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, […]

The Trouble With Trauma
Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

David Stairs It happened in an instant. One moment I was leaving the school parking lot, the next the ground was close to my face and I could see the EMT’s feet as they worked around me. It was 8:20am Monday May 2. Moments earlier I had dropped my son Luco off at Renaissance Public […]

Football Is Bigger Than the Second Coming of Christ
Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

David Stairs On Sunday February 6th I went to my local grocery store to get some canned tomatoes for the dinner I was planning. The place was mobbed. I looked around, half expecting to see the Lord descend in a cloud of glory, but I should have known better. After all, it was Superbowl Sunday. […]

The Tubberiad
Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Martin Scriblerus As the sun comes up on a new day… Chances are good you know them all by name: Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Po. They live in one of the most completely artificial environments on earth, or anywhere outside of Disneyworld, the Tubbytronic Superdome. Under the sign of the drooling sun, over hill […]

Requiem For a Middleweight
Friday, December 4th, 2009

David Stairs The author, at his homemade miniature golf range, with his Father’s Plymouth Belvedere in the background. I was driving across northern Indiana last year when a wide-tracking station wagon blew past me at 85mph. Once upon a time this event would not have warranted notice. But on this particular day it was the […]

RV Nation
Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

David Stairs Guaranty RV sales, Junction City, Oregon One doesn’t notice it at first, not until you start frequenting environments dominated by parks and resorts. Until then it’s subtle, in the background. But driving through the Targhee National Forest it’s inescapable: the number of RV-related camps and services expands exponentially. In Yellowstone, general elevation +7500′, […]