Friday, October 30, 2009

Don't let green get you down.

Friday thoughts: If you are like us, some days you get tired of fighting the green fight. There is a sense of despair when you see the people in the car in front of you heaving their fast food wrappers and cups out the window as they drive through your city at 50 miles an hour. There is the sense of anger when you watch one more cigarette butt tossed on the sidewalk, because you know it has a biodegradable life span of 400 years and it is going to wind up in our oceans. Plastic bottles? We can't even go there. Restaurants packaging food in Styrofoam? Why?! Then there is the unfathomable results of a recent Pew study showing that the number of Americans who believe there is solid evidence for global warming is at its lowest point in three years. These things wear you down little by little.

But we found some good news today. We thought we would share it to cheer you and ourselves up:

82 percent of Americans say they are still buying green products and services today, which sometimes cost more, according to a 2009 study commissioned by Green Seal and EnviroMedia Social Marketing.

More than six in 10 (or 66 million) U.S. homes currently use eco-friendly household products (Focalist, 2008).

U.S. consumers are looking at using more green products in everyday life, with more than one-third of adults regularly buying green products (Mintel Research, 2008).

18-34 year olds are twice as likely to buy green (EnviroMedia, 2009); 40 million baby boomers currently buy green (AARP, 2008).

And more intriguing good ideas here and here and here and here---we could go on!

These are small steps on the long journey. But, remember – though some countries, corporations and individuals - are trashing the earth without a second thought, we ARE making a difference. And we continue to make a difference every time we make a choice or take action for a green world. Also remember, it took 20 years for people to give up buttons...and use zippers. Fight on!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

No Goat Jokes.


An old idea receives new attention. Individuals and organizations are choosing a new green option, using goats to clear farms, parks, roadways, ranches. No harmful chemicals are employed. No heavy machinery is needed. The goat's cloven-hoofs, that allow them to meander slops and cliffs, cause no harm to the earth. Also, goats are quiet.

This "innovation" has become rather popular. It was used recently, even, in Druid Hill Park---three days, one-quarter acre. Eco Goats in Donaldson, MD, provided the herd. What volunteers couldn't do, goats did. Additionally, goats will completely clear an area of invasive plants.

Rent-a-Ruminator in Seattle provides more information on the beauty of goats and a slew of before and after pictures.

Pretty Sweet Green Roof

Japanese practice Atelier Tekuto has completed this aluminium-framed private residence in Kanazawa City, western Japan.

We especially liked this little green roof system. Other sustainable features include full LED lighting, rainwater harvesting and solar panels on the top for water heating. It is helpful to see the variety of green roof designs. We think this one is pretty sweet.

Architectural Review featured this house. For additional images of it, click here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Our Trash is Killing Birds in Remote Places

Chris Jordan has published a series of images identified as dead albatross on Midway Atoll whose bodies are filled with bits of plastic they ingested.

Midway Island is an anemic little line of sand and coral reefs, way out in the middle of the Pacific. Now, I don't know Mr. Jordan personally, and haven't fact-checked the story behind the photos -- but presuming it's all as presented, this really is a horrifying set of images.

Birds that live as far away from civilization as you can imagine, their innards packed with petroleum flotsam?

via Boing Boing

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mr. Sustainable!

Rob Brennan, AIA and Carri Beer, AIA, LEED AP

Brennan + Company's founder and Principal Architect, Rob Brennan was featured in the October issue of Baltimore Magazine. Tapped as one of the region's reigning green gurus, Rob, along with Carri Beer, talk about how to make a home environmentally friendly. It's a good read, if we do say so ourselves. Here's the link.

Polaroid, Lost and Found.

Few things mark an era like a Polaroid photo. When Polaroid announced in 2008 that they were discontinuing the production of Polaroid film, hearts fell. A frenzy of bidding quickly heated up on Ebay for any remaining film, sparking scrappy bidding wars.

