Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Architectural Sound

The work of architecture includes getting rid of sounds. No architect to our knowledge designs with sound, except in the instances where a water feature is added in an indoor or outdoor space. Mostly architects are trying to quash it. Or, they design to enhance sound, as in symphony halls or music studios. Over at BLDGBLOG, they have come up with a delicious and twisted idea. You have to think about it. They are talking about a man who felt that the music he had listened to had produced a sense of particular spaces, an architecture, if you will. The blogger says:

What if those subtle and distant architectural sounds (he had imagined) had actually been part of the CD? This would be music as the illusion of architecture. You could move into a house without a basement – so you purchase this CD, or download these tracks, and you uncannily achieve the sonic effect of having more floors below you. Or perhaps you want an attic, or even a next-door neighbor: you would buy soundtracks for architecture, architecture through nothing but sound.

For instance, think of the Francisco López album, Buildings. Buildings is "a work composed entirely of sound fragments López procured while wandering around big buildings in NYC," recording the "sounds of elevators, air conditioning systems, cables, pipes, air ducts, boilers, clocks, thermostats, video cameras, and so on." (You can actually listen to a brief excerpt).

So instead of an addition, or a home renovation – you would commission a piece of music; and for as long as that music is playing, your house has several thousand more square-feet... and a Tube line nearby... and distant boilers...
We can hear the sound of the future. Right now we're commissioning the sound of floor to ceiling bookcases. First the bookcases, then the new neighbor.

Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn

The author, architect and artist, Fritz Haeg, tells us how to turn the front lawn into a beautiful, edible garden. If you are curious about turning your patch of land into a useful territory, Haeg's book is very helpful. He is joined by architect Diana Balmori, garden and food writer Rosalind Creasy, author Michael Pollan, and artist and writer Lesley Stern. Together this team also places the book into the context of the larger issues of environment, global food production and the imperative to generate a renewed sense of community in our urban and suburban communities.

Great design, photographs, garden descriptions and terrific stories from around the country by people who eat the yard. We recommend it. AND, if you are really intrigued with the curious sociology and history of the lawn and those besotted by grass, we further recommend the The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession, by Virginia Scott Jenkins. A great read!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Design Adventure

Were it not for our friends, we may have missed this marvel of engineering and design at the gorge in El Chorro near Alora in Málaga, Spain. If you are a hiker or climber, you will especially appreciate this bridge. The building of El Caminito del Rey (Pathway of the King) began in 1901, and was completed in 1905, lord knows how. It is three feet wide, 700 feet above the river and in many places supported by 20 and 30 foot posts. Some background information at the Wiki, provides a fuller, though sketchy history of this infamous passageway. You'll notice, like all of your adventures, there is background music. Grab your bolting gear and locking carabiners, this walk could kill you.

Design for the Natural World

Pierre the penguin, who is now 25,
struts his stuff in his neoprene "suit."
California Academy of Sciences

NPR recently alerted us to this story about Pierre, the penguin above. Design, of course, takes many forms and comes about for many reasons. This one, because of its sincerity, has charm as well as vital purpose. In addition, it puts a huge grin on your face, a whole other measure of good design.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Do-Ho Suh

Do-Ho Suh is fast becoming one of the most recognized artists in the world. A Korean conceptual artist, his work was recently on exhibit in NYC at the gallery lehmann maupin. His most recognized piece from that show is this, "The Perfect Home":

Suh creates meticulous, site-specific environments and he manages installation space like a sculptor or architect. Here is a nice reference on his work as well as an interview with him at DesignBoom. Keep your eye on Do-Ho!

Earth Day : Earth Art

We wanted to plant a post to honor Earth Day, as well as Baltimore Green Week that is fast approaching. Uh, like next week. Get your green genes going.

So we thought we'd link you to the U.S Geological Society's (USGS) EROS program (this EROS site is a great resource, even for the non-Geo-sensitive). A segment of the EROS program is Landsat 7. This joint program between NASA and USGS sponsors a series of satellites with highly technical cameras (of course!). This series of satellites roams the skys and take pictures of the planet that can only be described as "earth art."

Hope you enjoy the beauty of this earth through these images of some of the most striking and exotic places on the planet. Wonk on!

USE THE SPACE YOU HAVE : Works in Progress

Often a homeowner's first thought when they are running out of space is to add an addition. This home is a good example of another way to solve the space problem. When we saw the interior, we were able to determine that the small, unused attic provided all the space that this family needed, at less cost than adding an addition. The attic can now serve as a full second floor with two bedrooms, a much needed office and two baths.

To create this new space, we added dormers, sky lights and a new stair. We were able to maintain the original footprint, the house's historic character and, importantly, the proportions of the original house. We think it is a good way to enlarge a house and bring daylight in, while at the same time maintaining its character in the community. This solution also fit with our sense of environmental ethics: using what we have, reducing our impact on the earth and supporting the ideas of the not-so-big housing movement.

BEFORE - exterior side

AFTER - exterior side

BEFORE - exterior rear

AFTER - exterior rear

BEFORE - interior

BEFORE - Interior

AFTER - interior

AFTER - interior

AFTER - interior skylight

AFTER - new bathroom taking shape

AFTER - new stairway underway

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mental Health Break

Click for a better look.

