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Monday, November 19, 2007

Private to Jen Graves

posted by on November 19 at 4:40 PM

Dear Ms. Graves,

There are creators and there are critics. You are a fine critic.

But your morning attempt at creativity – to suggest I cheered the demise of a concrete box because I was high – showed a dearth of originality. A drug policy writer smoking pot—pray tell, how did you conjure such a jab? The last time someone fancied that an original criticism was in 2001. In the Seattle Weekly. In a letter to the editor, no less.

May the record show that I almost never smoke pot. The last time I tried was months ago, when two bong hits got me so high I could no longer play Mario Kart and had to go lay down. And people who say pot’s not a drug can suck my balls.

But back to the point. The concrete box is a blight, better replaced by something useful. Your defense of the windowless, one-story parking garage, covered in chipping paint and a consortium of mildew reads as follows: “It is the only thing within 30 blocks that speaks the same damn language as the sculpture.” But to borrow words of Dirk Calloway, with friends like these, who needs friends? Right, Wake? (Wake understood that, because we speak the same language.) Here is Wake’s linguistic neighbor.


I would have responded earlier, Ms. Graves, but while you were tapping out a soliloquy defending the temple of decay, I was talking to Martin Selig—who is determined to create even at the expense of paying basic utilities. Although I am unable to make good on his light bill, I told him I was happy to see the building go.

“What, you don’t like my parking garage?” asked Selig.

No, Mr. Selig. It is a covered parking lot with one of the most spectacular views in all of Seattle but the concrete walls are blind to its location’s splendor.

“That’s why we’re trying to do something there,” Selig says. Godspeed, Martin!

In closing, Ms. Graves, you wrote pot should be outlawed. While you're at it, consider petitioning to annex Hawaii and Alaska to the 48 states or to declare the Bald Eagle our national bird.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Dead Island

posted by on November 14 at 1:41 PM

This is Bannerman's Island:
BLDBLOG's narrative:

Bannerman's Island [is] an old, half-flooded and fire-damaged derelict mansion built on a small island in the Hudson River...

...As American Heritage describes it, "this island fortress was once the private arsenal of the world’s largest arms dealer." And that was Frank "Francis" Bannerman.
Bannerman, we learn, "bought up ninety per cent of all captured guns, ammunition, and other equipment auctioned off after the Spanish-American War. He also bought weapons directly from the Spanish government before it evacuated Cuba. These purchases vastly exceeded the firm’s capacity at its store in Manhattan and filled three huge Brooklyn warehouses with munitions, including thirty million cartridges."

...Bannerman died a week after the end of World War I – and the island had sunk into a state of "monumental decay" by the 1960s.

It was then gutted by arsonists.

In the 18th century, there was an understanding that might seem strange to us in the 21st century. A new building was not only judged for its existing beauty or elegance but also for how it would decay. Factored into the life of a building was its death, its form of decay, its method or way of falling apart. A building that looked good could be considered bad because it would look bad when it became a ruin. The Greeks, according to this view of things, were great architects because they made great ruins.

With the mansion and other structures on Bannerman's Island, we come to another understanding: a building that is born bad might become great when it is dead. The ruins on the Island are simply beautiful.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Planet BMW

posted by on November 12 at 2:51 PM

This is the outside:

This is the inside:

There are the masters of the planet:

This is the fucking place:

Who here is happy? Not a single one. All are sad and silver.

Friday, November 9, 2007


posted by on November 9 at 4:46 PM

I ... can't ... take it any longer!!!!!!!! Those of you in the sloggysphere have no idea this has been going on, of course, so, here's the story:

Jonah likes this term "townhomes." I notice some of you in the comments naturally revert to "townhouses" when responding to him. This is perfectly understandable.

After all, the use of "home" is any real estate context is pure jargon meant to seduce you into thinking the given piece of property is warm, comfy, inviting—that no matter its price or hideousness you yourself may find yourself calling it "home" someday. This is brainwashing. "Home" should be strictly reserved for that place and only that place where you and your family or roommates place their sleepy heads at night. The correct term for a piece of property, especially one being bought or sold, is HOUSE. Not home. House.

Repeat after me, Dominic and Jonah: Townhouse, townhouse, townhouse!

