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Emily Oren

Return of the Blob

As if harking back to the 1950s horror flick, the Blob has reinvaded our culture. Now, though, instead of screaming hordes fleeing in terror, there are hordes of people rushing out to buy the G-shock watches, the iMAC computers, and the other symbols of the way in which our society has rejected the idea of form. The Blob is everywhere; you can't miss it. At Target a few weeks ago, I wandered into an aisle of strangely shaped kitchen utensils designed by pop-culture architect Michael Graves. I brought home a spatula to show my family: the end of the handle had a blobular shape on it, and it wasn't just of ergonomic concern. It's hip. Paging through a design magazine, one sees faucets, sofas, and light fixtures that exhibit the Blob Aesthetic. Brueton Studios produces an Advil-shaped stool called "UFO Seating"; on the streets of New York you'll see the twentysomething crowd sporting Blob backpacks made of foam. And in the computer lab at school there are four of those horrifyingly ugly computers, with their violent neon colors and mini-Blob mouses.

This rejection of traditional forms—of corners, planes, and straight lines—has spilled over into the discipline of architecture. Last year at the Museum of Modern Art, I heard Japanese architect Toyo Ito speak about his Mediatheque; its internal structure of curving tubes was inspired, he said, by bulbous, floating seaweed. New York, always the leader in world design trends, has its own amorphous monuments; surprisingly, perhaps the city's most striking example of the new aesthetic is a building nearing completion in Queens: New York Presbyterian Church, with a congregation composed largely of Korean immigrants and their children.

The architect primarily responsible for this astonishing structure is Columbia University's wunderkind, Greg Lynn, a graduate-level professor at the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at the age of 33. By his own admission, Lynn never carries a pencil; he doesn't even sketch without ...

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