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A Panorama of Design


For the German-born designer Jan Kath, now living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, rugs are not just decorative objects; they also reflect global politics. His “Rug Bombs” exhibition of 11 handknotted works at the Alte Brüderkirche, a church in Kassel, Germany, follows a modern tradition by artisans in troubled countries of weaving images of violence and warfare into textiles.

“They’re very personal,” he said.

On view through Sept. 25, in conjunction with the art exhibition “Documenta,” the pieces in “Rug Bombs” range from throw sizes to 10-by-14-foot opuses that can command an entire room.

Their scenes — rendered in a Pop Art-inspired style — incorporate fighter jets, guns, tanks and refugees. In one, a Syrian family disembarks from a boat on a Greek island, as a military helicopter circles overhead against a starry night sky. In another scene, adapted from the 2006 book “Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes,” by Kyle Cassidy, a man seated in a living room with his family proudly shows off an automatic rifle.

Kath executes each design digitally before translating it into handspun wool and silk colored with natural dyes. The handknotting technique he uses descends from ancient Persia. Each rug takes from three to five months to compete, he said.


A New Archive Celebrates Everyday Design

Graphic designers create the look of communications, from books to billboards to gum wrappers. Yet whether printed or digitized, the life span of these designs is fruit-fly short, and there are not enough archivists in the world to sort through the mountains of such artifacts with an eye toward preservation.

Coming to the rescue of leaflets, typefaces and ticket stubs is the People’s Graphic Design Archive, a crowdsourced database that recently went live after eight years of development. The digital archive, which currently contains about 5,000 items, allows anyone, anywhere in the world, to upload — and thereby keep — any piece of ephemera.

Inspired by “A People’s History of the United States,” Howard Zinn’s 1980 book that broadened the definition of events deemed worth documenting, the archive embraces multiple perspectives. “To tell a bigger history of culture represented through graphic design, you need to account for all the things produced by that culture,” said Louise Sandhaus, who directs the project with Brockett Horne, Briar Levit and Morgan Searcy. This means ensuring the survival of designs like a South Korean crayon package and a 200-peso coin from Colombia, “not just the select few canonized and fetishized items” celebrated by design historians, Sandhaus said.

Participants are asked to upload material that is at least 10 years old. Submissions may include finished projects and sketches, photos, correspondence, oral histories and other sources that illuminate the designs.


A Centuries-Old Library Gets an Upgrade

When the centuries-old Richelieu Library in the Second Arrondissement of Paris reopens this month after a decadelong renovation, visitors to its ornate Oval Room may notice that its previous assortment of chairs has been replaced by much sleeker seating.

The Orria chair — designed by Patrick Jouin, protoyped by the French national furniture-heritage association Atelier de Recherche et Création du Mobilier and manufactured by Alki, a company in the Basque region of France — is crafted from oak and features a black leather seat and backrest. It is the first chair commissioned specifically for the Oval Room.

Before drafting his design, Jouin visited the Richelieu and saw a mix of seating in various rooms, including rows of high-backed caned chairs.

“They had chairs that didn’t belong to the space,” he said by telephone. “They were too ornate, too French classic. This is working well in Versailles, but it doesn’t work in this library. So I wanted to design a little-bit-serious chair for a place to study. I wanted it to be discreet.”

While the unfussy Orria has an air of the midcentury modern about it, Jouin said he was more inspired by the room’s existing wooden tables. “If I am influenced,” he said, “I would say I am more influenced by the Shaker style than anything else, this idea of beauty with a simple, pure function.”

The chairs suit the library’s space in another way as well: The name Orria is Basque for the page of a book.

A New Massachusetts Theater Offers a Peek Behind the Curtain

Imagine stepping into a theater lobby and peering into the dressing rooms. You can do just that at the Prior Performing Arts Center at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, now that the $107 million building, which was completed last month, is welcoming students for the fall semester. (And don’t worry, the performers will be able to close a curtain for privacy.)

“The Beehive,” as the space is known, is no ordinary theater lobby. It is a grand central atrium with a cafe that will act as a hub for the performing arts, as well as for the larger Holy Cross campus. The atrium’s glass walls will give visitors a glimpse into the school’s inner workings, from classrooms to gallery and event spaces.

Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the Prior Performing Arts Center is organized in a cross shape (not a reference to the college or its Catholic affiliation), with four wings flanking the Beehive: a 400-seat proscenium-style wood-lined main theater; a 200-seat flexible black box theater; a wing of practice and production spaces; and the Cantor Art Gallery wing, which includes a media lab geared toward augmented reality, virtual reality and electronic music composition.

The goal, according to Charles Renfro, the project’s lead architect, was to make the building adaptable to spontaneous creative uses. “Many education spaces are very prescribed,” he said. “We wanted to provide a space so welcoming and flexible students would feel compelled to make it their own.”

Alluding to the red brick and limestone of Holy Cross’s 19th century Collegiate Gothic architecture, the center is clad in Cor-Ten steel and glass fiber-reinforced concrete. The building replaces part of a parking lot, and will serve as a central point for pedestrians on the campus. Students will enter the arts center from the building’s corners, which are planted with different landscapes, including a small amphitheater and a meditation garden.--NYT

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