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