Venice Architecture Biennale: Sneak Peek

Thibault Brevet and Hyperwerk students dove into work on the Arsenale installation with a one-week workshop in Basel last month.

Thibault Brevet and Hyperwerk students dove into work on the Arsenale installation with a one-week workshop in Basel last month.

Superscript will be heading to Venice to begin final preparations for the Architecture Biennale soon, so we wanted to share a behind-the-scenes look at all of the work that’s been done so far. Take a look at our earlier post about our three-part event Towards a New Avant-Garde, happening during the Biennale’s opening weekend, June 7-8.

A collaborative project with a global dimension, this ambitious installation has been designed by interaction designer Thibault Brevet and architecture studio DEVspace in collaboration with students from the Hyperwerk Institute, part of the Academy of Art and Design of the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland.

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Brevet and Hyperwerk students used the “Grand Central” open source vector printer as a starting point, redesigning it completely for the Venice event.

Throughout a one-week workshop in Basel in April 2014, Brevet and Hyperwerk students Kevin Renz, Gabriel Meisel, Gabriel Kiefer, Fabian Ritzi, Ivo Ludwig, David Safranek, and Matthias Maurer redesigned his award-winning open-source printer Grand-Central and all its components and mechanics specifically for the Biennale, creating an optimized, truly site-specific installation that will create a large impact in the space. Grouped together in modules of six, the printers will envelop the event area like a triptych, serving as the backdrop to each of the discussions as they print images, quotes, and references in real time.

Watch this space, as well as our Facebook wall and Twitter feed, for more updates as our amazing collaborators add their own layer of radical design to our discussions of the Italian avant-garde…

Brevet and Hyperwerk students used the “Grand Central” open source vector printer as a starting point, redesigning it completely for the Venice event.

CNC-cut components were manufactured in Berlin (photo by Fabian Ritzi, Hyperwerk student)

 

 

 

 

Just Your Type: SVA Explores the Language of Letters

SVA's special Typography of Language summer program runs June 30–July 24.

SVA’s special Typography As Language summer program runs June 30–July 24.

In June, the School of Visual Arts will launch Typography As Language: Design, History and Practice, a special summer program created to teach designers across a range of disciplines about the powerful language of typography. At Superscript, we are fascinated by the written word—not only by its meaning, but also what its physical form can convey (anyone who’s ever gotten a letter written in Comic Sans MS knows what we mean). So we caught up with program coordinator and Superscript friend Angela Riechers to learn more about the course (@SVATypeLab), which is still accepting applications to fill a few final spots:

Superscript: What are the goals of the class? 

Angela Riechers: Over the course of the summer, each student will have designed a typeface (either from scratch or by adapting a historical face) and planned a specific end use for it. For instance, someone interested in movie titles will figure out what his or her typeface needs to look like, and how it needs to perform, and then present it as an animated opening sequence for a real or imagined film. Someone else might want to develop a hand-lettered font for websites, or environmental signage.

The program will develop skills in digital type design and hand lettering, examine the history of type, and address the need for new kinds of typographies as elements of contemporary language and narrative. Each week will have a different (amazing) instructor who will bring a slightly new shift in focus and information. Research, sketching, hand lettering, letterpress, and digital font construction will all be part of the broader mix.

SS: Tell us about the idea of using typography in contemporary storytelling. What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in this field?

AR: The way a typeface looks communicates its own narrative independent of the words it is used to create and the meaning they impart. The letters are a set of coded ciphers that carry emotion and subtext, providing subtle hints to context and tone. In other words: we notice how the letters and words look, and draw inferences about the message they are conveying, long before we read and grasp the actual content. In the hands of a skilled typographer, someone who knows how to select and combine typefaces with wit and intelligence and understanding, a design becomes far more alluring and powerful. Good typography exponentially increases the ability to communicate content.

SS: What is the current state of typography? Are there certain themes that have come to light recently, and what are the major historical influences for typography today?

AR: The current state of type is extremely robust! Part of the reason this course is so well timed is that typography as a discipline/art /science is no longer contained in the specialized world of designers—it has entered the larger pop culture as a desirable and covetable attribute of taste and sophistication. People who are not designers now appreciate and notice typography, are conscious of typefaces, and want to have beautifully typeset things in their lives: their websites, blogs, business cards, wedding invitations. Imagine the movie Helvetica finding an appreciative general audience 15 years ago!

