Archive for June, 2009

Winning Hearts and Minds

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Through a combination of good design and perceptive market-assessment, PlanToys of Thailand has, over 28 years, carved a unique niche in the North American and European toy market. The company has demonstrated an understanding of the Western parent that Mattel™ and the rest of the Toys-R-Us™ crowd seem incapable of achieving. For instance, instead of having to wrestle toxic Disney™ licensed action figures from the hands of disappointed toddlers, parents might prefer toys that are both safe and manufactured in a sustainable manner. With a string of ISO certifications for product safety and socially responsible management, Plan is a model for a more ethical relationship between Western consumers and manufacturers in the developing world.


PlanToys Mini Garbage / Recycling Truck
? 2009: Vitool Viraponsavan & Plan Creations

Part of PlanToys new eco-themed line of toys that help kids learn how to live in harmony with the environment, this sturdy truck will delight any toddler while offering parents an opportunity to introduce the concepts of waste reduction and recycling.



PlanToys Eco Green Dollhouse, with Furniture
? 2009: Vitool Viraponsavan & Plan Creations

The most elaborate (and costly) item in the PlanToys eco line, this full-size dollhouse features a (pretend) wind turbine and solar cell panel, a rain barrel, a green facade and roof, and a shade canopy. There is even an adorable little set of recycle bins and all furniture is included.



All PlanToys are made from reclaimed rubber wood with water or soy-based finishes in ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and SA 8000 certified, locally-owned factories in Thailand.


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at:

Camps: Beyond Archery and S’mores

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Temporary and portable architecture are fashionable subjects. However, such projects are most often considered simply as novelties associated either with recreation or with the outsider lifestyle. On the contrary, in the real world, temporary and portable architecture are most strongly associated with necessity, emergency or traditional cultural nomadism. The following two books take the less superficial view, offering a more practical perspective on the subject.


Camps: A Guide to 21st-Century Space
? 2009: Charley Hailey

Oddly compelling, Camps: A Guide to 21st Century Space takes an almost obsessive / compulsive approach to it’s subject. An expansion of Hailey’s doctoral dissertation, the guide provides a typology of camp forms, divided into three categories: Autonomy (protest camp, peace camp, etc.), Control (immigrant camp, concentration camp, etc.) and Necessity (refugee camp, homeless camp, mass shelter camp, etc.)

Although for many of us ‘camping’ involves a temporary living condition for self amusement, Haily looks beyond the Western leisure tradition, suggesting that “Camps register the struggles, emergencies, and possibilities of global existence as no other space does.” Of the more than 100 camp types examined, fewer than 20 involve recreation of any kind. Hailey demonstrates the gravity and potential of camps as indicators of the contemporary social climate and political landscape. (2009: MIT Press; ISBN 9780262512879)

Design Like You Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises
? 2006: Cameron Sinclair, ed. & Kate Stohr, ed.

Architecture for Humanity is a non-profit organization that provides humanitarian design services to communities in need world-wide. Since 1999, they have been challenging architects and designers to build more sustainable and socially responsible projects and have collected hundreds of proposals from design professionals around the world. Design Like You Give a Damn present the first decade of such responses to a range of global humanitarian crises. Among many fascinating examples is paraSITE, a project by Michael Rakowitz that provides ‘urban nomads’ with shelter and warmth by attaching plastic tents to building heating and ventilation exhaust ducts. (2006: Metropolis Books; ISBN 1933045256)

Camps: A Guide to 21st-Century Space: $39.95
Design Like You Give a Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises: $39.95

paraSITE by Michael Rakowitz

paraSITE by Michael Rakowitz


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at:

Design Is No Picnic … Except When It Is

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009


Rosti Basic Outdoor Dishes
? 1978: Koen de Winter cdnmapleleaf

As a professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal and President of the Association of Canadian Industrial Designers, Belgium born Koen De Winter has made a profound contribution to the establishment of industrial design as a rigorous profession in Canada. Most recently de Winter has been both designing and manufacturing a beautiful line of ceramic kitchenware and serving pieces under the brand Atelier Orange, subject of a previous Swipe post. Of the several items he designed for Danish housewares manufacturer Rosti, the Basic line of casual dinnerware in melamine, created in 1978, remains in production and is one of the manufacturer’s most popular products. While North Americans consider melamine dishes suitable only on the patio or for camping, in Benelux it is extremely common for families to eat both breakfast and lunch from plastic dishes, and Rosti sells hundreds of thousands of pieces of Basic each year. Having previously won the Design Canada Award, De Winter was, in 2005, honoured with Flanders Design’s Henry van de Velde Career Award, celebrated with a nice little photo gallery on Créativité Montréal.


Large or Deep Plate: $9.95
Breakfast Plate: $8.95
Egg Cup: $2.95
Cup & Saucer or Mug or Soup Cup: $ $7.95
(All are available in white and most in lime green.)


