Writing Architecture

Tropolism Contest: Your Hidden City


After a week of very subtle buildup, Tropolism is pleased to announce the first open-sourced architectural contest, Your Hidden City.

The contest is simple: post your photos (with a caption) to our public Flickr pool (or email them to us for posting), and our jury will select their favorites in five categories. The winners will be posted to Tropolism.

The theme of the contest is uncovering the Hidden City, your Hidden City, the one you see every day. It may be in plain sight of everyone else, but it is your eye that finds the extraordinariness in a particular street corner, a unique stair, a crazy intersection, a visually arresting approach, or a particular tree in the city. The photographs can be of a beautiful (and perhaps unpublished) park, or as simple as the sun hitting a particular building at a particular time of day. Please include a caption, or a Flickr annotation, about what makes it extraordinary to you. The entries should have one thing in common: they demonstrate, to you, the pleasure of living in the city.

The jury is a set of bloggers who write about architecture, urbanism, and landscape design. They are:

Lisa Chamberlain of Polis and who also covers real estate for the New York Times
David Cuthbert of architechnophilia
Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG
Shawn Micallef of Toronto Psychogeography Society Blog
Miss Representation
Jimmy Stamp of Life Without Buildings

The 5 Categories are:

Best Hidden Place
Best Density
Best Natural/Urban Overlap
Best Unofficial Landmark
Best Building

We will keep the contest open until March 10, 2006, and post winners the week of March 20. Good Luck!

Center For Land Use Interpretation Website


We here at Tropolism tend to avoid following the crowd. Perhaps it's the aura of Coolhunting, our publisher's website, or perhaps it's the vindication we received by not seeing Dances With Wolves when everyone else was raving about it. We still haven't seen it. Mostly, this keeps us thinking fresh, different, better.

But sometimes this tactic goes horribly wrong. For instance, on the sidebar of lotsa lotsa websites we have seen the Center For Land Use Interpretation, and never bothered to actually visit it. Well, a few months ago we did just that, and came across a database we never get tired of visiting: the Land Use Database, which is an index of "unusual and exemplary sites" in the United States that they have collected. Original photography of gems like the original site for Robert Smithson's Partially Buried Woodshed stand next to the problem-prone David Besse Nuclear Power Plant in Toledo. The agnosticism inspires us. The collective imagination, on a particular theme, inspires us as well. Do you see where we're going with this?

The Wordless Appearance, Part 2


Tropolism is happy to announce its own Flickr pool. This is a forum for Tropolism readers to share their corners of the city. The pool is public, so simply click "Join This Group" on this page, after setting up your Flickr account. I advise you to set up your account today; Friday's surprise announcement will involve this archive of photographs. Special bonus: the photograph above, our launch photograph, is posted and annotated by your editor.

Toronto Psychogeography Blog


In preparation for Friday's announcement, Tropolism presents the Toronto Psychogeography Society Blog. Students of Situationists will remember that Guy Debord coined the term psychogeography: effects of environment and geography on emotions and behavior. We've always loved the attempt to measure urban impressions.

The blog captures the psychogeography of its Toronto-based bloggers. We wonder what it would be like to do this elsewhere. Stay tuned.

Spiral Jetty Entropy Report


It is Spiral Jetty week at Greg.org, with a second entry about the newly cleaned-up sculpture in Utah. Because Robert Smithson is one of our heroes, we are unable to resist any post about him (although we were conveniently out of town for the floating island thing). Greg asks us some pretty difficult questions, for which we have no answer. Which means, the questions are those posed by Smithson's work, and they are themselves the impact of that work. They are his art:

When he sited Spiral Jetty in BF Utah, was Smithson building against New Jerseyification, or just ahead of it? Is it possible--or is it just convenient acquiescence to suggest--that roped-off "Nature"-driven degradation is not, in fact, entropy, but Romanticism? Maybe letting "civilization" have its paving, scrubbing, sprucing up, licensing, Acoustiguiding, Ritz Carlton Jettyway Weekend Packaging way with the Jetty isn't closer to the end game Smithson envisioned?

Spiral Jetty Cleanup Report


Crack art sculpture journalist Greg Allen does actual follow-up fact-finding for a post about a cleanup project around Robert Smithon's iconic work, Spiral Jetty. Special bonus add-on side bar: space imaging of Spiral Jetty (pictured above).

Alluvial Art


BLDGBLOG's interlude on Alluvial Terrains reminded me of an invitation I'd received to the opening of the Jokla Series by Olafur Eliasson, at Kunsthaus Zug. Then, on Olafur's site, I discovered I can download the entire grid in one wicked 47.2MB file.

Wood Clad Frenzy In San Francisco


Despite the complaining we read on other websites, we here at Tropolism say "Tropolism means imitation is the highest form of flattery." In this case it is both the entry we are linking to and the content of that entry (sorry to go meta on you). The entry: our entry about a new Manhattan residential building clad in wood has inspired Treough Blog to tell us about a San Francisco residential building clad in wood, too! The building: while it's difficult to see the two as inspiring each other, since they were probably designed around the same time to zero publicity, we are unable to refrain commenting on the West Coast entry. The comment: read what Treough wrote.

NY Times Trifecta: Future, Present, Past


Newspapers are such wonderful organizations. They are like huge mechanical writing machines, that create sets of articles with unintended synchronicities. Take, for example, this week-end's fare, neatly summarized by the staff here at Tropolism as Future, Present, Past:

(click continue reading for more)

From Today's Correspondance

"You should have a contest: who is worse at sharing credit, architects or God?"

Tropolism means sharing the credit. No design effort is without a team, yet no design effort is without moments of individual inspiration. When the product of this process works, it is because someone handily managed this paradox.

Tropolism's Best 2005


This is the time of year when I acknowledge you, dear reader, for making Tropolism a success! Accordingly, I've opened up our referral stats and compiled a list of your favorite entries. You all vote with your clicks!:

1. 55 Is Alive. Announcing the opening of a project I led and designed when I worked for Rogers Marvel Architects.

2. Manhattan Tower Clad In Wood. Posted only a few weeks ago. A tower with a prefabricated plywood veneer panel on the exterior. The architects for this have emailed me about 20 times thanking me for it; perhaps they are driving traffic up.

3. What Does Tropolism Mean?. Coming in unexpectedly is the dark horse "About" page, where the editorial staff attempts to explain what "Tropolism" means. We love this page too, so are endeared you found it in your hearts to include it.

4. The Increasingly Complete Two-Dozen List. The Two Dozen List, of celebrity-architect-designed luxury condo buildings of a particular size. We are hoping that 2006 will help us complete this list. We need something besides the Sculpture for Living to pound on.

5. Inspiration 101. Tired of Other Websites complaining (they're "kidding," which is high-functioning complaining in our manual) we chose to create Inspiration, which investigates where Beauty comes from.

It's Awards Time


December, New York: cold weather and blog awards. However, instead of being nominated for lame awards, Tropolism is being nominated for cool and bad-assed awards. This one is exciting, because the nomination comes with a little review of Tropolism that warms our Holiday Heart. And being compared to Mies, in the element of public dialogue, is positively thrilling. Although we are working on a larger community project....

Reasons To Love BLDGBLOG, #1


There are so many reasons to love BLDGBLOG. The omnivorous appetite. The appetite for the surreal. The appetite for the mineral. However, this entry, regarding A View To A Kill and its architectural fantasy, has made us true, die-hard fans. We have a thing for reading into things televised, you know.

Tropolism Books: Enric Miralles Works and Projects 1975-1995

miralles monograph.jpg

Title: Enric Miralles Works and Projects 1975-1995

Edited by: Benedetta Tagliabue Miralles

Publication Date: December 1, 1996

Publisher: The Monacelli Press

ISBN: 1885254431

Along with some issues of El Croquis from the mid-90s, this has got to be one of my favorite architectural monographs. Firstly, because it features one of my favorite architects, Enric Miralles. In case you hadn't noticed. More after the jump...

Long Live Emigre!

emigre 3269.jpg

I first encountered Emigre when I was a wee undergraduatelet, at issue 32 (above left), at the height of my fascination with all things that looked like they came from Vaughan Oliver and v23. Hey, it was the 90s, and I loved the Pixies.

Like the Pixies, it was a creative endeavor that wanted beauty unencumbered by commerce. Like the Pixies, it never successfully proposed a solution to this tension, it just held the tension for the term of its existence, safe in its world. Yet it was extraordinarily beautiful.

Now, I had to be told by a diligent under-25yo that Emigre has departed, at issue #69 (above, right). Long Live Emigre!

WTC Memorial Chat


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

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

Weekend Reading: Omotesando Hills Debate


While we here in New York talk about really important stuff, our peers in Tokyo are having an interesting, and elevated, debate about preservation on Omotedando. The editor of Tokyo's Metropolis told us how he really feels, while iMomus contributes a much more nuanced piece on the matter.

Omotesando Hills is another of Minuro Mori's Developments designed, of course, by Tadao Ando. The building is not yet completed. It was a hole in the ground a year ago, when I was there.

New Art City


John Updike's hilarious review of Jed Perl's New Art City. My favorite quote:

The words "existential" and "empirical" remain hazy, as much as Perl loves and uses them. The verb "existentialize" doesn't exist in my dictionary, and I groped to attach meanings to such nuanced variations of the concept as "in their wackily existentialist way" and the report that some Buckminster Fuller domes were sent out "into the world in a pure, almost existentialized form." Almost existentialized - an unlucky near miss!

At one time, we architects had a critic who was a master at architectural writing. He balanced description with illuminating generalization. Unfortunately, he unexpectedly died. And now we're still where we were. We need a master of language, like Updike, who can navigate the dangerous shoals of Writing About Architecture. Me, I'm going to do some more drawings.

Greg Allen Brings It For Bunshaft House


Greg Allen brings It On regarding the recently demolished beauty by Gordon Bunshaft. And includes links. Our hero. A taste, referring to Martha Stewart, John Pawson, Alexis Stewart, and Donald Maharam, successive owners of the houses after MoMA:

"Martha Stewart is a hack. The queen of hacks."

"Pawson's a frickin' hack, but he coulda--no, he was just Stewart's hack."

"Maharam's a hack, and a spineless hack at that. "

Greg, I share your ire, and thank you for documenting this. But if you're really upset, perhaps I should get you a chamomile tea while we comiserate?