The Indicator: Terra Vague

Sustainable Cenotaph for Isaac Newton – Boullée, 1784. Courtesy Star Strategies+Architecture as cited in The Architect’s Newspaper, AN Blog

Sustainability and Form have dominated architectural discourse, trapping the discipline between utopian play-acting—promising what it cannot deliver—and computerized “gaming” of design extremism.”

– Mark Jarzombek, “ECO-Pop” in Cornell Journal of Architecture 8:RE, January 2011.

In what he calls ECO-POP, Mark Jarzombek, associate dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT (i.e. someone with credentials), draws attention to how sustainability is deployed as an ideology and visual trope more than as a repertoire of achievable, well-thought-out strategies. This is my unabashedly biased interpretation of his manifesto-like article—in fact, let’s just call it a manifesto. (more…)


Courtesy of Flickr CC License / kinerific

Manhattanhenge, is the term used to describe a biannual occurrence in City when the sun aligns with the east-west streets of Manhattan’s main grid. Adopted in 1811 the famous street grid of Manhattan, the Commissioners’ Plan, was the original design plan for the streets in which the grid plan is offset at 29.0 degrees from true east-west. Twice a year photographers gather to witness this urban solar phenomenon, when the sun sets perfectly between the skyscraper corridors and illuminates the north-south facades of the streets. Tripods and pedestrians filled the crosswalks this past Wednesday to catch a glimpse of this moment.


Architecture 3D Illustrations

© Víctor Enrich

Víctor Enrich recently shared with us his architecture 3D illustrations and visualizations.  Over the years he has experimented with a variety of mediums resulting in these 3D creations.  A full description of his work and further illustrations following the break.


Geopolitical Borders Competition / Adrian Lahoud and Samuel Szwarcbord


Adrian Lahoud and shared with us their honorable mention entry for the recent Geopolitical Borders Competition organized by Think Space and judged by Teddy Cruz. This project is about two lines, one existing and one proposed. The first line is invisible. It runs horizontally from east to west across the Mediterranean Sea. Like the contour lines on a weather forecast, it bends and twists according to the vast differentials of pressure between North and South. From the perspective of the African continent, Europe holds a minimal promise of opportunity that cannot be found at home. From the point of view of Europe, North Africa represents a local pool of labor power, ready to be dipped into at will, a steady reserve of energy (increasingly solar) and kilometers of unspoiled coast ready for development. Like any bad relationship, the asymmetry is secured through structural violence. This violence must be flexible enough to accommodate the contradictions and dynamics of both parties. Changing domestic imperatives, economic demands and legal requirements form plastic limits through which the stability of the line must be coordinated.


Kim Jong-il looking at architectural model

In this undated photo released by Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service in Tokyo Wednesday, April 14, 2010, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, third left, looks at a model as he visits the newly-built E-Library at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)

Via Kim Jong-il looking at things.

The Indicator: Made in China

19th Century Confectionary factory, via

“Made in China.” For so many in Western nations, this phrase conjures up a plethora of horrific images. There is the Human Rights argument: low wages, inhumane working conditions, and so forth. Then there is the issue of quality, as in, there is none.

First let’s talk about human rights in terms of manufacturing. The favored discourse is that Chinese factories exploit their employees and hence the resultant quality of the goods is far inferior. Sensational stories that support this conclusion always seem to cross international lines. Moreover, there are basic protestations of Human Rights’ violations and then the specter of Tibet is raised.


The Indicator: Learning from IBM

Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (SSEC), via

The Economist has some really interesting articles on doing business. The latest are on the 100th anniversary of IBM and another which measures the success of multinational business vs. philanthropy in changing society for the better. IBM came out the winner in the latter one. Not, however, because it is a multinational corporation but because of the way it does business. IBM treats its employees well which directly shapes its influence on the larger, now global, community. Moreover, while many think of IBM as a “tech” company and its stock is often listed as such, IBM actually categorizes itself as a service company.

There are five major strategies that have ensured IBM’s ability to withstand the vicissitudes of a dynamic business sector, three of which directly apply to architecture firms. First, IBM puts its customers first and foremost. They do this by using a significant number of their employees to foster and maintain client relationships. That makes it more difficult for other companies to poach their customers. Why? Because those other companies don’t think developing and keeping clients happy is a good use of their resources, i.e. employees. IBM knows better. Clients trust them precisely because of their long relationship. So when clients need something, they turn to IBM. That means a steady client-base of loyal customers who in turn recommend IBM to their clients and friends. (more…)

The Indicator: It’s Personal

My old firm, the one I got laid off from almost exactly two years ago, has had another round of layoffs. I’ve lost count how many that is (over ten I think), but since it included several principles, I’m guessing that this is either a death knell or time for a major restructuring of that office.

And that got me thinking about my own situation. Again. Because if there’s one thing that triggers intense feelings when you’re unemployed, especially when it’s been a really long time, it’s hearing other people at your old firm have suffered the same sad fate. (more…)

The Indicator: Death of a Critic

When a major architecture critic heads for the exit, does anyone care? One would suspect most architects would hold the door open and wave him on through. Critics, after all, can be quite nasty and make one’s life work look like so much poop.

So, it depends. When Herbert Muschamp died in 2007 the collective tissue boxes of the architectural profession were emptied as architects of all stripes, especially those he championed, shed rivers of tears. Mr. Muschamp, it seems, was a critic of consequence. People listened to him. What then of his protégé, Nicolai Ouroussoff? (Hereafter, simplified to N.O.) Will be N.O. missed?

