Bill Holm is a home-based free-lance writer. A former magazine editor and columnist, Bill writes for a variety of companies, some of which are still in business. He’s been working with Herman Miller over 23 years.
Better World, Design, What's Up
May 24, 2010
Photo via: Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
George Nelson, Herman Miller’s first director of design, always had the answer. He said, “Design is a response to social change.”
With urgent human challenges like climate, dwindling resources, growth, hunger, waste, poverty, and health—all on a global scale—Nelson’s celebrated quote is never more true than today. Why design now? Because more than ever, the design world needs to respond to change with solutions that are sustainable, practical, affordable, and safe. And we need solutions that inspire, raise questions, and help us move forward.
A selection of the most innovative answers are now featured at the “National Design Triennial: Why Design Now?”, an exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. It opened May 14 in New York and runs through January 9, 2011.
The diverse designs are grouped into several categories:
There are over 130 enlightening designs: from carbon-negative concrete made from a process similar to how corals make reefs (please, don’t ask me to explain), to self-adjustable eyeglasses (mass-made for the developing world), to the Viet Village organic urban farm near New Orleans. Go see it. These inspiring and exciting designs are helping to give people worldwide the means to improve the environment, improve their lives, and thrive.
Better World, Design
May 5, 2010
Here are 10 buildings that make you want to cheer—for their beauty as well as sustainability. And they are winners in American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2010 COTE Top Ten Green Projects. Check these out and learn about the best in green design solutions.
355 11th Street (Aidlin Darling Design) San Francisco: Reuse of a historic industrial building; Califoria’s first LEED Gold Building.
Homer Science & Student Life Center (Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects) Atherton, CA: Natural ventilation, daylighting, a green roof, solar panels, and a virtual dashboard that shows energy and water consumption in real time; LEED Platinum.
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia: The country’s first LEED certified project and the world’s largest LEED Platinum project.
Kroon Hall, (Centerbrook Architects and Planners; Hopkins Architects), Yale University, New Haven, CT: Replaces a brownfield with a net zero energy building.
Manassas Park Elementary School + Pre-K (VMDO Architects, P.C.) Manassas Park, VA: The building is a teaching tool; its sustainable design is integrated with the curriculum.
Manitoba Hydro Place (Smith Carter Architects and Engineers; Kuwabara Payne Mckenna Blumberg Architects) Winnipeg, MB: A “living building” that dynamically responds to the local climate (b-r-r-r).
Omega Center for Sustainable Living (BNIM Architects) Rhinebeck, NY: Environmental education facility and a net zero energy system, featuring natural wastewater treatment.
Special No. 9 House (KieranTimberlake) New Orleans: Affordable housing with customizable, sustainable options for the devastated Lower Ninth ward.
Twelve West (ZGF Architects LLP) Portland, OR: ZGF’s office is a living lab of urban sustainability; expected to earn LEED Platinum.
Watsonville Water Resource Center (WRNS Studio LLP) Watsonville, CA: A functional, educational, and visual extension of the water recycling plant it supports.
April 28, 2010
“As Charles Eames said, Herman Miller should make ‘the best for the most for the least,’” says Susan Lyons, design consultant for Herman Miller’s Materials Program—now one-year old. “So let’s call this the year of Grades 1 and 2.”
“We have been working hard to design and develop innovative materials that are both purposeful and beautiful, as well as low cost.”
The work has paid off with great reviews. In fact, the program received a Silver award from the International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA, sponsored by Business Week) in the Design Strategy category.
Developed by the Michael McGinn Design Office, the Materials Program consists of two equally important components:
• The Materials Collection: physical sampling to be seen and touched.
• The Online Materials Program: a website to explore and understand our materials and their application.
The program is also featured in many industry magazines and blogs. Here are a few:
• Otto architecture + design
• Core 77
• Interior Design magazine
“We’ll keep building on our success,” says Lyons, “as we continue to make Herman Miller materials honest, intelligent, and delightful.”
Better World, Design, What's Up
March 8, 2010
Photo via: The Cool Hunter
New eco-treehouses are a far cry from the ramshackle tetanus hazards we cobbled together and fell out of when we were young. Still, today’s amazing treehouses touch the kid inside us, as well as the responsible adult.
