walker art center blogs + design dept blog + david adjaye + …              

Nov 1, 2007

the walker art center is one of the coolest things about minneapolis, and even if you don’t live here, it’s always worth checking out their blogs (even now, just hopping over there to grab a link i find this amazing artist margaret pezalla and her blog, ongoing…see what i mean?).   
now i’m really excited to see that the walker’s amazing design dept. has a blog. now they’ll be an even more constant source for inspiration.
and speaking of the walker design dept and inspiration, they sponsor an ongoing series of lectures called drawn here.  on november 8th  the recently highly visible british architect david adjaye will be the guest.
david adjaye will no doubt be talking about his recently completed work in denver, a very green museum, the denver mca, but, it’s the above pictured prefab in london called ed’s shedthat i’m seeing just about everywhere i look the last few weeks.  it is fantastic isn’t it?  
i’m really glad i figured out a reason to write about this project here.  i was so busy a few weeks ago when this was making the rounds online that i was going to skip it rather than appear “late to the party”.  
the house looks to me to be perfect..
and speaking of david adjaye and really stunning… why not bring olufar eliasson into the mix too, right?  
the pavillion adjaye designed to house eliasson’s piece “your black horizon” in venice in 2006 is really the thing that 
put him on my radar.
so, if you live here, it’ll be great to hear him speak, and if you don’t, i think the walker always posts a video of these 
talks at some point.
see you there.
posted by matt

made by light having a spectrum dominated by energy in the wavelength range of about 440–490              

Oct 19, 2007

i wrote about this project by mvrdv called didden village last spring.  it’s haunted me since the first time i saw it. 
stunning really. i guess i can’t get over it.
and of course it’s the color but…

there’s a lot that strikes me about this project. 
i’ve always been excited by the most basic possible shapes for structures like boxes, circles and the simple classic gable roofed ones with no overhang like these.  i was struggling to describe this shape with words and at one point i called my friend paul and asked him how he describes this house he designed.
he said, “if you asked a six year old to draw you a house, this is what they’d draw”.  
in describing the shape, he summed up what i crave at the moment, childlike things.

that really gets at it, doesn’t it?  the color, the shape… childlike. 
and, i love this color lately… and not just in this project either.

beautiful turntable or…
or crates of art by olafur eliasson at sfmoma
etorre sotsass

or maybe a little ettore sottsass
and of course, how could i forget, frank bruggeman….


he really works with this color a lot… almost exclusively.

i’ve been very interested in him lately.

(maybe the walker art center could let me curate a show: all cyan, all the time)

it’s all so childlike in a way, isn’t it?

so, color… childlike… a dash of the ridiculous… sounds familiar actually.
my parents remember well one of our stays in colorado in the 70’s, i was about 6 years old, winding up at a mall called cinderella city…

cinderella city

i got completely obsessed with an atrocious purple marble egg that i saw in a store. obviously, it was ridiculous, so they wouldn’t buy it for me.  i talked about it and talked about it, and sure enough, we returned to denver later that year and they gave in.  
i wonder if i started bugging them all the time about the things in this post… 
would they give in again?
am i too old for that?
posted by matt

two lesses don’t make a more              

Oct 18, 2007

yesterday mike was doing a quick photoshop rendering of a client’s space to give us a sense of our direction.  he called me in to show me the results and we had a good laugh about the lion, but then, somehow, we decided to send it to the client this way. 
it seems like whenever we push the boundaries of what some people might think of as professional a little, we worry later that maybe we should be less silly or playful.
so using it like a magic 8-ball, i typed the word less into the music search hoping to find an answer. the results were awesome:
  1. restless waters – tortoise
  2. bless this morning year – helios
  3. blessed brambles – mum
  4. europe endless – kraftwerk
  5. le blessure -ghislian poirier
  6. sleeping lessons – the shins
  7. careless love – bonnie ‘prince’ billy
  8. less time – uilab
  9. niether more nor less – tim hecker
  10. ageless beauty (the most serene republic) – stars
  11. love less – new order
  12. suite of the fearless tale dude killer – hymie’s basement
  13. the endless plain of fortune – john cale
  14. world lesson part 2 – money mark (headz 2 cd1)
  15. one less star – smog
  16. suicide is painless – lady and bird
  17. less of me – bonnie ‘prince’ billy
  18. useless arm – windsor for the derby
  19. useless inventions – guided by voices
  20. c’mon come on (loose an endless longing) – a silver mt zion
  21. careless whispers – tim hecker
  22. endless endless – kraftwerk
  23. lessons from what’s poor – bonnie ‘prince’ billy
  24. the young the faceless and the code – von sudenfed
  25. speachless – cibo matto
  26. blessed state – wire
  27. lesson #1 for electric guitar – glenn branca
  28. a loverless bed (w/o remission) – sufjan stevens
  29. careless soul – daniel johnston
  30. less talk more action – john maus
  31. history lesson – the minutemen
  32. meaning less – the magnetic fields
  33. musica-air+alessandro barrico – air
  34. history lesson part 2 – the minutemen
  35. behavior (formless revenge) – lucky dragons
* i had to remove the albums “loveless” by my bloody valentine and “lesser matters” by the radio dept so the mix wouldn’t get saturated.  both great, must have records though.

