Parisians claim that in Paris, one is never more than 400 yards away from a Metro station. In Los Angeles, I am equally certain that one is always within 400 yards of a palm tree. Scores of streets are lined with them; they are ubiquitous in domestic and public gardens; they rise from hilltops; they tower above cemeteries; they front museums, movie studios, hotels, hospitals, municipal buildings, modest apartments, and lavish villas; they are clustered around swimming pools; they dominate the skyline — they are everywhere, and have never been more popular. The city’s 200-year love affair with palms has never ceased, and rather than waning, the affair is waxing. From the first palms planted by Spanish padres to the city of Beverly Hills, which recently, in an act of cosmetic alteration, created a palm-lined, palm-bisected thoroughfare on upscale Rodeo Drive, the palm has been the tree of choice for Angelenos. [more inside]
A visual tour of downtown Los Angeles, now and then:
CIRCA's "You Should Move to ..." series is a charming exploration of "beautiful, under-the-radar old house towns where big charm can be had for little cost." [more inside]
In his new book Ciphers, German photographer Christopher Gielen (previously) reveals haunting images of our endlessly repetitive development through aerial views of American urban sprawl. [more inside]
The post-war boom gave rise to new concepts of modernity in domestic architecture and, of course, massive suburban development. One such concept was the California ranch-style home, pioneered by Cliff May (1909-1989). Another contemporary architect, Joseph Eichler (1900-1974), had his own vision of modernity in America's new suburbs, but both styles used similar language. At the time, these new designs for living were seen as modern and at the cutting edge of sophistication, but sophistication within reach of the average professional, middle-class family. They were designed to have a practical as well as an aesthetic value. Welcome to mid-century modern. [more inside]
Mountain Lab: An Interview With Scott McGuire
"As a form of minor architecture," the resulting short article explained, "tents are strangely overlooked. They are portable, temporary, and designed to withstand even the most extreme conditions, but they are usually viewed as simple sporting goods. They are something between a large backpack and outdoor lifestyle gear—certainly not small buildings. But what might an architect learn from the structure and design of a well-made tent?" Amongst the group of people we spoke with that day was outdoor equipment strategist Scott McGuire, an intense, articulate, and highly focused advocate for all things outdoors.
Imbued with asymmetrical charm and handcrafted whimsy, Storybook Style houses evoke the aesthetic of classic fairy tales, inside and out. [more inside]
"[S]tock jobbers[,]... confidence men,... an impecunious transportation entity", politicos, judges, scoundrels and Jackie O.: the near-death of Grand Central Terminal, and how it foretold the 2008 financial crisis. [sl Harper's]
Celsus is a collaborative wiki for articles related to the history, design, construction, and renovation of libraries. [more inside]
How do you destroy the aesthetic integrity of the world's fourteenth tallest building? All you need are five massive letters.
The Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and recently voted Britain's favorite building of the past 175 years, has been devastated by fire. While the stone exterior of Mackintosh's greatest architectural masterpiece may survive, Mackintosh's interiors are presumed lost.
“When a library is open, no matter its size or shape, democracy is open, too.” Maria Popova calls the new book The Public Library: A Photographic Essay, which took eighteen years to photograph and compile, "a wistful yet hopeful reminder of just what’s at stake if we let the greatest bastion of public knowledge humanity has ever known slip into the neglected corner of cultural priorities."
BXL swings in the cracks is a "Collective who up-cycles waste (scrap wood, discarded domestic furniture, ...) into parasite interventions with the aim to vitalize public spaces." [more inside]
Gorgeous photographs of Tibet, thousands of them by Jan Reurink with excellent, informative captions. Exceptionally detailed, clear photographs of a huge variety of Tibetan landscapes, architecture of all kinds, flowers, wildlife, cool details, monastic cities. Of course, all kinds of Tibetan people, from a high plains cowboy in a dusty town, monastic staff, nomads to kids. [more inside]
The "White City" of Tel Aviv is a World Heritage site with the world's largest collection of Bauhaus ("International Style") buildings. In his blog TLV Buildings Israeli artist Avner Givelter depicts these buildings' facades with local colors and typography in the style of the similarly-charming Windows of New York. [previously] [more inside]
Shigeru Ban’s Pritzker win proves that building hope is finally in vogue
The architecture world has a new laureate, and he builds in cardboard. Japan’s Shigeru Ban was named this week as the winner of the Pritzker Prize, an annual award that is often called architecture’s Nobel – and his win sends a clear and timely message. Social change, sustainability and improving the lives of the many: This is what matters now to the world of architecture. With Ban’s Pritzker, the global design elite is marking that shift.Take a Tour of Pritzker Winner Shigeru Ban's Paper Tube Structures [more inside]
“Just as leaves in a tree are naturally arranged to get the maximum sun, we’ve mathematically arranged these balconies and cantilevers to catch and shade the sun.”
