Archinect - Thinking About Architecture by Larry Speck 2021-09-26T03:56:22-04:00 What role for architects in planning future cities? lawrencewspeck 2013-06-11T22:12:00-04:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> A recent article by Aaron Betsky in Architect magazine took issue with a New York Times-sponsored program called the Energy For Tomorrow Conference.&nbsp; Betsky was specifically concerned that the Times had not included any &ldquo;urbanists, planners, or even an architect&rdquo; but did include &ldquo;leading urban expert Jeremy Irons.&rdquo; He queried, &ldquo;What are architects when we&rsquo;re thinking about the future of the designed environment&hellip; chopped liver?&rdquo;&nbsp; Betsky suggested several prominent architects would have been an appropriate addition, including OMA and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, among others.&nbsp; While I agree we should expect some architects and urbanists at such a conference, I question some of Betsky&rsquo;s suggestions.&nbsp; Are the starchitects he mentioned really contributing to energy efficient, sustainable cities?</p> <p> Early in his career, Rem Koolhaas of OMA advocated for density and intense urban vitality, but then seems to have decided object buildings were the thing.&nbsp; He has done projects that seem remarka...</p> A chapel unites a couple lawrencewspeck 2013-06-11T21:53:00-04:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> I recently attended the wedding of two former students that took place at the Anthony Chapel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, designed by Maurice Jennings, a former partner of Fay Jones.&nbsp; The influence of Jones&rsquo; celebrated Thorncrown Chapel is evident, but Jennings definitely takes the idea one step further.&nbsp; Situated in the Garvan Woodland Gardens, the chapel is carefully sited with a view towards Hamilton Lake.&nbsp; The architecture is clearly commuting with nature, and there is a beautiful, dappled light within the structure.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> Lee and Amy had made several trips to Hot Springs before choosing to hold the wedding there, even though no one lived nearby.&nbsp; Hot Springs is a resort town that enjoyed its hey-day in the 1930s, with a beautiful main street, spa springs and scenic surroundings.&nbsp; The combination of the lovely old town and the chapel itself tipped the couple&rsquo;s decision to have their wedding there.&nbsp; It was an amazing event and many of their friends had come in from points around...</p> A timeless house in Dallas by Edward Larrabee Barnes lawrencewspeck 2013-06-11T21:21:52-04:00 >2019-03-29T10:16:03-04:00 <p> We always seem to be infatuated with newness in Architecture, and I will confess I am susceptible to the quick rush of novelty more than I would like to admit.&nbsp; But I am also a great admirer of timelessness&mdash;that far more potent elixir that lends Architecture an enduring depth that most other media cannot touch.&nbsp; I recently visited an exquisite house in Dallas by Edward Larrabee Barnes that embodies that rare trait of timelessness in a powerful way. I think it&rsquo;s the best thing Barnes ever did.&nbsp; I have been to the house three times&mdash;each time when a different owner inhabited it.&nbsp; It was originally commissioned by my friend Melba Whatley (then Greenley) and was completed around 1984.&nbsp; Melba was very active in the Dallas Museum of Art and Barnes was doing the museum&rsquo;s big new building at the same time.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> The house was stunning when Melba lived in it&mdash;beautifully sited on a rolling piece of land in Preston Hollow, immaculately detailed with minimalist precision and spot on in its s...</p> Less is so much more: the Parrish Art Museum lawrencewspeck 2013-03-07T12:46:00-05:00 >2018-04-07T07:16:03-04:00 <p> Over the holidays I visited the new Parrish Art Museum, in Water Mill, NY on Long Island.&nbsp;&nbsp; The museum, which opened a couple months ago, has a mind-boggling history.&nbsp; In 2006, Swiss architects Herzog &amp; de Meuron unveiled their plans for a series of 30 angular, low-slung pavilions with over a dozen different roof angles.&nbsp; Projected construction cost came to $82 million, a good deal more than the museum&rsquo;s original $65 million budget.&nbsp; In 2008 the Parrish appointed Terrie Sultan, formerly of Houston&rsquo;s Blaffer Gallery, as its new director.