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Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page

Over at Read::Zebra

In Uncategorized on August 30, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Even though things will be quiet around here for a while, I’m going to be posting juicy chunks of culture in heavy syrup over on Read::Zebra.

See you there.

Layoffs

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2011 at 6:40 pm

I laid myself off today. The publication of The Built Environment is henceforth suspended. It may resume. But don’t hold your breath. Thanks to everyone for reading.

Inside the world of Chicago location scouts

In Excerpts, Thoughts on August 3, 2011 at 9:47 am

The making of The Dark Knight, much of which was filmed in Chicago with the help of the city's location scouts

In the Tribune today, a profile of Chicago’s location scouts—men and women who look at our built environment with very different eyes and can see the kinetic energy of ordinary things like traffic circles, trees, and town homes. A portrait of Joe Amari was especially intriguing:

Amari started as a scout for John Hughes; today, he maintains thousands of location photographs, digitally archived, but also kept as hard copies in green filing cabinets on the third floor of the James R. Thompson Center downtown, sorted by zoos, homes, parks, banks, gymnasiums, heliports, ad infinitum. 

If you’re part of a big-deal production, chances are he’ll give you the official state treatment — which means he’ll send you scores of location pictures, then drive you around in a blue Illinois state van with about 118,000 miles on it, showing off every location to consider.

He’s given that tour to director Christopher Nolan, the Wachowski brothers when they were making the The Matrix sequels, and the producers of the upcoming Iron Man 3.

But the most fascinating detail of all was the fact that Amari is a state employee, working for the Illinois Film Office. The state does have an economic interest in drawing filmmakers so it’s only logical it would employ such a team, but it’s the type of thing I’ve never really thought about.

The crux of the article was the news that the new Superman movie would use Chicago as Metropolis, challenging the assumption that New York would always be home of The Daily Planet.

Al Cohn, a Chicago location scout, takes pictures at North Avenue Beach. Photo: William DeShazer.

How to build a poem

In Thoughts on July 30, 2011 at 3:04 pm

What would a poem look like if you were to build it?

That was the question behind The Cloud Collective’s latest project, where they constructed Robert Walser’s “Oppressive Light” from three-dimensional white block letters, which rise and fall like styrofoam waves in an over-saturated room.

Read the poem. Then watch the video.

Two trees stand in the snow,
tired of the light, the sky
heads home – nothing nearby
where the gloom makes its abode.

And behind those trees,
houses tower in the dark.
Now you hear someone speak,
now the dogs begin to bark

The round, beloved moonlight
lamp appears in the house.
When again the light goes out
A gaping wound remains in sight.

What a small life to know
and so much nothingness nearby.
Tired of the light, the sky
has given everything to the snow.

The two trees dance with grace,
bend their heads and nod.
Clouds race across the sod
of the world’s silent face.

Enveloped: A TBE SHORT

In Thoughts on July 25, 2011 at 6:06 am

While a brutal heat wave gripped Chicago, a massive blanket of fog advanced from the lake and closed down every single one of the city’s beaches, due to zero visibility. In one lakeside neighborhood it was 75 degrees; in a landlocked area it was 86 and felt like nearly 100. It was surreal to see from nearly any vantage point, but from the air, it’s especially incredible.

Places as Playmates: Alternative educational architecture

In Excerpts on July 19, 2011 at 6:52 am

Over on Bobulate, Liz Danzico asks what places we consider playmates:

“The simple form of a tree provides inspiration for a kindergarten space and movement as a tool for learning:

‘In “Philosophical Investigations,” Ludwig Wittgenstein writes that what children and foreigners have in common is the absence of knowledge of language and a set of codified rules. This leads them — in the first instance — to learn through the senses and the body. To give the children more freedom to move around the school, the directors of the Fuji Kindergarten requested Tezuka to design spaces without furniture: no chairs, desks or lecterns. As a result, “Ring Around a Tree” offers an architecture where there are no measures taken to constrain space, in order to liberate the body.’

And that includes the floors of the structure itself:

‘The space created by Tezuka seems to have just two floors, but for the children the building has six floors with volumes that are one meter high. The compressed spaces, which can only be reached by crawling, further the freedom of movement and ability to use the body as a means of learning.’

The tree was a “place-playmate” for several generations — a treehouse, a waiting shelter, a climbing space — before recently transformed. What places do we consider playmates, and how might they be, should they be, transformed?”

How it gets done: A TBE SHORT

In Excerpts on June 28, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Napkins, notebooks, etc.

