Archive for May, 2011

Quote of the Day…

I am particularly interested in the part about foreign brains…Sometimes I wish my brain were the internet and then I would not have to do arduous things like check email or pick up my iPhone and use my finger to control it.  Also, I hate that I clean off the shiny surface on my iPhone and then I touch it and it gets ruined again.  It’s way too much work and I don’t have a project number to bill “cleaning my iPhone screen” to…

Ideas cause ideas and help evolve new ideas. They interact with each other and with other mental forces in the same brain, in neighboring brains, and thanks to global communication, in far distant, foreign brains.
– Roger Sperry

(via Swiss Miss and Brainpickings.org)

Spending too much time at work…

Dear Architects,

For anyone who has ever had a really bad day at work and would like to put up a sign that says, “talk to me and you might get a beating,” or just needs to catch up on a little sleep; or, is nursing a bad hangover and just needs a moment alone, I present to you the Ostrich Pillow (Pocket Pillow for Nap) by Kawamura Ganjavian from Studio K-G.  I think every office needs a couple of these and I fully expect snarky comments on this post.  I don’t think I can top the designer’s own words in explaining this gloriously ridiculous invention, so I will leave you with their own words to ponder and enjoy.

Working patterns are constantly evolving. We gradually spend more time in our working environments, and this in turn means that we often need to make work and rest fully compatible within the same space. Some cultures have assimilated this concept more naturally than others, but in general the workplace has rarely adapted to this new working-resting paradigm.

OSTRICH offers a micro environment in which to take a warm and comfortable power nap at ease. It is neither a pillow nor a cushion, nor a bed, nor a garment, but a bit of each at the same time. Its soothing cave-like interior shelters and isolates our head and hands (mind, senses and body) for a few minutes, without needing to leave our desk.

Images and narrative courtesy of Studio K-G

Summer Reading for Architects…

I have to be up front that I rarely read books about architecture, in fact I avoid them at all costs.  I am probably the only architect alive who hated The Fountainhead;  I tried to like it, I really did.  I put forth a concerted effort to be a fan of the iconic architecture book, but it just didn’t do it for me.  I am not even sure I was able to get through the whole thing.  I think I read about 3/4 of it and then did a Wikipedia search for the spoiler on the rest of the story.  The whole experience was somewhat anti-climactic for me.

That said, I was reading my most recent DWELL magazine the other night and came across their Beach Reading page and thought it was really funny.  Given that I am no fan of fiction architecture books ( I even tried to get through Devil in the White City, although the whole serial killer element kind of eeked me out), I found their spoofs to be comical and good for a laugh.  So, thank you DWELL Magazine for your contribution to my post today and for writing an article that touched the heart of disgruntled architects everywhere who refuse to read fictionalized accounts of their daily grind.  Enjoy!

Thanks Dwell Magazine!

The DeBuilding Code, by Dan Brownstone

Robert Leverhouse, architecture professor, receives an urgent late-night call: The contractor hired to gut renovate his Carroll Gardens home has been murdered!  Scattered around the body near the hopelessly dated kitchen island is a series of baffling archival blueprints.  At Stumptown, Leverhouse meets up-and-coming urban planner Susan Scone, and the two follow an increasingly arcane trail of mystery.  Was the dead man part of a secret society named the Priory of Sub-Contractors?  Did he sacrifice his own life to protect the unseen forces driving the Environmental Review Board?  Leverhouse and Scone must untangle the labyrinthine mystery of the DeBuilding Code before millions of lives are put in danger. 

The Girl with the De Meuron Tattoo, by Stig Lardons

Thirty years ago, a scion of one of Switzerland’s wealthiest families disappeared after dining with the resident of the Blue House in Oberwil.  Seeking the truth of what happened that night, her aged uncle hire Michael Gruyere, a revered design critic for Neue Zurcher Zeitung, to put together the pieces.  After a chance meeting at the VitraHaus, Gruyere teams up with parametric-modeling whiz kid and Harvard GSD grad Lesley Salamander.  What begins as a small-town Swiss mystery leads into an astonishing vortex of design-world corruption – and a sinister plan to win architectural commissions from Beijing to Bond Street.