&nbsp; Terrie asked the architects to completely rethink the entire project with a budget more in tune with the post-economic downturn economy.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title="">THE PARRISH ART MUSEUM IN WATER MILL, NY, IS AN ELEGANT, SIMPLE DESIGN.</p> <p> To the architects&rsquo; credit, they did precisely that and made a much simpler building&ndash;one that is both more flexible and actually displays the art better. The building is not pretentious, flaccid, or in any way reflective of the &ldquo;make shape...</p> “Creative Invention”… Only for those with gobs of money? lawrencewspeck 2013-03-07T12:42:00-05:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> A few lines in Nicholai Ouroussoff&rsquo;s recent article in The New York Times about the new Parrish Art Museum particularly caught my attention: &ldquo;The design is a major step down in architectural ambition.&nbsp; It suggests the possibility of a worrying new development in our time of financial insecurity.&nbsp; It is a creeping conservatism &ndash; and aversion to risk &ndash; that leaves little room for creative invention.&rdquo;</p> <p> What is creative invention, and does it take a gob of money to do it?&nbsp; Does a time of financial insecurity with its concomitant tightening of budgets really leave little room for creative solutions?&nbsp; I would argue that the Parrish Museum is a perfect case in point where financial constraints actually led to great creativity and provoked possibilities the architects might not have otherwise explored .</p> <p> Is Ouroussoff not talking so much about creative invention, but rather a profligate desire to build the strange and exotic?&nbsp; I think the previous era, in which there was a lot of money ...</p> High Performing Thermal Mass in New Mexico lawrencewspeck 2012-10-31T13:48:00-04:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> &nbsp;<img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> Increasingly, I&rsquo;m more interested in what architecture does than just what it is.&nbsp; In a previous blog, I wrote about the new office building we designed for Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE), in Austin, and the use of thermal mass to control temperature.&nbsp; We&rsquo;ve now employed those same sustainable principles for a residence in northern New Mexico.&nbsp; The rammed-earth structure, located outside Santa Fe, virtually disappears into its site and surroundings.&nbsp; For the earthen walls, we selected four shades of the indigenous sedimentary dirt to create a deep, luscious palette, and it&rsquo;s used for both exterior and interior surfaces.&nbsp; In fact, these are much the same colors and hues Georgia O&rsquo;Keefe found in the same landscape and can often be seen in her paintings.&nbsp; I&rsquo;m thrilled with how it all turned out, as are the homeowners.&nbsp; The house is invisible from the street and even when approached close up, one must proceed through vegetation and down a broad stair into a courtyard.&nbsp; Onl...</p> Living Architecture lawrencewspeck 2012-09-29T15:49:00-04:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> <img alt="" src="" title="">&nbsp;I have made several pilgrimages to the de Young Museum in San Francisco by Herzog and de Meuron&ndash;always to stare at the building, wander around and take pictures. Last Saturday I was in SF to see a performance art piece by Sarah Wilson, Derrick Jones and Nehara Kalev that just happened to be at the de Young. It was wonderful to experience the building as part of everyday life and to be focusing on it, not as a THING, but as a place for experiencing art.</p> <p> The way the building responds to its eclectic art collections has always impressed me. Rather than trying to cram everything into a consistent or &ldquo;one size fits all&rdquo; set of galleries, the wide range of architectural environments celebrates the museum&rsquo;s diversity.</p> <p> Early American paintings, furniture and silver look wonderfully rich and gracious in the well-proportioned, top-lit rooms that house them. Radically different artifacts from New Guinea look equally powerful in dimly lit, flowing spaces with dark casework and dramatic s...</p> Postmortem on Postmodern lawrencewspeck 2012-09-10T14:39:00-04:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> <img alt="" src="" title="">I</p> <p> I am convinced that style has very little to do with the real success of buildings.