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Posts Tagged ‘architecture

“The door handle is the handshake of the building”*…

 

door handle

Door handle and rose (1833–47), manufactured by Copeland & Garrett, Stoke-on-Trent. Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

We have all become suddenly more aware of the moments when we cannot avoid touching elements of public buildings. Architecture is the most physical, most imposing and most present of the arts – you cannot avoid it yet, strangely, we touch buildings at only a very few points – the handrail, perhaps a light switch and, almost unavoidably, the door handle. This modest piece of handheld architecture is our critical interface with the structure and the material of the building. Yet it is often reduced to the most generic, cheaply made piece of bent metal which is, in its way, a potent critique of the value we place on architecture and our acceptance of its reduction to a commodified envelope rather than an expression of culture and craft.

Despite their ubiquity and pivotal role in the haptic experience of architecture, door handles remain oddly under-documented. There are no serious histories and only patchy surveys of design, mostly sponsored by manufacturers. Yet in the development of the design of the door handle we have, in microcosm, the history of architecture, a survey of making and a measure of the development of design and how it relates to manufacture, technology and the body.

For as long as there have been doors there have been door handles…

An appreciation of the apparati of accessibility: “Points of contact – a short history of door handles.”

* Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses

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As we get a grip, we might send thoughtfully-wagered birthday greetings to a man whose thought open a great many (metaphorical) doors, Blaise Pascal; he was born on this date in 1623.  A French mathematician, physicist, theologian, and inventor (e.g.,the first digital calculator, the barometer, the hydraulic press, and the syringe), his commitment to empiricism (“experiments are the true teachers which one must follow in physics”) pitted him against his contemporary René “cogito, ergo sum” Descartes…

 source

Happy Juneteenth!

 

Written by LW

June 19, 2020 at 1:01 am

“I like ruins because what remains is not the total design, but the clarity of thought, the naked structure, the spirit of the thing”*…

 

Raphael

The Chigi Chapel at Santa Maria del Popolo, designed by Raphael

 

Poor Raphael! This year, the five-hundredth anniversary of his death, was to have been his year of glory. After major exhibitions of Michelangelo in 2018 and Leonardo da Vinci in 2019, the museum world was in the midst of celebrating the third member of the glorious trinity of High Renaissance art. Then fear of a new coronavirus forced museums everywhere to take down their banners, chase away visitors, and close their doors…

It’s a kind of tragic coincidence, or perhaps poetic injustice, that celebrations of Raphael’s achievement were interrupted by a deadly virus. It was a viral pneumonia ripping through the papal court that killed Raphael himself, aged thirty-seven, on April 6, 1520. The overworked and exhausted artist was carried off, biographers tell us, by a grandissima febbre. His greatest patron, the Medici pope Leo X, died suddenly of pneumonia a year and a half later, aged forty-six. The most fruitful partnership between artist and patron in High Renaissance Rome had lasted just over seven years. Among the casualties was Raphael’s career as an architect, cut off just as it was beginning to blossom…

Humanists since Petrarch had mourned the destruction of Rome’s ancient fabric and dreamt of restoring the city’s physical grandeur. Earlier pontiffs such as the humanist pope Nicholas V had begun to rebuild Rome in a more classical style. But it was Raphael, supported by Pope Leo and his humanist advisers, especially Baldesar Castiglione and Angelo Colocci, who undertook the serious work of surveying the ruins of Rome and attempting to reconstruct the appearance of the ancient city district by district, building by building. It was this quasi-philological project that fired the imaginations of Renaissance literati and led them to praise Raphael as the greatest architect of the age.

Yet Raphael’s Plan of Rome, with its reconstructions of major monuments—temples, baths, theaters, palaces, fora, and public buildings—was not simply a learned contribution to antiquarian studies. It was a practical project, designed to serve architects and patrons interested in building in the modern classical style, the Renaissance style. In his work as a painter Raphael was famous for collecting the designs of other artists throughout Italy and making their inventions and techniques his own. Michelangelo and his coterie sneered at him, with appalling injustice, as a mere magpie, stealing his best ideas from other artists. As an architect Raphael practiced the same kind of recombinant classicism, choosing elements from innumerable antique structures but reassembling them in harmonious, creative ways. He understood, as modern educational theory does not, that creativity is the child of knowledge…

James Hankins appreciates Raphael’s brief turn as an architect: “Raphael, interrupted.”

* Tadao Ando

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As we reappraise famous men, we might spare thought for a predecssor of Raphael’s, Lorenzo di Pietro; he died on this date in 1480.  Better known by his “work name,” Vecchietta, he was painter, sculptor, goldsmith, and architect of the (earlier) Renaissance.  He was born and did much of his work in Sienna– work prized highly enough in his times to earn him a spot in He is among the artists profiled in Vasari‘s Le Vite delle più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori (The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects often known simply as The Lives).

220px-Vecchietta,_storie_dei_ss._lorenzo_e_stefano_martiri,_1431-39_ca.,_autoritratto_02

Self-portrait. Detail of a fresco in Collegata di Castiglione Olona

source

 

Written by LW

June 6, 2020 at 1:01 am

“People have to live in it”*…

 

michael-sorkin

 

16. The rate at which the seas are rising.
17. Building information modeling (BIM).
18. How to unclog a Rapidograph.
19. The Gini coefficient.
20. A comfortable tread-to-riser ratio for a six-year-old.
21. In a wheelchair.
22. The energy embodied in aluminum.
23. How to turn a corner.
24. How to design a corner.
25. How to sit in a corner…

171. The view from the Acropolis.
172. The way to Santa Fe.
173. The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
174. Where to eat in Brooklyn.
175. Half as much as a London cabbie.
176. The Nolli Plan.
177. The Cerdà Plan.
178. The Haussmann Plan.
179. Slope analysis.
180. Darkroom procedures and Photoshop…

