November 15, 2011
Anyone with a design sensibility cannot help but love dry stone walls. Alice Rawsthorn, writing in The New York Times, calls them “a dazzling example of design ingenuity.” As with any design that really resonates with us, dry stone walls are so intriguing because they do more with less, in this case, mortar.
“Dry stone” refers to the practice of carefully selecting and shaping stones and then puzzling them together so they interlock. As ancient as the Neolithic stone walls built to set boundaries as people evolved from hunting and gathering to farming, dry stone techniques have been used for buildings and bridges, as well as walls.
The practice continues today, with few alterations to techniques developed about 9,000 years ago. Mariana Cook in her book “Stone Walls: Personal Boundaries” shows and tells the fascinating history and continuing story of dry stone construction.
One example that didn’t make her book, but could have, is Butaro Hospital in Rwanda. Built with the help of MASS Design, the structure features dry stone walls. Architects as MASS trained local Rwandans in the ancient craft. They became the masons: hand-chipping volcanic rock and beautifully shaping all the pieces so they fit together and form two walls of the hospital.
September 28, 2011
According to architect and designer Stefano Giovannoni, the most important influence of his life was attending the University of Florence during the late 1970s. “That was where the concept of ‘radical architecture’ was born, which created a whole new language and way of expression in Italian design,” he says. It was a movement that threw out all the rules, resulting in a new vision.
This vision, combined with ingenuity, has helped Giovannoni design some of the most commercially successful products in the world, including the successful Girotondo and Mami lines of household products for Alessi.
Giovannoni’s work for Magis, such as the Bombo Stool, Paso Doble Family, and Chair First exemplify his innovative use of materials and original thinking. Chair First, for example, was the first three-dimensional plastic chair created through gas injected air molding. While the Bombo Stool was so futuristic it appeared in the TV series “Star Trek: Enterprise” and “Star Trek: Voyager.”
Giovannoni’s Bombo Stool was so futuristic set designers chose it for the TV series “Star Trek: Enterprise” and “Star Trek: Voyager.” Down on earth, his work can also be seen in major museums throughout the world.
August 3, 2011
Sometimes the perfect workspace has four walls and a door; sometimes it has more–prison bars. Tony Perrottet, writing in the New York Times, traces the history of writers who benefited from the concentration afforded by imprisonment: The Marquis de Sade, Oscar Wilde, and even Marco Polo, who only recorded his travels while held captive. Why Writers Belong Behind Bars, while fun, raises an important issue: to get work done, sometimes you need a place closed off from life’s distractions, a place to concentrate.
While we’re certainly not suggesting companies lock up their employees, we do believe workplaces should match the work being done, whether that is working together or heads down. And when it’s the latter, some people require the privacy and control of walls and a door. They benefit from the ability to quietly pursue a thought to conclusion, without fear of interruption. A little solitude never hurt anyone.
August 1, 2011
Eames molded plastic chairs have long been a canvas for artists. Which is just what a public library in Augusta, Georgia, decided to do with a large collection of the chairs that used to be in the auditorium.
The Augusta Richmond Library has challenged local artists to decorate the chairs, which will be auctioned off in October to raise money for a new library being built. It will be interesting to see what the artists do.
What would you do if you were given an Eames molded plastic chair to decorate?
June 7, 2011
Architect, designer, and eco-luminary Bill McDonough is a person we greatly respect. He has been a long-time collaborator with Herman Miller: designing our award-winning GreenHouse facility, as well as working with us on the design the Mirra chair, the first office chair to meet McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) Cradle to Cradle Design Framework, ensuring Mirra’s positive impact on the planet.
On Thursday, June 9, McDonough will be speaking alongside “Cradle to Cradle” co-author Dr. Michael Braungart for the first time in six years as part of a fundraiser for their Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (think LEED for products). The event will be held at the InterContinental San Francisco. This is a great opportunity to hear McDonough and Braungart speak about the next Industrial Revolution, in which consumption is a good thing.
For more info, tickets, and sponsor and host committee information please visit http://tinyurl.com/3pjfl7s
May 31, 2011
Part two of my conversation with architect, thinker, and director of Cranbrook Academy of Art, Reed Kroloff.
What is your vision for how to shape the next generation of architects and designers?
Cranbrook steps way outside the bounds of what is now becoming a typical architecture education. It’s highly lateral—seeking out information from other disciplines. [Students] know how to “make” here. It’s not an elective studio where you have an opportunity to work on a building for a few weeks. At Cranbrook, that’s all we do–we just make. As a result the people who come out of here know what it means to build. That’s all they do.
Cranbrook is a graduate program exclusively. We’re the nation’s only independent graduate school of design education. There’s no curriculum; you and the [artist] in residence decide what you’re going to work on all year. It’s very liberating… you could easily see yourself spending your whole life here.
Cranbrook has had a massively outsized influence on contemporary design culture, more than almost any school in the country. It really has reinvented the way we live, and sit and make buildings and make art.
You were living in New York on 9/11 and in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, how has witnessing these
events shaped you?
I am by nature optimistic and I choose to see the positive above the negative. What I came away from those events with was a greater faith in people and a recognition that we always have to be vigilant, and listen and think and read and learn.
Never under estimate the power of the average citizen to do wonderful things. Because that’s what we saw over and over. The people who just showed up from nowhere with nothing. People who just came and wanted to help. They slept in disgusting places and went out every day to hammer nails and tear down flooded building. And they kept coming in wave after wave. It was really humbling. It changed everything I do.
Read part one of our interview with Reed Kroloff.