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The “moveable tent or ‘Yolo Buggy,’” as the libraries at UC Berkeley describe it, helped teams of state surveyors perform acts of measurement across the landscape in order to mathematically understand—and, thus, to tax, police, and regulate—the western terrain of the United States. It was a kind of Borgesian parade, a carnival of instruments on the move.

More: BLDGBLOG: A Building For Measuring Borders

The “moveable tent or ‘Yolo Buggy,’” as the libraries at UC Berkeley describe it, helped teams of state surveyors perform acts of measurement across the landscape in order to mathematically understand—and, thus, to tax, police, and regulate—the western terrain of the United States. It was a kind of Borgesian parade, a carnival of instruments on the move.

More: BLDGBLOG: A Building For Measuring Borders

Tags: History
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Like many people, I was—and remain—devastated to have learned that architect Lebbeus Woods passed away last night, just as the hurricane was moving out of New York City and as his very neighborhood, Lower Manhattan, had temporarily become part of the Atlantic seabed, floodwaters pouring into nearby subway tunnels and knocking out power to nearly every building south of 34th Street, an event seemingly predicted, or forewarned, by Lebbeus’s own work. I can’t pretend to have been a confidant of his, let alone a professional colleague, but Lebbeus’s influence over my own interest in architecture is impossible to exaggerate and his kindness and generosity as a friend to me here in New York City was an emotionally and professionally reassuring thing to receive—to a degree that I am perhaps only now fully realizing. I say this, of course, while referring to someone whose New Year’s toast a few years ago to a room full of friends gathered down at his loft near the Financial District—in an otherwise anonymous building whose only remarkable feature, if I remember correctly, was that huge paintings by Lebbeus himself were hanging in the corridors—was that we should all have, as he phrased it, a “difficult New Year.” That is, we should all look forward to, even seek out or purposefully engineer, a new year filled with the kinds of challenges Lebbeus felt, rightly or not, that we deserved to face, fight, and, in all cases, overcome—the genuine and endless difficulty of pursuing our own ideas and commitments, absurd goals no one else might share or even be interested in. 

(via BLDGBLOG: Lebbeus Woods, 1940-2012)
More at PopSci, and from Mark Lamster on Design Observer.
I love that sentiment about difficulty.

Like many people, I was—and remain—devastated to have learned that architect Lebbeus Woods passed away last night, just as the hurricane was moving out of New York City and as his very neighborhood, Lower Manhattan, had temporarily become part of the Atlantic seabed, floodwaters pouring into nearby subway tunnels and knocking out power to nearly every building south of 34th Street, an event seemingly predicted, or forewarned, by Lebbeus’s own work.

I can’t pretend to have been a confidant of his, let alone a professional colleague, but Lebbeus’s influence over my own interest in architecture is impossible to exaggerate and his kindness and generosity as a friend to me here in New York City was an emotionally and professionally reassuring thing to receive—to a degree that I am perhaps only now fully realizing. I say this, of course, while referring to someone whose New Year’s toast a few years ago to a room full of friends gathered down at his loft near the Financial District—in an otherwise anonymous building whose only remarkable feature, if I remember correctly, was that huge paintings by Lebbeus himself were hanging in the corridors—was that we should all have, as he phrased it, a “difficult New Year.” That is, we should all look forward to, even seek out or purposefully engineer, a new year filled with the kinds of challenges Lebbeus felt, rightly or not, that we deserved to face, fight, and, in all cases, overcome—the genuine and endless difficulty of pursuing our own ideas and commitments, absurd goals no one else might share or even be interested in. 

(via BLDGBLOG: Lebbeus Woods, 1940-2012)

More at PopSci, and from Mark Lamster on Design Observer.

I love that sentiment about difficulty.

