Saturday, January 30, 2010

When visiting the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, VA (home of Pierre Luigi Nervi's only domed building in the US, the Scope), I stumbled upon a great collection of Art Nouveau furniture and prints. The highlight of the collection was an elegant daybed by the Thonet Brothers - who were most likely the pre-incarnations of Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, either in practice or spirit.

Designboom's "rocking chair and "daybed" timelines situate their work into a chronology of those pieces, featuring several other well known pieces as well. Of course, these chronologies leave me wanting them all, but given the humble dimensions of my abode, this could be the thing that officially gets me on the tv show Hoarders.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Writing about the early Twentieth-century transition from mechanical energy systems to electrical ones, Manuel De Landa writes:

Transforming power would not depend as much on its role in communications or illumination as in the creation of a new breed of motors that, unlike steam engines, could be miniaturized, which permitted a new degree of control over the flow of mechanical energy. The miniaturization of motors allowed the gradual replacement of a centralized engine by a multitude of decentralized ones (even individual tools could be motorized). Motors began disappearing from view, weaving themselves into the very fabric of reality.

The time period to which De Landa refers is roughly the same as when Le Corbusier wrote about turbines, silos, airplanes and automobiles - all objects that fall within De Landa's category of the centralized motor. However, very soon after Le Corbusier initial observations, the centralized motor is replaced by the miniature motor, making these objects technologically obsolete. This potentially impacts the notion that the motor itself is the principle driver of visible form and material, or that machines for living in be equated to finely-tuned mechanical contraptions. The problem with extending this metaphor of the motor is that a miniaturized motor - which requires a housing to adapt it to the human body - implies an irreducibly small and unoccupiable contraption disassociated with its cladding. All this time and the machine for living, it can be said, is effectively impossible to live in.

But what if we reconsider the scale of the metaphor's application, by zooming out so that the motor is not an isolated object but a module within a field? At the urban scale, the decentralized motor has more potential, regardless of the issue of cladding. Within a networked system of miniature machines, we have a variety of applications - interrelated spatial systems, coordinations across space.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Much has been made about the difference between the experience of ascending or descending through a museum's collection. This is typically an urban phenomenon, where vertical movement is one of the only means for an architect or curator to control circulation. Such is true for the Guggenheim, pictured here (from the top and the bottom), the Whitney, the Pompidou and, more recently, the New Museum. For each of these examples, the technology of the conveyance - the escalator or the elevator - becomes a key component of the attraction, an odd mechanical complement to the elegance of the works on display. At the new MoMA, for example, our experience of its collection of 'masterpieces' is veiled by the odor of the escalator's grease, the thump of its treads, the humming of its motor and the general awareness of how many it has herded there before us.

If the diagram of up or down is what we accept as the compelling generator of the museum experience, as dictated by the city and its constraints, and the conveyance is the feature that results as a critical urban necessity - it's curious that there are few equally compelling diagrammatic alternatives. The subtleties of moving up or down certainly evoke an interesting counterpoint, and the Guggenheim is its key proponent. But since when did we stop at this point, and since when the city demand anything so subtle?


Thursday, January 14, 2010

From the "Murmur" series. By Richard Barnes.

JD // V2.2

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Concert hall head gear

Protesting Utzon's removal

I recently picked up two issues of the "Architecture in Detail" series at the Phaidon store (good warehouse sale going on now), one of which covers the Sydney Opera House. Like all good buildings, the back-story is just as juicy, including political tensions, Utzon being forced to leave the job, protests, ridiculous cost overruns and geometric analysis well ahead of it's time.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

After a nice hiatus from the blog, I'm back. Refreshed, relaxed, well-rested and fully recharged for tackling the massive and hyperlinked network of the internet.

So, where have I been of late? Here, mostly. At my desk. At work. Finishing a very large competition at Asymptote for a project in Zurich. Teaching a studio at Princeton. Reading. Writing. Traveling to see family. And otherwise biking, a lot of biking.

Where will I be as of the future? A few items are in the works. Two articles (on antiseptics and power). Asymptote monographs (with AADCU and another TBD). Major domestic overhaul of seating technology (ie, buying a sofa). Indoor biking. Outdoor biking - this depends on a temperature threshold and the availability of hot coffee.

Where should we be, in the land of hyperlink, until we meet again? I leave you with this, a nice video on how soccer balls are made. I love how the air valve is such a critical part of the production process, and is one of the first parts to be made. It's like a belly-button, and yet it remains functional after it's complete. Unlike my belly-button which just collects a bit of lint.