Archive for February, 2009

Monday Pin-up – Zaha Hadid


Well, not Zaha, haha, but

A water faucet she has designed.

The stock market made manifest in Architecture

Irrational Exuberance

Flat is the new “up”

Top: Disney Hall, Frank Gehry
Bottom: Farnsworth House, Mies van der Rohe

Do Art Museums make you climb the walls?


Or are these workers being asked to leave as art museums retrench from the economy?

Or a couple looking for meaning in Modern Art?

No, it’s a new Fitness Club in Japan, in Omotesando, Tokyo; by Japanese designer Nendo.


Threatened Mies gas station finds new use: expected to please old and young


Word comes from Quebec:

Mies van der Rohe peut reposer en paix: tout indique que l’ancienne station-service Esso de L’Île-des-Soeurs va rester debout.

Mies van der Rohe can rest in peace: everything indicates that the old Esso Gas Station on Nuns’ Island will remain standing.

(Wow, those high school French lessons paid off! Or was it those wonderful years I spent living in Paris? )

To translate the article:

The local council in Verdun, where the station is located recently unveiled a project called the «Maison des générations», “House of Generations” which will give a new use to this important piece of modern architecture in Montreal. It’s been closed and boarded-up since December.

(It’s unknown if Mies himself had anything to do with this particular design. But it did come out of his office a year before he died.)

A poll last year revealed that 73% of the residents of L’Île-des-Soeurs, Nuns’ Island, agree with this idea, said the Mayor of the area.

The plan is to integrate a Youth Center with a Center of Activities for the Elderly.

And to preserve the décor unique of the station-service.

The Director of the Restoration, Dany Tremblay,assures that the project will respect the historic character of the building, which will once again display its glass wall as Mies imagined in the original plans. Right now, zoning laws only permit uses for the building tied to automobiles. The new project will demand a change in the zoning, this will be put to the people with a referendum.

The City of Montreal is also studying the possibility of listing the gas station as a monument historique. It is expected to pass. The listing would not only make it esier to protect the building, but would also guarantee funds for future restoration projects.

Imperial Oil, which used the gas station and the land for 40 years, will decontaminate the place before it becomes the “House of the Generations.”

O Canada! You make everything so easy.


Chinese Capitalists outmaneuver architects!


Remember when Herzog and de Meuron thought they were being subversive in Beijing? They designed the provocative and hugely successful Olympic Stadium:

Herzog: … Our vision was to create a public space, a space for the public, where social life is possible, where something can happen, something that can, quite deliberately, be subversive or — at least — not easy to control or keep track of.

SPIEGEL: Your architecture as an act of resistance? Aren’t you exaggerating?

Herzog: No. We see the stadium as a type of Trojan horse. We fulfilled the spatial program we were given, but interpreted it in such a way that it can be used in different ways along it perimeters. As a result, we made everyday meeting places possible in locations that are not easily monitored, places with all kinds of niches and smaller segments. In other words, no public parade grounds.

Well now comes word from the Shanghai Daily that

The area around Beijing’s National Stadium, or “Bird’s Nest,” will be turned into a shopping and entertainment complex in three to five years.

Plans call for the US$450 million stadium to be the anchor for a complex of shops and entertainment outlets in three to five years, according to the CITIC Group, operator of the stadium, which was the showpiece of the Beijing Olympics in August last year.

Tourists now pay 50 yuan (US$7) to walk on the stadium floor and browse a souvenir shop.

It attracts an average of 20,000 to 30,000 visitors every day, according to Beijing tourism authorities.

The CITIC Group will continue to develop tourism as a major draw for the Bird’s Nest, while seeking sports and entertainment events.

The only confirmed event at the 91,000-seat stadium this year is Puccini’s opera “Turandot,” on August 8 – the first anniversary of the Olympics’ opening ceremony. The stadium has no permanent tenant after Beijing’s top football club, Guo’an, backed out of a deal to play there.

According to the company, maintenance of the 250,000-square-meter National Stadium will cost 60 million yuan a year, making it hard to make profit.

From the same pre-Olympics interview with Spiegel:

Herzog: Over the years, we were often completely perplexed, because we couldn’t gauge how our design was being received. What was missing was a clear response. But everything fell nicely into place in the end. … It just happens to be the case that in China, you can never be quite sure how anything will turn out.


Frank Gehry tells all!


Conversations with Frank Gehry
is the result of twenty years of conversations between the brilliant Barbara Isenberg- she’s a friend of mine- and Frank Gehry. It’s revealing and entertaining; if you even liked the film, Sketches of Frank Gehry, you’ll love this.

Barbara Isenberg provides new and fascinating insights into the man and his work.

Gehry’s subjects range from his childhood—when he first built cities with wooden blocks on the floor of his grandmother’s kitchen—to his relationships with clients and his definition of a “great” client. We learn about his architectural influences (including Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright) and what he has learned from Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Rauschenberg.

We explore the thinking behind his designs for the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the redevelopment of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Grand Avenue in Los Angeles, the Gehry Collection at Tiffany’s, and ongoing projects in Toronto, Paris, Abu Dhabi, and elsewhere.

And we follow as Gehry illuminates the creative process by which his ideas first take shape—for example, through early drawings for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, when the building’s trademark undulating curves were mere scribbles on a page.

Sketches, models, and computer images provided by Gehry himself allow us to see how so many of his landmark buildings have come to fruition, step by step.

Read it, to come to know a great artist better than you ever thought you’d know him. It’s the best book of the year. You won’t be able to put it down. Then you’ll wish for more.

Monday Pin-up – Jayne Mansfield as Athena


Jayne Mansfield at the Parthenon. 1957.

photograph by K. Megaloconomou


America’s Most Popular Big Cities

click to enlarge

According to this study just released by the Pew Charitable Trust. It’s worth reading.

Seven of the public’s 10 most popular big cities — Denver, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Phoenix, Portland and Sacramento — are in the West, and the other three — Orlando, Tampa and San Antonio — are in the South.

The five least popular big cities — Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Minneapolis — are all in the Midwest.

These attitudes reflect what government data indicate about the nation’s migration patterns: Americans are leaving the Northeast and the Midwest in favor of the South and the West.

30% of Americans say they would most like to live in a small town, 25% in a suburb, 23% in a city and 21% in a rural area.

By a ratio of more than three-to-one, Americans prefer living where the pace of life is slow, not fast. A similarly lopsided majority prefer a place where neighbors know each other well to one where neighbors don’t generally know each other’s business.

Click here, then download the .pdf.

Does this mean I can buy a great modernist house in Chicago, for cheap?