Technology Vision

The New Real City


Google is already such a wonderful companion to The City. We are now able to amble about town unprepared and google stuff on our mobile devices whenever we need to know something about where we'd like to go. In this sense, the best place to have access to the net is in The City: the density of information makes available the density of people. And back again. The drawing program Sketchup has added another layer to this density: the Google Earth plug-in, enabling designers the option of exporting their model into Google Earth, so they can view their project in context. As Information Lab mentions, the possibilities extend far beyond Arch Design 200 studios putting their models into site context for the first time: more immediate inhabitations of the real/information City, like locative gaming, will be affected.

This kind of thing is what excites us about technology, and its affect on architectural practice, because the realm of architectural experience is opened up to other fields. Gaming as a way to experience architecture, for instance. It makes studio professors like Evan Douglas, who was at Columbia U when I was (and who I like), pursuing pure computer-only forms, seem really backwards and flat in its future-sounding rhetoric:

"As we enter through this new phase of morphogenetic and technological expansion we unleash a range of material and programmatic opportunity capable of altering the very destiny of architecture."

How did he come to this conclusion? What facts support this claim? What, exactly, is the programmatic and material opportunity? It just looks like wavy walls and floors to me (check out the's just a wall-hung artwork there). It is very apparent to me how the SketchUp Google Earth Plugin can possibly affect our practice, and how we use and experience the resulting architecture. The morphogenic stuff, not so much (the images are beyond cool, however). But we're open to it: Tropolism means we are ready to be convinced!

Water Cube: Beijing


Wacky in a way only state-sponsored architecture can be is the National Swimming Center in Beijing, going up right next to another of H&DM's stadiums (no, not this one). The center is enclosed by what appears to be a wall whose structure is an irregular spaceframe (made to resemble the cellular pattern of soap bubbles) and is clad in what appears to be a frosted or patterened glass. All of this from a wonderful photo gallery at Structurae. The building was conceived by Australian-based PTW Architects. Structural design by Arup, of course.

Tipped off by We Make Money, Not Art.

Interstate 10 Over Lake Pontchartrain: Almost There


We here at Tropolism loves us some highways. Engineered beauty! So it's with great delight, yet without much surprise, that we discovered our first news item of the day: the New York Times reporting that the repairs to the causewaaaay for Interstate 10, over Lake Pontchartrain, are nearly complete. It's simplistic to believe that rebuilding neighborhoods could be this easy, because roads are engineered projects, and they have a large and efficient impact the economy; rebuilding 50,000 privately and separately owned residences, each with individual needs and character, is a completely different matter. But what if we could rebuild, say, 25% of the homes like we rebuilt I-10?

Tropolism Goes Mapping, 2


Tropolism's editorial staff is travelling again (DTW to EWR, sorry, no update on the hole at IAD). We would like to invite you, again, to participate in our community map over at Frappr. Enjoy!

Map Archives View The World As A Diagonal


We admit our addictions and obsessions. We love diagonals. Give us something architectural with a tetrahedron, dodecahedron, icosahedron, or pentagram in it, and we're yours. Future Feeder heard our silent cry and points us to a map archive that will keep us in business for many years.

The Holiday Pit


Tropolism will be posting here and there for the next few days. We are travelling. Some of the places have no WiFi, and some have something called "dial-up", which we've totally never heard of. First stop: Dulles airport, where, at 7.30am yesterday morning, I was greeted with this lovely vision: a pit full of structure, digging around Saarinen's useless main terminal. My favorite part: the scaffold-like columns holding up the little building in the foreground. Tableaus like this remind us that Tropolism means we can do anything, if we put our minds to it. And, that architecture can come first, and we can figure out how to use it later.

Playing With Blocks


When we were little, we played almost exclusively with Legos. In fact, our best childhood fantasy was that we could construct the whole world out of a perfect and infinitely variable system of interlocking, and brightly colored, blocks. Go figure. Now, we must settle for java-based "psycho-social building experiences". But we'll manage.

Via Future Feeder.

Folksongs For The Fivepoints


Continuing our theme of ways people map the city, we discovered, through BoingBoing, the Folksongs for the Fivepoints project. You can remix the sample sounds of the Lower East Side and create your own folk song. A glorious noise.

Push-Button Architecture


Speaking of "let's start a prefabricated housing company now!", Adam Kalkin is back. He's still got his pervy edge, this time with his how-the-hell-did-he-fund-this (i know the answer to this question, otherwise i wouldn't ask it) prefabricated house company. Okay, I've made fun of his company. The Push-Button House is beautiful. Useless and marketed only to the super-rich collector of architecture, but beautiful.

Christmas Humor, New Orleans Style

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Tropolism means having a sense of humor. It means also a sense of civic pride. One of the reasons I'm so attached to NOLA is that its citizens often combine these two in a way which is effortless, and makes sense. Not unlike New Yorkers, although the character of our satire has a different flavor.

Above and after the jump: exclusive photographs from special architect correspondant Tatiana, of the annual and beloved Christmas toy train display at Lakeside Mall in Metairie. The talent of Frank Evans, an obsessive railroad-toy display designer, comes through with spraypainted X's on the houses, collapsed roofs, and a comment on the evacuated Broussard Pump Station #1. Read all about it in today's Times-Picayune, tipped off by our friend and diligent NOLA describer, Sturtle. You'll note that the people interviewed all had an appreciation of the depth of humor, the civic pride, and the craftsmanship that went into the display. The perfect architectural moment.

And, more pictures after the jump.

Tropolism Nominated for World's Best Urban Architecture Blog


Dear Readers: Thank you for nominating Tropolism for "World's Best Urban Architecture Blog" over at Gridskipper. We are flattered, particularly in such esteemed company. And for those of you who would like to see us make it to the voting round, just post a comment to their page saying so. We'll love you forever.

The Banquet Hall


We began our Thanksgiving break a tad early, so we thought we'd sign off this afternoon with a site you can dig your teeth into. It's called Abandoned Japanese Buildings (we made that up, the fact checker/translator totally slipped out at noon today). The site is about abandoned Japanese buildings, and include gorgeous walk-throughs on how the photographer got in. No translation necessary. Thank you for making Tropolism a success, and enjoy your feast!

Via swissmiss via veer.

Update: Jean Snow points out that the site's name translates to "Haikyo Deflation Spiral".

SAILS: Self-Assembling Itelligent Lighter-Than-Air Structures


This just in from the ever-vigilant Yuri Gitman comes word of The Mascarillons. They are...well...they are this:

"The Mascarillons are the first rigid aerobots developed for the [ SAILS ] project. They are flying cubic automata able to develop collective behaviors and assemblages through swarm-intelligence protocols."

Either this is the coolest thing ever, or expect a visitor from the future attempting to destroy the project before it learns enough to take over. I've a parallel interest in these structures, stemming from another source, and so I was interested to check out the origins section, combining nerdy technical ideas and architectural fantasia.

Pretty Pictures, Daily

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To compliment the wordlessness of architecture, this Japanese building photo blog gives us buildings familiar and not, with lots of gorgeous new views. We love to look.

Via DailyDose

2 Columbus Circle Camera


2 Columbus Circle now has its own webcam. Except they're trying to create shame. Of course, I see it as a wonderfully useful tool to check the progress on a great renovation, so it just goes to show that public protest works both ways: to reinforce arguments on both sides. Here's a snippet of a hugely persuasive argument from the people-without-an-alternative-solution:

"Welcome to the 2 Columbus Circle SHAME CAM, a live webstream keeping a round-the-clock eye on this world-famous, imminently endangered building designed by Edward Durell Stone and completed in 1964."

Useless adjectives abound. This side of a run-on. No thought. Save it all!

Via Curbed.

Software for Buildings and Food


Capping off our Virtual Reality week, we bring you something found through the folks at We Make Money Not Art through Interactive Architecture Dot Org (the last title makes us shudder, too, but the website is interesting). They both note Arch-OS, a workshop/research group devoted to developing software for buildings. After sidestepping the jargon (cybrids, anyone?) it appears as if they are working from systems running the gamut from mundane, like energy management and data systems, to absurd, like the Random Elevator Button Project.

WTC Memorial Chat


Peter Walker, the landscape architect working with Michael Arad on the World Trade Center Memorial, will chat live with visitors to website next Tuesday, November 8th at 12pm EST.

Tipped off by the evergreen Pruned. We're with them: where's Arad?

Tropolism Goes Mapping


Tropolism has set up a Frappr map. Now's your chance to build a visual display of our little urban world! All you have to do is put yourself on our map! I just did it, it takes about 15 seconds. What does our online city look like?

Second Life Skyscraper


We don't believe in virtual reality. Tropolism means it's all just real. That belief has wonderfully not impeded virtual worlds from springing forth, and virtual real estate enough to keep a thousand Curbeds up and running. The folks at Rocketboom have interviewed (and toured) the first citizen of Second Life to build a skyscraper. And what a sky it scrapes! You'll be happy to note he did so without the aid of any computer design tools.

I've always theorized that architectural aspirations exist in all of us. This is appropriate: we all inhabit spaces that were designed or built by others, and so it it only natural we would have opinions about them. In Second Life, you can create your own space. One skyscraper at a time, if you have the patience for it.

Pretty Lights at 55 Water Street, Part 2


Jim Conti let us behind the Beacon (I so did not type that) a bit.

Click for many more pictures and the inside story...