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Eavesdrop Issue 05_03.23.2005
The latest dirt from our very own gossip columnist, Aric Chen.

We stopped shopping at Ikea when we looked around our apartment and realized that a large piece of furniture just shouldn't be an impulse buy. We also questioned the Swedish design giant's 2003 decision to demolish part of Marcel Breuer's 1969 Pirelli building in New Haven to make way for an Ikea parking lot (apparently, its commitment to design only runs so deep). But now there's something else to consider when one heads to the big box retailer: personal safety. As widely reported in the UK, pandemonium broke out last month when 6,000 overexcited homemakers, lured by such promotions as $90 leather sofas and $60 beds, overran the midnight opening of a new Ikea in north London. According to reports, punches were thrown, pregnant women fainted, and wooden mallets were swung about as crowds overwhelmed security guards and played tug of war with sofas. Nine ambulances were called, around six people were injured and many others suffered heat exhaustion. (Heat exhaustion? In London? In February?) This follows a more serious incident last September when, under similar circumstances, three people were killed and 16 injured at the frenzied opening of an Ikea in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Anyone who finds the most shocking part to be the fact that Ikea is in Saudi Arabia should note that it has stores in about 35 countries and counting. As it happens, we were chatting in Stockholm with the company's design chief, Lars Engman, just a day or two before the London stampede and found it amusing when he started complaining that design was looking the same in all parts of the world. When questioned about Ikea's possible role in this globalization, the otherwise jovial Swede responded, No one is forced to shop at Ikea..

EavesDrop has learned that Bill Massie, currently an architecture professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has been tapped as the new head of architecture at the storied Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Bill will bring a new trajectory to the department through his very innovative work which combines new technologies with a strong aesthetic sensibility,, the school's director, Gerhardt Knodel, told us. Massie, who starts his new post this summer, will take over from Peter Lynch, who announced his plans to leave in November, just before heading off for an American Academy in Rome fellowship.


Aric Chen