konstantin grcic’s CUP chair for plank draws from the design of plastic shell suitcases

the seat is inspired by hard shell luggage, the ubiquitous choice for those passing through airports and railway stations around the world.

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ethimo works with christophe pillet & luca nichetto for milan design week 2018

ethimo adds an elegant, mediterranean style to outdoor settings with the 'grand life' dining and 'lucerna' lighting collections.

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sou fujimoto, nicolas laisné, and dimitri roussel to build a vertical village in paris

the design takes the form of a 120 meter-long timber structure that mediates between the domestic scale to the south and the metropolitan scale to the north.

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OMA’s qatar national library officially opens in doha

'we designed the space so you can see all the books in a panorama,’ explains rem koolhaas.

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People Are King on Toronto’s King Street, For Now

A Toronto streetcar along King Street. (Photo by Mark Wessel) 

Emboldened by slogans such as King of Congestion No More, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) launched the King Street Transit Pilot project last November as a way to transform the street car line along one of the city’s busiest corridors into a smoother, more dependable service. But faced with record low temperatures and intense opposition from a small number of businesses which generated extensive media coverage, the early days of this program were anything but smooth.

The 12-month initiative was designed by the Toronto Transit Commission to address a longstanding problem of congestion on a street used daily by 65,000 street car riders and 20,000 drivers. Congestion got so bad that, at times, it was a toss up for commuters between using public transit or choosing to walk because of cars clogging up the transit lanes. In response, the King Street pilot program eliminates vehicular through traffic along King Street, limiting cars to little more than a block to make drop offs or pick ups before exiting the street, prohibiting left hand turns and eliminating parking spots altogether.

The initial wave of protests before the pilot was even launched came from the Toronto Taxi Alliance, generating newspaper headlines such as ‘Treat Taxis Like the TTC.’ In response to pressure from the cab community, city council made a partial concession, allowing taxis to conduct business as usual along King Street between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The second wave of protests came from a small number outspoken business owners along King Street not long after the project got underway. They called for the initiative to be scrapped, with such stories as “Toronto’s King Street Pilot is Killing Business” dominating the headlines. Much of the opposition came from the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, including one restaurant owner who grabbed front page news in several papers, by erecting an ice sculpture in front of his establishment that consisted of a hand with the middle finger raised in defiance of the city and the TTC.

But in February, just when it appeared that pressure from outspoken businesses might convince city officials to kill the project, pro-transit supporters pushed back, forming the King For All Coalition. Comprising over 20 groups, including several resident associations, TTCriders (a citizen’s group for transit riders), and a handful of local non-profit organizations, King For All supported city efforts to see the 12-month project through to completion, to accurately determine whether the initiative was in fact achieving the established goal of improving transit.

“I think we need to stay true to the pilot for the whole year so the city can get a complete picture of such criteria as reliability, ridership experience, safety and of course the impact on local business,” says Amanda O’Rourke, executive director of 8 80 Cities, one of the nonprofit members of the King For All Coalition.

O’Rourke, whose organization advocates for enhanced mobility and public space, says citizens, including business owners, need to adjust to the new dynamic on the street before jumping to any conclusions. “Some people are saying the street is quiet. It’s quiet, because there are fewer cars. But that doesn’t mean it’s less vibrant,” O’Rourke argues. “The reality is there will always be an adjustment period for projects like this.”

The city is also doing its part to manage public expectations, including producing monthly progress reports with detailed statistics on the King Street pilot’s impact. The most current numbers reveal that while transit times haven’t noticeably changed, transit reliability has improved significantly, with fewer delays and 85 percent of street cars arriving on average every four minutes during the morning commute. Transit ridership has also increased dramatically by more than 25 percent, averaging 2,892 passengers per hour compared to 2,047 before the pilot was launched, representing an average daily jump from 65,000 to over 80,000. And retail sales along King Street are consistent with what they have been in recent years during the winter months, despite claims by some businesses the project would be a financial disaster.

Barbara Gray, general manager overseeing the King Street Transit Pilot at the Toronto Transit Commission, attributes some of the early negative business and media response to a perfect storm, literally. “It was so cold in December and January and we certainly saw the effects of that,” she says. Effects included live shows being cancelled on dates with record or near record low temperatures and, with cancellations, reduced bookings in nearby restaurants.

Apart from the cold, O’Rourke says the city “may have underestimated the placemaking component and the opportunity to make King Street really vibrant in the winter. We see cities in Scandinavia doing a really good job of this, bringing heaters out on patios. So, I think the city can learn from this and be more adaptable.”

Gray says that due to the complexity of the project, city officials opted to focus on logistics during the early going. “We needed to get such things as signal timings worked out and advance times for pedestrians crossing the street. We also needed to make sure there was enough space for right hand turning vehicles as well as space for (temporary) parking and deliveries.”

