MEREDITH Strategy + Design

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On the skids

It's hard to reconcile this image with the GM defense as reported in today's New York Times:

Today, a top GM executive and the head of the United Auto Workers defended GM's management this morning, saying that the near collapse of the company can't be blamed on chairman and chief executive G. Richard Wagoner, Jr., and that his departure should not be made a condition of federal assistance.

Singling out Wagoner "is like blaming the mayor of a city hit by an earthquake," GM vice chairman Robert A. Lutz said in an interview on business cable network CNBC this morning. Noting the global collapse of demand for new cars and the slowdown in the U.S. and other major economies, Lutz said that calls for Wagoner's resignation was "in the category of some sort of sacrifice to the gods . . . If we punish some of the innocents things will get better."

In a separate interview on the cable channel, UAW president Ron Gettelfinger also came to Wagoner's defense, saying of the industry's immediate crisis, "I don't know how you can blame that on the management . . . I am not sure removing an executive is going to clear up the problem."

National Design Awards

The 2007 National Design Awards are announced.

Some commentary from Fast Company:

“First, I’d like to apologize for my attire, and its lack of festiveness,” Paul Simon, wearing a tasteful, but banker-like business suit, said to the largely black-clad crowd at last week’s National Design Awards. Simon was on hand at the gala to present the award for graphic design to celebrated book designer Chip Kidd, who had also designed the cover of Simon’s newest CD, “Surprise.” Clutching the foot high sculpture, Simon noted, “This award, though somewhat napkin-like, is much nicer than a Grammy.”

The evening was like that. An astonishing array of luminaries in the room -- - Richard Meier, Paula Scher, Rick Owens, Antoine Predock, Paola Antonelli, and Jonathan Ive, among them. But it was also endearingly free of pomposity, from the “floral” arrangements that had been constructed of 6000 pounds of recycled paper from the Cooper Hewitt’s trash cans, to the dessert – a giant, coconut and meringue-covered passion fruit sorbet snowball (which mimicked the giant shredded paper puff balls hanging from the ceiling). I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.

I sat next to the very cool Stephen Doyle, who was jubilant that Stephen Colbert's new book, I am America (And so Can You!) was number one on the bestseller lists. He should be happy: he designed it.

Here’s a run down of the awards, and a smattering of commentary from the happy awardees and their presenters…..

Design Patron: The textile company Maharam. “These folks are the real deal,” Murray Moss said in his introduction to the Maharam brothers, Michael and Stephen. “A true sign of a design patron is somebody who always insists on paying full retail for purchases at Moss.” These guys pony up.

Product Design: Jonathan Ive. As the award was announced, Paula Scher, sitting at a nearby table, started kissing her iPhone and holding it up like a torch. “I’m a truly terrible speaker,” said the bald Brit from New Castle Polytechnic. “So I’d just like to accept this on behalf of the entire design team at Apple.”

Design Mind: The architects and big thinkers Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi. Their writings, including Learning from Las Vegas and "The Vision Thing: Why it Sucks," have long shaken up design thinking with their iconoclastic view of the world.

Corporate Achievement: Adobe Systems. Here’s a dirty little secret, CEO Bruce Chizen told the audience. "We don’t care about our shareholders; we care about the product we create, and how it can unleash the creativity of professionals and consumers alike."

Architecture design: Office dA, the Boston-based firm responsible for the Villa Moda mixed-use building in Kuwait, the Tongxian Arts Center in Beijing and the Rhode Island School of Design’s Main Library. Fittingly, partners Monica Ponce de Leon and Nader Tehrani were also among this year’s Fast Company Masters of Design “Talent Pool” -- up-and-comers we especially admire. “How cool is it that: the front door of the White House will be open to an Iranian and a Venezuelan?” exulted Tehrani.

Communications Design: Book designer Chip Kidd, who’s designed covers for works by John Updike, Jay McInerney, and Orhan Parmuk, assured the crowd, “Books are NOT going away.” Oprah’s audience, he said, “is going online to order books, not downloads.”

Fashion Design: Rick Owens slunk to the stage, dressed in a black leather jacket with an asymmetrical zipper, and long black hair, which seemed fitting, given that his edgy clothes are faves of rock stars.

Special Jury Commendation: Frank Ching, author of ArchitecturalGraphics. His introducer noted, “Ching taught every architect and designer under 50 to draw and, more importantly, how to see.” Ching, a modest little man, said, “The reason I write and draw is that I don’t like to speak. And since I can’t really draw, I teach.”

Interior Design: Lewis. Tsuramaki. Lewis. “We tried to turn little projects into something quite delicious,” they confessed, “in order to get somebody to hire us to build something of greater substance.”

