Perl's Architecture Weblog

2006 Summer Semester

Associate Professor Robert D. Perl, AIA




What's a blog?

Web log defined

Blog defined

Freshest postings at top.

Go to the bottom of the page for links to 700+ earlier Weblog entries.



 Texas Tech University  College of Architecture  Robert D. Perl 


updated 01-Sep-2006


Contemporary Jewish Museum's architecture may prove temporal

San Francisco Chronicle July 25

"In the architectural game of who's hot and who's not, Libeskind is like the rock band that loses street cred once it sells out arenas. His crystalline drama is being rolled out for a casino in Singapore, condo towers in Sacramento and St. Louis and a shopping center for the Las Vegas strip. Instead of revelations, his once-startling moves bring a sense of deja vu. Fair? Perhaps not. But welcome to the strange world of fame-driven architecture, where fads and styles can move at warp speed, even though the process of actually getting something built takes longer than ever.

Here's another quandary: The increased appeal of "wow" raises the stakes of a "yikes" if it isn't done well.

Oddly enough, what we're getting is early Libeskind -- a design that began gestating when he was focused on a few creations, rather than juggling 30 projects at his New York studio. As he commented last year, "We've got at least 20 models of it in our office." Who knows? Perhaps when the museum opens in spring of 2008, architectural insiders will chat about how Libeskind is meant to be taken seriously again."




"Architect Daniel Libeskind is like the rock band that loses street cred once it sells out arenas."

People Stop Fighting Philadelphia City Hall

New York Times July 25

"City Hall has always been an impressive sight. It remains the loftiest masonry load-bearing building in the world, supported not by a steel skeleton but by stone and brick stacked upon more stone and brick. Its 548-foot tower — surpassing all the cathedrals of Europe — is topped by the largest statue on any building, anywhere: a 37-foot-high William Penn, the city’s founder, standing as tall as a town house. It is said to have the largest clocks on any building; it would loom over Big Ben. With about 27 acres of floor space, this behemoth is bigger than every other municipal seat in the nation, all 50 state capitols and the national Capitol. The American Institute of Architects called it “perhaps the greatest single effort of late-19th-century American architecture.”

It was a striking act of civic hubris. It is thought to be the most ornamented building in America, with at least 250 sculptures. Or more. No one, apparently, has ever counted them. How this great stone population of civic founders, allegorical figures and wildlife came to roost on its marble cliffs and in its granite caves is an enduring mystery that Mr. Myers and his associates hope to solve. There was little sculpture in early plans; its role grew as the project proceeded. The works are credited to Alexander Milne Calder, grandfather of Alexander Calder, the painter and creator of the mobile. Aside from a virtually wordless catalog of the elder Calder’s plaster models, original documentation on the artwork is almost nonexistent. “There may be a story hidden in this building, but we have yet to determine who designed that story and what it says,” Mr. Myers said. Some of the building’s messages are direct enough, depicting history, government and law. Wagons with prisoners headed for trial would pass under a composition of works about becoming a better person: admonition from a mother scolding her child and forgiveness being granted by a father. The face of Sympathy gazes down."


Design For Loving: Christopher Egan explains why today's architecture reviews read like porn

"So critics are looking at architecture in a fundamentally different way?"

"Yes. In the early part of the twentieth century, the architecture before World War I was really dynamic, a little bit out of control, but very passionate — like the Eiffel Tower, a lot of the art nouveau, some of the art deco. After World War I, the mood of architects tended to be overly intellectual and political and Communist and international, and they moved toward a more cold-blooded, engineering-based architecture. There was a movement in the 1920s where the engineer was the new architect because architects were considered corrupt and decadent. Then in the late '60s and early '70s, people began to realize that was bogus and that there had to be another way. What you're getting in the last twenty years in architecture is very exciting. I'm not completely at peace with a lot of the great masters, but I love what they're struggling with."

Private Spaceport Plan up for Air

Wired July 23

"A spacecraft taking off from a private West Texas spaceport being bankrolled and developed by founder Jeff Bezos would take off vertically, but unlike NASA's space shuttle would also land vertically, according to an environmental study that offers a glimpse into the secretive plans. The craft would hit an altitude of about 325,000 feet -- or almost 62 miles -- before descending and restarting its engine for a "precision vertical powered landing on the landing pad" in sparsely populated Culberson County, about 125 miles east of El Paso.

As many as 10 flight tests lasting as long as a minute and reaching an altitude of about 2,000 feet could occur this year at the site, north of Van Horn on the 165,000-acre Corn Ranch purchased by Bezos. Over the following three years, as many as 25 launches would be made annually, growing in altitude to 325,000 feet and in duration to more than 10 minutes. Commercial flights, a goal of the project, could begin in 2010, according to the timetable in the document, with as many as 52 a year.

Construction would cover 223 acres with buildings, launch and landing pads, storage tanks and parking lots, but that's just over 1 percent of the land. New fencing would be needed to enclose the launch site area, 18,600 acres of desert scrubland and grassland now in use as a private wildlife management area."


