robertogreco + alexandralange   42

Masters of Modern Design: The Art of the Japanese American Experience | KCET
"From the iconic typeface of “The Godfather” book cover to Herman Miller’s Noguchi table, the influence of Japanese American artists and designers in postwar American art and design is unparalleled. While this second generation of Japanese American artists have been celebrated in various publications and exhibitions with their iconic work, less-discussed is how the World War II incarceration — a period of intense discrimination and hardship — has also had a powerful effect on the lives of artists such as Ruth Asawa, George Nakashima, Isamu Noguchi, S. Neil Fujita and Gyo Obata."

[via: https://twitter.com/LangeAlexandra/status/1123656364839067648 ]

[See also: https://www.curbed.com/2017/1/31/14445484/japanese-designers-wwii-internment ]
towatch  ruthasawa  georgenakashima  isamunoguchi  sneilfujita  gyoobata  2019  alexandralange  design  history  japanese-americans  art  modernism  internment  incarceration  wii  ww2 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Froebel's Gifts - 99% Invisible
"I the late 1700s, a young man named Friedrich Froebel was on track to become an architect when a friend convinced him to pursue a path toward education instead. And in changing course, Froebel arguably ended up having more influence on the world of architecture and design than any single architect — all because Friedrich Froebel created kindergarten. If you’ve ever looked at a piece of abstract art or Modernist architecture and thought “my kindergartener could have made that,” well, that may be more true than you realize."
froebel  foebelgifts  kindergarten  education  design  toys  play  friedrichfroebel  modernism  normanbrosterman  tamarzinguer  alexandralange  2019 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Play Mountain - 99% Invisible
"Noguchi’s model for Play Mountain remained on display in his Long Island City museum until January of 1988. At this point, he was 84 years old when a man from Sapporo, Japan came to visit his Long Island City museum and told Noguchi that he thought he could get one of Noguchi’s parks built in Sapporo.

Noguchi started designing play structures and earthworks for the park with his longtime collaborator, the architect Shoji Sadao. But in the winter of that year, he came down with a cold which turned into a terrible case of pneumonia that ultimately took his life shortly after. Noguchi died on December 30th, 1988, having designed the vast majority of the park. His collaborator, Shoji Sadao, continued to work on it. From Noguchi’s death at the end of 1988, Moerenuma Park took 17 years to build and finally opened in 2005.

“It’s enormous … 454 acres – that’s bigger than Central Park,” says Dakin Hart. “It is kind of an amalgamation, a greatest hits, of all of Noguchi’s un-executed land and playground ideas, in one spot.” It’s this huge green swath of land, tucked into a bend in the river. There are forests of his candy-like play equipment, mounds and pyramids and swooping paths, an enormous conical hill to climb, a huge fountain that cycles through an hour-long water show.

Isamu Noguchi was never able to take in the view from the peak of his creation. The sculpture he’d spent his whole life dreaming about., like a mountain teleported from the wild alien planet of his mind. The one place he ever felt he really belonged. Noguchi wanted us to see the world as if we were visiting for the first time. To move our bodies through space as if the simple facts of gravity and contour were brand new delights. To look around with wide eyes, to feel with outstretched fingers, and imagine infinite possibilities. In other words: to live like kids on a playground."
playgrounds  isamunoguichi  2019  design  alexandralange  dakinhart  landscape 
may 2019 by robertogreco
What It Would Take to Set American Kids Free | The New Yorker
"My trip coincided with the publication of “The Anti-Helicopter Parent’s Plea: Let Kids Play!” in the Times Magazine, a masterful bit of parental trolling whose comment section reached a symbolic two thousand and sixteen entries before it was closed. The dozens of adventure playgrounds in Tokyo offer, as a public amenity, what Mike Lanza (the “anti-helicopter parent” in question) says he created in his private Menlo Park, California, back yard: a challenging and unscheduled place for physical play that is largely free of parental supervision. Lanza is far from alone in believing that American children have a play problem. Take a look at Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids blog, which is peppered with reports of cops and child-protective services being called when parents leave their kids to play unsupervised. Lanza’s own book, “Playborhood,” describes the kids-can’t-play problem as both a social one and a spatial one. Without broader community support, such back-yard attempts at free play like his are doomed to become exercises in vanity. Look at them on the roof! My kids are more resilient than yours!

The overprogrammed, oversterilized, overprotected lives of (some of) America’s youth are the result of a nexus of changes to work life, home life, and street life that have made bringing up babies into a series of consumer choices, from unsubsidized day care forward. It is the public realm—where the Tokyo playgrounds operate—that needs to change for American children to have unstructured afternoons and weekends, for them to bike and walk between school and the playground, to see packs of kids get together without endless chains of parental texts. Kawasaki City, where Kodomo Yume Park is located, created its own Ordinance on the Rights of the Child, in 2001, which includes an article promising to make “secure and comfortable places for children.”

But independence requires infrastructure. Hanegi Playpark was founded in 1975 by Kenichi Omura, a landscape architect, and his wife Shoko Omura, an English teacher. They translated the key book on adventure play into Japanese and then travelled to Europe to meet with the woman who was their prime mover from the nineteen-fifties on: Lady Allen of Hurtwood. Lady Allen had seen the first such “junk playground” in Emdrup, outside Copenhagen, where it became a refuge for youth then under German occupation. She spent subsequent decades as a “propagandist for children’s play.” In Tokyo, a low crime rate and a society accustomed to community ownership of public space has created, around Hanegi and approximately thirteen other such parks, a city where there is more room for innocent error.

The road to Kodomo Yume Park (which means “children’s dream”) was narrow and winding, and there was no sidewalk for much of the way. And yet it was safe, because the tiny cars knew to look for pedestrians and cyclists, and drove at slower speeds. There were people in the houses and stores along the route, and few of the buildings were more than three or four stories tall, offering “eyes on the street” as well as adults who might be appealed to for help. The neighborhood, like the adventure playground, operated as a safety net, ready in case of trouble but not often deployed. A mother who was camped out at Yume Park with five children, the youngest a three-month-old, told me a story—hilarious for her—that would have been a nightmare for me. Her two-year-old, who had observed his five-year-old brother being sent to the corner to buy bread, decided he could do the same, and turned up at the shop with an empty wallet. I looked around at the protected bike lanes, the publicly funded playground workers, and the houses where people are home in the afternoon. Do I wish that my kids—who are five and nine**—**could roll on their own from school to the park, meet friends, and appear on the doorstep at 5 p.m., muddy, damp, and full of play? I do, but then I think of the Saturdays dominated by sports schedules, the windswept winter playgrounds, the kids hit by cars in crosswalks, with the light. It isn’t the idea of my kids holding a hammer or saw that scares me but the idea of trying to make community alone.

At the adventure playgrounds, the kids build the equipment they need under the hands-off supervision of play workers trained to facilitate but not to interfere. I’ve read the diary of the first play worker, John Bertelsen, who ran the adventure playground that Lady Allen visited at Emdrup. His account of the day-to-day in 1943 sounds quite similar to what I observed in 2016.
At 10:45 am today the playground opened . . . We began by moving all the building material in the open shed. Bricks, boards, fireposts and cement pillars were moved to the left alongside the entrance, where building and digging started right away. The work was done by children aged 4 to 17. It went on at full speed and all the workers were in high spirits; dust, sweat, warning shouts and a few scratches all created just the right atmosphere. The children’s play- and work-ground had opened, and they knew how to take full advantage of it.

The do-it-yourself rule is, to a certain extent, self-limiting, as towers built with simple tools are shorter than those ordered from catalogues. I saw plenty of children up on roofs—the rule was, if you can climb up without a ladder, relying on your own strength and ingenuity, it’s O.K. In a documentary on The Land, a Welsh adventure playground, a play worker describes the difference between risk and hazard: a risk you take on knowingly; a hazard is unexpected, like a nail sticking out of a board. The play workers are there to remove hazards and leave the risks.

Journalism about adventure play tends to emphasize the danger, but these spaces actually need to be seen as exceptionally porous community centers, in which lots of social activities, for parents and children, occur. “Risky play” is a way for children to test their own limits, and because the parks are embedded in residential communities they can do so at their own pace. Hitoshi Shimamura, who runs the organization Tokyo Play, told me that he has sessions to teach parents to use the tools, because their fear derived from their own lack of experience. Kids also need time to ease into the freedom and figure out which activity most appeals to them. If adventure play were to become permanent in New York, it would do better as a permanent fixture in a neighborhood than as a weekend destination. At a temporary adventure playground set up by Play:Ground on Governors Island this summer, a sign on the fence read, “Your children are fine without advice and suggestions,” though legally, children under six had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The “adventure” can be with water, with tools, with real fire, or just with pretend kitchen equipment, allowing the parks to appeal to a broad array of children, and over a longer period of time. What this means, in practice, is a range of activity during days, weeks, or even years. In the morning, adventure playgrounds become settings for an urban version of a forest preschool, where small children learn the basics of getting along outdoors. In the afternoon, they become a place for older kids to let off steam between school and homework; many communities in Tokyo play a public chime at five in the afternoon—a mass call that is it time to go home. On the weekends, Yume Park might ring with the hammers of children, but for teen-agers there are other options: a recording studio with padded walls; a wooden shed piled with bike parts for the taking; a quiet, shaded place for conversation. Bertelsen wrote in his diary,
Occasionally, complaints have been made that the playground does not possess a smart enough appearance, and that children cannot possibly be happy playing about in such a jumble. To this I should only like to say that, at times, the children can shape and mould [sic] the playground in such a way that it is a monument to their efforts and a source of aesthetic pleasure to the adult eye; at other times it can appear, to the adult eye, like a pigsty. However, children’s play is not what the adults see, but what the child himself experiences.

One of my favorite moments in Tokyo occurred late one afternoon at a smaller adventure playground, Komazawa Harappa, a long sliver of space in a tight residential neighborhood, masked from the street by a simple hedge. Three kids fanned the flames in a fire pit; a baby padded about a dirty pool dressed in a diaper; two small boys, hammering on a house, had remembered to take their shoes off on the porch. But not everyone felt the need to be busy. Two teen-age girls had climbed up on the roof of the play workers’ house, via a self-built platform of poles and planks, and seemed deep in conversation. Suddenly, they began to sing, their clear voices ringing out over the open space."
alexandralange  children  unschooling  deschooling  community  2016  infrastructure  parks  playgrounds  adventureplaygrounds  risk  risktaking  hazards  japan  parenting  openstudioproject  messiness  johnbertelsen  kenishiomura  ladyallen  emdrup  copenhagen  tokyo  kodomoyumepark  srg  urban  urbanism  play  lenoreskenazy  hanegiplaypark  tools  dirt  order  rules  mikelanza  supervision  safety  independence  us  shokoomura  diy  risklyplay  lcproject  tcsnmt  sfsh 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | The Magic of a Cardboard Box - The New York Times
"On April 20, Nintendo released a new line of accessories for its best-selling Switch game console. Rather than being digital add-ons, they were physical ones: punch-and-fold parts engineered to turn the Switch console into a piano, a fishing rod or a robot. All are made of cardboard.

On March 4, Walmart ads shown during the Oscars centered on shipping boxes. The writer and director Dee Rees, nominated for “Mudbound,” created a 60-second ad in which the threat of bedtime gets incorporated into a sci-fi wonderland a little girl has imagined inside a blue cardboard box.

In June 2014, Google handed out kits for a low-cost virtual reality headset to be used with a smartphone. The headset was named Cardboard, for what it was mostly made of, and users assembled the units themselves.

In April 2012, “Caine’s Arcade,” an 11-minute short featuring a boy named Caine Monroy, was widely shared on the internet. Caine had spent his 2011 summer vacation building an arcade in the front of his father’s East Los Angeles auto-parts store out of the boxes the parts came in. He had the freedom to create an environment because cardboard comes cheap, and his father gave him space.

These 21st-century storytellers turned to cardboard for the same reasons that children have long preferred the box to the toy that came in it: cardboard is light and strong, easy to put up, quick to come down and, perhaps most important, inexpensive enough for experiment. Cardboard constructions can be crushed, painted, recycled and stuck back together. Cardboard furniture can be adjusted as children grow, and cardboard creations become more sophisticated as children gain skills: It is as malleable as the body and the mind.

Technology companies’ embrace of cardboard’s cool suggests something parents and teachers never forgot: The box is an avatar of inspiration, no charging required. Cardboard is the ideal material for creativity, and has been since the big purchase, and the big box, became a fixture of American postwar homes.

Corrugated cardboard boxes were introduced in the 1880s, and slowly replaced wooden crates as the shipping method of choice. Robert Gair, a paper bag manufacturer in Brooklyn, realized that he could slice and crease paper on his machines in a single step. A box could quickly be cut out and scored, creating a flat blank ready to be assembled as needed, the same construction method exploited by Google and Nintendo. Because flattened boxes were easier to ship and distribute, manufacturers could buy them in bulk, assemble, and then ship their own product to consumers.

As household objects grew larger, the play potential of those boxes increased. The purchase of a new washing machine was a cause for celebration in my neighborhood as a child, as it meant access to a new playhouse in somebody’s yard. Dr. Benjamin Spock praised the cardboard box as an inexpensive alternative to a ride-on car or a readymade cottage. In 1951, Charles and Ray Eames mocked up a version of the packing boxes for their Herman Miller storage furniture with pre-printed lines for doors, windows and awnings: When the adults bought a bookshelf, their kids would get a free toy.

Cardboard was considered such a wonder material during this era that Manhattan’s Museum of Contemporary Craft (now the Museum of Arts and Design) devoted a 1967-1968 exhibition, “Made with Paper,” to the medium. With funding from the Container Corporation of America, the curator Paul J. Smith turned the museum galleries into a three-dimensional paper wonderland. The CCA also funded a cardboard playground created by students at the Parsons School of Design that included pleated trees, an enveloping sombrero and a movable maze for children to explore.

