Outlining the definition of ‘design’ is incredibly difficult when you’re explaining it to someone with little to no design awareness. Your definition spills into art, into culture, because it has its roots in art and culture. Maybe there’s no such thing as a lack of design awareness… just the lack of a concrete definition.
When you think design, you think of Japan’s oriental/minimal approach, you think of Germany and the Bauhaus movement, you think of Italy’s domination in the transport Industry, you also think of Sweden and how Scandinavian design came to be and came to take over the world. The Middle East has its stronghold on design too, with Turkey, Iran, Israel, all being ingredients within this massive culture cauldron. Amman Design Week is testament to the fact that Jordan has a fresh, distinct flavor to add to this cauldron.
The first of its kind, in a country that knows art, knows tradition, but is still discovering design, the Amman Design Week (held from 1st to 9th September) aimed at initiating the conversation around design, its role in today’s society, its hidden presence over the centuries, and how it can create a positive impact in a way no other profession can.
The Amman Design Week was spread across Amman’s culture corridor, with events and exhibitions being held at four of the city’s key locations for culture exchange. The Hangar, a vast expanse of architecture converted into an exhibition space, hosted work from not just within Jordan but around Jordan too. The idea was to give a platform to design thinking, and to showcase some stellar work. The Hangar was open to the public all week, with all the work meticulously displayed in their grandeur. Artists and Designers bonded with each other as well as visitors, exchanging words and ideas. The Hangar hosted works spanning not just across countries, but across disciplines too. It was important to not follow a rigorous theme, said ADW curator Sahel Al Hiyari, but rather display diversity built around the unity for the passion to design.
Got Melons? Karpouz Collaborative decorates the Hangar outdoors with precisely stacked watermelons!
Al-Warqaa, the ambitious bird that is chained to the ground.
Secret Sounds of the Desert, a collection of precisely tuned flints that become a mystic music instrument.
Visitors journey through the Smellscapes project, a collection of aromas captured in tiny vessels.
Curator Sahel Al Hiyari and Director Abeer Seikaly walk us through the Hangar Exhibition.
An innovative sidewalk inspired by Islamic Textiles guides patrons and visitors to the ADW venues.
If the Hangar was a grand gallery showcasing even grander designs, the Makerspace was the mad designer’s laboratory. Two spaces devoted to showing and showcasing the act of creation, the Makerspace had stuff that even we got to see for the first time in our lives! As a creative, the Makerspace was the perfect place to feel at home, amongst experimental designs, eccentric designers, and 3D printers just whirring up a storm! The Makerspace wasn’t just about displaying. It was where masterclasses on design were held too. Mixed Dimensions, a Jordan based 3D printing start-up showcased the infinite possibilities presented by 3D printing, which the Jordanian Kingdom has put a ban on in the recent past.
Meet Flooff! A shape’shifting installation by Hanna Salameh Design.
Laser cut compressed wood-ash panels make intricate shapes inspired by biogenetic structures.
3D printed Sand Art showing the scope for architecture of the future
The 3D Printing showcase by Mixed Dimensions. Jordan recently put a ban on domestic 3D printing, which Mixed Dimensions is advocating against.
The Raghadan Tourist Terminal was where design met craft met commerce. A lot like an urban design bazaar, the Raghadan housed ADW’s Crafts District, a boulevard with designers on either side showcasing and selling their craft, ranging from textile, to product, to lighting, to even food design! Each stall had a different take on design, and a different story to tell. Amongst that chaotic beauty was a stage for musicians who performed post sunset.
The Orange Boulevard at the Raghadan Tourist Terminal
Recycled Plastic Bags get woven into a magical roof by Kees Chic
Apercu’s Resin + Wood combo is to die for!
Brilliant upcycling of legs from different chairs.
Kees Chic’s intricate plastic woven magic.
The Amman Design Week arose as a beacon for good design in the Middle East. Amidst the rather serious refugee crisis, the Design Week aimed at not just creating social impact and awareness, but also breaking barriers, with designers from neighboring countries collaborating to collectively showcase the power of design thinking. As I type this right now, ADW 2017 is in a nascent stage, developing as a concept. A concept that will further cement Jordan’s reputation as a design powerhouse… and we at Yanko can’t help but feel incredibly excited!