Surfridge is a ghost town in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. It overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is now home to 125,000 El Segundo blue butterflies.
A catalog of places that used to be a Pizza Hut. The iconic "Red Roof" design was the subject of a recent episode of 99% Invisible (previously).
After 12 years of anticipation, the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere is ready for its close-up. How 10,000 workers lifted 104 floors, gave new life to an international symbol and created one spectacular view.
The legendary Bell Labs Complex in Holmdel, New Jersey was designed by Eero Saarinen and is a gargantuan example of modernist architecture. Though it was shuttered in 2007, there are plans to revitalize it into a mixed use commercial area. However those plans eventually play out, it's fun to have a look at the place both then and now. As a bonus, feast your eyes on a pair of back-to-back videos that first show the construction and opening of the facility in 1962 and then (starting at the 2:35 mark in the second video link) a commemoration of the facility's 20th anniversary in 1982 (Part one, Part two, Part three).
V-Day cards for planners, architects, urban designers, landscape architects, transportation engineers, and those who love them.
Walking City - "Referencing the utopian visions of 1960’s architecture practice Archigram, Walking City is a slowly evolving video sculpture. The language of materials and patterns seen in radical architecture transform as the nomadic city walks endlessly, adapting to the environments she encounters."
Is it possible to create a prison management game without trivializing or misrepresenting the issue of mass incarceration? So begins a critique by Paolo Pedercini, developer of "games addressing issues of social and environmental justice," of Introversion Software's upcoming game Prison Architect, currently in still in development but available as an early access beta. Prison Architect's producer, Mark Morris, and its designer, Chris Delay, respond in a lengthy youtube video. [more inside]
Architecture of Doom is a Tumblr that collects images of "bleak/ gloomy/ forbidding/ desolate/ unfortunate and totalitarian architecture" from sources like Fuck Yeah Brutalism and Failed Architecture. The latter bills itself as a "research platform that aims to open up new perspectives on urban failure – from what it’s perceived to be, what’s actually happening and how it’s represented to the public" and offers some interesting essays and case studies – for example: Hotel Jugoslavija: Spacio-temporal Mosaics of Memorabilia, Function Follows Form: How Berlin Turns Horror Into Beauty, and The Poetry of Decay.
Shigeru Ban: ‘People’s architect’ combines permanence and paper"
Generally speaking, an architect’s style is defined by particular forms or shapes. There’s Frank Lloyd Wright’s prominent horizontal lines, for instance; Le Corbusier’s simple white boxes; or, more recently, the deliberately abstract masses of Frank Gehry — of Guggenheim Bilbao fame. But in the view of Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, such formal elements are ultimately little more than reflections of current trends — in the first two cases above, Modernism, and in the third, “blobbism,” or the recent taste for irregular shapes made possible by computer-aided design. According to Ban, the only way for architects to keep their work free from the influence of such transient fashions is to come up with new ways to actually build things — new materials, for example, or new approaches to structural engineering. His own answer? Paper — or, to be more precise, cardboard tubes.[more inside]
The Museum of Modern Art’s announcement on January 8 that it will indeed tear down Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s American Folk Art Museum building of 1997–2001 felt like hearing that a relative or close friend had finally succumbed to an incurable disease. Even though the outcome had been expected, it was a shock nonetheless."MoMA Loses Face": Martin Filler decries the museum's expansion plan in the NYRB. [more inside]
What's inside this mystery house in North Carolina? It looks like an average 1970's home with "a landscaped yard, white columns, and green shutters." But look closer and you'll notice there's no driveway, no walkway leading up to the front door, and no mailbox. The truth behind this mysterious building in Raleigh, NC might surprise you.
At first glance, you might think The Incredibles is just a fun superhero movie. But remove the capes and tights and you're left with an in-depth architectural narrative with its own beginning and end.
Ernest Flagg (1857-1947) was an architect in the United States, who worked mostly in New York, and in 1904 had a radical plan to remake Central Park. New York's Central Park That Never Was [more inside]
The Douglas Fir Plywood Association presents Second Homes for Leisure Living . . . here are 18 new leisure-time homes, built with fir plywood for comfort and economy. [via]
Beijing and Amsterdam-based studio NEXT architects have won first place in a bridge design competition for Meixi Lake near the Changsha capital in Hunan, China. The shape was inspired by the Mobius Strip and Chinese knotting.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat ruled today that its Height Committee has determined that One World Trade Center’s height to its architectural top is 1,776 feet (541.3 meters), which will eclipse Chicago's Sears "Willis Tower" as the tallest building in the western hemisphere. [more inside]
You live in Haight Ashbury. You'd love to install a garage in your historic home but there are architectural restrictions against doing so. Well, with the right group of guys, there are ways around it.
Containership’s Structure Visually Flexing in Heavy Seas — Underdeck time lapse video (16x normal speed) of the 294 meter MOL Excellence as she rolls, pitches, and yaws during a voyage from Tokyo to Los Angeles. Large ships are designed to flex while underway, but when seas get rough they can break like the MOL Comfort on June 17, 2013.
A Short History of the Highrise A four-part NYT interactive documentary by Katrina Cizek on apartment buildings through the ages, part of the National Film Board of Canada's HIGHRISE project (Previously).
Coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains. An encyclopedia of coal towns.
In 1999, officials in Vienna, Austria, asked residents of the city's ninth district how often and why they used public transportation. "Most of the men filled out the questionnaire in less than five minutes," says Ursula Bauer, one of the city administrators tasked with carrying out the survey. "But the women couldn't stop writing."
Washington DC has had restrictions on the heights of its buildings since the first year of its existence, thanks to its namesake -- George Washington himself laid down a limit of 40 feet in 1791 (and then suspended the limits, as did several of his successors). The limits waxed and waned over the next century or so until the U.S. Congress, in its capacity as the over-government of America's capital, laid down the Heights of Buildings Act of 1910, setting the upper limit of any building at 130 feet. Now that the city is gaining population again (for the first time since the 1950s), developers and officials may be looking to release the federal height restrictions and give control to the city government (which already has zoning limits in various areas that further restrict heights). The WaPo provides a visualization demonstrating what the skyline might look like if the limits are raised, or even if areas filled out to the current Height Act maximums.
"The owners of the 37-story tower known as the Walkie Talkie in the City of London financial district are investigating a light beam cast by the building that’s so intense it melted parked cars." Jaguar owner Martin Lindsay was none too pleased by this evidence of the laws of physics. And architect Rafael Vinolyapparently hasn't learned from his previous hair-scorching design error in Las Vegas.
Buildings in the Netherlands by year of construction is a map worth getting lost in.
Unlike its original namesake or famous sibling, the new Eastern span of the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge opens with little fanfare on Labor Day. Even governor Jerry Brown, once mayor of Oakland and the political force  behind its groundbreaking signature design, is skipping the party.
For Anting New City, China asked for an idealized theme park of a Teutonic village, but instead they got a modern Bauhaus inspired ghost town. Only about 1,000 people live in this Shanghai mega-suburb that was built to be home to 50,000 residents. (via)
"But Freud had a second fear: a fear of Rome's layers. In formal treatises, he compared the psyche to an ancient city, with many layers of architecture built one on top of another, each replacing the last, but with the old structures still present underneath. In private writings he phrased this more personally, that he was terrified of ever visiting Rome because he was terrified of the idea of all the layers and layers and layers of destroyed structures hidden under the surface, at the same time present and absent, visible and invisible. He was, in a very deep way, absolutely right." [more inside]
Syd Mead's Stanford Torus Illustrations for National Geographic got him the job, 40 years later, of designing Elysium for Neill Blomkamp. Mead calls the unique visual effect of these interior drawings, in which the horizon wraps up and over the viewpoint, 'inverse perspective'. This effect, and others like it, have been explored in the concept art for large, rotating, space habitats at least since the early 1960s. [more inside]
Shigeru Ban is a Japanese architect whose work includes 'temporary' structures (YT) made from cardboard tubes. His work blurs the distinction between temporary and permanent, and includes designs that focus on cost effective and liveable shelter after natural and human disasters. Now, two-and-a-half years after the Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake destroyed the city's cathedral, the Cardboard Cathedral has been opened. [See also: 1 2 ]
Using "under-the-radar" auctions, the Petersen Museum in L.A. is selling much of its classic car collection to finance an exterior renovation.
Francis Ching is professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Washington who keeps a blog of his city-focused sketches. Discussion varies from thinking about construction and layout to materials and focus when drawing scenes.