Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

If Barack Obama were a building, Part III

01/30/2009

what building would Barack Obama be?

A colleague writes,

I’d put the Harvard quad on the list…..he is Harvard, through and through…..


I chose this photograph of Harvard Yard because it shows one of the best buildings on campus, on any campus anywhere- H.H. Richardson’s Sever Hall. They say Obama likes to have varying viewpoints in the room, which he then synthesizes into what for him is the most correct response. Sever Hall does that. Each floor is different, and the details throughout seem to oppose each other, until Richardson somehow synthesizes them into something great.

I could look at this building for longer than I can look at most, and I’ve been known to look at buildings “until they begin to dance.”

Sever Hall, as teh parts work out their oppostions for you, seems to improve as you look at it. It has done this for me for many years. Let’s hope Obama does the same!

Christopher Hawthorne, the terrific Architecture Critic of the Los Angeles Times, has a must-read story today on The neoclassicism of Barack Obama. It’s must-read for its insight, and because he links to Hello Beautiful!

I thanked Christopher and wrote,

I’ve been meaning to write about the ideas Schinkel’s architecture
have for us in this new era, how he wished to pull Prussian society together in peace, and to uplift them and unite them physically and through culture. That is a role architecture could play today.

I’ve also been meaning to write about what we can learn from Mies van der Rohe’s “less is more” – today in this era of belt-tightening. Mies shows us how with “almost nothing” (his words) we can live lives of dignity and beauty, with as much freedom as we should have on earth, and with a sense of a collective (enlightened) society.

Stay tuned. And read Christopher’s piece. And tell me,

If Barack Obama were a building, what building would he be?

Read parts one and two.
And back in October, I mused on Obama and columns

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If Barack Obama were a building, Part II

01/22/2009

what building would Barack Obama be?


HB! reader “Fifth Way” commented…

The Seattle Public Library: forward-looking, intelligent, jazzy, cool, open to all (even the homeless), filled with ideas and art and computers and a fun auditorium and people from all over and commerce (a shop and coffee cart) and books for learning everywhere. In many ways, it functions like infrastructure. The original library sign in contained within, but its surface is striking and new. All this and it’s on the Pacific Rim, from an international design team. Hooray for Barack!


Great comparison! Seattle Public Library is one of the smartest, boundary-pushing buildings of our age. It strongly supports the city and supports international, interconnected, what they call “cosmopolitan,” citizenship.

If Barack Obama were a building, what building do YOU think he would be?

— Read part I here. —

Read about Barack Obama and columns, here.

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If Barack Obama were a building…

01/20/2009

what building would Barack Obama be?

I was inspired to ask this after appearing on Frances Anderton’s Design and Architecture on KCRW radio to talk about Barack Obama and design. Since, well, you know, this.

One Beautiful! reader suggested

Steven Holl’s addition to the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City.
I like the comparison. This is contemporary, yet well rooted. Shining forth. Full of culture. Energy efficient. Holds many ideas and is capable of doing many things at once. Works with nature. Very open.
Another reader suggested something like this

Infrastructure
If so, I hope it’s high-speed rail, well-designed infrastructure, plus broadband and alternative energies.

Would he be

a Louis Sullivan? Every inch “a proud and soaring thing, rising in sheer exultation” as Sullivan wanted his tall buildings to be? Sullivan, a transplant to Chicago, like Obama, certainly gave us optimism and the highest American democratic ideals. But his late nineteenth-century work came at a time of prosperity; and he wanted his tall buildings “without a single dissenting line.” Not sure that’s Obama.

How about

Unity Temple
Frank Lloyd Wright
Oak Park, Illinois
1905

Historic, new, original. A hybrid of two cultures, east and west. Tall, looks outward, radiates energy outward across the land. Radical, yet rooted. Modern yet traditional. Like Sullivan, Wright proclaims Emersonian American ideals. Seems to keep a lot to itself, kind of cool on the outside, a heck of a lot going on in the inside.

Let’s compare Obama to a more contemporary building.

What building do you think Barack Obama would be?

— Read part two here. —

A few months ago, I wrote about Obama and columns.

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Obama – the Architect of Change

11/12/2008

• Were he not a politician, he would have liked to have been an architect !


– According to The Telegraph (U.K.)

(“Life without Buildings” photoshopped that photo and linked to the story.)

• His favorite book is Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

• His favorite artist is Pablo Picasso

• His favorite music includes Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Bach and The Fugees

• His favorite films are Casablanca and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

• His favorite fictional television programmes are Mash and The Wire

Let’s hope for a successful Arts, Preservation, and building policy from his administration. I don’t believe we need excess cash and spending to Do The Right Thing.

• On their first date he took Michelle to see the Spike Lee film Do The Right Thing.


(The title of this post updated thanks to reader comment below.)

Update, after the inauguration.  Thoughts on “The Architect of Change” from David Brussat

All along the watchtower – Coop Himmelb(l)au in L.A.

11/09/2008

C-monster says Coop Himmelb(l)au’s Los Angeles High School #9 at night

looks like

a prison watchtower.

Well, one great thing about the tower at the High School for the Visual and Performing Arts is that it’s so abstract it can be almost anything you like.

For D, it suggests

Wall-E, or a toy robot.

Sylvia Lavin of UCLA, said on the day after the election, in a public conversation with the head of the firm that designed the High School, Wolf Prix, that it reminds her of

Barack Obama.

Lavin said that in the 1960s Wolf Prix was angrier. Now he’s figured out how to still be radical but a little softer. So Prix gets to build, and yet still foment change. (His firm is designing the new European Central Bank in Frankfurt; Prix hopes to create a new symbol for Europe.) Sylvia Lavin compared Prix to Barack Obama, and Obama’s understanding of how to be an African-American man in the United States and not be angry, but rather, constructive. She said she will forever call this “the Obama Tower.” Prix smiled.

He said the room at the top of the 140 foot tower was originally meant to be rented out to generate income for the school. The L.A. Unified School District has since balked at that idea and also at Prix’s desire for the tower to hold L.E.D. signage – for advertising – to also bring in money to the school system. An artsy billboard, how L.A., don’t you think?

Signage, and certain industrial aspects of the high school remind me of the work of L.A.-based architect Thom Mayne


such as his Caltrans Headquarters, just a few blocks from the new high school. Theirs is likely a mutual influence.

And Prix has one-upped Mayne if you think the swirl around his tower stands for the number 9, since after all, this is L.A. Unified School District High School #9.

Or does this tower suggest a local vernacular-

the tower of slides at the water park?

When Coop Himmelb(l)au’s lead architect Wolf Prix spoke the other night in the auditorium/theater of the school, he rightly said that a High School for the Performing Arts could not just be boxes, and that arts students deserve a landmark, an icon.

So now, I see the tower as a West Coast

beacon.

Long live the Enlightenment. From sea to shining sea.

As for the title of this post, Wolf Prix has said he learned English by listening to songs by Bob Dylan.

Of what does the tower remind you?

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The L.A. arts high school, set to open next fall, will be Coop Himmelb(l)au’s second building in America, and it looks to be more interesting and better-suited to its purpose than their first US effort, a $30-million expansion of the Akron Art Museum. The cost for the five acre high school is said to be about $230 million. It will have space for some 1,600 students, many from surrounding low-income neighborhoods. The school is expensive, overbudget, delayed, and criticized for all those reasons. It stands just across a freeway from

the Rafael Moneo-designed cathedral, with its campanile, or tower. The two form a gateway as you are driving. Prix said he was told his tower could not be taller than Moneo’s. I have already said that Caltrans by Thom Mayne/Morphosis is just a few blocks away, and just a few blocks up Grand Avenue you’ll find the magnificent Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry. Kudos to L.A.

More fun and more images on “the High School that ate Los Angeles,” here.

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