The main themes I’ve noticed are an amazing resurgence of handwritten lettering in commercial contexts, adaptations of beautiful historical fonts that modernize and streamline them for contemporary uses, and the availability of dimensional vector typefaces made up of layers that can be turned on and off and colored individually for extra inline or drop shadow effects. Redrawing fonts to deliver the same appearance on the web or screen device as they do in their print versions, with all the tweaks that entails, has become a really important part of typographic practice. From a historical point of view, I’d say a renewed appreciation of the vernacular (boxing posters, chalkboards, ghost signs) is very popular at the moment: suddenly we all crave letterforms that convey some sense of time passing and of history, of human hand and craft, not just alphabets made up solely of vector lines and points.

SS: You have to design and name a new typeface right now: what is it called, and why?

AR: I would name it Influence, because the best new typefaces I see lately draw upon such a wide pool of visual references, throw them in the blender and come up with something entirely new and fabulous that still has a firm grounding in history. I like that idea very much.

 

Please Join Us May 1 for ADBC #6: The Power Broker with Julie Iovine

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We hope to see you for the sixth meeting of ADBC, the Architecture and Design Book Club, with our special guest, Wall Street Journal columnist Julie Iovine.

Thursday, May 1, 6:30pm
HMA2 Studio, 1239 Broadway between 30th and 31st Sts, 16th Fl. PH
6:30pm Introduction
6:45-7:30pm Discussion, Q&A
7:30pm Drinks reception

“For once Moses came into possession of power, it began to perform its harsh alchemy on his character, altering its contours, eating away at some traits, allowing others to enlarge. The potential had always been there, like a darker shadow on the edge of the bright gold of his idealism. With each small increase in the amount of power he possessed, the dark element in his nature loomed larger.” Robert Caro, The Power Broker

On Thursday, May 1 at 6:30pm join Superscript and architecture writer and critic Julie Iovine for a discussion of The Power Broker by Robert Caro (1974), an epic account of the rise and fall of Robert Moses, the man who forged the cityscape of modern New York City.

The first in Superscript’s 2014 readings on the theme of “Power,” we’ll talk about Moses’ monumental public works and his growing influence over the decades, as well as draw comparisons with how the city is shaped by the power brokers of today.

Haven’t read all three inches of TPB cover to cover? Don’t worry! The discussion will focus on the following chapters:

(Part IV: The Use of Power)
13: Driving
14: Changing
(Part VI: The Lust for Power)
29: “And When the Last Law Was Down…”
30: Revenge
40: Point of No Return

Pick up a copy of the book at The Strand or at your branch of the New York Public Library. Or, just come to listen in and socialize in HMA2’s penthouse studio with master of the universe views. Special thanks to our event host, Henry Myerberg/HMA2.

About Julie Iovine
Architecture critic, editor and author Julie V. Iovine came to architecture through studying Ancient Greek and hanging out at the Yale Art & Architecture building in New Haven. Iovine spent over a decade as a reporter covering design and architecture for The New York Times, and then served as Executive Editor of the Architect’s Newspaper from 2007 until 2012. Currently, she writes the architecture critic’s column for The Wall Street Journal. She is the author of several books including Michael Graves; Louis Kahn’s Esherick House; and Modern Americana on mid-century regional furniture designers.

About ADBC
Produced by editorial consultancy Superscript, ADBC is a free and public book club. We invite anyone to drop in and join our informal conversations in different venues around the city.
Follow us at @superscriptco
www.superscript.co

 

Collage based on photo by Arnold Newman. New York, 1959.

Announcing ADBC’s 2014 Theme and Call for Ideas: Power

Robert Moses photographed by Arnold Newman. New York, 1959

Robert Moses photographed by Arnold Newman. New York, 1959

“For once Moses came into possession of power, it began to perform its harsh alchemy on his character, altering its contours, eating away at some traits, allowing others to enlarge. The potential had always been there, like a darker shadow on the edge of the bright gold of his idealism. With each small increase in the amount of power he possessed, the dark element in his nature loomed larger.”
—Robert Caro, The Power Broker

This year, Superscript’s Architecture and Design Book Club (ADBC) will explore a theme that is all around us in New York: Power.

