Jonathan Solomon ’00 saw a void in the architectural press: Academic journals and consumer publications weren’t addressing the issues that he and other young architects were discussing. So with a group of fellow young architects, Solomon created a new journal, 306090: A Journal of Emergent Architecture + Design, to highlight the projects and ideas that were being ignored in the existing architectural press.

A third-generation architect, Solomon grew up thinking about design and its impact and speaking the language of architecture and design. “I’ve known pretty much since age 6 or so that architecture was something I wanted to do,” he says. “It’s like when you grow up in a household that speaks a second language. I’ve known forever that architecture is the language that I wanted to speak.” After receiving his degree in urban studies with a focus in architecture at Columbia, Solomon continued his studies at Princeton, earning a master’s in architecture.

During Solomon’s second year in his master’s program, he and classmate Jenny Ferng came up with the plan to start a journal that published student work. They wanted it to be more than a house organ for the architecture school, instead conceiving of something that could challenge and criticize the architectural establishment, including their own education. The first issue included the work of several young designers and a conversation with architectural critic Philip Nobel. After Ferng graduated, Solomon took 306090 to New York and incorporated it, bringing on new staff members, including architecture major Emily Abruzzo ’00. Partially funded with grants from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, 306090 has a circulation of 2,000.

The first issue was launched with a simultaneous show at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, named “eMeRGenT” as a nod to the journal’s subtitle. A number of subsequent issues also have had a concurrent “eMeRGenT” show, designed as a way for contributors and readers to meet and to see the objects in the journal. The events have given 306090 more exposure and brought new and established designers together.

Solomon, Abruzzo and the other editors strive to create a mix of the new and old, finding fresh ways to look at traditional topics. Architect Michael Sorkin wrote about the possibility of an Olympics in the Bronx, which was followed by the work of five students who had developed models and proposals to put the plan into action. Another article explored Nathaniel Kahn’s documentary, My Architect, about his struggle to understand his father, Louis Kahn. Abruzzo says the editors would like to see more student work, maybe publishing “the very, very good competition entries that get lost when they don’t win.” Solomon is interested in working with “young people who are practicing in offices that nurture and appreciate their work, and also people whose offices are suppressing their work but are doing interesting work on the weekend.”

The theme for the third issue was “Collectives and Manifestoes.” Solomon wants to open a dialogue for architects and designers and exhorts his colleagues to join in. He jokes that his Columbia years were a great preparation, as “the best students are the troublemakers” and the Columbia education “can instill a very strong belief in making waves.” It was this belief in challenging the status quo, combined with his four years of editorial experience at Spectator, that led to the forming of 306090.

Distributed nationally through the Princeton Architectural Press, 306090 is available from bookstores, online booksellers, and from its Web site.

Originally published in Columbia College Today, July 2003

Posted in profiles, Uncategorized, Writing at July 18th, 2009.

The classic tented place card set above the dinner plate is always proper and elegant. But by tucking it in a different spot or changing its form, you can easily customize this practical card to suit the particular style of your wedding.

The seven versions we’ve created are playful and surprising, and they make use of ordinary objects in innovative ways: One place card rests between the tines of a fork; another hangs over the rim of a glass. All of the cards are easy to make,but you might want to enlist the help of your stationer or a calligrapher for printing or writing the names in a beautiful way. When you give the finished place cards to your caterer to set out on the tables for the wedding reception, make sure he or she knows just where they’ll go.

Place cards may seem like a tiny detail, but their role is important. At most weddings, many people will be meeting for the first time, and place cards can help guests feel more at ease – it’s nice for them to have an assigned seat rather than scrambling to find a spot. And for guests who have just met, place cards are friendly reminders of neighbors names.

Excerpted from a six-page article about place cards, including how-to instructions. The full article was printed in the Summer 2003 issue of Martha Stewart Weddings

Posted in crafts, Uncategorized, Writing at July 18th, 2009.

200403-04Print.jpgImagine a book that has all the qualities of a prized relic of Chinese history: crisp, beautiful letterpress printing, hand-sewn bindings, careful layout, detailed margin annotations. Now, imagine not being able to read one word of the book, even if you know some Chinese. Your literacy has been supplanted by an odd sensation that the words are floating right there on the edge of your subconsious, on the tip of your tongue.

