Denmark’s Utopian Garden City Built Entirely in Circles: See Astounding Aerial Views of Brøndby Haveby

For decades, urban planners around the world have looked to the Danish capital of Copenhagen, with its low-rise high density and unparalleled culture of everyday cycling, as an example of how to design a city. But what of the Danish track record in designing suburbs? Recently, a photographer by the name of Henry Do brought the world’s attention to one such settlement, Brøndby Haveby or Garden City, with a series of aerial photographs posted to Instagram. “Unreal how my recent images from here went crazy viral,” Do writes in the caption of a follow-up drone video — “unreal” being just the word some have used to describe the place itself, composed as it is entirely out of circles.

Built in 1964 to the design of “genius landscape architect Erik Mygind,” Brøndby Haveby mimics “the traditional patterns of the 18th century Danish villages, where people would use the middle as a focal point for hanging out, mingle and social interchange between neighbors.”

This unusual form, more of which you can see in Do’s drone photos at Lonely Planet, suits the long-established Danish cabin culture, according to which every city-dwelling Dane with the means buys a smaller second home in the countryside as a retreat. (Though the houses in Brøndby Haveby are owned, the gardens are rented, and local zoning laws prevent anyone from occupying their properties for more than six months out of the year.)

Wherever it is, this cabin must be made hyggelige, an adjective often translated into English as “cozy” and that, in recent years, has become a byword for the love of small-scale contentment that sets Denmark apart. (Not everybody is sold on the concept: “With its relentless drive towards the middle ground and its dependence on keeping things light and breezy,” writes British Denmark expat Michael Booth, “hygge does get a bit boring sometimes.”) As Lenni Madsen, a Danish Quora user with a Brøndby Haveby house in the family, puts it, “Imagine your average small-time community, where everyone knows everyone else, you see each other across the hedge, perhaps sharing a beer or having coffee at each others’ houses.”

This seems a far cry from the alienation and depravity of the standard suburban cul-de-sac, at least as portrayed in American popular myth. And it isn’t hard to see the appeal for average urbanites, especially those looking to spend their generous vacation time in as different an environment as possible without having to go far. (Homeowners must already have a primary residence within 20 kilometers, which includes the city of Copenhagen.) The astonished reactions on social media would suggest that most of us have never seen a place like this before. But for the Danes, it’s just another chapter in their civilizational pursuit of all that is hyggelige.

via Messy Nessy

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Jazz Typefaces Capture the Essence of 100 Iconic Jazz Musicians

In the 1950s and 60s, one record label stood “like a beacon,” writes Robin Kinross at Eye, among a host of Civil Rights era independents that helped jazz “escape the racial-commercial constraints applied by White Americans, and find its own place, unpatronised and relatively free of exploitation.” That label, Blue Note, ushered in the birth of the cool—both cool jazz and its many hip signifiers—as much through graphic design as through its meticulous approach to recording.

Blue Note album covers may seem principally distinguished by the photography of Francis Wolff, whose instincts behind the camera produced visual icon after icon. But the label’s style depended on the layout, graphic design, and lettering of Reid Miles, who drew on minimalist Swiss trends in “over 500 album covers for Blue Note Records,” designer Reagan Ray writes. “He pioneered the use of creatively-arranged type over monochromatic photography, which is a style that is still widely used in graphic design today.”

As we noted in a recent post on Blue Note’s legendary design team, Reid’s lettering sometimes edged the photography to the margins, or off the cover altogether. Jazz greats were given the freedom to create the music they wanted, but it was the designers who had to sell their creativity to the public in a visual language.

They had done so with distinctive typefaces before Reid, of course. But the art of lettering became far more interesting through his influence, both more playful and more refined at the same time.

Since typeface has always played a significant role in the music’s commercial success, Ray decided to compile several hundred samplings of album lettering of jazz musician’s names, “for easy browsing and analysis” of typeface as an essential element all on its own. The gallery may attempt “to cover most of the genre’s significant musicians,” but there are, Ray admits, many inevitable omissions.

Nonetheless, it’s a formidable visual record of the various looks of jazz in lettering, and the visual identities of its biggest artists over the course of several decades. Ray does not name any of the designers, which is frustrating, but those in the know will recognize the work of Reid and others like album cover pioneer Alex Steinweiss. You may well spot lettering by Milton Glaser, whom Ray previously covered in a huge curated gallery of the famous designer’s album art.

