The Same Things Happen: On Repetition On RepetitiOn Repetitionrepetition

[still from Groundhog Day, dir. Harold Ramis (1993)]

The same things happen. The spray-painted tag was written on a crumbling wall in New Orleans and it immediately struck a dissonant chord in me. I kept walking, staring down at the fractured sidewalk pavement. I kept walking and when I looked up, I saw a nearly identical brick wall and the words scrawled on it: the same things happen. I kept walking. Though it’s been almost 10 years since I saw that graffiti, it’s burned into my mind. The same things happen. Perhaps it haunts me because I realized at that moment that yeah, the same things do happen. History repeats itself at global scale but also at a personal scale. Over and over. It’s a depressing epiphany. The same things happen. The repetition of this tag throughout the city only makes it worse, charging the words with the power to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, nurturing paranoia and dooming me to a Groundhog Day loop.
Continue reading The Same Things Happen: On Repetition On RepetitiOn Repetitionrepetition

New York by Gehry: A Review In Which Your Architecture Critic’s Personal Issues May Be Interfering With His Job

New York by Gehry

The following post was originally written as an entry to McSweeney’s 2011 Column Contest. It didn’t win. But I had a lot of fun writing it so I thought I’d post it here. As proposed, it was an architectural criticism column written from the perspective of a somewhat emotionally dysfunctional critic who sees his own failures in the monumental structures that obsess him. In the resulting reviews, personal narratives converge with professional critique. Descriptions and opinions of the buildings emerge through seemingly inadvertent revelations of his personal crises and social conflicts. Over the course of the columns, a larger narrative is revealed in which the reader learns more about the critic – his failures, fears, aspirations, and his romantic and professional pursuits. In this introductory column, your critic experiences the five stages of grief –denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance– in his critique of the Lower Manhattan skyscraper New York by Gehry.

Continue reading New York by Gehry: A Review In Which Your Architecture Critic’s Personal Issues May Be Interfering With His Job

Over-caffeinated, Under-employed, and Bored to Death

It all seems so simple in retrospect. I wanted a cup of coffee, I got a cup of coffee. But obtaining this particular cup would’ve been much more difficult five years ago – and nearly impossible ten years back. This wasn’t just any coffee (and cucumber sandwich [1]), this was a very specific coffee. Actually, let me rephrase that – a very specific coffee shop.
Continue reading Over-caffeinated, Under-employed, and Bored to Death

Subverting the Spectacle of Modern Times: Charlie Chaplin and the Situationists

chaplin_3
Still from Modern Times

“The construction of situations begins beyond the ruins of the modern spectacle. It is easy to see how much the very principle of the spectacle – nonintervention – is linked to the alienation of the old world. Conversely, the most pertinent revolutionary experiments in culture have sought to break the spectators’ psychological identification with the hero so as to draw them into activity. . . . The situation is thus designed to be lived by its constructors…

-Guy Debord, from “Preliminary Problems in Constructing a Situation.” Continue reading Subverting the Spectacle of Modern Times: Charlie Chaplin and the Situationists

Mediocrity Rules! The Simpsons Takes on The Fountainhead


Last night, The Simpsons finally got around to sending up The Fountainhead. Yes, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead: the superficially architectural Objectivist manifesto so often given to incoming architecture students everywhere by their well-meaning relatives. The book that can have the unfortunate side-effect of brainwashing said first year architecture students. In typical irreverent form, the “Bible of Right Wing nutjobs” (Lisa’s words) is transposed to Maggie’s preschool, a preschool presided over by that staunch proponent of the prosaic, Ellsworth Toohey. In her defiant self-expression, Maggie Roark uses blocks, sugar cubes, and tinker toys to produce familiar structures ranging from the Taj Mahal to the Bird’s Nest. Toohey, staying true to his literary equivalent, is clearly enjoying himself in finding increasingly creative methods of destroying the block buildings, culminating in a sledgehammer redesign of Frank Gehry’s Bilbao Guggenheim (an ironic reversal of how the Simpson’s previously depicted Gehry’s “process”). Continue reading to view the full story, including Maggie’s version of Roark’s speech. UPDATE: Thanks to square for pointing out that Hulu is US only. A Youtube version of the clip has been added, but I’m not sure for how long it will stay online. Continue reading Mediocrity Rules! The Simpsons Takes on The Fountainhead