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Stephanie Murg

Friday Photo: Of Gaudí and Man

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Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia gets its close-up in Swiss filmmaker Stefan Haupt‘s Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation, a documentary making the theatrical rounds. The beloved basilica, Antoni Gaudí‘s French Gothic-meets-Art Nouveau fever-dream sand castle, is still in progress, its construction having been stalled by conflict (Spanish Civil War, World War I, World War II) and financial famine since it was commissioned by the Order of St. Joseph in 1882.

Sagrada, now playing at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, celebrates Gaudí’s vision and the ongoing work of laborers, artisans, designers and architects to complete the colossal project. Haupt envisioned the film as a biography of the building. “Just like human beings, buildings and artistic creations have their biography and their genesis,” he says. “They have an origin, ‘parents,’ a moment of creation and birth and then a life until they are accomplished—or destroyed—with a possible continuation in a modified form.”
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On Boxing Day, a Design-Themed Wrapper’s Delight

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Did Santa bestow upon you the infinitely modern gift of molded plywood furnishings? There’s always next year. In the meantime, spend a bit of your Boxing Day watching four creative teams tackle the challenge of wrapping an Eames lounge chair and ottoman for Design Within Reach’s Big Bow Project. Despite the name, none of the participants—Craig Redman and Karl Maier (Craig & Karl), Ellen Van Dusen (Dusen Dusen), Print All Over Me, and Snarkitecture—resorted to slapping an outsized, Lexus-style red ribbon on the iconic pieces and calling it a day. Instead, they devised original approaches that would have delighted the Eameses, from colorful plywood boxes to snug-fitting plastic sheathing. DWR is keeping the chairs and lounges under wraps for all to admire through Wednesday, December 31 at DWR’s SoHo Studio (Craig & Karl, Print All Over Me) and 57th & 3rd Studio (Dusen Dusen, Snarkitecture).

Season’s Greetings from UnBeige

(Dan Flavin)
A Christmas card created by Dan Flavin and sent to artist Andrew Bucci in 1962. (Photo: Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

The word from the FAA is that Santa’s sleigh has cleared American airspace, and so as design lovers of all ages get to the business of unwrapping their bottles of Helvetica perfume, marsala-hued apparel and homegoods, books of medical oddities, Philippe Starck-designed illuminated hatrests, and 2015 typography calendars, we at UnBeige HQ wish you the brightest of holidays.

Have a Fontastic Year with the 365 Typography Calendar

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Only seven calendar shopping days ’til 2015! Keeping track of time takes on a typographical twist with the 365 Typography Calendar, which sets each month in a different typeface. The calendar is the brainchild of Pentagram veteran Kit Hinrichs, who produces it through his San Francisco-based design office. “So many people, designers included, have no idea who designed the beautifully crafted typefaces that are very much a part of our everyday life,” he says. “I wanted to enable people to become more aware of type as a designed object.” The dozen typefaces celebrated in the 2015 edition are “a lively mix of classic and revival typefaces, along with distinctive display faces by some of this generation’s best type designers,” and in addition to holidays, the calendar notes the birthdays of the type designers along with their brief biographies or explanations of what inspired the design.

Quote of Note | Anthony Grafton

(Abraham Bosse)
Abraham Bosse, A Printer’s Workshop, circa 1642

“Historians of technology and science like Pamela Long and Pamela Smith have taught us to see the exciting potentialities of Renaissance workshops, from the houses of printers to those of smiths and apothecaries. They have revealed these shops…as ‘trading zones’ where skills and practices were swapped. In early modern Europe’s imagined society of orders, those who worked had dirty zones. But in the printing shop, for example, everyone had to think and everyone had soiled fingers. There the learned could learn about typesetting and compositors could learn to prepare texts for the press. The production of art is one province of this larger world.”

