Lamps by Moooi Amsterdam
Chest of drawers by Tajo Remy
When I think of Dutch culture, I think of art and design.
On my last visit to the Netherlands, I had the chance to go beyond Amsterdam and to see the lovely little cities surrounding the capital. What unites the seven cities and towns I visited is the function that the architecture and design that is inherent in everyday living. Everything makes sense.
The porcelains of Delft, the houseboats on the canals and giant bay windows are indicative of the pursuit of purpose without sacrificing aesthetics. And why not? The stereotypical coldness associated with the geography is broken when you step back to realize the romance of the whole picture.
For those who are on Pinterest, Urban Peanut: A Gallery has a board! Come and check it out here.
Ork Map of Toronto
Christopher Columbus_Map_New World_1490
By Mike Baldwin
Directions are either helpful or confusing, maps included. Visual cues are meant to minimize interference by by language and this is where design comes in. Conventions and cultural references are used to help in this experience but there are still shortcomings.
The visual that a map presents to its beholder is spatial; ingenious use of other elements like colours and texture gives the said beholder a space for personalizing the experience of wayfinding. One good example of this visual map is the ‘You Are Here’ map that can be found at any shopping centre. By using the beholder’s relative starting point, the hunt for the shoe sale is a little closer for someone shopping with daddy’s credit card which is a blessing (for the current teenager) and a curse (for the same teenager but ten years from and now also for the unknowing father).
Maps are documents of discovery. Without blazing trails, maps would not exist and without verifying accuracy, maps could very well be drawings mazes that can be filled with colour using wax crayons. Navigators commissioned by kings earned a living heading to the unknown seas brought back trophies as well as roughly plotted maps of their routes to get from one place to their destinations. Christopher Columbus had an estimated idea of how to get to the New World but confusion about where exactly his ship landed has born a huge influence on our present geographic references.
Recently, experimentation in cartography has come from graphic design. The maps are neither topographic, geographic or political; they have become typographic. Looking at the Ork maps of cities, including Toronto, the intention is to visually represent the different neighbourhoods and districts in urban centres through kerning and letting. They are useless if you are a tourist trying to navigate the streets but heck, they are beautiful.
Present-day collectible maps are great to serve as art and design pieces. Nothing else. They are visual references and approximations that could be slightly helpful. One can argue that this is a design failure; another can rebut by asking if we even need maps still. The analog/puritan in me would say ‘yes.’ The tech enthusiast in me asks, ‘don’t I have an app for that?’.
December has slapped us in the face with no apology. Being cooped up in a suburban box for most of my waking hours should not be an excuse for the lack of action on ‘the Gallery.’ (I am quietly willing this nickname to get catchier every time I use it.)
With the season of gift-giving in our midst, a list is in order and better yet, a list of gifts that I would like to receive. They are the only gifts worth giving unless you prove me otherwise.
This SIWA Backpack by Naoto Fukasawa is made in Japan. The material is wash-suki paper which is quite deceiving because it is resilient, waterproof and become softer with the wear and tear of commuting. Ideal for the urban nomad in everyone. $250 at Mjölk.
The iPad has been a game-changer since it was introduced to the market in 2010. Carrying one everywhere has been a constant for the person who is always on the go. Once you’re home, wouldn’t you like to have your sidekick come home to a nice cradle? I have been crushing on this iVictrola for iPad designed by Matt Richmond. It’s like the composite creature in Mary Shelley’s novel without the monster stigma. There is an old repurposed Magnavox horn from the 1920s to be used as the speaker with a handcarved walnut base. If you’re lucky enough to run into one, I know who has two thumbs and would like to find one under his tree. This guy. $985 from Design Within Reach.
Since it’s the holidays, we think about our friends and loved ones and how we can spend more quality time with them. It is all about being efficient with time and being always prepared for last-minute parties or dinners (maybe some that might have slipped one’s mind until about an hour before the appetizers). The Mini Cooper Coupé 2012 is a present that will keep on giving. Impromptu visits to the parents, aunts and uncles are on my list of resolutions. Please help make this possible. Starting at $25,950 at MINI.ca.
Around this time of the year, a design-hungry hog would be salivating about the thought of going to Salone internazionale del mobile where designers, manufacturers and consumers congregate to see what is in store in the very near future. The thought of being in the same room as the jewels of some of our time’s brilliant minds could induce short bursts of euphoria akin to Beatle-mania, if only those hyperventilating were full-grown adults, with refined tastes that are only be appeased by limited edition Eames chairs made from recycled bamboo chopsticks. I must confess I took the liberty in inventing this particular collector’s piece.
Not even an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano could keep the design-obsessed away. Last year, patrons and enthusiasts risked being grounded in Europe just to behold innovative products in design. What heaven does one live in where being stuck in Europe is the worst thing that could happen? Sign me up. Please.
Cité de la mode et du design, Paris
A couple of weeks ago, tired from a full week of completing projects both at work and at home, I decided to do a little indoor gardening. The tropical plants, lucky bamboos of birthdays past and and whatever is left of an orchid plant after the bloom is gone were the subjects of the Friday night impromptu botany experiment.
Fifteen years ago, my grandmother gave me a plant that has not been repotted since. Imagine a 4 foot tall plant in a 6-inch plastic planter. It was an odd thing to behold.
