A stack of (mostly) white boxes

Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, partners in the Japanese firm Sanaa have just won the 2010 Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest award, in part for a simple stack of white boxes.

Of course when talking about art or commerce things are rarely as simple as they first appear.

Four projects were cited for the award including the New Museum in New York (shown at left), which the Times architectural critic Nicolai Ouroussoff glowingly calls,
“A mismatched stack of white boxes  .  .  .  that renews your faith in the city as a place where culture is lived, not just bought and sold.”

Art, architecture, and yes – even brand identity, have always been a struggle between the communicative forces of simplicity and decoration.

The Pritzker jury was very clear which side of this debate Sanaa comes down on. They said, “Sejima and Nishizawa’s architecture stands in direct contrast with the bombastic and rhetorical. Instead, they seek the essential qualities of architecture that result in a much appreciated straightforwardness, economy of means and restraint in their work.”

This got me thinking about some other iconic white boxes, and about how just the slightest touches of typography, color, and image can completely change the perception of what is inside.

Certainly the Chanel, MacBook, Beatles, and Johnson & Johnson First Aid (by Harry Allen Design) boxes are straightforward and restrained, but filled with meaning.

Just like the New Museum.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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One Response to A stack of (mostly) white boxes

  1. GES says:

    The New Museum is interesting in many ways
    – The location
    – The volumetric expression
    – The exterior cladding
    With the exception of the somewhat interesting lobby, the interior galleries are without character and without connection other than by elevator.

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