Life Without Buildings: February 2006: an architecture blog

27 February 2006

Some Thoughts on MoMA

Taniguchi's MoMA New York. My first thought when entering MoMA: This place is fucking enormous. My second thought: this place is fucking hilarious. Walking through the museum, my initial feelings were only verified. MoMA is almost a parody of a contemporary art museum. A beautiful parody, but a parody nonetheless. In the early galleries, sprawling, almost sublime spaces frame singular pieces of art, seemingly chosen for their innate qualities of protoypical abstractness. (ie: "weird painting," "weird sculpture," etc.)

It reminded me of something that might be seen on a mildly successful television sitcom. You know the story; the male protagonist goes to some fancy gallery opening - often uncomfortable, white spaces full of bizarre sculpture - to impress his romantic interest, and of course it goes without saying that said guy is completly out of his element. Hijinks ensue when he misidentifies a piece of furniture - bench or coat rack, let's say - as a piece of art, and attempts to critique it, only to have his foolishness exposed by an art snob competing for the affections of the female protagonist. Plot possibility #2: The opposite. Guy mistakes a sculpture for a coatrack, hangs his hat on it or something, and knocks it over, thereby infuriating the artist and again, making a fool of himself.

That seems to be what Joe Schmoe thinks of modern art, and that's Taniguchi's MoMA. An absurd, overscaled, labyrinthian stockhouse of sparsely displayed art objects organized in a manner beyond my understanding. (at least during that first visit.) Don't get me wrong. I loved it. I loved it precisely for its absurdity, overscaling, and labrythian organization. And to be fair (although that's not much fun) the smaller galleries were intimate, comfortable, and well lit. and of course, the work throughout was fantastic and I appreciate the wall space that larger paintings were given. Nothing was too stifled or crowded.

Of course I can't forget to mention the exhibit on Spanish Architecture. At that point in my visit, the museum was closing and I didn't have as much time as I would have liked, but my non-professional opionion: pretty sweet.

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24 February 2006

You (Aero)Gellin'?

Aerogel. The holy grail of building materials. Samples are lusted after in materials classes everywhere. (available now on eBay, natch.) Insulator, structure, window, fabric, comet-catcher, aerogel can potentially revolutionize the building industry. It could revolutionize every industry....if only it wasn't so damn expensive. Wired gives a brief history of the material that's made of 99% air.

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My only exposure to this product so far is when our designer wanted to use it, but then it got VE'd out. Doesn't it tend to yellow after several years' sun exposure?


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New York Interlude: recap

If anyone's wondering where the promised skyskraper porn is (see previous post) - don't. It doesn't exist. Somehow - perhaps for the best - this trip went completely undocumented. whoops. A little too much celebrating, you see. I do however, seem to recall an absolutely hideous building on Astor place, a Band a part like dash through MoMA, and a few healthy recovery hours spent at the Met. Hopefully, I'll get it together enough to write a little about this past weekend's misadventures.

oh, and you all need to see Cache.


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23 February 2006

Great Headline, Bad News:

After seeing the horrors of sept11, Jonathan "Yoni" Shimshoni was inspired to create a quick evacuation system for high rise buildings. His company, Escape Rescue Systems, have designed and constructed a prototype life-boat for buildings. Lowered to the street along the side of the building on cables, the "escape pods" then expand to form five cabins designed to lift firefighters up the side of the building, where they help people evacuate through windows. Great idea, right? well, maybe manhattan doesn't think so.

Among the city's concerns: there would be confusion over who would operate the system during an emergency; using windows as escape routes can help a fire spread; passengers in the cabins risk passing floors immersed in flames; and the system would be prone to the Titanic effect -- chaos over who would be first in line for a limited number of spots in each cabin.

Suggestion: connect these pods to Calatrava's insane air tram. Temporarily evacuation everyone to Governor's Island. Or just install air trams connection every building, eschewing ground-based evacutation copmletely while finally paving the way for multi-tiered urban infrastructure. The Future is now.

or something.