Also see: Slate's Architecture Critic Picks on Denver "It doesn't appear that Rybczynski actually went inside and used the buildings--he merely assessed how they looked from the outside."


Why experimental architecture isn't working out for Denver

Slate July 12

"Anyone visiting Denver, as I did recently, will be curious to see Daniel Libeskind's first American building, due to open in September. The dramatic 163,000-square-foot addition to the Denver Art Museum (designed in association with the Davis Partnership) occupies a prominent downtown site ... Libeskind's signature motifs are all in evidence: zigzag lines, spiky shapes, dramatic cantilevers. People associate the tortured forms of the Jewish Museum in Berlin (which opened in 2001) with suffering and anguish, but their reappearance here suggests that they may be a personal idiosyncrasy. Libeskind himself has been quoted as saying that the Denver addition was inspired by the nearby Rocky Mountains."

Replica of New Orleans: A Study in Urban Cloning

New York Times July 16

"But for all its charm and easy livability, River Ranch has disturbed others who quarrel with its architectural style. They see it as the design equivalent of cubic zirconium, the epitome of what many in New Orleans hope the rebuilt city will never be: an imitation New Orleans, a pretty postcard version of a real city.

Carefully planned communities like River Ranch stand at the crossroads of the debate over what should replace the flooded neighborhoods of New Orleans and damaged Gulf Coast towns. The development is a model of a design philosophy known as New Urbanism, which stresses densely packed housing, green town squares, easy access to transportation, and architecture with a historical theme. New Urbanism, which began in the 1990’s, has been popular in the last year among smaller Gulf Coast towns, but it has yet to gain traction among New Orleans residents and planners, many of whom say the old urbanism worked just fine."


In Santa Fe, an Architectural Battle Goes Casa a Casa

New York Times July 13

"Two years ago Stephen Mills and Susan Emmet Reid woke up to find offensive graffiti scrawled on the outside of their just-completed house in Santa Fe, N.M. The spray-painter was not a juvenile delinquent, the couple quickly realized, but someone who objected to the design of the building, comparing it to Nazi architecture.

Situated on a quiet street about a mile from the center of town, the house has greenish-gray walls that meet at right angles. Those deviations from the classic Santa Fe style, which features pinkish-brown stucco and rounded edges, were enough to anger many residents.

A year earlier, the review board, a group of volunteers charged with deciding what is built in the city’s six-square-mile historic district, approved the design for the house, by Trey Jordan, an architect in Santa Fe. But after the building was finished, the city’s mayor at the time, Larry Delgado, began hearing from angry constituents. As a result, Ms. Farrar said, she and other members of the board got “a stern talking-to from the mayor, who threatened not to reappoint us.” Since then, the board has become increasingly hard to satisfy, said Mr. Jordan, who has completed about two dozen buildings in Santa Fe since setting up shop in 1994. Most recently, his refusal to make changes in plans for his own house has brought him and the board to an impasse, which the City Council now has to resolve."

Future AIA President Discusses Race and Architecture

Architectural Record July 10

"Do you plan to address diversity as AIA president?"

"That’s certainly an issue that the AIA needs to address. We haven’t been very effective at it. Our numbers have changed substantially, but they’re not where they should be. With women there has been a three- to four-time increase, African Americans have stayed stable at 1 percent. We also need more Latinos.

"Do you find American architecture too conservative?"

"Look at who is producing it. Our music, by contrast, is a result of our entire culture, because we have taken advantage of our diversity. If architecture is still music frozen in time, then we’re doing classical music. There’s no R&B, no jazz, no rap. What kind of architecture would a Miles Davis have given us? What kind of architecture would Duke Ellington have given us? When you look at who is contributing to the architectural fabric of American it’s often boring. It’s the same old, same old. What kind of architecture would Jay-Z give us if he got turned on by that creative mode? We need clients who are looking for those creative modes. It’s one of the only modes of artistic expression where you need someone to commission it. If you’re a painter you just paint. With architecture you need a patron. Architecture would get better if we involved people from the inner city. It would get enlivened and enriched. What would dance be without African Americans? What would our music be? When you start limiting who practices, that’s a problem."



Marshall Purnell, FAIA, a principal at the Washington D.C., firm Devrouax + Purnell Architects and Planners PC, was elected AIA 2008 president.


Audio interview with Marshall Purnell

Luxembourg Opens Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art

New York Times July 8

"... A dispute over the stone to be used at the museum — Mr. Pei insisted on a honey-colored French stone — led to a four-year legal wrangle and further delays."

Architecture: Doing what comes culturally

Sunday Times July 9

"Pei has certainly delivered architecturally, though Mudam contains no surprises for anyone who knows his geometric obsession. You can spot the Louvre-ish bits, you can even find echoes of the grand summerhouse he built for clients in Wiltshire. It is beautifully built — indeed, some of the best-detailed stone and steelwork I’ve ever seen. It rises from the foundations of one of Luxembourg’s many ruined castles. The trouble is, it doesn’t have much of a collection."



