Perl's Architecture Weblog

2005 Summer

Associate Professor Robert D. Perl, AIA



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 Texas Tech University  College of Architecture  Robert D. Perl 


updated 12-Sep-2005



A few of the Summer 2005 Master of Architecture graduates pose for photos at the College of Architecture reception Saturday August 6. Graduates (l to r) Sze-Lyn Lim, Cameron Mason, James Zavodny, Catherine Pleasant, Stephen Guzman and Robert Overstreet.


Architecture Faculty Gary Lindsey and Stephen Faulk listen as Chair Michael Peters congratulates BS Arch and M Arch graduates at the reception in the Architecture Gallery.

Low-Income Housing With Emphasis on Design

Washington Post August 6

"In most AIA-sponsored design award programs, juries are expected to focus their attention and base their judgments almost exclusively on aesthetic qualities. That entails assessing attributes of form and composition visible only in photographs and drawings. Other considerations tend to fall by the wayside. Think of design awards as beauty contests. In Boston, while the jury did evaluate, admire and reward aesthetic achievement, it also took into account other attributes. Among those were degrees of difficulty associated with the site and context, program complexity, resource and budgetary constraints, sustainability and realization of community benefits.

Whatever you call it -- socially responsible housing, affordable housing, workforce housing, housing for special populations -- such development projects rarely get widespread public recognition or win national architectural awards."


"The John Clancy Award for Socially Responsible Housing is to recognize and encourage excellence in the planning, design, construction and maintenance of socially responsible urban housing ... characterized by excellence in planning, design and construction.

This biennial program is funded by Goody Clancy and administered by the Boston Society of Architects / AIA."

Blueprint for Building a Better World

Washington Post August 6

"It's not easy being the Bob Geldof of architecture. But Cameron Sinclair is doing his best to save the world, one emergency shelter and mobile AIDS clinic at a time. ... He is the executive director of a tiny but influential nonprofit, Architecture for Humanity, which he dreamed up six years ago in his New York studio apartment. It has mocked the architectural mainstream for fixating on office towers and deluxe museums while ignoring the plight of people left homeless by natural disaster or war."

  Infant/Toddler T-Shirt

Three Groups Join in Effort to Save Wright's Ennis House

New York Times August 4

"In a last-ditch effort, a consortium of preservation groups has assembled a plan to save the Ennis House, a striking 1924 building by Frank Lloyd Wright in the Los Feliz Hills above Los Angeles. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, together with the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and the Los Angeles Conservancy, has created a foundation to raise the millions of dollars needed to rehabilitate the house, which suffered critical damage in a 1994 earthquake and again in heavy rains last winter.

Reminiscent of an Aztec or Mayan temple, the sprawling building is the largest of the four houses that Wright built in the Los Angeles area in the 1920's using an experimental form of concrete block construction. After the flooding, in which large chunks of the building's facade fell off and the south-facing retaining wall failed, the house was briefly "red-tagged" by the city's Department of Building and Safety as unsafe for entry."


Architectural Efforts to Bring Safety and Stability to Iraq

AIArchitect July

Lt. James Vandenberg, AIA, CEC, USNR (Seabees) recently returned from 10 months in Iraq as a "combat architect" with the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Al Anbar Province, western Iraq.

"Construction techniques are time-honored pre-industrial age. Foundations are built of rock, and then 16-inch-thick, heavy-rock masonry walls are built on top of the foundation walls." In this AIA article he explains some of his projects.

Project Type 1: Iraqi Border Police denial forts

Project Type 2: Ar Rutbah Hospital

Project Type 3: Iraqi National Guard (ING) Compounds

Project Type 4: Iraqi Border Police Training Academy



Futuro Flashback: The Prefab From Another Planet

New York Times July 28

"The circular house, 11 feet high and 26 feet across, was designed by Matti Suuronen, a Finnish architect, in 1968. A hatch door in its lower half opened down to reveal steps, like the door of a small airplane, and led into a room outfitted with six plastic bed-chair combinations and a central fireplace slab, as well as a kitchenette and a bathroom."


Mars Plan Envisions Comfy Colony

Wired News July 27

"A group of aspiring Martians has drawn up detailed plans for settling the Red Planet, and is working on a cookbook that will use ingredients grown on Mars. The Mars Foundation is proposing a settlement in the next 20 years that would start with a dozen initial inhabitants and eventually expand to several hundred. The foundation has even scoped out a potential building site for the settlement, along a hillside 80 yards above the valley floor in an area called Candor Chasma.

Many in the Mars colonization movement believe humans have a deep spiritual and psychological need to seek out and explore new frontiers. The aim of the foundation's Mars Homestead Project, which started at MIT, is to give humanity a fresh start on a new planet."