Slated to launch its 2014 program during the city’s annual NYCxDesign festival in early May, the pop-up book club will dive into the subject with Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning look at the life of Robert Moses. Our first special guest, architecture critic and author Julie Iovine, will lead our discussion of the book, which sheds light on the man who shaped New York’s politics and its built environment—with work encompassing more than $27 billion in projects during his lifetime—without ever being elected to public office.

We’ve got a long list of titles ready for ADBC’s 2014 season (a sneak peek of our shortlist is below)—and we want to hear from you, too! Whether you’re more interested in power politics or power naps, send your suggestions for texts that address this theme to hello@superscript.co with the subject line “Power 2014.”

Under consideration for ADBC’s 2014 Power Calendar:

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
The Gun by C.J. Chivers
From Bauhaus to Our House by Tom Wolfe
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shtyngart
Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? by Metahaven
Albert Speer: 1932-1942 by Leon Krier

Superscript Headed to 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale

Fundamentals

We are excited to announce Superscript’s participation in the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale! Directed by Rem Koolhaas with the theme of “Fundamentals,” this year’s Biennale also includes a roster of programming called “Weekend Specials.”  As part of this commissioned series, our three-part event Towards a New Avant-Garde will take place during the Biennale’s opening weekend, June 7-8.

Towards a New Avant-Garde will be under the umbrella of the “Monditalia” section of the Biennale housed in the Arsenale—an exhibition complemented by a series lectures, workshops, performances and discussions organized to consider a range of conditions in Italy, from architecture to politics to religion.

Using the state of Italian architectural practice as a jumping off point, our back-to-back moderated discussions will debate issues of collective action, internationalization, and economics in architecture now and in the future. Our goal is understand lessons we can still learn from the radical architectural impulses of the 1960s and consider how they are being applied by a new generation of architects in the context of today’s economic and political environment.

Working with Superscript to develop Towards a New Avant-Garde are London-based author and scholar Catharine Rossi and Milan-based researcher and writer Rossella Ferorelli. Specially invited guests and provocateurs (including young Italian architects who graduated from the country’s four major schools of architecture) as well as the audience will be invited to participate in these lively, content-generating events in the main Arsenale building. 

A live-edited installation and a website, created by architects DEVspace and interactive designer Thibault Brevet, will reflect the dynamics of the discourse and act as physical and virtual platforms to both document and amplify the conversations in conjunction with other media, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. After the talks are over, the products of these discussions will become an experimental publication, which will be produced on site during the following week.

The 2014 Biennale runs from June 7 through November 23. See you there, or sign up on our mailing list to learn how to participate in our event virtually!

The Anatomy of our New Site

Designer Saundra Marcel's first sketches played with ideas of arithmetic.

Designer Saundra Marcel’s first sketches played with ideas of arithmetic.

Following the launch of our new web site last month, we’re excited to keep friends of Superscript up to date with news about our projects—and also a lot of great information and discussions about compelling things happening in the design world!

As an introduction to this platform, we’ve prepared a sort of “anatomy lesson” about our site with designer Saundra Marcel, creative director of the New York office of Real Art, and developer Craig Coffman, founder of Octoberland. Read on to learn about the process and find out what the site has in store for you:

Ready, set, go!
With Superscript’s original mission of “multiplying conversations about design” in mind, Saundra’s ideas for the new site showed a range of possibilities, including concepts that played with mathematical ideas of multiplication and an infinite loop that would offer users a different experience each time they visited.

Biggest surprise
“That Superscript loves color,” says Saundra. “Many clients are afraid of being too bold, but Superscript asked for it. It’s a core part of their identity. The company has a super fun side to them that complements their sometimes serious, very ‘thinky’ work product.”

Superscript-web-site-1

A color-coded guide to our work.

UX/UI
Because Superscript specializes in words—written and verbal—they are a big part of the site. People traditionally don’t love to read a lot on websites, so big headline styles, beefy color bars, and a vertical scroll (down, down, down), which feels like reading a news or blog article, are all ways to let you read as much as you want, but also make the site easily skim-able. Still even more content is waiting to be discovered in pop-ups, or “easter eggs,” as Saundra likes to say, if you want to dive deeper.

