Archinect - Architectstasy 2015-08-28T23:03:41-04:00 The Obama Presidential Library: A Call for Restraint Jessica A.S. Letaw 2015-08-25T14:45:57-04:00 >2015-08-26T19:24:33-04:00 <p>There's a circus coming to town.</p><p>And by &ldquo;to town&rdquo;, I mean the United States. &nbsp;And by &ldquo;circus&rdquo;, I mean the horrifically overblown pomp and circumstance that&rsquo;s going to get accorded the Obama Presidential Library.</p><p>You guys, can we just agree in advance to CHILL OUT about it?</p><p>The architects on the <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">popular short list</a> are all giants of their craft. &nbsp;Its location, on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side, was sensitively and wisely chosen. &nbsp;As usual, the project will be paid for by the President, his friends and supporters.</p><p>The maintenance, however, will fall to the National Archives and Records Association (NARA), a department of the federal government. &nbsp;And for that reason, if for no other, it behooves us to advocate loudly and often for restraint in size, in program, in operations expectations of &ndash; let&rsquo;s face it &ndash; the next paragovernmental tourist attraction: let&rsquo;s let the burden on the American people be modest.</p><p>&ldquo;Library&rdquo; is a bit of a misnomer. &nbsp;The tradition started with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, ...</p> Writing About Architecture: A Book Review Jessica A.S. Letaw 2015-07-23T11:46:46-04:00 >2015-07-25T16:12:20-04:00 <p>I sought this book out because (A) as an aspiring architecture critic I thought I should know what others are saying about it, and (B) Dr. Lange is kind of funny on Twitter.&nbsp; I am enormously glad that I did.</p><p>Who should read this book: practicing architects and architectural designers; urban planners; engaged citizens. &nbsp;It behooves us all to have at least a rudimentary grasp of effective criticism, the better to understand our own worlds and that of others, and to be articulate about it in common ways.</p><p><em><a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Writing About Architecture</a>&nbsp;</em>is<em>&nbsp;</em>a textbook on how to write nonacademic, mainstream architectural criticism. &nbsp;For a textbook, its liveliness and accessibility are pleasant surprises; the entire text is thoughtfully structured,&nbsp;amusing, and instructive. &nbsp;The format and content are simple and clear: 6 seminal essays from the micro (Lewis Mumford on the Lever House building) to the macro (Jane Jacobs in her seminal sweeping observations on urbanism). &nbsp;I specifically found helpful&nbsp;Dr. Lange&rsquo;s r...</p> AIA, Architects, and Architecture: The Struggle for Relevance Jessica A.S. Letaw 2015-07-15T13:12:00-04:00 >2015-07-26T09:56:17-04:00 <p>In a bucolic rural setting one hot Sunday afternoon this July, a group of Michigan architects gathered to discuss the future of their local AIA chapter. &nbsp;In some form or another, this conversation is happening all across the United States: a crisis in fate and faith of architects in "their" group, and the chance to choose a new path that should feel like opportunity and instead feels kind of gloomy.</p><p>Some facts:</p><ul><li>In 2013, the AIA conducted an exhaustive survey of members and nonmembers about the perceived value of the organization. &nbsp;What benefits were they offering that were of value to folks? &nbsp;What weren't they offering? &nbsp;What were they offer that was not bringing benefit?</li><li>As a result of the survey, the organization determined in 2014 to make structural changes at every level - local, state, and national - to reduce regional inconsistencies in member value.</li><li>In October 2015, all Michigan AIA chapters, or officially "components", will have to vote on whether they want to be classified as "...</li></ul> Rome had its Forum. Ann Arbor has its Library Lot. Jessica A.S. Letaw 2015-07-10T00:55:37-04:00 >2015-07-16T22:42:22-04:00 <p><em>An alternate title to this article could have been, Let's All Think&nbsp;Like Architecture Critics.</em></p><p>Okay, Ann Arbor. I don't want to freak you out or anything, but we have a real opportunity to make a profound impact on the face and function of our city for a long time to come. &nbsp;The so-called "<a href=",-83.7455618,165m/data=!3m1!1e3" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Library Lot</a>," just north of the Downtown Library branch and just east of Blake Transit Center, is arguably the most central civic property in the city. The great and terrible news is: it's up for development.</p><p>So, you know. No pressure.