Perl's Architecture Weblog

2007 Spring Semester

Associate Professor Robert D. Perl, AIA




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 Texas Tech University  College of Architecture  Robert D. Perl 


updated 27-Jun-2007


Professor Jim White presented Leslie Shepherd, AIA, with a commemorative crystal. Les Shepherd received a BArch from TTU in 1983. Currently he serves as Chief Architect of the U.S. General Services Administration.


Professor John White chats with Les Shepherd and alumni at the Texas Tech University College of Architecture Alumni Reception at the AIA Convention in San Antonio.  The May 3 gathering provided many (re)connection opportunities for alumni, faculty and current students.

Baghdad embassy plans turn up online

Yahoo News May 31

"Detailed plans for the new U.S. Embassy under construction in Baghdad appeared online Thursday in a breach of the tight security surrounding the sensitive project. Computer-generated projections of the soon-to-be completed, heavily fortified compound were posted on the Web site of the Kansas City, Mo.-based architectural firm that was contracted to design the massive facility in the Iraqi capital. The images were removed by Berger Devine Yaeger Inc. shortly after the company was contacted by the State Department. "We work very hard to ensure the safety and security of our employees overseas," said Gonzalo Gallegos, a department spokesman. "This kind of information out in the public domain detracts from that effort."

The 10 images included a scheme of the overall layout of the compound, plus depictions of individual buildings including the embassy itself, office annexes, the Marine Corps security post, swimming pool, recreation center and the ambassador's and deputy ambassador's residences. U.S. officials said the posted plans conformed at least roughly to conceptual drawings for the new embassy, which is being built on the banks of the Tigris River behind huge fences due to concerns about insurgents' attacks. Dan Sreebny, a spokesman for the embassy in Baghdad, declined to discuss the accuracy of the posted images. "In terms of commenting whether they're accurate, obviously we wouldn't be commenting on that because we don't want people to know whether they're accurate or not for security reasons," he said. Berger Devine Yaeger's parent company, the giant contractor Louis Berger Group, said the plans had been very preliminary and would not be of help to potential U.S. enemies. "The actual information that was up there was purely conjectural and conceptual in nature," said company spokesman Jeffrey Willis. "Google Earth could give you a better snapshot of what the site looks like on the ground." Some U.S. officials acknowledged that damage may have been done by the postings and used expletives to describe their personal reactions. Still, they downplayed the overall risk."

U.S. Embassy in Iraq to be biggest ever

Yahoo News May 19

"The $592 million embassy occupies a chunk of prime real estate two-thirds the size of Washington's National Mall, with desk space for about 1,000 people behind high, blast-resistant walls. The compound is a symbol both of how much the United States has invested in Iraq and how the circumstances of its involvement are changing."


Baghdad US Embassy

"Following successful completion of the preliminary concept plans and the full embassy master plan, Berger was commissioned to prepare the design-build “bridging documents” (based on 35% design) for construction of the self-contained embassy compound. Berger Devine Yaeger, Inc. (BDY) was the architect for this work. The construction (currently underway) is being executed in four concurrent packages...

In total, the 104 acre compound will include over twenty buildings including one classified secure structure and housing for over 380 families."

Frank Gehry’s buildings seem to be from another planet

Times UK May 29

"What’s the most difficult and stressful task that a human being can perform? Brain surgery on the President of the United States maybe, or reentering the Earth’s atmosphere in a malfunctioning Space Shuttle? Or perhaps it would it be the task of designing a Frank Gehry building: a several-hundred-million-dollar landmark that appears to be engaged in an inadvisable late-night dare with gravity; a building that, when you get down to it, has no real business being a building at all. Something like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which resembles a giant extraterrestrial insect perched for a while on the bank of the Nervion River, ready to flutter back into deep space at any moment.

It’s hard not to feel daunted by the prospect of interacting with the brain responsible for Bilbao’s how-in-the-name-of-God-did-they-build-that curves, not to mention the wildly implausible lines of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Gehry’s reputation doesn’t help: he is described to me by one of his close friends as “quiet and difficult”. But then, what do you expect? Gehry is no mere architect; he is a “starchitect”, and the object of adulation by culture junkies across the world..."


Vinos Herederos del Marques de Riscal ^






Five minute film about Gehry's landmark Guggenheim Bilbao, shot by Ultan Gulifoyle

The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

"Inside the building that tranquility gives way to a comic-book version of Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” with strict divisions between various worlds. Visitors enter via an internal bridge that crosses over an underground atrium. From here, a vast hall conceived on the scale of a piazza leads to a cafeteria overlooking the calm surface of a reflecting pool. On one side of the hall looms the ziggurat form of the museum; on the other, a wall of glass-enclosed offices. Here the spectral glow of the interior of the cast-glass skin evokes the stained-glass windows of a medieval cathedral. It’s a stunning space whose power lies in the contrast between the various architectural experiences within. Clad in cold gray slate, for instance, the underground atrium is a striking counterpoint to the heavenly glass walls above."



Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, Encased in Glass

New York Times May 26

The Helvetica Hegemony

Slate May 25

"This year is the 50th anniversary of Helvetica, the ubiquitous sans-serif font that some have called the official typeface of the 20th century. Even if you don't know its name, you'll probably recognize its face. Helvetica is everywhere. It's been used in countless corporate logos, including those of American Airlines, Sears, Target, Toyota, BMW, Tupperware, Nestlé, ConEd, Verizon, North Face, Staples, Panasonic, Evian, Crate and Barrel, and the Gap. You can spot it on billboards, album covers, and directional signs, including all the signage in the New York City subway system. Even the IRS uses Helvetica for its income tax forms.

Now, the typeface is the subject of a small exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art centering around an original set of Helvetica lead type donated to the museum by Lars Müller, designer and publisher of the 2005 book Helvetica: Homage to a Typeface. And a new feature-length documentary, Helvetica (2007), directed by Gary Hustwit, has been playing to sold-out houses at film festivals and art schools since March. So, why is this 50-year-old font still so successful?" Not ARCHITECTURE and not NEWS, but it sure is DESIGN and a classic - RDP

House of the Month

Architectural Record May

"When many people hire an architect to renovate or add on to an existing house, they put a substantial amount of thought into resale value—how many bedrooms and bathrooms to add for a future owner, what kind of amenities a family would need to make the house a solid investment, etc. For Kathy Kich, who hired San Antonio–based Sprinkle Robey Architects to renovate and expand her 2,178-square-foot, one-bedroom, gabled-roof house on a deep, narrow 2.25-acre site in the hills near San Antonio, she was only thinking about how to make this home perfect for herself, and then, later, her husband. With starts and stops along the four-year design phase the 1960s bachelorette-pad was remade into a 3,440-square foot nest for two, with a boxlike addition to the north (a media room/study that doubles as a second bedroom when needed) and one to the south (the master bedroom suite that doubles as Kich’s office)."






Davis Sprinkle received a BArch from TTU in 1982.

Why Are They Greener Than We Are?

"When it comes to designing buildings that are good for the environment, Europe gets it."

The Native Builder

"In near isolation in Australia, Glenn Murcutt is designing houses that reimagine the woolshed."

An Eco-House for the Future

"Diller Scofidio + Renfro show how sustainability can have style."

The Accidental Environmentalist

"Whether with paper, old containers, glass or steel, Shigeru Ban makes buildings that waste nothing. Just don’t call him green."

The Road to Curitiba

"For 40 years, a medium-sized Brazilian city has set the international standard for environmentally conscious urban planning. But can it grow and remain green?"



New York Times Magazine May 20

Calling Mr. Green

New York Times May 20

"Q: As an architect and designer who helped pioneer environmentally sustainable buildings in the ’80s and was nicknamed the Green Dean during your tenure at the University of Virginia in the ’90s, what is your top priority these days?

William Mcdonough: I am very focused on large-scale deployments of renewable power and how we’re going to get this done. Imagine our military bases covered with solar thermal collectors that could generate steam and electricity.

That seems a little organic for the military. Do real men use solar power? William Mcdonough: Absolutely. It’s terrorist-proof — solar power is inherently local, so you can’t blow it up; it’s too dispersed."


Great Space, Glass Floor-Through, Canyon Views

New York Times May 19

"The Skywalk, which opened in March and cost more than $30 million, will end up paying for itself if it keeps fulfilling that promise of amusement park vertigo, particularly because each visitor taking the brief walk over the abyss must pay at least $74.95 for a tour package. But a similar thrill can be had with greater intensity just a hundred yards away on ordinary ground, where tourists tentatively edge toward a precipice without guardrail or fence, and look across the ravine at a great rock formation that bears some resemblance to a giant eagle, its wings outspread. In that spot the sense of grandeur is far more palpable than on the pedestrian walkway, which within a few moments can seem as routine as a glass-bottom boat in the Caribbean. Moreover, when leaning over that nearby stone ledge, the frisson of danger is more properly mixed with another sentiment that has long lured viewers to the great south rim of the Grand Canyon: a sense of awe at the expanse of space, and the humbling sense of something sublime, lying beyond the grasp of human capacities. The Skywalk, with its peach-colored industrial-style supports under its glass floor, doesn’t come close."

Mies Van Der Rohe


Two minute 48 second MTV-like, new wave-ish, kinda Kraftwerk-y, music video.

(Above links for those unaware of late 1970s, early 1980s popular culture.)

CAUTION: Song may annoy those nearby and/or get stuck in your head! -RDP

Philip Johnson's Glass House Opens to the Public

Preservation Online May 17

"Last month, a few quiet groups began arriving in New Canaan, Conn., to tour Philip Johnson's modernist home, the Glass House–the first official tours of the property in more than 50 years. On June 23, however, the Glass House will be anything but quiet. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, its new owner, will host an inaugural gala picnic, kicking off the official opening of the Glass House to the public.

Twenty-six different projects were completed to prepare for the opening, including replacing the roof of the Glass House and creating a museum shop. A "visitor experience center" was also organized in downtown New Canaan, where tourists can learn about Johnson's work and the history of the Glass House via a multimedia exhibition. Once visitors arrive at the Glass House site, they will walk a half-mile route around the 47-acre property, visiting the Glass House [pdf presskit], its companion Brick House, and the painting and sculpture galleries."





"I have

"Mr. Prouvé, who died in 1984, was a pioneer of prefabrication and was one of the first to make use of folded sheet steel and other experimental materials."


From Africa to Queens Waterfront, a Modernist Gem for Sale to the Highest Bidder

New York Times May 16

"The Maison Tropicale, a small aluminum-paneled house built in 1951 by Jean Prouvé, a French designer and the current court favorite of well-heeled contemporary art and design collectors internationally, is being opened to the public for preview in Long Island City. Christie’s, the auction house, will offer it for sale on June 5. The presale estimate is $4 million to $6 million. It’s cash and carry. The structure is a kit of metal parts, like an Ikea piece, but bigger. It was conceived by Prouvé as a utopian prototype for prefabricated housing for French colonial officials working in Africa."

