THE ICE PALACE THAT MELTED AWAY: Restoring Civility and Other Lost Virtues to Everyday by Bill Stumpf

THE ICE PALACE THAT MELTED AWAY: Restoring Civility and Other Lost Virtues to Everyday

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Fatuous lamentations on design in the contemporary world that are unlikely to change it. Industrial designer and Minneapolitan writer Stumpf believes that civilization has lost its civility. What sets him apart from the usual crowd braying on this theme is his assertion that design, ""the process both physical and mental by which people give an order to objects, community, environments, and behavior,"" offers the cure for our afflictions. This is because, according to the author, too much of our world is planned, in physical and metaphysical terms, as if to minimize or actually forbid the full range of human experience. From airplanes that deny travelers the sensation of flying, to blandly uniform and antiseptic cities and malls, to the demise of splashy, sprightly red phone booths in England (to be replaced by the ""glass coffin""), he finds ""too many people searching for the shortest distance"" between two points. Still, some examples of grace and good taste continue to haunt us with the specter of our still-burgeoning possibilities--most saliently, the volunteer effort that produced a marvelous ice palace in the Twin Cities. Stumpf is clever enough to observe that while many people basically believe they have it all, they also vow regularly (compulsively?) to get away from it all. Yet he offers no insight into how this predicament evolved, or why it endures. He also seems to guard a certain baleful professional blind spot: Stumpf claims that everyone seeking a solution to our ebbing civility should become designers themselves, or at least learn to think more like designers. He fails to confront the fact that some designers are indeed responsible for the shoddy work now littering our shared landscape. Could incivility possibly be their fault? A collection of ultimately barren personal preferences.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1998
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Pantheon