Sunday, February 28, 2010

Los Angeles Billboards become Art

There is a tension between the two hallmarks of "The American Way" - democracy and capitalism. The ongoing feud between the non-profit world of the arts and the for-profit world of advertising can be seen in the battle over billboards in Los Angeles and other places in the country.

In Los Angeles the argument isn't so much about the supergraphics that coat historic buildings (Christo sculptures have done the same) or what are described as "garish digital screens that cast a sickly glow over once-dark neighborhoods", but about the messages that are on the billboards. The billboards themselves are evidently not the problem. Lighted billboards aren't ugly if what is on them is Art rather than advertising.

21 billboards in Los Angeles will have their advertising messages replaced by art, covering a wide area from Beverly Hills to MacArthur Park, Sunset Boulevard to the 10 freeway, and almost every major thoroughfare in between with large-scale urban installations by artists like Kerry Tribe, Kenneth Anger (right), David Lamelas and Yvonne Rainer (left). .

The Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight is a non-profit organization representing groups and individuals committed to defending the urban landscape of Los Angeles against billboards and other forms of outdoor advertising in public spaces. They argue that the visual landscape of the city belongs to everyone (Democracy), not just the advertising companies who present commercial messages (Capitalism).

Click on the heading above to go to the Ban Billboard Blight website.

Designing the Faces for Avatar

CGSociety (Computer Graphics Society - the society for digital artists) interviewed Jeff Unay, the Facial Lead at Weta Digital (Peter Jackson's production studio) about his experiences in production with James Cameron on AVATAR. With nine Oscar nominations, including one for Visual Effects, the crew on AVATAR have broken new ground in digital animation.

Transforming the actor's performances from the sound stage actions into digital animation required new technology that was developed to capture close up video of the actors' faces through the use of a helmet with a small camera pointed a few inches away from the actors' faces. This provided a record of what the actor's faces were doing at all times.

Andy Jones, Weta's Animation Director on AVATAR, oversaw the character and creature performances from all stages of production to ensure continuity between motion capture, motion edit and keyframe animation.

The Weta facial team is the group that designs and constructs the various facial rigs that are driven by the motion capture and animation departments. They use the face cam video as reference to learn how each actor uses their face during performances by breaking down the expression into what facial muscles they're activating.

The Facial Team at Weta working on AVATAR was made up primarily of 12 people, nine modelers and three creature TDs. The modelers were Peter Syomka, Jinwoo Lee, Mark Haenga, Howard Sly, Maurizio Memoli, Roja Huchez, Ramahan Faulk, Alessandro Bonora and Jeff Unway.

The creature TDs were Steve Cullingford, Ron Miller and Marco Barbati. This team of 12 people delivered over 100 hero level facial puppets for the AVATARs, Na'vis, digital doubles and creatures.

Click on the heading above to see the interview with photos at the CGSociety website.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Costume Designers Guild Presents Awards

On Feb. 25, the Costume Designers Guild held its 12th Annual Awards to honor the outstanding film and television costume designs of 2009. The event precedes the March 7 Academy Awards, when costume designers will again be honored for their work in recent films.

At the star-studded Costume Designers Guild Awards Gala, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, designers were recognized by their peers for their talents and contributions to costume design. Celebrities in film and television like Nicole Kidman, Alan Cummings, Nancy Sinatra, Loni Anderson and Rob Marshall turned out for the event.

Awards were given across all categories of film and television costume design. In addition, the Costume Designers Guild honored actress Emily Blunt with the Swarovski Award and Kidman presented director Rob Marshall with the Distinguished Collaborator Award. Costume designers including Sandy Powell, Robert Turturice, and Michael Travis were honored for their career achievements in costume design.

Costume Designers Guild Award 12th Annual Awards Winners are:

Excellence in Contemporary Film: Doug Hall – “Crazy Heart” (left)
Excellence in Period Film: Sandy Powell – “The Young Victoria”
Excellence in Fantasy Film: Monique Prudhomme – “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”
Outstanding Made for Television Movie or Miniseries: Catherine Marie Thomas – “Grey Gardens”
Outstanding Contemporary Television Series: Lou Eyrich – “Glee” (right)
Excellence in Commercial Costume Design: Casey Storm - “Milkquarious”

Click on the heading above to go to the Costume Designers Guild website and learn more about the nominees and winners.

