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Posts Tagged ‘architecture

What goes around…

 

The bicycle revolutionized late Victorian and Edwardian society. Between the 1880s and the 1910s, it grew from an expensive fad for the upper classes, to a popular sport, to a marker of freedom for women, and finally, to an affordable mode of transportation for the middle and working classes. The more daring took the riding of the bicycle even further to amazing acrobatic feats atop two pneumatic tyres!

Fancy Cycling, published in 1901, chronicles some of the daring tricks that could be executed on a bicycle…

From the ever-edifying Edwardian Promenade; the photo above is © Shire Publications/Old House, which has just re-released Fancy Cycling.

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As we fixate on fixies, we might recall that it was on this date in 1883 that James Goold Cutler patented the mail chute.  An architect (and later, Mayor of Rochester, NY), Cutler developed the system to allow employees or residents in multi-story buildings– which, with the advent of Otis’ “safe” elevators, were going up in huge numbers– to use a slot on their floor to mail letters which then dropped through a thin shaft to a collection box in the lobby.  Largely extinct now (they had an unfortunate habit of jamming, and then of course, there came email), they were once a standard feature of high-rises.

A Cutler mail chute, still in service as of 2010, in the lobby of the Idaho Building in downtown Boise.

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“A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines…”*

 

From  the New School of Architecture and Design, “Failure by Design”– an infographic that charts major architectural blunders through the ages…   Visit the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Tower of Pisa, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and other famously ill-conceived constructions for explications of the miscalculations at work and the lessons they teach.

Click here (and again) for an enlarged version of the full graphic; read about the project here and here.

* Frank Lloyd Wright

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As we take up our t-squares, we might send exquisitely-wrought birthday greetings to the architect of “The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges; he was born on this date in 1899.  An accomplished poet, essayist, and translator, Borges is of course best remembered for his short stories.  In reaction to 19th century Realism and Naturalism, Borges blended philosophy and fantasy to create an altogether new kind of literary voice.  Indeed, critic Angel Flores credits Borges with founding the movement that Flores was the first to call “Magic Realism.”

There’s no need to build a labyrinth when the entire universe is one.

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Written by LW

August 24, 2013 at 1:01 am

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone…

 

The great men and women of history… and the modern pop song lyrics they might have spoken.

Many more muse-worthy mash-ups at Ms. Attribution.

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As we slip on our headphones, we might send elegantly-ordered birthday greetings to Daniel H. Burnham; he was born on this date in 1846.  America’s preeminent architect at the turn of the 19th to 20th century, Burnham collaborated with Frederick Law Olmsted on the design of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, became the country’s leading city planner (Chicago, Cleveland, Washington DC, San Francisco, among others), designed such iconic buildings as New York’s Flatiron and Washington’s Union Station, and served as President of the American Institute of Architects.

Even fellow-architects impatient with Burnham’s resolute classicism– e.g., Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright– were admirers of the man and his efforts.  (Robert Moses, Burhham’s successor as Master Planner through the midst of the Twentieth Century, might be a reminder to Sullivan and Wright that one should be careful what one wishes for…)

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Tottering Towers…

From The Economist:

The British Parliament’s Clock Tower (more commonly known as Big Ben) is leaning north-west by 0.26 degrees, or 17 inches (43.5cm), according to documents that were recently made public. But Big Ben isn’t alone; architects have been correcting the Leaning Tower of Pisa since the 1170s when it was still being built. Germany’s Leaning Tower of Suurhusen, which at an angle of 5.19 degrees holds the Guinness World Record for the most tilted tower in the world, dates back to the 1450s. In modern times, many buildings have been designed at a deliberate slant. The 165-metre Montréal Tower, finished in 1987, is the world’s tallest man-made leaning tower and inclines at a 45-degree angle. In 1996, the Puerta de Europa in Spain was completed with two towers sloping towards each other at a 15-degree angle. Late this year the Capital Gate is set to be finished in Abu Dhabi at a slant of 18 degrees.

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As we hum “Lean on Me” to ourselves, we might send soulful birthday greetings to Robery Leroy Johnson; he was born on this date in 1911.  A master of the Mississippi Blues, Johnson’s guitar work and vocals have been hugely influential: he ranks fifth on Rolling Stone‘s list of all-time greatest guitarists, and is cited by Eric Clapton as “the most important blues singer that ever lived.”  But this regard developed posthumously; during his lifetime, Johnson was effectively unknown– an itinerant, playing juke joints and street corners.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that a legend has arisen around Johnson: as a young boy committed to music, he was “instructed” to take his guitar to a crossroad near Dockery Plantation at midnight. There he was met the Devil who, after bargaining for Johnson’s soul, took the guitar, tuned it, played a few songs, and then returned it– giving Johnson his otherwordly mastery of the instrument.

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Written by LW

May 8, 2012 at 1:01 am

Crowd(source)ing into a small spot…

When Canadian Graham Hill bought his 420-square-foot Soho apartment in New York City he saw it as a chance to prove that even a tiny apartment could be luxurious – luxury being defined as being able to hold everything he wants.

Founder of the website treehugger.com that tracks, among other things, developments in green design, Mr. Hill, a designer himself, espouses the joy of living with less and the necessity of doing it in as small a footprint as possible.

Mr. Hill, originally from Hudson, Quebec, threw down the design gauntlet on the Web and offered up to $70,000 (U.S.) in cash and prizes. Wanting to generate a public discussion, the competition to re-design his tenement apartment would be crowd-sourced,which means it would involve mass collaboration of ideas from everyone who registered online.

The criteria were specific. There had to be room for 12 people to have a sit-down dinner; for “a comfortable lounging option” for eight people; and room for two overnight guests with “some visual and, ideally, auditory privacy.” In addition, it had to include a home office, a work area with space for a rolling tool chest and a kitchen that could be hidden. Creating the illusion of spaciousness was critical, or, as Mr. Hill explained it: When “the room function is changed, it should not feel like you are sleeping in your office or eating in your bedroom”…

See the results in Mary Ambrose‘s story in The Globe and Mail.

 

As we ponder parsimony, we might we might recall that it was on this date in 1582 that Britain’s second-best-known magician, the necromancer Edward Kelley, first met the best-known–  mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee.

While Dee’s most important legacy was his contributions to the development of modern science, Dee might also be remembered as the man who, while serving abroad as a spy for the Queen, signed his reports “007″…  and was the inspiration Ian Fleming’s trade-naming of James Bond.

 Dee and Kelley (source)

 

Written by LW

March 10, 2012 at 1:01 am

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