Posted: December 22nd, 2011 | Filed under: Design, Photos | No Comments »
Last Summer I came across this second floor walk-up office in Brookline. Above a bagel shop, a Vietnamese restaurant, and an H&R Block. So I said I’ll take it. I was planning to paint over the simulated wood panelling, but as the renovation was delayed, I had to wait a few weeks and it started to grow on me. I found a photo of Don Draper’s office from Mad Men and there’s some panelling in there. Get in early on the cheap panelling revival. I kept the picture.
Eventually I realized the office was actually a set for an 1960s-style family portrait to go on the Christmas card I’d planned to do LAST year. I had in mind an old Christmas photo of my own family from when I was about Quentin’s age, dressed up and serious. Of course, it ended up looking nothing like that.
One day I was looking at some old record covers. You know like those odd records you come across in the thrift store bins? Polka groups. Or Easy Listening. Strange photos on the front and lots of tiny text and strange symbols in black and white on the back. They’re yellowed and smell a little funky now. So I just put 2 and 2 together.
Then it became FAR more complicated. We had to actually do something. Production design, wardrobe, direction, photography, art direction, design, printing, distribution. It was like a very low budget B-movie production with three actors.
I kept telling everyone not to smile. Don’t smile. DON’T SMILE! We got about 100 shots in 20 minutes, mostly smiles. In one, we weren’t smiling and my friend says it looks like you should have thought-balloons over your heads. So that was the one. By the time we were finished, it had gotten dark and we walked across Harvard Street and had dinner at Chef Chow’s sitting by the window.
Postscript: The painting in the background was done back in the 1950s by a friend of my parents from Columbus, Georgia. We call it the “Alabama Picasso.” Also an old caricature of my Dad eating a turkey leg when he was at the University of Alabama. I think my real goal was to make something that Quentin can look at when he’s an old man. Merry Christmas to all.
Posted: November 16th, 2011 | Filed under: Books, Design, Long, Tech | 6 Comments »
“The ghost was her father’s parting gift, presented by a black-clad secretary in a departure lounge at Narita.” – William Gibson, Mona Lisa Overdrive
1. Unboxing the Past
It was a few days after Steve Jobs died, and I was talking with an old friend. Actually, we were unpacking an original Macintosh computer, which we’d brought down from my attic to try to re-start as kind of an impromptu homage. The golden October sun poured in my office windows. We were here to talk business, but it wasn’t long before the subject changed to Jobs. It was sad of course, we said, but totally expected.
This computer hadn’t really been used since 1990. Last seen, it must have been ten years ago, hastily wrapped in an old curtain and stuffed in a plastic storage bin before my last move, another memento to hang onto. Now picking up the compact and surprisingly heavy beige box with its integrated handle somehow activated old muscle memory, and we remembered seeing it for the first time in 1983, our younger selves standing in the Harvard Coop before this strange new thing. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: July 26th, 2011 | Filed under: Books, Business, Design, Tech | No Comments »
This post originally appeared on PracticeLab.com
“Each pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it in the same way twice.” A Pattern Language (Christopher Alexander, et al., 1977)
Architect Christopher Alexander is one of the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. You know, he “thinks different.”
In the 1970s, he conceived and co-wrote A Pattern Language, a strange and endlessly interesting book that proposes to describe a grammar of design for the built environment based on archetypal patterns that have worked successfully in the past, can be observed in the world, and be reused and recombined in endless variety to create new designs. The book also lovingly documents 253 of these patterns ranging in scale from regions and towns to houses, rooms, furnishings, and even ornaments, and with names like Industrial Ribbon, Corner Grocery, A Place to Wait, and Children’s Realm. Just read it.
Although madly theoretical and the author of many other books, Alexander has also put his ideas into practice in many real-world design and construction projects, some of them designed and built by the actual end users. But as his Wikipedia entry says, “Alexander is widely considered to occupy a place outside the discipline, the discourse, and the practice of Architecture.” Like Jane Jacobs or Buckminster Fuller, he goes against the grain of contemporary design and planning, or simply lives out on his own planet. Read the rest of this entry »