Kieran Timberlake to design new American embassy in London

Philadelphia-based firm KieranTimberlake has won the commission to design the new U.S. embassy in London, England. I put off talking about the new design but it seems to be a big topic of conversation around the world so I got curious about what was so controversial about it. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised because it will be the largest U.S. building in Western Europe and some other pretty famous architects were in the running to design it.

Perhaps the controversy over the building stems from the fact that it represents beliefs and attitudes about the United States, and the presence of the United States on foreign (albeit relatively friendly) soil. The new design resembles a floating cube to seem friendly and transparent but is not without detractors.

The Embassy design represents a shift in how we think about the role of U.S. government architecture, both at home and abroad. It suggests putting an emphasis on action instead of values, measurable behavior rather than symbolic gestures. The embassy design is an attempt to solve the problem of how to participate in a neighborhood without sacrificing bomb-proof levels of security.

The $1 billion structure is covered in a skin of EFTE, a type of durable plastic, and is a balance of formal (security), urban (appearance) and environmental (sustainability) concerns. Three sides of the building are coated in the polymer — the same flexible material used on the outside of the Water Cube swimming arena for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It’s intended to serve double-duty to shade the interior and anchor flexible solar panels.

Kieran Timberlake is a partnership of James Timberlake (left) and Stephen Kieran (right) in photo on left. The firm won the commission against a talented field of firms, all founded by Pritzker Prize-winning architects: Richard Meier & Partners Architects, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and Thom Mayne’s Morphosis.

The building will fill a five-acre site in a neighborhood called Nine Elms, across the river from its current home in Grosvenor Square, which was designed by Eero Saarinen in 1960. The State Department hopes to break ground on the new embassy in 2013 with a planned opening in 2017.

Click on the heading above to learn more about Kieran Timberlake's approach to design.

New Design High School in Manhattan

New Design High School (NDHS) is a small academic high school with a focus on design, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the Seward Park Campus. NDHS is a college preparatory school that uses the concept of design to assist in meeting the holistic needs of adolescents, including the academic, intellectual, social, emotional and artistic sides of students.

NDHS integrates the idea, concept and process of design into a progressive, academic, high school curriculum, thereby offering a model of innovative and comprehensive education. The school community believes that design and the design process allow students to experience a more experiential form of inquiry-based education that is focused on understanding real world contexts, self-expression and problem solving. They believe that when students are engaged in the process of designing, they are learning to observe, seek problems, identify needs, frame problems, work collaboratively, explore and appreciate solutions, weigh alternatives, and communicate their ideas verbally, graphically and physically.

The design process also includes periods for self-assessment, critiques of works in progress, revisions and opportunities for reflection on the entire process. NDHS integrates all of its classes with the idea of design and the design process, as well as offer classes in design. NDHS currently has over 400 students in grades 9-12.

Click on the heading above to learn more about New Design High School.

Philippe Starck's Stylish, Minimalist Website

Philippe Starck is a French product designer and probably the best known designer in the New Design style. So what kind of website does a prolific designer have that doesn't just overpower us with the staggering number of designs he has done?

Click on the heading above to see this minimalist, functional and stylized site. Check out his videos to see how he cleverly solves the problem of keeping small videos from looking wimpy on a large page.

Starck's designs range from spectacular interior designs to mass produced consumer goods such as toothbrushes, chairs, and even houses. He was educated in Paris at École Nissim de Camondo and in 1968, he founded his first design firm, which specialized in inflatable objects. In 1969, he became art director of his firm along with Pierre Cardin. Starck has designed products from toothbrushes to fruit juicers, furnishings, restaurant interiors, hotel interiors, property developments, watches, wind energy, and on and on.

Starck's career started to climb in earnest in 1982 when he designed the interior for the private apartments of the French President. He has worked independently as an interior designer and as a product designer since 1975. Most notably, in 2002, he created a number of relatively inexpensive product designs for the large American retailer Target Stores.

Unlike most other New Design artists, Starck's work does not concentrate on the creation of provocative and expensive single pieces. Instead, his product designs are of usable household items which Starck himself helps to market for mass production. His products and furnishings are often stylized, streamlined and organic in their look and are also constructed using unusual combinations of materials (such as glass and stone, plastic and aluminum, plush fabric and chrome, etc.).

Two of Starck's designs include stylized toothbrushes (1989) and a sleek juicer dubbed the Juicy Salif created for Alessi in 1990 (right). The Juicy Salif has become an affordable and popular cult item. In 2004 he designed the first toothbrush sanitizer for the Yonkers, NY based company VIOlight which won the 2005 Industrial Design Excellence Award. In 2008 he created wireless speakers for the iPod and iPhone.

