The Best of Design

  • Share
  • Read Later
From highbrow art to mass-market gewgaws, transparency a visual trend popularized earlier by Apple's coveted iMacs was the year's clear (ahem) buzzword. Some of the year's top buildings (see list below) played with teasing, gauzy see-through effects, and you could scarcely buy consumer goods not skinned in technicolor plastic: the Handspring Visor personal digital assistant, the Power Mac G4 Cube, translucent trash cans and toilet-brush holders from the style-sensitive department stores. And magazines and books were rife with die-cut covers. The luminous transparent things of 2000 thrummed with Jello-colored energy, as if so jazzed that they could hardly contain their insides. Now you see it. And you don't.1. The Rose Center for Earth and Space
The new planetarium addition to New York City's Museum of Natural History is a 21st-century update of an 18th-century dream. Architect James Stewart Polshek's simple design, a metal sphere set in a mostly glass cube, pays homage to the unbuilt ball that Etienne-Louis Boullee conceived in 1784 as a memorial to Sir Isaac Newton. It tells of the grandeur of the universe itself, speaking in the language of both classic modernism and high-tech futurism.

2. Het Oosten Pavilion
As the clouds pass over Amsterdam, colors shimmer and shift subtly on the surface of architect Steven Holl's magnificent yet playful cube. This riverside structure, built for a Dutch corporation, looks less like it was made from glass and perforated metal than from the surrounding water and light.

3. The Tate Modern
An ingenious appropriation took a former London power station and cranked up its wattage. The design team, led by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, has provided natural illumination for 20th-century classics and warehouse-scale space for contemporary artists.

4. The Oklahoma City National Memorial
The Butzer Design Partnership honored the 168 killed in the 1995 bombing with bronze and glass chairs one for each victim that recall the innocent dead while offering figurative comfort to the living.

5. P.S. 1's temporary Dunescape Outdoor Summer Pavilion
SHoP's temporary "urban beach" in Queens, New York became an inviting summer sensation. Made from 6,000 boards that rolled, twisted and slid about, it offered wet and dry places for visitors to bask, wade and escape the sun. It was an architectural drawing come to life.

6. HeadBlade
A fashionably shaved head is either the ultimate in minimalist dandyism or the 21st-century version of the comb-over. HeadBlade's power razor has a form as curvy and clean as Patrick Stewart's pate. Nestle it in your palm and "comb" yourself bald. It's shear elegance.

7. Life Style
Design guru Bruce Mau argues passionately that form is inextricable from message. Nowhere is that more true than in his 624-page book, part portfolio, part manifesto, urging readers to become alert to the meanings transmitted in "the global image economy."

8. Ducati sports bike MH900e
Like a futurist painting, this sensuously sleek Italian motorbike, designed in honor of champion racer Mike Hailwood, seems to move while standing still. And did it ever move. Just after midnight on New Year's Day, the first year's entire production was sold out at the Ducati website in 31 minutes flat.

9. Design Culture Now
This sprawling exhibit at New York City's Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the first of what is planned to be a triennial event, epitomized Americans' rising interest in design. The show celebrated vital contemporary work in an accessible frame that laid plain the degrees of separation and connection between Frank Gehry's buildings and Martha Stew- art's merchandise.

10. The NikeiD
Here's a nifty thing to Just Do: Nike allows Web surfers to customize this sneaker online, selecting style, colors and lace types, even stamping the shoes with a personal ID code. So how long until you can pick your own sweatshop worker online?

Worst of Design
Florida's Butterfly Ballot

As poor civic design goes, the Susan B. Anthony dollar had nothing on this. The whiplashing ballot may have turned thousands of Palm Beach Democrats into inadvertent Buchananites.