James Hennessey and Victor Papanek’s “Nomadic Furniture,” published in 1973, was part of a renaissance in DIY instruction, one that emphasized the cardboard’s open-source bona fides, as online instructions for making your own Google Cardboard did. The “Nomadic” authors demonstrated how to create an entire cardboard lifestyle, one that could be tailored to different sizes, ages and abilities.

Cardboard sets you free from the average, as Alex Truesdell discovered when she began to design furniture with children with disabilities. Truesdell, inspired by another 1970s cardboard carpentry book, developed play trays, booster seats, high chairs and other assistive devices made of corrugated cardboard that could help children with disabilities participate fully in society. As founder of the Adaptive Design Association, Ms. Truesdell was named a 2015 MacArthur Fellow for her work. Her organization offers classes and consultation in design and methods at no and low cost, and expects participants to pass on their knowledge. Cardboard, as a material, wants to be free.

Cardboard’s central role in childhood has not gone unnoticed: in 2005, the cardboard box was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. “We were particularly motivated by the exceptional qualities that cardboard boxes hold for inspiring creative, open-ended play,” says Christopher Bensch, vice president for collections and chief curator at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester. Nirvan Mullick, the filmmaker who made “Caine’s Arcade,” went on to found a nonprofit group, Imagination.org, that organizes an annual “global cardboard challenge” — one taken up by over a million kids in 80 countries.

At a time when toys have become ever more complex and expensive, it is worth returning to the box, seeing it not as trash but as a renewable resource for play.

For my daughter’s seventh birthday, she requested a cardboard-themed party. (I swear, I had nothing to do with it.) “Cardboard creations” is a highlight of “choice time” at her school, where kindergartners and first-graders have an end-of-day craft session with shoeboxes and paper towel rolls.

We gave up recycling for several weeks before the party and accumulated an embarrassingly large pile in the center of the living room. When the kids arrived, I waved them toward the boxes and bins of glue sticks, washi tape, paint, wrapping paper scraps and stickers.

“Make whatever you want,” I said, and they did."
alexandralange  cv  cardboard  2018  victorpapanek  nintendo  caine'sarcade  hermanmiller  benjaminspock  jameshennessey  diy  making  makers  alextruesdell  design  disabilities  disability  choicetime  recycling  eames  charleseames  rayeames  robertgair  technology  boxes  creativity  imagination  cainmonroy 
june 2018 by robertogreco
How teen-focused design can help reshape our cities - Curbed
"Sometimes it seems like there is nowhere for teens to be. Here’s what they are doing about it"



"A decade ago, skateparks also tended to be bounded, purpose-built environments that skaters nicknamed “exercise yards.” Today the boundaries are often more fluid, at least between a public park and the skate park. In Tacoma, rather than a 10,000-square-foot skatepark, the city built a few skate spots in a park and, in downtown Wright Park, made the semi-circular benches around the “sprayground” skateable with steel edges rather than defending them with steel knobs. In Emeryville, California, there’s a skate path, with bowls, bumps and rails spread out over a recreational corridor (provoked, it must be said, by the demolition of a DIY skate park).

These designs simulate the thrill of the streets where skateboarding began and, some skateboarders insist, it belongs. In Red Hook, the new park will stay connected to the city, and be protected by more eyes, because it will still serve as a pass-through for residents walking north.

******

Many of the teens’ suggestions, coast to coast, just seem like good sense for people of any age: seating, green space, recreation zonesclose to public transportation, an adult nearby should something happen (but not operating under a state of constant surveillance), longer and later hours. Teens are people too! These projects harness their energy, their ideas and their persuasive powers so that the education goes both ways: teens learn how to advocate for themselves on the city stage, adults learn what it is that a famously uncommunicative demographic needs.

I like Rich’s formulation of teenagers as a febrile, emotional version of adults, not yet disappeared inside a carapace of car, phone, job, gym. The skateboarders and the snackers, the watchers and the players are all alive to the built environment."
alexandralange  architecture  design  urbanism  urban  skateboarding  skateboards  skating  teens  youth  urbanplanning  cities  activism  civics  publicspace  edhook  nyc  booklyn  emeryville  skateparks  parks 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Scratching the Surface — 24. Sara Hendren
"Sara Hendren is a designer, artist, writer, and professor whose work centers around adaptive and assistive technologies, prosthetics, inclusive design, accessible architecture, and related ideas. She teaches inclusive design practices at Olin College in Massachusetts and writes and edits Abler, her site to collect and comment on art, adaptive technologies and prosthetics, and the future of human bodies in the built environment. In this episode, Sara and I talk about her own background and using design to manifest ideas in the world, the role of writing in her own design practice, and how teaches these ideas with her students."

[audio: https://soundcloud.com/scratchingthesurfacefm/24-sara-hendren ]
sarahendren  jarrettfuller  design  2017  interviews  johndewey  wendyjacob  nataliejeremijenko  remkoolhaas  timmaly  clairepentecost  alexandralange  alissawalker  michaelrock  alfredojaar  oliversacks  bldgblog  geoffmanaugh  nicolatwilley  amateurs  amateurism  dabbling  art  artists  generalists  creativegeneralists  disability  engineering  criticaltheory  integatededucation  integratedcurriculum  identity  self  teaching  learning  howweteach  howwelearn  assistivetechnology  technology  olincollege  humanities  liberalarts  disabilities  scratchingthesurface 
april 2017 by robertogreco
rosanbosch.com
"“What is the most flexible in a room? You! Design needs to relate to the development of people, to the development of our mind and body. It’s not just an instrument of decoration, but a tool for change. Rosan Bosch at TEDx in Indianapolis 2013.

Rosan Bosch Studio is an interdisciplinary agency working in the cross-field of art, design and architecture. We believe that the physical environment makes a difference to the way we act in the world. Therefore we use interior design as active tool to create change - whether it comes to urban spaces, schools or workplaces.

Our portfolio ranges from small art and development projects to total designs of schools, libraries and private companies. We base each project on the customer's specific challenges and customize the design solution to the people who will use it in everyday life.

With a focus on creativity and innovation we convert ideas into physical product and create spaces and environments that make a difference. See examples of our projects."

[See also:
https://www.instagram.com/rosanboschstudio/

http://www.designboom.com/architecture/jeanne-gang-studio-gang-architects-the-academy-for-global-citizenship-chicago-urban-farm-05-23-2016/
http://studiogang.com/project/academy-for-global-citizenship ]
design  architecture  schooldesign  alexandralange  rosanbosch  interiors  schools  education 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Alexandra Lange: Portfolio | Barragan House
"I visited Luis Barragan’s house in Mexico City in March. Inspired by Guy Trebay’s Travel story on visiting Barragan, a portfolio of photographs from that day."
alexandralange  luisbarragán  casaluisbarragán  2014  architecture  mexico  mexicocity  mexicodf  df 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Alexandra Lange: Portfolio | Casa Prieto
"While in Mexico City in March, I was also able to tour Casa Prieto Lopez, designed by Luis Barragan in 1950. The house is part of the luxurious suburb, master-planned by Barragan, called Jardines del Pedregal. The house was then for sale, with some (not all) of its original furnishings and artworks by Mathias Goeritz intact. It is far grander than Barragan’s own home, which is essentially on a townhouse lot. It also feels less fitted to the life of a particular human. One could intuit Barragan’s daily rituals from the spaces he made for them; the family Prieto had numerous children, and one imagined the architect leaving enough room between moments for their banging and flopping and wet feet. That last orange space is, of all things, the garage."
alexandralange  luisbarragán  casaprietolópez  2014  architecture  mexico  mexicocity  mexicodf  df 
december 2016 by robertogreco
What It Would Take to Set American Kids Free - The New Yorker
"“Play freely at your own risk,” a well-known sign at Tokyo’s oldest adventure playground, Hanegi Playpark, reads. All three elements—play, freedom, risk—are in ample evidence at Kodomo Yume Park, a newer addition to the city’s play infrastructure. There’s an open space where young kids are building a village with their own hands, and a mesa of dirt, donated by a construction company, that has been riddled with canyons and holes. I was in Japan to visit adventure playgrounds for book research, and at every playground, at some point, a child poured a bucket of water down a trench, just to see where it would flow. News articles about adventure playgrounds tend to focus on the hammers and the saws, but for many urban children simply mucking about can be a pleasurable way of spending an afternoon. I was reminded of my own younger brother, who never found a stream or puddle too small to fall into. If Hanegi Park had been down the street, he would always have known where to go looking for mud.

My trip coincided with the publication of “The Anti-Helicopter Parent’s Plea: Let Kids Play!” in the Times Magazine, a masterful bit of parental trolling whose comment section reached a symbolic two thousand and sixteen entries before it was closed. The dozens of adventure playgrounds in Tokyo offer, as a public amenity, what Mike Lanza (the “anti-helicopter parent” in question) says he created in his private Menlo Park, California, back yard: a challenging and unscheduled place for physical play that is largely free of parental supervision. Lanza is far from alone in believing that American children have a play problem. Take a look at Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids blog, which is peppered with reports of cops and child-protective services being called when parents leave their kids to play unsupervised. Lanza’s own book, “Playborhood,” describes the kids-can’t-play problem as both a social one and a spatial one. Without broader community support, such back-yard attempts at free play like his are doomed to become exercises in vanity. Look at them on the roof! My kids are more resilient than yours!

The overprogrammed, oversterilized, overprotected lives of (some of) America’s youth are the result of a nexus of changes to work life, home life, and street life that have made bringing up babies into a series of consumer choices, from unsubsidized day care forward. It is the public realm—where the Tokyo playgrounds operate—that needs to change for American children to have unstructured afternoons and weekends, for them to bike and walk between school and the playground, to see packs of kids get together without endless chains of parental texts. Kawasaki City, where Kodomo Yume Park is located, created its own Ordinance on the Rights of the Child, in 2001, which includes an article promising to make “secure and comfortable places for children.”

But independence requires infrastructure. Hanegi Playpark was founded in 1975 by Kenichi Omura, a landscape architect, and his wife Shoko Omura, an English teacher. They translated the key book on adventure play into Japanese and then travelled to Europe to meet with the woman who was their prime mover from the nineteen-fifties on: Lady Allen of Hurtwood. Lady Allen had seen the first such “junk playground” in Emdrup, outside Copenhagen, where it became a refuge for youth then under German occupation. She spent subsequent decades as a “propagandist for children’s play.” In Tokyo, a low crime rate and a society accustomed to community ownership of public space has created, around Hanegi and approximately thirteen other such parks, a city where there is more room for innocent error.

The road to Kodomo Yume Park (which means “children’s dream”) was narrow and winding, and there was no sidewalk for much of the way. And yet it was safe, because the tiny cars knew to look for pedestrians and cyclists, and drove at slower speeds. There were people in the houses and stores along the route, and few of the buildings were more than three or four stories tall, offering “eyes on the street” as well as adults who might be appealed to for help. The neighborhood, like the adventure playground, operated as a safety net, ready in case of trouble but not often deployed. A mother who was camped out at Yume Park with five children, the youngest a three-month-old, told me a story—hilarious for her—that would have been a nightmare for me. Her two-year-old, who had observed his five-year-old brother being sent to the corner to buy bread, decided he could do the same, and turned up at the shop with an empty wallet. I looked around at the protected bike lanes, the publicly funded playground workers, and the houses where people are home in the afternoon. Do I wish that my kids—who are five and nine—could roll on their own from school to the park, meet friends, and appear on the doorstep at 5 p.m., muddy, damp, and full of play? I do, but then I think of the Saturdays dominated by sports schedules, the windswept winter playgrounds, the kids hit by cars in crosswalks, with the light. It isn’t the idea of my kids holding a hammer or saw that scares me but the idea of trying to make community alone.

At the adventure playgrounds, the kids build the equipment they need under the hands-off supervision of play workers trained to facilitate but not to interfere. I’ve read the diary of the first play worker, John Bertelsen, who ran the adventure playground that Lady Allen visited at Emdrup. His account of the day-to-day in 1943 sounds quite similar to what I observed in 2016.
At 10:45 am today the playground opened . . . We began by moving all the building material in the open shed. Bricks, boards, fireposts and cement pillars were moved to the left alongside the entrance, where building and digging started right away. The work was done by children aged 4 to 17. It went on at full speed and all the workers were in high spirits; dust, sweat, warning shouts and a few scratches all created just the right atmosphere. The children’s play- and work-ground had opened, and they knew how to take full advantage of it.

The do-it-yourself rule is, to a certain extent, self-limiting, as towers built with simple tools are shorter than those ordered from catalogues. I saw plenty of children up on roofs—the rule was, if you can climb up without a ladder, relying on your own strength and ingenuity, it’s O.K. In a documentary on The Land, a Welsh adventure playground, a play worker describes the difference between risk and hazard: a risk you take on knowingly; a hazard is unexpected, like a nail sticking out of a board. The play workers are there to remove hazards and leave the risks.

Journalism about adventure play tends to emphasize the danger, but these spaces actually need to be seen as exceptionally porous community centers, in which lots of social activities, for parents and children, occur. “Risky play” is a way for children to test their own limits, and because the parks are embedded in residential communities they can do so at their own pace. Hitoshi Shimamura, who runs the organization Tokyo Play, told me that he has sessions to teach parents to use the tools, because their fear derived from their own lack of experience. Kids also need time to ease into the freedom and figure out which activity most appeals to them. If adventure play were to become permanent in New York, it would do better as a permanent fixture in a neighborhood than as a weekend destination. At a temporary adventure playground set up by Play:Ground on Governors Island this summer, a sign on the fence read, “Your children are fine without advice and suggestions,” though legally, children under six had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The “adventure” can be with water, with tools, with real fire, or just with pretend kitchen equipment, allowing the parks to appeal to a broad array of children, and over a longer period of time. What this means, in practice, is a range of activity during days, weeks, or even years. In the morning, adventure playgrounds become settings for an urban version of a forest preschool, where small children learn the basics of getting along outdoors. In the afternoon, they become a place for older kids to let off steam between school and homework; many communities in Tokyo play a public chime at five in the afternoon—a mass call that is it time to go home. On the weekends, Yume Park might ring with the hammers of children, but for teen-agers there are other options: a recording studio with padded walls; a wooden shed piled with bike parts for the taking; a quiet, shaded place for conversation. Bertelsen wrote in his diary,
Occasionally, complaints have been made that the playground does not possess a smart enough appearance, and that children cannot possibly be happy playing about in such a jumble. To this I should only like to say that, at times, the children can shape and mould [sic] the playground in such a way that it is a monument to their efforts and a source of aesthetic pleasure to the adult eye; at other times it can appear, to the adult eye, like a pigsty. However, children’s play is not what the adults see, but what the child himself experiences.

