Writing Architecture

Tropolism Books Marmol Radziner + Associates: Between Architecture and Construction

Title: Marmol Radziner + Associates: Between Architecture and Construction

Author: Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner

Publication Date: July 1, 2008

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

ISBN: 9781568987446


As architects who build, we are continuously confronted by the friction between desire and execution. Who amongst us has not overdrawn a detail only to arrive at a jobsite to discover that it was completely overlooked by the builder? And that schedule and/or budget dictate the need to plod ahead without it?

The Santa Monica design-build firm of Marmol Radziner + Associates has been tackling these contradictions for almost two decades. Their latest monograph, Between Architecture and Construction catalogues the growth and development of this practice from a young, hungry, accidental design-build firm, to a mature and confident multi-faceted practice.

Click here to read the rest of the review.

James Corner Spotlights


James Corner, he of Field Operations (warning: totally annoying website navigation ahead), gets a lot of attention over at Landscape+Architecture last week. First he got a perfectly good mash note on November 24th: "The savoir [sic]... of course is James Corner and his firm Field Operations." This was the extended illustrated commentary on an article in the New York Magazine about the Fresh Kills park. But then he shows up in Metropolis for the highline (with really awesome pictures), and gets what can only be described as a mash note that further illustrates why we should love him. Frankly, we think he deserves it. He is redefining the profession of landscape architecture: there is no hyperbole in that statement. Will his built work be a success? That remains to be seen. But his influence on my generation is unmistakable. His desire to make beautiful, workable, urban spaces keeps his solutions looking decidedly non-theoretical. Yet somehow they look new. James Corner has many imitators, but few peers, and the mark his ideas leave on New York will be unmistakable.

More Miesian Delusions


Again with the Newsletter: last week I referenced some Miesian Delusions I came across the last few weeks. Another one opens tomorrow in Barcelona: SAANA is taking their bendy-glass-reflection-space to Mies's Barcelona Pavilion with a temporary installation. They have installed a semi-transparent acrylic curtain spiral. The curtain lets the visitor continue to visually see Mies's original space, but adds a layer of reflection and circulation that did not exist before. It's of the appropriate subtlety for the already-perfect Pavilion. We can't wait to see actual installation pictures.

Alerted by Designboom, who have more renderings.

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.

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.

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.

The Pyramids In Today's Egypt


Today The New York Times posts a little memo from Cairo touching on the relationship of modern Egypt to its ancient past. These are issues touched on in the book we finished recently, and the article stars Zahi Hawass, the cultural minister so prominently featured in Loot.

“A man without history is a man without humor,” said Galal Amin, an economist and author who has written about Egypt’s modern decline. “A man with history is more likely to have humor, because he is more likely to see the irony in things, how things were and how they turned out to be. And patience.”

Star Wars: A New Heap


Our favorite Death Star artist John Powers has posted a fascinating essay about Star Wars, Minimalism, and Modernism called Star Wars: A New Heap over at triplecanopy. This goes beyond his wonderful visual associations (like the original Star Wars text crawl and Robert Smithson's Heap of Language from 1966) and does research into the origins of the aesthetics of Star Wars, placing them squarely in the contemporary art of the late 1960s, including hard connections like the creative team from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Oddessy, who were in turn tightly connected to Minimalist and Modern Art.

Urbanism and Basketball


Free Darko, The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, posted an essay last week about how urban planning could affect basketball coaches. It starts from silly relationships (basketball and skyscrapers, tall men and tall buildings), but quickly takes a more sophisticated tack. He looks at the effect of height restrictions on cities and ends up challenging height restrictions on basketball positions. It's a fascinating cross-pollination that we'd like to see more of. Tropolism loves sports.

Tropolism Newsletter 1.3


Tropolism Newsletter 1.2 included the book review Loot and some of our favorite ideas of the week. Newsletter 1.3 goes out this weekend. To get your copy, sign up now in the top far right email field on this page.

El Croquis Goes Digital


One of the pleasures of my job is getting updates like these: El Croquis is offering digital versions of its magazines. In one swoop the twin problems of acquiring and storing their oversize formats is disappeared. Of course you don't get the pleasure of having a huge page with a flawless image or superdetailed plan, but there are advantages to the digital option. We'd rather have a proof copy of the master PDF file, but we'll settle for the Zinio system for the time being.

Pretty Pictures: Resampled Space


BLDGBLOG is back in fine form with a survey of the work of artist Filip Dujardin, who manipulates images to create his architectural fantasies. Yet these images are sublime because they amplify the weight and grunge of the existing industrial photograph material from which they are born. It is that they are plausible which gives them power.

Under Construction: OMA's Wylie Theater In Dallas


OMA's Wylie Theater in Dallas in under construction. Click here for an awesome slideshow by Archinect contributor Orhan Ayyüce.

Via Archinect.

Tropolism Books: Loot: The Battle Over Stolen Treasures Of The Ancient World


We just finished the new book by Sarah Waxman, Loot: The Battle Over Stolen Treasures Of The Ancient World. The book is a fascinating account of the culture war that is the resitution of ancient artifacts in Western museums. Institutions such as The Louvre, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The British Museum are turned inside out by these demands, and the author does a superb job of detailing all of the issues at play. She is remarkably agnostic about the arguments at play, and instead wisely focuses on the powerful questions that now arise. Do ancient artifacts belong in their home country where they can be seen in context, or are they better displayed alongside other civilizations in the great encyclopedic museums of the West? Should they be returned when the host country cannot insure their security, much less state of the art curatorial technology, even if the artifacts have unknown (therefore probably looted) provenance? Are colonial-era agreements (always written by colonists) that allowed some artifacts to leave their home countries legally still valid today?

The wheels spin on these issues and Waxman is content to let them spin. Along the way you will learn fascinating inside stories about museums and artifacts you probably already know and love (the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles, and my personal favorite, the Zodiac Ceiling), as well as see museums in a greater historical, and now political, context.

The book is available for purchase from Amazon. Buying it here helps support Tropolism.

Tropolism Newsletter 1.2


For those of you who missed it, Tropolism Newsletter 1.1 went out last Sunday. It was how the Zaha Hadid Chanel Pavilion now-closing in Central Park would have been improved by curation ideas taken from my favorite Xbox 360 games. This weekend: something different! To get your copy, sign up now in the top far right email field on this page.

Pretty Pictures: Drafting #1