Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year from all of us at
Brennan + Company Architects!

The earth and our environment inspires joy and we are happy to be here to take pleasure in its most grand design. We are compelled to post this 4-minute, time-lapse video to lead us into the 2009 New Year. It is composed from a series of 7,000 images, revealing the continuing beauty of the earth's natural design. This natural beauty persists despite the tendencies of neglect, disorder and poor stewardship.

The video reminds us that there is always renewal and regeneration. We have set as a goal for the New Year our intention to do all we can to assure that our design work always addresses this natural regenerative process through the design and execution of all our projects.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Good news. The rise of solar.

The New York Times features a good article about the advance of solar panels, focusing on the new jobs it will create. Also, state rebates are playing a large part for the benefit of its citizens and the environment.

Bob Cowen of Morris County, N.J., chose solar panels for his roof for both ecological and economic reasons. To outfit his home with 49 solar panels, he paid $64,700, minus rebates of $42,500 — for an out-of-pocket cost of $22,200.

“The rebates I received from the state of New Jersey made the switch to solar economically feasible,” he said.

Few of us will require 49 solar panels! But, states can help fuel the stimulus of the economy with smart rebates. Let's go! Go! Go!

iMO in 2024. Not a moment too soon.


Apple is at it again. This time, a robotic car: the iMo. Wired magazine gives us a preview and a point of view. This tiny, but brilliant car is in the works. It is what the future looks like and it is coming quickly. Detroit is so out of it!

Alert! An Architect in Space!

We think about the design of space ships and housing for Mars as tasks taken on by scientists and technologists. One architect saw a provocative "Help Wanted" sign on this field of design and began developing her alternative speciality: Space Architecture. Italian architect, Annalisa Dominoni, in a fascinating Q. & A., describes her work:

As a space architect, I design Lunar and Mars bases and equipment which requires specific skills and competence similar to traditional architecture disciplines. Also, technology and innovation have been very important in my career to define a new field of application in different areas, from intelligent fabrics (think about textile materials for inflatable habitation modules in Space but also tensile structure used in different context on Earth…) to nanotechnologies (for example the sensor systems integrated into materials to monitoring building structures and equipment, or the surface nanostructured treatments to improve the performances of the materials…) keeping in mind the importance of the user’s need in relation to the design of the artificial world, the “third skin” (the architecture).
Dominoni says she thrives on design challenges that demand she throw out assumptions of how things should be or should operate because, with the exception of underwater environments, there is no comparable terrestrial environment for the complex challenges presented by the weightlessness of space.

There could be few more liberating opportunities in the practice of architecture.

Monday, December 15, 2008

An Urban Church

We welcomed this opportunity to look at the folds, portals and beautiful details of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The film is produced in conjunction with the Historic Preservation Network.  

The church is designed by architect Ralph Adam Cram, in Neo-Gothic style.  After the musical introduction, the footage is accompanied by the "music" of natural city sounds.  At first the street noise seemed intrusive, but thinking of the beautiful building in the context of its urban sounds became very pleasing and somehow further ennobled the church.

An American architect, 1863-1942, Cram was an ardent exponent of Gothic architecture, Cram produced many collegiate and ecclesiastical works in a neo-Gothic style. Among these are the redesign of part of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City; the graduate school and chapel at Princeton; and buildings at Williams College, Phillips Exeter Academy, Rice University, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  His works are considered masterpieces.

Cram, bestowed a gem on Baltimore.  He designed Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church at Park and Lafayette in Baltimore's own Bolton Hill neighborhood.  It's worth a visit. Take your camera!  

Everyone Deserves a Roof: EDAR

Students at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA competed to create a homeless shelter for the reported 73,000 homeless in Los Angeles, CA.  Students Eric Lindman and Jason Zasz took the honors with a mobile shopping cart-like apparatus.  The cart features bins to hold cans and bottles and other recyclables collected by day.  It folds out to create a sleeping platform, topped by a canvas cover with zippers and windows.  

While a bed in a shelter costs $50,000 - $100,000 to build, the EGAR costs $500.  With mass production the cost could come down to $400.  We thought that the ingenuity and thoughtfulness of the design was applaudable --- especially for the homeless who, often for good reason, are "shelter-resistant."  

We think the design was created for a real user and fits the user's lifestyle rather then being a design object that the homeless must accommodate.  This is a humble, bulky unit.  But it folds up to become a shopping cart by day that can be moved around on its wheels following the often nomadic meanderings of many homeless people.  If as much research and thought went into the design for all clients, there would be, perhaps, more satisfied clients.  These clients, who are a very special segment, had their lifestyle, realities and eccentric needs addressed. They were not imagined to be other then themselves, or the designer's idea of who they should be.  And, better yet, the project was well within budget.  

