Thursday, August 30, 2007

Orange, Pink, and Red

I promise no more architecture posts for a little while.

Again from UN Studio, this time the Agora Theatre for Lelystad in the Netherlands. As architects we are taught to shy away from designing fashionable buildings because they won't have longevity.
Maybe that's just because most architects are afraid of color.
More here

Split Personality

I recently went on a tour of the McAllen Building, designed by Office DA, in South Boston. A group of architects from my office were taken to tour this new "green" apartment building and shown around by a real Estate Agent who had no idea what he was getting into. The model unit we were shown was a sloping 2 bedroom unit with an asking price of 1.5M dollars and a direct view of the remnants of the big dig.

The design of this building reminded me of another home of a different kind. Steven Holl's Y House located in the remote Catskill Mountains in New York.
City living has it's benefits but you be the judge: (Y House at left McAllen right)

At $400,000 building price the Y House looks like a bargain. Looking at the latest and greatest in apartment living and actually owning real estate made me think about what I really want. I love the city, the people, and the culture but I also love nature, solitude, and relaxation. I don't believe in a middle ground so for the time being I will live in the city and visit the country and one day, maybe when I want to own or build something it will be the reverse.

All photos from the Mcallen tour were taken by *girl and these are not the best shots.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


What does this drawing say about me? It might say I live in a 450SF apartment with a bay window and a galley kitchen on the second floor of a larger apartment building; it might also say I am a slightly compulsive architect who measured his new apartment - including the slight angle in the far closet wall - prior to moving in. After that, I drew all my existing furniture and some planned purchases in order to design my new home. I guess it is a little of both.

*girl happens to live one slippery stair and a fire door away in a slightly different 1 bedroom apartment on the opposite side of the building. She gets morning light on her plants outside the kitchen and I get afternoon light cutting across the bay windows. Between the two of us, there have and will be many home projects and countless hours scouring the Internet for home hbrdshry. I'm currently working on my man room and *girl and I are preparing to redo her bedroom (for the second time) for very good reasons. This is just the first of many home-related posts to come. Stay tuned for the very exciting post from *girl: "Oops, I went to Ikea with *boy to help pick chocolate-colored curtains and bought a yellow four-poster bed."

Recent Work by Abelardo Morell

More of his recent work, here.
How he first stole my heart, here.
His amazing work at the Isabella Stuart Gardner here in Boston, here.

Ever Feel Like You're Falling?

I like to take pictures, but it takes something very different to actually be a photographer. "La Chute" by Denis Darzacq. More here.

Color Theory

In a world of everyday expectations, unexpected color shines through.

"La defense" Office Complex by UN Studio; Almere, Netherlands.
More here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fading to Black

Corresponding to the release of the fourth generation iPod, Apple began a new advertising campaign featuring the now ubiquitous silhouette dancers. However, the iPod featured in these ads (and all future silhouette advertising) is not the iPod that Apple sells. Squint yours eyes at the lineup below and its easy to see that Apple is clearly advertising #2: my beloved 3rd generation, all-touch, all-white iPod. It just so happens that following the release of this inferior iPod (reintroducing moving parts and compromising the design essence) it turned into a wild success. Up to that point Apple has sold about 1-2 million iPods over a 2 year period. They sold about 20 million in that holiday season alone.

One might assume that the graphic in the ad is simply an icon, containing only the bare-bone characteristics that make an iPod an iPod - white body, gray screen, headphones - because it doesn't seem to change with the times. This would explain why the gray wheel has never appeared. The iPod changes but the iCon remains the same. But when the 5th generation iPod was released with its well-endowed screen (clearly a selling point), lo and behold, that little gray box on the ads grew bigger, too. So why then is the gray click wheel still left out? Is it not a selling point, as well? If they are so proud of the click wheel as one of the "distinguishing features" of the iPod, why not include it in the advertising?

I have not been able to figure out why the click wheel turned grey. All other functional and aesthetic changes have been justifiable, even the fact that my not-so-outdated PowerBook cannot connect to the new iPods has some basis (because Apple has deleted firewire). I can't imagine Jonathan Ives would disagree that the simplicity of the all-white iPod has been compromised. Clearly the advertising agency knows what looks good and the grey wheel doesn't make the cut.

