“If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four.
The summer always delivers objects slowly swallowed by asphalt, particularly at road repair sites or insertions of some kind, like manholes. An object is dropped and forgotten. It moves through the environment until it is snagged by something, often sticky tar at the edge of a blacktop repair. A pair of sunglasses, a little girl’s plastic barrette, or almost anything acquires a narrative potential, maybe even poignancy, as it sinks into the road surface.
If we define beauty, in part, by something’s ability to compel an emotional response, resonate with wide-ranging meanings, then the bleakness of blacktop in summer is beautiful indeed.
I recently ordered a sample chair to show a client for one of our projects. The chair, seen here, is by Emeco, a local manufacturer, and was originally designed for the US Navy. This particular version is made from 111 recycled Coke bottles (see how “green” we are?). The Emeco “Navy Chair” was designed with the most utilitarian goals in mind. It is lightweight, made of aluminum (which resists corrosion from the ocean’s saltwater) and highly impact resistant.
Today, the original aluminum model has been adopted by the design community and been given official haute couture status. Looking at the chair it is easy to see how its simplistic, no-frills, yet elegant form was picked up by the design elite. Its softly curving corners and masculine form are eye-catching yet understated at the same time.
Seeing this chair sitting in our office and witnessing my coworkers salivating over the possibility of owning one (save up -- the original now retails for $440 each) made me think.
I wondered about other utilitarian objects that have gained similar status.
The first item that came to mind, although questionable, was the Hummer H2. Descendant of the Humvee, built for the US military in the 1980s, the Hummer was later modified for a civilian buyer and sold as a rugged luxury vehicle. Given the Hummer’s original intent (and decidedly UN-refined exterior), I shudder to think of how much money has been spent (not to mention how many gallons of gas burned) because someone saw this as a beautiful object.
I recently learned that Chinese Shar Pei puppies can sell for upwards of $1,400. I wonder how many owners are aware of the breed’s history, hunting wild pigs and herding farm animals for Chinese peasants. Still though, how can one put a price tag on something as cute as this?
On a more personal level, the interior designer on a project I am working on recently approached us to have a custom art wall made from bread bag grabs installed in our client’s kitchen. My first thought was “Really? Those things are garbage.” But meeting with the artist has given me faith that such an everyday “throwaway” item is going to make a stunning addition to this particular residence for some thankfully open-minded clients.
This “everyday object as art” concept is certainly nothing new. Everyone has seen
Duchamp's piece may have been one step too controversial to the artists society (who famously rejected it) but isn’t it interesting how quickly we all jump on board when a design professional tells us something is beautiful? While I’m not about to write a thesis on the factors that make objects aesthetically pleasing, I will say that it’s definitely worth giving a second look to all the things we use every day to find their inherent beauty.
While looking online for ideas for at-work fitness tools I found this odd contraption -- Climb Stairs Wheels, described as follows:
Detailed Product Description
1. THE RUBBER WHEEL HIGH QUALITY
INTRODUCE: Our company in 1994, is a professional production of the rubber tires business, and we has produced wheel barrow tires, rubber wheels, hand trolley, tires and other rubber products for 15 years long since.
SALES RANGE: Our products are exported to Southeast Asia, Africa, North America, Europe and other countries, unanimously affirmed by the consumers.
PROMISE: We guarantee product quality, price concessions, credibility and reliable. If necessary, please contact us, we are willing to wholeheartedly for you.
Climbing the steep steps in the fire stairwell to our fifth-floor office has been my ongoing attempt to stay fit (-ish) while on the job. But since I keep coming across articles detailing how terrible sitting at a computer all day every day is for your body and overall health I am investigating other ways to insert fitness into my work day.
Here is what I have come up with so far. I'd love to hear if anyone out there comes across any other ideas.
I read about The Treadmill Desk in The New York Times a few weeks ago. Apparently you just set the thing to go at one mile per hour and do what you need to do on the desktop provided. They warned that detailed mouse-work (like drafting, I assume) might not be possible while walking, but you could use it while making phone calls or typing up meeting minutes.
There seem to be several options for biking while working. This one (above) doesn’t even have room for a mouse, but others that are more cobbled-together-looking (below) do:
Wow. I really don’t want this desk.
