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Review> Paul Gunther on preservation and the ongoing exhibit, Saving Place: 50 Years of New York City Landmarks
Saving Place: 50 Years of New York City Landmarks An exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York and Catalog edited by Donald Albrecht, Andrew Dolkart, and Seri Worden Through January 3, 2016 Since the first trace of the species homo sapiens, human evolution only represents four one hundred thousandths of one percent of the earth's age. In proportion to an 80-year life span, that means just 31 hours—less than a day and a half of the 701,280 hours lived. With the existential threat of climate change and ecological ruination gaining traction in collective consciousness—combined with the outsized expectations of breath-holding fundamentalists for whom earth’s rapturous end can’t come soon enough—our sense of what permanence means has begun to shift. If all human culture to date is just four-dozen millennia and we’ve wreaked so much havoc already, “forever” strikes a dubious chord. This temporal dynamic is one prism through which Saving Place and the anniversary it examines can be seen. Another is the end of the post-World War II order and with it a sense that history hasn’t ended after all, including the survival of world monuments (especially amidst the tribal strife in the Middle East) that a united (albeit Western-centric) world had deemed essentially imperishable. It turns out historic places of exceptional human accomplishment can disappear as readily as an endangered species can; the risk of disorientation resulting from the obliteration of common orthodoxies is always high. Such sobering reflection informs this worthy stock-taking anniversary enterprise, which focuses more on the role of the preservation movement as part of the plodding, existential course of civic engagement, rather than some celebratory juggernaut tied only to the singular examples of past excellence like Grand Central Terminal or the Guggenheim Museum. Among the most valued places saved are those of daily routine that most identify as the common bonds of a vibrant community. Only with such coherence can change occur in ways that succeed—and that hold value.   Fifty years ago, New York City Mayor Robert Wagner signed into law the first landmarks designation statute in the nation with the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. With its advent came new public authority and civic duty to adjudge the aesthetic and historic value of elements of the built environment, including privately owned or nonprofit properties, whose future disposition affects the commonwealth of all citizens. It was as controversial then as it continues today, whether held as the basis for NIMBY battles by the privileged few or the evergreen bane to developer dreams clipped by what they sometimes assert are its onerous and subjective restrictions blocking the growth and change endemic to sustained livability.   That is not an easy distinction for a metropolitan region. Since first launched by the colonizing Dutch, the bonanza of real estate development has been the golden egg of the regional economy. It is the essential cornerstone of New York commerce and the obsession of dwellers from those born and bred to those beckoned by its promise of opportunity and fresh beginnings.   This relatively recent chapter of local land use policy and its record of impact are the inspirations for Saving Place, delivered with a welcome sobriety of tone and presentation calmly sharing its results along with the means and personalities that made it happen. An underlying intent born of civic pride stays in lively focus. Like any thorough history show, gray wins out over black and white: The movement started far before the generally shared crucible of the 1963 demolition of McKim, Mead & White’s uplifting Beaux-Arts Pennsylvania Station (giving way to the peerless bathos of Penn Plaza by designer and businessman, Charles Luckman, whose clients took the train users of 1968 to be some dying breed of rodents) and has learned as much from its failures and occasional compromises as from its best known victories.   The movement’s roots took hold not so much against change, but against failed progress when the exchange of present conditions for some promised social gain fell short and urban well-being emerged impoverished. Like the l965 law, the 1978 majority ruling by the United Sates Supreme Court, written by Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. (upholding the City’s designation of Grand Central Terminal and thus laying to rest once and for all any lingering assertions that landmark designation was unconstitutional), is far more nuanced than its friends and foes would have New Yorkers believe. The preservation work done, like the battles to come, are perpetually a collective work in progress. The places and leading players presented in such a context emerge more as dynamic case studies than as fixed heroics. The commissioned photographs by Iwan Baan (whose work is characterized as usual by the vehicles, people, and quotidian activity of such places, so often absent in studies of planning and architectural design). Like the exhibit installation by Wendy Evans Joseph and her firm Studio Joseph, record individual designations are not just bright beacons of superior significance but indispensable, stabilizing place holders that bind community even when hidden in plain sight. Saving Place respects the value of landmarks by gently reminding its audience of what we take for granted and by offering (without insisting) on a greater depth of meaning for sites both individual and district-wide. And yet its overwhelmingly beneficial impact on all corners of today's five boroughs, not to mention the quality and measure of visitor appeal (like it or not, tourism means jobs), cannot be denied or scoffed away as a Luddite blockade to change.   Whatever else New York may risk in 2015, a dearth or loss of dynamic change is not one of them. Saving Place shows instead how traces of the past can at best stand alongside the new for at least the relatively small measure of time that our present civilization can endure. Like the natural world, today we know that the built world also demands balance as a basis of sustenance. The exhibit’s iconic original architectural models and array of primary artifacts are brought to the fore as the landmark’s legacy of material sensuality in historic terms both material and artisanal. The society we keep is well served by some record of past beauty that for all kinds of reasons simply cannot be replicated, and how that should be done. These strands tie a knot of quiet reflection for the Saving Place initiative that bodes well for a landmarks movement pausing only briefly to recall the reasons its work will never end in the messy marketplace of a healthy city. Coexistence is the key; landmarking works best as one part of the overall planning process, not the bejeweled hobbyhorse of some nostalgic elite. In a world with a foreshortened sense of permanence, the longer we can maintain this democratic equilibrium the better off we all will be.
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Lucky Seven: See how seven famous architects rethought Arne Jacobsen's Series 7 Chair
In observance of the 60th anniversary of the Series 7 chair, furniture manufacturer Fritz Hansen enlisted seven architects to re-envision the classic Arne Jacobsen design. Explaining the impetus behind the program, Jacob Holm, CEO of Fritz Hansen, said, "If we fall asleep on top of our heritage, design becomes museum items. And if that happens, it (design) no longer adds new value to the present time." The participating firms—BIG, Snøhetta, Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel, Neri & Hu, Jun Igarashi, and Carlos Ott in association with Carlos Ponce de Léon—certainly created some eye-opening interpretations of the chair. The architects' comments on their designs reveal their inspirations and intentions. Bjarke Ingels Group "The inspiration for the design is the materiality of the chair, the essence of the layered veneer and the functionality of the stacking. The final result is a subtle repetition of the iconic form language." Neri & Hu Design & Research Office "The idea of a replica, a re-edition, hinges on the duality between the original and the re-design. Our take on this project is to embrace this exact idea of duality and create an actual 'double'. The doubling of two original seats facing each other becomes the new version: The singular chair multiplied as the individual becomes a community. Reminding us that we are never alone, but always together." Jean Nouvel Design "Our chair is an example of Jean Nouvel's design signatures: contrasting colors and juxtapositions. Black and white mark each chair—although they still play together in a feminine and masculine flow. Creating a reinforcement of the curves of the front and of the back of the shell." Zaha Hadid "The provision for this chair was to create a harmonic transition from the existing shell and how it can effortlessly touch down on the ground. This special edition formalizes the Series 7 chair as a dynamic and seamless expression of structure and support. Formed from two continuous steel rods, the sculptural base sweeps down to the ground and reaches up to embrace the undulating shape of the iconic plywood seat." Jun Igarashi Architects "When buildings collapse during earthquakes, the building materials are wasted. Our idea is to collect the waste wood, introduce a color and process it into boards that can be used for furniture." Carlos Ott Architects in association with Carlos Ponce de Léon Architects "The chairs have been intervened the same way a vertical garden grows organically up a wall. The upholstery climbs and settles peacefully on the shell of the chair. The curved lines which compose the foundation of the different areas in the garden are mimicked and adapted to the anatomy of the chair". Snøhetta "We nurture differences. When opposites meets, they conjure an interesting dialogue. When nature meets the cultivated, when humans interact with architecture, when soft and hard co-exist—interesting things happen. "Maybe the Series 7 chair with its metal legs and wooden seat acknowledges this juxtaposition. We wanted to explore the soft side of the chair. "The wood is a representation of softness in contrast to metal. A legless construction is free and indeterminate. It is versatile and simple. And maybe it can be a symbol for social interaction and playfulness. If we add even more softness to it we might be able to create a new user experience, additional functionality. We want it to be a multifunctional social tool in both singular and plural contexts. You can sit in any formation dictated by any social scene you are in. It can be a singular, free, soft chair or a plural one in a fixed social situation." The chairs will travel to design festivals in London, Copenhagen, and Gent, Belgium before being auctioned to benefit UNICEF.