The Bauhaus Diet, by Myles Vanderole, MD

It’s bathing suit season!  If you find yourself wondering, “What is the objective function of this bathing costume?” the Bauhaus Diet is for you.  It’s all about living well and loving what you don’t eat.  It’s mercurial, essentialist, and ruthlessly effective.  Phase 1 is designed to eliminate cravings for residential rococo, the Starbucke Trenta Latte, and conversational digression.  Phase 2 produces steady weight loss by curating the “negative space” in your gut.  You stay in Phase 2 until you begin to resemble a young silver prince or princess.  Next is Phase 3, the Machine Aesthetic, where you’ll not just study but actually become a perfect form.  Your body will be a straight line, your face, a flawless, impenetrable surface – the ultimate synthesis of art, craft, technology, and biology.

The Heiress and Handyman, by Daniel Steel

Tex Boone is a former rodeo star, now a drifter, a lone wolf, and a highly skilled handyman.  He’s ruggedly handsome, with an untamed heart – and relenting abs.  When beautiful but lonely Bay Area heiress Serena Dellacourt hires him to renovate the guest bathroom in her mid-century hillside home in Sausalito, sparks and sawdust fly.  It is a forbidden love, with passions that burn twice as hot as the Italian kiln that fired her new Bisazza tiles.  Tex discovers that even a loner can find love.  But is Serena the type of woman who’s really ready to renovate?  Only her heart, and the tilework, will tell.

Images and articles courtesy of dwell magazine and author Heather Wagner and Illustrator Daniel Carlsten (Dwell Magazine, June 2011, p. 100-101)


Barbie, AIA

Okay, there is something that needs addressing on this blog and I must warn you that you may lose a few IQ points at the conclusion of this reading and if you are a fan of Barbie, you will probably never return to this blog:  Architect Barbie.  Apparently Mattel, maker of toys and perpetuators of eating disorders among young girls, has launched a program called:  “I Can Be” in which Barbie will be modeled into several categories of professional to encourage girls to pursue careers and give them a sneak peak into what wonderful possibilities lay ahead of them if they choose to have careers instead of….what?  I must stop here for a brief snarky moment and congratulate Mattel on entering the 21st century, apparently they have missed the last several decades as well as a few speeches by Gloria Steinem and the feminist movement in general, but I am glad they have caught up and realized that girls can have careers and are currently promoting this noble pursuit through Barbie….hmmmmm…this may be a step backwards.

The most recently voted profession for Barbie was architecture; and it was a hard-fought one because Mattel believed that anything having to do with the construction industry didn’t fit into the doll’s general image and iconic marketing.  I am supposing that Barbie would not like the long hours and low pay or site visits in high heels and a short skirt – I also find that exposed rebar can do a real number on a girl’s pantyhose.  Additionally, the architect’s salary may not afford her the newest Chanel bag or Manolo Blahniks and disseminating this information to young girls might cast a dim shadow over the profession.  Before Barbie was an architect, she was everything from a nurse to an astronaut and within the realm of the recent I Can Be campaign, she has transitioned through a job shadowing experience of dolphin trainer, movie star, lifeguard, pet vet, doctor, chef, computer engineer, teacher, ballet teacher, and ballerina.  So finally she is interning as an architect and the tagline for this professional endeavor is, “An architect designs buildings and makes sure they’re safe, sturdy and cool-looking.”  Definitely glad they mentioned the cool looking part, I was starting to question where this was going…

Professor of Architecture at the University of Buffalo, Despina Stratigakos, was the champion of Barbie becoming an architect.  She says of the promotion, “This is a powerful icon, and it does speak to little girls,” said Stratigakos, an assistant professor in UB’s School of Architecture and Planning. “We need role models.”  Huh, I agree;  we need someone to show young girls how to dress inappropriately in their profession and ooze sexuality on the job site.  Take Dr. Barbie, M.D., she is sporting an ultra short skirt and high heels and I believe that is the approved dress code in the ICU.  Couldn’t we just teach girls about real and respectable architects, perhaps broaden their horizons to see actual performers in the industry?  I guess Zaha would have better luck winning the girls over if she were blond, wore pink and had a disproportionately larger chest; may this be a lesson to all female architects.

