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Archives: April 2010

James Dyson, Norman Foster and Anish Kapoor Appear on the Times‘ ‘Rich List’


This past weekend saw the release of the Times‘ annual “Rich List,” a collection of who has the largest pile of money in the UK. Mostly it’s a lot of Lords and Sirs and Richard Branson, but we were interested in a couple of names (unfortunately the list doesn’t seem available online, so you’ll just have to trust that we found everyone you’d care about). First, designer/inventor James Dyson was on the list and wow was 2009 ever kind to him. He nearly doubled his money, moving from ¤560 million to ¤920 million, leaving him as the 61st wealthiest person in Britain. How is he celebrating? Being the swell guy he seems to be, he’s hiring a bunch more engineers. Next up is the artist Anish Kapoor, the first sculptor to appear on the list, with ¤. (the Times had spilled the beans that he was to be included back in late January). Now he’ll finally feel comfortable hanging out with Damien Hirst, who has occupied the list for a while now. Last up, Norman Foster was the lone architect in 2010, coming in at 394th place with a measly ¤168 million to his name. Building Design reports that he’s dropped double digits since 2008, when he was listed as having ¤250 million. BD also says Richard Rogers could maybe have been included as well, but he “had made a mistake in valuing his shares.” We’ve told you before, Richard, you need to make sure you’re putting your commas and decimal points in the right place!

Sarah Jessica Parker Records Audio Tour for the Costume Institute’s New Exhibition


Just before the launch of her bizarre Project Runway-but-with-modern-art reality show and hot on the heels (puns!) of Sex in the City 2, Sarah Jessica Parker has continued to secure her art/fashion legacy with the news that she’s recorded the audio tour for the Met‘s upcoming exhibition, “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity” which, of course, will be in the museum’s Costume Institute. Women’s Wear Daily broke the news, saying Parker had recorded the tour last Tuesday, just in time for the opening on May 5th. The exhibit is set to run through until August 15th, so you have all spring and summer to get in there and stick her in your ear holes. Here’s the museum’s description of the exhibit:

The exhibition will explore developing perceptions of the modern American woman from the 1890s to the 1940s, and how they have affected the way American women are seen today. Focusing on archetypes of American femininity through dress, the exhibition will reveal how the American woman initiated style revolutions that mirrored her social, political, and sexual emancipation. Early mass-media representations of American women established the fundamental characteristics of American style — a theme that will be explored via a multimedia installation in the final gallery.

You can get a sneak peek on May 3rd, when the Costume Institute holds their Gala Benefit, which is being co-chaired this year by Oprah Winfrey, Patrick Robinson, and Anna Wintour. Though if you haven’t already gotten your invitation, and therefore would have already know all that, it’s probably a sign that you won’t be attending.

Steven M. Johnson on Work, Life, and Intercontinental Solar-Electric Highways

S_M_johnson.jpgWhen a certain volcanic eruption put the kibosh (kibash?) on our transatlantic trip, frog design was good enough to dispatch a plump and determined carrier pigeon to bring us the new design mind magazine. The latest issue, launched last week at a special TED salon in London, tackles the theme of work-life (a term that is sure to soon shed its vestigial hypen and become “worklife”). “What we do for a living and how we do it has become such an important part of our lives that we wanted to ask some fundamental questions,” says design mind editor-in-chief Sam Martin. “Is work-life balance possible anymore? Is it even that important? Work bleeds into life far more than it used to, so it’s critical that we allow life to become part of work as well. That’s the hard part.” Articles in the issue tackle topics including sabbaticals, stress, clean energy, food, China, and becoming your own boss in the “me-conomy,” but our first stop was Allison Arieff‘s illuminating peek into the brain of Steven M. Johnson.