Anthony Grafton in “A Great Master at the Met,” his New York Review of Books essay on Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry, on view through January 11 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Vladimir Kagan on Sculptural Furniture, Louise Nevelson, and Tom Ford

kaganVladimir Kagan turned 87 in August, not that you would know it from his lively, globe-trotting blog or latest crop of projects, which includes new lines of furniture for Carpenters Workshop Gallery and Ralph Pucci (look for them at next year’s Design Miami). The designer appears in the January/February issue of Elle Decor, on newsstands today, looking back and pushing forward, with wit and wisdom firmly intact.

Among his own design heroes is Wendell Castle, a fellow octogenarian who Kagan has long admired and envied for “his ability to create furniture that is closer to sculpture than anything utilitarian,” he tells Elle Decor‘s Ingrid Abramovitch. And speaking of sculpture, did you know that Kagan goes way back with Louise Nevelson? She “was a ceramicist before she became a sculptor, and we carried some of her bowls in the store,” he says of the late Nevelson. “When she started to make sculpture, she went to my factory and picked up remnants of wood for her black artworks. You can see the negative shape of my furniture designs in some of the sculptures.”
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Jessica Hische’s Lovely Letters Bound for USPS Stamps

LoveHearts-ForeverJessica Hische forever! That’s what we would have called the forthcoming postage stamps that feature the loopily, lacily beautiful letterforms of the self-described “letterer, illustrator, and crazy cat lady,” but the United States Postal Service has opted for “Forever Hearts.” Hische began by drawing the lettered hearts by hand and then completed the stamp art digitally. Art director Antonio Alcalá (who whipped up those stunning seed packets stamps, among many others) designed the stamps—one red-on-white, one white-on-red, both guaranteed to eternally retain their first-class value—which will be released on January 22, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Twitter Along with UnBeige

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Famed literary critic Lionel Trilling once described Henry James as a “social twitterer.” Sure, he meant it as an insult, but it makes us feel better about having jumped on the microblogging bandwagon. Look to the official UnBeige Twitter feed, for up-to-the-minute newsbites, event snippets, links of interest, design trivia, and free candy (OK, we’re still working on the physics of that last one). The Mediabistro tech wizards have added to the sidebar at right a handful of our most recent word bursts, but you can sign up to follow all of our twittering here.

Drink Champagne, Design Tiny Chair, Repeat

DWR ChampChair_2014finalists

Two of our favorite things—Champagne and chairs—come together in a festive contest from the bubbly furniture fans at Design Within Reach. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: create an original miniature chair using only the foil, label, cage, and cork from no more than two Champagne bottles (glue is the only permitted adhesive). Entering is the easy part. Simply snap a photo of your tiny, fizzy throne and upload it here. A panel of Champagne-loving chair experts, including DWR Founder Rob Forbes and Brooklyn-based design studio Egg Collective, will judge the chairs in an event on February 11 at DWR’s SoHo studio, and three winners will receive DWR gift cards: the first-place prize (a $1,000 gift card) will cover the cost of a Prouvé Standard Chair, in which you can sit and sip more champagne to celebrate. Drink fast, because the deadline for entries is Thursday, January 12.

Quote of Note | James Welling on Publishers’ Logos

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“In the early 1970s the most cited writer in Artforum was the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty. So I sought out Merleau-Ponty’s books published by Northwestern University Press. After some struggle I realized I couldn’t make sense of his ideas. But I came to love his publisher’s distinctive interlocking arrows on the front cover, and the interior layout and typeface. So I looked for other books published by Northwestern. When I was in New York I’d visit Papyrus Books near Columbia University and spend the evening reading philosophy and poetry in the aisles. Then I’d carefully select one volume to buy. Like Northwestern’s arrows, each publisher had a distinctive, memorable logo. Vintage Books had a fiery, anthropomorphic sun on its spine; Hill and Wang’s logo comprised interlocking black letter initials; George Braziller’s clean serif-type name locked down the title page; Grove Press placed a funny Y on the spine. Each publisher’s logo held the promise of an exciting and difficult intellectual journey.”

—Artist James Welling, a professor in the department of art and the area head of photography at the University of California, Los Angeles, in “A List of Favorite Anythings,” which appears in the winter issue of Aperture

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