SHADOW

February 26, 2010
helenkeller historyshadow
Helen Keller Tower, Osamu Ishiyama, Hokaido, 2001 (source)

 

Osamu Ishiyama’s Helen Keller Tower, is a monument to the blind. As a braille library, the tower requires no light to fulfill its purpose. Cloaking the edifice in shadow, both through a jet-black surface treatment and by limiting light into the interior, Ishiyama asks us to remove our sight at the door. In place of light, Ishiyama gives us sound. Wind instruments attached to the exterior facade causes the tower to whistle in the breeze. A series of waterfalls, rain gutters, reverberate through the interior whenever it pours. Tumbling gravel and creaky wood floors resonate at every step. The tower, as much an instrument as it is a building, is a dignified response to a difficult architectural problem: creating meaningful space in the absence of light.

 

History’s Shadow GM5, David Maisel, Work in Progress (source)

 

David Maisel trained as a landscape architect and often references this education in his work as a photographer. His landscape photography operates at a variety of scales, from aerials of mines, clear cutting and urban sprawl to portraits of weathered copper canisters containing the remnants of cremated psychiatric patients. His most recent series of photographs, titled History’s Shadow, documents x-rays of objects from antiquity. The x-rays are a product of the conservation process that provides insight into the structural integrity of the objects themselves, revealing ‘losses, replacements, methods of construction, and internal trauma’ that may not be visible on the surface of the object. With his History’s Shadow series Maisel has found a way… more

 

E. Sean Bailey

Erandi de Silva

 

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GREEN

February 25, 2010
Sao Paulo warholdollar
SP301, Scott Peterman, 2005 (source)

 

I am rather confused by all of this talk of green in the architectural community. Architecture is intrinsically a wasteful process: transforming natural resources into a luxury good. While it is possible to mediate this waste, there is no eliminating it. At the most basic level, it takes stuff to make stuff, and unless we start conjuring buildings out of thin air, this fact will remain. LEED Certification, an initiative that promises environmental salvation in shades of Olympic gold, silver and bronze, is more successful as a marketing strategy than as an environmental toolkit. Implementing sustainable strategies at the scale of the building, while a responsible first step, should not be the end game.

 

In a 2008 MIT study on greenhouse gas emissions, it was estimated that eight and a half tons was the smallest possible carbon footprint for an American citizen… more

 

Dollar Sign, Andy Warhol, 1981 (source)

 

‘Green is like a fat, very healthy cow lying still and unmoving, only capable of chewing the cud, regarding the world with stupid dull eyes.’

 

—Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art

 

 

With postmodernism’s blurring of cultural hierarchy, designers today—unlike those avant-gardes or radicals of previous decades who were reacting to the status quo—are actively pursuing high-paying commercial projects. While engaging as many people as possible is a great ambition, for better or for worse it may result in the cheapening of work in order for it to be easily understood. Perhaps producing loosely layered work which can be accessed by many, while embodying or alluding to complex ideas, can satisfy the two sides of this quickly narrowing gap.

 

E. Sean Bailey

Erandi de Silva

 

3 comments » | Editorial

DIAGRAM

February 23, 2010
kirby  margottenenbaum
Kirby Mood Board (source)

 

In the wider world, the diagram is a two-dimensional image that is used to explain complicated or abstract ideas. This results in the ubiquitous flow chart, the subway map, the depiction of the veins beneath our skin. In all of these examples, the diagram is secondary to some primary system. In architecture, however, the relationship between the diagram and the diagrammed is often reversed (at the beginning of the design process, the primary system does not yet exist). Architects, being intelligent creatures, realized that the very diagrams that were useful in describing their complex spatial projects, could be reverse engineered: by determining the most efficient diagram first, and then folding the building into it. Entire firms rely on this process, and it is critically well received —perhaps because the buildings which are… more

 

Margot Tenenbaum’s Room, Eric Chase Anderson (source)

 

Diagrams are a device that many designers have come to utilize to organize quantitative information related to a site or program. This information is then used in the service of shaping a spatial proposal, as famously demonstrated by OMA’s Seattle Public Library. While highly rationalized diagrams can provide useful practical information for organizing a project, they tend to exclude information that is open for interpretation. Currently, diagrams that show qualitative information only make rare appearances. Perhaps architects can adopt the methods applied to the diagrams of Margot Tenenbaum’s room, by Eric Chase Anderson, which were used to guide the production designers on the set of The Royal Tenenbaums. By referencing numerous objects, a subjective spatial experience is created based on personal associations.