  Full-size image


Full-size image

Chicago developer plans for a higher spire

USA Today July 26


Fordham Spire, The

Chicago Architecture Info

"Built: 2006- 2009, Cost: $500,000,000.00, Designed by: Santiago Calatrava, Stories: 115, Maximum height: Approximately 2,000 feet/610 meters (1,458 feet/444 meters to the roof), Location: 346 East North Water Street"


Chicago Tribune coverage July 26-31:

Skyscraper great, 'excited' Daley says

"The tower would include about 200 hotel rooms and 200 to 250 condos. Most of the units would be priced between $1 million and $2 million, said Carley, the chairman of Fordham Co. The total size of the tower would be 920,000 square feet. But the so-called saleable portion, space actually sold as condos or used as hotel rooms, would be about 750,000 square feet."

Profit doubts shadow tower

"Previous failures to build 'tallest' are remembered"

For Chicago, no superlative too grandiose

"It would resemble, depending on which poet's image you prefer, a birthday candle, a twirling rocket or the world's most terrifying dentist's drill. "It's going to put Chicago on the map," Alderman Burt Natarus was quoted as saying. Wait a minute. Put Chicago on the map?"

Save the gushing; it's time to fill in blanks on lakefront spire

"It dispenses with the Cartesian order of Chicago's gridded skyscrapers and substitutes a Baroque dynamism based on the forms of nature. Think of a tree trunk twisting into the sky. Or a drill bit. If this represents the feminization of the muscular Chicago skyline, as some have mused, it is the most phallic feminization on the planet."

Terrorist attack fear not tallest spire's toughest test

"The biggest challenges to the project will be raising the equity to build it, selling it fast and delivering units fast."

Residents, experts see high-rise's value

"But some worry of impact on a downtown already choked with shadows and traffic"

How tall is too tall?

"Louis Sullivan wrote in 1896 of the "glory and pride" in building tall buildings. "The man who designs in this spirit...must be no coward, no denier, no bookworm, no dilettante....He must realize at once and with the grasp of inspiration that the problem of the tall office building is one of the most stupendous, one of the most magnificent opportunities...ever offered to the proud spirit of man." "

Tallest tower to twist rivals

"Trump blasts iffy edifice that would put his in shadow"

Scaling aesthetic heights

"Despite those concerns, the design has an extraordinary sense of possibility. So much of what has been built in the current residential building boom has been visual junk food -- hulking concrete condos and faux pieces of history. Carley deserves credit for breaking out of that box and asking Calatrava to vault to a higher standard. This could be a great tower, one that meaningfully extends Chicago's innovative skyscraper design tradition into the 21st Century and explores new possibilities of the residential skyscraper, artistically considered."

  Living high in the sky


2,000-foot Chicago skyscraper


In Chicago, Plans for a High-Rise Raise Interest and Post-9/11 Security Concerns

New York Times July 26


Chicago spire's beauty may be its flaw

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel July 31

"But the building's strength is also its weakness, at least in this early stage of development: To judge from computer renderings and a 6-foot model unveiled last week, the Fordham Spire is primarily a beautiful object - aloof from, not integrated into, the urban fabric."


Fordham Spire daring, conservative

Crain's Chicago Business July 27

"An audacious architectural design; a modest real estate project

Christopher T. Carley has hired star architect Santiago Calatrava to design the 115-story building overlooking Lake Michigan, perhaps the boldest architectural statement on the Chicago skyline since the construction of the Sears Tower more than three decades ago. Yet in a news conference Wednesday, Mr. Carley called it a “very conservative” development from a size standpoint, one reason he believes he’ll be able to sell enough condos to obtain financing."


"Architect Santiago Calatrava touches a model of the Fordham Spire, a 2,000-foot tower he designed that developer Christopher Carley would like to build on Chicago's lakeshore."

Slender spire proposed for Windy City skyline

CBC July 26

Hubris on the hill: When it comes to Frank Lloyd Wright and L.A., nothing is quite as it seems.

Los Angles Times July 3

"Completed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1924 for the owners of a men's clothing store, Charles and Mabel Ennis, it's the largest and most ambitious of the experimental concrete-block designs Wright carried out in Southern California in the early 1920s, aided by his son Lloyd and a young Rudolf Schindler. The house, which looms castle-like on a prominent site above Los Feliz Boulevard, was briefly red-tagged this winter by the city's Department of Building and Safety after near-record rainfall caused its retaining wall to buckle, sending several of its patterned concrete blocks tumbling down the hill. It is now yellow-tagged, which means it can be occupied only during the day. The National Trust estimates it'll take $5 million simply to stabilize the house and $10 million more for a complete restoration.

Meanwhile, a little more than a mile to the south, the first of Wright's residential designs in Los Angeles, the Barnsdall House — also known, thanks to the abstracted floral motif that wraps around its exterior, as the Hollyhock House — has just reopened after a five-year renovation. The work, which cost about $21 million altogether, helped stabilize parts of the house damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, removed mold and termites and replaced leaky pipes."

