happy valentine’s day everyone!
the always fun better living through design highlighted this wonderful notebook produced by rare device. it is a limited edition run of elegantly and uniquely designed notebooks that feature a multitude of paper types within. additionally, the notebook is bound in such a way it can lay open flat upon a table. head over to the product page a take a look for yourself. personally, i love these unique little gems.
announced back in mid-january is the whitehouse redux design competition. the competition has a fascinating premise: what if the whitehouse was designed today? with an incredible program of spaces, a dramatic site, and historical significance, the project offers a unique architectural experiment. issues of democracy and transparency in design, security, and historicism will be exciting to address. i can’t help but think of gunter behnisch’s work in the field of democracy and desgin, especially that of the munich olympics of ’72. from the competition website:
home of the world’s most powerful individual. universally recognized symbol of political authority. one of america’s greatest tourist attractions. nerve-center of the world’s most complex communications system. the ultimate architectural embodiment of power.
few people realize the extent of the white house, since much of it is below ground or otherwise concealed by landscaping. the white house includes: six stories and 55,000 square feet of floor space, 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms, 412 doors, 147 windows, twenty-eight fireplaces, eight staircases, three elevators, five full-time chefs, a tennis court, a bowling alley, a movie theater, a jogging track, a swimming pool, and a putting green. it receives about 5,000 visitors a day.
the original white house design, by james hoban, was the result of a competition held in 1792. over the centuries, presidents have added rooms, facilities and even entire new wings, turning the white house into the labyrinthine complex it is today.
what if, instead of in 1792, that competition were to be held today? what would a white house designed in 2008, year of election of the 44th president of the united states, look like?
entries are due 20 april 2008. winners will be selected in may.
after a long absence and a busy life i’m back to posting (hopefully very regularly). this friday’s photo is a quiet compilation of standpipes that stoically keep time on along state street here in chicago on the south edge of the loop. i love the combination of tones and depth of field in this image. i shot this frame last october using kodak ektachrome professional plus color slide film.
captured in much the same style as last friday’s photographic experiment, this image was shot at night while in a moving car. setting the exposure to bulb and driving down a neon and street light filled street i was able to capture light in a whimsical, playful, not always obvious sort of way. using kodak ektachrome professional plus color slide film the vibrant hues of the lights was richened to an almost ethereal level. this photo has always struck me for its dynamic and surreal color and motion combination. as always, more photos are available here and here.
from an ingenious portfolio on behance network comes this proposal for an elegant carafe utilizing two lip system to eliminate dripping. the noro no-drip employs a wonderfully creative system of two-lips that allows for the reacquisition of dripping liquid, thus eliminating sticky tables and carafes everywhere (below).
as if the engineering behind the carafe wasn’t enough for me to want to see this product brought to market the bottle’s form is simply stunning (top). gentle curves and counter curves of clear glass come to life when filled with liquid. the two lip system at the top almost appears as a motion blur ghost of a lip. it’s a pure, simple, functional, design that does nothing more than improve the way we live.
like the universe in a photo, i love how this image captures a combination of lighting patterns as they spiral across the image frame. i shot this a little while back using kodak ektachrome professional plus color slide film (i highly recommend the film for its vivid color tones and wonderful lighting balance). the “wormhole” shot was accomplished by setting the exposure to the bulb setting, decreasing the aperture accordingly to compensate, and rotating the camera 90 degrees while exposing the film. i won’t tell you exactly what you‘re looking at, but suffice it to say you would never expect this outcome from such an everyday occurence. this photo was part of an exploaratory series of images in which i was attempting the idea was capturing motion by means of camera manipulation rather than in the more traditional sense of shooting moving objects. you can find this photo and others like it at my imagekind gallery. happy friday.
