Photos Spare Cycles MythBusters

Category: Architecture

May 25, 2009

Tadao Ando's Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art

Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art  - Tadao Ando - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art  - Tadao Ando - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Click here for more Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art Photos

The Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art was a pleasant surprise. From the photos I had seen of the exterior, it wasn't high on my list of places to visit. It's rock fascade and bulky shape reminded me of the bulky and squat Pulitzer Foundation in St. Louis, which I haven't seen in person. But on approach, the Hyogo museum has plenty to offer. A pedestrian bridge offers you several approaches into the building: to the front, to a ramp that goes to the waterside entrance, and to the third-floor plaza.

The waterside entrance faces an industrial inlet of Osaka Bay and is the the bookend of a waterfront park that Ando also designed. The part is utilitarian and spare, but serves its purpose as a place for kids to play games and for people to have space to walk. It also has an amphitheater, a popular Ando construct. The waterside entrance itself features a very broad set of stairs. It's easy to imagine large swarms of people having a seat on these stairs and chatting, but on a weekday during work hours it was nearly vacant.

The museum is built around three nearly identical sections. The center of each section is a stairway, though each stairway is different. The first is a four-story tall atrium with stairs leading up the side and a giant celadon column in the middle. The second is just two stories tall, with a shorter celadon column off to the side, and the third, I don't know. It was close to closing time and the third required a ticket, so I opted to save something for another time.

Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art Photos

More Tadao Ando:

May 21, 2009

Tadao Ando's Awaji Yumebutai Part I

Awaji Yumebutai - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Awaji Yumebutai - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Click for more photos of the Awaji Yumebutai Botanical Gardens

Awaji Yumebutai is a sprawling complex of buildings by Tadao Ando. It was originally meant to be a golf course built on the site of a former land quarry used to provide earth for the Kansai airport. Ando helped convince the prefecture to purchase the surrounding land (100 hectares) and turn it into a park. Somewhere in the development process that all got changed, and instead of a golf course and park, it ended up as a hotel, conference center, and gardens. At first they were worried that it would be difficult to get people to stay in such a remote spot, but a visit by David Beckham secured them future bookings and taught Ando the power of celebrity.

Attached to a Hilton hotel, the complex includes both indoor and outdoor gardens, a conference center, tea ceremony building, fancy restaurants, and a small amphitheater. Each building has it's own distinct geometric shape, lending itself to an easy iconography that I wished I snapped some photos of. The complex is so sprawling that, even after a couple of hours, there was still much to see. Unfortunately I could not stay longer, but I wanted to leave a little left unexplored so that I might have a reason to come back (when the weather was better).

The Hyakudanen botanical gardens are the star of the complex, in my opinion. While there are some interesting spots in the complex to visit, much of it seems filler in comparison. The gardens were designed as a memorial to those who died in the Great Hanshin Earthquake in the Kobe area. They are a like a giant Q-bert style grid of square flower boxes connected by stairs. An elevator helps you get half-way up the grid, but for the rest it's up to your own fitness as to how many stairs you wish to go up and down.

I'll have more photos of my visit from the rest of the complex in a later entry.

Update: Awaji Yumebutai Part II

Photo Gallery: Awaji Yumebutai Botanical Gardens

More Tadao Ando:

May 25, 2009

Tadao Ando's Awaji Yumebutai Part II

Awaji Yumebutai - Tadao Ando - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Awaji Yumebutai - Tadao Ando - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Awaji Yumebutai - Tadao Ando - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Click for more Awaji Yumebutai Photos (Part II)

Awaji Yumebutai Part I

The Yumebutai complex is sprawling with a variety of buildings and elements throughout, but one common signature that forms a distinctive pattern throughout is the use of scallop seashells. There is a lower Shell Garden area dedicated solely to the use of these shells to line large shallow pools of water and the Yumebutai literature boasts over 1 million such shells and 1,000 fountains.

Ando initially had trouble finding the shells as he discovered that restaurants imported the scallops without the shells, but he was able to finally track some down. It seems that they may have been conserving water that day as many of the pools were not filled that day and many fountains were not on. As striking as that many seashells is, there is not enough contrast on a cloudy day for them to keep my attention.

The Oval and Circular Forums tie the lower Shell Garden to the upper Hyakudanen botanical gardens. One common theme I've found in many of Ando's designs is the use of depth to create drama. Often you'll approach a low, flat building, only to discover stairs plunging downwards several stories. In the case of the Oval and Circular Forums, you find yourself staring down several large stories to the plaza below. The concrete, perpendicular walls enhance the sense of height.

Tacked onto the very end of the Yumebutai complex is an amphitheater. Semi-circle amphitheaters seem to be a common element of many of Ando's projects, which is most likely due to the influence of classical Roman architecture on his work. I've seen amphitheaters at his Aomori Contemporary Art Center, the park adjacent to the Hyogo Prefectural Art Museum, and here at Yumebutai. As some are tucked away, perhaps there are more that I have not noticed.

Photos: Awaji Yumebutai Part II

More Tadao Ando:

May 19, 2009

Photos: Tadao Ando's Water Temple (Shingonshu Honpukuji)

honpukuji - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Click here for more Water Temple Photos

The Kobe region has many works by Tadao Ando, including several of my favorites. Water Temple (Shingonshu Honpukuji) is at the top of that list. It is a small and simple work, and perhaps that's why it rates so highly with me. The building holds up an elliptical pond filled with lily pads. Concrete walls fan out behind the pond to form a flower-like enclosure for the space and create a transition path as you enter the complex.

You descend down stairs through the center of the pond and enter the temple itself. At first you are cast into darkness as you walk into a circular hallway, but as you approach the shrine area, more daylight is able to pierce through and bounce off the walls to create a red glow. As you exit back out of the space, the circular hallway leads you into increasing daylight until you return back to the starting point.

Honpukuji is not too difficult to get to. I took a JR bus from Sannomiya station in Kobe to Awaji Yumebutai (bus stop 5 at Sannomiya, purchase tickets inside, 45-minute ride). There is a local bus that runs from Yumebutai to Honpukuji, but I opted to walk as the local bus is not very frequent. I turned right on the main road leaving Yumebutai, walked about 20 minutes, and turned right on the road where the police box was (Koban). From there, it's about a 5 minute walk up the hill.

The JR bus was full leaving Yumebutai, so I took a local bus to Maiko station instead. From there I was able to catch a JR train back to Kobe.

Click here for more Water Temple Photos

December 21, 2008

Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture

phaidon21st.250.jpgPhaidon 0640 Disney Concert Hall USA.250.jpg

I already own the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture as well its travel edition, so its unsurprising that I finally caved and purchased the Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture last night.

For the uninitiated, it's best to start describing the 21st Century atlas by its size as the title itself is straightforward. The 21st Century atlas comes with a plastic carrying case, which you will need as the inside cover proudly lists its weight at 14.5 lbs. The book is so tall and wide that I can almost squeeze my Wii Fit inside the carrying case.

So, does size matter? Yes, when you're looking at pretty pictures of architecture. The book is 800 pages, featuring 1037 buildings by 653 architects covering 89 countries. Anywhere between half a page and two pages are spent on each building, so the large page size is essential to packing in as much information per building while retaining good photo quality.