</p><p>The City of Ann Arbor has put out an Offering Memorandum, a kind of request for proposal, for that lot. Nine teams have responded with bids. The City has rejected four, leaving 5 serious proposals to consider.</p><p>But wait - before we get out our torches and pitchforks (those of you familiar with those MLive comment threads resembling sewer ducts know what I'm talking about), think critically with me here for a second.</p><p>This lot is a big deal. This&nbsp;<em>issue</em>&nbsp;is a big deal. As enga...</p> Thom Mayne: Architecture IS About Human Connection (Despite Himself) Jessica A.S. Letaw 2015-06-25T15:25:07-04:00 >2015-07-03T18:29:19-04:00 <p>Thom Mayne of <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Morphosis Architects</a> had an opportunity to give a <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">TED talk</a> in 2005. &nbsp;Before diving into the content, it's worth noting that at an event characterized by its animated, compelling, unforgettable speakers, Mr. Mayne's talk falls, well, flat. &nbsp;He mentions once or twice that he's following a tough act; if you go back and take a look at the agenda you see that his talk, "How Architecture Can Connect Us," came right on the heels of dance duo Pilobolus and their piece "<a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Symbiosis</a>", and not too far after Howard Rheingold and his talk on "<a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">The New Power of Collaboration</a>", two vibrant and dynamic acts for which any talk would have been a challenge to come after.</p><p>Compelling themes of integration and accord; funny, then, that the person chosen to continue the conversation was an architect long comfortable with conflict and his spiky affect (and buildings).</p><p>The first entry in Architectstasy's hall of shame, the "<a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Cor-boo Awards</a>", is the Morphosis San Francisco Federal Building. &nbsp;While un...</p> Hearts of the City: Herbert Muschamp will always be one of them Jessica A.S. Letaw 2015-06-17T18:06:00-04:00 >2015-06-22T21:38:19-04:00 <p>Here&rsquo;s the thing about Herbert Muschamp.</p><p>He&rsquo;s kind of like this smooth nightclub you don&rsquo;t know whether you want to be a part of. If you go, then everyone knows: you&rsquo;re &ldquo;in&rdquo;. You&rsquo;re &ldquo;cool&rdquo;. You look like you know the things everyone wishes they knew. You acquire a sort of sophisticate air just by associating with him. On the other hand, you don&rsquo;t like the drinks that much, the conversation is always a little raucous and it&rsquo;s always a little too smoky.</p><p>In <em>Hearts of the City: Selected Writings by Herbert Muschamp</em>, Herbert talks with divine &ndash; and annoying &ndash; certainty about architecture and architects, culture and culture makers, musicians and matrons and politicos galore. He makes your head spin with history shared, not dry and linear like you learned it in school, but salaciously and at breakneck speed. &nbsp;His index alone is longer than half his essays and includes callouts to everyone from Gehry to Zsa Zsa Gabor.</p><p>In one essay you&rsquo;re carried from the depths of concentration camps to some a...</p> Greg Lynn's TED Talk: Organic Algorithms in Architecture Jessica A.S. Letaw 2015-06-10T12:03:44-04:00 >2015-06-14T22:34:36-04:00 <p><img alt="" src=""></p><p>Greg Lynn has occupied a prominent yet uneasy role in architecture for two decades now; crucial in developing new production processes and ways of thinking, yet always leaving the user experience as an uninteresting side effect of his designs. This talk is an illuminating long glance at his method of working, and will either whet your hunger to know more, or serve as sufficient introduction to this longtime luminary.</p><p>Watch the whole talk <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> How Buildings Collapse Jessica A.S. Letaw 2015-06-05T12:35:00-04:00 >2015-06-08T20:42:07-04:00 <p>In 1989, architectural critic Herbert Muschamp wrote an essay for the New York Times, &ldquo;How Buildings Remember&rdquo;, that was in part the first review of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. &nbsp;In it, he discussed Modernism, transparency, the uneasy intimate relationship between art and politics, wondered aloud how much a museum should be responsible &ndash; or even can be responsible &ndash; for in terms of absolution, the Holocaust Museum type, and ended on an unsettling parallel between old and new propaganda and the timeless persistence of denial. &nbsp;He describes carefully, almost tenderly, James Freed&rsquo;s formal, spatial, and material answers to the question, &ldquo;How does a building represent a catastrophe?