The world’s first major public exhibition of green-design treehouses—“TreeLife” by The Cool Hunter—will unveil innovative and creative sustainable design coexisting with urban life. The Cool Hunter, a fun and hot culture/design website, says “Tree Life” will debut in a to-be-announced major city in 2010.
For the event, top international architects, artists, and designers are creating modern treehouses made from sustainable and recycled materials.
Photo via: The Cool Hunter
According to The Cool Hunter, “Treehouses have become creative eco-statements in the design world. They allow people to literally be ‘in’ nature and peace above the stressful street level of life.”
We’re on the lookout for further treehouse details. I can’t wait. Maybe I can climb up into one and sort my baseball cards on solid, recycled flooring.
Design, What's Up
March 3, 2010
Photo via: Flickr: KleineFenn
Travel + Leisure magazine handed out its 2010 Design Awards in the March issue. And whadya know, the Best Restaurant design is Nomiya in Paris—furnished with 12 Eames molded plastic side chairs. Only 12 because that’s the seating capacity. Reservations are a must for the communal-style dinner.
Photo via: Flickr: KleineFenn
Designed by Laurent and Pascal Grasso, Nomiya is a concept restaurant—to put it mildly. The dining room is a glass-paneled structure installed last year on top of the Palais de Tokyo museum (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris).
Nomiya is modeled after tiny Japanese restaurant/bars called izakayas, and the design suggests the inside of a glass box. The classic Eames chair, with its clean, sculpted form, is perfect for this work of modern art. And did you know the chair’s wire base was originally called the “Eiffel Tower” base?
Photo via: Nomiya Restaurant
Dinner is about 80 Euros. Not bad for such an incredible view and wonderful food.
Sounds great. But hurry. Nomiya is more than a restaurant. It’s also a museum installation, scheduled to be taken down July 1, 2010. That intrigued the Travel + Leisure judges, who call Nomiya “a meditation on permanence, transcience, and style.”
Before Nomiya, the Hotel Everland, a one-room traveling luxury suite, occupied the rooftop exhibition space. It went for 444 Euros a night, double occupancy, weekend rate. Sadly, it was Everland’s last stop before retirement.
Photo via: Hotel Everland
February 22, 2010
Still have that old Instamatic shot of you playing badminton while wearing madras Bermuda shorts and a tie-dyed t-shirt? (I do.) Besides being embarrassing, it actually fits into a category of photography called vernacular—ordinary, everyday pictures like family snapshots, candids, and vacation photos, as well as IDs, crime-scene photos, photo-booth strips, Facebook images—just about anything, really.
Vernacular photography is considered the opposite of art, but the shots can have surprising depth and cultural value. They are often unintentionally revealing, strange, funny, or heartbreaking—or all that at once. Some think of vernacular photos as folk art. And it has become a genre for fine-art photographers who use vernacular forms as a means of expression, blurring the line between art and “real life.”
The results are often stunning—such as those featured in a current exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago. It’s showing more than 100 amazing images from its collection of fine-art vernacular photographs in a exhibition entitled “In the Vernacular,” running Feb. 6-May 31. Featured artists include greats like Walker Evans, Cindy Sherman, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Gary Winogrand, Andy Warhol, Lee Friedlander, Martin Parr, Nikki S. Lee, and others.
Photo credits: (Top) Garry Winogrand. Cape Kennedy, Florida, (Apollo 11 Moon Shot), 1969. Gift of Elizabeth and Frederick Myers. © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco. (Bottom) Martin Parr. Fashion Magazine: Fashion Shoot, New York, 1999. David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation Purchase Fund.
February 17, 2010
How long will it take to catch an elevator this year at the Merchandise Mart? All bets are off, as the Buildex® Chicago trade show piggybacks on NeoCon 2010, June 14-16, for the first time.
“Buildex will offer the products, services, and technologies that will help upgrade and improve operations of all types of properties,” says Mark Falanga, senior VP at MMPI, which operates the Mart.