  Experimental system


Distinguishing marks

Technology-Enabled Teaching >> If You Build It, We Should Come

Campus Technology July 1

"Dollars aside, the question of when technology staff should be involved in the planning, programming, and design phase of designing instruction and learning spaces is one of great interest to those who are responsible for putting technology-enabled teaching tools in the hands of educators and students. While there is a lot to be said for terrazzo floors and three-story atriums, there are few systems costing only 1 to 3 percent of overall construction budgets that have as great an effect on the education process as does technology. Without effective technology integration, campus buildings are decorative, but not functional. On the flip side, without good design, campus buildings are functional but lifeless. It’s the melding of architectural design and technology planning that allows both to happen in a way that is complementary, not conflicting."


Redesign Puts Freedom Tower on a Fortified Base

New York Times June 30

"... an almost impermeable 200-foot concrete and steel pedestal..."

A Tower of Impregnability, the Sort Politicians Love

New York Times June 30

"The darkness at ground zero just got a little darker. If there are people still clinging to the expectation that the Freedom Tower will become a monument to the highest American ideals, the current design should finally shake them out of that delusion. Somber, oppressive and clumsily conceived, the project suggests a monument to a society that has turned its back on any notion of cultural openness. It is exactly the kind of nightmare that government officials repeatedly asserted would never happen here: an impregnable tower braced against the outside world.

The new design by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is a response to the obvious security issues raised by the New York Police Department, specifically the tower's resistance to car and truck bombs. The earlier twisted-glass form, a pastiche of architectural visions cobbled together from Daniel Libeskind's master plan and various Skidmore designs, lacked grace or fresh ideas. The new obelisk-shaped tower, which stands on an enormous 20-story concrete pedestal, evokes a gigantic glass paperweight with a toothpick stuck on top. (The toothpicklike spire was added so that the tower would reach its required height of 1,776 feet.)

The temptation is to dismiss it as a joke..."


Reflection area to join memorials

Lubbock Avalanche Journal June 26

"Though it was once just a playa lake recreational area, Henry Huneke Park is quickly turning into memorial grounds. The 82nd Street park is home to the Freedom Fountain, Lubbock Area Veterans War Memorial and Willie McCool statue. And soon The Rotary Club of Lubbock will add a meditation area. The area, which will be constructed primarily of concrete, is being designed by Jimmy Dirks, the same architect who designed the war memorial and base for the McCool statue. Henry Huneke Park's development into a memorial esplanade began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which sparked the idea for the Freedom Fountain."


Jimmy Dirks received his BArch from Texas Tech University in 1972.


Designer Starck plans Victory condos

Dallas Morning News June 28

"On Monday, Mr. Starck talked about his plans for the House, a 26-story, 150-unit residential tower in Uptown's Victory project. Mr. Starck promises the $80 million project won't be a beige box.

Boston architecture firm Elkus Manfredi is designing the exterior, and Mr. Starck will collaborate with architect Howard Elkus on the plans, according to Hillwood. Yoo will design the interiors.

Mr. Starck has a special relationship with Dallas that goes back more than 20 years. When he opened his West End nightclub in 1984, Dallas got a disco that attracted worldwide attention. Just getting in the door of the Starck Club was a challenge – because of both the crowds and door screeners who made sure only the right folks gained admittance. "I was known because of my success in Texas," said Mr. Starck, who lived in Dallas for almost a year. "It was a big adventure. "It was the Wild West here, and I was not disappointed – it was wild." "


Urban planning, with Christian values

San Gabriel Valley Tribune June 25

"Eric Jacobsen speaks passionately about things like sidewalks and store fronts. But he's not an architect or a developer. He's an ordained Presbyterian pastor who says city planning can have an important influence on religious experience. Jacobsen is an advocate for New Urbanism, the movement that calls for interdependence among residents by promoting pedestrian-friendly streets, parks and town squares in neighborhoods where shops and homes coexist. The values of New Urbanism, whose national leaders gathered in Pasadena last week, are consistent with those of Christianity and a possible antidote to the isolation experienced by many churches and Christians, Jacobsen said."

Growing pains of Beijing architecture

China Daily June 29

"Rem Koolhaas, a renowned architect and expert on the expansion of mega-cities worldwide, says that south China, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhuhai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong will see their population triple to 36 million as they form a megalopolis over the next 15 years. This city of cities is being created by Chinese "architects who design the largest volume in the shortest time for the lowest fee (an efficiency 2,500 times that of an American architect)," says Koolhaas, whose designs include Beijing's brave new "twisted donut" CCTV tower. China's construction boom is producing architects who use laptops to quickly cut and paste buildings into existence - some in only two days. "Photoshop allows us to make collages of photographs - this is the essence of [China's] architectural and urban planning," says Koolhaas. "Design today becomes as easy as Photoshop, even on the scale of a city." As Shenzhen was Photoshopped into existence, its population skyrocketed from nearly zero to over three million in just 15 years. China's Minister of Civil Affairs has proposed building at least 20 new cities like Shenzhen each year until 2020."

