Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bruce Mau

This video of Canadian author and designer, Bruce Mau being interviewed by Bill Moyers was recorded in 2004. Mau addresses the three issues of our blog: design, sustainability and culture. It is about 15 minutes long.

Mau helps to focus on the fundamental idea that we produce our world. We do it through the intent of our design (work), how we care for the environment and each other, and how we come together through our heightened ability to share information. Mau comes at it from a prospective of intelligent compassion. He is not flowery. He is quietly inspiring. We recommend it to kick start your day, clarify the imperatives.

When you get done with the video, Bruce Mau Design Manifesto is pretty juicy, too.

Jean Nouvel Wins the Pritzker Prize for Architecture

Jean Nouvel, winner of architecture's highest award, the 2008 Pritzker Prize

The New York Times has the story of this complicated and controversial, style-defying French architect, this year's winner of "architecture's Nobel." The excellent NYT slide shows and audio reports help to illuminate Nouvel's work. Nouvel's foremost concern is for the sense of place:

“The wind, the color of the sky, the trees around — the building is not done only to be the most beautiful,” he said. “It’s done to give advantage to the surroundings. It’s a dialogue.” Jean Nouvel

Los Angeles Times coverage.
Jean Nouvel's online website
Great Buildings online, Jean Nouvel
Design Boom's interview with Jean Nouvel
Jean Nouvel, author, Olivier Boissiere
The Singular Objects of Architecture, a discussion between author Jean Baudrillard and Jean Nouvel

What Edward Hopper Understood About Architecture

Edward Hopper, Captain Upton's House, 1927.

An informative slide show of some of Edward Hopper's work and its perceived relationship to architecture, from Slate magazine.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Speaking for Trees. Mental Health Break.

I don't know how many readers are familiar with American singer/song writer Cat Power, aka Charlyn "Chan" Marshal. Cat Power is best known for her minimalist style and spare guitar. She is one of our eclectic favorites and this video, which we think fits a new category we're calling "environmental music," (an additional category for the Grammy's!) is another reason why.

In a world full of extreme performances, this song for the trees makes this Sunday morning just right. Hear the cicadas humming? All natural. Car sounds, too.

We did wonder if Cat Power really believed that she was speaking FOR the trees, (Can anyone? Would they want that?) or whether she is really speaking TO the trees. You be the judge.

Cat Power, Speaking for Trees, Film by Matt Borthwick

Our Turn is Coming.

Cities will go dark at 8 pm today for one earth-hour. Our participation comes this evening. Check our Goggle's splash screen today.

"What's amazing is that it's transcending political boundaries and happening in places like China, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea," said Earth Hour executive director Andy Ridley. "It really seems to have resonated with anybody and everybody."

Organizers see the event as a way to encourage the world to conserve energy. While all lights in participating cities are unlikely to be cut, it is the symbolic darkening of monuments, businesses and individual homes they are most eagerly anticipating.

"It is a wake-up call," said Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. "We need to really plan for our future. (Earth Hour) is something we can all do together. Going global is very empowering."

It's only $35,000. You're new house!

Take a look.

"The Cardboard House represents the reduction of technology and the simplification of needs. By demonstrating that we are able to recycle 100% of the building components at extremely low cost, the Cardboard House is a direct challenge to the housing industry to reduce housing and environmental costs."

Friday, March 28, 2008


As much as
the natural cycle


so long winter!

60,000 for Architecture

Renzo Piano's Original Sketch of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA

Exterior east facade of the Broad Contemporary
designed by Renzo Piano

60,000 visitors showed up at the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum wing of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) opening weekend to celebrate. The new wing, designed by Renzo Piano, who has completed over a dozen museum designs, has, yet, another five on the boards in his offices in Genoa and Paris. Piano, the man who seems to have been branded "the museum architect" is now 70 years old. His first museum project, the Pompidou Center, in Paris (1978), remains, even today, controversial. And, the Broad is no different.

This article in the Los Angeles Times explains some of the politics and inside stories about the the struggles between the new Director of LACMA, Michael Govan, and Eli Broad, the billionaire LACMA trustee and donor and, Piano, the renowned designer. This story could soon be a movie in your local theater!