On the Mississippi, a Vision Steeped in an Industrial Past

New York Times July 4

"The new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis should offer comfort to those who miss the 1980's Nouvel. Rising at the edge of the Mississippi, its confident forms are rooted in a vision of a muscular industrial America, and its structural bravura will certainly please the techno-fetishists. As a thoughtful response to the American city's evolving role as a haven for cultural tourism, it also coaxes new meaning out of a haggard landscape."

Renovating a Master's Shrine: Yale's Art and Architecture Building

New York Times July 1

"The task seemed daunting enough: renovate a 1963 landmark marred by a patchwork of repairs that had left its signature interior — 37 levels of interlocking spaces in a 7-story building — looking rundown and gerrymandered. But far more intimidating was the status of this Brutalist-style structure, the Art and Architecture Building at Yale University, designed by Paul Rudolph, a renowned architect and the former dean of the School of Architecture. For those who studied the subject at Yale in the 1960's and 70's, the building was a locus for spirited debates about functionality, the twilight of Modernism and the vicissitudes of architectural fashion.

That was the legacy facing Charles Gwathmey, who received his master's in architecture in 1962 from Yale, when he took on the renovation of Mr. Rudolph's creation. It will include an addition for the art history department, which will share a fine arts library in the addition with the architecture department. After six years of planning, construction of the extension starts next week; work on the existing building will follow next summer. With its distinctive rough concrete surface and interlocking masses and voids, the A & A Building, as it is called, is probably the best-known work by Mr. Rudolph, who died in 1997."



Freedom Tower Sheds the Look of Bulky Armor

New York Times June 29

"Eager to avoid creating a fortress that overshadows the World Trade Center memorial, the architects of the Freedom Tower unveiled a new approach yesterday. They would clad its 187-foot-high, bomb-resistant concrete base in a screen of glass prisms rather than metal panels. This and other notable refinements were described by the building's lead architect, David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. He spoke at an awards ceremony held by the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 7 World Trade Center, overlooking the Freedom Tower site, which is under excavation. Even after the revisions, the building would still evoke the twin towers in its height and proportions. Its rooftop parapet would be 1,368 feet above the street, as was that of 1 World Trade Center, the north tower.

In the first redesign last year, the base of the tower was to rise 200 feet and perhaps be clad in stainless steel, aluminum or titanium. Though Mr. Childs envisioned these panels as enlivening the almost windowless facade, others despaired about its monolithic quality. The phrase "concrete bunker" was tossed around.

The timing of the unveiling, Mr. Childs said in an advance briefing, was prompted by the completion of what are known as the tower's design development drawings, which are far more refined and detailed than the schematic plans shown last year. "There is still work to do, but the official design phase is over," he said. In the redesign last year, the tower was given a smaller floor area, or footprint, increasing its distance from West Street-Route 9A and any bomb-laden vehicle that might approach along that highway. With smaller floors, Mr. Childs said, it was no longer practical or desirable to have as many elevator shafts running the full height of the building, dictating a transfer floor, an unexceptional feature of high-rise buildings.

There would be five service elevators that can reach every floor, including one water-resistant car, housed in a protected shaft, for use by firefighters and other rescue workers in an emergency. The biggest changes have been made to the base; in essence, a security pedestal that is meant to lift the glass-clad office tower out of harm's way in the event of a bombing. Because the base would be so tall, the first office floor atop the base is counted as Floor 20. There would be 69 office floors, ending at Floor 88. Above that would be broadcasting space on the 89th and 90th floors, followed by three mechanical floors so high they are counted as nine stories. In the upper reaches, a restaurant would occupy the 100th and 101st floors. The enclosed observation deck, which would almost undoubtedly include a gift shop, would be at 102. Above that would be three floors of mechanical equipment. The last 408 feet of the tower's height would be a white structure, clad in fiberglass composite panels, with a gentle convex curve in the middle. Designed in collaboration with the sculptor Kenneth Snelson, it would hide a bristling forest of antennas."



  Agbar Tower


LED Architecture


"Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are reinventing the look and feel of skylines, bridges, facades and other architectural surfaces around the globe. The light bulb is being unscrewed by energy-efficient LEDs that are both environmentally friendly and cost-effective."

For a New Paris Museum, Jean Nouvel Creates His Own Rules

New York Times June 27

"No one relishes a grand architectural scandal the way Parisians do. François Mitterrand sprinkled the city with bold landmarks, from I. M. Pei's glass pyramid at the Louvre to Dominique Perrault's National Library, which was regarded by many as a noble failure. Georges Pompidou built just one, the colorful machinelike museum that bears his name, and if traditionalists were appalled by it, he is still best remembered for that masterpiece of 1970's populism.

Like its predecessors, the new Musée du Quai Branly should raise the hackles of people who hate to see Paris's beauty tampered with. Defiant, mysterious and wildly eccentric, it is not an easy building to love. Its jumble of mismatched structures, set in a lush, rambling garden on the Left Bank of the Seine in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, hardly conforms to notions of Parisian elegance...

