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Archives: May 2011

National Design Awards: Rick Valicenti Greets Win with ‘Surprise and Delight’


Rick Valicenti and an installation view of the 2010-2011 exhibition “Curiosities: Rick Valicenti and the 21st-Century Thirst” at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt Center Gallery. (Photos from right: FAU students and Bud Rodecker/3st; courtesy Rick Valicenti)

In the wake of this morning’s announcement of the recipients of the 2011 National Design Awards, we’ll be spending the next few days tracking down a few of the winners, thrusting a non-functioning microphone in their faces, and breathlessly asking, “You’ve just won a National Design Award, what are you going to do next?” First up: Rick Valicenti, the winner in Communication Design, who the jury lauded for “graphics [that] bristle with innovation, imagination, curiosity, and craft” as well as his “leading presence in design as practitioner, educator, and mentor.”

The founder of Chicago-based design collaborative Thirst is no stranger to major honors (he received the AIGA Medal in 2006) or the Cooper-Hewitt (his work has been included in the musem’s National Design Triennial), but word of his NDA win still came as a pleasant shock to Valicenti. “Both surprise and delight,” is how he described his reaction as he prepared to follow Ingo Maurer to the podium at the Gravity Free conference today in San Francisco. “To be recognized at this level is an indescribable professional reward which both validates the circuitous path I made through design as well as reminds me that the time practicing design is about more than simply the artifacts,” Valicenti told us. “It’s about being passionate, curious, generous, humble, and hanging out on some edge.” Any celebration plans? “All in all, I am soaking it in and enjoy the supportive outpouring of so many friends and colleagues.”

Royal Institute of British Architects Launches Design Contest for More Efficient, Better Looking Electrical Pylons

We’re of two minds on the launch of the Royal Institute of British Architects‘ new design contest, the Pylon Design Competition, which is aptly named because it seeks submissions for new designs for the ubiquitous and gigantic electric pylons you see not only spread across Europe but all over the US and in nearly every other country across the world. For one, of course, we’re all for their plans to hunt for new ideas in making these mighty carriers of electricity more efficient and sustainable, while also making them more aesthetically pleasing, instead of their current form as massive, almost otherworldly frames of metal dotting the landscape and rising hundreds of feet into the air. On the other hand, having once lived in the great, desert and mountain expanse of the Southwest and now living in the great, very flat expansive of the Midwest, this writer sort of loves the old things. Sure, on paper they’re obtrusive and block natural views and some might even say they’re downright ugly. But who hasn’t spent time as a child on a long family drive counting them or imagining they’re giant, static robots just waiting to come to life? We concede that it’s far better that, at the end of this competition, the results are world-alteringly perfect and beautiful and will change the way we think about the delivery of power, but if adopted, there’s a small part of us that will miss the old monsters. So do us proud, UK designers, and come up with something good. You have until July 12th to submit your entry. Here’s the launch video:

Architecture Firms Hiring Again, Just Very Cautiously

While the AIA‘s Architecture Billings Index has remained either flat for months or, most recently, dipped back into the negative, that might not indicate that everything is still so rough and tumble inside the business of building. Architectural Record reports that firms are now slowly beginning to hire again, following now years of massive purges across the industry. The cite a number of firms, from the smaller shops, like Crawford Architects in Kansas City, who have recently hired two new employees, bringing them up to 15 in total (down from 23 at its peak), and the large, like mega-firm Gensler, who laid off nearly a quarter of their staff during the great financial crippling, but have now opened several new offices internationally and hired “several hundred employees” to fill the ranks. Still, even if the trend continues and firms gradually start hiring again in (hopefully) increased numbers, considering how many experienced architects were laid off during the period, and how few worried students were graduating with new degrees in architecture, the fight for employment is sure to be tough for at least the next few years. Here’s a bit more from AR‘s report:

Indeed, firms that are making job offers are still nervous about the future. Johnson Fain, of Los Angeles, saw its staff plummet from 108 to 40 in a year’s time; it’s now back up to 50 based on inquiries about mixed-use local developments, says principal Larry Ball. But developers are slow to fully commit to those projects, a trend that gives the recovery a scattershot vibe. “It’s all speculative,” Ball says. “I don’t see things going gangbusters yet.”

New Section of the High Line Gets a Bar and Food Trucks Curated by Tom Colicchio

New York’s High Line was already a big draw for tourists and locals alike, particularly when it finally gets around to being comfortable to be outside again. And while the opening of the second section of the High Line was also destine to attract flocks of people, if not outright floods, it’s sure to be even more crowded with this week’s announcement by the project’s organizers, Friends of the High Line. This summer, they’ve been lent an empty lot on the corner of 15th St. and 10th Ave. by developers who plan to start building a residential building there later this fall. Before that gets built, the lot will be converted into “The Lot,” a temporary bar and event space, all overseen by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio and designed by the original High Line crew, James Corner and Diller Scofidio & Renfro. The bar, called The Lot on Tap, will reportedly seat around 350 and serve “domestic wines, local beers, and non-alcoholic sodas” and “will be located directly under the High Line, with the historic structure’s steel girders flanking either side of the bar’s counter.” For food, Colicchio will curate a revolving set of food trucks that will pop in to feed the hungry, parched, or drunk. These are already set to include favorites like Red Hook Lobster and the recent NY arrival, Coolhaus. AOL has also latched on and will be running something called Rainbow City, a temporary installation that will offer live music, film screenings, and other usual outdoor fare. So all that said, if you’re planning to swing by this summer to see the new wing of the High Line, expect some crowds. Not that you weren’t already.