And NEVER let me see the nasty, insinuating, fake, obnoxious word "townhome" on this blog again.

For the love of god.

Monday, November 5, 2007

For Charles

posted by on November 5 at 11:50 AM

An entire blog based on pairing buildings with songs.

(Thank you, Guardian, my captain.)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Soviet Science Fiction

posted by on November 2 at 1:13 PM

This lovely building is Tblisi:

And this one is in Yalta:

The Rose Revolution might have might have met its end, but not the heroic concrete of late Soviet architecture.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Trouble at Babel

posted by on October 30 at 10:20 AM

Looking down on creation:

An explanation? A CNN report:

-- A strike by construction workers in one of the world's fastest-growing financial centers stretched into a third day Monday, with workers in the United Arab Emirates demanding better pay and working conditions, police said.

About 2,000 workers in Dubai blocked the main highway to Abu Dhabi, worsening the traffic jams that are already a fixture in this booming economy. The number of striking workers was slightly fewer than in previous days.

Police said the workers attacked both civilians and police and that there were injuries on both sides, though they did not provide figures. Police said they responded only after the workers attacked them.

And now for an interesting intersection that is somewhat related to the strike in Dubai. The point of this music video is where three lines meet: 80s pop, social commentary, and big architecture.
What's the color of money? What's the color of money?

Thursday, October 25, 2007


posted by on October 25 at 11:35 AM

A street..

a house...

a room..

The end:

The house is located on a very small plot in IJburg; a recently developed suburb of the city of Amsterdam. The house is designed as a monolythical sculptural mass, expressed by contrasting introverted private spaces (that form the mass) with open collective spaces that seem to have been 'carved out' from the solid volume as a continous transparent void, visually and physically connecting them to the street, the garden and roof terrace. This strategy seems to give the house a monumental and sculptural quality that articulates a sense of stability, simplicity and permanence.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Hadid

posted by on October 15 at 4:16 PM

Who will stop Zaha:
rec_12827_10344_w500h500q75bw1_1034206958.jpg She and Calatrava are ruining the world.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The End of Happiness

posted by on October 13 at 9:44 AM

Today is my last day in Stuyvesant Square, Manhattan.
-1.jpeg I spent a week in a comfortable, one-bedroom apartment on the seventh floor of a complex. Here, each room is like other rooms; each building is like other buildings; each building is an island in the sun.

A description of Stuyvesant Square in the New York Times:

The Stuyvesant Square neighborhood is in every way unrelated to Stuyvesant Town, the rental complex not far away that recently sold, with its cousin Peter Cooper Village, for $5.4 billion. The rental communities consist of 110 uniform, nondescript brick buildings...
Because it is clean, efficient, and unified, Stuyvesant brought me as close as I have ever been to living in an ideal socialist society. Indeed, the complex is something of a socialist theme park for us dreamers and seekers of utopia.

Friday, October 12, 2007

But Is It Art?

posted by on October 12 at 10:24 AM

A what point does a home become a work of Art?

I knew nothing of architecture growing up, like many Americans of my generation, in a subdivision filled with nearly identical 1960s and 70s cracker boxes. Then one fateful day as a young teenager I walked into the Fay Jones designed Nance Residence and it’s no exaggeration to say that my view of the world was transformed.
My best friend in high school lived there, and I got to know the house very well. Over the years, I was amazed to constantly discover new features of the design. The glass walls, fountains, metal sculptures, and built-in cabinetry all integrate seamlessly with the house’s natural setting and their relationships to each other. Even more sublime is the way that Jones wove both natural and artificial light into the composition. In the interior photo, you can see the clerestory window in the gable allowing soft sunlight to filter through, while a complex system of soffit lighting and hand-made recessed lighting covers shield the eye from the glare of light bulbs. The massive stone hearth (one of three in the house) along with the stone floor evoke powerful primitive feelings of shelter, permanence, peace and security, while the residents watch the colorful, ever-changing seasons from the comfort of the interior. Like his mentor, Frank Lloyd Wright, Jones preferred very low ceiling heights in entries and hallways as a psychological method of pushing people out of those transitional areas and into the more grand living and entertaining spaces. Jones’s style has at times been called neo-craftsman but is more broadly considered to be an example of Organic Architecture.

