Perl's Architecture Weblog

2003 Fall Semester

Associate Professor Robert D. Perl, AIA



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 Texas Tech University  College of Architecture  Robert D. Perl 


updated July 13, 2005


Bauhaus was all about simplicity and economy. Or was it?

Guardian UK October 21 2003

"So this is what the Bauhaus architect-professor Walter Gropius meant by existenzminimum. His strictly regimented apartment blocks, all low ceilings and right angles, had barely enough earnest, functional space in which to swing a half-starved cat, much less the heroic proletarian worker for whom they were designed. The new world order that Gropius, as director of the legendary Bauhaus design school, was busy constructing was a serious business.

But not so serious that his students couldn't take the mickey. In a photograph from 1927-28, they squeeze themselves into a Gropius-style existenzminimum block."

  Baustelier Gropius 1927-8 by Edward Curtis, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery

Epic Architecture

Slate October 20 2003

"The facade soars, bends, and dives in a number of directions, in typical Gehry fashion, but that movement is always checked by the limits of the city grid. Seen from above, the building looks like a bunch of flowers contained, barely, within a perfectly rectangular flower box. Indeed, that tension—between free-flowing imagination and the limits imposed by physics and budgets—is what defines the building as a whole."


Can the Disney Hall Help Give Los Angeles a Genuine Downtown?

New York Times October 21 2003

"Mr. Gehry, speaking to a crowd of several hundred in front of the hall, said the building was "kind of a flower" to Lillian Disney, Walt Disney's widow, who gave $50 million in 1987 for its creation. Mrs. Disney, who died in 1997 at the age of 98, adored gardens and flowers. With a laugh, Mr. Gehry said that when Mrs. Disney first saw his modernistic design for the building, "She nearly went into cardiac arrest." But the Disney family remained advocates for Mr. Gehry even when the project almost dissolved.

The hall itself, unfurling at the top of Bunker Hill, has already slowed and stopped traffic. Like no other building in Los Angeles, it is seen, perhaps quixotically, as a symbol of the city's new downtown, now drab by day and somewhat lifeless at night. But downtown has shown signs in the last year of vibrancy that has never been seen before, with new residences proliferating."







City eyes tougher fire code

How safe are Chicago high-rises?

How to stay safe

Chicago Tribune October 21 2003

"Sprinklers may be the first line of defense in extinguishing a fire, but pressurized stairwells are also considered key. Designed to push smoke back into the floor where a fire is located, pressurized stairwells are relatively simple in design. They normally consist of several fans that suck air from the outside and pump it into the stairwell so that air pressure there is higher than in the main body of a building. Experts said it would cost about $500,000 to pressurize the stairwells in a high-rise the same age as the county-owned building, while retrofitting sprinklers would run around $2 million. The city's code only requires that old buildings get new fire protection equipment when they have renovations that amount to 50 percent of a building's value. The cost of installing sprinklers or pressurized stairwells varies depending on building design, such as where stairwells are located.

Chicago has lagged behind some big cities in requiring stricter safety measures for older buildings. New York began to do so in the 1970s. In the next decade, Massachusetts passed a law requiring all commercial buildings with seven or more stories to install sprinklers regardless of their age. Los Angeles requires all high-rises, both commercial and residential, to be sprinkled. Los Angeles also requires high-rises to build stairwells in such a way as to allow them to be manually pressurized by the fire department and for stairwell doors to be unlocked every five floors, explained L.A. Fire Capt. Robert Holloway."

  Tragic events center on eastern stairwell

90-minute gap raises questions

Officials take closer look at evacuation

What do you do if a fire breaks out in your high-rise?

Chicago Sun-Times October 21 2003

"Stroger and other county commissioners said Monday that they never discussed installing sprinklers or pressurizing the stairwells because the city's fire code didn't require it. The Fire Department inspected the building and gave it a clean bill of health, Stroger said.

The building at 69 W. Washington did not have any code violations and followed requirements to have a certified fire-safety director, Langford said. It also had mandatory signage informing people that stairwell doors would lock behind them, he said. The locked doors left fleeing people stranded in a smoky stairwell. Afterward, Joyce noted that stairwell doors are allowed to be locked for security purposes, but said that would be reviewed. A city ordinance from the 1970s requires stairwells to have a system that deactivates locks in a fire, Hoyle said. But that law doesn't apply to buildings built before 1978, Hoyle said. The building at 69 W. Washington was built in the 1960s."


"Q. Should I stay or should I go?

A. If you are in immediate danger or are instructed to leave, exit quickly. If you do not receive instructions and you are unsure of immediate danger, call 911. In most cases the National Safety Council recommends that only the floor on which the fire originates and two floors above and below should be evacuated, but this can change according to circumstances."

Frank Gehry's Rhapsody in Steel

Washington Post October 19 2003

"The gentle beauty of the new Walt Disney Concert Hall -- surprisingly -- sort of sneaks up on you.

