Four enterprising 2011 graduates of D-Crit have started a design communications consultancy called Superscript, and have decided to launch in a both public and critical way: with the Architecture and Design Book Club (ADBC). It meets next Thursday, August 18 at 6:30 p.m. on the High Line, where they’ve asked me to guest host the first edition on William H. Whyte’s classic 1980 text The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Future texts and locations, including some fiction, TBA.
More about possible discussion topics (come prepared!) here.
A few weeks ago Mark Lamster explored the future of the architectural monograph. Here Alexandra Lange takes up the topic, arguing that the new monograph by Studio Gang is a very contemporary effort to negotiate the temptations and contradictions of the genre: to feed the star machinery and yet resist it at the same time.
Stephen Burn reviewing Geoff Dyer in the Times Book Review:
In the space of just two pages of an article about fashion, he points to Pynchon, Cheever and Poe (one imagines the original audience — the readers of Vogue magazine — with their heads spinning).
Burn is the author of Jonathan Franzen at the End of Postmodernism.
Jonathan Franzen on David Foster Wallace and a terrible trip to Chile in the New Yorker. Oh yeah, and Robinson Crusoe too.
And so, although I no longer wanted it, or because I didn’t want it, I had the experience of being truly stranded on an island. I ate the same bad Chilean white bread at every meal, the same nondescript fish served without sauce or seasoning at every lunch and dinner….I practiced mentally inserting into Chilean Spanish the “s” that its speakers omitted…I hiked over the mountains to a grassland where the island’s annual cattle-branding destival was being held, and I watched hoseback riders drive the village’s herd into a corral. The setting was spectacular—sweeping hills, volcanic peaks, whitecapped ocean—but the hills were denuded and deeply gouged by erosion. Of the hundred-plus cattle, at least ninety were malnourished, the majority of them so skeletal it seemed remarkable they could even stand up. The herd had historically been a reserve source of protein, and the villagers still enjoyed the ritual of roping and branding, but couldn’t they see what a sad travesty their ritual had become?
Will they ever learn?
My book Design Research: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes is back in print (and the 500 backorders should soon be fulfilled).
I don’t know what to do with this book. The Story of Eames Furniture, by Marilyn Neuhart with John Neuhart (Gestalten, 2010), is a labor of love, a two-part, richly-illustrated history of some of the most famous modern chairs in the world. To reject it seems harsh. It contains fascinating tales of false starts and under-known design careers, what could be a separate book of clever mid-century magazine covers, furniture catalogs, and abstract photographic odes to mass-production. And yet I was unable to enjoy it. It is the kind of book that the design blogs love, picking out 10 fabulous images, glorying in its heft entirely in the abstract. Another chance to cite the Eameses! But as a real thing and as a work of history, it is less than the sum of its pages.
Read the rest at Design Observer.
Arts & Architecture, 1946: Eames plywood furniture.
This week in the Observers Room, a satire of decor (see, even the coats are getting into the act) and an inquiry into the current state of boring.
Throw Pillows As Character: Most contemporary novels feint at design particularity with brand names, but Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand offers a series of lived-in living rooms, golf clubs, seaside promenades and estates.
On Boring: Editors keep telling me my architecture pitches are boring. But aren’t fermentation, translation, math equally so? Who decides what’s dull?
And for those who can’t get enough gift guides, as research for an essay on design and social shopping, I’m making treasuries, svpplies and lists of likes on various sites. Themes to date: yellow (inspired by a previous post), and designy things for kids that kids actually like. We’ve received way too many expensive, stylish, thoughtful toys that sit on the shelf while the $1 Hot Wheels race around.