But apart from Barbie being Barbie, sexy, disproportionate and blond as she is, I take issue with the blueprints she is carrying in the tube strapped on her back; I am pretty sure no one does that anymore, but leave it to Barbie to make blueprints look hot.  Also, she is carrying a hard hat, so at least when she trips and falls in the job site in her high healed boots, she won’t crack her head and let the air out.

And so, I give you Architect Barbie, who can probably also double for Consulting Engineer Barbie with a quick change of clothes and accessories.  I have to admit, I loathe the very idea of this, but if I ever have a daughter I am pretty sure she is going to want one of these and architect mommy is going to have to sew some more accurate outfits and hot glue some more accurate accessories.  Also, I would have to set the record straight:  Architect Barbie should be holding a cup of coffee, with dark circles under her eyes, and less fashionable clothes because she is still paying off her student loans.

The least they could have done is dress her in black…

Images courtesy of AIA and Mattel

This is a prison?…

I am all about America, I am super patriotic.  But, I just have to say, I want to live in the Netherlands.  Those architects seem to have it together.  I have dreams about the Netherlands that are deeply rooted and based in complete fiction.  I refuse to do research on the issue, because I don’t want to ruin it for myself.   Sure, it gets cold there and I hate the cold, but in my mind I will be living in gorgeous architecture with sleek and clean lines, visual interest and a rich palette of materiality that will keep me warm on the inside.  I could devote and entire blogging website to the virtues of Scandinavian architecture, but I simply don’t have the time – I am busy devoting all my attention to being an American architect and getting yelled at on the phone.

If you have not looked into architecture in that part of the world, or been graced with the opportunity to see architecture by a Scandinavian, Dutch, Swedish or otherwise architect, take some of that quality billable time this minute and check them out.  Their work is always so gorgeous and simple, but you look at it and think, “huh, that is just about perfect.”  As an example, this is a renovated juvenile detention center, Maasberg Pavilion by UArchitects out of the Netherlands.  When I say renovated, I mean it used to be an adult detention center, but it was converted for youths.  Without debating the pragmatic nature of the politics, just look at this place!  American architects would never come up with this concept as a place to rehab disturbed youngsters and then send them back into the world.  I am not sure I would want to leave this place….

Unit 6 of the “Penitentiaire Inrichting Maashegge” in Overloon converted from an institution for adults into an autonomously functioning juvenile detention institution.  A new and more intensive interaction with the surrounding nature is aimed at for the youngsters.  The resoluteness of the world which aims at the interior is partly removed, so that the youngsters can prepare themselves for the return in society.

The concept aims at an open, transparent building between the closed prison and the outside world. Visitors can throw a glance at the prison life and the youngsters can look at the outside world, the society in which they will return later on.  By means of the light appearance and the placement on metal feet in the woodland soil, the volume seems to float in the wood. Because of the layered façade in steel, aluminium and Bankirai the building will be merged in the surrounding woodland scenery, showing different shades of grey.

The appearance and the rhythmic of the carefully detailed elements of the façade assume a respectful dialogue between environment and the youngsters.

Images and description courtesy of UArchitects

Quote of the Day…

     “I have a brain and some hands and every once in a while it feels like they’re working together. Those are the best moments.

–  Frank Chimero (via Swiss Miss)

ICFF Eye Candy…The Flux Chair

Furniture lover I am; here is a cool chair, the Flux Chair by Flux Furniture, that was spotlighted this year at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.  Enjoy the eye candy!

Images and video courtesy of Flux Chairs and Y Living

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