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16 February 2006

A New York Interlude

or "Modern Art Makes Me Want to Rock Out"

To quote the great poet Andrew W.K. "I love New York City! Oh Yeah! New York City." Drawn by the current Robert Raushcenberg exhibit at the Met, the new (to me) MoMA, and the chance to catch up with some college friends, I'm off to the isle of Manhattan for a long weekend. Thanks Presidents!

Come back next week for tales of modern art influenced debauchery and skyscraper porn. Until then, keep posting your submissions for Your Hidden City. We've got some great photos so far, but what's up with LA? There are no photos tagged "LA." Come on people, stick a camera out your car window. Results should look similar to this:

Seeya next week, kids.

Comments on "A New York Interlude"

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:23 PM) : 



Blogger Roger JR said ... (11:32 AM) : 

Aw man you get Pres day off? And New York... jealousy consumes me


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14 February 2006

Finally! The Scooby-doo Mansion of Your Dreams

ooh. This is almost too good to be true. For all of you who love Clue, or who just have always wanted their own batcave or S&M dungeon, Creative Home Engineering is the company for you. This registered contracting company will give you the secret passage of your dreams for as little as $1500, because as they say "ordinary homes don't get featured in magazines and they never become the talk of the neighborhood. Your exciting and practical (?) investment will amaze potential buyers and drastically increase resale value." Plus, it's just, you know...really cool.

via the apt [check out their black apartment! sinister.]

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13 February 2006

What, You Don't See it?

At left, Frank's sketch for the Ruzo Alzhemier Institute in Las Vegas. At right, the more um...embellished portion of the building. For something a little different, here's a list of words used to describe the recently unveiled design:

  • topsy-turvy
  • playfully stacked
  • tumble
  • "the mouse that roared"
and then there's this:
  • cradling
  • comforting
You get the idea, right?

In the man's own words, "Gehry, you've done it again!"

Comments on "What, You Don't See it?"

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:17 PM) : 

those potatoes were great! thanks man...


Blogger jimmy said ... (7:25 AM) : 

(what happens when roommates find your blog)


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10 February 2006

Show Us "Your Hidden City"

Tropolism is launching a photo competition today, and I have to pleasure - nay, duty - nay... pleasure - to serve as one of the jurors. We look forward to your photos, your captions, and the kickass Flickr archive that's sure to develop from your entires. Take it away, Tropolism...

After a week of very subtle buildup, Tropolism is pleased to announce the first open-sourced architectural contest, Your Hidden City.

The contest is simple: post your photos (with a caption) to our public Flickr pool (or email them to us for posting), and our jury will select their favorites in five categories. The winners will be posted to Tropolism.

The theme of the contest is uncovering the Hidden City, your Hidden City, the one you see every day. It may be in plain sight of everyone else, but it is your eye that finds the extraordinariness in a particular street corner, a unique stair, a crazy intersection, a visually arresting approach, or a particular tree in the city. The photographs can be of a beautiful (and perhaps unpublished) park, or as simple as the sun hitting a particular building at a particular time of day. Please include a caption, or a Flickr annotation, about what makes it extraordinary to you. The entries should have one thing in common: they demonstrate, to you, the pleasure of living in the city.

The jury is a set of bloggers who write about architecture, urbanism, and landscape design. They are:

The 5 Categories are:

  • Best Hidden Place
  • Best Density
  • Best Natural/Urban Overlap
  • Best Unofficial Landmark
  • Best Building

We will keep the contest open until March 10, 2006, and post winners the week of March 20. Good Luck!

Comments on "Show Us "Your Hidden City""

Anonymous justiNYC said ... (7:50 PM) : 

Great idea! So "hidden" meaning... Oh what the hell, I'll give it a whirl. Terrific Blog you have here!