One of my favorite moments in Tokyo occurred late one afternoon at a smaller adventure playground, Komazawa Harappa, a long sliver of space in a tight residential neighborhood, masked from the street by a simple hedge. Three kids fanned the flames in a fire pit; a baby padded about a dirty pool dressed in a diaper; two small boys, hammering on a house, had remembered to take their shoes off on the porch. But not everyone felt the need to be busy. Two teen-age girls had climbed up on the roof of the play workers’ house, via a self-built platform of poles and planks, and seemed deep in conversation. Suddenly, they began to sing, their clear voices ringing out over the open space… [more]
japan  children  tokyo  parenting  alexandralange  2016  adventureplaygrounds  risk  helicopterparenting  diy  johnberthelsen  ladyallen  1943  lenoreskenazy  mikelanza  kenichiomura  shokoomura  play  playgorunds  risktaking  helicopterparents 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Dream cities: the New York that never was, the playgrounds we don't have.
"And finally: How many people sent me this article from the New York Times Magazine on "the anti-helicopter parent"? Many many, including my own father. What is he trying to tell me? It's a masterful troll, but one which, unfortunately, leaves out much historical and contemporary context on the role of playgrounds in urban life.

As it happened, the day it popped up online, I happened to be visiting one of Tokyo's dozens of adventure playgrounds, which offer all the community, risk and autonomy of Mike Lanza's Menlo Park backyard, without the misogyny, gender stereotypes and high price. At the adventure playgrounds, the kids get to make the equipment they need, under the hands-off supervision of play workers trained to facilitate but not interfere. Rather than emphasizing only risk (though I saw plenty of children up on roofs), the adventure playgrounds are open for all kinds of play: with water, with tools, with real fire and pretend kitchen equipment. Articles on adventure play tend to emphasize the danger, but these spaces actually need to be seen as exceptionally porous community centers, in which lots of types of social activities, for parents and children, occur. One playworker told me he had sessions for parents in how to use tools, because their fear derived from their own lack of experience.

For there to be a real revolution in American children's lives, leading to greater independence, it can't come down to individual consumer choices and Lanza's mom-shaming. Independence requires a whole infrastructure of changes, from protected bike lanes to publicly-funded playground workers, to eyes on the street in the afternoon to less homework. Did I wish my kids could roll, on their own, from school to the park, meet friends, and appear on the doorstep when the clock chimed five, muddy, damp, full of what they played? (There are literal chimes at 5 p.m. in Tokyo.) But one sanitized backyard, in one of the wealthiest towns in America, won't make that happen. It's going to take a village, public funding, and broad cultural change."
alexandralange  parenting  adventureplaygorunds  playgrounds  publicspace  tokyo  japan  children  play  cities  mikelanza  menlopark  2016  adventureplaygrounds  learning  fear  risk  risktaking  communitycenters  lcproject  openstudioproject 
october 2016 by robertogreco
The Innovation Campus: Building Better Ideas - The New York Times
"Can architecture spur creativity? Universities are investing in big, high-tech buildings in the hope of evoking big, high-tech thinking."



"Though studies have shown that proximity and conversation can produce creative ideas, there’s little research on the designs needed to facilitate the process. Still, there are commonalities.

In many of the new buildings, an industrial look prevails, along with an end to privacy. You are more likely to find a garage door and a 3-D printer than book-lined offices and closed-off classrooms, more likely to huddle with peers at a round table than go to a lecture hall with seats for 100. Seating is flexible, ranging from bleachers to sofas, office chairs to privacy booths. Furniture is often on wheels, so that groups can rearrange it. (The Institute of Design at Stanford, a model for many, has directions for building a whiteboard z-rack on its website.)

Staircases and halls are wide and often daylit, encouraging people to dwell between their appointments in hopes of having a creative collision. Exposure to natural light itself contributes to improved workplace performance. There’s also much more to do with your hands than take notes in class: The need to move your body, by working on a prototype, taking the stairs or going in search of caffeine at a centralized cafe, is built in, providing breaks to let the mind wander.

The rationales for these buildings are varied: Employers are dissatisfied with graduates’ preparation, students are unhappy with outdated teaching methods, and colleges want to attract students whose eyes are on postgrad venture capital and whose scalable ideas might come in handy on campus. And so universities of all sizes, both public (Wichita State, University of Utah, University of Iowa) and private (Cornell, Northwestern, Stanford), have opened or are planning such facilities."



"How successful will Wichita State and other universities be at fueling innovation and, ultimately, a new entrepreneurship economy? The proof may be many years out, and difficult to quantify. But the pressure on administrators to change their campuses may soon come, not just from above and within, but from below.

An anecdote from Kevin B. Sullivan of Payette, whose firm has interdisciplinary science and engineering centers under construction at Northeastern and Tufts, underscores the urgency. “I’m on the board of my daughter’s high school, and what they are doing there is taking the existing library, gutting it and turning it into a tech-enablement space,” he said. “The college process may be dumbed down from what they do in high school.”"
alexandralange  architecture  highered  highereducation  universities  colleges  construction  innovation  economics  cornelltech  cornell  universityofutah  yorkuniversity  northwesternuniversity  stanford  universityofiowa  wichitastateuniversity  engineerting  creativity  stem 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Ray Eames and the Art of Entertaining - Curbed
"Ray Eames also understood housewifery as part, though far from all, of her and Charles’s design practice, as historian Pat Kirkham argues in an essay in a new book on the famous design couple. "Ray enjoyed nurturing through hospitality, and her ‘at home’ performances blurred the boundaries between her roles as wife, friend, and artist, designer and filmmaker with Charles," Kirkham writes in The World of Charles and Ray Eames (Rizzoli), a catalog which accompanies a recent retrospective at the Barbican in London. Other essays in the lushly illustrated tome cover their films, their dress, their multi-media exhibitions, and, in architect Sam Jacob’s contribution, their "California-ness."

Ray was luckier than many working women of her day, in that she could call upon her workplace for help. "Before the arrival of friends for an ‘informal’ evening at home, Ray, like a stage manager, art director, or production designer, would oversee a small Eames Office team assigned to preparing the house for the coming performance of hospitality."

She would orchestrate the arrangement of objects, the plumping of pillows, and the burning of candles to specific lengths. Food was generally simply prepared but of high quality, with a focus on arrangement of fruit, cheese, breads, and chocolate on dishes selected by Ray.

"Composition, colour, and colour coordination were central to Ray’s table-laying, and she drew on her large collection of crockery, from finely made Japanese pottery in plain bright colours to Royal Copenhagen’s prettily patterned tableware in blue and white." Woven baskets added texture; tablecloths, napkins, flowers and candelabra more colors. Staff had to be out of sight before the guests arrived, however, so as not to dispel the illusion.

In the documentary The Architect and the Painter, architect Kevin Roche tells the story of being served three bowls of flowers after a meal at their house. Ray called it a "visual dessert"—he reports later going to Dairy Queen.

On occasion, Ray even did themes, as when, in 1951, she planned a tea ceremony to welcome sculptor Isamu Noguchi and his movie-star wife Yoshiko (Shirley) Yamaguchi. Photos show tatami mats on the floor of the Eames House living area, with one of their wire-base tables in front of each guest. The room is uncharacteristically uncluttered, with plants in the corner and a Toy, with its multi-colored plastic-coated triangles, on the wall as a piece of abstract art.

Charlie Chaplin was also a guest, and later posed for photos with a Japanese fan. Could these elaborate events have served as inspiration for a sequence in the Eameses’ multi-screen show at the 1964 World’s Fair, "Think," in which a dinner party seating chart is used to explain problem-solving techniques to the masses?

In a 2006 essay for the Journal of Design History, I suggested the Eameses were not alone in performing modern marriage for publicity; the Girards, the Knolls, and the Saarinens also blurred the line between life and work, appearing in photographs in homes barely distinguishable from showrooms, and vice versa.

The Los Angeles Herman Miller showroom the Eameses designed predates their Pacific Palisades house, but was set up the same way, with seed packets keeping company with Giacometti, Japanese kites, and tumbleweeds. Eventually the Eameses would turn the decoration of their house into a third piece, the film House—After Five Years of Living (1955). The performance rolled on.

Acknowledging Ray’s hospitality as part of the Eames Office—as labor, as well as a design project—causes me to reflect differently on the occupations of previous generations. My mother and her parents were trained designers, and I had a great-grandmother who was an art teacher.

But a talent for composition, color, detail and arrangement can be handed down through the generations without a curriculum, if you think of it as a set of affinities. Brilliantly composed quilts and intricate afghans, balanced flower arrangements and gridded gardens use some of the same skills, and show the same daily devotion, as design practice. More housewives than Kjartansson have made homes performance art.

I think of the mother of my artist uncle, who was president of her state garden club, or the father of my architect husband, a businessman, who spent his spare time building a hedge maze. They were also designing—as Ray knew all too well, and as Kirkham has thankfully now explained.

The design world wasn’t the only place where table settings had a professional role to play, either. When I was growing up the dinner party was still, in academia, part of a winning promotion package, and it was rarely the male assistant professor doing the cooking and arranging.

Ray’s dessert flowers remind me of an elaborate dish my grandmother made at Easter, one that would be a worthy final project for Housewife School: paskha, an Eastern European egg custard molded into a dome and then decorated with fresh fruit in symmetrical floral patterns. It is a definitely a performance, and one that combines cooking, knife skills, composition, and color sense. (It is also, to my palate, better admired than consumed—sorry, Grandma!).

It seems Eames-esque: a folk tradition based on handwork and patterns, a food arranged rather than cooked. Shot from above, a paskha would fit right in with the photographs of rainbow grids of spools, crayons, and buttons that adorn the Eameses’ House of Cards. In a 1973 article in Progressive Architecture, critic Esther McCoy, a friend of Ray’s, wrote, "They were the first to fill in the spartan framework so acceptable to modern architecture with a varied and rich content." Later, she ended a remembrance of Ray with a vision of "her wide craftsman’s hands placing the bouquets on the table, moving them an inch this way or that.""
eames  charleseames  rayeames  alexandralange  2016  design  dinnerparties  performance  problemsolving  housewives  housewifery  calvintompkins  ragnarkjartansson 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Here Comes Hilda - The New Yorker
"It began, as adventures often do, with a trip: a family holiday in Norway, parents and their teen-agers, that seemed entirely straightforward at the time. “My imagination was really going for it on that trip—the landscape of the place stuck with me,” Luke Pearson, the British author of the Hildafolk series of graphic novels, told me. “At the time, I was reading about trolls and daydreaming, knowing I wanted to do something with that one day.”

Next, there was a map. “When I was at university, everyone who studied illustration was given a project to do an illustrated map of a country, and I was given Iceland,” he said. “I made a map of Icelandic folktales—you can still play it.” Move the digital clouds on Pearson’s “Hidden Iceland” and see, in their shadows, the giants and sprites and Viking ships just beneath that country’s peaks and fjords.

Finally, there was a girl: Hilda, now the star of four (soon to be five) comics. Netflix is planning a twelve-episode animated series, based on the first four books, for early 2018. The fifth book, “Hilda and the Stone Forest,” comes out in September.

When Pearson was still in school, in 2009, he submitted a one-page drawing to a competition run by Nobrow, now his publisher. “She’s basically wearing her outfit”—beret, scarf, red top, blue skirt, and big red boots—Pearson said, of Hilda. “She’s standing at the end of a pier, with a Scandinavian-esque city behind her and all kinds of creatures around, including a giant troll and a zeppelin in the sky.” A similar scene occurs in the third Hilda book, “Hilda and the Bird Parade,” but at the beginning Pearson didn’t have a story, just this “curious image” of a small girl with blue hair and a question: “Where is she and what does she get up to?”

What she gets up to is a string of adventures, first in the Heidi-esque hills above Trolberg, and then in the city itself—a move made (spoiler alert!) after a giant steps on the cozy ancestral cottage that she shares with her mother. That Hilda herself has long been a giant to a set of thumb-size invisible elves, living on the same patch of grass that her cabin sits on, is just another part of a life in which mythical creatures hide within mountains and behind bureau drawers. (There’s a lot of unused space in Hilda’s house, you see.)

For such a small girl, Hilda is about to get very big, and I am not at all surprised. My five-year-old daughter brought the first book home from a friend’s house, and it took reading only the first few pages, beautifully laid out, with the rich color palette of a Nordic sweater, to know that Hilda was something special. Trolberg may have a complex of bell towers (bells keep trolls at bay, we learn), but it also has a glassy downtown à la Houston. “All of these stories are riffs on folktales that are as old as time, that have taken a hard left turn through Luke’s imagination and all of these contemporary pop-cultural sensibilities,” Kurt Mueller, the executive vice-president at Silvergate Media, which will produce the Hilda series, said. (The company’s other series include “The Octonauts” and “Peter Rabbit.”) “Like the movies of Miyazaki, she feels totally of the moment, but she’s reacting to something that feels ancient and archetypal,” Mueller said. The nostalgic Northern European setting recalls Miyazaki’s romanticism, while Hilda’s communion with the conjoined natural and spirit worlds recalls San from “Princess Mononoke” or Satsuki from “My Neighbor Totoro.”

