Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Part 3: A Poet

I have never seen more words at once than in his office. He has a new book out. He still speaks. I missed his voice the most. I have his voice recorded so I can listen to it sometimes. I do. He gave me a magazine. I saw the poster on his wall. That man in the poster has really good vision because he can see all the way to the other side of it. My friends said they couldn't imagine me spending two years of my life there. I didn't admit that I missed it there. But probably just for him.

Part 2: A Volvo

I drove a Volvo that wasn't mine 350 miles through six passes, then turned around and drove back. A friend gave it to us for the trip. It has a dent in the hood from a three year old jumping on it like it was a mattress. It has yellow paint inside from a five year old being locked in the car with finger paint for an hour. It cruises. By that I mean if you get it up to 70 and take your foot off the gas it won't slow down. It doesn't like hills and hates passes. It sat in Seattle alone for a few hours. It was our bed for a few hours. It has a ball hitch.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Part 1: I Left A Jeep In Walla Walla With A Blown Head Gasket

It left oil and antifreeze on the side of the road in three places. It smoked its way through Walla Walla before dying two blocks from the only shop open on Sundays. It is being dissected by The Auto-Man. I hope it comes home soon. I held its hand when the tow-truck came.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Monday Night

I met one of the directors of "King of the Hill." He was hoping he had a home to go back to. Good luck Malibu.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cool Work

Antony Gormley: I love this guy's latest works at the Hayward. Blind Light, a glass room filled with fog, exhibits human reliance on definition and intensely creates a feeling of isolation. Blind Light acts as a counterpoint to Event Horizon: 27, a monumental scale installation viewed from three exterior platforms at the Hayward. The piece consists of life-size casts of Gormley attached to buildings and landscapes near and far from the viewing platform. As you start to look outward at the expanding scale of the casts you start to notice real people moving and London and from the pictures I get a sense of community. These two pieces show both sides of Gormley's stated hypothesis that "architecture is another kind of body: body is our first habitation, the building our second." The above picture by grahammcnally exquisitely communicates both sides of his current installations and shows the coexistence of isolation and community found at the heart of architecture.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Model Is Done!


And I still have The Difference Between Houses and Homes: Lost Songs and Loose Ends 1995-2001.


One user writes: "Looking forward to barging into Women's Studies classes in this shirt during summer quarter."

Twenty-Eight Point Five Hours Till Base Camp!

Broken Social Scene. Always brilliant.

I even got some sleep last night.



And now for the entire catalog of Cursive. I'm feeling Burst and Bloom. Well, I usually feel like listening to that album, but now I MUST.

What Time Is It?

Who cares? Right now, right this very second, I am caught up in the exhilaration of creation.

The hookah is billowing, the Monster is flowing.

I started off with Sparklehorse and now it's my Modest Mouse collection. "Steam Engenius" is a great MM song.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Three Greatest Architecture Proposals Ever

This Board-Based design by Morphosis of their proposal for the Los Angeles Arts Park works really well because it emphasizes the mood and feel of the project while still incorporating all the elements of traditional architectural presentations like a model, floorplans, sections, and a perspective or two.

Photograph from John.


Weiss/Manfredi's concept diagram proposal for the Olympic Sculpture Park is so simple I understand an immense amount about the site without ever being there. Its simple and pervasive and scaled application creates an intimate feeling and human scale in what is actually a huge park. This method for creating a human space out of two blocks of downtown Seattle is genius. This diagram says all that. Perfect.


Here is the third one. It's a book.

The simple concept of creating a book for the proposal of a library and the inclusion of copious amounts of process and diagrams definitely show the focus of OMA. If you've visited the building you will realize that this is not the final design for the building. Apparently when they awarded the contract to OMA they said, "We don't quite know what it will look like but we want it to do what you say it will do in that book." Building as information, as Dillon puts it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Clean Water in Seattle

This is clean water, in Seattle. In the Puget Sound. At Pier 70. On the site of a former refueling station. The massive project to clean up the Puget Sound was furthered and defined by Weiss/Manfredi during their work on their new building in Seattle, the Olympic Sculpture Park. They also did the Women's Memorial/Gateway at Arlington National Cemetary and the awesome complex in Olympia Fields, Illinois.