Twirling, Wind-Power Tower

Inhabitat May 16

"While David Fisher’s Twirling Tower is not the first rotating tower we’ve spotted (Dubai Tower Clocks the Sun), and not the first that generates power from the wind (Wind Shaped Kinetic Pavilion), it’s definitely the first to pack this type of power. Designer David Fisher claims his Twirling Tower can not only generate enough energy to power itself, but it will also generate enough energy to power ten additional buildings similarly sized. While details on the tower’s true ability to generate electricity have not been proven, we are definitely a fan of those willing to search out new ideas. What differentiates David’s Tower from other moving towers is the integration of a large wind turbine sandwiched between each floor giving the tower its potential for energy. Inserted at every other floor, the turbines alone might be enough of an energy generator to stop residences heads from spinning, giving the penthouse owners at the top of the building the ability to control their view rotating to their hearts content."


Dubai Puts a New Spin on Skyscrapers

Wall Street Journal

"Some see outlandish designs like these as a sign of an architectural apocalypse. "It makes me ill," says Eugene Kohn, principal at New York-based Kohn Pedersen Fox, a firm recognized for handsome, modernist -- albeit stationary -- designs. "Some of these buildings are going to the absurd." "


Tower twirls and debate starts to swirl

Chicago Tribune

""He's nuts," said Chicago architect George Schipporeit, co-designer of the undulating Lake Point Tower and a faculty member at the Illinois Institute of Technology's architecture school."

Built to Last, and Lasting

New York Times May 12

"The studio has not altered its core mandate: to produce socially conscious, environmentally sensitive designs for the rural poor in an area about 50 miles south of Tuscaloosa that was made famous by James Agee and Walker Evans’s Depression-era account, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” And the program is determined to retain its scrappy Southern spirit.

But change is inevitable: Long associated with Mr. Mockbee, a fifth-generation Mississippian, Rural Studio is now run by Andrew Freear, 41, a wisecracking architect from Yorkshire, England, who left his practice in Chicago seven years ago to work with Mr. Mockbee and took over for him after his death.

Known for using unorthodox found objects like car windshields and bottles, the studio now focuses on getting donations of more conventional (and perhaps lasting) building materials. Outside engineering experts now consult on a regular basis, and an advisory board meets twice a year. A scholarship has been created to send a local student to college, and the studio is trying to build an endowment. Auburn University now underwrites the studio’s annual operating budget of $400,000."

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This semester the TTU College of Architecture ARCH5692 Master Design Studio II critiques were held in the Ice House at The Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts in downtown Lubbock.







TTU College of Architecture jury members (left to right) Urs Peter Flueckiger, Associate Professor, George Gintole, guest critic, Clifton Ellis, PhD, Assistant Professor, and
Christian Pongratz, Visiting Professor, watch and listen as a student in ARCH 3502 Architectural Design Studio IV Integration Studio makes a final presentation on April 27.


Lenses on the Lawn: Steven Holl rethinks the museum-extension genre

The New Yorker April 30

"As it turns out, the building, which will open in June, is not just Holl’s finest by far but also one of the best museums of the last generation. Its boldness is no surprise, but, in addition, it is laudably functional, with a clear layout, handsome and logically designed galleries, and a suffusion of natural light. Furthermore, Holl’s five glass structures, punctuating the hill, don’t mock the old building as you might expect; they dance before it and engage it."


"No art museum in the United States has a better site than the Nelson-Atkins, in Kansas City. Its austere, columned classical building, which was finished in 1933, sits on a hill overlooking a vast lawn that slopes down in terraces and gives it the air more of a royal palace than of a civic building in the Midwest. When the museum embarked on a major expansion, in 1999, it was taken as a given that this magnificent frontage was sacrosanct. There was plenty of room to build at the back, and that is exactly what five of the six architects who competed for the commission proposed. The sixth architect was Steven Holl. Born in 1947 and active since the mid-seventies, Holl is viewed as assertive by people who are trying to be complimentary, and as a bull in a china shop by people who aren’t. Not surprisingly, he had no interest in hiding his building around the back. He came up with the idea of irregularly shaped boxes of translucent glass, which he called lenses, cascading down one side of the hill and linked underground by a series of galleries. ...
Holl’s buildings have always been intellectually provocative, but they have not always been accommodating to the needs of clients (with whom his relationships have sometimes been stormy) or even to accepted notions of beauty."

Room With a View of an Architect’s Retired Ideas

New York Times April 26

"At age 72, the architect Richard Meier has decided to invite the outside world in, giving visitors a chance to sample an array of models from projects spanning his 40-year career. Stored in a bare-bones 3,600-square-foot studio in Long Island City, Queens, the collection ranges from Mr. Meier’s residential houses of the 1960’s to early versions of his J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 1997.
The Getty remains perhaps Mr. Meier’s most ambitious project, with six separate buildings, plazas, an underground parking garage and a tram station on a challengingly steep 110-acre site. Landscaped gardens integrate the structures into the topography. Immense models of the Getty are on view at the studio — the largest is 18 feet long and 11 feet wide, on wheels and with detachable pieces. “You can get into it more by being able to pull it away and really see into the spaces,” Mr. Meier said. “We had to take the skylight out to get it in here.”
Perhaps most striking is a large-scale gallery mock-up that Mr. Meier had constructed so that people could step inside to experience it — how the sun slanted through the skylight, for example, and whether that natural light landed softly enough on reproduced paintings from the Getty’s collection, pinned to the walls. “We would wheel this into the parking lot and sit in it with curators,” Mr. Meier said."


Architects name 10 best 'green' buildings

Reuters April 25

" "What few people realize is that buildings have the greatest impact on climate change — more than transportation and industry — because they consume so much electricity and natural gas, and they're all powered by power plants that themselves produce carbon emissions," said AIA spokesman Scott Frank. Frank said the winners show that a lot of energy-efficient design innovations do not add a lot to the cost of a building, especially when spread over the expected lifetime. He noted that there were 95 entries in this year's competition, compared with 54 entries last year. Started 11 years ago, the competition has drawn between 40 to 50 submissions in the past."
AIA/COTE 2007 Top Ten Green Projects:

2007 Top Ten Award Honorable Mentions:




For information on the ten measures and supporting metrics used to evaluate the entries, see the Top Ten Metrics View.


The primary entry, shown in this photo, draws visitors to the screened exhibit space elevated above grade to minimize surface flow disturbance along the native plant courtyard.


This photo shows the side view of the Hawaii Gateway Energy Center.


This photo shows the stormwater runoff pond and the building view from the west.


This photo shows the Whitney Water Purification Facility and its green roof.

New 3-D layers from AIA on Google Earth

Official Google Blog April 24

Posted by RK Stewart, FAIA, President 2007, American Institute of Architects

"Architects are pretty passionate about architecture -– no surprise there. However, we've come to find that the American public is too. Starting today, there are two new Google Earth layers with which to explore architecture’s most popular structures and take away some ideas to help enhance the communities we live in. As president of The American Institute of Architects (AIA), I’m ecstatic to announce our partnership with Google Earth to launch these new layers in celebration of our the 150th anniversary.
Check out this video on YouTube to watch us navigate these layers from Google headquarters.
Fly to America’s Favorite Architecture, a layer featuring the American public’s favorite architecture (as selected though a national poll announced earlier this year). View all 150 structures, including many with just created 3-D models of the buildings, ballparks, bridges, and memorials that characterize architecture in the eyes of Americans. And then explore the second layer, Blueprint for America. Blueprint is a community service effort funded by the AIA, in which AIA members donating their time and expertise are collaborating with community leaders and local citizens to enhance the quality of life in their community. You’ll be able to track the progress of these projects on Google Earth as they unfold over the next year and, we hope, become inspired to take action where you live."


Editor's Note CAUTION: Don't try Google Earth unless you have a few hours to kill, a fast computer with a good graphics card, and a high-speed network connection. It consumes significant resources, and is quite addictive. You've been warned!   - RDP


AIA/Google Earth Frequently Asked Questions


Download Google Earth - Mac or PC or Linux


AIA/Google Earth kzm: America's favorite buildings and landmarks in 3D






The TTU College of Architecture Convocation was held April 23 in the Frazier Alumni Pavilion.
At right, Dean Andrew Vernooy welcomes scholarship donors, students, family and friends. Many CoA faculty were present in academic regalia.



City panel endorses Spire's latest twist

Chicago Tribune April 20

"Chicago's great gamble in the sky is about to begin in earnest, and the odds are now better than even money that it will succeed as a work of skyline sculpture and as a building that engages the city around it. After months of struggle, Zurich-based architect Santiago Calatrava finally has been able to make a winning match between visual poetry and the harsh realities of economics in his design for the twisting, 2,000-foot Chicago Spire, which would be the nation's tallest building. Even if the design that the Chicago Plan Commission approved Thursday lacks some of the balletic elan of the original plan for this tower unveiled two years ago, it remains a powerful sculptural object with a strong structural rationale -- an innovative successor to such great Chicago skyscrapers as the twin corncobs of Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City.
Calatrava needs to settle on materials -- he wants the exterior to include stainless steel, like the cladding of the much-admired Inland Steel Building of 1958 at 30 W. Monroe St. -- yet how they are detailed and manufactured is crucial. The gap between vision and reality is already apparent in the glass exterior of the under-construction, 1,362-foot Trump International Hotel & Tower by the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Renderings by the architect showed an elegant glass skin, but parts of the exterior as built bring to mind distorted fun-house mirrors."


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Exterior View

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International Journal of Architectural Research Volume 1-Issue1

I found this paper by Nikos A. Salingaros & Kenneth G. Masden II to be particularly interesting. Abstract in the sidebar. Quotes below from the paper.                                                                       -RDP


"Intelligent architecture is not prescriptive: it does not tell you to build transparent glass boxes; nor opaque white cubes with horizontal slit windows; nor buildings with curved shiny titanium surfaces. All such formal prescriptions are ultimately expressions of a visual ideology encapsulated in the architectural mantras of modernity as pseudo-religious belief, which has come to replace true religious beliefs...
Ideas of style have a stranglehold on contemporary architecture. The pursuit of the “theoretical”, which has obsessively driven the architectural world since early modernism, has given us little that strengthens the human lived experience via the built environment. Despite all the rhetoric declaring that this architecture was responding to profound social, political, and scientific discoveries, it in fact was driven by a rather narrow agenda. Over time, the imposition of an identifiable (signature) style became the road to recognition and power. This has nothing to do with human needs and sensibilities, but everything to do with successful marketing. Its phenomenal success is due to the continuous mutation of the original industrial style so as to keep its practitioners comfortably in control of both architectural practice and education."


Restructuring 21st-Century Architecture Through Human Intelligence (pdf)

"This paper introduces a compelling new way of thinking about, teaching, and practicing architecture. Founded on the basis of how the human mind perceives and interacts with the built environment, we call this new design process “intelligent architecture”. Perhaps surprisingly, scientifically-conceived rules for architectural design and building can lead to a more human architecture, one with a renewed respect for traditional methods of architectural design. This new process can also be extended by implementing new technologies. By applying the most recent scientific advances to architectural thinking, we can better appreciate the architectural heritage of the past, giving scientific insight into its origins and manner of conception. This development also reverses an unfortunate misunderstanding that required the future to erase the past rather than to learn from it."

Record Houses 2007

Architectural Record

"Each of our seven featured houses—imaginative solutions— emerged from idiosyncratic sources of inspiration, with constraints and obstacles as colorful and varied as the venues themselves."