My first point of comparison was Lewis Carroll’s Alice, though Pearson said that he never thought of her. But, greeted by a little girl in an unchanging outfit, who is confronted with all manner of creatures great and small, in landscapes giant and miniaturized, who else are we to think of? What’s markedly different with Hilda is the attitude with which she greets her wonderland. She does not fall down a hole but strides, prepared with sketchbook and satchel, into the wind and weather. The first words of the first book, “Hilda and the Troll,” are delivered by a radio announcer: “But tonight clouds rolling in from the east . . . temperatures remain mild . . . with the likelihood of heavy rain.” Hilda, reading a tome on trolls at the breakfast table, rushes outside her red, peak-roofed cabin to see storm clouds forming over an adjacent peak. “Mum! Mum! It’s going to rain tonight! Can I sleep in the tent?” And Mum says yes.

Pearson’s aesthetic is sophisticated for the often candy-colored world of children’s animation, and the plots fit neatly into a number of present-day parenting preoccupations. Do children need dream time or organized activities? Nature or urban exploration? Pearson himself is too young to have friends with kids, so one suspects that his sensitivity to children’s desire for independence, combined with a need for a secure nest, may stem from his own childhood. Hilda’s mum wants her to have friends, to go to school, to participate in organized activities, but Hilda is always wandering off, learning Scout lessons on her own terms. Pearson says the scenes of the Sparrow Scouts were taken directly from his own Cub Scout experiences, down to the design of the church hall in which they meet (made of Nordic wood rather than Tamworth brick).

In the countryside, Hilda runs free, but the city brings greater conflict between her and her mother—who works from home at a drafting board, perhaps as an architect or an illustrator. Pearson’s panels are filled with such suggestive details, rewarding the close and repeated reading of small children. One of my daughter’s favorite spreads is at the back of the paperback version of “Hilda and the Troll”: a glimpse of Hilda’s realistically messy desk and shelves, stocked with Easter eggs from this and future tales, allowing young readers to put a few things together for themselves. Pearson extends the respect he has for Hilda to his audience, giving it room to discover the good kind of troll for themselves.

Pearson’s utter lack of pretension keeps Hilda feeling fresh, while his reading of folktales and Tove Jansson’s Moomin series embeds Hilda in the long history of children’s stories. Spunky heroines abound, but they don’t always speak to the present day. Hilda’s dilemmas, while fantastic, also feel real: Does she throw a rock at a pigeon to fit in? Does mother know best? Can one, or both, of them draw their way out of their latest adventure? Pearson has found a lovely new way to dramatize childhood demons, while also making you long for your own cruise down the fjords."

[See also:
https://islingtoncomic.blogspot.sg/2012/05/hilda-and-midnight-giant.html
http://www.tcj.com/i-wanted-a-character-who-was-very-positive-an-interview-with-luke-pearson/
http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2014/09/how-to-read-hilda/
http://comicsalliance.com/learning-and-inspiring-in-luke-pearsons-hilda-comics-review/
https://thebookwormbaby.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-amazing-world-of-hilda.html ]
books  childrensbooks  childhood  alexandralange  2016  lukepearson  comics  graphicnovels  toread  hilda  nordiccountries  hayaomiyazaki  girls  heroines  aliceinwonderland  lewiscarroll  play  maps  mapping  parenting  sfsh  iceland  pippilongstocking  tovejansson  princessmononoke  myneighbortotoro  studioghibli  scandinavia  illustration  folktales  moomin  childrensliterature 
june 2016 by robertogreco
What do elephants and Eames chairs have in common?: Design Observer
"I would love to get more nominations for charismatic megafauna from any design field. What object appears in every design museum exhibition? What building image always illustrates an architect's career? Which graphic stands for all of Russian Constructivism, over and over again? And how, having identified these beasts, can we expand the pool of imagery in order to expand the parameters of discussion. How can we allow the public to see design as part of a complex environment rather than a string of greatest hits?"
2012  alexandralange  eames  rayeames  charleseames  design  furniture  history 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Serious Fun - Herman Miller
"Taking inspiration from the humble cardboard box, Ray and Charles Eames created toys and furniture to spark the imaginations of kids and grown-ups alike."
eames  toys  rayeames  charleseeames  alexandralange  play  children  design 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Power Positions | Dirty Furniture
"When it comes to taking a seat at the table, not all sides are created equal. Architecture and design critic Alexandra Lange considers an underexplored mechanism of control.

From 1959 architect Philip Johnson would lunch at a corner table in the Grill Room, part of the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building he designed. Contemporaries Frank Lloyd Wright and Henry Dreyfuss held court at the Oak Room in New York’s Plaza Hotel. How can Johnson’s decision to make his own Oak Room be interpreted as anything other than a power play? Here everyone had to sit, literally, at his table. Clients, colleagues, supplicants, artists: on his own turf, the architect trumped them all. And the table itself laid bare an unspoken hierarchy, depending on where you sat.

All tables do: choose a seat close to or far away from the seat of power and you reveal your sense of place. Take the seat you’ve been allocated and you find out where others place you. If you don’t like your position you can move, or, if an Arthurian knight, fight. It is more subtle, though, to change the rules of engagement by changing the shape of the board."



"The Boardroom Table"



"The Kitchen Table"



"The Schoolroom Table"



"In some offices, homes and schoolrooms, the table is now in decline. Meetings today might be held in break-out areas defined by soft furniture, stadium-style steps, or even foam mountains. With low-slung sofas and side tables, such landscaped interior spaces may come closer to Saarinen’s floor-level Katsura ideal, albeit without the elaborate manners and tatami mats. In today’s suburban kitchens, meanwhile, meals are as likely eaten at the counter or on the sofa as at a table. Family dinners have become nothing but a fetish for food writers. As schools embrace technology, communal writing surfaces become less necessary – the laptop is table, pen and pad in one. In each of these new scenarios some freedoms are gained, but chances for conversation are lost. The table gives and it takes away: it can harden hierarchies but also create the space for speech.

The idea of an architect as a fixed physical presence in a city seems quaint today; one imagines them instead in transit, on the phone, or on site. I hardly want architects to return to public life patronising from the corner table, but wouldn’t there be some benefit to watching their design work at work, to staking a claim for architecture’s importance to cities through their physical presence? The history of the table proves its versatility as a symbol for how people are connected to one another. Its disappearance suggests a retreat into individual architectures for eating, working, learning that can’t bode well for diplomats, housewives, students or business."
alexandralange  tables  power  hierarchy  education  harknesstables  harkness  harknessmethod  2015  architecture  furniture  relationships  teaching  learning  pedagogy  business  boardrooms  modernmen  kitchens  families  homes  offices  officedesign  schooldesign  kingarthur 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Alexandra Lange on craft, making and gender
"The journalists, artists and curators at the press preview for the Museum of Arts and Design's new exhibition, Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Mid-century and Today, were about 90 per cent female – an unusually high percentage, according to the museum's publicist.

But the imbalance seemed about right, in that it reflected the continuing, uneasy, and gendered relationship between people who make things out of yarn, clay or cloth and people who make things out of glass, steel or plastic. The editors of a few blogs seemed unsure whether the contents of the show – four hanging woven-wire sculptures by Ruth Asawa, screen-printed geometric textile designs by Anni Albers, a test panel for the gold-embroidered tapestries for the Ford Foundation by Sheila Hicks, along with work by 39 other artists – even counted as "design" for their purposes.

"In the 1950s and 1960s, an era when painting, sculpture and architecture were dominated by men, women had extensive impact in alternative materials such as textiles, ceramics and metals," reads the wall text.

Starting with the Bauhaus weaving workshop, eventually led by the supremely talented Gunta Stolzl, modern women with visual talent were shunted into creative professions closer to traditional women's work, and many of them found what they made then treated as lesser-than. Half of MAD's collection is work by women, and with this exhibit, curated by Jennifer Scanlan, the museum hopes to expand ideas about who, and what, constitutes mid-century design.

The problem of terminology has bedeviled this work from the start. When the Museum of Modern Art first showed fibre art in the 1969 show Wall Hangings, artist Louise Bourgeois wrote, in the magazine Craft Horizons, "the pieces in the show rarely liberate themselves from decoration." Fear of fibre, it seems, lives on.

The irony is that, while women were largely unwelcome in architecture and industrial design as practitioners, male architects and manufacturers found they couldn't live without them. Most of the highlighted mid-century designers worked with architects to bring nature, texture and colour to their hard-edged spaces, and several worked with manufacturers as designers and translators – for publicity purposes – of new styles and materials for a mass audience."



"Today craft seems to be heading in two directions simultaneously. Handicraft has never been more popular among women – it seems like every third person on Instagram has bought a handloom to ape Hicks or Maryanne Moodie, while companies like Wool and the Gang give you the option of ready-made or knit-your-own trendy, chunky apparel.

There is a renewed interest in personal making that has been nourished by social networks and is now being reabsorbed by mainstream consumer culture, without the politics and made by who-knows-whose hand. Urban Outfitters, which once sold an Anni Albers washer necklace kit, now sells the Magical Thinking Macrame Wall Hanging.

"On the flip side, there's the emergence of technological craft, with which architects seem to feel more comfortable and which does turn up on design sites like this one. (The computer defeminises everything.) Here again screens of various types provide a bridge between the hard and the flexible, the wall and the textile.

Petra Blaisse's contributions to many OMA projects (the carpets at the Seattle Public Library, for example) are machine-made textiles that, like Bertoia screens, humanise spaces as a form of permanent nature. The openwork pattern on her curtains for Machado and Silvetti's Chazen Museum nods to the sheers and geometries popular in mid-century designs.

Danish architect Mette Ramsgard Thomsen calls her work "digital crafting," and her 2012 Shadow Play installation demonstrates another way to introduce softness and hanging into built space. In that piece, long curls of pine veneer were bent into loops, connected with copper wire, and sandwiched between two pieces of glass in a storefront. The effect was like a carved screen, but lighter, and far less effort. It could be included in a new MoMA exhibition called Wall Hanging, one far more antiseptic than its 1969 predecessor.

I'll freely admit my preference for the wilder shores of the handmade, irregular and a little too bright. Even if Louise Bourgeois didn't find it challenging enough on first encounter, the continuing gender politics around craft, as well as the difficulty around the classification of the work of people like Albers, Asawa, Bryk, Hicks, Tawney and Phillips, reveal a spikiness that continues to command attention."
design  craft  alexandralange  gender  architecture  2015  industrialdesign  materials  glvo  annialbers  louisebourgeois  guntastolzl  bauhaus  ruthasawa  art  history  modernism  makers  makermovement  handmade  textiles  petrablaisse  metteramsgardthomsen  sheilahicks  rutbryk  leonoretawney  marywalkerphillips 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Alexandra Lange: Letter to LACMA
"Letter to LACMA

I’ve only been to LACMA one time. But this is what I did when I was there.

1. Took a photo (not a selfie) of Chris Burden’s Urban Light.
2. Signed up to see the James Turrell on an iPad at an outdoor kiosk.
3. Listened to the jazz band on the plaza.
4. Rode the escalator up and the elevator down inside what will soon be the old Broad.
5. Walked up and down the stairs and through Tony Smith’s Smoke.
6. Rapped on the enamel panels of the Art of Americas Wing.
7. Saw some art.

That motley list of movements and buildings and sights is, it seems to me, the essence of what LACMA is right now, a museum in many parts, a sum of choices, without hierarchy. A place where you can go in and you can go out at will, not when the architecture tells you to.

That’s an experience rare in large urban museums today, where the impulse always seems to be to agglomerate more real estate, connected indoors, around a central atrium or a central staircase. To go out you have to retrace your steps through long sequences of galleries, or pass to and fro past the store, café, coatcheck. There are many layers of architecture between you and the outside, however many slot-like windows the architect has inserted to tell you where you are. There’s a relentlessness to the arrangement that says, You should see it all, rather than, at LACMA, Why don’t you just pop in for a minute?

In fact, the only large museum I’ve been to that has a similar feeling, and was designed all at the same time, is Pedro Ramirez Vasquez’s Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. There, you can also go in and out easily, as each gallery has doors to its own garden as well as a central courtyard. A gap between two galleries becomes an outdoor display space, a level change leads to a shady café. You can skip stops, criss-cross, go up and down, sit by the fountain, and you always know where you are. The courtyard of the Anthropology Museum is shaded by a giant parasol, akin to OMA’s 2001 LACMA plan, which used a transparent roof to unite the parts without tearing so many of them down. [Ed. note: I realized last night I’ve had the details of this plan wrong in my mind for years, having reframed it as a greenhouse of the past and future.)

When I first read Peter Zumthor’s remarks about his plan for LACMA, it seemed like he got this. Liking small museums rather than large museums, creating a series of separate themed entrances to the collection, and pulling back the building to make room for outdoor activities, were all interpretations of the same motley path I followed. I thought the museum could create a tear-off ticket that would let you pay once and experience the museum over days or weeks, one leg at a time. But then I saw the blob or, I later decided to call it, the blot. It was still a giant totalizing figure, even though it looked different from the more mannerly toplit boxes elsewhere – even on other parts of the LACMA site. The fragmentary nature that seems part of LACMA’s DNA – it is #4 on the most Instagrammed museums list, even without a recognizable front door – seemed to disappear into the blackness. Would the LACMA selfie now include the museum as a dark cloud overhead?

Any architectural design has to win fans through suspension of disbelief. The model, the rendering, something has to make you believe that the architect can deliver the experience he or she has in mind. Zumthor’s LACMA hasn’t cleared that bar for me yet. We haven’t been given enough detail about how the parts would work together to knit together a possible experience, or even a good answer to the question: Why is this the best way to accomplish the museum’s goals? When it was a blot I wanted him to take the liquid metaphor further: A liquid should insinuate itself between solids (like the existing buildings) or soak in to the base layer, creating a new landscape. This did neither.

