2008 design in review

Archinect asked me to post with my predictions about the future of architecture and I’ve contributed with even more gloom than usual.

But the end of the year means that your favorite blogs will be doing year-in-review posts. Although good significant buildings have been in scant evidence, I thought it opportune to list the design highlights of the year. Some of these, but not all, are personal.

You’ll notice that almost every entry also has its down side. In our era of perpetual beta/continuous partial attention, it is difficult for designers and developers to focus long enough to get out a finished project. Speaking of which, having been sleep deprived for days (Christmas with small children does that), I’m sure I’m missing all sorts of stuff…

Anish Kapoor at the Haus der Kunst

I was floored by Anish Kapoor’s show at Munich’s Haus der Kunst. The retina-searing pigments and restrained but fluid surfaces of Kapoor’s installation created a vision of another world that architecture could learn a lot from. Sadly the show at Boston’s ICA was so much smaller in scale and failed to engage the architecture (partly the fault of it being relegated to a much smaller space). 

Situated Technologies Pamphlet Series

The Situated Technologies pamphlet series, curated by Mark Shepard, Omar Khan, and Trebor Scholz brought together some of my favorite thinkers to reflect on the evolving role of ubiquitous computing and architecture. Freely downloadable or available for purchase at Lulu, this series does present-day pamphlets right by picking a great format and impressive content. 

I’m hoping to do one too, that is if the organizers ever come around to my idea of writing the pamphlet online as a discussion with my readers on this blog.

Macbook

Although the Macbook Air was released this year, the real story was the fall’s aluminum Macbook. If its confused design and strange use of black made it less visually appealing than the more Ulm-school plastic Macbooks and if the glossy screen and the sad omission of Firewire is typical of Apple’s longtime misunderstanding of users’s needs, at least there’s finally a small, blazingly fast Mac. Adding icing, Apple’s unibody aluminum chassis means that the Macbook is much sturdier than the previous thin-skinned  models. Sporting a decent graphics card and, wonder of wonders, a hard drive nearly as easy to upgrade as the battery, the Macbook air won me over. With the Infrastructural City done, I sold my 17” Macbook Pro and moved to a Macbook that is just about as fast. My shoulder is happy.

Running atop a flavor of Unix and easily capable of running Windows via a number of different technologies, today’s Macs are great machines. Apple’s decision to focus on bugs in its next OS release is most welcome as frustrating bugs still abound.

Facebook

This was the year that I joined Facebook and, judging from my friends’ list, the year many of you did as well. Social networking sites are a remarkable phenomenon, fundamentally changing the way we connect to others. Too bad then, that Facebook’s redesign is so bad. Just how am I supposed to post links or add a photo to my profile pics again? The designers and coders for the site are clearly too busy to actually use it.

Dyson Airblade

Hand dryers in public bathrooms make me angry. They are so frustrating that I usually wind up using my jeans if towels are lacking. That’s why I’m so delighted by the Dyson Airblade, a hand dryer that works! Moreover it doesn’t require you to touch a grungy button to activate it. The Dyson Airblade made my trips through Boston Logan’s Jet Blue terminal much happier. Now if only the people in charge of mounting them on the rest stops in Connecticut’s I-95 would learn that they should be mounted much lower than the useless old hot-air blowers of the past.

iPhone 3G

Apple’s iPhone 3G is of much greater consequence than the first iPhone. Driven, perhaps, by a burgeoning DIY distribution system for iPhone apps, Apple made it possible for developers to write applications to be sold over Apple’s application store. Sadly, Apple also  limited the application store in arbitrary, sometimes insane ways. For example, if you want a video recording application or want to share your 3G connection with your laptop, you’ll need to jailbreak your iPhone. The logic behind such rules is hidden for end-users and suggests that Apple wants a happy fascist version of the Internet. I’m definitely not a fan of that approach.. Luckily, hackers have filled the gaps Steve Job created. Beyond that, the iPhone 3G is not only faster, it has GPS built in, making it the first really major application for locative media applications. If only the battery life wasn’t so pathetic, another example of Apple’s lack of connection with its users.

