Drama on 8th Ave. #nyc #buildings
Facing the challenge of putting ideas into language.Blog Archive • Questions?
A good example of how to be open-minded:
It was clear from the outset that Ralph’s idea of development was a process of examining all design-development possibilities for that area under study. He would come into the office in the morning and sit with each of us over the board to look at drawings and models that we had produced the previous day. He never said “do this” or, “here is a sketch I did, do this.”
A good example of how to keep people excited about what they’re working on:
…he drew each of us out as to how this project could be the best it could be. It was an infectious attitude and we became part of the process. I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning, and I would come back to the office after dinner; I worked Saturday and Sunday as well.
A good example of how to trust someone to figure it out:
I was looking to Ralph for direction, but he would just come in the morning and sit down next to me and look at my meager drawings. We would talk about the project and he would say, “Just keep going. Let’s look at all the possibilities.”
A good example of how to love something:
Ralph loved being an architect, and he told me once, he “felt sorry for anyone who wasn’t an architect.”
Ralph Rapson was an architect.
is this real? #architecture #buildings (Taken with instagram)
wraparound porch. #jerseyshore #architecture (Taken with instagram)
At lunch one day last year, a co-worker mentioned a game called Minecraft. You built stuff during the day, he explained, and at night the monsters would come out to kill you. It sounded like an interesting concept?
The first few times playing didn’t make much sense to me. I was running around a world with trees and sand and snow and lakes. Eventually, the sun would set, and, as promised, that’s when the monsters would come out and start shooting you with arrows, eating you alive, or blowing up in your face. There were also spiders and sheep and cows and pigs that hung out in trees. It was wondrously wacky, but strangely alluring.
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I recently came across a wonderful photo-blog called Cabin Porn. Every once in a while, I’ll visit and oogle at the large images of simple homes in endless landscapes. The guy who runs the blog — Zach Klein — does a nice job curating a beautiful collection of images in snow, sand, forest and water with fascinating architectural twists and misfits. There are rarely people, and the images often times are mostly filled with landscape, rather than building.
There was recently an article in The Atlantic titled What It Means That Urban Hipsters Like Staring at Pictures of Cabins. The author argues that the blog’s audience’s fascination with the solitary architecture is disconnected from the actual lifestyle of a person that lives in a cabin:
There are some who chose to actually live in the cabin, but few leave society completely to become self-reliant modern homesteaders. Rather, this broad range of cabin lifestyles has become part of exurbia — suburbia’s manifest destiny, the urban frontier.
Cabin Porn’s images create the illusion of idyllic urban escapism for #twentysomethinghipsteryouths:
This deep romanticizing of cabin lifestyles is completely unrealistic, as most other porn, but it still has value. Looking at Cabin Porn, trying to articulate exactly what is essential and desirable at the cabin, we are looking at our lives and societies. In dreaming about an idyllic past, we are also imagining the future.
In the comments, Zach Klein responds to the author, to which the author reinforces his main thesis, which isn’t intended to criticize the content or intention of the blog:
I’m particularly interested in what happens on the way from the Cabin Porn dream - if we can call it that - to actual ownership and use of a cabin.
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After the first few confused hours of getting blown up by jumping monsters and eaten by spiders, I started getting the hang of Minecraft. Collect wood. Build a bunker for the night. Then build tools, weapons, make fire. Explore.
Visually, Minecraft achieves stunning beauty with deceptively simple building blocks. Everything in the game is a cube. Stack these cubes high in rounded piles, you have a mountain. Put some green textured cubes around a 6-block high stack and you have tree. Fill deep hole of yellow, sandy cubes with transparent blue cubes and you have a river. A lake. An ocean.
Trekking across the landscape alone, you come across herds of animals, mountain ranges, jungles, and ponds. Digging down underground you find winding caves structures, abandoned mine shafts and jewels.
If you haven’t played Minecraft, this all sounds bizarrely dramatic. But when you climb to the top of one of these “mountains” or “trees” and look around you as the huge glowing square — the “sun” — sinks behind the horizon, you can’t helped be impressed by…the beauty?
And then each night, you need to get back to your house. You need to sleep in your bed, which updates your spawn location (otherwise you’ll come back to life where you first entered the game) and fast-forwards through nighttime (which otherwise lasts ~10 minutes IRL) to the morning. This simple twist imparts a powerful feeling of domestic responsibility upon the user. You can could dig a hole in the ground and cover it over with dirt, or…
What if I dig my house into the side of a mountain, facing the sunset, surrounded by a stone wall with glass windows above? What if I put the door over here, with a staircase leading down to that coal deposit few levels down? That would be so convenient! And the bed will go over here…
A compelling combination of solitude and endless opportunity, inhibited only by the player’s imagination and patience, inspires architecture explorations both large and small.
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I don’t have a strong opinion as to whether or not Cabin Porn is scratching an escapist itch that many urban youths feel right now. I would think it’s natural to want to “get back to basics,” and maybe people in cities feel this even more since everything around you in a city is moving, everyone is going somewhere. The complications of rent, transportation, work, fun, crowds, weather, relationships, events and stuff happening can drive you crazy. I’d guess that’s why many people don’t like cities, especially Manhattan.