When most people think of modern design, they often picture Bauhaus/International style white surfaces, minimalism, rooms that are only to be looked at –never touched, and 2001: A Kitchen Odyssey. Organic design celebrates colors, shapes and textures, especially exotic ones.

Organic Architecture emerged as a reaction to the mechanization and de-humanization of the Industrial Revolution. As a style, it’s characterized by designs inspired by forms and materials occurring in nature, integration of the site within the overall composition of the home, an informal arrangement of interior spaces, and a deep personalization of the home to the needs of the owners. The purpose of the structure is often to soothe the soul and provide inspirational beauty as well as shelter. Louis Sullivan is frequently credited as the father of the Organic Architecture movement in the late 1800s, but it was his master apprentice, Frank Lloyd Wright, who brought the practice into the mainstream. Wright’s influence on American architecture is well documented (perhaps overly so), and even the generic ranch houses of my youth were simply poor copies of Wright’s most popular designs. It was the generation that studied and learned from Wright who created some of the most memorable residential architecture of the 20th century and an enduring school of American design.

Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s son (I’m sure he never got tired of being introduced that way), lived in Los Angeles and further refined many of his father’s concepts. Free of the tyranny of cold winters in this mild climate. Lloyd created some of LA’s most recognizable masterpieces, including the gorgeous, copper clad Samuel-Novarro House:
And the Meso-American temple inspired Sowden House:
While the Samuel-Novarro House is slightly more traditional in concept, the Sowden House eschews tradition entirely and features concrete blocks on the fascia which have been imprinted with stylized leaves, branches and grass on the columns and abstract cloud formations on the eaves. The rectangular shaped house wraps around a central courtyard creating its own little world; an oasis in the heart of Los Angeles.

John Lautner was another architect who became widely celebrated late in his career for his unusual and unorthodox designs, including the Sheats-Goldstein Residence seen in many, many films and commercials.
Some Organic modern homes don’t even look like homes at all. Such is the case with Bart Prince’s Sun Valley House:
Or the recently completed Desert House by Kendrick Kellogg.
And before you think that Organic Architecture only applies to energy-inefficient, single family homes, it should be noted that Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, British architects Foster and Partners, and America’s own Frank Gehry have created truly stunning examples of commercial, multi-family residential and civic spaces that are on the cutting edge of 21st Century Modernism and follow many of the tenets of Organic design.

Truly the most striking feature of these creations is their originality, their independence from the vast majority of the architectural world in which they inhabit, and the fact that they existed solely in the mind of the architect, who was then able to transcribe these imaginative flights of fancy into drawings that builders, artists and craftsman made real.

The main drawback to this style of design, especially in residential construction, is that it can be prohibitively expensive due to the fact that most everything in the home, including doors, windows and so forth, must be assembled and constructed onsite, and the often complex design requirements may require pricey materials, costly engineering and consultations with specialists. Anyone with enough money can build an expensive house or building, but all it takes is access to real estate websites to prove the hypothesis that bad taste knows no price-point.

It takes vision, trust, a willingness to take creative risks and a passion for the highest quality of craftsmanship to create a home that is a work of Art with a capital “A.”

Friday, October 5, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen: Audio Graffiti

posted by on October 5 at 5:26 PM

His name is Michael Dory and he's filling New York City with the sounds of digital crickets.

Graffiti is... nearly always visual in nature, making this experience one-dimensional. Furthermore, rarely does the work have a brain of its own, and is usually incapable of reacting to anybody observing it.

The crickets are...

... small devices that will be aware of passers-by as well as other units of their kind. Each unit consists of a sound generator, amp, speaker and sensory system, and is housed in camouflage appropriate to the streets of the city — soda cans, cigarette packs, and the like.


When approached, the crickets fall silent (as would crickets and cicadas in nature). Each are sensitive to what happens to the others, and the end result will be waves of songs, changing and adapting to their surroundings.

This idea sounds great, for now. But imagine what it'll be like once the taggers start their turf wars...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Working on a Building

posted by on September 13 at 5:24 PM

This building, in Dubai, has just become the world's tallest freestanding structure—555 meters, beating Taipei 101 by forty-something meters. They want to push it up to over 700 meters, with around 160 floors.