I found a variety of exercise ball chairs, too, some better-looking than the one pictured -- including just sitting on an exercise ball like they have at the gym. The benefit? The exercise ball chair makes sitting an unstable act, thus preventing yourself from rolling over on to the floor strengthens your abdomen and back muscles even while you are seated.
Desk yoga? I don’t think anyone would take me seriously if I started behaving this way at my desk. Maybe I could get away with what this distinguished gentleman is doing.
Design has an impact on all of our lives.
Almost everything we come in contact with daily has been conceived, developed, refined, and produced by designers.
Take a second to look around… can you see “design”?
It’s a jack-in-the-box traveling show—3,000 SF of exhibits comfortably installed in a 53-foot-long, 500 SF tractor trailer that triples in size when set up. It was built by Craftsmen Industries, Inc., which specializes in mobile exhibits. Their shop in St. Charles, large enough to hold dozens of semis, is about the biggest I’ve seen—as is their printer, which looks like a desktop printer on steroids.
On the other hand, while driving around St. Charles and St. Louis (in an equally oddly scaled, but very neat Nissan Cube), I was struck by the size of the buildings.
St. Louis is where westward expansion began, and Lewis and Clark officially departed from St. Charles. I was expecting big western spaces and big homes. There were some of those, but many more were as off-scaled as our exhibit, Craftsmen’s shop, their printer, my rented car, and even the famous (and very striking) arch—although in the opposite direction.
Lilliputian homes and even shops abounded. I saw entire houses that were smaller than our compressed exhibit. Whether brick or wood, they were solid, beautifully detailed, carefully maintained—and just really, really small.
Moral of the Story:
You’ve used the phrase “out on a limb” at least once in your lifetime of verbal and written communications, right? Don’t deny it. You have. At the end of the day, I have evidence to prove it and I don’t think I’m throwing anyone under the bus here. There are, it seems, no sacred cows in language.
As Communications Manager at Metcalfe Architecture & Design I have many Google Alerts set up for the firm’s various projects. I’m going to run it up the flagpole and assume we’re all on the same page and that most of you know that Google Alerts are email notices sent whenever something you are interested in appears on the Internet. You set up the alerts for names, words, phrases and voila, your inbox begins filling up.
The trouble is, the Internet being what it is – and by that I mean not human and therefore not discretionary – it sends anything and everything, not just about the very specific thing you are interested in, and thus rides roughshod over your inbox. For example, if you play lead guitar in a band called “Chicken Noodle Soup,” and you set up an alert to stay on top of all mentions of your band on the information superhighway, your inbox will runneth over with recipes.
So, that’s what happened to me. When I first threw my hat into the ring, I just established alerts for “Metcalfe Architecture & Design” and “Metcalfe.” That was productive, useful, and doable, in terms of the number of alerts landing in my inbox. In the wake of that success, I then added alerts for MA&D projects.
“Camp JRF” for an Eco-Village the firm is designing for the Jewish Reconstructionist camp camp in the Poconos. It will include yurt cabins, “green” elements throughout, and an earthen berm for stargazing and it will knock your socks off. “First Person Museum” for the prototype museum about the everyday objects of interest to everyday people MA&D created for First Person Arts. “Griffin Discovery Room” for the hands-on educational exhibit MA&D designed for Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. It’s really the bees’ knees and was just named one of the top destinations for kids. “PhillyCAM” for the new studio MA&D is designing for Philadelphia’s public access television station. And “Tree Adventure” for a multi-station exhibit about trees throughout Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.
Then I got greedy. Hell will freeze over and pigs will fly before I make this mistake again.
The centerpiece of Tree Adventure is a 450-foot tree canopy walk that’s won numerous awards, including the AIA Philadelphia 2010 Awards of Design Excellence Gold Medal and the 2010 Excellence in Exhibition Design award from the American Association of Museums. It’s really the cat’s pajamas.
Guess what the name of the tree canopy walk is? Out on a Limb. Guess what phrase I added to my Google Alerts? Out on a limb. Guess what happened? I created the perfect storm in my inbox. Turns out “out on a limb” is quite a common phrase. No one is surprised by this, right? What was I thinking? Alas, ours is not to reason why. It is what it is.
