A guide to the Socialist Modernist Architecture of Romania and Moldova

The BACU Association -- the folks behind the incredible brutalist Socialist Modernism Tumblr -- have announced a limited run, 800-copy book collecting photos and details on 242 Socialist Modernist "objects" in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. Read the rest

Our homes are designed for stuff, making them unsuitable for people

Kate "McMansion Hell" Wagner continues her unbroken streak of excellent and incisive architectural criticism with a new piece that riffs on Stewart Brand's classic "How Buildings Learn" to discuss how McMansions have gone awry: they represent a break from the tradition of designing stuff to fit in spaces, and instead, they are spaces designed for status-displaying stuff. Read the rest

Bruce Sterling on architecture, design, science fiction, futurism and involuntary parks

In 1918, there was plenty of speculation about 2018; in 2018, no one is talking about 2118. Bruce Sterling discusses the relationship of industrial design to science fiction; the New Aesthetic and Turinese architecture; and many other subjects with Benjamin Bratton. (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

Potato chips as architecture - Sou Fujimoto's exhibit at Japan House in Los Angeles

Last week, Carla and I attended Sou Fujimoto: Futures of the Future, a new exhibit of 100 architectural models at Japan House LA in Hollywood. Fujimoto is well-known in Japan and Europe for his striking architecture that explores the boundaries between simplicity and chaos (what science fiction author Rudy Rucker calls the "Gnarl"). The gnarl is the sweet spot where things are interesting and appealing.

In this exhibition, Fujimoto's architectural models are arranged on small stands in a large room. Each model has tiny human figures in and around it to give you a sense of the scale of the structure. One of the models is a stack of potato chips. It comes to life with the human models gathered around it. Another building is just a bumpy dish sponge. The little people are standing in the bumps. It is surprisingly evocative. Other models are made from foam core and sticks. Fujimoto makes these models to try to answer questions like "What if the inside is also the outside?"

The walls of the exhibition room are covered by floor-to-ceiling photographs of buildings designed by Fujimoto from around the world. I couldn't stop looking at Fujimoto's "House NA," a multi-level residence in western Tokyo. It's tiny, cozy, transparent, and full of surprises. Fujimoto gave a lecture that night and he said he wanted to make a house that made you feel like a monkey jumping from one branch to another. Some of the levels in the house are just big enough for one person to sit in. Read the rest

Book of brutalist archictecture postcards from the Soviet era

Brutal Block Postcards is a new book that, er, celebrates the concrete landscape of the Soviet era. Over at Collectors Weekly, Lisa Hix flips through the pages:

Many of these postcards, published by governments of the U.S.S.R. between the 1960s and 1980s, depict the bland, 1960s five-story concrete-paneled apartments known as “khrushchyovka” as if to say, “Look at the modern wonder of collective worker housing!” To Westerners, the boxy buildings telegraph the bleak authority of so-called poured-concrete “Brutalist” architecture, which was somehow popular with both democratic and totalitarian governments during the postwar years.

However, in Brutal Bloc Postcards, the images of stern rectilinear apartments, government offices, and hotels stand in stark contrast to the dramatic public monuments. These Cold War-era monuments are epic in scale, towering over the Soviet landscape; their angular, avant-garde forms convey movement, as if hurtling toward brighter future through Communism.

"Postcards From Big Brother" (Collectors Weekly)

Brutal Blog Postcards: Soviet Era Postcards from the Eastern Bloc (Amazon)

Read the rest

Bruce Sterling on the next 50 years of climate-wracked maker architecture

Bruce Sterling's hour-long lecture to the Southern California Institute of Architecture is pretty good vintage Sterling: a seeming grab-bag of loosely related futuristic, ascerbic observations about climate change, Estonian e-residency, Kazakh new cities, monumental architecture, rotting Turinese palaces, Silicon Valley arrogance, AI, new-new urbanism, and so on -- which then all seems to pull together in an ineffable, somehow coherent finale that is both hopeful and bitter. Read the rest

Incredible 19 square feet LEGO model of Apple Park

Automotive engineer Spencer Rezkalla spent three years building this astounding 19 square foot LEGO model of the just-opened Apple Park. The 1/650th scale model contains roughly 85,000 pieces, including 1647 trees. From Rezkalla's project gallery on Flickr:

I've always wanted to build a horizontal skyscraper. These are sometimes also called "groundscrapers".

In 2014 I came across some drone footage of an enormous circular excavation being dug into the California earth. When I discovered this was the start of the foundation for a new low-rise Apple "spaceship" campus, I knew I had found an interesting and suitable candidate.

Read the rest

Welcome to Slab City, the "last free place"

Slab City is a curious community in the Sonoran Desert about 150 miles northeast of San Diego. Formerly a World War II Marine Corps base, it's now home to around 150 off-the-grid squatters and thousands of temporary campers and RV owners who wait out the winter months before continuing their journeys. The name comes from the concrete remnants of the military base. Author and architect Charlie Hailey and photographer Donovan Wylie documented the anarchic living and structural scene in their new book "Slab City: Dispatches from the Last Free Place." The pictures are a compelling and provocative view inside this not-so-temporary autonomous zone that embodies a curious kind of liberty for its diverse inhabitants. From an interview in Smithsonian:

What were some of the more interesting dwellings that you saw?