Even though it has been 16 years since Xu Bing first exhibited Book From the Sky, his monumental, otherworldly work composed entirely of illegible Chinese characters, the piece is still haunting. The work launched the artist’s career and defined the conundrums he would puzzle over in the years to come: How can characters be illegible, yet still Chinese? What are the limits of language? What do words symbolize?

Book From the Sky drew praise from the art and intellectual establishment in late-’80s China, as an idea and a creation. But it also drew sharpcriticism for its shocking reinterpretation of traditional linguistic forms. In the intervening years, public opinion turned in Xu’s favor. Today, the artist is firmly established as a major player in the international art scene, having won a MacArthur “genius grant” in 1999 and appeared in a succession of major exhibitions in the U.S. and in China. In recent years, he has experienced homecoming exhibits in both countries: At the end of 2002, his work was included in the government-sponsored First Guangzhou Triennial and in the Shanghai Biennale-his first shows in China since immigrating to the U.S. in 1990. And this spring, Xu will return with new work to the Elvehjem Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin, the venue that held his first solo exhibition in the U.S. a decade ago. For an artist who has said, “I worked for many years to create something that said nothing,” his ways of saying nothing have spoken very powerfully indeed.

Excerpted from the profile that originally appeared on pages 90–95 of the March/April 2004 issue of Print.

Posted in design, profiles, Uncategorized, Writing at July 18th, 2009.

When Honolulu-based Lizzy Murakami and Kara Sugihara weren’t able to find Jennifer Aniston’s trendy Friends outfits in stores, they channeled their sartorial frustration into reel-style.com. The site, which launched last summer, features fashions from stylish TV shows and flicks with links for online shopping. Now fans can have Adam Brody’s Paul Frank tees or Mischa Barton’s Marc Jacobs frock as well as Aniston’s Rachel-wear. Best of all, the site also tracks down knockoffs. “The O.C. is our biggest show because the clothes are in a price range that people can actually afford,” says Sugihara. Next up, music-video wardrobes. We know you’ve been hankering for Christina Aguilera’s chaps…

Posted in etc., Uncategorized, Writing at July 18th, 2009.

claire-ww-big-wheel

If you have 20 cents, you can recapture your childhood on the Wildwood boardwalk. For that price, you can play a round of Flipper’s Fascination, a strangely hypnotic, and once widespread, midway game that is a cross between bingo and Skee-Ball. And if you keep playing and Randy Senna, the owner of the joint, is feeling generous, he might call out, “Next game on the house,” and you, like everyone around you, will focus all your energy into rolling a ball into one of 25 little holes, hoping for the lights on your board to go off, indicating that you have triumphed over all the other crazy vacationers.

Wildwood, New Jersey, is one of the few seaside towns that offer the attractions of nearly extinct pleasures, a place where you can still play Fascination, bocce, and shuffleboard; where you can wander the two-mile-long boardwalk with a Polish ice in one hand and a giant pretzel in the other; where drive-through windows are meant for bikes, not cars; and where riding down a giant slide in a burlap bag is still worth paying for. But the “doo wop” motels that give the town its distinctive look, buildings that seem to come straight out of “The Jetsons,” are being razed in favor of condominiums, and Skee-Ball has been pushed aside for louder arcade machines. The demolition of Wildwood has been so swift and unrelenting that last year the National Trust put the doo-wop motels on its list of Most Endangered Historic Places, hoping to call attention to their charms before Wildwood, like Asbury Park, becomes just another memory. Read More…

Posted in history, travel, Uncategorized, Writing at July 18th, 2009.

book-princess-in-pinkIn the fifth Princess Diaries book, Mia, a hilarious New Yorker who happens to be the princess of fictional Genovia, struggles with a citywide restaurant strike, turning 15, and trying to wrangle an invite to the prom. Laced with a smart-alecky feminism, the book, like totally gets the tone of precocious private-school nerds. Cabot pumps up the madcap plot with amusing pop-culture and highbrow references: Mia’s imperious, chain-smoking Grandmere has named her dog Rommel, a sly suggestion of how the dowager princess “has embraced the dark side…fully…But I guess even Darth Vader had his moments.” Picture Mia as a funnier (and more articulate) sister to Nancy Drew or the Baby Sitters Club.