Who rides horses anymore?? No one. Then why do little kids have to ride wooden ones? I mean, what are we preparing them for?! Nextofkin, or NOK Creatives designed this awesome rocking horse series that gives kids the taste of something slightly more contemporary. Built with amazing detail, comfortable seats, a mock headlight with handlebars, and even adorable little helmets (hey, we need to teach them road etiquette from the start), the NOK Rockin’ Moto is the perfect upgrade to the century old wooden rocking horse design!
Opinion: the UK’s housing crisis is no accident, but has been carefully orchestrated to become a catch-all excuse for self-serving projects, argues Phineas Harper in his first Opinion column for Dezeen.
The housing crisis isn’t a crisis. Calling it one inhibits effective action and plays into the hands of its creators. To respond strategically to the crippling British homes shortage we must abolish the term “housing crisis” entirely and call it what it is – a design project.
From “economic crisis” to “refugee crisis”, the narrative of perpetual catastrophe is being deployed to divert attention from root causes, allowing flawed retrogressive proposals to be pushed upon a panicked public. Though cast as unavoidable, many of our so-called crises are not the consequences of unforeseeable chaotic forces, but of specific decisions taken by well-informed individuals to meet their political and financial goals.
“Crisis” suggests a natural disaster, something beyond human control that serves nobody’s interests. The housing crisis is none of these things – it has been carefully planned, orchestrated over several decades, and is now delivering exactly the economic and social conditions it was intended to, making some people a lot of money in the process.
This is not to say that the situation isn’t destructive. England, and especially London, has become an urban basket case in which the average rent can gobble up three quarters of the average post-tax salary.
The situation displaces the poor and impoverishes the well-off. Luxury towers stand riddled with unoccupied flats owned as wealth stores for investors while homelessness spirals. Local authorities force through monocultural residential developments devoid of civic or cultural life. All this is deliberate.
In 1980, shortly after Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government swept to power, it put in motion a plan that would neuter the nation’s ability to adequately house its population: whole-scale privatisation.
It was actually the socialist Labour party that invented Right to Buy, the legal vehicle through which British tenants of the state can buy their house off the government, although take-up was low and it was coupled with a national house-building programme that kept prices under control. But with the Conservatives, Right to Buy was extended radically – millions of state-owned homes were sold off at massive discounts, while building projects were abandoned, causing prices to surge as housing supply fell off a cliff.
Then cabinet minister Michael Heseltine stated that “no single piece of legislation has enabled the transfer of so much capital wealth from the state to the people”. It was an audacious bribe to voters and it was effective.
Thousands found the rise in value of their newly-obtained real estate so seductive that they began to favour politicians and policies promising to swell property prices at any cost. Families began to think like mini stock-traders inadvertently adopting the mentality that prioritises return on investment above wellbeing, cementing a Thatcherite ideological template into the heart of family life.
Private-sector property developers were happy too. Markets always seek to maximise profit, creating conditions which allow the highest possible return for the lowest possible investment. With housing demand now outstripping supply, developers were able to build less while charging more. Far from encouraging private sector development, privatisation actually caused stagnation. The less the state built, the less anyone else built.
A commodity’s value typically depends on its utility and availability, but in certain cases holding value becomes a utility in itself. Gold, for instance, is used in jewellery and circuits, but its primary value for investors is its capacity to hold capital. Money flows around the international gold market regardless of how many wedding rings are being sold or how many computers need atom-thin wires that month.
Since 1980, housing has gradually become like gold in economic behaviour, its practical value dwarfed by its value as a speculation vehicle. However, housing is not an optional luxury but an essential commodity. We can live without housing no more than we can live without air, water or sleep. There is simply no alternative to participation in the housing market and as investors drive prices higher, we are forced to keep pace until we are priced out of our neighbourhoods entirely.
Gentrification is often cast as intrinsic to the march of development, with the displacement of poor residents or companies as a sad but necessary sacrifice on the pyre of progress. This characterisation of a trade-off between economic benefits and social harms is deeply flawed.
In the 1990 documentary Gut Renovation, Su Friedrich charts the rapid and deliberate gentrification of Williamsburg in New York City, instigated by the Bloomberg mayoral regime. Artists’ colonies were evicted with predictable callousness but Friedrich also shows how hundreds of medium-sized businesses, principally manufacturing and other light industry, were forced out, their factories demolished to make way for a rash of anodyne condominiums.