Possibly this is because you think you know what to expect. You have been beguiled by images of assertive, wildly sculptural buildings by its famous architect, Frank Gehry, for so long that somehow you are lulled into thinking you've already been there, done that.

Yet nothing quite prepares you for Disney Hall's serene, evanescent qualities. The building is indeed a dynamic sculpture in the cityscape, but it entices rather than asserts. Its lilting abstract geometries flow seamlessly into one another, and its billowing walls, pieced together out of 10-by-4-foot sheets of stainless steel, seem alternately to reflect and absorb the changing natural light."


New concert hall a sensuous spectacle

San Francisco Chronicle October 19 2003

"But savor what actually exists: a sensuous spectacle to be relished and explored. Someone who never buys a ticket can discover hidden terraces 70 feet in the air, or lean against the thin steel panels that frame the travertine stairway that sweeps upward from the corner of Grand Avenue and First Street. Disney Hall offers triumphant proof that architecture can thrive as an interactive part of the larger culture around it -- not merely an object of contemplation.

Gehry takes great pains to stress that this is, above all else, a place to hear the philharmonic's demanding classical music. But while the actual hall is a visual and aural treat, what is attracting attention is the show being conducted outside."


A new cultural landmark

SanDiego union-Tribune October 19 2003

"It rises out of the pavement like some huge, exotic plant, the sweeping curves of its stainless steel walls glinting in the Southern California sun.

It practically screams that it's architecture with a capital "A." But Walt Disney Concert Hall is much more than that."


Disney Hall's Nearly Unfinished Symphony

Walt Disney Concert Hall Timeline

Los Angeles Downtown News October 20 2003

"It's a nice piece of work, but in looking at the final production, and revisiting the steps along the way, one should remember that Disney Hall was frighteningly close to an unfinished symphony."



By the Numbers

Los Angeles Downtown News October 20 2003

"The organ's standout feature is its 6,125 pipes. The longest pipe measures more than 32 feet and the heaviest weighs over 800 pounds. The smallest pipe is less than a quarter-inch long. The instrument is powered by three wind blowers whose motors total 13.3 horsepower.

The facade's stainless steel panel system is comprised of more than 500,000 pieces. Some 180,000 square feet of high-polished stainless steel panels are on the exterior. The rest of the structure contains 12,500 pieces, or 11,000 tons, of primary steel.

There are 18,000 yards of concrete and 300 tons of blots and welds in the building. On a brighter note, there are 117 types of light fixtures in the building, and 4,100 lights. More than 50 miles of conduit run through the hall.

Construction workers have clocked roughly 2 million hours since the project got underway. Which helps explain why the building costs some $274 million."

Taiwan Boasting World's Tallest Building

Associated Press October 17 2003

"TAIPEI, Taiwan - Construction crews finished building the world's tallest skyscraper in Taiwan on Friday, shifting into place a massive pinnacle on top of 1,676-foot-tall building.

The 101-story structure looks like a stack of gift boxes, but developers liken it to a bamboo shoot with notches sections. Called Taipei 101, the building will house offices, a mall and an observatory.

It tops the previous titleholder, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which measures 1,483 feet. Chicago's Sears Tower, at 110 stories and 1,450 feet, is the tallest building in North America.

The structure — which opens officially next year — will have the world's fastest elevators and a stairway that leads to the top spire at 1,676 feet, developers have said.

Some worry the building would be dangerous in earthquake-prone Taiwan. But the skyscraper's developers have said that the closest fault line is 660 feet from the building, and the fault hasn't been active in 45,000 years."

   Click For Small photo

Fire experts divided over survival strategies

Chicago Tribune October 20 2003

"Differences of opinion highlight the general disagreement even within the fire prevention community about what high-rise occupants should do when a fire breaks out. Indeed, even the organization that many consider to be the nation's highest authority on fire prevention, the National Fire Protection Association, said there is no uniform answer. The group's Web site notes that in one of the nation's worst fire disasters, the 1980 MGM Hotel fire in Las Vegas, some of the 84 people who died might have survived had they evacuated quickly. But in a fire in New York five years ago--a fire similar to Friday's blaze--four people who died of smoke inhalation in a stairwell might have lived had they not decided to try to leave the building. ...Schwarze said fire experts often tell them the doors must stay closed to avoid creating a chimney-like effect that would occur if people on floors above the fire began opening those doors. That would be dangerous for people using the stairs to evacuate. "It's a fire issue why doors are locked," she said. In recent years, she said, newer high-rises have developed so-called pressurized stairwells that are designed to prevent smoke from entering stairwells. Officially, that is the general position of the Chicago Fire Department, as the vast majority of fire-related deaths are the result of smoke inhalation. On Friday, Joyce said the fire department did not order the evacuation of the county building. "Generally people are safe in a building like that if they would stay in their office and wait for help," he said. "But in a panic situation, people do unusual things." Department spokeswoman Molly Sullivan also stressed the point, saying many times it is better for high-rise residents to stay put and keep their doors closed."