Posted in book reviews, Uncategorized, Writing at July 18th, 2009.

book-how-i-became-stupidMartin Page’s hero, Antoine, thinks the great division in our world is between those who are smart and unhappy and those who are stupid and happy. Proving this premise is Antoine’s raison d’etre in Page’s attempt to write a satire of how society punishes the brilliant, How I Became Stupid.

Antoine claims to be “poor, single, and depressed” as a result of his intelligence. Yet he doesn’t seem particularly smart or sad, as his manifesto about his intelligence ruining his life resembles the rant of every 15-year-old who can’t get a date. (“[People who have] a sense of curiosity, wanting to understand the world … pay the price in loneliness.”)

And he’s not even that lonely, given that he has a group of similarly self-righteous friends. But since he is determined to be “stupid,” Antoine tries a variety of methods before ending up as a successful stockbroker, living a life with all of the necessary accessories: a giant refrigerator, a Porsche and loads of contemporary art.

After a group intervention by his friends (including readings of Descartes and Pascal and a showing of The Simpsons), Antoine comes to his senses and goes back to his original life, supposedly realizing the stupidity of what passes for happiness in society. The real irony in the book (and perhaps this is Page’s true point, though it seems unlikely) is that what passes as “smart” in Antoine’s world is just as ridiculous as what passes as “stupid” — nothing more than a bunch of empty signifiers.

Originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle

Posted in book reviews, Uncategorized, Writing at July 18th, 2009.

20090718-jake-jen

How people get their daily news is a matter of preference: Some listen to the radio, others prefer newspapers (print or online) or television. But for a younger generation, the morning newsfeed is increasingly coming via blog reading. One influential type of blog (short for Web log) could be called a news and information blog a form of online media updated daily with many short entries, each a few paragraphs, with links to longer articles on other websites and a snappy and opinionated introduction.

Gothamist.com, launched by Jen Chung ’98 and Jake Dobkin ’98 in February 2003, is one of the older and better-known New York blogs. Offering about 15 entries a day, the site, which receives about two million visits per month, or about 58,000 visits per day, features summaries of intriguing stories from major New York papers as well as original reporting and a daily feature interview. Read More…

Posted in profiles, Uncategorized at July 18th, 2009.

Dim sum restaurants have long been great places to eat out with friends or kids. You sit at big round tables and choose servings that are small, but numerous and varied. Cantonese for “touching the heart,” dim sum refers to the collection of tasty dishes—filled buns, pastries, and dumplings, along with noodles, vegetables, and barbecued meats—that make up the meal.

Dim sum originated in Canton (now Guangdong) province as savory snacks at teahouses—places where people gather to socialize or talk business, much like cafés in the West. Ordering tea is still the first step of the meal, and you can show your savvy by asking for a specific type: tie guan yin (an oolong), jasmine, chrysanthemum, bo lei (a black tea), or guk bo (a mixture of chrysanthemum and bo lei). It’s customary to pour tea for other guests before filling your own cup, and when your table needs a refill, slide the teapot lid off to the side. You may see customers tapping their fingers on the table when their cups are almost full—a gesture not of impatience, but of thanks.

Waiters push around carts loaded with steamer baskets from which you make selections. Servers announce the Chinese names of the food, but it’s OK to request a translation, and even native speakers ask to peek inside the baskets. The server stamps a card indicating your choices so your bill can be tallied at the end of the meal. (Dishes range in price from $2.50 to $7, depending on their size.)

Classic dim sum offerings include har gow (shrimp dumplings), siu mai (shrimp and pork dumplings), and cheung fun (rice noodle rolls, available with different fillings such as shrimp, sausage, or beef). Don’t forget to check out dessert. Egg custard tarts and tofu fa, a pudding, are typical sweets to be savored at meal’s end.

San Francisco’s Chinatown is a classic destination for dim sum, but you might be surprised to learn that some of the best dim sum spots are found in the city’s financial district and in smaller cities around the bay.

East Ocean, Alameda, (510) 865-3381 • Fook Yuen, Millbrae, (650) 692-8600
• Hong Kong Flower Lounge, Millbrae, (650) 692-6666 • Koi Palace, Daly City, (650) 992-9000 • Ton Kiang, San Francisco, (415) 386-8530 • Yank Sing, San Francisco, (415) 957-9300 (Rincon Center) and (415) 541-4949 (Stevenson Street).

Originally published in Via magazine, January 2005

Posted in food, travel, Uncategorized at July 18th, 2009.