Could some of these be illustrations for the IJAR paper above?

How about with the Slate piece below?                                  -RDP


Why Do We Live in Houses, Anyway?

The Ranch House Anomaly

How a Cornfield Became New Daleville

Slate April 16, 17, 18

"It's one thing to say that people prefer to live in a house, but what kind of house? Basically, there are three choices: a free-standing house, a house sharing common walls with its neighbors, and a house that is oriented to an inner court. The last is an ancient model. The Roman dwelling was the classic courtyard house. Generally one story high, it covered the entire lot. Depending on its size, it had one or several open-air courtyards. The courtyard house, small or large, was the dwelling of choice; only the poorest Romans lived in insulae, or multistory tenements."
"The schizophrenic house buyer is both a status seeker and an investor. In addition, he or she is a consumer. Renovating a kitchen, for example, is done with one eye on convenience and one eye on resale, as well as a glance at the attractive advertisements in the latest issue of House & Garden. The house buyer is not immune to fashion. Although the desire for novelty is generally tempered by an inclination to the safe bet, there was one period when buyers let their hair down. Buoyed by the post–World War II boom, optimistic about the future, and gripped by the idea of Progress, Americans embraced innovation as never before, in the way they traveled, the way they brought up their children, in their manners—and in their homes. The hallmark of that period was the ranch house. It is said to have been invented in 1932 by Cliff May, a self-taught San Diego architect, but it also owed a debt to Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian houses, and to Alfred Levitt's popular "Levittowner." Today the suburban ranch house is considered the epitome of conservative taste, but at the time it represented a radical departure from tradition. To begin with, all the rooms were on one floor. The layout was open and casual, with wood paneling instead of wallpaper, and room dividers instead of interior walls. The exterior was unabashedly contemporary and did away with steep roofs, dormer windows, and porches."


1. It rains in Lubbock, at least occasionally, and
2. The wind blows in Lubbock.
Note the pattern of raindrops on the bridge. Just as we always suspected, it appears that the wind increases velocity at the north edge of the Architecture Building. These photos were taken just as an afternoon storm began on April 17.      -RDP

If You Can Make it There… Cities Are the Greatest Generators of Innovation and Wealth

Scientific American April 17

"Are you one of those people who think of big cities as little more than hotbeds of pollution, crime and social inequalities? Well, think again. A new report (pdf) in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA confirms what many city dwellers, who account for the bulk of people on Earth, have claimed for years: Cities have an almost magical ability, spurred by increased human interaction, to stimulate innovation and increase wealth.
The report also pooh-poohs the popular comparison of the growth of cities with biological organisms. An animal slows as it balloons in size ; in contrast, the researchers note, cities speed up as population and everything from crime to per capita income grow. Cities create a sort of "urban economic miracle," says study co-author Luis Bettencourt, a research scientist in Los Alamos National Laboratory's Theoretical Division. "When you integrate all these people and all these activities and the struggle to make a living, total productivity increases," he says."

Unparalleled accessibility at new center for disabled

San Francisco Chronicle April 16

"Berkeley, birthplace of the disability rights movement, will soon welcome a building that's so accessible, advocates say, it takes the "dis" out of disability. The Ed Roberts Campus, an office and community center for disabled people slated for the Ashby BART Station, will feature a sweeping circular ramp visible through two-story glass walls, Braille maps, automatic doors, extra-large elevators operated by foot paddles, and dozens of other creative flourishes that will allow nearly anyone to feel at home. "It will be for everyone, because 'disabled' is the one minority group nearly everyone gets to join," Dmitri Belser added, referring the nature of aging.
When the building is competed, in about two years, it will be the most-accessible building in the world, organizers say. The airy structure will resemble a high-end shopping center more than the hospital-like institutions some people associate with disability services. The curved entrance is meant to be welcoming and open, and the broad lobby will be able to accommodate large numbers of people. But the pièce de résistance of the campus will be the swirling wheelchair ramp in the center of the lobby. Inspired by the Guggenheim museum in New York, San Francisco architect William Leddy took a feature that's usually relegated to rear entrances and haphazard additions and transformed it into an architectural centerpiece. The ramp will be suspended from the ceiling, appearing to float in space. The 7-foot-wide ramp will be adorned with translucent banisters made from recycled milk cartons. They will glow softly at night, illuminating the ramp through the glass walls for passers-by, motorists on busy Adeline Street and BART patrons.

The building will also be easy to navigate for people with impaired vision. The floors will have varying textures, so users will know what part of the building they're in, and acoustic clues, such as fountains and soft music from strategically placed speakers, so users can orient themselves by sound."



Face-Lift for an Aging Museum

New York Times April 14

Earthshaking Images

San Diego Supercomputer Center April 11

"In a groundbreaking series of tests, engineering researchers from UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering jarred a full-size 275-ton building erected on a shake table, duplicating ground motions recorded during the January 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles, California. To record the impact on the building, the structure was fitted with some 600 sensors and filmed as the shake table simulated the earthquake, yielding a flood of data including stress, strain, and acceleration."


Original video footage of the experiment: (1280x760 50MB wmv)

Myron Goldsmith, Quiet Poet of American Architecture

Repeat April 9

"Some followers of Mies strove to be different, others competed to be the most orthodox. Myron Goldsmith chose simply to be good. Of all the architects who studied with and worked under Mies, Goldsmith may be the most successful in faithfully absorbing Mies' basic principles and unyielding standards into a body of work that also remains completely individual.
Goldsmith studied with Mies and later work in Mies' firm. Afterwards, he landed for what would be a long career at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Several years before both the Hancock Center and Sears Tower, Goldsmith collaborated at SOM with legendary engineer Fazlur Kahn to use the tube technique that would famously be associated with those later structures in the 1966 Brunswick (now Cook County Administration) Building, at 37 stories the city's tallest concrete structure at the time of its construction. The Brunswick is a tube within a tube, beginning with a central interior tube for elevators and services. Like John Wellborn Root's incomparable Monadnock Building of 1891, the Brunswick is a skyscraper with load bearing walls. The second, outer tube is made up of columns that grow thinner as they rise, reflecting their lighter load. The interior is left entirely column-free. At the second floor level, massive transfer girders take on the weight of the over sixty perimeter columns above, transferring the load it to just ten, massive columns below. In a gesture to Root's masterpiece, just as at the Monadnock's base, that of the Brunswick curves outward at the level of the transfer beam.
Simple, yet deceptively sophisticated, just like Goldsmith's design for the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, which supports a 50 ton heliostat 100 feet in the air with a two-legged structure - one straight, one a 500 foot long diagonal - designed to eliminate possible distortions in the readings due to wind or sun. Again, simple, but not simplistic. Rather than the cliched dome or spiraled tower, Goldsmith uses angular geometry to create a poetry of aspiration."



Chicago Architects Oral History Project at the Art Institute of Chicago:

Myron Goldsmith (1918-1996) Interviews


Brunswick Building, Myron Goldsmith, architect


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The danger of becoming skin deep

Chicago Tribune April 8


"In 1989, architects Moriyama & Teshima jammed a modern office building at 10 S. LaSalle St. with blue and lime green walls between the templelike base of the 1912 Otis Building by the legendary Chicago firm of Holabird & Roche. The resulting visual mismatch epitomizes the sins inflicted by this type of architectural surgery, which preservationists pejoratively refer to as a "facade-ectomy." What's different today is that this selective saving of history is far more widespread -- not a last resort, but one that developers and architects turn to frequently...
There are no easy answers, but there is a need for standards that recognize the integrity of architecture as well as the necessity of economics. As it stands now, the rise of the "facade-ectomy" is producing beguiling but sliver thin vestiges of the past. They offer the comforting illusion that we're saving the style and the meaning of history when, in fact, we're destroying all but a fraction of it."


"Back in the 1960s, the pioneers of historic preservation faced stark choices as they battled to protect such renowned structures as New York's Pennsylvania Station or Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler's Garrick Theater building in Chicago: Either save the building or watch the wrecker's ball smash it to smithereens. But today, developers and architects have devised a new way of holding onto the past that makes things far more complex: Instead of preserving an entire building, it keeps only the building's facade, grafting that facade onto a new internal structure, as though it were the skin of a stuffed animal.
Better to save something than nothing, goes this theory. And while it's true that such projects typically possess the human scale and eye-pleasing decoration rarely found in massive parking garages or bland condominium towers, they still rankle. The reason: They create a stage-set city that treats buildings like two-dimensional wallpaper, not three-dimensional structures. That destroys a building's essence and, at worst, makes a mockery of the very history these exercises purport to respect."

Is Bill McDonough The Next Adam Smith? His Cradle-to-Cradle Paradigm May Be The Next Phase of Capitalism

BusinessWeek April 5

"Bill McDonough has opened a San Francisco office because he is getting so much architectural work from the likes of Google, VM Ware and other Silicon Valley companies who are into green design. He's also working on a huge sustainable cities project in China that he recently talked about in Davos. But McDonough's most important work goes beyond his architecture to his philosophy. Simply put, if we change the chemical base of production from toxic to benign/organic chemicals, we can sustain our planet while maintaining a high level of economic growth."

Not Conducive to God

The Stranger April 4

"In the spirit of a sober second look, a look that wants to see if the building is doing what it's supposed to be doing, I shall reevaluate the 10-year-old Chapel of St. Ignatius. This is what it all comes down to: Can a God-fearing man who needs a moment with his perpetually man-mad God kneel in this chapel and feel the Lord's presence? If the chapel fails to establish an air-thin link between man and God, to facilitate this most delicate of correspondences, then it has altogether failed as a building.
I believe that it's hard, if not impossible, for God to hear the prayers in the Chapel of St. Ignatius. When you are in the Chapel of St. Ignatius, it's hard to pray because prayer is supposed to be done with closed eyes but all one wants to do is look at the pretty lights pouring through skylights and colored windows, particularly the blue one above the altar and the cross that hangs Jesus. There hasn't been a time that I have entered the chapel and felt the seriousness of God; what I notice are the play of light, the curves, the crazy-looking tree growing out of the floor in the Reconciliation Chapel. The space is too complex for God, too designed for His simple presence. God is simple, he is just one thing, one All, and all you need to praise His oneness is a clearing, a direct space of worship. As at Ronchamp, the architect, not God, is worshiped in this box with bottles of light. The building is not about Him, but about its architect, Steven Holl, who lives in New York City."




Top Prize for Rogers, Iconoclastic Architect

New York Times March 29

"Mr. Rogers earned a reputation as a high-tech iconoclast with the completion of the 1977 Pompidou Center, with its exposed skeleton of brightly colored tubes for mechanical systems. The Pompidou “revolutionized museums,” the Pritzker jury said, “transforming what had once been elite monuments into popular places of social and cultural exchange, woven into the heart of the city.” Similarly, his 1986 Lloyd’s office building in the heart of the London financial district features a inside-out design, with a soaring atrium surrounded by external escalators and elevators.

Asked to describe his own stylistic signature, Mr. Rogers said he was recognized for “celebrating the components and the structure.”