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Edward M. Kennedy Institute
The building's plan complements the neighboring JFK Library with a pair of triangular
Courtesy Edward M. Kennedy Institute
Let’s start next door. Enter the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (I.M. Pei & Associates, 1979) on Columbia Point at the University of Massachusetts–Boston, and you find yourself on a balcony, looking into the space-frame tower that will later complete your experience. A placard explains the water view: “When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sought the perfect location for the JFK presidential library, she looked to the sea that President Kennedy loved so well.” The truth is rather more complicated. Siting and designing the library was a dreary, 16-year slog of shrinking expectations and genuine heartbreak. Kennedy himself had chosen an urban site at Harvard, and Pei designed two different schemes accordingly, but logistics and community opposition stalled the project for a decade. In 1975, the Kennedys turned to maritime sites, and landed at Columbia Point—home to U. Mass. and a garbage dump. “It was a backwater, literally,” said Ted Musho, Pei’s associate partner on the project. “[U. Mass.] went there for the same reason we wound up there: Nobody else would take us. We’d been thrown out of the best site in the world, and here we are. So what do you do?” To sell the family on the dump as the best remaining option, said Musho, “We rented a big flatbed truck and we loaded everybody on, and we drove out as far as we could onto the muck, and I remember Mrs. Kennedy saying, ‘Where are you proposing putting the library?’”
Finally the site was refined, but “I.M. suffered. I mean, he suffered” from the endless compromise, said Musho. And now the budget was tight: “It should have been white marble, white granite—if we had the money! There is nothing about the building that was commensurate with the aura of the president’s name on it! It’s an inexpensive presidential library.” The resulting complex has always had a faintly depressing air, not because it is a memorial to a slain president but because, as such, it sat alone, and vaguely underinspired, in a vaguely suboptimal place. It is within this context that Rafael Viñoly has produced a resoundingly smart, sensitive design for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate that quietly transforms the entire site. Both architecturally and programmatically, John seems happier with his brother beside him: His building is no longer so isolated, and the tragic matter of his death is relieved by Teddy’s clever, youth-oriented program centered on model Senate proceedings.
A replica of the US Senate.
The institute is an object lesson in the power of limitations. Ted wanted a building that complemented John’s but did not compete with it. Viñoly’s symmetrical, low-rise plan leaves the spotlight on Pei’s geometries, but responds to them with aligned triangular “wings” and a subtler vertical mass—gray metal composite to Pei’s black glass. The axial entrance path alludes to neoclassical Washington, D.C., creating what partner David Rolland called “a procession, a formal entry into the building.” A thin strip of gravel at the building’s edge, where concrete meets lawn, is brilliant but nearly invisible; it could be thickened. Entering the lobby, you face a long, rich wall of Virginia mist granite, in the center of which a small well leads to a pair of tiny, traditional oak doors: the Senate chamber. First you’ll circumnavigate it, learning—through electronic projections on the outside walls, and your tablet computer—how hard it is to hammer out a bill that can be voted into law. Hidden classrooms on the perimeter allow school groups to test the process in depth.
The entrance procession.
The corridors are masterfully done. Painted in deep, warm grays and floored in polished concrete, they are softly lit to avoid the gloom of a cinema. Among the grays are dark oak benches and signs (both by exhibit designer ESI Design) that, while modern in form and typography, allude in tone and finish to the Senate’s historic furnishings. Above, a central light strip is flanked by gently pitched ceiling planes. Floor and ceiling joints are both recessed, with indirect lighting at the floor, to make the space “look more architectonic rather than more massive,” said Rolland. Hallways this simple could easily be soulless; these are thoughtful and comfortable. You then experience the Senate replica—with its yellow gallery walls, navy and red textiles, Levanto marble, cherry desks, and oval tray ceiling—as a sunburst. Guests are encouraged to stage a floor debate on an issue of the day, and actors start the process. Viñoly’s restraint is important not in the tired sense of adherence to high-modern lines, but in its palpable respect for the older design he was effectively adjoining. His team worked with the materials, formal language, and color palette they were given—in an age when most additions to historic structures use none of the three, and often lean on glass as a way to evade them all. This is the polar opposite of a trend-driven building, and the effect is as fresh as the breeze off Dorchester Bay. Some of the errors were, so to speak, forced. The lobby is empty. Viñoly’s original design had a giant ribbed skylight throwing bands of sun on the floor, but the budget cut it to one strip. Without such a flourish, the space needs some iconography or a pair of ESI’s oak benches. The landscape, by Sasaki Associates, is inadequate, especially where windows look to the bay past JFK’s loading dock; a tight property line tied the designers’ hands. Traffic circulation is a work in progress. And the Miesian gleam of the glass entry confounds some, leading to embarrassing makeshift signs: “Please find door here ––>.” Would Viñoly ever have sketched this prone form in isolation? Of course not. But he gave his site and his clients, who in this case go well beyond the Kennedys, exactly what they needed: a taste of redemption.
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Come celebrate NYCxDesign with The Architect's Newspaper at these great Design Week events
AN is participating in some great events during the upcoming NYCxDesign—the city's annual celebration of all things design. If you live in New York, or are in town from May 8–19, here are some key happenings to keep on your radar. In addition, at all these events and shows you'll get the chance to pick up a copy of AN's first special residential interiors issue, which is packed with information on other design happenings around town, highlights from the local art scene, stories on the latest trends in the field, and pages and pages of gorgeous homes. Hope to see you around town! BKLYN Designs Come see the upstarts in Brooklyn and visit the AN/AIANY New Practices Lounge. AN's Editor-in-Chief William Menking is conducting a panel with the new faces of Brooklyn architecture. Sunday, May 10th, 3pm-4pm Brooklyn Expo Center 72 Noble St, Brooklyn Frieze Art Fair Make your way to Randall's Island for one of the world's top contemporary art festivals. May 14-17 Randall's Island Park Duravit + The Architect's Newspaper Join AN at one of New York's best bathroom showrooms for a special event celebrating new collections from Philippe Starck and Christian Werner. Friday, May 15, 6-8pm Duravit NYC 105 Madison Avenue RSVP Here designjunction edit New York Check out an excellently curated display of interior design elements from leading global brands. May 15-18 ArtBeam 540 W 21st Street WantedDesign Visit Wanted's original platform for promoting design and see AN's Editor-in-Chief William Menking is moderating "Bright Architecture," a conversation on lighting, innovation, & architecture. May 16, 5:45-6:45pm. Terminal Stores 269 11th Avenue ICFF Now on its 27th year, this is the United States' biggest contemporary design showcase. Come say hi to AN staffers at booth #1870. May 16-19 Javits Center 655 West 34th Street
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Chicago's Harrington College of Design to close its doors, merge with Columbia College
Chicago's Harrington College of Design on Wednesday abruptly announced it will merge with Columbia College. Jim McCoy, Harrington's vice president of operations, told AN the school will no longer accept new students, but won't shut the door on its existing student body. “Everyone that's enrolled in Harrington, we will teach them out,” said McCoy. Students in the downtown college's associate, graduate, and bachelor programs will continue to take Harrington classes through August 2018—even students who took a semester off can finish their degrees, McCoy said. “We do not want to lock them out.” After the summer term, at which point Harrington will vacate its leased space in Chicago's Loop, students will attend class in facilities owned by Columbia College. Students who complete their degrees within about a year can request a diploma from Harrington, McCoy said, but bachelors finishing their degrees after that time will earn credentials from their new alma mater, Columbia College. McCoy said declining enrollment had put pressure on Harrington's administration to make the move now or face the possibility of shutting students out in a few years while they were still part-way through their academic programs. “It just became obvious,” McCoy said, “to get back to where it was financially stable would have taken years, and we felt this was in the best interest of the students.” Over the last five years McCoy estimated Harrington's enrollment has declined by 30–40 percent. He credits increasing competition, including from online programs, for the drop. But also to blame may be the college's select program offerings. For 84 years Harrington has offered highly specialized programs in graphic design, interior design, and photography. “Those are great fields. They will continue to be great fields,” said McCoy. But they could not sustain business at Harrington. Crain's Chicago Business contextualized the financial situation of Harrington's owner, the suburban Schaumburg-based, for-profit company Career Education:
Like many private education companies, Career Education has struggled with declining enrollment over the past few years and has been losing money. The company's 2014 revenue fell to $736.9 million from $834.1 million in the year prior, and its loss widened to $178.2 million from $164.3 million in 2013.
Nationally enrollment has declined at for-profit universities, as well. “We're saddened,” said McCoy. “We are. We are happy to have been able to partner with Columbia College, and the underlying thing is we're not closing the door on our students.”
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City of Designerly Love
Dilworth plaza, designed by OLIN and Kieran Timberlake, improves accessibility while deferring to Philadelphiaas magnificent city hall.
Courtesy Kieran Timberlake