Fatal Loop blaze raises questions

Chicago Tribune October 19 2003

"Murphy said that one lawyer in his office described to him a harrowing account of her escape attempt with about 30 other workers who tried to navigate a staircase on the building's east side. He said the woman, whom he declined to identify, said the group descended through thick smoke from the 19th floor to the 12th, when they were turned back by firefighters in the stairwell who told them they couldn't get through. The group began walking back up, but some became separated, Murphy said. The lawyer who related the story to him said she and several others finally found a door they could exit back into the body of the building on the 27th floor. They then walked down a stairwell on the northwest side of the building, Murphy said. When the woman reached the ground floor, she found fire officials and told them that people were still trapped on the east stairwell, Murphy said. They didn't believe her and told her the building was empty, Murphy said."


Few answers in deadly fire

Chicago Tribune October 19 2003

County and city officials, as well as spokespeople for the politically connected private venture that manages the building, declined to discuss why an evacuation was ordered by building personnel in apparent contradiction of Fire Department recommendations for high-rise building fires. Also unclear was why numerous workers in the building said they heard no fire alarms in the minutes after the blaze was detected. Another key mystery involved why the county opted not to retrofit the 35-story structure with a sprinkler system when it was renovated seven years ago, although city building codes did not require it to do so. Yet another unresolved question swirled around the operation of automatically locking doors that allowed workers attempting to escape to freely enter a stairwell but not go back out when it filled with smoke. The publicly owned Daley Center--across the street from the county administration building--is equipped with similar locking doors but also has a mechanism that allows security personnel to unlock them remotely in an emergency.

When asked whether the Fire Department would have ordered an evacuation, Joyce said: "No. When we get to a fire, since Sept. 11 [2001], we go about our work. There doesn't need to be an order to evacuate anymore. People are still running scared from Sept. 11." "





CBS2: Allegations Fire Department Caused Loop Fire Deaths video


CBS2: Understanding Impact to State and County From Fire video

Where's the pain and indignation, Mr. Mayor?

Chicago Sun-Times October 19 2003

Columnist Mark Brown: "As for those six people who died, overcome by smoke some 10 floors above the fire in a building with no sprinkler system when they were trapped in a locked stairwell and their bodies discovered tardily by rescuers, well, that was a terrible tragedy, and the city certainly intends to conduct a thorough review of what happened, including trying to find out why people think they are supposed to evacuate a burning building.

Excuse me, but where was the indignation? Where was the pain? Where was Mayor Daley's anger?"


City codes inadequate, critics say

Chicago Sun-Times October 19 2003

"A statewide "life-safety code" also mandates sprinklers in all tall buildings, but it's not enforced in Chicago, Lia said. Chicago's code generally requires buildings 80 feet and taller to have sprinkler systems if they were built since 1975. Those that are older, such as the county office building, are exempt from the city rules.

A 1999 report from the Chicago High-Rise Safety Commission recommended that loopholes be closed over a phase-in period and that incentives be offered to counter the expense to building owners. "The Commission has discovered the rate of fire deaths in Chicago's high-rise buildings is approximately 3.5 times greater than the national average," the report found. Around the same time, one of the city's own consultants offered similar recommendations, documents show. They never were adopted.

Jackie Heard, a spokeswoman for the mayor, dismissed criticism from the sprinkler industry, however, pointing out that the industry has a vested financial interest in seeing more sprinklers installed in more buildings."


Fire at the Cook County Administration building in Chicago

Chicago Tribune October 18 2003

"At least six people were killed and at least seven others were in serious or critical condition following a fire that swept through the 12th floor of a Loop high-rise filled with government offices late Friday afternoon, choking the upper floors of the 35-story building with smoke.

Chicago Fire Commissioner James Joyce said the deaths were concentrated in a small section of the 22nd floor. "The people who passed away appear to be, for the most part, in one area of one stairwell," he said.

The 12th floor, where the blaze began, Chicago fire officials said, is occupied entirely by workers reporting to Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. David Druker, a spokesman for White, said workers on the floor reported "seeing flames coming from a closet, flames from the ceiling in a storage closet."

Cook County State's Atty. Richard Devine, who was in the building when the fire broke out, said he and several aides tried to evacuate through a stairwell but encountered smoke on the 22nd floor and turned back. Devine said they tried to access several exit doors on their way back up but could not open them. He said they finally opened a door on the 27th floor.

The building is not equipped with a sprinkler system and was not required to because of its age, according to Larry Langford, a spokesman for the city's office of emergency communications.

Once known as the Brunswick Building, the structure, built in the early 1960s, was purchased by the county in 1996 for nearly $40 million."


