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Design Observer

WEEKLY EMAIL: FEBRUARY 05, 2010


Big Book, Small Reward

FEATURED THIS WEEK : MARK LAMSTER

Big Book, Small Reward

Among the trends I'd like to see disappear in this new decade, right up there with urban taxidermy and use of the term "foodie," is the mania among design professionals for obscenely fat monographs.
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OBSERVATORY : ANDY CHEN

Left Me Speechless

I don't know what to make of this image. Clearly, it's an over-Photoshopped portrait of Cindy McCain that looks like something straight out of the X-Files. Then again, the notion that Mrs. Maverick is openly championing gay rights is a bit alien after all.
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PLACES

"Think Tall"

An interdisciplinary team of students from the Masters programs in Architecture and Building Sciences at Auburn University has won a competition to design a pedestrian bridge for the new Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, TN.
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PLACES : IAN BALDWIN

Architect, Park Thyself

In the 20th century the United States became a nation of drivers, and for decades now our cities have been adapting to the automobile, with notably mixed results. "The auto-urban relationship — fumbling, overheated, unsatisfying for both parties — never stands still long enough to be rationally inspected," writes architect Ian Baldwin. "But there is one place where city and car merge into stasis: the parking garage." Baldwin reviews House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage, now at the National Building Museum. The exhibition takes a long look of the evolution of a building type that, as Baldwin notes, "makes the modern city possible." Baldwin also reviews The Architecture of Parking, by British architect Simon Henley, which offers an overview of international garage design.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : ERNEST BECK

The Cotton Club

Your T-shirt label may say "organic," but what really does that mean? Combing through the tangle of sustainable standards for the world's most popular fiber.
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PLACES : HECTOR FERNANDO BURGA

A View of Haiti from Liberty City

Last week on Change Observer, in "Prepared for Haiti," the product designer Tony Whitfield reflected on the limited ability of design to respond in the immediate aftermath of catastrophic destruction. Here Miami-based architect Hector Fernando Burga suggests a similar challenge for urban design — that the field has yet to devise the techniques by which practitioners might apply their expertise with speed and agility. Tony Whitfield provoked an animated debate, which isn't surprising. As designers we are, says Hector Burga, "trained to find solutions," to pursue "positive transformation." And yet our methods tend to assume "a high degree of stability and linearity." Can we devise more improvisatory techniques, more supple and adaptable frameworks for response?
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OBSERVATORY : MEREDITH DAVIS

Who Owns Student Work?

The prevailing opinion at many design and art schools is that the faculty and university have some "ownership rights" in the output of any class. (Hence, the free art that graces of the pages of so many college recruiting brochures.) But what happens when the student enters into a client relationship within the context of curriculum or university activities? In other words, when does a student own their own work?

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OBSERVATORY : ERIC BAKER

Today, 01.30.10

Here are Today's images.
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CHANGE OBSERVER : ERNEST BECK

GlobalTap

More than 1 billion people worldwide lack access to clean water. The rest of us have an unlimited flow from the tap. Daniel H. Whitman, a Chicago architect and social entrepreneur, wants to link these two extremes.
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OBSERVATORY : ALICE TWEMLOW

Howling at the Moon: The Poetics of Amateur Product Reviews

An Amazon reviewer called N.A. Cat Lover, who turns out to be a doctor from Tampa, Florida, bought a self-washing, self-flushing cat toilet. His review is not just hilarious; it can also be seen as an example of a democratizing impulse in design criticism.
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PLACES : GAVIN BROWNING, MICHELLE FORNABAI

ink

Tonight Studio-X — an initiative of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia — is opening "ink," a show of ink-on-Mylar drawings by artist-architect Michelle Fornabai. The exhibition was shown last summer at Studio-X Beijing, and tonight's event will feature a simulcast between participants in Bejing and New York including Fornabai, GSAPP dean Mark Wigley, and filmmaker Jonas Mekas. Places is pleased to present a selection of images from "ink."  
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OBSERVATORY : SARAH WILLIAMS GOLDHAGEN

Moshe Safdie

In judging any urban development, one must consider what it replaced, what it is and what it might have been instead. As to the first and the second: Moshe Safdie's nearly completed Mamilla Alrov Center in Jerusalem, the last portion of a 28-acre mixed-use development, is superb.
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PLACES : CHRISTINE MACY

Dams Across America

Last week we featured articles and videos that focus on the prospect of a new era of public works — and the challenges of making that happen. So naturally we were interested in Dams, the latest in the Library of Congress Visual Sourcebooks, just published by Norton. As Christine Macy notes, dams are a monumental presence in the landscape, and controversial too — hailed as feats of engineering and vilified as destroyers of habitat. Here we offer an excerpt and a slideshow focusing on the legacy of the 1930s and '40s, with period images suggesting  the complex, years-long construction processes of Tennessee Valley Authority dams and of Hoover and Grand Coulee, two of the largest hydroelectric dams in the U.S. Something to contemplate as the current administration struggles to stimulate the economy and smarten the energy grid. 
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OBSERVATORY : ERIC BAKER

Today, 01.23.10

Here are Today's images.
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PLACES

Visualizing the Future of
Environmental Design


UC Berkeley Spring Program
College of Environmental Design
2.3.10 – 2.6.10


UC Berkeley's spring celebration will focus on the global dynamics and sustainability challenges that could have not been foreseen when the CED was founded in 1959.
More information
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CHANGE OBSERVER : MITCH EPSTEIN

Why Not in My Backyard?

Amos Coal Power Plant, Raymond City, West Virginia 2004 from American Power.
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Audio: Design Matters Archive

AUDIO: DESIGN MATTERS ARCHIVE

Gael Towey

Gael Towey is the editor and founding creative director at Martha Stewart Living.
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CHANGE OBSERVER: PROJECT ARCHIVE

Project

EyeWriter

Report on the EyeWriter software system, which allows a graffiti artist suffering from ALS to continue working merely by moving his eyes.
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OBSERVATORY ARCHIVE

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PLACES ARCHIVE: FALL 2008

On the Water: The New York - New Jersey Upper Bay

As the planet warms, rising seas will endanger coastal communities around the world. Engineer Guy Nordenson proposes a bold plan to protect New York City.
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