This blog is a long, meandering photo essay on design, both of objects and of cities. More on its rationale and bias is below. To read about me, click here.
To read about my book project on Vancouver's UN-Habitat Forum event of 1976 concerning sustainable urban settlements, click here. Few seem to know that Buckminster Fuller, Margaret Mead, Mother Teresa, Paolo Soleri and Maggie & Pierre Trudeau, along with many thousands of others, came to Vancouver in 1976 to talk about better, safer, fairer and more sustainable cities worldwide. In fact it was the founding conference of UN-Habitat, an agency that was subsequently built around a document called The Vancouver Declaration. My book is about what happened that year. It's a snapshot not just of Vancouver but of how cities around the world began to view themselves differently in the wake of the first oil crisis.
This blog is a long, somewhat messy photo essay on design. I wanted to restore to a sense of history to design, if only for myself. History can be fugitive in the New World, everything so decontextualized in the flow of commodities; don't even get me started on tumblr and pinterest.
In design I prefer the modern and the ancient to much that lies in between. I've never really liked cathedrals, which I find garish and oppressive. I like the space-age, the futurist and the rustic, the utopian and the anti-utopian, the unstuffy and the unstaid, the green, the possibly-not-entirely-lost promise of the 1960s and 70s, the creative, the practical, the ingenious, the mixed, the unorthodox, and the way people actually live in real spaces. I am interested in bricolage, in making do, and in the way necessity mothers invention.
I like the sheer level of cultural borrowing evident in design, the actual impurity of design traditions long considered pure, and just generally the wild miscegenation of everything.
Not all mixing is good, obviously. I'm definitely not talking about the faux-historification of our cities, the demolition of our actual past followed by its replacement with a faux nineteenth-century 'originality'. That's when you get elements of the past and the future, combining to make something not quite as good as either.
Because design is never divorced from anything else, this long essay is also about urban planning, philosophy, art, political economy, architecture, sociology, geography, neurology, pyschology and anything else that pertains to design, which is everything.
The word "ouno" is a name in both Finnish and Japanese, two of my favourite nations for design. Apropos of nothing, the word also contains the symbols for both zero and one, and it's the same right side up as upside down. My dad was a mathematician in love with puzzles, so please excuse the nerd quotient and arithmophilia.
Speaking of which, this blog makes no attempt to avoid being nerdy or critical. There are plenty of nicey-nice boosterist design blogs out there and if that's what you're looking for, you will find many of those. I wouldn't blame you for going there. I just think that without critique and complaint, the design of dwellings and cities in North America won't get any better. And it needs to get a lot better than it is—less creatively impoverished, more democratic and a lot more pleasurable. We do after all spend almost all of our lives in buildings and towns and cities and altered landscapes, all of which have a overwhelming impact on our conscious lives, our unconscious lives, our health, intelligence, creativity and our social interactions. These things affect us every moment of our lives whether we're aware of them or not. And not only do we need more humane spaces in which to live, we need—above all—to ensure affordable housing for all. Without this, all our interest in decor is just privileged fiddling while Rome (or insert your city here) burns. Housing is a human right. Public policy and regulation are the only ways to insure people are housed and can afford to live in the cities where they work. The market and private industry are not going to get us there.
We all need to fight the worsening property speculation! Dear Canada and the USA and beyond, quit letting developers run—and ruin—this show.