Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Space - Art Institute of Chicago 2008

Alsdorf Galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago
August 18, 2008
I snapped this picture before the museum had filled it with their collection of art from India, the Himalayas and Southeast Asia.  Through many lunch breaks I enjoyed seeing this room recreated from a sunless hall to a bright sunlit space.  Excavating the structure (on the left) showed the craft of building to be just as art-worthy as the works it houses.  Brilliant.

Visit Maps at www.artic.edu to see what it looks like now and for more information on how to visit the museum.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Visit to the 9/11 Memorial - May 2012

9/11 Memorial
May 2012
From a Charlie Rose Interview dated Septemeber 13, 2011, Michael Arad, Architect for the 9/11 Memorial, shares his concept behind the design of the memorial:

This is a kind of place that is equivalent of a moment of silence.  Open to you to bring what you want to bring into it.  It is very much about creating a place that allows that to happen.  That brings you into a space that is conducive to contemplation.  To sort of setting aside of all these concerns.  Setting aside the sights and sounds of the City.  Not completely removing yourselves from them.  But the sound of the water and the canopy of trees overhead and this space in front of you should put a filter between you and the concerns of the every day.  And allow you to think.  To think what has happened over the last ten years.  To bring the past into the present.
Arad also describes how the concept "came to him in a dream" where he saw two crisp voids in the Hudson River with water flowing down the walls of them.

During a visit to the memorial in May 2012 I saw many knit-brows, looks of contemplation and thought on many of the faces visiting or working there.  On faces of people placing flowers on the names of loved ones.  On faces of young Navy servicemen.  On faces on the Security.  On many faces.  And I was curious what they were (or appeared to be) thinking.  Was it the site?  The terrorist attack?  The thousands of wasted lives?  The wars we are fighting?  The destruction?  Or was it just the every day?  My coffee is cold?  How am I going to pay for my mortgage this month?  Who knows.

And as I walked through the space I felt open to bring what I wanted to bring.  And I thought what could people take out of it? The new towers rise heroically over these quiet, black voids.  Voids now exist where there were towers.  There is absence as Arad says.  There is a reckoning with agony and pain.  There is a possibility that things can be made better in the world.  There is a feeling that the people who died here did not die in vane.  "I know a place / I'll take you there!" 

There is hope.

But people need to bring what they want to bring.  And when people visit this place, bringing what they bring, what they take out could be something else.

Peace to those lost and to those who mourn them.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Poem 5 14 2012

What is the next style 
Are we beyond style 
Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake
suggest in 2003 that the new architecture
will not be about style
but substance
Is sustainable the new style
When we already know that we
have to get beyond sustainable
Who is the next
Is it an end to the hero in design
What will Calatrava
or Hadid do next
Buildings are expressions
of commerce and economy
Form follows
At one time we dressed
up our buildings with stone
to give these expressions
Some face
Some validity
there's that word again
Cathedrals to money
they are called
And what did we build
our cathedrals for again
Was it for god
What about Stonehenge
Can we get beyond
based on commerce and economy
Can we get beyond
commerce and economy
There can be
Spirit in a building
Spirit in a place 
Commerce and economy
Created these buildings and places
vice versa
What is the NEXT

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday, April 06, 2012

Nature as Precedent

A featured project from Architizer.  The main idea is that the building, or community really, mimics nature where the residential units are like leaves on a tree.  There is a framework support system of transportation and utilities (a tree trunk) that support the residential pods (the leaves) which are interchangeable. 
"World of Chlorophyll" by IAMZ Design Studio

"World of Chlorophyll" reminds me of Richard Roger's Lloyds of London building (1986) as seen in the video below ...

Love the use of the Pink Floyd song here.  But that's another subject altogether.  There is also his Pompidou Center in Paris (1977)  ...

"World of Chlorophyll" looks like the continued development of an idea where the systems of a building are laid bare.  When broken up, modern buildings are a collection of systems.  Modern buildings are no longer just shells like a tent or tee-pee is.  Our body is a collection of systems:  circulatory, nervous, digestive, muscular, etc.   It seems that as these systems are studied, developed and even glorified, the more we realize that nature is the blueprint. 

The internet shows how interconnected we can be.  Has it really shown how interconnected we have always been?  Are we as humans really all that set apart from each other, from the environment?  Are we all part of a system?  Should we work with the system?  Have we been dillusional in our thinking that we can control it?  Is the new mantra of "zero-impact" really all that new? 

