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Showing posts from March, 2012

C-BIP Studio Part I

or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Retrofit

A current architectural fad (if I may call it so) is to tout the advantages of retrofitting older buildings for new uses, rather than tearing down and building new.  Many reasons are given: saving historic buildings is inherently valuable or preserves our history and culture; 80% of the US building stock was built in the past 50 years, so it's important to address these (mostly energy-inefficient) buildings; it's more environmentally sound to retrofit than to build new, once you account for embodied energy of materials; and it's often cheaper than building new.  One of the philosophies of my current studio, the Columbia Building Intelligence Project (or C-BIP), that I appreciate is that retrofitting buildings in NYC is taken as a given: your project is a retrofit, end of discussion.  Further, most of us have taken the view that energy savings is at most a bare minimum, a minor issue; of course the retrofit must r…

Park Avenue Armory

Last week while I was on spring break, I visited the Park Avenue Armory, also known as the Seventh Regiment Armory, a military building (armory) now used as an arts venue and undergoing renovations by Herzog & de Meuron.  The tour I attended took us through rooms in different stages of the renovation process: pre-, post-, and in-the-middle-of-renovation.  I recommend the tour, led by the Armory's staff historian (a GSAPP HP graduate), to anyone interested in seeing some historic preservation in action!  Click any photos to enlarge.

Veterans' or Tiffany Room - windows and fireplace by Louis Comfort Tiffany; used by veterans of the Seventh Regiment.  This room has not yet been renovated, but should be "brighter" and more colorful after renovations; compare to the second photo below.

One of the finished upstairs company rooms.  The company rooms were furnished by the individual 10-man companies of the regiment, each in a different style to the taste of the com…

Movie Review: "Bill Cunningham New York"

No, I don't know anything about fashion, and no, I didn't pick out this movie (that honor belongs to Justin).  But I feel obligated to review it because "Bill Cunningham New York" was one of the best films I've seen in a while.  This documentary made me want to go downtown, track down Bill Cunningham, and give him a hug.  And then maybe find the filmmakers and give them a hug, too, for good measure.

The documentary follows the New York Times' 83/84-year-old fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, who has been photographing street fashion since the 1950s or 60s in New York.  The film shows him to be almost naively honest, moral, and fair, rejecting money and anything that would compromise his artistic vision or his genuinely positive message that fashion represents our self-expression.  He lived (at the time of filming) in a tiny one-room apartment filled with filing cabinets of his photographs, with no kitchen and no bathroom ("just more rooms to clean&qu…

Exhibition Review: "Foreclosed" at MoMA

This Thursday I went with a friend to see the latest architecture exhibition at MoMA, "Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream," which is sponsored by the Buell Center (an affiliate of GSAPP).  The exhibition shows five project proposals for re-designing suburbs with high foreclosure rates across the US.  Most of the five firms who contributed also teach at (or are otherwise associated with) GSAPP, so they were familiar groups.  Additionally, last semester was the "housing project" semester for us, so just a few months ago we were working on our own housing designs.   Overall, I was surprised and amused by the similarities between our (student) proposals and these (professional) proposals; many of the ideas and intentions were the same, leading me to wonder if these ideas are architectural "fads" that circulate almost subconsciously here in the city.  See commentary below on each project for more specifics.  You can read about each project in more depth…

When Life Gives You Coconuts

Here's another throwback post from something that happened last year, but was too good not to share since I have photos.

Imagine our surprise when we open the mailbox and discover...  a one-pound coconut!  (Despite its mailing labels, I suspect it was delivered by a pair of sparrows.)  Well, you know what they say: when life gives you coconuts, make delicious coconut macaroonsmacaringues... chocolate-covered coconut balls!

1.  Hammer
2.  Coconut
3.  Some other ingredients... suit yourself
4.  Chocolate
5.  Patience and safety goggles
6.  Did I mention a hammer?

Step one:  Using hammer and nail, poke hole in coconut to drain coconut water.  Wait.  Set aside coconut water.

Step two:  Again using hammer, crack open the coconut.  This will be harder than it should be.  Then peel the coconut and shred it, while trying not to injure yourself.  This works best if you've baked the coconut a bit, to give it a false sense of security.

Step three:  Mix shredded coconut w…

Stuff I Made for Fun

Because fun stuff is awesome.

First:  My Halloween costume.  Corellian blood stripes from (warning: very hilarious 1990s-style website); boots are Ovation equestrian boots; jacket from (believe it or not) Old Navy.  Pin on jacket states "My other car is the Millenium Falcon."  Not up to official costuming standards, but could be worse!  The blaster is laser cut corrugated cardboard.  Drew it myself.

Second: wedding invitations.  I know this is quite belated... but I thought there might be some individuals interested in seeing the variety of invitations I made.  All the sheets that look like decorative paper are discarded drawings from my fellow GSAPP M. Arch. 2013 students (if you recognize your own, let me know so I can credit you!).  I cut down the sheets to size.  The ivory RSVP cards are discarded card catalog cards from the GSAPP Slide & Video Library.  Also, I'm going to post some more wedding-related drawings on my Pinte…

Movie Review: "Objectified"

I can't pretend to be exceptionally knowledgeable about product design, but as an almost-architect, I like to think I know a decent amount.  So I've considered it my duty to watch Gary Hustwit's trilogy on design, Helvetica (on typefaces), Objectified (on product/industrial design), and Urbanized (on urban design).  I haven't gotten to the third one yet, but I wanted to go ahead and discuss the first two before I forget.

Like Helvetica, I thought Objectified was a nice, shiny tribute to the design world, providing a narrow range of viewpoints on design ("does design matter more than everything else, or just more than most things?") without really convincing the viewer that design matters at all.  The sequences showing items in production were cool, but none of the talking heads and silent panning shots did much to persuade me of anything.  I wish the director had done more editorializing.  The most engaging person he interviewed explained how Apple laptops a…

Book Review: Amusing Ourselves to Death

What better time for beginning on one's New Year's resolutions than spring break?  I propose starting the new year with something I hope will be more interesting (and sustainable) than bad food pictures: reviews.  There are already plenty of good food blogs out there, anyway.

In his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, professor, media researcher, and author Neil Postman argues that 1985 realized not Orwell's but Huxley's dystopian vision: We live now in a society where politics, history, and culture are irrelevant and laughable because we have created a society of perpetual amusement through television (and, by extension, the internet).  Television (and YouTube's) reduction of political discourse and reasoned argument to soundbites and video clips has made rational choice impossible; the commercial has become the new model for education and politics, relying on image and emotion to move rather than educate viewers; and televangelism has turned even religion into…