Here's what the Dubaians hope it will look like when it's done:


Which reminds me of one of my favorite sentences in the new George Saunders book, when he describes Dubai's skyline: "like four or five architects had staged a weird-off, with unlimited funds."

Forever Mies

posted by on September 13 at 11:29 AM

Some lovely passages from an old feature story (2002) about this stone of a human being:

Mies believed... in something more noble than politics, the ruthless pursuit of the perfect modern building, the true heir, he thought, to Greek temples and gothic cathedrals - buildings constructed on earth in order to escape it. These were cathedrals for the new religion, commerce and industry - factories, office blocks, skyscrapers and apartment towers, the modern urban landscape, whose architecture had yet to be invented. The form lay out there for him to discover. "The will of the epoch," he said, must be "translated into space" - as if he were just the draughtsman for a higher system, the universe's appointed architect.


Like any eager convert, Mies took modernism to extremes. Throughout his life, nothing got in the way of his quest for pure form: politics, family, mistresses, clients, ideas that ill fitted his single-minded worldview - all were brushed aside. Even practicality. In the 1930s, he designed furniture that users "must learn to love"


Mies had schooled himself as modernism's cold, steely heart. He wasn't verbose and dilettantish like Le Corbusier. He didn't douse himself with sociology like Walter Gropius. He didn't dress the flamboyant dandy like Frank Lloyd Wright, all cape and cane. All were diversions, Mies thought. Instead, he presented himself as a monolithic figure, silent and sober, like a monk. He read St Thomas Aquinas, St Augustine, Plato and Nietzsche.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Far From Now

posted by on August 24 at 2:20 PM

Yes, Portland is feeling it...
Portland.jpg...But it's still a very long way from the day it can play with us (Seattle and Vancouver) the skyline game.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Having Guts

posted by on August 23 at 12:25 PM

In response to Ron Sims statement about this building:
2003309628.jpg ("The ugliest building in the world"), Councilman Bob Ferguson said, "[The argument that] 'it's an ugly building' doesn't move me." It doesn't move him because it may not make "financial sense." In the emerging discourse on this particular stage of local architecture, Councilman Fergurson wants to play the blunt role of common sense. He is reasonable, he is looking at it practically, he is counting the beans. He is boring us to death. What Fergurson is really doing by claiming to be the reasonable one in this issue is poorly concealing the fact that no spine holds him up. Rom Sims not only has a spine in this issue but the guts to say what is in a sense true: the building is ugly. (I love concrete but that building is inhuman in a very bad way.) Sims does not like it. He wants another building. Good for him. Aesthetic problems should move you, should inform policy. The way something looks is important. I congratulate Sims for at least expressing an aesthetic opinion; I denounce Ferguson for being a mouse man pretending to be a man of moderation.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ron Sims On Architecture

posted by on August 22 at 4:19 PM

According to Sims, this building is...
400px-KingCountyAdmin.jpg"The ugliest building in the world."

I really want to know what he thinks is the most beautiful building in the world.

Man Mountain

posted by on August 22 at 3:50 PM

As challenge to this:

Man wants to build this:

Inspired by Mount Fuji, Taisei Construction Corporation [in Japan] has completed designs for construction of the world's tallest building. The X-Seed 4000 (no idea where that came from) would stand at approximately 13,123 feet (4 km), nearly 700 feet (213 m) taller than the real Mount Fuji. The next tallest buildings don't even break 2,000 feet, how puny... the X-Seed would have up to 800 floors, and be capable of housing between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people.
It will never happen, but not to dream is not to be human.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Quick Word About...

posted by on August 20 at 2:32 PM

The PACCAR Pavilion:
PACCAR-Pavilion.jpg The real jewel of the Olympic Sculpture Park is its headquarters. The architecture of the landscape finds its sense (or completion) in this building and not so much in any of the sculptures. I make this point now because so little praise or attention has been paid to the one thing that actually deserves it. We can say with certainty that the PACCAR Pavilion is the only piece of architecture in the design desert of Belltown.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nothing Else

posted by on July 31 at 2:55 PM

Modernism in the state of completion.
Mies.jpg This is all they were trying to say. And it was said in 1951, in Illinois. For thousands of years, others searched the world for the word that would reveal everything, reveal the name of the purpose maker. In one of Borges' poems, the fictional poet says that very word and the fictional palace of everything vanishes. But unlike the word that names the God in Borges's majestic universe, the word (the home) that names modernism does not kill it. The word instead locates it in that delicate area once reserved for the temple. This, however, is not the displacement, objectification, and reification of human powers. Here it says what it is: human, all too human.