Starck lives in four different cities: Paris for public relations; New York, where he does most of his technical work; Burano (Italy), where he also works; and London.

Design an Edible Schoolyard

You might think that having a garden at school could work in California but not in Brooklyn. PS216 is setting out to prove it can be done.

The original Edible Schoolyard (ESY), established in 1995, is a one-acre garden and kitchen classroom at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California. It is a program of the Chez Panisse Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by chef and author Alice Waters.

The garden started as a cover crop in a vacant lot with once-monthly student participation. More than a decade later, it is a thriving acre of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. Now, each student at King Middle School attends 12 to 30 sessions in ESY kitchen and garden classrooms, depending on grade level. ESY reaches each of the nearly 1,000 students at King Middle School.

The visibility of ESY has also increased. The program hosts over 1,000 visitors each year—from educators, to health professionals, to international delegates—and has inspired countless kitchen and garden programs. In 2005, they launched their first affiliate program in New Orleans, Louisiana. Today, there is a small network of Edible Schoolyard affiliate programs in cities across the country.

Working with Edible Schoolyard NY, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Foundation and PS216 in Brooklyn, WORKac is designing New York City’s first Edible Schoolyard (right). The design is a series of interlinked sustainable systems that produce energy and heat, collect rainwater, process compost and sort waste with an off-grid infrastructure.

At the heart of the project is the Kitchen Classroom (left), where up to thirty students can prepare and enjoy meals together. The kitchen’s butterfly-shaped roof channels rain water for reclamation. Connected to one side is the Mobile Greenhouse, extending the growing season by covering 1600sf of soil in the colder months and sliding away in the spring, over the Kitchen Classroom. On the other side is the Systems Wall: a series of spaces that include a cistern, space for composting and waste-sorting, solar batteries, dishwashing facilities, a tool shed and a chicken coop.

Click on the pictures to see larger versions and click on the heading above to learn how you can create an Edible Schoolyard.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Designing with living trees

Eco-architect Mitchell Joachim has visionary ideas about how to grow living treehouses from ficus molded around frame structures. As part of the ecological architecture nonprofit Terreform, Mitchell Joachim, Lara Greden, and Javier Arbona designed a living treehouse in which the dwelling itself merges with its environment and nourishes its inhabitants. Fab Tree Hab dissolves conventional concept of home and establishes a new symbiosis between the house and its surrounding ecosystem.

In order to build the arboreal frame, the designers utilize “pleaching” – a gardening technique in which tree branches are woven together to form living archways. Trees such as Elm, Live Oak, and Dogwood bear the heavier loads, while vines, branches, and plants form a lattice for the walls and roof of the house. The interior structure is made of cob (clay and straw), a green building approach that lends itself to customized shaping of walls and ceilings.

Click on the heading above to see a video of Joachim explaining the concept on an excellent site called Inhabitat.

Yves Béhar designs a green car

Superstar industrial designer Yves Béhar’s keynote presentation opening the Greener Gadgets Conference February 25th included a concept for a unique sustainable auto design. Béhar unveiled never before seen plans for his “hackable” solar powered electric car (left).

While Béhar (right) and his design studio Fuse Project are not new to transportation design, this next project will be designed specifically for the developing world. The idea is that this cute and affordable car will have a standard base frame, but the other components would be almost totally customizable by the end user.

The new car would have an electric base, with components that could be customized in any configuration that the customer could dream up. Many of the parts (like the back and front bumpers and headlights) would be identical, meaning that they would be totally interchangeable. This would use less expense and energy in creating component parts, and easier repairs and maintenance for car owners.

In addition to this smart modular design, Behar’s new EV would be solar-powered with photovoltaics covering the roof of the car. Béhar is continuing the path he began with the XO $100 laptop for kids in countries like Haiti, Uruguay and Mongolia by bringing sustainability and clever design to the developing world where people need it most.

Béhar is known around the world for his fun, innovative and humanistic designs for things like the Herman Miller LED Leaf Lamp, the Mission One Electric Motorcycle and the XO $100 Laptop for the One Laptop Per Child project.

Behar wanted to be an industrial designer since a child because it was a way to escape the gray banking suits of his childhood in Switzerland. He might provide inspiration for a young future designer.

Click on the heading above to see Béhar's FuseProject web site.