The Contemporary atlas covered 1998-2004 while the 21st Century atlas covers 2000-2008. As you might expect, there is some overlap between the atlases, though buildings that were lightly covered in the previous edition received expanded detail in the new edition and vice versa. It's not too troubling as the amount of actual overlap is fairly small. Head-to-head, the 21st Century atlas covers fewer buildings (1037 vs. 1052) but more countries (89 vs. 75). The page count is nearly identical and the page layout design is also similar, though the 21st Century atlas is updated with more saturated tones and a cleaner design. It somehow manages to shed three pounds of weight, which I assume has something to do with the paper. For the truly obsessive, the 21st Century atlas adds in coordinates so you can plot the buildings' exact positions: useful if you're trying to locate homes.

My favorite building so far is the Too Tall Teahouse in Japan, which immediately stood out as I flipped the pages: it is perched atop two tree trunks. Stunning and also the smallest building in the atlas at 67 square feet. The Sugiharto Steel House in Indonesia is also remarkable for its sub-$6000 modern looks.

San Francisco only received a single entry in the previous edition so I was happy (as a Bay Area resident) to see entries on Herzog and de Meuron's de Young Museum and Morphosis' San Francisco Federal Building highlight the recent construction in the city. Tokyo really lights up in the new edition and nearly doubles its entries from 15 to 27, led by construction in Omotesando. There are three new Omotesando buildings (MVRDV's Gyre, SANAA's Christian Dior, Toyo Ito's TOD'S) -- four if you count Herzog and de Meuron's Prada building down the street. Unsurprisingly, the Ginza gets a couple new buildings: Ito's Mikomoto building and Shigeru Ban's Hayek Centre. New York City also shines with Gehry's first NYC building, Foster's Hearst Tower, Piano's New York Times building and Morgan Library expansion, and several more.

If you are wondering whether or not to update to the latest edition, the answer is probably yes, because you probably have the same obsessive personality as I do, as evidenced by your ownership of the previous edition.

If you are new the the atlas and wondering whether you should buy it, consider whether or not you want a comprehensive book covering recent world architecture. I found the previous edition useful for finding architects that I wanted to study more about -- many of the architects in the atlas have monographs that you can purchase. The atlas is cross-indexed so each page lists other buildings by the same architect. The indexes are even color coded by region and have a three-letter code to identify the type of building. If you click on the Walt Disney Concert Hall page above, you'll see that the top of the page lists three other buildings by Gehry -- a Tourism building in El Cienego, Spain and commercial buildings in Berlin and New York -- all numbered so you can quickly find the page.

I also found the previous edition useful for planning buildings to visit while traveling. I wasn't too surprised when a travel edition came out and I look forward to the travel edition of this one as well.

Phaidon 0592-3 Africa South spread.500.jpg

(book spreads used with permission)

July 14, 2008

It's ginormous II


The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture is available for pre-order on Amazon. It will go so nicely with my The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture, aka The Phaidon Atlas of Turn-of-the-21st Century World Architecture, aka "The Only Book I Own with a Carrying Case." My bookcases cringe in anticipation. I can only hope they'll soon follow with a lite edition so it can accompany my travel edition from the first vintage.

June 26, 2008

Frank Gehry - InterActiveCorp Building


gehry_iac_nyc20080621_0258 gehry_iac_nyc20080621_0262 gehry_iac_nyc20080621_0236 gehry_iac_nyc20080621_0250

gehry_iac_nyc20080621_0240 gehry_iac_nyc20080621_0230 gehry_iac_nyc20080621_0268

Photo Gallery

The New York Times Building may not have ended up as Gehry's ticket into New York City, but the less skyscraper-y IAC Building got him a nice spot on the Chelsea waterfront -- he even got to put in a nice deck overlooking the High Line.

The design of the building is meant to mimic sails. You can't really tell from my photos as I was too lazy to cross the street to get the prototypical shot of the building. Instead I was enthralled with how well the glass was able to contort and reflect the blue sky and clouds -- definitely an advantage over Gehry's metal designs. From the adjacent sidewalk its a bit difficult to get a feel for the form of the building --not enough setback -- but you do get a closeup look at the faux-frosting on the windows: little white circles increase in concentration to transition the windows from transparent to opaque.

The building has two things going against it:

1) The lot size is too small for the form imposed upon it. Instead of floating glass sails, it feels like embellishments on a box. Other Gehry designs have been much more successful at deconstructing the rectilinear form

2) The stock IAC logo is ugly.

Gehry will soon have over a block's worth of buildings in Brooklyn at Atlantic Yards, so he'll have more opportunity to make his mark on NYC.

Photo Gallery

High Line NYC



Thanks to advice from Christian, I was able to find easy access to the High Line in Chelsea. The High Line is an old elevated train track that snakes along the west side of Manhattan. I've been a fan of the High Line because it combines all the joy of relaxing in a park with the thrill of playing on train tracks.

Its a bit hard to figure out from the current construction what the final vision is, but thankfully Curbed just posted some new renderings of the park design:

June 24, 2008

Renzo Piano's New York Times Building


nyt-gehry.jpgBack in 2003 I went to a Frank Gehry exhibition at the Moca commemorating the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall across the street. The exhibition was full of many models, some for buildings already built, some to be built, and some never to be built. In this last category was a series of models for the New York Times Building, which stood out because they were skyscrapers, something unusual for Gehry's portfolio. I believe that some of the models used crumpled tissue paper to simulate facade elements.

Two years later, I went to a Renzo Piano exhibit at LACMA commemorating Piano's future renovations to the museum. Among the many models there was his New York Times Building model, which was predictably more subdued than Gehry's though just as unusual for being a skyscraper. Gehry's design was considered a front runner, but he withdrew from the process. Piano's design employed a grilled facade that has won him many a museum proposal in recent years and this time secured him a skyscraper.

nytimes20080621_0068Mimicking the New York Times "Gray Lady" moniker, the relatively unadorned, very gray building stands tall with the vertical grill lines that are only interrupted by the giant New York Times banner logo. Buttresses on the side add a little bit of form to the building, but are minimal. I hear it can be quite beautiful at night with the newsroom lighting out through the facade. During the day the gray grills make even a gray sky more gray.

I would have preferred the Gehry design to be built, though I have a feeling that the Piano design has greater longevity. The un-offending building fits well within the Gotham skyline and they gray grills will soak up the grime and soot of the city with hardly a complaint. The New York Times nearly made it to the 21st century without color and it now has a color-less building to lead it to the next.

Photo Gallery

January 17, 2007

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Toyko Metropolitan Government Building Toyko Metropolitan Government Building

I didn't even have to do a single bit of processing to capture how impressive oppressive the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building really is. Its huge size makes it seem as if it were responsible for the grayness around it, though I'm sure its better on a sunny day. Bulky angles dominate its bulky Kenzo Tange design, which until 2006 was the tallest building in Tokyo at 799 ft/48 stories. Building #1 towers over the Shinjuku skyline with its dual Neo-Gothic pillars, which are advantageous for tourists trying to getting a great (and free) view of Tokyo from above. My overall impression was that it was comedy: the Tokyo government headquartered in a building perfect for the set of a fascist movie.

Toyko Metropolitan Government Building Toyko Metropolitan Government Building Toyko Metropolitan Government Building Toyko Metropolitan Government Building

January 11, 2007

Getting to Ando's Church on the Water

Before my most recent trip to Japan I debated whether or not it would be possible to make it to Ando's Church on the Water. My Google skills failed me and my unfamiliarity with that part of Japan deterred me from attempting to make it to the site. Thankfully, ellen's attic has shared with me the crucial details of how to get there:

Church on the Water is located inside Alpha Resort Tomamu, the hotel provide free pick-up service at Tomamu JR station or you can simply walk for around 30 minutes. Room rate is reasonable, 12,000 yen for twin per night. Taking the fastest JR express train from Sapporo to Tomamu will take you around 82 minutes, 58 minutes from Chitose airport to Tomamu.