Yet for all of its flaws, Jean Nouvel's building creates a kaleidoscopic montage of urban impressions. And once you give yourself over to the experience, you may find it the greatest monument to French popular culture since the Pompidou. "The building could not be an affirmation of the triumph of Western architecture," he said, gazing down on his creation from the top of the Eiffel Tower on a recent afternoon. "If you understand the rules," he said, the mystery is lost.

It's a nutty idea. Without rules, how does an architect begin? Mr. Nouvel got started by observing his context. The museum rises from a 19-acre site anchored at its east end by a row of grand 19th-century apartment buildings. Their uniform facades represent the rationally ordered Paris of Baron Haussmann, who carved out the city's broad boulevards. Haussmann's efforts were seen as a way of cleansing the old city of its medieval squalor. But the aim was also to isolate the other: the downtrodden urban populace, among whom radical ideas festered. To Mr. Nouvel this is not dead history, as recent rioting by immigrants on Paris's outskirts has shown. Thumbing his nose at Haussmann, he offers an anarchic collection of motley structures that spill out over the garden. The main body of the museum, propped up on thick columns, extends through the center of the lush space. An enormous curved glass wall shields the garden from cars roaring by along the Seine. Two small buildings — one for artists' studios, another for administrative offices — protrude from the ends of the Haussmann apartments.

The studied casualness is dumbfounding at first. The forms seem carelessly patched together. A cylindrical lobby and temporary gallery tucked under the main building seem squashed under the weight; the connection between the gallery buildings and the offices — a few small bridges — looks flimsy. What's more, each facade is different, as if the architect couldn't stop fussing with his design. On one side of the building are rust-colored louvered brises-soleil. On the other, a row of colorful boxes projects out over the garden.

Some will attack the project as yet another example of a self-indulgent architect run amok. Others will take issue with the handicraft quality of some of the structures and the use of childlike colors, which raise touchy questions about how we portray non-Western cultures.

Yet as you explore the buildings, it is clear that a vibrant imagination is at work."


In early June, I in was in Toronto to deliver a paper at the Architecture|Music
|Acoustics Conference
and took these construction photos of the Daniel Libeskind (with Bregman + Hamann Architects and Arup) addition to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).






^Does steel really want to do this?


<Reminds me of his Jüdisches Museum Berlin

















link to 25 additional construction photos by pattina

Skyline for Sale

New York Times June 4

"As a young architect working in Los Angeles in the 1960's and 70's, Mr. Gehry has said, he felt imprisoned by his developer clients. "I was constantly pushed around by these guys," he said in an interview. "They had a formula that you had to follow. So you couldn't do things." He found his creative voice in smaller, offbeat projects, like the Danziger Studio (1965) or the Ron Davis House in Malibu, Calif. (1972), for artists whom he knew and liked.

But by 1979 that split — between the projects that paid the bills and those that gave satisfaction — had become a torture. Working on Santa Monica Place, a low-budget mall for the Maryland-based Rouse Company, Mr. Gehry could only tweak the conventional formulas. Not that far away, he had begun tearing apart and piecing together a plain pink bungalow, remaking it as a violent collage of chain link, corrugated metal and plywood: the house that would announce that he had finally broken free. The experience led him to lay off most of his firm. From then on he swore he would only work for clients that shared his architectural values.

Some 25 years after Santa Monica Place, Mr. Gehry says his recent decision to embrace big developers does not signal any sort of about-face. He argues that his status puts him in an entirely different position. "They have to meet me as an equal," Mr. Gehry said simply."



Zaha Hadid: A Diva for the Digital Age

New York Times June 2

"The Guggenheim Museum is presenting the Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid's first major retrospective in the United States...

It illuminates her capacity for bridging different worlds: between traditional perspective drawing and slick computer-generated imagery, between the era of utopian manifestos and the ambiguous values of the information age."

Zaha's World

Slate June 21

"The architect Zaha Hadid is often referred to as a visionary, but what exactly does that mean? Judging from the retrospective currently on view at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (through Oct. 25), the title has a lot to do with the source of her inspiration. The show, which proceeds in a linear fashion along the spiral, begins with paintings, continues with paper reliefs, models, and architectural renderings, and concludes with photographs of finished buildings. Although the organization is linear, the effect of gathering such a diverse group of material is nonetheless to reinforce just how unprogrammatic are Hadid's designs. This architecture is not a response to functional requirements, or construction methods, or site constraints, but seems driven, instead, by images of The Future: streamlined shapes, free-flowing forms, silhouettes that suggest an intergalactic space station.

But there is more to Hadid's architecture than sci-fi imagery. Traditionally, architects have sought to create order out of chaos. Hadid's generation of self-styled avant-garde practitioners—among them her fellow Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne, and Daniel Libeskind—has upended this metaphor. Instead of order out of chaos, they have strived mightily to create chaos out of order. The result is dissatisfying. At its best, the Guggenheim show elicits amazement—"I didn't know they could do that." At its worst, it is merely confusing."