 

E. Sean Bailey

Erandi de Silva

 

1 comment » | Editorial

BOUNDARY

February 18, 2010
satellite cubanresort
Satellite Dish Skyline, Fes (source)

 

Demarcations between nations have traditionally been drawn in the sand, at times, irrespective of the populations that lie within their boundaries. The partitioning of the Ottoman Empire by Western powers led to the modern day borders of much of the Middle East, including Iraq, Lebanon and Israel. These artificial demarcations cut across ethnic boundaries: Kurdistan is divided between Turkey, Iraq and Iran despite a mostly homogeneous population. While the Middle East remains fractured to this day, advancements in communications technologies are effectively joining these disparate communities back together again. A pronounced example is the popularity of the TV station Al Jazeera, which is broadcast across the Middle East by satellite. Since its launch in 1996, the percentage of homes with satellite and cable access in the Middle East has skyrocketed: from 38% to 80% in Algeria and from 8% to 43% in Lebanon. The advancements of satellite communications over traditional means of dissemination renders the blockage of signals economically burdensome—in 1999, the Algerian government cut off power to entire cities in an effort to stop its citizens from viewing a piece on the atrocities of the Algerian army—and creates a broadcasting footprint which is many times greater. With a viewing audience that is 96% Muslim, the station is creating a new form of nationhood that puts an emphasis on shared beliefs rather than on shared currency.

 

Cuban Resort (source)

 

In Towards the Archipelago, Pier Vittorio Aureli asserts that urbanization is unlimited economic empire, arguably implying that national borders are unable to resist the form of empire. This rise of private economic interests is related to current processes of globalization. Globalization is often described as an external phenomenon that is making the nation state obsolete as it is believed to collapse nations into a homogenized singular entity.

 

However, some critics, such as Keller Easterling in Enduring Innocence, argue that this is not strictly the case, as globalization can also act to reinforce national boundaries, and in some instances proliferate them through offshoring. For example, although boundaries surround nations, excluding and limiting passage of contradictory elements, even the smallest disintegration of a boundary can occur in the form of extraterritoriality. This condition is often a result of diplomatic negotiations and accordingly regularly manifests itself in the form of embassies, consulates, foreign military bases, offices of the United Nations, etc. Such spaces are sovereign territories, which are accountable not to the country in which they are sited, but rather to their country of origin. There is a similar brand of spaces that are appearing which seek legal immunity as exceptional conditions. These come in the form of free trade zones, IT hubs, holiday resorts, religious… more

 

E. Sean Bailey

Erandi de Silva

 

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SLIPPERY

February 17, 2010
2001 shoulderdislocation
Still from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick, 1968 (source)

 

Most of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey takes place in zero-gravity environments where the traditional rules of architecture are void. No longer must a floor be horizontal or a wall, vertical. With no center of gravity, horizontal and vertical have no meaning. While we understand the world in three-dimensions, the forces of gravity generally force us onto a two-dimensional plane. In space, we are able to navigate free of these restrictions.

 

While the narrative of Kubrick’s film takes place in space, the construction of the illusion happened here on earth, with all of its rules intact… more

 

Inferior Shoulder Dislocation (source)

 

As I was descending the staircase of a Montreal art gallery a few years back, I reminded myself not to design stairs of such irritating dimensions. These were longer than a standard run, but not long enough to take a few steps on, just long enough to remind you of their annoyance. To exacerbate the already poor design, the stone stairs had a highly polished finish which made them incredibly slippery. Before I realized what was happening, I was skiing down the steps in a pair of sandals. When I finally came to a sitting stop I realized that my arm, which had been grasping the rail all the while, had been fully released from its socket. Here, user and designer both lost control.