“That’s how we get rhythm and poetry out of it,” he said. He added that he would like to be known for “buildings which are full of light, which are light in weight, which are flexible, which have low energy, which are what we call legible — you can read how the building is put together.” "




The Pritzker Architecture Prize Citation from the Jury

"Throughout his distinguished career of more than forty years, Richard Rogers, The Lord Rogers of Riverside, has consistently pursued the highest goals for architecture. Key Rogers projects already represent defining moments in the history of contemporary architecture. The Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (1971-1977), designed in partnership with Renzo Piano, revolutionized museums, transforming what had once been elite monuments into popular places of social and cultural exchange, woven into the heart of the city. Lloyd’s of London in the City of London (1978-1986), another landmark of late 20th century design, established Richard Rogers’ reputation as a master not only of the large urban building, but also of his own brand of architectural expressionism. As these buildings and other subsequent projects, such as the recently completed and acclaimed Terminal 4, Barajas Airport in Madrid (1997-2005) demonstrate, a unique interpretation of the Modern Movement’s fascination with the building as machine, an interest in architectural clarity and transparency, the integration of public and private spaces, and a commitment to flexible floor plans that respond to the ever-changing demands of users, are recurring themes in his work.

Rogers’ buildings span numerous types, scales, and continents. All of his projects, however, are united by a formal rigor as well as a commitment to the user. Over the years, he has collaborated with a range of associates on projects large and small, though his steady hand remains evident in each.

Rogers combines his love of architecture with a profound knowledge of building materials and techniques. His fascination with technology is not merely for artistic effect, but more importantly, it is a clear echo of a building’s program and a means to make architecture more productive for those it serves. His championing of energy efficiency and sustainability has had a lasting effect on the profession."


Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners website



Q&A: Richard Rogers Newsweek

Turning Buildings Inside Out Time

A Mies Masterwork, Deteriorating and in Dispute

New York Times March 22

"From the outside, the Tugendhat House doesn’t look like one of the most important residential buildings of the 20th century: it’s just two white stucco cubes separated by an opening through which a few spiky treetops protrude.

The house, a World Heritage site, was “fundamental to the development of Modern architecture,” according to Barry Bergdoll, the chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art. But it is also growing increasingly dilapidated, or “wasting away,” as The Prague Post put it in a recent article. The house’s condition has sparked a battle over who will control its future and ensure its survival: the city of Brno, which now owns it, or the heirs of the original owners, Jews who fled Czechoslovakia in 1938. The city says it recognizes the family’s moral right to the home, and the family says it wants to keep it open for the people of the city, but neither side seems to trust the other’s ability to manage the restoration work and maintenance that will be necessary.

The house embodies some of Mies’s most influential ideas, which went on to become hallmarks of Modernism: free-flowing, open living space; a connection to the outside through transparent walls; the use of a grid of columns instead of load-bearing walls. It was also a project for which Mies designed every detail, from the doorknobs and light fixtures to the Tugendhat and Brno chairs, now classics of 20th-century design produced and sold by Knoll."





Villa Tugendhat official website


Skyline could have a brave new look

Chicago Sun-Times March 26

"Forget the drill bit. Forget the dancing lady and the twisting tree trunk and the curl of smoke. The new visual metaphor for Santiago Calatrava's Chicago Spire -- the latest and "final" design of which the Spanish architect presented at two public meetings on Monday -- ought to be that of a birthday candle. The twisting, 2,000-foot tower on the lakefront near the base of Navy Pier is once again as skinny as a birthday taper, topped off after dark with a shaft of light.

But the candle metaphor isn't appropriate just because that's what the tower design looks like. If built as currently envisioned -- and that remains a big if, with everything depending on developer Garrett Kelleher's ability to pull off this gargantuan project -- the Spire will mark nothing less than the birth of an entirely new Chicago skyline."

Calatrava unveils tower's latest twist

Chicago Tribune March 26

"A skyscraper can be a monster, blocking out sunlight, filling streets with traffic, making the city seem like an urban jungle. But in the hands of Santiago Calatrava, architect of the proposed 2,000-foot Chicago Spire, a skyscraper, even one as enormously tall as this one would be if it is ever built, can seem as innocent—and as unthreatening—as a child's watercolor drawing."

  Chicago Spire

Resiliency is built into LACMA's redesign

Los Angeles Times March 28

"In the last decade or so, we have learned to think of new museum buildings as a form of architectural entertainment — the more easily understandable, the better. The architecture itself may be elaborate (Libeskind in Denver, Herzog & de Meuron in Minneapolis) or refined (SANAA in New York, Gluckman in San Diego), but the aesthetic statement is almost always straightforward, the authorship of the buildings impossible to miss. Museum directors, as they pursue expansion, have been willing to sell off paintings and even trim their curatorial staffs. But cover up the architectural logo? Never.

That helps explain why the recent changes to Renzo Piano's expansion plans for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art seem so surprising, or at least so resistant to quick analysis. They are likely to make the experience of visiting LACMA richer even as they embrace a pop sensibility and veer close to some New York clichés about California culture. And in bringing art and corporate identity to the foreground, they dim the spotlight on pricey, name-brand architecture."



Live Webcam of LACMA's Transformation

Utopia revisited

Philadelphia Inquirer March 23

"A century ago the heroic architectural style of Modernism promised that technology could save the world. Two major exhibitions look at what went right - and wrong.

Architectural movements, like the buildings they produce, come and go. First you love them. Then you hate them. And then, despite everything that nagging voice in your ear is saying, you start to find them interesting again. A century ago, Modernism with a capital M was the movement that gripped the public imagination. It promised a machine-made utopia of freestanding high-rises surrounded by green parks and wide-open parkways, where drivers could tool speedily along. But the towers soon became slums; the highways backed up, and Modernism became the house style for corporate America. The same folks who promised to free us from domestic drudgery instead applied their talents to designing cubicles for wage slaves. So much for utopia.

Now, Modernism is again having its moment, and the revisionists are out in force. There must be something in the water because two major exhibitions devoted to the movement and its disciples are being staged at opposite points on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington takes on the theory, with a poignant survey of Modernist art, architecture and design between the world wars, while a three-part New York retrospective on the career of master builder Robert Moses shows the terrible things that can happen when the best-intentioned ideology is put into practice."








Slideshow element







Gehry’s New York Debut: Subdued Tower of Light

New York Times March 22

"Mr. Gehry is adding a much-needed touch of lightness to the Manhattan skyline just as the city finally emerges from a period of mourning. The IAC building, serving as world headquarters for Barry Diller’s media and Internet empire, joins a growing list of new projects that reflect how mainstream developers in the city are significantly raising the creative stakes after decades of settling for bland, soul-sapping office buildings. Yet the building, which is not quite complete, also feels oddly tame. For those who have followed Mr. Gehry’s creative career, these easy, fluid forms are a marked departure from the complex, fragmented structures of his youth. Rather than mining rich new creative territory, Mr. Gehry, now 78, seems to be holding back. The results — almost pristine by Mr. Gehry’s standards — suggest the casual confidence of an aging virtuoso rather than the brash innovation of a rowdy outsider."



Green vs. design in S.F. tower

Los Angeles Times March 22

"The conflict at the heart of the building has been brewing for some time. After all, while we have lately prized famous architects mostly for their Expressionism, green design is based on a different set of priorities. It is by definition local, relying on attention to site and climate, where celebrity architecture is global, dominated by firms with a proven ability to stamp a repeatable brand on any parcel of land in the world, from Milwaukee to Abu Dhabi. It rewards clarity and simplicity more than the complexity Mayne has spent nearly four decades perfecting. It requires architects to think as much about balance as architectural drama. It might seem unfair to criticize one of our most talented architects on that score. Nobody ever complained that Jackson Pollock was guilty of flinging around too much paint — or that the wood for his frames wasn't harvested in a sustainable manner. And we have always let architects off the hook for cost overruns, inefficiencies and other basic errors as long as their buildings provided a visceral or virtuosic thrill.

But if architecture, unlike painting or sculpture, is at heart an exercise in balancing purely artistic goals with more prosaic ones — budgets, gravity and so on — then green design shouldn't require extraordinary skills or lamentable compromise. And as architects as stylistically opposed as Shigeru Ban and Glenn Murcutt have shown, it's entirely possible to combine sustainability with a bracing sense of creative ingenuity. Many if not most of the world's leading architects, though, have shown an indifference to sustainable architecture that occasionally bordered on disdain. That lack of interest was especially glaring in Mayne's case, given his commitment to social causes and left-wing politics. He has always used his buildings to dramatize the tensions and inequities of contemporary society."










Hoof it

We love plenty of nothing

Financial Times UK March 16

"It’s the haute couture of housing: striking, radical, beautifully clever, not designed primarily for comfort and generally expensive. But, of all the divergent styles offered by architects today, is minimalism really the most sensible one for living in? Your home might have geometric precision, visual continuity, meticulously edited vistas, barely perceptible boundaries between outside and in, a layering of light, space and texture and a hallway that brings quiet theatre to the experience of arrival. But where do you sit your filthy kids? Where do you put your stuff?

Base practicalities aside, minimalism is a style that endures. John Pawson, one of the world’s leading practitioners in the style, defines it as “the quality that a building or object possesses when every component, every detail and every junction has been reduced or condensed to its essentials”. This is not to be confused with pseudo-minimalism: the featureless flat, the white room, the garden of concrete and gravel; anything inoffensive, done on the cheap and left unfurnished. Minimalism is the simple expression of complex thought, not no thought at all. And, at its purest, its most full-on, the real thing stops people in their tracks."

The character of film living spaces

Associated Press March 15

"Hint: The villains usually go minimalist, while heroes prefer cozy...

"My interpretation would be, heroic, good people live in warm, cozy homes because they want to create a likability," said Tara Stephenson, president of the Set Decorators Society of America. "Generally we feel comfortable in cozy, welcoming homes that have personal, family items, just layer upon layer of personal items that make it feel like you want to step in and live in them." Stephenson pointed to "Shopgirl" (2005) as another example of this contrast: "Claire Danes lives in a cute apartment, kind of cozy and warm, because they want you to like her, whereas Steve Martin's character lives in a super-modern home and she likes him because he's wealthy and not necessarily because he's a nice person." Myriad movies depict bad guys (or at least deeply flawed people in need of redemption) in minimalist houses."

INTERVIEW: Cameron Sinclair, Open Architecture Network

Inhabitat March 12

"A few weeks ago, I sat down with Cameron Sinclair to talk about his recently-launched Open Architecture Network. He describes it as a “gift to the design community” with a simple mission: “to generate design opportunities that will improve living standards for all” by providing an open-source platform through which ANYone can view, post, share, and adapt sustainable, humanitarian-based, scalable solutions. The idea that designs and all associated documents can and should be shared within the decidedly proprietary architectural industry is truly innovative, and could very well aid in the reshaping of the entire architectural profession into a more socially-focused and responsible vocation. Read on for a full transcription of the interview and a video of Cameron at last year’s TED conference."



"What is our goal?

Far from replacing the traditional architect, the goal of the network is to allow designers to work together in a whole new way, a way that enables 5 billion potential clients to access their skills and expertise. The network has a simple mission: to generate not one idea but the hundreds of thousands of design ideas needed to improve living conditions for all."

