Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing

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As I work with my computer-savvy students and staff today, I notice that something is lost when they draw only on the computer. It is analogous to hearing the words of a novel read aloud, when reading them on paper allows us to daydream a little, to make associations beyond the literal sentences on the page. Similarly, drawing by hand stimulates the imagination and allows us to speculate about ideas, a good sign that we’re truly alive.

Source: NYTimes.

Guggenheim Architect To Design Facebook HQ

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Share price be damned, Facebook is expanding. It’s just announced that Guggenheim Museum architect Frank Gehry will design a 3,400 employee engineering office connected to its Menlo Park Headquarters by an underground tunnel. Engineers will hack away in one giant room, separated from the product and ads teams in the main campus. Construction will begin in early 2013

Must be Gehry’s most linear design ever.

Source: TechCrunch.

Letters of Note: The Empire State Building

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Early-1932, after seeing a photograph in the New York Times of the great Helen Keller at the top of the newly-opened Empire State Building, Dr. John Finley wrote to her and asked what she really "saw" from that height. Keller — famously both deaf and blind from a very early age — responded with the incredible letter seen below, within which lies one of the greatest, most evocative descriptions of the skyscraper and its surroundings ever to have been written.

A truly beautiful letter.

[Link to Letters of Note: The Empire State Building]

Architectural Myopia: Designing for Industry, Not People

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In the last half-century, the clear result of “architectural myopia” is buildings whose makers have been so concerned with the drama of their appearance that they fail on the most fundamental human criteria. They isolate people; they do not provide enough light; or provide a poor quality of light; they provide a hostile pedestrian environment at their edges; they cause excessive shade; or create winds in what is known as a “canyon effect”; or they trap pollutants in the “sick building syndrome”; they use resources wastefully; etc. Moreover, the buildings themselves are a wasteful use of resources, because they are not likely to be well-loved, cared for, repaired, modified, and re-used over many years. In short, it is not just that people find them ugly, but they represent a fundamentally unsustainable way of building human environments.

[Link to Architectural Myopia: Designing for Industry, Not People]

Frank Lloyd Wright Did Care

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A Wright house isn’t a build­ing, it’s a philo­soph­i­cal text about fam­ily, nature and land­scape. An inglenook is impor­tant — it draws fam­ily and friends into con­ver­sa­tions. Views into the sur­round­ing land­scape are impor­tant — they con­nect us to nature An Apple prod­uct isn’t about but­tons and screens, it’s about elim­i­nat­ing bar­ri­ers between the user and what the user chooses to care about when using the device.

The proof that Frank Lloyd Wright cared is that he sold houses in every decade from the 1890s to 1960s. The proof that Steve Jobs cared is not found in the fact that Apples sells mil­lions of prod­ucts, but that Apple sells mil­lions of its prod­ucts to peo­ple who already own Apple prod­ucts.

[Link to Frank Lloyd Wright Did Care]

Norman Foster and Steve Jobs

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But the culture of Foster and Partners (as it was then called) was different from firms in Silicon Valley with one notable exception – Apple, the place that combined geek business inventiveness without its reputation for poor aesthetic sensibility. Perfecting the model of selling design that is compatible with big business, Foster simultaneously grew one of the largest architecture practices in the world while still winning awards for design excellence. The secret was to design buildings like the limited edition, invite only Porsches that Foster drove and fellow Porsche drivers would commission them.

More alike than you would imagine.

[Link to Norman Foster and Steve Jobs]

A Brief History of Moving Buildings

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Richard Neutra’s Maxwell House was chopped up and moved to a new location this week (photos from the L.A. Times documenting the mid-century classic being towed along Sunset Boulevard, below).

An admirable save, to be sure — though we wonder whether treating such a building like a status object that can be moved around according to the will of the owner somehow detracts from the dignity of the original architectural intent.

[Link to A Brief History of Moving Buildings]