Perversely the administration’s own commission had concluded that Williamsburg was a valuable generator of economic activity, tax revenue and social cohesion but, eager to inflate land values, the city chose to proceed with demolitions regardless. Gentrification in the case of Williamsburg was in direct opposition to the interests of the businesses based there. It replaced economically and socially productive workplaces with unproductive capital stores. Even by the metrics of conventional capitalist wisdom, it was a strategic blunder damaging the real economy of Brooklyn.
Williamsburg shows how crises, whether British or Stateside, can be manufactured by policy makers for specific, rather than holistic, ends. There are, however, many alternative models out there in countries whose leaders are less obsessed with promoting private ownership.
In Paris for example, rent caps link prices to the median income locking in long-term affordable tenure. In Switzerland, only the citizens can buy property, preventing overseas investors from inflating the market. In Germany, which has the lowest rate of home ownership in the EU, rents take up a modest 23 per cent of net pay, while apartments have more than doubled in size since 1957.
In his keynote speech at the 2014 International Building Press awards, David Orr of the UK’s National Housing Federation urged the assembled hacks to be bolder in their use of the then little-published term “housing crisis”. Ministers, he argued, would only take action if the media pushed them to understand the scale of the housing shortage with robust language. The flip side though is that the crisis narrative has ultimately diminished the culpability of those responsible, neutralising the political toxicity of their actions while putting previously unthinkable policies on the table.
Last year, Britain’s former prime minister David Cameron declared that the housing crisis was so acute that the UK must tear up requirements for developers to build affordable rental homes. Elsewhere, under the banner of facing-up to the crisis, others argue that London should deregulate the greenbelt – the ring of protected countryside surrounding the city – to “free up land”. This despite London’s super-low density and strained transport infrastructure.
The housing crisis has become a catch-all excuse for advocating self-serving projects. Estate agents use it to rezone council estates as brownfield land. New London Architecture used it to propose building on public canals. Developers use it to dodge space standards. The term “housing crisis” has itself now become a core component of how housing inequality is framed and perpetuated.
The housing shortage has been created and sustained by a political strategy unfolding over nearly 40 years. It is no more unforeseen than a hangover after a wild night of drinking.
To call it a crisis misses the point: we have created a monster, now we must kill it. Four decades of inflating property prices while failing to build significant numbers of new homes has delivered exactly what it was designed to – inequality.
Phineas Harper is a critic and designer. He is deputy director of the Architecture Foundation and former deputy editor of the Architectural Review. He is author of the Architecture Sketchbook (2015) and People’s History of Woodcraft Folk (2016). In 2015 he co-created Turncoats, a design-based debating society which now has chapters in four continents.
“There wasn’t anywhere you could buy watches by brands like Void so we decided that it would be a good idea to launch an online watch store.”
Swedish-born Ericsson explained that there wasn’t a template for a design-led watch brand when he started his company in 2008.
“I didn’t know how to package a small design niche brand like this. It’s fun to have that blank page, you feel like a pioneer,” he said.
The brand’s design language employs simple, geometric forms, plain materials and restrained detailing that reflects Ericsson’s Scandinavian heritage.
Ericsson is glad he chose to launch his brand in Hong Kong, however.
“It feels like a very open atmosphere in general,” he said. “People are quite open to ideas. If I tell people that I’m a Swedish designer and I just started my company they think ‘Wow! You’re an entrepreneur!’ But if you say the same thing in Sweden, it’s like ‘You couldn’t get a job’.”
Read the edited transcript from our interview with David Ericsson and Patrick Kim-Gustafson below:
Trudie Carter: How did the collaboration begin?
Patrick Kim-Gustafson: I think it’s been with us since day one.
David Ericsson: The background story is, I met Marcus quite a long time ago when he was visiting in Hong Kong. He mentioned he was planning to start something in online retailing and I guess we had the embryo of an idea at the same time.
At that point we had recently done a competition with you guys. We basically launched the brand through Dezeen in 2008, which was probably the one clever thing I did around that time, apart from designing a nice product. My first watch was the V01, and Dezeen really liked it.
From day one, Dezeen was in Void Watches’ history. It has been our biggest channel to the people that I would like to know about my product.
Trudie Carter: And how has Void developed since you launched?