Wiley: [The dwellings] were all so autonomous and each had its own individuality, which in itself makes them interesting. The structures were people; they revealed the people and the place and were all very different and fascinating. [Being there] really made me question the idea of what being free is, and what it means in terms of American mythology, the desert, expansion and history.

Hailey: The scale of construction ranged from a piece of cardboard on the ground placed within a creosote bush to these large telephone structures to pallet structures that were two stories tall. Each one expressed what that particular person wanted to make them, but then against restraint of what resources were there and what nature would allow.

Read the rest

Architects redesign Japanese tunnels into artworks

The Kiyotsu Gorge lookout tunnel is a huge engineering marvel amidst spectacular beauty. Artists and architects recently repurposed it as an art installation replete with reflective surfaces, colored lights and sculptures. Read the rest

New Vietnamese bridge appears held aloft by a giant hand

Over the summer, a spectacular golden bridge opened to the public near Da Nang. In addition to a great view from Vietnam's Ba Na Hills, the Cầu Vàng bridge appears to be supported by a colossal hand. Read the rest

How Bauhaus (not the band) influenced David Bowie and Lady Gaga's style

German art school Bauhaus (1919-1933) had a tremendous impact on architecture, graphic design, and, yes, fashion. From Great Big Story:

The minimalist aesthetic has graced the runways of Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander Wang, adorned pop stars like David Bowie and Lady Gaga, and motivated the work of designer Anne Gorke. A native of Bauhaus’ birthplace—Weimar, Germany—Gorke pays homage to her upbringing with each stitch.

Read the rest

Buildings photographically stripped of everything but their facades

Zacharie Gaudrillot-Roy creates strange and wonderful images of building facades by digitally removing everything else, making them look like weird and wonderful Potemkin villages. Read the rest

Dogeden: partially buried doghouse for maximally comfortable pups

DogEden (DogeDen, surely?) is a doghouse designed to be mostly buried, with a tiny entrance above ground and a cavernous space beneath grade level. That way, the temperature is kept cooler in summer and warmer in winter, ensuring doge a more comfortable snooze. And when the fascist death squads come for you, they'll be a great place to hide the children!

Smart engineering coupled with good common sense. Dogs weren't meant to live above the ground in a wood or plastic box, they instead prefer a den-like home dug into the ground, away from the sun, wind and rain and extreme cold. No other doghouse on the market takes this into account, only the DogEden. We thought long and hard on this and designed our doghouse to intelligently take advantage of what dogs instinctually desire; they desire a comfortable den, integrated into the earth. Read below where we discuss the temperatures our doghouse maintains, and other smart features and benefits no other doghouse on the market has.

DogEden 60 [Amazon Link] Read the rest

Vintage photos of L.A. restaurants that were shaped like the food they served

With L.A.'s iconic Eddie Blake's Tail o' the Pup hot dog stand set to reopen, LAist posted a brief photographic history of the city's fantastic history of "'programmatic architecture,' buildings designed to look like food, animals or other items."

"LA's Awesome History Of Weird, Food-Shaped Restaurants" (via NextDraft)

images: Los Angeles Public Library Collection Read the rest

Betsy DeVos's summer monstrosity is pure McMansion Hell

Kate "McMansion Hell" Wagner is carrying $42,000 in student debt; heiress Betsy "Marie Antoinette" DeVos is the anti-public-school advocate whom Donald Trump put in charge of the nation's public schools, and one of her first official acts was to end the rules limiting sleazy student debt-collection tactics, even as Trump was ending debt relief for students defrauded by diploma mills (like, say, Trump University). Read the rest

Librarian photographs all the beautiful libraries he visits

Librarian Thomas Guignard (a.k.a. timtom) has a wonderful collection of Creative Commons photographs of libraries he's taken over the years. Read the rest

What happens when you let computers optimize floorplans

I eagerly await our new AI masters' world of ultraoptimized, uncannily organic, evolving foorplans. Joel Simon:

Evolving Floor Plans is an experimental research project exploring speculative, optimized floor plan layouts. The rooms and expected flow of people are given to a genetic algorithm which attempts to optimize the layout to minimize walking time, the use of hallways, etc. The creative goal is to approach floor plan design solely from the perspective of optimization and without regard for convention, constructability, etc. The research goal is to see how a combination of explicit, implicit and emergent methods allow floor plans of high complexity to evolve. The floorplan is 'grown' from its genetic encoding using indirect methods such as graph contraction and emergent ones such as growing hallways using an ant-colony inspired algorithm.

Adds Simon: "I have very mixed feelings about this project." Read the rest

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