The names behind the big names matter, but it’s the musicians themselves these individualized typefaces are meant to immediately evoke. Consider just how well most all of these examples do just that—representing each artist’s music, period, and image with the perfect font and graphic arrangement, each one a unique logo. Somewhat like the music it represents, Ray’s gallery is, itself, a collective tour-de-force performance of visual jazz.

Visit Ray’s gallery here.

via Kottke

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Good Movies as Old Books: 100 Films Reimagined as Vintage Book Covers

At one time paperback books were thought of as trash, a term that described their perceived artistic and cultural level, production value, and utter disposability. This changed in the mid-20th century, when certain paperback publishers (Doubleday Anchor, for example, who hired Edward Gorey to design their covers in the 1950s) made a push for respectability. It worked so well that the signature aesthetics they developed still, nearly a lifetime later, pique our interest more readily than those of any other era.

Even today, graphic designers put in the time and effort to master the art of the midcentury paperback cover and transpose it into other cultural realms, as Matt Stevens does in his “Good Movies as Old Books” series. In this “ongoing personal project,” Stevens writes, “I envision some of my favorite films as vintage books. Not a best of list, just movies I love.”

These movies, for the most part, date from more recent times than the mid-20th century. Some, like Jordan Peele’s Us, the Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems, and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, came out just last year. The oldest pictures among them, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, date from the early 1960s, when this type of graphic design had reached the peak of its popularity.

Suitably, Stevens also gives the retro treatment to a few already stylized period pieces like Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, Joe Johnston’s The Rocketeer, and Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca, a sci-fi vision of the future itself imbued with the aesthetics of the 1940s. Each and every one of Stevens’ beloved-movies-turned-old-books looks convincing as a work of graphic design from roughly the decade and a half after the Second World War, and some even include realistic creases and price tags. This makes us reflect on the connections certain of these films have to literature, most obviously those, like David Fincher’s Fight Club and Stephen Frears’ High Fidelity, adapted from novels in the first place.

More subtle are Rian Johnson’s recent Knives Out, a thoroughgoing tribute to (if not an adaptation of) the work of Agatha Christie; Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, which hybridizes a Philip K. Dick novella with pulp detective noir; and Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, a statement of its director’s intent to revive the look and feel of the early 1960s (its books and otherwise) for his own cinematic purposes. Stevens has made these imagined covers available for purchase as prints, but some retro design-inclined, bibliophilic film fans may prefer to own them in 21st-century book form. See all of his adaptations in web format here.

via Colossal

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Joy of Watching Old, Damaged Things Get Restored: Why the World is Captivated by Restoration Videos

The internet has given us a few new ways to watch things, but many more new things to watch. It’s not just that we now tune in to our favorite shows online rather than on television, but that our “favorite shows” have assumed forms we couldn’t have imagined before. Thirty years ago, if you’d gone to a TV network and pitched a program consisting of nothing but the process of antique restoration — no music, no narration, no story, and certainly no stars — you’d have been told nobody wanted to watch that. In 2020, we know the truth: not only do people want to watch that, but quite a lot of people want to watch that, as evidenced by the enormous view counts of Youtube restoration videos.

At Vice, Mike Dozier profiles the Swiss Youtube restoration channel My Mechanics. Its “videos don’t just appeal to people interested in antique restoration, which they surely do, but many viewers watch because they find the process relaxing.”

Some come for the techniques and stay for the “hypnotic quality — the sounds of clinking metal, the grinding of sandpaper and the whirring of a lathe populate each video. And watching something, like a rusty old coffee grinder, come back to life, shiny and looking brand-new, is uniquely satisfying.” This verges on the newly carved-out territory of “autonomous sensory meridian response,” or ASMR, a genre of video engineered specifically to deliver psychologically pleasing sounds.

In Korea, where I live, ASMR has attained disproportionately massive popularity — though not quite the popularity of mukbang, the style of long-form eating-on-camera video that has gone international in recent years. One theory of the appeal of mukbang holds that it offers vicarious satisfaction to viewers who are dieting, broke, or otherwise unable to consume enormous meals themselves. That may also be true, to a degree, of restoration videos. To bring a 19th-century screwdriver, say, or a World War II military watch back to like-new condition requires not just the right equipment but formidable amounts of knowledge and dexterity as well. Clicking on a Youtube video asks of us much less in the way of time and dedication. And yet, among the billions of views restoration videos have racked up, there are surely fans who have acted on the inspiration and built old-school skills of their own.