High-rise fire kills 6

Daily Herald October 18 2003

"About 2,500 people work in the 35-story building, but many had already finished their workday and had left the building when the fire began around 5 p.m. The building does not have sprinklers.
The fire started on the 12th floor, which houses the Illinois Secretary of State offices.
NBC5 reported there was speculation those killed by the fire were likely members of the building cleaning crew who only spoke Spanish or Polish. The fire and exit signs are only printed in English, NBC5 reported."



County building fire


County building fire


Six people dead in Cook County building fire

ABC7 Chicago (click below for links to video coverage)




CBS2 Chicago  


Cook County Fire 4


NBC5 Chicago

1964: Architects build towering legacy

Chicago Sun-Times

"At the same time the glass-and-steel courthouse was being erected, the Brunswick Building was going up across the street at 69 W. Washington. Structurally, the building was a triumph. Instead of carrying weight on a steel skeleton--as the typical skyscraper did--the 38-story building's heft is carried by its concrete exterior and a massive concrete central core. The effort was designed to make the building flexible and functional. There are no support columns to interrupt floor space. The Brunswick's exterior is a simple and clean; an upward, screenlike sweep of windows above a glass lobby."




Brunswick Building


Brunswick Building slow


Brunswick Building scroll


Brunswick Building scroll




Fazlur Khan

Architecture students design metaphorical home for "water-souls longing for the sea"

University at Buffalo Reporter

"Occasionally there is an opportunity to examine at one time and place just how an architect-in-training learns such things as how to articulate meaning, engage the unexpected, think metaphorically; employ light and shadow; use materials and engage the history of a building's larger environment.

The 10-week, three-course summer graduate seminar conducted in Barcelona, Spain, by the School of Architecture and Planning is one such opportunity."


2003 Internship & Career Survey

AIA National Associates Committee and ArchVoices

  • "Regardless of career plans, most respondents indicated an intention to get registered.

  • Most respondents who completed all nine divisions of the ARE took one and a half years to complete the exam.

  • The most common reason for taking the exam was personal fulfillment, while peer and firm pressure were the lowest motivations.

  • Of those eligible to take the ARE, lack of time to prepare was the most common reason for not taking it.

  • Approximately half of respondents that had started taking or completed the ARE indicated education and internship each prepared them adequately for the exam."



Aims for airport cause alarm

Otago Daily Times New Zealand October 17 2003

"Dunedin art curator and historian Peter Entwisle is angry about what he terms "Philistine" aspects of initial plans for Dunedin International Airport's $21.5 million new airport building. The airport was a gateway to New Zealand's foremost Victorian architectural city and high-quality architectural design was therefore essential, Mr Entwisle said in an interview yesterday. The airport was a "symbol for Dunedin" and "D-grade commercial architecture built by the extrusion method" should be avoided. He saw "fallacies and Philistinism" in some comments by Dunedin airport company officials this week, including that they wanted "a first-class functional terminal" but were not considering "an architectural masterpiece" for the interior.

Chris Doudney, the immediate past chairman of the Otago branch of the New Zealand Institute of Architects and an institute national councillor, said Dunedin city should think "long and hard" about how the project was developed."



Dunedin, New Zealand


New Zealand Institute of Architects

50 new architectural terms for the 21st Century

Lexicon UK

"cadswallop Impactful yet meaningless elements of computer aided design, showing how powerful multi-media tools can create surreal and challenging architectural collages.

porsch Posh porch.

cupola soup Poorly executed detailing at the top of a building."


Sydney got it right

Daily Telegraph October 17 2003

"Instead of enjoying world-wide envy for the Sydney Opera House, Australia could just as easily have been an international laughing stock.

A gramophone trumpet-shaped building or lady's hat box look-a-like might have presided over the spectacular Harbour. Or perhaps a sleek, space-age glass structure or a Westfield shopping plaza formation might have jutted out from the prime real estate.

These were some of the more radical designs among the 223 entries in the 1956 international competition for an opera house.

Utzon's controversial design, which was compared to a spaceship and flock of seagulls, is rumoured to have almost missed the cut.

"We'll never really know if Utzon's design was in the reject pile," Drew said."


Disappearing Act

New York Magazine October 20 2003

"Libeskind’s original scheme earned first place because he endowed his project with that most fragile architectural quality, aura. From bedrock to pinnacle, the design was cut—on the bias—from the same cloth.

That vision has been so altered that it is no longer on the table.

Libeskind, whose architectural vision for the redesign of ground zero captured millions of hearts and minds, has emerged as a human fig leaf for the real design and reconstruction plans now under way. While Libeskind remains the nominal site planner, developer Larry Silverstein has effectively taken control of the bulk of the design package, maintaining that as leaseholder he has the right and obligation to direct the reconstruction.

Even with Libeskind lingering on camera, smiling, the vision is unraveling. The coherence of the ensemble, the chance for a Rockefeller Center of our time, is now at risk."