What we make, our buildings for one, is an expression of ourselves.  It seems, increasingly we say we are "going back" to Nature.  Have we ever left?  Can we ever leave the system that is Nature?  Again, are we dillusional? The Earth, a system, is some 4 billion years old.  In comparison, we only live to some 80 or so years (if we're lucky).   In the awe of this fact alone I am filled with humility.

We have been bold.  That is for sure.  And we need to keep thinking big.  With big ideas like the "World of Chlorophyll" we are continuing in that tradition. 

Like leaves on a tree
"World of Chlorophyll" by IAMZ Design Studio

Videos by kdanman00 and msafieldtripfilms on Youtube
Images from Architizer

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Future Cities and the Vertical Farm

The vertical farm by ExplainingtheFuture.com.  Where to get food, water and energy in the future?

Other than the pods shown in the image above, here are some applications of the idea:

For single family homes:  Home gardens or shared community gardens where open lawns now exist.

For multi-family developments:  The same as above / if there is a flat roof, garden there

For retirement communities: Nursing and activity departments can encourage gardening on the premises.  This will create and encourage mobility, connectivity and continuity.

For schools:  Science classes can network with the community and retailers to teach where food comes from and provide hands-on learning.

For Chicago:  Use some of the Park District land.  Vacant land can be urban gardens.  This is already happening.  Current policy encourages turning vacant land  "....into viable, productive urban green spaces."  As reported in Huffington Post, Sept. 2011, Mayor Emanuel stated:

"This policy is about taking land that we have here in the city of Chicago that is literally sitting fallow both as land as well as a revenue base or tax base and turning it into a job creator and a revenue creator. And there's great parts of the city where that exists," Emanuel said, as reported by WBEZ.

Look at Detroit ...

... Mexico City ...

For grocers big and small:  Make use of those large flat roofs by creating roof gardens.  Make use of the wasteland that is a parking lot by gardening in and over it.

For any retailers and malls:  See the idea for the grocers above

For religious institutions:  Inspire people to appreciate our commonalities and differences and plant the seed, literal and spiritual, for growth, responsibility, and a sense of community.

"Make no small plans"

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Shanghai 2010 versus Los Angeles 2019 in Blade Runner

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sea Tree - by Waterstudio

Sea Tree by Waterstudio
Sea Tree:  A proposal for a floating habitat built soley for flora and fauna.  The image is from Open Buildings.  As Bryan Walsh has written, "Nature is over."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Deal Reached in AIDS Memorial Dispute - Architectural Record

Winning Design:  The limitless and serene INFINITE FOREST by Studio a+i
Image by Guillaume Paturel/Courtesy Studio a+i
From a March 15, 2012 article in Architectural Record by C. J. Hughes:

"Studio a+i’s concept for an AIDS memorial in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village will be scaled down to less than one tenth of the size envisioned by supporters."

Link to the full article below:

A "deal" may have been reached but the final design sounds wide open.  Below is my proposal for the memorial.  The idea is a place of the park, part of it, and yet set apart.  Visitors to the memorial, the learning center and the park are given opportunities and places to create their own experiences and remembrances. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"In the future ... Everywhere is a portal to anywhere else", Paul Nicholls


"In the future we will establish radical relationships with our surroundings. The Global becomes the Local.  Everywhere is a portal to anywhere else.  Leaving the notion of place, questioning its identity in a database of possible environments ..."

Any one remember Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone in Total Recall, 1990?  Will painting a room become obsolete? 

Paul Nicholls says "In the future ..." Seems like we are not too far from it.  The video below by stevecadwell shows just how close we are.  A similar display is in Miami International Airport, FL, USA.

Is it the new _______?

a) blackboard
b) flatscreen
c) wall finish
d) media wall
e) storefront
f) stimulation within a health care environment
g) church altar
h) conference room
i) etc.
j) all of the above

Is it new? Is it the future? Or, as seen in the Snibbe video below, is it already here?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

NATURE IS OVER by Bryan Walsh, TIME MAGAZINE 3/12/12

Photo for TIME by Johannes Mann / Corbis
Below are excerpts from an article in TIME Magazine, 3/12/12, by Bryan Walsh.  It is called NATURE IS OVER.  The message is double edged: either defeat or a call to responsibility and vision.  Choose the latter ...