Design minds think alike
“Superscript was a perfect client because they understand design and thinking conceptually, but they are not a design firm,” says Saundra. So we’re not stepping on each other’s toes, but they liked and were open to lots of ideas.”

Superscript-web-site-2

A continuous scroll lets you see everything at a glance.

Head-scratchers
What we do is sometimes hard to explain in one sound bite. Rather than use a term like “communications,” which implies public relations-type work, we identified five core things that encompass our practice—these feature boldly at the top of the site. This new visual system of icons will be used on other Superscript materials, too.

As a firm that primarily works with the written word, we didn’t want to lean too heavily on images. The system of icons and simple, bold graphics—underlines, outlines, bars, chunky arrows—keep things visually interesting and playful without using many photos.

Going with the flow
Opting for a continuously scrolling format “is a clearly modern enhancement,” says Craig. “That, however, was not the main factor behind implementing it. I opted to include the feature because it mimics the flow of the site. Essentially the main page is all someone would really need. Yes, there are links from it to the limited other pages, but it is essentially a one-page design. It felt natural that the News blog would behave in a similar fashion.”

Craig integrated the new site’s header into WordPress to prevent the News section of the site from feeling like an afterthought—it is a natural part of the site, while still offering the power and flexibility afforded by a blogging platform.

Superscript on the go!

Superscript on the go!

Mobile by nature
The site was also created with Responsive Web Design (RWD). More than simply a trend, RWD is a forward-thinking technique to allow the content to display well regardless of the screen. The site will reflow on a many different mobile devices, taking advantage of the different screen sizes used by Superscript’s out-and-about audience.

We look forward to seeing you here again soon!

Our New Website Launches this Month!

We’re excited to unveil Superscript’s new website later this month. Designed by Saundra Marcel, creative director of the New York office of Real Art, the site will feature the full range of our work to date, from writing and editing to research, strategy, and programming, with collaborators like Pentagram, MoMA, the Museum of Arts and Design, Designers & Books, and more. You’ll also find all the latest Superscript news and upcoming events (Psst…don’t miss our next ADBC meet-up. Join the mailing list here for an invite). Click here for a full preview.

Stay tuned…!

Thurs, 5/9 @MAD: On Display #3: Location

In the future…
What functions will a museum building serve? How will museums engage with their location? What new cultural roles will museums claim? Please join us for a conversation with special guests from the fields of architecture, planning, and museology.

On Display
Case study #3: Location
Thursday, May 9, 7:00pm
Museum of Arts and Design
2 Columbus Circle

 

What can a stool, a room of robots, and Columbus Circle tell us about the future of museums? Superscript + HAO + Neil Donnelly host a series of three public conversations where historical milestones of the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)—ranging from a design object, to a curated show, to the physical location of MAD itself—serve as starting points for a conversation about the future of museums. The in-gallery discussions, held on Thursday evenings when the museum is free to the public, will be supported by a live-edited, interactive installation on display in the Museum’s second-floor gallery space. Questions, opinions, and findings from this set of events encouraging audience participation will, in turn, evolve into a publication containing critical reflections on the role ahead for museums within an ever-evolving, increasingly digital-bound society. On Display at MAD is part of The Home Front 2013: After the Museum, March 12-June 9, 2013.

 

Case study #3: Location

In 2008, MAD relocated from a Midtown side street to 2 Columbus Circle. Historically the point from which all distances are measured from New York, Columbus Circle acts as both a magnet and centripetal force in the city, a lively public space where people of all types and generations mix. MAD’s decision to relocate to an emblematic site in New York City raised the museum’s profile overnight, giving it a bold physical presence in the urban fabric and a clear stake in the surrounding public space. How does a museum’s location impact its role as a cultural aggregator and disseminator?

