What do you get when you cross a chili dog with a flute of champagne? One of those ironically hip New York design parties where the host wears a white dinner jacket and Chuck Taylors, and guests in expensive Alain Mikli eyeglasses and jeans go gaga over chairs. The occasion? A preview party for furniture maker Established & Sons, winners of Design Miami Basel's Designer of the Future award ("The Future of Design"). The setting was Stella McCartney's Manhattan boutique. The company's charming, boyish CEO, Alasdhair Willis, is married to McCartney, and his father-in-law's music provided the evening's soundtrack. The furniture is pretty cool. I confess, I couldn't resist stroking Zaha Hadid's Stealth-fighter-like dining room table, one of Established's offerings, wondering what would happen if you put a glass of wine down on its undulated surface.
Chances are, I won't be springing for one of those $23,000 numbers anytime soon, or for any of the tony merchandise likely to be on display at this year's Design Miami Basel fair in Switzerland. Upward of $52,000 for a Ron Arad chair? I'll stick with Crate & Barrel, thanks. But just as I enjoy checking out haute couture creations in Vogue while my wardrobe leans toward Banana Republic, it's fun to see couture furniture. And who knows? The beer-budget version of Hadid's table is sure to show up at Target eventually. —Linda Tischler
My airport obsession ("Rise of the Aerotropolis") has its roots in fiction. In college, I directed a short film set in O'Hare; a few years ago, I started working on a follow-up featuring a trio of siblings raised in JFK. But writer's block quickly set in: What would someone who lived in an airport act and sound like? Being a reporter at heart, I set out to learn the hard way—by living in an airport. I almost got to star in my own reality show, but eventually, I convinced my editors at Advertising Age (where I'm an editor-at-large) to underwrite my quixotic quest. Last fall, I spent three weeks flying around the world while never leaving the airport. I even met Mehran Nasseri, the Iranian exile who inspired Tom Hanks's character in The Terminal. (He's still living in Charles de Gaulle.)
Upon my return, I noticed how the world I explored inside the terminal had begun spreading to the outside in the form of mini-cities built just beyond the airport fence. Senior writer Charles Fishman told me about John Kasarda and his aerotropolis concept at Fast Company's 10th-anniversary party. We were a writer-and-subject match made in heaven. —Greg Lindsay
One Man's Trash…
The world has become so interconnected that it's hard to go to my neighborhood café in San Francisco without the ripple effects of events taking place in China interrupting my coffee time. One morning this spring, my neighbor Charlie was talking excitedly on his cell phone about the latest price for aluminum on the London Metals Exchange. I was intrigued by what I was overhearing, because Charlie looks more like a bearded Old Testament prophet than a Wall Street speculator. He volunteers a few blocks away at the Haight-Ashbury Recycling Center. He was excited because the recyclers will now bring in a lot more money from reselling discarded Diet Coke cans. The reason: The building boom in China is driving up global prices for metals, yet another vital resource dwindling in supply. The oil we burn is gone forever, but the metals we've thrown away could be recovered and recycled if we begin digging up our landfills as though they were mines. For more about this promising idea, read "There's Gold in Them Thar Smelly Hills." —Alan Deutschman
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.