Posts Tagged: Architecture

The Tall, Skinny, Shining Skyline That L.A. Deserves

For the last forty years, an odd rule from the Los Angeles Fire Department, known as Regulation 10, has required that every skyscraper in the city have a helipad for potential emergency rescues. This is why, architects argue, Los Angeles has a thoroughly medicore skyline. Here are a whole lot of them complaining to the New York Times about Regulation 10:

“The helipad regulation has hindered L.A. from having an iconic, memorable skyline in a city that desperately needs a stronger urban identity,” said Brigham Yen, a downtown realtor who writes a blog, DTLA Rising. “Downtown L.A. now has the opportunity to design visually stunning high-rises with spires that [...]


Phone Home, Astrodome: Inside America's Brave And Crumbling Stadiums

Sheer size is generally a strong guarantee of commercial longevity in American society. Consider Sport Utility Vehicles throughout almost every variation in gas prices. Consider the Big Gulp. But when it comes to some of our largest feats of construction—sporting facilities—immense size won’t usually even guarantee a lifespan as long as the most immemorable ranch home. How old is your house or residence? And how many people live there? The Houston Astrodome has a capacity of 67,925,and is 49 years old. It may not last to see 50.

Tastes are fickle, extortionate team demands are common, and the drive for novelty is endless, but the sheer inability of the greatest [...]


Philip Johnson: Not Just a Nazi, Also a Pig

"Philip Johnson used to say, 'We’re all going to go to the Century Club—the architects, but not their wives. And we're going to wear evening dress and we're going to talk about architecture.' So they invited Bob. The person who called said to me, 'I'm embarrassed to have reached you, Denise, I wanted Bob. You can't come to this meeting because you're a wife.'" —Haha, old asshole Philip Johnson strikes again, as recounted by the architect Denise Scott Brown, who was also married to an architect, Bob Venturi.


The Sublime Sci-Fi Buildings That Communism Built

The House of Soviets in Kaliningrad. Photo by Frédéric Chaubin, from "CCCP: Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed."

The architecture of the Eastern Bloc—a conundrum of impossible complexity, or at least that's what it looks like judging from the daily view of my collection of coffee table books. Yes, that's right, coffee table books. The recent glut of art volumes devoted to Soviet architecture may be surprising to anyone who previously thought "Soviet architecture" had about as much to do with "art" as "Soviet leaders" had to do with "glamour." Yet here is a whole bookshelf to contradict that view. There's Taschen's CCCP: Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed, Hatje Cantz's [...]


The Woolworth Building Has a Nice Lobby and the Terrorists Are Still Winning

Last night I was at a party at The Wooly, which is a bar on the ground floor of the Woolworth Building. It was a fun party, though I basically just talked to the two people that I knew there. The bartenders made delicious drinks that went particularly well with the decor of the place. There was a painting hanging above the bar of a lady in olde-time garb sipping a cocktail in front of a peacock that I could not stop staring at.

The most memorable part of the night, though, happened before I got to the party, when I arrived at the Woolworth Building not knowing [...]


"Micro Apartments" and the Nefarious Rezoning of New York

Looking forward to community board meeting about Midtown East rezoning. City envisioning vast upzoning that will change skyline. Good idea?

— Michael Kimmelman (@kimmelman) July 11, 2012

Glad the Bloomberg Admin is pursuing zoning change to allow smaller apartments + address growing demand in NYC for affordable studios.

— Michael Kimmelman (@kimmelman) July 10, 2012

I love me some Michael Kimmelman, even when he is profoundly wrong, in his new role as Times architecture critic, about how New York City does and should work. (Though when he's right, he's right! People should be rioting over the $4-BILLION World Trade Center PATH station!) He [...]


The Art and Commerce of Killing Just Enough People

Eyal Weizman is an architect who has worked and taught in Palestine, Tel Aviv and London, where his practice has to deal with both the practical and political meaning of pine trees and olive trees. And also, he has to deal with destruction, as do we all, as he describes in this interview: "There is a category in international humanitarian law called proportionality. It’s a calculation that assumes an economy of violence. Within that economy, the military and the NGOs tend to engage in bargaining. They say, no, that needs to be cheaper. And some people say, no, that needs to be more expensive, right? But they [...]


Brutalism Briefly Unbullied

Paul Rudolph's cube-y little marvel of building, the Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York—one of the many Brutalist buildings subjected to whinnying opposition by faux-aesthetes—is one step closer to salvation. The county has agreed to entertain hotel designer Gene Kaufman's proposal to renovate the building and transform it into "a center for artists, exhibitions and community meetings." Photo


Love Letter to Concrete

"Those staircases like fists, those abstract angles so bloody sure of themselves – that bravado rubbed people up the wrong way. For 30 years, these civic megaliths were the most hated buildings in history. But today, the ones that remain are making our hearts skip a beat. Brutalist buildings inhabit a polarised world of love and hate, life and death." [Related]

Concrete by Rick.


We'll Die The Way We Lived: The Arcology Dream Is Over

Conservative millionaire entertainer and peddler of conspiracy theories Glenn Beck is building a city-state, "an entirely self-sustaining community called Independence Park." I can't wait to visit, it sounds like it will be very welcoming to all kinds of Americans.

He's on the right track, though. So are the seasteaders. And the gun-hoarding survivalists of all stripes. And those of us who are interested in reviving the New York City Secession Movement. (Our plan is to secede and then, uh, magically raise the city by 30 feet. Still working on details there, do check back.) But yes. The coasts will drown, or the United States will disband, or World [...]


