OBSERVERS ROOM : JOHN THACKARA
I have just received a quite extraordinary 736 page book called Lean Logic: A Dictionary For The Future and How To Survive It
by the English ecologist David Fleming. The publisher describes it as a "community of essays". In my words it's half encyclopedia, half commonplace book, half a secular bible, half survival guide, half ... yes, that's a lot of halves, but I hope you get the picture.
OBSERVATORY : DIANA O'HEHIR
Erased off the face of my earth, all that remains is a white space,
On it the possible ghost
Of roofline, window. I travel
Looking for myself in all the empty rooms
That say, why did you leave us.
OBSERVERS ROOM : ROB WALKER
A digital photo tool that's disappearingly simple to use, and conceptually so basic as to be almost forgettable, has an effect that is subtly subversive: Pushing back against the culture of "now" with the power of "Oh yeah...."
OBSERVERS ROOM : NANCY LEVINSON
This past winter Architect Barbie made her industry debut at the toy fair in New York City. This spring she arrived on the professional scene at the AIA convention in New Orleans. And now, just in time for the midsummer heat, she's got a posh new beach house in Malibu.
PLACES : RICHARD POWERS
When American novelist Richard Powers spent a semester in Berlin, teaching a seminar on fact and fiction, he lost faith in the power of imagined narratives: “What chance does personal fiction have against public facts the size of this place?” In this meditation on place and narrative, Powers struggles to write the story of postmodern Berlin. He gets the plot knocked out of him during a visit to the German Technical Museum, only to pick it up again in the strains of Bach played by a subway accordionist. His essay introduces our special feature on place in fiction, which will run throughout August. Stay tuned for short stories by Urban Waite, Emily Mitchell, Barry Lopez, Anthony Doerr, Ashleigh Pedersen, Ryan Harty and Danielle Dutton.
OBSERVERS ROOM : RICK POYNOR
Design thinkers like to talk as though we have somehow passed beyond the stage where the way things look needs to be an essential concern. Designers, browbeaten and demoralized, half seem to believe them. They have too readily accepted the caricature of themselves as airheaded stylists who care about insignificant niceties. In reality, visual form is a vital expression of culture.
OBSERVERS ROOM : MARK LAMSTER
There's a lot of cool stuff in MoMA's new design exhibition, Talk to Me
, though two days after visiting I'm hard pressed to remember anything in particular that stands out. The premise of the show, curated by Paola Antonelli, is that objects are now interactive — that they "talk" to us — and that this fact is reshaping the way we relate to them, to the world around us, and to each other.
CHANGE OBSERVER : BARBARA FLANAGAN
One month after I’d moved to a pricey-if-modest bungalow near downtown Santa Barbara, the city sent me a water tab that was not only stiff, but also judgmental. I’d irrigated nothing but me and my household chores. What would I do during the dry half of the year?
OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER
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.
OBSERVERS ROOM : JULIE LASKY
Getting tired of praise for the IBM Selectric? What else do you expect from writers?
OBSERVER MEDIA : RICKY JAY
Ricky Jay is an actor, a historian, a magician and a collector. He is also a superb storyteller with a keen eye for the most gruesomely enchanting detail, and he delights in tales of the most delicious oddity.
Design Observer is pleased to share a selection of recorded broadcasts — all read and authored by Ricky Jay — brought to you along with the visual catalyst that inspired its tale. This is the first of four installments.
OBSERVERS ROOM : ALEXANDRA LANGE
What designers have in common with Larry David: they burn.