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

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

casa bianchi – mario botta              

Sep 13, 2007

this early 70s mario botta home, casa bianchi, is really stuck in my head these days.

everything about it is striking the right notes.

the bridge is becoming an obsession and, some variation of this will have to find it’s way into one of our projects soon.

“Nature is neither a thing nor an accumulation of things. It is neither external nor internal, it does not surround us, it is not at our disposition, it cannot be destroyed nor can it be loved.” – Herman Prigann

to my mind, this is nature, we are nature, and i love it.

museum? church.              

Sep 6, 2007

doesn’t this stunning shot of the chichu art museum almost look like some speculative rendering in an archigram issue, circa 1968?  so cool.  
this is another great example of a building i’ve seen before but, somehow, this time…
it really hits.
the museum, designed by the great tadao ando, is dedicated to a relatively small and extremely specific collection of works by three artists:  claude monet,  walter de maria and james turrell.  
the museums mission is to help one ponder the relationship between people and nature, though, somehow it makes me think of how objects resonate with that strange place i can get, that i cautiously call spiritual. 

if you’re not familiar with this project, it’s not just chichu either, it’s naoshima, or the art island as it’s sometimes called. funded by a japanese textbook manufacturer, there’s a bunch of art and contemporary architecture all installed to further our understanding of man and nature (why doesn’t that happen in america more?)

this fairly decent google translated piece was fun to read.

it’s easily in my top 5 future destinations, today anyway.

even the cafeteria (above) at the chichu museum feels like a church.  i could definitely enjoy some nice vegan cuisine and some ice cold kombucha here.
a monet room…
a walter de maria room,
and some stunning james turrell peices.
i’ve always been a big fan of turrells.  it’s fitting too, this pairing with tadao ando who talks and thinks a lot about light.
a slight aside about turrell:  i remember reading an interview with him somewhere about hisroden crater project.  it’s hard not to wonder, “how much money?” for such an endeavor, and, eventually the interviewer popped the question.  after saying he didn’t really know anymore, he added that he’d lost countless friends, wives, supporters etc. the interviewer said “obviously, it was worth it though, right?”  turrell said “god no. it’s just too late to stop”. wow.
 more amazing turrell light work.

another turrell aside?  once i encountered staff from the walker art center sitting in minneapolis’ own turrell box carefully monitoring the light and how it changed.  i was super interested in their work; they were not that interested in me (you know, vibes), and i got the sense that mr. turrell may be quite a stickler (i guess i’d bet on it).

in my mind chichu would make a good chapel.

for me, when i view all these minimalist pieces and places, i have a spiritual reaction to them, but i’m always haunted by a vision of donald judd (speaking of sticklers) telling me how only an idiot would see them like that. i guess there are a few ways to look at things:

One is that anything that cannot be stated clearly does not exist, and therefore is not worth discussing. In practice, this interpretation requires that we abandon most of the traditional concerns of philosophy. The other interpretation is that there are ethical and spiritual matters of supreme importance that cannot be discussed clearly. These do in fact exist. However, they will be distorted and perverted by any attempt to discuss them. They are best expressed by falling silent at the moment when philosophical chatter threatens to transgress onto sacred territory. It might be argued that what Minimal art aims to communicate is precisely this sense of supreme and therefore inexpressible meaningfulness.”                                         
                                                                                             pepe karmel: art in america december 2004

so, inexpressible meaningfulness? i hope that’s what chichu means in english.

(alright, actually, chichu means in the middle of the earth)
posted by matt

glass house or house of glass              

Aug 26, 2007

the glass house

if you’ve been living off the grid in the “out of doors”  for the last few months, you may have missed all the great philip johnson – glass house stuff floating around due to the national trusts public opening of the estate. i’ve always been a big fan, but it’s been great to dig in again and soak up an icon.

pretty much everybody got in on the hype too. 
men’s vogue celebrated the glass house by photographing good looking, real life architectsaround the grounds obviously engaged in deep conversations about how badly they wish prada would raise their prices and how they can’t understand why more people don’t live the glamorous life. (alright, that was a dig. actually, i’m probably just jealous they didn’t ask me.  i’m as guilty as the next guy of daydreaming myself into those photos wearing a vintage lacoste blackwatch plaid sportcoat, some 70’s gucci loafers, sipping a bottle of ice cold kombucha and also, of course, sporting a large mustache. a preppy lee hazelwood if you will; may he rest in peace.)
i told myself i wouldn’t add to the noise about the glass house by posting about it here, but… two things made me change my mind.

everything is juuust so at the glass house                                                        photo david byrne

reason 1: this david byrne blog post. 
first off, i always enjoy reading what mr. byrne has to say about art and culture and, his was a slightly different take on the scene in new caanan, conn. besides…
even the carpet at the glass house is controlled                                                                photo david byrne

