Posts tagged with "Design Observer":

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Another Rudolph in Danger

The Sarasota High School by Paul Rudolph. While Paul Rudolph aficionados are in a holding pattern until Thursday, awaiting news from Goshen about whether the Orange County Government Center will be torn down, Design Observer's Mark Lamster has put another endangered Rudolph onto their radar. The Sarasota school board in Florida is considering a renovation of Sarasota High School that would enclose its stepped entryway and canopy. Lamster warns that the alteration "would utterly compromise the Rudolph's vision and the work itself."
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Lange vs Ouroussoff

Love Nicolai Ouroussoff or hate him, Alexandra Lange's takedown, "Why Nicolai Ouroussoff Is Not Good Enough" on Design Observer, is a highly engaging read. The design community seems to tire of its most visible critic after a few years, and Lange begins her piece by revisiting Michael Sorkin's takedown of then Times critic Paul Goldberger from the mid 1980s. Many of us recall a similar fatigue that set in during Herbert Muschamp's time on the job. Lange, a frequent contributor to AN's "Crit" column, hits Oroussoff with a three pronged attack, with sections subtitled, "He Doesn't Seem To Live in New York City" (a jab at his globetrotting), "He's Slippery" (on vagueness of his writing), and "He Doesn't Care" (an accusation that he's passionless). She is anything but passionless: "When I see a terrible building, or even just one with large, windy, unmanageable public spaces, I get mad," she writes. The popular press could always use more voices with such informed conviction.
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Design Observer Diversifies

Design Observer started in 2003 as an online destination for commentary and discussion on design, primarily graphic design. Its founders, Michael Bierut, William Drenttel, Jessica Helfand, and Rick Poyner are all well-known voices in that field, and the site quickly grew to be one of the most widely read design forums, claiming 175,000 visitors a month, and attracting contributions from other notable writers and designers. Though it has touched on architecture, industrial design, photography, art, and pop culture, its primary focus has remained graphic design. That’s changing, however, as the site, now known as the Design Observer Group, has expanded to include four distinct pages, Observatory, Observermedia, Change Observer, and Places. Change Observer, which is being edited by Drenttel and Julie Lasky, the former editor of I.D. focuses on design as an agent of social change. Underwritten by the Rockefeller Foundation, Change Observer will explore “design strategies aimed globally at improving health, education, housing, and the environment,” according to a statement. Places, a long published journal on urbanism, landscape, planning, and urban design is relaunching as a web journal as a part of the group with the support of the Design History Foundation. “We've always covered architecture and urbanism on Design Observer, but not with any depth or range,” Drenttel told AN by email. “Certainly, not with the scope of Places, and its deep, 25-year history of engagement with these topics. It is a major change to be able to offer their archive of 1250 articles to our readers. As they relaunch Places in the fall under editor Nancy Levinson, we expect architecture and urbanism to play an even greater role on our sites.” Observermedia, the site’s new audio and video channel, is built on the archives of Debbie Millman’s “Design Matters” internet radio archive. It will include new episodes by Millman as well as audio and video features by other contributors. Observatory will continue in vein of Design Observer as we know it, with essays and galleries focused on design and visual culture. The Design Observer homepage will feature the latest content from each of the four channels.
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Design Dust-Up

Over the weekend, the NYT’s Week in Review ran a scattershot call--"Design Loves a Depression" by Michael Cannell, former editor of the paper’s House & Home section--for design to "come down a notch or two." Enter the Grand Poobah of contemporary design, Murray Moss, who savagely rebutted Cannell's claims in a guest column for Design Observer cleverly titled "Design Hates a Depression."

Cannell, tripping blithely past Philippe, Zaha, Miami, Dubai, Rem, his 12-year-old doorstop S, M, L, XL (for no discernible reason), and that “apotheosis of indie cool” Brooklyn, zeroed in on an $8,910 chair by the Campana Brothers, a $10,615 couch by Hella Jongerius, and a 2006 marketing shtick wherein Dutch designer Marcel Wanders had his girlfriend swinging from a chandelier to support sales of what turned out to be a pretty popular series of over-sized lamps.

Cannell compared this while-Rome-is-burning frivolity with the sober productivity of Charles and Ray Eames during those “hard times”: the American postwar boom. A stern message followed. “However dark the economic picture,” wrote Cannell, “it will most likely cause designers to shift their attention from consumer products to the more pressing needs of infrastructure, housing, city planning, transit and energy.” Here’s hoping product designers don’t get to do all the bridges.

Moss pounced: “Design loves a depression? I can assure you that design, along with painting, sculpture, photography, music, dance, fashion, the culinary arts, architecture, and theatre, loves a depression no more than it loves a war, a flood, or a plague. Michael Cannell's article is regressive and mean-spirited, and it demands a response.”

Moss briefly celebrated the “design renaissance” of the past decade that he has helped to significantly propel forward, before mounting to a devastating sneer:

Mr. Cannell proposes that the design world "come down a notch or two." Is he suggesting that these great works should adapt something that in his personal opinion would be a more "democratic" pricepoint? What would that number be, exactly, and who would arbitrate it as accessible? (Perhaps they should be priced as the proverbial Nixonian Good Republican Cloth Coat?) When he says "come down a notch or two," does Mr. Cannell mean that Design should retreat from its current expansive, ambitious, fearless, exploratory, guild-breaking, all-encompassing plateau, from its hard-won re-positioning in the Arts? And revert back to what? To the perceived mid-century notion of efficiency and comfort? What regressive, back-in-the-box, frozen-in-the-mid-20th century absolutist utopian modernist "democratic" criteria for evaluating contemporary design is Mr. Cannell proposing from his alleged "front row seat" on design?

Withering vitriol aside, the truth is that both sides have a good argument. The price tags on design are out of whack, and yet the qualities of good design encompass far more than function as it was defined in 1933. Problem-solving has become far too complex for any glib call to arms.