This longer, reviting article about the Broad Contemporary, in the New York Review of Books, provides a deeper prospective on the museum world and the politics of the collections and the personalities that drive all of it. It is a great read. Our favorite line from this article is a quote from New York Times critic Richard Lacayo, from his blog, saying, "LACMA got screwed." And you thought museums were stuffy.

All in all, there is an excitement and intrigue in the architectural world that defies its appearance of organized and linear sensibilities. The Broad Contemporary is proof. It's a terrific story.

Rezno Piano Building Workshop, the official Renzo Piano website
Renzo Piano Museums, by Renzo Piano, introdution, Victoria Newsome, hardcover edition
Renzo Piano, Time Magazine, April 30, 2006, author, Richard Rogers

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Earth Hour March 29, 8 PM

What are you doing Saturday night?

Lights out around the world
Many iconic buildings and landmarks around the world will be turning out their lights for Earth Hour including the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco; Alcatraz Jail, San Francisco; Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia; Brighton Pier, UK and the Sears Tower, Chicago.

Canada has one of the highest participation rates around the globe with over 150 cities participating! Many buildings and landmarks will turn off their lights. These include the CN Tower, Niagara Falls, Toronto Eaton Centre, Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Honest Ed’s in Ontario; all buildings in which VanCity, BC Hydro and City of Vancouver operate; and the MacDonald Bridge, City Hall, and Parade Square in Halifax.

If you haven't already signed up for Earth Hour, please sign up today! If you are planning on participating but have not yet signed up at, please do so now. By signing up, you are sending a strong message to our government, and governments around the world.

    Here's what you can do
  1. Sign up at
  2. Turn off your lights on March 29 at 8 p.m.
  3. Encourage your friends, family and colleagues to participate

Improvisation on Color

We are in the final stages of a renovation that includes a new kitchen which you can see under construction in these two photos.

When the green, glass tile arrived for installation on the back splash, our client was not comfortable with the brightness of the color, nor the yellow hue. Looking at the three samples below, our client thought she had chosen the darker second tile, but in a mix-up, she had actually selected the first. Because it would require a minimum of a five-week turnaround to secure the darker color of this tile, time we did not have, we decided to improvise.

Normally a white or off-white grout would serve to frame the tile. Because we were working with glass tile, the white grout would also be seen through the tile and lighten the color. In order to "tune-down" the brightness, and get back to the darker color our client desired, we asked our tile installer to experiment with a gray grout.

The results were very interesting! The color quieted down and darkened perfectly. We think the green with the gray is also a very sophisticated look. Everyone is pleased. We wanted to share this solution with our readers. Below is an image of the mock-up of the tile with gray grout.

Spring Colors

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Eero Saarinen

This video released by the Cranbrook Art Museum documents the first ever retrospective on the renowned architect Eero Saarinen. The short film looks into the life and work of one of the most important designers of the 20th Century, exploring his influence on the corporate working environment, the advent of the modern airport, and his crucial contributions to modern furniture design.

One of the elements that characterise the work of Eero Saarinen, both in architecture and industrial design, is the originality, diverseness and uniqueness of every single creation. At one point in his rising career he was chastened by the scholar and critic,Vincent Scully , for the lack of an identifiable style. Defenders claim that the diverseness of his work is a testament to his skill at adapting his modernist vision for each individual client and project.

From a young age, Saarinen was taught about design by his famous and multi-talented parents, Eliel and Loja Saarinen. Infused into his understanding by them was an idea that is central to progressive thought and the ecology movement. That is: "Each object should be designed in its next largest context - a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan." Nothing exists in isolation. Everything is connected.

Index of Saarinen Architecture.
Yale Digital Image base - Saarinen

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Helpful Hints

Helpful hint #1: Save the planet!
These floors are salvaged oak flooring purchased from Second Chance, Inc. in Baltimore, Maryland. They have been installed and refinished. They look absolutely beautiful. The character and color of these old floors enhances the warmth of the space.

Our client was able to save a substantial sum by buying the recycled flooring. It is noteworthy that the actual installation of the recycled flooring was more expensive than installing new flooring, because of the wood filling and fitting that was required. However, it is fair to say that the when you add up the installation and purchase costs of recycled flooring versus new flooring, the difference is insignificant. The value to the planet of recycling rather than plundering our forests is impossible to quantify, but is part of the worth to be considered. And then, of course, the recycled floors provide an authenticity and beauty that cannot be achieved with newly manufactured wood.

