Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Case for Knock-Offs

I find myself in a conundrum.  I love design,  I love designers, I love designer things, but, alas, I the first two of these list are the only ones that I have the means to have around.  I can design and look at design and I can surround myself with other designers, but I can not afford the things I see or those that are produced by the same designers.

So here I am.  Recently I ordered a new chair for my desk.  I had the option of buying something from Target or Ikea (often, both good options), I could buy a real designer chair from Design Within Reach for around $500 or I could buy a knock-off.  In my mind, my knock-off choice was pretty easy.  Room and Board had an Arne Jacobsen Series 7 knock off that was very nice.  They call it the Jake Chair.  This ended up being my final decision.


This is not the only piece of knock-off furniture that I have in my home.  In the living room I have the Eames Lounge knock-off that was in the living room of the house I grew up in.  Outside of that chair being extremely comfortable, it also holds a lot of emotional value to me.  It is actual one of the few objects I own that does have that kind of sentiment attached to it.  Our kitchen also has a handful of knock-off Saarinen Tulip Chairs and a matching table.  


I also have a Hiroshige poster in my room, not a real priceless woodblock print stolen from the Art Institute.  

So what does this all mean?  I often ask my fellow designers what they think of the situation.  They, as I do, often have mixed feelings.  They feel the same want to have beautiful well designed objects in their life, but don't have the money.  Some say it is better to save up to have just one real piece.  Others say buy the knock-off and then someday upgrade (this is my plan).

Knock-offs are essentially stolen ideas.  I do on the other hand differentiate between Knock-off and Replicas.  Replicas actually being copies meant to look exactly the same.  I apologize for not having a more conclusive opinion the the subject.  I just needed to write something about it.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Two Weeks in the Life (An Architecture Tale) HD

Two weeks ago I started an intensive summer program at the University of Illinois Chicago.  The program was for students starting the Three Year Masters of Architecture program.  Throughout the two weeks I had my camera running snapping photos every 15 seconds.  This is not a complete two weeks of time lapse, but an edited video of some of the intensive work that goes into Architecture school.  Notice how much the sun moves as people are glued to their desks.

Enjoy!

COMUNE Jeans

Another Product Spot!?

Well I felt compelled to write about another purchase I made yesterday.  In my search for a new pair of Headphones, and a look through some clearance racks I found two pairs of COMUNE jeans marked down from $68 to $9.99!  So finding my size I tried them on.  Winners!  On even closer inspection I found that every detail of these jeans was carefully attended to.  From the triple stitched seams, and the button choice, to the unique branding and labeling.  These are my first pair of raw denim jeans, meaning they were not washed in the production process after dyeing.  The idea being that they will soften and fade over time depending on the body and activity of the wearer giving a more natural fade.  I am not overly familiar with all of the fashion terms used to describe clothing in real detail so I digress.   What I do want to talk about is the labeling of the jeans.  Attached to the back pocket is a fabric tag that marks the size, company name and a short mission statement reading...

"FUNCTION
COMUNE was formed from the idea that there will always be people out there who not only embrace the rawness and imperfections of everyday life but use it to creatively push the boundaries of what's possible in skateboarding, fashion, art and music their own way, with complete disregard of the consequences.


PURPOSE
Our goal is to provide clothing that reflects this lifestyle of carefree idealism and to support the people that choose to live it."


Interesting!

Also attached to the string was a sealed packet that contained a set of six negatives that had images and measurements of the different cuts that the company offers.  Along with the negatives in the packet was a rubber "card" with the company name.  It seems to be the as the rubber waist band label on the jeans themselves, and it sticks to a mirror nicely.  Thankfully I have a lightbox that allowed me to check out the negatives a little more carefully and get some photos of them to share!




I rarely have the means to buy clothing of this craftsmanship, but I do see the appeal.  There is much equity in the thought and work that goes into clothing sometimes, and I believe that can be rewarding for the maker, and patron. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Urbanears Plattan Headphones Unboxing

Here is something a little different fro the Operable Window.

