Review: Alexandra Lange’s Meet Me by the Fountain

Lange highlights the many lessons the design history of malls offers when it comes to designing for a thriving public realm.

About once a year I ask friends to meet by the fountain – the one in front of the railway station near the city I grew up in, in the north of France. This is what the title first brought to mind, and I wasn’t too far off. Lange examines the mall as an American form of architecture that provided a form of privately-owned public space for a wide range of people to meet and congregate. She points that, all of us in their thirties or older probably “has” a mall, its shape and structure living in our brain rent free. A form of architecture developing in the 1940s and expanding after World War 2, it peaks in the 1980s in the US, and I’d say a little later (1990-2000s) in France. The mall was the public realm of the suburbs, however tightly and privately controlled. The book shows how it came to be, and its cultural significance.

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Review: From Savage Minds to Savage Machines

From Savage Minds to Savage Machines critiques designers’ depoliticizing social issues by trying to design for frictionless use.

In “From Savage Minds to Savage Machines” (2021), Nolan traces a history of primitivism in architecture and design from 19th century education in industrial arts to the design of technologies for Global South children. She argues this is central (1) to reflect critically on design’s goal to support or drive social integration at the expense of political dissensus and organised social movements; and (2) to reconsider the assumptions behind what is considered good design i.e., objects and structures intuitive to use, a “natural” fit. This is the academic version of ForScale’s request that everyone stop using the word primitive in design.

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