220.  The acoustic performance of Boston Symphony Hall.
221.  How to open the window.
222.  The diameter of the earth.
223.  The number of gallons of water used in a shower.
224.  The distance at which you can recognize faces.
225.  How and when to bribe public officials (for the greater good).
226.  Concrete finishes.
227.  Brick bonds.
228.  The Housing Question by Friedrich Engels.
229.  The prismatic charms of Greek island towns.
230.  The energy potential of the wind…

Short excerpts from Michael Sorkin‘s “Two Hundred Fifty Things an Architect Should Know“… indeed, two hundred fifty things most of us should know…

Sorkin was, as the New York Times observed, “one of architecture’s most outspoken public intellectuals, a polymath whose prodigious output of essays, lectures and designs, all promoting social justice, established him as the political conscience in the field.”  He died a week ago of coronavirus infection.

The whole list (from Sorkin’s 2018 book What Goes Up) is here.

[Image above, source]

* Michael Sorkin

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As we practice practice, we might send enlightening birthday greetings to Charlemagne; he was born on this date in 748.  A ruler who united the majority of western and central Europe (first as King of the Franks, then also King of the Lombards, finally adding Emperor of the Romans), he was the first recognized emperor to rule from western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier; the expanded Frankish state that he founded is called the Carolingian Empire.

In 789, he began the establishment of schools teaching the elements of mathematics, grammar, music, and ecclesiastic subjects; every monastery and abbey in his realm was expected to have a school for the education of the boys of the surrounding villages.  The tradition of learning he initiated helped fuel the expansion of medieval scholarship in the 12th-century Renaissance.

portrait-of-charlemagne source

 

“A design isn’t finished until someone is using it”*…

 

archimaps1

archimaps2

Design for a museum of fine arts, Otto Wagner

 

Archi/Maps—a self-styled “eclectorama” of architectural images—should be bookmarked in every design fan’s browser. Created by Parisian Cedric Benetti, senior creative director at the occasional French fashion magazine Creem and currently a student of architectural history at the Sorbonne, the site offers captions that provide only the most basic information for each image (e.g., “Florence in 1835,” “Bank of Montreal, Winnipeg, Manitoba”) and gives no links to source materials. Thus Archi/Maps serves primarily as a record of one man’s wandering fascination with things architectural—and, perhaps, may inspire visitors to make their own discoveries… [source]

* Brenda Laurel

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As we ruminate on renderings, we might carefully-structured birthday greetings to architect Morris Homans Whitehouse; he was born on this date in 1878.  A primary “author” of Portland’s modern cityscape, he (and colleagues in his firm) designed dozens of Portland’s most recognizable buildings, court houses, schools, sports facilities, churches, and temples through the first half of the 20th century; over a dozen of the buildings he designed appear on the National Register of Historic Places.

Morris_H._Whitehouse source

 

“I installed a skylight in my apartment… the people who live above me are furious”*…

 

Monster-Building_6_Heritage_zolima-citymag

 

It’s easy to see how the Monster Building got its nickname. Located where King’s Road curves around the base of Mount Parker [in Hong Kong], this 19-storey goliath dominates an entire city block. Its façade is pockmarked by air conditioners, drying laundry and corrugated metal awnings, but when the evening sun hits it from the west, casting it in a soft umber glow, it looks beautiful in its own monstrous way.

There’s nothing official about the moniker, although it is common enough that when local coffee chain % Arabica opened a new shop in one of the building’s two courtyards, it referred to it as its “Monster Mansion location.” The name seems to have emerged after the building was featured in two Hollywood blockbusters, Transformers: Age of Extinction and Ghost in the Shell, which turned it into a social media destination…

Together, the five blocks that make up the building contain 2,443 flats, and illegal huts soon filled up the rooftop space. [Lee Ho-yin, head of the University of Hong Kong’s architectural conservation program] estimates the building is home to roughly 6,840 people – a conservative estimate based on Hong Kong’s average household size of 2.8 people. Considering it occupies just 11,000 square metres of space, he says, “the Monster Building is surely the densest spot on earth.”…

So what is it like to live inside a monster? Eva Ho, who works as an administrator at an educational centre, has spent her entire life in the building. “It’s just a normal living place for me,” she says. At its best, the building offers unparalleled convenience, with grocery stores and a wet market on the ground floor, and two courtyards ringed by restaurants. At its worst, Ho says the building can feel “moody,” with a half-century’s worth of grime, poor ventilation and no views to speak of. “What I can see from the windows are the other buildings,” she says…

The remarkable tale in toto at “Hong Kong’s Modern Heritage, Part VII: The Monster Building.”

* Steven Wright

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As we love our neighbors, we might recall that it was on this date in 1903 that Cuba granted the United States a perpetual lease on Guantánamo Bay.  The U.S. had established a presence there during the Spanish-American War; when that conflict ended with the Treaty of Paris of 1898 and Spain ceded Cuba its freedom, the U.S. stayed– first informally, then with the backing of Congress…

In 1901 the United States government passed the Platt Amendment as part of an Army Appropriations Bill. Section VII of this amendment read:

That to enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba, and to protect the people thereof, as well as for its own defense, the government of Cuba will sell or lease to the United States lands necessary for coaling or naval stations at certain specified points to be agreed upon with the President of the United States..

After initial resistance by the Cuban Constitutional Convention, the Platt Amendment was incorporated into the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba in 1901. The Constitution took effect in 1902, and land for a naval base at Guantánamo Bay was granted to the United States the following year.  [source]

Gitmo_Aerial source

 

 

Written by LW

February 23, 2020 at 1:01 am

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