David Ericsson: It’s not so rough around the edges anymore. These days there’s a lot of small watch brands, so it is easy to forget that when I started Void Watches there were no other brands to look at. So, I didn’t know how to package a small design niche brand like this.It’s fun to have that blank page, it’s a nice realm to work in when there’s not really that much happening in that field. You feel like a bit of a pioneer I guess. I was quite fortunate to pick that spot at an early stage.
Trudie Carter: Why do you think so many young, independent watch brands are starting up at the moment?
David Ericsson: I think it’s always been a good idea waiting to happen, but I also think it’s the tools to do these things are so accessible now, and by tools I also mean it’s pretty cheap to travel, it’s easy to get on a flight.
I happen to live in Hong Kong, so for me to get to our manufacturer is very easy and I think our edge on a lot of other companies is that we are close to our factories. I like to think we can maintain quite a high level of quality at a decent price when other companies have to spend a lot of money to be able to do what we do.
But these days younger designers are luckier, they get it a little bit more than people my age. They’re not too scared of trying stuff.
Trudie Carter: What are the other benefits of being based in Hong Kong?
Patrick Kim-Gustafson: It’s very allowing. You can try whatever you like – if you want to do perfumes one day, you can try to do that.
David Ericsson: It feels like a very open atmosphere in general. People are quite open to ideas. If I tell people that “I’m a Swedish designer and I just started my company” they would think “Wow! You’re an entrepreneur!”But if you say the same thing in Sweden, it’s like “You couldn’t get a job”.
Patrick Kim-Gustafson: “You’re working from bed”, that’s what they say.
Trudie Carter: How has your background informed the way you design?
David Ericsson: People approach product design in different ways. I really like manufacturing and I like to be involved in the process, and I like to understand the process.
Of course a lot of designers work more on their styling, you know colour, graphics and kind of approach the project from the other direction. I prefer to push from inward-out rather than from the outside-in. So if you’re that type of designer then it’s such a fun place to be because there’s factories making everything in southern China.
Trudie Carter: Tell me about the watch you’ve produced with Dezeen.
David Ericsson: It’s based on the V03. We designed a custom dial, which is the most unique feature on the watch. Patrick worked on the dial design. We pretty much scaled away the regular details that we have.
We usually have numbers like hours, minutes, that follow the curvature of the watch and they are upside down on the bottom. So it’s a little bit quirky in that sense. For the Dezeen version, we decided to take away all those quirks.
Patrick Kim-Gustafson: We stripped it back until it’s almost blank and thought “Ok, so what do we need? We need index, minutes and hours.”
Trudie Carter: The Dezeen logo is pretty discreet, printed on the back of the case and on the buckle.
David Ericsson: It’s not in your face. Dezeen held us back a little bit on this kind of detailing! In the end we persuaded you to put this little logo on the front of the buckle. That’s pretty much as subtle as it gets, I think, when it comes to branding.
Trudie Carter: Your own logo on the dial is pretty discreet too.
David Ericsson: We brand our products at the six o’clock position. This is a bit of a joke to the watch industry: normally this is where it says “Swiss Made” on watches. So if you’re a watch person, you’ll check where the watch is made. In the beginning it was really for watch boffins, because that’s where you check.
Trudie Carter: What’s your design approach?
David Ericsson: We try to have a little bit of integrity in what we do. The more time we work on designing things, the fewer people are going to like it. But the people that like it are going to like it a little bit more.
Patrick Kim-Gustafson: They’re going to love it.
David Ericsson: Yes. At least that’s ambition. We have a very backwards approach.
Each of the compact rooms inside this hotel in France by Patrick Norguet features an en-suite bathroom hidden behind a wavy louvred wall. This 18-square-metre room has a soft colour palette of grey, pink and white.
Finnish Modernist architect Alvar Aalto accidentally invented the skateboard bowl with a 1930s swimming pool design, according to a US skateboarding magazine and a Finnish newspaper.
Alvar Aalto’s seminal 1939 Villa Mairea in Noormarkku, Finland, features the world’s first kidney shaped swimming pool and was the precedent for a rash of similar designs in the US, according to Transworld Skateboarding.
The pool is also significant for its rounded floor and change in depth from one end to the other, creating a bowl-like effect at the “deep end” that would become key to an explosion of illegal back-garden skateboarding sessions and trick developments during the 1975 Californian drought.