Ten years ago Philadelphia architects might have asked themselves “why am I here when I could be in New York or Washington where there is so much more opportunity?” Today however, according to architect Brian Phillips, “the situation has totally flipped and the city is a place where people are encouraged to take risks.” Unlike a place like Boston, which is so put together, Phillips said Philly is still a work in progress and presents an exciting laboratory for architects. Today it is not only a place where young designers want (and can afford) to live and work, but a city that is once again looking to architects and urbanists to reinvigorate its de-industrialized core and give it a new identity. In fact, Philadelphia’s belief in what physical design can achieve and mean for daily life can be traced all the way back to William Penn’s utopian grid plan for the city. Though his plan was almost immediately overwhelmed by commercial demands, it set the stage for the city to be a place that makes linkages between planning, design, and its future.

 
Magic Garden by Isaiah Zagar is a folk art monument (left). The Chestnut Hill Quaker Meeting House designed by James Turrell has one of the artist’s famous skyspaces (right).
R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia; Terry Foss
 

For example, Louis Kahn—Philadelphia’s greatest mid-century architect and mentor to generations of the city’s best designers, including Robert Venturi—worked on urban design plans for the city and its Planning Commission between 1939 and 1962. His urban design, traffic studies, and schematic tower buildings became iconic images, not just for Philadelphia, but for the entire nation’s urban renewal efforts. Then there are the massive physical changes brought to the center city by planner Edmund Bacon during the 1950s and 60s that also helped define the direction of American urban renewal. The bold and controversial changes that Bacon brought to the city can still be seen in the open landscaped plans of Penn Center, Society Hill, and Independence Mall.  The other important architectural influence on Philadelphia is The University of Pennsylvania’s school of architecture (now Penn Design), which was founded in 1868 as the second university-based architecture school in the country. The importance of this school to Philadelphia is arguably more pronounced than any other American school to its host city. Its faculty—which has included such luminaries as G. Holmes Perkins, Lewis Mumford, Martin Meyerson, and Edmund Bacon—has periodically been engaged with Philadelphia’s urban condition. Under current dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor, the school has continued this tradition with faculty members like the late Detlef Mertens and today Witold Rybczynski, Marion Weiss, Winka Dubbeldam, Stephen Kieren, and James Timberlake engaging regularly in urban issues. The international reputation of the school has also brought major faculty figures to the United States who have influenced the course of the city’s (and the nation’s) architecture, including, in 1903, Frenchman Paul Cret, Denise Scott Brown, and the Scotsman Ian McHarg. McHarg, the father of environmental landscape planning, re-energized the Penn program in the 1950s and 60s and made it one of the most important landscape programs in the country. It has produced figures like Laurie Olin and James Corner and the current chair, Australian Richard Weller.