If you are lucky, you can visit the Chapel on the water in one day with permission. However, the church will be blocked for wedding or special event sometimes, then you have to reschedule your visit time.

which means that it's an easy day trip from Sapporo Japan, but you should plan ahead. Thanks Ellen!

Web site:

January 9, 2007

Omotesando Hills, Tadao Ando, Tokyo, 2005

Omotesando Hills is one of Omotesando's latest forays into the world of luxury-eccentric architecture for retail shops (e.g. Herzog and de Meuron's Prada Building). It occupies a long stretch of Omotesando, partly obscured by trees, and with only a few retails shop on the outside. The repeating glass panels on the external facade aren't very exciting, though they are dressed up at night with a light display that emulates silhouettes of people's legs walking (video). There is also a small stream of water that flow adjacent to the building and flows along the slope of the street. One consequence of the sloped street is that the retail shops on the outside gradually climb up the facade of the building as you walk alongside.

Omotesando Hills - Ando Omotesando Hills - Ando Omotesando Hills - Ando Omotesando Hills - Ando

Ando connects the interior to the outside by echoing these external design elements: walking, slope, trees, and water. A odd speaker stick fills the mall with ambient water noises, flowing silhouettes of leaves are projected onto the floor, and images of stick-figure people walking adorn many of the walls. Slope is the connecting design of the interior in the form of continuously ascending ramps set around a thin triangular perimeter. The ramps create a series of convergence lines at the apex that are fun to photograph, though I must admit they aren't quite as impressive in person. A long stairway fills the apex of the triangle while escalators occupy the base. They, too, are fun to photograph.

Omotesando Hills - Ando Omotesando Hills - Ando

Omotesando Hills - AndoNothing can change the fact that the interior is ultimately a mall. Retail shops line the outside perimeter, though there position is made slightly more difficult because of the continuous slope. Like Ando's Collezione down the street, Omotesando Hills has a difficult problem: it's hard to transcend the nature of a shopping complex, even if you throw water and trees at it.

Not all have appreciated the new mall. Many of the rants I've read against it center on the fact it replaced the old Dojunkai Apartments. And by old, I mean 1927 old. Although there seems to be general agreement that the apartments were dilapated, some saw the apartments as a sign of an old cultural past of Omotesando that should be preserved. I only have the perspective of someone who has seen the new and I remain neutral: Ando's building fits in with the current luxury eccentric character and could even be called tame in comparison, but it is difficult to be enamored of a mall.

Ometesando Hills photos

January 8, 2007

Updated Ando entry

With the help and permission of Flickr users, I've been able to updated my old Talk: Tadao Ando entry with new photos. Back when I wrote the original entry, there weren't too many Ando photos on Flickr, so I was mostly left with low-quality scans that I found scattered on the 'Net. I also hadn't seen any Ando buildings in person.

A couple of days ago John Weiss left a comment to mention that he had used some of the text of the talk to document his photo of Ando's Times Building. After seeing his high-quality photo and seeing how many other high-quality Ando photos that are now on Flickr, I decided it was a good time for a revisit. The advantages of the Flickr photos are two-fold: they are of better quality and they usually come in sets. I've also been to four of Ando's sites now, which gave me more material to contribute.

Thanks John Weiss, stella/smine/bakoko/ellen's attic/SkylineGTR/Brandon Shigeta!

Talk: Tadao Ando entry

January 7, 2007

Collezione, Tadao Ando, Tokyo, 1989

Collezione - Tadao Ando - Tokyo-10 Collezione - Tadao Ando - Tokyo-09

Collezione - Tadao Ando - Tokyo-04 Collezione - Tadao Ando - Tokyo-03

Collezione - Tadao Ando - Tokyo-22 Collezione - Tadao Ando - Tokyo-23

Tadao Ando - Collezione - Tokyom and I explored Tadao Ando's Collezione building late one night in Tokyo. After one wanders to the far end of Omotesando, past the Prada Building and many other similar bauble-ly buildings, you stumble across the almost non-descript Collezione building -- you might even find yourself turning back before you even reach it.

It was nice to explore the building with no one else but me and m around -- it certainly made the photography easier. It is overpowered by the rest of the high-priced Omotesando shops and in isolation is lacking some of the natural elements that I enjoy in Ando's work. Nevertheless, the combination of a circular core and rectilinear surrounding structures made for some fun exploring.

I included both color and B&W comparisons above. One archetypal style of Ando building photos is high contrast B&W to show off the concrete, but I also wanted to document how the building is actually lit up. I'm no longer sure how accurate the color photos are, though, as the different types of lighting played havoc with my camera and I took these photos over a half a year ago.
Tadao Ando - Collezione - Tokyo

Collezione - Tadao Ando - Photoset (31 photos)

Collezione - Tadao Ando - Tokyo-30 Collezione - Tadao Ando - Tokyo-16 Collezione - Tadao Ando - Tokyo-17 Collezione - Tadao Ando - Tokyo-15 Collezione - Tadao Ando - Tokyo-13 Collezione - Tadao Ando - Tokyo-11

January 6, 2007

Getty Villa


I'm a fan of the Getty Center in LA and have been looking forward to the opportunity to visit the Getty Villa ever since it reopened in the beginning of 2006 after extensive renovations. The villa was constructed as a semi-recreation of the Villa of the Papyri, so named because many rolls of papyrus were discovered inside. Since its restoration, it houses the antiquities collection for the Getty. Architects for the Getty Villa relied on detailed floorplans drawn by Karl Weber, who excavated the Herculaneum villa in the mid-18th century. Volcanic gases forced the original excavation to be halted, and parts of the original villa remain unexplored.

The Getty Villa recreation is fun because it is a fake recreation: the architects were free to take odd liberties that restorations must avoid. Corinthian, Doric, and Ionic columns are intermixed, a Pompeii fountain recreation sits at the end of one of the villa's axes, travertine connects it to Meier's Getty Center, and other historical anachronisms and locational amalgams are present throughout. The architects even went so far as to add a modern "excavation" theme to the renovation. You're forced to walk up flights of stairs so that you enter the villa site from above. You then descend down stairs surrounded by concrete pressed to look like layers of wood. An archeological-styled ramp allows you to cross artificially added levels of the dig.

On the one hand, the architects went to great lengths to use Weber's floor plans of the buried Roman villa -- they even located atrium designs from other villas to determine whether or not the atrium should be one or two levels -- but then they throw accuracy out of the window to represent architectural cross-sections of history, ancient Roman and modern. Perhaps the cross-section is useful, because the Villa is there to house real artifacts of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman past. It is easy to discern simulcra from relic.