coming promptly on the heels of our discussion about ending our addiction to oil came an announcement from the federal government that they had chosen a site in illinois for the first “clean coal” power plant to be built (at a cost of $1.8 billion, with a “b”). no amount of architectural refinement (as seen above) can disguise the fact that this is still a coal power plant. why are we insisting on pursuing such backwards technology? proponents of the new “clean coal” technology argue that it is pollution free; that statement is a serious misguided diagnosis. it is true, coal at this plant will not be burned in the way it traditionally would, rather it under goes a process called gasification in which energy is harvested from the coal without burning it. unfortunately, this still produces enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. the “solution” is carbon capture and sequestration. the carbon capture process is exactly what it sounds like: capture all the carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and put it somewhere else. where? pump it under ground. i see a few obvious problems with this. for starters the entire principle hinges on the fact that you can construct a volume that is totally impermeable to gas, meaning that it wont leak out into the environment anyways (and it must essentially last forever). second, if you store enough of the carbon dioxide, under pressure as the plan calls for, aren’t we in fact creating a ticking time bomb underground? it’s spent nuclear fuel all over again. in 50, 100, 200 years (if it makes it that long) what is to stop someone from inadvertently digging into this storage space and releasing the gas, or worse causing an explosion while releasing the gas. of course none of this even addresses the issue of harvesting the coal to begin with, a process that is already incredible harmful to the environment (then of course the transportation of the coal, etc.). instead, why don’t we stop investing in technology that is barely a stop gap (if at all) and start employing the alternative technologies that are already available while pursuing braver, bolder, truly innovative technologies that are whole-heartedly sustainable, not just in name only. why don’t we increase wind farms, wave harvesting, solar farms, or geothermal technologies on the scale of $1.8 billion and see how many homes we can power and how much farther innovation advances. practically speaking of course, it makes exponentially more sense to generate much smaller amounts of power where it will actually be used as a large percentage of usable power is lost in “transportation/delivery.” this is why we must rethink how we design our buildings. we must increase passive heating and cooling technologies by way of materials, construction, and design. we must utilize these new innovative technologies to maximize the resources made available on site: rain water catchment, greywater systems, daylighting, building integrated photovoltaics or wind turbines just to name the tip of the iceberg. enough with the antiquated technologies that got us in this catastrophic climate mess. let’s use our minds, treat this like a design problem, and move forward.
in the most recent addition to the already stellar series of podcasts from ted is a talk given back in 2005 at the conference by amory lovins. in the talk mr. lovins discusses environmental policies/attitudes and specifically our dependence on oil and the need to kick it. but here is where this talk stands out from most doom and gloom discussions pertaining to petropolitics, environmental policies, and world economies: mr. lovin’s asserts that, contrary to popular belief, transitioning the way we live to sustainable sources of fuel will actually increase economic prosperity worldwide. mr. lovin’s rightfully states, “it is cheaper to save fuel than to buy fuel.” in fact he cites that companies who already do this, companies that have invested in alternative sources of fuel, streamlined production lines, and rethought the way the do business have seen their bottom dollar increase. climate protection is not costly as most people portray it as and we do not need to do something painful to avoid it; rather, we need to approach it as a design problem. we must use intelligence. mr. lovin’s uses the example of the mclaren sports car in which new space-age composite materials cut down on weight (and thus reduce fuel requirements and in turn increase fuel economy) while making the car safer than by traditional construction. we must streamline our approaches to manufacturing and other labor and evironmentally intensive areas. here amory cites the example of car manufacturers cutting out the paint shop entirely, which is by far one of the most labor intensive and environmentally destructive phases of construction. rather he proposes impregnating the raw materials and body panels of the automobile with color themselves. we must also design efficiently. companies’ engineering departments must go back to the drawing boards and rethink production, assembly, and product transportation. if these three things can be accomplished, if the problem can be treated as a design problem, then it becomes an economically viable alternative.
mr. lovin’s asserts that we can be off oil by 2040 and have a bigger, more robust, and diverse economy. we don’t have to suffer hardships in doing so, we can actually increase world and domestic security in the process, reduce price volatility, and save the environment from otherwise imminent catastrophic collapse. in fact, amory’s book is available as a free pdf download at his website, winning the oil end game. mr. lovin’s talk was both inspiring and fascinating; if you don’t already subscribe to the ted talk podcast series from itunes or the ted website, i highly recommend it.
let’s start with the apologies to all my readers. i know things have been thin around here for the last week or two and i’m sorry for that. i’ll be the first to admit i was slammed with end-of-the-semester work. of course, now that its all behind me, you can expect regular posting to resume. while i gather some more information to discuss be sure to stop by the new york times and read the article in today’s paper about the issue of starchitecture, something we’ve mentioned before; personally, i think article misses the point, but a good read nonetheless. also, check out greendweller’s recent posts, there is an exceptionally interesting discussion about an architectural thesis. speaking of thesis, i promise i will be posting more updates on my own in the coming days; in totally unrelated news, some of you may be asking about the picture above, it is of famed russian architect vladimir tatlin’s proposed but never built, monument to the third international. the project was proposed after the bolshevik revolution of 1917 and of completely incomprehensible scale. furthermore it is one of the foremost example of constructivist architecture (i’m sure most people are more familiar with the stylistic kid brother, deconstructivism; we also had a stylistic homage in name only on a photo friday not to long ago). so, until tomorrow, stay warm.