Sister Cities Park, designed by DIGSAU and Studio | Bryan Hanes landscape architecture, is one of the city’s most important new public spaces.
Courtesy Center City District
 

It would be hard to imagine the city’s great landscaped thoroughfare, Benjamin Franklin Parkway, without the influence of Penn faculty, from Cret who helped design the boulevard to Venturi and Scott Brown and Olin. A product of the early 20th century City Beautiful movement in urban design, the boulevard cuts across the Philly’s grid and was intended to alleviate industrial congestion, but it has became a grand cultural district that includes the Free Library of Philadelphia, Franklin Institute, Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rodin Museum, and now Todd Williams Billie Tsien’s new Barnes Museum with Parkway fronting gardens by Olin Associates. The panoramic image created by Venturi, Rauch, and Scott Brown for a 1976 U.S. bi-centennial celebration along the Franklin Parkway is a landmark of early post-modern concept and design. The city is making this historic boulevard, which was never a pedestrian friendly space, a best practices laboratory, attempting to knit it better into the urban fabric. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, which concludes the boulevard, has recently inaugurated a new garden designed by the late sculptor Sol LeWitt. Titled Garden Lines in Four Directions in Flowers, it consists of four different colors (white, yellow, red, and blue) arranged in four equal rectangular plots and rows going in four directions. It is intended to be colorful in all seasons. LeWitt designed it thirty years ago, but it only opened on the parkway last year. The parkway also has new OLIN–designed gardens and the Paul Cret–designed Rodin Museum, which features gardens by Jacque Greber, and the Barnes Foundation, all of which give a new emphasis to pedestrians. Nearby, where the Parkway meets Logan Square, The City Center District, a public-private organization, has just opened Sister Cities Park, which includes a Children’s Discovery Garden, Café, Visitor Center, and fountain. Designed by Philadelphia architecture firm DIGSAU and Studio | Bryan Hanes landscape architects, it is the most important new public space in the city along with Field Operations’ Race Street Pier, Erdy McHenry’s Independence Café, and a meandering 24-acre park and play fields that Michael Van Valkenberg Associates has created between the Schuylkill River, Amtrak rail line, and a highway.

It is not just planning and landscape design that makes Philadelphia a hub of creativity, but also architecture. Perhaps the first really important building in the city was the Eastern State Penitentiary designed by architect John Haviland and opened in 1829. Though it is barely known today by architects, it was not only the second most expensive building in the country (after the U.S. Capital) when it was constructed, but its hub and spoke radial design quickly influenced the construction of at least 320 similar institutions around the world. This high perimeter walled 10 ½-acre facility was based on the Quaker-inspired notion of “confinement in solitude with labor.” While it seems a harsh environment today, it represented a major advancement in 19th century prison reform. It closed in 1971 after 142 years of active use and is now open to the public as a museum. It is not likely on many architects “must see” list when visiting the city, but it should be as it is a bricks and mortar reminder of how powerful architecture and its social programming are to those who inhabit its spaces.

The Piazza by Erdy McHenry Architects is the closest thing to a European piazza as we have in this country.
Courtesy Erdy McHenry Architecture
 

New buildings in Philadelphia do not all receive the national press coverage that the new Barnes Collection facility garnered, but the city has a number of outstanding new works by local and regional architects that deserve to be better known. In the very heart of the city, adjacent to the 19th century City Hall (once the tallest masonry building in the world), Kieran Timberlake has designed Dilworth Plaza. The plaza combines landscape design (OLIN again) and architecture, including two soaring glass subway entrances, to improve accessibility while respecting the historic backdrop.

A dozen blocks west of City Hall and across the Schuylkill River, the University of Pennsylvania campus has always been a privileged zone of prestige architecture with buildings by Frank Furness, Louis Kahn, Venturi and Scott Brown, and Fumihiko Maki. In 2006, this illustrious list was joined by the iridescent, ivy green presence of Skirkanich Hall, designed by Williams and Tsien. A block away, the Weiss/Manfredi–designed Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology has just opened, continuing the tradition of extraordinary educational buildings. Weiss/Manfredi was a perfect choice for this building, which sits just off the campus proper, as the firm refined its “landscape into a building” signature style to create a gateway to the adjacent campus. The design arranges laboratories around a central quad, visually connecting the sciences to the street and providing a new indoor and outdoor open space for student and faculty interaction. It is a model for what universities, which often wall off their campuses to the outside world, should be doing in today’s cities.

As good as all this sounds, research by Mixplace Studio (a collaborative project that includes the Slought Foundation, People’s Emergency Center, PennDesign, Estudio Teddy Cruz/Center for Urban Ecologies, and UCSD) points out that all of the new architecture and advanced urban thinking taking place in Philadelphia tends to focus on the central commercial districts and not its surrounding residential neighborhoods—particularly those that are poor and underserved. One Mixplace project, “One Linear Mile,” focuses on ten consecutive blocks that move “across race and class, from public school to private university, and from public disinvestment to total privatization.” It points out that Philadelphia’s principle strategy for poorer residential neighborhoods is to hope the private market alone will solve the problem either through gentrification or cheap commercial housing. One Linear Mile points out the rather obvious fact that private real estate investment tends to avoid poor neighborhoods in search of the higher financial returns to be found in more affluent or up-and-coming areas.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Sol LeWitt–designed garden.
Courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art
 

However, there are two new commercial projects that belie this general rule and may well help create a more equitable future in low-income neighborhoods. The new environmentally aware mixed use housing project Folsom Powerhouse, designed by ISA Architecture, is just the sort of sensible and affordable project that could easily be copied all over the city. Then there is a project called The Piazza in the Northern Liberties neighborhood, which features an 80,000-square-foot public space. Designed by Erdy McHenry Architects, The Piazza is a three building complex with a perimeter wall that is the closest thing to a European piazza that we have in this country. The complex features shops on the ground floor that open onto the open space and above are Le Corbusier–inspired two-story loft apartments. The project has the feeling of being cut off from the surrounding troubled neighborhood. Once you are inside the Piazza, it is an experience unlike anything outside of Disneyworld. If the city were to build on this project with a more developed infrastructure it could be the catalyst for the entire area.

