Harvard Design Magazine #42
The Harvard Design Review, now onto its 43rd issue, is published bi-annually by Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. In the UK, we’ve only been able to get hold of issue 42 this week (it takes a while for international distribution sometimes!) At first this upset me, as we like to promote the current on the Journal and no. 43 – themed ‘shelf life’ – looks especially intriguing: an exploration of the contents, containers and systems of storage that organise our world.
As I’ve read through the issue - themed ‘Run for Cover!’ - I’ve nevertheless realized something helpful. The tumultuous first weeks of the Trump regime have felt like nothing that’s ever happened before certainly in my lifetime, and for me one of many worries has been that there’s little literature – my usual go-to – that can offer the kind of relevant guidance and clarity that comes from experienced, insightful writers. But issue 42 of HDR, edited and published months ago, proves that there are frameworks that can help us digest what’s happening in the world and start devising powerful ways to respond and to move forward. And it does so – helpfully for most magCulture readers – through the lens of design.
Editor Jennifer Sigler explains in her intro letter that the issue explores how fear shapes our physical world - and how built environments can provoke and promote, or sometimes be used to prevent, fear. She ends with this note: ‘Fear can be a motivator for progress - not for walling in or walling out, but for imagining, configuring, and instrumentalizing spaces that foster coexistence, cooperation, and trust. Even when it thunders.’
There’s an article by Metahaven that particularly stood out called ‘Pastiche of Ghosts’ (above), which looks at an intriguing political party founded in 2008 in Ukraine called the Internet Party of Ukraine (IPU). The IPU earned international attention last year when it ran someone dressed in a Darth Vader costume for mayor of Odessa. Metahaven warn to ‘stay tuned’ as they consider ways that this design spectacle hijacks the democratic process.
Other essays that provide food for thought: an article on the politics of the covered face (above), Oliver Wainwright on the fortress-like architecture of the new US embassy in London (also above), and an article about the alarmist idea of suspicious packaging.
This weeks US travel ban has been beyond alarming, and it’s been difficult to know exactly how we should most productively channel energy into deciphering and resisting. One positive thing we can do is to continue to read and think – to engage with others but also crucially ourselves – and one of many places to do that in is the pages of certain magazines who remain committed to the idea of slow, considered thinking. That’s what was playing in my mind as I picked up Harvard Design Review this week and began to get my bearings.