The project was the brainchild of philanthropist Peter Samuelson.  The LA Times gives us the good news, which we need.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Typography for Human Rights

We love typography. When we see it in its most simple design form, moving the cause of freedom, we've gotta post. 

The awareness of this video came to us through the Viral Video Chart, a terrific resource for tracking videos that go bonkers and spread like a virus throughout the ever rockinblogisphere.  This one, by the Human Rights Action Center, went viral just today.  It, notably, honors Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese activist who started the Democracy movement in Burma. She has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest because her party won an election 18 years ago against the reigning Burmese junta.  

Typography is powerful, holds your attention, moves you.  See?  Of course, the music helps, too. This video is smart work.

The Misfits, The Trouble Makers

It seems an especially good time to run our all-time favorite ad, again.

Earth Hour 2009: Start Practicing Now

In March 2008 we posted about Earth Hour.  In that month, some 50 million people in over 60 countries turned off their lights for an hour. Who knew our post would have such an effect?! 

The World Wildlife Fund has announced that Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, and San Francisco would lead the list of U.S. cities committed to turn off the lights for one hour on March 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm.  Mark your calendar.  These sexy cites will join 62 countries in "going dark" for Earth Hour.  WWF officials hope that Earth Hour 2009 will reach a billion people worldwide and will serve to inspire citizens and politicians to act swiftly to stem climate change.

We fear the video may be a little too, er, processed, but if it gets the power off throughout the world for an hour, we can't complain.  If it raises awareness, we are grateful.  

Don't say we didn't tell you the HOUR is fast approaching.  Practice!

Men and Their BIG Cars.

Link Volt Part 1 - Wichita, KS

The good news. It seems three guys in a garage, with a lot of beer, in Wichita, Kansas, may beat three humongous auto makers in solving the fossil fuel problem. One of these guys is rock legend, Neil Young. He and his team have retrofitted a 1959 Lincoln with an electric generator and a biodiesel engine. It is called the Link Volt, pun intended.  The Lincoln, 19 feet long, the longest car ever made, weighs 2 1/2 tons and in its day got 10 miles to the gallon. Young is determined to have his car and drive it, too. Rather then continuing to build new cars, he encourages retrofitting what we have.  We can hope.

In fact, the Link Volt was just driven from Wichita to Los Angeles ("the Shore," as Young calls it) with a fuel average of 65 mpg.  Once they perfect the car, they envision the big lug  getting over 100 mpg.  So what's the deal?  Current Big 3 "hybrid SUVs" are getting barely 22 mpg!! Neil Young and his electric car may turn out to be the coolest thing about the failure of the auto industry.If you're like some of us, who are contemplating a live-in vehicle for use when the economy tanks, a big Caddy or Lincoln is beginning to look like a viable mode of residence. We're counting on their success.

It will be a great story to follow.  And, Young and his crew are going to help us do just that.  The garage has a live web cam, the Link Volt test vehicle is wired for the Internet and Young and his team provide regular video reports on their progress.  The shooting of a documentary film is in the works. Also, the men and women of Mileage Quest are helping to fill in some details.  The whole enterprise is dedicated to letting us share the experience as the American dream is rewired.

Hat tip to Brent

Architecture of Decay

Click for larger image

There couldn't be a more timely image than this one.

New York photographer Tim Fadek shot this image for a story he's working on about "decaying Detroit." You may recognize the building from the movie "8 Mile." This is the old Detroit central train station (designed by the Warren and Wetmore firm, which also did Grand Central in New York). Formerly a garage, it's now mostly home to drug addicts and the homeless. It is difficult to imagine how much farther the architecture of our nation, as a metaphor, may decay. Let us fasten architecture and design firmly to our hearts for this rough decline, which seems nowhere near its end.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thought for the Holiday

Frank Lloyd Wright - Lake House

"A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of a cultivated, enriched heart." Frank Lloyd Wright

Friday, November 21, 2008

Art in a Time of Crisis

Acclaimed, British novelist, Jeanette Winterson, awarded the OBE in 2006, was besieged with the requests to write about what art means in a time of crisis.  Her response here is fulsome and energizing.  A Winterson thought on creativity:

Art will be doing what it always does; asking us to rename what is important.

Let's get at it.


The International Guerrilla Video Festival (IGVFest) is a mobile festival integrating video art with the urban and social environment. Removing the technologically complex medium of video out of the institutional situation, it is re-positioned as a approachable medium in the public domain.

The works engage and reflect the unique architectural, historical, and interpersonal context of each site in the festival.

Guerrilla Video challenges attempts by advertisers to transform the urban setting into a homogeneous landscape in every city around the globe with ubiquitous billboards and advertising. The festival aims to re-occupy that space infusing it with a reflexive locality showing work created in concert with the community and focusing on issues related to the site. A self-contained, transportable GPU (Guerrilla Projector Unit) facilitates the incursions into the public realm, projecting the videos onto the facades of buildings, monuments, and temporary structures. One form of street art, guerrilla video transforms architecture and public space into a fertile ground for experimentation in the relationship between art and society.