Around the Design World in 180 Words: NYT Edition


(Photographs by Lee Friedlander for The New York Times)

  • What do you get when you combine aspiring opera stars and photographer Lee Friedlander? Jaw-dropping images that really sing
  • One of the government’s most powerful agencies is sending sinister messages through its logo! Christoph Niemann reveals the E.P.A.’s secret agenda
  • Nicolai Ouroussoff finds much to admire in the “Cronocaos” wrought by Rem Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture at New York’s New Museum. “A skilled provocateur, [Koolhaas] paints a picture of an army of well-meaning but clueless preservationists who, in their zeal to protect the world’s architectural legacies, end up debasing them by creating tasteful scenery for docile consumers while airbrushing out the most difficult chapters of history,” notes Ouroussoff, who is OK with the manifesto-ness of the exhibition, on view through June 5. “[W]hat saves it from becoming pure polemic is that Mr. Koolhaas is a first-rate architect as well as an original thinker,” he writes. “Some of the best parts of the show involve his efforts to find ways out of this mess.” 
  • Airlines are waking up to the idea that well-designed amenity kits are good business.
  • Wanted: Visual Designer for Gilty Pleasures

    (Ralph Morse).jpgHungry for a challenge? Have we got a gig for you. Flash sale juggernaut Gilt Groupe is looking for a gastronomically astute visual designer to join its New York HQ. Ingredients: four cups of digital interfaces, three cups of e-commerce concepts, and two heaping tablespoons of pixel-perfect visuals, sprinkled liberally with mastery of the Adobe design suite, strong collaborative skills, and a keen interest in food, wine, and design, all seasoned with a strong understanding of the latest web technologies. Sound appetizing? Act now, because we suspect that this job opening will last as long as the current Gilt City NYC offer that will allow you to cut the lines at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party.

    Learn more about and apply for this visual designer, Gilt Groupe job or view all of the current mediabistro.com design/art/photo jobs.

    Curator of Antiquities Karol Wight Leaves Getty for The Corning Museum of Glass

    It’s proving difficult to keep a curator of antiquities at the Getty for more than a few years it seems. The post was previously held by Marion True until 2007 when she ran afoul with the governments of both Italy and Greece for allegedly purchasing stolen pieces (you’ll recall that her legal issues finally ended late last year, after which she was finally able to tell her side of the story). Her replacement, long-time Getty employee Karol Wight, has now announced her departure, though for decidedly less international-prosecution reasons. Wight will take over as director of The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY, which describes itself as “the world’s foremost museum dedicated to the art, history, and science of glass.” It’s a remarkably good fit, given that Wight is not only an expert of antiquities, but on works of glass in particular. She will take over at Corning come mid-August and meanwhile, the Getty will likely be scrambling to find a replacement for not just Wight’s important position there, but also a director as well, following Michael Brand‘s departure last year. Add the arrival of new president and chief executive, James Cuno, and it’s shaping up to be an interesting year for the Getty.

    Get to Know Pierre² Lafauxxx, Lady Gaga’s ‘Head Desyner’

    Lady Gaga has established herself as not only a pop giant, but as a fashion icon as well. But like many internationally renowned artists, it isn’t an individual endeavor. She employs a cadre of workers who help cook up ideas for her lavish and often challenging wardrobe, none more important than Pierre² Lafauxxx, Head Desyner for the ‘Haus of Gaga.’ Fortunately, a crew was recently allowed access into his inner sanctum to receive just a peek at his process:

    According to our sources, another visit with Pierre² will be coming soon.

    The End of the Young British Artists Movement

    The trick with naming a movement the “Young British Artists” is that eventually that “Young” is going to age. The Guardian‘s Vanessa Thorpe is perhaps the first to issue an official statement that the heady days of the YBA, which made up of artists like Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, and Sam Taylor-Wood, are now over (well, the first along with Gregor Muir‘s recent book, Lucky Kunst: The Rise and Fall of Young British Art). Thorpe reports that the UK’s current art scene “appears to have turned its back on the ironic jokes and personal confessions” and instead “focusing on objects in the world around them.” While she finds that there’s still plenty of self-reference and high-concept jokes being used (artists are still artists, after all), the YBA’s influence seems to have dwindled to some degree and new artists who are being recognized throughout the country and internationally have, en masse, gotten a lot more serious. Not that this should do anything to damage the multi-million dollar careers of many of the top original YBAs, but even if Thorpe’s calculations happen to be off by a year or two, eventually the newness was bound to waiver and the attention would start to shift toward whatever’s next. Alternately, we can always just do like the Independent has and just slap the same old YBA title onto other artists.

    Artist Behind Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ Album Cover Wants the Original Painting Back

    If you wind up learning anything from us here at UnBeige, please let it be this warning: do not, under any circumstances, build a time machine and go back in time to either the late-60s or early-70s to design an album cover for a famous musician or band and then come back to the present, broke because you spent all your money on building a time machine and request that said musician or band to give you your image back. Such has famously happened to Peter Blake of course (minus the time machine bit) with his iconic “Sgt. Peppers” album cover for The Beatles, which he was originally paid somewhere around $200 for and has fought, unsuccessfully, to win the copyright from. Now the same is going on with Elton John‘s 1973 album, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” The Daily Mail reports that the artist behind its cover, Ian Beck, has requested the original piece back, believing that the musician held on to it after Beck was paid £430 for it. The law apparently won’t be on the artist’s side, as it was stipulated at the time that “in 1973 whoever commissioned it owned it.” Though that changed two years later, it appears that Beck is hoping to appeal to Elton John’s generosity. Though getting past his representatives will be something of a hurdle. Here’s what they told the Daily Mail:

    A spokesman for the singer says: “I have no idea whether Elton has it, but presumably if he does, he paid for it so it is his; £430 was a hell of a lot of money back then. A bit weird, isn’t it, to ask for something back 38 years later?”

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