Category Archives: Commentary


ART TO ARCHITECTURE « LEBBEUS WOODS – Lebbeus Woods asks the question about the relationship of Art to Architecture.  He points out that as the arts like painting and sculpture became less integrated with Architecture, they actually gained a more direct influence on architecture.  Suddenly Art could be used as a direct inspiration for Architecture.  It is certainly an interesting observation.

For my part, I hold with Deleuze and Guttari’s opinion that Art is concerned with precepts and affects and their ability.  This means that Architecture is not necessarily Art, though it certainly can be and certainly the value of Art in Architecture is important.  I am not one to hold that Architecture is only an Art, for Architecture includes much more than Art, both in constraints and in scope, Architecture addresses more than the limited, but very intense, subjects of Art.

Comments on Inapal Metal / Menos é mais | Arch Daily

Inapal Metal / Menos é mais | Arch Daily – Inapal Metal is manufacturer of automotive parts.  The designed by Menos e Mais architects is a simple study in corrugated metal.  Rather than a banal metal building though, the Inapal Metal building has a subtle refinement that makes it something so much more.  The curving radius of the corners and the change in direction between the two main masses of the building break the building up and create a dynamic difference that energizes the form.  The large cantilevered loading dock canopy, while very functional also gives the otherwise heavy building a lighter feel.  Finally the perforated metal screens that partially hide the mechanical systems and large circular holes for exhaust along one side of the building is almost shocking when compared to the closed feel of the corrugated metal elsewhere.  The interiors further extend the precision and neutrality of the exterior.  The building is one with few expressive moves, yet it holds a spatial movement that is farm from static.

Comments on Santo Stefano Cemetery in Italy / Amoretti + Calvi + Ranalli | Arch Daily

Santo Stefano Cemetery in Italy / Amoretti + Calvi + Ranalli | Arch Daily – The expansion of the Santo Stefano Cemetery in Italy is set between the old cemetery and a waterfront way.  It consists of a series of cubic crypts each freestanding and set in two rows along a curving line with a path set between.  The project’s success comes from its use of such a simple object as the cubic crypt which is then subverted by arraying it into a field, breaking down the idea that architecture is about a singular object, continuous or discrete.  The crypts themselves are proportioned to meet the requirements of an interned human body giving an empathic quality to the crypts.  Each crypt like the body of the people inside.  Though it is a long standing tradition in Architecture for funeral monuments to be an expression of some idea of the person life, it is modern take to make the crypt emphatically relate to the human experience rather than express or represent it.

Comments on Richard Box | Interactive Architecture dot Org

Richard Box | Interactive Architecture dot Org – An installation of 1301 fluorescent light bulbs powered by the electric field of a high voltage power line that crosses over the site is impressive in its ability to reveal the hidden world of the electromagnetic radiation that permeates the world around us.  While visually reminding me of Walter De Maria’s lightning field at sunset/sunrise, this installation takes the place making abilities of De Maria’s piece one step further.

Comments on 290 Mulberry Fabrication Update – Prototyping | CASE Design, Inc.

290 Mulberry Fabrication Update – Prototyping | CASE Design, Inc. – Case discusses the collaborative approach that was taken during their time at SHOP in the development of the innovative brick panels at 290 Mulberry.  The use of parametric modeling and a 3D printer allowed the production of quick prototypes and models that were then presented to potential fabricators, allowing a more directed and specific discussions to happen and the selection of fabricators that were interested in proceeding.  The 290 Mulberry project is an excellent example of how to work with fabricators to get unexpected results.  Well done.

Comments on Plants Can Twitter for Water with New Device – PC Magazine

Plants Can Twitter for Water with New Device – PC Magazine – Researchers have designed a system that combines a soil moisture sensor, a micro-controller and custom software to allow a plant to send out tweets on its status.  Messages can be customized by the user to make them more unique.  In fact one of the researcher’s plant ‘Pothos’ has more than 2,300 followers on Twitter.

This is an interesting example of how everyday objects are beginning to communicate with us in a more direct manner.  I hate the term ‘Smart’ technology but along those lines, what happens when all the potted plants in everyone’s houses can ask for water and tell us how they are doing?

