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Steve Delahoyde

The Post in Which Your Long-Serving Co-Editor Makes a Clumsy, Sob-Filled Exit

Way back around the end of 2005, I received an invitation from mediabistro to step in as a guest editor for a vacationing Eva Hagberg, writing a few posts for their relatively new design/art/architecture blog, UnBeige. The assignment was for a couple of weeks, but then, somehow, I never wound up leaving, and here I still sit, some six and a half years later. Our Editorial Director, Chris Ariens, claims that stretch makes me the longest-serving blogger in the entire organization. So, of course, now that I’ve gotten the gold plaque saying as much, as well as this $25 gift certificate to the Olive Garden of my choosing, it seems like a good time to say farewell.

In all these years I’ve been working here, and over a mind-boggling number of posts (some of which even made sense), I’ve been blessed to have shared a space with some absurdly fantastic talent. I’ve had the sincere pleasure of working with my original co-editor, Alissa Walker, helping to build the bones of the powerhouse that UnBeige is today (as well as teaching her everything I know and am therefore responsible for roughly 96% of her success). From there, for more than four years now, having the amazing fortune to serve alongside Stephanie Murg, whose dedication to solid reporting and quality writing constantly inspired me to try and focus more on the posts themselves than trying to make a clever pun-filled joke in the headline, followed by a jarring batch of pun-filled ramblings (unfortunately, I am only human and that didn’t always stick). And there aren’t thanks enough in the world to properly offer up to all the staff at mediabistro, who took a chance on a kid from Chicago, only to never come to their senses and fire him after about the second week.
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Do Not Be Cynical When the London Olympics Torch Wins the Design Museum’s Design of the Year Award

Because we’re good and gracious people, we’re not going to cry foul on the Design Museum‘s Design of the Year prize, which just this week awarded its 2012 edition to the studio Barber Osgerby for their work on the London Olympics torch. If we weren’t so wonderful, we’d bring up how convenient it is that the London-based museum is giving the prize to an object related to the event London has spent nearly a decade preparing for, and how that might seem a bit biased (here’s where we might also mention that the London 2012 Velodrome won the architecture category). We then might also bring up that the torch, while very attractive, has such a very limited purpose, and an even shorter shelf life, that maybe something with a bit more longevity and wide-spread usefulness deserves the win. No, instead we are genuinely happy for all the winners (really, honestly, all snark aside), and leave you with a quote by London 2012 Organizing Committee co-chair, Sebastian Coe, about the torch’s big night:

The Torch is one of the most recognizable symbols of the Olympic Games and we are thrilled that our design has won this prestigious title. I am delighted we have such a brilliantly designed, engineered and crafted Torch that will help to celebrate the amazing personal achievements of each of our 8,000 Torchbearers and give them their moment to shine. It is also fantastic news that the stunning architecture of the London 2012 Velodrome has won an award and welcome recognition of the landmark new buildings the Games are bringing to London.

AIA’s Architecture Billings Index Slips a Bit, But Stays Positive

Could we actually be seeing, dare we even let the thought cross our collective brains, a consistent upward trend? After years of being burnt in this exact situation, when the American Institute of Architects‘ monthly Architectural Billings Index would stay in the positive for a few months, only to plummet back and make everyone gloomy, we’re not entirely ready to dust off the helium tank and start filling up the balloons just yet, particularly because the ABI was actually down just a bit from last month. It’s currently at 50.4, a few notches lower than 51 in February, but as anything above 50 indicates an increase in billing, and provides a general sense of growth within the industry, we’ll take it. Here’s a bit from the AIA’s defender of the digits:

“We are starting to hear more about improving conditions in the marketplace, with a greater sense of optimism that there will be greater demand for design services,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “But that is not across the board and there are still a number of architecture firms struggling so progress is likely to be measured in inches rather than miles for the next few months.”

No Matter What He Might Have Told You, Philippe Starck Isn’t Designing a Product for Apple

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The internet was suddenly abuzz late last week, just before the weekend, when everyone’s favorite French designer Philippe Starck told a newspaper that he was working with Apple on a revolutionary product that would be out in the next few months. That certainly would be exciting, given that the internet nearly implodes when there’s even a hint of something Apple related in the works, and due to Starck’s long legacy in product design. Unfortunately, Starck also sometimes seems to mangle his words a touch, or exclaim lofty ambitions that maybe aren’t so grounded in reality. Over the weekend, Apple released a statement saying that no, they weren’t working with Starck on anything. Shortly thereafter, the Wall Street Journal reports that the designer laid everything out a bit more clearly, explaining that he’s working with Steve Jobs’ family on building a yacht. All of this, of course, makes much more sense, given that Apple generally keeps their product design very in-house (and certainly away from chatterboxes) and Starck now has something of a history building eco-friendly mega-yachts. We liked these couple of sentences the WSJ put together, summing up this recent there-and-gone story:

This episode has proved two things. Anything said about Apple provokes a huge buzz among the company’s followers. And Mr. Starck, who has waved his minimalist magic wand over everything from a toothbrush to a lemon squeezer to a mineral water bottle to penknives to hotels, likes to talk about himself.

London Olympics Reject Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Breath Bubble’ Art Installation

“Take your breathing people and scram,” weren’t the words used by the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games when talking to artist Olafur Eliasson about a project he’d proposed, but rejection was the basic sentiment and it seemed like a good way to start a post. After being encouraged to submit a proposal by the Committee, Eliasson requested £1 million to put together a project called “Take a Deep Breath,” which the BBC describes as an “installation would have invited people to inhale and exhale on behalf of ‘a person, a movement or a cause’ and record it on a website in a personal ‘breath bubble.’” The Committee took a look and decided that not only was the project not “particularly attractive” but also “seemed very expensive.” So, to extend our opening to this post, the organizers were essentially saying “Take your overly expensive breathing people and scram.” But again, we’re putting words into mouths. The tragedy, of course, is that this rejection, however well reasoned, means that the world may never see a functioning “personal breath bubble” unless Eliasson finds someone else with the cash to build, assemble, or however one would go about making a “personal breath bubble” in this day and age.

