Designer Creates Origami Cardboard Tents to Shelter the Homeless from the Winter Cold

During the day, Xavier Van der Stappen runs an electric car company. At night, the Belgian entrepreneur/designer helps spearhead the ORIG-AMI project, which creates origami-style cardboard tents designed to shield Brussels' homeless from the bitter cold of winter. Cardboard is light and portable. It holds heat fairly well. And the cardboard tents (as opposed to other structures) are legal on Brussels' streets. The cost for each life-saving structure? Only $36.

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How to Write Like an Architect: Short Primers on Writing with the Neat, Clean Lines of a Designer

We have another national crisis on our hands.

Our children are not only ill-equipped to read maps and tell time with analog clocks, their handwriting is in serious decline.

Forget cursive, which went the way of the dodo earlier in the millennium. Youngsters who are dab hands on the keyboard may have little impulse—or opportunity—to practice their printing.

Does it matter?

It sure as shootin’ might be during a zombie invasion, given the attendant breakdown of digital communication and the electricity that powered it.




But even in less dire times, legible penmanship is a good skill to master.

As Virginia Berninger, professor emeritus and principal investigator of the University of Washington’s Interdisciplinary Learning Disabilities Center, told The New York Times, “Handwriting — forming letters — engages the mind, and that can help children pay attention to written language.”

Hand lettering is also a complex neurological process, a workout involving various cognitive, motor, and neuromuscular functions.

There’s also a school of thought that teachers who still accept handwritten assignments unconsciously award the highest grades to pupils with the neatest penmanship, which is easier on tired eyes. Something to keep in mind for those gearing up to take the handwritten essay portions of the SAT and ACT.

Let's remember that letters are really just shapes.

The Finns and French have long-established uniformity with regard to handwriting. In the absence of classroom instruction, Americans have the freedom to peruse various penmanship styles, identify their favorite, and work hard to attain it.

(This writer is proof that penmanship can become part of the DNA through practice, having set out to duplicate my mother’s delightful, eccentric-to-the-point-of-illegibile hand at around the age of 8. I added a few personal quirks along the way. The result is I'm frequently bamboozled into serving as scribe for whatever group I happen to find myself in, and my children can claim they couldn't read the important handwritten instructions hurriedly left for them on Post-Its.)

Historically, the most legible American penmanship belongs to architects.

Their precisely rendered all caps suggest meticulousness, accountability, steadiness of character...

And almost anyone can achieve it, regardless of whether those are qualities they personally possess.

All it takes is determination, time, and—as taught by Doug Patt in his How to Architect series, above—more tools than can be simultaneously operated with two hands:

an Ames lettering guide

a parallel rule or t-square

a small plastic triangle customized with bits of tape

a .5mm Pentel drafting pencil

If this sounds needlessly laborious, keep in mind that such specialty equipment may appeal to reluctant hand writers with an interest in engineering, robotics, or scientific experimentation.

(Be prepared for some frustration if this is the student’s first time at the rodeo with these instruments. As any veteran comic book artist can attest, few are born knowing how to use an Ames lettering guide.)

It should be noted that Patt’s alphabet deviates a bit from traditional standards in the field.

His preference for breathing some life into his letters by not closing their loops, squashing traditionally circular forms into ellipses, and using “dynamic angles” to render crosspieces on a slant would likely not have passed muster with architecture professors of an earlier age, my second grade teacher, or the font designers responsible for the computer-generated “hand lettering” gracing the bulk of recent architectural renderings.

He's likely the only expert suggesting you make your Ks and Rs reminiscent of actor Ralph Macchio in the 1984 film, The Karate Kid.

There’s little chance you'll find yourself grooving to Patt’s videos for anything other than their intended purpose. Whereas the late Bob Ross’ Joy of Painting series has legions of fans who tune in solely for the meditative benefits they derive from his mellow demeanor, Patt’s rapid fire instructional style is that of the busy master, deftly executing moves the fledgling student can only but fumble through.

But if the Karate Kid taught us anything, it’s that practice and grit lead to excellence. If the above demonstration whips by too quickly, Patt expands on the shaping of each letter in 30-second video tutorials available as part of a $19 online course.

Those looking for architectural lower case, or techniques for controlling the thickness of their lines can find them in the episode devoted to lettering with a .7mm Pentel mechanical drafting pencil.

Explore further secrets of the architects on Patt’s How to Architect channel or 2012 book, also called How to Architect.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Download 240+ Free eBooks on Design, Data, Software, Web Development & Business from O’Reilly Media

Last year we highlighted for you 20 Free eBooks on Design from O’Reilly Media. Little did we know that we were just scratching the surface of the free ebooks O'Reilly Media has to offer.

