Ouroussoff: Please Get A Photographer


As those of you who signed up for the Newsletter already know, I wrote a little about Nicolai Ouroussoff's review of Frank Gehry's new building in Toronto.

A quick recap. A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times included a review of Frank Gehry's addition/reorganization of the Art Gallery of Ontario, in his birthtown of Toronto. Nicolai Ouroussoff gives Gehry his usual loving treatment, including a few gilding words about the building's new integration into its urban setting, which are barely hinted at in the accompanying photographic essay. So we will have to take his word for it, apparently. Actually, I'm kind of tired of taking their word for it. Can we see some proof? Or at least have the pictures align with the words a little better? I think this is probably an editorial problem. They send the architecture critic and a photographer to the building at the same time. They visit, and it is only later that the critic constructs his argument. The photographer has already taken the pictures though. But couldn't Ouroussoff (whose work we like!) take some snapshots as backups and then use them to fill the gaps? And half of the photos in the slideshow are from Gehry Partners anyway, didn't they have a couple that could help Ouroussoff better? It's a little distressing. And it's symptomatic of why print media, even in its online editions, is going to fall to The Blog, particularly with regards to writing about the city. Print is never messy. The city and blogs are.

So it's not without a little bit of frustration to see Mr. Ouroussoff's latest post, today about some theoretical museum by Toyo Ito (who we love), which includes two 'eh' renderings (one pictured above) and a lot of words about how the design is great. Really? Tropolism means pretty pictures. It also means good-awesome and accurate renderings. We just want more.

Mr. Ito, you can send more/better renderings using our submission form at the right.

Harvard Dorms, The Sert Sequel

The new graduate student housing dorm has opened at Harvard. As a friend of ours put it: "I'd be stoked to live in that dorm". We would too! The dorm is by Kyu Sung Woo Architects. Woo studied and worked with Jose Luis Sert, whose iconic Peabody Terrace Housing is next to the new building. The new building does a lot to mitigate the sometimes harshness of Sert's buildings: Woo frames the courtyard entrances to the existing housing, and cantilevers the major masses to preserve sight lines for the community. More importantly, his buildings are rich in warm materials: wood ceilings and walls outdoors, well-detailed masonry above, in deep contrast to Sert's austere concrete and painted metal. Woo wisely continues Sert's tastes for highly patterned, textured building envelopes. What's best is that the old and new begin to work together as a city, probably as Sert originally intended, but in a way that is very livable. So stoked.

Click the slideshow to see larger pictures in our photo album.

Water Diagrams


Oh, us and our diagrams. This time it's the awesome water/development diagram over at Urbanarbolismo. Click through that link to their post, you'll find many more where the one pictured came from.

007 Data Center


No this is not a movie set. It probably will be, though. Or perhaps it was designed after seeing You Only Live Twice? At any rate this data center 30m under Stockholm, designed by Albert France-Lanord Architects, is futuristic as seen from the classic Bond era. It's also an interesting problem for an architect: given an existing enclosure, one that really can only be changed by dynamite, what would you do? Well, design a kick-butt movie set, that's what.

Exploded by Arch Daily.

Tropolism Exhibitions: Actions : What Can You Do With the City


Tropolism means taking action.

Fittingly the CCA is opening a show November 26th titled Actions: What Can You Do With the City. The exhibition explores 97 actions that "instigate positive change in contemporary cities around the world". Our favorite part, however, is an online toy that generates specific actions you yourself right now can take in the city, actions that are outlined in the show, essentially putting the exhibition to work. Worrrk! Now this is Jane Jacobs for the 21st Century.

Rosa Muerta


Add this to our list of productive takes on Mies's legacy: Mies Van Der Rohe gets detailed by a motorcycle gang. Rosa Muerta is the architect Robert Stone's design-build building in Joshua Tree, California. The house appears to have no traditional enclosure. In fact, it has traditional nothing! Appearing afar as if it is one of Mies Van Der Rohe's unbuilt court houses (or his Museum For A Small City), it turns out to be much, much weirder. The ceiling is mirrored, which is kind of amazingly brilliant. It is open to the elements, also a brilliant take on what Mies's buildings should be. The stainless steel columns, wrapped in black rope, reference something like an Alvar Aalto-like material kindness. But then we get to the black-painted concrete block. Which is everywhere. With a giant heart cut out of it. Or the wrought iron grid fencing, complete with iron roses. All black. It's so completely over the top we have nothing but affection for the whole thing. The mirrored ceiling, and how it reflects the desert, kind of sealed the deal for us.

It can be yours for $200 a night, two night minimum.

Useless Furniture


Joe Velluto Studio, based in Vicenza, has a new exhibition called "Useless Is More". Now that our shopping frenzy of the last 7 years is finally over, we can get back to making art again. Joe Velluto does this by creating pieces that are recognizable as real furniture or design objects, except that they are, well, useless. They are approachable and designless like something from a yard sale or Ikea, and then they turn on you. And, of course, there is no way or reason to purchase them. It's a breath of fresh air.

Via Designboom.

The High Line: Save The Spur


Anyone who's walked The High Line knows about The Spur. It's that totally awesome elevated rail thingy that is more like a rail pier than a piece of a rail line. Like an appendix to the main High Line it isn't continuous with the flow of the rails. Yet it offers a really wonderful view from all directions, and it is the most visible architectural element of the High Line when approaching from the East (as in from where the rest of Manhattan is). If you'd like to see it included as part of the High Line park as much as we do, please get over to the public forum on December 1. Details here.

The Most Awesome Yoga Studio Ever


Yoga Deva is a yoga studio in a strip mall in Gilbert, Arizona. Yet is has the distinction of being the most awesome yoga studio ever. The project derives its power by being hyperminimal while at the same time sensual. Visitors enter through a long entry hall with rich walnut, plaster, and aluminum leaf wall finishes. However the main space turns into a quiet study of different lighting conditions; one only need to see the photographs to see how powerfully the light changes in the space. The main space's curved ceiling and innovative translucent scrim on the entire window wall perimeter are particularly stunning. It is a great place to practice your mind/body connection. It is the work of Blank Studio of Phoenix.

Check out the web album to see the rest of the gorgeous picture set by photographer Bill Timmerman. All pictures courtesy of Blank Studio.

Pretty Pictures: Rust #1

rust1.jpg villa%20de%20madrid.jpg 4caixa.jpg

1. Performer's House in Denmark by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, 2005; via Arch Daily.

2. Plaza Villa de Madrid in Barcelona by Arquitectos Baena-Casamor-Quera, 2003. Via Daily Dose of Architecture.

3. CaixaForum Madrid, Herzog & de Meuron, 2007.

Casa em Arruda dos Vinhos


Portuguese firm Plano B's Casa em Arruda dos Vinhos is a small, one-room cabin that has all its green check boxes marked off. It's DIY. It's rammed earth. It's small. It has its own freaking blog. But what's best about it is that it's also elegant, with its clean, minimalist, glossy interior, giving new glamor to green.

Via a barriga de um arquitecto.

Star Trek Gets Architecture


Architecture enthusiasts who saw Quantum of Solace this weekend, or those (like us!) who watched the HD trailer to the next Star Trek movie frame-by-frame, saw the unmistakable criss-cross trusses of Fay Jones's iconic 1980 Thorncrown Chapel in one second of the planet Vulcan. What that that big podium or what Spock is doing in front of it, we have no idea. We love the inclusion of spectacular buildings in splodey science fiction. It gives a palpable material reality to the stories, both because we know these spaces in real life, and they have the grain and character of well-designed buildings. A computer generated set by a professional computer modeler just does not create the same effect.

Perhaps we should start designing our buildings with more of this cinematic flavor in mind? How it appears on film, yes. But also deep consideration of what kind of production values you are looking for. What kind of film would this building work well in? Buildings are always turned into sets long after they are built. Is it possible to develop a specific architecture that is ready for films of a specific type during the Schematic Design Phase?

Freeze frame from io9.

Lee Walton, Baseball's Cartographer


I told you before, Tropolism loves sports. Today is baseball's cartographer, Lee Walton, whose next solo show of drawings are notations of specific baseball games. The end result captures vectors of unknown origin in beautifully detailed and layered maps. He isn't limited to baseball, or sports for that matter. What they all have in common is they are beautiful.

Via sub-studio design blog.