In our increasingly digital age — characterized by nothing more acutely than our tendency to spend hours clicking through increasingly specialized Youtube videos — skilled physical work has become an impressive spectacle in itself. As everywhere on the internet, subgenres have produced sub-subgenres: take the vintage toy restoration channel Rescue & Restore or art restorer Julian Baumgartner (who produces both narrated and ASMR version of his videos), both previously featured here on Open Culture. If those don’t absorb you, have a look at Cool Again RestorationIron Man Restoration, Hand Tool Rescue, MrRescue (a model-car specialist), Restoration and Metal, Random Hands… and the list goes on, given how much needs restoring in this world.

via metafilter

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Four Classic Prince Songs Re-Imagined as Pulp Fiction Covers: When Doves Cry, Little Red Corvette & More

There’s a book-lined Knowledge Room in the late Prince Rogers Nelson’s Paisley Park, but the Prince-inspired faux-books that artist Todd Alcott imagines are probably better suited to the estate’s purple-lit Relaxation Room.

The Knowledge Room was conceived of as a library where the world’s most famous convert to Jehovah’s Witnesses could delve into religious literature, reflect on the meaning of life, and study the Bible deep into the night.

Alcott’s covers harken to an earlier stage in Prince’s evolution—one the star eventually disavowed—as well as several bygone eras of book design.

Lyrically, there’s no mistaking what Prince’s notorious 1984 “Darling Nikki” is about. There’s a direct line between it and the creation of parental advisory stickers for musical releases containing what is politely referred to as “mature content.”

Alcott’s 1950s pulp novel treatment, above, is similarly graphic. Those skintight purple curves are a promise that even purpler prose lays within, or would, were there any text couched behind that steamy cover.

When Doves Cry” makes for a pretty purple cover, too. In this case, the inspiration is a 1950s self-help book, enriched with some Freudian taglines from Prince’s own pen. (“Maybe you’re just like my mother, she’s never satisfied.”)

Alcott remembers Prince being “an incredibly liberating figure” when he burst onto the scene:

There was his flamboyant, outrageous sexuality, but also his musical omnivorousness; he played funk, rock, pop, jazz, everything. Purple Rain was the Sergeant Pepper’s of its day, a wall-to-wall brilliant album that everyone could recognize as a remarkable achievement. I remember when I first saw Purple Rain, at the very beginning of the movie, before the movie has even begun, the Warner Bros logo came up and you heard the sound of an expectant crowd, and an announcer says “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Revolution,” and the first shot is of Prince, backlit, silhouetted in purple against a dense mist, and he says “Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” And I was instantly, incontrovertibly, a fan for life. The confidence of that opening, the sheer audacity of it, adopting the tone of a priest at a wedding, in his Hendrix outfit and hairdo, the sheer gutsiness of that statement, alone, just blew me away. And then he proceeded to play “Let’s Go Crazy” which completely lived up to that opening. After that he could have run Buick ads for the rest of the movie and I’d still be a fan.

Decades later, I was sitting in a Subway restaurant at the end of a very, very long, tiring day, and was feeling completely exhausted and miserable, and out of nowhere, “When Doves Cry” came on the sound system. And I was reminded that the song, which was a huge hit in 1984, the song of the year, had no bass line. The arrangement of it made no sense. It was a song put together by force of will, with its metal guitar and its synth strings and its electronic drums. And in that moment, at the end of a long, tiring day, I was reminded that miracles are possible.

Alcott’s miraculous graphic transformations are rounded out with a comparatively understated 1930s murder mystery, Purple Rain and an ingenious Little Red Corvette owner’s manual dating to the mid-60s. Prints of Todd Alcott’s Prince-inspired paperback covers are available in his Etsy shop.

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

IKEA Digitizes & Puts Online 70 Years of Its Catalogs: Explore the Designs of the Swedish Furniture Giant

The timeless modernism of the IKEA catalog, its promise of tidiness, clean, economical lines, and excellent value belie a struggle ahead, an ordeal customers of the global Swedish build-it-yourself juggernaut know too well. Will the bulky, majorly-inconveniently shaped boxes fit in the car? Will the rebus-like instructions make sense? Will we assemble a bed with love and care, only to find ourselves in a pile of its broken parts come morning?

Clearly outweighing such tragedies are the many happy memories we associate with buying, building, and living with IKEA products. The company itself has built such memories over the course of almost eight decades with an empire of Scandinavian design supermarkets.

“As of 2019,” Marie Patino writes at CityLab, “IKEA boasts 433 stores across 53 countries.” The IKEA catalog is as widely circulated as the Bible and Quran. The Swedish company with the quirkily named products and legendary cafeteria meatballs defines furniture shopping.