The inventor and artist has a lot to say about, well, everything. When Arieff asks Johnson to develop some concepts around the work-life theme, he gets right down to business. “From 6:30 to 9:30 this morning, I turned on my idea faucet (which I usually keep somewhat tightly turned off) and have 55-60 rough notes as a result,” he e-mails her. “Of course, just like Blackberry’s push email, my ideas keep coming out even after I have stopped generating them.” Johnson, who spent nine years working in R&D at Honda, points to a couple of ideas as those that he would most like to see realized. First up: an Intercontinental Solar-Electric Highway, a “narrow, smooth, and gracefully rolling highway stretching from coast to coast, dedicated solely to ultralight vehicles.”

There are already proposals for an intercontinental trail that could be hiked from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so there should similarly be an intercontinental highway for solar, electric, and ultralight vehicles, one that also provides a lane for bicycles. It would be a beautiful road, and very quiet…lined with solar-powered underground buildings. Billboards would be illegal. There would be hikers’ huts, youth hostels, cafes, and battery-swap services. Highway lighting would be powered by solar panels. The highway itself would take up far less space than a freeway, cost comparatively little, and foster the design and production of new, efficient electric- and solar-powered vehicles, the kind that are now in danger of being blown off the road by 18-wheel semi-trailer trucks.

Also high on Johnson’s to-realize list? His own line of multiuse furniture, which he would prefer to invent, design, and manufacture himself. “There would be a line of chairs that become desks, sofas that become showers, and sofas that become sturdy dining tables.” he says. “I would love this kind of business because it would combine my interest in utility with my softness for humor and whimsy.”

The Atlantic‘s Kyle Chayka Asks If Museums Are Spreading Themselves Too Thin with Expansion Efforts


We’re not entirely sure how we feel about this editorial, but it’s worth reading, so we’ll let you decide. (think of it as a little “free will” break from us telling you what to think). In part responding to the current battle going on at the Whitney, expansion vs. moving, the Atlantic‘s Kyle Chayka has penned the piece “Are Fine Art Museums the Next Starbucks?” The quick synopsis of his argument is that expansion and constant focus on real estate land grabs (see: the Guggenheim, the MoMA‘s new tower, etc.) can run museums dangerously close to becoming nothing more than a watered down brand, or worse: glorified gift shops that just happen to have a couple of pieces of art hanging on the walls. On one hand, we certainly see his point. On the other, it might go a bit far, given that outgrowing a space and moving isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and even the most expansion-friendly, the Guggenheim, still only has less than 10 locations. But again, it’s well worth the read.

JFK Grave Architect John Carl Warnecke Passes Away


Some sad news released over the weekend: architect John Carl Warnecke has passed away. While you might not immediately recognize his name, you’re likely very familiar with his work, from the San Francisco and Boston airports to numerous university buildings, like Georgetown’s Lauinger Library. By the 70s, Warnecke’s firm was perhaps the largest architecture firm in the country. Arguably his most famous piece of work was the John F. Kennedy grave site, a project he was given by the former president’s family after having befriended Kennedy in college and had later worked in designing government buildings. Later, Warnecke would have a short relationship with Jacqueline Kennedy, the LA Times reports in their obituary. The Washington Post‘s coverage is also well worth the read.

New York City Ballet Previews Santiago Calatrava’s Set Designs


Santiago Calatrava is taking a break from designing controversial bridges that may or may not kill you to put in a bit of artsy time. This past Thursday, there was a preview of the New York City Ballet‘s upcoming season, which is to include five different set pieces designed by Calatrava to accompany an equal number of new ballets. Unfortunately, since Thursday night was a fundraiser and not a public show, we weren’t able to find any reviews, which might have included a few more details about what the Spanish starchitect has come up with (other than these few words in the Wall Street Journal that describe the sets as “inspired by desert landscapes”), but the open-to-the-public season starts on May 2nd, so soon enough we’re likely to see some in-action photos and, if there’s a bridge involved in any of them, how many dancers have perished. In the interim, the City Ballet has this mini-site about the project with some videos and prep-photos showing off what’s what. And for more, here’s a brief interview with Calatrava by Dancing About Architecture.