On Oct. 9, the last lot of Polaroid film passed its “use by” date, and the era of instant Polaroid photography is officially over, or at least for now. But there is hope. The Impossible Project is one of them. The Impossible Project has been founded with the aim to re-invent and re-start production of analog film for vintage Polaroid cameras. They have leased the Polaroid factory in Enschede, The Neatherlands that closed in June of 2008. They plan to produce an innovative and fresh product for all the artists who work with Polaroid film and all us common, die-hard fans who get goofy about it.

This from a New York Times recent comment :

The Polaroid was the only kind of contemporary photograph that could come close to the unique singularity of a painting or drawing, part of its charm being the unpredictability of its colors and marks on the print. The built-in frame is another major reason why people were attracted to them, giving the impression of a “finished piece” the moment they become visible.
May it always be.

The 60s swing again.

The Beatles by Robert Whitaker, 1964
Robert Whitaker Archive
© Robert Whitaker

The National Portrait Gallery in London has assembled an exhibition of iconic photos of the musical groups who created "Swinging London" in the 60s. Beatles to Bowie: The 60s Exposed, 15 October - 24 January 2010, could only be fun. The Who, The Kinks...they're all there.

Huge cultural and social changes were reflected in the styles and imagery of the pop music scene. The classic rivalry between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones is played out visually by a variety of top photographers such as David Bailey, Gered Mankowitz and Robert Whitaker, who helped create and endorse their changing images.

Fact: Next year it will have been 50 years since the 60s. No way!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Urban Rust

When you walk around a city, you don't expect to find Cor-Ten steel---weathered steel alloy with a protective coat of rust---on facades. You expect to see it in industrial areas or an occasional modern single-family home. A post on A Daily Dose of Architecture provides a nice opportunity to see Cor-ten steel at work on city buildings.

For more views of Cor-Ten, Flickr has a group dedicated to it!

The Paradox of Preservation

The Century Plaza hotel, designed by Minoru Yamasaki, opened in 1966 and quickly began accommodating stars and dignitaries. New owners have revealed plans to demolish the hotel, no longer the VIP magnet it once was, and replace it with a $2-billion complex that includes two 50-story towers containing condos, offices, shops and a smaller luxury hotel.

Los Angeles is to modern architecture, what Rome is to Catholicism. However,"California modern" postwar architecture, for better or for worse, undermined the ideas of traditional architecture forever. Its reach is international. Its style immediately recognizable. For some, it is a reason to swoon, for others it seen as an egotistical force undermining the intrinsic value of meaningful design. As historic, modern architectural buildings begin to age, it is inevitable that the preservationists and the developers will collide.

While preservationists would argue for reuse based on green values, developers argue that 60s modern buildings are hardly energy efficient, sustainable or nontoxic. In his Sunday column, Christopher Hawthorne, LA Times architecture and design critic, makes this point:

Those two ideas -- that preservation is green and that postwar city building was not -- are now coming together in some contradictory, even absurd ways. The debate over the future of the Century Plaza has been a case in point. Both sides have tried to argue that they have sustainability on their side, the Conservancy because knocking down the hotel would waste its "embodied energy" -- the energy it took to construct it -- and Michael Rosenfeld, the developer, because his proposed replacement, designed by the architect Harry Cobb, would promote green urbanism, namely pedestrianism and use of mass transit.
These conflicting ideas deserve a thoughtful investigation in less charged venues. It seems that the guiding ideas of preservation-as-green, must be bold and vivid to win the day. The issues confronted in preservation are often more complex and broad than the arguments that are being presented in defense of green preservation. Is preservation always "green?" And, to throw a wrench in the works, we wonder, how preservationists, who typically hold a disdain for modern architecture, will wholeheartedly defend against its demise?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The starting line at the Baltimore Marathon this weekend!

Photo by Arianne Teeple at the top of the Hilton Hotel

Click on this photo to enlarge it and enjoy all the colors. The Under Armor Company has done a good deed for the city by promoting this marathon. Bravo for Under Armor and bravo for city life.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Future of Prefab. Where's it Going?