Voicemail from Jen Graves

posted by on July 31 at 12:49 PM

A transcription of a voicemail on my cell phone from Graves this morning, transcribed exactly, since the inarticulateness kind of gets at the weirdness:

Hey, so I wanted to ask you, or tell you--it's Jen--that there is something on the corner of James and Broadway. There's this, like, there's this building being built, and it's scaffolding, it's all scaffolding, really high, and then on the very top is the flag of the construction company, and also a tree, just a tree sitting there on top of the thing as though it were, like, planted in scaffolding. It's way up in the middle of the sky. Sitting just up in the middle of the sky on scaffolding on the corner of James and Broadway. It's really weird and totally worth Slogging and I'm seeing it as I drive...

I kinda want to see this but I'm slammed with work. If you're reading this and can take a photo and send it to, we'll add it to this post.

UPDATE: Current man-about-the-office Ryan Packer snapped a photo, and Kelly O manipulated it a bit so you can see the tree; the flag; and the red, white, and blue beam.


Art on Archchitecture

posted by on July 31 at 11:50 AM

Whose woods these are?
image1ecbd23d8d1e.jpgThis on the north wall of a new building in Pioneer Square called (as far as I can tell) 401 Fifth Ave. What the image captures is the mood of northwest noir. In these woods is a corpse, and the man who brought the corpse here is, of course, a serial killer.

image2fc5dc6bd1b51.jpg I give in. This wall of tiles might very well turn out to be Seattle's most surprising (and successful) architectural happening this year. The way it's outrageous is the right way.

The wall of the downfall:
image3fef7297da761.jpg What kind of message is this work of art sending to the prisoners in the jail across the street? What does a man caged in King County Jail think when he sees this horrible series on the corner of the five-story parking building?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Absolute Sagan

posted by on July 19 at 11:07 AM

Could there be more than this? You were once here, Carl Sagan. Where are you now, the captain of the Spaceship of the Imagination? The scientist who told us that when two stars are close to each other they exchange star stuff. The man who told me that if I wanted to make an apple pie from scratch, I must first invent the universe. And now you are beyond this universe, beyond all this that darkles, this "our funnanimal world"--our animal world, our fundamental world, our phenomenal world, our fun world.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


posted by on July 10 at 2:15 PM

Bloomberg reports today (thanks for the tip, Eric F) that Ralph Appelbaum Associations, the self-proclaimed "largest interpretive museum design firm in the world" will be adding a major building to Seattle, right across from EMP and the Space Needle. It will be 15,000 square feet and is scheduled to open in 2010.

All right! (I recently took my first tour of the Microsoft campus and was heartbroken that all that money and space resulted in zero architecture.)

But what is being interpreted in this new building, exactly? Appelbaum is best known for his Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., where visitors receive tags when they enter, either with the name of a survivor or of a victim.

At the Gates Foundation:

Appelbaum: The first stop will give people a way to open their eyes to the world. That starts with a lot of stories: film and multimedia. It's the emotional part. After that, the plan is to present a series of analytical layers. There's interactive information: maps, resource databases. From that intellectual zone, you go in-depth into case studies, problem-solving activities. You get an understanding of the foundation's methodology.

Hmm. Methodology.