Oh, yes. Remember, when going for a satin finish, the first coat should be glossy. The glossy finish provides a harder coating to protect the floors. The satin finish goes on top of the glossy.

Helpful hint #2: Save money with thoughtful design!
This tiny bathroom is only 5 feet wide. We used lots of windows, including our favorite ‘porthole in the shower’ and an affordable, beautiful finish palette. The field tile is an inexpensive 3x6 ceramic from Daltile. We added a splash of luxury with a band of Oceanside’s glass tile. We also saved money by switching to plywood beadboard wainscot in the sink area, but continued the glass tile to tie everything together.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hannah says, "Lights OUT!"

On March 29, 2008 at 8:00 pm, people across the nation will turn off their lights in celebration of the environment. Last year, Sydney, Australia got over 50% of its population to turn off all electrical lights for one hour and saved over 10% of their carbon emissions that day. This year, Earth Hour is going global. All across the world, citizens and businesses, schools and skyscrapers, will join together and save as much energy as we can.

Hannah Freedman, an 8th grader at Baltimore's Roland Park School is spearheading Baltimore's efforts to turn out the lights. Says the hopeful Hannah, "Because even a little can help a lot...I am trying to get all of Baltimore (or as much as I can tell in the remaining 10 days) to turn off their lights in observance of the environment and helping our world as much as we can."

Please visit for more information.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Environmental Sculpture.

Click image to enlarge

One of the life-size body cast statues of 'Another Place' created by the sculptor Antony Gormley on Crosby beach. The sculpture stands up to the spring tide on 13 March, 2008, Liverpool, England. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

House. News. Paper.

Sculptor Summer Erek, part of an organization called Creative City, created a piece of public art that was unveiled Saturday, March 8 in Gillet Square in London. The 12 foot high house was conceived to call attention to the need for recycling. Karen Janody, another member of Creative City, was so annoyed by the mounds of newspapers blowing around the streets of London, she decided to build a house with them to illustrate the degree of waste.

The project is also interesting just as a piece of architecture. First the wooden, black structure above was constructed. Then two tons of newspapers left by commuters were donated by train companies, while another 10,000 newspapers were contributed by Project Freesheet, a consortium of local residents.

The second image shows the papers rolled and inlaid into the the frame of the black structure. Erek created solid paper "sticks" by layering individual newspaper pages, hand-rolling them, applying glue to the edges, then tightening them with a special three-roller gizmo. The third image shows the sculpture once the black walls were removed.

Newspaper house is a good example of how public art can bring communities together to raise the profile of issues like recycling and reducing waste. Members of the public were invited to write messages on their own papers before adding them to the structure.

Newspaper house remained on display through Sunday, March 9, after which it was...recycled. Other newspaper houses are scheduled to be erected by Creative City and local community participants throughout the United Kingdom. The project is helping to artistically highlight the mounting problem of waste.

Insane! Dubai!

Dubai City is located on the norther tip of the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf. Its venture into architecture of the future is astonishing. Currently, 15-25% of all the construction cranes in the world are erected there to support Dubai's insanely ambitious master plan for Dubai City. Looking at the proposed new architectural projects submitted by everyone from Zaha Hadid to Sanjay Puri & Mimish Shah to Rem Koolhaus is boggling. We feel a sense of vertigo and disbelief, laced with a feeling of vertical envy .

Here is a link to four pages of new projects that demand the ability to trust in a future that looks a lot like the ideas imagined in Flash Gordon comics of the 50s and 60s. The future has arrived, over there.

Friday, March 7, 2008

ETTORE SOTTSASS - No Fear of Color

The "Valentine" Portable Olivetti - 1969

The Wolf House (1987-89) Ridgeway Colorado
For Photographer, Daniel Wolf

The Wolf House (1987-89) Ridgeway, Colorado
For Photographer, Daniel Wolf

Cabinet, Ettore Sottsass

Ettore Sottsass, Italian Architect and designer, died at the age of 90 on January 1 of this year. While others of his age were thinking about retiring, Sottsass founded the renowned, postmodern "Memphis" movement in Milan, Italy in 1981---an explosion of color and design energy.

