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Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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The National Mall 1/20/09

The National Mall 1/20/09

We have a new president.  As a person of mixed-race today quite special for me, as it was for most Americans, regardless of their ethnic-identity. There is not a lot for me to to add to the chatter about our new Commander-in-Chief.  I am hardly qualified to be a political pundit so I won’t even try. As I watched the oath and parade I was taken, of course, by the architecture. Everything was designed to be grand and looked so beautiful on TV. I have never been impressed with Washington in person. Though, there are exceptions.

The National Building Museum is appropriately, exquisite. Its exterior is playful and pretty. Its interior is a marvel of light and air. It was initially designed as the pension office for Civil War veterans and, as such, originally had short ramp-like steps. This feature made it , perhaps the first building designed for this disabled in the country. That is something beautiful in its own right. It is not the rule unfortunately.

Most of the city and its monuments, although grand, are unexpectedly dingy in person and downright gaudy in design.  But, they photograph majestically and that is how we know them. Washington, like Los Angles, the other city we all know from pictures, is a giant stage. Its buildings are the set-pieces of our republic and we know them by the individual moments in history with which they cooresepond.  Perhaps that is why they look so dull in-person. The knock-off classical temple that houses Lincoln could never compete with the lyrical beauty of the great speech delivered in front of it.

The true architectural grandeur of the city comes when it is taken on as a whole. The image to the right is from the inauguration this morning. It is with photos like these, with the entire mall and a sea of citizens within, that we understand that the city truly lives up to L’Enfant’s design “for aggrandizement and embellishment . . . at any period however remote.”

 

 

Click to Zoom

Click to Zoom

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There is a new world order looming.

The days where we turn to institutions, particularly profit-motivated entities, for our information are numbered. In the future we will turn to each other and the internet. The changes are coming quickly. Ten years ago, if you needed to know something, say who designed Freeway Park in Seattle, you might poke around on the internet, but your’d probably fail.  Your best bet would have come from a purchased encyclopedia or correspondence with an institutionally-sponsored expert (think: university professor).  Now a quick search on Wikipedia reveals the designer is Lawrence Halprin. The information would go from an interested expert, to you, with minimal go-between.  The change doesn’t stop there. When we all have better access to the web and our own wikis, this sharing of knowledge will happen with no intermediaries.

People like Joseph Kenyon are fomenting this revolution.

Kenyon runs a website that offers small, economical, house plans to anyone, free of charge.  Though plans are endlessly reproducible units of information, they often cost thousands of dollars. This significantly increases the cost of building one’s own, even small, home. People like Joseph Kenyon aims to change that. By offering the plans for free he hopes to assist those who want there own small place to live but maybe can’t afford it. After the purchase of materials any person with time and effort can have their own shelter.

Joseph Kenyon

Credit: Joseph Kenyon

According to Kenyon, he hopes his site can help even just one person avoid becoming homeless. The changing dynamics of information sharing mean it could do so much more. I can imagine a whole village of Kenyon’s homes replacing the shanties of Juarez or Lagos, cities where some have literally made their homes out of garbage. If the could find the materials Joseph Kenyon could provide the building know-how and help to house thousands.

In the future there may be a million Joseph Kenyon’s and a million plans online, helping to house the worlds poor. Until then I encourage you to visit Kenyon’s site, help spread the word about it and please:

 DONATE TO HIS PROJECT.

You can bring about the new world order as a safer, warmer, better place for everyone.

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