August 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
“Rules?” said Roark. “Here are my rules: what can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same purpose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it’s made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose. A man doesn’t borrow pieces of his body. A building doesn’t borrow hunks of its soul. Its maker gives it the soul and every wall, window and stairway to express it.”
“But all the proper forms of expression have been discovered long ago.”
“Expression–of what? The Parthenon did not serve the same purpose as its wooden ancestor. An airline terminal does not serve the same purpose as the Parthenon. Every form has its own meaning. Every man creates his meaning and form and goal. Why is it so important–what others have done? Why does it become sacred by the mere fact of not being your own? Why is anyone and everyone right–so long as it’s not yourself? Why does the number of those others take the place of truth? Why is truth made a mere matter of arithmetic–and only of addition at that? Why is everything twisted out of all sense to fit everything else? There must be some reason. I don’t know. I’ve never known it. I’d like to understand.”
– Howard Roark, the visionary architecture student tell’s the Dean in the book Fountainhead by Ayan Rand
July 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
To celebrate the elegant geometry of the world’s finest urban architecture, Israel-born and London-based designer Yoni Alter choose landmarks he admires in 35 cities and distills those landmarks into their basic shapes. Read more >>
May 29, 2014 § Leave a comment
10 years ago, The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher was published, a seminal book contemplating the differences between pictures as words (and vice versa), the pleasing incongruities and “serious science” behind perception, process and the imagination that fills in the gaps.
The passage that follows is taken from the book relating to a few of Fletcher’s original materials, but they are just a minuscule cross-section of the prolific references – a personal compendium of visual language. The late, very great graphic designer could draw literally, rationally and metaphorically on the history of all humanized communication to excellent effect, one such quote from Goethe used by Fletcher states quite appropriately: “He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth.’”
“As his most famous statement had it, Klee took a line for a walk. It snaked, looped, wandered off, and turned back on itself as it made its fitful journey through the worlds of his invention. A line can run dead straight, be wildly crooked, nervously wobbly, make sensuous curves or aggressive angles. It can meander, wander, track or trace. Be a scribble, doodle, scratch, hatched, dashed, dribbled or trickled. It can be precise or fuzzy, hard or soft, firm or gentle, thin or thick. It can be smudged, smeared, erased – or just fade away. You can push a line, drag it, manipulate and manoeuvre it, make it delineate, accentuate, attenuate, emphasize. A line may be imperious or modest, authoritative or servile, brutal or seductive, passive or active, weak or strong, thick or thin. A line is born, and dies, in a point.” (Frank N. Furter, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975)
April 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
“In order to feel comfortable among educated people, to be at home and happy with them, one must be cultured to a certain extent.”
What does it mean to be “cultured”? Is it aboutbeing a good reader, or knowing how to talk about books you haven’t read, or having a general disposition of intellectual elegance? That’s precisely the question beloved Russian author Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) considers in a letter to his older brother Nikolai, an artist. The missive, written when Anton was 26 and Nikolai 28 and found in Letters of Anton Chekhov to his Family and Friends (public domain; public library), dispenses a hearty dose of tough love and outlines the eight qualities of cultured people — including honesty, altruism, and good habits:
… You have often complained to me that people “don’t understand you”! Goethe and Newton did not complain of that…. Only Christ complained of it, but He was speaking of His doctrine and not of Himself…. People understand you perfectly well. And if you do not understand yourself, it is not their fault.
I assure you as a brother and as a friend I understand you and feel for you with all my heart. I know your good qualities as I know my five fingers; I value and deeply respect them. If you like, to prove that I understand you, I can enumerate those qualities. I think you are kind to the point of softness, magnanimous, unselfish, ready to share your last farthing; you have no envy nor hatred; you are simple-hearted, you pity men and beasts; you are trustful, without spite or guile, and do not remember evil…. You have a gift from above such as other people have not: you have talent. This talent places you above millions of men, for on earth only one out of two millions is an artist. Your talent sets you apart: if you were a toad or a tarantula, even then, people would respect you, for to talent all things are forgiven.
You have only one failing, and the falseness of your position, and your unhappiness and your catarrh of the bowels are all due to it. That is your utter lack of culture. Forgive me, please, but veritas magis amicitiae…. You see, life has its conditions. In order to feel comfortable among educated people, to be at home and happy with them, one must be cultured to a certain extent. Talent has brought you into such a circle, you belong to it, but … you are drawn away from it, and you vacillate between cultured people and the lodgers vis-a-vis.