Appelbaum: The way to get people emotionally engaged in information is to build a series of encounters that give them the tools to go to the next level -- very much like the Holocaust Museum. When visitors go through the Holocaust Museum, it's told as a general orientation of how people get "de-citizenized,'' then how they were murdered through a compressed-timed process. Much of the experience is making the case for action. [Laurence] Arnold [of Bloomberg]: Bill Gates has said his galvanizing moment was when he read about diseases eliminated in the U.S. that still kill millions of children in poor countries. Appelbaum: They (Bill and Melinda Gates) describe it as literally opening their eyes to the world. Because they were making journeys to people in the field, they realized there are solutions. Arnold: Most visitor centers are auxiliaries to an historic building or attraction. With Gates, the center is the attraction. Appelbaum: What people will encounter is how an American family really became engaged with complex and serious issues and found their own way to contribute. Arnold: Do you see this becoming a popular attraction in Seattle Appelbaum: We're in the heart of the city, across from the Space Needle and the EMP (Experience Music Project). What we offer people is a promise to awaken them to a new knowledge base. People are fascinated by what the foundation is and how it reflects the interests of this extraordinarily generous family. Arnold: How will you make sure that visitors leave feeling inspired, but not coerced, to be more charitable? Appelbaum: There's a natural philanthropy in American society. We admire it. We respect those who do it. But often we don't think we have a role in it. We think the most we can do is to respond immediately through some charitable act. But in fact, there are lessons to be learned about developing a much more strategic, familial type of philanthropy, no matter what your economic group is.

A building as a rhetorical device encouraging me to start giving help and money to people who need it? I'm sort of fascinated.

But will it be architecture?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Dancing to Hadid

posted by on July 5 at 11:30 AM

I really would like to believe that Hadid's ballet, Metropolis II, is something wonderful...
1metapolis.jpg But my instincts tell me it's probably bad.

Set on a futuristic landscape drenched in shifting hues of radiant blue and green light, the high-energy work elegantly synthesizes video with the dancers’ moving bodies and Hadid’s interconnected silver sculptures.
What happened to Hadid? Where did she go wrong? Still, her Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati is one of the most important works of the present decade.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Beauty of the Negative Star

posted by on July 3 at 10:45 AM


What is it that makes the incomplete Death Star more impressive than the complete one? Two things. One, the total Death Star tells us nothing except that it is a superweapon, that it has the power to destroy a living planet. But if we see an incomplete Death Star, we see not its function but its human essence. (In this post, "human" designates all thinking beings in the Star Wars galaxy.)

The Death Star is a product of human work, exertion, muscle. In it's incompleteness we can see this: its laborers, their families, their lunch hours, bars, restaurants, theaters. We see a society of space humans. We see them waking up in the morning (two suns in the sky), showering (or getting sucked clean), and going to the construction site in the sky. We can see the laborers sweating as they carry heavy metal beams, and we are dazzled by the brilliant sparks from welding and cutting iron. Just look at their hard hats, their transportation of pre-cast concrete, and the human glory of coordinated labor!

That is the first thing we see and admire in the incomplete Death Star. The other thing, and one that stems from the first thing, is we also see that the truth of this superweapon is not death but life. This is what the complete Death Star obscures.


It obscures the fact the it is the end result of living labor, of a transference of human energy into its beams, floors, walls, windows, concrete. And where is this energy coming from? Where do the humans get the energy to make the Death Star? From the light of life stars like the sun. Once the truth is revealed, then a Death Star that destroys other planets can be seen as inauthentic; it's being something that in essence it is not.

Monday, July 2, 2007

We're #15!

posted by on July 2 at 6:30 PM

In this list. Not sure about the whole “great social and corporate city with great planning and planning.”

“Planning and planning”? I’d venture that we don’t even deserve one “planning.”

Them pictures sure is purty, though.

But I’d suggest the view from the Alki Tavern (1321 Harbor Ave SW) as the best of our fair city’s skyline. Added incentive: beer.

The Hidden Bathtub

posted by on July 2 at 1:37 PM

This is my favorite bathtub in Portlandia:
3c9f10f5bda5-1.jpg It's in the room in the northeast corner of the second floor of the new Ace Hotel. I conceived a slog post in that tub last week. That post had something to do with an old man eating lots of food.

Better Recognize

posted by on July 2 at 11:05 AM

From the second paragraph of an article, "Siamese Cities: What Makes Seattle and Vancouver so Different," in the current (summer) issue of Arcade, a local architectural journal:

...[W]ith Vancouver now extending all the way through South Surrey to the border, and with Seattle pushing up continuously through Everett, Mount Vernon, then over the hills to Bellingham and Blaine, another phrase is needed to evoke our now-fused urban realities. Take a look at a satellite photo of the Puget Sound to Howe Sound, and it is clear that there is now a border-straddling megalopolis from Lion's Bay to Tacoma: seven million people in one city with the insufferable anomaly of an international border right down the middle. Two heads but one conjoined body, Vancouver and Seattle are Siamese twins. But we are fused at the back, forever looking in different directions.