More after the break. (more…)


© Franck Bohbot

Photographer Franck Bohbot recently shared his photos of Anish Kapoor’s Leviathan-Monumenta with ArchDaily. Organized by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, MONUMENTA annually invites an internationally renowned artist to transform the 13,5000 sqm of the Grand Palais Nave with an artwork especially created for the event. Leviathan-Monumenta will be on display until June 23rd.

Follow the break for additional photographs.


The Indicator: The Next Architecture, Part 8: Inevitability

As the economy staggers through the pre-dawn streets of a slow and agonizing “recovery” – some economists including Robert Reich argue we are not in a recovery – it is important to remember what has been learned.

As far as architecture is concerned, the lessons learned were the same ones as in prior recessions. Maybe this time architects will not suffer from amnesia or lapse into denial when billings tick up once again. It is easy to forget how difficult things have been. People tend to just want to move on and not dwell on the past. Psychologically, people seem to just want the economy to be in a recovery – even if there is evidence to support that it is not necessarily at that stage yet. Recession this, recession that. Everybody is tired of hearing about it. I’m tired of writing about it! But it is still a reality that affects the ranks of our chosen profession. No one has been immune. Professionals at all levels of experience, whether licensed or un-licensed, domestic or international, healthcare or commercial have been impacted.

More after the break. (more…)

Restoration of Buckminster Fuller’s iconic Fly’s Eye Dome at America’s Cup

2010 - Fly's Eye Dome installed in Beacon,

Goetz Composites, fabricators of some of the most successful race boats in the world including three of today’s most high profile yachts as well as ten America’s Cup racing yachts completed a historic restoration of one of Buckminster Fuller‘s most iconic structures, the 24 foot Fly’s Eye Dome.

Patented in 1965, Fuller created two prototypes of this structure; a 24 foot and 50 foot dome. Fuller writes in his seminal book, Critical Path that “the Fly’s Eye domes are designed as part of a ‘livingry’ service. The basic hardware components will produce a beautiful, fully equipped air-deliverable house that weighs and costs about as much as a good automobile. Not only will it be highly efficient in its use of energy and materials, it also will be capable of harvesting incoming light and wind energies.”

More images and information after the break. (more…)

The Indicator: Distractions

post-it art by Marc Johns

Focus! Focus! Focus! Why are you reading this! You should not be reading this now! Get back to work! You are being unproductive! You are DISTRACTED!

Architecture in an office environment often functions like the opposite of how it was in studio. For one, offices are businesses so there is a need for oversight, management, evaluation, assessment, leadership, discrete task assignments, meetings…the list goes on. Notice that all of these elements to running a firm somehow come down to time management and staffing issues. Leaders have to keep an eye on junior staff, not to be annoying and stand over their shoulders micro-managing them, but to stay aware of what everyone is doing and where the different aspects of complex projects stand. Of course, this also relates to project budgets.

More after the break. (more…)

Points of View from Herman Miller

YouTube Preview Image

Points of View (POV) is a Herman Miller series sharing architects’ perspective on design.  Directed by Hello Design, POV provides five different California architects’ step by step process from approach and design development to materials choices.  Architects include Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner of , Kim Coleman of Cigolle X Coleman, James Meyer  of LeanArch, Jim Jennings of Jennings Architecture, and John Friedman of JFAK Architects.

All five interviews can be viewed here.

Proposed Renovation to the Phillis Wheatley Elementary School for the AIAS Competition for Schools of Tomorrow / Brian Albrecht, Kristopher Kunkel and Mary Rogero

Competition board

Miami University graduate students, Brian Albrecht and Kristopher Kunkel, and their faculty adivsor, Mary Rogero, recently sent us their submission for the AIAS School of Tomorrow 2010 Competition. They chose to design for the Phillis Wheatley Elementary School that we recently featured on our site. Their proposed design seeks to accomplish two vital aspects of sustainability and design: the preservation of an iconic Modern structure that embodies the period in which it was built, and secondly adapts that structure to suit present day needs for an area with unique problems and a unique culture.


Ecco / NAU


As an all-electric vehicle, the Ecco has no emissions of its own, and can be quickly charged at a standard 240V station. But when used for extended living purposes, even where no electricity is available, its built-in photovoltaic panels and solar sail roof mean that it can cut out the middle man, and charge directly from the sun.


May 2011 Issue of the Charrette from Tulane School of Architecture

The Tulane School of Architecture, theCharrette presents its May 2011 Issue. The culmination of a year with a new image for the publication, theCharette has included in this issue key architectural topics at Tulane and adjacent realms including the Richardson Memorial Hall renovations with FXFOWLE and .

Included in this issue is the latest update from Byron Mouton and students who have completed URBANbuild build 06 house at 1821 Toledano. Also don’t miss the articles featuring Dutch Dialogues and Architecture 2030.

The Indicator: The $5000 House


The best of architects is not that they can use cool software or design buildings, or even that they can help create interesting spaces. If you think back to your school days, the best of architecture was problem-solving. You were given a challenge and then you had to think of good ways to address those challenges. That included addressing social, cultural, racial, environmental, and not least, spatial, needs.

Given the opportunity, architects use a myriad of tools and critical thinking skills to solve many different problems, not just strictly spatial ones. In fact, years ago, Guy Horton and I discussed the possibility of starting a round table or a colloquium, to brainstorm on different issues with others both in architecture and other academic fields, and to offer possible solutions.

More after the break. (more…)