McMansion Town USA

West
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
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This story is part of A/N’s new blog series dedicated to exploring neighborhoods around the country

El Monte, CA, about 20 minutes east of Los Angeles, is a gated community. Wonky chain-linked fences and rusty metal gates keep the residents in and the criminals out. Some say El Monte is an up-and-coming city. After all, the proof is in the posh homes popping up throughout the city. “El Monte … encourages quality housing developments through well thought-out architectural designs, use of high quality materials, and enhanced landscaping,” says the city’s official website. However, a walk through the city gives another impression. Many of the city’s new housing developments look like slightly fancier versions of mobile homes parked on mounds of land, with little thought given to landscaping and aesthetics.  Read More

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Visit A Temple In The Sky

West
Saturday, September 18, 2010
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Bay Area architect Warren Callister was an heir to  Bernard Maybeck in that he was wonderfully eclectic.  But where Maybeck could be a little rough, Callister was refined.  Every detail, every turn, every joint, all exquisitely detailed.  Like A. Quincy Jones in Southern California he loved a powerful roof form. But Callister’s tended to be curved, not angled.  On Friday morning my architecture buddy author Pierluigi Serraino took me on a tour with the real estate agents who are selling Callister’s exquisite Duncan house in San Francisco’s Clarendon Heights. They are hosting an open house at 176 Palo Alto Avenue the next two Sundays and Tuesdays. Read More

This Little Piggie

West
Friday, September 17, 2010
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Putting the finishing touches on the exhibit

The new L+M Arts gallery in Venice, designed by wHY Architecture, is set to open with a hip gala on September 25 (We will be featuring it more in the coming weeks). The project is a beautiful renovation of a WPA-era power station, with a lofty new, diamond-shaped brick addition adjacent, attached via a minimal bar that contains the gallery’s offices. We really recommend you take a look. Oh, and while you’re there, you may want to see something that will either make you gleeful or nauseous. Giant, moving animatronic sculptures of George Bush having sex with pigs, by artist Paul McCarthy. There’s really not much more we want to say about this, except to say that these sculptures perform very efficiently. They will haunt our nightmares. Did we say the gallery looks really nice? Here are some more pix to cleanse your mind: Read More

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Elaine Jones We Will Miss You

West
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
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Caldwell and Jones some time ago..

Overshadowed by the sadness surrounding West Hollywood Urban Designer John Chase’s death was the loss of another great supporter of Southern California architecture: Elaine Jones, the widow of architect A. Quincy Jones. San Francisco writer and publicist Kenny Caldwell, a close friend, writes a stirring tribute on his blog. In it we get—among other smart observations—a glimpse into her dedication to architecture, to her friends, and to the ideals of her late Husband A. Quincy Jones. At a time when “wow” architecture is still dominant, it’s refreshing to hear  another approach. Says Caldwell: “She would say that Quincy’s design was rooted in the experience of the building as people moved through it. I came to appreciate the humility it took to focus on spatial experience over object.”

AIA SF Home Tours: DIY Exuberance

West
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
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When the budget didn't allow for glass, Interstice Architects resorted to corrugated plastic.

Of the 11 projects on the AIA SF Home Tours this year, the breakout sensation was the house of husband-and-wife design team Andrew Dunbar and Zoee Astrakan, of Interstice Architects (Dunbar is an architect, Astrakan is a landscape designer). There were certainly some lovely, finely detailed projects on the tour, but this particular house was interesting because in lieu of slick modernism, it had a freewheeling, “let’s throw something up and see what sticks” feel to it. (Other design publications agree: the project just appeared in the New York Times). It’s DIY, but on a scale that architects can pull off. Read More

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Clean Tech Deadline Tomorrow

West
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
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For you last-minute types, the deadline to register for AN and SCI-Arc’s Clean Tech Corridor Competition is the end of the day tomorrow. The competition asks architects, landscape architects, designers, engineers, urban planners, students and environmental professionals to create an innovative urban vision for Los Angeles’ CleanTech Corridor, a several-mile-long development zone on the eastern edge of downtown LA (which includes a green ideas lab and a Clean Tech Manufacturing Center). Entries should look beyond industrial uses; creating an integrated economic, residential, clean energy, and cultural engine for the city through architectural and urban strategies. That could include not only sustainable architecture and planning, but new energy sources, parks that merge with buildings, new transit schemes, and so on. While registration is due tomorrow, entries are due on September 30. So get a move on!! You can download the brief here.