I fully believe their work is the future of architecture. Their simple mixing of Landscape, Buildings, Interiors, and Urban spaces makes so much sense, but is astounding at the same time. Together they are one of the most important architecture firms this world has ever seen - up there with OMA, Isidore & Anthemius, Iktinos & Kallikrates, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Imhotep & Sneferu, and the most important firm of all: the anonymous modern and ancient innovators in vernacular architecture.

In the coming weeks I hope to feature a few articles on each of these firms and why I feel they are so important. Stay Tuned.

Monday, October 08, 2007

High-Tech / Low-Tech

The "High"-tech industry has always been so good at marketing. I own many Microsoft and Google and Apple and 20th Century products. More than a ton, really. But what do I use the most every day? Running water. A bicycle. A stove. Books. My shoes. These are not "High"-tech. These are old technology, "Low"-tech.

1. The Dominican Republic: A group of engineering students are in a small town wandering around when the locals start talking to them. Apparently they have a water problem. You see, they have a huge tank full of water for the town and a small tank that is supposed to drip chlorine into the water to purify it. Unfortunately it doesn't work right. Either the water is too rusty from the old pipes pumping the water to the tank or it has way too much chlorine. This is a small, isolated town with very few commercial outlets. The students cut the bottom off a new jerry can and bolt it to the inside of the water tank upside down, above the water line. They then run a line from the chlorine tank to the top of the jerry can and attach the existing drip valve to a float and a line from the spout of the jerry can. They put a valve and float from a toilet on the end of the line into the jerry can. This keeps the chlorine at a constant level and hence a constant pressure and the residents are able to fine-tune the drip valve to get their water tasting right. This is now applied in at least 50 towns in the DR.

(Article in the latest GOOD magazine)

2. Vcommunicator Mobile: At the Modern Day Marine show last week, Vcom3D showcased its one-way translator for soldiers in Iraq. It's an iPod and speaker with a custom library of Arabic & Kurdish voices and phrases as well as the Arabic, Kurdish, and Phonetic alphabet. This allows a soldier to learn exactly how to pronounce, "We need to see your papers." The soldier simply goes to a playlist like Patrol or Checkpoint and finds "We need to see your papers," hits play and the phrase will come out of the speaker for the soldier to repeat, or loud enough for the audience, and also displays on the screen in English, Kurdish, and Arabic alphabets for the deaf. "We went low-tech," explained Ernie Bright, operations manager with Vcom3D.

So what is "High" and what is "Low"? First off, I don't believe these hierarchical symbols should apply here. There is a big push for living machines in architecture right now - that is simply a series of swamps contained in large tubes that naturally purifies waste. Is this "low" or "high"? It is technology as ancient as the world, but it is only recently been understood enough to apply it inside the home to human waste. That makes it neither "high" nor "low", it simply is technology: 1. The relationship a society has with its tools, 2. The practical application of knowledge, 3. techne (craft) + logia (saying). Technology is how and with what we do things. My hammer is technology in the same way my Jeep is technology in the same way my laptop is technology in the same way a comb is technology. A comb? Everybody still uses that antiquated technology. (Well, except me but we'll not get into that now)

These students in Example 1 are educated at MIT, one of the highest formal educational institutions in the world. Yet they come up with a design using technology from a 4500 year old device to fix a very modern problem and it works perfectly and cheaply in many different towns.

Example 2 shows how creating cheap, quick, one-way translators instead of bulky, expensive two-way translators can help connect the American soldier with the Iraqi people. Also, playing on a technology most people know and/or own allows various models to be on the market at one time for soldiers with or without an iPod. But this is considered "low-tech" because we can do more. I realize that in places the political situation does not allow it, but isn't a human who knows both languages the "low"-tech option here? The term "low-tech" is certainly taking on a new meaning with ten year old technology considered "low"-tech.