The layout of IKEA’s showrooms may turn “retail into retail therapy,” with corridors filled with monochromatic visions of clutter-free living. In these times, of course, we’re far more likely to take refuge in those venerable catalogs or the company’s always-improving website. Now we can do both at once with a trip through seven decades of IKEA catalogs, uploaded to the website for the 70th anniversary of the first 1950 release.

1951 “marked the first proper IKEA catalog,” writes Patino, as well as the first iconic cover featuring the first iconic design, the MK wing chair. Covers became more elaborate, with smooth mid-century modern living room layouts that tantalized, but the contents of the catalog looked like government order forms until the late 60s and 70s. It did not appear in English until 1985. In these early layouts we can see just how dated so many of these designs appear in hindsight.

The company’s signature business model came together slowly at first. It started in 1943, founded by Ingvar Kamprad in Sweden, as a mail-order business for stationary supplies. The furniture arrived soon after, but it would take another decade or so for the flat-pack idea to fully emerge. The BILLY bookshelf, perhaps the most popular IKEA design ever, debuted in 1979. Other staples followed, and in 2013, the original wingback chair made a modified comeback as the STRANDMON. Through it all, the catalog has documented Swedish design trends in a global marketplace.,

The 21st century has seen not only the return of the wingback but of the mid-century Scandinavian modernism with which the company made its name in the 1950s and 60s. Maybe that’s why it’s easy to think of IKEA as consistently embodying this trend, slightly updated every few years. But browsing through these catalogs shows how thoroughly IKEA absorbed all sorts of European influences—as well as the look of hotel room furniture from Miami Vice.

What kind of therapy is this? Gazing at dated or retro-hip products we are years too late to buy? It offers the same experience as all IKEA catalog shopping—without the struggle and expense of transporting and assembling the results: the distraction of a world without distractions. Explore the new archive of IKEA catalogs here.

via Bloomberg and Kottke

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

A Beautiful 1897 Illustrated Book Shows How Flowers Become Art Nouveau Designs

The art of drawing is not the art of observing forms and objects alone, it is not mere mimicry of these objects; it is the art of knowing how far and wherein, and with what just limitations, those forms and objects can be reproduced in a picture, or in a decorative work. – Eugène Grasset, 1896

Flowers loomed large in Art Nouveau, from the voluptuous floral headpieces that crowned Alphonse Mucha’s female figures to the stained glass roses favored by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Graphic designer Eugène Grasset’s 1897 book, Plants and Their Application to Ornament, vividly demonstrates the ways in which nature was distilled into popular decorative motifs at the end of the 19th-century.


Twenty-four flowering plants were selected for consideration, from humble specimens like dandelions and thistle to such Art Nouveau heavy hitters as poppies and irises.

Each flower is represented by a realistic botanical study, with two additional color plates in which its form is flattened out and mined for its decorative, stylistic elements.


The plates were rendered by Grasset’s students at the École Guérin, young artists whom he had “forbidden to condescend to the art of base and servile imitation”:

The art of drawing is not the art of observing forms and objects alone, it is not mere mimicry of these objects; it is the art of knowing how far and wherein, and with what just limitations, those forms and objects can be reproduced in a picture, or in a decorative work.

He also expected students to hone their powers of observation through intense study of the organic structures that would provide their inspiration, becoming intimately acquainted with the character of petal, leaf, and stem:

Beautiful lines are the foundation of all beauty. In a work of art, whatever it be, apparent or hidden symmetry is the visible or secret cause of the pleasure we feel. Everything that is created must have some repetition in its parts to be understood, retained in the memory, and perceived as a whole

When it came to adorning household implements such as vases and plates, Grasset insisted that decorative elements exist in harmony with their hosts, sniping that any artist who would distort form with ill considered flourishes should make a bas-relief instead.

Thusly do chrysanthemum stems provide logical-looking ballast for a chandelier, and a dandelion’s curved leaves hug the contours of a table leg.

Grasset’s best known student, Maurice Pillard Verneuil, whose career spanned Art Nouveau to Art Deco, absorbed and articulated the master’s teachings:


It is no longer the nature (artists) see that they represent, that they transcribe, but the nature that they aspire to see; nature more perfect and more beautiful and of which they have the interior vision.


View Eugène Grasset’s Plants and Their Application to Ornament as part of the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections here. Or find illustrations at RawPixel.

via The Public Domain Review

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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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