OMA Will Eat Itself

Yesterday, the public got its first look at America's newest signature high-rise, The Museum Plaza (pictured left), in Louisville Kentucky, complements of OMA. The structure - which will obligatorily alter the Louisville skyline in dramatic fashion - has been described as "hyper-rational" by the Koolhaas-groomed, Josh Prince-Ramus, and is essentially composed of four legs supporting an "island" hovering 22 stories above the ground, upon which sits an additional three towers - bringing the entire $305 million structure to a height of 61 stories.

When I saw the rendering this morning, I thought it looked a little familiar, and after some perusing through AMOMA book-mag, Content, I found my answer. Koolhaas seems fond of recycling his ideas; we saw him do it with the Casa de Musica in Porto, and we see it again here.

The proposed Bangkok "Hyperbuilding" (pictured right; dubbed by OMA as their "brief, titillating brush with sci-fi") appears to be and ideological - as well as formal - predecessor to the Museum Plaza. Both buildings propose a radical rethinking of the skyscraper – a concept Koolhaas (correctly) believes hasn't been truly considered since the 1970's. With a series of thin towers, joined structurally above ground level, these skyscrapers - more robot hand than phallus - avoid the dreaded dark cores of tower buildings while creating spatial "knots" for program massing. The structures also both accommodate a diverse program - an affinity of Koolhaas' dating back to his study of the New York Athletic Club in Delirious New York. Although drastically smaller in scale than the Hyperbuilding, the Museum Plaza is no less programmatically ambitious, housing the contemporary art museum for which it's named, restaurants, retail stores, 85 luxury condominiums, 150 lofts, a 300 room hotel, office space and a 1100 car underground parking garage.

Museum Plaza Investors are also asking the city for an additional $75 million dollars to improve the surrounding infrastructure - including nothing less than the relocation of a city street and new pedestrian walkways to unite the building with nearby museums. Transit in the building itself is provided by glass elevators traveling along diagonals, transporting people from the street to the island plaza.. Again we see similar ideas in the Hyperbuilding, whose proposal included a aerial pomenade and intra-building mass transit infrastructure that also connected the building to the city system.

Construction on Museum Plaza is expected to start in early 2007 and be completed in 2010.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I remember an (I think) early Koolhaas skyscraper proposal that incorporated a massive Jenny Holzer marquee. In this design, Koolhaas offsets the top half of the structure, creating a precariously divided building. Separating the two halves was the Holzer work - a scrolling marquee denouncing capitalism and proclaiming the evils of big business...or something like that. With this scheme, I love how Rem disrupts both the form of the office tower and the ideas it represents. It was a beautiful proposal, decidedly un-Koolhaasian in its simplicity. I saw this project in a class once, and have been unable to learn any more about it. Even google fails me. Is anyone else familiar with this project? Have any more specifics on it?

Comments on "OMA Will Eat Itself"

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:22 AM) : 

I'm pretty sure it was the Zac Danton Office Building, La Defense, Paris. Actually had Winy Maas in his OMA days as lead designer. I think it was in S M L XL but I know it more from when still working at OMA in Rotterdam.


Anonymous mason said ... (4:52 PM) : 

hey, when you crib from yourself its all finders-keepers, i guess. and anyway, this thing is pure unadulterated (cut-up) mies, and i mean all of mies, like every project he ever did into one building (composition). its a mies medley, in fact.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:53 PM) : 

I must say, I hate Rem and his OMA.
They don't have a clue.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:59 AM) :


Blogger robsnyder said ... (3:19 PM) : 

I mean, the kickstand or trash chute ride up to the 22nd floor is a Disney Land trick as stupid as any revolving restaurant on top of any stupid skyscraper in any ordinary city.

Louisville is a great old River town with cool neighborhoods and districts and a downtown trying to make its way back from the hell of the last 60 years of modernist zoning.

The $380 Million being spent on this project would be better spent taking the same program of offices, hotel, condos and so on and working them into the fabric of the downtown of Louisville, to bring more life to the streets and public urban places.