Medieval Modern: Design Strikes a Defensive Posture

New York Times March 4

"Not so long ago, architects were obsessed with the notion that globalism, the Internet and sophisticated new building technologies were opening the way for a more fluid, transparent landscape in which walls would simply begin to melt away. Things didn’t turn out that way. After 9/11, a craving for the solidity of walls reasserted itself. And the wars on terror, and fractious peaces, enforced it. The Green Zone in Baghdad, Jerusalem’s separation barrier, the concrete bollards that line corporate headquarters on Park Avenue — all are emblems of an unintended new mentality. Four years after the American invasion of Iraq, this state of siege is beginning to look more and more like a permanent reality, exhibited in an architectural style we might refer to as 21st-century medievalism. Like their 13th- to 15th-century counterparts, contemporary architects are being enlisted to create not only major civic landmarks but lines of civic defense, with aesthetically pleasing features like elegantly sculpted barriers around public plazas or decorative cladding for bulky protective concrete walls. This vision may seem closer in spirit to da Vinci’s drawings of angular fortifications or Michelangelo’s designs for organically shaped bastions than to a post-cold-war-era of high-tech surveillance."

When information needs to be communicated, Edward Tufte demands both truth and beauty

Stanford Magazine March/April

"What inspires Tufte is more than aesthetics. Galileo’s observations, recorded in nearly 12,000 pages, marked an intellectual revolution. No longer was knowledge the dictate of church authorities, kings or the acolytes of Aristotle. Theories could be tested—doctrine could be upended—by what the eye can see. As Tufte sees it, what makes evidence beautiful isn’t artistry. “It’s all about discovering and telling the truth,’’ he says.

After an encounter with Tufte’s ideas, people can never again look at a chart, a map, a scientific table or a PowerPoint presentation quite the same way. In his romps through statistics, art, history, science, policy and anything else that grabs his interest, Tufte tackles a fundamental problem: how to accurately render complex, interrelated information on a two-dimensional paper surface or computer screen—how to, as he puts it, “escape flatland.’’ Tufte explains how to do it well and demonstrates the many, many ways it’s done badly.

Bad graphics mangle the truth or lie outright, Tufte says, by a myriad of design flaws. Lousy graphics omit context, bury critical information, cherry-pick data to advance a cause and heap on “chartjunk’’—a Tufteism for the smiley faces, irrelevant numbers and other doodads that distract us from grasping evidence, thinking about it and drawing smart conclusions. This can have catastrophic consequences. Tufte asserts, for example, that poorly designed charts played a decisive role in both space shuttle disasters."





Galileo Text



Editor's Note:

Not strictly on topic, but I believe Edward Tufte's work has significant implications for many types of architectural graphics. Each of his books is full of luscious examples of successful communications, but for a real treat, attend one of his all-day seminars. I went to one a few years ago, and I can't stop talking about the guy and his work. Highly recommended.



Edward Mazria, AIA, speaking during the Global Warming, Climate Change and the Built Environment presentation on February 20. The archived webcast is available at: http://www.
All three major presentations are informative, but I find Mazria's 32 minutes to be the most architectural. To view, click on the link above, then the planet, and RESUSCITATING A DYING WORLD Edward Mazria, AIA, Founder, Architecture 2030. The slides will advance automatically, or you can jump to 39-125.


Hadid enjoys record results as profit soars 320%

Building UK February 23

"Architect Zaha Hadid has posted her best ever set of financial results, with pre-tax profit increasing more than fourfold since last year. Pre-tax profit shot up 320% to £1.2m for the year ended April 2006, crossing the £1m mark for the first time... But figures show that Hadid is still having trouble being accepted in Britain. Just 12% of her firm’s work was in the UK for the year ended April 2006 – a slight increase from 8% last year. Last year Hadid forced the Department for Culture to apologise to her after Tessa Jowell, the culture secretary, said incorrectly that the aquatics centre’s cost had almost doubled owing to changes in its specification."  £1.2m = $2,353,116

  Zaha Hadid


Also see: Islamic Artisans Constructed Exotic Nonrepeating Pattern 500 Years Before Mathematicians Scientific American February 22


In Medieval Architecture, Signs of Advanced Math

NYTimes February 27

"In the beauty and geometric complexity of tile mosaics on walls of medieval Islamic buildings, scientists have recognized patterns suggesting that the designers had made a conceptual breakthrough in mathematics beginning as early as the 13th century.

In their journal report, Mr. Lu and Dr. Steinhardt concluded that by the 15th century, Islamic designers and artisans had developed techniques “to construct nearly perfect quasi-crystalline Penrose patterns, five centuries before discovery in the West.” Some of the most complex patterns, called “girih” in Persian, consist of sets of contiguous polygons fitted together with little distortion and no gaps. Running through each polygon (a decagon, pentagon, diamond, bowtie or hexagon) is a decorative line. Mr. Lu found that the interlocking tiles were arranged in predictable ways to create a pattern that never repeats — that is, quasi crystals."

Towering Expectations: S.F.'s new federal building challenges ideas of what a government high-rise should look like -- its humane design is green, dazzling

San Francisco Chronicle February 25

"No other tower in America is shaped so resolutely by the desire to create a healthy environment for workers while reducing the use of energy and natural resources. And no other high-rise so casually defies expectations of how a tower "ought" to look. The result is both daunting and dazzling, up to and including the stainless steel panels that fold over the broad concrete frame like some immense origami whim. Like it or not, this is architecture at its provocative best. The 18-story structure and its four-story annex show how buildings fit together. They demonstrate that simple materials can be used in fresh ways, and they prod you to think about how design and the environment are linked.

Mayne's trademark is monochromatic drama, and here it's stretched to skyline scale. Tucked inside, though, is a truly humane building shaped by environmental considerations. The slab is thin enough for daylight to penetrate into each floor of the tower. The dimensions also allow for cross-ventilation with operable windows. The glass fins on the north facade serve the same purpose as the theatrical veil: They keep direct sunlight away from workers, filtering out heat and glare. The approach isn't completely radical -- climate considerations shaped buildings for centuries until technology made it possible for towers to be hermetically sealed cocoons. But it is expected to keep the building's energy use 50 percent below the target for new federal buildings.

The tower also nudges workers to exercise. Most elevators stop only at every third level, forcing employees to use stairs for part of the journey (one elevator is available for people who need it). To make the climb enticing, wide staircases march past collegial atriums and stop at protruding picture windows."



Buildings That Breathe: Green Construction is Coming of Age

E Magazine January/February

"Green construction often adds less than one percent to the cost of a conventional building, but the payoffs can include energy costs cut by one-third, says Gregory Kats, a principal with alternative energy advisors Capital E. Among buildings he’s studied, the typical payback is three to four years. To go with a conventional design these days is “financially riskier,” Kats says, “than building a healthy green building.” Adding more eco-friendly features to a building can increase these costs. Achieving the Green Building Council’s highest design standard (“LEED Platinum”) may tack on five percent or more...

“You know, four years ago, you could see it as kind of risky to do green buildings. They’re relatively new, and there’s not a lot of experience,” Kats says. But now, 30,000 LEED-accredited professionals work in the field. At least 750 million square feet of green buildings are under development or completed. “So, the risk of green design has gone away, and energy prices have soared in the interim,” Kats says. Plus, he says, traditional building owners face the risk of obsolescence: If everyone else is choosing to build healthy efficient buildings, do I really want to be stuck with an outdated dinosaur that’s unhealthy?"



Building Greener

WBUR NPRadio OnPoint February 19 48m 22s


Jim Motavalli, editor of E, the Environmental Magazine

G.Z. Brown, professor of architecture at the University of Oregon in Eugene, energy expert and director of the Energy Studies in Buildings lab

Ray Tonjes, a green home builder in Austin, Texas

Amy Tighe, real estate agent for a green condominium development in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Foster + Partners’ estimated price falls to £300m

Building UK February 23

"Concern about continuing involvement of Lord Foster knocks up to £200m from likely price... Much of the perceived value of the business is derived from the personal involvement of Foster. If he decided to leave, the firm is certain to lose some of its caché... Despite the high price tag the company made a loss in 2004. Foster responded by cutting overheads and driving up turnover, although he also spent £500,000 on rebranding." £300m = $588,279,000

  Foster: Planning sale for past year

Lust for Height

The American February 23

"In October, at the premier international conference of skyscraper builders, the first speaker announced without a hint of irony or doubt that by 2030, somewhere, a mile-high skyscraper would be built. Five thousand two hundred and eighty feet. One-tenth of the way to the ozone layer. More than three times as tall as anything now stand­ing and exactly as high as the most fantastic towers ever dared conceived. When the speaker made this prediction, there was no murmur of dissent from his colleagues, not a single snicker.

The old formula for what drives skyscraper construction—high density plus high land values equals high buildings—is quite undone by the new class of super-tall buildings, rising as they so often do from the wide-open spaces of unformed young cities.

The most primal motivation for skyscraper construction is to stake a claim, to mark the land, to show how your power can change the world, both physically and psychologically. Nothing says 'I am master of the universe' more clearly than the erection of a tall building. And if it can be taller than all the rest, so much the better."

  The Illinois










The Illionis (never built) 5,280 ft, USA

"In 1956, at the end of his career, Frank Lloyd Wright proposed this mile-high tower. The tower would have been served by a 15,000-car garage, 100 helipads, and atom-powered elevators."

A Tower That Sends a Message of Anxiety, Not Ambition

New York Times February 19

"Hurriedly redesigned more than a year ago after terrorism experts questioned its vulnerability to a bomb attack, the Freedom Tower, with its tapered bulk and chamfered corners, evokes a gargantuan glass obelisk. Its clumsy bloated form, remade by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, vaguely recalls the worst of postmodernist historicism. (It’s a marvel that its glass skin hasn’t been recast in granite.)

If built, the lamentable Freedom Tower would be a constant reminder of our loss of ambition, and our inability to produce an architecture that shows a genuine faith in America’s collective future rather than a nostalgia for a nonexistent past. Nowhere is that failure of ambition more evident than in the tower’s base. In a society where the social contract that binds us together is fraying, the most incisive architects have found ways to create a more fluid relationship between private and public realms. The lobby of Thom Mayne’s Phare Tower in Paris, for example, is conceived as an extension of the public realm, drawing in the surrounding streetscape and tunneling deep into the ground to connect to a network of underground trains. By comparison the Freedom Tower is conceived as a barricaded fortress. Its base, a 20-story-high windowless concrete bunker that houses the lobby as well as many of the structure’s mechanical systems, is clad in laminated glass panels to give it visual allure, but the message is the same. It speaks less of resilience and tolerance than of paranoia. It’s a building armored against an outside world that we no longer trust."


History vs. Homogeneity in New Orleans Housing Fight

New York Times February 22

"In this hard-pressed city a proposal by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish four public housing complexes has touched a raw nerve. The demolition, which would affect more than 4,500 housing units, represents for some the plight of a poor, black underclass displaced by Hurricane Katrina and struggling to return. It also represents the problems that faced the city even before the hurricane: poverty, crime and racial divisions."