These thoughts from his obituary:

"Memphis was a joyous, entirely unbossy manifesto for design as an emotional expression. It was also an attempt to bite the hand that fed it by gently satirising designers. Design is, in the end, about making us want to buy more things, and Sottsass, at heart always deeply subversive, was highly ambivalent about that..."

"...We live in a world which values the useless ahead of the useful, which celebrates art, untainted by the least hint of utility, above the ingenuity of design that is burdened by function, and creates a cultural hierarchy to match. It was perhaps the greatest achievement of Sottsass's long and remarkable career that he made this distinction irrelevant. He was not interested in making objects that sell because they look pretty or seductive or precious. What he wanted to do was to find ways to give everyday objects some sort of meaning. He wanted to show that they are not just banal clutter, but are shaped by creative intelligence and an understanding both of how they are used, and how they are made."

And then there was Sottsass' radical use of color. After coming out of the subdued hues of the first half of the century, his use of color stunned the design world. He once said, "With colors you can tell stories... Architecture is made of color. Even those who don't want to use color must use it in the end. It's fundamental." "Colors are like words..."

Italian architect Ettore Sottsass changed the shape of the familiar world and the liveliness of interior and exterior environments. He seemed to harness the power of proportion and volume, as well as color, and fearlessly applied it.

Rest in Peace, Ettore

(Link to Sottsass' 2007 show of "New Works 2004-2006" at the Freidman Benda Gallery, Chelsea, NYC.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Feathering Your Empty Nest

We're pleased to say that we did the renovation design for a Howard County home that is featured in Baltimore Magazine's, March 2008 issue. The article can be found here. Unfortunately the online article does not include the photos that are part of the magazine coverage. So buy the magazine. You'll enjoy the whole article (not to mention, the annual list of restaurant recommendations).

The topic of the article is renovations that "empty nesters" have undertaken to enlarge their changed lives. The home of our client's Nancy and Jerry Berson is featured. Here's a quote from the article:

"The Bersons also wanted their home to be more environmentally friendly, so Brennan used bamboo flooring in the bedroom and recycled tile and IceStone® countertops, made from 100 percent recycled glass and cement, in the kitchen and bath. The Bersons said they got a kick out of researching the IceStone company, which commits to progressive labor practices and employs a number of Tibetan refugees in its environmentally friendly factory in Brooklyn, New York.

To make the additions blend in with the existing structure, Brennan removed all of the aluminum siding and replaced it with HardiPlank®, an innovative masonry material that resembles wood but is much more durable. A new fiberglass roof was installed, and several clerestory windows were added in the bedroom to let in late afternoon light, while an overhang was designed to block hot summer sunlight from the west.

The house, built in the ‘60s, was “tired-looking,” Brennan said, and lacked curb appeal. He added larger windows and clad them in a cranberry-colored metal, to add some punch, and painted the front door the same shade of red. He chose the HardiPlank siding in gray-green and stone shades, to complement the brick base. New bluestone patios and walkways, and new exterior lighting, were added as well.

“It’s sort of crazy,” observes Jerry Berson, that all of these improvements were still less costly than buying a larger home. But the Bersons expect to be very happy with their new digs, once everything’s finished. “We really don’t want to move from here,” he said."

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Typography Jam Session

"abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz" is a film by Roel & Job Wouters. Job and his nephew Gradus (4 yrs. old) really seem to like the alphabet. Spontaneous alphabet jam sessions in the Wouters' design studio inspired the brothers to make this video with Gradus. The video is directed by Roel. (The credits at the beginning last 1:21, don't give up.)

This is great fun to watch...the beauty of design innocence and the beauty of design sophistication, side-by-side.


Photos (left) Maria Alexandra Vettese, (Right) Stephanie Congdon Barnes

3191, A Year of Mornings began on January 1, 2007 as an almost daily photo conversation, in blog form, between two friends that live 3191 miles apart. It lasted the entire calendar year ending on December 31, 2007. Like the picture above, each of the friends posted a photo on their shared blog, for each other, every morning. If you are interested in design, color, inspiration this is a wonderful series.

The project is now being transformed into a book which will be out in the Fall, published by Princeton Architectural Press. In preparation for the book, A Year of Mornings is no longer available for online viewing. However, the two artists are continuing their project. A Year of Evenings, their new photo series, can be found by clicking here.

Oh. My. Goodness.

We want to
climb out the window
and sit on the roof