Tag Archives | Design

On The Evils Of Chairs

Jacobin Magazine on a needless technology, introduced more recently than you might think, which drains our physical and psychic well-being:

As chairs became prevalent in schoolrooms, they became a tool for teachers to control the movement of children, whose healthy tendency toward activity made them difficult to teach. Today, children in the developed world learn early that sitting still in a chair is part of what it means to be an adult. The result is that by the time they actually reach adulthood, most have lost the musculature to sit comfortably for prolonged periods without back support.

No designer has ever made a good chair, because it is impossible. Not only are chairs a health hazard, they also have a problematic history that has inextricably tied them to our culture of status-obsessed individualism.  The general trend at most points in Western history has been that upper-class people sit in a certain type of chair – typically the crappiest, most damaging design available at the time – and everyone else tries to imitate them. 

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Experimental Architect Lebbeus Woods Dies

He exemplified the idea of the architect as someone whose role is to challenge the status quo, confront serious issues of human vulnerability, and expand the public imagination. Only one of Woods’s projects, the Light Pavilion in Chengdu, China, was actually ever built, yet his designs and ideas were highly influential, the New York Times writes:

In an era when many architecture stars […designed] high-rise condominiums or corporate headquarters, Mr. Woods conceived of a radically different environment, one intended for a world in conflict.

He conceived a post-earthquake San Francisco that emphasized its seismic vulnerability. He flew to Sarajevo in the 1990s and proposed a postwar city in which destruction and resurgence coexisted. He imagined a future for Lower Manhattan in which dams would hold back the Hudson and East Rivers to create a vast gorge around the island, exposing its rock foundation.

Mr. Woods’s work was often described as fantasy and compared to science-fiction imagery.

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The Architecture Of Power And Authority

In this clip from his 1980 television series “The Shock of the New," now being re-shown by the BBC, Robert Hughes peels apart how design is wielded as a tool by those in power to tell a story without words. The iconic buildings of post-World War II America (e.g. New York City's Lincoln Center and Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center) mirror the aesthetic of Mussolini's Italy, a style combining "the myth of ancient Rome and vision of a technocratic future":
All the ingredients of an architecture of state power as imagined by the totalitarians of the twentieth century are also present in what used to in the fifties be called the architecture of democracy...[expressing] the centralization of power. What comes out is not the difference between America and Russia, but the similarities between the corporate and the bureaucratic states of mind.
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The Immortal: Life Support Machines In Perpetual Loop

Are life support machines on loop all we are? The Immortal is a divine, Rube Goldberg-esque contraption concocted by artist Revital Cohen:
A Heart-Lung Machine, Dialysis Machine, an Infant Incubator, a Mechanical Ventilator and an Intraoperative Cell Salvage Machine...are connected to each other, circulating liquids and air in attempt to mimic a biological structure. The Immortal investigates human dependence on electronics, the desire to make machines replicate organisms and our perception of anatomy as reflected by biomedical engineering. The organ replacement machines operate in orchestrated loops, keeping each other alive through circulation of electrical impulses, oxygen and artificial blood. The interpretation of anatomy with a mechanical vocabulary reflects strongly on the Western perception of the body. Defining the body as a machine - where dysfunctional parts can be replaced by mechanics - speaks of how we understand life.  
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A New Panopticon For The Age Of Prison Labor

Post London riots last year, conservative commentators worried that England’s jails resembled a “holiday camp” with too much leisure and not enough unpaid work. Architect Alexis Kalli’s HMPark Life is a set of blueprints and renderings for a hypothetical, fantastical new prison complex, based in part on Dante’s Inferno, to fulfill the needs of today’s society:

With a Government forcing inmates to work a full week for virtually no pay in order to earn their keep, ‘HMPark Life’ is a new prison located in Brockwell Park, South London. It questions this drive to turn a prison population into a cheap labour force, one that works not just to provide skills in the name of ‘rehabilitation’ but forces offenders to be visibly productive and punished to quench the public’s ever present blood thirst for justice.

A public viewing platform perched on the prison’s main circulation core provides an ideal point from which to survey the throng of productive inmates, leaving the public with that sense of satisfaction.

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The Fantastical Burials Of Ghana Coffin

In our new age, how does one leave the realm of Earth with style and flair? In contrast to the traditional staid wooden box, the Accra-based Ghana Coffin carpentry collective carves custom coffins in every shape imaginable, including lizards, cruise ships, cigarettes, pianos, cell phones, popsicles, and (for infants) computer mice:

We are at the very beginning the fifties. Perhaps a fisherman, or then a cultivator, inquired to Kane Kwei about the possibility of having a coffin in the form of boat. Or of an onion. To bury a parent fisherman or cultivator. Kane Kwei honored the order.

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The Soviet Synthesizer That Bridged Electronic Music And The Occult

Boing Boing on a bizarre, pioneering musical instrument, suppressed in its day, which built on occultist concepts and attempted to unify the senses:
You don't play the ANS synthesizer with a keyboard. Instead you etch images onto glass sheets covered in black putty and feed them into a machine that shines light through the etchings, trigging a wide range of tones. It's a nearly forgotten Russian synthesizer designed by Evgeny Murzin in 1938. The synth was named after and dedicated to the experimental composer and occultist Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (1872–1915). Today it sits behind a rope at the Glinka Museum of Musical Culture, almost forgotten and seldom used. A few artists have recorded albums with it over the years, mostly notably the late occultists/electronic musicians Coil who traveled to Russia in 2002:
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The Chic Style For Summer: Anarchist Apparel

Fashion as a form of news media? Or an example of how a youth movement is disarmed? Trend Hunter highlights the weaving of Occupy and rioter imagery into designer clothing this summer:

The Commune de Paris Spring/Summer 2012 collection presents intriguing scenes to capture the attention of youths at which the brand is aimed. Implied violence and rebellious spirit are clearly depicted in these images, which are used to create an anarchist’s apparel.

A masked figure in a t-shirt is caught in a striking pose in which he is about to throw a glass bottle with a fuse in it. Two masked men waiting for some smoke and debris to clear the air… Beautiful lighting, dynamic compositions and stylish, wearable clothing. Commune de Paris tries to remind the viewers of this series that there can be beauty in anarchy too.

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Dotsies: Language Of The Future?

Dotsies is a minimal, dot-based alternate version of the Latin alphabet. Why have we not evolved past using a 3,000-year-old character system?

Since latin letters (a, b, c, etc.) are optimized to be written by hand, they take up a lot of unnecessary space. Your eyes have to move at a frantic pace from left to right to read. Get more screen space! Save paper!

It’s easier than you think. There are only 26 letters. It takes only about 20 minutes at memorize.com/dotsies to get them into your short term memory. Each letter has five dots that are on or off (black or white). You’ll be very slow at first, but will noticeably speed up over time. As you progress, words start to look like shapes.

DOTSIES

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