Before the end of April, the city is expected to announce the results of the Everyone is King Design Build competition, which will lead to the creation of temporary parklets and public art, designed to draw increased pedestrian traffic to the street and support local businesses.

The competition has drawn about 80 submissions, coming from everyone from university students to local designers and architectural firms. “I’m excited to see what happens with that as well as the public response,” O’Rourke says. “It’s a really important part of the project we haven’t seen yet.”


Coming soon: The Barbican Estate by Stefi Orazi

Coming soon: The Barbican Estate by Stefi Orazi

Coming soon: The Barbican Estate by Stefi Orazi
Coming soon: The Barbican Estate by Stefi Orazi

The Modernist Estates book proved extremely popular a couple of years back, so I expect there will be a lot of interest in the upcoming The Barbican Estate by Stefi Orazi.

The Barbican, designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, is now Grade II listed, and is one of the world’s most well-known examples of brutalist architecture. Its three towers – Cromwell, Shakespeare and Lauderdale – are among London’s tallest residential spaces and the estate is a modern-day landmark.

The book, published by Batsford and covering 284 pages, is described as a celebration marking the 50th anniversary of this brutalist icon. It looks at the design of the individual flats as well as its status as a piece of architecture. Author and designer Stefi Orazi has interviewed residents past and present, giving an insight into how life on the estate has changed over the decades.

Coming soon: The Barbican Estate by Stefi Orazi
Coming soon: The Barbican Estate by Stefi Orazi

Illustrations aplenty of course, with newly commissioned photography by Christoffer Rudquist, along with a comprehensive guide to the estate that will show in detail each of the 100 different flat types, including new drawings of the flats as well as the original plans and maps.

The book also includes texts by leading architects and design critics, including John Allan of Avanti Architects on the unique building materials and fittings of the flats, and Charles Holland of Charles Holland Architects (and FAT co-founder) on the home and how the concrete towers have become such a significant part of Britain’s domestic and architectural history.

Yes, I’m excited to see a copy too. If you want to pre-order, you can do that right now, with the book expected on 4th October 2018, priced at £31.30.

Find out more about the book at the Amazon website

Coming soon: The Barbican Estate by Stefi Orazi
Coming soon: The Barbican Estate by Stefi Orazi
Coming soon: The Barbican Estate by Stefi Orazi
Coming soon: The Barbican Estate by Stefi Orazi
Coming soon: The Barbican Estate by Stefi Orazi
Coming soon: The Barbican Estate by Stefi Orazi

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Why I Want Community Organizers to Tell Me Where to Invest

Priscilla Flint Banks, co-founder of the Black Economic Justice Institute, calls the vote to officially form the Boston Ujima Project. (Photo by Oscar Perry Abello)

Seven years ago, I decided I wanted to become an impact investor. Before then, no one ever told me it was possible to make investment decisions based on my values rather than just financial returns. Once I learned there was this rising tide of “impact investing,” I was all in.

It didn’t take long to discover that the issue I cared about most — closing the racial wealth divide — was not part of this rising tide. If I wanted to align my investments with my values, I’d have to start my own fund. So I founded the Boston Impact Initiative in 2013 as a privately-held investing effort dedicated to restoring the productive capacity of communities of color in eastern Massachusetts.

Today, individuals and institutions are flocking to impact investing at an astonishing rate. The Ford Foundation is betting $1 billion on impact investing. JPMorgan Chase says the demand for impact investing will hit $1 trillion by 2020. US SIF, an industry association for impact investing, says socially responsible factors are being considered across nearly $9 trillion in assets already. Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the largest financial management firm in the world handling an estimated $6 trillion in assets, made a big splash last year when he said all companies in the firm’s portfolio should have some measureable social purpose.

So that’s good news for those of us who care about people and the planet, right?

Let me be generous by saying first that it’s not bad news. It’s good news that fund managers are redirecting some capital away from companies that generate toxicity and exploit labor. It’s good news that markets are rewarding companies with lower ecological footprints and higher board diversity. And it’s really good news that people are moving (a little bit of) their money away from Wall St. money managers and directly into companies that produce goods and services that are of benefit to communities.

But it’s not good enough.

For those of us who wish to transform our economic system from one that extracts value from communities of color to one that operates in solidarity, it’s not good enough to redirect the flow of capital. We also have to redirect the flow of power.

Capitalism — and the financial and investment practices through which it expresses itself — is far more than an economic system. It is a system of values and beliefs that shape our politics, our culture and our social order. It is steeped in power. If, like me, you dream of participating in an economic system rooted in democracy, justice and sustainability, then we’re going to have to uproot our habitual practices and beliefs about power.