If you head over to this page, you can access 240+ free ebooks covering a range of different topics. Below, we've divided the books into sections (and provided links to them), indicated the number of books in each section, and listed a few attractive/representative titles.

You can download the books in PDF format. An email address--but no credit card--is required. Again the complete list is here.

Note: An earlier version of this post originally appeared on our site in January 2017.

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How the Fences & Railings Adorning London’s Buildings Doubled (by Design) as Civilian Stretchers in World War II

London is a particularly rich destination for visitors with an interest in World War II:

Winston Churchill’s underground War Rooms

The Royal Air Force Museum

Blitz-specific walking tours

…and the scabby steel fences/railings surrounding a number of South London housing estates?

These mesh-and-pipe barriers look utterly unremarkable until one hears their origin story—as emergency stretchers for bearing away civilian casualties from the rubble of Luftwaffe raids.




The no-frills design was intended less for patient comfort than easy clean up. Kinks in the long stretcher poles kept the injured off the ground, and allowed for easy pick up by volunteers from the Civil Defence Service.

Some 600,000 of these stretchers were produced in preparation for airborne attacks. The Blitz killed over 28,000 London civilians. The number of wounded was nearly as high. The manufacture of child-sized stretchers speaks to the citizens' awareness that the human price would be ghastly indeed.

''I am almost glad we have been bombed,'' Queen Elizabeth “the Queen Mum” told a friend after Buckingham Palace was strafed in 1940. ''Now I feel I can look the East End in the face.''

Born of community spirit, it’s fitting that the stretchers continue to serve the community, replacing more ornamental fences that had been uprooted for scrap metal as part of the war effort.

Few neighborhood residents, let alone tourists, seem aware of the fences’ history, as evidenced in the video above.

Perhaps the recently formed Stretcher Railing Society—for the promotion, protection and preservation of London's Air Raid Protection Stretcher Railings—will change that, or at the very least, put up some plaques.

See photos of the stretchers in action, then follow the Stretcher Railing Society’s map to their present locations.

via Twisted Sifter

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Omoshiroi Blocks: Japanese Memo Pads Reveal Intricate Buildings As The Pages Get Used

We've all had the experience, growing up, of using notepads for something other than their intended purpose: running our thumbs down their stacked-up pages and savoring the buzzing sound, turning them into flipbooks by painstakingly drawing a frame on each page, and even — in times of truly dire boredom — cutting them down into unusual sizes and shapes. Now, Japanese architectural model maker Triad has elevated that youthful impulse to great heights of aesthetic refinement with their lineup of Omoshiroi Blocks.

The Japanese word omoshiroi (面白い) can translate to "interesting," "fun," "amusing," or a whole host of other such descriptors that might come to the mind of someone who runs across an Omoshiroi Block in person, or even on the internet.

According to Spoon & Tamago, Triad uses "laser-cutting technology to create what is, at first, just a seemingly normal square cube of paper note cards. But as the note cards get used, an object begins to appear. And you’ll have to exhaust the entire deck of cards to fully excavate the hidden object.

These objects include "various notable architectural sites in Japan like Kyoto’s Kiyomizudera Temple, Tokyo’s Asakusa Temple and Tokyo Tower. The blocks are composed of over 100 sheets of paper and each sheet is different from the next in the same way that individual moments stack up together to form a memory." Other three-dimensional entities excavatable from Omoshiroi Blocks include trains, cameras, and even the streetscape of Detroit, which includes the late John C. Portman Jr.'s Renaissance Center — the Tokyo Tower, you might say, of the Motor City.

You can see most of these Omoshiroi Blocks, and others, on Triad's Instagram account. You may have no other option at the moment, since Triad's official site has recently been overwhelmed by visitors, presumably seeking a few of these recently-gone-viral blocks for themselves. Besides, notes their most recent Instagram post, "all items are out of stock. So, overseas shipping is not possible at this moment. Please wait for our online shop announcements to be updated."

Until then, according to Spoon & Tamago, you might try your luck finding one at the Osaka branch of Tokyu Hands, Japan's most creative department store.

If you can't make it out there, rest assured that Triad will probably have their online shop up and running before this year's holiday season, thus providing you with an impressive gift option for the enthusiasts in your life of architecture, stationery, unconventional uses of technology, small-scale intricate craftsmanship, and the artifacts of Japanese culture — all fields in which Japan has spent hundreds, if not thousands of years excelling.

via Spoon and Tamago/ h/t @herhandsmyhands

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How Art Spiegelman Designs Comic Books: A Breakdown of His Masterpiece, Maus

Maus, cartoonist Art Spiegelman’s groundbreaking, Pulitzer Prize-winning account of his complicated relationship with his Holocaust survivor father, is a story that lingers.