Comments on Instruction Art | Build Blog

Instruction Art | Build Blog – Build Blog discusses a art piece by William Anastasi that is a simple set of instructions to create a shallow notch in common drywall surfaces, the demolished mess of dust to be left in a pile at the bottom. The piece is effective because of its ability to be created nearly anywhere due to the ubiquitous use of gypsum board but also the singular condition it creates in such a common field. Like Architecture, the piece is just a set of instructions for producing a specified result, yet the simplicity of that result leaves the piece open to the context around it, making it more interesting than many buildings that try to purely project their presence onto those around them.

Comments on Naha City Gallery & Apartment house / 1100 Architect | Arch Daily

Naha City Gallery & Apartment house / 1100 Architect | Arch Daily – Though very simple, the Naha City Gallery & Apartments by 1100 Architect is an excellent example of an architecture of the ordinary that doesn't compromise becoming the banal. Made of common materials, concrete, aluminum and glass, the building still spatially engages its surroundings. The gallery on the main floor juts out from the rest of the building, pulling in the exterior and the sunken parking beneath gives the building a firm stance on relationship to the earth, something often not thought out in contemporary buildings.

Though perhaps a building designed to closely to my own biases, I can't help but feel that carefully designs like the Naha City Gallery could do more for the urban fabric of our cities than the singular designs of many of the big name architects that gain so much press these days.

Comments on Planned Spontaneity

Planned Spontaneity – Bojana Vuksanovic argues for new approaches to design and planning that allow for more spontaneity and change rather than the rigid, preconceived approaches that are favored in current architectural practice. While her arguments are strong, I take issue with her unqualified use of the terms organic and complexity.

The organic is not truly opposed to the orderly. Her use of the organic is in line with its commonly conceived usage, but that usage favors too heavily the conception that the organic is somehow special in architecture. Architecture by its very nature is inorganic and though it can be a useful metaphor to compare certain aspects to the organic qualities, the organic metaphor can also be abused when not qualified in its usage. Like many in the architectural community, the term organic is as a judgment rather than a quality or characteristic. It is something that is favored and good for architecture without qualification.

Complexity is a more recent term filled with baggage in architectural discussion, however as in this essay, there is little qualification as to what makes up something that is complex and what does complexity actually do for the design. To state the obvious, complexity isn't a simple subject that many architect's seem to think it is. I am similarly troubled by her use of complexity without a discussion of the very real pitfalls of the “random”. Yes, current architecture can use more spontaneity or noise in the decision making process, but to argue that more complexity improves that process is not necessarily true. As Murry Gell-Mann argues in his book the Quark and Jaguar, effective complexity, that complexity that contributes to the behavior of a system, actually is highest and richest at some indeterminate mixture of order and randomness. Too often today, randomness, which is complex, is thought to be effective. Her example of fluids being more complex than solids falls into exactly this pitfall. Yes, there is more room for the random in a fluid, but its ability to interface with other systems and behaviors are not that much more complex than a solid when you consider all the different ways solids can form.

Despite these few discrepancies, the essay is very good and shows a careful and thoughtful approach to the problem of spontaneity in design. Vuksanovic’s critique of the conventional design practices that sacrifice richness of experience for the safety of certainty is a powerful one. I highly recommend reading the article.


WORLDS APART « LEBBEUS WOODS – Lebbeus Woods argues for the need of the next generation of architect's to take up the cause against the strict orders of design of past generations. He feels that fragmentation, chaos, randomness and complex systems of order can lead architect's to new ways of designing and opening up a new way of living for the inhabitants. Though I agree with him in principal, I can't help but question the results of the projects that currently use those concepts in their designs. As is pointed out in the comments to the essay, too often the designs are only frozen representations of chaos or complexity that claim to embody ideas of freedom and new ways of living when in fact by their very complexity, they require strict controls to finance, construct, and manage, which in the end leaves impotent the very concepts they are attempting to embody. Such concepts can not be a purely formal expression but must be lived through the very act of construction.