Nothing in his Zumthor’s previous museum work was similar enough to create a mental collage of how the blot might be to visit. The new version, released this week, comes a little closer to reality. What Zumthor seems to have done is embed galleries closer to his previous, petite museums in the inky form, eliminating many of the legs (too bad), and breaking it down into trapezoids as if to find a scale closer to his comfort zone. I’m worried about the circulation (once you go up, how to you get down, or outside?) and the underneath (is it like the underside of a highway?).

The ease of movement between inside and outside is gone once you raise it up on stilts to get over Wilshire Boulevard. And for an architect whose Swiss projects are embedded in the landscape, it seems strange to impose these flat black pancake floors around the galleries. Peter Zumthor is a critics’ darling because his buildings feel like special places and trust me, we’ve been to too many generic art spaces. What kind of place will this be?"
lacma  2015  alexandralange  museums  experience  peterzumthor  art  artmuseums  architecture  design  autonomy  hierarchy  control  choice  freedom  disbelief  architectire  fragmentation  losangeles 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Instagram’s Endangered Ephemera - The New Yorker
"The best accounts, like @graphilately, present a basic, steady stream of beautiful things, often against a neutral background. “I want it to be solely about the stamps—raising the profile of stamps and beauty in simple, modernist values,” Blair Thomson, the account’s creator, told me. “They’re about simple, graphic ideas conveyed through a highly visible yet tiny medium.” The husband-and-wife pair behind @purveyors_of_packaging present vintage boxes, bottles, and cans in the same vitrine-like format, making the reds, yellows, and blues really glow.

For some, Instagram has been an easy way to deal with personal collections. If you are the proud owner of thousands of vintage Valentines, embroidered tourist patches, or personalized book plates, digitizing them can feel overwhelming. The dailyness of Instagram—one photo, one day at a time—breaks the task down, and the endorphin boost of likes and followers keeps you rolling. A number of the collectors I spoke to originally included their ephemera in their personal feed, but spun the material off into a dedicated channel after a positive response. This also gave them a chance to polish their presentation. Bill Rose (@junktype) says, “Most of the objects in my feed are no bigger than a couple of inches wide. They are often so small that my phone has trouble focussing given the close range of my subject.” Charles Clarke (@matchbookdiaries) shoots his matchbooks against a white background. “I use the white background because it looks clean, and because you can scroll my profile page and it doesn’t look like there are any dividers between the photos. It looks like a big poster.”

These accounts also provide inspiration for working professionals and act as an early warning system for design revivals. Several of the ephemera accounts that I’ve spotted have turned out to be run by designers. Ara Devejian (@LetterGetter), a creative director, started his when he moved to Los Angeles’s superlatively-signed Theatre District. “Every day, I try to take a new route to work or wherever, especially going way out my way to discover new places on my bike or in the car, and in turn LetterGetter is the happy byproduct of that curiosity.” At first Devejian wanted to document typographic nightmares—the illegible, the mishandled—but, as with most Instagram accounts, things swung over to the positive. The platform’s users have such a strong preference for things that are pretty (however you define it) that it’s difficult to swim against the tide of posting “bests” rather than “worsts.” “@LetterGetter helps inform some of the typographic projects I work on,” Devejian said, “like the title card I designed for Gymkhana 7. The style of the photos is intentionally flat or sparse in order to see the letterforms as they were conceived.”"



"Business cards are probably next on the endangered list. In ten years, that drawer full of business cards could be Instagram gold. The Art Nouveau designer Hector Guimard’s business card, for example, part of the Cooper Hewitt collection, is beautifully out of date. But putting something on Instagram isn’t always the end result. These pieces can have different meaning in real life. “People have yelled at me—thinking I’m about to steal or break something—and then afterwards, realizing that I’m only taking pictures and admiring their car or whatever, tell me their life story,” Devejian says. “I’ve become painfully accustomed to just how fleeting signage is. It’s made me wonder whether I should become some sort of advocate for preservation, in attempt to postpone their inevitable disappearance.”"
instagram  culture  alexandralange  2015  design  businesscards  graphicdesign  graphics  photography  collections  inspiration  stamps  postagestamps  matchbooks  labels  clothinglabels  ephemera  everyday  objects  internet  socialmedia  packaging  typography  lettering  logos 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Alexandra Lange on the problems with the museums experience
"This is Mexico's most visited museum, frequented, on the day I was there, by tourists from many countries – Mexicans, families, old, young, rambunctious, quiet. There was space for them all and there was time for them all. You did not have to read a word (I don't speak Spanish) to feel that you had learned something. All you had to do was walk and look, and the alternation of indoor and outdoor spaces meant that you tired less easily. The oscillation between small and large meant that you had to adjust your eyes more often and look again. It felt like a walk in the park, but it was a museum. And we need more museums that let us relax into knowledge, showing, not telling us everything by audioguide.

In New York, at least, the friction of timed tickets, crowds and lines are now baked in to many big museum experiences: one can rarely expect to be able to just walk in, buy a ticket, see a show. Lines for the Museum of Modern Art-hosted Rain Room this summer stretched past the four-hour mark – and that's a separate line from the one for tickets that forms along 53rd Street.

My experience at the MNA caused me to think back on other museum discussions and visits of the past year, big and small: the Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, stunts like the Rain Room or James Turrell at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Donald Judd’s House at 101 Spring Street in SoHo. Art may be more delicate than Aztec heads, but there isn't only one way to show it. Thinking about each of these visits as variations on a theme, I have found what I crave is not more access but less: a discrete, informal, and time-limited chance to look at work in peace. To wander rather than move in lock-step. To walk in the front door, look at art or artifacts for as long as I want, and leave."
museums  museumeducation  education  art  experience  2014  alexandralange  exploration  curating  curation  showing  telling  exposing  exposition  exhibitiondesign  design  exhibits  exhibitions  guides  wandering  time  space  attention  learning  howwelearn  informal  informality  artifacts 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Opinion: Alexandra Lange on how architects should use social media
"It’s easy to make fun of Bjarke Ingels on Instagram. Selfie, LEGO selfie, girlfriend (I hope), Gaga, monograph, fog, fox socks. His Instagram has a lot to do with the architecture of self-promotion, but little to do with actual building. The same goes for many architects' Twitter feeds: lecture, lecture, award, positive review, lecture. You could say that's just business today. But social media can do more for architecture than showcase pretty faces and soundbites. Architects need to start thinking of social media as the first draft of history.

There's an unofficial rule of thumb that you should only tweet about yourself 30 percent of the time. That's a rule many architects break over and over again. They treat Twitter and Instagram as extensions of their marketing strategy, another way to let people know where their partners are speaking, that their projects are being built, and that the critics like them. Happy happy happy. Busy busy busy. Me me me. In real life, most architects aren't quite as monomaniacal as their feeds. (There are exceptions.) They read reviews written about others. They look at buildings built by others. Heck, they even spend some time not making architecture. That balance, between the high and the low, the specific and the general, the obvious and the obscure makes life, not to mention design, much more interesting.

That unselfish reading, writing, seeing and drawing form part of the larger cloud of association that, one day, critics will use to assess and locate the architecture of today. A more flexible, critical and conversational use of social media could suggest interpretations before the concrete is dry. As an example, consider Philip Johnson, perhaps the most networked architect of his day. Philip Johnson would have been really good at social media. He understood, better than most, that interest is created by association. That was the principle of his salons, drawing the latest and greatest from a variety of cultural realms. Those young artists and architects helped him stay young and current, he helped them by offering literal or metaphorical institutional support.

Isn't that how these platforms work too? I look better when I spread the word about everyone's good work, not just my own. And seeing others' projects gives me new ideas. Johnson was a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, but he was also a "curator" in contemporary parlance, collecting and distributing people and objects and styles.

That's why his physical library at his Glass House in New Canaan, CT remains of interest: the shelves reveal what he thought worth reading and keeping. Outside, its form reveals the same: the work of architect Michael Graves, promoted and digested. Even earlier, in the September 1950 issue of Architectural Review, Johnson set out the inspirations – possibly decoys – for that same Glass House. There's Mies, of course, but there are also the less expected references to Suprematist painter Kasimir Malevich and eighteenth century architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux. There's an image showing the Brick House, the almost windowless box set behind the Glass House where he actually slept, a building often eliminated from later photography of the site. There are many readings of this combination of text and images, few of them straightforward. But I'll take false fronts and red herrings over pure self-promotion any day. Trails of breadcrumbs like this are catnip for critics then and now. Johnson used a prestigious journal to try out his version of the Glass House genealogy. You architects could be doing this every day.

Instagram is popularly characterised as a more perfect version of everyday life: the artfully mismatched tablescape, the colour-balanced Christmas tree, the accessorised child. But it doesn't have to be that way. We get enough better-than-reality images of buildings on sites like Dezeen. I’ve started Instagramming my visits to exhibitions and buildings, as a way of sharing the first cut, taking visual notes, and focusing on details and moments that didn't make the press packet. We so often see the same images of a building, over and over. What about the rest of it? My unprofessional photographs pick up on different things. At Herzog & de Meuron's Parrish Art Museum, for example, I snapped the sign required to point you to the "Main Entrance." And the ten-foot, blackened, windowless doors that could flatten a five-year-old. These images can be critical in a different way - fleeter, funnier, like popcorn - from the endangered building review. Could architects point out their own mistakes? Or – with love, of course – those of their colleagues? Of their heroes?

At a higher artistic level, there's the example of the Instagram of architectural photographer Iwan Baan. His Instagram reveals that he has seen more contemporary architecture (and more of it from helicopters) than anyone. I find something aggrandising, even aggressive, about the relentlessness of his travel and the harsh aerial views. There's also something humanising about his Instagram as a series of outtakes, capturing the surround for the more perfect images that end up on the websites of the architects. We see the faces of people, the buildings imperfectly lit or weathered. The heroic and the ordinary combine in this extra work, and will ultimately contribute to the way we look at the official pictures too. It would be even better if the architects were right there beside him, taking pictures of what else they see. I know architects make design pilgrimages. Why not take us there?"



"Social media can make criticism, interpretation, dialogue and history part of daily life. Don’t leave it to the critics.

In a more recent example, the announcement that the American Institute of Architects would award its first Gold Medal to a woman to Julia Morgan, dead these 56 years, was announced, praised, dissected, and reconsidered, all in a matter of hours on Twitter. Dezeen's own post on the matter quoted me from Twitter; Architect Magazine created a reaction story to its own story by Storifying a discussion between several architecture critics (and didn’t have to pay us a dime). What do architects think of her work? What woman would you have nominated? It shouldn’t just be critics in on that discussion.

Architects sometimes forget what other people don’t know – or forget to share the positive assets of the past before, during and after they are threatened. Social media collects in real time. You can hashtag your firm. You can collate your campus work. You can geolocate your project. You can tip your hat to a colleague. You can tell us what you're reading. In doing so architects contribute to a broader dialogue about what makes a good experience. What social media can do for architects is make criticism, interpretation, dialogue and history part of daily life. Don't leave it to the critics. Don't farm it out to your communications staff. That's boring. Surely you don’t want to be boring? I'd be surprised if one social media platform or another weren't part of most designers' daily practice (at least those under 50). Let the rest of us in, so it doesn't take bankruptcy, demolition or obituary to get people talking about architecture."
2014  instagram  alexandralange  process  iwanbaan  bjarkeingels  socialmedia  howto  curating  curation  design  architecture  architects  context  communication  sharing  conversation  criticism  critique  interpretation  dialog  history  juliamorgan  philipjohnson  twitter  #daydetroit  #folkmoma  archives  tumblr  glasshouse 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Graphic Design That Encapsulates the Golden State - NYTimes.com
"“It is common practice today to place the word ‘California’ in front of almost any vagrant word and thus achieve a magic combination hopefully intended to make the heart jump and the purse strings fly open,” the designer Alvin Lustig wrote in 1947.

But it wasn’t the word alone. Mr. Lustig and other graphic artists gave “California” a look, for periodicals, posters, packaging and vacation destinations, that also made the heart jump and loosened the purse strings. It was colorful, it was experimental, it was rough, it was digital.

And the same can be said of the new book “Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California Graphic Design, 1936-1986” (Metropolis Books, $55), written and designed by Louise Sandhaus, 59, a graphic designer. As she writes in her introduction, she chose not to honor text over graphics, and she wasn’t interested in being definitive. Rather, looking through archives and talking to makers, she asked questions like, “Is this historically important work, versus is this fabulous and distinctive and sooooooo California?” The pieces in the book range in mood from the calm abstraction of John Follis’s “Arts & Architecture” magazine covers to the pixelated trips in David Theurer’s “I, Robot” Atari game.

Oh, and that title? Ms. Sandhaus wrote in an email, “It’s a cliché about California, but one that encapsulates a place where big dramatic changes happen.” She spoke to a reporter last week. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)

Q. You say in your introduction this project took 10 years. Why?

A. I worked for two-and-a-half years on the millennial exhibition for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, “Made in California.” It was intended to talk about the relationship between California art and images of California, and to complicate that relationship. I saw California visual artists start to pull away from inspirations coming from Europe and from New York. Something similar had to have happened within graphic design.

I was also reading Reyner Banham’s book “Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies.” He said to tell the story of the built environment meant creating a different way to tell that story. That was impetus to think I didn’t have to become a historian, or to try to force this into a conventional model.

You also came up with four ecologies, presented as chapter titles: “Sunbaked Modernism,” “Industry & the Indies,” “Sixties alt Sixties” and “California Girls.” Why those?

Lorraine Wild, a graphic designer in Los Angeles, mentored this project early on, and she came up with those titles to be able to organize the work. A commonality was a left turn or a break from tradition. There was a colorfulness to the work. There was an independent spirit that was less about following and more about defining.

Ms. Wild’s essay for the ’60s chapter is all about the color orange. How does orange define California design?