Basically, I believe we have thrown away too much common sense in the last two-hundred years. Ancient Greek buildings are not beautiful just because they adhere to phi or show a standardization of form and symmetry that is breathtaking, for me it's because of their orientation to give prominence to natural elements and features in the landscape and because of the technology used to create intriguing relationships between spaces. Humanity is going back to using nature as an element in design and building. Is this push "low" or "high"? It's just a push. It's just technology. And the separation between the two technologies has helped create some of the environmental crises we have today.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Meatbag Creates Meatbag Without Sex!

Synthetic genetics is not only fun to say, but it may be a reality. According to this Guardian article, a meatbag actually beat robots to the whole creating-life-in-a-test-tube thing. And now he's trying to patent it. Because he wants to make a buck. As usual. Who is this new Dr. Amazing/Dr. Evil? None other than the Biological Researcher's number one Bad Boy, Craig Venter.

Yes, the bastard that tried to privatize gene coding so people would have to pay, well, him, to access that data. In June 2005 he founded another company, Synthetic Genomics, which set about trying to make a buck off of creating microorganisms that create - or become - alternate energy sources. It seems like he has finally done it - or at least created something. Now he is in the process of duplicating his experiment and if this works, he will likely announce it to the world. Oh yeah, and he has a patent on it of course. And he named his sloop the Sorcerer II. I've long suspected that if Venter could patent scientific research he would.

Now the guy is greedy, but he is one damn fine scientist. The first human to create life is quite a notch on the resume. I only wish this technology was in the hands of someone a little less interested in money.

This announcement coming so close to the announcement of cloaking devices and perhaps Star Trek is upon us. Don't expect Jeri Ryan or the rest of the Borg on your doorstep anytime soon though.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Another Music Post

Thank you Em for both of these bands.


Listen to: Akron Family

Their newest album, Love is Simple is poppy and folksy and rocky and dear God is it good. The first two songs alone should get anybody. I listened to this CD five times today alone. They are the band to finally put their finger on the folk-rock pulse that many, many bands have tried for. This music is perfect.


The Shaky Hands & Death Songs (band and side project)

Portland, Oregon is one of the top five cities in the world for working like a city should work. The Shaky Hands is proof. Death Songs is their side-project. Wonderful people and wonderful music. If you want to see some good mandolin rocking out, watch them.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Is Different Always Better?


Art Lebedev is a pretty cool designer and studio. For all those Russian TV's with just 102 channels comes this cool remote. Now why is it cool? It looks nice, it is legible and symbolic without overplaying it, and it is different. But is different always better?

Yes: Even if the specific product that differs from the norm sucks, at least someone is thinking in a different direction, at least someone is trying to innovate. Also, inspiration from seeing a product that doesn't work, but is different, leads to new products that work better. (See, I'm innovating my sentence structure here)

No: "Different" is this excuse designers use when they are too embarrassed or blind to actually say, "I'm sorry." Too many products come out simply because they're different. There should be a screening process besides the public to weed out crappy products and only allow the good new ones to survive. Plus, Yes, your sentences suck.

Easy Answer? For me, yes. Yes is the obvious answer.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

An Idea That Hasn't Worked Yet, But Should

A Contemporary Opera-ish thingy. Let me explain: we've got all these wonderful singer-songwriters and bands out there doing some cool things and some even doing some cool things well, but the one main thing none do well is make albums that contain an extended narrative - a story-cd. Even two of my favorite bands have given it a shot and failed: Of Montreal with their Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse and Gus Franklin (from Architecture in Helsinki) with his The Outer Void Intrepid Sailor. Now, poets have done and are doing this successfully and not so successfully for a long time, why can't bands?

Who do we have?

Sufjan Stevens: Though his songs are narrative and his album centers on a theme, I wouldn't count him as making story-cds.

