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Show and NOT tell; Architecture Week - Sat...


This is Carlo Scarpa. He is cool, no? Of course he is (er was, because he’s dead now), but the real question’s why was he cool?


Y : Is it the hat?
M: It certainly is a nice hat, but that’s not why.

Y : Is it the slightly haggard and aloof appearance?
M: Stoic and smooth for sure, but no.

Y : *eyeroll*
Y : It’s because he was an architect right?

M: *grinning*
M: He was an architect, who wasn’t an architect.

Carlo Scarpa never sat for the Pro Forma, Italy’s professional examination for architects. So he never obtained a professional license. I don’t know why he never took the exam, but I imagine it’s because he had rebellious tendencies.

I like his work immensely. I think he was highly skilled with all things interstitial, left over, and unlinked. His work is textural, experiential, and human in a way that often escapes the profession these days. The most well known of Scarpa’s works is likely Castle Vecchio, and the Brion Tomb and Sanctuary, and it’s these I’m showcasing today.

Castle Vecchio Museum:

Scarpa’s design hand is visible in the stairways, doorways, and passages of this restoration. I hear it’s challenging to photograph. Some say it’s because Scarpa’s work isn’t very photogenic. I say it’s because his work’s not about standing outside, looking in.

This interstitial space appears fairly random and chaotic from “outside”. No?

It’s small, but dense with awesomeness.

You’ll need to start with the right foot to climb that stair (literally).

Sweet concrete stair!

A convergence of circulation?

That is one sweet stair!

Brion Tomb and Sanctuary:

This project is an addition to an older cemetery. And what is a cemetery but the interstice between life, and whatever follows it?

Foggy awesomeness.

I believe this is the sanctuary.

Great light, awesome details. How could one not like this?!?

The tomb wall I believe.

Crazy skylight.

This is a meditation space. The portals are rimmed with glazed tile - sweet!

Carlo Scarpa died in 1978, at the age of 72. He succumbed to injuries resulting from falling down a flight of concrete stairs. He’s buried in a standing position and wrapped in linen sheets (medieval knights were buried in this manner). His grave is an interstitial space between the new and old cemetery walls of the very project showcased here.


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Show and NOT tell; Architecture Week - Fri...


“So what do you need, besides a miracle?”

“Seeds. Lot’s of seeds.”

Know where that’s from? If so leave your guess in the comments. Until you get there put your hands in the air, it’s Friday! It’s Architecture Week! And we’re talking genetic material in the form of seeds! Sweet, right?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “what do seeds have to do with architecture?”

Oh I don’t know. Just the obvious fact that without seeds there’d be no food; and without food there’d be no life; and without life there’d be no Architecture. Reason enough to build a suitably cool display for them. No?

Yes! Enter the UK Seed Pavilion, in Shanghai. Though I’ve not been to it, I still think it’s awesome. It’s that “hairy” cube built for the Shanghai Expo 2010. I know, 2010, it’s so last year. But it’s got 60,000 acrylic rods! Each one containing the seeds of a different plant. It makes me wonder how much sixty-thousand, unique, acrylic fabrications cost?

It’s difficult to gauge its exact size and scale from this view.

Most people say brush, I say cockle-burr. Whatever is conjured in one’s mind, it’s got a nice scale to it. It’s refreshingly human.

Exterior detail of the acrylic rods. They all appear to extend equally to some exterior offset “envelope”.

The acrylic rods appear to be of varying lengths from the inside. Each rod contains a unique species, and is a unique length. It boggles my mind a bit; how to go about manufacturing them in a cost effective way? Just imagine the coordination it took to get all the pieces in the right place.

Maybe the acrylic rods are made of modular assemblies that can be attached to each other, in order to construct different lengths? Difficult to say.

While the UK Seed Pavilion is a really beautiful seed display. I don’t think it’ll be easy to extract them for planting should the need arise. While I’m no botanist, I doubt they’d be viable anyway. So how do you preserve plant bio-diversity in a viable manner?

Easy. You gather plant seeds from a whole bunch of different species, and stick those seeds in the fridge.

Welcome to the
Svalbard Seed Vault! The world’s refrigerator. This facility has been dug into the permafrost of Norway! It’s like an arctic NORAD for seeds. While it has no war room It is secure, very secure; and Svalbard is a way cooler name. Also it’s sited at high enough elevation to avoid inundation should the ice-caps melt.