I have visited the actual archeological sites at Ercalono/Herculaneum and Pompeii in 2001, seen the old mosaics and paintings, and walked the layers of excavation. More than those sites, though, I was reminded of Forest Lawn Memorial-Park and Cemetary in Glendale, CA, which has a stained-glass recreation of the Last Supper, a full-size David statue, and many other replicas that I briefly talked about here. I had visited Forest Lawn because Umberto Eco mentioned it in his essay on "hyperreal" museums in Travels in Hyperreality and my frequent visits to Glendale made it an easy stop. I dug out my old notes on Travels in Hyperreality for this post to try and find a Forest Lawn quote that would describe the nature of the Villa. Surprisingly, I found this quote instead:

...We try to think how a Roman patrician lived and what he was thinking when he built himself one of the villas that the Getty Museum reconstructs, in its need to reconstruct at home the grandeur of Greek civilization. The Roman yearned for impossible parthenons; from Hellenistic artists he ordered copies of the great statues of the Periclean age. He was a greedy shark who, after having helped bring down Greece, guaranteed its survival in the form of copies. Between the Roman patrician and the Greece of the fifth century there were, we might say, from five to seven hundred years. Between the Getty Museum and the remade Rome there are, roughly speaking, two thousand. The temporal gap is bridged by archeological knowledge; we can rely on the Getty team, their reconstruction is more faithful to Herculaneum than the Herculaneum reproduction was faithful to the Greek tradition. But the fact is that our journey into the Absolute Fake, begun in the spirit of irony and sophisticated repulsion, is now exposing us to some dramatic questions.

I'll have to thank my past self for anticipating the reopening of the Villa and my eventual journey there.

I took a lot of photos and instead of processing them, I went ahead and posted a full set: Getty Villa Photoset (~200 photos). For those that want a briefer tour, I also put together a set of highlights

IMG_1069 IMG_1040 IMG_1183 IMG_1244 IMG_1209 IMG_1147 IMG_1115 IMG_1217 IMG_1199 IMG_1251

November 6, 2006

Frank Gehry's Louis Vuitton design


The Herzog and de Meuron's Prada building in Tokyo got me a book cover, I wonder what a Louis Vuitton building in Paris by Frank Gehry is worth? I'll just have to schedule a trip to Paris in 2010 to find out.

The materials for the building haven't even been fully chosen yet, so it is difficult to see how much it will live up to the artist's rendition.

August 11, 2006

Millennium Park

Five things I really liked about Millennium Park in Chicago:

  • The Cloud Gate sculpture (i.e. metal bean): I had seen many photos of this, and I didn't quite get it; it just looked like a giant funhouse mirror. But today I stood next to it and realized that, standing in the right spot, you can get impossible views of Chicago that are wonderful to take in. You can see the skyscrapers to the east and north of the park lined up side by side as well as the architecture in the park itself, all from one vantage point. And it's fun to watch distorted images of yourself.

  • McDonald's Cycle Center: there's free bike parking in a very secure facility (bike cops use it) and for $99/year or $15/month you can get use of a reserved bike parking area, a personal locker, and use of showers -- it's like a club for bikers. There's towel service for $1/use and the whole facility is indoors. It makes biking feel very upscale and luxurious. I like.

  • Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion/Great Lawn: As I walked over to Millennium Park, I was noting to myself how cool the naked architecture of the El train system in Chicago is: every support beam and bolt is right there for you to see. When I got to Gehry's typical twisting and undulating metal sheets in Millennium Park, I thought it was a really great match:

    • From the front, you just see metal sheets, but walk just a bit to the side and you get to see all the support structure exposed.
    • The Great Lawn itself has this canopy overhead that is stripped down to just beams, speakers, and lights. There was a jazz ensemble rehearsal while I was there and I enjoyed listening to it as families played soccer and frisbee around me. The canopy of speakers just drops sound down on you so you feel properly immersed.
    • There is naked concrete (ala Ando) used for ramps, staircases and supports.
  • Gehry's BP bridge: this serpentine bridge is a great way to approach the Pritzker Pavilion -- too bad you're more likely to be leaving rather than entering on this bridge, as I really enjoyed how the bridge introduced the pavilion.

  • Crown Fountain: I could care less about the images of faces projected onto these two mini-towers, but it's fun to see families bringing their kids to play and run around in the fountains shooting off each tower. I was tempted to run around myself, but I didn't have a towel.

This does mean that I pretty much liked the entire park, though I did leave out the gardens, which I felt were impersonally wraped in metal, as well as the Wrigley Square area, which was overly classic that it just felt flat in that environment. It will be interesting when the Renzo Piano's Modern Wing addition to the Chicago Art Institute is done: part of the plan is to add a very long pedestrian bridge from the park to the new wing. The linkage, I hope, will add even more to the park.

December 2, 2005

Disastrous Architecture

taipei 101, (c) Jerome ChenAfter earthquakes of 3.8 and 3.2 in a region not prone to earthquakes, people are asking whether or not it's possible that the 700,000 ton Taipei 101 building could be exerting enough force to cause earthquakes 10km below the surface: Guardian article on Taipei 101 and earthquakes. No answers in the article, just speculation as well as some interesting facts about earthquakes caused by dams, mines, and waste.

(Photo (c) Jerome Chen)

November 26, 2005

Photos: Nagasaki Peace Memorial

Nagasaki Peace Memorial-21Nagasaki Peace Memorial-10The Nagasaki Peace Memorial in Japan is a newly built memorial to the atomic bomb victims and survivors in Japan. Much of the complex is underground, with the above-ground portion serving as a public space to walk around and explore. The actual memorial is at the heart of the underground complex. An antechamber with video screens lets you learn more about each of the individual victims before entering the main memorial hall, which has lighted pillars that lead to a skylight above. In a roped-off portion of the hall is a lone dark pillar that contains the registry of all the victims.

Nagasaki Peace Memorial-13I left with mixed impressions of the building. From an architectural point of view, it was disorienting for me. It looked much like a Tadao Ando building, including a staircase that emerges out of the center of an elliptical pool, yet enough elements were slightly different from Ando's style that I could tell that it probably wasn't. The exterior layout was somewhat haphazard with very little to draw the eye, the dome was oddly placed, and the grounds weren't very well kept. I was happy to learn it wasn't an Ando building because I have higher expectations. The one element of the building design I did like was the finish on the interior concrete: it was very porous, almost wood-like in feel.

Nagasaki Peace Memorial-14The memorial itself was pretty, but it felt lacking in humanity. The use of pillars was familiar from the Holocaust Memorial in Boston, but unlike the Boston memorial that allows you to read the names inscribed, the main pillar with the names is roped off from exploration. Rather than express the human loss, it conveyed the sense of a vault. The antechamber's tech-y video screens combined with the sterility of the hall made me think of scenes from tech thrillers where the hero must break into the vault to steal the McGuffin.

Flickr Photoset of Nagasaki Peace Memorial

November 9, 2005

Treasure Island being redeveloped

treasure.island.plan.jpgd knows I'm interested in SF's Treasure Island -- last year she showed me another class' studio where there were maps of Treasure Island GIS data and development ideas that I wanted to rip off the wall and run away with... I'm strange enough to find such things very cool. It's a good thing that I didn't steal all their work: d just forwarded me an article that says those proposals may become a reality: Towers, farm seen for Treasure Island: Self-sustaining neighborhood of 5,500 residences proposed.

November 4, 2005

Book: Gehry Draws

gdrawing.jpgThis is not your pretty-color-photo architecture portfolio books . As the title suggests, it is mostly a book of Gehry's drawings, all of which are about as detailed on the one shown here; in other words, it is many, many pages of scribbling. Ignoring the pretentious-art-historian essay at the start of the collection that compares Gehry's sketches to Durer's works and extols Gehry's use of grundlinie, the truth is that many of Gehry's sketches are thirty-second efforts (p. 126). I would prefer if the book focused more on the models, but then it wouldn't be called Gehry Draws. Also, as the models are built by his staff, it is really only the drawings that can be said to be Gehry's work.