Transworld Skateboarding broke into the pool to skate it for the first time after spotting an article in Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, and published photographs from the session this week.
“It might be the swimming pool that changed the history of skateboarding,” said Helsingin Sanomat. “Until then, swimming pools were traditional rectangles, but the pool at Villa Mairea doesn’t have any angles in the pool.”
The newspaper linked the Villa Mairea pool to the 1948 Donnell Garden in Sonoma, California. It was designed by landscape architect Thomas Church, with a young Lawrence Halprin and architect George Rockrise, for the home of Dewey and Jean Donnell. The garden quickly became famous, thanks to its unusual use of forms – including a large kidney-shaped pool.
Church was Aalto’s friend and was heavily influenced by his work, moving away from sharp angles in favour of more rounded shapes after a meeting the architect during one of his visits to the US.
Helsingin Sanomat spoke to contemporary landscape architect Janne Saario, who has designed a number of skateparks in Finland and elsewhere, and has studied Aalto and Church’s pools. “It’s like a direct copy,” he said.
The Donnell Garden pool was widely replicated across California, becoming an iconic symbol of the “good life”. During the 1975 drought, many of these pools were left empty as part of widespread preservation efforts.
The empty bowls proved fertile ground for skateboarders, who found the curved shapes ideal for developing tricks, and broke into gardens illegally for skating sessions. Bowls have since become a key component in skatepark design.
“They soon were found by skateboarders and became their new playgrounds,” explained Transworld Skateboarding. “The tricks invented in the 1970s in the empty swimming pools of California are still being done 40 years later, and skateparks still use those similar concrete basins — whose role model is likely to be found in Villa Mairea.”
The Villa Mairea was commissioned by Finnish arts patrons Marie and Harry Gullichsen, who gave Aalto and his wife and business partner Aino a completely free hand in the design, telling the duo to treat it as an experiment.
The interiors were designed by Aino, while the structure and its accompanying pool represent a key moment in Alvar’s move away from a more rigid form of Modernist functionalism into the exploration of more organic shapes and material combinations.
Add Mental Floss to ever-growing list of print magazines that have ceased publication. The title’s November/December issue will be its last.
“While this is the final issue of Mental Floss magazine, we’re hoping it’s not the last you’ll hear from us,” wrote co-founders Mangesh Hattikudur and Will Pearson, in a note to readers.
“We’ve loved creating a print product, but fighting for space on the newsstand and Pony Express-ing issues to doorsteps are no longer the best ways to get you the stories you want. There are more than 20 million Flossers reading and watching Mental Floss online, and for us, to feels like there are so many opportunities for new adventures. We want to build a stronger digital community. We want to find new ways of telling centuries-old stories. And we want you with us.”
As a result of the change, Politico reports that Mental Floss’ editor Jessanne Collins has been named director of multimedia. The magazine’s executive editor Foster Kamer and art director Winslow Taft are departing.
Mental Floss was founded by Hattikudur and Pearson in 2001. In 2011, Dennis Publishing acquired the title.
We’re down to the final three games. Vin Scully will close out his incredible broadcasting career this weekend in San Francisco, with much of Southern California set to tune in to Sunday’s 12:05 p.m. contest.
One of the many remarkable things about Scully is that like his baseball broadcasts, his interviews are also timeless. This morning on KFI AM 640’s The Bill Handel Show, the host replayed his conversation with Scully from 2015. It sounded as fresh as it did originally and includes an explanation from Scully of the fortuitous genesis of his anecdotal radio style:
“When we came out to Los Angeles, in 1958, you have to remember, we were playing in the Coliseum, which was certainly not built for baseball. And the fans, many of whom were high up in the stands, the players were not only dots on the field but outside of the superstars, the fans were not particularly aware of the rank and file. So I tried very hard to make the players that appeared to be only dots on the field, human beings. And that’s really what got me started talking directly to the fans, telling a little quip now and then, and particularly trying to make the players more human. Rather than wind-up dolls.” …
“I tell you the truth. The greatest single thing that happened to Jerry Doggett, God rest his soul, my partner for so many years, the best thing that happened to us was – number one, playing in a ball park that wasn’t a ballpark; second was the arrival of the transistor radio. That marriage of the park and the radio was probably the greatest set of circumstances that any broadcaster has ever had.”