Masks! Of Course!
Friday, July 3rd, 2020

David Stairs America has finally caught mask fever, fifteen years later than Asian people. There are still many who refuse to “suit up” including Covid deniers, those suffering from claustrophobia, and some who claim medical excuses. But the possible reasons for not wearing a mask are narrowing, with major airlines rejecting travelers who renege. Into […]

The Tribble With Troubles
Thursday, May 14th, 2020

David Stairs Courtesy Wikipedia America’s got troubles. I don’t mean the song lyric kind, but, you know, serious troubles. And they’re not the soft purring type you might find on a now infamous classic sci-fi show. Those are tribbles, the sort that pundits and wags like to compare to Donald Trump’s hair. Donald Trump, not […]

Alternate Coronas
Sunday, April 19th, 2020

David Stairs Are you just about sick and tired of seeing pictures of viruses? Courtesy NIH Bill Maher recently went on a rant about how the media is peddling panic porn and he may be right. But there is an easier way to deal with it than raising your blood pressure. Just feast your glozzies […]

A Good Bookstore Deserves a Good Bookmark
Monday, March 2nd, 2020

David Stairs I suppose bookmarks are a personal thing. Some are woven; some are printed; some are just bits of stuff. My son uses a piece of red thread. I won’t say that I collect bookmarks either, but when I am in a bespoke store I will not leave without one. In honor of my […]

Resistance is Futile
Sunday, January 19th, 2020

David Stairs Paramount “We Are the Borg.” With these words, Maurice Hurley, writing for the Star Trek TNG episode Q Who?, unleashed one of television’s most implacable adversaries on the world. But, as with much speculative fiction, Hurley and his co-writers were only mining the literature of science and engineering probability. When the episode first […]

The Tyranny of Development
Monday, October 8th, 2018

David Stairs Economic growth is one of those hot-button issues politicians are always promising to support. In fact, almost the surest way to a failed career in politics is to preside over an economic downturn. This land in NE Portland won’t be empty for long

Repurposing Dinosaurs
Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

David Stairs Ruin porn is everywhere. Photos of Detroit’s semi-preserved Michigan Central Station abound, and photographers continue to document while critics and journalists debate the pros and cons of what Dora Apel in her recent book Beautiful Terrible Ruins: Detroit and the Anxiety of Decline (2015) terms the “deindustrial sublime.”

Designing Death
Sunday, October 29th, 2017

David Stairs I was recently in Prague, which in June 2017 celebrated the 75th anniversary of one of the most heroic and daring commando actions of the Second World War. On June 4, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, the Protector of Bohemia and Moravia was attacked on his way to work when his Mercedes slowed at a […]

Design IS the Problem
Monday, October 2nd, 2017

David Stairs courtesy The iconic images of Houston under 10 feet of water should have by now burned themselves into your brain. “How did we get to this point?” you ask. With one word: Design.

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

The third and final article in our series on the American prison system. —Ed. Hannah Boyd For you, DJ, the person who shared part of his life with me. And for you, former mayor of Indianapolis Greg Ballard, the person who vehemently rejected the concept of prison slave labor, the implications of the 13th amendment, […]

Shared Meal
Friday, June 23rd, 2017

This essay continues our investigation of America’s prison system, and extends D-A-P’s collaboration with Ball State architecture students into the fifth year. —Ed. Julia Voigt Despite jails being one of the most recognizable typologies of the built environment, the criminal justice system itself is far removed from the realm of the architectural profession. This lack […]

Critiquing the Prison Industrial Complex
Sunday, April 16th, 2017

David Stairs Every once in awhile you meet a group of students that stands out. This was the case with my Junior studio a year ago. When we collaborated with the School of Businesses’ entrepreneurial contest, they were all in, and we just clicked. I knew 2017 would be my year to mentor our Graphic […]

The Power of John Heartfield
Saturday, February 25th, 2017

David Stairs Image: David Stairs I recently started reading Volker Ullrich’s biography HITLER: Ascent 1889-1939 out of a curiosity to better understand the motivations of the man often ranked as history’s most malevolent monster. Along the way I became fascinated by the parallels between Uncle Adolf and a more recent demagogue of the American ilk. […]

