Category: Design - AM Musings
 
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Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible
I've been blogging on the Mock/Wallace website about the German industrial designer Dieter Rams who was the primary force behind the look of the Braun products starting from the 1960's.  Dieter Rams design philosophy had a profound impact on Jonathan Ive and Steve Jobs and the look of Apple products.  With the passing of Steve Jobs, I've been thinking about Rams' legacy even more.  See my blogs here.
 
 
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Wood "column"
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8th and Folsom Building
Don't know why but I like these decorative "columns" on the second floor of this building at 8th Street and Folsom in San Francisco.

It breaks the "rules" as a column is supposed to be a weight bearing entity, but here it seems to be floating in mid-air.  To make matters worse, the top of the column or capital is separated from the fluted trunk.  Still those Victorian designers were having fun and managed to create some interesting things.

 
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Whole Foods Green Onions
When Whole Foods Grocery opened in San Francisco, they went to great lengths to differentiate themselves by  displaying their whole fish on a slanted tray of crushed ice and positioning the fish as though they were swimming in the water.  After the opening they scaled back their display efforts, but yet simple gestures can be pretty effective.  Here, just stacking and alternating the green onions heightens their colors and textures. I applaud these simple things.
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Paris Food display
Of course leave it to the French to display their products in their own distinctive way.  This display was in the front window of a restaurant in the Latin Quarter in Paris. Voila!

 
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Chrysler Building - New York
The Chrysler Building in New York's Manhattan seems to endure with timeless grace.  The gray building set against a gray sky enhances this feeling of grace.  If I were to analyze the design of the building, I would probably tell the architect it should be more restrained and will look old fashioned and dated after a while. 

Well it does look "dated" in the best sense of the word, as it is a masterful design with beautiful proportions showing that the rules of "good taste" don't always apply.  Rising on the horizon, it seems to wink a welcome to me whenever I visit.  It's no wonder it's a favorite and instantly recognizable.
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San Francisco Marriott Hotel
Contrast the Chrysler Building with this hotel in San Francisco built about 30 years ago.  It uses some of the same curved elements at the top.  Which do you think is the most successful?

 
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Fatted Calf Charcuterie is located  at 320 Fell Street in San Francisco's Hayes Valley.  I happened across it when I took a walk after getting my Blue Bottle Coffee around the corner.

I normally don't talk pictures of raw meat, but this store is so well designed in every detail -- it even shows in the way they prepare and display their meats.  Their products are shown to their best advantage and everything seems to work together in harmony.   Fatted Calf is dedicated to all things related to meat products.  According to their website, they just had a class on hog butchering!  Perhaps not for the feint of heart. 

I do, however, recommend their pates.
 
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Indian Springs Mineral Baths and Spa
Indian Springs Baths and Spa in Calistoga sits at the northern end of the Napa Valley.  Most visitors to the Napa Valley only venture as far north as St. Helena leaving Calistoga about 15 minutes north relatively un-gentrified.  Calistoga still retains the feeling of a small town.  Its claim to fame is not so much the world class vineyards up and down the valley, but the natural mineral hot springs that Bay Area locals have for generations gone to "take the waters."

The place looks as though it could be a set for a 1940's era movie.  When updated, the designers took care to provide modern conveniences and sensibilities but yet prevented them from intruding upon this fantasy.  Very carefully maintained, the spaces and grounds are spotless.

My favorite is the olympic sized swimming pool with naturally heated mineral spring water.  Although huge, it seems to lend itself more to lazy lounging and  sipping cold lime water while cultivating one's tan.  Special rates are available during the winter months, where a room tariff includes having hot mud shoveled over your naked body - an experience long remembered.   
 
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Bar Jules 609 Hayes Street
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Roasted Mussels with Bread Crumbs
Bar Jules is on the edge of an interesting couple of blocks at 609 Hayes Street in Hayes Valley.  Simple in design and presentation, it's a nice spot for lunch and a stroll afterwards for window browsing.  

What caught my eye was the Bar Jules sign in mixed colors and different typefaces and sizes.  Somehow that simple statement explains the sensibilities of the owner of the restaurant.

 
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Carmel Vent Grille
Carmel must have very strict design guidelines in order to have maintained its "Spanish Colonial" look for so many years.  Even this  little vent grille set in the exterior of this thickly plastered wall maintains the look.  

Very little if any of Carmel actually dates from the colonial period.  Probably the only building that does is the restored Carmel Mission built by Father Junipero Serra in 1770.  All children going through the California public school system learn about the California missions and I was no exception.  My Dad took us on a special trip just to see the Mission.

Because these new reproduction buildings are already 80 years old, they have acquired a certain patina that lends an air of authenticity.       
 
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Il Fornaio - Carmel-by-the-Sea
A dinner with the family about 10 years ago while on vacation in Carmel was especially memorable because of this table.  There were 6 of us gathered around this table, and we could see and talk to each other easily.  The warm light above the table (reflected on the table top in the photo) was like a fireplace and the oval table gathered us together into a communal hug.  After all these years  I still remember this table.  Visiting this restaurant again after ten years, I immediately looked for the table.  It was still there in the same spot.  We sat near it.  After a while another family sat down at "our" table and had their own special dinner.

Shapes and forms do affect us.  
 
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Fashion statement on Valencia Street
 

 The evolution of design in architecture moves relatively slowly while the look of fashion, graphics and electronics can  change almost overnight.  Those who follow fashion will notice the slightest change in fit, color, length and other minor details that add up to the "new " look.  I admit to being a little ignorant about fashion, but I follow an interesting blog called the Sartorialist started by a guy who photographs people on the street around the world.  Sometimes trendy, sometime very ordinary, he photographs people who obviously pay attention to how they dress. 

This guy on Valencia Street in the photo above obviously pays attention too.  You don't just happen to roll your jeans up above your ankles, add a sport coat and run out the door.  That's a big "look at me"  statement.  Sometimes it's great and sometimes it's not.  We all need a little self-knowledge and confidence to know what works.  It's the same in designing buildings.  If you design something that attracts attention, it better be good. 

I was walking along Valencia to a restaurant when this guy walked by me.  I thought, what the heck and snapped a picture.  This is my first attempt at a Sartorialist type photo.  Check out his blog here. His photos and the look of the website are great.