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  • feedwordpress 08:01:59 on 2018/08/12 Permalink
    Tags: architecture, Berlage, , De Stijl, , , , , utopian design   

    “Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears”*… 

     

    city of the future

    Concept for Babel IID. The line drawing to the left shows the Empire State building for scale. Arcology, Paolo Soleri, 1969.

     

    For centuries, architects and urban planners have mixed the mundane with the fantastical as they imagined the cities of the future. While some ideas toyed with the building blocks, others reflected a desire to fundamentally reshape urban life — and to solve some of society’s most pressing problems. Their plans were a mix of ambition, realism, fantasy, and folly — but were the resulting ideas visionary, or just dreams of worlds that could never feasibly be built?…

    From Christopher Wren and his plan for London after the Great Fire of 1666 to Buckminster Fuller and Paolo Soleri, a consideration of visionary urban planning: could fantastical plans for the cities of tomorrow solve the real problems of urban life? Consider the case at “Architects of the Future.”

    For a treatment of urban history from a different perspective, see “The cities and mansions that people dream of are those in which they finally live.”

    Then, for an alternative to the top-down, utopian approach to urban planning, read Jane Jacobs.

    * Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

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    As we contemplate community, we might spare a thought for Hendrik Petrus Berlage; he died on this date in 1934. The “Father of Modern architecture” in the Netherlands, Berage was deeply influenced by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.  But he was probably most impactful in his influence on most Dutch architectural groups of the 1920s, including the Traditionaliststhe Amsterdam SchoolDe Stijl and the New Objectivists.

    220px-Berlage source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:10 on 2018/07/12 Permalink
    Tags: architecture, , , Fullerenes, , hole, , nothing, , , zero   

    “I love to talk about nothing. It’s the only thing I know anything about.”*… 

     

    zero

    The computer you’re reading this article on right now runs on a binary — strings of zeros and ones. Without zero, modern electronics wouldn’t exist. Without zero, there’s no calculus, which means no modern engineering or automation. Without zero, much of our modern world literally falls apart.

    Humanity’s discovery of zero was “a total game changer … equivalent to us learning language,” says Andreas Nieder, a cognitive scientist at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

    But for the vast majority of our history, humans didn’t understand the number zero. It’s not innate in us. We had to invent it. And we have to keep teaching it to the next generation.

    Other animals, like monkeys, have evolved to understand the rudimentary concept of nothing. And scientists just reported that even tiny bee brains can compute zero. But it’s only humans that have seized zero and forged it into a tool.

    So let’s not take zero for granted. Nothing is fascinating. Here’s why…

    It is indeed fascinating, as you’ll see at “The mind-bendy weirdness of the number zero, explained.”

    Pair with: “Is a hole a real thing, or just a place where something isn’t?” and with The Ministry of Ideas’ podcast “Nothing Matters.”

    * Oscar Wilde

    ###

    As we obsess about absence, we might box a dome-shaped birthday cake for inventor, educator, author, philosopher, engineer, and architect R(ichard) Buckminster Fuller; he was born on this date in 1895.  “Bucky” most famously developed the geodesic dome, the only large dome that can be set directly on the ground as a complete structure, and the only practical kind of building that has no limiting dimensions (i.e., beyond which the structural strength must be insufficient).  But while he never got around to frankfurters, he was sufficiently prolific to have scored over 2,000 patents.

    “Fullerenes” (molecules composed entirely of carbon, in the form of a hollow spheres, ellipsoids, or tubes), key components in many nanotechnology applications, were named for Fuller, as their structure mimes that of the geodesic dome.  Spherical fullerenes (resembling soccer balls) are also called “buckyballs”; cylindrical ones, carbon nanotubes or “buckytubes.”

    I have to say, I think that we are in some kind of final examination as to whether human beings now, with this capability to acquire information and to communicate, whether we’re really qualified to take on the responsibility we’re designed to be entrusted with. And this is not a matter of an examination of the types of governments, nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with economic systems. It has to do with the individual. Does the individual have the courageto really go along with the truth?

    God, to me, it seems
    is a verb,
    not a noun,
    proper or improper.