The Plan, small but clear. On the left is a parking lot. There are two trucks parked in it. See the shaded area? That’s permafrost baby!

That’s Longyearbyen, the capitol of Svalbard. Clearly it’s a teeming metropolis.

The entrance to the vault. Apparently the Longyearbyen zoning ordinance doesn’t require fully screened equipment.

The vista to downtown.

I’m guessing this door is frequently obstructed by snow. Notice the electrical conduit routed through the louvers - nice.

The vault access tunnel. The permafrost walls will prevent temperature rise in the event of cooling system failure. Yes there is a refrigeration system for this facility - go figure.

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Show and NOT tell; Architecture Week - Thu...


Prompted by some great comments from Tuesday’s installment. I thought it’d be fun to linger a bit and showcase fictional architecture. You know. The kind of stuff that exists only in the illustrator’s/architect’s mind vast territory of madness. Illustrations of architecture that could be real, but aren’t; except as depictions of a space, a place, or an object.

As I compiled the images to illustrate this post I noticed something interesting. Whether old, new, painted, computer generated, or drawn the actuality of cities and buildings is rarely shown. As far as I can find, fictional architecture is depicted either as an ideal utopia, or nightmarish dystopia. It’s as if there’s only hope, or despair, in peoples minds at any time throughout history. Curious.

Coruscant; The capitol city of the Empire in Star Wars.

Broad-acre City; from the mind of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Nice painting. Though it doesn’t appear that any boat could fit through those buttresses, let alone one big enough to require cranes for moving freight.

Sweet drawing. I don’t know who did it.

Radiant City; as conceived by Corbusier.

Fishing village dystopia.

One of the sets in the movie; Metropolis.

Reminiscent of sets from Metropolis, no?

Destruction of the Empire; Thomas Cole.

Check out all of that utpoic hygiene.

Surely the future will kick ass...

Or it’ll kick. Your. Ass.

Even the dirt is clean.

Picturesque landscape. Clean, peaceful city. Planets rising in the distance.

It appears that the cities of the future will either have built-up every square foot of the landscape, or will coexist peacefully with it.

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Show and NOT tell; Architecture Week - Wed...


Wednesday is day three of Architecture Week. Are you sick of it yet?!? Me neither.

Today’s installment of the obscure, infamous, or interesting is Spaceport America in New Mexico. This project is the product of collaboration between Virgin Galactic, Foster+Partners, SMPC Architects, and URS Corporation.

Personally, I like the concept as it appeals to my
“Star Trek TNG” sensibilities. However I leave it to the market to show whether privately funded space travel is economically viable, or not.

The diagram above is interesting, and annotated well but I’m still skeptical.

Exploded program.

Alien space ship?

Site Plan.

I’m not seeing the “cooling labyrinths” shown in the first diagram. Perhaps their buried inside the earthen berms.

Maybe those holes in the retaining wall are the cooling intakes?

Clear image of volume relative to earthen mass.

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Show and NOT tell; Architecture Week - Tue...


Obscure and marginalized, Lebbeus Woods isn’t so much non-famous as infamous, and interesting. By my experience he’s either detested or loved (depending upon who one asks). While they are certainly brutal, I like his drawings and diagrams; I think they’re freakin’ sweet.

Still I can’t help but believe that any architect who’d actually inflict such spaces and objects as these upon society is an architect who’s either infatuated with dystopia, or suffers from a chronic Cassandra complex. Fortunately, Lebbeus Woods has no built work so nothing’s been inflicted yet. And I am no psychologist so my dubious diagnosis remains debatable.

I can imagine these spaces and objects as constructed in the absence of architects either out of necessity, or as the result of rampant DIY dreams.

Reminds me of “12 Monkeys”.

“Johnny Mnemonic”, or maybe some jawa habitrail from “Star Wars”.

Definitely “Brazil”.

These last two remind me of “War of the Worlds”, or “District 9”.

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Show and NOT tell; Architecture Week - Mon...

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There are soo many fabricated weeks on the calendar and this week just so happens to be architecture week. Yay! In the spirit of fabricated importance I’m going to try and present one interesting and obscure project per day, for the week.

Perhaps more infamous than “non-famous”, the first installment’s easy. A friend and I did this for a competition. We didn’t win (oh well).

The project’s a flood observatory/museum, flood shelter, and eco-tourist hostel in Tabasco Mexico.

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Yes that’s an airship

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Trees would be nice

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