"The bluntness of HUD’s solution reflects a degree of historical amnesia that this wounded city cannot afford. In its rush to demolish the apartment complexes — and replace them with the kind of generic mixed-income suburban community so favored by Washington bureaucrats — the agency demonstrates great insensitivity to both the displaced tenants and the urban fabric of this city... In arguing to save the buildings, preservationists point to the human scale of the apartment complexes, whose pitched slate roofs, elegant brickwork and low-rise construction reflect a subtle understanding of the city’s historical context without slavishly mimicking it."

America's Favorite Architecture

AIA February 7

"America’s Favorite Architecture is the result of an AIA and Harris Interactive poll of 1,800 Americans naming their 150 favorite structures across the nation based on nominations from AIA member architects."

Rank Building   Architect
1 Empire State Building - New York City William Lamb, Shreve, Lamb & Harmon
2 The White House - Washington, D.C. James Hoban
3 Washington National Cathedral - Washington, D.C. George F. Bodley and Henry Vaughan, FAIA
4 Thomas Jefferson Memorial - Washington D.C. John Russell Pope, FAIA
5 Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco Irving F. Morrow and Gertrude C. Morrow
6 U.S. Capitol - Washington, D.C. William Thornton, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Charles Bulinch, Thomas U. Walter FAIA, Montgomery C. Meigs
7 Lincoln Memorial - Washington, D.C. Henry Bacon, FAIA
8 Biltmore Estate (Vanderbilt Residence)-Asheville, NC Richard Morris Hunt, FAIA
9 Chrysler Building - New York City William Van Alen, FAIA
10 Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Washington, D.C. Maya Lin with Cooper-Lecky Partnership
19 World Trade Center - New York City Minoru Yamasaki, FAIA; Antonio Brittiochi; Emery Roth & Sons
51 Cadet Chapel, Air Force Academy - Colorado Springs, CO Walter Netsch, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
60 Thorncrown Chapel - Eureka Springs, AK E. Fay Jones, FAIA
99 Walt Disney Concert Hall - Los Angeles Frank Gehry, FAIA
108 Seattle Public Library - Seattle Rem Koolhaas, Ofice for Metropolitan Architecture
109 Museum of Modern Art - San Francisco Mario Botta, Hon. FAIA
115 TWA Terminal, Kennedy Airport - New York City Eero Saarinen, FAIA

Chicago Tribune: "The controversial survey of Americans' favorite buildings released last week by the American Institute of Architects has an intriguing minor theme that didn't make the papers but still deserves mention: the strong influence of Chicago architects outside Chicago."

Des Moines Register: "...elitist architects shouldn't conduct public opinion polls unless they are willing to accept the results and think about what they mean."

San Francisco Chronicle: "...the list is the architectural equivalent of comfort food."

Guardian UK: "Much-loved monstrosities:A survey of Americans' favourite architecture reveals the triumph of familiarity over beauty."


Last June, I in was in Toronto to deliver a paper at the Architecture|Music
|Acoustics Conference
and took some construction photos (see 2006 Summer Page) of the Daniel Libeskind (with Bregman + Hamann Architects and Arup) addition to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).

"pattina" has posted more recent photographs here:

pattina's photographs from Dec, Jan & Feb Site Visits at Flickr


Why Good Architecture Matters: Because buildings collapse, as just happened to a Rafael Viñoly design in Pittsburgh

Business Week February 13

"A loud pop, according to bystanders, accompanied the February 5 collapse of a 20-by-60-foot concrete floor section at Rafael Viñoly’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center, in Pittsburgh. No injuries were reported. The break in the 6-inch-thick slab opened a gaping hole in the loading dock’s floor, above an underpass where the building straddles Tenth Street. It nearly engulfed a trailer-truck and a cherry-picker that were unloading for a now-canceled auto show. Although the cause is not yet known, investigators are focusing on how rapidly falling temperatures may have affected an expansion joint. This week’s collapse is only the latest mishap in the building’s troubled history. Designed following a 1998 competition, the center opened in phases between 2002 and 2003. Its central masts and suspended roof took inspiration from nearby bridges to create open, day-lit convention halls offering city and river views. The design earned the first LEED Gold rating for a convention center. But its construction experienced several difficulties. Shifting caissons required unexpected repairs in November 2001, and a 90-ton truss collapsed, killing a worker, in February 2002. Cracks appeared in the concrete floors the following November, although these were later judged to be cosmetic."

Think Small

New York Times February 16

"Matthew Adams, 30, a San Francisco lawyer, shares this approach. On Feb. 2, he watched as the four walls of his $24,000, very modern 120-square-foot house went up on a very small portion of his 160 acres near Red Bluff, Calif. From the beginning, Mr. Adams said, he had an ecological agenda and intended to serve as a steward of the former ranch property. “I was committed to finding a tiny house that would have no lasting impact on the land,” he said. “But truthfully, I wanted something with design value, too.” Modern Cabana offered both. The structure rides on concrete piers, so there’s no need to pour a foundation. To minimize waste, the builder, Nick Damner, works exclusively with eight-foot units of plywood, glass and wallboard. Recycled denim is used as insulation. “It feels acutely more sheltering to be in a tiny house rather than a big one,” Mr. Adams said of the glass-and-wood structure, which sits like a jewel box on the land."

One man's vision of sound: Public-space artist Christopher Janney wants you to hear colors in the most unexpected places.

Christian Science Monitor February 9

"Janney's life, a study in contrasts, is indeed difficult to categorize. A trained architect who is also a jazz musician, he launched his art career from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge – a school where, in his words, "there are no 'artists.' " He creates enormous public art projects, high-tech pieces that incorporate complex sound and light elements, out of his home here, in a town steeped in Revolutionary War history. From the front, it's a modest 1920s farmhouse, white with black trim. The back, well, that's something else, and entirely Janney. While you may not have heard of him, chances are, if you've passed through a major American airport, you have, at some point, experienced a Christopher Janney (CAUTION: link w/ loud music!) creation. Since his professional art career began in the late '70s, he's been wildly prolific. This year alone will see a colored glass canopy completed at the Broward County Library in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the dedication of two nine-story interactive sound and light towers in a parking garage at Boston's Logan Airport, as well as designs in England and a tour of an earlier project through music festivals in the United States and Europe. This year also marks the release of the first book about Janney, published by Sideshow Media. "Architecture of the Air: The Sound and Light Environments of Christopher Janney" (pdf) is organized around three types of projects: "urban musical instruments"; "physical music," including the iconic 1999 "HeartBeat: mb," where Janney made it possible for Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov to dance to the rhythm of his own heart; and "performance architecture," which features Janney's Lexington home, a place the Mad Hatter might have imagined with its undulating whimsical shapes and bold hues of blues and pinks."







Christopher Janney, Sculpting Sound

NPR February 24 9m 33s

"Christopher Janney, an architect and jazz musician, combines both passions in "sound sculptures." His interactive sound and light installations are found in airports in Dallas, Miami and Sacramento — and soon at Logan in Boston."

Neutelings Riedijk - Institute for Sound and Image (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)


Neutelings Riedijk - Institute for Sound and Image (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)


Neutelings Riedijk - Institute for Sound and Image (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)


Neutelings Riedijk - Institute for Sound and Image (Photographer: Michiel van Raaij)




Televisions by Neutelings Riedijk

Iconography February 21

"The interior is not overwhelming. It unfolds as you walk. It is beautiful. A void that cuts through the entire building, vertically and horizontally. Upwards one can look six stories up, and through the roof to the sky. Horizontally the perimeter of the building is mostly open in view, framing a view to… well, what is about to be that park. Downwards the view goes down five stories, into the underground archives that archives all media produced in the Netherlands. A glass wall cuts through the height of the building and mirrors its form. The glare permits only a glimpse of the office slab behind.

The architecture of the building has retreated in this hall to a neutral blue background. The set-up with a big void in the middle and balconies on both sides works great, as one is able to oversee everything. The backdrop is that all ‘installations’ or games are film-related, and therefore have sound. It all adds up to a lot of noise."


Neutelings Riedijk Architects

"The new building for the Netherlands Institute For Sound And Vision consists of five levels under ground and five levels above ground. In the underground, the national archives of Dutch radio and television recordings are stacked around a deep canyon. Above ground, a staged volume contains the media museum. The third element is the office building of the institute. The three volumes together enclose a large public atrium. The facade of the building is a screen of coloured relief glass that depicts famous images of Dutch television, a composition by graphic designer Jaap Drupsteen."

Bob Harris, BArch '88, of Lake|Flato answers questions from students, faculty and guests after his presentation of Recent Work in BA 352 on January 31.

Architecture and Climate Change: An Interview with Ed Mazria

BLDGBLOG January 29

"Mazria: The number is actually 48% of total US energy consumption that can be attributed to the building sector, most of which – 40% of total consumption – can be attributed just to building operations. That's heating, lighting, cooling, and hot water. There are others – running pumps and things like that. But 40% of total US energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed just to building operations.

BLDGBLOG: What’s the other 8%?

Mazria: The other 8% is greenhouse gas emissions released in producing the materials for buildings – materials that architects can specify – as well as during the construction process itself. But the major part, you see – 40% – is design. Every time we design a building, we set up its energy consumption pattern and its greenhouse gas emissions pattern for the next 50-100 years. That's why the building sector and the architecture sector is so critical. It takes a long time to turn over – whereas the transportation sector, on wheels, in this country, turns over once every twelve years."



The 2010 Imperative
Global Emergency Teach-In live webcast: Feb. 20, 2007


Big Box: A San Francisco museum reinvented

Slate January 26

"Unusual exterior cladding is something of a trademark of the primary design architects, the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, who have previously used skins of twisted copper strips, printed acrylic, and silk-screened glass and concrete. The walls of the de Young are paper-thin copper panels, both dimpled and perforated. The dimples—concave and convex—create changing textures, while the perforations, which vary in size and density, emphasize the thinness and create the effect of a scrim. Like the exteriors of many recent buildings (Zaha Hadid's Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, Daniel Libeskind's Denver Art Museum, Herzog & de Meuron's own addition to the Walker Art Gallery), the walls neither reveal structure nor express inner organization. Instead, the patterns are purely ornamental, which makes them curiously similar in function to the moldings and decorations on the exteriors of classical buildings. The trend suggests just how far from its Modernist roots the current generation of architects has strayed."

First Green Convention Center in Pittsburgh

Inhabitat January 23

"Designed by architect Rafael Viñoly, the waterfront building is certified with a Gold LEED rating, and is both the largest “green” building and first “green” convention center. Aside from its eye-catching aesthetic, Viñoly’s design boasts an impressive list of green architectural elements and high-tech systems, from large glass curtain walls that admit consistent daylight (over 75% of the center’s exhibition spaces are naturally lit) to a state-of-the-art water reclamation system that reduces potable water usage by almost sixty percent."

  Pittsburgh Convention Center 6, green building, LEED, Pittsburgh, Convention Center, bridge, Green center

Building for the bad

sight and sound January 22 (English version of the German online cultural magazine Perlentaucher)

"The politically correct architect of today is confronted with the following kinds of questions. Can I glaze the towers of the new headquarters of the Russian energy leviathan Gazprom with a clean conscience? Should I abandon my construction sites in Thailand because of the military putsch? ...

