Technology Vision

Kengo Kuma Designs Houses For Muji

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Muji: for those of us in the United States and Europe, it is a wonder for inside your home. In Japan, it is also possible for it to be the home itself. You wouldn't know it unless you are able to read Japanese: Muji keeps these pages untranslated, and furthermore their design simplicity does not extend to their website. Tropolism favorite Kengo Kuma has designed some prototype homes for them (our favorite it the Window House, as you can see in our article over there at Yanko Design). He wisely sticks to a super-configurable model and shies away from too much prefab repetition. They aren't quite as radical as his other houses, but they have their pleasures. Greg Allen gives us another take on these designs.

Greg goes one further and translates the awesome Muji Village concept. It appears to be little more than a far-away rendering and some floorplans (awesomely displayed as take-home art posters. Take that NYC real estate brokers!), but as a feel-good concept, they have rocked the party mic. We'll keep you posted when it takes shape.

Less Stuff Is Better Design

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I know I've been harping about this since I first got the idea for the Two Dozen list in 2004: the Roaring Two-Thousands created a lot of drek by designers because they were "designers", not because the designs were actually great. A lot of my writing has been focused on pushing designers to do better. What better opportunity for designers to really push design when all this money is sloshing around? Why not make things more efficient, more accessible, more inventively designed, and more beautiful, even if it costs a bit more? When the cycle downturns, we'll be happy to get scraps from the woodpile to make our stuff. Since September, most of us have been looking for that scrap pile.

Michael Cannell over at The Design Vote wrote a great article in the New York Times encapsulating these sentiments, looking quickly (as in long-blog-post quickly) at where product designers and architects are going to go from here. He champions sustainability in the production of goods and a good project by Lorcan O'Herlihy architects in Los Angeles that champions density over size of lawn. Welcome to the end of the decade, folks. We couldn't be more thrilled.

Hand Made Fonts

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Designboom served it up the last few days with two pieces about hand made fonts. The first is about an Estonian firm called, yes, Hand Made Font. The second is by Dutch firm Autobahnwho made fonts by squirting stuff like ketchup and toothpaste (pictured) into letterforms and then letting them slide a little. This is a firm that is not afraid to make a mess in service of art. We thought they looked festive enough to be in keeping with the New Year theme today, and so we present them for your consideration. Until 2009!

Canadian Floating House

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It's been a long time since we scoped out some floating homes, so we were excited to see this one, by MOS . The house is in Ontario, was completed in 2005, and is great because it's literally a floating house. No signs of boatness to be found anywhere.

Found floating on Arch Daily.

Artists Subway, With Trees

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The Starn Brothers, every 1989 college student's favorite artists, are back! They are finishing up construction on a large installation in the South Ferry Station of the New York City Subway called See It Split, See It Change. Their focus on unnerving closeups of nature has not changed, nor has their geeky obsession with new materials. In this case a curved, fused glass printing technique that will last a century and took a year to develop. We're gonna be the first ones there.

Neutra Renovation, Again

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Speaking of Marmol Radziner renovations of Neutra houses, we came across this recounting of a visit to the Sten-Frenke house. The article includes a link to an amazing slideshow over at Pentagram, who collaborated on the renovation. The photograph I have included is of the renovated house, and is by none other than Tropolism favorite Julius Shulman.

Pretty Pictures: Garden Towers #1

Helvetica And The New York City Subway

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Even though we are architects, we have a special hobby called typefaces. We love them. We collect them. Our favorite are the sans-serif fonts developed in the middle of last century. We collect books that heavily feature them. And so this long, in-depth, and heavily illustrated article about the story of the typeface Helvetica (and Standard!) in the New York City subway is nothing short of rapture for us.

And we're not the only ones.

Tropolism Books: The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture

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Title: The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century Architecture

Author: The Editors of Phaidon Press

Publication Date: December 1, 2008

Publisher: Phaidon Press

ISBN: 9780714848747

Amazon

Few architecture books dare to take on the mantle of Atlas, but The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century Architecture seems to comfortably wear it. The book is a sequel to 2004's The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture--whose general outline and format the current book shares--and by looking at the measly amount of buildings that showed up in magazines between now and then, you would think that the new book would have lots of projects reprinted. Not so: almost all of the 1,037 buildings did not appear in the 2004 book. But when you consider the deluge of projects that have shown up online in that time, it's nothing short of astonishing that the book encapsulates such an encyclopedic spectrum. The project covers 6 world regions, and many of them, like China, seem remarkably well-covered.

Click this way to read the complete, large-format review...

NYC Ice List: UPDATED WITH MAYBES

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Three years ago we published one of our favorite lists: the NYC Ice List. Today we are happy to announce a maybe addition to the list: the Brooklyn Bridge Park Ice Rink. You know, under the Brooklyn Bridge, where the New Brooklyn Bridge Park will someday be located, maybe. As that article says, they are starting it THIS MONTH (said on the last day of November). The rink awesomeness is designed by landscape architects dlandstudio, they of the first ever Pop-Up Park, which was located this summer just on the other side of the bridge.

Word is the ice rink is getting fundraising help from the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, so perhaps we'll see this on the Ice List for real next year.

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007 Data Center

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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.

The Most Awesome Yoga Studio Ever

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Imagine Coney: First Glance

From our roving correspondant, Saharat Surattanont, we get this report on Imagine Coney:

Last night, the Municipal Art Society (MASNYC) showcased their proposal for the redevelopment of Coney Island. Underscored by the financial realities of such an endeavor, their master plan of “big ideas” outlined the process for revitalization. The stated goal was to develop a viable economic paradigm without sacrificing the authentic flavor of Coney Island.

Step right this way to read the rest of Tropolism's coverage...

Pretty Pictures: Night Houses #1

sleeperlight.jpg red%20lines.jpg houseonbeach.jpg 1. Sculptured House by Charles Deaton, as seen in the Woody Allen Film, Sleeper. 2. Aatrial House by KWK PROMES. 3. House on the beach by Javier Artadi Arquitecto.