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The Design Observer Group
Design Observer

WEEKLY EMAIL: DECEMBER 02, 2011


The Death and Life of Great Architecture Criticism

FEATURED THIS WEEK : THOMAS FISHER

The Death and Life of Great Architecture Criticism

What is the future of architecture criticism? Tom Fisher parses an interview with artist Chuck Close, and sees in Close's reinvention of the art of portraiture some timely lessons for the next generation of criticism.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : RICK POYNOR

Man in a Bowler: Illustration after Magritte

It’s not that I dislike Magritte, though I much prefer his darker pictures and word paintings from the 1920s and 1930s to the summery palette of the later paintings for which he is perhaps better known. But the countless “witty” copies by later illustrators of his conceptual conundrums and deadpan style have always grated. By appropriating his subject matter and method, they ended up making a great artist look hackneyed.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Cooking with the Eameses

Turning a fiberglass rocker into a turtle. Surfing a molded plywood coffee table. Sleeping a baby in the drawer of an ESU. Once upon a time Eames designs weren't icons, and the new book Eames + Valastro: Design in the Life of an American Family offers a look at growing up modern.
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FROM OUR SPONSORS

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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CHANGE OBSERVER : JOHN CARY

Shelter for Those Who Served

Out of work for more than two decades, my uncle Tom, a Vietnam veteran whom I idolized as a kid, somehow made ends meet. Our family was never quite sure how, and we were too polite to ask. Over a cryptic phone call with my mom one gray fall day, Tom divulged that he was severely in debt. Creditors were calling him constantly. This uncle, with whom we shot hoops and played catch, rapidly declined into a shell of his former self. Tom stopped eating, resisted the efforts of compassionate VA caregivers we summoned to help, and ultimately holed up in his dark apartment.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : MARK LAMSTER

It's Not (Just) About the Bikes

Let me state, emphatically, that I am a supporter of urban cycling. I grew up in Manhattan, and the bike was not only how I commuted to and from school, but how I came to learn about the city, to explore the remote areas and industrial spaces that still are a fascination to me. With a bike, I found, you could travel not just in space, but in time, back to parts of the city that seemed frozen in history.
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OBSERVATORY : OWEN EDWARDS

Hair Apparent

There has been talk of late that, given the underwhelming response to each and every Republican candidate for the presidential nomination, the former mayor of New York City may be considering entering the race. He’s been there before, of course, only a few years ago, with unhappy results (for him, at least). But I have to remind him of one political axiom that has remained unchallenged since Dwight Eisenhower left the White House: America does not elect bald men to the land’s highest office.
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PLACES : DAVID HEYMANN

Landscape Is Our Sex

One of the truisms of contemporary architectural thinking is that the relationship of a building to its landscape is — or ought to be — one of the crucial determinants of its design. Here, in the first of three essays that will appear in the next weeks, David Heymann unpacks the various causes and effects — the logics and illogics — of this powerful cultural presumption.
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Accidental Mysteries, 11.27.11

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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OBSERVERS ROOM : RICK POYNOR

How to Cover an Impossible Book

I had never heard of Tadeusz Borowski’s book until I happened to see it in a bookstore. From the author’s Polish name and the ferocious irony of the title, it was obvious what it was about and the cover photograph of something fiery and blackened clinched my desire to read it. The image played menacingly against the title — it could be interpreted as a deadly miasma — and had great metaphorical power without stating anything specific.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : ROB WALKER

Postcards from Portfoliopolis

Nobody likes to move, but I’d pack my bags tomorrow if I could figure out how to become a citizen of Portfoliopolis. It's a place that is, in a word, ideal. It’s urban and walkable, convenient yet sustainable. The inhabitants are content and fit and statistically diverse. The sun always shines, and the grass could not be any greener.
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OBSERVATORY : MICHAEL ERARD

What I Didn't Write About When I Wrote About Quitting Facebook

The first thing I didn’t write about quitting Facebook was a status update to my friends saying, I’m quitting Facebook.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Decorating Brutalism: The Interiors of Kevin Roche

Most of the Kevin Roche revivalism, now underway, focuses on the big scale and tough materials of his buildings — the brown — but it is clear that from the start Roche and his partners were equally interested in the little things, and light touches, that could give those shapes texture and character. Brown, mirrors and leaves were part of his efforts to make architecture from outside in, and inside out.
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PLACES : MATTHEW MOORE

Digital Farm Collective

A few years ago artist and farmer Matthew Moore realized that he would likely be the last of several generations to work the land on the family farm outside Phoenix. As Moore puts it, "We had a new crop: suburban homes." In response Moore has created a multimedia art and education project, the Digital Farm Collective, with the goal of spurring dialogue about the future of agriculture as a community — something to contemplate, as America celebrates Thanksgiving.
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OBSERVERS ROOM : JOHN THACKARA

How Do You Make a Website for Transition?

“If we wait for the governments, it'll be too little, too late. If we act as individuals, it'll be too little. But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.”
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CHANGE OBSERVER : PHIL PATTON

Audi Urban Future Summit 2011

The event gathered together some 500 planners, architects, engineers, designers, scientists and futurists. It grew from the recognition that — especially among the urban young — automobiles have a negative image. One Wall Street analyst even describes the industry’s reputation as a “tobacco-like” problem.
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Accidental Mysteries, 11.20.11

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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OBSERVER MEDIA : DEBBIE MILLMAN

Brian Rea

In this audio interview with Debbie Millman, Brian Rea discusses the value of being rejected, art directing for The New York Times, his development as an illustrator, his fascination with UFOs and fear.
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Audio: Design Matters Archive

AUDIO: DESIGN MATTERS ARCHIVE

Stanley Hainsworth

Stanley Hainsworth, former Design Director at Starbucks, currently founder of Tether in Seattle.
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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

past post past post past post

PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2008

The New U.S. Embassy in Berlin

In creating a new U.S. embassy in Berlin, architectural design is just one of the challenges.
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Change Observer

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