    For more, see “And that’s a lot.”

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:37 on 2018/06/04 Permalink
    Tags: architecture, Capitol Records, , , Lou Naidorf, Michael Bierut, , Raymond Loewy, recording industry,   

    “Successful design is not the achievement of perfection but the minimization and accommodation of imperfection”*… 

     

    click here for larger version

    From legendary designer Raymond Loewy [see here], a chart published in 1934 that shows the evolution in design of items such as cars, telephones, stemware, railcars, clocks, and women’s apparel. Loewy was known was “The Father of Streamlining” and these drawings very much reflect his design style. (via @michaelbierut)

    Explore at: “Raymond Loewy’s 1934 chart of the evolution in design.”

    Then check out MacRae Linton’s conversion of Loewy’s chart into a proper timeline.

    * Henry Petroski

    ###

    As we contemplate craft, we might recall that it was on this date in 1942 that music industry insiders Johnny MercerBuddy DeSylva, and Glenn E. Wallichs founded Capitol Records.  By 1946, Capitol had sold 42 million records by artists including (Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, and Kay Starr) and was established as one of the “Big Six” record labels.

    In 1955, Capitol became a subsidiary of British label EMI and began construction on a new headquarters building designed by Lou Naidorf.  Known as “the House the Nat Built” (as Nat King Cole was the label’s steady sales leader), it was the first circular office building in the world.

    Capitol, which had an output deal with its UK parent, built on their early 60s success with the Beach Boys by acquiring the Beatles record rights in the U.S. (though they passed on other EMI acts like the Dave Clark Five, Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Hollies, the Swinging Blue Jeans, The Yardbirds, and Manfred Mann).

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:37 on 2018/05/09 Permalink
    Tags: architecture, , Bologna, Cavendish, Crystal Palace, Great Exhibition, , Joseph Paxton, towers,   

    “Yesterday and tomorrow cross and mix on the skyline”*… 

     

    Artist’s impression of medieval Bologna [source]

    During the 12th and 13th centuries, for reasons that are still not entirely clear, an incredible number of towers [over 100] were built throughout Bologna, making for a urban skyline that almost resembles modern-day Manhattan. Today, only 22 remain…

    More at: “Towers of Bologna.”

    * Carl Sandburg

    ###

    As we reach for the sky, we might recall that it was on this date in 1826 that 20 year old Joseph Paxton arrived to begin work as Head gardener to William Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, possessor of one of England’s premier gardens on his estate, Chatsworth.

    Paxton settled into his job and became the Duke’s right-hand man for projects on the estate.  Paxton noticed the need of a conservatory, so designed and built one: The Great Conservatory at Chatsworth– at the time the largest glass in England.  It was lit with twelve thousand lamps when Queen Victoria was driven through it in 1842, and she noted in her diary: “It is the most stupendous and extraordinary creation imaginable.”

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    So, when Prince Albert hatched plans for The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations– or the Great Exhibition, as it was more familiarly known– to be held in 1851, Paxton was recruited to design its central building: The Crystal Palace.

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    Paxton was knighted, and went on to cultivate the Cavendish banana, the most consumed banana in the Western world, and to serve as a Member of Parliament.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:01 on 2017/10/20 Permalink
    Tags: architecture, , , Dollhouse, Glessner, , Royal Society, , , Wren   

    “Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death”*… 

     

    The kitchen is well equipped and stocked. There’s a stove, a refrigerator full of food, a table with a rolling pin and a bowl, and a sink with Ivory soap. The wall calendar, featuring with a sailing ship, says it’s April 1944. But there’s something else: Every item is miniature, hand-crafted, and a doll lies on the floor, apparently dead, cause unknown.