Rejection of Smithsonian Glass Roof Design Doesn't Mean Creativity Is Dead

Washington Post June 25

"With neoclassicism established two centuries ago as the aesthetic language of choice for building Washington's civic edifices, these "retrograde" tendencies are firmly rooted and reinforced. Dominant urban plan patterns -- street, block and lot configurations -- coupled with height limits unique to Washington further challenge certain strains of design creativity. Added to these constraints are functional and financial necessities that often yield background buildings shaped primarily by zoning envelopes and economics.

Nevertheless, talented architects can be creative. They can still think outside of the box even when constructing a box. Regrettably, the common misconception lies in believing that architecture is creative only if a building's geometry is unusual, complex and idiosyncratic. Unconventional massing with radical volumetric composition is but one strain of innovation. Creativity can occur in many other ways and at many scales of design, independent of geometric gymnastics: composing artful façades; shaping and proportioning beautiful interior spaces; exploiting the play of natural light; imaginatively using materials, colors and textures; crafting elegant finish details; and inventively configuring structural elements."

Time for Drastic Changes in Tall Buildings? Experts Disagree

New York Times June 24

"Nationally, between 1989 and 1999, no more than five civilians were killed in 6,900 reported high-rise office building fires, according to statistics complied by the National Fire Protection Association. Those numbers - which do not include the attacks at the World Trade Center - are not large enough to produce wide-scale change in building codes, several engineers said. "You can do anything you want, but you can't change a number that is already extremely low," Dr. Corley said. In presenting the findings yesterday, S. Shyam Sunder, who led the federal investigation, rejected suggestions that the events at the trade center were too rare to provide useful lessons for other skyscrapers. The investigation used two approaches to study risks, he said. One was based on historical records. The second was "scenario driven," an effort to anticipate unusual events that could cause serious injury or death."


Towers Should Have Had One More Staircase, Report Finds

New York Times June 24

"The Port Authority maintains that the stairway was not required. "On the issue of the fourth staircase, we will respectfully disagree with the N.I.S.T. findings and maintain that we met the city building codes in this area," said Steve Coleman, an agency spokesman. The report said the fourth staircase was required because Windows on the World, in the north tower, and the public observatory, in the south tower, had occupancy ratings of 1,000 people or more. "If the building was built under the New York City building code, it would have required a fourth staircase," said Jennifer Givner, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Buildings, endorsing the federal finding." "


NIST World Trade Center Investigation Team Calls for Improvements

NIST website June 23

I watched the live webcast of the press conference for the release of Final Report of the National Construction Safety Team on the Collapses of the World Trade Center Towers. In all, thirty recommendations are contained within 10,000 pages of the 43 draft reports. A public comment period ends Aug. 4. The headline link above leads to a concise press release.

The 11 page Executive Summary PDF file contains facts I haven't seen in any news reports:

"Approximately 87 percent of the estimated 17,400 occupants of the towers, and 99 percent of those located below the impact floors, evacuated successfully. In WTC 1, where the aircraft destroyed all escape routes, 1,355 people were trapped in the upper floors when the building collapsed. One hundred seven people who were below the impact floors did not survive. Since the flow of people from the building had slowed considerably 20 min. before the tower collapsed, the stairwell capacity was adequate to evacuate the occupants on that morning.

"In WTC 2, before the second aircraft strike, about 3,000 people got low enough in the building to escape by a combination of self-evacuation and use of elevators. The aircraft destroyed the operation of the elevators and the use of two of the three stairways. Eighteen people from above the impact zone found a passage through the damaged third stairway and escaped. The other 619 people in or above the impact zone perished. Seven people who were below the impact floors did not survive. As in WTC 1, shortly before collapse, the flow of people from the building had slowed considerably, indicating that the stairwell capacity was adequate that morning.

"A principal factor limiting the loss of life was that the buildings were only one-third occupied at the time of the attacks. NIST estimated that if the towers had been fully occupied with 25,000 occupants each, it would have taken about 4 hours to evacuate the buildings and over 14,000 people might have perished because the stairwell capacity would not have been sufficient to evacuate that many people in the available time.

"For the floor systems, the fire rating and insulation thickness used on the floor trusses, which together with the concrete slab served as the main source of support for the floors, were of concern from the time of initial construction. NIST found no technical basis or test data on which the thermal protection of the steel was based. On September 11, 2001, the minimum specified thickness of the insulation was adequate to delay heating of the trusses; the amount of insulation dislodged by the aircraft impact, however, was sufficient to cause the structural steel to be heated to critical levels.