This is not to say that the drawings are not interesting. At first I was put back by having to look at scribbly sketches, but after awhile you get a sense of the rhythm and form Gehry was trying to communicate. I still find it impressive that his staff can look at the drawings and translate them into 3-D models, then again, I don't have Gehry standing next to me to pantomime the form in the drawing. It is these models that are the key to the book -- the juxtaposition between drawings and models makes the models Rosetta Stones for scribble interpretation. Also, the models are pretty.

I most enjoyed the section on the Lewis Residence, which was a house designed in collaboration with Philip Johnson and Richard Serra (among others) but was never built. Six years were spent iterating the design for the house and it reads as a transition point into the trademark wavy style -- Serra's influence on Gehry becomes more obvious. Gehry has described the project as being like a research fellowship where they got to hone their physical- and computer-modelling techniques.

There are occassional quotes by Gehry and his staff in the book (though they are poorly edited tnough to have frequenty spelling errors). I especially like Gehry's quote, "There was a period when I used to look into my wastepaper basket and fantasize buildings and forms," as well as this quote about designing the office space for MIT's Stata Center:

We then made models showing [the MIT faculty] the ways different cultures might deal with this problem. We had a scheme based on a traditional Japanese house with panels that could open to combine spaces and close shut for privacy. They hated that because there was no hierarchy. Then we gave them a scheme based on a colonial American house with a central hall and rooms around the bottom and rooms around the top. But they didn't like that either; it was too formal. Then one of our team members made an "orangutan village" around a tree with elders higher up and the children below it. At first they were insulted. They thought we were calling them apes. But in the end they chose the orangutan village.

more quotes in the extended review

Continue reading "Book: Gehry Draws" »

August 26, 2005

Book lite: Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture, travel edition

The biggest book I own is the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture, which weighs in somewhere between 17 and 18 pounds. It sits in a slot in my nightstand next to my bed, which has become it's permanent home by virtue of the fact that it's immensely unportable, even with it's large plastic carrying case. I read through it from time to time trying to pick which city I'd most like to visit on account of its recent architectural additions, but the book and I have not made any actual trips together for obvious reasons.

Perhaps the editors at Phaidon have been using their book to dream up travel itineraries as well because you can now buy a 'travel' edition of the book, which weighs in at 0.7 pounds and is about a third of the dimensions. With a list price of $20, versus the $160 of the original, they'll probably end up selling a lot of copies to people who already own the larger edition and who need a version to make up for the dimensionally challenged big brother.

August 12, 2005

Art and Architecture link roundup

August 8, 2005

San Jose civic center opening


(photo via

d and I were snarking on the new San Jose City Hall yesterday, with neither of much of a fan. I believe my quote was, "It looks like a bad Richard Meier knockoff." Well, it turns out that, um, it was designed by Richard Meier.

June 27, 2005

A prison of their own

m62I'm not a big fan of Alsop. As cool as a Space Invader-shaped museum might be, the overwhelming ode to consumerism in the form of Prada-inspired-skirt buildings, champagne bottles, teddy bears and Rubik's cubes, make it seem like Alsop designs his plans by surveying his hotel room after a post-FAO-Schwarz drinking binge.

Whatever his design process might have been in the past, I tip my hat to him for his latest boldness: prisoners at HMP Gartee, Leicestershire will get to participate in the design of their new prison. This sort of approach has helped with productivity in office buildings, so who knows what sort of effect it would have on a population that's incarcerated behind bars instead of cubicle walls. If they make it too nice, perhaps they won't want to leave, but I'd rather be part of the workshop designing the secret underground tunnels.

June 24, 2005

Military Generic

"Should abandoned military installations be preserved?" I had a conversation about this and Treasure Island with a city planning student. I was at a party full of city planning students, and not being able to hold a conversation on actual city planning, I somehow managed to find a conversation topic that would leverage my love of Treasure Island and my childhood as a military brat.

Treasure Island is a manmade island that served as naval base from World War II to the early nineties. The conversation focused on whether the redevelopment of Treasure Island should try to preserve some of the military architecture and the cultural landmarks, such as the chapel where many people had been married back in the day.

voisin.small.jpg yokosuka.towers.small.jpg okinawa.towers.small.jpg

(a long, boring, rambling essay on Military Generic, ugly architecture, McDonald's, Suburbia, Le Corbusier, and the expectations of a military childhood in the extended)

Continue reading "Military Generic" »

June 14, 2005

Link roundup

April 30, 2005

de Young

Neil and I went to go see the under-construction de Young, which was designed by Pritzker-prize-winning architects Herzog and de Meuron. It's right in the heart of Golden Gate Park and sits on an odd juxtaposition of architectural styles (all three photos taken from the same spot):

photo photo photo

tea garden, de Young, Music Concourse

The surrounding area is being redesigned by Walter Hood and has a lot of potential to become an interesting public space with all the open space that the Music Concourse provides -- it may end up being a nice, relaxing place to spend your day in the park. (more about the museum and landscape design).

As for the de Young itself, I'm of mixed opinion. I like the fact that the color of the building tries its best to blend with the surrounding landscape, but it seems that Herzog and de Meuron designed the building with bright blue skies in mind, rather than the grey overcast that dominates that part of San Francisco. From the artist renderings it also appears that they intended for it to have more of a red-coppery presence at the start than it actually does -- I'm sure the sun would bring out a little more of the color, but the sketches were far more bright than the building could ever be. After 15 years, though, they do expect the building finish to be much duller. I posted some of my photos from the site on Flickr:

de Young-34

April 6, 2005

Getty sun comparison

The advantage of going to the Getty twice, as well as having a partner the second time around armed with another camera, is that you have plenty of photos with which to make comparisons. Our most recent trip was much later in the day that my first trip, and the sky was slightly more overcast, which meant that the dramatic shadows of my previous photos were missing. However, we were also there fairly close to sunset, so we got to watch as the building transitioned from bright white to orange hues. The reflections off of the curved structures were also much more intense, and in some cases were reminescent of Gehry buildings.

Getty Sun-01 Getty Sun-15

Getty Sun-03 Getty Sun-04

More photo comparisons are in the extended entry. You may want to check out horizonline's Getty photos -- I stuck with a telephoto lens while horizonline used the stock EF-S rebel lens (save time and weight). She ended up taking many of the photos I wish I could have taken (including some of the ones seen here), given that I often had to stand halfway across the plaza to even be able to get enough of what I wanted into a shot.

Continue reading "Getty sun comparison" »

March 28, 2005

Photos: Getty Skyline

I took far too many photos at the Getty. To reparaphrase a familar quote: "I have deleted more photos of the Getty than you have ever taken." To deal with this overwhelming glut of photos, I've have winnowed the photos down to two sets: 'skyline' photos and 'sun' photos. The 'skyline' photos are better described as photos taken with the camera pointing upwards, as I focused on the various corners and edges that Richard Meier used in his design. The 'sun' photos take advantage of the fact that I've been to the Getty twice at different times of day, so I have some comparisons of how the building captures and displays light.