Lorraine started that essay on an impulse. The sunset seems orange. The ubiquitous poster for “The Endless Summer” (1964) has that kind of luminosity. The Victor Moscoso “Neon Rose” series, the luminosity of orange in there. In public consciousness, that color does become conflated with California. We grow oranges.

Orange shows up in the architecture, too.

When I think of architecture of the period, Sea Ranch is front and center. Properties were going up that were more natural, and people were starting to introduce more earthy colors: avocado and burnt orange.

You also argue that California design was a more hospitable place for women, fostering the careers of designers including Marget Larsen for the department store Joseph Magnin and Susan Kare for the Apple Macintosh.

The women attracted to here were independently minded to begin with. But because it was a backwater, women had more latitude and developed bold work that got a lot of attention. Frank Gehry invited Deborah Sussman and Gere Kavanaugh to share his office. That said, Deborah Sussman, who died earlier this year, told me about how she had to assert herself in meetings and wasn’t always taken seriously.

You seem like you had fun with the design of the book. I love the pink-and-orange endpapers with little Californias and palms.

Originally I wanted there to be four books glued back to back, to suggest other books to come. This wasn’t a finished story. So the patterned papers between the chapters are like endpapers, retaining that suggestion. I had an intern this summer who did something wacky with the In-N-Out Burger palm tree."
california  graphicdesign  design  graphics  alexandralange  louisesandhaus  books  toread  interviews  2014 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Section Cut | Alexandra Lange
"Join Dan and Kyle as they sit with Section Cut’s fifth GIANT – Alexandra Lange – at the Loeb House in Cambridge, MA. We find Alexandra at the tail end of her Loeb Fellowship, amidst a pivotal point in her career. During the conversation, she shares some best practices and sheds perspective on her journey to becoming an influential architectural critic, journalist, and social media maven with over 10.4k Twitter followers to date.
Though not explicitly a designer, Lange’s work takes a critical eye to the built environment, design culture, and our fields’ positions relative to contemporary societal concerns. This work is executed with such care and precision that she is often invited to speak at prestigious institutions and write for some of the most respected publications in the world. And, even with such accolades as these, Alexandra manages to be unpretentious, approachable, and generous enough to sit down and talk with the likes of us.

Take a listen above to see what we mean, and make sure to explore some of Alexandra’s top resources below. Consider her challenge posed to Team Section Cut – GAME ON!"
alexandralange  2014  designcriticism  design  architecture  interviews  via:ablerism 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Alexandra Lange on 3D printers versus the sewing machine
"In March, Slate Magazine's Seth Stevenson provided a public service when he borrowed a Solidoodle 4, pitched as the "accessible", "affordable" 3D printer, and attempted to print a bottle opener from Thingiverse. [http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/03/solidoodle_4_testing_the_home_3_d_printer.html ] Results, as they say, vary, but he ended up, after a series of phone calls and false starts, with "a functionless, semi-decorative piece of plastic."

The bumbling encounter with technology is a popular stratagem for Slate, but here it pointed directly to the reason we're not seeing a 3D printer in every den. I've seen those rhino heads, those dinosaur skulls. They do not fill me with delight, but remind me instead of the cheap toys my kids bring home from birthday parties and I throw away in the night. Why bother? How is printing your Triceratops at home more creative, more making, than buying one from a store? In either case, step one is scrolling through pages of online options, pointing and clicking in 2D.

Stevenson concluded that 3D printing was no place for amateurs, but for tinkerers. Those able to work under the hood of the printer: to understand the terms in the manual, to customise or create their own products for Thingiverse. For such tinkerers, neighbourhood printing hubs like Techshop, where subscribers can go to use physical or digital tools, make more sense. Designers taking advantage of 3D printers' capabilities for rapid prototyping and small-batch production have already started farming out the actual printing to places like Shapeways. When we stopped having to fax even weekly, we all got rid of those machines.

But then Stevenson took a turn toward the larger question of craft. He wrote, "Once upon a time, people purchased sewing patterns (like a program from Thingiverse) and yards of fabric (like filament) and they made their own clothes. I wasn't alive back then, but I'm pretty sure the process sucked."

I must be older than Stevenson, because my mother and grandmother sewed clothes for me. My mother, aunt and I have all sewed clothes and quilts for my children. They are not amateurishly constructed. We managed to make them while also holding down full time jobs. And judging from the extremely active online sewing community, the active trade in old machines and patterns on Ebay, and the ease with which one can locate a scan of a thirty-year-old sewing machine manual, the digital age has not turned sewing into a novelty, but spawned a revival of interest. In fact, if 3D printers are truly going to become a consumer good, they have a lot to learn from the sewing machine.

Because Stevenson snidely generalised from his own limited experience, he missed the instructive dialogue between craft and the machine age. Post-industrial sewing is not a freak but a respite. In Evgeny Morozov's recent New Yorker essay on the new makers, he quotes historian Jackson Lears' critique of the Arts & Crafts movement as "a revivifying hobby for the affluent." I'd say middle-class: (mostly) women who aren't seeing what they want, at a price they can afford, in the marketplace.

There’s an appetite for the "refashion," recycling an old dress or an adult T-shirt, and turning it into something new. Once upon a time, the use of flour sacks as fabric prompted grain-sellers to start offering their wares in flowered cotton bags. If some boutique grain company began doing that again, there would be a run on their product. Under the technology radar, there's a community of people sharing free patterns, knowledge and results, without the interpolation of brands, constantly obsolescent machinery, or the self-serving and myth-making rhetoric Morozov finds in Chris Anderson's Makers. There are the answers to the questions "Why bother?" and "How creative?" Rather than sewing being a cautionary tale, 3D printing can't become a consumer good until it learns a few lessons from why we sew now.

Number one: what's not available on the market. If you have a girl child in America, it is often difficult to find reasonably-priced, 100 per cent cotton clothing for her without ruffles, pink or purple, butterflies and hearts. If you go to the boy section, you run into an equally limiting set of colors, navy and army green, and an abundance of sports insignia. A full-skirted dress, a petite skirt, prints for the plus-sized – there are plenty of styles that are not novelties but, when not in fashion, disappear from stores. Online you can find patterns to make any of the above for less than $10, and fabric at the same price per yard. Online you can find step-by-step explanations, with photos, of how to make that pattern. That world of patterns is vast, constantly updated, and historically rich. Yes, sewing your own garment will take some time, but then you will have exactly what you want. That's why women bother.



Second lesson: recycling. Say my mother did actually sew something amateurishly. That's not the end of the story. A mis-printed jet-pack bunny is so much trash (unless I buy a second machine like a Filabot to remelt my filament). A mis-sewn seam can be ripped out and redone. An old dress can be refashioned into a new one. A favorite vintage piece can be copied. Sewing does not create more waste but, potentially, less, and the process of sewing is filled with opportunities for increasing one's skills and doing it over as well as doing it yourself. What are quilts, after all, but a clever way to use every last scrap of precious fabric?

So far, 3D printing's DIY aspects seem more akin to the "magic" of an ant farm, watching growth behind glass. Sewing lets the maker find their own materials, and get involved with every aspect of the process. 3D printing could do this, and there are classes, but even at the Makerbot showroom the primary interaction seemed to be ordering from Thingiverse. My local sewing shop has to teach more women to sew to survive; I don't see the printer makers coming to the same conclusion.

In addition, the machines themselves are constantly becoming junk. It's not unusual for new technology to change quickly. That's the fourth Solidoodle since 2011. Makerbot is on its fifth generation. It is early days for 3D printing, and the machines may eventually stabilise. But the rapid obsolescence suggests a lifecycle closer to that of a mobile phone than of a washing machine, which might also turn consumers off. The sewing machine was considered a lifetime purchase.

Last but not least, sharing. This is the one consumer area where 3D printing approaches sewing's success. From the Free Universal Construction Kit to full-body scans, the idea of open-source, free, and social-media enabled printing has been built-in to the 3D process. Showing off what you made is better when you created it, rather than printed it out. On the sewing blogs, the process pictures are half the fun, and most of the interest. What does it really teach your children when you can get doll house furniture on demand, except a desire for ever-more-instant gratification? For me to believe in 3D printers as a home machine, I'd have to see the digital file equivalent of women in their off-hours, making up patterns as they go along, sharing mistakes, dreaming better dreams. 3D printing feels bottled up, professionalised, too expensive for the experimentation of cut and sew and rip and sew again.

Stevenson wrote, "most people would much rather just get their clothes from a store — already assembled by people employing industrial-level efficiency and a wide variety of materials," and that's true. What Solidoodle and Makerbot and the rest should be looking at is the people who have seen everything in the store and found it wanting."
alexandralange  2014  sewing  3dprinting  makerbots  making  makers  repair  reuse  glvo  sharing  obsolescence  process  howwework  cv  waste  utility  technology  fabrication  alteration  thingiverse  purpose  usefulness  solidoodle  makerbot  recycling  agency  need  necessity  patterns  clothing  wearables  techshop  shapeways  sethstevenson  craft  lcproject  openstudioproject  homeec  repairing 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Opinion: Alexandra Lange on design for schoos and playgrounds
"If the new design filled me with interest, joy or curiosity I might be less sad, but as a collection of tan boxes arranged along a circulation spine and presented to the community with an arsenal of contextual photos, it makes me feel nothing. Like so many other spaces for children – schools, museums, playgrounds – it looks like the box that the toys come in. Fine when the creative child can turn that box into a toy. Less interesting when the adults decide which way is up and which colours connote the most fun. In such spaces, the engagement and learning happens at the level of graphics, touchscreens, what the educators like to call "manipulatives." The buildings themselves don't speak, don't teach, they merely house while complying with all requirements. There's little to be absorbed from experience and I doubt anyone will be drawing the plan, or mentally resting her cheek against the Tectum, 36 years on.

When Rafael Viñoly updated the Brooklyn Children's Museum, he added curvaceous shapes and primary colours to the outside, the better to signify child-like wonder. But inside the new rooms were boxy and plain, the better to accommodate a rotating series of exhibits and birthday parties. The architectural excitement is all decoration; the inside is a barn. By contrast, Cambridge Seven Associates's New England Aquarium, an exact contemporary of the King School, turns the reason why you go to an aquarium (to see the fish) into the organising principle for the building's architecture. It's also a box, but one textured at key points to indicate the ocean wonders inside; a box that leads you, tank by tank, on a scenographic journey from sea lions to penguins to more fish than you've ever seen in one place. All you have to do to experience the aquarium is walk, at your own pace, up the ramp that wraps a multi-story tank. No need for IMAX, no need to read (if you're under 6) the underwater experience is right there in the dark, intriguing space.

Playgrounds offer another journey from the specific to the generic. Susan G. Solomon's book American Playgrounds describes the high points of playground experimentation in the postwar period, from Richard Dattner's Adventure Playgrounds in Central Park (some recently restored and updated) to Isamu Noguchi's experiments with sculptural dreamscapes. Architects today are interested in making playgrounds again and many interesting experiments can be found in the book Playground Design by Michelle Galindo (2012). But Solomon describes a decade-by-decade constriction of spatial ambition as the result of fears over safety and budget. The model playground became a black, rubberised surface fitted with fixed, mass-produced equipment. You can see the same equipment, often made by Kompan, in Brooklyn and in Copenhagen. Where's the adventure in that? What's missing is loose parts, idiosyncratic parts, architecture that has ideas about learning and wants to help kids figure things out. Brooklyn Boulders, a growing chain of indoor climbing spaces for adults and children, seems to have hit on a contemporary formula at their sites in Brooklyn, Somerville and San Francisco.

What is at stake here not a question of Modernity (and indeed, not even all the Modern architecture historians in Cambridge got excited about saving the King School). Rather, it is respect for children as sensitive consumers of space. I read in the built work of Cambridge Seven Associates, Sert and Noguchi that children deserve the best design can give them, even if it might be scary for a moment (that dark aquarium) or strange until you climb it (those artificial mountains). The sanding down, the rounding off, the demolition of the obdurate, makes our children's worlds more boring places, places where all they can learn are the tasks we set them. Amy F. Ogata's recent book Designing the Creative Child describes the myriad ways middle-class ambitions are translated into the toys we buy and the spaces we make for kids inside our homes. But such ambitions also need to be translated into the public sphere.

Look again at the King School, structure laid bare. What better exercise than to say, "Here's a set of concrete floors and concrete columns, kids. What do you want to put in your new school?""
alexandralange  design  children  schooldesign  2014  primarycolors  color  schools  architecture 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Walls, floors, house numbers: In Mexico City, all surfaces are activated.: Observatory: Design Observer
"In Mexico, everyone seems to be Alexander Girard. Not afraid of color, of two colors together, of tiles and stripes, of patterns on pattern, of humble materials made noble by aggregation. The Loeb Fellowship took me to Mexico City for a week in February, and there I found the roots of Girard's "opulent modernism" still growing. Everywhere I looked — underfoot, on the walls, over the doors — something particular was happening. I understood why he had been so inspired to collect and reinterpret Mexican precedents; more importantly I also saw Mexican designers and everyday people reinterpreting for themselves. Design with a small "d" was everywhere, reflecting a culture that seems to understand the small gestures that make a room, a building, or a city special. A church in Queretaro with checkerboard floors, a neo-classical facade, and a golden altarpiece of many doors. A museum in Mexico City with real Mayan artifacts, reconstructed Aztec facades, red-and-purple upholstery, bowls floating on plexiglass mounts. Girard distilled the elements of Mexican style, transforming them into an American modernist idiom, but it is not as if Mexican modernists weren't doing the same. Architect Luis Barragran spotlit a golden angel with a perfectly placed skylight. Artist, architect, designer Mathias Goeritz remade the baroque icon as a simple gold-leaf square. Contemporary projects embed ceramic trees of life in Art Deco hallways, or echo the peacock circles of traditional decor in industrial spiral staircases. At the studios of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, lines of cacti march past Bauhaus silhouettes.