In need of a new pair of headphones I found myself shopping around a little bit today.  I knew that I wanted a good looking pair as these would be my "wear on the train to school" pair.  They needed to be something of an accessory as well as a functioning tool.  I am no Audiophile, I mostly listen to MP3s and internet radio/podcasts.  I did not want ear buds again as I find them uncomfortable and they are not so good for your hearing.  So I was willing to spend a little bit of money for something I was going to use everyday but not looking to break the bank.

This is not going to be a review as I have only had the headphones for a matter of minutes and am listening to them for the first time right now.

I ended up settling on a purple set made by the Scandinavian company Urbanears.

From their website and the included booklet-


"Urbanears is a collective out of Scandinavia, motivated by a common interest in global relationships and shared involvement in the relevance of the living brand. Urbanears promotes a deeper connection to color, form and people while providing the freedom to transcend individuality and unify the sound experience."


Sounds pretty sweet to me.  The specific pair I purchased were the Plattan model.  They come in a staggering 14 color options.  The Urban Outfitters that I purchased them from had them in four colors, Gray, Ocean, Purple and Red.  

Purple just seemed right to me.  As you can see below the boxing, branding and presentation of the product is absolutely beautiful.  The package included the headphones, two extensions for non-standard jacks, and a beautiful booklet with pictures of all of the other colors.

Some cool features of the headphones include a mic and phone answering button on the cord so you can use it with your phone, something called a "zound plug" which is another small jack that a friend can piggy back off of your headphones with their own to share music, the cord it self is breaded fabric, and all of the metal parts are purple anodized for a little extra pop.  I love this attention to detail.

Not too much else to say about it.  I just thought everyone would like to see this cool packaging and I am sure anyone that knows me will see me around Chicago with these bad boys on.










Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Artifacts of Ambition

Our physical built world is a result of the efforts and egos of countless individuals. Unfortunately, these built "things" often have very little capacity to convey the meaning and intention with which they were originally conceived. When pieces of our built environment disappear the ability for us to understand them becomes even more limited. They become an ever fading entry in collective and individual memory. On a recent trip, I had the opportunity to uncover lost ambition both in two very different places.

A few weeks ago, I made my way to visit with some friends. I had just left an apartment searching adventure in Boston and was ready to relax and enjoy my time with some familiar faces. One of the highlights of my stay was my visit to the The Skyscraper Museum. Located near the battery on the tip of Manhattan, the museum chronicles the history of perhaps the most recognizable building type ever conceived. The space itself is quite modest, but the curators had cleverly mirrored the entire ceiling as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the buildings to which is is devoted to display. The current exhibits focused on the development of Wall Street and the rise of super tall buildings in southeast Asia.

My favorite exhibit detailed extensive history of the World Trade Center towers. Seeing original hand sketches, correspondences, and models brought a human scale to these buildings that I had never before felt. I didn't get the opportunity to see the original towers in person, but the stories of the people who made such a cutting edge building possible made the buildings seem very real.

image: pbs.org

Of particular interest was a 7 page typed letter written by Minoru Yamasaki in response to a nasty review by Ada Louise Huxtable in the New York times. It encompasses the courage and conviction that it took to make these buildings a reality. If you can't get to the museum, you can check out a digital version here.

image: http://www.skyscraper.org/

It also includes a fascinating archive of the Empire State Building. Not too bad.