    This is one of Frances Glessner Lee’s Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, a series of 1/12-scale dioramas based on real-life criminal investigation cases. They were used—and continue to be studied even today—to train investigators in the art of evidence gathering, meticulous documentation, and keen observation. And they were created by one of the most unlikely and influential figures in crime scene forensics…

    From “The Grim Crime-Scene Dollhouses Made by the ‘Mother of Forensics’,” which prompts a look back at (R)D’s earlier visit with Ms. Glessner:

     source

    Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) was a millionaire heiress and Chicago society dame with a very unusual hobby for a woman raised according to the strictest standards of nineteenth century domestic life: investigating murder. And she did this through a most unexpected medium: dollhouse-like dioramas. Glessner Lee grew up home-schooled and well-protected in the fortress-like Glessner House, designed by renown American architect H.H. Richardson, but she was introduced to the fields of homicide investigation and forensic science by her brother’s friend, George Magrath, who later became a medical examiner and professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School. Instantly captivated by the nascent pursuit, she became one of its most influential advocates. In 1936, she endowed the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard and made subsequent gifts to establish chaired professorships and seminars in homicide investigation. But that’s not all…

    Glessner Lee, rather than using her well cultivated domestic skills to throw lavish parties for debutantes, tycoons, and other society types, subverted the notions typically enforced upon a woman of her standing by hosting elaborate dinners for investigators who would share with her, in sometimes gory detail, the intricacies of their profession. Glessner Lee oversaw every detail of these dinners herself, down to the menu and floral arrangements. She could probably tell you which wine goes best with discussion about a strangled corpse found in a bathroom. But the matronly Glessner Lee — who may have been the inspiration for Angela Lansbury’s character in “Murder She Wrote”– wanted to do more to help train investigators. She wanted to create a new tool for them…

    In her conversations with police officers, scholars and scientists, she came to understand that through careful observation and evaluation of a crime scene, evidence can reveal what transpired within that space. The physical traces of a crime, the clues, the vestiges of a transgressive moment, have a limited lifespan, however, and can be lost or accidentally corrupted. If a crime scene were properly studied, the truth would ultimately be revealed.

    To help her investigator friends learn to assess evidence and apply deductive reasoning,  to help them “find the truth in a nutshell,” Frances Glessner Lee created what she called “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,”  a series of lovingly crafted dioramas at the scale of one inch to one foot, each one a fully furnished picturesque scene of domesticity with one glaringly subversive element: a dead body…

    These miniature crime scenes were representations of actual cases, assembled through police reports and court records to depict the crime as it happened and the scene as it was discovered. They were pure objective recreations. The design of each dollhouse, however, was Glessner Lee’s own invention and revealed her own predilections and biases formed while growing up in a palatial, meticulously appointed home. She makes certain assumptions about taste and lifestyle of low-income families, and her dioramas of their apartments are garishly decorated with, as Miller notes, “nostalgic,” and “often tawdry” furnishings.

    Investigators had to learn how to search a room and identify important evidence to construct speculative narratives that would explain the crime and identify the criminal.  Glessner Lee’s models helped them develop and practice specific methods –geometric search patterns or zones, for example– to complete an analysis of a crime scene. “The forensic investigator,” Miller writes, “takes on the tedious task of sorting through the detritus of domestic life gone awry….the investigator claims a specific identity and an agenda: to interrogate a space and its objects through meticulous visual analysis”…

    Read the full story at “How a Chicago Heiress Trained Homicide Detectives With an Unusual Tool: Dollhouses.”

    * William S. Burroughs

    ###

    As we re-enact the crime, we might send elegantly-designed birthday greetings to Sir Christopher Wren; he was born in this date (O.S.) in 1632.  One of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history, he was given responsibility for rebuilding 52 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666, including what is regarded as his masterpiece, St Paul’s Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill, completed in 1710; his other works include the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and the south front of Hampton Court Palace, and the Wren Building, the main building at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

    Educated in Latin and Aristotelian physics at Oxford, Wren was also a notable anatomist, astronomer, geometer, and mathematician-physicist. He was a founder of the Royal Society (and its president 1680–82).

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:18 on 2017/10/14 Permalink
    Tags: architecture, , Fodor, guide book, , OSS, , , ,   

    “With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed”*… 

     

    The Transect

    In 2012, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. an exhibition, “Grand Reductions: Ten diagrams that changed urban planning.”

