Social Interaction

phila sketch clubI previously mentioned the Philadelphia Sketch Club, founded in 1860 by some famous Philadelphia artists on Camac Avenue (that of the wooden cobblestones).

Don’t think I ever read the historical sign that is currently posted in the Avenue, though. These signs, erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission since 1946, are studies in idea condensation.

Way before Twitter, the designers for these signs did a pretty great job compressing history, philosophy, biography and more into signs that measure approximately 1ft x 2ft and hold less than 250 characters.

This one holds a gem of a sentence. One that deserves more publicity than it’s small alleyway allows.

Artists found that social interaction enhanced the creation and appreciation of art.

Still does. Still does. Still going strong.


dispatch1More on LEGOs: Jan Vormann is a German artist who “patches” holes and decay in buildings with Lego bricks!

This makes for wonderfully interesting juxtapositions of the brightly colored plastic rectangles with the old, graying, non-uniform stones and cement of old structures.

Jan has created this artwork — which, in true German-language style, he calls “dispatchwork” — to several cities, including Tel Aviv, Israel, Bocchignano, Italy and Berlin, Germany.

The work has a very different feel in each of the locales, and all are intriguing.

dispatch2In Berlin, most of the patchwork was done on bullet holes and destruction left-over from World War II. In Italy, near Rome, I imagine the decay was simply from age. In Israel, the artist was specifically invited to “repair” some old walls by the curators of Darom Gallery in Tel Aviv.

It would be fun to revisit the sites in 50 years and see the relative effects of time on the newer plastic vs. the old stone.

UPDATE: Where could we do this in Philly?

[Via Wired and Twittter]

Ten Commandments

Dieter Rams Photograph by Abisag Tüllmann“Weniger, aber besser.” 

If I had gone to school for design, no doubt I  would have come across this famous quote from Dieter Rams, one of the most influential industrial designers of modern society. Alas,  it has taken me this long to discover his wonderfully succinct description of what is also my own design philosphy: “Less, but better.”

Dieter Rams, as head of design at Braun from the early 60’s into the 90’s, created many of the iconic products of that era, including the record player, radio, calculator and juicer designs we are all completely familiar with today.

Johnathan Ive, designer at Apple, is a big Dieter Rams fan, and it has been pointed out that many of Apple’s products, from their computers to iPods, draw from and are very similar to Rams’ Braun objects. The calculator in the iPhone is almost a replica of the his famous Braun calculator. Continue reading Ten Commandments


New CobblestonesSupposedly unique in the USA, Camac Street between Walnut and Locust is paved with wooden cobblestones.

Single-lane Camac street is also known as “Avenue of the Artists”.  Historically it was home to many important artist clubs and organizations, such as the Philadelphia Sketch Club, started in 1860 and led by Thomas Eakins.

It is surmised that the street was paved with wood instead of the traditional stones or granite belgian blocks to help mute the sounds of the horses’ hooves as traffic passed by the artist gatherings.

These square blocks of wood were re-discovered in the late 1980’s during a street resurfacing project, and the city decided to repave this one section with wooden replicas of the originals.

Cobblestones OldThe wooden blocks are currently being replaced, which needs to happen every several years, as they begin to disintegrate and rot. Wooden block streets are attractive, but not enitrely practical.

It should be pointed out, however, that asphalt also requires replacement or resurfacing relatively often.

Though there don’t seem to be other preserved or refurbished streets like this in this country, wooden cobblestones can be found in historical sites around the world, from Prague to Havana.

Immense Distances

“Man has invaded space — not in airplanes which would fall to pieces with age before Earth’s near neighbors were visited, but with thoughts which travel faster and work more miracles even than the light of the sun.”
Unbelievable Time
From a 1918 encylopedia of sorts, for children, this beautiful poster does a great job of illustrating the concept of the relative enormity of space. There is a lot of information here, presented in a very accessible design.

The spaceships themseles are whimsical but not entirely unlikely creations, amalgams of several different types of ships and planes, which seem to be leaping into space directly out of the ocean and into a map of our solar system.

The notes and captions around the sides of the drawing help paint the picture of the scale of this map (though using a now-common speed of around 120 mph — 2 miles per minute) with references to well-known historical happenings.

Still a useful teaching tool. Good design withstands the test of time.

Originally scanned in by Azrael Brown, much commented on here, and brought to my attention by John Nack.