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Preview: ‘OfficeUS’ at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale

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Pentagram’s Natasha Jen has designed the identity, environmental graphics and publications for the U.S. Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition—la Biennale di Venezia, opening in Venice on June 7. Titled OfficeUS, the U.S. Pavilion is a working architecture office that explores 1,000 projects designed by 200 U.S. offices working abroad. Jen is part of a collaborative team—organized by Storefront for Art and Architecture, in collaboration with PRAXIS Journal, and with research lead by the MIT Department of Architecture—that were selected by the U.S. Department of State to represent the U.S. at the Biennale. This edition of the Biennale is directed by the architect Rem Koolhaas and centers on the theme “Fundamentals.”

New Work: ‘Terra Nova’

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The US spends roughly $1 billion a day overseas on foreign oil instead of investing the funds at home, where the economy badly needs it. At the same time, our dependence on oil from unstable countries endangers national security, and carbon dioxide emissions from burning oil contribute to climate change. In Terra Nova: The New World After Oil, Cars, and Suburbs, the scientist Eric W. Sanderson looks at how three powerful forces that drove American prosperity for the better part of a century are now detrimentally affecting the country’s quality of life. The book is a sequel of sorts to Mannahatta, Sanderson’s reimagining of what the island of Manhattan was like before the first settlers arrived. In Terra Nova, he looks ahead, and with a larger scope, envisioning what the US would be like if our dependence on oil, automobiles and urban sprawl were to end, and a new ecology was formed that valued the land, encouraged well-designed cities, and depended on America’s natural advantages in resources like wind, sun and heat, as well as ingenuity.

Pentagram’s Eddie Opara and team have created a design for Terra Nova that helps the book make its case through a clear, cogent layout and a series of 72 highly detailed diagrams. Sanderson’s writing is smart, creative and lively, and Opara has developed a corollary in engaging, user-friendly information graphics that complement the highly readable text. More than supplemental illustrations, the data visualizations are a key element of the book, helping Sanderson construct his arguments and communicate his vision.

New Work: ‘A Country of Cities’

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In his new book A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America, the architect and urban planner Vishaan Chakrabarti argues that well-designed cities are the key to solving many of the country’s challenges, from the sluggish economy and imperiled environment to rising public health costs and growing social inequality. Chakrabarti suggests that, contrary to what many Americans believe, urban density is actually better for the health and happiness of the country, as well as of the planet, and the trend of fast-growing cities can be harnessed to create an “infrastructure of opportunity.” The highly readable book was recently selected as one of Designers & Books’ 10 Notable Books of 2013 (so far) and will be the subject of a special Oculus Book Talk with Chakrabarti tonight at the Center for Architecture.

Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and Britt Cobb worked on the design of the book with SHoP Architects’ Omar Toro-Vaca and Ryan Lovett, and Metropolis Books publisher Diana Murphy, helping to establish a clear, cogent framework that showcases the author’s manifesto. Chakrabarti makes his case simultaneously in words and pictures: an intelligent, closely reasoned thesis, accompanied by a series of 100 diagrams and infographics that bring the thesis to life.

New Work: Makr Shakr


Makr Shakr in action at this year’s Google I/O conference and Milan Design Week.

As any cocktail connoisseur knows, mixology is a precise science, and everyone has their own way of customizing their favorite drink. Makr Shakr was an installation at this year’s Google I/O conference that used robotic barmen to mix drinks in approximately one googol (that’s 10 to the power of 100) different crowd-sourced combinations. Developed by the MIT Senseable City Lab in collaboration with the Coca-Cola Company and Bacardi Rum, the project featured an identity, web application and data visualization designed by Pentagram’s Eddie Opara and team.

Conference attendees downloaded the Makr Shakr app on their handheld devices and mixed and selected ingredients as their own virtual barmen, then watched as the cocktails were crafted by three KUKA robots and delivered via conveyor belt. As the drinks were prepared, a digital display behind the bar showed the queue of drinks in the works, profiles of the users, and the precise mixture of ingredients in their drinks, as well as what cocktails and ingredients were trending across the crowd.

New Work: ‘Geothermal Heat Pump Manual’

Spring is finally here, and New Yorkers are happily turning down their thermostats after an especially long, cold winter that saw an increase in energy bills. An alternative to costly, conventional energy sources, geothermal heat pumps (GHP) offer a cheaper, cleaner and more efficient way to heat and cool buildings. GHP systems take advantage of the relatively constant temperature of the earth’s interior, using it as a source or sink for heat. For cooling, heat is extracted from the building and dissipated into the ground; for warmth, heat is extracted from the earth and pumped into the building.

The New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) has identified GHP as an important strategy for developing sustainable energy in the city, especially for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Working with the DDC, Pentagram’s Eddie Opara and team have designed Geothermal Heat Pump Manual: A Design and Installation Guide for New York City. The book is the companion volume to the DDC’s Water Matters: A Design Manual for Water Conservation in Buildings, designed by Opara by 2011. GHP systems are part of PlaNYC 2030, the city’s official plan for sustainability, and the manual’s guidelines will be the subject of a special roundtable presented by the Urban Green Council on April 10.

Eddie Opara Named to Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business

Pentagram’s Eddie Opara has been named to Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, an annual list that celebrates “business innovators who dare to think differently.” The list, published in the magazine’s June issue, out next week, recognizes a wide-ranging group of leaders from the fields of design, technology, advertising, business and entertainment, and Eddie is ranked alongside other innovators including Wes Anderson, Björk and CeeLo Green.

For the issue, Eddie was invited to create an infographic illustrating his process for creating an infographic. The image playfully shows how he turns data into art. “(The illustration) is a library of infographics,” he tells Fast Company. “Too often, people start with a pie or bar chart, but you have to understand the content and patterns in data before throwing images on paper.” Several members of the Pentagram team appear in the infographic, analyzing data and helping the process along. View details after the jump.

Lisa Strausfeld Announces New Data Viz Venture

After a decade as a partner, Lisa Strausfeld is leaving Pentagram to embark on a new phase of her career as an entrepreneur of information-based projects.

Strausfeld’s first venture is Major League Politics, an online startup with the goal of making government activity as engaging and addictive as sports. The project is one that Strausfeld has been thinking about for years.

“Thanks to the Open Government Directive, today we have unprecedented access to government data,” says Strausfeld. “That, combined with a rising literacy and interest in information visualization and an increased urgency for public engagement with government over the past few years has motivated me to finally make this vision of what I call ‘civic entertainment’ a reality.”