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George Nelson: illustrated essay on evolution of cities

Year: 1978, 27 mins
Code: CAT-GNelson

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Illustrated essay by architect George Nelson on the nature of the urban center in our times and through history.


George Nelson is an influential writer, designer and teacher. He was responsible for the L-shaped desk and wall clocks without numerals, and is the author of "Problems of Design" and "Tomorrow's House”.  Many people credit him with the proliferation of the pedestrian mall and the "grass on Main Street" re-design of small cities. His book "How To See: Visual Adventures in a World God Never Made" convinced many that seeing is thinking, a discipline that can be learned.


Nelson roams over many topics, all based on his view that we must learn accurately to see our environment. His points are illustrated with film and still photographs. "Our cities," he says, "the newest ones, create an instant impression of movement and tremendous nervous energy and don't really have much else to be said for them." "People on pedestrian streets behave completely differently from people on streets with mixed traffic. They are casual; they are around more... and one gets a sense of some of the real meaning of a civilized city."  "If you want to talk about the civilized city you have to realize that one of its characteristics is that it allows unplanned and unexpected things to happen."

George Nelson (1908–1986) was an American industrial designer of American Modernism. While Director of Design for the Herman Miller furniture company, Nelson and his design studio, George Nelson Associates, Inc., designed 20th century modernist furniture.

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