…any article that references jacques cousteau to describe philip johnson is worth pushing out into the world.

reason 2: maison de verre or literally, house of glass.

it’s not what really comes to mind for me when someone says glass and house together, but definitely another icon that’s worth diving back into.

maison de verre
the times today has a great article about maison de verre the french residential masterpiece by pierre cherau, bernard bijvoet and loius dalbet. this is a house i haven’t thought about in a while and it really just looks amazing to me right now.

i love it when something i’ve seen before returns and looks even better than i remember. totally the case here, i mean look at this.

maison de verre
wow. one of the words used in the article in the times is exquisite. that seems about right, no?

can’t you just see me hammering out a little bennie and the jets on that piano? (how can i joke about an image like this?) or, more appropriately, arvo pärt’s fur alina.

the house was recently purchased by a loving soul who’s painstakingly restoring it.

maison de verre

the house looks so perfect to me it makes me question the very concepts of progress and change.

unlike the glass house, the house of glass looks like it could withstand, and even benefit from the random magazine or cup sitting around for longer than 50 seconds.

don’t get me wrong though, i love both houses.

i’ve heard people say it’d be too difficult living in something like these, but i hope i get the chance to live in a house that challenges me and frequently reminds me of the relationship i have with it.

is it wrong to want to be that involved with the objects in your life?

me? i can’t help it.

posted by matt

the cover | an addendum to last weeks story              

Aug 23, 2007

rolu dsgn office reading materials, christian dean & family on the cover of dwell. cool.

last weeks post was about the firm citydeskstudio and their very cool skyway project. this weeks is just a short addendum (isn’t that an underused word). imagine our delight yesterday when we received the new issue of dwell and there was our pal christian dean on the cover.

he and his firm have already gotten a lot of attention here in minneapolis for the award winning addition to his own home, but dwell…

christian dean is on the left, ben awes and bob ganser are to his right
…wow, i guess i think that’s pretty cool.
although, it does make the attention we give him here on our blog seem…
i don’t know a little… little?
it’s funny too, because he’s been turning up in the oddest places.  i recently checked this bookout from the library about julie snow architects, to do some research for a project and i was on vacation sitting on a rock on the north shore paging my way through…
christian dean on the far left
and, there he was, pasted into a rendering. i knew he had worked at julie snow architects prior to starting citydeskstudio, but, there was something about it that really caught me off guard.  it was great.
anyway, i bet this is just the beginning of loads of attention for christian and his cohorts at citydeskstudio.
congrats guys.
posted by matt

a beautiful place out in the country: part 2              

Aug 15, 2007

if you live in minneapolis or have spent any time in the downtown area, you know about the many skyways here.  i’ve seen them in a bunch of cities around the country, but i’m pretty sure they got their start here.  you can pretty much access the whole downtown area without ever going outside.  which is both good and bad, i think.
i’ve been using them all my life and i’m sure at some point, i’ve probably walked through all of them.  somehow though, i never really gave them too much thought. maybe a couple times the replacements song “skyway” would come to mind on some sub atomic level, but, i never really noticed them, which is unlike me.
obviously, they are an interesting element of how people get around the city and some of them are really cool looking too. 

it dawned on me just how cool they are about 6 or 7 years ago when they took one down and it sat on the side of the street during a fairly long construction project.

once i was face to face with it, i was blown away.

i started walking down to 5th and marquette where it sat whenever i had an excuse.  i always saw something of craig ellwood’s beautiful structures in the skyway.

basically, i pictured it as my house, up in the air on i-beams.


then it must have just been gone from the street.  moved.  i don’t remember… 

it just disappears from memory at some point.  

fast forward to about a year ago when i read this article about a cool new minneapolis architecture firm called citydeskstudio.

lo and behold, they had bought the skyway. 

the dream was back with me.

christian dean, ben awes and bob ganser are citydeskstudio

i immediately hammered out an email telling them the story of my skyway lust and gushed about some of the other work on their site (which i highly recommend).  bob ganser, one of the principals wrote back and the next thing you know we were having lunch.

they had the same idea of a weekend home for someone (me? no.) in nature, but were also interested in using it for some public purpose like a pavillion…

…or a “who knows” type thing…

so we left lunch as pals (and they almost immediately referred us to someone for a cool project. awesome, huh) and have stayed in touch. 

but i’ll admit, the skyway drifted again from my thoughts and just when i’d forgotten it…

the skyway retreat. (pdf)

a very amazing opportunity to take part in a timeshare that isn’t really what comes to mind when you think of the word timeshare.

read the deets here

they’re scouting some locations on the shores lake superior that i’m sure are breathtaking.