To treat building as a moral issue in these globalised times is no easy matter. Is it really so objectionable to build luxury hotels in Dubai, or a business HQ in St. Petersburg or an Olympic stadium in Beijing? Fifteen of the twenty world's largest architectural firms have projects in China."

Foster may sell architects firm for £500m

The Independent January 22

"It is understood he plans to stay involved with the company he has built up over 40 years and which employs 600 architects and designers, even after a sale.

The company is likely to fetch between £300m and £500m, the majority of which will go to Lord Foster, who owns 80 to 90 per cent of the business.

His projects include London's City Hall and the British Museum Great Court, the Reichstag in Berlin, and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in Hong Kong. Beijing airport, widely said to be the world's largest construction project, is one of Foster's current commissions, along with the Government's city academies. It has also diversified into new sectors, such as hotels.

In 2004-05, the last year for which accounts were filed, the parent company of Foster + Partners made a profit of £2.5m and paid Foster a £2.1m salary."

Jan 31, 2007: 1 GBP = 1.96397 USD    £500,000,000 = $981,985,000    £2,100,000 = $4,124,337

$7 billion mega-project to feature environmentally friendly design, construction

Las Vegas Sun January 22

"Not too many years ago, using LEED standards would have cost builders more money. But as the techniques have caught on, a surprising thing happened. "It's a real breakthrough that is almost happening as we speak," said Art Gensler of the global architecture firm Gensler, CityCenter's executive architect. "We're at a tipping point where (businesses) realize this is going to save them money, not cost them money." Companies are realizing that so-called green designs begin paying for themselves after a few years in the form of lower energy and water bills. Also, as more businesses jumped on the green bandwagon, economies of scale began to drive down many costs associated with recycled materials and other green items. With 18 million square feet of building space, CityCenter will dwarf all LEED-certified structures in the United States to date, bringing more attention to green design and possibly influencing still more architects, contractors and manufacturers."

Escaping From the Shadow of the 'Wall'

Newsweek January 23

"Next month, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the most-visited monument in Washington, D.C., will be honored with the 25-Year-Award from the American Institute of Architects, as the most significant structure completed a quarter century ago. The memorial’s stunning abstract design radically changed the conventional view of war monuments, and it has had a profound impact on memorial design ever since. Yet when the design was first selected, after a blind competition with more than 1,400 entries, it was considered astonishing—even controversial in some quarters—in part because its designer wasn’t a well-known architect or artist but a 21-year-old Yale undergraduate named Maya Lin."

Why Has Maya Lin Retreated From the Battlefield of Ideas?

Washington Post October 22, 2006

  Maya Lin at one of the sites of the Confluence Project, a series of landscapes and art installations she's designed in the state of Washington

New twists for lakefront skyscraper

Chicago Tribune January 21

"Under fire for withholding the latest design for a twisting lakefront tower from the public, the project's developer has relented and released to the Tribune his new vision for the proposed 2,000-foot skyscraper, which would be the nation's tallest building. A computer rendering pictures the tower with a tapering, conelike top rather than the blunt summit that was shown in early December and drew a thumbs-down from critics and the public. While details of the design by Zurich-based architect Santiago Calatrava are sure to change, the developer, Dublin-based Garrett Kelleher, appears to have made a firm choice on its broad outlines.

His decision to release the rendering and Calatrava's conceptual sketches for the project seeks to quell controversy about his obligation to fully inform the public about the shape of a project that would dramatically remake Chicago's skyline. It would rise 550 feet higher than the 1,450-foot Sears Tower, now the tallest building in the U.S., and would be nearly twice as tall as the 1,127-foot John Hancock Center.

Calatrava's first stab at dealing with these economic mandates flopped and was quickly dubbed "Twizzler Tower" for its resemblance to a piece of the red licorice. The new images show that his design is poised to regain the spectacular whirring energy that captivated the public when Carley announced the high-rise in 2005. They also provide a glimpse of Calatrava's vision for the skyscraper's lobby, which would be a soaring, cathedral-like space, five stories tall and framed by arching vaults of concrete...

More broadly, the drawings open a window onto Calatrava's creative process, which draws inspiration from a variety of sources--nature and the human body, as well as past architectural masterpieces such as the churches of 17th Century Baroque architect Franceso Borromini. During an interview Tuesday night, Calatrava illustrated his design ideas for the Chicago Spire with his ever-present sketchpad. He also pulled a small brown snail shell out of his pocket and placed it on a conference table, indicating how the shell's graceful, rotating forms may inspire his design for the tower's summit. "We are trying to give a kind of beautiful significance to the [skyscraper], as it is in nature," he said. At the end of the session, the Tribune asked Kelleher to make Calatrava's sketches available so the public could see them. The developer consented and Calatrava, one of the only architects in a computer-obsessed world who travels with a paintbrush and a palette of watercolors, proceeded to color the sketches in shades of yellow, red, blue and green."

A New Twist

3m:46s audio slide show

  Architect at work


Silhouettes of tower


Floor plan of tower lobby


Cross section of lobby

Time to give our new architects a break

Telegraph UK January 20

"Thirty years ago this month, one of the most radical buildings of the 20th century opened its doors to an astonished public. Festooned in glass-encased escalators and multi-coloured ductwork, the Pompidou Centre looked like nothing so much as a psychedelic oil refinery. It would have stopped traffic wherever it had been built. Towering over the mansards of central Paris, it proved surreal in the extreme...

Some of the most iconic buildings of the past century were the work of relative beginners whose talent shone through in open competition. In 1957, Jørn Utzon had completed only a couple of housing schemes in his native Denmark when he won the commission for the Sydney Opera House...

The scale of the challenge involved in designing a major public building shouldn't be underestimated. And yet, as the Pompidou reminds us, experience shouldn't count for everything. Given a chance, the young and hungry sometimes deliver the kind of groundbreaking solution that can influence generations to come. In this country it is a lesson that is too often forgotten."

Speaker decries current state of architecture

University of Oregon Daily Emerald January 22

"Edward Allen, a respected architect, prolific writer and award-winning teacher, had some stern words for the modern architecture community during a guest lecture on campus Friday. "I'm very concerned about the state of architecture today," he said. "The sole criteria of architectural quality seems to be novelty of form." He criticized what he called "the frantic break-dance of the star designers, who don't design to make their clients happy than they do to impress each other."

Allen said that such designers have lost touch with architecture's basic, human and emotional characteristics."

Edward Allen, FAIA, Chosen as The 2005 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion


Lehi [Utah] goes postmodern with Frank Gehry

Daily Herald January 20

"If it doesn't look strange to you, then Frank Gehry isn't doing his job. But the world-renowned architect of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, promises to design a mixed-use development in Lehi that won't be a "King Kong show-off" or an "eyesore for the community." And Gehry wants lots of local community feedback on the study models he and his team will present at future City Council meetings. "The idea of doing something special architecturally means it will look weird when you first see it," Gehry, 77, told a group of business and political leaders at a private luncheon at Thanksgiving Point on Friday. "But we won't build something that people won't buy into. It's subtle how culture translates into architecture. And there is a culture in Utah."

"I'm not a prima donna," said Gehry, who is based in Los Angeles. "I want to show models, study models so you can question, even complain. The input of a community is what makes it more relevant and exciting for me."

The Education of Thom Mayne

Los Angles Times January 14

"During the 1980s, when it should have been leveraging its early accolades into bigger commissions, Morphosis had trouble getting projects built. Some attributed the difficulty to Mayne's prickly, even combative disposition. Projects often turned into prolonged battles of attrition that left clients unwilling to work with him again. Mayne's fiercely original designs mirrored his aggressive personality, and too often they ultimately amounted to nothing more than castles in the air, would-be buildings constructed out of anger and idealism rather than concrete and steel.

As the failures mounted, so did Mayne's frustration. He later called himself a "raving maniac" during that period. By the early 1990s, despite its reputation as a venue for visionaries, Morphosis was down to half a dozen architects and was half a million dollars in debt...

The judge intended the new courthouse—"the first in-depth look at courtroom design in decades," he was fond of proclaiming—to accommodate the 21st century's demands on the judiciary. Although most people still thought of courthouses as places where trials happened, the expansion of government's role in society during the past century had swelled the courts' administrative, bureaucratic and support functions, one reason so many 20th century courthouses look so much like office buildings. Hogan wanted the public areas of the Eugene building—the courtrooms—to take precedence over the offices. The building also would have to accommodate 21st century justice technology; contemporary trials often rely on PowerPoint projections, video testimony from distant witnesses and computer-assisted research and presentations. And the building would have to adjust to heightened security concerns. "I didn't want it to be like walking into a fortress or a precinct station," Hogan said. "We're not afraid, and we're not going to act like we're afraid." Hogan imagined a building that had nothing to hide. "I wanted light to shine in on the judicial process, so that people would understand it. I wanted this courthouse to bring transparency back to the public square."

Transparency in government—now that was a goal Mayne could get behind. And the opportunity to rethink courtroom design for a new era appealed to his impulse for innovation."






The building blocks of America's best architect

Telegraph UK January 13

"In an era of ever-increasing architectural showmanship and gravity-defying statement buildings, the work of American architect Steven Holl is defined by a more sophisticated, considered approach. That's especially true of his latest project, the Bloch Building extension to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. Part of a $200 million transformation, the Bloch Building opens in June, yet is already complete – bar internal detailing and art installation – and forms an extraordinary addition to the original 1930s building."

Steven Holl's Dark Year Gets Brighter


Steven Holl's Bloch Building


"Using frameless, structural planks of glass as building blocks for the pavilions – with iron content removed to take away the green tint and create a pure, white light – the lenses have a crisp, surreal presence. At night they glow like vast lanterns, while in the day they let natural light filter down into the gallery, creating a layer of light supplemented by artificial illumination at exhibition level."

Architecture's Second Life

Archinect January 9

"Who wouldn't enjoy the opportunity to change all the things about your life that you most yearn to change? This is the question the designers of Second Life had in mind when they built their successful massively-multiplayer online world...

For all the grand dreams of what life could be in Second Life (SL), this metaverse, as it's called, is decidedly more geared towards the exploration of post-silicon body modifications than the possibilities of spatial experience free of gravity, budget, and all those persnickety details. When it comes down to it, from an architectural perspective, Second Life just sort of replicates suburbia. In a universe built from free and easily manipulated virtual building units, there is a surprising lack of interesting work going on. Evidence, perhaps, that spatial banality is not just a symptom of something larger, but an affliction in and of itself."




  Professor Thomas Gordon Smith from the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture presented a lecture entitled "Vitruvius and Architecture Today" to a packed house of CoA students and faculty on November 17.

GSA Straddles the Great Architectural Divide

Wall Street Journal November 29

"Call it tradition vs. modernism. Should government buildings reflect the optimism and innovation of the future or the successful traditions of the past? It is a question that long has provoked passion among architects. The federal government's top building agency now has waded into the argument, trying to take a middle road in picking an architectural leadership team that will oversee the design of most U.S. nonmilitary buildings. Last week the General Services Administration announced it had appointed a new chief architect, the person who supervises the selection of architecture firms and guides the design process for these buildings, often landmarks. But in a twist, it actually made two appointments: one for the chief architect by elevating an agency veteran, and one for a "federal architectural fellow" -- a prominent traditionalist architect. The dual selection sent a signal the agency, which in recent years has tended toward the modern, could be opening the door toward the traditionalists.