From the bottom of the last paragraph of the article:

We have gazed away for too long: it's high time the two heads of our Siamese cities had a long hard look at each other
Why does the author, Trevor Boddy, of this article want the two heads to have "a hard look at each other"? Because without this hard looking, this hard recognition of one of the other, there could be no self-consciousness. The reality (Tacoma to Lion's Bay) is there but it doesn't think. Be it on the ground and or on a map, the cognitive state of our emerging urban reality is one of unconsciousness, unawareness. It's a (politically and culturally) dumb urban mass. What this means is we don't live in the city we actually live in. The cognitive map in our heads is daily becoming outdated. It less and less corresponds with what's actually happening. Our cognitive map is of a small city; what's happening all around us is a much bigger city. But the mind of Seattle almost never thinks of thing else but Seattle; and Vancouver, Vancouver.

Walter Benjamin somewhere says that changes in base (the infrastructure, the modes of production and circulation) happen faster than changes in the superstructure (the mind, culture, institutions). Such is surely the case of the urban situation described by Trevor Boddy.


Friday, June 29, 2007

More Than This

posted by on June 29 at 1:32 PM

This is a new fire station in Mexico City:
3pub_17227_w500h500q75bw1_926343965.jpg Designed by at. 103 Architects, the Ave Fenix fire station in Mexico City is architecture that has the power to turn a critic into a poet, a praise poet. The way the heroes of the ancient world needed poets to see and recount their great deeds and victories, buildings like this need griots to sing words of wonder, amazement, and praise. Look at this fire station! Just look at it! This is what thought can do; what a great idea can become. What more do you want than this? There is nothing more than this.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mystery Solved

posted by on June 27 at 1:51 PM

The insect complex is called Habitat 67; its location is Montreal along the Saint-Laurent river; and its architect is Moshe Safdie.
habitat_67.jpg I've actually seen this building with my very own eyes, and my eyes said no to it three times. Nothing in the world had the power to make me walk inside of it (I'm a man not an ant). Indeed, if it wasn't for the raw concrete, zero would be the number of things I admired about the Habitat .

If you want to be a man about concrete, this is what you build:

Moshe Safdie is also the architect of the lousy Vancouver Public Library:
librarysq01.jpg A library as a crumbling Roman colosseum? The idea was dead before it left the head of the architect.

Where in the World?

posted by on June 27 at 1:07 PM

This ad from the back page of last week's paper contains one of my many recent failures.
AmericanApp16.41.jpg No matter how much I stared at it, I could not determine where in the world the crazy apartment complex existed--Montreal? Barcelona? Tel Aviv? It's a very famous building, that I know. But where is it located? Who made it? And why did they make such a mazy heap?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Just Odd

posted by on June 22 at 10:55 AM

The remarkable thing about the condominium under construction across the street from the Seattle Central Library is not that it's striving for LEED-Gold certification, or that it's the first of what in the future will be many "tall skinny" towers in the financial district, or that the price of the penthouses on its 24th floor range from $1,895,000 to $2,600,000. What's remarkable is this:
d02446272208.jpg Designed by Ruffcorn Mott Hinthorne Stine, a firm that's part of the ambitious Stadium West and East project, this colorfully tiled wall on the south facade articulates, according to floor plans, the area along which two elevators will service 5th and Madison when its completed in August. The big question is this: Why did the architects choose something that opposes, that works against, that almost undoes the modernistic sleekness of the tower? Most of 5th and Madison appears to be rational (the best type of architecture--or ecotecture), and this considerable confusion of tiles appears to be so whimsical. It's not entirely bad, just remarkably odd.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Red Rocket

posted by on June 13 at 12:29 AM

Anyone know why the Needle is suddenly red?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Viaduct Love

posted by on June 8 at 12:21 PM

After the great age of Roman building, the art of the viaduct and aqueduct lay fallow for many centuries, until the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, when the burgeoning network of canals and railways needed ways to to get around each other. The most wonderful of these structures was the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, in Wales, built by the genius Thomas Telford in 1795. This carried the water of the Llangollen or Ellesmere Canal in a cast iron channel over the River Dee. Imagine looking up from a boat on the river in the eighteenth century and seeing the mast of a ship high in the sky above you!