VitraHaus displays Vitra's Home Collection

The collection of buildings designed by world famous designers creates a "campus" for the Vitra furniture company. The newest addition to the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany is VitraHaus. Vitra’s Home Collection was in need of its own dedicated space on the Vitra Campus, so Vitra commissioned Basel-based architects Herzog & de Meuron in 2006 to design a place to exhibit the collection.

The VitraHaus joins the Vitra Design Museum by Frank Gehry (1989) and the Conference Pavilion by Tadao Ando (1993) in a section of the growing Vitra Campus. Stacked in five stories cantilevered up to 49 feet in some places, the twelve houses, whose floor slabs intersect the underlying gables, create a three-dimensional assemblage that has an almost chaotic appearance.

The exterior design follows the theme of the archetypal house and the theme of stacked volumes, apparent in the work of Herzog & de Meuron. It features five stories and its sole function is to present the contemporary Vitra Home Collection. Inside, the furnishings are arranged in a variety of settings for both living and working: classics by Charles & Ray Eames, George Nelson, Isamu Noguchi, Jean Prouvé and Verner Panton are combined with contemporary designs by Maarten Van Severen, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Antonio Citterio, Hella Jongerius, Jasper Morrison and others.

Click on the heading above to learn more about VitraHaus.

Vitra is known for its chairs

Vitra is the name of one of the most famous furniture developers in the world founded in 1950 as a family-owned company. Vitra has manufactured furniture designs by American designers Charles & Ray Eames and George Nelson since 1957. Building on this foundation over the years, the company has developed a wide range of furnishings for the office, for the home and for public spaces in collaboration with progressive designers.

Vitra is more than just a design-oriented manufacturing company. The name also stands for the Vitra Design Museum, for a collection of modern furniture and its accompanying archive, for workshops and publications on topics of design, and for an architectural concept that unites buildings by Frank Gehry, Nicholas Grimshaw, Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando, Alvaro Siza, Herzog & de Meuron and SANAA at the Vitra Headquarters in Birsfelden (Switzerland) and on the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein (Germany).

Click on the heading above to go to Vitra's web site.

Charles and Ray Eames were prolific designers

Charles (1907–1978) and Ray (1912–1988) Eames were American designers who made major contributions in many fields of design including industrial design, furniture design, art, graphic design, film and architecture.The Eames Office in Venice, California, has now taken on a practically mythical status.

At the outset of a project, Charles and Ray always asked themselves: "Does this problem interest us, and is there the promise of pleasure in solving it?" What inspired the Eameses was not the desire to make things different, but to make them better. In contrast, the commercial motives of marketing are too often satisfied by conspicuous superficial differentiation. The Eameses' desire to make things better was so strong that they recognised a moral component to design.

Many different aspects of an object must be considered as part of the development process, including its social context and ramifications: from manufacturing methods and materials to communicative and functional uses, from the satisfaction of need to the question of cost. The Eameses embraced the spirit of modernism in their work, including the optimistic and even idealistic belief that industrial rationalisation and mass production were basic prerequisites for social and cultural progress.

Click on the heading above to go to the current Eames site and see projects like the famous "Powers of Ten" film they produced.

Designing Main Streets in 3D

The National Trust is introducing Main Streets in 3D (left), a collaboration with Google and Igloo Studios that is designed to empower Main Street programs to use 3D technology in their revitalization efforts.

Designated Main Street programs may apply for a year-long program that will provide free training and support to help create a 3D model of a main street district using Google SketchUp™ and Google Earth™.

The 3D models (right) provide building owners with façade improvement options and business owners with interior design or store layout scenarios. Towns can create interactive travel itineraries to give tourism a boost, incorporate virtual tours of their downtowns into business recruitment efforts and make business and building inventories easier.

Click on the heading above to read "Visualizing Your Community With Google Earth and Google SketchUp" from the January-February 2010 issue of Main Street Now.

If you have a designated Main Street program nearby you can help them develop their 3D models. If not, you can use the guidelines and processes to do your own project in your school.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Designing Sets Provides Opportunities to Learn Design

Schools have annual plays, concerts, and, today, even TV shows that provide opportunities for students to design sets, lighting, costumes, props, etc.

In the past, some art teachers felt designing sets for school productions was just extra work that didn't contribute much to their art curriculum. With the addition of design education to traditional school art programs, designing for stage, screen and television offers attractive possibilities for students.

