PLACES : RICHARD CAMPANELLA
In recent decades New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have been hit by one powerful hurricane after another. As geographer Richard Campanella writes, "Few regional societies have gained a more rigorous — if unwilling — place-based education. The past two decades have imparted, to nearly two million people, advanced lessons in geography, hydrology, climatology, engineering, civics, disaster recovery, sociology and urban planning." And as Campanella argues, the toughest test is yet to come.
PLACES : JEREMY TILL
What is the difference between scarcity and austerity? Here Jeremy Till contrasts the political ideology of austerity — imposed reductions of public services and social benefits — with the physical condition of scarcity — the measureable dwindling of finite resources — and explores how this distinction might enable designers to grapple with big-scale challenges. A keener understanding of scarcity, he argues, "might inspire us to widen the field of practice and allow us to operate more creatively."
OBSERVATORY : ALEXANDRA LANGE
As one moves through the exhibition "Century of the Child" at the Museum of Modern Art one experiences a melancholic undertow. Toys, schools, books, films, and playgrounds reveal themselves as vehicles of adult propaganda. The show makes clear that design responds to needs, but it also fills different kinds of voids. Many of the artifacts on display seem to have been designed as much to save adults from the workaday, violent, consumerist realities of the twentieth century as they were for child’s play.
OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER
The Japanese tradition of kintsugi — the artful repairing of damaged objects — is a practice that continues to fascinate me. In our society today, most things are not repaired if broken. If a toaster quits working, the normal practice is to throw it away and get a replacement. Still, shoes get repaired. Automobiles do — probably more than we’d like — and iPhones can be repaired if the damage is not severe. This week’s post looks at things broken, repaired and/or mended — and the beauty of such.
OBSERVATORY : ROB WALKER
We all spend time in retail/service environments, without spending a conscious second thinking about the sound around us. Some of that sound is designed; much of it isn’t. Our ears process the mingling, but usually not in ways that focus attention. Certainly I used to tune it all out, but I’m listening differently to retail lately. Here’s why.
PLACES : MELISSA DITTMER
When architect Melissa Dittmer moved from New York City to Detroit, her reaction was a "year-long panic attack." Where, she wondered, were the people? "Where was the density, the sense of connection with strangers?" But then Dittmer and her family bought a townhouse in Lafayette Park, the modernist development created in the early '60 by Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig Hilberseimer and Alfred Caldwell — a place where the design itself encourages "a shared sense of intimacy that fosters community."
OBSERVATORY : JUDE STEWART
The mission of Karambolage
is to promote cross-cultural understanding, at first between the famously quarrelsome French and Germans, then broadening to include each country’s growing immigrant populations. Rarely does a cultural product of any kind handle such a delicate task with greater verve, sensitivity or smarts. Its particular genius? Storytelling that arises from things, well-chosen objects that unspool our longings for us, that tether the wordlessness of experience to something concrete that positively compels us to talk.
OBSERVATORY : JOHN THACKARA
Over the last hundred years the ecosystems in the Baltic Sea have been poisoned almost to death by outputs from a multitude of industries and farming activities in the nine countries that surround it. To bring the sea back to life something more than good intentions will be needed. To solve complex and interconnected human-environment challenges, we need to build ‘social-ecological coalitions’ or ‘constellations’.
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CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE
Johnny Selman is a third of the way through his year-long project to graphically enliven the news.
PLACES ARCHIVE: WINTER 2005
How to turn a lackluster midwestern campus into an international cultural destination.