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kenyatta:

Proposals for “Wembley Tower” an English tower designed to rival France’s Eiffel Tower.
Many of the proposals appeared as apparitions of Constructivism or the futurism of 80 years later, such as a concrete ‘tree’, a series of stacked iron domes up a central core, and several ethereal, light metal structures, along with some spectacularly Jules Verne-esque proposals, such as a globe on a spike, which contained within itself several exhibition floors.
To cut a long story short, this entailed a skyscraping edifice to rival the Eiffel Tower, which got as far as the first few storeys, by which time investors got cold feet. The unfinished framework lay rusting for years before Wembley Stadium eventually replaced it.
(via sit down man, you’re a bloody tragedy: The Almost-Skyscrapers of Britain, 1829-1944)

kenyatta:

Proposals for “Wembley Tower” an English tower designed to rival France’s Eiffel Tower.

Many of the proposals appeared as apparitions of Constructivism or the futurism of 80 years later, such as a concrete ‘tree’, a series of stacked iron domes up a central core, and several ethereal, light metal structures, along with some spectacularly Jules Verne-esque proposals, such as a globe on a spike, which contained within itself several exhibition floors.
To cut a long story short, this entailed a skyscraping edifice to rival the Eiffel Tower, which got as far as the first few storeys, by which time investors got cold feet. The unfinished framework lay rusting for years before Wembley Stadium eventually replaced it.

(via sit down man, you’re a bloody tragedy: The Almost-Skyscrapers of Britain, 1829-1944)

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This long piece about Detroit and its environs is worth the read, but I’ll single out three passages I enjoyed. The first is about ruins, and particularly that former theater that’s been turned into a parking garage: 

You’ve probably seen it in a movie or television commercial. It is arguably this ruined city’s most breathtaking ruin, beloved by photographers, journalists, and academics for the easy irony of Ford automobiles parking in a ruined theater on the site of the garage where Henry Ford built his first automobile.

What’s more interesting, I think, is how this building represents a sort of unintentional preservation. The thing about ruins is at least they’re still there. At least this is not just another surface lot. And with so much of the rest of the historical city lost to development and demolition, there is the deeper irony that fifteen miles away Henry Ford moved so many historical buildings brick-by-brick from elsewhere around the country and “preserved” them as decontextualized structures in a counterfeit community.

That highlighted bit was, obviously, my favorite moment, but I like the broader point, too.

Okay so then the second bit is this, later in the essay, pivoting to Detroit’s suburbs:

Today Detroit’s suburbs are where all the action is. One of the reasons people around here get so mad when journalists and photographers parachute in and represent Detroit as a shithole is because there are millions of people here living in safe, well-kept neighborhoods in dozens of thriving suburban communities.

Many early Detroit suburbs (including the Grosse Pointe communities, Ferndale, Royal Oak, and Birmingham) have walkable downtowns filled with the kinds of businesses that people value in actual cities around the world. “Downtown” Southfield has more workers and office space than downtown Detroit. With big-city amenities come big city problems: the suburban traffic situation is a nightmare, the parking situation sucks, and there are people everywhere.

And of course, most suburban open spaces long ago gave way to subdivisions, strip malls, and parking lots for shopping malls and big-box stores.

I particularly like this point:

With all their recent development and growth, it can be easy to forget that these suburbs of Detroit have their own histories. But there was a time before sprawl when these small, historic communities and their citizens provided the lumber for Detroit’s homes, the food for its tables.

Traveling between these communities on superhighways, seeing their endless acres of subdivisions and the businesses built in the latter half of the 20th century along buzzing thoroughfares, I found myself shocked to find that places like Farmington and Northville had nice little historic downtowns. I never saw them through the sprawl.

So that’s useful.

Here’s how the piece wraps up, also useful:

It seems we are capable of interacting with history only through limited means.

The first way is through the tangible: through actual artifacts. When we hold an antique or view an antiquity with our own eyes in a museum, we understand that we are interacting with the same object in the same way as one of our predecessors.

But the second (and perhaps more important) way we interact with history is through the intangible; through our imaginations and the inspiration of others’ memories, their spoken or written words and artistic and photographic records. “History is about places of the mind,” says historian David Starkey.

Appreciating history through architecture still requires imagination. When we visit the Roman forum, we like to tell ourselves that we are “walking in the footsteps of Julius Caesar,” but that’s bullshit. And we know it.