 

E. Sean Bailey

Erandi de Silva

 

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CRITICISM

February 12, 2010
Yale Review
Yale Shanghai Review, 2006 (source)

 

The following is a brief guide to being a critic at an academic studio review.

 

The Introduction: The dilemma at this early stage is earning the respect of your audience. If you are working at an office, tell the students the name of the firm, while avoiding your rank (unless you are the principal or a senior staff member). If it is an obscure or unpleasant firm, describe it by the cosmopolitan city it resides in. If you happen to be out of work, make up a fancy name for your freelance practice. Where appearances are concerned, proceed with caution. The students will wear their dowdiest outfits, aging them by ten years. Wear the best clothes you own to show them who is boss… more

 

Statler and Waldorf, The Muppet Show (source)

 

Both positive and negative feedback is useful when the critic understands the work that is presented and enlightens the author to a relevant perspective that has not been addressed. This type of criticism can expand the scope of how the author thinks about their own work and may generate an awareness of how it could be understood. On the other hand, there is the type of criticism that shows that the critic has not engaged with the project. In this case, their advice cannot be applied to any effect. It goes to show that either the author has not done an adequate job of communicating their ideas, in order for the critic understand their work or the critic has not done an adequate job of trying to understand the work. In the case of the latter, the criticism is not relevant and there is little that the author can do.

 

E. Sean Bailey

Erandi de Silva

 

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CANADIAN

February 11, 2010
The CN Tower mississauga
Dar Jumping off the CN Tower, Dar Robinson, 1980 (source)

 

Everything I know, I learned from the CN Tower:

 

As a child, the CN Tower taught me about math. How many towers are there in the skyline? One. If a penny and a dime fall from the tower at the same time, which will hit the ground first? Theoretically they should hit at the same time, but I never tested this out for fear that the coins would hurt someone below.

 

As an awkward teenager, the CN tower taught me that it’s okay to be tall and skinny, and that skin blemishes happen to the best of us. After branding the tower with their logo, Pepsi failed to properly remove all of the adhesive leaving a pimply stain on the underside of the tower’s radome for over a decade… more

 

The Absolute Towers, MAD, 2006 (source)

 

MAD are building what are arguably Mississauga’s second and third iconic buildings: The Absolute Towers (locally as ‘The Marilyn’, despite being a pair). They are located only a few seconds drive down the street from the city’s first iconic building: Jones and Kirkland’s postmodern Mississauga Civic Center. Since my last visit to the UAE, I can’t help but think of the parallels between Mississauga and Dubai. They are cities that rose from nothing to become major centers in under forty years. Both have abrupt high-rises that defy any logic related to density when considered in their sprawling contexts, ethnically diverse populations that love nothing more than to shop, and an abundance of Fortune 500 companies. Is Burnhamthorpe Road undergoing a slow transformation towards becoming the Sheikh Zayed Road of the Great White North?

 

E. Sean Bailey

Erandi de Silva

 

3 comments » | Editorial

LAUNCH

February 10, 2010
New York Rotterdam Skyline
Midtown Sunset (source)

 

We are thus far separated – but after all one mile is as bad as a thousand – which is a great consolation to one who must travel six hundred before he meets you again. If it will give you any satisfaction—I am as comfortless as a pilgrim with peas in his shoes—and as cold as Charity—Chastity or any other Virtue.

 

Rotterdam Skyline (source)

 

I belong to you; there is really no other way of expressing it, and that is not strong enough.

 

How could I, fool that I am, go on sitting in my office, or here at home, instead of leaping onto a train with my eyes shut and opening them only when I am with you?

 

Lord Byron

Franz Kafka

 

Will you be our Valentine? The editors of the BI, separated by an ocean and 3,600 miles, are calling on you to keep us company this Valentine’s Day. This Sunday, February the 14th, join us for the official release of the BI, the design daily that provides two points of view on a single topic. The bi-continental party will take place from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m., local time, at Rotown in Rotterdam and Tandem Bar in Brooklyn.