Landscape design: PWP Landscape Architecture, the firm selected to conceive (along with Michael Arad) the World Trade Center Memorial garden and landscape design. “The memorial still has significant design problems,” Peter Walker, the firm’s principal, said. “So I dedicate this award to the successful completion of the WTC.”

Lifetime Achievement Award: The 71-year-old Antoine Predock (who designed the San Diego Padres ballpark, Austin City Hall, and the Tacoma Art Museum) had a warning for the Young Turks in the audience. “My son keeps me hip, so watch your back. “

The Fire Coast

(Photo by Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Archinect provides this link (via Radical Urban Theory) to an LA Weekly article from 1996---"Let Malibu Burn"

From the time of the Tapias, the owners of Rancho Malibu recognized that the region's extraordinary fire hazard was shaped, in large part, by the uncanny alignment of its coastal canyons with the annual fire winds from the north: the notorious Santa Anas, which blow primarily between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, just before the first rains. Born from high-pressure areas over the Great Basin, Santa Anas become hot and dry as they descend avalanchelike into Southern California. The San Fernando Valley acts as a giant bellows, sometimes fanning the winds to hurricane velocity as they roar seaward through the narrow canyons and rugged defiles of the Santa Monicas. Add a spark to the thick vegetation (frequently above 40 tons per acre in the Malibu area) on such an occasion, and an uncontrollable wildfire will result.

Millenium maintenance

I was off to Chicago over the past weekend and found myself pulled again to Millennium Park. Walking about this time, I saw so many reasons to find awe in the idea, the commitment, the transformation, the delight of this place and the city that made it happen.

Standing in this place, experiencing this place, also provides a context for yet another reflection on why and how this city does so much so well for so long.

At "the bean" I was amazed again at that reflective surface, and wondered what it might look like into a future that might, at times, not be so rich. I mean, there was that constant flow of people--kids--touching that surface, marking that surface. And there was a guy, spritz bottle and cloth in hand, circling around it taking those finger prints and other marks off.

How do you maintain something as vulnerable as that?
(Image from

Top architecture blogs list...

Via International Listings

If Modernism was the twentieth-century architectural trend that developed a new way of thinking, then Urbanism appears to be the twenty-first century architectural mindset. This trend is breeding urban explorers (urbex), the greening of major metropolitan areas, and a focus on merging habitats and commercial structures with politics, culture, history and the arts. Public discourse and scholarly research have found meeting grounds in this global landscape, and the results are evolving. But, this evolution has affected how individuals and partnerships present their materials on Weblogs and Photoblogs.To that end, we’re treating you to the top 100 bloggers who focus on everything from architectural news to urbanism and from the junction of design and technology to the landscape. While you won’t find blogs here that illustrate how to design a home or a business, you’ll discover plenty of dialogue, images, and ideas no matter if you’re an architect or a person who admires architecture. These blogs were chosen for frequently and recently updated blog entries, a focus on architecture, and for their attitudes and/or perspectives - no matter if they’re amateurs or professionals. Please note that the blog numbering is not meant to be a ranking, as each architecture topic is listed in alphabetical order with the listed blogs also listed in alphabetical order within that topic.

The Cone of Uncertainty

I picked up on this concept recently through a Harvard Business Review online posting of an article by Paul Saffo---"Six Rules for Effective Forecasting."

I began thinking about its application to what we do---designing sustainable structures based on current information for a client who will occupy a couple of years into the future and change as time goes on.

I have always practiced architectural programming with an eye to the future. I've challenged clients to consider scenario planning as a way to imagine what might be and have used these scenarios to develop concepts for flexibility, adaptability and convertibility of our buildings.

For a current project, I am thinking about developing a "Cone of Uncertainty" to embed in our program and use as a scenario development/strategy definition tool.

In this case, a county governmental entity is confronting a range of potential futures. The current real pressure is to try to perform its functions in the face of diminishing revenues and very real change in the demographics of both its constituency as well as its workforce. The local press is simultaneously speculating on the weakness of local municipal governments in the county, and proposing consideration of regionalism.

My mission, to program "transformational government," has an unspoken agenda of reduction in the workforce based on the potential efficiencies of new technology, the assumed capabilities of an emerging technology-savvy workforce and constituency, and the conceptual effectiveness of a technology-enabled mode of service delivery.

I believe I am expected to deliver a smaller real estate demand (based on headcount) while satisfying a growing services demand.

Spicules of Light

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Spicules of Light, originally uploaded by Reciprocity.

Flickr seems always too much to explore, but there are these amazing contributions that show up periodically. An example is this one from "Reciprocity" of experimentations with film--images without use of a camera lens.

Power and taste

I'd like to do a survey, a little informal study, of the works commissioned by the powerful. This photo portfolio of Putin's new plane evokes once again the frequently missing link between power and taste. Mau's challenge ("Now that we can design anything, what will we design?") does not, apparently, cross the minds of the powerful ("Now that I can do anything...").