From a design perspective, I can't figure out why they made this change. It forces the circle of the click wheel to compete with the rectangular screen, creating an awkward relationship of simple forms. This was slightly addressed by making the wheel smaller on the 5th generation where we come to the future trend of the iPod: black. The black iPod is a reminder that this is a different time - my old PowerBook's subtly curving sides and glowing apple that is right-side up when it faces me, closed, and only upside-down when I can't see it because the computer is open. Maybe when the apple flipped so did the company. It became less about my personal connection with my computer and more about how I looked with it.

How does this relate to the iPod? The gray wheel is now avoidable but I now have to buy a black iPod with all-white accessories. Could this be why the headphones disappeared from the official iPod images seen in the lineup above? It seems inevitable that the next iPod will have to be essentially the iPhone, a product for which there is no white in sight but still comes with white headphones. The Clickwheel will be gone but the earbuds have taken its place.

As such an innovative company Apple seems to be scared of losing it's new found success and holds on to design icons when they make no aesthetic sense. No wonder it has been almost 5 years since a true redesign of the PowerBook, or MacbookPro as it is now called. They changed the name, the system and the processor but the design has remained constant. Apple designs have won many awards but seem to be in a holding pattern while their success keeps escalating. This method might work with some companies - such as Porsche, constantly refining a vision to a pure form - but Apple seems to be making poor design choices based on pop culture success and advertising iconography rather than looking hard at the actual product and refining it based solely on design.

To me, the gray wheel represents a tipping point into the dilution of Apple's design vision that just so happened to coincide with the success of the iPod. I will stick with my aging, titanium PowerBook and all-white iPod until further notice.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The World Under Water

The color and light quality of these underwater views are beautiful (as is the subject matter: my little nephew, Caleb). More here.

Bacon Cravings

I remember my sister talking about the urge to have a child about 6 years ago, just before she started trying to get pregnant. She spoke of an all-consuming, unwavering, irrestible longing to be a mother and, I must admit, at the time, I thought she was crazy. The way she went on and on about wanting to nurture and love and raise this thing that didn't even exist yet - I simply did not get it. She was 24, I was 18.

I am now about a month away from turning 24, myself, and now I finally get it; I feel it. The urge - to love and cherish, to nurture and protect, to care for and adore - is borderline unbearable. It grabs me on my way to work, it tugs at my heart as I shop for my groceries and it almost brings tears to my eyes when I walk through my front door at night.

I want a dog.

His name is Bacon, and while he probably doesn't even exist yet, there is a longing in my heart that only he can fill. He is a French Bulldog, he is brindle-coated and he has those irresitable pointy ears. He'll have my attitude but *boy's laid-back temperment; he'll love my soft, shady apartment for napping but *boy's sunny bay windows for people watching. He'll walk with me and lick me and love me and I (and *boy) will be his world.

While Bacon currently holds the key to my happiness, he is more a metaphor for the life I cannot wait to live. I feel like when my sister was busy waxing glassy-eyed about her desire to procreate, she was really daydreaming about the greater life changes that the pregnancy would embody (literally). She must have been thinking about the day he would take his first step, the day he would learn to swim and the day he would proudly tell his Auntie that he was going to be a big brother. I'm not focusing so much on the cold walks in the snow at 7am or the inevitable accidents on my nice furniture - I'm thinking about years from now when Bacon and I embark together to a new city or a new apartment or a fantastic vacation.

Even though a child and a Bacon aren't techincally the same thing, they both herald the desire for change, the desire for something new that will take me into the next decade of my life, to places and circumstances that I can't even imagine. Actually getting a Bacon would mean one serious life change, in particular: I need a job that either happily accepts dogs in the workplace or I need to work from home. And this is where the fantasy ends, where the reality of my current life takes hold and I remind myself that I can't have Bacon, yet. I know the life I want for him and I can't give that to him, yet. But one day...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Leave Your Vowels at the Door

Welcome to the new blog about design, in all its many forms, and the haberdashery that surrounds it all.