Start shooting!

Europeana Launches

The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, and the ministers of Culture of the European Union attended the launch of “"Europeana"” in Brussels, Belgium. Europeana, the Eurpean “virtual museum” offers free access to more than two million books, paintings, videos and other digital documents from the cultural centers all over Europe.

The good news, and bad news,
is that 10 million hits on the first day
crashed the system!

People are excited about and hungry for these resources. Viewers who go to the page now, can cursor down the page and enter their email address to receive updates about the status of the digital phantasmagoric resource. This is another site we are going to want to bookmark. You too?

Green is Blue is Green

Left, Rainwater HOG, installation view; right, a Rainwater HOG (Courtesy of Rainwater HOG)

Alison Arieff writes about water in today's NYT. The article offers an urgent message about water and also offers solutions for the retention and capture of the essential blue gold. Though 70% of the earth is covered with water, only 3% is fit for consumption.
Because water is cheap (at least for now) and seemingly in infinite supply, efforts to improve its use — or deter its overuse — have been inadequate. And it’s not just water itself that’s being wasted: there’s the energy required to transport and deliver it (particularly in such cases as Atlanta’s bizarre arrangement to get its water from Alabama and Florida, or any of us buying bottled water from Fiji). But there are innovations, large and small, now available that would provide for systematic management and optimization of our nation’s water.
Accompanying the article are some good photos of green roofs and greywater solutions. You can follow the link in Arieff's article or this link to Greywater Guerrillas. Greywater Guerrillas is a collaborative of educators, designers, builders and artists who educate and empower people to build sustainable water culture and infrastructure. Arieff provides an effective overview of the challenges and emerging solutions to water issues.

Don't miss the comment section following the article---informative and always entertaining.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

LIFE Photo Archive Available on Google

GOP Convention, Baltimore, Maryland 1952, Time, Inc.

We think you are going to want to bookmark this extraordinary collection of over 10 million LIFE magazine images, now available on Google. LIFE Magazine was committed to the philosophy that a picture can tell a story...and mastered it. Thousands of photographers contributed to this amazing collection that spans from 1750 to today. Many of the images were never published!

For gathering a sense of history and place, this collection provides a good excuse for hours of online exploration. (Just for fun, we searched "bowling" and wonderful energized images appeared.) The images in the collection run the gamut from mundane to iconic. As much as we LOVE Flickr, and we do, we applaud the collection's simple interface and the refreshing absence of self-consciousness.

The humanity of this collection dazzles.

Everything Old is New Again : Chipmusic Phenomenon

Blip Festival 2008: The Promo from Richard Alexander Caraballo on Vimeo.

Blip Festival 2008
NYC Dec 4-7

In an effort to keep our readers, and ourselves, current, we wanted to let you know about the newest graphic and musical emergence. To do so we are posting information about the Blip Festival. Blip Festival highlights the chipmusic phenomenon and its related disciplines. Talk about recycling! In this case, designers and musicians collaborate to take us back to the future.

The festival aims to showcase emerging creative niches involving the use of legacy video game & home computer hardware as modern artistic instrumentation.

Devices such as the Nintendo Entertainment System, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Nintendo Game Boy and others are repurposed into the service of original, low-res, high-impact electronic music and visuals — sidestepping game culture and instead exploring the technology's untapped potential and distinctive intrinsic character.

If you are going home for the holidays, you may want to fish out that Commodore 64 and dust it off.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Top Design Idea of the Week


1) small baby carriage
2) drill

Get started.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Real Photoshop

by Wanda Kamarga
Click for a better view of this.

Designers, this is what it looked like before it was made into software!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Architecture of Cakes


So THIS is how cars are built. Detroit, get your cake on!

Alternative Uses of Architecture

Parkour, or Free Running, hit the global scene with the making of Jump London, in London in 2003. Since then, the skills of the art have been practiced vigorously on both high and low architectural structures. There is some contention that Parkour, founded by Frenchman, David Belle and Free Running, founded by Sebastien Foucan are really the same sport. However, the founders insist that there are distinct differences. Parkour as a discipline comprises efficiency, while free running embodies complete freedom of movement — and includes many acrobatic maneuvers. Although the two often look physically similar, the mindsets of each are vastly different. Parkour, strives for efficiency and humility, while Free Running strives for self-development and freedom. However, to make things simple, most in the West refer to all such activities as Free Running.

Just to emphasize the the importance of architecture to the sport, a new book "LA Climbs: Alternative Uses For Architecture" by author Alex Hartley, was recently released. The publication had a series of LA buildings analyzed not for architectural merit, but, rather, for how one might interact with the structure and space as field of unfolding sequences by someone running, hopping, climbing, as one would in Pakour or Free Running. The author provides a diagram of each structure he analyses for interaction. This use of architecture for sport could certainly give the planned functionality of the constructed world a wholly different slant. Heads up architects!

