On Today’s DnA: Relevance vs. Extravagance

10-afh-bookTomorrow is, symbolically at least, an interesting day. For those of us who have working credit cards and travel budgets, it’s the launch of the Milan furniture fair. And of course for the rest of us, it’s Earth Day. With uncanny timing, Frances decided to tackle both these issues in the design world on today’s show: Is It Goodbye to Architectural Excess?

The show is really just two interviews. One is with Cameron Sinclair, a TED Prize-winning architect whose work I’m sure you’re familiar with—over 40,000 architects and designers worldwide are working with the decade-old Architecture for Humanity or contributing to the Open Architecture Network, an open-source network for distributing good design concepts. And one is with Frank Gehry, a Pritzker Prize-winning architect who is so famous he starred on The Simpsons. I don’t know about you, but I believe that is the standard against which all fame must be measured.


I encourage you to listen to the show in its entirety but there’s way more swirling around this story than just the interviews. Sinclair and Gehry make great points about each of their perspectives but they don’t get to answer some of the bigger issues in this argument (that’s also because they didn’t get to talk to each other directly since Sinclair’s busy jetting to every public speaking venue imaginable on earth and Gehry’s out on his yacht. I mean, he’s on a boat).

So I decided to collect a bunch of the major articles written on the topic—and there have been many since the beginning of the year—into a longer post on Fast Company so I could hear your thoughts. In all these arguments, it’s the words like ethical, moral, relevant, and modest that have become really interesting to me…before I thought that architects were pretty much only ethically obligated to make sure their buildings don’t fall down. But looking at some of the stories I’ve covered lately—Designers Accord, Objectified, Project H—I have started to wonder if this really does signify the beginning of an age where we judge designers based on their austerity. Are we promoting a generation of work that’s more Rural Studio than Burj Dubai? In Milan, at least, it already seems like the furniture world has gotten the hint: “The dominant style of this year’s Milan Furniture Fair seems to be utilitarianism, with many designers showing spartan, minimalist objects.”

So read on over at Fast Company. There’s plenty of great commentary in there by people I adore and admire—Michael Cannell, Murray Moss, Allison Arieff, Sinclair, Gehry and even Frances herself entering the argument in a saucy HuffPo post. Let me know what you think, or be sure to sound off in the comments if you’ve got something to say.

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