And then there was… iPad

I can’t offer an objective opionion of Apple’s new progeny; I’m an Apple fanboy, a design groupie and a tech non-purist.

The ability of Apple to distill the technological zeitgeist of the near future into exhilarating new product is indesputible. I remember being underwhelmed by the iPod when it arrived. I had barely a handful of mp3 files on my hard drive at the time, and still bought CDs by the dozen. Within 12 months I had an iPod and bought my last CD in 2004.

I haven’t quite succumbed to iPhone fever yet – I’m still a pay-as-you-go luddite when it comes to phones – but the iPad could well find its way into our home. As a device for the casual consumption of digital media it looks perfect to these eyes.

The gamut of reactions to the iPad have been entirely predictable. One reaction in particular I read left me staggered though. Twitter’s Alex Payne is “disturbed” by the iPad, suggesting it is the sunset of the tinkerer: “if I had an iPad rather than a real computer as a kid, I’d never be a programmer today.” Wha? huh?

The opinions and ideas Payne trots out in his blog post are beyond ludicrous. Will Rock Band kill off real guitarists? Did the Walkman kill off DJs? Payne is completely missing the point: the iPad is not a PC replacement. It may be for some; for the low level user who are no sooner going to hustle some C++ than they are to learn karate from scratch, it will fit like a glove.

The iPad is designed for the convenient consumption of digital media, period. The user experience is likely to be, as with most Apple products, superior. The same inquisitive folk who might feel drawn to tinker with PCs will be inspired to look under the hood and create something for that platform. And guess what? For those people, there are SDK’s, PC’s, Mac and all the same tools there always have been.

To suggest that because Apple have added the iPad to their product line, innovation in the development industry has somehow been assassinated is simply inane.

Relax Alex, PCs still exist. All Apple have done is add a new member to their ‘nuclear family’ of products.

An evening with Libeskind

I was delighted recently to be able to attend an address given by none other than Daniel Libeskind in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. The event was a University of Ulster bash, however the night belonged to the guest speaker.

Coming across as slightly more unassuming (and shorter) that one might expect, Libeskind emitted passion and enthusiasm for his craft like all great practitioners. In a relatively short time (certainly less than an hour), he walked us through perhaps a dozen of his projects, and for each offered brief, but no less comprehensive insights into their purpose, the design rationale and the ground-breaking nature of each. Links below go to a few of the projects covered.

Ground Zero, New York
Jewish Museum, Berlin
Imperial War Museum, Manchester
Orestad Downtown Master Plan

Listening to someone with so much experience, but still with so much fire in their belly reminds me what a privilege it is to be a designer, albeit the scale of works vary widely.

It also reminded us how envious I am of architectural works. These are projects that will last for generations; even when the buildings themselves come down, they will be remembered. Like great music, great architecture can be very much of its time, and yet remain relevant long after trends have moved on.

Beautiful boxes

Architecture is something that will crop up again and again in this blog, and more specifically simple, beautiful architecture.

While you can read as much as you want online about the “rock stars” of the architecture world – Libeskind, Rogers, Gehry etc – you have to work a little harder to find the more modest stuff; little unassuming pieces of beauty that still manage to take your breath away. Take this, for example – the Slat House:

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This – a stunning extension to an unassuming semi-d in a London suburb – is a great example of what we mean. Clearly a candidate for Grand Designs, this is a superb piece of work and demonstrates a way of approaching the “ordinary” that illustrates what good design (as problem solving) is all about. It also carries with it a kind of timeless simplicity that also tends to delineate good design. More images available here