Say Goodbye To The Pugh in Pugh+Scarpa

West
Sunday, September 12, 2010
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Pugh+Scarpa's Cherokee Lofts

AN has just learned that Gwynne Pugh of well-known Santa Monica firm Pugh + Scarpa has decided to leave the firm to start his own company, Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio. Pugh and Lawrence Scarpa have led the firm for the past 22 years—Pugh actually hired Scarpa in the ’80s. Pugh’s new company, which “specializes in the design of structures, urban design, planning, sustainability, and consultation to companies and public entities,” launched on September 1. In 2011, firm principal (and Scarpa’s wife) Angela Brooks, who now runs Pugh+Scarpa’s sustainable development department, will be elevated to principal-in-charge, precipitating a new firm name: Brooks+Scarpa. The firm would not comment on the changes (and Pugh’s profile is already off the firm’s site), but we will keep you informed as more information becomes available.

Freeway Parks Are Everywhere

National, West
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
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Margaret T. Hance Deck Park in Phoenix

According to a story in Governing Magazine, while LA is only dreaming of building its freeway cap parks, several US cities are either planning or have completed their own. Dallas’ 5.2-acre park over its Woodall Rodgers Freeway downtown will be done by 2012. Other cities that have completed decked freeway parks include Boston (the Big Dig of course!), Phoenix, Seattle, Trenton, N.J., and Duluth, Minnesota. And besides LA Cincinnati and St. Louis are also proposing deck parks. While quite expensive, the article points out, the parks help knit cities back together, provide valuable civic space, are built on free land, and send adjacent property values skyrocketing. In short: Let’s Do This People!! Pix of more parks can be seen here: Read More

Car Free In San Diego?

West
Friday, September 3, 2010
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It seems that Times Square’s pedestrian-friendly experiment is catching on.. According to The San Diego Union Tribune, The Plaza de Panama in San Diego’s Balboa Park is proposing to go car-free with a $33 million plan by Mayor Jerry Sanders and Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs.  The proposal would remove 67 auto spaces in the park, and a 900-space parking structure will be built at the south of the park for the displaced cars.  If achieved, the new space opens up possibilities not only for strollers but for public artwork and new landscaping. The plan has its detractors, mostly because there is the possibility that the parking structure could impose a fee (parking in the park is currently free). A committee has been created to help raise the funds and the media has stated that there are donors already, who have history of funding park improvements. The new pedestrian friendly space is reflective of the 1915 San Diego Exposition, where the center was completely open to walkers. Officials are hoping to restore it for the centennial anniversary in 2015.

Burning Man Architecture Amazes

West
Thursday, September 2, 2010
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Serpent Mother, by the Flaming Lotus Girls

Proving our theory that the best architecture these days is installation architecture, the work on display this year at Burning Man is blowing us away. The theme this year is Metropolis: The Art of Cities, making for some even more inspired (and, of course out there..) art/architecture installations, which include: Read More

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Morphosis HQ Surprise

West
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
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Morphosis' future home?

Our friends at Morphosis just moved into an interim location (as posted on their website) at 3440 Wesley Street in Culver City. The firm has been hesitant to give many details about their upcoming space, a former commercial building right next door that they say they are remodeling, merely stating that it will “be sustainable” and “bring back the integration of the shop with the studio space.” But when we checked out the location we were surprised to find the approximately 13,000 square foot building razed except for the north and east walls. No one mentioned that they were constructing a new building!  Read More

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A Brief History of Old Buildings Going Futuro On Film

West
Monday, August 30, 2010
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UCSD Geisel Library/ Snow Fortress, one of several older buildings pegged for the future in movies

Talk of William Pereira’s Geisel Library, the well-known symbol of UC San Diego, has been abuzz online because of its Snow Fortress doppelganger in Inception, which has so far totaled close to half a billion dollars in ticket sales.  Built in the late 1960s, this textbook example of Brutalism perfectly encapsulates the hostile, uncommunicative theme of Inception. Critics of the style say Brutalist architecture disregards the history and harmony of its environment. Thus, the Snow Fortress, featured at the film’s climax, is a symbol of disregard for preordained fate. Read More

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