On Swallowing and Being Swallowed
Friday, January 13th, 2017

David Stairs Control is the object of consolidation, what Nietsche once called the “will to power.” Soul Searching Consider the rise of multinational corporations. Monopoly is the capitalist ideal. Although shrouded in so-called antitrust laws preventing market domination— the idea being that competition is healthy for markets— captains of industry have always sought market dominance. […]

A Kinder, Gentler Blue and Red Universe
Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

David Stairs When I think of blue and red the notion of Democrat and Republican naturally come to mind. One can find any number of red-blue maps online that attempt to represent our political differences. I even wrote about it here after the last Presidential election. Happily, there is another, earlier visual application of red […]

Prius Town
Friday, August 28th, 2015

David Stairs Whenever visiting Portland, Oregon I am always struck by the huge number of bicyclists— aggressive, self-righteous, ubiquitous. No matter that many of them weren’t even born yet when I was bike commuting— it’s great to see so many! But there is another meme at work here. I am a Prius owner, but I’ve […]

The Plagiarist’s Archipelago
Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

David Stairs The discussion in my Junior-year studio at this week’s critique swirled around the value of Pinterest, that irrepressible repository of everything how-to-do-it. Is it a valuable source of inspiration, or a struggling student’s crutch? Is it gender specific, a creative and social outlet for stay-at-home moms, or does it apply to the testosterone […]

Making Information Make Sense
Saturday, April 4th, 2015

David Stairs There are two or three things graphic designers are especially keen about. They like to make logos: Researching, executing, and branding a marque will cause most self-respecting designer’s hearts to flutter. They like to talk about type: Obsessing about letterform and the way it looks on the page and interacts with images is […]

We Deny, Therefore We Are
Sunday, February 1st, 2015

David Stairs I. I once founded a town. It’s in the high desert about twenty miles outside of Bend, Oregon overlooking the magnificent Three Sisters Wilderness off in the distance to the west. I called the town Denial. At the time only two other people volunteered to live there, hence the sign. But many more […]

Dumbest Thing Ever Invented
Sunday, November 30th, 2014

David Stairs Ah, autumn. A crispness is in the air. The delectable smell of woodsmoke, the warm sun burnishing a hundred shades of orange, the tang of fresh cider at the orchard, or a field full of pumpkins at sunset. Into this idyll clomp the Boys of Autumn toting the ultimate example of techno-idiocy: leaf […]

LCD Architecture
Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

David Stairs I grew up in a subdivision of a crossroads-small town named Mattydale, N.Y. In the early 20th century the area had been comprised of dairy and vegetable farms that supplied the city of Syracuse. In the 1920s the farmers sold out, and from then through the 1950s suburbia sprouted where carrots and cabbages […]

Paradise Lost 2.0
Saturday, August 10th, 2013

David Stairs View from atop the Middle Sister in the west central Oregon Cascades reaches 100 miles north to Mt. Hood. On a recent drive across country I was thinking about what the land must have looked like two hundred years ago. Lewis and Clark described an “Eden” of endless vistas and limitless game, a […]

Zen and the Art of House Painting
Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

David Stairs I recently came to the end of a three-year creativity cycle. This usually means it’s time to relax, reflect, and reconsider my options. For me, a great way to do a little lateral thinking is my annual painting chore.

Drinking Red, White, and Blue Kool-Aid
Sunday, January 20th, 2013

David Stairs Amid the controversy over Guantanamo interrogation techniques resurrected by Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty I read Mark Owen’s No Easy Day, the ooh-rah first person Seal Team Six account of the assassination of Osama bin Laden on May 1st, 2011. Suddenly, the notion of watching Jessica Chastain burn up the screen with her […]

Blood Types
Thursday, November 15th, 2012

David Stairs “It’s not a blue world anymore, Max.” —Chief Blue Meany speaking to his assistant at the end of Yellow Submarine The aftermath of the 2012 election got me thinking about color. The typical red/blue dichotomy that the media has devised to represent our apparent “bad blood” has been an all-too-familiar-display since Election Day, […]