Earth Architecture

Ihlow House - Berlin, Germany
A vast legacy of traditional and vernacular earthen construction has been widely discussed, but little attention has been paid to the contemporary tradition of earth architecture. We liked this one featured at Earth Architecture. Earth Architecture focuses on building with earth in the modern era, particularly on projects constructed in the last few decades that use rammed earth, mud brick, compressed earth, cob, and several other interesting techniques.

Many assume that rammed earth construction is only used for housing in poor rural areas—but there are examples of airports, embassies, hospitals, museums, and factories that are made of earth. The Ihlow House, shown above, can be further explored here.

DESIGN ALERT: High Ceilings Spur Creative Thinking

Camino Restaurant, Oakland CA

We were intrigued by a recent study at the University of Minnesota, indicating that high ceilings spur creative thinking. The study concludes that people in a high-ceiling room are "primed" to think broadly because of the sense of freedom associated with the space... while the containment of a lower-ceiling room encourages people to think small and focused. Read the article. PDF

This study comes out of the emerging field of "atmospherics." Atmospherics, primarily used for retail / consumer studies, examines the ways in which people's environment affects their thinking and well-being, but until now most research had focused on sensory factors such as smell or background music, not structural aspects. This information about spatial relations, usually intuited by designers, is now a matter of science.

Financial Crisis cools the "Wow!" in Architecture.

Rendering, Burj Tower, Dubai

UK architect, David Chipperfield, a former Harvard University visiting professor has an explanation for the iconic-building frenzy. Architects, he says, are under pressure to deliver structures with "the `wow' factor'' that will attract funds and visitors. While the search for new form has been "liberating for the profession,'' it also `"produces a lot of rubbish,'' he says bluntly..."It's an architecture of excess, a consequence of there being too much money around,'' says the British architect. "At a time when people are worried about other things, those (projects) become really irritating, and probably less relevant. So I think we will see a mood shift -- a certain sensibility coming back.''

Here's his interview in

Maya Lin, architect or artist?

Maya Lin
The New York Times offers this video essay on Maya Lin's most recent "Wave Field" installation at the magnificent and pastoral, 500-acre Storm King Art Center in New York. She is best known for the deeply moving Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. Lin won the competition for the memorial as a 21 year old student at Yale School of Architecture.

The video offers an inspiring look at her portfolio of projects and the vision behind her large installations, as well as, her smaller experimental works. It was interesting to us that she addresses, in this video, the feelings she encounters in her struggle between architecture and art.

Other Links to Maya Lin:
Documentary: "Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision"
Peach Chapel
The Confluence Project

Blab! For Christmas? Pow!! Blam!!

This may be the gift for a design, comic / graphic
novel fan or historian in your life

BLAB!: A Retrospective
1 August – 2 November 2008

Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art
Kansas State University
701 Beach Lane
Manhattan, KS 66506

OK. You are probably not going to be in Manhattan, Kansas anytime soon. But here's the design scoop.

This exhibition features an eclectic gathering of stylistically varied work by alternative comics artists, illustrators, graphic designers, printmakers, and painters from BLAB!, the annual anthology of visual art produced by Chicago-based graphic designer and art director Monte Beauchamp.

BLAB! began in 1986 as a self-published fanzine (fan-produced magazine) devoted to MAD magazine and other EC Comics publications. Today it is a significant outlet for a wide variety of contemporary artists. BLAB!'s influence has cut a broad swath across contemporary visual culture. It has helped launch many artists' careers. It has introduced American audiences to important contemporary European graphic and comics artists. And, it has contributed meaningfully to the blurring of boundaries between alternative graphics and mainstream illustration. All of the work in this exhibition has been featured in BLAB!

The good news is that the exhibition catalogue is available for the comic book fans in your life (rumor has it that President-elect Obama is a serious collector of comic books and graphic novels.) 128 pages; 84 color illus.; graphic design by Monte Beauchamp; essays by David A. Beronä, Mark Frauenfelder, and Bill North; in-depth interview with Monte Beauchamp by Matt Dukes Jordan.
ISBN-13: 978-1-890751-15-9; $20.

You can purchase this collector item by credit card, call 785-532-7718. Send check or money order for $20.00 plus $4.00 for shipping (via UPS) for the first copy, $1.00 for each additional copy, payable to Beach Museum of Art at:

Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art
Kansas State University
701 Beach Lane
Manhattan, KS 66506

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Banksy ALERT!

"Sweep" Banksy

Time Magazine offers a sweet little slideshow of Bansy works in conjunction with this article about a hilarious encounter between the pseudonymous Banksy and the Council of Westminster in London.

