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I think it is generally bad form to review a book before one has finished reading it but as I browsed some of these essays I felt compelled to pick up my phone and tap out a short response. In fact, that I am writing this from a smart phone is perhaps relevant. It is emblematic of why World’s Greatest Architect has, up to this point, been completely irrelevant to me.

I am relatively young, a student and nearly an Internet native. I understand intimately and intuitively most of what Dr. Mitchell writes about in this book. He notes that camera-phones are ubiquitous for instance and that opportunities for clandestine surveillance lie everywhere. He even goes so far as to pull out the tired comparison to Bentham and Foucault’s panopticon. What he doesn’t do is provide any worthy analysis or posit any, even nebulous, idea about what this means for the future or for architecture. He simply notes that things are.

These essays may be useful to older and/or technophobic folk out there as an illumination of the world around them, the world anyone under 30 (or I dare say even 40) tacitly understands.

Mitchell goes on to discuss the environment, communication, the web and globalization all with the breathless wonder of Thomas Friedman but without any of Mr. Friedman’s (admittedly half-assed) points.

If you’re thinking of checking this book out I might suggest Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky or simply googling Kevin Kelly. These men understand the world information technology has wrought deeply enough to consider its future and anticipate our reactions to it. Mitchell seems only to understand as much as is apparent to anyone techno-capable enough to tap out a book review on an iPhone.

flickr/users/carolee

Credit: flickr/users/carolee

We previously blogged about an opportunity to own your very own Usonian house.  If you weren’t sold on that how about your very own Eames Case Study House?

Curbed L.A. reports that Case Study House #9 is up for sale. For a scant $14 million you get not only the Eames but the massive estate constructed in front of it which one Curbed reader described as an ABORTION!

The photo I have listed here does not do the structure justice.  The Eames house that is, not the abortion.  You really must visit Curbed L.A.’s fancy set of photos.  They’re beautiful. While you’re clicking around be sure to stop by Materialicious.  The fine shelter blog that tipped us off to the Eames sale.

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I’ve been avoiding the Facebook 25 things meme myself but the National Trust For Historic Preservation has jumped on the bandwagon with their own list. There are no details of one-night stands or grating habits though the do reveal a thing for country music:

  • 10.The Dixie Chicks played at the National Preservation Conference in Fort Worth in the mid-90s, before Natalie Maines joined the band (and, therefore, before they were famous).
  • 13. Country music star Kenny Chesney featured the Farnsworth House, a National Trust Historic Site in Illinois, in his video, “Don’t Blink.”

You should definitely check out the rest of the list at their blog PreservationNation.  I learned a few things and it is nice to see institutions getting involved with interweb norms.

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marstonAward winning blog Northwest History posts an impassioned, through plea for stimulus money to be used to re-create Federal Writers Project to record and document our disappearing past. I have written previously about how the current financial crisis could have a silver-lining for we in the history,  cultural resource management and preservation communities.  It will take cogent,  passionate ideas like this to make it happen.

While you’re at Northwest History I suggest you check out their fantastic survey of 19th century facial hair in Washington State.


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Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Credit: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Jobless? Don’t want to wait for the new Federal Writer’s Project? Then I suggest heading over to Preservation in Pink and checking out their November post about hunting for preservation jobs.  The guide provides links and enough advice to get all of you recent grads and recent layoff started.

bbc-slideshow

BBC has a wonderful audio-slideshow about the history of the early skyscrapers in America.

The short show is kind of an ad for a BBC Radio 4 series called America: Empire of Liberty, which I would also suggest browsing.  One assumes BBC Radio’s sudden interest in the states, out history and our “Empire of Liberty” has something to do with the recent election.  It is, perhaps, evidence that the world view of the U.S. is starting to warm-up a bit.  It is nice to see I probably won’t have to pretend to be Canadian this summer when I am abroad.

