Cold War Hothouses
(Princeton Architectural Press
) sets out the military and political framework of America's post-war economic reconstruction, the swords into ploughshares miracle of the 50s and 60s (that somehow involved the continued manufacture of swords, and lots of them).
Companies like Alcoa
used aggressive marketing to direct what would have been massive post-war surplus production into the civilian marketplace. The company put together an advertising campaign, FORECAST, to promote 'tomorrow's product'. Alcoa commissioned what today's hipster crowd would consider a mouth-watering assembly of the post-war designers from every field: 'Charles Eames
, Paul McCobb
, Harley Earl
, Eliot Noyes
, Alexander Girard
, Isamu Noguchi
, Jean Desses
, Marianne Strengell
, Garrett Eckbo
and Herbert Matter
' created a series of speculative products to illustrate the potential future use of aluminium (ok, aluminum).
And the company didn't just use any old hack to shoot the lavish ads, either: Richard Avedon
, Irving Penn
, Bert Stern
and Leslie Gill
. By making their product synonymous with a shiny new consumer future, Alcoa, under the aegis of chairman Frederick J. Close
, placed itself at the forefront of the modern age. There's more on aluminium design in Jolyon Brewis's piece in things 13
, which covered the catalogue for Aluminum by Design
, an exhibition sponsored by the Alcoa Foundation
The design, architecture, fashion and style of this period, loosely grouped as 'retro', is currently enjoying huge popularity. Yet the contemporary passion for retro strips it of all political context. The ground was prepared for programmes like FORECAST by the establishment of the RAND Corporation
(dubbed the "Academy of Death and Destruction" by the Soviets), which blurred the line between military and commercial strategy, developing propoganda techniques for use in any kind of future 'scenarios'. Modernism's debt to the military-industrial complex is far greater than anyone cares to admit these days; the contemporary mind is content to be delighted by the potent combination of style and anachronism (and occasional historical irony) exhibited by these collaborations between art and industry.
Elsewhere. Why would you paint over this
? Perplexing / the paintings of Justin Hibbs
/ a great auction: Hal 9000
/ a brontobyte
is million million petabytes. Some more big number words
that our children will have to learn / Architonic
, a design database.
, 'An investigation of the not-so-subtle in Beijing architecture'. An on-the-ground taster of new Chinese style: it's not all Herzog
, you know (although to be fair, Mr K is well aware
of the idiosyncracies and absurdities generated by such a hyper-steroidal economy (although a slowdown
has been reported) / gravestmor
, an irreverent architecture weblog.