As I made my way through the city, primarily on a large red-white-and-blue bus, I tried to take note of these extraordinary planes, posting PicFrames of walls, floors, and other details that simultaneously clashed and sang. How dull the medium-width oak floors of my childhood began to seem. The brick walls of my Brooklyn neighborhood. The cookie-cutter house numbers from the hardware store. The white subway tile on backsplashes, wainscots, walk-in showers. Why do we do this to ourselves? In Mexico City, it felt like all surfaces were activated. Why not get an artist to paint a mural on the concrete slot between a building's wings? Why not park a bike up the green wall in your restaurant garden? Diana Vreeland's observations about Indian color style apply equally here, with yellow swapped in for pink, cobalt for navy blue.

Architects from the global north may revere Barragan for the subtle cast of pink on a white wall, but many won't go beyond blush themselves. His Mexico City house, and the villa he designed for the family Prieto, suggested that cobalt and coral, sunshine and flame, are easier to live with than you might think. Seeing so many examples of skillfully deployed color and pattern over a handful of days, examples high (Casa Barragan, below), low (turquoise apartment building foyer, top), sacred (three-tone cathedral floor), durable (two-tone rubber garden path) allowed me to understand the intense patterns I snapped not as a precious, professional choice but as part of a larger cultural valuation of the visual. What I loved was the too-muchness of it all, which felt like aesthetic freedom. My current housemates make fun of my desire for everyday bling, which manifests itself in plastic necklaces from Forever 21 and silver sneakers and metallic sweatshirts. I saw that blinginess everywhere in Mexico and it made me feel unexpectedly at home.

Pictures of the houses of Luis Barragan tend to focus on the colorful moments, as I have in the rainbow collages above and below. But the white walls, and the windows on to sky and garden, are equally important. Barragan isn't trying to overwhelm you (as Ricardo Legorreta does at the Camino Real), but to get you through the day, in the house, with a series of views that surprise and delight. In his own home, each room is shaped to a particular activity and time of day. The pink cross is built in over the door of his solo breakfast room, to offer a wordless blessing. The sunshiny Albers painting is set next to a two-story window, providing an alternative sun on a rare cloudy day. At Casa Prieto, a tree with flame-like flowers grows out of a rock in front of a coral wall, emphasizing its heat from the cool of the aqua pool. Contemporary architects can't help but pay homage. I visited the clever, elegant Lisboa 7, designed by at.103, and found those murals tucked into slots. There, the hot colors are reserved for the sunken garage, flashes of orange through a block wall, common storage in lime. Upstairs, the palette is paler, allowing residents to create their own Barragan moments, or not. In the apartment we visited, the walls were gray and the rainbow palette provided by a collection of California pottery. It was fun to recognize an old friend, transformed by geography into a different reference.

My last night in Mexico was spent at the home of a Mexican architect and an American recovering landscape architect. Mark, the latter, traveled to Mexico on a Fulbright some years ago and never came home. His decor seemed to me another entirely accessible version of the simple and baroque, minty and regal, combinations that I was seeing outside. The homemade cork boards stood in for the tricky, intricate ceramic Trees of Life, incorporating photos and other mementos. The white-painted floor offered the simplified backdrop of the neo-classical ceilings in many churches. A Crate & Barrel table kept company with hand-stitched pillow covers in patterns made since time immemorial. He even had a vase full of hand-blown glass balls, an inadvertant homage to the oversized bowl of such bubbles at Casa Prieto. Maybe this is a stretch, though it was a charming apartment. It was fun to see what happens to your taste when you fall in love with Mexico City now."
architecture  design  df  mexico  mexicodf  color  alexandralange  2014  everyday  texture  surface  detail  details  querétaro  alexandergirard  modernism  mathiasgoeritz  tiles  luisbarragán  ricardolegorreta  mexicocity 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Toca Boca’s Apps: The Best iPad Games for Kids? : The New Yorker
"Toca Tea Party is also a multiplayer, interactive experience: you can sit three kids around the iPad, and each one gets a drink and a plate, a chance to pour, spill, and wipe up. In Hanna Rosin’s recent Atlantic cover story, “The Touch-Screen Generation,” she describes the iPad as functioning “like a tea table without legs.” At the end, when the last doughnut is eaten (tap, tap, tap on the plate), a basin of water pops up and everyone can put their dishes in the sink. “We got feedback saying, ‘We want to do more dishes!,’ ” Jeffery says. “No adult has said that ever. Kids just want to participate, and housework is an environment they are familiar with.” Toca House offers much more virtual cleaning: mopping, laundry, dishwashing, and (my personal favorite) ironing that never ends in scorching or ironed-in wrinkles. Jeffery says they have gotten a lot of response from parents of children with autism on Toca House, which they can use to practice everyday tasks—without real-world frustration.

Although the praise from the autism community was unexpected, a frictionless play environment was part of Toca Boca’s mission from the start. Toca Boca apps have no levels, no rewards, no beginning, middle, and end. They also have almost no words, because much of their target market can’t read. Why frustrate the kids with written instructions? And why pay to have those instructions translated into the languages of the hundred and forty-six countries where the apps are sold?

“If you look at what’s available in the App Store, almost everything is in the learning category, only books and games,” says Jeffery. “That’s how adults play. Read a book, play Angry Birds on your phone. But you would rarely pick up a doll… which is a shame.” What Toca Boca is trying to do is open up the digital experience, let kids make mistakes, figure it out as they go along—without getting eaten by a zombie, or pigeonholed as a princess."
alexandralange  2013  applications  children  iphone  ipad  ios  tocaboca  design  rewards  play  openended  open-ended 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Issue # 07 Alexandra Lange to swissmiss - open letters
"Here’s my @DearOpenLetters to @swissmiss, Criticism = Love" https://twitter.com/LangeAlexandra/status/429369322331721728

[Text here: http://observatory.designobserver.com/alexandralange/feature/criticism_love/38310/ ]

"Dear swissmiss:

It may seem strange to be bothered by something published on the internet in 2011. But I am, because that text remains the clearest evocation of an attitude I continue to see on design blogs: that we critics are motivated by hate. This is just plain wrong. Criticism = love.

On October 17 of that year you quoted your studiomate Chris Shiflett under the heading, “Ignore haters”:
I always take more pleasure in liking something than in disliking something. That’s not to say there aren’t some things that deserve to be liked and some things that deserved to be disliked, but I’m never fond of disliking something.
The lesson I’ve learned is to be wary of those who are. The ones who seem to think that being critical is the same as having good taste. Those people almost never have good taste, so their opinions don’t matter.
There’s no particular sophistication required to be a critic. We know this, because children often dislike foods they learn to love as adults.

As a child I disliked the Eames LCW chair in my parents’ bedroom. I took no pleasure in hating it. My feeling separated me from my mother, whose taste I have always admired. Was Eames a flavor I had to become more sophisticated to enjoy? Perhaps. But that dislike, that gap between us in taste, fueled a productive thought process. I had to figure out what was so great about an object so ugly, so bulbous, so unlike the other (normal) chairs in our house. I had to learn about the Eameses, about bentwood, about cleaning up “the slum of legs.” If at the end of that process I still hated the chair, would I have gained less in sophistication? I learned to love the exploration. I love the chair too, even though, due to its age and the innovative industrial means of its manufacture, it is now sculpture rather than furniture.

All my life, criticism has been a gift. Literally. My mom gave me the Eames chair a few years ago. I can wave at it from the desk at which I’m typing.

In high school my mother gave me the collection of Ada Louise Huxtable’s essays, Kicked A Building Lately?, as an example of what writing about architecture could achieve. The reflected skyline on the cover. The pithy comments within, which hardly required illustration. The rhythm of seeing and thinking and writing. It felt fast and it felt just. Can’t you imagine Huxtable as Lois Lane, kicking the steel corners of the nascent Park Avenue School of Architecture? It’s true, she didn’t make the buildings. But, just like Lois, her reporting separated the real Supermen from Bizarro. Her words shaped what came next for New York. She made up names for what was happening to the city and to culture. By naming, she created an arena in which discussion could occur.

My now-husband’s first gift to me was another collection of criticism, Michael Sorkin’s Exquisite Corpse. My education in criticism up to that date had been establishment; this book was made of ruder stuff. It bristles with dislike about some of the very same buildings Ada Louise Huxtable loved, and love for those about which she was lukewarm. The Ford Foundation. The Whitney. My favorite essay in the book is probably the one on the Whitney, an all-too-rare love letter to Marcel Breuer intertwined with a demolition of Michael Graves and his “shitty beaux-arts apparatus.” However quotable, I still wouldn’t call that hating. Sorkin says Graves can’t help it, the apparatus is just his way. It’s on the rest of us to save the Whitney. Sorkin is simply giving us reasons why we should. His conclusion is less important than explaining how to get there.

Your blog is clearly a critical enterprise. The mission of swissmiss seems obviously analogous to Tattly, which you created to clean up the slum of temporary tattoos. You must get hundreds of emails a day with products, apps, videos and posters that you deem unworthy of publication. Every time you don’t publish something, you are being a critic. Yet you don’t share that judgment. That negative determination happens without comment, in the click of the trash button. What I’d like to hear about is what happens in your head between the look and that judgmental click. Why this and not that? What’s wrong with that picture?

To be able to say, simply and directly, what is wrong (or not-yet-right) in design is not a child’s task. I don’t think it is possible to educate about design without talking about the world of wrong, ugly, misguided and oversize. Yes, swissmiss, like Switzerland, might be the exception to that world. But it will never be the rule, and accentuating the positive will only reorganize so much territory. Today’s Lois Lane cannot avoid the aisles of the grocery store, the app store, or Toys R Us. This Internet of Things: can it be without glitch? Skimming the cream off the top will always generate more clicks (anyone can compare our Twitter followings), but there’s more constructive work to be done below, where so many design blogs fear to dive.

You are motivated by a love of design, as am I. Haters are name-callers, body-shamers, trolls. They are destructive. If my fellow critics and I did not love buildings, books, gadgets and food, there would be no reason for us to do what we do. I really don’t get paid enough. But as I move through the world of objects, I have a lot of questions. I can’t ignore what I dislike or don’t understand. Sometimes I describe the way I choose my topics as scratching an itch: if something bothers me each time I see it, the only salve is investigation. Growing up is doing more than complaining (or, as you have said, coming up with a Twitter hashtag). Let’s talk about it—as adults, of course. I would like to save a building or improve a megaproject, but sometimes the critic has to settle for creating a conversation.

Maybe this is just the long way of saying something very simple: Dear Design, I love you. But love isn’t blind."
alexandralange  2014  criticism  caring  taste  learning  howwelearn  cv  love  design  swissmiss  tinarotheisenberg 
february 2014 by robertogreco
A Kickstarter for co-working space Makeshift Society raises questions about what we freelancers need to be productive.: Observatory: Design Observer
"Rena Tom and Bryan Boyer have been thinking about how freelancers work, personally and professionally, for much of their careers. Rena owned and operated the cult design store and gallery Rare Device, and has also worked as a designer of jewelry, stationery and web pages. Bryan, trained as an architect, was most recently Strategic Design Lead at Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund. Among his projects there was Brickstarter, about which I wrote here. But rather than industrial design machines like cubicles, cases or office landscapes, they've created an idiosyncratic place to which freelancers can bring their laptops, headphones, and caffienated beverages. A space in which, they hope to create a sense of community and strenth in numbers.

In September 2012, Tom opened Makeshift Society in San Francisco. The society is,
an organization that fosters creativity, collaboration and community through a coworking space/clubhouse, innovative programming, and support for freelancers and small business owners. We want to enable everyone to make, learn, teach, and think.
Now they are bringing that model to Brooklyn, in a larger space in Williamsburg. They have the money to build it out, but they are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to create a creative tool lending library for that space. New York apartments make it hard to store, and use, the books, materials and equipment one needs once and a while.

In the Q&A below, Rena and Bryan talk about their lessons learned about workspace, community, and how to develop a business out of your own needs."



"Makeshift was at first just going to be a lending library for design books, and I’d split the rent with a couple friends Victoria Smith (sfgirlbybay blogger) and Suzanne Shade (creative director/muse at Minted) and eventually it turned into what it is today."



"As a place, we focus on having a diversity of micro-environments that suit our members at different times and in different moods. Even though SF is not quite 1000 square feet we have bright corners and darker ones, work desks and softer spots like sofas, seats for up to 20 and even a nap loft if someone needs down time. Despite making claims of freeing their members from the corporate grind, a number of the coworking spaces we saw when doing research for Makeshift look rather like a nicely appointed corporate office."



"Fast internet, WiFi, and copious power outlets are the starting point. A printer helps. We’ve thought about adding a fax machine in NYC because it’s the sort of thing that you use very seldomly, but when you do it’s often the only option and finding one can be so annoying.

The qualities of the space are the more important amenities, really. Things like an easily-accessible location; a nice, calm, well-designed environment; great daylight. These relate to aspects of the community as well: being able to leave your things around while you step out for a bit saves a lot of the hassle that one endures when working as a constant guest. Being surrounded by people who are working as hard as you are helps create a contagious sense of motivation. And being in a place where your peers are working on interesting things is critical."



"As you think about opening the Brooklyn space, what are you designing differently?

RT: I have a feeling that Brooklyn members will more results-oriented than the San Francisco crew, or at least they are in a greater hurry to get there! We’ll accommodate that with tighter programming (events and classes), but we also want to import some of the West coast vibe, which has a somewhat longer-term and broader definition of “results”, along with acting in a mutually beneficial manner. (Adam Grant’s book Give and Take has quite a bit more to say about that.) We want to show that flipping roles and being a teacher sometimes and a student other times is extremely valuable.

One of the ways that this will be expressed architecturally is a very slight emphasis on the more traditional studio model. In SF we do not have dedicated desks, but in NYC we will. In SF we have one small conference room, in NYC we’ll have one small room for focused discussion as well as one larger room for presentations, and a number of phone booths.