For awhile, in the line of duty, I toed the line and regularly culled through the flood of alerts, VERY occasionally finding one related to the tree canopy walk. I thought I could keep up with it, you know, keep all my ducks in a row. I couldn’t. I was going to hell in a hand basket. I was like Lucy and the candy conveyor belt. I started shunting them off into their own “OOL” email folder to deal with at a later time, when I had time. Out of sight, out of mind. But, I have a lot on my plate, many balls in the air, and multiple irons in the fire. Despite multi-tasking till the cows came home and endlessly burning the midnight oil, I finally had to throw in the towel, cry “Uncle!” and remove the dang alert.
Phew! That was scary.
But before I deleted the deluge, just for kicks, I spent some time browsing through the “out on a limb” alerts I had saved to see just how many ways this bromidic phrase could be used. Herewith, some of the more interesting references. To spare you, dear reader, I am including only the alert itself. The links are there, however, should you want to know more.
For most “categories,” I give but one example, merely to prove I’m not making this up, but there are a couple of categories where I just couldn’t help myself. Enjoy. Time flies when you’re having fun.
A killer, a bi-sexual, and a wrestler walk into a bar – wait, that joke opening is an old saw, too. Wait, an “old saw” is a cliché as well. Don’t want to start a firestorm of controversy here, but whatever, kudos to “out on a limb” for linking the above three references. Extra points for thinking outside the box and working in a rapper and Snooki, too.
General Hospital Spoiler Alert: Little Jake’s Killer is Revealed!
Grey's Anatomy, gay parents and non traditional families on TV
Wrestlemania 27: Will Snoop Dogg Have A Role At Wrestlemania This Year?
I bet most of you are going to follow the link for this one. Fergie posing in tight pink fabric. Am I right? OK, I'll take pity on you and include the photo but you'll have to jump to the link to find out whether Fergie's choice was a fashion do or don't.
Fergie's "Literal" Statement Dress: Fly or 'Bye? | Flypaper...
Even Aljazeera? Geez. Now that takes the cake, but, ours is not to reason why. People who live in glass houses…
Libyan rebels take Ajdabiya
You’re not surprised by this one, are you?
'Charleston Joe' Goes to Washington
Whoa, really? Yup, really. Yawn.
TREASURIES-Prices slip; quarter-end portfolio shifts cited
Apparently “out on a limb” knows no boundaries.
Blackout Syria, replace with your favorite revolution
The biggest offender, by far. The Canucks, the Phillies, Tiger Woods – all part of life’s rich tapestry.
Theo Fleury says Canucks will be out in first round | Crash The Crease
Note that this one made use not only of “out on a limb” but also “sit on the fence.”
Kendrick a 'prime candidate' for bullpen
Ian Poulter Goes Way Out On A Limb And Predicts That Tiger Woods Won't Finish...
ODDITIES (aka My Favorites!)
Anyhoo, last, but not least, it’s not the size of your knife, it’s how you use it. Girls with samurai swords, dangling astronauts, a Jesus limo, vampires, marauding squirrels, flame-throwing squirt guns, the etiquette of passing gas in a pub, the Dark Lord, billionaire cockroaches, limb as weapon. The bottom line is, I saved the best for last.
How Much Knife Do You Need? | Brian's Backpacking Blog
Sucker Punch Review
Astronaut goes out on a limb in space and gets stuck
Oooh, This Track Is On Fire
Squirrels invade College Terrace fairy houses
Super Soaker Flamethrower is Definitely an Accident Waiting to Happen
Column: Farting in bars
Pig Slop and Resources
AND THE WINNER IS…
Out on a Limb Standing Zombie Prop
I was willing to let bygones be bygones but it appears I’m not out of the woods yet and definitely still in harm’s way. I recently added another Google Alert for "From the Absence of Many to the Presence of All...The Unfinished Business of Women's Equality," an exhibit on women’s equality MA&D designed for Drexel University College of Medicine’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership that ran at the National Constitution Center. It was part of the Institute’s Vision 2020 program, a 10-year initiative to promote women’s leadership and equality. What do you think happens when you set a Google Alert for “Vision 2020?” In hindsight, it was a bad idea, a very bad idea. Seriously, I need a staycation with some face time with the TV.
