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city as satire

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NYT on a new and enormous Koolhaas project in Dubai.
(We’re all going to have to start thinking and talking about Dubai one of these days, aren’t we?) Apparently, though we don’t have all that much to work on and Ouroussoff gives us very little, this is meant to be something like an materialization of the “generic city” idea from Koolhaas’s S/M/L/XL.

I know I have a lot to say about this “generic city” business, which is a concept as complex and ambiguous as the ad without products (whatever that is…) and in perhaps just the same ways. But my copy of S/M/L/XL is in storage and won’t be available to me till I move into my fractional piece of this not-quite-generic place where I am now. Soon enough…

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March 6, 2008 at 12:29 pm

tijuana on the hudson

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From the NY Times today:

About a year and a half ago, Mr. Cruz received an unexpected call from David Deutsch, an artist who runs a nonprofit foundation that sponsors arts programs in Hudson, N.Y. Mr. Deutsch was worried about the effects of gentrification on the town’s poorest residents, many of whom live in decaying neighborhoods just out of view of the transplanted New Yorkers and weekend antique shoppers ambling down its main strip.

Together Mr. Cruz and Mr. Deutsch set in motion an unconventional redevelopment plan aimed at reintegrating the poor and the dispossessed into Hudson’s everyday life. (The plan, which is being supported by the city’s mayor, Richard Scalera, is scheduled to go before the city council in the next few weeks.)

Looks really lovely, this. Let’s hope it makes it through the city council….

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February 19, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Posted in architecture, design

ikea glass and antiseptic urbanity

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NYC is about to start installing new newsstands around the city like this one. Now, right from the start, there’s a lot about the situation that I really don’t love. From what I can tell, these stands are the fruits of a public-private partnership (hate those) where the city gets them for “free” in exchange for the corporation in exchange for the company that installs them being allowed to collect ad revenues for the huge ad frames on the back of the box (not pictured here, obviously)… So thumbs-down on that score.

But putting that issue to the side (which doesn’t make any sense, I know, but just play along), figuring out what I make of these new stands aesthetically leaves me tangled in knots. On the one hand, I like the clean cool looks of the things a lot better than the old ones. I don’t even hate the Ikea glass, its color (even if it is sure to become dated very swiftly…) Taking care of your street furniture, having swift looking bus stops and newsstands and even public toilets, to my mind, is like a continual living advertisement for publicness, for public, common space itself. Which, in this nation, even in New York, is constantly in dire need of a good marketing campaign. On the other hand, isn’t it the small-scale humanity, the human mess, of the newsstand, as an institution, that makes it such a special place? The overstocked profusion of cheap goods and reading materials (from what I recall from a conversation with a newsstand guy at a subway station near my old place, one of those guildish NYC laws mandates that the newsstands can sell nothing that costs more than a certain price – $10? What was I trying to buy from him that yielded me this information?), the compact bazaar feel of the things – I’m sure that we will miss it, on some level, when it disappears…

The comment thread on the article behind the first link above contains some interesting amateur discussion about the aesthetics of urban life.

And this post is meant to be a forerunner to a long-plan post forthcoming entitled (probably) Ikea Socialism. 

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September 12, 2007 at 11:32 pm

Posted in design, rationalization

from the seatback pocket

It’s no surprise that the folllowing fliers from The Camp for Climate Action (who seem to be running the Heathrow protests…) would appeal to me:

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August 21, 2007 at 8:02 pm

Posted in design, simplicity

red net

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desk.jpg

Excellent piece today on opendemocracy by Richard Barbrook which recounts the strange history of the internet as a US project that arose in reaction to Soviet advances toward cybernetic communism. The most interesting thing – something I’d definitely like to hear even more about – is the way that what would become the internet took its shape in a certain sense under the influence / the pressure of a non-capitalist sense of what it should or might be (The story is rather telegraphic in the piece – I’ve ordered Barbrook’s book tonight to see if it gets more thoroughly fleshed out there…) and then had to be, only afterwards, properly commoditized. Or perhaps it would be better to say that the difficulty it has had in properly commoditizing itself derives from an initial formal insistence on openness, gift-structure, and non-proprietariness.

More to come, from me, I hope, on parallel topics. I’m thinking about writing a longer piece on, what to call it, the persistent intimations of socialist culture in our benighted world.

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July 6, 2007 at 12:09 am

lucky me

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I am so lucky that exactly three weeks from today, I am going to be in Amsterdam, just a short train ride away from this. (If I need you to, would you be willing to write my wife to explain exactly why it is so absolutely necessary for us to pack up the kiddo and leave gorgeous Amsterdam – where we’ll only be as of now for two full days – to head to Den Haag?)

I learned of it via an excellent article today on metamute by Marina Vishmidt, which gets quite a lot succinctly right about Neurath:

Although the classical logitical positivist statement remains Wittgenstein’s ‘the world is everything which is the case’ , the Vienna Circle was not always confined to the ideological quietism that could be deduced from that statement. Neurath’s work combined pragmatism with a utopian orientation, a drive to represent ‘things as they are’ in the hope that revolutionary progress would make out of them things of the past. The Marxist ethics behind the ISOTYPE project complemented the kinds of formal innovations – images built of numbers, standard templates, seriality – that structure the internet, another vision of universal information, albeit one without a clear ideological mission. The disambiguation of social contradictions as a premise for a materialist design practice is one of the questions that After Neurath: Like Sailors on the Open Sea tries to address in the format of an exhibition but also of a year and a half-long programme of research, symposia, and smaller exhibitions. The allure and shortcomings of a universal grammar is another, with the connotation that it is both a dream of reason and a bold proposition for engineering social change.

UPDATE: Oh for christ’s sake. The exhibition is off – ended in April. Whatever. Glad I figured this out before I got on the train to Den Haag….

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May 3, 2007 at 1:32 am

too sexy for my jackboots

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From wikipedia (via an excellent post at design observer)…

Hugo Boss established his company in Metzingen, Germany, in 1923, only a few years after the end of World War I, while most of the country was in a state of economic ruin.

Before and during World War II, Mr. Boss’s company both designed and manufactured uniforms and attire for the troops and officers of the Wehrmacht as well as for other governmental branches of Nazi Germany.

Boss died in 1948, and the company then languished in relative obscurity until the 1950s, when, in 1953, Hugo Boss released its first suit design for menswear.

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April 17, 2007 at 11:12 pm