The skyscraper boom: Better than flying

The Economist June 1

"Skyscrapers pose stupendous problems to designers and developers because they have two powerful forces working against them. The first is economic—exemplified by the number of big American companies that now prefer to operate from low-rise campuses built outside cities. There are of course exceptions. These tend to be large financial institutions, on which a skyscraper confers the permanence once embodied by marble halls and oak-panelled dining-rooms.

The second is physical: towers are always fighting against their own weight. As more parts of the building are devoted to holding it up, they encroach on the space for working or living in. Developers and leasing agents refer to the ratio between these two elements as a building's “net-to-gross”. In a really efficient skyscraper, nearly 70% of the building's volume is useable, with the rest taken up by lift-shafts, stairwells and pillars. In a well designed low-rise building, by contrast, more than 80% of the space can be sold or let."

Designing for Dough in Vegas

Wired May 31

"Steelman has, over the last 20 years, come up with 70-odd design rules to keep visitors in a gleeful state as they evenly spread their dollars among betting tables, shops, theaters and restaurants. His Paul Steelman Design Group made $35 million in sales last year designing or refurbishing 50 casino projects around the world. Owners come to him for a philosophy that blends a feel for how to appeal to people's baser instincts with psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. "Confusion creates worry," Steelman says. "Worry creates doubt. Doubt brings less empowerment. The less empowered gambler won't spend much." Mirrors are bad, too. They can shatter the illusion that you're James Bond."

Miami Is All About Its Celebrity Architects

New York Times May 30

"The Big Architects are in town. On Lincoln Road alone in Miami Beach, Enrique Norten, Frank Gehry and the team of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron are all at work on major projects. From Mr. Norten there is a low-slung condominium and retail building, and Mr. Herzog and Mr. de Meuron are designing a distinctive parking garage integrated with retail, office and residential space. Frank Gehry is creating a concert hall and high-tech distance-learning center for the New World Symphony. And Mr. Norten has at least two other projects in Miami, including the so-called Flatiron building.

Yet designing for Miami can be a challenge, architects say, given the weather — heat, hurricanes, high winds — and the range of cultural influences that coexist in the city. "What's been very challenging for us is to find the local conditions for a modern vocabulary," Mr. Norten said. "We're trying to understand and let that permeate the projects." He said contemporary architects faced a hurdle locally in countering the New Urbanism, a movement that promotes traditional low-rise buildings and argues that signature architecture should be reserved for civic buildings. Two leading founders of the movement, the partners Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, are based in Miami. Mr. Duany said the new architects on the scene were "capable of decent urban outcomes." But according to Mr. Norten, the New Urbanists "feel totally threatened by all of this and are trying to set up a resistance." The city is pushing back, he said. "I feel that Miami as a community understands its capacity to be an American modern city," he added."


Health-Care Facilities and Neuroscience Knowledge

AIArchitect May 26

"Good design can speed patient recovery and help visitors find their way, says John Eberhard, FAIA, in the latest article in his Architecture and Neuroscience series.

A large number of hypotheses have been produced as the outcome of these interactions between architects and neuroscientists. Some of the hypotheses are general statements that the group judged to be intuitively correct—but still open to verification.

1. Hypothesis on windows in patient rooms: Windows influence the healing process because variations in the perceived environment affect brain processes that in turn alter outcome measures associated with positive patient experiences.

2. Hypothesis on the value of privacy for patients: Privacy mechanisms in humans are strongly related to the neurological mechanisms inherent in our species with respect to questions of personal safety, territoriality (i.e, “this is my space”), eating of food, using the bathroom, and eavesdropping."

Eames Lounge Chair Exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design

New York Times May 26

"Sometimes a chair is just a chair. But sometimes it is more: a luxury item, a symbol of authority, a refuge for mind and body, a design landmark. The Eames lounge chair — the spacious black leather and molded rosewood chair, with ottoman, that the designers Charles Eames and his wife, Ray, unveiled on national television in 1956 — is all of the above. Its 50th anniversary is being honored by "The Eames Lounge Chair: An Icon of Modern Design," a smart, thorough exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design.

The Eames lounge chair quickly became a postwar status symbol favored by elites, whether captains of industry, college deans, modern-art collectors or architects. For many, the chair remains a familiar sign of the psychoanalyst's office — even if you've never been in one — and has functioned as such in movies, plays and New Yorker cartoons. Fittingly, its 50th anniversary coincides with the 150th of Freud's birth."


The world's most dangerous architect has his say

Village Voice May 22

"Alexander has a beef with the whole trajectory of architecture after, oh, say, 1600—when the visionary architect-genius swaggered onto the scene. Modern architects, he says, have substituted empty, ruinous conceits for the "simple, ordinary, vulnerable stuff" of life. The Nature of Order is chock-full of that stuff, to be sure. There are pictures of breaking waves and leaping cheetahs. There are observations on the dew drops on a spider's web. There are Blackfoot Indian tipis, Japanese shrines, and Swedish log houses. It all brims with a wholeness for which, Alexander writes, we've almost lost the knack.