Let’s see how many of the hackneyed phrases, trite expressions, and clichés you all can find in this hot mess of a blog entry. Looking forward to your comments. I’m sure some of you have an axe to grind, a bone to pick with me. Or just touch base by sharing your hackneyed favorites. Please, jump into the fray, the water is fine.
While enjoying my daily design cup of tea, I stumbled on a new application in the pipeline for the Apple iPad. It’s called LetterMpress™ and described for potential users as a “virtual letterpress interface to create authentic-looking letterpress designs and prints right on their iPads.” As a graphic designer fortunate to have had hands-on experience setting and printing type with a letterpress while studying at the University of Arts, I am conflicted about this new application and what it means for the creative art form of letterpress printing. Technology can be viewed as a destroyer or a preserver when it comes to the arts. It is the classic duel of man versus machine.
The work of graphic designers today is often mass produced and we seldom have the luxury of time to get our hands dirty as our predecessors did. More and more frequently traditional design practices are turning to digital formats and it makes me wonder if graphic designers will have to mold into a new application as well. Must we robotically follow suit or should we strive to save traditional hands-on methods? Preserving the craft of letterpress printing by making it into an iPad app is like preserving books with the Kindle or Nook. The new LetterMpress™ app allows the designer to virtually go through a digital letterpress environment in the same way as a real letterpress:
“You can place and arrange wood type and cuts on a press bed, lock the type, and ink the type and print. You are able to create unlimited designs, with multiple colors, using authentic vintage wood type and art cuts, as well as having the letters appear backwards in the press bed—and store your designs in digital galley trays. You can actually print your design directly from LetterMpress™ or save it as an image and then import it into other applications. John Bonadies, creator, plans to include 12 typefaces and 50 art “cuts” for the first version of LetterMpress. The way the software reproduces that good old fashioned aesthetic uneven ink distribution, funky textures, and idiosyncratic detailing is by manipulating scans of real wood type impressions. At a later stage, LetterMpress users will be able to get actual letterpress prints custom made from their designs by typesetters working with the growing collection.
– John Bonadies, graphic designer and creator of LetterMPress™
While it sounds great, this app will not replace the feel and texture of working with a letterpress, nor offer much in the way of individual styling and personal creativity. As much as I would like to wholeheartedly embrace this new LetterMpress™ app, I fear we will lose the reverent feeling of being a part of a historical process. With today’s almost complete digital work flow for the graphic designer, it’s nice to be able to touch the type and feel it on your finger tips, instead of just clicking the mouse a couple of times.
Would Johannes Gutenberg, the father of modern printing, be pleased with the progression of the printing press and moveable type now to this new-fangled digital application? I don’t know. Luckily, the art form isn’t becoming totally extinct as there is still a community of letterpressers and older-school typesetters preserving the art of letterform and typography in their small, ink-stained studios. And I suppose one could argue that the new LetterMPress™ app could to grab the attention of people who don’t know a pica from a penny and possibly interest them in learning more about and gaining an appreciation of typographic printing and typesetting by hand.
The schedule is a particularly trying component to the practice of architecture. Limited time tables, product manufacturing lead times, funding requirements and seasonal prohibitions are all factors lending to structuring the days to get your ducks in a row. There are meetings and phases of design to benchmark progress along the way. But long before Excel spreadsheets, civilizations measured time in different ways.
Unlike the solar calendar, which indicates the position of the earth as it revolves around the sun, the lunar calendar, is based on the phases of the moon. A lunar year is eleven days shorter than the solar year because 12 synodic months, or 12 returns of the moon to the new phase, take only 354 days. The Sky Disc of Nebra was used to determine if and when a thirteenth month -- the so-called intercalary month -- should be added to a lunar year to keep the lunar calendar in sync with the seasons. According to the ancient Babylonian rule, a thirteenth month should only be added to the lunar calendar only when one sees the constellation of the moon and the Pleiades, exactly as they appear on the Nebra sky disc. The Bronze Age astronomers would hold the Nebra clock against the sky and observe the position of the celestial objects. The intercalary month was inserted when what they saw in the sky corresponded to the map on the disc they were holding in their hands. This happened every two to three years.
Golden Hats, also artifacts of the Bronze Age in Germany, are long conical and brimmed headdresses made of gold leaf.