For a species that has been around for less than 1% of 1% of the earth's 4.5 billion-year history, Homo sapiens has certainly put its stamp on the place. Humans have had a direct impact on more than three-quarters of the ice-free land on earth. Almost 90% of the world's plant activity now takes place in ecosystems where people play a significant role. We've stripped the original forests from much of North America and Europe and helped push tens of thousands of species into extinction. Even in the vast oceans, among the few areas of the planet uninhabited by humans, our presence has been felt thanks to overfishing and marine pollution. Through artificial fertilizers--which have dramatically increased food production and, with it, human population--we've transformed huge amounts of nitrogen from an inert gas in our atmosphere into an active ingredient in our soil, the runoff from which has created massive aquatic dead zones in coastal areas. And all the CO2 that the 7 billion-plus humans on earth emit is rapidly changing the climate--and altering the very nature of the planet.

Human activity now shapes the earth more than any other independent geologic or climatic factor. Our impact on the planet's surface and atmosphere has become so powerful that scientists are considering changing the way we measure geologic time. Right now we're officially living in the Holocene epoch, a particularly pleasant period that started when the last ice age ended 12,000 years ago. But some scientists argue that we've broken into a new epoch that they call the Anthropocene: the age of man. "Human dominance of biological, chemical and geological processes on Earth is already an undeniable reality," writes Paul Crutzen, the Nobel Prize--winning atmospheric chemist who first popularized the term Anthropocene. "It's no longer us against 'Nature.' Instead, it's we who decide what nature is and what it will be.”

... Today the total human biomass is a hundred times as great as that of any other large animal species that has ever walked the earth. That growth has been aided by the use of fossil fuels as humans have learned to tap coal, oil and natural gas, which has steadily warmed the atmosphere and further altered the planet.

After World War II we added nuclear power to the mix--making radioactive fallout one more physical mark of our presence--and global population and economic expansion went into overdrive. The change has been so rapid that scientists have dubbed the past half-century the Great Acceleration--and this period shows little sign of slowing as economic growth and improved health care extends the life spans and turbocharges the resource use of billions of people in the developing world.

That's why the Anthropocene demands a dramatic change for environmentalism. Since the days of John Muir--the 19th century Scottish-American naturalist who founded the Sierra Club--the goal of environmentalism has been the preservation of wilderness. Muir fought to create some of the U.S.'s first national parks, in Yosemite and the sequoia forest, with the aim of protecting untrammeled nature from human activity. People were seen as a threat to wilderness and to naturalness, and isolation was regarded as the solution.


The reality is that in the Anthropocene, there may simply be no room for nature, at least not nature as we've known and celebrated it--something separate from human beings--something pristine. There's no getting back to the Garden, assuming it ever existed. For environmentalists, that will mean changing strategies, finding methods of conservation that are more people-friendly and that allow wildlife to coexist with human development. It means, if not embracing the human influence on the planet, at least accepting it.


But managing the Anthropocene will necessitate more than simply banning certain pollutants or activities. It will also mean promoting the sort of technology that environmentalists have often opposed, from nuclear power--still the biggest carbon-free utility-scale energy source, despite the risk of accidents and the problem of radioactive-waste disposal--to genetically modified crops that could allow us to grow more food on less land, saving precious space for wildlife. It will mean privileging cities, because dense urbandevelopments turn out to be the most sustainable and efficient settlements on the planet. And if we prove unable to quickly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, we may be required to consciously fiddle with the climate through geoengineering, using artificial clouds or other planetary-scale technology to reduce the earth's temperature directly.

Of course, humans have been effectively geoengineering the planet for centuries. We were just doing it unconsciously, as a by-product of our relentless expansion. Humans aren't even the first species to create change on a planetary scale. The earth's atmosphere is oxygenated because cyanobacteria helped produce that gas more than 2 billion years ago. But even though cyanobacteria weren't conscious of what they were doing, we are, or at least we should be. Our ability to comprehend the full extent of the human impact on earth puts us in a unique position as planetary gardeners, a responsibility we have no choice but to take on. We have been lucky for much of our species' existence, blessed by the comfortably warm climate of the Holocene, able to spread our growing numbers across a seemingly limitless planet.

A  concept for a human habitat of controlled growth where people decide to live in dense urban areas and give unsustainable suburban sprawl back to Nature.

