Wanna buy a Mies?

    More info here, more photos here.

    Good time to move into this masterpiece building; it's just been expertly renovated. New glass for the lobbies. The steel stripped and painted crisp black again. New travertine on the plaza. New lighting. All to return it to how it looked when it opened in 1951. And once again, the Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago are THE mid-century modern high-rise. The original is the best.

    Offered through Sotheby's.

    Note: I'm the seller.
    .Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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All will crumble, all will tumble

    A reader, Jeff, commented on our recent thoughts about artists and architects warning about cracks in the system,
    "This thread looks like a good time to reintroduce the design firm SITE and it's work for Best Products Company."
    He's right. Here's the Best store in Sacramento

    with the so-called "earthquake entrance" :

    Those SITE stores for Best products - a chain now defunct - could be seen as the architects understanding before others that ruin is near. When they were new they reminded us of the "ancient Roman ruins" that went up in Paris in the 18th century.

    This half-circle of broken Corinthian columns, made to look antique and Roman, and ruined, went up in what today is Paris' Parc Monceau. The park was was built between 1773 and 1778 - not long before the Revolution - for Phillippe d'Orléans, the Duke of Chartres, one of the wealthiest men in France. When you've got so much, and you know how you got it, after a while it all becomes so decadent. That's usually right before the fall. You know it can't last. Dust-to-dust, all will crumble, all will tumble.

    And, the Duke and his architects must have whiffed the seeds of Revolution in the air. They unintentionally made the coming ruin physical.

    "We shape our architecture and it in turn shapes us." -- Winston Churchill.

    Be careful how you choose your architecture, and your politics. I disagree with those who say that to reflect contemporary chaos is enough. Part of an artist's responsibility could be to improve the conditions around him or her, or at least to try.

    At around the time the Duke is using antique orders to make untrue claims about his land ownership, another leader, elsewhere, was also inspired by Roman ruins, what he thought were Republican ruins. Thomas Jefferson borrowed from the ancient Roman Maison Carrée in Nimes, France

    to design the Virginia State Capitol (1785), the "temple of democracy".

    And Jefferson, building on what he considered blessed land, was inspired by the Roman Pantheon and other early models for his home at Monticello.


    Phillippe d'Orléans, the Duke of Chartres, soon after spending his wealth on those fake antique ruins and other follies, he met the Revolution. He began calling himself Phillippe-Egalité, and acted as contrite as a Detroit automaker today; but the people still had him guillotined.

    Thomas Jefferson adapted antique, Renaissance and neo-Classical models for American democracy. We know which system lasted.

    We know the French state-controlled system today. Is that where the U.S. is headed? And if so, what would be the appropriate architecture?

    "Earthquake Entrance" photo:© Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS
    Photographed: September 17, 1994, Sacramento, California, USA

    Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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"Native nature poet" landscape architect Jens Jensen

    After our last post, I heard from these filmmakers. More information on their website, including a way to donate to help them complete this one-hour documentary. Look for the finished project on PBS.

    "I felt a great force arise from these flatlands." - Jens Jensen

    He worked with Louis Sullivan, Albert Kahn, and Frank Lloyd Wright, who called him, "a native, nature poet."

    His design work can be seen in Chicago in Lincoln Park, Douglas Park, and Columbus Park. In the 1910's Jensen also helped preserve part of the Indiana Dunes sand dune ecosystem.

    His understanding of the prairie and his work there, continues to affect the lives of everyone who lives in the Midwest.
    . Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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If Barack Obama were a building, Part V

    What building (or place) would Barack Obama be?
    This fine and well-considered submission came in from Chicagoland architect T. Paul Young:
    Just a few blocks east of the Obama family residence on the South Side of Chicago is a place where land and sea meet to converge with history, art, nature, culture, and politics. This is a Works Project Administration (WPA) project called Promontory Point.

    Landscape architect Alfred Caldwell (1903-1998) drew the plan for this park in 1936-1937. He had just left Dubuque, Iowa where he'd worked for two years heading outstanding Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) / WPA planning, landscape and building projects in the parks there. Even today it's well worth a visit to this Mississippi River locale to see those parks.

    Caldwell’s work for the Chicago Park District beginning in 1936 was a much needed job and a work of creative will, intellect and flowing sense of humanity. Our President Obama has these natural qualities also (though maybe needing more backup in the visual arts), expressed through his own creative approach and accomplishments - past and unfolding.

