architecture as a viable profession for its iconic doll — and in the process stimulate new discussion in a field "which has struggled more than most professions to foster diversity."
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OBSERVERS ROOM : JESSICA HELFAND

The Public Face of Disgrace

The funny thing about deceit is that it's the opposite of truth, which is one of those things, for some reason, that we've come to expect from our government. And along with deceit comes denial, which becomes an utter travesty in the wake of eventual confession: together, they result in the lip-biting, mouth-stretching and inimitable frowning that have become the public face of disgrace.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : ROB WALKER

Stealth Iconography: The Google Maps Pin

Some symbols achieve at-a-glance familiarity status without, evidently, having been designed to do so. The Google Maps “pin” is an example. It’s iconic by accident — or at least by stealth.
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Learn to be a design critic through SVA's D-Crit program: Design as subject matter, criticism as a literary genre and the range of tools with which to practice design criticism. 
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PLACES : ALICE T. FRIEDMAN

Girl Talk: Marion Mahony Griffin, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Oak Park Studio

Earlier this week Despina Stratigakos described the feminist politics that inspired the early 21st-century Architect Barbie. Now architectural historian Alice Friedman examines the early 20th-century career of Marion Mahony Griffin, the first woman licensed to practice architecture in Illinois, and for more than a decade a valued associate of Frank Lloyd Wright. But as Friedman emphasizes, Griffin's accomplishments were extraordinary. "In the late 19th century and much of the 20th," she writes, "women architects were often viewed with contempt and suspicion, not only by fellow practitioners but also by members of the building trades and potential clients."
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OBSERVATORY : ELLIOTT EARLS

Make/Do

“Vainglory,” an anachronistic term meaning an unjustified and excessive pride in one’s own achievements or abilities is one of the primary forces animating and shaping contemporary culture. The phenomena that is American Idol owes its considerable popularity both to its role in discovering legitimate, almost freakishly superhuman singing skill, but also as a window into contemporary culture’s vainglorious soul.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Let's Go! World's Fairs of the 1930s

One month left to see the future of the past (via World's Fairs) at the National Building Museum.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : BARBARA FLANAGAN

Epiphany of an Ocean Swimmer

Last year, when I moved to Santa Barbara, California, home of numerous ocean-saving foundations plus Jacques Cousteau’s relatives, the Pacific looked just fine to me. In fact, it was gorgeous: blue, fragrant, and vast. Coldness was its only flaw, but that kept it empty of everyone but its most elegant fans, surfers.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : RICK POYNOR

Lost Inside the Collector's Cabinet

The Collector’s Cabinet at the Frederic Marès Museum in Barcelona defeats your powers of perception and understanding. Everything is beautifully displayed in these subdued, elegant, atmospherically lit rooms, but nothing is labeled: no dates, no confirmation of what the item is, no explanations about its use. You are compelled to consider the unknowably limitless profusion of human-made artifacts.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : JANE MARGOLIES

How to Start a Movement

An interview with Jeremy Heimans, founder of the website Purpose.org.
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OBSERVATORY : LOUISE FILI AND STEVEN HELLER

For the Love of Scripts

“No one person ever invented an alphabet,” wrote Type-maven Tommy Thompson. Script typefaces are no exception. During the letterpress era they were in such great demand that many people “invented” them, and many others copied them. In many commercial printing shops, composing cases filled with scripts were stacked floor to ceiling to the exclusion of other type.
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Accidental Mysteries, 06.12.11

Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age.
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D-Crit: Design as subject matter.
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Audio: Design Matters Archive

AUDIO: DESIGN MATTERS ARCHIVE

Ellen Lupton

Ellen Lupton, writer, graphic designer and a curator of contemporary design at the Cooper-Hewitt.
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CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE

Project

GlobalTap Update

GlobalTap water station update.
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OBSERVATORY ARCHIVE

past post past post past post

PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2006

The State of City Planning Today

A veteran city planner and educator analyzes the anemia of U.S. planning, and detects signs of life in neighborhood activism.
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