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Archives: June 2008

Which SVA Student’s Hair Chair Is Shear Genius?

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Bravo‘s Shear Genius, a Project Runway for hairstylists, is back for its second season. Heavy on the “cut”-related wordplay, the show puts vaguely menacing Danish hairstylist René Fris (who we could swear we once saw in a Mentos commercial) in the Tim Gunn role and is hosted by actress/Kmartist Jaclyn Smith. Shear Genius celebrated its season premiere on Tuesday with a pop-up salon in New York’s Times Square and recruited students from the School of Visual Arts, under the guidance of SVA 3D Design Program chairperson Kevin O’Callaghan, to design the temporary salon as well as ten salon chairs that Bravo’s “The Dish” blog describes as “pretty damn amazing.”

Among the wacky hair chairs is the trio pictured above. Created by Sarah Nguyen, the “DJ” chair (at far right) is a stack of hair-themed record albums ready for playing on its giant turntable base while Kathleen Ugurlu‘s “Jock” (center) is for the hirsute baseball fan (we think the batting helmet is a nice touch). But we find ourselves unable to resist the garden gnome-accessorized “Backyard” chair designed by Kaori Sakai in a bold palette of green, red, and yellow. It comes with a grass-tufted seat backed by a garden gate, a hose, cooler, and a full grill setup, complete with ketchup, mustard, and corn on the cob. Check out all of the chairs and vote for your favorite here. The winner gets a $5,000 prize, which we’re hoping is payable in cash rather than hair products.

The Growing ‘A Unique Font for Every Project’ Movement

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Peter Wayner has picked up on the trend of the world seemingly now needing a constant stream of new type in his piece “Down with Helvetica: Design Your Own Font.” It’s about the desire to move away from the fonts everyone has access to and hiring out to create a unique design for each project. In the piece, they get into conversations with a number of different designers like Charles Andermack and about companies like FontStruct, as well as talking to these client people who are now thinking along these lines and are providing the bread and butter for the aforementioned designers and companies. Here’s a bit how Andermack (or Chank Diesel as you may know him) offers an inexpensive custom handwriting font service to people and then turns it around to sell as something new:

Mr. Andermack asks clients to copy a collection of words in their handwriting, then scans the letters into his computer and produces a font. The only catch is that Mr. Andermack keeps the rights to resell the font to others. He publishes a collection of distinctive handwriting fonts to ad directors who want to capture a particular style or era. Your handwriting could end up in the next bundle. Exclusive rights cost more.

RMJM Hillier Survey Finds Chicago the Best City for Design

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On to happier news. First we should say that we don’t like to brag, but sometimes you just can’t resist. This week, the firm RMJM Hillier released an extensively-researched survey ranking the best cities in the country for design. And who came out first? That’s right: Chicago. Close second, of course, is our co-editor’s stomping grounds, New York, which we’ve always thought was pretty nice and all, but according to facts and figures, which including polling data and consulting with the AIA, just can’t hold up to the awe-inspiring design might of The Windy City. BusinessWeek has put together this great slideshow, pulling out what RMJM said about what made each town so design-friendly and here’s a little bit of what helped give Chicago the edge to take the win:

Although the Big Apple outperformed the Windy City on several criteria (including its number of Community and Housing Awards — received for design excellence in residence building and community planning — and its overall collection of 17 AIA awards for innovative architecture), Peter Schubert, RMJM Hillier design director, says Chicago’s position as a bright-green city tipped the scales. “The green aspects of a city — its sustainability, environment-friendly initiatives — were the most important features of design we considered,” he says. Schubert also cited Chicago’s long history of architectural innovation and its reputation for being design-oriented as further reasons it took the top slot.

Massive Flooding Damages Iowa Architecture

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We’d been following the recent flooding throughout Iowa pretty closely because we lived there for a couple of years not long ago. Because we were primarily concerned about the more personal things, like making sure our friends were okay and their homes were still above water, it hadn’t even dawned on us that there was a design angle to the whole thing until we read this piece in Metropolis about all the flooded architectural landmarks in the state. Suddenly it got us remembering where all the famous buildings were located in Iowa City, where we’d lived. The new Steven Holl arts building that was just recently finished! The Frank Gehry over by the student center! All of it was in close proximity to the Iowa River and the piece painfully describes to what degree these places were affected by the rising waters. Here’s to hoping everything gets successfully repaired and we don’t lose any of what made Iowa that much more beautiful.

New York Awash in Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfalls

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Apart from chocolate rivers (particularly those with an appetite for chubby, evocatively named German youths), waterfalls are surely the most mesmerizing of nature’s wonders, even if they are not so much natural as the spirited creations of a Danish/Icelandic artist and stop running at the stroke of 10 p.m. every night. Today saw the launch of Olafur Eliasson‘s monumental, multi-site public art project, “The New York City Waterfalls,” four cascades rising as high as 120 feet out of New York Harbor. Announced in January, the Public Art Fund project was realized in eco-friendly collaboration with Tishman Construction Corporation and a team of nearly 200 designers, engineers, and construction workers.

