Adam Purple’s Eden

January 4, 2009

photo by Carl Hultberg

I grew up in Northern New Jersey. In my earlier days of writing poetry, Jersey was often my muse. Aside from the necessary forays into angst-ridden, heart-mildewing teenage poems of love, I often wrote about the landscape that surrounded me. By landscape, I mean factories, parks, shopping malls, and bus stations. These inspired me. Still do.

Then I moved to Brooklyn, and found a world I hadn’t imagined growing up in Jersey. A 30 minute ride away was this city whose reputation as a place where anything could be done proved so narrow compared to the actual breadth of possibilities it possessed. For the first time it occurred to me that there are many pathways through which life can be navigated. These pathways all bare their own truths, some overlapping with others, but all a part of what I consider the inspiration of dwelling (referring to Heidegger’s notion of dwelling).

photo by Harvey Wang

This morning I came across The Circle Be Unbroken, an article written by Albert Stern about Adam Purple and his Garden of Eden. Purple, a squatter living in NYC in the mid-70s, built a garden on neglected plots of city-owned land. The garden was this beautiful place in the middle of a city overrun with blight. Ultimately, the city forced Adam off the land and demolished the garden but there still exists a few wonderful photographs of the garden, and the story of Adam Purple’s Last Stand.

The thread that binds Pentagram, Bill Golden, and Jay-Z

January 2, 2009

The best place to fill your head with other folks’ baggage is on blogs. To be more specific, in the comments section on blogs. For this reason alone, I make a point of limiting how often I leave comments, as well as how often I read comments. However, the comments section of a blog can occasionally be a great place for discourse. Sometimes people actually have positive things to say, or better yet, there’s an actual exchange of truly valid ideas, and out of the exchange comes tiny unpopped kernels of enlightenment. At the very least, you get a quote you hadn’t heard before.

So today, I offer you this quote, originally posted on Brand New by Pentagram partner Michael Beirut, in response to the melee that has transpired in the comments section of a post about Paula Schere’s design for the packaging of new tea sweeten-o-fier Truvia.

“I happen to believe that the visual environment … improves each time a designer produces a good design and in no other way. We tend to overstate our case in the most complicated manner, and to confuse the simple purpose of our perfectly honest, useful little craft with the language of the sociologist, the psychiatrist, the scientist, the art critic and sometimes even the mystic. The obvious function of the designer is to design.”

It’s from Bill Golden, aka the dude who designed the logo that inspired such rap lyrics as Jay-Z’s “I keep one eye open like CBS.” It is also Beirut’s favorite design quote, which according to him, he pulls out once a year, and while it’s a little early in the year, I’m glad he didn’t hold back. As some of you know, I like to champion the idealists and sometimes go on and on about design changing the world but this quote by Bill Golden is like a smack in the back of the head from a wise old uncle who’s gone through enough to know a thing or two about a thing or two.

Reasonable Doubt. Arguably the greatest hip-hop album of all time.

If this hasn’t abated your appetite for comment banter even Paula Schere joins the fray, leaving a lengthy explanation about the decisions she made while designing the package.