Groups hope to buy Mies house

Chicago Tribune October 16 2003

"Trying to keep the Farnsworth House, a masterpiece of 20th Century modernism outside Chicago, from being sold and moved, two historic preservation groups said Wednesday that they are each pledging $1 million to buy it at an auction and turn it into a museum.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois announced a fundraising campaign to buy the house, which will be sold at Sotheby's in New York on Dec. 12. The expected sale price is $4.5 million to $6 million."



For more, see last week's Weblog entry: " "I'm terribly concerned," said John Bryan, the former Sara Lee Corp. chairman who helped persuade state lawmakers to set aside $7 million to buy the house in 2001--only to see the deal fall apart when the state budget went into red ink."

'First, Pick an Architect'

Wall Street Journal October 15 2003

"Of equal importance, although a separate challenge, was to learn how to work with Mr. Piano; the architect-client relationship is necessarily a two-way street. From the start, he was explicit about his modus operandi: We were to give him our program, and he would give us a design. We could criticize it, but not offer solutions. I was equally explicit about the need for him to respect the three historic and landmarked structures of the Morgan site: Charles McKim's original library (1906), Benjamin Wister Morris's annex (1928), and the 19th-century Morgan house. He accepted this mandate and then issued another: The style of the new buildings should be in the architectural idiom of our time. After some discussion, the board and I agreed that he should develop a design that integrated the old and the new, the historic with the contemporary. At the same time, I asked him to preserve the ethos or "genius" of the old library, the distinctive spirit created by its domestic character, elegance, intimacy, size, and high intellectual standards. It is this ethos that matters so much to so many who come to the library. With astonishing speed, Renzo and his colleagues developed a conceptual design that met our program and honored our individual mandates."



Renzo Piano Building Workshop


Renzo Piano Interview BBC


Renzo Piano Interview PBS

Overrated and Underrated Architect

American Heritage Magazine October 2003

"The king of overrated American architects remains Frank Lloyd Wright, whose genius for architecture was matched only by his genius for self-promotion...

Born in the Midwest in 1867, the same year as Wright, Willis Polk found his architectural foothold in San Francisco, where the intellectual environment supported his inventive and idiosyncratic designs. Polk was well known and admired, but after his death at the age of 57 in 1924, his reputation faded. He remains one of the most underrated of American architects, an original talent who was willing to set aside selfish considerations to promote good design."



Willis Jefferson Polk

Bruce Goff's Bachelor Pad on the Prairie

New York Times October 16 2003

"From its origins as a vaguely Polynesian bachelor pad for Joe Price, a son of H. C. Price, Shin'en Kan eventually became a family complex with its own museum of Japanese art. It had clear plastic strips, known as cellophane rain, streaming from a skylight, dime-store glass ashtrays affixed to the windows for a kaleidoscope effect, and walls made from pieces of coal.

In the living room was a conversation pit and white shag carpet laid down over thick foam. "The whole place was a big bed, more or less," said Mr. Specht, appreciatively. The couple spent their wedding night in the master suite.

Some have not been so open to Goff's ideas. "In elite architecture circles, you risk your bona fides if you say you think Goff was asking interesting questions," Ms. Harpman said."



The Bruce Goff Archive

Built on Oil, Banking on Design

New York Times October 16 2003

"This year, darling, it's Bartlesville.

Ever since the turn of the last century, when wildcatters and outlaws flocked to what was then Indian Territory, ambition has grown like bluestem on the tallgrass prairie here. Fueled by money and audacity, local tycoons — the Medicis of the prairie — hired renegade architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Goff to build some of the most eccentric structures in America, including houses with octagonal bedrooms and goose-feather ceilings. The most dazzling of all was the Price Tower, one of only two skyscrapers ever built by Wright, a thin, pinwheeling, cantilevered design with gold-tinted windows and copper fins that presides over this city of 36,000 with a strange totemic power.

But that was then: before the architect Zaha Hadid of London was selected to design a new 50,000-square-foot home for the Price Tower Arts Center, the nonprofit group that opened the hotel, and before "Stay the Night With Frank Lloyd Wright" became an official tourist mantra. As if to underscore the incipient Bartian architectural revival, last week "Free Thought: The Art and Architecture of Bruce A. Goff" opened at the center."



Price Tower Arts Center


Inn at Price Tower

$225.00 for two-story Tower Suites

Unheard Voices on Planning New Trade Center

New York Times October 16 2003

"What may have been lost in the transition are voices; voices that might have questioned basic assumptions about a program in which skyscraping commercial development is to accompany the memorial, cultural and open spaces; voices that might have asked whether a public domain under tight control is truly public.

"It does make a huge difference," said J. Max Bond Jr. of the architectural firm of Davis Brody Bond. "No one really took exception to the program, in a profound sense. If there had been a greater variety of people, someone would have questioned the program."

Mr. Bond, who is both black and an éminence grise in architectural circles, said he was not simply advocating a planning process that would have included more minority architects but one that would have included more participants of all kinds — poets, philosophers and artists.

"The rush to get to a building almost inevitably set up a process that was exclusive and elitist," he said.

