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Eavesdrop: Alissa Walker

We thought an announcement that Dwell was debuting a narrower magazine printed with more soy inks on recycled content paper, saving about 930 trees per issue, was a sign that the erratic publication had finally settled on a theme: Sustainability. But when we got the February issue in our hands its direction seemed more convoluted than ever: Was this Modernism for Dummies, a Design Within Reach catalog, or straight-up shelter porn? The redesign rallies a cavalcade of new fonts—many completely unreadable over the splashes of gratuitous color—and overcrowded pages bisected by bizarre dotted lines. Former staffers have expressed frustration with the mag’s bipolarity, but insist it’s nothing new. “Dwell’s biggest problem has always been that the message from the very top has been very confused,” a past contributor tells us. “I suspect the editors aren’t really being given total control now and so what we’re seeing is a really watered-down version of what they probably wanted to do.” The changing vision of founder Lara Hedberg Deam and publisher Michela O’Connor Abrams notoriously didn’t mesh with the pub’s two previous editors-in-chief, Karrie Jacobs and Allison Arieff, who both left the magazine very publicly at odds with its philosophy (more than 20 staffers also departed in Arieff’s wake). But it seems the current editor-in-chief Sam Grawe might not mind letting Deam and Abrams steer the ship. Grawe is reportedly devoted to his budding music career: Windsurf, an electronica duo where he performs with a musician calling himself Sorcerer, and a solo project under the name—we swear we’re not making this up—Hatchback. We hear he’s pretty good, too. 

There were rumors that sales were not as scintillating at Design Miami this year, but we’ll let you be the judge: The two most talked-about installations were trash(y)—a Tokujin Yoshioka installation of white plastic straws and Stuart Haygarth’s chandelier made from used water bottles—and almost everyone mentioned that the Swarovski crystal lights by heavyweights Diller Scofidio + Renfro looked more like glowing scrotums. Yves Béhar emerged as a big winner at the One Laptop Per Child party, where he sold seven works by Jorge PardoJohn BaldessariOlafur Eliasson and others to raise funds for the project. Perhaps the bling was located elsewhere, like around the neck of hip hop producer Pharrell Williams, who hung with Arik Levy’s posse, and later showed up at the tattoo parlor manned by Tobias WongJosée Lepage, and Eavesdrop alum Aric Chen. According to Chen, Williams was so psyched on the limited-edition tattoo designs by designers like Tord BoontjeVito Acconci, and Hella Jongerius, he wanted to contribute his own design. Okay, maybe next year, Pharrell, but only if you bring Justin Timberlake.

Robert A.M. Stern may have already gotten the gig, but surely he could use some help designing the George W. Bush Presidential Library, right? The Chronicle of Higher Education is holding a competition to deliver Stern a wealth of ideas. Standard architecture contest rules apply, with one catch: Your entire concept must fit on the back of an envelope. Readers will vote on the best design, the winning designer will get an iPod Touch, and the architecture world will earn the undying admiration of the Republican Party. Deadline is February 1. To vote, visit 

Alissa Walker