But de-industrialized neighborhoods like Northern Liberties are at least proving to be cheap workshop space for designers and fabricators. Milder Office moved there from New York. The fourteen-member collaborative of sculptors and fabricators called Traction operates out of a large old streetcar manufacturing warehouse. And Veyko metal fabricators is located in an old loft district.

In fact, according to Scott Brown, the city is not preserving the greenways that Ed Bacon created to link residential Society hill to the historic quarter on Walnut and Chestnut streets. When Scott Brown and Venturi designed the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, it was meant to be a way stop on Bacon’s pedestrians connections. In spite of Scott Brown’s protestations, the walkway into the memorial and museum has been gated off and closed when the Museum is not open. A few blocks along Bacon’s Greenway, however, Isaiah Zagar’s ongoing tile mosaic project Magic Garden is still morphing and growing in and around once abandoned buildings. It is now in the center of an increasingly gentrified part of the city. If this folk art monument is not enough to bring an urbanist to Philadelphia for a design weekend, perhaps they will be drawn by the recently completed James Turrell–designed Chestnut Hill Quaker meeting house, with one of his signature sky spaces, or Mark Newson’s upcoming first retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The list of attractions goes on.

Given these assets, if Philadelphia could just put a little more effort into upgrading the infrastructure of its troubled residential neighborhoods it would be a truly unique and exciting urban laboratory. This might be said of almost any American city, but Philadelphia has the tradition and creativity to make it work.

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Big Man on Campus
Detail of Pereira's Transamerica Tower in San Francisco.
Barbara Stumm / Courtesy Nevada Museum of Art

Modernist Maverick: The Architecture of William L. Pereira
Nevada Museum of Art
160 West Liberty Street, Reno
Through October 13

Labeling William Pereira as a maverick is the first surprise in the current exhibit on his architecture at Reno’s Nevada Museum of Art.

“Maverick” is usually reserved for brilliant loners who stray far from the herd. Pereira, on the other hand, was featured on the cover of Time, designed indelible urban landmarks like the LAX Theme Building, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and San Francisco’s Transamerica pyramid, and worked in the heart of California’s public and private establishments. Yet the architect-planner that emerges from this exceptional exhibit is clearly well ahead of the herd.

This exhibit is long overdue. It’s an embarrassment that no Los Angeles museum took on this task. But Nevada Museum of Art Executive Director David Walker (formerly with Art Center College of Design) saw the opportunity when he met Pereira’s son Bill in Reno. The Museum and curator Colin Robertson have achieved a balance of new information for scholars and a lively exhibit design for laypeople that ranks with the best of the Getty’s recent Pacific Standard Time Presents exhibits.

   
Views of the exhibition floor at the Nevada Museum of Art.
Jamie Kingham
 

Not exhaustive, the exhibit focuses on five projects that capture the broad strokes of Pereira’s multi-faceted career. They include his own house in Hancock Park, but also the plan of an entire new town and university in Irvine, California, which addressed the shortcomings of garden-variety suburbia. He could create singular riveting architectural statements (such as San Francisco’s Transamerica pyramid and the reverse-pyramid of UC San Diego’s Geisel Library), and yet the planner in him was always compelled to integrate these icon-landmarks with their surroundings. And in Pereira’s farsighted early concepts for LAX (with then-partner Charles Luckman, implemented with joint collaborators Welton Becket Associates and Paul R. Williams), the technological complexities of jet travel are blended with a truly modern public architecture.

Pereira's Geisel Library at UCSD.
Ken McCown / Courtesy Nevada Museum of Art
 

So Pereira is not just a conventional corporate architect at the beck and call of industry. In each of these projects he uses his confident insider status to push back boundaries. A trip to Reno to see the exhibit is made entirely worthwhile by the original black plastic model of the unbuilt 1,000-foot-tall ABC headquarters in Manhattan, which became an early study for the Transamerica pyramid. Its asymmetrical play of office floors and elevator cores, of served and servant spaces, explain how Pereira was pushing modernism forward at a critical time in its history.

Pereira’s innovations become clear in the accessible exhibition design by Nikolaus Hafermaas and UEBERSEE. Many architecture exhibits induce fatigue in the average visitor by relying on stylized models and obscure drawings. Hafermaas avoids this by high-lighting specific details that bring the architecture alive. Pereira’s sense of expansive cinematic space (after all, he won an Oscar for special effects in 1942 for Cecil B. DeMille’s “Reap the Wild Wind”) is tangibly conveyed in a series of openings cut into the exhibit’s partitions. These widescreen windows combine a wide shot of the entire exhibit with focused close ups of key exhibits. The experience of jet travel proposed by Pereira and Luckman for LAX in the early 1950s (well before jet travel was common) blends electronics with architecture in such details as a hand-held device to keep travelers updated on their flights—essentially a smart phone.

   
Left to right: Drawing of the Transamerica Puramid; Ball-Nogues' inverted model of the pyramid suspended from the ceiling of the Nevada Museum of Art; An early concept sketch of the ABC Tower.
Courtesy Nevada Museum of Art (left, Right); Jamie Kingham (center)
 

Key to this accessibility is the inclusion of art, mostly commissioned for the installation. Several artists stretch and reimagine Pereira’s forms, iconography, and concepts in ways that that give us new perspectives on the architecture—literally. The Transamerica pyramid, a form almost too well known, is made startlingly fresh by Ball-Nogues Studio’s stunning four-story model rendered in ball chains and hanging upside down in the museum’s open stairwell. Deborah Aschheim’s luminous white plastic models reinvigorate the modern sculpted shapes of the Theme Building and a preliminary Transamerica Tower design, while her drawings of the UC Irvine campus in the throes of 1960s student rebellion undermine the conventional screed that Pereira produced futuristically lifeless designs.

Of course, Pereira’s accomplishments go beyond these five buildings. There were innovations in modern urban recreational venues (Marineland of the Pacific), retail architecture (several superb Robinsons department stores), and modern communications facilities (CBS Television City). These and others are represented in a timeline that graphically links major themes in his life and work, as well as providing in-depth material via icons that link to further material through visitors’ smart phones.

With LACMA proposing to demolish its original Pereira campus, we’ve seen attempts to downplay his significance. This exhibit demonstrates what little justification there is for that opinion. The Pereira shown here was an innovator, a builder, a doer, often visionary, and certainly a major shaper of modern twentieth century cities.