We promise not to post about Banksy again until 2009. But, we do love the way he plays with architecture. Also, his work stirs up community and forces it to engage in a dialogue. Very healthy. No? OK. No more Banksy before 2009.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hallowgreen : BOO!

For designers who are looking for a counter-intuitive Halloween object to carve, this is it!

Here are the directions:

# Slice off bottom of watermelon so it won't roll around.
# Peel green skin off of the watermelon.
# Score brainy folds in white flesh.
# With a sharp paring knife, carve channels out of melon to resemble cortical folds.

BOO! Again!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Banksy's Pet Store

Famous British graffiti artist Banksy's first ever New York exhibition closes October 31. Get there if you can. The Big Apple for Halloween, think about it. Banksy's art installation, "The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill," will go down in art history. You will want to have BEEN there. Asked "Why a pet shop?" Banksy replied, "New Yorkers do not like art, they like pets. So I made a pet store."

Banksy's exhibit, a departure from his politically infused graffiti, features animatronic figures of familiar food, such as chicken. He puts the figures into weird situations that do not defy imagination, but, rather, boggle the mind. Banksy is attempting to explore our relationship with animals and the ethics and sustainability of factory farming, moving the viewer to question his or her conception of food and their relationship to it. A vegetarian will be the first to get it.

For those who won't make it to New York, here is the website for the exhibit. It is loaded with videos. Warning: Do NOT look at the sausage video. We're just sayin'. Here, also, is a good slide show provided by the BBC of images taken inside the fake pet shop.

The Banksy “Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill” is open daily from now until Halloween, 10am until midnight! Midnight! Its location is 87th west and 7th. Not only is the exhibit free, but you’re allowed to take pictures/videos, too!

Event Alert!!

October 29, 2008

The Metropolis Tour: Brilliant Simplicity at MICA

Metropolis magazine and the Maryland Institute College of Art present a conversation with editor in chief Susan S. Szenasy on the pressing need for research in design. Szenasy will screen Brilliant Simplicity: 15 Designers Research Collaborate Innovate, a short film that traces the many ways innovation can happen. The Metropolis Tour was designed to challenge you to rediscover the innovator within. Sponsored by Haworth, Interiors from Spain, Shaw Contract Group and Wilsonart Contract. 7 p.m., Free. Maryland Institute College of Art, The Brown Center, Falvey Hall, Baltimore, MD.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

World Architecture Festival : BARCELONA

Only seven days remain before 224 architecture firms from around the world prepare to compete for only one prestigious award. Showcasing all of the 722 projects submitted, the World Architecture Festival, 22-24 October, is the first event of its kind dedicated to architecture and architects from across the globe. Paul Finch, Editor of London's Architectural Review and Director of the awards, said that they wanted to “create an event where architecture was first in the chain”.

Participants at the event are aiming for one thing - to be the sole possessor of the World Building of the Year Award 2008. Despite the most diverse range of buildings competing there will be only one winner and there is no telling whether it will be a national stadium or a public toilet, anything goes.

Monday, October 13, 2008

China's Wild West

Yellow Sheep River Valley, China

We are very interested in how a sense of place manifests. Certainly the vernacular architecture of a place makes it unique. We came upon this slide show that James Fallows of The Atlantic magazine put together following a trip to western China, away from the urban spectacle and manufacturing prowess in eastern China. Fallows is interested, among many things, in how digital technology has transformed the tiny village of Yellow Sheep River. His story is about how two Taiwanese businessmen happened into the most rural part of China and thought: Let's bring it from the 15th century into the 21st.

It is an intriguing story. We recommend Fallows' article, "How the West was Wired," as well as his slide show. However, we were wowed by the slide show images of wind farms and the vernacular architecture as well as the village's physical community form. See what you think.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The car that might blow you away.

On October 9 MDI unveiled its answer to the need for clean air and urban mobility - the AIRPod. The AIRPod runs on compressed air! With its low price, zero pollution, high range and playful and futuristic design, the AIRPod marks a turning point in the nexus of automobile and urban transportation. And it will cost less than a Euro per 200 km to operate.

We are keeping posted on the vehicle which is promised to be available in the USA by 2010, with orders being taken in 2009. Here's the latest news in the bottom right corner of this link. Whooosh!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Home Delivery | To the Poorest

In July 2007, three Americans formed PFNC Global Communities -- PFNC stands for "Por Fin, Nuestra Casa," which roughly translates as "Finally, our own home." The company makes the homes you see above out of inexpensive, readily available, shipping containers. Their goal is to provide affordable housing for some of the poorest in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. These poor now live in houses made of scraps of paper and tin. PFNC wants factories who employ these people to offer homes as part of workers' benefits. Their plan may be working.