Design students can be introduced to Production Design and Art Direction that includes working with set designers, costumers, makeup, lighting, and a variety of other design possibilities. Students can be involved in concept design, model making, and actual "dressing" of the set.

Wikipedia says that scenic design (also known as stage design, set design or production design) is the creation of theatrical, as well as film or television scenery. Scenic designers have traditionally come from a variety of artistic backgrounds, but nowadays, generally speaking, they are trained professional designers, often with degrees in theatre arts.

The 'stage picture' is the 'look' or physical appearance of the stage for a play, whether in rehearsal or performance. It reflects the way that the stage is composed artistically in regard to props, actors, shapes and colours. The stage picture should express good principles of design and use of space. It should be visually appealing for the audience or should express the show's concept.

The scenic designer is responsible for collaborating with the theatre director and other members of the production design team to create an environment for the production and then communicating the details of this environment to the technical director, production manager, charge scenic artist and propmaster. Scenic designers are responsible for creating scale models of the scenery, renderings, paint elevations and scale construction drawings as part of their communication with other production staff.

Notable scenic designers, past and present, include: David Gallo, Robert Brill, Tony Walton, Adolphe Appia, Boris Aronson, Howard Bay, Edward Gordon Craig, Luciano Damiani, Ezio Frigerio, Barry Kay, Sean Kenny, Ralph Koltai, Ming Cho Lee, Santo Loquasto, Jo Mielziner, Oliver Smith, Franco Colavecchia, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, Josef Svoboda, George Tsypin, Robert Wilson, Franco Zeffirelli, Natalia Goncharova, Vadim Meller, Aleksandra Ekster, Nathan Altman, Maria Björnson, David Borovsky, Daniil Lider, Inigo Jones, Nicholas Georgiadis, Alexandre Benois, Francoise Cherry-Cohen, Léon Bakst, and Russell Patterson.

Click on the heading above to see videos about the costume design and set design for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

David Rockwell designs Oscar set for second time

Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic, the producers of the upcoming 82nd Academy Awards, want to keep this year's show moving along at a fast pace so that influenced the design of the Oscars set by production designer David Rockwell (left).

Rockwell has configured a set for the March 7 show that has multiple presentation areas whose pieces will be able to quickly transform. Instead of one central platform that doesn't allow for simultaneous action, the stage will have three circular turntables spaced out from one another, each enclosed by curved walls that will showcase images or film clips (the model is shown on the right).

To frame hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as well as the presenters, open screens with what Rockwell described as "modern decorative patterns" will be used to create lighting designs as backdrops. In contrast to last year's production, where the flooring was black, the upcoming show will feature a floor that is white. (Topaz and brown are also part of the show's color scheme.)

Rockwell is keeping some aspects from last year's show such as the Swarovski crystal curtain to border the stage. (Click on the heading above to see last year's stage). The stage will again be on two levels, so that the audience can feel closer to the action. Rockwell is also building on a reconfigured seating structure that was introduced last year to bring the audience and the performers more closely together, by strategically placing faceted mirrors whose reflections contribute to a sense of connectedness.

Douglas Fitch Designs Operas

Douglas Fitch (left) designed a production for the Los Angeles Opera production of "Hansel and Gretel" (right) at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles which was so powerful it has been called a triumph of design over content. One reviewer said that there are times when what is happening visually is so interesting you forget to pay attention to the singers.

Doug Fitch has worked in media ranging from architecture and opera to puppetry. At Tanglewood he designed and directed Elliott Carter’s only opera, What Next? , in a production conducted by James Levine. He has designed and staged productions of Puccini’s Turandot for the Santa Fe Opera; Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel for the Los Angeles Opera; Wagner’s Das Rheingold for the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic; and Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny for Tanglewood, as well as several productions for the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) at the Kennedy Center. At Bard College he created a double-bill for soprano Dawn Upshaw of Four Saints in Three Acts and the world premiere of A Bird in Your Ear, by David Bruce. At Wolf Trap, for the NSO, he staged a version of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, with light, shadow, a single dancer, and a child narrator. Mr. Fitch’s work in concert-theater rekindled a childhood interest in puppetry now finding form as a live-filmed and projected miniature theater of moving pictures. The first production using this technique was with the New York Philharmonic in May 2005 in Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale, featuring violinist Pinchas Zukerman, and actors F. Murray Abraham and Marian Seldes, conducted by Xian Zhang.