After New York, I made my way to southwest Wisconsin to visit some family. A trip out to dinner brought us to a very remote part of the county. I was told that all of the residents of this area had been displaced by a large flood control project during the 1970's that was never completed. Indeed, the State bought the property from hundreds of residents in the late 60's in their efforts to construct a dam outside of La Farge, Wisconsin. Flooding from the Kickapoo River had routinely devastated the small farm towns that lined its banks. The dam, designed by the Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul branch, was meant to eliminated the periodic flooding and create a reservoir for recreational use. Early renderings [as the so often do] depicted a pleasant scene of sailboaters and rolling hills.

image: Kickapoo Valley Reserve

The project was canceled in 1975 amid pressure from local environmental groups and the newly formed EPA, but not before a large portion of the project was actually completed. The landscape remains eerily deserted to this day, but is embedded with the remnants of this failed project. The dam itself seems to be of the earth-filled, concreted lined type and stretches halfway across the river valley before it slumps back in to the ground. The bluff on the left side of photo seems to be stripped to bare rock and ready to receive the completed section of the dam. The spillway channel and tower are largely completed as well. The Kickapoo River doesn't really seem to mind though.

image: wikimedia commons

The intake tower stands in tall grass of the valley floor and remains in pretty good shape. This blocky outpost looks misplaced without its watery veil, and now takes on a new role as a sort of sentinel in the landscape. An excerpt from the photographer's website tells of a sort of transient transformation into a playground.
This tower represents the most amazing childhood adventures I can remember. My family owned property adjoining thousands of acres of government property that was purchased for the purpose of building a dam. Well funding fell through, and all that was built was this tower, a tunnel. One day we ventured onto the property only to find that the oval metal door at the base of the tower had been broken into. Of course, being red blooded boys...we had to explore the tower. I won't go into every detail, but I can tell you that I opened and looked out of that door you see near the top. The door with no platform. We also stood on the very top of it.
photo: flikr.com, uberphot

However, not all remnants of the project exist as half-finished leftovers. The State realigned highways that passed within the area of the future reservoir up to a new home up on the bluffs that overlooked the river. The original roads remained as access roads for construction crews that would be flooded over once construction of the dam was complete. Those roads remain to this day, still with their head above the water line and meandering along the bottom of the river valley. This google map shows the location of the dam in relationship to La Farge as well as the network of original and realigned roads.

image: WisconsinHighways.org

Although they have become part of the past, the artifacts of these objects still manifest themselves in images, oral traditions and physical remnants. They are still important, but why? Collective memory can be frighteningly short, and the world around us can easily be looked at with a sort of temporal permanence. The physical reality of today was that of yesterday, and will continue to be such in the future. In a way, the role of museums is to refresh the collective memory, and uncover a timeline that often gets destroyed. One artifact is displayed in a Lower Manhattan museum, the other left to lay in rural Wisconsin countryside. How will these things be kept alive so others can understand the ambition that made them a reality in the first place?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Blade Runner- 3.6 Gigapixel Image

Again with the giant images!

This comes from a French artist,  françois vautier. An interesting take on the persistence of sight and spacial understanding.



BLADE RUNNER revisited >3.6 gigapixels from françois vautier on Vimeo.

Info from the Artest-

An experimental film in tribute to Ridley Scott's legendary film “Blade Runner” (1982)
This film was made as a unique picture with a resolution of 60.000 x 60.000 pixels (3.6 gigapixels)
It was made with 167,819 frames from 'Blade Runner'.


1>first step : the "picture" of the film
I extracted the 167,819 frames from 'Blade Runner' (final cut version,1h51mn52s19i)
then I assembled all these images to obtain one gigantic image of colossal dimensions : a square of approximately 60,000 pixels on one side alone, 3.5 gigapixels (3500 million pixels)

2> second step : an illusion
I placed a virtual camera above this big picture. So what you see is like an illusion, because contrary to appearances there is only one image. It is in fact the relative movement of the virtual camera flying over this massive image which creates the animated film, like a film in front of a projector.


source : Blade Runner de Ridley Scott (the final cut)
durée : 1h51mn52s19i > 167819 frames >>
one picture / format psb : 60 000  X 60 000 : 3 540 250 000 pixels >> 3,5 gigapixels
compositing> logiciel : Combustion. Mac pro 2X 2.26 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon. nombre de layers : 1!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Start of School AKA The End of Summer

I start school on Monday at the School of Architecture @ University of Illinois Chicago.  It has been two long years since I was last in school.  In that time I spent one year in the least scholastic place perhaps on earth, Afghanistan.

