Slate’s design blog.

Aug. 29 2014 1:00 PM

Britain Shames Its Ugliest New Buildings With an Annual Prize

 

Americans invented the Razzies to call out bad acting as a counterpoint to the Oscars. But while bad movie performances might linger in the subconscious, bad buildings scar the landscapes of our everyday lives. Which is why the Brits have the Carbuncle Cup, in which the public nominates candidates for Britain’s ugliest new building of the year, as a counterpoint to the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Stirling Prize for architectural excellence.

 

Sponsored by British architecture magazine Building Design, the Carbuncle Cup has been given out annually since 2006, inspired by similar honors bestowed by Prospect magazine in Scotland. The name is said to have come from a 1984 quote by Prince Charles, who called Richard Rogers’ proposed extension of London’s National Gallery a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.”

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Aug. 28 2014 12:28 PM

The Iconic Moleskine Notebook Goes Digital

 

The Moleskine notebook remains an enduring symbol of the sacred act of taking pen to paper to empty the contents of your brain or heart in words or sketches. Versions of the notebook were famously carried by Picasso, Hemingway, van Gogh, and Matisse before the final French supplier ceased production in the 1980s and was resurrected by a Milanese company in the late 1990s. Today Moleskine has both the storied history and the hipster cachet that makes it the world's most coveted brand of notebook.

 

This week Moleskine announced a partnership with Livescribe, the Oakland-based makers of digital smartpens, to create a notebook that looks like a regular Moleskine—complete with ivory-colored paper, rounded corners, and a ribbon bookmark—but whose acid-free paper is embedded with a dot pattern that transfers handwritten notes to your digital device when used with a Livescribe smartpen. Instructions for using the digital technology are tucked in the customary notebook pocket, leaving the pages looking relatively blank. Livescribe is selling this innovation as “the perfect bridge between the analog and digital” while Moleskine claims that the “new notebooks combine [the] intuitive feel of pen and paper with the latest digital technology.”

Aug. 27 2014 1:31 PM

There’s a Name for Architectural Relics That Serve No Purpose

Roman Mars’ podcast 99% Invisible covers design questions large and small, from his fascination with rebar to the history of slot machines to the great Los Angeles Red Car conspiracy. Here at The Eye, we cross-post new episodes and host excerpts from the 99% Invisible blog, which offers complementary visuals for each episode.

This week's edition—about the vestigial urban remnants known as Thomassons—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

Aug. 26 2014 11:12 AM

The Race to Take the World’s Most Dangerous Selfie

 

The famous photograph Lunch Atop a Skyscraper of 11 steelworkers blithely suspended on a crossbeam in the air above Manhattan while constructing the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center in 1932, remained a complete mystery for decades. Nobody knew who the photographer or the workers were or if the photo had been doctored until the mystery was partially unraveled in 2012, when two of the men in the photo were identified and the photograph was deemed to be real.  

 

In recent years, the phenomenon known as rooftopping, pioneered by Tom Ryaboi, has become a familiar sight. In rooftopping, daredevil photographers scale dizzying heights to capture unprecedented views of urban landscapes. Even though part of the thrill of those images is knowing that a human engaged in risky behavior to capture them, the photos seem to be more about the subject matter than the photographer.

Aug. 25 2014 11:37 AM

This Champagne Coupe Is Modeled on Kate Moss’ Left Breast

 

Legend has it that the original model for the Champagne coupe was Marie Antoinette’s left breast. Historians claim that colorful myth—which has also been attributed to French aristocrats including Madame de Pompadour and Napoleon’s Joséphine—is false, the coupe having been invented in England for sparkling wine in 1663, nearly a century before Marie Antoinette’s birth in 1755.

 

The association of drinking vessels and and women’s breasts is even traced as far back as Helen of Troy, whose bust was said to be used to make wax molds for eventual cups. And in more recent times, the uniformly pert breasts of cabaret dancers from Paris’ Folies Bergère were subject to a Champagne glass test before hiring to ensure that their God-given cups floweth not over.

Aug. 22 2014 9:02 AM

The Differences Between Men and Women, Told in Pictograms

Designer Yang Liu’s Man Meets Woman is a visual exploration of the age-old, constantly evolving interplay between the sexes. A pictogram-based shorthand answer to Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus for the 21st century, the book will be released in October by Taschen. It’s the award-winning 38-year-old Berlin-based Chinese author’s second book, after East Meets West, about Liu’s bicultural experiences.

Aug. 21 2014 9:03 AM

Denmark’s New Lego Building, Modeled on Its Iconic Bricks, Captures the Beloved Toy’s Whimsy

This week the first six oversized Lego bricks were laid for the foundation of the Lego House in Billund, Denmark, the Lego Group’s hometown. Designed by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, the architecture of the Lego House is based on—what else but?—the iconic shape of the Lego brick.

Unlike metaphorical Lego houses dreamed up by pop stars or the rather cheesy amusement park aesthetic of Legoland, the architects’ renderings for the Lego House promise a sophisticated, streamlined modern building that elevates the possibilities of Lego design.

Aug. 20 2014 11:13 AM

Why Ikea Is Making a Deal With Its No. 1 Hacker

Roman Mars’ podcast 99% Invisible covers design questions large and small, from his fascination with rebar to the history of slot machines to the great Los Angeles Red Car conspiracy. Here at the Eye, we cross-post new episodes and host excerpts from the 99% Invisible blog, which offers complementary visuals for each episode.

This week's edition—about Ikea hacking—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.

Aug. 19 2014 11:06 AM

The Curious, Formative Drawings of Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Other Renowned Architects

The art of making beautiful architectural drawings by hand is a fading practice as new generations of architects make ready use of digital tools. Just as news that an early Frank Gehry building is being turned into a Whole Foods supermarket, folks at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis are setting up an exhibition that offers a rare collective glimpse of early formative drawings from Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Rem Koolhaas and others from a generation of distinguished architects that started their design process by taking pen to paper.

Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association features early drawings from the private collection of the late Alvin Boyarsky, longtime chair of London’s Architectural Association, the U.K.’s oldest independent design school.

Aug. 18 2014 9:02 AM

What Does This Beloved Road Sign on the Massachusetts Turnpike Actually Mean?

What’s That Thing is Slate’s column examining mysterious or overlooked objects in our visual landscape. To submit suggestions and pics for future columns, drop us an email.

The Massachusetts Turnpike is the Bay State’s most famous road. James Taylor got all teary about it. So did the Missouri group The Get Up Kids (“Last night on the Mass Pike/ I fell in love with you”). Good Will Hunting closes with a shot of the turnpike.

On this fabled road lurks something of a mystery: the sign above, located in Becket, Massachusetts, stating that in a westbound direction, the “next highest elevation” doesn’t come until Oacoma, South Dakota.

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