These diminutive homes are 320 square feet, around $8,000 with kitchen, bath, sleeping area. When drawings and color pictures of the prototype were shown around a poor Juarez neighborhood, people said, "You know it'd be like a dream to live in one of these," Nava said. "You know, just the thought of having nice fresh air ventilating through the house, a large bed ... a normal kitchen and a safe home that locks and closes each night was more than appealing."

The article about this project appeared on the CNN website. Brian McCarthy, the man who conceived of this idea, was visiting factories in Ciudad Juarez, across the boarder from El Paso, Texas, as part of finishing his MBA. After visiting the factories, a bus ride took him into an area of hundreds of ramshackle, tiny, paper and tin shacks that housed the workers of the factories he had just toured. In a moment, his life changed. It is one of the good stories.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Good bye Summer, Hello Autumn.

At 3:44 pm today, summer left us for another hemisphere.

"An equinox is the moment in time (not a whole day) when the centre of the Sun can be observed to be directly above the Earth's equator, occurring around March 20 and September 22 each year." Wiki

Happy 500th Palladio!

Villa Barbaro (click for larger image)
The Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio is celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the birth of Andrea Palladio. The exhibition opened 20 September 2008 and will close 6 January 2009 in, of course, Vicenza, Italy. The curators are attempting to tell the story of a remarkable life and to solve the mystery of how a humble stone cutter became the world's unrivaled master of building design.

Anthony Lambert of The Independent, in London, offers helpful survey of Palladio's influence. The celebration is running during the peak of the Venice Biennale , which this year celebrates architecture. Some jealous souls have coined this year's Biennale the Zaha-GaGa!, because of the larger than life presence and appreciation of the great modern architect Zaha Hadid. But surely, a "Palladio-GaGa" will arise with the opening of this exhibition of his extraordinary life and accomplishments. The offers this refreshing slant on the exhibit:

Departing sharply from the usual Classicist black and white interpretation, here Palladio is shown in a new light, as a creator of images, an inventor of new forms or innovative solutions required to overcome the difficulties of irregular sites.

Especially in his late years, by employing colour, giant orders and façades like stage-sets, Palladio strove to design buildings that would move people.
If you believe in the power of architecture to move people and create harmony in communities and living spaces, and you believe in the power of architecture to improve the world we live in, Palladio's your guy. He's certainly ours.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Troubled Waters.

The documentary "Flow: For Love of Water" by Irena Salina, premiered in New York, September 4. The ideas it presents are startling. Consider this from Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing:

Global water profiteering is at the center of a global healthcare crisis that kills more people than AIDS or malaria. The film shows the grim reality of water in Asia, Africa, South and Central America, and the USA. The mortality is awful, and not just from bad water or no water -- also from police forces in states like Bolivia who go to war against people whose water supply has been sold to foreign multinationals who are reaping windfall profits while they die.

In the US and Europe, the bottled water industry pulls in billions to sell products that are more contaminated and toxic than what comes out of the tap. The result is a gigantic mountain of empty plastic bottles that toxify the environment -- and three times more money spent on bottled water than it would take to solve the world's real water crisis. The companies like Nestle that pump out our aquifers use private investigators to harass people who sign petitions to stop them from pumping.

But it's not all doom and gloom -- low-cost, sustainable purification technologies like ultraviolet water-health run by village cooperatives can make dramatic development differences for the poorest, most vulnerable people in the world, who are able to maintain their own systems without foreign involvement. Local activists all over the world and fighting back and winning public, non-profit ownership of their waterworks.

Only a few companies control the destiny of our planet's water. How can this happen? "Flow" film promoters ask us to support Article 31 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Article declares that no one should be deprived of access to water, no matter what their financial circumstances. Amazing that we need resolutions to assure the right to this life sustaining element.

Keep an eye out for this important film.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

MTV | Green Song

It IS cheerful!

(hat tip to fernando,via:

Don Quixote, we have some windmills for you.

Vestas wind turbines on the high plains.

If the science is accurate, it rather takes the breath away to think that we could power nearly one quarter of the grid with wind, and—love him or hate him—having Pickens as pitchman certainly suggests the idea has gone mainstream. (Quote from following linked article)

Archinect covers the T. Boone Pickens wind turbine power plan. It offers a review of the Pickens' plan and a brief review of the 2008 Presidential candidate's energy plans.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

R. Buckminster Fuller @ the Whitney

One of the first retrospectives on the work of "Bucky" Fuller, is at the Whitney Museum through September 21. Better hurry!

But, if you can't get there, the Whitney link above is chock full of information on this amazing man.

One of the great American visionaries of the twentieth century, R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) endeavored to see what he, a single individual, might do to benefit the largest segment of humanity while consuming the minimum of the earth's resources. Doing "more with less" was Fuller's credo. He described himself as a "comprehensive anticipatory design scientist," setting forth to solve the escalating challenges that faced humanity before they became insurmountable.

