Idea; concept: design in thought. Idea fibers coalesce, unfold, take flight. Some seem fragile, fledglings venturing from the nest. Others, good ideas, sound ideas, appear to spring fully formed, fomenting; their ripples reverberate almost indefinitely. When Walter Gropius and colleagues established the Bauhaus, it was
more than anything else an idea. The idea was to create a comprehensive work of art in which all disciplines and modalities would be brought together. Fortunately birthed in an almost mythical creative context, the Bauhaus idea blossomed and thrived; it remains a profound influence in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, and industrial design. In the words of the third and final Bauhaus director, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: ‘The Bauhaus…was an idea. The fact that it was an idea, I think, is the cause of the enormous influence the Bauhaus had on every progressive school around the globe. You cannot do that with propaganda. Only an idea spreads so far.’ Indeed. The idea took form when the modern era, with all its beauty and horror, burst upon a planet attempting to recover from its first global conflict. As the Bauhaus idea circulated through various and diverse societies it took on the role of interpreter and collaborator, complementing their design ideas. Emanuela Frattini Magnusson cogently observes ‘The Bauhaus taught us to see design as a method, a thought process. In design, as in nature, evolution thrives on diversity. Design is function with cultural content, which affects the form beyond its utilitarian scope.’ The cultural content can assume mass, form and velocity, becoming a vehicle for ideas. Actor Ed Begley Jr. seamlessly blends his renown in the entertainment business with concepts regarding environmentally responsible living; his recognition factor is a platform for creating awareness. Designer Rose Tourje has parlayed a sterling professional reputation accrued from years in the corporate world into ANEW, a non-profit organization practicing Social Sustainability. Having first met last November at radio station KPFK‘s solarization project launch, Ed and Rose are both keynote speakers next week at NeoConin Chicago.
Good ideas, sound ideas put into motion can enjoy a long reverberation, literally. Designer Harry Bertoia worked with Knoll; his design ideas for chairs took form and sold so well he was able to devote his energies exclusively to sculpture. A fascination with the way metals resonate led to the creation of sculptures which produce hauntingly beautiful sounds. More recently David Byrne rigged triggering systems in two buildings, one in lower Manhattan, the other in Chalk Farm, London. The systems activate structural members, causing them to vibrate and produce sound.
In a more organic context, Diego Stocco hooked up microphones and finger-mounted transducers to coax music out of a tree. Good ideas, sound ideas, are able to mutate, survive and thrive in various contexts yet remain intact and true to themselves; they can be identified by their ripples no matter how far they spread.