But that age is over, replaced by the uncertainty of the Anthropocene, whether geologists decide to formally call it that or not. We'll decide whether human beings continue to thrive or flame out, taking the planet down along the way. It may be an unhappy reality, because there's no guarantee that the Anthropocene--crowded with billions of human beings--will be as conducive to life as the past 12,000 years have been. "We are as gods," writes the environmentalist and futurist Stewart Brand. "And we have to get good at it."

A High Place for Chicago - 2006 to Now:  A Concept for Greenroofing the Highways of Chicago

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet 2008

This building by Snøhetta shows how landscape and building can be the same. The video is by Einar Eliassen.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Landscape Design: General Maister Memorial Park - Slovenia

Very dynamic and prismatic landscape design.  From an article by Landezine:
General Maister Memorial Park
Photo by Miran Kambič

General Maister Memorial Park
Photo by Miran Kambič

General Maister Memorial Park
Photo by Miran Kambič

General Maister Memorial Park
Photo by Miran Kambič

Slovenia 2007

"The park, dedicated to General Maister and the soldiers for the northern border was planned as an abstract three-dimensional space, where the paths lead around geometrically cut grass crests. It is an abstract representation of the crest of the northern border, for which Maister’s soldiers fought."

"The crest next to the road is truncated and ends with a supporting wall, which serves as a part of the memorial symbol, for onit there is a line of metal sticks, bearing the names of the soldiers for the northern border. The symbolic composition ends with an abstract life-size bronze figure of a horseman."

Landscape architecture: Bruto (Matej Kučina, Tanja Maljevac)
Sculpture: Primož Pugelj – sculptor

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Light and Music: Chicago's Luminous Field

Luminous Field is by Luftwerk.  To really get the feel for this and what it's about watch the videos.  The photos are mine and the videos are by others:  explorechicago, thequinzilla, and thereseflanagan.  Wonderful hearing all the different languages while visiting this installation which ran until 2/21/2012.  Chicago, international City ...

Luminous Field 1

Luminous Field 2

Luminous Field 3

Luminous Field 4

Luminous Field 5

Luminous Field 6

Luminous Field 7

Luminous Field 8

Luminous Field 9

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ocean Imagination: BIG Thinking in South Korea

Ocean Imagination

“Ocean Imagination” is the proposal for the Thematic Expo Pavilion of Yeosu 2012 by Unsangdong Architects.
Ocean Imagination
Ocean Imagination
 This “Ocean Gate” takes the culture of the sea shore and shifts it vertically and allows visitors to experience the ocean’s ecosystems. This move creates a dynamic visual that is a constant reminder of nature’s different environments, flora and fauna.

Ocean Imagination

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dubai: The Future is Now

As the title of above video suggests the real city of Dubai seems inspired by George Lucas' Star Wars fantasy below.

George Lucas' Coruscant 1999

George Lucas' Coruscant 1999

Sunday, February 05, 2012

A Place Set Apart: The NYC AIDS Memorial Park Design Competition

memorial court
This is my entry for the NYC AIDS Memorial Park Design Competition hosted by Architizer and chaired by Michael Arad, designer of the 9/11 Memorial.  A sunken court with an altar - a living memorial - where personal tributes can be placed.  The place is a quiet place.  A place to remember.  A place to contemplate.  It is a special place in NYC for those to remember loved ones, known, unnamed, unremembered.  A place to honor health care providers who helped those with AIDS.  A place to remember those who died from AIDS.  A place to think about AIDS.  A place to recall and feel our common ties.  A place to move on. A place set apart.

There is no true standing memorial to HIV victims . . . so the bland sarcophagus along Seventh Avenue holds that place in the geography of our plague memory; it is a museum, almost, a place haunted by Whitman’s “carols of Death.”

– David France, New York Magazine

aerial view

street plan - the park

basement plan - the learning center
The Altar in the Memorial Court is in line with the main open-plan digital exhibition space.  Since all the walls in the digital exhibition space are glass the Altar and Court are always visible.  The plan is set up to encourage visitors to remember. 

From Architizer about the site:

The site is located at the gateway to New York City's storied West Village neighborhood and blocks from the Chelsea neighborhood, on a triangle of land bounded by Seventh Avenue, West 12th Street and Greenwich Avenue. The cultural significance of this site cannot be overstated; it stands at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in New York City through its adjacency to the former St. Vincent's Hospital.

