(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘architecture

“Most things are never meant”*…

A coastal engineer collects a concentrated sample of algae and bacteria on Lake Erie in Toledo, Ohio

Protein-packed diets add excess nitrogen to the environment through urine, rivaling pollution from agricultural fertilizers…

In the U.S., people eat more protein than they need to. And though it might not be bad for human health, this excess does pose a problem for the country’s waterways. The nation’s wastewater is laden with the leftovers from protein digestion: nitrogen compounds that can feed toxic algal blooms and pollute the air and drinking water. This source of nitrogen pollution even rivals that from fertilizers washed off of fields growing food crops, new research suggests.

When we overconsume protein—whether it comes from lentils, supplements or steak—our body breaks the excess down into urea, a nitrogen-containing compound that exits the body via urine and ultimately ends up in sewage… the majority of nitrogen pollution present in wastewater—some 67 to 100 percent—is a by-product of what people consume…

Once it enters the environment, the nitrogen in urea can trigger a spectrum of ecological impacts known as the “nitrogen cascade.” Under certain chemical conditions, and in the presence of particular microbes, urea can break down to form gases of oxidized nitrogen. These gases reach the atmosphere, where nitrous oxide (N2O) can contribute to warming via the greenhouse effect and nitrogen oxides (NOx) can cause acid rain. Other times, algae and cyanobacteria, photosynthetic bacteria also called blue-green algae, feed on urea directly. The nitrogen helps them grow much faster than they would normally, clogging vital water supplies with blooms that can produce toxins that are harmful to humans, other animals and plants. And when the algae eventually die, the problem is not over. Microorganisms that feast on dead algae use up oxygen in the water, leading to “dead zones,” where many aquatic species simply cannot survive, in rivers, lakes and oceans. Blooms from Puget Sound to Tampa, Fla., have caused large fish die-offs…

If it’s not one thing, it’s another: “Eating Too Much Protein Makes Pee a Problem Pollutant in the U.S.,” from Sasha Warren (@space_for_sasha) in @sciam.

* Philip Larkin, “Going, Going” (in High Windows)

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As we deliberate on our diets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1888 that Theophilus Van Kannel received a patent for the revolving door, a design that came to characterize the entrances of (then-proliferating) skyscrapers and that earned him induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. But lest we think him “all work,” his other notable invention was the popular (at least in the early 20th century) amusement park ride “Witching Waves.”

Theophilus Van Kannel’s patent drawing for a revolving door, 1888 [source]
Theophilus Van Kannel [source]

“I thought about the screws and their happiness”*…

A contemplation of craft…

I clock my screws, meaning I orient the slot in the screw heads so they are all vertical or horizontal. But I don’t think it’s a mark of superior aesthetics. It’s just something I do, like lining up the silverware on the dining table just so. I can’t help it…

Yesterday I took a drive to Columbus, Ind., one of the country’s repositories of excellent post-war architecture. Check out the Wikipedia page. Or the NPR story on the town. Or the great Kogonada-directed movie, “Columbus.”

My favorite building we toured was the First Christian Church, designed by Eliel Saarinen. Considered one of the first modern church structures in America, the building offers nod after nod to the cathedrals and churches of Europe. Yet the building, completed during World War II, is a complete break with the Old World. Even after 75 years, the church feels a beacon of hope, optimism and light.

One of the prominent features of the interiors is the extensive wooden lattice work, which is affixed with tens of thousands of perfectly clocked screws…

The Church of the Clocked Screws,” from Christopher Schwarz (@RudeMechanic) at Lost Art Press— eminently worthy of reading in full.

* Haruki Murakami

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As we applaud alignment, we might recall that it was on this date in 1852 that Cullen Whipple was awarded patent 9477 for his “Mechanism for Pointing and Threading Screw-Blanks in the Same Machine.” A machinist, Whipple had invented the first practical device for making pointed screws (a marked improvement on earlier screws, which were blunt-ended and required the drilling of “starter holes”).  Cullen joined with partners to incorporate The New England Screw Co., then went on to invent and patent seven other machines that improved the manufacture of screws.

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“There are only patterns, patterns on top of patterns, patterns that affect other patterns. Patterns hidden by patterns. Patterns within patterns.”*…

… and so many more in a beautiful 1878 book of brick patterns, published in France by architect J Lacroux: “Brick Tease,” from @presentcorrect.

* Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

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As we muse on masonry, we might send carefully-designed birthday greetings to John W. “Jack” Ryan; he was born on this date in 1926.  A Yale-trained engineer, Ryan left Raytheon (where he worked on the Navy’s Sparrow III and Hawk guided missiles) to join Mattel.  He oversaw the conversion of the Mattel-licensed “Bild Lili” doll into Barbie (contributing, among other things, the joints that allowed “her” to bend at the waist and the knee) and created the Hot Wheels line.  But he is perhaps best remembered as the inventor of the pull-string, talking voice box that gave Chatty Cathy her voice.