National Mall Redesign Competition Selects Finalists

The hunt for someone to redesign the “loved to death” sections of the National Mall in Washington D.C. has been somewhat quiet since the competition selected its all-star jury lineup back in October. That’s changed this week with the announcement that twelve finalist teams have been selected and are now on display both online and in person, though just for this week only, at the Smithsonian Castle. The finalists include the usual selection of top-name firms, including Rogers Marvel, Balmori Associates, Diller Scofido Renfro and Snohette teamed with AECOM. Strangely, no James Corner Field Operations, who we’ve grown so accustomed to being selected for this sort of project, meaning they either didn’t submit or, and this seems even more strange, that they weren’t picked as finalists. All in all, we certainly dig all of the finalists’ plans for the three spaces slotted for $350 million worth of improvements (anything’s better than the aimless stretches that permeate the area now), but with so much wide-open space and so many limitations on views that can be blocked and what can be built where, there’s part of us that speculates that the renovations will look a whole lot better from an aerial view than from the ground. We’ll have some time to wait before we can test that theory out, as winners for the three projects will be named in May, with construction estimated to be completed by sometime in 2016.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Alters Performance Series, Renames It ‘Met Museum Presents’

If over the years you had developed a vague idea of what types of public talks and concerts the Metropolitan Museum of Art would be hosting over any given week, you’ll need to run out and get a new calendar. Yesterday, the Met announced that its annual performance and talk series will be renamed “Met Museum Presents” and would be varying fairly substantially from years prior, all due to last summer’s hiring of new Concerts & Lectures General Manager, Limor Tomer. While you’ll still see plenty of classical pieces being performed, Tomer has said that she’s interested in tying those performances together with current exhibitions, so there will be programs like composer Tan Dun performing a Chinese opera to go along with an exhibition devoted to Chinese garden imagery. In the business world, we think they call that “synergy.” The new “Met Museum Presents” will also introduce for the first time, a performing artist residency, kicking things off with DJ Spooky, the celebrated musician, artist, and writer, who will perform five times at the Met, as well as hosting “a number of panel discussions, conversations, workshops, and gallery tours for audiences.” He is set to begin the residency this October, which will run through to next June.

Architecture Critic Paul Goldberger Departs New Yorker for Vanity Fair

The end of an era is at hand. Yesterday it was announced the New Yorker‘s longtime architecture critic, Paul Goldberger, will be leaving the magazine he’s called home for the past 15 years for greener, more ad-heavy pastures, to become a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. The two magazines are, of course, both owned by Conde Nast, meaning the move isn’t a tremendous hike, and Goldberger has a history with VF, having contributed pieces here and there over the years. Still, it’s something of a major in-house coup, which the Observer has plenty of juicy details on, including that the critic hadn’t been getting along with New Yorker editor David Remnick, who he claims made getting stories into the magazine much more difficult, and that his decision to leave was in part related to a biography of Frank Gehry he’s in the middle of working on. On the Vanity Fair side, here’s what the magazine’s triumphant editor Graydon Carter had to say:

“This is an appointment that thrills me profoundly,” Carter said. “Paul is about as gifted a commentator on architecture, urban planning, and design as anyone you’re going to find these days—in other words, he’s just a brilliant writer.”

Gucci vs. Guess Copyright Battle Finally Goes to Trial

After the fun-at-times legal war between Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent ended last fall with something akin to a dull whimper, we were worried that we’d have to wait forever to have another good copyright fight between hot shot fashion companies. Sure there are your usual “small shop got ripped off by a big brand” or “big company looks like a bully for attacking a small one,” but those aren’t nearly as exciting as when two top dogs lock horns. Fortunately, we’ve been saved, thanks to an old case still simmering from the good, litigious people at Gucci. As Bloomberg reports, Gucci’s copyright infringement case against Guess finally kicked off in fine form in New York (it was originally filed three years ago but is only reaching trial now). The former is claiming that Guess had not only copied several of its products, but had also mimicked their logo on said items, all in the quest to provide their customers with Gucci-like items that they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford. Seeing as the case is now at trial and wasn’t settled in a hushed backroom deal years ago, we bet you can figure out what Guess’ position in response to those allegations. For the next two weeks, the two will be battling it out, with Gucci asking for $124 million, Guess not wanting to give it to them, and we can only figure, featuring some of the best dressed attorneys and witnesses that courtroom has seen in a while.

Despite Family’s Objections, Eisenhower Memorial Commission Remains Committed to Frank Gehry

In the end, it apparently takes a whole lot to topple a famous architect and his heavy pillars. After months of discussion, and an increasingly vocal group of family members speaking out against the project, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission has released a statement (pdf) of full support behind Frank Gehry, who designed the national tribute, set to be built (someday) in Washington DC’s National Mall. As early as last week, Susan Eisenhower, the former president’s granddaughter, had spoken at a congressional hearing, asking for a redesign. However, it was to no avail, at least to the Commission, who write in their statement that they “will work to address the outstanding issues that remain” but seemed to waiver not a touch when it came to Gehry’s plans:

We confirm our selection of him, confirm our enthusiastic endorsement of his design concept, and express our regret and sadness at the tone and nature of the selected comments that have been made on Mr. Gehry’s design for the memorial.

The whole debate hasn’t ended here though. The National Capital Planning Commission, which we learned from the lengthy battle over the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial can sometimes be a tricky group to work with, will have the final say on Gehry’s design. Onward with the battle!

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