The 'sun' photo series is still being put together, but here is a sampling of the 'skylines' series (~70 photos total). I would have whittled my photos down more, but this is also a test of my new Flickr Pro account and how easily Flickr handles large numbers of photos.

getty-08 getty-skylines-38 getty-skylines-42 getty-skylines-35

Getty Skylines Photoset

Gehry's House


Over the weekend we swung by Frank Gehry's house in Santa Monica. The location suprised me, as I expected someone like Gehry to live in an ultra-exclusive, gated community with huge walls and attack dogs keeping people away. Instead, his house is relatively modest on an open public street in Santa Monica.

His house isn't in his blobular, twisted metal style. Rather, it has more in common with his earlier works like Edgemar that emphasize simple rectilinear forms. The materials are also fairly modest, making use of both wood and corrugated steel, as well as copious amounts of plants to provide some sense of privacy. Although you can see a large portion of the house in this photo, the actual front of the house is well-protected by dense foliage. Driving down the street it is a home that you notice, but it does not overwhelm the neighborhood that it is in.

I felt rather bad when I noticed his dogs come out onto the patio, as architectural appreciation shifted into the realization that I was point a camera at someone's private home, and it's understandable that he's building a new house (so I hear). Even with his windows set relatively high, it must be disconcerting to regularly have cameras pointed at your home.

Gehry House Photo Album

Back from SoCal

I had a good weekend with d down in LA, where we toted our twin Canon Digital Rebels around and snapped photos of everything vaguely building-like. From my previous entry, you can tell that I spent some time at the beach. We also spent part of the weekend watching a table 20 LA'ers go ga-ga over the new PSP, eating dinner with my Aunt and Uncle, and discovering that, contrary to common sense, other Yale women have dated MIT men (Friendster collision!).

Most of our weekend, though, had more of an architectural theme as we saw Gehry's home in Santa Monica and the Getty on Saturday. It was my first visit to Gehry's home, d's second; d's first visit to the Getty, my second. On Sunday we went to the Renzo Piano exhibit at LACMA, which should be there awhile considering how much money they raised to build Piano's future extension to the museum.

I just upgraded to a Flickr Pro account, which means I should have plenty of storage space to blog aplenty about Gehry's home and the Getty (no photos of the Piano exhibit allowed), but for now, the beach entry will have to do as I must find a way to sleep off my Red Bull and coffee.

March 21, 2005

Mayne wins Pritzker

district 7Thom Mayne Wins Pritzker Prize

I only learned about Caltrans District 7 building recently, but that building and the under-construction SF federal building that Mayne also designed are on my short list for buildings to visit.

March 17, 2005

Talk: Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando, Aomori Contemporary Art Centerd and I managed to sneak into an Ando talk at Berkeley, tiptoeing in through the sidedoor and sitting on the floor when the lights went out because all seats were gone over an hour before the talk started. I am thankful for the location of the Men's Room at Dwinelle Hall; I might not have noticed the unguarded entrance otherwise (easy to spot, given that ten-or-so people were already waiting there to sneak in).

photo: Ando's Aomori Contemporary Art Center. Photo by kwc

I really enjoy Tadao Ando's work. I'm not a fan of his most noted signature element -- concrete -- but I love the simplicity of his forms and the ways in which his buildings play with light. This talk gave a fuller survey of some of his works over the past decades, and also gave a lot of insight into his amusingly persistent mentality that guides his projects.

My notes are in the extended entry. There are a lot of large photos of his works that I've culled of the Internet to go with some of the talk notes, so the notes may load very slowly. It took a little longer than normal to put these notes together, but it was worth it, as I now have my own mini-Ando book to browse through and reflect upon.

Continue reading "Talk: Tadao Ando" »

March 11, 2005

The Week in Links

For the engineer that prefers applied math, there's this guide to cracking Master Locks, which explains some of the math behind how Master Lock chooses combinations as well as some hands-on technique for getting the last number in the combination. You should be able to narrow the number of possible combinations down to 100 for any particular lock. For the "I'm a Ph.D mathematician, applied stuff is for wusses," there is the McNugget number, which (I hope) is keeping some theoretical math major busy somewhere (and safely off the streets).

In the world of architecture, the Torres de Calatrava look pretty cool (gallery 1, gallery 2). Not having seen Calatrava-style skyscrapers before, I wonder what Calatrava's New York City might have looked like, in comparison to the imagined NYC's of Norman Foster, Gaudi, and Spielberg.

There were a bunch of historical links this week. In light of current dollar/yen investment issues, let us harken back to the day of the One Yen bill, facilitated by this nice overlay of Tokyo in 1948 and 1992. For those of you who prefer historical comparisons via sequential art, this tour of Batman logos over the years shows some of the 20th century's best and worst graphic design, but which one did the caped crusader battle under when he made his greatest boner?

Staying in the 1940s, we can look at these World War 2 color photos. They could add even more photos to the collection using this really interesting colorization technique for black and white photos/video that only requires some scribbled color hints (I wonder if the technique would work on these 1910 Paris flood photos).

March 5, 2005

Red-orange house

These photos are part of the Los Altos Hills Photoset I just posted, but I'm posting them separately because they are of my favorite house in Los Altos (Hills). I had to bike up a steep hill on weak legs to take these, so they deserve their own entry. Sadly, I did not chose my time-of-day well, but I don't think I'm going to redo these anytime soon.

2005-03-05-001 115

Part of the reason I like this house is that it doesn't try to stick out. Most of the house is not visible from the road:

2005-03-05-001 109

More photos in the photoset.

February 9, 2005

Calatrava's latest

Calatrava's design for the Atlanta Symphony Center has been unveiled (pdf fact sheet, quicktime flythrough). Although I find the tagline "Creating a postcard for Georgia" rather sad in its connotations, I do like the new design. You can compare and contrast with Gehry's LA/Disney Concert Hall (part I, part 2).

December 26, 2004

It's ginormous

I don't own many architecture books, but with the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture I don't think I'll need many more. Measuring 12"x18" and weighing in at 18lbs (comes with a clear plastic briefcase-style carrying case), and surveying architecture across the world (1052 buildings completed since 1998), it's absolutely gorgeous. I'm a complete nut when it comes to visiting modern architecture in cities and now I have a gigantic reference with which to plan my future trips.

December 22, 2004

Big Bridge

The Millau Viaduct is ginormous -- it's the highest bridge in the world and is due to open soon.

December 7, 2004

More LA buildings

The NYTimes has an interesting article on Mayne's new Caltrans District 7 HQ in downtown LA. The progress photos from the construction site don't look nearly as interesting as the photos the Times took, but having already seen the Frank Gehry's Disney Concert Hall and Jose Rafael Moneo's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the completist in me wants to make sure that I see all of LA's big new buildings.

October 13, 2004

Love 'em or hate 'em

Frank Gehry -- you either love his work or hate it. I, for one, happen to like (most) of his work, so I'm excited to hear that he will be designing the performance arts center at the NY WTC site.
- -- Architect Frank Gehry to design performing arts center at ground zero

July 31, 2004

Tall Buildings

I like architecture exhibits, so I found this online exhibit of tall buildings by MOMA to be rather cool. It shows various completed, under construction, and never-to-be-built designs, with details on each design as well as comparisons between them based on height and space. Several of the WTC designs are outlined, as well as numerous designs around the world (London/Seoul/Hong Kong/etc...).

May 17, 2004

Stata Center

photo One of the highlights of my visit to Boston was visiting the nearly complete Stata Center at MIT. Ever since seeing photos of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, I have been a fan of Gehry's work, and this was my second opportunity to see one of his buildings in person (the first being the Disney Center). I've already expressed some opinions on the Stata Center prior to visiting it, so you can compare and contrast my pre- and post-impressions if you wish.