Those bricks and columns have been toppled and rebuilt and been broken again before being screwed together by dozens of archaeologists thousands of years after Caesar was stabbed. And we know there are the footsteps of ten million German tourists between ours and those of any bald epileptic in a toga.

Still.

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Architecture critic Douglas Haskell was the first to use “Googie” to describe the architectural movement, after driving by the West Hollywood coffee shop and finally feeling like he had found a name for this style that was flourishing in the postwar era.
But Haskell was no fan of Googie and wrote a scathing (by architecture critic standards) satire of the style in the February 1952 issue of House and Home magazine. The New York-based Haskell wrote part of his article, “Googie Architecture,” in the voice of a fictional Professor Thrugg, whose over-the-top praise was an indictment of Googie’s popular appeal. Haskell was an advocate of modernism, but a modernism constrained by his ideas of taste and refinement.
Haskell, writing sarcastically as Professor Thrugg: “You underestimate the seriousness of Googie. Think of it! — Googie is produced by architects, not by ambitious mechanics, and some of these architects starve for it. After all, they are working in Hollywood, and Hollywood has let them know what it expects of them.”

(via Googie: Architecture of the Space Age | Paleofuture)

Architecture critic Douglas Haskell was the first to use “Googie” to describe the architectural movement, after driving by the West Hollywood coffee shop and finally feeling like he had found a name for this style that was flourishing in the postwar era.

But Haskell was no fan of Googie and wrote a scathing (by architecture critic standards) satire of the style in the February 1952 issue of House and Home magazine. The New York-based Haskell wrote part of his article, “Googie Architecture,” in the voice of a fictional Professor Thrugg, whose over-the-top praise was an indictment of Googie’s popular appeal. Haskell was an advocate of modernism, but a modernism constrained by his ideas of taste and refinement.

Haskell, writing sarcastically as Professor Thrugg: “You underestimate the seriousness of Googie. Think of it! — Googie is produced by architects, not by ambitious mechanics, and some of these architects starve for it. After all, they are working in Hollywood, and Hollywood has let them know what it expects of them.”

(via Googie: Architecture of the Space Age | Paleofuture)

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Ends of the Earth
Featuring works from Johan Stephen, Charles Eams and Ray Eams, Robert Smithson, and SUPERSTUDIO.
“Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 is the first large-scale, historical-thematic exhibition to deal broadly with Land art, capturing the simultaneous impulse emergent in the 1960s to use the earth as an artistic medium and to locate works in remote sites far from familiar art contexts. Organized by MOCA Senior Curator Philipp Kaiser and co-curator Miwon Kwon, Professor of Art History at UCLA, the exhibition highlights the early years of untested artistic experimentations and concludes in the mid-1970s before Land art becomes a fully institutionalized category.

 (via Ends of the Earth | i like this art)

Ends of the Earth

Featuring works from Johan Stephen, Charles Eams and Ray Eams, Robert Smithson, and SUPERSTUDIO.

“Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 is the first large-scale, historical-thematic exhibition to deal broadly with Land art, capturing the simultaneous impulse emergent in the 1960s to use the earth as an artistic medium and to locate works in remote sites far from familiar art contexts. Organized by MOCA Senior Curator Philipp Kaiser and co-curator Miwon Kwon, Professor of Art History at UCLA, the exhibition highlights the early years of untested artistic experimentations and concludes in the mid-1970s before Land art becomes a fully institutionalized category.

 (via Ends of the Earth | i like this art)

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Sarah Whiting on Imagined Futures | Offcite Blog


The eight-week course “Spotlight on Rice University School of  Architecture,” which is offered by the Glasscock School of Continuing  Studies, began on Tuesday with an introduction by Dean Sarah Whiting to  architecture as an academic discipline…. 

[T]he first half of the slide show featured images from the 20th  century’s greatest architectural speculations, a great-hits rally of  what Whiting called “imagined futures” including the Italian Futurists,  Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), and Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Broadacre  City” (1932), le Corbusier’s “Ville Radiuse” (1935), and moving into  later examples like Paul Rudolph’s “Lower Manhattan Expressway” (1967).