Ryan with his wife, Zsa Zsa Gabor. She was his first and only spouse; he, her sixth.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 12, 2021 at 1:00 am

“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all it’s flavour”*…

Possibly the most remarkable city block in the world…

The Illa de la Discòrdia (Catalan pronunciation: [ˈiʎə ðə lə disˈkɔɾði.ə]) or Mansana de la Discòrdia [mənˈsanə ðə lə disˈkɔɾði.ə] — “Block of Discord”; Spanish: Manzana de la Discordia — is a city block on Passeig de Gràcia in the Eixample district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The block is noted for having buildings by four of Barcelona’s most important Modernista architects, Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Antoni Gaudí, Josep Puig i Cadafalch, and Enric Sagnier, in close proximity. As the four architects’ styles were very different, the buildings clash with each other and the neighboring buildings. They were all built in the early years of the 20th century…

Wikipedia

From the left in the photo above:

Casa Lleó M Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1905)

Casa Mulleras Enric Sagnier (1906)

Casa Bonet Marceliano Coquillat (1901/1915)

Casa Amatller Josep Puig i Cadafalch (1900)

Casa Batlló Antoni Gaudí (1877/1906)

* William Cowper

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As we marvel, we might send boldly-sketched birthday greetings to Sir Peter Cook; he was born on this date in 1936. An architect, lecturer, and writer, he was a founder of Archigram, a group that championed neofuturistic design as a challenge to the complacency of modernism…. every solution becomes the next problem…

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“As long as art lives never shall I accept that men are truly dead”*…

From a self-portrait by Giorgio Vasari [source]

An appreciation of Giorgio Vasari’s seminal The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, the beginning of art history as we know it

I found Giorgio Vasari through Burckhardt and Barzun. The latter writes: “Vasari, impelled by the unexampled artistic outburst of his time, divided his energies between his profession of painter and builder in Florence and biographer of the modern masters in the three great arts of design. His huge collection of Lives, which is a delight to read as well as a unique source of cultural history, was an amazing performance in an age that lacked organized means of research. […] Throughout, Vasari makes sure that his reader will appreciate the enhanced human powers shown in the works that he calls ‘good painting’ in parallel with ‘good letters’.”

Vasari was mainly a painter, but also worked as an architect. He was not the greatest artist in the world, but he had a knack for ingratiating himself with the rich and powerful, so his career was quite successful. Besides painting, he also cared a lot about conservation: both the physical preservation of works and the conceptual preservation of the fame and biographies of artists. He gave a kind of immortality to many lost paintings and sculptures by describing them to us in his book.

His Lives are a collection of more than 180 biographies of Italian artists, starting with Cimabue (1240-1302) and reaching a climax with Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). They’re an invaluable resource, as there is very little information available about these people other than his book; his biography of Botticelli is 8 pages long, yet on Botticelli’s wikipedia page, Vasari is mentioned 36 times…

Giorgio Vasari was one of the earliest philosophers of progress. Petrarch (1304-1374) invented the idea of the dark ages in order to explain the deficiencies of his own time relative to the ancients, and dreamt of a better future:

My fate is to live among varied and confusing storms. But for you perhaps, if as I hope and wish you will live long after me, there will follow a better age. This sleep of forgetfulness will not last forever. When the darkness has been dispersed, our descendants can come again in the former pure radiance.

To this scheme of ancient glory and medieval darkness, Vasari added a third—modern—age and gave it a name: rinascita. And within his rinascita, Vasari described an upward trajectory starting with Cimabue, and ending in a golden age beginning with eccentric Leonardo and crazed sex maniac Raphael, only to give way to the perfect Michelangelo in the end. It is a trajectory driven by the modern conception of the artist as an individual auteur, rather than a faceless craftsman.

The most benign Ruler of Heaven in His clemency turned His eyes to the earth, and, having perceived the infinite vanity of all those labours, the ardent studies without any fruit, and the presumptuous self-sufficiency of men, which is even further removed from truth than is darkness from light, and desiring to deliver us from such great errors, became minded to send down to earth a spirit with universal ability in every art and every profession.

This golden age was certainly no utopia, as 16th century Italy was ravaged by political turbulence, frequent plague, and incessant war. Many of the artists mentioned were at some point taken hostage by invading armies; Vasari himself had to rescue a part of Michelangelo’s David when it was broken off in the battle to expel the Medici from Florence.

And yet Vasari saw greatness in his time, and the entire book is structured around a narrative of artistic progress. He documented the spread of new technologies and techniques (such as the spread of oil painting, imported from the Low Countries), which—as an artist—he had an intimate understanding of.

This story of progress is paralleled with the rediscovery (and, ultimately, surpassing) of the ancients. It would take until the 17th century for the querelle des Anciens et des Modernes to really take off in France, but in Florence Vasari had already seen enough to decide the question in favor of his contemporaries—the essence of the Enlightenment is already present in 1550…

Art history, cultural history, tech history, the history of ideas– a review of Vasari’s The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by @AlvaroDeMenard.

* Giorgio Vasari

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As we frame it up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1946 that the first Cannes Film Festival opened.  It had originally been scheduled for September, 1939 as an “answer” to the Venice Film Fest, which had become a propaganda vehicle for Mussolini and Hitler; but the outbreak of World War II occasioned a delay.

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