To get an idea of his particular design influences click on the heading above to see an excerpt from the 1953 film "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T" by none other than Dr. Seuss. Fitch says that seeing that movie as a young child profoundly influenced his visual sensibilities.

Wired magazine shows us the future of the iPad

Apple introduced the "iPad", it's answer to tablet computing, to mixed reviews. But now, Wired magazine (right) is developing an issue of it's popular print magazine specifically for devices like the iPad and people will have a chance to see some of the potential of these new devices. A collaboration between Adobe, Apple and Wired magazine is a hard combination to beat. If you wondered why someone would want to read a magazine on an electronic device, Wired magazine is about to show us.

As the Apple iPad and other devices to read traditional print material on an electronic reader continue to be introduced, many magazine publishers are developing electronic versions of their print material for the new platforms. Wired, in collaboration with Adobe, is developing a digital version of their print magazine using the same designers and other creatives who work on the print version. The digital version will include rich text, imagery, animation, short films and the ability to rotate some images 360 degrees.

Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson showed how Wired will look as an edition for tablets and other devices at the recent TED Conference. Some feel this transition is comparable in importance to the difference between radio and television.

You can see a video introducing some of the concepts behind Wired's foray into electronic publishing by clicking on the heading above.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Anne Taylor Explores Learning Environments

Anne Taylor (right) has studied how schools, classrooms, playgrounds, homes, museums, and parks affect children and how they learn, for forty years. She says that architects must integrate their design knowledge with an understanding of the developmental needs of learners, and educators, parents, and students must broaden their awareness of the built, natural, and cultural environment to maximize the learning experience. Schools and other environments can themselves become "three-dimensional textbooks" that enable children to discover the power of their own learning.

Taylor has a new book about these ideas called Linking Architecture and Education: Sustainable Design of Learning Environments (left) that presents examples of designs that are the result of interdisciplinary understanding of place. Taylor includes designer perspectives, forums derived from commentary by outside contributors involved in school planning, and photographs of solutions to create learning environments from comprehensive design criteria.

Taylor argues that architecture and the study of the built, natural, and cultural environment synthesize the world of material things and the world of ideas. It helps us to realize that we are a part of not apart from the environment.

Anne Taylor is the Director of the Institute for Environmental Education, School of Architecture and Planning, University of New Mexico. In 1997 she received a life-long honorary membership in the America Institute of Architects for her contributions in the field of children and environmental design.

She is interested in architecture for schools as pedagogy … architecture which is NOT passive volumes of space, or landscape design never used for more than gross motor development or recess. She has been working with imaginative and receptive architects who want to study user needs, who want to involve users in participatory planning and who want to understand the developmental needs of the population being served as well as the content of the subject matter being imparted and the learning processes that help us all gain access to knowledge.

Programming for schools shouldn't start with predetermined activity settings or square footage needs. Educational and architectural programming need first to look at the client, the developmental rights of that client, then at the curriculum and instructional delivery system.

Guidelines for new learning environment design criteria include:

Developmental needs as design criteria
Curriculum as a design determinant for architecture
Design studio format as a model for the American classroom
Flexibility, Deployability
Systems Thinking
Learning landscapes for Eco-Literacy
Co-location of facilities
Community use of the schools for lifelong learning
The community as a learning laboratory
User guides and post occupancy evaluation

Monday, February 8, 2010

We Are Creating Our Own Science Fiction Future

The award-winning science fiction writer, Kim Stanley Robinson (left), says that it is difficult to write science fiction today because real science often catches up with fiction too quickly. It is hard to sort out science fiction from science fact today. There are some things, like "light speed travel" and "teletransporters" that were fun little devices in science fiction that few ever really thought could actually be made real, but the rest of the stuff has already been created or is just over the horizon.

What Robinson says is that we, collectively, are creating our own science fiction reality through real science. Our attitudes about science are shifting from fear to recognition that science can help make our world better. It is up to designers to now use the advances of science to create a better world.

Sciemce has made tremendous advances in their role as "discoverers" of the nature of the universe (the Hubble) and life (DNA), and designers must build on those and other discoveries to now create that which does not yet exist - to turn fiction into fact. The future is not something we simple live into, it does not exist out there already, we must create it.

Click on the heading above to hear (in a series of 8 minute clips) a 90 minute lecture on some of his ideas that Robinson gave at Duke University at a conference put together by Jerry Canavan.