This project instead literally sucks all of that human activity up off the street as they say in their video:

Identify public elements

Insert public elements at grade

Optimize tower dimensions

Place towers on site

Lift program (hm)

Flip! (Gosh that’s genius)

Optimize program adjacencies

Connect to context (through a straw, brilliant)

Redirect 7th street

. . . yawn


Anonymous Peter VE said ... (8:54 PM) : 

What's the over under on the project never appearing in anything remotely similar to the rendering?


Anonymous Aaron said ... (6:15 AM) : 

Actually, what would be the over/under on the project never actually appearing on the skyline.

I don't care for the design, but I don't go downtown that much anyway. A lot of the people who grew up here don't think of downtown as a hang out area. We're Bardstown Road/Highlands people. Downtown is for tourists.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:20 PM) : 

I love the design of the Museum Plaza, it will make a huge difference in downtown Louisville where I live. It will be a great contrast to the Michael Graves tower nearby. There is so much horrible architecture downtown, buildings built in the urban renewal era and into the 1980s that destroyed this once beautiful and historic downtown. It should have a big impact.

I like that it will be integrated with or atleast connected to historic West Main St. but I would rather see the development in the less congested east side of downtown where the skyline is growing in a very interesting way. It would have been more accessible and a big contribution to the urban housing boom going on in that area. I suppose the reasoning is to have it located near the other museums downtown but building it near the art district on East Market and closer to the waterfront parks would have made sense too.

I agree with the post that this amount of money spent on making downtown more of a livable neighborhood would be a great idea but I don't see the Museum Plaza as a negative. 4th Street has great potential that will only be reached when more people and more money are downtown, The Museum Plaza and the many other housing projects that are underway will bring both.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:52 PM) : 

Development process for Museum Plaza:


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:35 PM) : 

Great Great Great!! I live In Louisville and it is great city and this will be a wonderful building that will help the city in it trio into the 20th century and might even completely skip the 20th century and put us in the 21 century like the rest of the country. I can only imagine how cool Thunder over Louisville will look from that building!!


Anonymous Alfie Wood said ... (2:56 AM) : 

That building cannot be for real. It looks totally crazy. I thought the egg shape building in London was insane enough (the name escapes me)...

I will have to visit when it's complete.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:17 PM) : 

A hideous building project, a sick joke, sorry to say. Hopefully Koolhaas will never molest the Cincinnati skyline, a 100 miles northeast of Louisville, with one of the best silhouettes in the country.
Tony Skaggs


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:00 PM) : 

Mayby Koolhaas will be cool from across the river, but never standing next to it. Totally out of human scale. Insignificant humans in its wasteland of a plaza, people don't matter, only the building. When will architects learn??


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:24 PM) : 

This project was actually designed by Joshua Prince-Ramus with REX designs. REX was formerly the New York, NY branch of OMA but is now its own company. While I'm sure Koolhaas's influence is all over the building, his name shouldn't be associated with it.


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07 February 2006

Archigram Archi-ived

The collected drawings, models, and audio tapes (audio tapes?) of Archigram, the seminal 1960's architecture collective, will soon be digitzed and made available online. Perhaps BD summed it up best:

Cataloguing the treasure trove of drawings, models and tapes is also expected to unearth long-forgotten sketches and interviews from the group's hazy 1960s past."
Oh, those crazy 60's pasts. I'm sure if I had one, it'd be a little hazy too - or like the guy sleeping on the sidewalk outside my apartment, I'd probably think they're still happening.

The BD article also mentions the unearthing of recordings made at an Archigram rally. An architecture rally? seriously? What's wrong with the world today when there aren't insanely inspired designers holding quasi-fascist assemblies to promote their aesthetic/lifestyle values?

The process will be funded by a £300,000 grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Council won by the University of Westminster.

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02 February 2006

"Which one of these two things would I prefer to become by the day of my death?"

In the first of a two part series, San Francisco Chronicle Art Critic Kenneth Baker, ventures into the mind-altering world of Christopher Alexander's 4 book opus, The Nature of Order.