The most wildly inventive examples ventured to disregard the  limitations of existing technology and then ended up anticipating  technologies to come. For example, steel-frame construction, which makes  the building of skyscrapers not only possible but also ordinary, was  not available to the Italian Futurists in 1914, whose designs for tall,  sleek towers were truly unprecedented….
This tour through the most fanciful examples of radically  restructured cities, buildings, and ways of living served helpfully to  liberate us from the ordinary limitations we might set upon our  understanding of the architect’s work, and to illustrate how the  architect is always in the practice of imagining a future as yet  unrealized. Whiting argued at one point that an architect has to be  uncommonly self-confident, since her whole profession is to imagine  something that isn’t there and then convince other people spend their  money making it true.

Sarah Whiting on Imagined Futures | Offcite Blog

The eight-week course “Spotlight on Rice University School of Architecture,” which is offered by the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, began on Tuesday with an introduction by Dean Sarah Whiting to architecture as an academic discipline…. 

[T]he first half of the slide show featured images from the 20th century’s greatest architectural speculations, a great-hits rally of what Whiting called “imagined futures” including the Italian Futurists, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), and Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Broadacre City” (1932), le Corbusier’s “Ville Radiuse” (1935), and moving into later examples like Paul Rudolph’s “Lower Manhattan Expressway” (1967).

The most wildly inventive examples ventured to disregard the limitations of existing technology and then ended up anticipating technologies to come. For example, steel-frame construction, which makes the building of skyscrapers not only possible but also ordinary, was not available to the Italian Futurists in 1914, whose designs for tall, sleek towers were truly unprecedented….

This tour through the most fanciful examples of radically restructured cities, buildings, and ways of living served helpfully to liberate us from the ordinary limitations we might set upon our understanding of the architect’s work, and to illustrate how the architect is always in the practice of imagining a future as yet unrealized. Whiting argued at one point that an architect has to be uncommonly self-confident, since her whole profession is to imagine something that isn’t there and then convince other people spend their money making it true.

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JoAnne McNeil points to a fascinating Kill Screen piece about Kowloon Walled City, and how it has “made its way into popular representation” in films and, more strikingly, games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops. The Kill Screen link to a video tour of the Call of Duty version of Kowloon doesn’t seem to work, but I think I found it here. As a non-gamer myself, I found it rather stunning. The Kill Screen piece itself is quite informative and well done: Kill Screen - Behind These Walls

JoAnne McNeil points to a fascinating Kill Screen piece about Kowloon Walled City, and how it has “made its way into popular representation” in films and, more strikingly, games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops. The Kill Screen link to a video tour of the Call of Duty version of Kowloon doesn’t seem to work, but I think I found it here. As a non-gamer myself, I found it rather stunning. The Kill Screen piece itself is quite informative and well done: Kill Screen - Behind These Walls

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The new site WhatWasThere.com aims to help do just that by letting users upload a tagged photograph of any building from any era to match its current location. The result is a remarkable view of our constantly evolving built environment. 

Create Your Own Historical Maps with WhatWasThere - Technology - The Atlantic Cities)

The new site WhatWasThere.com aims to help do just that by letting users upload a tagged photograph of any building from any era to match its current location. The result is a remarkable view of our constantly evolving built environment. 

Create Your Own Historical Maps with WhatWasThere - Technology - The Atlantic Cities)

Tags: Cities History
Link

"Is there no limit to the craze for tall office buildings?" demands this New York Times Magazine article from 1911. The main downsides of tall buildings discussed here are blocking of light, and "disfigurement" of skylines. The interviewer suggests to the principle subject that not all cities view tall buildings as disfigurement. "That simply shows a lack of taste and art on the part of the American people," replies the subject, who later clarifies that "We" (Americans) "are veritable barbarians in matters of taste."

Later in the interview, the source suggests tallness itself isn’t the problem, but that “we have not yet applied to high buildings the same truthful, simple, and artistic treatment which ages of experience have taught us to use in monumental buildings of moderate height.”