Drupal

Like all of my sites, this site runs on Drupal, a decision I made back in 2004, and one that has proven on target. Drupal also runs many, many sites, including the sites for the architecture programs at Yale and Columbia (in the very near future!) as well as the students of the Harvard architecture programs. I was there first! This year the steep learning curve of Drupal flattened a bit at the same time. But if  user-contributed modules give it immense flexibility, Drupal also witnessed a speed bump with the upgrade to version 6 and ground-up rewrites ofmodules used by many developers. Adoption of the new version on production sites was slow (I still haven’t upgraded any of my sites to 6). Still the future is bright for my favorite content management system.

Panasonic DMC-LX3

Instead of more megapixels, better megapixels. We published a number of photos in Infrastructural City using the Panasonic DMC-LX2. The LX3 is a significantly better camera, capable of saving its output in RAW, decent low-light photography, with a nice wide lens (f2.0 and 24mm Vario-Summicron lens), able to shoot HD video, a hot shoe for flash, and even an elegant black leather case. This thing often beats my Canon 5D for image quality. What more can I ask from a pocketable camera? To save in Adobe’s open DNG format would be nice, but I’ll take what I can get .

Booby Prize:

Ares I 

As if to cement the historical verdict that Bush was a total disaster as President, NASA’s new Ares I launch system was revealed as wildly expensive, insanely complex, delayed, and possibly a crew killer. Only two things may save the manned space program. First, Obama’s transition team may realize this and cancel it outright, replacing it with either the Direct 2.0 system or a man-rated Atlas V or Delta IV. Second, if Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 is successful, it may be able to take over after the Ares pogos to smithereens during its first launch. Then again, maybe we should just save our money for unmanned space?

 


Archinect asked me to post with my predictions about the future of architecture and I’ve contributed with even more gloom than usual.

But the end of the year means that your favorite blogs will be doing year-in-review posts. Although good significant buildings have been in scant evidence, I thought it opportune to list the design highlights of the year. Some of these, but not all, are personal.

You’ll notice that almost every entry also has its down side. In our era of perpetual beta/continuous partial attention, it is difficult for designers and developers to focus long enough to get out a finished project. Speaking of which, having been sleep deprived for days (Christmas with small children does that), I’m sure I’m missing all sorts of stuff…

Anish Kapoor at the Haus der Kunst

I was floored by Anish Kapoor’s show at Munich’s Haus der Kunst. The retina-searing pigments and restrained but fluid surfaces of Kapoor’s installation created a vision of another world that architecture could learn a lot from. Sadly the show at Boston’s ICA was so much smaller in scale and failed to engage the architecture (partly the fault of it being relegated to a much smaller space). 

Situated Technologies Pamphlet Series

The Situated Technologies pamphlet series, curated by Mark Shepard, Omar Khan, and Trebor Scholz brought together some of my favorite thinkers to reflect on the evolving role of ubiquitous computing and architecture. Freely downloadable or available for purchase at Lulu, this series does present-day pamphlets right by picking a great format and impressive content. 

I’m hoping to do one too, that is if the organizers ever come around to my idea of writing the pamphlet online as a discussion with my readers on this blog.

Macbook

Although the Macbook Air was released this year, the real story was the fall’s aluminum Macbook. If its confused design and strange use of black made it less visually appealing than the more Ulm-school plastic Macbooks and if the glossy screen and the sad omission of Firewire is typical of Apple’s longtime misunderstanding of users’s needs, at least there’s finally a small, blazingly fast Mac. Adding icing, Apple’s unibody aluminum chassis means that the Macbook is much sturdier than the previous thin-skinned  models. Sporting a decent graphics card and, wonder of wonders, a hard drive nearly as easy to upgrade as the battery, the Macbook air won me over. With the Infrastructural City done, I sold my 17” Macbook Pro and moved to a Macbook that is just about as fast. My shoulder is happy.

Running atop a flavor of Unix and easily capable of running Windows via a number of different technologies, today’s Macs are great machines. Apple’s decision to focus on bugs in its next OS release is most welcome as frustrating bugs still abound.

Facebook

This was the year that I joined Facebook and, judging from my friends’ list, the year many of you did as well. Social networking sites are a remarkable phenomenon, fundamentally changing the way we connect to others. Too bad then, that Facebook’s redesign is so bad. Just how am I supposed to post links or add a photo to my profile pics again? The designers and coders for the site are clearly too busy to actually use it.