In a nutshell, Alexander proposes that life is not merely in space but of it, an idea of potentially momentous force for critique and improvement of the built environment. "The idea that one part of space might have relatively more life, and another relatively less life," he writes, "and the idea that this distinction would not be based on the presence of biological organisms but might instead be inherent in the space itself according to its structure -- would challenge our beliefs about the world to the very roots."Alexander has sufficient scientific background to take his argument all the way and propose that the nature of space accounts for the occurrence of any life whatsoever in the universe.

As in earlier books, Alexander suggests that builders and artists in traditional societies frequently possessed the kind of knowledge he has rediscovered and tried to reconcile with science's world picture. He boldly contends in Vol. 4 of "The Nature of Order" that his rediscoveries about the deep connection between life and space have made possible -- and always will -- buildings and other human creations that mirror a self-like quality of the universe as a whole, which some spiritual traditions call God.

I honestly haven't read much of Alexander's work. Like many other architecture students, I picked up A Pattern Language for a while, and although it wasn't life changing, I still carry with me many of the smaller ideas that the book proposed. Baker's passionate review is inspiring. If a jaded art critic can find this book so radical and so challenging, maybe its time I made the plunge into the world of Christopher Alexander.

Comments on ""Which one of these two things would I prefer to become by the day of my death?""

Blogger John said ... (1:48 PM) : 

My mother got me volume 1 for xmas and I'm about 1/3 the way through that one, in the midst of Alexander trying to explain his concept of the presence of life in overlapping centers throughout all of space, some centers stronger than others. It's an idea I like (whether it's mathematically and scientifically valid or not), since I've always ranked relationships and interactions over singular objects. The world around us - be it natural or man-made - is all about the interdependence of elements, never about something exluded from everything around it. Alexander just propounds that for 1200+ pages instead of two sentences. And so far he's pretty convincing.

Reading it, I'm glad we have somebody like Alexander, with his mixture of math, science, architecture, tradition, new-age transcendence.


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01 February 2006

Pink Floyd Wright

Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason might have been Architect Nick Mason, if only if it weren't for rock gods Cream.
"SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE turned me from studying architecture to rock 'n' roll. We were students at Regent Street Polytechnic and they played at one of our hops. That was the moment I thought, 'Yes, this is what I want to do.'
Dammit Clapton! When will you quit luring the young and impressionable away from aimless careers as stuggling architects, towards imminent rock superstardom?!?

Comments on "Pink Floyd Wright"

Blogger Kinch said ... (10:55 AM) : 

That explains why I like Pink Floyd the same way I appreciate such bands as Talking Heads and The Pet Shop Boys.


Blogger jimmy said ... (10:47 PM) : 


i was once told that Neil Pert studiend architecture too. couldn't confirm it online, but i did learn that he REALLY loved ayn rand...

close enough, perhaps.


Anonymous james said ... (6:46 PM) : 

i studied architecture with tommy from the casanovas (

... who wouldn't wanna be a rockstar?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:38 AM) : 

and the list goes on... Justine Freischman from Elastica was a budding architect.. Brett Anderson from Suede was an aspiring planner - which explains his demeanour...


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  • BLOCK BY BLOCK: JANE JACOBS & THE FUTURE OF NEW YORK - Poignant and personal, these brief recounts and interpretations of Jane Jacobs ideas illustrate the widespread impact and influence of her ideas.

  • SPACE METS ART / ART MEETS SPACE - This sexy monograph published by Victionary presents a series of striking exhibition spaces that demonstrate the intersection of graphics, multimedia, structure and architecture.

  • VERB: NATURES - Nature meets technology in this, Actar's latest Verb Boogazine. Presenting some of the most striking projects to grace the pages of the series, the work presented in Natures attempts to give us a new way to understand of our environment.

  • BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2007 - Guest Editor Chris Ware assembles an absolutely fantastic collection of the year's best in comics and introduced me to several new cartoonists, including the breathtaking work of Anders Nilsen.

  • 2G BOOKS: LACATON VASSAL - I can't say enough good things about Lacaton Vassal and this catalog seems to be the only collection of their work. Great photos, great interviews, and some very beautiful, very original work