    The 55th Street Promontory was one of the many important Chicago Park District WPA projects between 1935 and 1942 representing a $82 million investment in Chicago park development.

    Caldwell’s plan comprised walks through interconnected spaces both large and small, spaces created by shaping the earth and planting native trees & shrubs.
    Features of the original plan, some un-built, include the:
    • large central Meadow open to the city center vista north and curve of the shore south
    • special plantings at the eastern lake shore, the Lake Garden
    • lawn passages with character emphasis, the Cherry Lane, Crab Lane, Rose Lane
    • pedestrian subway under Leif Erickson Drive (now South Shore Drive)
    • benches, picnic tables and fireplaces for cooking
    • stone bulkhead with flagstone walks along the shore, the Picnic Ledge at SE point
    • stone council rings along the shore

    The council rings represent another connection to our President Obama. These council rings were stone circles, seats for purpose. The concept was from the Danish immigrant landscape architect Jens Jensen, based upon an idea of people gathering in a circle, all equal from the get go, Jeffersonian; also important to Jensen was the idea of Middle West natives gathering around a fire for warmth, food, talk…plans, life, the future…

    Oddly, the 55th Street Promontory became an ARADCOM (Army Air Defense Command) radar site from 1955-71 and much of the original landscape had been destroyed – the missile site was located in Jackson Park – grim reminders of all artless military history. Happily, in 1992 Alfred Caldwell was asked by the Chicago Park District to make a new landscape plan, executed, and four council rings were built along the shore much as had been originally planned.

    Perhaps the point of this nomination is the example set by President Franklin Roosevelt in the now historic meaning of the CCC and WPA work produced throughout the country enlisting talent in all of the visual arts, through both documentation of the people and creation by the people…this is equally possible and needed today. Many of these extant works are in need of true stabilization, restoration and greening. Fortunately there is rising tide in CCC/WPA awareness, shown recently in the restoration of Alfred Caldwell’s Lily Pool in Lincoln Park and as exemplified by the National New Deal Preservation Association found at: www.newdeallegacy.org
    "The Point" exists today as a testament to Caldwell, the WPA, and many locals who "got the point," when it was threatened, and saved it. This unique and wonderful public space lays right the Obamas' neighborhood of Hyde Park. We of Chicago are proud of the 55th Street Promontory, this small piece of our special heritage of ideas, dreams and memory.

    President Obama will certainly be the catalyst for yet unimagined special new important work and the link to hope that all the dots will be connected between the Roosevelt history and solutions inherent in the creative people to be tapped today and tomorrow for both practical, necessary and creative work in this nation. Now I hear America the Beautiful

    Photos from HydePark.org

    Read more about what threatens "the Point" here.

    Thank you, Paul. Well done.

    What do you think?

    If Barack Obama were a building, what building would Barack Obama be?

    6/02/11 UPDATE: A video in which President Obama explains what architecture is all about
    ..Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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The best Oscar-nominated film with buildings

    Man on Wire - the power of the tall building. How humans can be crazy to build them, and how they can make us do crazy things. As the Tower of Babel shows us. Or is this the story of Icarus? Almost.

    Great film. Only one misstep. Hang on.

    First let me say, I love the man's plastic French face. Like Le Corbusier's plasticity! So expressive.

    I've noticed fewer of these "Charlots" in France over the years, and I hope they always remain.

    Philippe Petit's passion for the iconography of buildings comes through. As soon as he sees a newspaper article about the twin towers to be built in New York, he is impassioned. He must conquer them. "Write poetry" with them, by walking between them on his wire. As if he is inscribing sacred Japanese calligraphy.

    I love how the architectural relationship between the "twin towers" of Paris' Notre Dame cathedral and the twin towers of Manhattan, is made clear. Before stunning New York, Petit had walked across, and laid down on, a wire stretched between the bell towers of Notre-Dame de Paris.

