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Hope and generosity – two great job loss moves

cardsofchange0002 Every day brings delightful coincidences in the network. Here are two great moves from today's messages to be celebrated.

Cards of change

Layoffs are ugly. They are uniquely ugly for those who have been laid off who must then reprofile themselves, find new opportunity, make new beginnings.

For a few, it is a time of reinvention, rediscovery, and renewal, and may even include the experience of surprise, delight, and satisfaction that comes from a new place, a new identity, a new capability in roles not imagined before because of the clutter and mess of the daily routine in the old job.

Cards of Change is a great concept – business cards from the old job edited to represent the newer, more exciting, more optimistic move. Let me know if you upload yours, or have a similar story of the pleasure of finding otherwise undiscovered opportunity.

Cardsofchange is a place where the glass is always half-full. A destination where all the bad news of the day takes a back seat to stories of individual success.


Layoffs are ugly. They are uniquely ugly for those who care, but have the task of delivering the bad news.

If you've ever been in a Workstage building, I expect you've had a great experience. Developed by a subsidiary of Steelcase, Workstage provided sustainable design and building integration and development in a very unique, and very nicely designed model.

Even though it was an great example for a new way of financing, developing and building, in a time of financial downturn and real estate oversupply it was not supportable.

Kurt Nahikian (gosh, I hope he doesn't mind my doing this!) sent out a sad, but truly generous announcement of the closure of the company. I am not familiar with any other more caring layoff gestures like this, are you? And if you can help, do!

It was a great run...

Almost exactly 10 years after its visionary inception, Workstage closed its doors. A very sad and difficult day for the forty-plus families impacted by this change.

This was a truly amazing team delivering first-in-the-world innovation.

If you are interested in what kind of talent is now available in west Michigan – do not hesitate to contact me – I have stories to tell about each and every one of them.

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Linking back, 8 May 2009

A number of self referential links this week –

I reflected on the demolition of a brand new development in California because the bank couldn't sell the houses and didn't want to pay for their completion. (I proposed a tool from health care regulation as a proposal to help avoid similar events in the future.) The picture accompanying the article and the videos posted elsewhere on the event certainly did not look like this – "Deconstructing in Cleveland" – was taking place. (via GLUE) Other impacts – safety and health – of financial industry supported excess and interruption also were reported.

Then this appeared – "15 Housing Projects from Hell" – apparently a good argument for demolishing a number of major built projects.

Along the vein of making do with what used to be there, and in confirmation of other thoughts and considerations on new moves in shrinking cities, there seemed to be a number of references to the "mistake on the lake" in my recent posts. Now, however, it seems that Cleveland is leading the nation. Fast Company magazine named it on of its "fast cities" recognizing its initiatives in urban agriculture. Separately, Fast Company also expressed a bit of the wonder we all have when thinking about this place we thought of as a joke, celebrating Ohio as the state with the "boldest architecture." Back home, the Detroit-Berlin connection is developing this very interesting urban agricultural initiative, BEES.

I had expressed a concern earlier about the reduction in density in cities and the impacts on the retail ground floors of buildings. I was worried a bit about temporary and superficial decorative projects and looked for something more permanent and impactful. It looks like England has found the theme provocative as "artists come to high street" in London.

Then there was this rant, and the realization that I am not, apparently, one of those who left thought of "the dumb fist" behind in 1990.

And finally, Allison Areiff returns to an earlier theme – designing through a depression – about design in tough times that I addressed earlier this year.

Image, from the New York Times, is a limited edition print by Matt Jones to benefit Creative Commons (20×

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How many does it take?

This is the place where bad times get sent to make them belong to somebody else, thus, it seems easy to agree about Detroit because the city embodies everything the rest of the country wants to get over. (link)

It is odd, to have had in my career in this area, some projects in which we asked the question, "How big is too big?" Now, of course, we are all interested in whether the now small is too small or, more hopefully, if there is a critical mass that can be found to achieve stability and catalyze growth.

Just a small note* to this speculation by Ryan Avent in The Bellows (found by way of CEO's for Cities)---I propose that in Detroit it may take just one: A leader who can articulate an unselfish set of principles---whether civic or corporate---and provide a vision that will rally, unite and motivate the very many still here who have cared but have been unable to break through a wall of self-centered power.

*Not intended as a pun, but I understand this whole conversation of Ryan's began over a Twitter tweet, evolving to this challenge: how many people have to move to Detroit before growth becomes self-sustaining?


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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."

Change at the top at GM?

600-muscleThere seem to be signs emerging that Rick Wagoner may soon be out at GM. After an embarrassing first appearance and an inconsistent second appearance in Congress, influential Congressman and other Detroit executives in the auto business are beginning to pass the word that there needs to be change at the top. Apparently, Congress will not get around to approving a bailout without that change as a condition. The subject of effective leadership at auto companies, and at other product design and marketing companies, comes again to the fore. There is much evidence of the benefit of having a "product guy" at the top of an organization when innovation is the agenda. GM is blamed for having, a generation ago, passed the reigns of leadership to "finance guys," and beginning a practice of killing design initiatives and longer-term product investments for short-term profits, and using financial tools like cash incentives to move metal where customer desire wouldn't.

I am not sure who in the pipeline for leadership could provide the shift in thinking that would generate the innovation that has been missing at GM and that now seems to be at the center of the demand from Congress. They want a payback for the taxpayers, and rightly seem to be judging that customers will not be effectively moved unless the product portfolio has something they want.

Ironically, the strongest car guy in the company, Bob Lutz, while long saying that GM has to design and build products that people want, has been the guy who has also said that global warming is bull---a comment frequently resurrected as Congress, and the market, seek greener products and companies. He is, in any case, now too old for next generation leadership, both in age as well as in thinking.

Fritz Henderson has a lot of support. His background is also finance, and most of the success stories in his resume are not about product but about cost-cutting, labor negotiations, and brand strategy. Will he turn to design as a key strategy for success in the next generation? Who will he turn to to rely on for the design and product innovation leadership, passion, power, and influence, necessary for survival and sustainability as a new kind of business?

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.