The slideshow lasts just three minutes, but it does an admirable job of showing off early examples of the skyscraper, one of the first completely American art-forms. I was happy to see the two-stage Monadnock Building was cleverly used to show the move from limits of masonry high-rises to the soaring heights of metal frame construction.  The brevity of the clip cuts out the steps leading up to architects Holabird and Roche’s steel-frame addition to the Monadnock, making them appear to be the first to have conceived the idea.

sftrajan

Monadnock Bldg Credit: sftrajan

Home Insurance Building

Had the narrator, Professor of US History: David Reynolds, had more time he surely would have mentioned that the first steel skeleton buildings were the brainchild of the underappreciated William LeBaron Jenny. His Leiter buildings predated the Monadnock by decades, but they were mere epilogue to his 1885 Home Insurance Building, which perfected the steel-skeleton that subsequently allowed for the rapidly rising skylines of the American commercial center.   Jenny rarely gets his due.  He was, to his detriment, more engineer than architect and the busy, disjointed Home Insurance façade lacks the slim grace of the Monadnock and later Chicago masterpieces.

The show  makes no mention of the relative sleekness of the American skyscraper, either, and its contribution to the modern aesthetic. Even a cursory comparison of the smooth, sloping, Egyptian inspired walls of the Monadnock to the fussier the European styles of the day illustrates that there is something there. The slideshow is only three minutes and change though, so I will cut them some slack.

Slideshows like this are the type of thing we soon hope to have here at TimeberPalace. Anyone who has topics they’d like to see explored is invited to COMMENT and let us know. I have some ideas up in the brain-chamber now which will hopefully be brought to fruition soon. Until then, please check out BBC’s slideshow, and while you’re online hop over to Fotofacade, the purveyors of fine architectural photography who tipped me off to the slide show.

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Piqued your interest?

Check out these TimberPalace approved books on the subject:

Chicago School of Architecture by Carl Condit – an exhaustive tome on the Chiacgo School and the development of the skyscraper by Chicago’s preeminent architectural historian.

Skyscrapers: Structure and Design by  Matthew Wells –  A beautiful but rigorous examination of the skyscraper and how far it has come since those early days in Chicago.

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Mentioned in this post:

BBC Audio Slideshow:  America’s Early Skyscrapers

BBC Radio4: America: Empire of Liberty

Fotofacade: Best damn architectural photo site on the webz.

 

 

Could U of O lose one of its most historic structures?

The Oregon Daily Emerald ran a story today about the possibility of  a new indoor track at the University of Oregon.

The idea came after athletic director Pat Kilkenny and track coach Vin Lananna visited Texas A&M’s fancy new indoor digs.  They came back jealous.  The track could replace historic Hayward Field, one of the hallowed sites in track & field, and home track to Steve Prefontaine.

 

I can understand the desire for an indoor field ( it is Oregon after all) but I found the story startling.  The new Knight Arena will  push the venerable McArthur Court into disuse and surplus; could a new indoor track facility do the same to the “Carnegie Hall of Track & Field?”  The prospect especially frustrating considering Hayward Field just underwent an $8-million renovation ahead of the U.S. Olympic Trials.

 

Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

 

 

The article says the plans are “hypothetical at best” so at least there is time for ample discussion.   It would certainly be sad for both of Oregon’s historic venues to be pushed to the margins of campus life.

What do you think:


Somethin’ for the hometown…

Preservation Magazine has an interesting brief on the Irvington Historic District in Portland.

The article discusses the tensions between Irvington’s status as a “historic” neighborhood and the regional Metro government’s desire for more dense, urban neighborhoods.

Predictably, the article laments the blooming of large, dense, in-fill projects in historic neighborhoods.  I do not fault them.  It is after all, Preservation Magazine.  But, the article’s focus on a specific story of a condo project going in across from a historic Queen-Anne home glances past the deeper issues at play.

Preservation and Density are both worthy causes that are often in direct contradiction to one another.  So… which is more important? The imposition of large condo projects in Irvington will, almost definitely, alter the character of the neighborhood.  Is that OK?

