1 Way To Swerve

I’ve been looking lately the work of a man named Richard Saul Wurman. Trained as an architect, he entered into academia at the moment in the mid-1960s when the norms of practice were thrown into question. He concentrated on two things that are again of the moment today – making maps and publications. He would come to a school as a visitor and make elaborate maps with a group of students; this was right before GIS became the most likely line of approach. No proposal was made. He took part in more or less bien-pensant activities – discussions of what was to be done, where the discussion itself was ultimately all that was done. (This is a hard thing to accept even today.) In so doing, he embodied one popular contemporary definition of what architectural practice could be - a circulation of tools for living. 

Over time, as he aged into the 1980s, this tendency evolved in a few different directions. On one hand, he increasingly moved into designing travel guides - today, odd little relics of the currently forgotten interval between desktop publishing and the ubiquitous internet. And on the other, he was one of the founders of TED Talks.

Wurman was not a failure; he did not die alone in a garret; he did not abandon what he was taught. He did not become irrelevant. He was translated, you might say, to another plane.

wurman stl
One of Wurman's demographic maps of St. Louis.

(February 2019)