Blame the architects, he says, who are shills for a bankrupt modern society, "very much as if we were the advance-men, the ad-men, paid to make a series of unworkable social forms palatable to people by making something inherently bad seem glamorous." Twentieth-century architecture, he adds, has been "a mass psychosis of unprecedented dimension," "a form of architecture which is against life, insane, image-ridden, hollow." (He told Peter Eisenman, in a 1982 debate, that highfalutin architects were "fucking up the whole profession of architecture." For his part, Eisenman told Alexander to quit posing as some "California joy-boy" and own up to his intellectual pretensions.) Sprawling over 2,000 pages, The Nature of Order is the joy-boy's duly considered reply, a sometimes jumbled, on occasion impassable, and yet surprisingly poignant catalogue raisonné of Christopher Alexander's career-long crusade to get architecture's groove back."

Battle for Biloxi

New York Times May 21

"As radical as New Urbanism is, its principles are relatively straightforward and easily applied. Most of them are formalized in a book called "SmartCode," a zoning manual that breaks the built environment down into six zones, or "transects," of various densities, from wilderness to urban core. Each transect comes with its own building code, specifying everything from permissible architectonic elements (rooflines, porches, stoop heights) to the width of sidewalks and the style of street lights...

"Affordable to who?" That's the first question, and the most difficult to answer. There used to be a lot of ways for people to get by in Biloxi: the communities were stable, houses were old and often passed down through generations and rental properties were plentiful and inexpensive. Now that much of it needs to be rebuilt, everything is going to cost a great deal more. I asked Andrés Duany what he meant by "affordable," and he said: "$140,000. We can make a really nice three-bedroom house for $140,000, working with mobile-home manufacturers." When I asked Bill Stallworth, a black councilman whose ward includes about half of East Biloxi, he was just as blunt. "That's not affordable for this area," he said. "Affordability is $65,000 to $95,000." ...

In the wealthier sections of Biloxi, the problem was control. Most of the New Urbanists I talked to seemed vexed by the very idea that anyone could disagree with a creed they found self-evident, but the movement does have its critics, especially among architects. They find its principles overbearing and the result sentimental — a mawkish nostalgia for a middle-class, middle-American life that never really existed and wouldn't be worth yearning for even if it had. To its adversaries, New Urbanism is regressive, authoritarian and hidebound."


The Architect, His Client, Her Husband and a House Named Turbulence

New York Times May 21

"The architect Steven Holl says he called it Turbulence House because the wind hollers across the mesa. He also had in mind the apocryphal tale of Heisenberg on his deathbed, asking God: Why relativity? And why turbulence? God, Heisenberg supposedly guessed, would be able to answer only the first.

Tuttle: "The place is uninhabitable half the time. It's too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. With lasers, they devised a footprint, a slab, on site, then when the panels arrived they didn't fit — they had to pull them together with straps, like a corset. Not very bright. Any damn fool knows you don't do these two things separately. I respect Steven. He's an artist. It's not his fault if the whole architecture profession is ego gone wild." He adds: "It turns out that the greatest invention, the one that made civilization possible, is caulking."

Berssenbrugge: "We wanted prefab, and instead we got a creative architect's iteration of prefab. It's not Green. It's not solar. It was twice over budget and construction was a nightmare and it's still not finished. But it is real architecture, and that's rare, with beauties only an artist can give you. I tell people, was Dr. Farnsworth happy with the house Mies van der Rohe gave her? She didn't have a closet, but she got a work of art." "



Engineering Conflict

New York Times May 21

"Architecture, on the other hand, is a subject that is fraught with genuine conflict, and it seems to have acquired an extraordinary capacity to make all kinds of people extremely angry about issues that range from the most intensely personal to the most diffusely political. Architecture causes neighbors to go to war over tear-downs or allows a wronged spouse to expunge the memory of an ex-husband from a former family home.

Often quite wrongly, architecture is equated with political beliefs. Flat roofs have been associated with modernism and progressive politics, while the use of dated historical styles is believed to embody traditional values. When the Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron were hired by the University of Texas to design a campus art gallery in 1998, Tony Sanchez, a fund-raiser for George W. Bush, engineered their resignation because they refused to adopt the Spanish colonial style, which he, as a member of the university's board of regents, found most fitting.

Architecture matters because it lasts, of course. It matters because it is big, and it shapes the landscape of our everyday lives. But beyond that, it also matters because, more than any other cultural form, it is a means of setting the historical record straight."





Texas Tech University College of Architecture hosted a reception for the  Spring 2006 Master of Architecture Degree graduates with faculty, family, and friends on May 12. left from the top: Dr. Hendrika Buelinckx and students; nominees for Outstanding Thesis; some of the 31 students graduating this semester; above: Dean Andrew Vernooy and Derrick York, winner of the Walter L. Calvert medal for Academic Achievement.