Modernist Maverick clearly establishes, with fresh and needed scholarship, that Pereira was a major architect. Above all, Modernist Maverick is a ringing reminder that we don’t know everything we think we do about the history of modern architecture. Though the Nevada Museum of Art may be on the outer fringes of the San Francisco–Los Angeles museum axis, it has produced an extraordinarily important exhibit and catalog.

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Aspirational Eyes
Maynard L. Parker

Maynard L. Parker: Modern Photography and the American Dream
Jennifer Watts
Yale University Press, $65

Ezra Stoller Photographer
Nina Rappaport and Erica Stoller
Yale University Press, $65

From the late 1930s through the early ’60s, few photographers documented the changing residential lifestyles of the nuclear family as extensively as Maynard L. Parker.

Crisscrossing the nation, primarily for House Beautiful magazine and Better Homes & Gardens, Parker made photographs that championed the slowly emerging modern esthetic of the suburban Ranch-style house and the impact of the postwar consumer extravaganza.

Editor Jennifer Watts has put together a nice monograph on the best, most typical images Parker produced, starting from the peak of his long career. Still, these images read much more as a fun history of postwar suburbia and the growth of Southern California than as a documentation of the period’s architecture. Flipping through this book reminds you of going through old Life magazines while watching Leave it to Beaver. Modern kitchen appliances, hi-fi systems, and table settings are given equal footing with the architecture. Watts also does a nice job of providing a context to Parker’s photographs.

   
Courtesy Yale University Press
 

His legacy, she explains, is mostly one that translates the design directives of his various editors, in particular Elizabeth Gordon of House Beautiful. Gordon didn’t always have to be on location for the shoot, as Parker had been well conditioned to give her exactly what she was looking for. Gordon had her own agenda of not just pleasing the advertisers but of steering her readership away from the International style and “left wing” architects, such as Gropius and Mies, and more toward her views of middle class living and a “station wagon way of life.”

Parker, working the same territory at the same time as Julius Shulman, was the go-to photographer for shooting the interiors of homes owned by Hollywood stars and the growing number of wealthy entertainment executives. As much as Shulman glamorized the Hollywood “house on the hill,” his aim first and foremost was about photographing the architecture. For Parker and the shelter magazines, it was about promoting a style and lifestyle that readers could either aspire to or at least live vicariously.

While Shulman was winning commissions from architects such as Pierre Koenig, Richard Neutra, and Raphael Soriano, Parker was left with shooting, for the likes of Quincy Jones, Leo Blackman, and Cliff May, housing developments, along with department store interior design service installations.

Although Watts has put together a book that shows Maynard Parker at his best, sadly this is still not saying a lot. Through House Beautiful Parker photographed a number of Frank Lloyd Wright projects and some of Edward Durell Stone’s work. But even the most avid Wright fan would be hard pressed to conjure up a single one of these images. Maynard Parker was clearly a hard-working, prolific, successful and very good photographer, just not a great one.


Judge Anderson Residences photographed by Parker in 1963.
Maynard L. Parker
 
 

The three pillars of midcentury architectural photography were Ken Hedrick in Chicago, Julius Shulman in Los Angeles, and Ezra Stoller working out of New York. They are not equal, though. It is no exaggeration to say Ezra Stoller is the father of modern architectural photography. Stoller’s compositional aesthetic and technical mastery place him in the 20th century photographic pantheon with the likes of Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, and Edward Weston—this despite his being an editorial photographer who never aspired to be a fine art photographer.

Ezra Stoller Photographer, edited by Nina Rappaport and Erica Stoller, the photographer’s daughter and the owner of the Esto Photographics agency and archive, is a beautiful compilation of one iconic image after another that Ezra Stoller created during a 40-year career. Stoller photographed most of the best midcentury architectural masterpieces and created truly memorable images. When we think of either Saarinen’s TWA terminal, Wright’s Falling Water and the Guggenheim Museum, Philip Johnson’s Glass House, or Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute, we invariably think of these buildings as an Ezra Stoller image.

And for many great buildings, Stoller’s images are all that is left, thereby becoming the last word. Examples include Wright’s Johnson Wax Tower and headquarters, Morris Lappidus’ Americana Hotel, and the New York State pavilion from the 1964 World’s Fair. Stoller’s photographic style of simple, clean, graphic compositions was a perfect complement to the clean-lined and unadorned simplicity of modern architecture. Oft times Stoller could summarize a building in one shot encompassing all its essential elements.

It is not a stretch to say that some of the projects Stoller photographed are considered great architecture merely from the credibility Stoller’s images bestowed upon them. The Parking Garage in Miami, by Robert Law Weed, is a good example, showing each car carefully positioned without hindering the graceful floating effect of the stacked decking. This was truly “form following function.” Still, the structure was also just a parking garage. Yet Stoller’s image forces the viewer to appreciate it as a functional work of art. It is no surprise that Stoller accumulated a client list of the best modernist practices and firms throughout the country. In addition to those already named, Stoller shot extensively for Skidmore Owings and Merrill, Mies van der Rohe, Paul Rudolph, Marcel Breuer, and I.M. Pei.

A typical Parker photograph.
Maynard L. Parker
 

Erica Stoller gives us just enough background detail about her father’s education (NYU architecture and industrial design), unlimited energy, and thoroughness in understanding his subject that we can better appreciate the creative source of the images. She shares how her father would not only scout a building for the best time of day to shoot but sometimes hold off until the right time of year. She then steps aside and lets the images speak for themselves.

Nina Rappaport, meanwhile, writes extensively about Stoller’s under-appreciated industrial images. Fortunately, many pages are dedicated to showing off his great catalogue of, once again, beautifully composed and technically near-perfect images. Stoller’s industrial images are the hidden treasure of his vast career catalogue. In his industrial imagery, as in his architectural images, the Stoller style is ever-present. Simple compositions are often dramatically lit, but not overly lit, to bring out the beauty of the subject, be it a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, paper plant, or hydroelectric dam. It is some of these detailed images that have the fine art quality of an Edward Weston photo.

Overall, Stoller’s work was a perfect blend of compositional artistry, technical know-how, and patience. For someone who was simply documenting others’ work, Stoller blurred the line between the architect’s art and his own.

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LA's Grand Park
Los Angeles' Grand Park with City Hall in the background.
Slices of Light/Flickr

Often the difference between a good city and a great one is its defining public park, which becomes a destination, a refuge, and a transformer of peoples’ conceptions of the place. Can you imagine New York without Central Park? Paris without the Tuileries or the Luxembourg Gardens? Contemporary Chicago without Millennium Park?