"Based on four standard fire resistance tests that were conducted under a range of insulation and test conditions, NIST found the fire rating of the floor system to vary between 3/4 hour and 2 hours; in all cases, the floors continued to support the full design load without collapse for over 2 hours."


In the full report, Chapter 9: Recommendations lists many engineering and fire organizations that may be affected by the 30 Recommendations. I think many could affect design, and the AIA is mentioned specifically for numbers 28, 29, and 30.

"Recommendation 28. NIST recommend that the role of the “Design Professional in Responsible Charge” should be clarified to ensure that: (1) all appropriate design professionals (including, e.g., the fire protection engineer) are part of the design team providing the standard of care when designing buildings employing innovative or unusual fire safety systems, and (2) all appropriate design professionals (including, e.g., the structural engineer and the fire protection engineer) are part of the design team providing the standard of care when designing the structure to resist fires, in buildings that employ innovative or unusual structural and fire safety systems.

"Recommendation 29. NIST recommends that continuing education curricula should be developed and programs should be implemented for training fire protection engineers and architects in structural engineering principles and design, and training structural engineers, architects, and fire protection engineers in modern fire protection principles and technologies, including fire-resistance design of structures.

"Recommendation 30. NIST recommends that academic, professional short-course, and web-based training materials in the use of computational fire dynamics and thermostructural analysis tools should be developed and delivered to strengthen the base of available technical capabilities and human resources."

From the Ashes

Op-Ed Contributor Daniel Libeskind New York Times June 23

"Sometimes it seems that the most important quality an architect can possess is optimism. ... The record of achievement in America then and now affirms my optimism and sustains my resolve."


To the Editor:
I read with interest NY Times series on the Chrysler Building when it was published two weeks ago, and your recounting of the articles is appreciated. I am reminded of the six years I spent in that very spire--my first 6 years out of Texas Tech--experiencing the same emotions detailed by Alex Washburn in the multimedia sidebar "An Office With A View". William Hamilton's recount of his tour of the "crown" with my partner, Ed Sussi, reminded me of the many times I would steal up or down the haunted staircase to wander the long-deserted Cloud Club and its High Deco decor held in stasis for so many years, or to lean precariously out the open windows of the "attic", appropriately likened by Hamilton to a bell tower.

In 1984, my partners (both also architects) found the old 71st floor observatory of the Chrysler Building in shambles. It had served as a radio station some decades ago and was attic storage for a number of years prior to '84. Working from old photos of the original finish-out, an elegant office space was created in keeping with the spirit of Van Alen's original design. It remains one of the most spectacular spaces in Midtown, in no small part due to the backdrop of views available from every space on the floor.

But alas, all good things must end. With completion of the 20 year lease we held on the space, we are relocating our New York office later this month to another--albeit less visible--architectural icon of the City: Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building.

Another era begins...and with a view of the Chrysler Building!


K. Wade Giddens, R.A.
Vice President of Development
The Cowperwood Company
B.Arch., B.S.C.E. 1989

Monument to Ambiguity

Wall Street Journal June 16

"This is more a monumental abstract installation piece than a memorial. But walking between the many undulating rows of stelae--303 of which are more than 12 feet high and thus tower over the visitor--memory returns: This was originally a joint Eisenman-Serra project. One is almost, but not quite, caught in a maze that really hovers and warns. The mysterious threatening quality that makes Mr. Serra's best work so compelling is missing here; perhaps that's why he left the project shortly after the design had been selected."


Will form follow function?

Denver Post June 16

"The modern age of museum-building - launched with the 1959 Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Solomon R. Guggenheim museum on Manhattan's Upper Fifth Avenue - crescendoed nearly 40 years later when the same Guggenheim interests debuted their Frank Gehry-designed museum in Bilbao, Spain. The Bilbao Effect - using eye-popping architecture to attract, stimulate or revitalize - was off and running. Cities across the globe rushed to hire a star architect to design a museum, library or concert hall, believing problems of urban decay, falling attendance or tepid tourism would disappear... A few recent occurrences suggest the Bilbao Effect's 15 minutes of fame may be running down."



Live construction camera of Daniel Libeskind's Denver Art Museum expansion


The Good, the Bad, Mostly the Ugly

New York Times June 16

"Designed by HOK Sport + Venue + Event, the stadium is more thoughtful, at least in urban planning terms, than the preposterously ill-conceived Jets stadium. But as architecture, it could not be duller. A predictable mix of old and new, its conventional interiors and faux historical skin are a quaint version of the existing Yankee Stadium, whose hulking shell has been a Bronx landmark since 1923. It represents the kind of watered-down view of history that remains a dispiriting trend in New York architecture."