Empyrean International, "Dwell House"

Marmol Radziner "Skyline House"

Michelle Kaufman's "Glidehouse"

Our stringer in Los Angeles sent us this thoughtful article by Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne. Hawthorne tells the story of the prominent prefab architects who are rethinking their efforts, some of whom are closing down their operations. Those closing their operations include Michelle Kaufman of Glidehouse fame, Empyrean International, the company that worked to develop Dwell's prefab models and Marmol Radziner, the Los Angeles firm known for smartly designed Neomodern houses, has mothballed its prefab factory in Vernon in what it says is a temporary move.

Prefab is foundering again. Most of this distress is, of course, caused by the freeze of credit. But even if you take away this credit problem, making the leap to high-volume business remains prefab's central dilemma.

One way to reach that point is by colonizing big swaths of flat land and building 1,500 identical houses at the same time. Without a doubt this kind of development is what has helped get us into our current dilemmas. Hawthorne and others have another solution. The solution resides largely in helping develop prefab infill apartment complexes and cooperative housing.

At the heart of this solution is the tricky sociological process of detaching modern prefab from the ideal of the single-family house.
Most people in this country -- even most city-dwelling, design-loving sophisticates -- still locate their dreams of residential bliss under the roof of a detached house. That roof might be pitched or it might be Gropius-flat, but it still covers a house and not an apartment.
We will have to see how the current financial crisis will effect this powerful, very American, expectation. This article last week in the New York Times, Real Estate section, "Owners No More," may be the first indication.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Somebody call the design police!

I think I need an aspirin. Thanks to one of our stringers in Florida, we were linked to this fascinating video of an animated building---the former headquarters of Bayer in Leverkusen, Germany. This is called a "media facade." It is composed of 5.6 million LEDs over a 17,500 square meter surface. We can't imagine having an apartment overlooking this enormous vision! Imagine a whole neighborhood of such facades.

The gargantuan advertising form creates an intense kind of visual pollution that curtails any ability to say "No!" Also, seeing a piece of architecture used in this way makes us weepy.

For a look at how the LED plates were constructed, here's the link.

Hat Tip to B. Eby

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Glenn Gould Speaks About Music


Glen Gould (upper) Tim Page (lower)

We rarely have the opportunity to listen to a musician talk just about music. Musical genius, Glenn Gould, referred to as the "James Dean of classical music," did one last interview before his untimely death six weeks later at the age of 50. Gould is legend. Although we rarely post about music (we are aching to say something about Gustavo Dudamel but reserve our enthusiasm so we don't appear to be wandering) we thought Gould personified a kind of music, design-mind worth honoring.

It appears that Gould scripted the whole interview for New York music critic Tim Page and himself! A weird but intriguing aspect. They recorded it just after Gould's 1981, historic, re-recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations (a story in themselves).

When we heard the interview, we were so pleased just to hear Gould's voice. You may, too. Here's the link to the interview. Musicians, this is an exquisite gab-fest that begins to get really cool about 20 minutes into the "interview."

twitter: @glenngouldfndn

Monday, October 5, 2009

What happened to the Bromo Seltzer Bottle?

Almost nothing today matches the impact of the colorful Bromo Seltzer image. It was a brand extraordinaire and a design triumph. This 1995 Baltimore Sun article we found fills in the colorful details.

The 51-foot-high bottle was fabricated of laminated steel. It was 20 feet in diameter, tinted blue to resemble the headache remedy's bottle and mounted on the very pinnacle of Baltimore's Emerson Drug Company headquarters at Lombard and Eutaw streets. What became known as the Bromo Seltzer Tower served as a potent landmark. The bottle even had a huge crown on the top.

So what happened to it? The revolving, blazing bottle lasted 25 years until January 1936, when winds and rain got the best of it. Adolph F. Nethen, general foreman of Claude Neon Lights of Maryland, climbed to the top and took the metal sheeting apart. The rusted, decayed materials were taken to the scrap yard. A sad demise for a great symbol.

We want that bottle back!