The first great railway viaduct was the Sankey Viaduct, built by George Stephenson in 1830,which carried the first proper railway, The Liverpool and Manchester Railway, over Sankey Brook (part of the Sankey Canal, which was in some ways the first modern canal).


The dreamlike Millau Viaduct in southern France, finished in 2004, and carrying a highway over the valley of the River Tam, is a superlative example of the modern engineer's freedom from the customary restraints of the earth.


The Lai Chi Kok Viaduct in Hong Kong, currently under construction, is more prosaic but just as technologically challenging.


The viaduct of the Cahill Expressway in Sydney, Australia frames the bustling heart of the most beautiful harbor in the world (center right in photo).


Our own entry in this catalog of pathways through the sky is the beautiful and functional Alaskan Way Viaduct, which elevates hundreds of thousands of cars above the city and the heads of its residents, allowing them to pass freely beneath between the commercial districts and the waterfront.


While some malcontents complain of dark and gloom and noise and dripping dankness, they are insensible to its considerable charms. Concrete, humankind's most versatile and beautiful material, acquires a sumptuous grey-green patina after bathing in decades of rain, mildew, and exhaust, and glows with a depth that mere stone requires centuries or millennia to acquire.


The bold unadorned structural elements speak of the unpretentious working life of the blue-collar city, speeding aircraft mechanics, waitresses, longshoremen and administrative assistants to their jobs. It also provides anyone with a car the spectacular Puget Sound views that would otherwise belong only to those in expensive downtown condominiums. It also forms a cohesive whole with the seawall that keeps the city from sliding into Elliott Bay on its foundation of slippery mud. Surely this is a triumph not only of the engineering and construction arts, but the urbanized aesthetic beauty of a great regional center?


The Cosmic Callousness of Mykonos

posted by on June 8 at 11:44 AM

The church is a cloud of solitude.


The relationship between land and sky, however, is troubling. So much so that I'm selling all of my worldly possessions and moving to wherever this church is and making it my mission in life to correct the imbalance. How I will battle these forces I know not, but I know it is important to do so. The church was built by god knows who and is located in the Greek Isles. (Sorry Charles,
I had to!)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Greatness of Mexican Modernism

posted by on June 6 at 12:28 PM

The house is a perfect thought.
1024326602.jpg The vegetation, however, is ugly. In fact the house is at war with the sun-thriving plants that surround it and hunger to undo this most human of doings: the box, the beams, the lines and lights. The house is Guadalajara, Mexico and was designed by bgp arquitectura, a firm founded by Bernardo Gomez-Pimienta and based in Mexico City.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Beauty Killer

posted by on May 22 at 3:56 PM

This is Rem Koolaas's Prada Epicenter in Beverly Hills:
4prada.jpg Indeed, nothing kills architecture like a palm tree.

Music for Box Lovers

posted by on May 22 at 1:25 PM

This beautiful box, Wohnhaus Ritter-Gey, can be found in the tiny country of Liechtenstein:
pub_16562_w500h500q75bw1_1729540271.jpg In my mind this Liechtenstein box makes a close connection with a piece of magical music that introduces the Breezeblock sets hosted by my favorite DJ of the moment, Mary Anne Hobbs, on BBC 1. The piece music is by Rebelski, a Manchester-based keyboardist. I purchased the track from the iTunes store, after Hobbs gave me its name ("Stickers On the Keys") the night before last, and have listened to nothing else ever since. It's not exceptional but simply composed of delicate and lyrical loops, like DJ Krush's "Shin-Ki-Row" ("Mirage"). It's the music of slow motion, of slow snow, of things that glow in the winter dusk.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Trainshed

posted by on May 15 at 10:55 AM

St, Pancras, London was competed in 1877.


How monstrous it is, and how it must have shocked the inhabitants of that century into a new and higher awareness. When you arrived here, you knew you had left forever another kind of mind. There was no going back. The origin of the mind that our age has been leaving since around 1969, is within the iron frame and glass skin of this super shed. Here is our cradle, our cave.