In the press release issued today from his office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the waterfalls “a beautiful symbol of the energy and vitality that we are bringing back to our waterfront.” Meanwhile, Eliasson says, “they will give people the possibility to reconsider their relationship to the spectacular surroundings…and evoke experiences that are both individual and enhance a sense of collectivity.” But our favorite description comes from New York Times art critic Roberta Smith. “They could almost fool King Kong into thinking he is back home,” she writes in her review published today. “They are the remnants of a primordial Eden, beautiful, uncanny signs of a natural nonurban past that the city never had.” The watery paradise lasts through October 13.

Art Center Puts Gehry Building Plan on Hold—Or Not

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Earlier this month, we told you about the tensions a-brewing at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and seriously flustering students, faculty, and alumni, many of them not averse to a good petition or two. Hanging in the balance were ambitious plans for the school’s expansion, which were to include a $50 million design research center designed by Frank Gehry and championed by the Art Center’s controversial yet charismatic president, Richard Koshalek. What a difference a week or so makes! “The Art Center thing has blown up and fizzled out, and they are not renewing Richard’s contract,” UnBeige editor emeritus Alissa Walker tells us. Further complicating the blowup and fizzle, the school announced that the Gehry building plan was off, only to declare yesterday that the board of trustees had confirmed “the school’s commitment to going forward with its pending application to obtain zoning in Pasadena for its Hillside Campus Master Plan.” We’re still confused but direct you to Alissa’s roundup in The Architect’s Newspaper for the full scoop on the players, issues, and architecture involved.

New School Adds Programs in Sustainable Design, Urban Ecosystems

tree globe.jpg“What’s your major?” You’ll ask the chipper student sketching the web of cracks in the South Street Seaport pavement on a balmy winter day in 2009. “New York City!” She’ll reply, beaming and shifting her well-designed, 100% recycled tote bag to the other shoulder. Thanks to new programs in environmental studies announced today by The New School and Parsons The New School for Design, undergraduates will soon be able to embark upon interdisciplinary study in urban ecosystems and sustainable design, with the help of the urban ecosystem to end all urban ecosystems—New York City. Think of it as urban policy and design thinking teaming up to solve environmental problems unique to cities.

“The urban ecosystem and sustainability may be the most important areas of environmental study in this century,” says Joseph Westphal, university provost and director of The New School’s Tishman Environment and Design Center, which will administer the program. “We need to prepare the next generation of leaders who will help shape a sustainable world for future generations.” The program will accept its first class of students in the fall of 2009, and they’ll be able to choose from bachelor of arts (concentrations in urban ecosystems or public policy) or bachelor of science (sustainable design or urban ecosystem design) flavors. Both degree programs include fieldwork, internships, and collaborative final projects. New York City may never be the same.

Dubai’s Twisting Tower Designer’s Past in Question

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You might remember us talking about the Dynamic Architecture project, with its 80 story twisting buildings, around this time last year. We initially thought it was really cool and, unlike most of what gets built in Dubai, not entirely insane. But now that it’s making the rounds again, circulating on nearly every available blog, we found it interesting that people are looking into the designer behind the project, one Mr. David Fisher. Turns out that he has something of a questionable past:

In a biography he had been distributing for months, he said he graduated from the University of Florence in 1976, came to New York in the mid-1980s and later developed hotels and ran a company that specialized in stone and prefabricated construction materials.

The biography also said he received an honorary doctorate from “The Prodeo Institute at Columbia University in New York.” No such institution exists, however, and Columbia said it had never awarded Fisher an honorary degree.

Metropolitan Home Launches Design News Magazine, Fulcrum

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Maybe attempting to create the UnBeige of the glossy world, Metropolitan Home has launched a new companion magazine called Fulcrum, which will cover all things design and architecture news, but for people who don’t have time read blogs like ours, though need to remain up-to-date on what’s going on (which seems a little improbable, if being in the immediate know is that important to them — but maybe we’re just slightly biased). The debut issue, which is being released attached to Metropolitan Home (but will later exist on its own) looks great, seemingly borrowing some layout ideas from web design and small-run design magazines to very nice effect. The thing we really enjoyed is their commissioning an ever-changing “Post Editor,” a new one each month, who will essentially add Flickr-esque hovering notes on top of whatever they want throughout the issue. It’s a novel, fun idea, but we’ll have to check in to see if it retains its value or blends into the background and seems like just those editorial asides and snippets so common anymore in magazines. Overall, we’re impressed with Fulcrum and hope it makes a real go of it.

Details on Philippe Starck’s Reality TV Design Show

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Quickly back to the news we were reporting on the other day that Philippe Starck will be the star of his own new reality TV game show, we find that Brand Republic has received all the details on the upcoming BBC series, from the structure to the various challenges the ten designer contestants will face, to even the working title: “Philippe Starck’s School of Design” (which is sure to be replaced with a groan-worthy, barely relevant pun, like “Starck Raving Mad” or “In Starck Contrast”). Here’s a bit:

Over six one-hour episodes, Starck will bring the 25 most promising applicants to meet him in Paris and, after setting them a challenge, will select 10 to join his school of design. Once at the school, successful applicants will be given the chance to demonstrate their abilities by working on real design projects. Applicants will be eliminated until one or more students are rewarded with the opportunity of a work placement with him.

Still, while it’s almost considered a crime to not pick on reality television, the show is about product design, which should be interesting. And the BBC is behind it, so that makes it better too, right? Dare we say that we’re almost kind of excited to see it? No, probably not. Better to play it cool and pretend we’re too good for everything. Carry on.

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