Many people ask me what Afghanistan was like, and I often have trouble explaining in few words the experience.  It is not often easy to describe a year of ones life, let alone one so trying.  The best I can do is vocalize some of the emotions that I felt.  Many come to mind when I think about that year, anger, boredom, and most often loneliness.  Not loneliness in the way that I was alone physically (you are never alone physically in the army).  More so I was alone Mentally.  I had very close friends and we had lots of long and sometimes deep conversations, but it was it was rare to never that I could discuss that which I love the most.  Over the whole year I had no one that had a true interest in the arts, design or the creative world.  I found it hard to keep my mind occupied sometimes.  I would lay and bed and have debates with myself over the virtues of Gesamtkunstwerk in design.  If nothing this time let me explore my own views on design without the interference of others.  I time to see where I was at in my thinking.  A Meditation on Metacognition.

So here I am now.  I have been back for about six months.  I have been around my friends, who are all creative types. I have worked on my own art and settled into the lifestyle that I hope to continue until perhaps marriage or children someday.  Life is very good.

With the start of school begins a new adventure!  I am beyond excited to meet new ideas and learn new people.  As I understand the situation, SOA@UIC is a heavy theory based program with emphasis on technology and urbanism, things I love.  Chicago being the home of Modernism in the US and the Sky Scrapper in the world, I feel there is no better place to be for the start of what I believe to be a new Era in design.  What will define this Era?  I am not sure yet.  That is what I hope to explore in school.

For the sake of conjecture though, here is my stab at what will define this next Era.

It is easy, and I dare say lazy, to just say that "Sustainability" will be the basis for design for the foreseeable future.  To me the "green" movement, so far, is little more then what "style" has been in the past to design.  Very little to do with the culture of those that us and experience it, and a lot to do with attempting to affix "decoration" to the same crap.  People still work and, for the most part, live in the same way that they have lived since perhaps the 1950's.  For design to truly change, the populous lifestyle will have to change.  It is not my hope or intention that design will be the catalyst for this change.  That never seems to work.  Instead, I believe it is the designers task to provide for those that are looking to live in a certain way, a better way.  We can present options and solutions that most would never have thought possible.  Imagine office buildings and class rooms with Operable Windows! Network server heat harvesting! Live/work/transportation/recreation lifestyles!  All things that are starting to happen!

My contribution to this? My interest in the future of design is based in the idea that we have gotten a lot of things right already.  Often these things have been forgotten or ignored in the interest of "style" or economy.  My goal is to present elegant solutions for a healthy, contradiction free, lifestyle through simple straight forward design.  I am pretty sure Glenn Murcutt has my back on this ideology.

My plan in graduate school is to explore how I can refine these ideas with the help of computer modeling and technological tools.  So often in the past it seems that technology is used to "advance" design instead of using it to refine what works and figure out what does not.  Never before have we been able to truly study how light and air will work in spaces before they are built.  Native peoples of hot and cold climates can tell you how these things will work in their homes because the design of their spaces is an evolved concept based purely on what has worked for them in the past.  People lived in the Middle East before central air, and people lived in the Midwest before space heaters.  I foresee figuring out exactly how they did this will be a large part of my journey to a New Design.  Do not expect to see me designing wigwams, longhouses, or Qalats any  time soon, but do anticipate a distillation of what worked about these spaces.      

wow, rant over...
long story short. I start school next week.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

“Peripetics” by Zirkel Gallery

"imaginations of disoriented systems that take a catastrophic turn, including the evolution of educational plant-body-machine models and liquid building materials."

Just watch it. Beautiful

Zeitguised - Peripetics from Blink on Vimeo.