Ground Zero Staircase Is Put on List of Most Endangered Sites

New York Times May 11

"The last piece of the World Trade Center still standing aboveground — a battered but recognizable staircase used by hundreds to flee the inferno of 9/11 — is one of the most endangered historical places in America, the National Trust for Historic Preservation said yesterday. That is because it stands in the way of an office tower designed by Norman Foster of London and planned by Larry A. Silverstein, president of Silverstein Properties.

Other sites on the trust's annual list of 11 endangered historical places are the hurricane-battered historic districts of New Orleans and the Mississippi Coast. But the trust made the "survivors' stairway" the centerpiece of its announcement yesterday in Washington, which will undoubtedly raise the profile of an overlooked but significant architectural artifact from Sept. 11, 2001. "It will be the most dramatic original piece of the site that will have meaning to generations to come," Mr. Moe said. The trust's action may also place Mr. Silverstein in a position he has so far managed to avoid: confrontation with survivors and preservationists."



World Trade Center Vesey Street Staircase

The Third School: A new kind of skyscraper heralds a new kind of Chicago architecture

Chicago Reader May 5

"Studio/Gang/Architects, started by rethinking the idea of a tall building. “It must be in every inch a proud and soaring thing” is how Louis Sullivan described the skyscraper in the 1890s. The elegant glass boxes Ludwig Mies van der Rohe began building in 1949 refined that idea as they redefined modernism, but they were followed by innumerable bad imitations. By the 80s postmodernist architects seemed almost ashamed of any hint of soaring pride and tried to conceal the verticality of their towers with horizontal bands and neoclassical ornament, which was about as effective as dressing an elephant in a tutu.

Gang wanted to celebrate the verticality of her 822-foot building, but she didn’t want it to be revivalist. So she first examined the way tall buildings relate to their surroundings. Most new designs, she points out, are presented as idealized drawings that leave out everything that’s around a building and place viewers in a spot where they can take in the whole thing in a single glance, even though the actual streetscape makes that impossible. (Loewenberg’s marketers are selling Aqua the same way.) “The real way you experience buildings in the city,” she says, “is in the oblique view—looking up or looking down at it from another tower.” More important was the perspective from inside the building. Developers want views, and Gang intended to offer as many compelling ones as possible. “Views are easy to get from the top,” she says. “But from the lower and middle floors you look between this dense forest of high-rises.” The Studio/Gang team constructed a supersize model of that dense forest, then used lengths of string to plot the endpoints of the views from Aqua’s units. Gang discovered that by adding terraces that swept in and out along the perimeter of the tower, she could create views that wouldn’t exist in a rectangular building.

After deciding where to put all the bumps, Gang’s team studied how the sun would hit each apartment so they could determine the size and shape the terraces would have to be to also provide adequate shade. So they not only curve in and out along the edges of the floor plates, but each one is slightly smaller or larger—up to 18 feet deep—than the ones immediately above and below it, creating swells and valleys along the facades."



External reviewers, faculty, and students participate in end of semester critiques.

At Swarthmore, a Green Building as a Billboard for Science

Chronicle of Higher Education April 28

"It sounds like a recipe for disaster: Start with three used science buildings. Add two architecture firms and a photocopied draft of some sustainability guidelines. Agitate with a 50-member advisory committee worried about student safety, storm-water runoff, and songbird deaths. Blend in stone, steel, glass, wood, and panels made from compressed sunflower-seed hulls. Add $48-million and let rise, then fill with heavy-duty air-handling systems, high-tech lab equipment, casual furniture, and a cafe. Garnish with gardens. Unveil.

A disaster? Far from it. At Swarthmore College, that proved to be the recipe for a science complex so imaginative and engaging that it sets a new standard...

Hallways outside of math professors' offices have benches for students waiting to see the faculty members; computer-science students wanted sofas for napping. At the ends of hallways, windows illuminate small seating areas where students can study or socialize. Where possible, stairs are attractively finished and have windows that offer views — the idea, Ms. Semler says, was to encourage people to take the stairs rather than the elevators. But the elevators are entertaining, too. Because floor levels in the existing buildings didn't match up, elevators in the complex make stops like 1.0, 1.2, 1.5, 2.0, and so on."



The Science Building Project at Swarthmore College

"This website serves to keep the community up-to-date on design, construction, and related issues, and will serve as a forum for feedback and interaction among various stakeholders in the project."

For the Cameras, Work Begins on Freedom Tower

New York Times April 27

"Though unchanged in overall form, the tower that emerges between now and 2011 may differ notably in two key respects from the models and renderings the public saw last summer, when the design was substantially revised to account for security concerns. David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the architects of the building, said that its 185-foot-high concrete base, which isolates the glass-skinned tower from the effects of a large vehicle-borne bomb, may be clad in glass panels rather than metal ones. While the panels would not be transparent, since there will be concrete behind them, they still might impart a shimmering quality to an almost windowless structure that will rise nearly 20 stories. Stone cladding is another possibility. Mr. Childs said the structural details of the mast at the top of the building, which will give it a height of 1,776 feet, may change. The architects are working on that part of the building with the sculptor Kenneth Snelson."