Mr. Bond also questioned the premise of new skyscrapers. "There's a macho thing that keeps coming out: we should build a building that tall to show them," he said. "Not everyone shares that sensibility. It's a particularly male, Western sensibility.

What frustrates Melvin L. Mitchell, who wrote "The Crisis of the African-American Architect: Conflicting Cultures of Architecture and (Black) Power" (Writers Advantage, 2003), is the failure to acknowledge this broader context."



Davis Brody Bond


éminence grise


Melvin Mitchell, FAIA


The Crisis of the African American Architect: Conflicting Cultures of Architecture and (Black) Power at Amazon

A good sport, U. of C. takes middle road

Chicago Tribune October 12 2003

"This is the year of the jock building. In the wake of Soldier Field comes the new Ratner Athletic Center at the University of Chicago, a bravura display of structural design that flaunts towering steel masts and steel roof cables that are stretched as taut as a body builder's biceps.

The design evokes the university's neo-Gothic buildings and their medieval predecessors with its dramatically exposed structure. There are five towering steel masts (three over the pool, two over the gym), 15 shorter masts and a wavelike roof that hangs from the masts and high-strength steel cables. As in Gothic cathedrals, the expressed structure creates grand clear-span spaces within and allows the canted, east-facing walls of the pool and gym to be made almost entirely of glass.

Because the masts and cables are doing the heavy lifting, the roof beams can be incredibly thin -- just 33 inches deep instead of 10 to 12 feet, which would have made the roof seem more like the underside of an expressway."



For more, see last week's Weblog entry:" “The essence of Gothic structure was in its expression of structural forces external to the body of the building, most notably in the form of flying buttresses that allowed for exceptionally tall and luminous spaces. In the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center, the structure also is external to the body of the building: it is its most salient characteristic and the primary maker of the image of the building,” said Pelli."

Small scale, big ideas

Marin Independent Journal October 14 2003

"The idea behind "Small Firms, Great Projects," he explains, "is to educate the Bay Area about the value of good architecture. That good design matters and is important for society. Most importantly, to serve as a resource for the general public. One can visit the exhibition and clearly see which architects do modern architecture, who does historic preservation work, and those whose work falls between the two extremes. Our goal is to be as democratic as possible and allow each architect to present themselves as they wish." "


Logical / Ecological Design


" "Most buildings are terrible. They're unhealthy, and they're bad for the soul." Fred Stitt, director of the San Francisco Institute of Architecture, didn't mince words as he officiated over "Ecological Design: The Unstoppable Wave." The conference, held in Oakland, California in August 2003, aimed at improving architecture through a better understanding of its relationship to the natural environment.

Hahn's framework presents contemporary design approaches in terms of ecological sustainability, economy, experience, and ethics. One approach, "simulation," involves feigning or copying the appearance of nature. Buildings at this level might look more like a part of nature than the average building but do not function any differently or aspire to any greater environmental responsibility."


Shanghai's Sinking Skyline

Splendid Skyline. Do You Feel Something Sinking?

New York Times October 14 2003

"Sometime in October, the city's urban planning bureau is expected to revise local building laws to limit, if not ban, high-rise development.

If a new law is approved, and the opacity of Chinese politics means nothing is ever certain, it could spell the end to a period in which Shanghai came to symbolize China's roaring economy. Few, if any, cities in the world built as many tall buildings during that period. A planning bureau report says Shanghai now has at least 2,880 buildings of 18 stories or higher, an overwhelming majority of them constructed since the early 1990's."


Crazy House

The Age Melbourne October 13 2003

"This rapid period of rebuilding Vietnam, "doi moi", has been characterised by a singular lack of creative invention. But there are some exceptional buildings with a modern heritage. Ho Chi Minh City's (HCMC) Palace of Reunification stands tall, but there is a peppering also of fine inventive French architecture in many modern villas built during the French rule.

In Dalat, there are intact examples of good European modernism, tempered to suit the locale and built mainly in the 1930s for the rulers of the time.

And Dalat contains a weird architectural contraption - a jumble containing some Gaudi, a dose of America's Bruce Goff, Disney, some Steiner and a liberal layering of hippy madness. It's the Crazy House, by architect Hang Nga."


Harvard exhibitions showcase Sert as the soul of collaboration

Boston Globe October 12 2003

"Josep Lluis Sert was a Spanish architect from Barcelona who was dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design from 1953 to 1969. He was also the architect of prominent buildings in the Boston area, including much of Boston University's river campus and Harvard's Holyoke Center, Science Center, and Peabody Terrace.

Sert was as interested in city planning as he was in art and architecture, and he more or less coined the term "urban design," creating the first degree program in that subject in 1959. The show traces his American career - he came here in 1939 - beginning with town plans for Latin American cities such as Bogota and Havana and extending through a selection of major US projects, built or unbuilt, up through the Roosevelt Island housing of the 1970s in New York."


