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WEEKLY EMAIL: JANUARY 08, 2010


Skating on the Edge of Taste with Warren Platner

FEATURED THIS WEEK : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Skating on the Edge of Taste with Warren Platner

In the late 1960s, interior designer Warren Platner, a modernist who spent his formative years in the office of Eero Saarinen, began to skate along the edge of taste, his glitz tempered by clever architectural manipulations of space, his gilt tempered with black and cream. Viewed today, Platner's work of from the 70s and 80s seems just one reflection away from disco, one black room away from S&M. Each of his projects comes with the question: can he hold himself back? Can he convince us that brass is back? Is there any such thing as bad taste?

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PLACES : WILLIAM L. FOX

Las Vegas

"Las Vegas is a problem that won't go away," writes William L. Fox in his review of Nicole Huber and Ralph Stern's book about the city. Despite the recent troubles — housing crisis, persistent drought, rising foreclosures, declining tourism — America's playground is by now, argues Fox, "so deeply embedded in the collective American imagination that you might say it's too important to fail." Created — and periodically re-created — by massive allocations of resources, the city will continue to be underwritten by the gaming-entertainment-retail conglomerates that it enriches. Whether this is a smart move — or whether it's symptomatic of the sort of expenditures that will, in Fox's words, "lead us to a dead planet" — is anybody's bet.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : RICK LANDESBERG

The Bleating Edge

Yoked goat, Haiti, 2006.
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OBSERVATORY : ARS LIBRI LTD

Writing & Calligraphy

Writing books — manuals for the instruction of lettering and handwriting — are among the most beautiful of all books in the graphic arts. They are also among the rarest, routinely subjected to the wear and tear of generations of copyists. Bibliographically, they pose formidable challenges to scholars. Culturally, they are fascinating objects of study for a wide range of disciplines. 

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PLACES : CENTER FOR URBAN PEDAGOGY

Bodega Down Bronx

Where does the food in your bodega — or the corner grocer or local minimart — come from? Who decides whether to stock tortilla chips or salad greens? How come it's easier to find fresh produce in Brooklyn Heights than in the South Bronx? What's the connection between diabetes and the grocery supply chain? Last year the Brooklyn-based Center for Urban Pedagogy set out to answer these questions, and the result is Bodega Down Bronx, a 29-minute video created in collaboration with high school students at New Settlement's Bronx Helpers. Places is pleased to premiere Bodega Down Bronx, in advance of its wider distribution later this month. In the next few months we'll be presenting more CUP projects. Stay tuned.
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OBSERVATORY : ERIC BAKER

Today, 01.02.10

Here are Today's images.
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PLACES : PLACES EDITORS

Best Wishes for 2010


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CHANGE OBSERVER : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Casey Jones

A conversation with the federal government's design excellence czar.
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OBSERVATORY : JAMES WEGENER

Metabolic Dark City

In 1993, the City of Darkness, or the Walled City of Kowloon was demolished. To the 35,000 people living in this dense urban slum, the change was the end of a lawless existence. The area was a diplomatic black hole, the model of an anarchist society somehow allowed to grow organically without the aid of any government, existing somewhere outside of both British Hong Kong and China. 
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CHANGE OBSERVER : JASON ORTON

All That Remains

For the past three years, I have photographed what is left of an arboretum on the site of the Joyce Green Hospital in Dartford, Kent, southeast of London, England.
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OBSERVATORY : SHARON OLDS

Q

Q belonged to Q.&A.,
to questions, and to foursomes, and fractions,
it belonged to the Queen, to Quakers, to quintets — 
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PLACES : KEN MCCOWN

Found Landscapes

Photography has long been central to our understanding of buildings and landscapes — and for most of us the experience of places both iconic and ordinary comes largely via images. Landscape architecture professor Ken McCown takes pictures to explore "factors that create harmonious interactions" between design and nature. Here he trains his lens on found objects and landscapes from the American West to classical Rome to street scenes in Seoul.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : JAY PARKINSON

The Road to Wellville

We need designers to create from the ground up a new, sustainable healthcare experience that's split into three arms, each paid for with different business models than are applied today.
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OBSERVATORY : STEVEN HELLER

Christmas Schmaltz

Every year at this time, I deck the halls with boughs of holly, dream of a white Christmas, listen to Nat King Cole's Silent Night like there's no tomorrow, play A Charlie Brown Christmas incessantly, watch Miracle on 34th Street (the 1947 version with Edmund Gwenn) 20 times over and screen Home Alone at least once. What's more, I actually see Mommy kissing Santa Claus. I love Christmas.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : JULIE LASKY

Bigshot Camera

A child's camera packaged as a kit of parts serves as both teaching tool and social medium.
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PLACES : SANDY ISENSTADT

Crystal and Arabesque

Does good design encourage good behavior? Can geometric form influence social form? These are the kind of questions that inspired Claude Bragdon, the architectural polymath and progressive thinker active at the turn of the 20th century, whose career and work are the subject of Jonathan Massey's Crystal and Arabesque. Architectural historian Sandy Isenstadt, now a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study, reviews the book, which, he says, retrieves not just a figure who had been "abandoned by architectural history" but also a "thrilling moment in design history."
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OBSERVATORY : MARTHA SCOTFORD

Ulysses: Fast Track to 1934 Best Seller

Imagine you're a big American publisher, there's a book infamous for its subject and language that you want to publish — but first you have to go up against the US government to prove it should no longer be banned. And, given the publicity of the court case, you want the book in the bookstores as soon as it's legal.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : BRADFORD MCKEE

Brass Knuckles and Better Ideas

The National Association of Home Builders is upset about some new rules just put out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in late November. Well, duh.
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PLACES : SERGIO LOPEZ-PIñEIRO

White Space

Years ago the late urban planner Kevin Lynch suggested, as a topic to consider: "How to pile up snow in interesting ways, or to decorate it or color it, with an appendix on ice palaces." Now architect and educator Sergio Lopez-Pineiro, who teaches at SUNY Buffalo, proposes that we delve into the urban design potential of snow, so that "standard plowing techniques can become creative tools for generating winter landscapes and in this way spark a new public appreciation for snow-blanketed urban spaces." 
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Audio: Design Matters Archive

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Ze Frank

Ze Frank is a writer, designer and host of The Ze Frank Show.
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CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE

Project

PACT Underwear

Report on PACT, an underwear company that embraces green manufacturing and donates a portion of its revenue to nonprofits.
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OBSERVATORY ARCHIVE

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PLACES ARCHIVE: SPRING 2005

Superneighborhood 27: A Brief History of Change

From hot tubs to bodegas: a Houston subdivision built for the '60s singles lifestyle has found new energy as a multi-ethnic neighborhood.
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