Yes We Can!

Bad design is all around us, but there’s no bad design like bad election year design. Let’s take a moment here to catalog some notable atrocities from recent election cycles, and then hang our heads in bipartisan shame. Offender number one is Bush/Cheney’s militantly mindless logo from 2004; you can almost hear the designer making […]


There are certain works of art the body wholly understands before the mind kicks in with its distancing powers of disembodied detachment and analysis. In the Twin Cities, there is very little art in the public realm — in what we now call "the commons"– that does this. Most public art, strained through the cheesecloth […]

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Starchitecture

Art museums are host to two species of rats, those that skulk in the basements, gnawing on the art in storage, and, lower on the food chain, the people who handle the art. “Museum rat” is trade slang for the stagehands, the workers who hump crates of art off trucks at the loading dock, maneuver […]

Where We Live

I’ve been living in the same city for a long time. Maybe that’s why I crave the unusual. I abhor cookie-cutter architecture, which is just as prevalent in urban areas as in cul-de-sac suburbia. How many three-story brick condos with railed terraces have you seen constructed in recent years? I want buildings that curve, use […]

The Genie and His Decorative Light-Diffusing Novelty Lamp

For a guy who spends all year thinking about Halloween, Will Niskanen could hardly be described as scary. Slight and soft-spoken, dressed in khakis and brown loafers, and exhibiting the good manners of a Boy Scout, Niskanen greets me at one of his favorite haunts, Mill City Cafe, pulling out a chair and offering to […]

Cabin For the Uncommon Man

"Log cabins are a dime a dozen,” said Richard Olson, lighting up yet another Marlboro. “We looked at some of those. They were junk. They were put together by amateurs. Some of the logs had separated; you could see right through them. All these trees here, tip some of them on the side, and you’ve […]

Fashionable Ideals

On the surface, Armi Ratia and Lilly Pulitzer have a lot in common. Both women got their start in the 1950s and became famous for producing fabrics printed with bright colors and bold graphics. Both had a spirited, playful appeal—Pulitzer had her kitschy duck and turtle patterns, and Ratia named her company Marimekko, which translates […]