Design is Dead

Via and PSFK Philippe Starck announces that design is dead and he is retiring. Long an advocate of immaterial culture, Starck confessed to Die Zeit "I was a producer of materiality and I am ashamed of this fact." "Everything I designed was unnecessary. … design is a dreadful form of expression."

This is building toward another post that I’ve been hoping to make, which is to bring together my review of Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody with the MoMA Design and the Elastic Mind show. Just as we seem to have more faith in design than ever, just as design seems to be exploding, we are also faced with a culture for which design (as conventionally practiced) is simply not appropriate anymore. 

More later…developing.


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greatest hits

When I resurrected this blog in May of 2005, I turned to Drupal because I wanted to have a content management system that could handle more than just blogging. Even if the learning curve was steep initially, Drupal has proven to be the correct choice. I built sites for Networked Publics, the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, DOCOMOMO-US, AUDC, the Netlab, and even for my espresso maker on Drupal installs. As the CMS has evolved, it’s become possible to handle custom databases and to produce all manner of content that is different from your usual blog. 

Today I’m introducing a new page that simply keeps track of the most popular content on the site. See it here. Not a bad place to start if you’re new to 



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developing technologies: himalayan mesh

Even if wireless cities in the developed world are a questionable prospect, wireless certainly has a role to play in other contexts, be they localized networks such as the wireless systems in place in many universities or in parts of the developing world. One system, mesh networking, in which information passes in a distributed fashion from node to node is really too slow for application in places with broadband available, but is a possible solution for areas in developing countries. 

Given how much Tibet has been in the news lately, I thought it appropriate to cite the example of the Dharamsala Wireless Mesh network which was covered by Xeni Jardin in Wired a couple of years ago. In Dharamsala, a community of Tibetian exiles have set up a mesh network to provide Internet connectivity and VoIP services.  


A solar panel atop a shrine provides power for the mesh network. 

[image from the Tibet Technology Center] 


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prss release

For those of you who don’t subscribe to blogs via RSS and even for those who do, Prss Release aggregates the contents of a number of architecture blogs into an elegant, downloadable weekly PDF. More confirmation of my suggestion that 2008 will be the year that blogs stop looking like blogs.

As blogs mature, I expect we will be seeing more experiments like this. 


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so long, wireless cities

I have always been deeply skeptical of the wireless cities idea. The business models of cities teaming with ISPs to give away free access to the Internet via city-wide wireless networks never made sense, the idea always seemed incompatible with the desires of law enforcement for tracking and surveillance, and the need to upgrade routers every couple of years seemed insurmountable (oh, you live in an 802.11b city…). Moreover, having lived in a dense urban area for a decade, I can attest to the difficulty of having wireless cross one floor of an apartment building, let alone an entire city block. Given current technology limitations, there is just too much interference in dense urban environments to make the wireless city a reality. The most naive ideas suggested that giving away wireless services in cities would somehow lead to economic booms. But urban boosters are given to such ideas (remember the Bilbao-effect?), so it’s no great surprise. 

So now it’s over, at least in the United States. Read this article at the New York Times. 

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muzak in the observer

Via Fimolicious, the Observer had a piece on Muzak the other day, asking what it means that so many people walk around all day lang with their iPods blasting music originally designed to be rebellious—be it punk rock or gangster rap. The piece then goes into a history of Muzak, but unfortunately it seems to get cut off at a strange point.

Even if the pyramid style of reporting, in which the most important news is at the top still makes sense for news on the net, it’s strange that when editors cut pieces to fit columns, the cut version is generally what you also see on the Web site. I suppose it’s so as not to degrade the ailing print versions further, but still. In any event, for more on Muzak, read Blue Monday

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architecture that burns

After the collapse of Bear Stearns and the desperate bailout by JP Morgan and the Federal Reserve Board, it seems like the media is finally waking up to the mass collapse of the American housing market. See this video on people burning their homes or this one on tent cities springing up in Los Angeles to house the newly dispossesed. If, in the 1960s, architecture was damaged by the alliance of modernism with a failing business culture, what will it mean to the discipline when architecture is at the very core of a failed economy? What will does it mean that architecture’s overindulgence in lifestyle culture has proven, quite literally, bankrupt? 


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spring break

This coming week is spring break at Columbia and I’ll be on break myself, on a much-needed restorative ski trip, so posting will be light, although I have one or two items in the works. Not enough content you say? The three books we’re publishing in 2008 are shaping up nicely (oh what the heck, I might as well tell you I’m putting together a fourth) and you’ll be crying uncle before you know it. Robert noticed a little spike in Blue Monday sales. Maybe you’ve picked it up for spring break reading?

In news along that front, I was delighted to meet Michael Bierut of Pentagram who is designing the Philip Johnson Tapes. It’s great to have an opportunity to work with him. For those of you not in the know, not only is Michael one of our most accomplished designers, he is also a blogger at Design Observer where he reflects on topics such as the all-important concept of bershon


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