    This documentary ought to win an Oscar on Sunday. The story is great, they talked to real characters, tension builds, but-- just as Batman's Gotham City in Dark Knight was filmed in Chicago,

    (while he's there, can he fight the political corruption?)

    there is one scene in Man on Wire, filmed not in New York, but in Chicago! And it's to show how windy cities can be. Just when you're thinking, "wouldn't it be terribly windy up there?" the documentary makers cut to scenes of citizens on the street of a big city getting blown around. You think it's New York. I wonder if even the European filmmakers knew that this circa 1970's archival footage of "a windy city" was shot, not in New York but in The Windy City. Chicago. Here's the money shot,

    Recognize this corner? I do. It's looking north on Michigan Avenue, at Chicago Avenue. The dark reflective wall on the right is the Walgreens. (I've spent a lot of time there, can you tell? I remember the wooden shack of a newsstand. It was still there last I checked. For years I've thought, they would never allow such a wooden shack for a newsstand in Paris! That's why people love Chicago, right?) Today the I. Magnin is a Borders book store. To the right is the old Water Tower that survived the Chicago Fire. When built in 1869, its 154 foot height must have also inspired awe in the young Philippe Petits, or Phil Littles, of the day.)

    The fellow on the windy Chicago street in the shot above looks like he's floating, as if in a painting by Marc Chagall. Like Philippe Petit, another artist of

    floating in air. We, earthbound, love that imagery.

    Man on Wire also shows in the same "windy city" sequence, a couple walking into the wind at the base of Chicago's John Hancock Building.

    I lived in Paris in the 1970's. I remember the French were mesmerized by the iconography of Manhattan's new twin towers. "Les jumeaux," they called them, "the twins." Pictures of this great manifestation of 1970's American dominance popped up everywhere, such as in ads in the Paris metro. They admired the towers, but this could have also been a call to action. Allons enfants! - for the revitalization of French culture. Were the French suffering some giant and unwarranted inferiority complex? Are they always?

    Today, the Mayor of Paris, misguidedly, wants to build more tall buildings in City of Light. Before the current economic downturn, French officials cleared the way for the first high rise construction since high rise buildings were banned in the city in 1977. Twenty were planned.

    I'd be against most high-rises inside the city limits of Paris. If you must have towers, build nearby. We don't want the world to lose too much of what the French at their best understand better than most. Philippe Petit, and the film Man on Wire remind us of how to make la belle vie, a beautiful life-

    .Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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More public transit in Los Angeles, coming soon

    As I was going down Alameda Street in Los Angeles the other day, after a rare rain...
    I spied what looked like giant mushrooms
    springing up.

    These are sunshades at a transit station on a new light rail line set to open this summer. The Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension project.
    From Metro.net: Six miles of tracks to extend the Metro Gold Line from Union Station to Pomona and Atlantic... The communities of Little Tokyo/Arts District, Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles will be connected by rail to Long Beach, Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley, Downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena and more!
    I like these stations, possible in an agreeable climate such as the paradise of Los Angeles.
    I'm wondering if similar stations will open in Japan. These remind me of

    Christo's The Umbrellas, Joint Project for Japan and USA of 1994.

    The umbrellas I saw are for L.A.'s station called Little Tokyo.

    Let's put our top designers to work on America's infrastructure.

    Contrary to myth, L.A. has plenty of public transportation and is constructing more.


    Umbrellas photo: Wolfgang Volz ©1991 ChristoSource URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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Do you take the subway?

Must view! Mies van der Rohe - Visions of Space - by Robert Hughes and the BBC

    Provocative commentary and gorgeous moving images. Hughes is wrong about a lot, but get ready to spend the next hour glued to this.
    Mies van der Rohe: Less is More
    This episode features the German architect, Mies van der Rohe, who moved to America and discovered the face of the modern corporate city. In this highly personal account, Hughes follows in Mies' footsteps looking at how an architect who began his career making kitschy, Hansel and Gretel style houses with pointy roofs, little windows and squat floorplans transformed himself into the master of international modernism - the architect of light and space.

    Mies is the father of the contemporary vogue for loft living - what he was building in the 1920s still looks futuristic now. Similarly, his New York masterpiece the Seagrams Building provided the blueprint for the modern office building - without Mies no major city on Earth would look as it does.

    But despite his undeniable impact there is something in Mies' work that Hughes finds shockingly neglectful of real human needs. This master builder could spend days working out how to turn a corner with a skilfully placed beam and totally ignore the legitimate wishes and desires of those who used his buildings. -BBC


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Did artists try to warn us about the cracks in our system?