besides being an amazing, you should download all these songs if you don’t have them, keeper mix, it’s proof that less can be more, and also, something else entirely as well…

and so less playful and more professional?

but if we were less playful we’d be less ourselves as well…

and two lesses don’t make a more.

and if you look at less of the first picture in this post, you don’t really see less, you just see different, and in a way, maybe you see more…

and you see me, in the reflection taking the picture.

but, that said, this all makes a lot less sense than i wish it did.

posted by matt

loom studio – a second tip of the hat              

Oct 13, 2007

egg block – from 12 blocks by loom studio

congrats to loom studio for their great 12 blocks project.  the attention they are getting is definitely deserved.

last year when i started this blog it was free since we were willing to have ads on the side bar to the left.  luckily, a few months back, we started to develop enough traffic that we had to buy an account since we needed more bandwidth.  we were never nuts about having the ads anyway, but it was kind of interesting to watch what showed up and speculate on how it wound up there.

at one point an ad for loom studio showed up.  the name was familiar, probably out of proximity, since they’re based across the river from us, in lovely st paul, minnesota. 
their web site really excited me and i fired off a “tip of the hat” email and received a nice one back from them.  it was fun to find out they were familiar with one of our projects… 

good vibes, right? good vibes.

ever since, i stop by their site every so often to see whats up.

a couple weeks ago i was impressed top see they were on the cover of architect magazine for being a winner in the magazines 1st annual r & d awards.  very cool.

i think the award winning 12 blocks project’s premise should be a given; make things, even basic things like blocks, look cooler…

way cooler.  this nicely references some of frank lloyd wright’s work doesn’t it?

now, as long as whoever they get to manufacture these uses high-volume flyash concrete, this can’t miss for me.

and when when you google 12 blocks you also get this great project, better by the dozen, right?  (and is it me or is frank bruggeman entering some new, quilt-like space?)

so congrats to loom studio and as the founder of the firm ralph nelson said in closing in his email to me…

“keep making beautiful things”

posted by matt

use me better, or even, let’s just do better              

Oct 11, 2007

well, it’s at least partly our fault.
noisy decent graphics is a great blog written by the graphic designer ben terret. 
a recent post about a talk he gave called “i’m a designer. use me better.” has really stuck with me the last few days.

already today it’s affected a decision mike and i were making about a project.

it’s not like we don’t think about green issues all the time, it’s just that, sometimes someone says things just so … and it all really lines up.

nussbaum knows it’s true.

also very cool is michael johnson’s talk from the same conference called:
what can design do? 

so let’s do better, alright?

posted by matt


Oct 10, 2007

very cool. they call it a kids toy… thank god i still haven’t grown up.
via things magazine
it’s well timed too as i just read this post last night on the l.a. based arts magazine anp quarterly‘s blog.

does anyone remember the new zealand group the 3-ds?

and speaking of kids toys…
“the search” has been one of my favorite ways to listen to music lately. pick a word and search my music player and whatever it throws up, that’s the mix.
here’s todays: kid
  1. farewell to the pressure kids – broken social scene presents kevin drew
  2. kid for today – boards of canada
  3. a song for kids – miho hatori
  4. kid city – abe vigoda
  5. f***ed up kid – broken social scene presents kevin drew
  6. mechanical kids – montag
  7. cool kids keep – american analog set
  8. kid – the pretenders
  9. kid of harith – palace
  10. kid – the aluminum group
  11. kids don’t mind – papas fritas
  12. kid you’ll move mountains – manitoba
  13. colors and the kids – cat power
  14. moo kid – aphex twin
  15. kid ok – the go find
  16. what go around come around, kid – cyprus hill
  17. cool kids of death – saint etienne
  18. cool off kid kilowatt – guided by voices
  19. jam kids – pavement
if i allowed the search to go beyond song titles, the mix would’ve gotten too heavy with kidkoala and lukid.

this mix is good but after listening i think “I’ve heard better“.