In her forthcoming book, “The Power Manual: How to Master Complex Power Dynamics,” author and activist Cyndi Suarez distinguishes two fundamental types of power:

One is the ability to dominate, or control, people and things. This power rests on relative rank and the privilege of being at the top. It reflects a supremacist way of thinking—an acceptance of relationships of domination and submission. Supremacist power is a crude form of power, related to scarcity consciousness, or the belief that the world holds limited supplies of the things we want—love, power, recognition. An alternative type of power is liberatory power—the ability to create what we want. It stems from abundance consciousness. Liberatory power requires the transformation of what one currently perceives as a limitation.

The vast majority of what is today called impact investing reinforces our cultural beliefs about dominance power. The decisions about where capital is allowed to flow rest in the hands of the few: elite investment committees, pedigreed advisory firms, fund managers with long track records of profitable performance, high net worth angel investors. Dominance power presumes that these custodians (who are predominantly men and overwhelmingly white) are here to protect community folks — people who invest their small savings in pension funds, 401k accounts and banks — from making foolish, unsophisticated financial mistakes.

Consider where this approach has taken us. Over the last four decades, the income and savings of the poorest among us have shrunk the fastest, while the wealth-holders accumulate capital at accelerating rates. Net worth for wealthy families is skyrocketing while black and Latino households are heading toward net zero wealth. Can we really call ourselves “impact investors” if we continue to subscribe to a paternalistic distribution of power that amplifies inequality?

Through the Boston Impact Initiative, I’ve been on a journey to unlearn and reprogram my own thinking about the role of power in investing. In our early days, we consulted with community organizers about what was needed in their neighborhoods, but we maintained our positional power: We listened, learned and then made decisions behind closed doors about who should get capital and how it should be structured. That seemed to work just fine until we nearly found ourselves on the wrong side of the community table.

We were about to close on our first real estate investment in a private equity fund developing mixed-use, mixed-income housing when we discovered that one of our community organizing partners was leading a protest against a property in the fund’s portfolio.

That same organization was part of a coalition of 25 community-based organizations that had come together to create an innovative financial mechanism for acquiring occupied homes in foreclosure, keeping tenants and owners in their homes and placing those homes on community land trusts. This coalition had struggled to raise capital from conventional investors, who expressed doubts that their coalition would hold, doubts that they had sufficient knowledge to execute on deals, doubt that they’d maintain fiduciary rigor.

Perhaps no one organization alone had the experience to accomplish the task of implementing the coalition’s model for preserving homeownership for families caught up in the limbo of foreclosure. But collectively, they had the knowledge, skills, relationships and trust to pioneer this new structure. The coalition was an expression of liberatory power, rooted in interdependence and mutuality. For Boston Impact Initiative, being dedicated to restoring the health and resilience of disinvested communities, we seek to participate in liberatory approaches to change. Ultimately, we withdrew from the private equity fund and redirected our capital to this coalition.

It was a wake-up call to rethink our own approach to power, which led to the restructuring of our work.

In 2017, the Boston Impact Initiative Fund was approved as a 501(c)3 charitable loan fund that would be majority governed by community-based organizations. We identified three organizations that were conduits for community voice and gave them control over our board. We opened up our fund to non-accredited (the regulatory term for ‘non-wealthy’) community investors so that the opportunity to invest in closing the racial wealth divide would not be restricted to the wealthy. We began to embed impact covenants in our term sheets to ensure our investments would stay anchored to their community commitments. And we became co-founders of the Boston Ujima Project, a vision for a people’s economy in Boston in which ordinary folks democratically decide how to allocate investment capital in their community.

We’re not there yet. These are all steps along a much larger journey toward a liberatory economic system — and we have so much more to learn. As we look ahead, I’m not suggesting that we throw out all the wisdom investment professionals have gained about due diligence and deal structuring and turn over every complex decision to popular vote. The impact investing movement continues to need rigor, skill and professionalism.

I am suggesting, however, that if, as investors, we want to contribute to restoring equality, then we need to confront our collusion in upholding the structures of power that keep inequality in place. It’s time for investors to share power with activists and neighbors. It’s time to ask community organizers where to invest.


The importance of danger and dirt: Hibinosekkei on kindergarten design

Hibinosekkei + Youji no Shiro, the studio behind some beautiful kindergartens in Japan, has a surprising philosophy on learning spaces for young children.

LEXUS design award 2018: extrapolation factory’s testing hypotheticals is grand prix winner

this year's edition, which was again co-organized by designboom, drew a record 1,319 entries from 68 countries under the theme of 'CO-'.

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floral phantasmagoria: finbarr fallon converts singapore into a surreal dreamscape in scarlet

photographic tropes and iconic images of singapore are recast as ghostly buildings rising amidst and above shifting masses of red, punctuated by vivid tints of pink.

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