    Thom Mayne / Morphosis, Cahill Center, 2009
    Caltech, Pasadena, California

    Gordon Matta-Clark from "Splitting," 1974
    Englewood, N.J

    A House Divided will not stand.
    - Abraham Lincoln, and scripture

    There is a crack, a crack in everything.
    That's how the light gets in.
    That's how the light gets in.
    That's how the light gets in.
    - Leonard Cohen, Anthem, 1992

    Andy Goldsworthy, Faultline, 2007
    de Young Museum, San Francisco, California

    Doris Salcedo, Shibboleth at Tate Modern, London 2007

    Stock chart, 2009

    .Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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A waggish Frank Gehry video

    A student project. Leave the man alone, Gehry will turn 80 on February 28th. Kidding about leave him alone. I'd like to see them skewer others. They can't sing and can't act, but they've got something here.

    viaSource URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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When you miss Crown Hall so bad

Lego Fallingwater

Mies and music



    Duke Ellington played there in 1957 and wanted to record "Duke Under Glass."

    In 2001, the MASS Ensemble "strung Crown Hall with 24,000 linear feet of polished brass wire to create the “Crown instrument.” When played, the wire strings caused compression waves to resonate throughout the structure and Mies’ masterwork spoke for the first time."

    Now this.
    Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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Mies and Music in March

    Press Release:

    A Tale of Two Ludwigs: Mies van der Rohe Meets Beethoven, Gabrieli – March 15

    Chicago, IL – February 11, 2009 –
    The Grammy-nominated Chicago Chamber Musicians (CCM), together with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the American Institute of Architects and the Mies van der Rohe Society, bring groundbreaking chamber works to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s architectural masterpieces. CCM’s winter Sounds and Spaces event showcases Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Hero” String Quartet, Op. 59, No. 3, Razumovsky, and two works by Giovanni Gabrieli in S.R. Crown Hall and Robert F. Carr Memorial Chapel on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus Sunday, March 15, 2009 at 4 p.m.

    CCM’s new Sounds and Spaces series introduces masterworks of the chamber repertoire into architecturally significant spaces, inviting audiences to gain a deeper appreciation for both art forms. According to the famous first century BCE architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, “The architect must not only understand drawing, but music.”

    The March 15 event showcases three groundbreaking artists: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), considered the most influential architect of the twentieth century, redesigned the skylines of the world’s cities; Giovanni Gabrieli (1557-1612) was the first composer to indicate changes in dynamics (degrees of loudness) in his written scores; and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) “made all previous string quartets seem modest by comparison” (Melvin Berger’s Guide to Chamber Music).

    The event begins at 4 p.m. in S.R. Crown Hall – “one of the world’s most influential, inspiring, and astonishing structures” (Time Magazine)

    – with a guided tour by Justine Jentes, director of the Mies van der Rohe Society. Making the most of the clean lines and flat surfaces of the hall, CCM’s brass and string players perform Gabrieli’s Canzona per Sonare No. 1, Spiritata and Sonata Pian'e Forte a 8, Alla Quarta Bassa – written for the echoing acoustics of Venice’s St. Mark’s Cathedral.

    The audience then proceeds on a guided tour of IIT’s campus to Robert F. Carr Memorial Chapel.

    The only religious building van der Rohe ever designed, the chapel is described by the architect: “It was meant to be simple; and, in fact, it is simple. But in its simplicity it is not primitive, but noble, and in its smallness it is great, in fact, monumental.” The monumental will be aurally apparent with Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 9 in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3, Razumovsky, “Hero” which demands each player produces the maximum sound possible from their instrument in the finale. Beethoven wrote in the sketchbook that contained the quartet, “Can anything in the world prevent you from expressing your soul in music?”

    The event concludes at 6:30 p.m. following a reception with the artists at the Pritzker Club in the McCormick Tribune Campus Center.

    Date, time, and ticket information
    Sunday, March 15
    4 p.m. at S.R. Crown Hall
    3360 South State Street, on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology.
    Tickets are $50 and must be purchased in advance as seating is limited.
    Parking is free. CTA Green Line 35th-Bronzeville-IIT stops on campus in the McCormick Tribune Campus Center. For more information, call 312-225-5226 or visit www.chicagochambermusic.org chicagochambermusic.org/>


    The Mies van der Rohe Society
    The Mies van der Rohe Society was formed in 2002 to bring new life to the architect’s masterworks at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The Society is committed to preserving Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s legacy and maintaining the architectural integrity of his buildings at ITT, enhancing educational programs for students and reinforcing Chicago’s international reputation for architectural distinction. The Society is committed to completing the second phase of IIT's Master Plan, which will invigorate its landmark campus by restoring Mies van der Rohe’s famed modernist buildings.

    The American Institute of Architects (AIA)

    Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF)

    Chicago Chamber Musicians
    Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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Paris bike rental program not working

    Shucks. Many cities, including Chicago, whose Mayor loves bikes, have been watching the Paris experiment to see if it works.

