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Archives: October 2008

Books In Brief: Ada on Architecture, Ames’ Alcoholic Adventures

The new fall books are stacking up. Let’s start with the A’s:

arch alc.jpg⇒ Out this week from Walker & Co. is half a century’s worth of criticism penned by the one, the only, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ada Louise Huxtable. On Architecture: Collected Reflections of a Century of Change looks at “some of the twentieth century’s best—and worst—architectural masters and projects” and what followed. Come for the primer on skyscraper history, stay for the up close-and-personal look at the Colt Firearms Building. “Looking back, I realize that my career covered an extraordinary period of change,” writes Huxtable. “That I was writing at a time in which architecture was changing slowly but radically—a time when everything about modernism was being incrementally questioned and rejected as we moved into a new kind of thinking and building.”

⇒ On a lighter (and darker) note is The Alcoholic (Vertigo), a graphic novel written by the supercaffeinated Jonathan Ames and illustrated by Dean Haspiel. The book’s protagonist is one Jonathan A., “a boozed-up, coked-out, sexually confused, hopelessly romantic and, of course, entirely fictional novelist who bears only a coincidental resemblance to real-life writer Jonathan Ames.” The real Ames needed little convincing to team up with Haspiel, who illustrated Harvey Pekar‘s The Quitter. “I’ve always been a fan of Charles Bukowski and had seen some stories of his which were accompanied by illustrations by R. Crumb, so the idea of doing something similar with Dean appealed to me,” Ames told recently. The pair worked well together, with Ames describing the collaboration as “dreamily sympathetic.” Haspiel concurred. “Each page I draw is a struggle, especially when I’m collaborating. However, Ames and I hardly butted heads,” he said. “In fact, most of my interpretation of Ames’ script was met with compliments, and sometimes, I haunted Ames with kismet.”

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UnBeige’s Top Five Design-Minded Halloween Costumes


It’s here. That day when you can dress up like anything you want, scare little children, and demand candy from strangers—all with festive impunity. That’s right, it’s late funnyman John Candy‘s birthday! He would have been 58 today. Coincidentally, it’s also Halloween (observe today’s spoooooky Google homepage graphic). You know that Team UnBeige is going as Charles and Ray Eames (although we won’t get very far trick-or-treating, as chairs are a key element of our costumes), but we thought we’d give you, our loyal and perhaps still costumeless readers, a few ideas for quick, easy, and design-minded getups for this All Hallow’s Eve:

spitzer brain cover.jpg5. ASME’s 2008 Magazine Cover of the Year. No one can get enough of Barbara Kruger‘s New York magazine-commissioned take on the Eliot Spitzer scandal. Here’s your chance to keep the momentum going through fall. Grab a suit, a blood red tie, and what we’ve always sworn is a touch of eyeliner before printing out BRAIN in white Future Bold Italic on a red ground, and you’re good to go. Trick or treat, indeed.

4. The Chanel Mobile Art Pavilion. Swathe yourself in shiny yet reptilian white plastic and carry a Chanel handbag. Don’t stay anywhere for very long. Zaha Hadid-designed shoes and Karl Lagerfeld teddy bear optional.

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Design Musem to Move to New Location?


The Design Museum, the UK’s mecca of design, is apparently on the hunt for a new home according to Design Week. Actually in the works for some time now, and not just because director Deyan Sudjic has done such a great job building the museum’s brand in his two years there, they’ve finally settled on a place they’re interested in and are now in early discussions to buy a building called the Parabola, which is located in West London. Here’s a bit:

Negotiations are ongoing between both parties to ascertain the terms of this relationship, though this will be a ‘long, drawn out and complicated process,’ according to Sudjic.

‘It’s a great building and we’d love to make use of it,’ he says. ‘It would be a unique chance to bring back to life this key building of the 1960s and be a natural home for a museum dedicated to design and architecture.’

Also probably helps that Rem Koolhaas and his gang at OMA are eager to save the building too.

David Fisher Back to Make a Case for Dynamic Architecture in NY


Ugh. After the reports about his suspect qualification, we were sort of hoping that David Fisher and his Dynamic Towers would go away, or at least stay in Dubai for a little while. But no, he’s back in New York, selling his “world’s first building in motion.” And now, despite the fact that the economy is in shatters and likely no one is too interested in building anything overtly experimental at the moment, he’s looking to expand his Dynamic Tower project into New York, following his first in Dubai (which he hopes to begin breaking ground on in the next few weeks) and then in Moscow as his second location. We’re probably just being overly cranky and negative here (we were up late turning over cars and lighting them on fire last night in celebration of Devil’s Night after all), but we still have a very uneasy feeling about this whole thing. Prove us wrong, Dr. Fisher, and we’d gladly eat our words and sing your praises.

Tom Ford Makes the Move from Fashion to Film Directing


Elsewhere in the world of glitter and glam, here comes one of those stories we’re typically a little surprised to read. This must happen all the time out in LA, but because this writer is in Chicago and is a semi-professional director (emphasis on the “semi-”), it’s always bizarre to see someone just to decide to become a feature film director. But such is the case with fashion designer Tom Ford, who starts production on his first film, A Single Man, a period piece adaptation of Christopher Isherwood‘s novel, on Monday morning. We think Ford is great and all, and we recognize his many years as being a creative director for Gucci, but we’re not quite sure how you move from this world of fabrics and into visual storytelling. Well, yeah, other than the obvious, that he’s Tom Ford and he can do whatever he pleases at the snap of his fingers (today, film director! tomorrow, he would like to ride on the back of a real life unicorn!). Anxious to see how it all turns out.