Dyson Airblade

Hand dryers in public bathrooms make me angry. They are so frustrating that I usually wind up using my jeans if towels are lacking. That’s why I’m so delighted by the Dyson Airblade, a hand dryer that works! Moreover it doesn’t require you to touch a grungy button to activate it. The Dyson Airblade made my trips through Boston Logan’s Jet Blue terminal much happier. Now if only the people in charge of mounting them on the rest stops in Connecticut’s I-95 would learn that they should be mounted much lower than the useless old hot-air blowers of the past.

iPhone 3G

Apple’s iPhone 3G is of much greater consequence than the first iPhone. Driven, perhaps, by a burgeoning DIY distribution system for iPhone apps, Apple made it possible for developers to write applications to be sold over Apple’s application store. Sadly, Apple also  limited the application store in arbitrary, sometimes insane ways. For example, if you want a video recording application or want to share your 3G connection with your laptop, you’ll need to jailbreak your iPhone. The logic behind such rules is hidden for end-users and suggests that Apple wants a happy fascist version of the Internet. I’m definitely not a fan of that approach.. Luckily, hackers have filled the gaps Steve Job created. Beyond that, the iPhone 3G is not only faster, it has GPS built in, making it the first really major application for locative media applications. If only the battery life wasn’t so pathetic, another example of Apple’s lack of connection with its users.

Drupal

Like all of my sites, this site runs on Drupal, a decision I made back in 2004, and one that has proven on target. Drupal also runs many, many sites, including the sites for the architecture programs at Yale and Columbia (in the very near future!) as well as the students of the Harvard architecture programs. I was there first! This year the steep learning curve of Drupal flattened a bit at the same time. But if  user-contributed modules give it immense flexibility, Drupal also witnessed a speed bump with the upgrade to version 6 and ground-up rewrites ofmodules used by many developers. Adoption of the new version on production sites was slow (I still haven’t upgraded any of my sites to 6). Still the future is bright for my favorite content management system.

Panasonic DMC-LX3

Instead of more megapixels, better megapixels. We published a number of photos in Infrastructural City using the Panasonic DMC-LX2. The LX3 is a significantly better camera, capable of saving its output in RAW, decent low-light photography, with a nice wide lens (f2.0 and 24mm Vario-Summicron lens), able to shoot HD video, a hot shoe for flash, and even an elegant black leather case. This thing often beats my Canon 5D for image quality. What more can I ask from a pocketable camera? To save in Adobe’s open DNG format would be nice, but I’ll take what I can get .

Booby Prize:

Ares I 

As if to cement the historical verdict that Bush was a total disaster as President, NASA’s new Ares I launch system was revealed as wildly expensive, insanely complex, delayed, and possibly a crew killer. Only two things may save the manned space program. First, Obama’s transition team may realize this and cancel it outright, replacing it with either the Direct 2.0 system or a man-rated Atlas V or Delta IV. Second, if Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 is successful, it may be able to take over after the Ares pogos to smithereens during its first launch. Then again, maybe we should just save our money for unmanned space?

 

2 thoughts on “2008 design in review

  1. I want to hug my Dyson Airblade instead
    The Dyson Airblade is a great hand dryer but the hand motion to use one is awkward. You have to create an oval (a small one is you stand close to the machine not wanting to bump into anyone in the airport bathroom) with your arms, twist your wrist down and the move your forearm downward and back up all the time keeping your hands flat and straight up and down.

    If the motion to use them stopped at the first step above, ie create an oval with your arms or essentially hugging the machine then the arm motion would be more natural. And instead of having a single wall height placement for the machine (which could be my issue as I am six feet tall with long arms) the dryer could be redesigned. It could be four (?) feet tall placed two feet of the ground and have several side entry points for the hands. This way a small child could use it, someone in a wheelchair could use it, and a tall adult could use it.

    Next time you are at the airport as you are drying your hands think about the motions your make and compare that to a fictional more natural side entry model.

  2. Yeah, buy this Dyson Airblade
    Yeah, buy this Dyson Airblade if you’ve got the money. Lot’s of cool features but the one I like most is it’s HEPA filter, removes 99.9% of bacteria in your hands. And according to a Dyson Airblade hand dryer review that I’ve read, it’s pretty economical too. According to them, “on average, the Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer costs a mere $17.31 a year to run, based on 100 uses per day and 9 cents per kw / hour.” Cool huh!

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