    The exhibition’s title – Grand Reductions – suggests the simple illustration’s power to encapsulate complex ideas. And for that reason the medium has always been suited to the city, an intricate organism that has been re-imagined (with satellite towns! in rural grids! in megaregions!) by generations of architects, planners and idealists. In the urban context, diagrams can be powerful precisely because they make weighty questions of land use and design digestible in a single sweep of the eye. But… they can also seductively oversimplify the problems of cities…

    “The diagram can cut both ways: It can either be a distillation in the best sense of really taking a very complex set of issues and providing us with a very elegant communication of the solution,” [curator Benjamin] Grant says. “Or it can artificially simplify something that actually needs to be complex.”…

    The high concepts that have informed the design of cities over the last century: “The Evolution of Urban Planning in 10 Diagrams.”

    See also: “The cities and mansions that people dream of are those in which they finally live”*… and of course, Jane Jacob’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Christopher Alexander’s A New Theory of Urban Design.

    * Italo Calvino

    ###

    As we muse on metropoles, we might send exploratory birthday greeting to Eugene Fodor; he was born on this date in 1905.  Noting that travel guides of his time were boring, he wrote a guide to Europe, On the Continent—The Entertaining Travel Annual, which was published in 1936– and became the cornerstone of a travel publishing empire– the Fodor’s Guides.  He was elected to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) World Travel Congress Hall of Fame, the only travel editor ever to be so honored.

    In 1974, it was revealed that Fodor, a Hungarian-American who had joined the U.S. Army during World War II, had transferred to the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the CIA) and served as a spy behind Nazi lines in occupied Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:51 on 2017/02/25 Permalink
    Tags: architecture, Christopher Wren, , , , St. Paul's Cathedral,   

    “The difference between the poet and the mathematician is that the poet tries to get his head into the heavens while the mathematician tries to get the heavens into his head”*… 

     

    74. People once believed that the number of grains of sand is limitless. However, Archimedes argued in The Sand Reckoner that the number of grains of sand is not infinite. He gave a method for calculating the highest number of grains of sand that can fit into the universe– approximately 1063

    100 other titillating tidbits at “101 Mathematical Trivia.”

    * G.K. Chesterton

    ###

    As we count our blessings, we might spare a thought for Sir Christopher Wren; he died on this date in 1723.  A mathematician and astronomer, he became one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history when he was was accorded responsibility for rebuilding 52 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666, including what is regarded as his masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:12 on 2016/04/20 Permalink
    Tags: architecture, , Burges, Cardiff Castle, , Mid-century Modern, modern, ,   

    “A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines”*… 

     

    Good news: the University of Southern California just digitized 1,300 architectural photographs dating from the midcentury. It’s an eye-candy jackpot for design history buffs—and what I’d imagine an architecturally inclined Instagram feed from the 1950s and 1960s would look like.

    Captured by famed Case Study architect Pierre Koenig and Fritz Block, the owner of a color slide company, the photographs show buildings by the likes of Richard Neutra, Frank Lloyd Wright, Albert Frey, and John Lautner, among others…

    More at “The Birth Of Midcentury Modernism, As Photographed By Its Architects.”  See the full public database here.

    * Frank Lloyd Wright

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    As we wax nostalgic, we might spare a thought for William Burges; he died on this date in 1881.  Among the greatest of the Victorian art-architects, his work in the tradition of the Gothic Revival was a reaction to the industrialization of England, echoing those of the Pre-Raphaelites and heralding those of the Arts and Crafts movement.  Working with a long-standing team of craftsmen, he built churches, a cathedral, a warehouse, a university, a school, houses and castles, perhaps most notably, Cardiff Castle.

    Cardiff Castle

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:30 on 2015/05/17 Permalink
    Tags: architecture, , , , monstrous carbuncle, , Sainsbury Wing, ,   

    “I like good strong words that mean something”*… 

     

    From Word Journal, “a journal of interesting and infrequently encountered words.”

    Many more wonderful words there, and at its frequent source, the remarkable Ragbag.

    * Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

    ###

    As we luxuriate in language, we might recall that it was on this date in 1984 that noted slinger of mots Prince Charles threw a wrench into plans to build an addition onto England’s National Gallery.  The museum had held a competition for designs, and tentatively settled on plans drawn by Ahrends, Burton and Koralek (with elements from the high-tech scheme of Richard Rogers).  The Prince, on reviewing the drawings, pronounced them a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.”  His pronouncement sparked spirited dialogue, both on the proper role of the Royal Family and on the state of modern architecture.  Indeed, “monstrous carbuncle” has become a common descriptor for a modern building that clashes with its surroundings.