Fight Against Fat Shifts to the Workplace

New York Times October 12 2003

"Sprint planned its 200-acre world headquarters with an eye to fitness. It banned cars, forcing employees to park in garages on the far side of a road ringing the campus and walk between buildings as much as a half-mile apart. It put in hydraulic — that is, slow — elevators and wide, windowed staircases to encourage people to walk rather than ride between floors."


Stanford's Clark Center expertly blends traditional, modern design

San Francisco Chronicle October 13 2003

"What the Clark Center shows is that architecture can be utterly modern yet rooted in a region's architectural traditions and even its climate. It also shows that memorable design flourishes can involve something as simple as the reflection of metal off glass or the view of a sliver of sky.

The first act of restraint is on the part of Norman Foster, the renowned English architect whose firm responded to the challenge with commanding ease.

Foster is brilliant -- but like other "starchitects," he puts his own aggressive stamp on most projects.

But the Clark Center has none of Foster's trademark flash. Instead, it draws on the rich heritage of Stanford University while fitting comfortably within the medical center's more modern lines."



Foster and Partners

Stanford Report

James H. Clark Center

S.F. height bias may bow for new Transbay towers

San Francisco Chronicle October 12 2003

"The fight against tall buildings has been a recurrent theme of San Francisco politics for decades.

The issue resonated citywide as early as 1961, when the planning commission placed a 40-foot height limit on the waterfront after a public uproar over the approval of the 17-story Fontana Towers next to Aquatic Park. A decade of height strife followed; Transamerica's pyramid was opposed by no less prominent a figure than then-planning director Allan Jacobs, whose position was overruled by then-Mayor Joseph Alioto and the Planning Commission.

In 1971, clothing manufacturer Alvin Duskin went so far as to launch an unsuccessful ballot initiative against what he once called "those awful, oppressive monoliths" -- with a six-story cap on new construction. Jacobs used the occasion to prod his commission into endorsing a then-radical 700-foot height ceiling."


Baltimore's Beacon of Design

Washington Post October 12 2003

"Having seen many a bold architectural gesture go awry, however, I also wondered whether an icy piece of the architect's art might not call too much attention to itself. Then, this week, I encountered the actual building as it underwent final preparations for next Friday's dedication ceremony. Worries disappeared, replaced by respect, admiration and, from time to time, elation."


From any angle

Baltimore Sun October 12 2003

"One potentially controversial aspect of Brown Center is the glass skin and the way it changes color and character throughout the day. Early renderings made the glass look whiter than it turned out to be. It usually has a green or gray tint.

The glass is opaque in the day and makes the building seem monolithic. At night, when lights are on inside, it's possible to see through the glass, but the view is like looking through gauze. There will be those who like seeing the building as an object, but not seeing the ceiling ducts and other inner workings at night. Others may enjoy seeing the innards."



Brown Center at the Maryland Institute College of Art

Museum takes a look at . . . museums

Miami Herald October 12 2003

"The 10 years between 1993 and 2003 saw the completion of extraordinary museums throughout Europe and across the United States, and still more are to follow. The exhibition now on view at the Miami Art Museum looks at 25 of these museums -- all by architects of great international renown -- in drawings, plans, computer images, scale models and photographs."


Frank Gehry Signature watches


" "Working with Fossil has been a great experience for us, we're really excited about what we're going to do together in the future."

"Frank Gehry on this project, It is such a joy to be working with a visionary architect whose work is recognized around the world." Richard Gundy, President of Fashion Watch Brands, at Fossil" $105


Learning From Nature

Honolulu Star-Bulletin October 12 2003

"Pauline Sato, director of The Nature Conservancy's Oahu program, and Al Nagasako, principal of Kapolei High School, shared a dream and asked the world to help it take shape.

Their idea has come back in a creative, new form: a remarkably original, "green" design for the Malama Learning Center, chosen from 236 submissions. The challenge was to visualize a center, on Kapolei's campus and serving the broader community, that would blend environmental education and stewardship with the performing and visual arts.

The winning design, by Eight Inc. of San Francisco and Honolulu, epitomizes conservation. Its bridge-like buildings rise organically out of the landscape, arching over a descending garden path that culminates in a natural amphitheater."

"This project has the possibility of integrating landscape, building and program in a powerful way, binding them into a greater whole, one that could provide a real richness of places and experiences for the community."




Comments from the jury


Board 1 Board 2 pdf

Foster's new HQ for McLaren racing cars is so whizzy, its staff will never go home.

Gaurdian UK October 13 2003

"As part of their brief for McLaren, Foster & Partners were asked to create a working environment so attractive that people would find it hard to leave for home. "We want to put a skip in people's step," says Dennis. "We all want our company to win, and I'm not just talking about winning grands prix. To win we need highly motivated, dedicated people, and such people can only exist if you provide them with an environment in which they can aspire to be the best. Great facilities attract great people, and that's where the story of this project has its roots."