Tha Mars Volta: Their first two LP's did it for me - and I'm sorry to hype another Rick Rubin production but dear God De-Loused was good. Yeah, I know Flea did the bass, and Rubin did the sounds, but come on, you ever heard anything like that before? And though hard to hear and understand, this surrealist album, and Frances the Mute both moved me. But I couldn't help feeling more could be done. Especially on Frances. Tom and I were discussing this and I agree with his statement that "De-Loused blew us all away, showed us what could be done, it was so innovative, and then Frances and Amputecture were kind of let-downs. It was the same thing again - they didn't keep innovating." Amputecture is definitely their worst LP but it contains some great songs. However, lacking a story I can't really get into the album like I can with De-Loused, I keep trying to connect the songs but can't. So The Mars Volta has almost done it. Their music is innovative and interesting as are their semi-surrealist stories, and I certainly wait in line for their albums the day they come out, but they haven't quite perfected it yet. I haven't yet watched El B├║falo de la Noche, but hopefully that film helped them perfect their storysong telling. January 29th will tell a lot about their ability to attain my Holy Grail of Music.

The Kinks: I haven't yet heard enough. Do they do it for you?

Pink Floyd: Close as The Mars Volta, but not quite there for me.

Coheed and Cambria: Yes, and no. They are the closest, as far as pure storytelling goes. And on some levels I really enjoy knowing the middle of the story without knowing the beginning and the end, but the highly sci-fi nature turns a lot of people off.

Why Not? Okay, so it could make a better CD - and has in the cases of Coheed & The Mars Volta - because of this grand unifying gesture so sought after in architecture today. However, most bands use over-arching stories as a way to excuse crappy - or filler - songs. I lust after this working.

Please send me or comment on what your favorite concept album is - not thematic concept album, but story concept album. This is an idea/concept/tactic I want to experience more of.

I Hate September & Sinus Infections & Lung Infections / Fall Music Post #1 & #2

So I just skipped it. Now, back to life...

Click here if you like books and/or this building:


If you haven't heard the new Electric Six album, I Shall Exterminate Everything Around me that Restricts me from Being the Master, give it a listen. There's, as always, some good social commentary and some pure awesomeness. "Dance Pattern" contains these lines:

"She tells me she's a liar
But I don't believe her
She tells me almost anything"

And here's two shots from the next song:

"He said: "My people need a place to Go!" (Go!)
My people need a place to Go! (Go!)
People need a place to go
People need a place to go

Now everybody down at McDonnellzzz
They down with Ronald McDonnell
And now they hitting the bottle
And everybody cool!"

C'mon, give it a listen.


Okay, it's no secret I'm an Iron & Wine fan. I was a little scared about their new album, after all, it was not going to be just Sam Beam. Now, the live show has never really been just him and his guitar so I wasn't too scared. And now I'm talking in circles and the new album is incredible. Incredible. Let's talk this way: it's like a live show recorded in the studio. It's got all the emotion and power of his earlier work with a new energy that just keeps me coming back. Or this way: I got it about a week ago and have listened to it once a day so far. It's good stuff. Get it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

ArchHist Part 2: The Rant

When studying Architectural History, the most important thing to remember is to study the social, economic, and cultural influences on it. Buildings being such public, interactive pieces cannot help but be deeply affected by culture – which is why we know so much from archaeological ruins that is not mentioned in records. The building and the public are intertwined. Everything – myths, defecation procedures, medical abilities, et cetera – will tell you more about the building and why than just studying the building in a vacuum.

Then why do Architecture students study only Architecture and a little Engineering and a little Art? Where's Landscape Architecture? Where's Interior Design? Where's Sociology? Politics? English? Film? Psychology? Save us Marcus Vitruvius Pollio! Where's Astronomy? Chemistry? Linguistics? Business? Economics? Archeology? Medicine? Music? Forestry? Biology? Fisheries? Law? Where is it all? This seperation does no good for the profession and is slowly dying. Economics and business catch-phrases like "streamlining," "efficiency," and "common sense" have finally begun to reunite the branches of architecture. Finally. Hopefully schools will realize this soon and let students take various classes without punishing them.