W. Richard West Jr. Asked to Pay Back Very Small Portion of Smithsonian Expenses


After a couple of years of some pretty bad press for their management spending like it was going out of style, the Smithsonian has finally decided to stick up for itself in regard to the lavish excesses of W. Richard West Jr., the former head of their National Museum of the American Indian, which you might recall us talking about in detail earlier this year. After an audit, they’ve asked him to repay the museum for the more than $217,000 he used for transportation and luxury hotels over the course of just two years, and he’s doing just that. Except, we forgot to add, that they’ve only asked him to pay back $9,700 of it. We have no idea how that makes any sense (that $9.7k was just the worst of it?), but that’s where things stand.

West’s attorney, Michael Bromwich, said the report largely cleared West of any wrongdoing. Still, he apologized for any excesses.

“I accept the (inspector general’s) conclusion that I should have exercised better judgment,” West wrote in a statement. “I have without hesitation agreed to reimburse the funds.”

Well, yeah, of course he’ll pay it back right away! Who could pass up on a punishment like that? Note: UnBeige has $1000 to spend on punishment for anyone who will give us $50,000. Please e-mail us immediately with an offer. And if it isn’t too much trouble, we’d also like this tacked on:

The audit confirmed the museum, with some help from donors, spent $48,500 for a portrait of West and more than $30,000 for an eight-minute video extolling his leadership.

David Rockwell Lands Academy Award Production Design Job


David Rockwell, likely sick of spending so much time on playgrounds with those children and their filthy little hands (same goes for his work on Broadway, probably), has decided to head to Los Angeles, as he’s been awarded the contract to design next year’s Academy Awards production. It’s his first time putting something together for the Oscars, but we’re betting he’s going to do pretty well at it, considering that his firm also designed and built the theater they hold this grandest night of celebrity back patting in. We’re also figuring he’s going to put to use some of the hidden rooms and trap doors he installed upon its creation, known only to him. Here’s a bit:

The 52-year-old architect, who has also handled the set design for “Hairspray,” “Legally Blonde” and other Broadway productions, joins a team of fresh faces overseeing the 81st Oscar show, led by producer Laurence Mark and executive producer Bill Condon, filmmakers working on the ceremony for the first time.

“David is an innovator who possesses the outstanding combination of truly firsthand knowledge of the Kodak Theatre and superb design work in a variety of realms, including film and theater,” said Mark and Condon in a joint statement. “We’re pleased to be collaborating with someone whose talents are so diverse.”

Yves Behar, Fuseproject Clean Up in Spark Design Awards Competition

spark yb.jpg

Remember when we told you about the Spark Awards, “the world’s first multi-level design competition?” Chaired by Pentagram’s Kit Hinrichs, the 14-member Spark Awards jury has deemed 84 of the just over 360 entries worthy of a bronze, silver, gold, or Spark!, which you can tell from the exclamation point is superior to gold (and much more sparkly). Of the outstanding 17 designs that were awarded the coveted Spark!, an impressive four (23.5%!) are the work of Yves Behar and fuseproject: our favorite urban condom dispenser, the Swarovski Morpheus chandelier (now floating just inside the entrance to the new Museum of Arts and Design), the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XOXO laptop, and the OLPC Yoyo laptop charger. Behar and Fuseproject also took home a gold, four silvers, and a bronze. And so it’s appropriate that all of the winning entries are on view through December in fuseproject’s backyard—more specifically, at the Autodesk Gallery at One Market in San Francisco. If you’re not going to San Francisco, check out the winners in the newly posted Spark Awards 2008 Winner gallery, where other Spark!worthy designs to check out include a meshy mobile performance venue, a super sustainable shipping container called treepac, and David Chavez‘s braille wristwatch.

London to Tear Down Banksy’s ‘CCTV’? Make Some Money Along the Way?


London, clearly eager to get some of that sweet Banksy cash, has announced that it is threatening to remove the world’s most famous street artist’s “One Nation Under CCTV” mural from a Westminster wall, claiming it to be graffiti and didn’t get a permit to create it, nor permission from whoever owns the massive wall it now resides upon (part of the problem is that, for some reason, the city can’t figure out who owns the building, which seems pretty unusual — don’t they have, like, public records for this sort of thing?). Then again, with Banksy’s work regularly auctioning in the six figures, we wouldn’t be surprised to find that the city discovers that, wow!, it actually owns the building after all and bidding will begin at $100,000 (what luck!). Here’s a bit:

[Deputy Leader Robert Davis], who is also chairman of the council’s planning sub committee, said: “I take the view that this is graffiti and if you condone this then what is the difference between this and all the other graffiti you see scrawled across the city?

“If you condone this then you condone graffiti all over London.”

Mr Davis said the building’s owner had “every right” to sell or exhibit the Banksy graffiti — as long as it was removed from the wall.

“What we are against is people coming around without proper permission or consent and exhibiting their work without permission.”

Sufjan Stevens’ Asthmatic Kity Label Creates Album for Habit for Humanity


Indie darling Sufjan Stevens and his business partner Lowell Brams have just announced that they’re doing a nice thing with a new release on their Asthmatic Kitty label (one we’ve long been a fan of). They’re releasing a compilation entitled Habitat, which will be sold to benefit Habitat for Humanity and was assembled when the two label owners, along with their A&R man, Michael Kaufmann, approached a variety of musicians and asked them to write a song “that dealt with the notion of architectural space.” The three also wrote songs themselves, but under top secret pseudonyms. In total, it’s an eclectic mix of music spread across two discs. So, hey, you’re getting a whole bunch of music, you’re learning about how musicians interpret “architectural space,” and you’re helping out a good cause. Let’s see you do all that with the new Pussycat Dolls album.