  1. i’ll feel a whole lot better – byrds
  2. i should have known better – wire
  3. something better change – the stranglers
  4. i should have known better – the beatles
  5. ibi dreams of pavement (a better day) – broken social scene
  6. nothing better (styrofoam remix) – the postal service
  7. you better move on – the rolling stones
  8. getting better – the beatles
  9. if i ever feel better – phoenix
  10. make it all better – mos def
  11. nothing better – the postal service
  12. better future (air remix) – david bowie
  13. i should have known better – yo la tengo
  14. today i will be better, i swear – stars
  15. nobody does it better – carly simon

every time i do a mix i rediscover some songs that make my life better.

posted by matt

herbert muschamp              

Oct 3, 2007

herbert muschamp – 11/28/47 – 10/03/07
besides my grandfather evan lucas, an architect and illustrator, no one had more to do with my interest in architecture as a whole than herbert muschamp, the critic for many years at the new york times. it’s with sadness that i learned tonight of his death at age 59 of lung cancer.
there’s been a hole for me, most notably on sundays, since he left the times in 2004. he wrote about buildings and ideas with such great spirit, force and passion that you had to pay attention. even when i completely disagreed or felt threatened or annoyed by something he was writing, i relished it.
what i mostly feel, is a sense of gratitude to him.
reading his works will make a great winter project for me.
the following is a reprint of his obituary from the new york times:

Herbert Muschamp, a writer for The New York Times whose wildly ranging, often deeply personal reviews made him one of the most influential architecture critics of his generation, died last night in Manhattan. He was 59 and lived in Manhattan.

The cause was lung cancer, said Michael Ward Stout, his lawyer.

As the architecture critic for The Times from 1992 to 2004, Mr. Muschamp seized on a moment when the repetitive battles between Modernists and Post-Modernists had given way to a surge of exuberance that put architecture back in the public spotlight. His openness to new talent was reflected in the architects he singled out, from Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel, now major figures on the world stage, to younger architects like Greg Lynn, Lindy Roy and Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto.

A frequent champion of architects who were also known for their theoretical writings, Mr. Muschamp seemed as interested in the ideas that pushed architecture forward as he was in the successes and failures of buildings themselves. He was also known for weaving together seemingly unrelated themes in an arch, self-deprecating way that helped break down the image of the critic as an all-knowing figure who wrote from atop a pedestal.

In a typically sprawling 1997 review of the newly opened, titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, designed by Mr. Gehry, Mr. Muschamp evoked the ghost of Marilyn Monroe to convey the headiness of the design.

“After my first visit to the building, I went back to the hotel to write notes. It was early evening and starting to rain. I took a break to look out the window and saw a woman standing alone outside a bar across the street. She was wearing a long, white dress with matching white pumps, and she carried a pearlescent handbag. Was her date late? Had she been stood up?

“When I looked back a bit later, she was gone. And I asked myself, Why can’t a building capture a moment like that? Then I realized that the reason I’d had that thought was that I’d just come from such a building. And that the building I’d just come from was the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe.”

He went on: “What twins the actress and the building in my memory is that both of them stand for an American style of freedom. That style is voluptuous, emotional, intuitive and exhibitionist. It is mobile, fluid, material, mercurial, fearless, radiant and as fragile as a newborn child. It can’t resist doing a dance with all the voices that say “No.” It wants to take up a lot of space. And when the impulse strikes, it likes to let its dress fly up in the air.”

Mr. Muschamp’s reviews could also be devastating, and maddening to readers who took exception to his quirky — and, some argued, self-indulgent — voice. “Herbert’s criticism was full of passion — too much for some readers,” said Joseph Lelyveld, the former executive editor of The Times who hired Mr. Muschamp. “But that passion lit up his writing and the world of architecture. One of his great themes was that New York deserved real architecture, for our times — not what developers often try to pass off.”

Herbert Mitchell Muschamp was born in Philadelphia on Nov. 28, 1947, the son of a business executive. He fell in love with New York in the mid-1960’s while visiting the city as a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. Soon afterward he became a regular at Warhol’s decadently carefree Factory, sometimes crashing at the artist’s house on weekends. He dropped out after his second year to study architecture at the Parsons School of Design, then a year later he headed to London to study architectural history and theory at the Architectural Association.