A desire for a sense of space, freedom, expansive landscapes, independence and simplicity is built into all of us. While space and comfort only comes at a premium in dense urban city-structures, city-dwellers must have a perverted fascination with simplicity, right? They want the space, but minus the probable destitution that forced someone into that charming cabin — not penthouse apartment — in the first place.
Fuck it. Don’t over-think it. People like space because space is nice. Cities are complicated, so city-dwellers crave the opposite. Am I crazy for thinking it’s that simple?
For me, this is the very allure of Minecraft. The gameplay taps into something that I didn’t really know I cared about. The more you explore, the more you begin to understand the world’s physics. As you attain some level of command over how things work, you can build cool stuff. After a day of roaming around a foreign landscape (10 minutes!), you return to a simple dwelling with a bed to sleep for the night.
Sure, if you build a huge castle with turrets and hallways and libraries, it ain’t so simple. But in the context of the game, the essential function of “home” — where you can sleep at night, safe from the monsters — is always consistent.
I believe that people enjoy playing Minecraft for many of the same reasons they enjoy gazing at the photos on Cabin Porn. There is a sense of simplicity and essentialism. There is a feeling of freedom to roam and explore without interruption. You’re not part of an ambiguous authority. You’re living off land. Self-sustaining.
I don’t think we’ll see any Minecraft homes featured in Cabin Porn any time soon, but I were to submit something, it would would look something like this:
Great read that covers the history and significance of the High Line park in Manhattan. Noteworthy bits and pieces follow.
City in motion:
Manhattan is a place where loitering in one place is done at your peril. Paris has boulevard cafes for cooling one’s heels, Rome comes to a rest at fountains and piazzas, but in Manhattan you keep moving forward. Well and good: I approve.
New York City digging into its past:
The fact that this new amenity sprang from older industrial infrastructure says a lot about the current moment in New York’s evolution. A city that had once pioneered so many technological and urban planning solutions, that had dazzled the world with its public works, its skyscrapers, bridges, subways, water-delivery system, its Central Park, palatial train stations, libraries and museums, appears unable to undertake any innovative construction on a grand scale, and is now consigned to cannibalizing its past and retrofitting it to function as an image, a consumable spectacle. Productivity has given way to narcissism; or, to put it more charitably, work has yielded to leisure.
Why the Highline isn’t over the street:
One unique aspect of the High Line is that it was built in the middle of the block. At the time it went up, the public was already turning against elevated structures, such as “El” trains, on the grounds that their shadows gloomed the adjoining streets. It was therefore sensibly proposed that the project be erected mid-block, and run through buildings of such massive industrial nature as could absorb a rail line in their midst and profit from its freight deliveries.
Elevated trains are less dangerous:
Before it was constructed, the New York Central Railroad had operated a rail freight line at grade, or street level, along Tenth Avenue, and men on horseback (“West Side cowboys”) had ridden ahead of the train with red flags or lanterns to warn pedestrians of its coming; yet even with this picturesque alarm system, so many careless, inebriated or simply unlucky citizens had gotten run over that the street acquired the notorious name “Death Avenue.”
Railroads couldn’t compete:
What did happen was that trucks and airplanes cut so significantly into the rail freight business that by the 1960s the railroad line was operating deeply in the red.
The High Line will bring in new real estate opportunities.
Here we face a paradox: the Friends of the High Line have defended the expense of constructing and maintaining a free elevated promenade by saying that there is no need for this public space to pay for itself; its costs will be more than offset by the increased real estate values of properties abutting the new amenity.
A view you didn’t have before:
Much of the High Line’s present magic stems from its passing though an historic industrial cityscape roughly the same age as the viaduct, supplemented by private tenement backyards and the poetic grunge of taxi garages. It would make a huge difference if High Line walkers were to feel trapped in a canyon of spanking new high-rise condos, providing antlike visual entertainment for one’s financial betters lolling on balconies. The High Line exemplifies a preservation conundrum: how do you protect not only the older structure itself, through intelligent adaptive re-use, but also retain the flavor of its original surrounding context?
What if it was a railroad again?
I’ve sometimes thought the best, most radical use of the High Line would have been to restore it to its original function. New York, alone among major American cities, has no freight rail delivery system, making it overly dependent on trucks, which pollute the environment and raise local asthma rates alarmingly. A rail freight tunnel under New York Harbor has been sensibly proposed, and never built, for close to a century. So the High Line was hardly redundant. CSX, shortly after it took over the line, did a study to see if it made financial sense to employ the elevated structure again for moving freight, and decided in the negative.
Opportunities to marvel at the engineering:
Some of the entrances are designed to deliver the public from the street to mid-promenade in a rather gradual manner, through stairs and ramps which offer a chance to inspect the undersides of the elevated structure, its steel girders and hand-hammered rivets, and appreciate its engineering sophistication, while preparing visitors for the amble above ground.
Louis Kahn’s Philips Exeter Academy Library has always been one of my favorite buildings. It’s all about basic materials and simple shapes: the complimentary use of wood and concrete on the interior framed by circles and rectangles wrapped in a flat, unassuming brick façade. It exudes and understated sense of warmth and confidence.