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The Ice Palace That Melted Away

Restoring Civility and Other Lost Virtues to Everyday Life

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


With The Ice Palace That Melted Away, Bill Stumpf, the designer of the first ergonomic chair, addresses the symbiotic relationship between design and the way we live, the often deadening effect of technology, and his hopes for a more humane future. As a designer associated with Herman Miller, Inc., for more than twenty years, Stumpf has been thinking about the profoundly positive or negative effect design can have on our culture. He is both an idealist and a pragmatist, and his wry, anecdotal style gently reveals his shrewd observations about American customs and values. Stumpf is convinced that good design can create the right atmosphere to inspire learning, rehabilitate criminals, and generally lift our spirits. Since technology has succeeded in distancing us from the real experiences of life and such former pleasures as travel, in this facinating  book he proposes a playful redesign of the Boeing 747 and a jaunty carriage-like taxicab to put us back in touch with travel as it once was. But it is an event such as the construction of the ephemeral ice palace in St. Paul, Minnesota, during the winter carnival—a source of joy and pride to adults and children alike—that encapsulates the idea of play, which Stumpf feels is essential to all our lives.

This provocative book asks whether we might want to do something about our ever-declining levels of "comfort, hidden goodness, play, personal worth, and helping others" to make our future society a truly civilized one.

(Black-and-white illustrations throughout.)

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 31, 1998 – The ice palace of the title was an elaborate castle in St. Paul made up of 350-pound blocks of ice enclosing colored electric lights. The labor of architects, engineers and electricians was donated, and for Stumpf it symbolizes a sense of community and the love of play and pleasure that used to characterize America, in contrast to today's emphasis on speed, utility and function. In a sometimes rambling, occasionally crotchety, often nostalgic, but consistently engaging book, Stumpf exhorts us to recapture those qualities that he classifies as "civility." The term is stretched somewhat out of shape to include "grace, comfort, hidden goodness, social lubrication, personal worth, and helping others" as well as joy, compassion, trust and good will. Being a designer himself, Stumpf sees design as the means for transforming society to the ideal of civility--humane design of "things, places, and paths." This includes everything from 747s with domes to supermarket bags with handles, fresh baked bread at McDonald's to clear sight lines in cinemas, eating uninjected sweet corn to designing a way of growing old. Since Stimpf defines design as giving order to objects, community, environment and behavior, perhaps this breadth is justified. However, too much may be claimed for the power of good design to transform life, and the world of the past may not have been all that exemplary. Things aren't what they used to be, but then they never were.
The Ice Palace That Melted Away
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  • $7.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Design
  • Published: Sep 22, 1998
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 192 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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