Edison Was a Genius of His Time

The modern world is an electrified world. The light bulb, in particular, profoundly changed human existence by illuminating the night and making it hospitable to a wide range of human activity. The electric light (left), one of the everyday conveniences that most affects our lives, was invented in 1879 by Thomas Alva Edison (right). That was just over 130 years ago. Think how much the world has changed since then. Edison was neither the first nor the only person trying to invent an incandescent light bulb but he gets the credit for making the first practical model.

What Edison did is figure out what substance could be used in an electric lamp in which a filament is heated to incandescence by an electric current. Edison was the entrepreneur who created the first practical prototype. Today's incandescent light bulbs use filaments made of tungsten rather than carbon of the 1880's.

Edison was born February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio and died October 18, 1931 in West Orange, New Jersey and, before even starting on the light bulb project, had already gained an international reputation for his work on the phonograph. He was a household name and a superstar dubbed "The Wizard of Menlo Park" before he invented the lightbulb.

In his 20s, Edison decided he would spend the rest of his life inventing things so he set up a lab to do just that and pretty much worked around the clock for the rest of his life investigating any number of possibilities. Next to Leonardo da Vinci, it is hard to think of anyone who devoted so much of their life to investigating how things work and designing improvements.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Our Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier

Within a single generation, digital media and the World Wide Web have transformed virtually every aspect of modern culture, from the way we learn and work to the ways in which we socialize and even conduct war. But is the technology moving faster than we can adapt to it? And is our 24/7 wired world causing us to lose as much as we've gained?

In Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier, FRONTLINE presents an in-depth exploration of what it means to be human in a 21st-century digital world. Continuing a line of investigation she began with the 2008 FRONTLINE report Growing Up Online, award-winning producer Rachel Dretzin (right) embarks on a journey to understand the implications of living in a world consumed by technology and the impact that this constant connectivity may have on future generations.

Joining Dretzin on this journey is commentator Douglas Rushkoff (left), a leading thinker and writer on the digital revolution -- and one-time evangelist for technology's positive impact who now seems to question whether or not we are tinkering with something more essential than we realize.

The Digital Nation Web site launched more than 10 months before the broadcast as part of FRONTLINE's first multiplatform project, publishing short online video reports in addition to a producers' blog and a mosaic of user-generated content called Your Stories designed to let visitors participate in the documentary process. The site also features embeddable video, and an archive of online events with expert guests. Self-guided online workshops for teachers and parents can be found there.

Click on the heading above to go to the Digital Nation site and see the video.

Why Design for Space?

With talk about NASA exploring human colonies in space, some people wonder why we don't spend more energy and resources on saving the planet we live on now. Saving planet Earth from our own mistakes is definitely something we need to do in order to become a Level I civilization (a civilization that can manage the resources of its planet).

The problem is, saving planet Earth is only an intermediate step for human survival. The long term problem is that our star, the Sun, is already middle aged and has lived out half its life. In another 5 billion years our Sun will run out of fuel. Long before that however, perhaps only 1 billion years, Earth will be uninhabitable by humans. We have a billion years to get, not to Mars (our next door neighbor), but out of our dying solar system altogether in order to survive. In order to do that we will have to become a Level III civilization (a civilization that can manage the resources of its galaxy.)

The Universe is 13.8 billion years old, Earth is 4.5 billion years old and we have only 1 billion years remaining to find a new home outside of our solar system. That is the supreme design challenge and the reason we are making baby steps to other planets now. We have a long way to go.

The Future of Architecture is Design and Engineering

There is something about the architectural designs of Santiago Calatrava that sets his work apart from other architects of his time. Calatrava adds to his architectural designs the power of engineering. After years of study in architecture and engineering, he can bring large structures to existence that could not be created without his strong background in engineering.

It is suggested that, as Frank Lloyd Wright was the top architect of the first half of the 20th century and Frank Gehry is the exemplar of the second half of the 20th century, Santiago Calatrava will be the top architect of the first half of the 21st century.

Calatrava was born on July 28, 1951 in Valencia, Spain. At age 8 he began to draw and paint in the Arts and Crafts School and at 13 he was an exchange student in France. Returning to Valencia, he entered the Escuela Tecnica Superior de Arquitectura, where he graduated and attended a post-graduate degree in Urban Planning.

Calatrava decided to continue his studies in engineering. Then in 1975, he entered the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, receiving his Ph.D. in 1979. Having completed his studies, he worked with small engineering projects and began to participate in competitions. In 1983 he won his first competition: Stadelhofen Railway Station in Zurich, where he had set his office. A year later, his first bridge project, starting the worldwide recognition of his name attached to such construction.