&nbsp; Although we as architects spend a lot of time and energy screaming about &ldquo;modernism&rdquo; or &ldquo;regionalism&rdquo; or &ldquo;post-structuralism,&rdquo; in the end, design genre does not make any guarantee about design quality or the ability of a building to make a real difference in its culture.</p> <p> This summer I had the opportunity to see two iconic works of postmodern architecture within a couple of weeks&mdash;the town of Seaside in Florida by Duany Plater-Zyberk and the Portland Building in Oregon by Michael Graves.&nbsp; Both were deemed revolutionary in their era and provoked extraordinary discussion and controversy.&nbsp; They are about 30 years old now&mdash;plenty of time to really judge their success.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> I made the&nbsp;trek&nbsp;to Seaside because Marlon Blackwell, who was speaking at a conference with me &nbsp; in nearby Destin, commented that he had rented a cottage there with his family for a week.&nbsp; I am interested in where really good desi...</p> Top Architectural Record award for Guangzhou Opera House? Really? lawrencewspeck 2012-08-08T11:15:00-04:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""><em>Architectural Record</em> recently gave Zaha Hadid&rsquo;s Guangzhou Opera House its Best Public Project: Honor Award in the Good Design Is Good Business: China competition and published it on the cover. <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"></a></p> <p> Unbelievable! I visited the building last January and was absolutely dismayed at how inept and poorly designed it is. Had anyone from the awards jury (which &ldquo;included editors from Architectural Record and respected Chinese architects and experts&rdquo;) actually visited the building? If so, I cannot believe they would consider it &ldquo;good design.&rdquo; The building&rsquo;s failures are glaring and are certainly no secret. The fellow showing me around in Guangzhou did not want to take me to the opera house because he was &ldquo;ashamed&rdquo; of it.</p> <p> The photos in <em>Architectural Record</em> do look dazzling&mdash;proof again that photos can be made to lie. The images are dominated by distant views and night shots that obscur...</p> Building with High Thermal Mass in a Hot, Humid Climate lawrencewspeck 2012-07-16T17:19:00-04:00 >2020-02-10T13:46:04-05:00 <p> It is hot and humid as hell in most of Texas at the moment.&nbsp; The current conditions call into question whether our normal ways of dealing with summer heat (using primarily insulation and air conditioning for cooling) is the only economical and ecological approach to these climate extremes.</p> <p> I became interested in using high thermal mass as an alternative while traveling in Turkey with my son Sloan eight years ago. He and I visited remote Roman ruins on the south coast and the interior, where the sites are in raw states and are not much frequented by tourists.&nbsp; The summer climate in Turkey is very hot and humid, not unlike Texas. But it was strikingly comfortable inside the stone ruins with their high thermal mass.</p> <p> I noted the same effect working beautifully in the all-masonry city of Ping Yao in western China, where homes have thick, stone walls and massive, stone beds that kept us amazingly cool on hot summer nights.</p> <p> This is a classic heating and cooling technique in climate...</p> Monument Valley in Dallas? lawrencewspeck 2012-06-19T11:43:00-04:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> While in Dallas last week, I took a few minutes to walk from my office to the new Arts District where there are buildings by five Pritzker-Prize-winning architects within sight of each other&mdash;Nasher Sculpture Center by Renzo Piano, Meyerson Symphony Center by I.M. Pei, Norman Foster&rsquo;s Winspear Opera House, Wyly Theater by Rem Koolhaas and, nearby, Thom Mayne&rsquo;s Museum of Nature and Science.&nbsp; All of these buildings are monuments of late 20th century/early 21st century architecture.&nbsp;</p> <p> Collectively, these buildings make a terrible urban environment. What should be a thriving, enlivening experience is, in fact, really dull. Have the star architects of our era forgotten how to make a city?</p> <p> Put one egocentric jewel in a city, and maybe it&rsquo;s OK.&nbsp; Put a bunch together, and you&rsquo;ve got a no-man&rsquo;s land.&nbsp; The self-absorbed, &ldquo;look at me&rdquo; quality in some of these jewels denies them a role in creating a larger city fabric.&nbsp; The internally focused nature of others leads them to turn blank, deade...</p>