I've broken my impressions and photos of the Stata Center into five parts, partly to separate distinct parts of the building, and mostly because I took over 200 photos and need to make the image galleries consumable.

Modifying the building

Stata Center: Exterior

photo The exterior of the Stata Center has invited a lot of criticism and not much defense, so let me be one of the few voices out there to say, "I like it." It's different, it's looks like got damaged in an earthquake, and it's strange, but it's also very interesting, open, and thought-provoking. It has towers with a gentle curve that enhance their height, Gehry's signature use of metal, and the appropriately dedicated Dertouzos amphitheater, which I hope will invite people to hang out in nicer weather. Unlike most MIT buildings, it also has a parking garage (added after the building was designed) and day care center with playground.

Perhaps the most interesting portion of the exterior design is the still-incomplete robotics lab (photo). With its shiny metal exterior, separation from the rest of the building structure, and conical chimney, it almost seems like a cottage to the rest of the building. In most of the sight lines for the building, it seems to stand out most prominently, which perhaps was the intent of Gehry when he chose for it to be the shiniest.

In comparing the Stata Center and Disney Center, I would say that the Stata Center has a much slower rhythm. When I visited the Disney Center, I found myself taking a photo, walking two feet, and finding a completely different view that I had to take another photo of. The variations in the Stata Center design are much more spread out, and while it does have a greater diversity of design elements, it doesn't have as many interesting angles from which to view it from.

Stata Exterior (100 photos))

Related: Index of other Stata Center entries

Stata Center: Modifying the Building

Another interesting design decision for the interior of the building that deserves its own post is that the interior is very hackable. Most of the interior spaces are complete open with reconfigurable separators to adjust how the space is used, and there are large, open spaces, some of which extend sixty feet into the air.

There is also extensive use of glass invites people to write messages or draw pictures on it, or in some cases, paper up the glass entirely for privacy. One of the more morbid window drawings I saw can be viewed here (hard to see).

Gehry I believe has taken to using the euphemism "modifying the building" to describe some of the modifications that people are making to correct some of the building design. We took to joking around with this saying as we wandered around; e.g. when we propped open one of the doors using construction material, we were "modifying the building." One of the more humorous modifications I've heard about is that in one of the conference rooms someone placed a box with a brick in it over one of the buildings floor vents and labelled it "temperature control." It is good to see that Gehry doesn't take offense at these modifications, though I'm sure that some of the denizens wish they were unnecessary. In all fairness, at least they have control over their spaces in the Stata Center; the old NE43 building offered little opportunity.

There are also plenty of fun reasons to hack the building. The "Gates Building" logos are numerous and pristine, the MIT library terminals are running Windows and frequently bluescreen (they were hacked to run Linux during the dedication), and the Dreyfoos building has already spawned the Dreyfoosball table.

Related: Index of other Stata Center entries

Stata Center: Interior

photo As I wandered the interior of the Stata Center and into the various "tribal" lab areas, I was under the impression that the building was still under construction. This was true: Brooks' robolab and the fourth floor commons were still being built. There was also building materials scattered about, including numerous items made out of plywood, such as benches, tables, and most commonly, cubicle-like dividers (example). It turns out that the plywood was actually the finished product.

When I first found this out, I was in disbelief. I had wandered the building for half an hour thinking that I was just seeing more construction materials, but then hogue pointed out that the plywood was actually a theme for the furniture, a cheap, ugly theme. The Stata Center in many ways represents leading-edge use of materials in construction, and it is simply mind-boggling to me that plywood would play a prominent role in furnishing the building.

That said, the rest of my impressions about the interior of the building were mostly positive. The most compelling design theme was the manner in which Gehry cleverly allowed the exterior of the building to penetrate into the interior; walls that were external fascade often continued into the building, usually with a skylight demarking the separation of spaces. Gehry places windows everywhere, allowing light from the outside to penetrate nearly every part of the building; conference rooms generally had three windows, each allowing sunlight to penetrate.

The combination of the two elements create the an interesting inversion: even interior windows have the appearance of opening to the outside, as what you see out of an interior window is often the same as what you would see out of an exterior window (example).

Other elements of the interior that I liked include the spiral staircases and the 123 lecture hall. I also think that the two-story lab areas will be very interesting work environments, as they offer a more three-dimension workspace.

Other elements of the building design I didn't like were the lack of power outlets near desks in the classrooms (not very laptop friendly), and the extensive use of exposed concrete (not always bad, but in the case of office ceilings, ugly). One of the worst design decisions, in terms of building function, is that the separators between the hallways and the workspaces is incomplete; there are glass dividers separating the two, but it turns out that above head height they didn't put any glass in, so there is actually open air between the two. I have been told that this makes the building very noisy.

Stata Interior (82 photos)

Related: Index of other Stata Center entries

Stata Center: Roof

photo One of the things we discovered while wandering the halls of the Stata Center is, despite the numerous active doorlocks, you could actually go into nearly any room you wanted if you were adventurous enough. For example, the control room for the big 123 lecture hall has a combination lock on it, but it turns out that if you just twist the handle, it opens. Another example is roof access. I assume that, in the future, MIT will want to block access to the roof, but, for now, you can walk up a stairwell and right out onto the roof.

The roof offered many interesting views of Cambridge, the MIT campus, and Boston. It also makes for a fun mini-maze as you try and navigate through the vent-works to get to the outer roof edge.

If you examine the photos carefully, you might be able to notice some mounting stands that are regularly spaced near the edge of the roof. They have four holes in them as if to bolt on something important, but their main use to me was a good solid base to stand on and look over the high roof edge.

Roof Gallery (29 photos)

Related: Index of other Stata Center entries

May 9, 2004

Stata Center followup

rcp posted a comment deriding my praise for the Stata Center. I imagine others will or already do share her viewpoint, and as aesthetics are a matter of personal taste, it's rather difficult to debate. A vote could give some credence to right or wrong, but I don't have a poll feature, so here is my response:

rcp: we have agreed to disagree on our definitions of art :) but i think it makes our already hideous campus look all the more heinous. i would have been happy if they had kept the 77 mass ave or killian court architecture. in their attempts to be innovative, i think they've made a mess. who cares if there's a building that's a 30-60-90 triangle or 1/8th of a sphere? with the recent addition of an oddly colored simmons and this drop of demented-looking metal, i think we have won the award for the most eclectic and yet, most uncoordinated campus ever. now, i will prepare myself to be flamed by you :).

We already had the award for most eclectic and uncoordinated campus ever. If MIT had stuck to the Killian Court look throughout, then my response would differ, but no other buildings on campus match that look, not the Green Building, Media Center, hospital, Sloan, bio building, NE43, or any of the other building numbers too numerous to list. The building that the Stata Center was built over was a fifty-year-old "temporary" building that had five coats of hideous blue paint on it, none of which matched, and none of which seemed to make it all the way around a full window frame. The building that the Stata Center replaces (NE43) could easily be mistaken for a boring office building, which its twin across the courtyard in fact is. Coordination was never a virtue of the MIT campus after its initial construction. About the only common trait they share is that most of them use lots of concrete.

If we assume that it's too late to tear down the MIT campus and rebuild it in a new image, then we have to accept the fact that nothing can be done to improve the "regularity" of the campus. That doesn't mean that we should build horrendous buildings like Simmons, where the only design consideration seems to be making the windows inconvenient for suicide attempts, but it does mean that MIT can, and should take risks in its building design to demonstrate innovative architecture.