    But the BBC reports:

    Thefts puncture Paris bike scheme
    People queue up to return bikes in Paris on 15 November 2007

    A popular bicycle rental scheme in Paris that has transformed travel in the city has run into problems just 18 months after its successful launch.

    Over half the original fleet of 15,000 specially made bicycles have disappeared, presumed stolen.

    They have been used 42 million times since their introduction but vandalism and theft are taking their toll.

    The company which runs the scheme, JCDecaux, says it can no longer afford to operate the city-wide network.

    Championed by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, the bikes were part of an attempt to "green" the capital.

    The Beeb also says,

    The Velib bikes - the name is a contraction of velo (cycle) and liberte (freedom) - have also fallen victim to a craze known as "velib extreme".

    Various videos have appeared on YouTube showing riders taking the bikes down the steps in Montmartre, into metro stations and being tested on BMX courses.

    "No Velibs were harmed in the filming of this video?"

    Rest of the story here.

    Chicago's Mayor Daley checks out the program in Gay Paris:

    A.P. photo 2007

    Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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February 12

What do Architects do when times get bad?

Is Beijing Blazing?

    "Rem in China" - the movie?

    Rem Koolhaas' TVCC - a luxury hotel, theater, recording studios, and a movie theater, next to his CCTV state television headquarters tower in Beijing, burnt today. I was there once and I'm sorry to see it go. So far no loss of life reported. So I can say- the news photo above looks like a movie poster to me. The design was stage-setty. The purpose was built on fantasy. And Rem used to write movie scripts. Such is modern life.

    Aaron Betsky wrote in Rem Koolhaas: The Fire of Manhattanism Inside the Iceberg of Modernism:
    At times, the architect is the most smartly dressed avatar of urban chic, dashing from meeting to drawing table to building site to somehow arrange for the appearance of structures. As he is portrayed in Hollywood movies and television series, what he produces is usually not important, unless disaster strikes.
    Rem Koolhaas and several of his contemporaries has added... : the architect as the conscious collector, manipulator and projector of images.
    Rem Koolhaas has used the image of architecture to produce a convincing architecture of image.

    And now, what was supposed to be, exists only in images

    If you examine the drawing closely, it even looks like a filmstrip.

    And it exists in fantasy videos

    Will they rebuild? Will Koolhaas and OMA change the design? Whatever Rem wanted to say a year ago, must be vastly different now. The world is new again, since he last told us how it was new then.

    Remember, Koolhaas' Prada store in New York also burnt, a few years ago. The New York Times story on the rebuild led with,
    An architect once told me a story that illustrated the futility and impermanence of all grandly conceived construction projects.
    Rem has long told us that China offers him more! amazing! opportunities! I want to the see the sequel to Rem's Beijing Adventure.
    .Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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If Barack Obama were a building, Part IV

    what building would Barack Obama be?

    Designslinger gives a superb answer.

    The building he chooses is about work and pride and ambition. It helped usher in a new era. People weren't used to one like it, but grew accustomed. It is somewhat disrespectful of its neighbors though, and I don't love the way it meets the ground. I think Obama does that better, having pounded the pavement as a community organizer. On the other hand, as President now he's about as shielded, or cut off from the masses as is this icon, which, like him, is tall, dark and handsome, and offers a beacon of hope.

    So what's your answer?

    If Barack Obama were a building, what building would Barack Obama be?

    Or Michelle Obama?
    Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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Your Monday Pin-up - Green Roofs edition

    A summer's day on a grass-topped flat roof in Berlin, 1926. Entertainment comes from the valve radio, a novelty then. -Photographer anonymous

    From Berlin: Portrait of a City - Taschen
    Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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"Modernism’s devilish doppelganger: beauty"

    Neil Denari on the late Jan Kaplicky
    Out of all the architects on the London advanced technology scene, Jan Kaplicky was the most fervent, the most political, and ultimately, the most poetic. His “inspiration” books proved that. As much as he applied conventional forms of modernist, even Fuller-esque, efficiencies, he equally applied an obsession with streamlined form to inert buildings, a logic based on modernism’s devilish doppelganger: beauty.
    Selfridge's Birmingham, England
    by Future Systems

    Jan Kaplický
    (1937 - 2009)

    More remembrances in The Architect's Newspaper.

    .Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/02/
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The stock market made manifest in Architecture

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