St. Vincent's is the single site most associated with the AIDS crisis in New York City. The hospital figures prominently in The Normal Heart, Angels in America, As Is and other important pieces of literature and art that narrate the stories of the plague years in New York. The area is also in close proximity to the LGBT Community Center, where ACT-UP and other AIDS advocacy/support groups first organized. The memories, personal stories, and associations with the hospital run very deep.

This triangle was the location of the Loew's Sheridan movie theater until the late 1970s when it was demolished to make room for the hospital's expansion including a loading facility, medical infrastructure and below-grade storage space. St. Vincent's hospital tragically went bankrupt in April 2010, and the entire former medical campus is being redeveloped into a new luxury residential development.

As part of that redevelopment, this site is being redesigned as new public open space. For many years, the community has expressed desire that the site be turned into a public park. The West Village, like most of Lower Manhattan, is starved for public, green, open places for relaxation.

The significance of the location, coupled with this redevelopment, creates an unprecedented opportunity. We strongly believe that the time has come for New York City to recognize this important history with a living memorial park that connects current and future generations and guides us forward.

section looking towards Saint VIncent Hospital

Also from Architizer:

We are looking for designs that function simultaneously as a useable park for the surrounding park-starved neighborhood and a significant memorial to the AIDS Crisis. Designs will be evaluated in their success at creating a functional park, available for both passive and active recreation, and a significant memorial with a strong commemorative narrative. Designers should consider reusing existing below-grade space to expand and extend the commemorative narrative: As a space for exhibition, teaching, meditation, or memorial elements. The park, memorial features, and any use of below-grade space must be integrated both functionally and aesthetically.               

Additional evaluation criteria call for park designs that:
  • Creatively and comprehensively integrate the important commemorative narrative into the fabric and essence of the park to create a living memorial
  • Seamlessly integrate any adaptive reuse of the below-grade space, including issues of access/egress and ventilation
  • Are welcoming, accessible and usable by all
  • Seek to maximize planted areas and gardens
  • Include ample seating and pedestrian walkways                   

My solution proposes a sunken court that ties the park above with the learning center below.  The court is oriented towards the original hospital paying homage.  A water monument stands on the 7th avenue end signifying loss while a garden is placed on the opposite Greenwich avenue end to signify life.

Functionally the court is designed to work with the existing grid structure of the abandoned basement.  The court is separate from the learning center and provides an opportunity for natural light to penetrate the basement below as it punctures ground from above.  Stairwells also act as lightwells.

The park is designed to protect the memorial.  Also the memorial is part of the park.  It is a mix of public and intimate.  The park has places to sit, enjoy, play chess, stroll, farm.  But through out the park the memorial with its water monument is always perceived and present.  People should not be forgotten.

The learning center is completely accessible from above and below.  Tunnels under West 12th and 7th are re-used so that pedestrians can get to and from the park safely.  Elevators are provided.

All this to provide a place to remember.  A place set apart.  To remember those lost to AIDS.  To learn.  To sit.  To move on.  It is a respite from the urban hub-bub.  Sweet.  Bittersweet.  Bitter.  Sweet again.

Life from death ...

obelisk at Greenwich and 7th
A digital display for time, art, weather, and news provides a new landmark for the intersection at Greenwich and 7th.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Gehry - New York

Great video and music of Gehry's New York.  He says he is "resurrecting the bay window".  I'll say.

Bay Window - OLD
Bay Window - GEHRY

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Exploring Saint Croix

One of many abandoned sugar mills dotting the island.  A great example of great design derived from function.
Interior of a sugar mill
All the stone is local including coral from the shore.  People were building GREEN long before we have been.
Found this picture of a restored sugar mill.  The original fins would have been fabric.  Turns out there was a workers' revolt called the Fireburn of 1878 that left many plantations on the island in ashes.  These islands have been fought over by many, poor and wealthy, for many generations.  Such a violent past.  You would have never guessed it from seeing the serene beauty of the place.
Ruins of the plantation home downhill from the sugar mill
Government House Courtyard
The building was the home of a Danish merchant.

Goverment House in Christiansted
The way the sculptures were integrated with the ballustrade gives is a chilling goth Medusa-effect.  Trapped in stone.

Vines Taking over a Brick Colonade.  I believe this is the Strangler Fig Vine, an invasive plant species.
Nature finds a way ...  CLICK the video below

Friday, January 20, 2012

Yayoi Kusama's Obliteration Room

I see this installation by Yayoi Kusama as a physical representation of the virtualization of real space.  Reality is pixelated.