CHANGE OBSERVER : JOHN THACKARA
By some accounts the world’s information is doubling every two years. This impressive if unprovable fact has got many people wondering: what to do with it? The opportunities afforded by Big Data are real enough — but they also contain a danger: that we become be so focused on numbers that we lose sight of other opportunities.
PLACES : TERRY EVANS & ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH
For the past two years, photographer Terry Evans and journalist Elizabeth Farnsworth have been traveling regularly to North Dakota to explore the fracking boom that is transforming the prairie and disrupting the lives of the people who live there. As they found, North Dakotans are struggling to balance the boon of oil-related payrolls with the heartbreak of a ravaged environment.
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OBSERVATORY : OWEN EDWARDS
Everyone reading this post has, at one time or another, written a memo that seemed especially inspired and cleverly effective. Well, be not proud; I happened to witness the most masterful memo ever written, a mere eight words that changed a culture — instantly.
OBSERVATORY : ALEXANDRA LANGE
Salute Denise Scott Brown because she deserves it, and because she may indeed be, as Martin Filler put it in the New York Review of Books
in 2010, “The World’s Foremost Female Architect.” But let’s not forget the second part of her quote: "Let's salute the notion of join creativity."
PLACES : DESPINA STRATIGAKOS
Over the decades women architects have received scant attention from historians and prize juries. As Despina Stratigakos writes, "The painful cancellation of Denise Scott Brown in the awarding of the Pritzker Prize solely to her husband and collaborator, Robert Venturi, is an important but hardly exceptional example of how female partners are written out of history by a profession suffering from Star Architect Disorder, or SAD." Stratigakos argues that it's time to write women back into history — and that the place to start is Wikipedia.
OBSERVATORY : ALEXANDRA LANGE
Last week, the editors of The Wirecutter
launched The Sweethome
, extending their no-nonsense, one-recommendation-per-category approach from tech products to the home. The combination of the two categories fulfills a digital need I spotted long ago, and links to a number of discussions previously on Design Observer. I interviewed Sweethome editor Joel Johnson
about audience, details, and the place of aesthetics in talking toaster ovens.
OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER
This week, I take you to a wonderful online museum called Memory of the Netherlands, where I discovered a collection called “150 Years of Design for the Dutch Postal Service.” Thinking I would find an archive only of printed stamps, I discovered something far more interesting — the preliminary sketches, production notes and overlays that tell a far different story. For me, some of these examples slip away from their hard realities and take on the momentary context of fine art collage and drawing.
OBSERVER MEDIA : DEBBIE MILLMAN
On this episode of Design Matters, Debbie Millman talks to designer, educator and author Maggie Macnab about what designers can learn from nature, and what they can give back. "We've got this opportunity to make real in the world what we see our world being. And design is like a step towards that."
PLACES : LAWRENCE VALE & ANNEMARIE GRAY
Portuguese translation of “The Displacement Decathlon,” by Lawrence Vale and Annemarie Gray, originally published on Places on April 15, 2013. The authors compare the cases of communities displaced by the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where plans for the 2016 Games are unfolding, and Atlanta, 20 years ago.
PLACES : TOM VANDERBILT
For several years New York City has been exploring how to plan for climate change, but last fall Hurricane Sandy exposed the many vulnerabilities of the coastal metropolis. As Tom Vanderbilt writes: "The sea will not be forgotten." Vanderbilt surveys the landscape and politics of both early response and long-range efforts, and he explores the persistent challenges — political, economic, cultural — that make it hard to transform a centuries-old settlement.