 

We wait with bated breath,

 

E. Sean Bailey and Erandi de Silva

 


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PARADISE

February 9, 2010
Asia Pyramid gates
Asia Pyramid, Roger Dean, 1983 (source)

 

Roger Dean is best known for producing the album art for 1970s rock band Yes (and 1980’s group, Asia, pictured above). The album covers depict floating landscapes and organic cityscapes perfectly synced to the visual culture of that period. While the artworks read as ethereal visions of alien worlds, Dean asserts that ‘fantastic as they may look, these are architectural drawings of structures that can be built’. And they have been built.

 

What started as a furniture design project in college eventually transitioned into what Dean calls the Home for Life. It is a womb-like series of rooms, designed on the principle that in order to feel comfortable one must feel safe: hidden, enclosed, with a view out. The pods are pneumatically formed concrete shells, which Dean suggests ‘can be arranged in clusters to form houses, flats, hotels, office towers, or multi-million pound entertainment centers’. While he has yet to convince a developer to shell over the millions of pounds… more

 

Brief Garden, Bevis Bawa, Sri Lanka

 

Paradise is a timeless space of idealized delights. It is a concept that exists cross-culturally addressing either the origins of the universe or the destiny of humanity. In certain instances the idea encapsulates both. When defining a destiny, paradise is imagined as place inhabited by the virtuous dead: Buddhism’s Deva Worlds, Ancient Egypt’s Aaru with its bountiful reed fields and abundance of creatures to hunt and fish, the Celtic Isle of Mag Mell and the Elysian Fields of the Ancient Greeks to name a few. In Abrahamic religions paradise is an archetype that has its roots in the Garden of Eden. The many iterations of paradise may take on lush, often vegetative forms ranging from the pastoral to the exotic, varyingly walled, unwalled, cultivated, and uncultivated.

 

While paradisiacal notions have served to inspire sumptuous architectural proposals such as the grounds of Seville’s Royal Alcazar, Florence’s Boboli Gardens, and Geoffery Bawa’s Lunuganga, paradise itself is unattainable here on earth.

 

E. Sean Bailey

Erandi de Silva

 

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COLONY

February 5, 2010
Martian Chronicles, Green Town The surface of the Moon
Green Town, Les Edwards, 2005 (source)

 

If you have ever scanned the sci-fi/fantasy section of your local library or bookstore, then you are familiar with Les Edwards. Publishing most of his work under the pseudonym ‘David Miller’, his paintings have graced the covers of countless novels, by a myriad of authors. Green Village was commissioned by Hill House Publishers for the definitive edition of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, which is a loose collection of short stories that documents man’s attempts at colonizing Mars, and the implications on the local ecology and indigenous populations. The depiction resembles so many small towns across the United States, and were it not for the lunar footprint at the bottom of the frame it could easily be confused for a portrait of the settlement of America in the 1800s and the Westward expansion.

 

While science fiction typically attempts to contextualize its futuristic and fantastical narratives with futuristic and fantastical architecture and design, I find the mundane approach to planetary colonization much more provocative. What if future life on Mars is the same as… more

 

The Surface of the Moon with Lava Tubes, NASA (source)

 

Scientists have recently discovered a ‘lava tube’ which is a large 213 foot wide x 260 foot deep hole, that may provide a safe site for a lunar colony for space exploration. The space contained by the hole is protected from the moon’s harsh temperatures and meteorites by a thin, but secure, sheet of lava and as a result could serve as a shelter from the severe environmental conditions of the lunar surface. Recent reports are suggesting that this discovery could have NASA returning to the moon by 2020 and establishing a temporary lunar colony as soon as 2025.

 

As the colonial era on Earth arguably draws to a slow close, what lessons can be applied from the experience on this planet, with all of its missteps, when undertaking a colonization where spatial issues are the central focus? As future settlements on the moon will depend on enclosures made by nature for their safety (at least in the short term), perhaps this instance of occupation will be an explicit reminder of the importance of maintaining a balance by respecting ones surroundings.

 

E. Sean Bailey

Erandi de Silva

 

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