BB: I also want to mention something that’s not going to change in BK. We’re making a commitment in this location to having an open workspace, so you will not see any miniature glass cubicles. We’re going to keep BK as open as possible, just like SF."



"How do you see your spaces as interacting with the cities and neighborhoods around them?

We’re deliberately choosing neighborhoods that are lively, with bubbling street life and a significant number of local residents. Makeshift Society works best on the ground floor where big windows encourage passers-by to enter, and where the view of the street provides visual stimulation for our members.

Most of the SV companies you’ve written about start from the premise that they need to protect their secrets and capture 100% of their workers’ intellectual capital, which has the effect of turning them inwards as closed campuses where every idea has a whiteboard to land on, and every door secured by a keycard. The city itself is humanity’s best engine for connections and inspiration, but again and again we see corporations recreate a sanitized, interior version of a city all for themselves. The city-within-a-city architectural strategy becomes irrelevant or even counter-productive if you’re not constrained by the same IP concerns.

Makeshift has the freedom to embed ourselves in the existing networks of the city itself, and to benefit from the actual, spectacular diversity that’s already there. We don’t need to have our own privatized transportation system, we need to be located near public transit like the subway and citibike; we don’t need to go through the gymnastics of creating ‘interior streets’ or plazas. We have a real street right outside our windows!"
workspaces  makeshifsociety  bryanboyer  renatom  howwework  openstudioproject  classroomdesign  schooldesign  interiors  alexandralange  2013  coworking  community  lighting  openspaces  tcsnmy  cv  lcproject  workspace 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Ruth Asawa's wire scuptures qualify as extreme craft: they look weightless, but suggest you back off.: Observatory: Design Observer
"When I wrote about the figure of the knitting architect in February, inspired by Maria Semple's novel Where'd You Go, Bernadette, little did I know that a panoply of knitted, woven and recycled work would soon be on display in New York ... all under the rubric of art, but definitely spatial and challenging. El Anatsui's sinuous works at the Brooklyn Museum, which play with one's sense of weight and material, Orly Genger's Red, Yellow and Blue in Madison Square park, walls of crocheted rope that snake through the park, and, most modest in scale, the first New York show in 50 years of the work of midcentury sculptor Ruth Asawa, who wove forests, anemones and orbs out of metal wire. One of Asawa's largest works, known as Untitled (S.108, hanging, six lobed, multi-layered continuous form within a form), was auctioned by Christie's, the organizers of the exhibition "Ruth Asawa: Objects & Apparitions", on May 15 for $1.4 million, four times its low estimate. (I posted a few of my own photos of the exhibit on Tumblr; Christie's also made a video.)

I first encountered Asawa's work in the corners of photographs of the Design Research stores in Cambridge and San Francisco. Her wire sculptures, which she began making in the late 1940s, were shown and sold in both places. Inspired by traditional Mexican wire baskets, made by a Japanese-American modernist, these pieces embodied the roots of the D/R aesthetic. In person, they also recall the work of Isamu Noguchi, particularly his Akari light sculptures. Both the Akari and Asawa's lobed pieces are extremely delicate — hers are transparent — and yet can take up quite a lot of room. Their strangeness makes you want to back off, their intricacy makes you want to zoom in. And their shadows are a separate spatial construct.

Asawa trained at Balck Mountain College, and the additional revelation of this exhibit were her drawings and works on paper. I had thought of the sculpture as form, but the drawings also made me consider them as line, just as Genger's rope works are both gargantuan lines and made of thousands of lines. Several drawings, one in pink-on-pink, showed a repeated wave, eddying in different directions, playing with positive and negative space. Another set used rubber stamped letters (sans serif, all caps) to make patterns, one playing against the different lettered grain of a piece of newsprint.

Asawa continued to make her sea creature-like pieces through the 1990s, but another set of works use bunched wire to make rather deadly-looking wreaths and trees. These reminded me of her contemporary Harry Bertoia and his spiky dandelions. (Until May 24, DORMA is exhibiting some of Bertoia's sound sculpture, mushrooms and other metal pets.) The combination of anemones and trees made me think of Asawa as a weaver of witchy tales, geometric, lightweight, and yet fearsome.

Christie's biography smooths over any rough edges, but there were a couple of statements that caused me to wonder. Asawa, like Noguchi, was held in a Japanese-American internment camp in the 1940s. The press release quotes her as saying, "I hold no hostilities for what happened; I blame no one. Sometimes good comes through adversity. I would not be who I am today had it not been for the Internment, and I like who I am." It also describes her weaving her nets in the company of her six children, adorably photographed by Imogen Cunningham: "Asawa's looped wire forms were often executed in her home, with her six children surrounding her, creating a poetic narrative in which life intertwines with art." Whose choice was it to intertwine the two? And what, beyond poetics, was the effect on her work? I am looking forward to reading the catalog from Asawa's 2006 exhibition at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. I hope this exhibit, the accompanying book, and that million-dollar sale, will provoke more writing about Asawa and her multivalent connections to the postwar and contemporary art, architecture and design worlds."

[More photos: http://abitlate.tumblr.com/post/50772497128/ruth-asawa-at-christies-exhibit-up-until-may-31
video: http://www.christiesprivatesales.com/exhibitions/ruth_asawa/index.aspx?CID=541700296027_9 ]

[Found these on the occasion of Asawa's death: http://www.sfgate.com/art/article/California-sculptor-Ruth-Asawa-dies-4709612.php ]
ruthasawa  alexandralange  2013  sculpture  art  artists  elanatsui 
august 2013 by robertogreco
The straightforward logic of "A Handbook of California Design" makes it the first step in discovering (or rediscovering) two generations of makers.: Observatory: Design Observer
"Obviously a number of the names I just mentioned are those of women. By framing their compendium as on "craftspeople, designers, manufacturers" the museum also easily includes a large percentage of women, working across the design fields, both in partnerships and alone. Ray Eames, the best known of these female California designers, was not as exceptional as we might have initially thought, though her work always will be. I only recently found out about Victor Gruen's wide, Elsie Krummeck Crawford, who worked with Gruen on iconic retail projects like Joseph Magnin and Barton's Bonbonniere, and later designed public sculpture, textiles, toys and seating planters for Architectural Fiberglass. Marget Larsen, another name new to me, also did some amazing advertising and supergraphic work. It isn't just the women, either, that broaden the range of design histories included here. There is a biography of Marion Sampler, the longtime head of the graphics department at Victor Gruen Associates, who happens to have been African American. And one for Carlos Diniz, an architectural delineator who may actually be the reason we remember work by Gruen, Yamasaki, Gehry, SOM, and many others. (I will admit, I have never made deep study of California design, and some of these names and facts will be better known to others.)

Many of the designers and craftspeople mentioned in the Handbook were familiar to me through commerce rather than study. Everyone knows, and hence knows the price of, work by the Eameses. But Kenji Fujita, La Gardo Tackett and Architectural Pottery, Jade Snow Wong, were only known to me because I follow the hashtag #thriftbreak on Twitter. I've written about this virtual community before, as I am continuously impressed by their ability to pick museum-quality modernism out of the HomeGoods detritus of Goodwills, Savers, and tag sales. They know about these lesser-known talents because pieces and sets are still out there for the picking, particularly on the West Coast. While many on #thriftbreak will surely want to buy this book, they may be graitified to hear that most of the listed artists are illustrated by portraits. Finding all of those portraits is an accomplishment -- Tigerman offers special thanks to the photo research of Staci Steinberger in her acknolwedgements -- but it would have been nice to have images of the products alongside some of the portraits. After a while I began Googling each person whose biography interested me, to see whether what they made was as intriguing."



"Overall, the Handbook is a must-buy for those interested in mid-century design, and a model of the kind of scholarship and publishing that leads to less forgetting, and more knowledge, of the accomplishments of all kinds of designers."
books  toread  california  design  alexandralange  2013  modernism  crafts  rayeames  eames  victorgruen  elsiekrummeckcrawford  josephmagnin  carlosdiniz  kenjifujita  lagardotackett  architecturalpottery  architecture  jadesnowwong  #thriftbreak  stacisteinberger  pacificstandartime  losangeles  bobbyetigerman  irmabloom  dorothyliebes  lanettescheeline  herbertmatter  henrydreyfuss  lacma  strothermacminn  marionsampler  margetlarsen 
july 2013 by robertogreco
I'll tell you mine if you'll tell me yours: Bad Taste True Confessions: Observatory: Design Observer
"His short essay struck a chord for me. Not only does he quote the key passage in Daniel Mendelsohn's "A Critic's Manifesto,"  the paragraph that explains how the best criticism works, by explaining the critic's thought process and then leaving it up to you, but I have been meaning to 'fess up in this space for some time.

As my children grow into their own tastes, some quite different from mine, I have started to recall my own early design assertions. I respect my parents the more for supporting my questionable choices. When I declared, at 10, that I was done with Marimekko and wanted instead sheets with blue roses (blue roses!) my mom went with it, going so far as to embroider matching pillowcases with an eyelet ruffle. If you know the adult me or my mother, you know we never ruffle. But she never let on. …

What came after the blue roses is perhaps more embarrassing: I loved Erté. Or really I should say, I love Erté. …"
ruffles  taste  criticism  design  art  romaindetirtoff  erté  marimekko  alexandralange  2012  allentan  guiltypleasures  from delicious
december 2012 by robertogreco
Uncommon Ground: Change Observer: Design Observer
"Is it really community-minded to present your building as a sort of secular white temple in the middle of a gray city?"

"I hope it is clear that I have no issue with most of the work on view in “Small Scale, Big Change.” (Though I do have an issue with the glossy, tone-deaf film starring a white rabbit that accompanies Michael Maltzan Architecture’s Inner-City Arts complex, as well as the Iwan Baan photo used to show it. Is it really community-minded to present your building as a sort of secular white temple in the middle of a gray city?) I also have no issue with the idea of MoMA embracing social change. The problem is this exhibition fails to engage with real-world questions of scalability, accountability and popularity in a forward-thinking way. The museum is playing catch-up on a decade of design that fell under their radar, and it shows."
socialengagement  diebedofranciskere  2010  alejandroaravena  losangeles  iquique  quintamonroy  andreslepik  mimizeiger  ruedibaur  ruralstudio  elemental  change  scale  photography  iwanbaan  michaelmaltzan  moma  criticism  design  architecture  alexandralange 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Is Cuteness Bad for Craft? | The Etsy BlogThe Etsy Blog
"We’ve come a long way since the days of William Morris, the designer and leader who fostered the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 1800s. For Morris, craft was a serious endeavor that focused on putting handmade, functional objects in homes. “Rather than three sets of elaborately decorated transferware china, you would have one set of handmade and glazed plates,” explains Lange. The movement was consciously putting its foot down against the introduction of impersonal mass production.

Since Morris’s time, craft has lost its heady undertones, but we’re now seeing a return to the original tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement. Lange cites blogs like Unconsumption and Make It Do, which echo the founding sentiment of the Arts and Craft movement that Lange summarizes as “make it yourself, buy better quality items, think about each purchase, keep it for a long time.”

“I wonder if we are not in the dawn of another reform era,” says Lange."

[See also: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/08/dont-put-a-bird-on-it-saving-craft-from-cuteness.html ]
craftwars  makers  making  possessions  meaning  materialism  consumerculture  consumption  sustainability  qualityoverquantity  madetolast  slow  artsandcraftsmovement  alexandralange  cute  williammorris  unproduct  makeitdo  unconsumption  crafting  craft  etsy  2012  from delicious
august 2012 by robertogreco
An Anatomy of Uncriticism: What happens to design when we’re afraid to take on our sacred cows?
"three categories of popular practice that seem largely uncriticized…living legends…too good to be criticized: the power of intentions…the power of happy.

In a recent talk at AIGA Chicago, Alice Twemlow, the chair of the design-
criticism M.F.A. program at the School of Visual Arts (where I also teach), argued that criticism does the most good when it moves from talking about design to talking about society and the world…

Should critics be silenced by economic success? By the limits of their own geography and experience? If they were, design could turn into an online popularity contest, about nothing more than what gets the most retweets…

…if criticism is to be constructive, it has to take on the Apples, not Snow White as represented by an apple with a bite out of it."
massimovignelli  miltonglaser  seymourchwast  oxo  stevejobs  urbanized  objectified  paulrand  linkbait  brucenussbaum  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  garyhustwit  highline  chipkidd  yvesbehar  gracebonney  designsponge  tinarotheisenberg  dezeen  alicetwemlow  2012  getcritical  examinedlife  swissmiss  designobserver  design  criticism  alexandralange  from delicious
january 2012 by robertogreco
Alexandra Lange: Networks Before the Internet: Observers Room: Design Observer
"On the wall at the Noguchi Museum's excellent new show, On Becoming an Artist: Isamu Noguchi & His Contemporaries, 1922-1960, is the flow chart above, reducing the artistic collaborations of a lifetime to a series of black lines. Charts like these are a bit of an obsession for mid-century design historians. There's one on the cover of Gordon Bruce's monograph on Eliot Noyes. Metropolis published this chart of Philip Johnson's many tentacles. Charles Eames even doodled one of his own. They are a quick & pseudo-scientific way to make an important point: the worlds of art, design & architecture at mid-century were small, & all the players closely entwined. We think of Noguchi as a sort of Zen genius, Gordon Bunshaft as a pushy corporate pawn, but the two worked together for years. Bunshaft may have given Noguchi his best commissions, like Connecticut General, below, & even had a Noguchi at his lovely Hamptons house. Our idea of the personalities breaks down in the face of data."
isamunoguchi  eames  gordonbunshaft  modernism  networks  art  artists  design  connections  philipjohnson  architecture  designobserver  alexandercalder  constantinbrancusi  johncage  fridakahlo  buckminsterfuller  florenceknoll  stuartdavis  louiskahn  richardneutra  crosspollination  hermanmiller  georgenelson  alexandralange  from delicious
december 2010 by robertogreco

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