Minimization, that is creating smaller, more discrete and respectful projects seems like an obvious compromise.    Irvington, with is city sized lots, is perfect for this approach. Figuring out exactly what makes a new project “respectful” of its surroundings can, of course, be difficult. It is described in the article as one of the “perennial conundrums of preservation” but I think the solution is clear: ample community involvement and a lengthy design review process.

Really, Irvington is easy. What about Cedar Mill?

493820638_a8ad851899_mAs the ethic of “density at all costs” takes over, will Portland’s suburbs go the way of Lost Oregon? With time, early suburban neighborhoods will offer as much historic (and I would argue aesthetic) value as old, historic Irvington.  The future tension between density and preservation in suburban neighborhoods is apt to be amplified.  How do you create dense housing that is respectful to its  complete antithesis? I really don’t think you can.  Does that mean the burbs and all of the historical and cultural information they carry are doomed?

What do you think?

COMMENT

Preservation Magazine:  Trouble in Green City: Zoning Trumps Design Guidelines in Historic Portland, Oregon

Emergent Urbanism

Mathieu Helie’s blog Emergent Urbanism has an absolutely excellent post pertaining to the use of emergence theory in Urban Planning and Architecture.

Emergence is a systems theory that explains complex-systems as the product of simpler smaller interactions and rules. To you help visualize think of a giant flock of birds all flying in unison:

Pretty amazing, no?  How do they do it?

To put it simply, rules. Each bird has an innate set of rules (or comfort zones) that tell it how far it should be from the other birds on each of its sides. When you put all of these birds, carrying all of these rules together you get a display like in the video above. It looks complicated and even random but it is the product of a set of simple rules.

Helie uses the research of Professor Bemin S. Hakim to explain the formation of the complex-seeming, clustered, urban communities of the Mediterranean. He describes the bustling communities as the result of loose, proscriptive rules and not contrived design.

Helie seems interested in how this understanding can be used to help us build better, more interesting, modern cities.  He provides an excellent crtique of New Urbanism’s uber-contrived rules and the historical pastiche of the Postmodern mileu. I was fascinated by how emergence and complexity can be used by preservationists to help understand and protect historic districts and guide their growth in a culturally respectful manner.

In all, the post is a brilliant, cogent, assertion about the organization of the urban world and is well worth a read!

Mathieu Helie: Decoding paradise – the emergent form of Mediterranean towns.

doanepaperDoane paper is the greatest product humanity has conceived.

It may seem a bit premature for TimberPalace to be giving endorsements but the Internet allows for my hastily timed advice.  In the old days, if I decided to start a newsletter or some-such, the words of my testament to the wonders of Doane Paper would have one chance to make an impact on my readers.  To really impress upon the masses how excellent Doane Paper is, I would have to wait until that point where I had millions of eyes following me.

Nowadays I have a blog.   Anyone who searches for “Doane Paper” or maybe “tools for architects”, or “the greatest product humanity has ever conceived”, will eventually reach my words here.  Then, they will be educated to the wonders of Doane Paper.  The timing doesn’t matter.

Just what is Doane Paper?

It is good-quality, white, lined-paper with a graph-paper background. It is a simple but fantastic idea.  If you’re having trouble visualizing what I am describing you can download a sample and experience  the awesomeness.

I am a Historic Preservation student. It is a course of study that is part: history, law, philosophy, art and architecture.  This mixture makes Preservation a fascinating course of study but also makes note-taking quite difficult.  I often find myself taking regular notes on the history of a structure one moment and then, soon after, drawing sketches of its facade and site plan.  Doane paper is absolutely indispensable to my studies.  Using it for the first time was revelation.  I am not sure how I ever lived without Doane paper but now that I have used it I hope never to be without it again.

TimberPalace officially endorses Doane Paper and suggests you purchase some of your own today!

Link:   DOANE PAPER

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