Those attending each event can choose to be listed as contributors in the final On Display publication. The public will also be able to participate in conversations remotely via Twitter: @superscriptco #OnDisplay

 

Previously:

Case study #1: Object
Thursday, March 21, 7:00pm
Case study #2: Exhibition
Thursday, April 18, 7:00pm

Thurs, 4/18 @MAD: On Display #2: Exhibition

In the future…
What themes will exhibitions address? How will exhibitions be designed? What spaces will exhibitions inhabit? Please join us for a conversation with special guests from the fields of design, publishing, museology, and anthropology.

On Display
Case study #2: Exhibition
Thursday, April 18, 7:00pm
Museum of Arts and Design
2 Columbus Circle

What can a stool, a room of robots, and Columbus Circle tell us about the future of museums? Superscript + HAO + Neil Donnelly host a series of three public conversations where historical milestones of the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)—ranging from a design object, to a curated show, to the physical location of MAD itself—serve as starting points for a conversation about the future of museums. Thein-gallery discussions, held on Thursday evenings when the museum is free to the public, will be supported by a live-edited, interactive installation on display in the Museum’s second-floor gallery space. Questions, opinions, and findings from this set of events encouraging audience participation will, in turn, evolve into a publication containing critical reflections on the role ahead for museums within an ever-evolving, increasingly digital-bound society. On Display at MAD is part of The Home Front 2013: After the Museum, March 12-June 9, 2013.

Case study #2: Exhibition
The Robot Exhibit: History, Fantasy, and Reality (1984) at MAD (then the American Craft Museum) was one of the first comprehensive surveys of the history of robots, cyborgs, automatons, and androids. A visionary exhibit that attracted a record number of visitors with its interactive displays, MAD presented robots as a multidisciplinary phenomenon, a confluence of craft and science. But beyond the myth of the robot, here were the roots of a revolution — automatization, new production methods, and even 3D printing and rapid prototyping — that would take the design world by storm in the following twenty years. How can exhibitions forecast future trends in design, from concepts to manufacturing, funding and consuming?

Those attending each event can choose to be listed as contributors in the final On Display publication. The public will also be able to participate in conversations remotely via Twitter: @superscriptco #OnDisplay

Save the Date!
Case study #3: Location
Thursday, May 9, 7:00pm

Previously:
Case study #1: Object
Thursday, March 21, 7:00pm

ADBC #5: Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise @MAD April 4

Superscript invites you to the fifth meeting of ADBC, the Architecture and Design Book Club, with our special guest Stephanie Murg.

On Thursday, April 4 join Superscript and art and design writer Stephanie Murg for a discussion of The Ladies’ Paradise by Émile Zola (1883), a novel set amid the the rise of the modern department store in 19th century Paris.

Basing his fictional emporium on spectacular Parisian stores like Bon Marché, Zola describes experimentation with all types of marketing methods—advertising, fixed prices, and, most notably, the dazzling displays that lured customers in from the street, pulling them, floor after floor, through a sea of goods ranging from the exotic to the everyday. We’ll discuss design themes related to consumerism, the modern city, and the rise of the middle class.

The conversation will take place in the second floor galleries at MAD, amid the current exhibition After the Museum: The Home Front 2013, which includes a related installation by Superscript, On Display. The April 4 event is free and open to the public (on Thursdays evenings MAD admission is free/pay-what-you-wish).

Need a copy of the book? Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Oxford University Press, we have several copies of The Ladies’ Paradise (trans. Brian Nelson, 1995) available to give away to guests. Email us at hello@superscript.co to arrange pick up while supplies last!

Guest: Stephanie Murg is a writer whose interests lie at the nexus of art, design, fashion, and capital markets. She edits the design blog UnBeige, lectures widely on design history and visual culture, and has a background in research for JPMorganChase (London), Harvard Business School, and the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her writing appears regularly in publications such as Wallpaper*ARTnews, Art+AuctionThe Architect’s Newspaper, and Smithsonian.

Text: Émile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise.

Venue: The Museum of Arts and Design, 2nd fl. galleries, 2 Columbus Circle

Date: Thursday, April 4, 2013

Time:
6:30pm Introduction
6:45-7:30pm Discussion, Q&A
7:30pm Drinks reception

Produced by editorial consultancy Superscript, ADBC is a free and public book club. We invite anyone to drop in and join our informal conversations in different venues around the city.
Follow us at @superscriptco
www.superscript.co

Special thanks to: