Writing Architecture

BUTT: A Zine Proposal


Pruned proposes a zine that goes where MONU and Pin-Up so far have stayed away: scatology and porn. As most architectural magazines do. But Pruned's proposal for BUTT magazine (not to be confused with the real BUTT Magazine, pictured, I'll let you google the NSFW link) would explore a rich terrain of issues. Namely human waste and sewage. While not as sexy to some as the real BUTT magazine, the proposal immediately brings to life many topics that have been glossed over in our infrastructural-heavy theoretical musings on the city. As a work of creative criticism, this is brilliant.

Tropolism Books: Andrea Cochran Landscapes

Title: Andrea Cochran: Landscapes
Author: Mary Myers
Publication Date: April 13, 2009
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
ISBN: 9781568988122
Available at Amazon.

The work of Andrea Cochran can be seen, to those of us who have admired landscape design abroad, as finally completing the process of freeing American Landscape Architecture from the curse of postmodern landforms and wacky color cuteness. The work is powerful, but never unbalanced or trendy. Her outdoor spaces are clean, trimmed, and suitable for the modernist sensibility, yet they never feel like accessories to a building. Instead they reverse the relationship: the buildings are totally permeated, even subsumed by Landscape. That Landscape is the dominant piece here is not a judgment. In fact, seeing the concept so beautifully, seamlessly, effortlessly come to life leads one to believe that this particular resolution is the perfect conclusion of the idea that interior and exterior spaces are interconnected. There is more Landscape, more World than Building, so why not have Landscape's rules win? It is a conclusion that architects (and many landscape architects) fail to grasp. Andrea Cochran is way beyond grasping it: she's playing with it.

Yet her work is not simply concept, not airless, not minimal to its own death. They are spaces for living. There is air. There is messy stuff. The best example is the Curran House, an affordable housing building in San Francisco. The garden is a bamboo forest, a place to relax and congregate. Yet also included are galvanized agricultural troughs that provide urban garden space so residents may grow their own food and plants. It is a thoughtful touch that is beautifully executed with the simple, inexpensive, yet handsome troughs. Irony, cheekyness, and cuteness have been banished in favor of elegance, dignity, and reserve. Landsape is the background for fun, not a theme park.

The book Andrea Cochran: Landscapes continues this design sensibility. The photographs are flawless, rich, and will serve as references for decades. Like many landscape design books, this one has a superb plant reference guide that will help any architect successfully lift ideas (if not the overall concepts). Plan drawings of each project complete the documentation.

I am tempted to buy a second copy and write notes in the white space.

You can support Tropolism by purchasing this book at Amazon.

Starchitectural Disasters


We're rather proud of this one:

"Much like Martha Stewart's attack on the Travertine House, this house also lost its roof to a hurricane."

Utopias Reloaded


Plataforma Arquitectura has a great survey on utopian architectural visions past and present. Mostly past, showing us old favorites like Archigram and Superstudio, but introducing us to some we hadn't seen before, like Yona Friedma (pictured, prefiguring today's shipping container fetish) and Archizoom's "Aerodynamic City" (prefiguring blobstuff and Zaha Hadid). The article ends with projects by OMA and Norman Foster in Dubai, aka today's utopia breeding ground.

Furniture Friday: Kerk Apartment

Kerk_apartment_by_Stijn_Bisscheroux.jpgBehold the built in greatness of the Kerk Apartment by Dutch firm Stijn Bisscheroux. We do love it when furniture gets all architectural on us.

Via Materialicious.

MONU #10: Holy Urbanism

Archinect has a great piece on MONU Magazine's issue #10, titles "Holy Urbanism". The issue focuses on how building by religious organizations, and religious experiences in general, affect cities. It's a brilliant topic rarely discussed ever by anybody, so it's long overdue for the zine set.

Especially thrilling is the fact that you can browse the magazine on Youtube. Stunning.

Tropolism Newsletters


Tropolism Newsletters are still going strong! Be sure to sign up for the newsletter in the upper right hand field on this page so you get in on the action.

More Meta: Mention In New York Magazine

matrix090209_900.jpgSomeone at New York Magazine is reading us, because we were picked up on their Approval Matrix. You'll find us over halfway to brilliant, over halfway to lowbrow, right where we belong.

Tropolism Lectures: Gentrification Begins

washmews2.jpgGentrification, suburban sprawl, homogenization----we all have our takes on it. Inflated rents, overpriced restaurants, and multiple Starbucks are the clear symptoms. At the Municipal Arts Society talk at the Urban Center on Wednesday night, Francis Morrone takes us back in time to examine the origins of gentrification in New York City. Strikingly, it may have been started by a handful of progressive and socially conscious women.

Click here to read the rest of the lecture report...

Chicago Spire Tower Spawns Chicago Hole


The Chicago Spire, Santiago Calatrava's tower design that would have been the tallest building in the United States, had it been built, has been able to be referred to in the past tense for a little while now. What we didn't know is that where it was to stand is now occupied by a large, round, hole in the ground. That someone built. Oh, Chicago 2005. We still love you. After all, New Yorkers can't create perfectly architected holes. Our holes are simply messy construction sites for a decade or so. We'll respect you again if you find a good way to make money with the hole.

Documenting Disappearing St. Louis Continues


So much of St. Louis's architectural heritage is being destroyed that blogging it is a full-time project. Tropolism favorites B.E.L.T. and Vanishing STL have enough content to post frequently, and with terrifying stories of destruction of great works by the likes of Samuel Marx. Add to this list the tireless Andrew Raimist's Architectural Ruminations, who has created an internet home to a little known (outside of St. Louis) architect from the early 20th Century, Harris Armstrong. Much to explore here, but much of it has already been torn down.

Photo from Andrew Raimist's great gallery.

T Is For

Architechnophilia has posted their handy alphabet list of architectural weblogs. T is for us, darn straight it is! A little self love is a good thing.

Tropolism Editor On Vision 2020


Tropolism's Editor, Chad Smith (aka me!) was asked to participate in Vision 2020, a set of small questions asked to a large pool of architects about the future of architecture. My answers are found here, and will hopefully be no surprise to regular readers of Tropolism. This will hopefully be the last time you see a picture of me in a post here, I don't like getting too meta.

The Newspaper Went To Rio


The New York Times went to Rio and had a blast! And, there is architecture down there. And not just in Rio. I know, this is kind of like when MoMA discovered that the Spanish were doing something between 1971-1992. But in this case the articles are about great design.

First is a landmark show about Roberto Burle Marx at the Paço Imperial Museum, the powerfully influential painter who happened to do most of his work in landscape architecture. Usually taking second credit to Oscar Niemeyer, Marx is given his due in this show as a brilliant artist who gave modernist landscape design a distinctively Brazilian identity. His work is explored both formally (where his inventiveness is as tireless and arcane as Gio Ponti's) and as it relates to the native plant species and environs of South America.

Second is a house not far from Rio that some rich vacationers renovated. They liked Brazil so much they decided to renovate it into their very own tropical mansion. It's like John Lautner was asked to build with a Kon-Tiki kit of parts. Which is to say it's so over the top almost-modern that we love it.

Tropolism Books: After The City, This (Is How We Live)

Title: After The City, This (Is How We Live)

Author: Tom Marble

Book Designer: Juliet Bellocq

Publication Date: December 2008

Publisher: RAM Publications and the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design

ISBN: 978-0-9763166-4-0

This book is available through the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design's website. This book is not yet available at Amazon.

Review by John Southern.

In every dream home a heartache
And every step I take
Takes me further from heaven
Is there a heaven?
I’d like to think so

In Every Dream Home a Heartache, By Roxy Music, 1973.

I started out my career in architecture as a designer with a corporate firm in Washington D.C. that specialized in office parks, many of which were located in the rapidly developing Reston/Dulles Corridor of Northern Virginia. The experience, which only lasted 6 months, left me so cynical towards both corporate developers and the architects who serve them that I quit and went to work for another Virginia firm that focused on assisted living.

That however, is another story.

What I learned during my short tenure at that firm was that the development industry has neither an emotional attachment towards the social implications of the built environment, nor does it care for the utopian projections which began with the modern movement- both sentiments that are drilled into architects brains during their first year of design education. Instead, developers have learned to harness what architects typically eschew- society’s fondness for nostalgia and predictability, as well as an ability to conveniently ignore the implications of the environmental damage caused by suburban development.

Enter After The City, This (Is How We Live), a clever, exploratory pamphlet by Los Angeles architect, Tom Marble. Supported by the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, After the city, (this is how we live) cloaks itself in the guise of a Hollywood script weaving a story that is both educational as it is entertaining. Marble seeks to unravel the why behind all of those “little boxes on the hillside”, how they got there, and the men who made them. Hollywood has long been infatuated with the suburbs, often portraying them as hotbeds of banal consumption juxtaposed with the prospect of illicit activities which often occur behind the carefully manicured hedgerows and modest facades. However, while many script writers have explored the psychology and sociology behind suburban living, few have sought to uncover the larger processes that gave us the suburbs in the first place.

Click here to read the rest of the book review...

Whole Earth, Online


For those fans of the Whole Earth Catalog, that awesome counterculture publication from the late 1960s that inspired everyone from architects to computer programmers, is now online. The original DIY zine, the catalog was as much about information delivery systems as it was about what to do with the hippie information it provided. So it is only fitting that now it's archived here, with us.