Announced Feb 11, the show will feature 150 exhibitors and 80 seminars geared toward building owners, property and facility managers, developers, and others. Visitors will see the latest innovations and learn strategies to enhance value, optimize building performance, implement greener and more energy efficient options, and deal with regulations.
With lighting gaining prominence as a critical design element, one Buildex highlight will be “ArchLed: LED Lighting for the Built Environment.” It’s billed as an LED summit and event showcasing solid-state lighting technology and integration.
Better World, Design
February 1, 2010
Photo via: Social Designer
Kristin at Novità Communications in Brooklyn asked design writers like me to “spread the word to the creative community” about a very cool competition from Felissimo and Social Designer. Here’s the design brief:
You create a one-minute video that shows or tells the story of something you believe is worth waiting for, or, from experience, something you had to wait for that was worth it in the end. The winner gets $500, plus a set of 500 Colored Pencils from Felissimo.
Deadline is March 16, so it’s time to get focused.
Felissimo is a subscription-based clothing and household goods company that believes good design promotes happiness and well-being, adding value to everyday life. Sounds a lot like Herman Miller. Says Felissimo: “We hope that our efforts will demonstrate our awareness of the power of design and our responsibility to take good design and use it to design good.”
When you order the 500 Colored Pencils, every month you receive a box of 25 new colors, from Drizzly Afternoon to Lobster Bisque, until you have a full, rich rainbow to draw from. For every 100 boxes of pencils sold, Felissimo donates a set to a UNESCO arts education program for underprivileged kids.
Felissimo created Social Designer, an online platform for customers, consumers, and designers to meet and participate in design for the greater good. It also helps promote meaningful causes by developing high-visibility design competitions for corporations and nonprofits.
Better World, Design
January 29, 2010
Aqua Tower, with its wavy exterior and Lake Michigan views, is open now in Chicago’s Lakeshore East community. For a fascinating perspective on the 82-story apartment/condo/office tower, and a profile of the architect, Jeanne Gang, of Studio Gang Architects, check out The New Yorker (Feb. 1, 2010 edition).
Aqua Tower is getting a wave of good reviews for many reasons, but its most obvious attribute is the undulating cantilevered balconies, which change slightly from floor to floor, forming a curvaceous façade that also shades apartments and protects the building and balcony sitters when Chicago’s hawk talks (that’s Chicagoan for “oooh, it’s so windy”). No two balconies are alike. There’s also a big rooftop garden. And LEED certification is being pursued.
Condos range from about $300,000 to $2 million; rents start around $1,500 per month.
Says The New Yorker, “It reclaims the notion that thrilling and beautiful form can still emerge out of the realm of the practical.” And it calls Gang an “anti-diva” for the building’s lack of conceit.
Some critics and bloggers complain, though, that the balconies are gimmicky ornaments disguising a traditional box structure. Indeed, The New Yorker notes Aqua is “an ordinary glass condo tower” turned into something exciting. What do you think? Let us know.
(Note: Almost a month after this post was published, Aqua Tower was named 2009 Skyscraper of the Year, an annual award issued by Emporis.)
For more information about Aqua Tower, visit Magellan Development.
Photos via: Studio Gang Architects
January 22, 2010
This is the second of a two-part series about Herman Miller’s Materials Program. To read the first post, see “Materials Website: So Simple Even I Can Do It.”
I don’t envy designers their task of deciding which fabrics and finishes to choose for furniture. With so many choices and constraints to deal with, I hear it can be a complex and frustrating process. But it’s also typically the favorite part of their job because it’s a chance to get creative. So to make things easier, more gratifying, and more fun, Herman Miller revamped its Materials Program. They’ve made it simple, logical, and closely aligned with how designers and specifiers like to think about and use materials.
In addition to the online Materials Program, Herman Miller developed a new way for designers to interact with the choices the company offers. The Materials Collection, a sensibly-sized, permanently bound, recyclable set of books, contains complete swatch presentations for the entire textile and finish offering. The Collection is housed in four Baltic birch plywood slipcases. Nice. Reliable. Easy to use. So easy even a writer could do it.