Before design became globalised, some practitioners advocated for a cross-cultural approach that combined modernism’s international ambitions with local sensibilities. 石汉瑞：启蒙者 (Henry Steiner: Graphic Communicator) (2019) brings together the works, essays and interviews of one such trailblazer. The Vienna-born Steiner brought the modern graphic design principles he learnt from Paul Rand in New York to Hong Kong in the mid-1960s just in time for the city’s economic takeoff. By playing off cultural opposites of West and East, he showed one way modernist design ideas were adopted and adapted in Asia. While Steiner‘s works have been published in English, this comprehensive collection, edited by 何东, is entirely in Chinese and introduces him to a new generation and geography. It was published for a 2019 Steiner retrospective curated by designer He Jianping (何见平), who also designed this book.
#ADesignLibrary spotlights lesser known design books, and invites public access to my personal collection of titles that focuses on Singapore architecture and design, Asian design, everyday design, critical and speculative design as well as design theory and philosophy. I welcome inquiries and physical loans.
It has been two weeks since I returned to tropical Singapore. The sweltering heat outside makes me yearn for the cooler weather during my recent trip to Tallinn, Copenhagen and Helsinki. More than comfort, I find that living with the seasons makes one more sensitive to the environment. The daily need to respond to the weather — be it making plans or dressing accordingly — reminds us of how we relate to nature. But weather along the equator is significantly less drastic. In fact, I used to think we had no seasons until I attended a discussion on produce in Singapore last week. One of the chefs reminded us that different species of fish thrive in the seas around our island depending on the time of the year. But as few of us cook and shop in supermarkets selling only imported produce, we have lost such knowledge of how nature works…
➜ Download a PDF of the letter and read other issues here
For urban dwellers – and that’s over half of the world’s population, according to the United Nations – trekking in a nature reserve is a respite from the concrete jungle. Trees are unrestricted by regulations for height and gross floor area. The variety of species is not defined by land-use or conservation guidelines. Greenery is not a single shade, but a palette of textures and hues. Encountering this natural order of growth is a striking reminder (by way of comparison) of how much effort goes into designing, building and maintaining a city.
While city making has traditionally meant concreting over nature, this has given way in recent times to more environmentally friendly ideals. ‘Green buildings’, ‘sustainable architecture’ and entire ‘eco-cities’ are just some examples of how urban planners and architects have acknowledged and even embraced nature by planting more greenery, designing energy-efficient buildings, and investing in blue-green infrastructure. But beyond thinking for nature, cities can be like nature, and step into the wild.
➜ Read the full column in CUBES #88 (October/November 2017)