COLLECTED: Border porosity, 2.5-D flash fiction, salt mazes, and a jungle cat

In Excerpts on June 20, 2011 at 7:07 am

1. POLITICAL EQUATOR 3

TIJUANA / SAN DIEGO—“Last week at the Political Equator 3 conference, which described itself as a “2-day cross-border event” occurring simultaneously in Tijuana and San Diego, something very interesting happened. … For one afternoon only, Mexico formally welcomed international border-crossers, coming south from the United States, into the country at a temporary checkpoint located at the mouth of an underground drain. For this brief phase in international relations, then, the U.S./Mexico border formally included a strange, pop-up entry/exit point. A kind of embassy of the porous. Passport stamps from the experience must surely stand as some of the most unique in the world.” —BLDGBLOG

“On one side of the border there is an emphasis on surveillance while, on the other side, a series of systematic social, economic, and environmental policy failures have created a hazardous living condition for thousands of Tijuana’s poorest. The failure, however, can be felt on both sides, as the watershed pushes the sediment and trash from the illegal settlements in Tijuana’s Los Laureles Canyon directly across the border into the Tijuana River Estuary State Park. While politicians on both sides demagogue, the lack of communication and collaboration between the two nations leads to social and environmental catastrophe. —Quilian Riano, Architect

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2. LONDON IN TWO-AND-A-HALF DIMENSIONS

LONDON—“The short stories of this book’s title are set in different time periods of London, intentionally locating themselves in the liminal territory between fiction and architecture to provoke an engagement between readers and their two-dimensional counterparts occupying the depicted city. The stories are neither illustrated texts nor captioned images; the collages represent a network of spatial relationships, and the text, which splices genre such as science fiction, magical realism and the fairy tale, a thread that links some of the nodes of that network together. —CJ Lim and Ed Liu, Authors

“In other stories, Alice in Wonderland collides with the Playboy Mansion, which arrives for one night, and one night only, in the parks of London, where ‘underground chambers, replicating the hole through which Alice follows the white rabbit, had been scattered through the garden, capped with circular lenses and mirrors,’ optically augmenting this hedonistic underworld.” —BLDG BLOG

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 3. ‘TIGER TIGER’

VANCOUVER—“Canadian studio The Practice of Everyday Design is a newly formed partnership between Antoine Morris and David Long. Together the duo focus on installation art, product design, and architecture. To promote their practice they created the ‘Tiger Tiger’ photo series. The cardboard tiger head was made as a sculptural piece and will now be used for their installation needs. —designboom

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4. LABYRINTHS

COLOGNE—“Japanese installation artist, Motoi Yamamoto, … uses hundreds of pounds of refined salt piped out of a plastic squeeze bottle to construct what he appropriately calls his Labyrinths. At the end of the installation’s show, visitors are asked to collect the salt from the floor and then everyone travels to the ocean or a river to return it to the water. Yamamoto has constructed close to 30 of these mazes since he started working with salt in 2001. He began working with salt a decade ago after his sister passed away from brain cancer. In Japan, salt is a symbol for purification and mourning, so his drawings and sketches were a way of honoring her and expressing a sense of eternity. —Inhabitat

Evicting the Ghost: A photo essay of Bucharest

In Excerpts on June 16, 2011 at 5:20 pm

For a photo essay over on Strange Harvest, studioBASAR highlights the importance of exploring a place on foot (“Walking the streets of Bucharest can act as an after-school of ambiguous urbanism for lost architects, a low-cost kind of school that teaches how to see the complex, hidden threads that run through some of the obvious narratives of the city”) and examines the temporary, politicized structures of the post-communist ‘retrocession’ in Bucharest.

After the fall of communism these houses underwent a slow and unclear process of retrocession beginning in 1995 in which they were returned to their previous (pre-communist) owners or their heirs.

Sometimes out of abuse, poverty or as a way of protest, these newly evicted people camp on the sidewalks outside their old homes. Their shelters become three dimensional pieces of history and ideology that still haunt the city streets.

This local embodiment of conflictual architecture also brings brutally to the fore the fight for survival, played here in the setting of contemporary city.

Snow Geometries: A TBE SHORT

In Excerpts on June 16, 2011 at 9:38 am

“One of the interesting things we found is that there are dominate geometries in the nature of a snow environment. I would define those as the long horizontal lines of the snow, the tall striping of the trunks in the tree structure, and the wide expanses of sky and mountain. You spend the entire day immersed in the wide palette of those elements, so it became important to bring those elements indoors.”John Maniscalco, on the design of his Sugar Bowl Residence, near Lake Tahoe