Since the googles said it was faster to walk from the Innovation District to South Station than to take the Silver line, that’s what I did. It was hot and humid but I’m glad I did because otherwise I would not have passed by BSAspace and dropped in for some AC. And had I not done that, I would not have seen an enchanting and informative exhibit called Urban Timber: From Seed to City, all about building with wood.
The gob-smacking revelations started right away. Did you know that plywood was invented by the Mesopotamians more than 5,000 years ago? Mind = Blown. It’s not just about plywood, there are many kinds of wood-based building materials, many of which compare favorably with concrete and steel. SOM has a project for a 40 story tower made of wood, unbuilt as of this writing, but not for lack of feasibility.
The show clearly has an axe to grind (so to speak) but makes some really interesting points about the environmental impact of various building materials and the industrial processes that make, mill, mine and harvest them. I especially liked the roll-call of large wooden structures. Unfortunately, in the USA, one of the largest timber-producing nations, the tallest wooden thing is still a giant redwood. In Australia, Scandinavia and beyond, they have some major wooden structures and some are quite marvelous.
In addition to the infographics on the walls, there are four projects by emerging architects featuring some innovative ways to build with wood.
You can’t make this stuff up.
But seriously, gentle reader, you should get over to the Boston Society of Architects space and check this show out. It’s free and open to the public through September 30.
It’s made of wood and it’s a map, what more could I ask for? How about a Central Park filled with actual plants? Done! Sure, you could argue that other parks are not given this treatment or that the reservoir or other major bodies of water are missing, but hey, it’s a coffee table, not google earth.
I didn’t have a chance to ask the hotel staff where they got this wonderful thing and the closest I’ve been able to find online is the superficially similar (and unavailable) Manhattan Coffee Table by Doug Edge of (California-based) Galerie Sommerlath.
I give Edge much credit for including the transit lines, but I prefer the darker finish – and distinctive Central Park treatment – of the hotel’s version. I wonder if the concierge uses it to give directions.
Last year I wrote a couple of posts about my various infatuations with various wood products, many in conjunction with various electronics products made of metal. The estimable yobyot commented, “Seriously, though, isn’t the juxtaposition of cedar on aluminum a little too jarring?” I should probably also note that Greg commented, “Oh dear! You HAVE gone over the edge, haven’t you?”
In any case, I initially thought the first comment was about the physical transition between the sleek aluminum computer and the slab of wood. I’d have to agree that it would have been nice if the macbook had been indented or milled so that the wood could be set flush. But I think the question might really have been about the possible clash of textures and colors. I guess there might have been more sedate wood choices than cedar.
I probably don’t have to explain or respond to Greg’s comment, we all know that gondola sailed long ago, but I think this next find might give both commenters pause: I learned via Gizmodo that there’s a guy in Hungary who makes furniture out of wood and metal by pouring molten metal into channels carved in the wood. This results in a form of joinery that’s part carpentry, part casting, and all elemental alchemical madness. The scorch marks on the wood are a marvelous side effect of the process. Now this is how I’d like to have a wooden cover put on my aluminum macbook.
Somehow I missed this one when the news broke. IKEA decided to make some changes to the iconic, omnipresent (and often immovable) Expedit line of shelving. Specifically, they narrowed the outer walls (perhaps to save wood), softened the corners a bit, and renamed the whole thing Kallax. Rabid fans the world over lost their cool as word got out that the beloved vinyl-accommodating storage range was to be “discontinued.”
Design geeks geeked out on it. Environmentalists doled out praise, after all, even a millimeter less wood over zillions of IKEA units comes to something. LP lovers finally took a chill pill when it became clear that the interior dimensions of Kallax would be identical to those of Expedit. And one reporter noted that both Expedit and Kallax sound a bit like remedies for constipation. I’m not wild about the design change, I have to say. I think you either have the outer walls the same thickness as the inner ones (as in IKEA’s equally omnipresent Billy bookcases) or you make a statement with much thicker ones. And boxiness is so much of the identity of Expedit, why would you want to round any of the corners, even a little?
But enough about design. What’s really interesting to me here is the name change. After all, if they hadn’t called it something else, nobody would have freaked out about it being discontinued. Lots of products bear the same name through generational changes much more drastic than this. Look at Apple iPods over the years, or Ford Mustangs for that matter.
Here’s what I think happened: I think somebody in marketing decided that Expedit was old and boring and that the brand needed freshening. What they missed was that “old and boring” aka “standardized and reliable” was part of the appeal, perhaps a huge part of it. At least they didn’t turn their back on the range of add-ons already perfectly sized to the cubbies by changing the interior dimension that, by the way, is also so popular with record fans.
A few years ago I wrote about the perils of changing your brand or even just your logo or web theme because you are bored with it or think it needs a change. The question to be asking is really, is the market bored with it? Can you really change it for the better and not lose something along the way? I doubt that IKEA has lost much by this, but they certainly didn’t gain, and the cost of doing the name change and dealing with the blowback wasn’t zero, either.