Spiegelman famously chose to depict the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats. Non-Jewish civilians of his father’s native Poland were rendered as pigs. He flirted with the idea of depicting his French-born wife, the New Yorker’s art editor, Françoise Mouly, as a frog or a poodle, until she convinced him that her conversion to Judaism merited mousehood, too.




The characters’ anthropomorphism is not the only visual innovation, as the Nerdwriter, Evan Puschak, points out above.

Drawing on interviews in MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, taped conversations with Neil Gaiman, and the University of Washington’s Marcia Alvar, and other sources, the Nerdwriter pans an eight-panel page from the first chapter for maximum meaning.

On first glance, nothing much appears to be happening on that page—hoping to convince his elderly father to submit to interviews for the book that would eventually become Maus, Spiegelman trails him to his childhood bedroom, which the older man has equipped with an exercise bike that he pedals in dress shoes and black socks.

But, as Spiegelman himself once pointed out:

Those panels are each units of time. You see them simultaneously, so you have various moments in time simultaneously made present. 

Readers must force themselves to proceed slowly in order to fully appreciate the coexistence of all those moments.

Left to our own devices, we might pick up on the senior Spiegelman’s concentration camp tattoo, or the introduction of Art’s late mother via the framed photo he shows himself picking up.

But Puschak takes us on an even deeper dive, noting the significance of Art’s placement in the long mid-page panel. Watch out for the 4:30 mark, another visual stunner is teased out in a manner reminiscent of the revelation of a message written in invisible ink.

So Maus conferred commercial success upon its creator, while hanging onto some of the bold visual experiments from earlier in his career, when he and Mouly helped drive the underground comix scene—the past and present entwined yet again.

And this is just one page. Should you venture forth in search of further visual cues later in the text, please use the comments section to share your discoveries.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Presents a Free Online Class on Fashion: Enroll in Fashion as Design Today

Fashion as Design, a free online course by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), beginning this coming week (11/27), may not equip you with the skills to bring a fabulous garment to fruition, but it will help you understand the context behind clothes both workaday and wild.

Led by Department of Architecture and Design Senior Curator Paola Antonelli, Curatorial Assistant Michelle Millar Fisher, and Research Assistant Stephanie Kramer—whose respective fashion heroes are actor Cate Blanchett, designer Claire McArdle, and activist Gloria Steinem—the course will consider the history and impact of 70+ individual garments.

The pieces can be examined in person through the end of January as part of MoMA’s Items: Is Fashion Modern? exhibition.

Some of the duds on the syllabus benefited from a celebrity boost, such as Bruce Lee’s iconic red track suit, recreated with its proper early 70’s cut, below.

Others, just as iconic, can be bought without fanfare in a drugstore or supermarket—witness the plain white t-shirt, introduced to MoMA’s collection when Antonelli was curating 2004’s Humble Masterpieces: Everyday Marvels of Design.

Students with no particular interest in fashion may be intrigued to consider the threads on their backs through such lenses as marketing, distribution, politics, identity, and economics.

Students will also delve into the lifecycle of clothing, fashion-related labor practices, and sustainability. The more consumers understand this side of the biz, the likelier it is that the fashion industry will be pushed toward adopting more ethical practices.

Enroll in the Museum of Modern Art’s free Fashion as Design course here or stick a toe in with the companion exhibition's Youtube playlist or the teachers’ delightfully candid first-person commentary in Surface Magazine’s behind-the-scenes coverage:

The Hoodie

The hoodie is one of those items that has had a long and multifaceted life, and one that’s become so politically charged. But this sweater, with the hood and the string, with or without the zipper, is from the 1930s, from a company that was called Knickerbocker Knitting Company, before it became Champion. Initially the hoodie was made for athletes, to keep them warm before or after training. It was immediately co-opted by construction and cold-storage workers. Then in the 1970s and ’80s it became city-dwelling kids’ garment of choice when skateboarding illegally or writing graffiti or breakdancing. There’s an aspect of the hoodie that’s become a kind of quiet defiance of the system—of wanting to be in the middle of it but somehow away from it. The hoodie gives you a false impression of being invisible. All these different histories bring us to today. The Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman incident a few years ago transformed the hoodie into this symbol of injustice. We’re going to have this red Champion hoodie from the 1980s—when it’s at the moment of transition. But it’s going to be there by itself and we’re hoping it’s going to be really resonant. It shows the power that certain garments have to become symbols for political struggle. —Paola Antonelli

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday

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