Building Stories

No, it’s not the name of a Talking Heads album or song or…book. Building Stories will be the next graphic novel released by Chicago-based cartoonist / ragtime aficionado Chris Ware. If you’re even remotely interested in comics, cartooning, or sequential art, please pick up any of Ware’s books and I promise you’ll be amazed. The moods and emotions he’s able to invoke with his painstakingly composed and incredibly well-crafted pages is truly mind-boggling.

If you enjoyed Devil in the White City, or your’re interested in the Columbian Exposition, check out Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. Ware expertly uses the fair as a backdrop for one of the book’s stories.

So back to Building Stories. Just what is it about?

The book follows the inhabitants of a three-flat Chicago apartment building: a 30-year-old woman who has yet to find someone with whom to spend the rest of her life; a couple (possibly married) who wonder if they can bear each other’s company for another minute; and finally, an elderly woman who never married and is the building’s landlady. The pages to follow in the upcoming weeks will each collect particular events in the life of this building and its tenants for one hour out of a day (23 September, 2000) as it passes from midnight to midnight. (Sticklers for accuracy are welcome to investigate Midwestern weather and American news reports for the 24th to see if, by proxy, my more quotidian reportage is to be trusted.)”

Some preview pages via The Independent.:

Additional preview images, as well as larger versions of these images, can be seen over at The Independent.

see also:

Ted Mosby, Architect

ted mosby architect
“How I Met Your Mother’s” Ted Mosby, hard at work designing buildings.

Confession: I have a soft spot for 1/2 hour, multi-camera sitcoms – I always have. Since its debut last season, How I Met Your Mother has been one of my favorite shows on televsion. It has incredibly clever writing, realistic scenarios, and amazing music (Pavement, Pixies, The Decemberists) but my one complaint is that the protagonist, Ted, is an architect…who never seems to be at work. Yeah, I know it’s a sitcom and people never work on sitcoms, but this show is better than most, and as a life-long connoisseur of the medium, I’ve come to expect more from it.

Well, last night we not only see him at work – a typical 12 hour workday, he claims – but we also see Ted learn that Architecture is a great profession for (drumroll…) picking up chicks. How he made it too his late 20’s without realizing this is a mystery to me.

Some choice quotes from last night’s edisode:

“Dude, lots of chicks think architects are hot. Think about it, you create something out of nothing. You’re like God. There’s nobody hotter than God.”

“Are you kidding? Architects are hot. How do you think Mr. Brady scored a babe like Carrol?”

Girl: “What made you want to be an architect?”
Ted: “Well you know, soul of an artist, hands of a master craftsman…it was inevitable.”

“You’re like this: ‘Ted Mosby, Architect.’ But I’d be like ‘Ted Mosby, Architect.'”

Oh, and then there’s the unseen skyskraper Ted’s boss designed: a domed tower with 2 spherical pavillions at its base, surrounded by foliage that “if trimmed, might make the building look taller.”


Finally! A Role Model for Architect Vigilantes

It’s been years since I’ve seen any of the Death Wish movie series, so I was pretty excited when Charles Bronson’s leather-like face appeared on my TV screen this past weekend. Death Wish 2, the perfect movie for a Sunday hangover.

Early on, before any of the death wishing starts, we see Bronson in his office…but wait, what’s this?! It’s an architect’s office! This element of the movie seems to have been lost on my younger self while I was busy becoming desensitized to graphic violence. Now though, the violence is almost irrelevant, and I find myself glued to the chair in hope that we see one of his buildings…

Shortly into the film, after his daughter is murdered, Bronson’s client kindly informs him that “the building can wait,” and our hero seeks solace in the mountains. Plotting revenge while chopping wood, we see him for who he truly is – the Howard Roark of ass kicking. Although, as I would soon learn, calling him Howard Roark might be a bit too generous. Sure enough, at one point we’re shown renderings of his design, an unfortunately proportioned office-park monstrosity complete with “sculpted angels blowing horns.” No! Bronson! Surely your tortured soul can create an edifice to provoke fear and inspiration! A building so potent in its heart-felt purity, it can reform any criminal who walks through its doors! …Alas, it is not to be, and I suppose I can forgive him this indiscretion. His mind is, of course, on other things. It’s like the old saying goes, “mediocre architect, gifted vigilante.”

Once the revenge-killing starts, I realize that although his buildings may lack substance, Bronson is a very hands-on urbanist. He doesn’t waste his time with conceptual plans, polemical statements, and impractical theory! He fixes his city the old fashioned way – with his wits, fists and a pawnshop-bought handgun. An admirable strategy? Yes. A successful strategy? Oh yeah. We find out in the movie that after granting death wishes in New York City, crime dropped by 50%. Now, that’s some serious progress.

The movie boldly explores the dichotomy between his day and night life, showing his client relations suffer, unfortunately (but understandably), as a result of these late night excursions. Somehow though, he manages to get revenge, evade the cops, make the client happy, finish the design, and after receiving critical acclaim, he accepts an invitation to a new building party.

Frank Gehry on the Simpsons, Builds a Concert Hall in Springfield

Frank Gehry was a special guest voice on “The Simpsons.” In the episode, Marge writes Gehry a letter requesting that he design a new concert hall in Springfield (including a special cameo by the Gehry House). He denies her request, crumples up the letter and throws it away. Aha! Inspiration strikes! We see the crumpled paper transform into a model for a new $30 million concert hall! “Frank Gehry you’ve done it again!” The structure is built: a regular, orthagonal, gridded steel sytem? How can this be a Frank Gehry building?!? wait for it…. Cue the wrecking balls, which literally beat the structure into shape! Voila! A finer concert hall has never been built! Unfortunately, it soon becomes a maximum security prison, but you’ll just have to catch the rerun to see why!