The new chief architect, Leslie Shepherd, has served as acting chief architect for almost two years and has worked in the GSA's design office for 18 years, overseeing dozens of projects. While many of those projects have used traditional forms, the agency has been known in recent years for pushing the modernist envelope with most of its work, including courthouses by Richard Meier in Central Islip, N.Y., and Phoenix; by Antoine Predock in El Paso, Texas; and by firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates in Minneapolis.

Looking over Mr. Shepherd's shoulder will be Thomas Gordon Smith, a proponent of classicist architecture that finds inspiration in Roman designs and a former dean at the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame, one of the few schools whose curriculum emphasizes traditional architecture. "There have been some voices out there that haven't been involved," Mr. Smith says. "For me, it is appropriate that federal architecture should embrace this very long tradition that we've had since the 18th century of classicism." He says his appointment isn't a shift in policy. "It's just an opening up....I'd just say a broadening." "




"The GSA, the federal government's main property manager, has a construction pipeline of $12 billion in courthouses, border stations and federal buildings, making the agency one of the largest real-estate developers in the country. Its buildings are often the most prominent structures in town, a distinction that draws attention to the agency's architectural picks."



Leslie Shepherd earned his professional degree in architecture from Texas Tech University in 1983.



Chicago Tribune
November 27

"Controversy erupted in September after The Wall Street Journal reported that Smith... was set to become the agency's chief architect. Some modernists charged that Smith's devotion to traditionalism would set back the GSA's progress in improving federal design. Some traditionalists cheered the prospect of a return to the nation's classical design past."

A New Way to See Art: The Modern, Completed

New York Times November 29

"The new Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman education building at the Museum of Modern Art is unlikely to appease those who feel the museum has become a soulless corporate machine. But at least it underscores what is most alluring about the museum’s recent expansion. A taut composition of floating planes and elegant lines, the education wing has a cool, self-confident air like that of the museum’s 2004 gallery building, which was also designed by Yoshio Taniguchi. Finally, we can experience the museum as a complete urban composition. And while its sleek packaging may alienate those who consider it evidence of the institution’s aloofness, it reaffirms that Mr. Taniguchi is adept at designing complex spaces, often with real seductive power.

This is what we expect from Mr. Taniguchi: refined architectural abstractions that are so tightly composed they can seem on the verge of snapping. And in general, he delivers here. Inside the entrance to the education wing, a broad staircase descends to a lower-level lobby to the right, interposing an unexpected void between the visitor and the garden just beyond."

  Photo Gallery



An Engineering Magician, Then (Presto) He’s an Architect New York Times November 26

"Cecil Balmond, deputy chairman of the British engineering firm Ove Arup, is hardly a late bloomer. He has made structural feats like these possible for a pantheon of architectural luminaries over the last 30 years, from James Stirling and Philip Johnson to Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind and Alvaro Siza. ... But Mr. Balmond has decided that the mantle of engineer is not enough. ... His shift to architectural work has raised an eyebrow or two in the profession."

The Glossies: The decline of architecture magazines

Slate November 15

"Last month saw the demise of Architecture magazine, leaving Architectural Record as the single major architecture monthly in the United States. It's hard to imagine that in the 1960s there were as many as four national magazines on the subject. The best of them, Architectural Forum, folded in 1974, followed over the decades by Progressive Architecture and now Architecture. There are all sorts of explanations for this decline. The '60s were arguably the glory days of modernism, and a crusading spirit fueled interest in reading and writing about the new movement. As modern architecture became mainstream and then fragmented into numerous "isms," magazines lost their sense of urgency, becoming merely slick chroniclers of changing fashions. As a young architect in the '70s, I preferred Architectural Design, a scruffy but lively British publication, to what we called "the glossies." A reduction in intellectual content in the glossies was largely the result of an increased reliance on photography, especially color photography. There's something about a color photograph that glamorizes its subject, and architectural writers soon adopted the slightly breathless tones of fashion reporters. You are more likely to find tough architectural criticism in the New York Review of Books, the New Republic, and The New Yorker than in any of the major architecture magazines."

For Starters


"Is it silly to launch an architecture magazine with a 2,000-year-old premise? Anyone who's lived through architecture school will remember, undoubtedly with great joy, the assignment from Marcus Vitruvius Pollio's De architectura , the oldest surviving book on architecture. Vitruvius, for those who missed class that day, was a practicing architect and contemporary of the Roman emperor Augustus. His book sets forth three essential qualities for architecture: utilitas, firmitas , and venustas —commodity, firmness, and delight, in the earliest English translation from the 17th century. Fast forward through titanic changes in every aspect of human existence, and no one's come up with a better definition of architecture and the responsibilities of a practicing architect. It'll do for ARCHITECT.

Architectural journalism can serve the profession better by voicing the complexities, values, and concerns of the discipline itself. Every architect knows that architecture is more than just a synonym for a building, and that a building is more than just a beautiful object. ARCHITECT will portray architecture from multiple perspectives, not just as a succession of high-profile projects, glowingly photographed and critiqued, but as a technical and creative process, and as a community.

Instead of taking sides, ARCHITECT will provide forums for discussion. In print, on our website, and at events around the country, ARCHITECT offers every practitioner a standing invitation to share ideas and rally around issues of universal concern—from best practices in business to aspirations for society and the environment. Commodity, firmness, and delight are lofty goals, and ARCHITECT needs your participation to attain them. Join us every month for the making of a new ARCHITECT. Vitruvius will be there."

Sullivan legacy: 'There won't be anything left'

Chicago Sun-Times November 14

"Chicago once had about 125 structures designed by Louis H. Sullivan, a giant of architecture who helped the city rise from the ashes of the Great Fire. In 2006 -- with the city celebrating the 150th anniversary of his birth -- the number of Sullivan structures has dwindled to 21, according to architectural historian Tim Samuelson. On Nov. 4, a fire claimed Chicago's third Sullivan building this year and the second in less than a month."


The 32nd Annual KRob Ken Roberts Memorial Delineation Competition Exhibition

Controversial 'Frank Lloyd Wright' Home Rises; Purists Protest

Bloomberg November 13

"Frank Lloyd Wright, who called himself the greatest living American architect, can still kick up controversy 47 years after his death. A squabble over his legacy pits Wright purists, a prickly bunch, against a retired sheet-metal contractor named Joe Massaro, who is building a home in Putnam County, New York, based on designs Wright sketched in 1950. The purists argue that any deviation from what the master architect intended means Massaro can't call his home a true Frank Lloyd Wright creation. And since Massaro is working from sketches, not blueprints, his project can't be legitimate. Massaro tried to enlist the help of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, established in 1940 to conserve the architect's work. Massaro said the foundation wanted $450,000 to supervise construction and a guarantee that the home would be built. That didn't sit well with Massaro, who got into business right out of high school and sold his company, Elmsford Sheet Metal, in 2000. So he hired Wright scholar and architect Thomas A. Heinz to help. The foundation sued Massaro, who agreed in a settlement to limit the use of Wright's name in connection with the house to the phrase 'inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.' "



"Wright designed more than 1,000 buildings; some 477 were built. A dozen have gone up since his death at the age of 92 in 1959, including three now under construction in Buffalo, New York. Those also have drawn criticism from Wright fans, some of whom say no structure Wright drew up should be built after his death."


Joe Massaro's house in New York State, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright


'This is his finest work'

Guardian UK August 28



AIA/Los Angeles 2006 Design Awards Winners





Q & A with architect Daniel Libeskind

CNN November 13

"CNN: Before you became an architect, you were a professional pianist. Is music still a part of your life even though you no longer perform?

Libeskind: I feel that I have never given up music. Music is certainly part of my life and it is part of architecture. When I was designing the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the acoustics of the building, the sound of the building was one of the primary dimensions of creating that space of the void. And music is part of architecture -- the acoustics of the building, the sound of a city, inspire you and give you kind of a connection. And certainly, even the way that architecture is produced is very similar to music. You have to write an abstract score. You know, the plans, the sections, elevations, but in the end it has to be performed by others and it has to kind of seem together and be harmonious."


Pendulum may be swinging against once-revolutionary designs

Chicago Tribune November 5

"If architecture is frozen music, then the music it's making these days sounds like crashing cymbals. Everywhere you go, there's another head-turning, off-kilter design that looks as if it was frozen in mid-earthquake. Inspired by the critical and popular success of Frank Gehry's explosively sculptural Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, these buildings seem designed as much to attract tourists as to serve some ordinary function. The results can be maddeningly unfunctional, as the frenetic galleries of Daniel Libeskind's new Denver Art Museum addition made clear last month.

But even in this age of spectacle, there remains a place for subtlety. It's evident at the exquisite new Glass Pavilion of the Toledo Museum of Art, the first U.S. commission by the Japanese architects who were finalists in the 1998 design competition for a campus center at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the equally appealing new Kresge Foundation Headquarters in Troy, Mich., by Chicago architect [Caution, his architecture may be quiet, but his website makes noise. -ed.] Joe Valerio. Both buildings are everything their flashier counterparts in Denver and elsewhere are not: serene but lively; modest but by no means mousy. ...

No one should expect projects such as the Kresge Foundation Headquarters and the Glass Pavilion of the Toledo Museum of Art to single-handedly turn back the tide of visually overwrought, computer-assisted design. That genie is out of the bottle. As a recent seminar on skyscrapers at IIT showed, it's producing buildings that are tilting, twisting, tapering -- and, all too frequently, tortured. Yet maybe, as Gehry himself has suggested, there's a whiff of change in the air. When everyone else is shouting, it's often the one who whispers who speaks with the loudest -- and most powerful -- voice."









Question and answer with the architects

The Toledo Blade interviewed Kazuyo Sejima, 50, and Ryue Nishizawa, 40, via e-mail, and they responded in one voice.

"Q: The Glass Pavilion has been called a post-modern design built on the belief of social transparency. How do you describe it?

A: It is not really up to us to dress our architecture in such words, but it is true that we are genuinely interested in all aspects of transparency. Transparency can add many layers of impressions — you can see a lot of different things at the same time. Glass can show diversity, not only through transparency but also through reflection and refraction."

" “Sustainable design is exciting because all of a sudden architecture loses a lot of its frivolity,” Mr. Tigerman said.  “Instead of worrying about Post Modernism and Deconstructivism,” he said, sustainable design “is based on reason and the forms come out of that.” Mr. Tigerman said the project came along at the right time for him. “I no longer care about working on suburban villas for princes and princesses,” he said. “I’d rather retire than do more of that. These are people who have real needs. It gave me a great feeling to do this.” "


Social Improvement With Architecture

New York Times
November 5

"This city [Chicago], which is often described as one of the world’s great architecture capitals, also has a strong tradition — dating back to 1889 when Jane Addams founded the Hull House settlement community — of innovative housing projects aimed at improving the lives of the disadvantaged. These two traditions, architectural and social improvement, continue today in two projects by leading architects under way in the downtown area."

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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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