Not exactly a home run

New York Newsday June 16

"... a curious reproduction located a few blocks north, an $800-million mix of antique motifs and contemporary comfort ... confusion between preservation and simulation"


New stadium 'the Super Bowl of projects'

Dallas Morning News June 11

"From the day Texas Stadium opened, people have dreamed about redesigning the home of the Dallas Cowboys. Bryan Trubey gets to do it. The 44-year-old design principal of Dallas-based HKS Sports & Entertainment Group is the architectural guru for the new $650 million, 72,000-seat, 200-suite Cowboys Stadium in Arlington."


HKS Chosen To Design New Stadium


Indian Museum's Uneasy Presence Bespeaks Troubled Past

Washington Post June 11

"Design implementation was further complicated by the nature of the client, officially the Smithsonian. But there were really hundreds of clients. The programming, conceptual content, internal arrangement and exhibition strategy of the museum were substantially determined by a sizable group of Native American tribal representatives. Thus, it was not just design by a committee, but design by a very, very large committee. In the end, having been unceremoniously discharged and claiming to have done work for which he was not compensated, an embittered Cardinal has disclaimed design authorship. Last September, he refused to attend the museum's opening and dedication and has condemned all those responsible for bastardizing his design."



National Geographic
photos of building


National Museum of the American Indian


Re-Reading Perspecta

Book from MIT Press

"Perspecta, the oldest and most respected student-edited architectural journal in the United States, marks its fiftieth anniversary with this selection of influential and provocative pieces published in its pages from the 1950s through the 1990s. The essays and portfolios in Re-Reading Perspecta trace the development of architectural culture and discourse over the past fifty years and bear witness to the influential role played by Perspecta in a time of crucial debate about the function and future of architecture."


Professor Robert Coombs was Editor of Perspecta 13/14. Coombs taught history and design in the TTU College of Architecture for 13 years before his death in 2001.



Online prices for
Re-Reading Perspecta

Buildings with hats

Houston Chronicle June 5

"State District Judge John Wooldridge believes a courthouse should have a dome at the top — even if the building is a skyscraper. So the new 17-story Harris County Civil Courthouse, under construction on the northeastern edge of downtown, is crowned with a gleaming 70-foot-tall faux dome that stands out on the Houston skyline."

Architects voice fear of extinction at conference

New Zealand Herald June 5

"Wigley suggests the architect needs to be rebuilt as a "public intellectual" - one who literally thinks and speaks in public through his or her buildings, an "activist synthesiser of various forms of knowledge and an elegant commentator of the world". Wigley points out that architects in practice get a very small portion, about one per cent, of the built environment to think about. But even though it's a small amount of building, it's more than enough for architects to use - as "a platform for encouraging the entire culture to think differently about its environment". So what exactly is it that architects - public intellectuals - do? Wigley says despite the outward, super-confident, arrogant and authoritative facade, the architect is actually someone filled with uncertainty and doubt. "The secret of the architect is that we just don't know what it is that we do." "

Out of the box

The Age Australia June 8

"Living in a cardboard box has never looked so good. Melbourne architect Peter Ryan's clever but simple design for a house made largely from cardboard could prove revolutionary. With applications in temporary housing and particularly in disaster relief, the structures are inexpensive, easily assembled and surprisingly durable. The concept of a cardboard house sounds almost inconceivable but it works. The basic structure is a series of pods made from plywood - cardboard panelling is used in the roof, walls and floors. The cardboard panels are the same size as a standard cardboard box, and the houses can be as small or as large as required; pods are simply added either up or out."

  Peter Ryan with

Security at Symbol of Resolve: Many Demands on New Ground Zero Tower

New York Times June 7

"Once intended as a shimmering, soaring declaration of political resolve and architectural ambition, the Freedom Tower at the site of the World Trade Center is being reimagined as something more impregnable. So the challenge now faced by its designers is to keep it from looking like a high-rise bunker.

The Freedom Tower may end up with a structurally massive base that is distinctly different from the upper office floors. The designers may use stainless-steel cladding, reinforced glass or even translucent concrete, a new material embedded with strands of glass that transmits light and shadow through seemingly impervious walls.

If antiterrorist security had been the one and only consideration at the trade center site, the first designs for the Freedom Tower and other projects would seem to flout some basic axioms put forth by the Defense Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Institute of Architects. In publicly available reports, they advise that attention-getting architectural symbols are prime targets and should be located far from potential vehicle-borne bombs; glass facades can be lethal in a blast; train stations and underground garages are especially vulnerable to attack; and spacious, column-free interiors under other structures may be liable to collapse."



Bomb sizes and pressure generated at 30 and 100 ft.