Mr. Muschamp returned to Parsons as a teacher in 1983, where he eventually became the director of the school’s graduate program in architecture and design criticism. Around the same time he began his career as a critic, writing for magazines like Vogue, House and Garden and Art Forum. He was appointed architecture critic at The New Republic in 1987.

He was named the architecture critic for the Times in 1992, succeeding Paul Goldberger, who had served as the paper’s senior architecture critic since 1981.

Mr. Muschamp continually returned to analyzing the psychological forces that shape the visual world. Reviewing the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington in 1993, for example, he described a visit to the concentration camp at Dachau, which had a gas chamber (although it was ultimately not used).

“The small size of the gas chamber comes as a surprise,” he wrote. “There is nothing to see besides four walls, a floor, a ceiling and the door that leads outside.”

“It is when you cross the threshold of that door that you grasp the reason for visiting Dachau. You walk out into daylight, but part of you does not leave. The doorway divides you. The part that is free to walk through the door feels disembodied, a weightless ghost. You feel lightheaded, as though you have broken the law, as indeed you have. Your passage through that door has violated the design. The room was not meant to be exited alive.”

Some of Mr. Muschamp’s fiercest attacks were reserved for the rebuilding efforts at ground zero, arguing that political concerns had trumped the city’s cultural welfare and future.

In a 2003 appraisal on Daniel Libeskind’s proposed master plan for ground zero, he mocked the architect’s 1,776-foot Freedom Tower and a proposed promenade of heroes as “a manipulative exercise in visual codes.”

“Even in peacetime that design would appear demagogic,” he wrote. “As this nation prepares to send troops into battle, the design’s message seems even more loaded. Unintentionally, the plan embodies the Orwellian condition America’s detractors accuse us of embracing: perpetual war for perpetual peace.”

In other articles he lambasted the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, and he fretted that New York had lost much of its creative momentum and would never fully recover.

In 2004, he left the critic’s post and began writing for T: The New York Times Style Magazine, with his subjects ranging from rhinoplasty to the Venetian empire. (“I spy for dead empires,” he wrote. “It’s my way of coping with the imperial ambitions of the living.”)

He is survived by a sister, Muriel, of Largo, Fla., and two brothers, Robert, of Wenham, Mass., and George, of Gettysburg, Pa.

Mr. Muschamp often reflected on the central role that gay men played in New York’s cultural history, specifically the world that he entered as a young gay man escaping the homogeneity of suburban Philadelphia.

Reminiscing lovingly about Edward Durell Stone’s so-called lollipop building on Columbus Circle — now undergoing an extensive redesign — in a 2006 article in the paper’s Arts & Leisure section, he described his generation’s experience this way:

“We were the children of white flight, the first generation to grow up in postwar American suburbs. By the time the ’60s rolled around, many of us, the gay ones especially, were eager to make a U-turn and fly back the other way. Whether or not the city was obsolete, we couldn’t imagine our personal futures in any other form. The street and the skyline signified to us what the lawn and the highway signified to our parents: a place to breathe free.”
posted by matt

2 at the u (of m)              

Sep 30, 2007

i spent two days in a row at the university of minnesota last week and i blame it for the prince song title-like name of this post. what can i say, i loved prince in college.

day 1 critic for architecture class
i drive by the steven holl designed building that’s home to the design institute at the university of minnesota a lot. it’s a few neighborhoods away from my house and it’s on my route to just about everywhere i usually go.  i’ve always been intrigued, but never really blown away by it. some of my architect pals have strong negative thoughts about it, but they’re negative a lot so…
i was invited to the u by adjunct professor bob ganser to be a visiting critic for the design review of an architecture studio he is teaching so… i finally had a reason to walk up and into the building and have a closer look. 
the verdict? about the same as it was before. the pics on the steven holl architects’  web site are really nice, but i just barely see that building here.
i wandered around for a while before going in to get my parking validated and then off to face the students’ work in an arguably more interesting building, an old church…
which student designed this? i like it.
it was a really interesting experience but, unfortunately, my camera battery died before i even met the students. damn. you can probably guess, i didn’t do that well in school. 
so without pictures…
i agreed to come in and spend an afternoon critiqueing the students’ work since it seemed like a great chance for me to learn more about myself and how i work. 
sound selfish? oh well.
there are so many things to learn, experientially, from an outing like this; i can’t even begin to untangle them for you. if you’re a creative professional and you don’t think you have time to wander in this way, i think you should consider reprioritizing. it was great.
the students’ work? pretty good. i didn’t really know what to expect. some of their renderings and diagrams were strong, but they were all pretty logical in their approaches and ideas. a couple had what i thought were some real insights into the space they were designing for, which was cool. one student appeared to be very agitated, which excited me, since i assumed he was in love with something in his groups project that differed with my ideas. unfortunately, i think he was just struggling with the nature of someone coming in and challenging things, which i completely understand.
the one thing that seemed to be missing? passion. that’s usually been at the root of anything great i’ve ever been involved with or witnessed. i’m sure they’ll find that later? 
i used to cross paths a lot with a carleton college professor named humberto and he said to me once in a thick spanish accent,
“when a new class arrives i look for the worst student in the bunch and, i know… he is the best”. 
i loved hearing that because it made me feel better about my college days and i think in a way, that’s who i was looking for in that class, myself, but they were all probably smarter and more mature than i was back then anyway so…
if there was one thing i could tell the students? bruce mau.

