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The Design Observer Group
Design Observer

WEEKLY EMAIL: SEPTEMBER 07, 2012


It

FEATURED THIS WEEK : RICK POYNOR

It's Smart to Use a Crash Test Dummy

The Slovenian band Laibach has just released an album of cover versions that includes its rendition, in doomy German, of the song “Warm Leatherette.” The picture of crash test dummies on the cover of The Normal’s electronic single, now seen as a post-punk classic, captured the humanoid strangeness of these sacrificial test drivers. I know there are plenty of crash test dummy aficionados out there. This one’s for you.
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OBSERVATORY : ROB WALKER

Making "Making" Mass

The fledgling TechShop chain aims to be a "Kinko's for geeks." It's an interesting aspiration — a kind of supersized hackerspace, and then some. I visited the TechShop outside Raleigh, North Carolina to see what it feel like to be in a place that's trying to help the "maker" idea go mainstream.
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PLACES : DANIEL KARIKO & AARON ROTHMAN

Storm Season

The barrier islands of Louisiana — located at the outlet of a massive and heavily engineered river system, in an industrial area dominated by offshore drilling and processing, at a time of increasing climate change — are among the most unstable landforms in the world. Photographer Daniel Kariko has been documenting these fragile landscapes for years; the portfolio here records changes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
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OBSERVATORY : LOUISE FILI

A Life in Letters

I can never, ever forgive my parents for having the bad judgment to leave Italy and come to America. The final indignity was that I was born in New Jersey and had to spend the rest of my life getting as far away as possible from the Garden State. My first trip to Italy was a typographic and gastronomic epiphany: quite simply, everything looked, tasted, and sounded better in Italian.
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PLACES : JAMES BARILLA

The Vernacular of Disaster

The end of summer is storm season, and the season is ever more volatile as global temperatures rise. James Barilla, who moved from the Midwest to the Carolinas, describes learning not just a new geography but also a new lexicon of weather — and disaster. "The signs of local calamity, the way the sky behaves, the patterns of human anticipation, the behavior of birds and livestock: these are regionally distinctive, But it’s also true, in this era of accelerating climate change, that your local language of environmental catastrophe and mine, your flood and my drought, are connected in ways they’ve never been before."
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Accidental Mysteries, 09.02.12

In celebration of children heading back-to-school this September, we explore the transition of the American reading book, from Colonial days to the emergence of the Dick and Jane series in the mid-20th century. These books are from the Richard L. Venezky Collection (1938 – 2004) at Stanford University.
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OBSERVATORY : JESSICA HELFAND

Ezra Winter Project: Chapter Eight

Carola Goya enchanted New York audiences with her beauty and skill. In a review in The Herald Tribune, critic Mary F. Watkins noted, “Miss Goya is young, exceedingly pretty, much in earnest and complete mistress of herself upon the stage.” Others called her "spellbinding"; "sublime"; and "a tonic for the eyes". By 1931 she would sell out Carnegie Hall, becoming the first dancer in history to do so. And yet, she came very close to ending her career when she met — and fell in love with — Ezra Winter.
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OBSERVATORY : ROB WALKER

Focusing On 'Optics'

Suddenly it's all about "optics." It sounds complicated, wonky, concrete. But what does this buzzword actually mean? It seems ideally suited for the discussion, analysis, creation, or control of pseudo-events. That sounds absurdly removed from reality, because it is.
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OBSERVATORY : ALEXANDRA LANGE

Art Matters to Architecture

What struck me about a recent Art21 story on the restoration of a 1975 Milton Glaser mural was the collaboration of designer and architect, and the integration of the art with the Brutalist architecture. Without this mural, and even with the mural faded and indifferently illuminated, this was a different building.
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OBSERVATORY : MARK LAMSTER

Unconventional Imagery

Over the past couple of weeks, the GOP has made a point of noting that the Tampa stage set on which it will nominate Mitt Romney is inspired by the Prairie School architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Chris Hawthorne, writing smartly in the LA Times, questions the wisdom of the association, noting that Wright "was no standard-bearer for conservative values."
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PLACES : AARON ROTHMAN, DAVID LA SPINA, ED PANAR & MICHAEL VAHRENWALD

Landscape Photography: New Visions, Part 5

Concluding our month-long series on new landscape photography, Aaron Rothman presents three artists who focus on nature in everyday urban spaces. Michael Vahrenwald photographs weeds and trash in New York City as if they were the subject of a 17th-century Dutch still life. David La Spina investigates built and natural landscapes in re-imagined postcard views of Cincinatti. Ed Panar looks for majesty in the ordinariness of urban life at a pedestrian scale in cities of the American West.
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OBSERVATORY : OWEN EDWARDS

Homage to Helen Gurley Brown

My former boss, Helen Gurley Brown, died not long ago, and even though she had reached an impressive age and we were in touch only once in a great while, I couldn’t be sadder that she has left our vale of tears and ink.
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OBSERVATORY : RICK POYNOR

The Never-ending Struggle against Clutter

Anything can become clutter, including books. I took this picture a few weeks ago in a used bookstore in Nice. In the cavernous space, more like some mad entropic warehouse than a shop, the books rose from the floor in great looming cliffs of paper. This impenetrable grotto of print didn't look remotely like a functioning shop. It was an extreme public example of the condition of compulsive hoarding that afflicts many of us now.
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OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER

Accidental Mysteries, 08.26.12

Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is taxonomies.
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Audio: Design Matters Archive

AUDIO: DESIGN MATTERS ARCHIVE

Gordon Hull

An all music show with DJ and designer Gordon Hull, co-founder of the firm Surface to Air.
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CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE

Project

Don't Flush Me

Prototype for urban system to detect and prevent sewage overflows
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OBSERVATORY ARCHIVE

past post past post past post

PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2001

The High Line

High Line photographs from Joel Sternfeld.
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RECENT BOOKS RECEIVED

Collage Culture: Examining the 21st CenturyCollage Culture: Examining the 21st Century's Identity Crisis
Aaron Rose and Mandy Kahn

Sustainable Design: A Critical GuideSustainable Design: A Critical Guide
David Bergman

In Search of the Miraculous: Or, One Thing Leads to AnotherIn Search of the Miraculous: Or, One Thing Leads to Another
Milton Glaser

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