Jesus Definitely Wants SunRay Kelley For A Sunbeam

“I’ve never been a big fan of electric lights. I have cat eyes. I emit enough light out of my body.” —Self-taught architect SunRay Kelley, on the principles that guide the design of the homestead he's built in the woods in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. Kelley smokes enough pot to describe the time when he accidentally cut open his forehead with a chainsaw as, "Not the most pleasant experience." His work reminds the Times' Michael Tortorello of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin. I think it's more like if Andy Goldsworthy was let loose in The Shire. Either way, here are pictures of it, which belong on the wonderful [...]


The Ugly-Beauty Of Brutalism

Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago

Updating a cultural canon, in any form, is an endless battlefield due to our persistent tendencies, 1. to create ever more art and 2. to fail, just as rapidly, to agree on its value. Witness debates about revised editions of any literary anthology, or, say, the National Film Registry. At times worthy works receive just recognition; other times, age seems all that’s required to give mediocre works the gloss of historical grandeur. But let’s not get off track discussing Sex, Lies and Videotape vs. Forrest Gump. Rarely is the navigation of this question of aesthetic value more difficult and commercially charged than in architecture. After [...]


Michael Kimmelman Hazed

"An effective architecture critic is not a messenger from the occult, sometimes cultish, world of parametric modeling, interstitial planning, void filling, and impenetrable whatevers. But the critic does need to understand that stuff in order to better explain how architecture not only shapes the city but manifests our values, identity and legacy as a culture.” Architecture folks are still worried about an art guy taking over the Times architecture slot. Yeah, what's next: a metro reporter doing op-ed? A culture editor taking over the restaurant reviews? Chaos!


You Can Roadtrip to Indiana for Saarinen, But Here's First-Rate Modernism Closer

I cannot believe I have to go to Indiana, but yet, here we are: Saarinen’s Miller House is now open to the public. GAZE UPON IT! But good news, for those who aren't Indiana-adjacent: There is a new website devoted to the work of Horace Gifford, who can basically tell Saarinen to go suck it. Oh yes! I said it! Go visit and see what I mean. I have been in most of these Gifford houses, because that's just the kind of gay I am—including the ones destroyed by new owners, may they die painfully—and they are each better than the last.


Brutalism's Bullies

In late April, the city of Baltimore issued a certificate of demolition for the Morris A. Mechanic Theater, prevailing in a lengthy quest to destroy one of its most unique buildings. With a character somewhere between a stone-age helmet and a concrete cog, the nearly fifty-year-old building’s assertive structure has earned the affection of a small number of enthusiasts who embrace its almost oppressively functional style of architecture—and almost no one else. The theater, designed by the revered and often imperiled architect John Johansen, will be replaced by a condo.

The story of the Mechanic has become overly familiar. Brutalism, a muscular and monumental architectural style [...]


The Pines Pavilion

Matthias Hollwich and Marc Kushner are the cofounders of HWKN. Their just-completed (barely completed!) project is the third incarnation of the Pavilion, which is the primary dance hall and bar of the gay community of Fire Island Pines. When proposed images of the building were first floated on the Internet, no one believed that the building would come to pass. Now the building, as envisioned, has a temporary certificate of occupancy, and has been open for the last two weeks. Permanent exterior railings will be installed shortly.

The Pavilion consists of a small ground floor, a large open upstairs deck, and an interior dance hall. The dance hall [...]


Is San Francisco The Brooklyn To Silicon Valley's Unbuilt Manhattan?

Like many people who moved to San Francisco in the early 1990s, I did it because San Francisco was cheap. It didn't have the lowest rents—in the California of three recessions ago, a Silver Lake bungalow or blocks-from-the-beach Santa Monica apartment were even more affordable than the chilly city by the bay—but it was the only West Coast town you could survive in without a car. With a $35 Fast Pass, all the smelly buses and dinky Muni trains and even the cable cars were there for the riding to and from work, whether you were a bartender or a waiter or (like me) a very fast typist irregularly [...]


"Architecture For Dogs" Latest Evidence of Economic Recovery

Europe is back in recession, there's some kind of fiscal cliff people are worried about, and WalMart reported dismal earnings today as poor people continue to not have money. But on the elite urban coasts, things are looking pretty good! California real estate prices jumped 19% last month, and New Yorkers are back to their main form of recreation, which is gasping in aspirational horror over the cost of apartments. The time is right for a new kind of architecture—an architecture that is not so much "architecture" as it is "a mix of interior design pieces and pet costumes," an architecture not so much [...]


A Takedown of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial

I've never heard anyone say an ill word about the Berlin Holocaust Memorial! And yet here is a fairly thorough take-down. The title doesn’t say “Holocaust” or “Shoah”; in other words, it doesn’t say anything about who did the murdering or why—there’s nothing along the lines of “by Germany under Hitler’s regime,” and the vagueness is disturbing. Of course, the information is familiar, and few visitors would be unaware of it, but the assumption of this familiarity—the failure to mention it at the country’s main memorial for the Jews killed in the Holocaust—separates the victims from their killers and leaches the moral element from the historical event, shunting [...]


My Cubicle In The Starchitect's Building

Despite decades of prolific building, 73-year-old Israeli architect Moshe Safdie is still best known for his first project: Habitat 67, the avant-garde housing units constructed for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal. The building’s 354 stacked concrete cubes never revolutionized housing as many thought they would, but Safdie’s groundbreaking vision probed how to maintain pleasant aspects of suburban living, like personal gardens and multi-view windows, in a high-density urban environment. Over 7 million people visited Habitat 67 during the Exposition, which was remarkable since it was a residential project, not an extravagant “White City” like the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

Nearly half a century after [...]