Cold War Modern

January 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ken Adam.

My hero.

I think, more than any other type of drawing, I like architectural sketches the best. These are the ones that draw me in and speak to me. The use of space and lighting and the ideas conveyed for what the space is used for is wrapped up in this neat little box of usually only a few simple shades and colours.

I believe this is why I have hundreds of screenshots from the game Mirror’s Edge. I simply can’t stop running around taking pictures of spaces without people filling them. But I think that’s what’s so cool about concept art and what defines how ‘good’ it is. Sure, most people can draw a building, lots can draw one well. But it’s the art of implying what the space or object is used for in a flat, non moving image that appeals to me. If I can look at something and tell you how to use it or why it’s created or even it’s top speed based solely on looks, you’ve done something right. In a world of largely incomprehensible, androgynous design (see: every third item on Yanko Design) it’s a shame how unintuitive things are.

And of course there are exceptions to the “should be able at to tell what it’s for” rule when it comes to more monolithic items (for example Dieter Rams’ speakers) but this is when minimalism is there in an unobtrusive way. There are, of course, different kinds of minimalism. The kind that makes something useless because you’re completely unsure how to use it and then the extremely difficult stripping of something back until it’s perfectly usable and nothing superfluous remains. That’s the goal. Intuitive design.

Back to architecture.

Ken is famous for his work on the early Bond movies and the brilliant Dr. Strangelove’s war room set:

These are things iconic to the era, this grand view of the future. I love the old popular science that predicted technologies that are completely ridiculous to us now. They were so excited for the future. They were excited the war was over and these abilities emerged. We had the futurists and the utopianists and the visions for this better, peaceful future.

We’ve become so jaded.

So, I salute you, Ken Adam. You had an actual imagination. Something I can only hope to culture and grow into someday.

Also, he and Dieter Rams are exactly what I want to be like when I’m old. They’re so elegant and intelligent. Ken’s video here.


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