Grand Designs on Netflix

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Currently I’m geeking out on Grand Designs on Netflix. It evokes latent feelings of getting your hands dirty, sometimes literally, on designing your own space. As the synopsis suggests, “Host Kevin McCloud presents people who take self-building houses to a new level, following every step of their ambitious plans from beginning to end.” I may be late to the Grand Designs party and am partly disappointed that there are only two seasons on Netflix, I’m savoring every episode. I’m beginning to appreciate the United Kingdom countryside that’s reminiscent of Enid Blyton books from my childhood.

As any architect or even urban planner knows, the outcome is the easiest part but at the same time, the process is just as joyful and in fact more interesting. Check it out if you haven’t already.

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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]