&rdquo;</p><p>But sometimes, the building IS the catastrophe.</p><p>Bangladesh is, after China, the world&rsquo;s second largest exporter of textiles (including ready-made garments, or RMGs). &nbsp;The industry accounts for over 45% of the country&rsquo;s employment, and the furious competition to deliver orders faster and cheaper is...</p> The Ecology Center Jessica A.S. Letaw 2013-06-10T11:40:17-04:00 >2015-06-17T18:07:27-04:00 <p>She can feel like an all-chef/no-cook kitchen, but Ann Arbor wears her heart on her sleeve: you never have to guess what she&rsquo;s thinking. She speaks her mind and she takes her passions seriously. As a town founded in the wilderness, named after its hallmark greenery, Ann Arbor has a long tradition of dedicated service to the environment. Its recycling program is <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">one of the most progressive in the country</a>, its public transport is <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">anchored on sustainable fuels</a>, and it&rsquo;s even home to <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">a unique community festival</a> celebrating the pursuit of net-zero-resource use in homes and communities. The <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Ecology Center</a>, then, is arguably one of Ann Arbor&rsquo;s most central institutions.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Read the rest here: &nbsp;<a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"></a></p> All-Inclusive Bookstore Includes Great Design Jessica A.S. Letaw 2013-05-31T22:49:00-04:00 >2013-06-17T08:23:46-04:00 <p> There&rsquo;s something to be said for a bookstore whose theme of inclusivity extends to other species (I&rsquo;m looking at you, scratch-hound Duke).&nbsp; There&rsquo;s a lot to be said for a bookstore that&rsquo;s managed to survive the tribulations of Amazon and an economy that has led many of us to cut back on luxuries (although it pains me to call a book a luxury).&nbsp; But what I would most like to say about Ann Arbor&rsquo;s <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Common Language Bookstore</a> is a heartfelt thank you for creating a space that so thoroughly reflects its values and products.</p> When does "historical" begin? Jessica A.S. Letaw 2013-05-16T14:31:20-04:00 >2013-05-21T21:12:10-04:00 <p> reporter Ryan Stanton sums up my response to this proposal in <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">his droll title</a>: &ldquo;19 new Old West Side-style homes coming to Ann Arbor&rsquo;s north side&rdquo;.&nbsp; I couldn&rsquo;t agree with Mr. Stanton more.</p> <p> Read the rest here:</p> <p> <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"></a></p> "Where the old Wal-Mart used to be" Jessica A.S. Letaw 2013-05-16T10:15:14-04:00 >2013-05-16T10:15:14-04:00 <p> In the rural South, where I'm from, the big running joke is that directions are often given in landmarks, and the even bigger joke is that those landmarks don't even have to be there any more for them to be used in wayfinding. &nbsp;Perhaps the biggest joke of all? &nbsp;I still do it, knowing full well every single time I give someone an empty direction, but somehow finding myself helpless against it.</p> <p> Ann Arborites who have been here for more than a few years will remember the old Kroger shopping center on Packard. &nbsp;"Old", in this case, means that both the shopping center is old and its anchor tenant is an erstwhile one: the Kroger closed in 2009. &nbsp;Since then, this otherwise thriving part of time has been the object of intense scrutiny. &nbsp;What, we wondered, would get packed into this site that for some reason is a story and a half below street level?</p> <p> We finally have our answer.</p> <p> Read the rest here:</p> <p> <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"></a></p> The Old Fourth Ward: For Whom the Bell Tolls Jessica A.S. Letaw 2013-05-15T23:32:31-04:00 >2013-05-31T23:49:24-04:00 <p> For anyone who doubts its value, this is why urban planning is so very important.</p> <p> <img alt="" src=""></p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> Ask not for whom the bell tolls, friends: it tolls for the Old Fourth Ward.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> The headline for this project&rsquo;s go-ahead reads: &ldquo;City Council Approves 14-story-highrise to Avoid Potentially Costly Lawsuit.&rdquo;&nbsp; That pretty accurately sums up the attitude of those invested in the outcome: <em>We&rsquo;ll do it, but only because we have to.</em></p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> Read the rest here:</p> <p> <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"></a></p>