We love our Macs, the designers best friend. But we also love this guy! Here in a college seminar at the University of Montana, Missoula campus, surrounded by "MacWorld," is a student using...pen and paper. Can't help but smile. While he takes notes the old school way, everyone else is checking their email, reading the news, surfing iTunes, finding cheap tickets, shopping for clothes, making a date for the weekend.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More foot prints, the carbon kind.

You can click on the map to get a better look.

The map above is available at Wired Magazine. It shows the amount of carbon dioxide produced in 100 square kilometer regions of the United States divided by the number of residents in that area. Look at Texas!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Inferior Architecture for Culture in Decline"

Roland Park Enoch Pratt Library, models

A recent Op Ed contribution in the Baltimore Sun caught our eye this week. Rene J. Miller, who lives in Baltimore and writes about architecture for the Sun, critiques two renovations of historic buildings. Just to let you know, Miller's not happy. We think one of the values of the piece is the access it gives the reader to the visual language and substance of architectural critique. Opening paragraph:

In the early 1990s, New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan spoke of "defining deviancy down," by which he meant that Americans were becoming more tolerant of bad behavior. During the last three decades, much of what has been built in this country has also been "defined down," falling short of standards adhered to earlier

Read on.

(Sorry we were unable to snag an image of the Raymond Loewy, Caldor Building addressed in Miller's article.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

The All White Abode

For anyone who may have wondered what it would be like to decorate in all white, here is an example of a loft in Paris done just so. The owners seemed to have pulled it off. The coldness we expect in an all white space doesn't arise. The space seems warm and welcoming. Of course, there are other touches helping, textiles, wood, cushions and other subtle colors warm the place up. It's nice to see what the mind could only imagine.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


The idea of building cities within a city suffering from housing shortages is growing. This London project anticipates "housing" 100,000 people in a 5,000 foot, swiss cheese-like tower. We're trying to imagine even a half-dozen of these spread throughout a city.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Solar. How much would it take?

Could the US meet its energy needs with solar panels alone? The answer here.

Milan Design Week 2008

Members of the Dutch Royal Academy of Art join Milan design week for the first time.

Designboom gives us a picture preview of the many design projects that will be presented during the Milan Design Week 2008, April 16-21. They provide two immense pages of new objects, furniture, lighting, leather goods, and some things that don't fit a category. Take a look. Its a preview that makes us coo, in Italian.


Perhaps you would like to see the house that Frank Sinatra built in Palm Springs. It's an especially interesting result. Initially, Sinatra requested designs for a Georgian-style mansion complete with a brick facade and columns. It is a tribute to his architect, E. Stewart Williams, that he saved Sinatra from himself. Williams' brother, Roger, his partner, said, "We'd have been ruined if we'd been forced to build Georgian in the desert." I should say.

The house is a beautiful example of Desert-modern. (The history part of this link is a good read. You know, Ava and all.)

Neutra for Sale - Asking $3.5 million

Now Richard Neutra’s original office in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silverlake is for sale with an asking price of $3.5 million. The one-story building, designed by Neutra himself in 1950, continued to serve as his firm’s office after his 1970 death. His son, Dion, continued the practice until the 1990’s.

There are a few of us who would love living in one of those flat roof wonders of residential architecture in Los Angeles. It seems that Michael Govans, the Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), has his own answer. He has proposed moving the museum out from the museum center, into the community. The New York Times reports that Govan hopes to engage on a curatorial project "to collect houses":
    His idea – one that has rarely, if ever, been tried on a large scale by a major museum – is to collect significant pieces of midcentury residential architecture, including houses by Rudolf M. Schindler, Richard Neutra, Frank Lloyd Wright and his son Lloyd Wright, and to treat them as both museum objects and as residences for curators.
Govan himself explains:
    "It started with an effort to rethink the museum, looking at the resources that are both locally powerful and internationally relevant," he said. "It's clear that the most important architecture in Los Angeles is largely its domestic architecture. I've talked certainly to a number of people who have interesting architecture, and I’m beginning to talk to other people about raising funds to preserve these works."
We like the idea that it would also be architectural history exhibiting itself in itself, collapsing the distinction between the exhibition space and what that space displays.

Designs for Peace - An Anniversary

Logo of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND),
designed by Gerald Holtom in 1958, which became a widespread peace symbol.

ALDERMASTON, UK.-The 50th anniversary of the debut of the peace logo and the first Aldermaston march was marked by the family of designer Gerald Holtom by traveling to Aldermaston. Gerald Holtom died in 1985. He designed the logo in 1958 for a march and based it on the fallen arms of a man in despair, while the semaphore signals for “N” and “D” combine within the circle of life. The symbol was designed for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Darius and Rebecca Holtom, his son and daughter, travelled from Montpellier in France to join the rally.

Darius Holtom, aged 41, said: “It’s hard to believe it has taken off and has dispersed miraculously all around the world. I think it’s amazing, and it’s great there’s at least a symbol that people can identify with which represents basic humanity, freedom and the environment and ecology.

He added: “My father didn’t talk much about it. It was something he did quite a few years before, and he was already onto other projects, but he was supportive of environmental issues.”

Pat Arrowsmith was on the committee of four to choose the logo said: “It’s rather annoying when it’s taken up for things which are sometimes too remote. I’m happy for it to be an anti-war symbol without it necessarily being anti-nuclear weapons.”