    The ABK plans were withdrawn, and the Gallery went back to the drawing board.  In 1991 they opened The Sainsbury Wing, designed by the architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.

    The Sainsbury Wing, as built, seen from Trafalgar Square

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:05 on 2015/04/06 Permalink
    Tags: architecture, , Durer, eVolo, Four Books on Measurement, , skyscrapers,   

    “There is nothing more poetic and terrible than the skyscrapers’ battle with the heavens that cover them”*… 

     

    eVolo Magazine has announced the winners of its 2015 Skyscraper Competition.  The award was established in 2006 to recognize outstanding ideas for vertical living; since then, more than 6,000 entries have envisioned the future of building high.  These ideas, through their novel use of technology, materials, programs, aesthetics, and spatial organizations, challenge the way we understand vertical architecture and its relationship with the natural and built environments.

    First Place- Essence Skyscraper

    Ewa Odyjas, Agnieszka Morga, Konrad Basan, Jakub Pudo
    Poland

    Away from everyday routines, in a dense city center, a secret garden that combines architecture and a nature is born. The main goal of this project is to position non-architectural phenomena in an urban fabric.  An inspiration rooted in nature allowed to form a representation of external worlds in the shape of a vertical structure. Overlapping landscapes like an ocean, a jungle, a cave or a waterfall will stimulate a diverse and complex range of visual, acoustic, thermal, olfactory, and kinesthetic experiences.

    The main body of the building is divided into 11 natural landscapes. They are meant to form an environmentally justified sequence open to the public that includes extensive open floor plans that form spectacular spaces with water floors, fish tanks lifted up to 30 meters above ground, and jungle areas among others natural scenarios. The sequence landscapes might become a variable set of routes dedicated to different shades of adventure.

    Second Place- Shanty-Scaper

    Suraksha Bhatla, Sharan Sundar
    India

    Unrecognized slums have effectively become akin to an invisible Chennai, largely ignored by the service provision agencies. As urban planners and architects we must make a conscious decision to improve the quality of life of squatters (shelter, services & livelihood) by applying principles of sustainable urbanism. The need of the hour is a reimagination of the existing land parcels, growth and infrastructural burden squatters place on the city’s civic supplies. This begs the question – Will the cities of the future be filled with vertical slums? Informal settlements and the paucity of land parcels can no longer be ignored & the complexities of resettlement will force slum dwellers themselves to build higher using locally available, structurally sound, recyclable materials accommodating themselves into organised communities.

    Shanty-Scraper aspires to provide a unique solution for the fishermen of Nochikuppam located at Marina bay beach. The vertical squatter structure predominately is comprised of post-construction debris such as pipes and reinforcement bars that crucially articulate the structural stability. Recycled corrugated metal sheets, regionally sourced timber & thatch mould the enclosure of each dwelling profile and lend to their vernacular language. The double height semi enclosures serve as utility yards & social gathering spaces. The vertical transportation is fragmented into multiple plank lifts that are constructed from a simple mechanically driven lever & pulley contraption. The rhythmic timber lattice membrane structure at the ground level, houses the public sea food market, & forms the first level of defence against future tsunamis. The high rise typology serves as a vantage point for the fishermen to gauge high risk waters & during emergencies…

    More on both these projects, on the other honorees, and on the competition at “Winners 2015 eVolo Skyscraper Competition.”

    * Federico Garcia Lorca

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    As we get high, we might spare a thought for Albrecht Dürer; he died on this date in 1528.  Renown as a painter and a print-maker,  Dürer was also a mathematician and theorist who wrote a four volume treatise on geometry and its applications, Four Books on Measurement (Underweysung der Messung mit dem Zirckel und Richtscheytor Instructions for Measuring with Compass and Ruler).  Book Three applies the principles of geometry to architecture (along with engineering and typography).

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    Dürer, self-portrait

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