the only flaw to the whole thing that i can see is the fact that, i’ll probably never get to hang out there as, i am currently a man of somewhat modest means. still, a pretty good ending seems likely and a round of applause to citydeskstudio for doing something so cool.  i can’t wait to watch this thing i’ve been following in someway for quite some time become something even cooler that it already is.

it’s exciting to see some of the other work citydeskstudio is doing too. very cool. all three of the principals, bob ganser, christian dean and ben awes are alum of the great  julie snow architects.

some of the early work is looking great to me.

like this…

and this…

or this…

nice, huh? these three examples all have a classic, elegant modern feel to me. and speaking of craig ellwood, these three examples, when i look at them now, make me think of the case study houses in some way. maybe that’s just because they’re on my mind anyway since our pal john over at future house now has been on a kind of eames/case study house bender for a few posts.

it’ll be fun to see the citydeskstudio portfolio grow.

posted by matt olson

oscar wandering toward a 100. wow, is he cool.              

Aug 4, 2007

this all looks so perfect to me right now.  perfect.  it’s one of the lobbies inside one of the congress buildings (below) in niemeyer’s stunning brasilia.

i’d be hard pressed to think of any arch/dsgn figure who hits all the spots for me right now, more than the brilliant brasilian, oscar niemeyer.  respect.

his work looks as stunning as it ever has.

some people say “too sculptural, too monument like”.
i say, “good luck to them”.
“i pick up my pen, a building appears” oscar niemeyer
it’s statements like that… and whether it’s intellectually correct or not, i love the glamour of the man as much as i love the buildings, singular to him and all perfectly inter-connected.  his humbleness with a wink (arrogance), hanging out with castro, the women, the beach etc.  an easily romanticized character in my mind.

somehow, these old black and whites look particularly badass to me.  

or how about this gorgeous and extremely graphic image of the new museum of brasillia with the new national library in back. (thanks eduardo sousa)

almost ridiculously cool looking.

perched on the edge, the niteroi.

the somewhat recent, annual serpentine gallery pavillion in london is great too.  here’s a cool thing about that, also from the guardian.
most recently?  apparently, he’s been commissioned to design another capitol city, this time inangola.  it’d be four times the size of his first, and if it is realized as quickly as brasilia, in 41 months, it will be completed, maybe, when he’s about 115.  

i think there’s a chance he’ll be there for the groundbreaking.

i hope he makes it to 200.

posted by matt 

by 2:49pm (easily) + viewable in 2 min and 49 sec              

Jul 24, 2007


here’s a video of the latest hive mod b-line sailing through the air to it’s new place in the world.  most of the prefab design companies have one of these short vids of a house going in, but this one is cooler since the music was chosen by marli, the hipster intern.  awesome.  (make sure you watch for rolu dsgn partner mike brady in his trademark safari hat standing in front of the kitchen module, filming. we’re making a more in depth video doc about this project: coming soon)
the placement of the garage in this project really makes the home feel very large and grand as you approach it.  very cool choice.
the proud homeowner watching his new house on its way to becoming a home. 
my hope for the future and promise of affordable modern prefab is huge.  i like the way almost all the companies i’m aware of approach design, but, sometimes i’m disappointed when reality sets in.  pricing mostly, i guess.  hive mod seems to be one of the few that are pulling it off and here’s yet another b-line being born as proof.
congrats to all involved.
in case you haven’t seen this short vid mike and i did last fall as an invite to a showcase for the first rolu dsgn | hive mod collaboration, here you go.

posted by matt

far, far away and without some of my wisdom              

Jul 14, 2007

wall house by far – frohn & rojas 
if you read this blog regularly, you may have noticed we have a thing for chile right now.   the firm, far – frohn & rojas, has offices in cologne and mexico city as well as santiago chile, where this home is located.  this is a structure i’d really like to spend some time in.  my guess is, it would really be a different space as each moment passed and different light affected how it looked and felt.  almost in the way some of james turrell‘s work frames the sky and makes you realize that, in some literal sense, it’s never exactly the same twice.  i’m not crazy about how it looks on the outside (yet, it’s growing on me), but the interior is gorgeous and there’s a bunch ofgreat pics here
i also like the firms work with urban enviroments on this…
FAR frohn&rojas + urban environments
design competition entry for the hong kong design center. very green, very cool.  
so, i must confess, i had my wisdom teeth removed yesterday (bummer huh) and i’m not sure if it’s the narcotic painkillers i’m on or not, but it’s this project from this firm that really knocks me out. 
struggling with size/zoning constraints for the location they were building, the design team even included a lawyer, what they needed was more space and a grand idea…
to read more, click on magnus nordwand at their site.
maybe it’s a combination of their presentation and…
the painkillers…
“men climb mountains because they are there, men make art because it is not”
carl andre
posted by matt