Cultured people must, in my opinion, satisfy the following conditions:
- They respect human personality, and therefore they are always kind, gentle, polite, and ready to give in to others. They do not make a row because of a hammer or a lost piece of india-rubber; if they live with anyone they do not regard it as a favour and, going away, they do not say “nobody can live with you.” They forgive noise and cold and dried-up meat and witticisms and the presence of strangers in their homes.
- They have sympathy not for beggars and cats alone. Their heart aches for what the eye does not see…. They sit up at night in order to help P…., to pay for brothers at the University, and to buy clothes for their mother.
- They respect the property of others, and therefor pay their debts.
- They are sincere, and dread lying like fire. They don’t lie even in small things. A lie is insulting to the listener and puts him in a lower position in the eyes of the speaker. They do not pose, they behave in the street as they do at home, they do not show off before their humbler comrades. They are not given to babbling and forcing their uninvited confidences on others. Out of respect for other people’s ears they more often keep silent than talk.
- They do not disparage themselves to rouse compassion. They do not play on the strings of other people’s hearts so that they may sigh and make much of them. They do not say “I am misunderstood,” or “I have become second-rate,” because all this is striving after cheap effect, is vulgar, stale, false….
- They have no shallow vanity. They do not care for such false diamonds as knowing celebrities, shaking hands with the drunken P., [Translator's Note: Probably Palmin, a minor poet.] listening to the raptures of a stray spectator in a picture show, being renowned in the taverns…. If they do a pennyworth they do not strut about as though they had done a hundred roubles’ worth, and do not brag of having the entry where others are not admitted…. The truly talented always keep in obscurity among the crowd, as far as possible from advertisement…. Even Krylov has said that an empty barrel echoes more loudly than a full one.
- If they have a talent they respect it. They sacrifice to it rest, women, wine, vanity…. They are proud of their talent…. Besides, they are fastidious.
- They develop the aesthetic feeling in themselves. They cannot go to sleep in their clothes, see cracks full of bugs on the walls, breathe bad air, walk on a floor that has been spat upon, cook their meals over an oil stove. They seek as far as possible to restrain and ennoble the sexual instinct…. What they want in a woman is not a bed-fellow … They do not ask for the cleverness which shows itself in continual lying. They want especially, if they are artists, freshness, elegance, humanity, the capacity for motherhood…. They do not swill vodka at all hours of the day and night, do not sniff at cupboards, for they are not pigs and know they are not. They drink only when they are free, on occasion…. For they wantmens sana in corpore sano [a healthy mind in a healthy body].
And so on. This is what cultured people are like. In order to be cultured and not to stand below the level of your surroundings it is not enough to have read “The Pickwick Papers” and learnt a monologue from “Faust.” …
What is needed is constant work, day and night, constant reading, study, will…. Every hour is precious for it…. Come to us, smash the vodka bottle, lie down and read…. Turgenev, if you like, whom you have not read.
You must drop your vanity, you are not a child … you will soon be thirty.
It is time!
I expect you…. We all expect you.
April 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
Milton Glaser offers some invaluable advice on the progression of the creative life into old age, wrapped in a broader meditation on the universal power of art:
If you can sustain your interest in what you’re doing, you’re an extremely fortunate person. What you see very frequently in people’s professional lives, and perhaps in their emotional life as well, is that they lose interest in the third act. You sort of get tired, and indifferent, and, sometimes, defensive. And you kind of lose your capacity for astonishment — and that’s a great loss, because the world is a very astonishing place.
What I feel fortunate about is that I’m still astonished, that things still amaze me. And I think that that’s the great benefit of being in the arts, where the possibility for learning never disappears, where you basically have to admit you never learn it.
April 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
In his book, Art is Work, Glaser provides these provocative definitions of work:
- Work that goes beyond its functional intention and moves us in deep and mysterious ways we call great work.
- Work that is conceived and executed with elegance and rigour we call good work.
- Work that meets its intended need honestly and without pretence we call simply work.
- Everything else, the sad and shoddy stuff of daily life, can come under the heading of “bad work.”