But when you think of Los Angeles, central urban spaces do not spring to mind. Downtown, which has been undergoing a metamorphosis in the last few years, is still culprit number one in this shortage. Its most notable park is Pershing Square, a concrete-dominated postmodern monstrosity that draws more vagrants than tourists or residents. Other small parks in the area suffer similar fates.


But the new Grand Park, whose first phase opens today (the second half should be done by the fall) is a huge step in the right direction.

Designed by local architects and landscape architects Rios Clementi Hale, the $56 million park, funded mostly by the Related Companies (who chipped in $50 million as a trade off for being able to develop their largely-on-hold Grand development) begins to mend the deep scars created by the city’s auto-centered, modernist planning dogma and changes one’s perception of its neighborhood, and to some extent, of the city at large.

Courtesy LA County
 

What was once an off-putting, sterile, unfinished, and overlooked space called the Los Angeles County Civic Center Mall is now inviting, vibrant and, yes, transformative. While it’s not perfect, it’s an example of how for once the city’s public realm has aspired to greatness, not good-enoughness. It’s also a perfect example of how LA’s attitude toward urbanity has transformed in recent years, however the city kicks and screams.

The long park slopes downhill along a 12-acre, 4 block stretch between the Music Center to the east and City Hall to the West, lined on both sides by austere modernist municipal buildings like the Hall of Records and the County Courts building. Along its length are a series of lawns, plazas, and terraces, including the Fountain Plaza, containing the renovated Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain and the Performance Lawn, designed for shows and events. In coming months it will also include the Community Terrace, which will contain among other things a new subway station, and the Event Lawn, for larger events at the base of City Hall. These components are layered with a huge variety of plants and trees, crisscrossed by long, curving walkways and edged by linear paths.

It seems like a simple formula, but it’s not. In fact, it’s an amazing balancing act.

For one, Rios Clementi Hale has deftly combined grand gestures with intimate moments. The magnificent vista of City Hall, which can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the park, is the true “wow” moment, which the firm enhanced by moving and trimming trees to frame the view. Much more subtle, informal zones were created by planting (or re-planting) 150 trees and adding 24 gardens worth of draught tolerant plants arranged in a multitude of configurations.

 
Courtesy LA County
 

The firm also kept the parts of the old park that worked and scrapped the ones that didn’t. They removed the tops of the huge curved parking ramps that once blocked the park’s physical and visual connections to Grand Avenue. Now one can walk straight into the park, enjoying the wonderful, dancing fountain (which has been thoroughly rehabilitated with the help of Fluidity Design) and gazing at City Hall beyond. The Music Center, the DWP Building, City Hall and the flanking municipal buildings are all in clear dialogue. We get the best of Modernism; its inspiring gestures, not its arrogant mistakes.

The bottom quarter of the park, which was once a parking lot, will soon be a grassy lawn. And some of the red granite walls that once disturbed the park’s unity have been removed; although a few remain, raised above the park’s plane like standoffish older relatives. A few cast-in-place concrete benches remain, but these are not obtrusive. They add a nice retro touch, their heaviness offset by sinuous magenta metal street furniture designed in house by Rios Clementi Hale and manufactured by Janus et Cie.

That new furniture, much of which can be picked up and moved around the park, lends a touch of light-hearted fun, which has long been lacking in this somber part of town. It also lends a feminine touch in what has long been a white male bastion. Much of the design was inspired by the city’s off-the-charts diversity. Not only are metallic entry columns, created by design firm Sussman Prejza, etched with welcomes in countless languages, but the plants hail from regions around the world, including Africa, Asia and South America.

Courtesy LA County
 

The park’s architecture is quite contemporary but not distracting. The lime green coffee shop to the south, with its angled canopy roof and standing seam metallic façade, somehow fits right in. The park’s staff building to the north is covered with white perforated metal. It feels new, but somehow feels like it’s always been there, like a part of the landscape.


This careful balancing act is of course not without its flaws. The park could use more shade, including umbrellas on its plazas, although that situation will improve as plants mature; there’s too much concrete, which hardens the feel and reflects too much harsh light; the parking ramps along Hill Street, whose removal was deemed too expensive, block the park’s connection to that street; and considering its location in one of the deadest parts of Downtown the park still needs many more amenities, which the county promises are coming. Perhaps along with food carts the park will also get some more impressive public art? Did city leaders get a look at Millenium Park’s Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor?

 
Courtesy LA County; Sam Lubell
 

Related deserves credit for maintaining control over construction, which they accomplished by leasing the land during the project’s development (they handed it over to the Grand Avenue Authority, a county and city joint venture, upon completion). And the Music Center, which will now program the park, seems determined to provide events from fairs to symphonies to farmers markets that will keep it busy and in peoples’ minds. We’ll see how that proceeds.

The park is already making an impact. The civic center, and the city, already seem more connected and alive. The Grand, which has so long stayed on hold (with the exception of a new residential tower next to the new Broad Museum) already feels like more of a possibility, which of course Related claims was its plan all along.

Is this Central Park? Of course not. But the very fact that it invites such comparisons without howls of laughter is a triumph. This is a good example of what LA’s staggering amount of design talent can accomplish when given a fair chance to shine in the public realm. LA is still a big, stubborn, maddening giant. But sometimes we look around and see that things are getting better.

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Will the City Ever Learn?
Courtesy Center for an Urban Future

The Center for an Urban Future has more good news about the state of the design industry in New York. Last June the Manhattan-based think tank issued “Growth by Design,” a white paper on the state of what it calls the "innovation economy" in the five boroughs. It pointed out that New York City has nearly twice as many designers (architecture, graphic, interior, fashion and industrial design) as Los Angeles, the nation's second largest design hub. There are for example 8,200 architects and 2,680 interior design firms compared to visual artists (805) and performing artists (1,048). The point of last year’s study was to highlight the fact that designers and architects in this city do not really get the attention they deserve as members of the creative economy. Since then Christine Quinn has proposed some sort of design festival for next year, but the Bloomberg administration seems more focused on Cornell's new applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island and the five new sound stages at Brooklyn's Steiner Studios as potential job generators than on our dynamic design industry.

In view of this official disregard, we pointed out in our June 22 editorial that the study also neglects to mention the number of non-profit institutions in the city that for years have supported and promoted design. The other vibrant design institutions the report neglected to mention were the many design schools in the city that feed graduates into the profession and community. Now the Center has just issued a report, “Designing New York’s Future,” that details local educational institutions with design schools and design departments. Here again, New York City is the clear leader in design education in the United Sates, if pure numbers are any indication of leadership in this field.