Detailing through the 200-metre long factory promises to be a fusion of Foster's architecture and Dennis's cars. The serpentine lakeside facade of the building, for example, that appears in some lights to touch the water, is composed of glass supported by aluminium wind blades and slim stainless-steel tie rods. The 12-metre perforated blades are modelled on the rear-wing support struts of the 1995 Le Mans-winning McLaren F1 GTR. "There are lots of parallels to formula one," says Dennis."




McLaren Technology Centre


Foster and Partners

Critics: WTC Crammed

New York Newsday October 13 2003

"Planners with the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. argue the correct method is to measure the entire site - the commercial blocks, the memorial block, the open space, the streets and the adjacent Deutsche Bank and Milstein properties (yet to be purchased), which would comprise a park and a fifth tower. Using that method, they come up with a floor area ratio - the square footage divided by the lot area - of 12.2, which is lower than the city maximum of 15.

The original trade center had a floor area ratio of 14. Rockefeller Center has an allowable ratio of 12 to 15. The area surrounding Grand Central Terminal has a floor area ratio of 15."


China’s biggest cities are struggling to balance modern design with their historical structures

Newsweek October 20 2003

"China’s two greatest cities are struggling with modern design under the long shadows of their historic past. As their populations swell (Beijing has more than 11 million inhabitants; Shanghai, more than 13 million), government incentives continue to provide unprecedented opportunities for developers and architects from around the world. Many areas of both cities have changed beyond recognition. It’s tempting to regard these new urban landscapes as chaotic places that reflect the worst of imported Western city planning: relentless sprawl, choked highways and the disappearance of history, culture and community. Yet in terms of design, Shanghai and Beijing are starting to embrace the good—not just the bad and the ugly."


Meet the Space Gang

Vancouver Sun October 11 2003

"Condo-dwellers, nimbyists, leak-sufferers take note: With a 96 page, colour-illustrated and perfectly bound booklet entitled Tower Impact Study, the Space Gang proved it could draw quicker and shoot straighter than the sleepy guardians of our downtown status quo. In 25 years of going to urban planning meetings, I have never seen an un-funded citizen's presentation to match the thoroughness, visual imagination and moral authority of this one."


Young Seattle architects are making their mark in tough times

Seattle Post-Intelligencer October 13 2003

"When driven by the demands of fashion, the quest for the-next-hot-young-thing is dubious at best, but in Seattle it is a matter of survival. Where is that next generation of architects who will design our city when the current reign of dinosaurs ends? Even in a profession that tends to eat its young -- with soul-crushing internships and expensive licensing exams -- we have far fewer than normal up-and-coming architects.

The fact that three out of the four under 40 are women is enough to make even the most placid dinosaur sit up and take notice, since the number of female-owned architectural offices in Seattle can be counted on one hand.

This makes the success of Lead Pencil Studio and PLACE that much more remarkable.

While the two firms differ in design philosophy, they both challenge the architectural status quo, either through how they work or how they see that work impacting the community. Thankfully, all four are uncomfortable with the grand manifestos favored by the young; instead they share a belief in the transformative powers of design."



LMDC Member Quits, Foresees Survival of Plan

New York Newsday October 4 2003

"Billie Tsien, the only architect serving on the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. board, predicted Friday that the "bones" of architect Daniel Libeskind's winning plan for the World Trade Center site would survive the long journey to construction, even as she resigned from the board.

Tsien, who has her own architecture firm with husband Tod Williams, said that the plan would probably be somewhat altered "because things change over time." It could take more than a decade to build the complex of five office buildings, museum, memorial space and transit hub.

"People in New York City have really embraced the importance of architecture and its ability to represent the aspirations of the city, and I don't think that was part of the equation before," she said. "We've gone beyond a symbol of what happened to a belief that great architecture can be a part of life rather than being just a symbol of what happened." "


That 'Wow' factor

Independent UK October 13 2003

"A dance centre in south London has won the coveted 2003 Stirling Prize for architecture. The £14m project, designed by the Swiss architects responsible for the Tate Modern makeover, has brought a touch of cool minimalism to a grungy slice of upwardly mobile Deptford.

The judges, who rated the building as "extraordinary", presented the £20,000 prize to the architects Herzog & de Meuron at an awards ceremony in Bristol, seen last night on Channel 4's Building of the Year.

The architects had been favourites for the Stirling Prize because the Laban pushes precisely the right buttons: it's innovative in design and has contributed to urban regeneration.

The Laban beat five other buildings on the shortlist...

But these admirable buildings did not possess the X-factor, and the Laban Centre offered two: a glacially pure outer form - the opposite of its locale - and a brilliant arrangement of internal spaces. Herzog & de Meuron pulled off a delightful fusion of "plasti" structural swoops and dips and a completely logical flow of practice and performance zones."



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 Texas Tech University  College of Architecture  Robert D. Perl 


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Associate Professor Robert D. Perl, AIA

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