The Indicator: Sheltering in Place

Last Sunday James S. Russell, architecture critic for Bloomberg News and a former editor for Architectural Record, mused on his personal blog about the possible influence Paul Rudolph’s Brutalist University of Massachusetts campus in Dartmouth may have had on Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two Boston Marathon bombers who was also a student there.

Mr. Russell describes the campus as “a gigantic eerie, dozen-building concoction of grim ribbed-concrete hubris….” This is the sort of description that drives right to the heart of urban alienation. It’s Edvard Munch’s The Scream. This ability to sum up and drive the nail home is one reason he is the architecture critic for Bloomberg News. No side-stepping here.

It didn’t take long for someone to pounce on and, to use the popular pundit term, “eviscerate” Mr. Russell for what was viewed as his own hubris for thinking out loud about a sensitive topic. “Crass” is what writer Rory Olcayto called it from across the pond over at Architects Journal. Besides being a popular British put-down, Crass was also a British punk rock band that advocated anarchism. How dare he attempt to relate something he thinks about a lot (architecture) to the psychology of Bomber #2. Note: There is no evidence to support that attending the University of Massachusetts or living in its Brutalist architecture leads to violent behavior.

Meaningless aside but I thought I’d mention it anyway: I used to live across the street from Rudolph’s Lindemann Mental Health Center in Boston. I don’t think it had any effect on me one way or the other.

Paul Rudolph's rendering of UMass Dartmouth North Campus. Courtesy, UMass Dartmouth

Maintenance workers at Cooper Union were directed to screw down all fourth floor windows in anticipation of angry Cooper Unionists hanging angry protest banners in response to the official announcement Tuesday that said institution will start charging tuition in 2014. That will teach them. Cooper Union’s president, Jamshed Bharucha, in the New York Times, said that they are operating under a $12-million annual deficit. Who doesn’t operate under a deficit? Times have changed. Idealism apparently has not.

Brian Eno, ambient music pioneer, has developed healing light and sound installations for the recently-opened Montefiore Hospital in Hove, east Sussex. Healthcare architects take note. According to The Independent, “Research has provided evidence that the use of art and music can produce improved psychological, physiological and biological outcomes of clinical significance in patient care.” Currently the music may only be heard in this one hospital, but Mr. Eno may have other such collaborations with architects in the works.

Andy Cook, an urban planning student (what do they do again?) at MIT provided a moment of reflection in the midst of his “letter” from the lockdown by reminding us that on the night and day of Boston’s “shelter in place” NASA announced that their Kepler satellite has discovered two earth-like planets. Caveat: They are 1,200 light-years away. Abstract from the journal Science: We present the detection of five planets—Kepler-62b, c, d, e, and f—of size 1.31, 0.54, 1.95, 1.61 and 1.41 Earth radii (R⊕), orbiting a K2V star at periods of 5.7, 12.4, 18.2, 122.4, and 267.3 days, respectively. The outermost planets (Kepler-62e and -62f) are super-Earth-size (1.25 < planet radius ≤ 2.0 R⊕) planets in the habitable zone (HZ) of their host star, receiving 1.2 ± 0.2 and 0.41 ± 0.05 times the solar flux at Earth’s orbit (S☉). Theoretical models of Kepler-62e and -62f for a stellar age of ~7 Gyr suggest that both planets could be solid, either with a rocky composition or composed of mostly solid water in their bulk.”

This changes absolutely nothing. Frank O’Hara’s former place of employment, MoMA is still going to tear down the American Folk Art Museum. As he wrote (and this has absolutely nothing to do with anything but I have always wanted to quote this):

Rudolph's master plan for the campus. Courtesy, UMass Dartmouth

I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

Oh, American Fold Art Museum. I keep accidentally typing “fold” instead of “folk”. Maybe that is what MoMA needs to do: fold it in.

Going back to Mr. Cook at MIT. He admitted that he took a walk outside because he had run out of coffee. But as he said in the more grandiose manifesto-like passages of his letter, “the role of the planner is to confront these contradictions head-on.” This, intentionally taken out of context by yours truly, was the lead-in to taking us back to galactic scale: “Perhaps we could take a [sic] perspective of the astronomers, discovering a new planet 1,200 light-years away. How have those distant people gotten themselves into the mess they’re in? How could they begin to get themselves out?”

Maybe Brian Eno knows. 

About this author
Cite: Guy Horton. "The Indicator: Sheltering in Place" 26 Apr 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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