New York City graduates “more than twice as many students in design and architecture as any other city in the country.” The report also claims “that the city’s leading design schools—including Parsons The New School for Design, the Fashion Institute of Technology, Pratt Institute, and the School of Visual Arts—have become critical catalysts for innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic growth." In short, New York City needs to recognize that no other city matches it in terms of education infrastructure in design and architecture. In 2010, New York City graduated 4,278 students in design and architecture, while the city with the second most, Los Angeles, graduated less than half as many (1,769). It also has two architecture schools in the country’s top ten by the number of degrees awarded: Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation (#5) and Pratt (#8).

In addition, enrollment at New York’s design universities has been growing at a faster rate than at other universities in the city: Between 2001 and 2010, full-time student enrollment at the city’s 10 largest design and architecture schools increased by 34 percent, going from 18,002 students at the beginning of the decade to 24,065 students ten years later. During the same period, student enrollment at all institutions of higher education in New York City grew 27 percent.

These numbers however do not highlight the creative relationship the design institutions have with the profession, where junior designers have long supplemented their income with adjunct teaching assignments and faculty meet (and hire) the best design talents bringing them into the profession and community. It should be pointed out that this report studies only design schools in the five boroughs, but if we think of Princeton to our south and New Haven and Ithaca to our north as part of New York's orbit then the picture becomes even more impressive. Justifiably famous for their faculties, these schools employ—in addition to many New York-based architects—the most creative design historians, theoreticians, engineers, city planners, and urban designers. Further, the lectures, symposia, and colloquiums they continue to produce make this the most dynamic design environment on the planet, let alone in the United States. The New York design community seems to go from strength to strength, but it’s not the utopia the numbers suggest. Speaker Quinn's design festival is a good if slightly frivolous start, but how about a city-financed incubator for young designers opening their first studio? That would make an actual difference, while also showing us that the city understands the rich potential of our industry to advance its own future. To see the full report, visit the Center for an Urban Future's web site.

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What's the Next Vision for New York?
Christine Quinn delivers the New York State of the City Address.
William Alatriste

As part of her annual State of the City address, on February 9 City Council Speaker and potential mayoral candidate Christine Quinn announced her support for the future growth of New York’s design industries: “We have more designers than any city in the United States, with nearly 40,000 New Yorkers working in everything from graphics to movie sets, architecture to interior decorating. We’ll grow our design sector by stealing an idea from the fashion industry. Fashion Week, which starts today, brings 300,000 visitors and nearly $800 million into our city every year. Working with Council Member Karen Koslowitz, we’re going to give that same kind of boost to our design industry by creating and hosting a New York City Design Week.”

The next mayoral election is still over a year in the future, but the speech does raise the question of what a new mayor will mean for the city's departments of Planning, Transportation, Parks and Design and Construction not to mention our dynamic design community. It is common knowledge that Mayor Bloomberg’s administration made a conscious effort to bring architectural and urban design thinking into city government more than at any time since Robert Moses and John Lindsay in the late 1960s. In the same way that Lindsay's two terms as mayor coincided with a remarkable transformation of urban life in New York, Bloomberg’s three terms have witnessed a profound change in the life of the city. It will of course be up to future historians to assess the current mayor’s ultimate success and failures but his quartet of Commissioners at City Planning, Transportation, Parks, and Design and Construction have overseen a total transformation in how citizens move about, experience, and live in the city.

Then again it may be that Bloomberg only happened to be mayor when architecture was taken up for the first time by New York property developers as a salable commodity and when they commissioned some of the world’s best architects to design Manhattan luxury housing. The mayor certainly did not directly create anything of great civic architectural quality for our public sphere, but as a believer in the private market supported by public, philanthropic initiatives of high design quality like the High Line, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Governors Island development, and the DOT’s bike lanes and “parks in a street” maintained by Business Improvement Districts and other non governmental agencies. These are of course heavily Manhattan-centric in their geographic reach and influence, so Bloomberg’s new city is less visible the farther one travels from Midtown. We all remember when he pinned his legacy to an Olympic master plan, West Side Football stadium, and the possibility of a really great World Trade Center development.

Or it may be that Bloomberg happened to be mayor when New York emerged as the most important design hub in the United States if not the world. Last summer we commented on the Growth by Design report assembled by the Center for an Urban Future that detailed the growing importance of the design sector to New York’s economy. It revealed how design sector jobs in the New York metropolitan area grew by 75 percent over the past decade. In fact the report claimed that in New York the design field (architecture, graphic, interior, fashion and industrial design) has nearly twice as many designers as Los Angeles, the nation's second largest design hub.

But back to Speaker Quinn and her support for design in New York City. Really, is a week-long design festival the best that the Speaker can do to support and encourage this dynamic sector of the city's economy? We need to hear what she proposes for the various departments like City Planning and Parks. Its hard to imagine that department heads like Amanda Burden, David Burney, Janette Sadik-Khan, and Adrian Benepe will stay on after 12 years of public sector employment, but will the new mayor even want them to stay or will she/ he replace them, and what types of policies will new commissioners be pursuing? Will the next mayor continue to support new bicycle lanes and curbside park development from the DOT and the ambitious architecture policies of Commissioner Burney? We have heard almost nothing from Quinn and the two or three other likely candidates about their potential policies. Proposing a week-long festival is not really enough of an initiative to tell us much about what a new Quinn administration might mean for the  city. In the coming months, we need to hear much more from the Speaker and all the other candidates.

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Quick Clicks> Liquid Letters, Grad Cities, Future Weaving, Shoe Dice
Living letters. Typeface designer Ruslan Khasanov created a liquid typeface by inking letters onto a porcelain sink and photographing their movement as they slid down the drain. The white on black animated GIFs reveal letters that strangely resemble those amoebas we studied under the microscope back in high school bio. More at Co.Design. Great cities for 20 somethings. Recently graduated? Looking for a creative, liberal-minded, inexpensive city with low unemployment? GOOD magazine has published a tally of top cities for young adults. Austin, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Washington D.C. garnered top spots. Weaving futures. The future of weaving: Austrian designer collaboration "mischer’traxler" has fused art and technology in their latest invention, a machine that weaves depending on how many people are watching. Sensors located on the basket weaving frame detect how many people are standing nearby, adding different colors per person. Co.Design called it “passive interaction.” Show me the shoes. For shoe company Shoesme, Dutch designer Teon Fleskens has designed a flexible, interchangeable shoe display system, according to Contemporist. The main element, large white dice, can be stacked and rearranged to various table and counter-level heights and can also be used for seating.