“Why don’t I cut stalks from this plant and put them in water? I know roots will shoot. Let’s just see,” I thought to myself. the success story involves the first plant, roots and all, being potted the day before yesterday.
I never fancied myself a greenthumb but here I was, little plant in my hands, dirty with soil. I started thinking: “What’s an interesting plant to grow?”
I started thinking about my lithops when I was living in Montréal. Lithops are also known as living pebbles because they are the perfect example of biomimicry. Their camouflaged appearance has helped these succulent plants (ex. cacti) escape predation and getting eaten by the thirstiest of animals for the water stored in their leaves. They are ‘designed’ by nature to withstand the dry summers in Southern Africa, their native habitat.
I know I am geeking out, dear readers, but they are such strange plants and lithops just made me read more about them and other succulent plants. The best design inspirations definitely come from nature. Have you read Darwin’s “Origin of Species”? Go ahead. You’ll see how Alexander McQueen‘s Spring 2010 collection makes sense.
There is no better way to celebrate a holiday, and I mean any holiday, than with chocolate. Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter…the list goes on. We can never have too much chocolate in all shapes and forms. No one says no to chocolate in the form of an egg, Santa, rabbit, hearts…
One holiday that has stayed away from the year-long chocolate peddling marathon is Thanksgiving. I have never seen a turkey-shaped chocolate, at least in my part of the world (clue: north of the 49th parallel and south of the Arctic Circle, between the Atlantic and the Pacific). What is so special about Thanksgiving that marketers have not placed it on the calendar of important dates for chocolate consumption? It’s called moderation, or something like it.
For my American friends who will be spending a good part of the weekend a-slicing and a-dicing in their kitchens, in anticipation of a giant piece of poultry, later doused in its fat drippings and sugared cranberry. The Thanksgiving meal is THE motherload of all meals. It’s sensible to stay away from sweets knowing that the average Thanksgiving meal is about 2000 calories. Moderation or precation, it still does not answer my question: why is there no emphasis on chocolate turkeys? Maybe chocolate festive elves in red suits are easier to stomach than chocolate feathered gobblers. Turducken anyone?
Spotted by Michael Sharkey
Personal space is a big concern for most people, especially among those of us who have access to some and want more of it. It’s a privilege that we often take for granted. We sometimes can’t even be bothered to clean up after ourselves (hint: that space under your bed is not pizza delivery box storage, mon ami) and sometimes such collegial habits do not end.
Imagine whatever space you have right now, no matter the size, is taken away from you. How would you feel? Unfortunately for a lot, everything happens so quickly there is no time to think about one’s feelings like after earthquakes, landslides or tsunamis. The adrenaline is just enough for you and your family out of harm’s way, if that.
My passion for design is not fleeting nor frivolous; I really believe that design can help affect change in the way we see the world, the way we communicate and also the way we relate to each other by keeping form and function synchronized.
Creativity and vision can help affect change. There is an organization called Containers to Clinics which definitely has changed the way overseas medical work is conducted and delivered. In the last year, after a couple of logistics courses, I learned that the metal containers in which goods are shipped are usually discarded/abandoned at delivery points after they have served their purpose. These containers required handiwork, time and energy to be made. Is it ethical to have these giant pieces of ‘garbage’ lying around? No.
The abandoned containers are repurposed and redesigned to serve as clinics which take up less raw materials, less time to build and less capital investment than their conventional brick and mortar counterparts. Please have a look at the C2C website to see how you can help. See design do good..
I don’t plan on making this temporary abandonment of Urban Peanut: A Gallery a habit, mind you. A lot has happened in the last month regarding design and my involvement in the industry, which is, by the way, up to this moment, a very good circumstance.
I have to meditate on the number 12, my favourite number. My partiality towards the number might have something to do with my birthdate. It is quite an important number for the vast majority of us. Months, disciples and doughnuts come in 12s. So did exposures on a roll of 35mm film, a long time ago.
The 12th of October also is the anniversary of Columbus’ landing in he Caribbean (BTW political correctness is not the focus of this entry), the birthday of Luciano Pavarotti, and marks the launch of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979). It is pretty important date in culture and human history.
For this year, the 12th of October, I anticipate, will also be an important day. It will be the day after Thanksgiving weekend. It will also be the day when my friends and family come together to celebrate me through song and food. An iPad is also an option. Thank you very much in advance. And dark chocolate cakes are most welcome.
The previous weeks have left me with a lot to juggle and my baby, Urban Peanut, has been left with nothing to feed on.
I am currently in New York and it is definitely a city like no other. With so many exhibits at the MoMa, and Brooklyn as a new place of urban exploration, one is left with close to no energy when one needs it the most: on a Friday night.
Muji is easily one of my favourite design stores with affordable offerings, without sacrificing quality of taste. My life in Paris involved coffee, food and Muji. There is nothing with a logo in the store. Subtlety and minimalism are keywords during the conception process of all of Muji items. I am packing up on their refillable pens and stationery. When are you coming to Canada, dear Muji? Good design is for the people!
My holiday is going very well with a trip to a Warhol exhibit in the Brooklyn Museum and a whole day of picnicking in Park Slope. I will let you know how it goes with photos. Brrrrup!!