Platon’s Powerful Portfolio Wins National Magazine Award for The New Yorker

Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaité, President Barack Obama, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, and South African president Jacob Zuma were among the 110 world leaders Platon photographed over five days at the United Nations.

(platon).jpgIt was déjà vu all over again at last night’s National Magazine Awards, at least in the design and photo categories. The evening featured impressive threepeats, as Wired and National Geographic collected their third consecutive wins for design and photojournalism, respectively. And Platon pulled off back-to-back victories for The New Yorker in the photo portfolio category. The idea for his “Portraits of Power,” an astounding body of work spread lusciously over The New Yorker‘s December 7 issue, was sparked when the photographer happened to catch Henry Kissinger being interviewed on Charlie Rose early last year.

The veteran statesman was explaining how the contemporary political landscape makes it impossible for a country to solve even internal problems in isolation. Addressing international issues, he said, requires special relationships between world leaders. That gave Platon, a staff photographer at The New Yorker, an idea. “I wanted to show a new collective personality, as if all these leaders were now on one team, highlighting the difficult challenges and strained tensions, as well as the new optimism and goodwill, generated by Obama’s election,” Platon told us in an interview in advance of last night’s awards. He proposed an ambitious portfolio of world leaders to editor-in-chief David Remnick, and they decided on the United Nations as the ideal setting. “It is the place that brings together a family of nations and functions as the platform for world understanding,” said Platon. “It provided the perfect cohesive setting for my portraits for this project.”

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FIT to Webcast Graduates’ Fashion Show

FIT.gifGraduating seniors at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) are following in the footsteps of Michael Kors, Isaac Mizrahi, Alexander Wang, and other top designers that chose to webcast their fall 2010 runway shows, allowing anyone with an Internet connection (and a slightly higher-res imagination) to glimpse their new collections at the same time as top editors and buyers. Clear your Monday evening, when for the first time in the history of FIT, the annual graduating students runway show will be streamed live here at around 7:30. It’s your chance to get a first look at the future of fashion as students present sportswear, special occasion, knitwear, intimate apparel, menswear, and children’s wear (always a crowd pleaser) designed for fall 2010. And be sure to check out the front row, where you’ll see the likes of Carolina Herrera scouting talent. Another futuristic FIT touch? The school is simulcasting the show in 3D to overflow crowds in its Haft Auditorium, so cross your fingers for lots of ruffles!

London on the Hunt for a New Skyline


It’s easy for we here in Chicago to get complacent over our skyline, given that we have the best in the world. But what about all those poor other cities who need some help in making their outline look appealing? London, for one, is doing something about it with the launch of the “New London Skyline” contest (PDF). It’s a joint effort put on by Transport for London and the London Festival of Architecture, which is calling for submissions to both make the city look good and serve as a sort of replacement for the familiar skyline illustration from 1908. While there have been a few new buildings built since then, we can’t imagine that any entry will skip things like Big Ben and the Tower Bridge. But add what you please and see if you get a bite from the judges, who run an impressive gamut, from Pentagram‘s Angus Hyland to Design Week‘s Lynda Relph-Knight. The prize is £1000 and some sort of big roll out at this June’s Festival of Architecture, and as far as we can tell, isn’t limited just to Britons, so have at it.

Curbed LA Lands a Copy of The Architect Script


Speaking of Dubai and not to get too meta here, but our friends at Curbed LA had an extra nice surprise sort of vaguely related to us. On Wednesday, we reported that the studio RKO had picked up a script entitled The Architect, which is to be some sort of action-thriller about an up and comer who lands his dream job building a skyscraper in Dubai (circa 2010, if you can believe it). Curbed managed to get a copy of the script and were able to dig through it, finding and posting some of the good bits. Reading through what they’ve posted, there’s only a brief reference to the reality that building isn’t really something Dubai is so hot on right now, though maybe the movie works that in to explain that while this architect might have Bond-like combat skills once the action parts kick in, he isn’t particularly aware of current events or the goings-ons in his own industry.