Piano's Art Institute wing plays in harmony

Chicago Tribune June 5

"Renzo Piano's wonderfully promising plan for expanding the Art Institute of Chicago, unveiled with the release of silvery confetti last Tuesday morning, brings to mind the famous warning against novelty for novelty's sake once uttered by master modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. "We don't invent a new architecture every Monday morning," Mies said. He presumably meant Tuesday mornings too. Already a place of immense character and the holder of a renowned collection, the Art Institute doesn't need to play the "wow building" game, as museums across the land have done in the wake of Frank Gehry's stunningly sculptural Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Instead, the Art Institute and Piano have refined a winning plan made public four years ago and given it a dramatic (and most welcome) new feature -- a superlong pedestrian bridge that would swoop over Millennium Park's south end and deliver parkgoers to the museum's rooftop."

Grand transformation at the Art Institute

Art Institute to Add New Wing

Site Plan, Plans, Sections

Chicago Tribune May 31


Light and Airiness for Art Institute of Chicago's New Wing

New York Times May 31

Towering egos

The Observer UK May 29

"Saddam Hussein, like many dictators, was an enthusiastic patron of architecture. Unlike Napoleon III, however, whose fastidious tastes are still clearly visible in the parade- ground tidiness of the boulevards of Paris, or Mussolini with his contradictory passions for modernism and Caesar Augustus, Saddam had no obvious preference for any specific architectural style. He did, however, have an instinctive grasp of how to use architecture to glorify himself and his regime and to intimidate his opponents. From the moment of its conception, the Mother of all Battles mosque had a very clear purpose - to claim the first Gulf War as a victory for Iraq. ... Architecture is about power."


Juke Joint in the Sky

New York Times May 26

"Superlative only once, and then just briefly (it was the world's tallest building for less than a year), the Chrysler Building claims New Yorkers' affection and takes a deep bow on its 75th birthday not because it is ideal but because it is a skyscraping Roman candle of exuberant eccentricity, as wonderfully irregular in profile and provenance as the town that spawned it."

Multimedia: An architect describes working in the Chrysler Building.

On Top of the World, Drafting, Dreaming and Drilling. Inside

In the Background, but No Bit Player.

How It Sparkled in the Skyline.

A Lunch Club for the Higher-Ups.

Dancing to New Rules, a Rhapsody in Chrome.


Commission Preserves the Past at the Cost of the Future

New York Times May 26

"The glamorous era of New York preservation - the outcry over the demolition of the old Pennsylvania Station, Jackie Onassis picketing to save Grand Central Terminal - is long over. But judging from Tuesday's weak-kneed decision by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to approve a scaled-back expansion of the Whitney Museum of American Art, certain New Yorkers have failed to catch on. To them, apparently, the overreaching goal is saving what's old - as if the loss of an undistinguished brownstone parallels the razing of a beloved landmark.

Essentially, for the sake of preserving a humdrum brownstone facade on Madison Avenue, the commission embraced a substitute design for the museum that transforms a generously proportioned public entrance into a more confining experience. The architect, Renzo Piano, drafted the alternative - which would save that brownstone, while demolishing another - when the museum realized that the addition was in danger of being voted down by the commission."

Design Dilemma

Washington Post June 6

"... in the cases of the Reichstag, the British Museum and the Louvre, the designs were carried out and completed. In the case of the Old Patent Office Building, the design -- the work of Lord Norman Foster, the British architect who also revamped the British Museum -- has just received a major setback. Last week, the National Capital Planning Commission, in a 6 to 5 vote, turned down Mr. Foster's proposal to place a glass canopy over the building's courtyard, largely on the grounds that the canopy would be visible from the outside of the building, thereby spoiling its classical facade."

China, New Land of Shoppers, Builds Malls on Gigantic Scale

New York Times May25

"By 2010, China is expected to be home to at least 7 of the world's 10 largest malls. Chinese are swarming into malls, which usually have many levels that rise up rather than out in the sprawling two-level style typical in much of the United States. Chinese consumers arrive by bus and train, and growing numbers are driving there. On busy days, one mall in the southern city of Guangzhou attracts about 600,000 shoppers."

Great Malls of China Multimedia feature

A Problem With Authority

Newsweek May 23

"Thom Mayne hates playing by the rules. So what's he doing designing government buildings? His own thing, natch."


12 articles on Design
Newsweek Special

At BMW, the Auto Assembly Line Meets High Design

New York Times May 22

"Of all of Modernism's sacred cows, few have been more revered - or abused - than the assembly line. At the height of the Modernist movement, the crisp, functional efficiency of this factory staple was a template for everything from housing projects to utopian visions of the metropolis. The new central building at the BMW plant here, designed by the London architect Zaha Hadid, is an antidote to just that sort of mind-numbing, machine-age uniformity. A vast, boomerang-shaped industrial shed with rows of cars streaming by in midair on curving tracks, it is less a model of efficiency than a finely oiled machine for voyeuristic pleasure."