Fuller's innovative theories and designs addressed fields ranging from architecture, the visual arts, and literature to mathematics, engineering, and sustainability. He refused to treat these diverse spheres as specialized areas of investigation because it inhibited his ability to think intuitively, independently, and, in his words, "comprehensively."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Quote II for the Day

Fuller in 1949 with scale models of his Standard of Living Package
and Skybreak Dome. (Courtesy: Whitney Museum of American Art)

“Our beds are empty two-thirds of the time.
Our living rooms are empty seven-eighths of the time.
Our office buildings are empty one-half of the time.
It’s time we gave this some thought.”

R. Buckminster Fuller

Allison Arieff, NYT Article, "Housing the Universe"

James and Dolly's House.

Preservationist will not be able to resist this wonderful blog about the restoration of James and Dolly Madison's home, Montpelier Mansion. The blog provides some terrific insight into the long and detailed process of restoring an historic home, this one being the home of, no less than, the Father of the American Constitution. With the restoration, the mansion is being returned in size, structure, form, and finishes to the home that James and Dolley Madison knew in the 1820s.

The official opening celebration of the restored home will take place tomorrow, September 17 at the site in Orange, Virginia. The festivities include numerous dignitaries and a living flag made up of 2,500 school children from local elementary schools. And... a Drum and Fife Corps; well, of course.

Quote for the Day

"Study Hall" at the Kanagawa Institute of Technology in Japan,
by Junya Ishigami, who created Japan's installation at the architecture
exhibition in Venice.

The Venice Biennale's International Architecture Exhibition is in full swing. Here is a brief review of the goings on. The theme of this year's exhibition is "Out There: Building Beyond Architecture." This coupled with the text over the entrance hall, "Architecture is not building. Architecture is about building," set the tone for reported "feast" of design.

The article ends with a thought about the rich and inexhaustible coupling of traditional and modern ideals. Catalonian architect Victor Lopez Cotelo proposed that the future lies
in combining rural and the urban, the spontaneous and planned, the natural and the built, the pre-existent and what is to come, so that memory finds its rightful place in the present.
A tall and inspiring order.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Beauty of Re-use

This 230 year old building inspired FNP Architekten in Germany to create a unique blend of modern and aged architecture. Partly demolished in WWII this structure sat idle for decades before these designers figured out a way to insert an entire building within the existing building - providing shelter and protection for the aged structural shell. If innovative architects can make something like this, it would seem that the sky is the limit.

The results are striking and make a wonderful statement about the embodied historic, economic, and material energy present in older structures. If an eighteenth century farm building can be renovated, imagine all of the older historic structures that exist in American inner cities that languish at ineptitude of our civic leaders to provide incentives for their redevelopment. Surely a building that can leverage the embodied energy of three hundred years is worth more to a city and a developer than a newly conceived structure reliant on its own internal architectural / programmatic dialogue to give it meaning and depth.

Gulp Locally.

Ok, it seems we are catching on in small ways, moving closer to understanding our water delusions. Gulp this.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Of What Use is Graphic Design?

Times Square - mega signage

Graphic designers are often stumped when asked to explain themselves. We recently found a set of images, by Gregor Graf, that help to demonstrate visually what the world would look like, in one respect, without GRAPHICS. (Click on the words "Hidden Town" in the left column.)

Gregor Graf draws the viewer's gaze to the city...completely purged of signs. With purposely intentional retouching, he emphasizes the architectonic and structural features of the city in an extreme way. The streets seem unreal, culturally interchangeable and alien. They call for a new kind of perception beyond the realm of our familiar experiences and patterns. At the same time, though, these pictures open up a view of architecture that is otherwise blocked and "clarified" spatial systems.

The Tiny House Movement Gets Bigger

Tumbleweed Weebee at Sunset

The above house is the same one pictured in this New York Times article reviewing the tiny house movement. Rather than being earthbound on a quiet evening at sunset, as it is shown above, the NYT shows the house rolling headlong down a ramp and into the busy traffic of a Los Angeles expressway. The photo offers a symbolic statement of the status of the Tiny House moving right into the flow of the modern world.

The Tiny House movment is not new. It has been a cultish delight ever since Henry David Thoreau first went into the woods and declared the virtues of simplicity. Anyone who knows us, knows of our commitment to the "Not So Big House." The emerging publicity and adoration for the really Tiny House is gratifying to see. Though few of us could live in one, still, they remind us of reducing our acquisitiveness and simplifying our lives. They can provide space for a myriad of uses: studios, retreats, garden escapes, mountain get-a-ways, writing space, music room, etc.

Design Boom recently offered a link to modern Tiny Houses, some of which are quite cool. For those who prefer an urban feel, the tiny house movement has not ignored your sensibilities. No longer will you have to settle for the narrow, bird house look of the traditional tiny house. There are options.