In 1989 he established his second office in Paris, and the third in Valencia in 1991. With a knowledge of modern engineering and its technologies, he can make his structures unique examples of 21st century design. His design for Orient Station (above right) in Lisbon, Portugal is just one example of his designs that seem to epitomize the 21st century.

Project H Takes Design Revolution on the Road

Project H Design hit the road in a vintage Airstream trailer with their Design Revolution Road Show, starting with exhibitions in San Francisco and Los Angeles in February. The show is run by Emily Pilloton and showcases 40 examples of humanitarian design.

On February 1st, design nonprofit Project H Design hit the road for a 35-school, 75-day, 6300-mile tour and exhibition showcasing design for social impact. The Design Revolution Road Show will take place in a vintage Airstream trailer that features a mobile exhibition of 40 humanitarian products and a lecture/workshop series that will visit 25 high schools and colleges around the country.

The 40 products featured in the Design Revolution Road Show’s exhibition have been showcased in the book Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People. Project H founder Emily Pilloton and project architect Matthew Miller will be behind the wheel for the duration of the road show, hosting lectures, workshops, and exhibition tours at every stop.

The programming will bring the evidence of and tools for design for social impact to the doorsteps of students, with the ultimate goal of enabling and empowering the next generation of creative problem-solvers to apply their skills to the world’s most pressing problems and improve life on a global scale.

Click on the heading above to follow the Design Revolution Road Show as it moves across the country.

"Up" Wins Annie Award

Pixar Animation Studio's "Up" received the Best Animated Feature Award from ASIFA-Hollywood. The 37th Annual Annie Awards were presented in a ceremony in Los Angeles Saturday, February 6, 2010.

The Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor, director, producer and one of pop culture's most recognizable figures, William Shatner, hosted the Awards ceremony at UCLA's Royce Hall in Los Angeles, CA. The black-tie evening began with a pre-reception at 5 p.m. followed by the Annie Awards ceremony at 7 p.m. and post award party at 10 p.m. The Annie Awards ceremony is webcast on beginning Tuesday, February 9, 2010.

The awards for designers included:

Best Animated Feature - Up - Pixar Animation Studios
Best Home Entertainment Production - Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder - The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Best Animated Short Subject - Robot Chicken: Star Wars 2.5 - ShadowMachine
Best Animated Television Commercial - Spanish Lottery "Deportees" - Acme Filmworks, Inc.
Best Animated Television Production - Prep and Landing - ABC Family/Walt Disney Animation Studios
Best Animated Television Production for Children The Penguins of Madagascar - Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation
Animated Effects - James Mansfield "The Princess and the Frog" - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Character Animation in a Television Production - Phillip To "Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space" - DreamWorks Animation
Character Animation in a Feature Production - Eric Goldberg "The Princess and the Frog" - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Character Design in a Television Production - Bill Schwab "Prep and Landing" - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Character Design in a Feature Production - Shane Prigmore "Coraline" - Laika
Directing in a Television Production - Bret Haaland "The Penguins of Madagascar - Launchtime" - Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation
Directing in a Feature Production - Pete Docter "Up" - Pixar Animation Studios
Production Design in a Television Production - Andy Harkness "Prep and Landing" - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Production Design in a Feature Production - Tadahiro Uesugi "Coraline" - Laika
Storyboarding in a Television Production - Robert Koo "Merry Madagascar" - DreamWorks Animation
Storyboarding in a Feature Production - Tom Owens "Monsters vs. Aliens" DreamWorks Animation

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fashion Institute Shows Actual Costumes from Top Movies

If you love fashion and you love film, and happen to be in Los Angeles, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum and Galleries' exhibition of costume design shows the actual costumes from the top movies of the year. They are exquisitely crafted and the details are beautiful. This is FIDM's 18th annual show honoring the skill and talent of costume designers.

More than 100 costumes from 20-plus movies released in 2009 are displayed, including outfits from "Nine" (left) (by Colleen Atwood) and gowns from "The Young Victoria" (right) (by Sandy Powell). Also on view are the costumes by last year's Oscar winner for costume design, Michael O'Connor, for "The Duchess."

The exhibition opened on Feb. 9, and runs through April 7, 2010. The FIDM Museum and Galleries are at 919 S. Grand Ave. in downtown Los Angeles.