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Dwell Looks Back

After ten years of publishing Dwell, we've amassed quite a compendium of behind-the-scenes antedotes and insider tidbits about each article that goes to print. Dwell staff, both past and present, reflect on their favorite pieces, offering the kind of insight that only comes from witnessing the path of a story as it moves from concept to reality.

Dunkin' Danish / July/August 2009 Miyoko Ohtake, Associate Editor: In fall 2008, I had the opportunity to travel to my favorite city in the world: Copenhagen. In addition to visiting the Fritz Hansen factory for a Process story about its iconic 3107 chair and chatting with Bjarke Ingels of BIG about projects such as the Mountain Dwelling and the recently completed 8 House, I travelled south of the city proper to Kastrap. Though I encountered a bit of difficulty finding the spot with my taxi driver (I would have been better off taking the relatively recently extended Copenhagen Metro), I met Swedish architect Fredrik Pettersson of White Arkitekter on the spiraling sea bath. After strolling around and climbing over the structure with Pettersson while we chatted about its design, I decided to take the plunge. Though Pettersson had yet to take the jump off of the highest-most diving platform, I leaped into the chilly water of the √òresund Strait (which dips to 30 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter but fortunately was not nearly that cold when I was there). The dive was invigorating and I clambered up the steps for another go. I swam around the inner circle, which creates 245-foot laps, then, realizing I forgot a towel, sun-dried on the built-in benches until it was time to take off for my next appointment. As I left, I couldn't help thinking what such a structure could do for cities with blight waterfronts and inaccessible beaches like Buffalo, New York (my hometown). Hopefully, they'll take note. Photograph by Åke E:son Lindman
Alexander the Great / February 2008 Leah King, Senior Production Coordinator:When I first started at Dwell, I was fortunate enough to begin with February 2008 redesign issue. The first story that drew me in was "Alexander the Great" about Alexander Girard for the Archive section. I had always been a fan of this bold images and textiles. In my role here at Dwell, I get to see all of the images as they come across my desk and, over the course of time, develop into the final shipment of editorial pages. Holding the images of such an iconic designer was the moment that I realized the beauty and privilege I had to be assisting with the production of Dwell. Image at left: Circles Fabric, c.1952, by Alexander Girard
Rest Easy / Dec/Jan 2007 Shonquis Moreno, former New York Editor:When I was Dwell's New York editor I was assigned a Dwell Reports on mattresses. Everything went fine: I found my mattresses and I found my expert, a young enterprising kid who had started a business where you can sleep in pods for, say, 15 minute increments on your lunch hour, basically power-nap pods. Very clever. Anyway, it hadn't even occurred to me beforehand, but when we started going around to the stores, I found that because we both needed to try the mattresses for long enough to get a sense of how each performed, we were ending up basically sharing a bed for awhile. Awwwwkwwwward, right? But my expert was so good-natured and easy-going about it that it ended up just being funny and no big deal. One of my more amusing "investigative reporting" experiences. Photograph by Dean Kaufman.
Time Is On My Site / Feb / March 2006 Lara Deam, owner and founder of Dwell: One of my favorite things about modern architecture is how light is used. Whether it's about wanting more light or less light, modern design is free from constraints imposed by centuries-old architectural mandates and can provide the right light for the sight. This house takes the appreciation of light through a space one step further by actually telling time through an oculus that provides sundial within the house. Dwell for me has always been about the ideas that can be garnered from individuals and the site through modern design. This is a perfect example of idea-based design. Photograph by Prakash Patel.
Nice Quads / May 2007 Chelsea Holden Baker, former Online Editor: In late 2006 we received a manila envelope in the mail. In my memory the proposal for an archive feature on the mid-century architectural experimenter Ken Isaacs was typed in double-spaced Courier. Despite the bland package we quickly realized Ken Isaacs' had been ahead of his time in understanding everything from the fragmenting of American culture, sustainability, architectural theory, and education. Isaacs had even dreamed up a Micro-car and furniture systems that would make IKEA envious today. He had also been in Life magazine twice‚ once on the cover. I took to the Internet to learn more before calling the writer, Leslie Coburn, and was surprised to find just a page of results for Isaac's name. In editing the piece I remember telling Leslie, "We need to bring Isaacs back to life, even though he's not dead." After the article was published we received a letter from the 1971-1995 co-chairs of the design department at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where Isaacs had taught. The professors lamented that despite the distinguished history of the school and the department (founded by Charles Eames in 1939), when they arrived they found the file cabinets in the department chair's office nearly empty (evidence of the avant-garde department's focus on the future). There was no documentation of Isaac's work and no way for them to continue his syllabus, although they had been directed to do so. Several years later, Dwell has captured Isaac's humor and dynamism in video, and now his name returns oodles of search results. Although there's a good chance someone of his importance would have been rediscovered eventually, it has been gratifying to watch while Isaac's still alive to enjoy it.

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