We invite you to view this video created by National Geographic. It features the small, now famous, Penguin House designed by Yasuhiro Yamashita in Tokyo. Yamashita took an extremely small footprint, even for Tokyo standards, and created the illusion of space with high ceilings, wise sight lines, and well-placed windows.

Finally, above, courtesy of the blog Miss Modular, one of our secret delights, is a boxcar called home. The ultimate eco-decision: adaptive reuse. Roll this thing right to Boise, Battle Creek or...Baltimore, you've got a home. We will continue to cover this unique and inspiring movement. The time could not be better.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Don't Do It!

The studio of the artist Arnold Bergier, at Greenwich Avenue and 10th Street,
which was demolished in 1960 to make way for a 14-story building
(despite the painted entreaties). Photograph by Fred W. McDarrah.

We talk about the worth of historic preservation. Its value to American cities is inestimable. However, it is sometimes difficult to explain the complexity of its effect. This coverage of a Vanity Fair article via helps to demonstrate this thinking. It is a colorful read, describing "a place, a mood, a way of life." The cohesion of the architecture of place is essential to a sense of place.
In last month's Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens considers the importance of urban "Bohemias" and why the ultimate demolishment/development of New York's Greenwich Village is a very, very sad thing. From the essay:
It isn’t possible to quantify the extent to which society and culture are indebted to Bohemia. In every age in every successful country, it has been important that at least a small part of the cityscape is not dominated by bankers, developers, chain stores, generic restaurants, and railway terminals. This little quarter should instead be the preserve of—in no special order—insomniacs and restaurants and bars that never close; bibliophiles and the little stores and stalls that cater to them; alcoholics and addicts and deviants and the proprietors who understand them; aspirant painters and musicians and the modest studios that can accommodate them; ladies of easy virtue and the men who require them; misfits and poets from foreign shores and exiles from remote and cruel dictatorships. Though it should be no disadvantage to be young in such a quartier, the atmosphere should not by any means discourage the veteran. It was Jean-Paul Sartre who to his last days lent the patina to the Saint-Germain district of Paris, just as it is Lawrence Ferlinghetti, last of the Beats, who by continuing to operate his City Lights bookstore in San Francisco’s North Beach still gives continuity with the past.

In aspect and design, New York’s West Village is the opposite of Soho in London in that it began its existence before the famous evolution of Manhattan as a grid had taken shape. As Malcolm Cowley phrased it, evoking the Village just after the First World War, “Most of us drifted to Manhattan to the crooked streets south of Fourteenth, where you could rent a furnished hall-bedroom for two or three dollars weekly.… We came to the Village … because living was cheap, because friends of ours had come already … because it seemed that New York was the only city where a young writer could be published.” Trying to sum up the ethos, Cowley wrote that for his generation the Village was something more than “a place, a mood, a way of life: Like all bohemias, it was also a doctrine.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We still think this Apple ad is one of the best ads ever, maybe one of the few great meetings of art and commerce.

Burning Man 08!

"Put blame aside, let humor thrive, and dare to contemplate a larger question: What can America contribute to the world?" Theme of Burning Man

Burning Man 08 is in full swing in the Black Rock desert in Northwestern Nevada. Since its inception in 1986, people continue to meet annually in a celebration of invention, art, design, architecture, fashion, community, environment, social studies, dance, comedy, and joy in the 107 degree heat.

This week 48,000+ people come together to build a city from scratch. Thirty days later the last participants will depart from the site, leaving no trace of their celebration. It is a festival of startling scale and power---a journey of thousands attempting to envision and share utopia. Burning Man is not without controversy, but it is not without deeper meaning and aspiration. Wish we were there!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

House on the Roof

USA Today points to the "Upside Down House," part of the Upside Down project in Germany. Here's the article. Apparently, there is another upside down house in Poland. Somehow we don't think this is going to catch on. Right?

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Early Public Art

"Running Fence," Sonoma and Marin Counties, 1972-1976.

Fully measuring the effect that Christo and Jeanne-Claude have had on the larger community's sense of the environment and the sheer pleasure of art is like trying to assess the impact of Laurie Anderson on visual and performance arts. The effects have been thoroughly absorbed into the creative culture, as if there was no "Running Fence" installation or "Big Science" album, no beginning point. Fortunately, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) keeps our focus on the work that changed everything.

SAAM has just acquired the most lyical and spectacular of the Christo and Jeanne-Claude's epic projects "Running Fence," Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972-1976; a white fabric and steel-pole fence, 24 1/2 miles long and 18 feet high, across the properties of 59 ranchers in Sonoma and Marin Counties north of San Francisco. The “Running Fence” existed for only two weeks; it survives today as a memory and through the artwork and documentation by the artists.

Here is the scoop from Unveiled at the Bi-Centennial of the nation in 1976, it convinced ordinary Americans of the transformative power of art. We will have to wait until April 2010 for the formal exhibition to open. Patience is required.