New Masterworks of Modern American Architecture Stamps

United States Postal Service May 17

Includes work by Wright, Mies, Kahn, Venturi, SOM, Johnson, Pei, and others.


Designing the Future

Newsweek May 16

"Imagine buildings that generate more energy than they consume and factories whose waste water is clean enough to drink. William McDonough has accomplished these tasks and more. Architect, industrial designer and founder of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry in Charlottesville, Va., he's not your traditional environmentalist. Others may expend their energy fighting for stricter environmental regulations and repeating the mantra "reduce, reuse, recycle." McDonough's vision for the future includes factories so safe they need no regulation, and novel, safe materials that can be totally reprocessed into new goods, so there's no reason to scale back consumption (or lose jobs). In short, he wants to overhaul the Industrial Revolution—which would sound crazy if he weren't working with Fortune 500 companies and the government of China to make it happen."

Buildings that lift the spirit

CNN May 16

"CNN: How do you imagine the world looking in the future?

Will Alsop: I think architecture is at a really interesting stage right now. More interesting than it's ever been in history. If you go back, architecture has been a succession of different styles and methodologies. Some of them were very interesting and surprising. We've had constructivists, modernists, neo-modernists and postmodernists -- the list is endless. But today there isn't a predominant style and that creates a sense of tremendous freedom for architects. I think we'll see all sorts of varied approaches to making architecture as fun it should be. There's a broad cross-section of stuff that's being dreamt about and done. Also, people are more interested in modern architecture than ever before. There is such a thing now as new architectural tourism. In a way I see it as the beginning of a dialogue between the general public, the users of the buildings, and the architects."

Also at CNN: Norman Foster on Building a sustainable future

Building -- and Protecting -- Houses in Sri Lanka

National Public Radio May 15

"Architect Terrance Brown of the American Institute of Architects recently returned from a survey of the country's damaged coastline. His trip was part of an effort by American architects, engineers, planners and landscape designers who are advising the Sri Lankans on how to re-build." Listen to NPR: RealAudio or Windows Media: 4m 31s



AIA Tsunami-Victim Relief Center


The Last of the Moderns

New York Times May 15

"He [Oscar Niemeyer] is a national hero in Brazil, but elsewhere he may be the least celebrated of the major architects of the modern era. A suave pioneer of curvaceous concrete, toying with the limits of engineering while injecting sex and surrealism into Le Corbusier's famous machine for living, he designed some of the most audacious, sublimely poetic and occasionally goofy buildings of the 20th century. Probably more than anyone else, he brought lyricism and a populist sensibility to modern public architecture."

Berlin opens Holocaust memorial

BBC May 10

"The Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a sprawling field of 2,700 stone slabs near the Brandenburg Gate. The dedication comes after years of delays and disagreements over design and construction issues. Backers of the memorial say the stones will be central to Berlin's identity, but critics say it is too abstract... US architect Peter Eisenman, whose design divided opinion and was finally approved only in 1999, said he hoped that Berliners and visitors to the city will navigate the pathways as part of their daily lives."

A Forest of Pillars, Recalling the Unimaginable

New York Times May 9

"The new Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, designed by Peter Eisenman, is the apotheosis of this soul-searching. A vast grid of 2,711 concrete pillars whose jostling forms seem to be sinking into the earth, it is able to convey the scope of the Holocaust's horrors without stooping to sentimentality - showing how abstraction can be the most powerful tool for conveying the complexities of human emotion."



BBC video includes brief interview with Peter Eisenman. 4m 27s


NPR audio and pictures


The Nation: Collective Memory and the Holocaust interview with Peter Eisenman

Trump Proposes Putting Up 2 Towers at Trade Center Site

New York Times May 19

"In a news conference at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, Mr. Trump stood before a large model of his vision for a new World Trade Center, which included towers similar to the Twin Towers...

Mr. Trump's model was designed by his structural engineer, Kenneth Gardner, who quoted poetry at the news conference, apologized to his mother and thanked many people who "made this day possible." Mr. Trump's comments about the Freedom Tower were not so appreciative. "In a nutshell, the Freedom Tower should not be allowed to be built," he said. "It's not appropriate for Lower Manhattan, it's not appropriate for Manhattan, it's not appropriate for the United States, it's not appropriate for freedom." "

(Editor's Comment: Sorry, this picture distorted by too much hot air.)

Trump: Build 'Twins"

New York Post May 5

"Trump also unleashed a harsh assessment of Ground Zero master planner Daniel Libeskind, suggesting the man Pataki has called an international-class genius isn't fit to be, well, an apprentice. "The design for the Freedom Tower is an egghead design, designed by an egghead, which has no practical application and which, frankly, didn't look very good. "I've gotten great reviews on my buildings. I'm somebody who believes strongly in great architecture and this [the Freedom Tower] was a design that is just not a good design," Trump added."


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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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