Whether you like or dislike Gehry's designs, he is a leader in architectural design. His designs would be impossible without the leading-edge CAD tools he promotes, and his buildings are marvels that fly in the face of the principle of interchangeable parts; they demonstrate that technology now affords us the capabilities to dismiss assembly-line manufactured designs. Too many buildings resemble the parts that made them: rectangular blocks. If you look at the Disney Center in LA, you will be immediately struck by the fact that they had to individually bend each sheet of metal that covers it; no two are the same. The fact that this can be done without astronomical costs is additionally impressive. At the very least, the Stata Center will be a case study in modern design and construction technologies for architecture students.

Go into any other building on the MIT campus, and go to any floor. Take a look around. Then go up or down the stairs, and take a look again. Look familiar? Other than the bathroom layout, which alternates each floor, nearly ever floor in an MIT building is a replica of the floor below, save the dreaded catacomb basements.

The Stata Center will break this tradition. It will offer the largest variety of spaces available in the entire campus, from large lecture halls, to individually shaped tutorial rooms. Each floor, room, and stairway will have the opportunity to make unique impressions. At the very least, it will make it very challenging for the AI lab to program their robots. When I wandered around the Disney Center, each vantage point revealed something different about the building; you never got the same view as you walked around. From the photos of the Stata Center I have seen, I believe the exterior and interior will offer a similar variety.

I believe this unconventionality will be useful, because one of the things that impresses me about PARC, now that I work at SRI, is how important the building is for the culture of the lab. SRI's building, I'm told, is a former hospital, which has the consequence that there are no common spaces, and all the hallways and stairways are in the interior of the building. At PARC, much of the building faces the outside. Anywhere in PARC, you're never more than a hundred feet away from a patio or a courtyard. The building is also subdivided into pods, so and each pod is centered around a common space. All of this fosters social communication at PARC at a level that far exceeds that of SRI. Pixar had a similar approach in their building design: the bathrooms are all placed at the center of the building, so that people are encouraged to run into each other during their bathroom breaks. Neither PARC's or Pixar's building designs are responsible for their culture, but they are consonant.

I do not know if the Stata Center will encourage social communication on campus, though I do think that the amphitheater might be only large outdoor social gathering point in the entire East Campus. I am fairly certain, though, that the unique design of the Stata Center will make an impression on the research culture. It is hard to predict cultural shifts, but my prediction is that this impression will be a positive one.

Stata Center opens

The Stata Center at MIT officially opened on May 7th. It's not my favorite of the Gehry buildings, but to me, at least, it's a refreshing break from the other buildings on the MIT campus. The MIT campus can be best described as depressingly ugly, so I think it will be an improvement. I'll know better when I visit next week and take lots of photos.
The Ray and Maria Stata Center - Photos

March 22, 2004

Stata Center + Brass Rats

The Stata Center at MIT is nearly complete (more info). I'm a Gehry fan, so I think that it's rather cool to get a Gehry building on campus. However, looking at the current photos, it doesn't seem as striking as I thought it would. Perhaps large amounts of brick-color, or bad angles in the camera shots, but it doesn't stand out like, say, the Disney Center in LA.

On a slightly related note, the new 2006 Brass Rat design has been announced, which I mention because it's the first ring I know of where you join two rings together to spell out the secret message.... MIT. The message is kinda lame, the idea is cool, in a dorky way appropriate to an MIT ring. Strangely, the report also says the ring has "ILTFP" inscribed on it. Did MIT suddenly get a whole lot nicer to its students? Did the school suddenly start caring about student life? Every ring I've seen has IHTFP, and if there were a "secret" message to be spelled out, that would certainly be a good candidate.

December 8, 2003

Los Angeles Cathedral

I got some shots of the recently built Catholic cathedral in Los Angeles while I was down there for Thanksgiving. Although it's big like a cathedral, it does defy expectations in terms of design. It reminds me most of the MIT church in terms of its unconventionalness, though even in it's "sparse" appearance it still managed to cost a pretty penny. The coolest feature is probably the tapestries on the inside, which were designed using a computer program that allowed them to weave in an especially high amount of realism into the faces of the saints that are depicted. The sculpture of the Virgin Mary below was done by Angelica Houston's husband and is supposed to be a blend of all races. My Aunt says that all races ends up looking a lot like Sandra Bullock.
this entry contains a photo, click to view
Los Angeles Cathedral

November 29, 2003

Gehry Disney Part 2

When I last visited the Gehry Disney Concert Hall, I only managed to get photos of half of the building, as the garden and children's amphitheater side were closed off. Luckily, I was down in LA again so I made a circuit around the other half. The photos are much closer up than last time, so it might be a tad bit hard to get a grasp of the overall building, but the new photo set includes close-ups of the small shiny part of the building, the garden rose sculpture, some interior shots of the lobby, and a couple of shots that show how the bracing is done. I still haven't made it inside the actual concert hall, but I'm hoping to get tickets to a December show when I next visit.
this entry contains a photo, click to view this entry contains a photo, click to view
Gehry Disney Photos Part 2

October 13, 2003

Gehry Sails

interactive corps simulated photoThe NYTimes has an article on a new Gehry building being built in New York that will be the headquarters of Barry Diller's InterActive Corps. I didn't see any details of this when I saw the Frank Gehry exhibit in LA, so I'm looking forward to seeing more pictures and close-ups of the "white glass."

Ship of Glass for Chelsea Waterfront

September 29, 2003

Frank Gehry - Disney Concert Hall

gehry.disney.1.jpg gehry.disney.2.jpg gehry.disney.3.jpg

The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles is complete and they'll be letting visitors in soon. I like most of Gehry's work so I wanted to get some photos while I was down there for the weekend.

I also had the opportunity to visit a Gehry exhibit just across the street at the MoCA, which was really interesting. I imagine what they do with this exhibit is whenever a new Gehry building opens, they transport this exhibit over there to help promote the opening. They had tons of models of (none of these projects have finished construction, and some may never be constructed): - Le Clos Jordan winery in Ontario, Canada - Corcoran Art Museum extension in DC - NY Times headquarters - Marques de Riscal in Elciego Spain - Princeton Science Library - Puente de Vida, Panama - Stata Complex in Cambridge, MA - Gateway to Venice - Astor Place Hotel in New York

And by tons, I means dozens of models, large and small from various stages in the planning, from unintelligible preliminary sketch (not a single Gehry sketch was understandable to me), to final working models (where available). If your name is Mr. Tyler and you happen to like architecture, you might enjoy seeing this exhibit if you happen to be in LA...unless you really dislike Gehry.

I wasn't allowed to take photos of these models, but I have posted my Disney Concert Hall photos.

May 12, 2003


Got a lot of culture over the weekend down in Los Angeles with my Aunt and Uncle. I went to the Getty, saw Gehry's new Disney Center, saw Esa-Peka Salonen conduct Mahler's 3rd, went to the Huntington Library/Gardens, and went to the Norton Simon. I took lots of pictures, but the early reports on my DSL are that it really won't work for photos. I'll have to find a better way of posting my photos, as the architecture was really cool (Getty and Gehry), and I got to see a lot of good paintings, including a lot of great Impressionist works.

what is this?

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to kwc blog in the Architecture category.

Animals is the previous category.

Books is the next category.

Current entries can be found on the main page.