Art of Criticism

An Anatomy of Uncriticism

In June, when Apple unveiled its donut-shaped, spaceship-suggestive headquarters in Cupertino, California, I took to my Design Observer blog to critique what I saw as its retrograde suburbanism. Companies have been plunking big geometric shapes in the countryside since the 1950s, simulating urbanism for their employees with cafeterias and bike shares, bowling [...]

Hands Off Our Houses

Last summer, a business professor and a marketing consultant wrote on The Harvard Business Review’s Web site about their idea for a $300 house. According to the writers, and the many people who have enthusiastically responded since, such a house could improve the lives of millions of urban poor around the world. And with a [...]

Plastic Man

Salone del Mobile was ending, and Delta’s Sunday one-thirty business-class service from Milan to J.F.K. was full of well-heeled American retailers and marketers of design. Before takeoff, passengers circulated in the cabin, quizzing colleagues about what they had liked at the huge weeklong industrial-design fair, and fortifying themselves for reentry into a less stylish country [...]

Love & Architecture

When Aline met Eero in January 1953, she was the associate art editor and critic for the New York Times, recently divorced, and on a trip to Detroit to meet the young architect whose General Motors Technical Center had proved to be such a smashing success. She was to write a profile of Saarinen for [...]

Bassett Jones, Under Our Noses and Over Our Heads

This article does not pretend to encroach upon the purely scientific side of illumination. It merely attempts to indicate where the lighting engineer must look for his problem. He has not an a priori solution. His business is to meet the conditions at hand and to devise a scheme of illumination that will do much [...]

The Glorious Gowanus

“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror”
–Rainer Marie Rilke, Duino Elegies
I am riding my bike south on Nevins Street, a neglected side street in Brooklyn lined with squat, surly industrial buildings used for glass manufacturing and sanitation and trucking. Trash fills the gutter and piles up like snowdrifts in the nooks between buildings. [...]

Frank Sinatra Has a Cold

FRANK SINATRA, holding a glass of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, stood in a dark corner of the bar between two attractive but fading blondes who sat waiting for him to say something. But he said nothing; he had been silent during much of the evening, except now in this [...]

Uncommon Ground

What is small? This sounds like a trick question, or an excerpt from the text of one of my favorite children’s books, Big Little. But an explanation would seem central to the Museum of Modern Art’s new exhibition “Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement,” featuring 11 built or under-construction projects on five [...]

Remembering Saul

Although I had met him before, I really first came to know Saul Bass by way of an interview published in ID Magazine in 1958.  Having just been named editor, I had selfishly assigned the interview to myself.  Recently I pulled the piece out of an ancient files folder and was astonished by how much of [...]

Digestive Aids

The AV Club, the arts arm of The Onion, publishes a feature on its blog called Sound and Vision, which looks at the use of pop songs by movies and TV. The latest one, from earlier this month, discusses the pregnant cultural moment in which Garden State appropriated The Shins’ “New Slang.” That instant, it has been argued elsewhere, [...]

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