day 2 bruce mau lecture 
mike and i went to see designer bruce mau speak, someone whom we both like a lot. 
the talk was on his incomplete manifesto for growth, which i’ve written about here many times. i try to use it frequently…
and you should too.
i have a tendency to be hyper-analytical and thus, a simple idea for me can get complicated fast. my compass can get fairly disoriented. things like the manifesto can help me give something clarity.

kinda like this…

it was a great talk. very inspiring.

bruce mau isn’t the kind of guy who is filling my head with new or challenging ideas… 
he’s more like the beatles; 
he’s speaking the truth in a way that i recognize instantly. 
in a way that’s so simple, it’s really complicated to explain.
the truth about the breakfast that was provided? 
take a guess. 

posted by matt

mon amie, amie valentine – lesson #1              

Sep 28, 2007

a few days ago i wrote about my pal tema stauffer, one of about six friends that i’ve lost to new york city in the last 7 or 8 years. i miss them all, and even though, mostly, we stay in touch, you know how it’s not the same.
this one i’ll see tomorrow… 
this one (on the left) i hope to see soon… 
and then there’s amie valentine, who i probably won’t see soon, but, thanks to a blackberry and her amazing email series called lessons, i feel like i’m there in the city with her. 
after she moved i started getting emails, always called lesson #___.

sometimes 3 a day, sometimes none. not your typical emails either, more like conversation bits and stories we’d share if we were walking down the street together.  i’m not sure how many i’ve recieved, but it’s a lot.

here’s an example:

lesson 6,522 by amie valentine

summer brings out the homelessexactly 17 minutes later…

Lesson 6,523 by Amie Valentine

And homeless brings out the most amazing sartorial flair.

I’m walking West somewhere in the 50’s. Walking toward the source of some solo babble emerging from the subway stairs. First I see the natty Admiral’s cap. Then he walks up a few more steps. Navy shirt, navy pants, more babble, more steps. And purple Crocs. Cutting quite a trim, if unhinged, figure. And that bold sense of color…

Put the guy on a Marc Jacobs runway and call it a day.

I told my ex-husband once, when I saw one of his cancelled checks for a personal trainer ($1,200 a month, in 1989 dollars), that no matter how hard he worked out, he’d never have the body of the average homeless man.

I said it when we were stopped in traffic by the Port Authority. In his metallic gray BMW 325 ( whatever that entry-level model was). We had just gotten out of the Lincoln Tunnel, driving from our house in Montclair, New Jersey and a shirtless homeless man was trying to wash the windshield. Savvy commuters would turn their wipers on at this corner to deflect the squeegees. Unhappy wives (I can’t have been the only one) would marvel at the musculature of these guys.

When I got divorced and the ex defaulted on his half of a ten thousand dollar loan we borrowed from my parents for that Montclair home, I told my mom what I’d said to Robert.

And she?

She said “Well, that’s worth $5,000 right there.”

pure genius. 
it’s the kind of thing that makes me feel extremely grateful for the goofy, brilliant bunch of unbelievable friends i have. truly.
the only thing that could make her correspondence even cooler?
if it was being written on this typewriter, which, of course, she owns.
the typewriter?
it’s the perfect companion piece to the calculator i just wrote about, don’t you think? besides, what better time than now to dig into the ettore sottsass catalog; he just turned 90 on the 14th of september.
happy birthday ettore.
and his memphis stuff is all abuzz again.
oh, and if you happen to be in rotterdam this weekend, you just missed your last chance to see the ettore sottsass 
show at the vivid gallery
bummer, huh?

posted by matt