The gold cones are covered in bands of ornaments along their whole length and extent. The ornaments - mostly disks and concentric circles, sometimes wheels - were punched using stamps, rolls or combs. The object would have permitted the determination of dates or periods in both lunar and solar calendars. Since an exact knowledge of the solar year was of special interest for the determination of religiously important events such as the summer and winter solstices, the astronomical knowledge depicted on the Golden Hats was of high value to Bronze Age society.
I am trying to imagine what the object for representing my construction schedule would look like. My telescope still has not found the constellation for the mythological hero with a bar chart or even a slide rule.
Like most, I hate the thoughtlessly tossed trash plaguing my city. It feels like a personal affront to every other citizen when one of us simply lets fly an empty bottle, a soiled wrapper, a cigarette butt. But there is at least one kind of litter I am quite fond of and would miss if it disappeared.
Certainly the bloom of these flowers across town after every storm has its intrinsic sadness. Poor craft and materials, exploitation of cheap labor, dependence on an import economy, and a whole host of other ills.
But I imagine the conditions under which these objects appear in our city scape. It is pouring. The wind is intense. You are carrying a purse, briefcase, and two grocery bags (or a child). The umbrella suddenly vomits itself into the air and in your sodden frustration you abandon it to the street.
They are swept up in the stream of the urban storm, left pinned against a fence, under a bench, or most oddly, in the middle of the sidewalk when the wind suddenly dies.
Their shapes like flowers sometimes have the same lurid colors.
If it’s possible to appreciate this undeniable trash as the keeper of small histories, how hard would it be to look more closely at the other flotsam and jetsam in our lives?
We didn’t skip a beat.
Not through the power tools, the fumes, the dust. Not through the parade of Polish construction workers in and out of the office all day long, who mostly conversed in their native language but at times belted out random song lyrics in English and whose cell phones – with various raucous musical ringtones – competed with the whir of the chop saw. Not through the frequent deliveries of materials, the carpet-laying crew with its vats of smelly glue, the chill when the freight elevator sat open while construction debris was carted away.
We sat at our desks and toiled away, smack dab in the middle of a construction zone. Quite an interesting experience.
It all started when the office next door was vacated. We are fortunate to be a growing company, adding a few new positions (including mine!) in the last year. Space was getting a little tight, musical chairs with staffers and work stations was occasionally necessary, the conference room was often double-booked, and, without jinxing anything, I’ll cautiously say the future is looking good. Thus, the bosses capitalized on the opportunity and grabbed the space next door while it was available with an eye to the firm’s continuing expansion, bolstered by the rental of part of the new space to two friendly tenants.
The expansion plans called for knocking down a wall to join the two suites, creating additional office space; a huge storage closet; a new area for the office equipment and another for the materials library; a second, larger conference room – all on the new side, and a small galley kitchenette and second door into the hallway on the original side.
Did I mention that the wall to be knocked down is/was right next to my desk? And that power tools are really, really noisy? And that construction dust is fine, white, and pervasive?
The construction workers started on the “other side.” We defrocked the wall to be demolished, I emptied my large filing cabinet so it could be moved out of the way, and we went about our business. We could hear the workers destructing and constructing on the “other side,” but, in light of what was to come, it was but a muffled distraction. One Monday we returned to work and the wall was gone. In its place was a roughly hung curtain of plastic and a couple pieces of plywood, graciously erected by the construction workers in a (failed) attempt to shield us from the sound and dust.
Soon the plastic and plywood disappeared, the two spaces became one, and we became office workers in the middle of a construction zone – or they became construction workers in the middle of an office? Either way, peaceful co-existence was paramount. We both had jobs to do.
So, I timed telephone calls between power tool usage, buried my nose in my shirt depending on the fume du jour, and covered my computer at night with a trash bag for dust protection.
About three weeks into it, the major construction is almost complete. In addition to the wall separating the two spaces being demolished, new walls have been erected, the new conference room has been created, wood trim has been polyurethaned, and new carpeting has been laid. It’s really looking great. Finishing touches are still pending, as is the other half of the project – creating the kitchenette and cutting a new doorway in the original space.
Thus, for now, I must quell the urge to scrub away the dust shroud covering every single thing on my desk, and continue to throw my clothing into the washing machine as soon as I arrive home every evening. Luckily, however, even though I am not an architect, I do often wear black, which, fortunately, goes well with construction dust.
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