Developer Takes a Financial Deal for Ground Zero

New York Times April 26

"Under the proposed deal, Mr. Silverstein is surrendering control of the Freedom Tower and a second site, Tower 5, to the Port Authority. Tower 5 will probably be sold to a residential developer. To put the Freedom Tower on a sound financial footing, the Pataki administration has pledged to contribute $250 million and round up a million square feet of leases, most likely with federal agencies. The leases would allow the authority to get a mortgage, which, combined with $970 million in insurance proceeds, would cover most of the estimated cost of the building."


Jane Jacobs, Social Critic Who Redefined and Championed Cities, Is Dead at 89

New York Times April 26

"In her book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," written in 1961, Ms. Jacobs's enormous achievement was to transcend her own withering critique of 20th-century urban planning and propose radically new principles for rebuilding cities. At a time when both common and inspired wisdom called for bulldozing slums and opening up city space, Ms. Jacobs's prescription was ever more diversity, density and dynamism — in effect, to crowd people and activities together in a joyous urban jumble."


The vibrant legacy of Jane Jacobs

Slate April 26

"When The Death and Life of Great American Cities was published in 1961, the professional urbanists were not amused. In his New Yorker column, titled "Mother Jacobs' Home Remedies," Lewis Mumford, a chief spokesman for the importance of planning, called the book a "mingling of sense and sentimentality, of mature judgments and schoolgirl howlers." Even seven years later, the leading architectural and urban academic of that time, John Burchard, would condescendingly refer to Jacobs' book as an "entertaining expression of a point of view [that] had a transitory acclaim." Transitory? Death and Life, which is still in print, went on to change the way that succeeding generations of architects and planners thought about cities."



1961 New York Times Book Review (pdf)

Jane Jacobs Influence (5:37 audio)

Jane Jacobs.


Richard Meier's New Home for the Ara Pacis, a Roman Treasure, Opens

New York Times April 24

"To judge by first impressions, opinions are divided. There is widespread satisfaction with the presentation of the Ara Pacis. But some visitors were unhappy that the museum's entrance interrupts the view of the façades of two adjacent churches, San Rocco and San Girolamo dei Croati.

To this, Mr. Meier, who flew from New York for the opening, responded with a sigh."

AIA/COTE 2006 Top Ten Awards

"Every year the AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) invites electronic submission of built projects. Among the submission requirements are the ten measures and supporting metrics." (pdf)

Top Ten Measure 4: Bioclimatic Design

Top Ten Measure 9: Long Life, Loose Fit

Top Ten Measure 10: Collective Wisdom & Feedback Loops


2006 Top Ten Awards:

Alberici Corporate Headquarters, Overland, MO

The Animal Foundation Dog Adoption Park, Las Vegas, NV

Ballard Library and Neighborhood Center, Seattle, WA

Ben Franklin Elementary School, Kirkland, WA

Immaculate Heart of Mary Motherhouse, Monroe, MI

Philadelphia Forensic Science Center, Philadelphia, PA

Solar Umbrella House, Venice, CA, USA

UT School of Nursing and Student Center, Houston, TX

Westcave Preserve Env. Learning Center, Round Mountain, TX

World Birding Center Headquarters, Mission, TX




What Is The New Suburbanism?

Planetizen April 24

"One critical aspect of New Suburbanism lies in its pragmatism...

New Suburbanism is not a new design paradigm that seeks to compete with or discredit principles of New Urbanism. Instead, our perspective represents a broad-based attempt to find the best, most practical ways to develop and redevelop suburban communities...

We believe developers and planners must look at what consumers are communicating through their migration patterns. Although there is a strong market niche for traditional urban living, surveys and census data reveal that this niche remains relatively small, perhaps no more than 10 to 20 percent of the total population. Surveys conducted in California, a heavily urbanized state, show that most people -- upwards of 80 percent -- want a single family home."

Students in Associate Professor Jimmy Davis ARCH 1442 Architectural Delineation II render a "Katrina Cottage"

with ink orthographic projection, watercolor perspective, and Photoshop manipulation.

Perl's Architecture Weblog Spring 2006

Perl's Architecture Weblog Fall 2005

Perl's Architecture Weblog Summer 2005

Perl's Architecture Weblog May 2005

Perl's Architecture Weblog March 2005

Perl's Architecture Weblog January 2004

Perl's Architecture Weblog earlyDecember 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog late November 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog mid November 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog early November 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog late October 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog mid October 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog early October 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog September 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog Summer 2003


 Texas Tech University  College of Architecture  Robert D. Perl 


copyright © 2003


Associate Professor Robert D. Perl, AIA

AH 1002D Office Hours: T 1:30-4:30 pm or by appointment

742-3169 x248