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at:

Is This the Real Reason So Many Canadians Have a Penchant for Modernist Architecture?

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009


Girder and Panel Building Sets
? 1956: Austin Kelk & Peter Kelk cdnmapleleaf

In 1956 Toronto toy manufacturer Peter-Austin Manufacturing produced a novel toy building system consisting of interlocking polystyrene girders and thin vacuformed panels. Marketed in Canada as the Trans Canada Highway Bridge Set and later, with the addition of architectural wall panels, as Pam ‘n Andy Structural Building Sets, the system was licensed by Kenner Products of Cincinnati in 1957 and released in the United States as Grider and Panel.


This wonderful Canadian design, the first architectural toy to emulate Twentieth-Century curtain wall construction techniques, remained in production with Kenner until 1980. However, given its Canadian origins, it is not surprising that the product continued to be manufactured in Canada long after that. In fact, as late as 1994, we carried the line at Swipe (at that time manufactured by Irwin Toys of Toronto) although it did disappear altogether shortly thereafter.


In 2005 engineers Carol and Peter Flack founded Bridge Street Toys near Boston for the sole purpose of reviving Girder and Panel and the more elaborate “Hydrodynamic” pump, tank and valve building system. The line has been gratifyingly well received by a new generation of parents and educators, winning Parent’s Choice, NAPPA, and Dr. Toy awards. We offer a selection of all systems, though as these are bulky items, shipping to Canada makes them unfortunately expensive. Also, for anyone nostalgic about a particular set they had as a child, there is a comprehensive collector’s site with pictures of virtually every historic model.

Girder and Panel Tower Set: $79.95
Girder and Panel Plaza Set: $129.95
Bridge and Turnpike Set: $79.95
Hydrodynamic Deluxe Set: $149.95


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at:

What they wanted most was a ‘duck’, not a ‘decorated shed’. So I gave them a ‘duck’. I thought: ‘Boy, this is wonderful material. I’m not gonna let (Venturi and Scott Brown) screw it.’ Hah! You should have seen it! Well, they hated it! I loved it. – MC

Monday, June 8th, 2009


Muriel Cooper (1926-1994) is a regrettably overlooked figure in the history of graphic and interactive design. Her designs for the MIT University Press, which include its trademark, number some five hundred books, nearly a hundred of which were recognized with professional distinction. Though a monograph of Cooper’s work has yet to be realized (get on it MIT!) designer David Reinfurt, in collaboration with the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, has prepared the wonderful, online-only This Stands as a Sketch for the Future PDF which only begins to suggest the extent of her tremendous influence.

Bauhaus, Pictured at the MIT Press Archive 1970.

Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago
? 1969: Hans M. Wingler

Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago, winner of an AIGA Book Design Award in 1969 is arguably, Cooper’s best known work. Weighing in at fourteen pounds and 670 pages, Bauhaus is a staggering experiment in publication design with its innovative use of grids and recycled full colour plates. Edited and compiled by Hans M. Wingler, Bauhaus stands alone as the definitive text of the activities of the German design institution. (1969: MIT Press; ISBN 026223033x)



Learning from Las Vegas, Revised Edition
? 1977: Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour

Less known however, is Cooper’s 1972 design for Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour’s Learning from Las Vegas. In what Edward Tufte would describe as an “escape from flatland,” Cooper’s edition literally animates the maps, charts, and other graphic material featured in Learning from Las Vegas. This stands in stark contrast to the better-known paperback edition, which, for economic reasons, omitted nearly all of Cooper’s experimental layouts. The difference between the two editions is so great that an Ohio State professor felt it necessary to write an entire book about the two.

I Am A Monument
? 2008: Aron Vinegar

Aron Vinegar’s I Am A Monument explores the tension between Muriel Cooper’s 1972 design of Learning from Las Vegas and its subsequent revision in 1977 by Denise Scott Brown. The authors, particularly Scott Brown, were so incensed by Cooper’s design that plans to publish a second edition of the book were already in the works before the printing of the first edition. (1977: The MIT Press; ISBN 9780262720069; 2008: The MIT Press; ISBN 9780262220828)

While Cooper’s first edition now fetches thousands of dollars in the antiquarian book trade, Venturi and Scott Brown’s paperback can be had for under thirty dollars. If however, you’re looking to approximate the look and feel of the first edition, may we suggest a parallel reading alongside the very popular Las Vegas Studio, featured in an earlier Swipe post. Las Vegas Studio includes a selection of the photographic research collected for the publication of Learning from Las Vegas. These photographs were unceremoniously omitted from the second edition, but are here beautifully reproduced, with essays by Hilar Stadler and Martino Stierli. The Rem Koolhaas contributions don’t hurt, either. This title is the sort that is unlikely to be reprinted, so please stop by Built to have a look before it disappears! We guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Learning from Las Vegas, Revised Editon: $31.95
I Am A Monument: $39.95


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at: