Perl's Architecture Weblog
2008 Fall Semester
Associate Professor Robert D. Perl, AIA
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 Texas Tech University   College of Architecture   Robert D. Perl     updated 04/02/2009
Architecture professor Joseph Aranha received his second Fulbright Grant; he will teach and conduct research in Ethiopia.
Texas Tech Today
"Joseph Aranha will teach a design studio and a lecture course covering architectural theory, and also will conduct field research on traditional and vernacular buildings and settlements in the Tigray region and the Omo River Valley in Ethiopia. This is Aranha’s second Fulbright Grant; in 2000 he was a Fulbright professor at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Aranha’s research and scholarly publications deal with the study of traditional and vernacular architecture in non-western societies. He has lectured and participated in architectural design studio reviews and workshops at universities around the world. Recently he was invited to Hoi An, Vietnam to participate in an international field research workshop for architecture students from Thailand, China, Vietnam and Laos."

From one of Professor Aranha's recent emails: "The school is as I expected. There are minimal facilities and basic equipment. Most student work is done using drawing boards. Students do have some computer skills but computers are limited and have to be shared by so many. Only a handful of students can afford to have their own laptop. They can only print A3 size on campus and there is no plotter here. I am told that there is a plotter in town, about 4- 5 km away from the campus. However not many students can afford the cost. Therefore drawing on vellum with ink is the usual thing. The arch collection at the library is not bad but there are absolutely no architecture periodicals or journals.  
Last weekend the university president organized and accompanied me and two other faculty members on a visit to nearby traditional villages and sites of very ancient rock hewn churches in this region. He is very keen on getting the university involved with integrating traditional technologies and the use of local resources with modern and contemporary ideas and technologies. With university involvement a French company will soon be installing wind power generators in this region. There are also proposals to develop a training program modeled after one in India for illiterate and older women to assemble and install affordable solar power panels with technology and components also developed in India."
  A few of Professor Aranha's recent photographs and captions, below.

Konso tribal chief at his home, S. Ethiopia. He uses a cell phone which he charges with a small photovoltaic panel.

Tigranian woman, Mekelle, Northern Ethiopia

Tigranian Woman in village near Mekelle

Gurage girls outside their colorful houses

D. Michelle Addington, Associate Professor of Architecture at Yale lectured on "Buildings, Boundaries, Behaviors" at noon on Wednesday, March 25.
"She researches discrete systems and technology transfer, and she serves as an adviser on energy and sustainability for many organizations, including the Department of Energy and the AIA. Her chapters and articles on energy, environmental systems, lighting, and materials have appeared in many books and journals and she recently co-authored Smart Materials and Technologies for the Architecture and Design Professions."
Lecture video at ForaTV similar to her lecture at TTU.
Preview at Google Book Search:
"Type 1 Materials
Smart materials may be easily classified in two basic ways. In one construct we will be referring to materials that undergo changes in one or more of their propertieschemical, mechanical, electrical, magnetic or thermalin direct response to a change in the external stimuli associated with the environment surrounding the material...
Shape memory...

Type 2 Materials
A second general class of smart materials is comprised of those that transform energy from one form to an output energy in another form, and again do so directly and reversibly...

How Will Historic Buildings Fare During the Recession?
Architectural Record March 30
"Like most market sectors that require architectural services, historic preservation has been hit hard by the economic downturn. Newspapers around the country are peppered with reports of preservation or renovation projects that are up in the air due to funding challenges. But preservationists do see a possible silver lining: some historic buildings that might otherwise have been torn down because of rampant development may escape the wrecking ball.
... despite [the] glass-half-full assessment, many preservation organizations around the country are suffering due to the recession. Funding from foundations is down because of shrinking endowments, and a number of government preservation agencies have seen their budgets cut. And while the pace of teardowns has slowed, some important preservation work has been delayed. Meanwhile, some architecture firms that specialize in historic preservation are feeling the pinch.
Robert Chattel, AIA, principal of the Los Angeles firm Chattel Architecture, which focuses solely on preservation planning and consulting, says, “A number of our projects are stalled.” Recently, his five-person firm was about to begin work on a report assessing earthquake damage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1921 Hollyhock House, which is owned by the city of Los Angeles. “Just as we were about to sign the contract,” Chattel says, “we were told to stop work.” Turns out the grant money for the project, from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment, had been frozen due to the state’s budget shortfall. Despite such setbacks, Chattel is taking the long view. Much of the work his firm does involves long-term planning and environmental reviews required by the state of California, and that work tends to be fairly consistent, even during a recession."

 Hollyhock House by Frank Lloyd Wright for Aline Barnsdall

Concrete Is Remixed With Environment in Mind
New York Times March 30
"Soaring above the Mississippi River just east of downtown Minneapolis is one remarkable concrete job. There on Interstate 35W, the St. Anthony Falls Bridge carries 10 lanes of traffic on box girders borne by massive arching piers, which are supported, in turn, by footings and deep pilings. The bridge, built to replace one that collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people, is constructed almost entirely of concrete embedded with steel reinforcing bars, or rebar. But it is hardly a monolithic structure: the components are made from different concrete mixes, the recipes tweaked, as a chef would, for specific strength and durability requirements and to reduce the impact on the environment. One mix, incorporated in wavy sculptures at both ends of the bridge, is designed to stay gleaming white by scrubbing stain-causing pollutants from the air.
The project, built for more than $230 million and finished in September, three months ahead of schedule, “might have been the most demanding concrete job in the United States in 2008,” said Richard D. Stehly, principal of American Engineering Testing, a Minneapolis firm that was involved in the project. It is a prime example of major changes in concrete production and use — changes that make use of basic research and are grounded, in part, in the need to reduce concrete’s carbon footprint. Concrete may seem an unlikely material for scientific advances. At its most basic, a block of concrete is something like a fruitcake, but even more leaden and often just as unloved. The fruit in the mix is coarse aggregate, usually crushed rock. Fine aggregate, usually sand, is a major component as well. Add water and something to help bind it all together — eggs in a fruitcake, Portland cement in concrete — mix well, pour into a form and let sit for decades.
Concrete is made and used just about everywhere, with China responsible for half the world’s production. In the making of concrete, the Portland cement and water form a paste in which a series of reactions occur, hardening the paste and locking the aggregates within it. Those reactions use up the water — concrete doesn’t “dry out” through evaporation — and produce heat. They also make the product caustic. While most of the strengthening occurs in the first few days and weeks, the process can continue for years, as long as there is a little moisture around.
Aesthetic considerations aside, concrete is environmentally ugly. The manufacturing of Portland cement is responsible for about 5 percent of human-caused emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
Some researchers want to eventually eliminate Portland cement entirely and replace it with other cements to produce zero-carbon, or even carbon-negative, concrete. Portland cement is at the heart of concrete’s environmental problems. About a ton of CO2 is emitted for every ton of cement produced." 

Prince Charles's Poundbury fire station is a daft mess
Guardian UK March 31
"Prince Charles, that purveyor of fine Duchy sausages and scourge of modern architecture, has just completed his first building: a fire station in the twee village of Poundbury, Dorset. And I must say it's a superb creation: a dumpy neoclassical Georgian palace with three garage doors attached to it. It's the Parthenon meets Brookside. Everybody knows that the prince likes to hold forth, mostly disapprovingly, on the architectural state of the nation. A quarter of a century ago he branded the proposed extension to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square a "monstrous carbuncle", and the phrase has lingered on infamously as an emblem of British conservatism. Nowadays, he prefers to lead by example, and Poundbury is his vision of the ideal town: ie a traditional Georgian village. It's an escapist fantasy that is somehow no more authentic than one of those Japanese Olde England theme parks, despite being home-grown.
But Poundbury is his pet project, and why shouldn't he have a play?
Now, there's no doubt that Charles has skim read the odd architecture pattern book, and can crank out a few pediments, pilasters and oculi windows, but a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."
"The real problem here is not the detailing, it's the underlying project. Exactly what aspect of our heritage is this mess trying to defend? It's just daft. It's not even post-modern. Post-modernism was essentially Pavlovian: you see columns and you think "civic architecture". It was supposed to help people understand the city. But if you stumbled across this freakish hybrid, you'd be deeply confused. And that's because it's embarrassed about what it is."

Frank Lloyd Wright's Los Banos ranch house affirms balance of life with nature
Mercury News March 27
"Now for sale at $2.7 million, the house will be a unique homestead for some lucky family. For the rest of us, it is a confident proclamation that life can be lived in balance with nature. The design permitted the architect to realize, at least partially, one of his fundamental concepts. Wright believed the ideal city would allow residents to live on at least an acre of land, where they could grow their own food and livestock, or crops to sell at local farmers markets.
Wright promoted these ideas 80 years ago. Today that vision is alive in the local-foods movement that encourages people to buy from local farmers — or grow it themselves. Wright is more relevant today than the day he died —
exactly 50 years ago April 9."

That Dogma Won't Hunt: Why are architects so obsessed with schools and rules?
Slate February 4, Witold Rybczynski
"Architects are unbending in their judgments. My Modernist friends hold multipaned windows, ogee moldings, and wallpaper beneath contempt; my Classicist friends deride bare walls, uncomfortable furniture, and pipe railings. You'd think that in a world of shoddy and mindless building design—of ugly, big boxes and airports that resemble bus stations—any attempt to raise the architectural bar would be appreciated. Instead, the verbal rockets fly: self-indulgent, irrational, and trendy from one side; nostalgic, retrograde, and derivative from the other.
Why are architects so
dogmatic? Partly, it's because architecture is a zero-sum game. A publisher of novels doesn't have to choose between Tom Clancy and Tom Wolfe, but a building client must choose one architect. Thus architects are obliged to compete. It helps to convey an air of inevitability about one's design. In fact, there may be many acceptable solutions to any particular building problem; architecture is not engineering, after all, but acknowledging diversity risks making the architect appear whimsical, a creature of fashion. To convince the client—and perhaps themselves—of the rightness of their ideas, architects are best off being dogmatic. There is only one right way—my way.
A tendency toward inflexibility is also the result of a need for consistency; even an eclectic architect stays within relatively rigid stylistic boundaries in any particular project. There is a place for tempered-glass railings and wrought-iron balustrades, but it's generally not side-by-side in the same building. Architects who mix and match—the mercurial British maverick James Stirling comes to mind—are few and far between. Most designers tend to develop a relatively narrow language of architectural forms, materials, and details—minimalist or articulated, light or heavy, purist or traditional, technological or hand-crafted—and stick to it."

A conversation with Architects Liz Diller, Ricardo Scofidio, and Charles Renfro
Charlie Rose March 31, 53 minute streaming video
A very interesting interview with the three partners of Diller Scofidio + Renfro including Liz Diller's explanation of how she "accidently" got into architectural practice. They visit the recently completed major renovation of Alice Tully Hall on-camera with Charlie Rose.

Center Stage: The new Alice Tully Hall bodes well for other Lincoln Center renovations.
The New Yorker February 2, Paul Goldberger
"Alice Tully Hall, and the Juilliard School complex of which it is a part, were the last elements of Lincoln Center to be built, and when they opened, in 1969, they seemed like an ambitious attempt to bring cutting-edge brutalism to the place. That’s probably why so many architecture critics liked them and so many other people didn’t. Amid the tepid classicism of so much of Lincoln Center, Juilliard stood out as something totally nineteen-sixties, all cantilevers and boxy geometries. Granted, it was covered in travertine, to match its genteel neighbors, but that served only to make the building seem ill at ease, like a wrestler dressed in a Sunday suit.
So there is a certain justice in the way that this structure, designed with apparent disdain for the traditionalism of its neighbors, has turned out to be the first part of Lincoln Center to be radically rebuilt. (I’m not counting Avery Fisher Hall, the Philharmonic’s acoustically challenged concert auditorium, whose interior has been redone four times, but whose exterior remains intact.) In February, Alice Tully will reopen as, for all intents and purposes, an entirely new hall. Large sections of the surrounding Juilliard building have been renovated, and almost nothing about approaching, entering, and being inside the complex is the way it was... Forty years after Alice Tully Hall opened, it finally has an entrance that you notice.
Architects sometimes talk of design elements as “moves,” as if they were playing a game of chess, and when dealing with problematic older buildings the chess analogy is apt. You are more likely to succeed if you craft a strategy consisting of a lot of carefully considered small moves, not one big one. That’s one reason for the failure of Frank Gehry’s plan, a few years back, to solve Lincoln Center’s problems by putting a gargantuan glass dome over the main plaza. Move by move, you have to take your cues from the architecture that is already there, but you can’t let the older building dictate everything, either. Liz Diller, Ric Scofidio, and Charles Renfro, along with their associate architects, the firm of FXFowle, have figured out the balance. They joust with Belluschi’s architecture, but they never try to kill off the old structure. They manage to be bold and subtle at the same time, making a dull building exciting without warping its identity completely."

Bully for Tully: Lincoln Center’s battered chamber-music hall gets a triumphant rehabilitation
New York Magazine February 15
"The freshly renovated Tully announces its presence with a sharp prow that steers toward Broadway, riding a spray of light. A building that once girded itself in concrete now slips easily between outside and in. The ceiling becomes a canopy that shelters a sidewalk grandstand, which in turn offers a view of the great indoors. The hall has shed its armor, and a wraparound glass wall proudly makes lingering in the lobby a spectator sport—a free activity, since tickets get collected farther inside. A wall paneled in Brazilian bloodwood undulates alluringly, and in a space that once barely tolerated a coffee stand, a huge, aerodynamic limestone bar appears poised for takeoff.
Mindful that Lincoln Center is a performer’s habitat, the architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro (in collaboration with FXFowle) have given the hall’s public face a fresh sense of spectacle. Donors survey the lobby scene from a see-through loft, a lookout doubling as a display case. Another glass-fronted box hangs from the canopy on the façade; it’s a mirrored studio offering passersby a glimpse of dancers at work. This renovation triumphs because at every juncture, it avoids architectural wowmanship and directs attention to the artistic labor going on inside."

Musicians Hear Heaven in Tully Hall’s New Sound
New York Times January 28
"The musicians, acoustical experts and Lincoln Center officials in attendance all proclaimed the hall much more present, alive and reverberant than the old Tully, which had been widely faulted for its dry sound. That was the initial impression, but a highly provisional one. A hall reveals its true nature only with a full audience in the seats.
From the start critics have complained about Tully’s arid sound. Shortly after its opening, Harold C. Schonberg, music critic for The New York Times, said, “Clarity rather than warmth is its main characteristic,” although he added that the hall revealed “a strong bass characteristic and plenty of presence.”
To improve the sound the acousticians, JaffeHolden, lined up flangelike panels along the front of the side walls to bounce sound inward. The panels resemble shark’s gills at a quick glance. The interior angle of the walls also has been smoothed out. The session on Tuesday was mainly an attempt to fine-tune the hall’s variables before an inaugural concert on Feb. 22.
A JaffeHolden principal, Mark Holden, said the goal was to create a reverberation time of 1.4 to 1.5 seconds, the time it takes for a sound to die out. Drying and cracking of the old interior’s Brazilian mahogany surface had deadened the sound over the years, he said."

Meet the New Hall, Same as the Old Hall
WNYC Soundcheck Blog February 18
"Architecture is psychiatry, special effects making, ... choreography..." -Liz Diller

Boxy to Bold: A Concert Hall Busts Out
New York Times February 19
"The freshness springs from the architects’ willingness to break with worn-out urban design strategies. They aren’t scornful of the building’s history; nor do they treat it with undue reverence. With the precision of surgeons, they cut out ugly tumors and open up clogged arteries. In doing so, they suggest a way forward for a city in which preservation is all too often a form of embalmment. Lincoln Center has never had the best karma. Conceived as part of a 1950s-era slum-clearance program, the immense superblock required the demolition of an entire neighborhood of dilapidated tenements and brownstones. When it was completed, the watered-down classicism of its travertine buildings seemed to capture all the anxieties of the cold war period, its confused stylistic references camouflaging a kind of emptiness."
  "Rather than demolish Tully Hall or conceal it behind a new facade, Diller Scofidio & Renfro gleefully carve it up. They begin by tearing off the old staircase and elevated plaza. The upper floors are stretched out toward the edge of Broadway, creating more room for dance studios inside and a forceful presence along the avenue. A new incision between the building’s first and second floors rises up at its southeast corner to expose the lobby to the street, suggesting the building has been sliced open with a can opener. This step-by-step approach has sometimes given the work of these architects a diagrammatic quality, like a couple following numbers on a dance floor. But here they use it to their advantage, artfully sidestepping the tiresome old dichotomy between preservation and the wrecking ball. It’s a subtle knock at those who define good and bad in terms of a period or style rather than through a direct emotional engagement with an individual work. Think something is ugly? Look closer. There may be moments of unexpected beauty inside."

Reinvent Wheel? Blue Room. Defusing a Bomb? Red Room.
New York Times February 5
"If a new study is any guide, the color red can make people’s work more accurate, and blue can make people more creative. In the study, published Thursday on the Web site of the journal Science, researchers at the University of British Columbia conducted tests with 600 people to determine whether cognitive performance varied when people saw red or blue. Participants performed tasks with words or images displayed against red, blue or neutral backgrounds on computer screens. Red groups did better on tests of recall and attention to detail, like remembering words or checking spelling and punctuation. Blue groups did better on tests requiring imagination, like inventing creative uses for a brick or creating toys from shapes.
Then there was the cocktail party study, in which a group of interior designers, architects and corporate color scientists built model rooms decorated as bars in red, blue or yellow. They found that more people chose the yellow and red rooms, but that
partygoers in the blue room stayed longer. Red and yellow guests were more social and active. And while red guests reported feeling hungrier and thirstier than others, yellow guests ate twice as much."

Vision 2020: Considering the World and the Future Architect
Proudly sponsored by AIAS American Institute of Architecture Students
"The project/exhibition aims to be a crystal ball, collecting prospectives from noted architects, critics, students, leaders and the public to conceive of the future of our world, through architecture and of the future architect. We invite you to participate!
“Vision 2020″ uses the power and opportunities of the internet to begin a conversation with the public and the architectural community. The virtual exhibition provide an innovative vision of the future and the context in which we will live, work and play, and aims to concentrate on and conceive of the future in which young designers will need to practice. Through their own voices, students and a diverse spectrum of thought leaders from the worlds of academy and practice, business, policy, and others-to provide a broad, yet collective voice on the changing nature of the design professional in contemporary society.
Recognizing a need to provide a holistic perspective of the profession before the Accreditation Review Conference, a conference held every five years to assess the viability existing accreditation and education policies, the foundation began the project started as a series of surveys and interviews. The project has since grown to become a fully interactive forum for conversation with the architectural community and the public. By looking at the “forest” and the “trees”, we are better able to consider and create a dialogue with the public to conceive of the future in which they wish to live."
"Students, perhaps more so than any other factor, have an immense freedom in their ignorance of the reality of architecture as a business. Free from the confines of clients, politics, budgets, and in some cases, reality, students are positioned to think creatively in a way that has brought about some of the most innovative and interesting work in architecture. They are free to consider architecture not as is exists today, but architecture as potentiality, pregnant with the opportunities of tomorrow."

Fire Ravages Renowned Building in Beijing
New York Times February 9
"The 34-story building, designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and containing the hotel and a cultural center, is part of China Central Television’s new headquarters, an angular behemoth built to coincide with the Beijing Olympics last year. The structure consists of two slanting towers that are joined by spans at the top and bottom. Xinhua reported that CCTV had hired the fireworks company. Firefighters, their equipment reaching up only a dozen or so floors, could do little to contain the blaze, a spectacular wall of flames reflected in the glass skin of the adjacent CCTV tower."
China TV Network Apologizes for Fire
New York Times February 10
"While the cause of the fire seemed clear, many questions remained about why a building being constructed with fireproof materials was so quickly and thoroughly engulfed by flames. During a news conference on Tuesday, Luo Yuan, a spokesman for the Beijing Municipal Fire Brigade, said strong winds, toxic fumes and a lack of working sprinklers hampered efforts to extinguish the fire, which began on the building’s roof and spread to the lower floors.
After examining photographs of the blaze, Jonathan Barnett, a fire protection engineer in New York who has studied numerous skyscraper fires, said it appeared that the flames were fed by insulating foam panels along the facade. Although such material is combustible, in a finished building the foam is sandwiched between fireproof materials like wall board and glass. “It may have been an issue of the construction not being complete,” Mr. Barnett said."


Saturday, May 2, 2009 Evening begins at 5:30 p.m.
The Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts
511 Avenue K, Lubbock, Texas

Ticket Price: $100
(Ticket price includes entry into the Lubbock Arts Festival and Golden Forks event.)

Join us for heavy hors d'œuvres, drinks, coffee and dessert as selected architects and musicians create live works for significant Lubbock spaces.
Share this unique collaboration of spirit and talent as part of the Lubbock Arts Festival.

Robert R. Bruno (1945-2008)
Texas Architect March/April 2009
It's not online for some reason, but page 16 of the current issue of Texas Architect has a personal appreciation of Bob Bruno and his steel house written by Rick Price. Rick received a B.Arch from TTU in 1998.
"I remember the encounter vividly as he invited me into his house. I recall asking if he viewed the project as architecture. He shook his head and calmly replied, without pretense, "This is sculpture." "

Letter to the Editor
The last few years, Bob Bruno worked closley with Fred Porteous, Senior Technician in the College of Architecture shop. Fred wrote a very thoughtful and heartfelt note to me after I published the December Special Edition on Bruno.
"Any conversation with Robert included discussion about the extreme misuse of power within the government and our leaders. Once you get past his frustration and worries about what is happening to the whole world, you get to see his passion and genius about everything that makes up our world. He always made art, not getting caught up in the processes of “getting ready” to make art, and produced many lifetimes worth of art. He surrounding himself with his art and he lived with his art. It was his life. Along the way he lived his life he way he wanted and did not let anything intrude into his art or his life. He was happy with everything he had done and accomplished so far, and was always looking forward to his next project. Instead of new things and stuff he didn’t need, he utilized very efficiently the limited resources he had and made his art, while along the way, he always had time to help others realize their dreams and then motivated them to accomplish much more than they ever knew was possible. I will miss him.
He had few regrets and didn’t waste his time with what-if’s and was grateful for what life gave him. I’m sure he wanted to beat his cancer, as he fought with all of his resources, but I think he accepted the fact he most likely was going to die. He didn’t dwell on it and was making plans for another house and more art while completing more of his current home every day.
While he seemed to be cantankerous and was stubborn, it was his way of staying on track and true to his concept. He didn’t compromise on his house or his art, but was very compassionate to others' problems, and in his own way, did whatever he could to help anyone who really wanted to fix things. He was brief and to the point and occasionally hurt someone’s feelings, but it was because he would not accept less than your best effort in whatever task you were completing. He was very complex and you had to be on your toes constantly to keep up with him."

Bob Bruno Special Edition
A Note from the Editor: Bob Bruno died December 9. He was on the TTU architecture faculty in the late 1970s and had taught a few architecture courses each decade since then. Over the years, thousands of students starting in TTU's Architecture program have discovered Bob Bruno and his steel house at Ransom Canyon. Many have had the privilege of getting a personal tour and hearing him talk about it, sometimes at great length. This 5min 31sec video, Robert Bruno: Steel House by Ben Britt, captures a bit of the experience.
About one year ago, over Sunday breakfast at Market Street, Bob told me the AIArchitect article, linked below, explained his intentions better than nearly any of the countless articles published worldwide.
A New York Times article, published 28 years ago, also linked below, demonstrates his consistency and long-term resolve.
Also below, a Financial Times UK article from last March, gets a few things wrong, but is accurate with his big ideas.
I took the following December 2008 photos, and adjusted contrast and brightness, but not the color. One of the interesting properties of the house's steel is the way it responds to light. It may appear dark brown, orange, or nearly red. Most of the other photos are from Bob's website: robert bruno: architectural sculptor, artist.
Fred Porteous, Senior Technician in the College of Architecture shop, has helped Bob with construction on weekends during the last few years. He says Bob was working on the house just a few days before going into the hospital in late November. Bob had just purchased another load of stained glass and was looking forward to working with it.   -RDP  

Robert R. Bruno
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal December 12, 2008
"Robert R. Bruno (born January 30, 1945, Los Angeles, Calif.), internationally recognized sculptor and artist, died Tuesday, December 9 from complications of cancer at Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock.
Robert's 110-ton steel architectural sculpture located in Ransom Canyon is a well known labor of love and artistic expression of 35 years in the making. It has earned international accolades and publicity in art, architecture, and many professional publications, on film and TV events including HGTV's "Extreme Homes" and The Learning Channel. His sculptured home attracts photographers and admirers worldwide. It was the backdrop for the 2007 Fall Neiman Marcus fashion catalog.
Robert taught, guest lectured, and mentored students at Texas Tech's School of Architecture for years and freely shared his philosophy and sculpture with many visitors to the Canyon. He was also recognized for the design and creation of the first solar-powered surge valve and fertigation system for row crops through his Lubbock-based irrigation manufacturing company, P&R Surge Systems. His valve has conserved millions of gallons of water, fuel and fertilizer for row crop irrigators worldwide for over 25 years. "


December 2008
"This house doesn’t deal with concept at all."

December 2008

December 2008
Robert Bruno
"We’re looking at a higher order of complexity."

Against Interpretation: Robert Bruno’s house of welded steel conjures up many meanings, but it arose without any of them

AIArchitect November 2007

"For 33 years, Robert Bruno has meticulously designed and built his welded steel house on the edge of a canyon outside of Lubbock, Tex. But, somehow, he’s not sure how many square feet it is (his guess is 2,700) and he can’t explain the influences that have informed his design over these three decades—despite the fact that the house’s otherworldly shape seems tailor-made for free association. A brief jaunt through any design-oriented mind brings you to: an insect’s carapace, an alien spacecraft, M.C. Escher’s hallucinogenic maze-scapes, and perhaps Deconstruction’s ongoing War on the Rectangle. But Bruno isn’t an entomologist, a science fiction writer, or even a Koolhaas/Gehry acolyte. He’s an artist, and not a conceptual one. “This house doesn’t deal with concept at all,” he says. “I’m not trying to have something re-emerge in the guise of my house.”

The house hitches itself to no stylistic wagons and has been spontaneously designed and revised over the course of its 33-year construction. “What you’re seeing is 33 years of design, not three months of design and 33 years of labor,” Bruno says. If he would have had to design the house in full initially and then build to this exact standard, “I would feel as if I were working for somebody else,” he says. This is a literal distinction for Bruno. He began the house when he was a young man, age 29. Today he’s 62, and the majority of his years have been spent working on the house; an open film exposure documenting his aesthetic development and intent.

Bruno says this type of spontaneous, whimsical design is what creates the aesthetic complexity people crave, missing from most of the built environment around us, and largely absent from the practice of architecture itself. “It isn’t that we’re looking for the silliness of a maze,” he says. “We’re looking at a higher order of complexity.” The crux of the problem: Market realities demand that architects communicate to clients what a project will be before it exists through imperfect, distorting mediums like models. From this point on, Bruno says the scale is manipulated and details are whitewashed in the transition. “Inadvertently, what ends up happening is that the resolution at the model level is potentially quite different from what you would resolve at full scale. I would venture to say that almost all the large buildings we see around us are the replica and the original is the model,” he says."


Steel House

Steel House

Steel House

Steel House

December 2008
In this photo, barely visible above Bob's pickup truck, is the "stone house", just across the street from his house. Bob had intermittent involvement with its design and construction over the last few years.
Robert Bruno

December 2008
''Critical to the way this thing works is that
it has evolved as I have built it.''
A 90-Ton Sculpture Over a Canyon? They'll Soon Call It Home
Published in the The New York Times January 22, 1981
"The idea for a house over the canyon came to the sculptor Robert Bruno one day as he stood beneath one of his works, a 16-foot-tall, 21,000-pound steel sculpture that resembled a prehistoric beast lumbering toward the nearest messy bog. ''I was working on the other one and standing underneath it, and it was kind of a nice environment underneath it,'' Mr. Bruno said. ''And I thought, 'Gee, if a person were to re-create this environment a little bit larger, you could live in it.' '' Now, six years later, he is two-thirds of the way toward his goal - a 90-ton habitable sculpture, with 2,300 square feet over its three levels, that he and his wife plan to call home.
Not all of the neighbors were thrilled to have the hulking creation in their midst, but
the subdivision's architecture control board approved the design, and most of the critics have since come to appreciate it.
He expects it will take
another three years to finish the project.
The house is built on three levels, connected by winding stairways and an elevator, which will rise 37 feet to the top of the structure. Each of the legs will be functional. One will be a library, barely big enough for a man to stand at its base, but spiraling outward so that a person will literally be surrounded by its books. A second leg will contain the elevator, a simple box with stained-glass walls. The third will be a wine cellar and the fourth, storage space.
Mr. Bruno is happier discussing his philosophy of the house than the mundane, day-to-day details of building it. He hasn't worried yet about how the house will be heated and said that
he isn't sure what the final third of the house will look like. ''Critical to the way this thing works is that it has evolved as I have built it,'' he said. ''To do this I had to know two things simultaneously: one, that you don't know what it will look like when it's finished and two, that it's going to look terrific when it's finished. I had to know when I began that it would end up better than anything I could envision at the start.''
''People always say, 'Boy, won't you be happy when this is finished,' '' he said. ''They assume I'm going through a tedious task so that one day I'll have a product to my liking. They don't realize the
process itself is a joy. It will be a very exciting place when it's finished, but this is heaven doing it. Leaving it won't matter to me - I'll just start over again.''  

December 2008

December 2008
"We need to be bolder when building our houses. ... we need to be just a little bit quicker as well."
Steely determination
Financial Times UK March 8 2008
Bruno thought it would take "30 months to build what he wanted. Thirty-three years later, and now almost overwhelmed by the suburban community that has sprung up all around it, the Steel House is still at least a couple more years away from completion. Charmingly, this prospect doesn't trouble Bruno at all. But then, give or take the input of friends and an occasional assistant, this has been one man's obsession over those three decades. Bruno even designed and built special tools that enabled him to work alone. He constructed a hydraulic crane, for example, that he could operate remotely from the crane's bucket.
Most of the metal he cut and welded on site and then bent into shape with the sort of C-clamps and cable pulley system you could buy at any neighbourhood do-it-yourself store. It has been slow, painstaking work. Bruno was
29 years old when he started: he is now in his 60s.
"It's not like I've been
building the same house for 33 years really, really slowly," he explains, "I have actually been designing it too. Just last month, for instance, I took out the central stanchion to give me an extra couple of inches of headroom downstairs. That stanchion was in effect holding up the entire house. That decision will probably delay things by the best part of a year but it seemed to me to be the right thing to do.
"Architects typically think in two-dimension and then transfer that thought process into a building. Or they drape a
wild decorative exterior over a simple structure. That's a process that entails all kinds of compromise. It's not a truthful process. You could say that architectural models are the real buildings, and that most of what is built today is just a dishonest replica of that. In my house, the structure is the shell; there's no pretence, no deception."
If this all has taught me anything," he adds, looking around the fruits of three decades of his labour, "it's that we need to be
bolder when building our houses. Probably, you could say, we need to be just a little bit quicker as well." 
"What you’re seeing is 33 years of design, not three months of design and 33 years of labor."

December 2008

December 2008
At left edge of this photo, a huge house is under construction. I suspect Bob had a very interesting interpretation of its meaning to the owners and its place in the overall role of housing in our society.

December 2008, sunset
"... the process itself is a joy."

End-of-the-Semester Special Edition    
A Note from the Editor: Here is a sample of what I saw this December. There were many more critiques, another reception, and even another graduation ceremony that I couldn't attend. Perhaps next semester...
I'm missing a few names below. My apologies!  -RDP

Design Studio Final Presentations
College of Architecture Building, all day December 2 and December 3 2008

ARCH 3501 Architecture Design Studio IV final presentation with critics Associate Professor David Driskill, Assistant Professor Brian Zugay, Professor Michael Peters, and Instructor Stephen Faulk, pictured left to right in the photo above.

ARCH 3501 Architecture Design Studio IV final presentation with critics Associate Professor Urs Peter Flueckiger, Professor Joe Aranha (with coffee cup), and Instructor Zack Pauls, left to right.

ARCH 3501 Architecture Design Studio IV final presentation with critics Professor Michael Peters and Assistant Professor Brian Zugay, left to right.
All student prelims and final presentations from Associate Professor Robert Perl's section of ARCH 3501 Architecture Design Studio IV are online at

Graduate Studio final presentation with critics Assistant Professor Kentaro Tsubaki, Associate Professor Maria Perbellini, visiting critic Gil Aikos, and Associate Professor Christian Pongratz, left to right.

Graduate Studio final presentation with critics Assistant Professor Kuhn Park, Assistant Professor Brian Zugay, Associate Professor Bennett Neiman, and visiting critic TTU alum Michael Brendle from Denver, left to right. Students listen intently from the second row.


Graduate Studio final presentation with critics College of Architecture Dean Andrew Vernooy, Instructor Zack Pauls, visiting critic TTU alum Huy Ngo from Savannah, and Assistant Professor Chris Taylor, left to right.


Graduate Studio final presentation with visiting health care design professionals, TTU alum Jack O'Brien from Dallas, and Assistant Professor Rima Al Ajlouni. For more see

Graduate Studio final presentation with visiting critic TTU alum Huy Ngo from Savannah, Professor Jim White, Assistant Professor Javier Gomez, Associate Professor Maria Perbellini, Professor Elizabeth Louden, and Assistant Professor Lahib Jaddo, left to right.


Graduate Studio final presentation.

Reception for Master of Architecture graduating students, families, and friends
College of Architecture Huckabee Student Lounge, 1:30 December 12 2008

College of Architecture Dean Andrew Vernooy addresses the gathering.

Master of Architecture graduates Adam Reed, Nicholas Banks, Blake Caskey, Nicholas Genzer, Gigi Gorham, Andrew Kennedy, Garrett Jost, Chelsea Sekula, Matthew Hironymous, and Louis Kahn photographed by College of Architecture Senior Technician Denny Mingus, left to right.

Several students remembered "all-nighters" as significant experiences in the College. 

Professor John White, Nicholas Genzer class of 2008, and Professor Jim White, left to right.

Adam Reed class of 2008, Amy Force class of 2008, and Josh Eckert TTU '09, left to right.

Graduate School Commencement
TTU United Spirit Arena, 4:00 pm December 12 2008

TTU Chancellor Kent Hance, U.S. Senator John McCain, TTU Regent Larry Anders, and TTU President Guy Bailey, left to right, enter the United Spirit Arena. College of Architecture Associate Professor Christian Pongratz is visible at the right edge of the frame.

Senator John McCain delivering the Commencement Address, his first speech since his concession on November 4. Architecture students were in the second row, seen here wearing the traditional purple hoods signifying Architecture Master's degrees.
 Texas Tech University   College of Architecture   Robert D. Perl     copyright © 2008
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Associate Professor Robert D. Perl, AIA
AH 1002D Office Hours: TTh 1:30-3:00 pm or by appointment
(806) 742-3169 x248