The developer responsible for the tallest residential building in New York—the penthouse just sold for $90 million—lives in a two-story house in Queens.
A woman's attempt to maintain stability with a troubled daughter and an architect husband succumbing to Alzheimer's.
"Even a year ago, he had still been the old Dory, the real Dory, forgetful, but not so much that it turned his insides out: he couldn’t remember the name of Ellen’s place of work, the institute that she’d founded decades before—The Children’s Place? The Children’s Center? It’s the Learning Center? Are you sure? Then he couldn’t remember how to adjust his drafting table, then he didn’t know where his fine-tip pens were."
A bartender contemplates architecture, gender identity, and sadomasochism.
"But Penthouse 808Ravel has promise. Shag carpet. Doors that shut heavily. Porridge doors thicker than mush. I have sexual feelings about Penthouse 808Ravel. Ligature feelings. Relational feelings, knots, bandages."
A young woman seeks an appropriate way to dispose of the ashes of her father, a fervid design critic.
"He always wished to be a geometric form (so often did he rail against 'the tyranny of the organic') so I could tell myself he’d be happy, but he also hated bric-a-brac and I think right now he’d qualify, being a small object with no function."
An "architectural fiction" centered around a city built by machines, for machines.
"Social spaces for machines bear the fragments of their tasks, and nothing superfluous. Machines don't need places to eat or sleep, but they need places for their own sorts of socially evocative maintenance rituals. They need places where auto parts can be partially assembled and taken apart, time and time again, like a game. Machines hang out in cafes while working on mundane maintenance tasks, with their component addresses made public in unique ways, so that other machines can gather together and show off their range of operations. Machines that build other machines take their half-finished constructions out in the company of other machines, so that they can build them together and get input on possible alternatives. There are public machine exercise spaces, where machines go through their range of motions and data abilities, for the purpose of showing off their various tolerances."
What remains of the past’s cutting edge.
A strange, ongoing property battle among the richest of Texans.
Descriptions of a decrepit house take on (and intersect with) human qualities.
"Look at your hallway here, these smooth white walls, freshly painted, everything seems clean and healthy. But you’ve got to think of your house like a body, all wired up with electrical veins and pipes, a nervous system running beneath the surface without you even knowing it. You’ve got your water pump, your furnace, your water heater in the basement, these are your organs, they keep things moving, they keep things regular."
On New York City’s “Young Turks of radical urban playground design.”
The political fight over a new football stadium in Minnesota.
On Norman Bel Geddes, pioneer of miniatures and maker of the “most iconic World’s Fair exhibit of all time.”
Jane Jacobs has a somewhat ambiguous legacy—or at least one that's contested by different factions in the present-day debate over cities and urbanism—but to me her most important idea is encapsulated in the title and spirit of this piece. It's old and, I think, utterly prescient about what successive waves of planning fads miss. The purpose of urban space is for people to use it. A great place is a place where people want to be.
An essay on craft, excerpted from Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities.
A young woman's keen observations and imaginations of cities and unknown people.
"Isabel finds the postcard of Amsterdam on Thursday evening, at her favorite junk store, across from the food carts on Hawthorne. It is a photograph of tall houses on a canal, each painted a different color, pressed together and tilted slightly, like a line of people, arm in arm, peering tentatively into the water. The picture has a Technicolor glow, the colors hovering over the scene rather than inhabiting it."
Contemplating Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia church, as the controversial finishing work is completed.
On Astana, the grandiose new capital that Kazakhstan built on the site of a remote Tsarist fort, and its striving young inhabitants.
On the French urban exploration group UX—”sort of like an artist’s collective, but far from being avant-garde—confronting audiences by pushing the boundaries of the new—its only audience is itself.”
As the critic Lewis Mumford wrote half a century ago, “The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle is the right to destroy the city.” Yet we continue to produce parking lots, in cities as well as in suburbs, in the same way we consume all those billions of plastic bottles of water and disposable diapers.
Brian Mihok, the editor of the experimental journal matchbook, examines beauty, monuments, memory, time, and warehouses.
"This is a café, she said. But everything in this café was made in a warehouse. Even me, she said. You were made? Taiga said. I was born in a hospital, but the hospital was a warehouse."
On the then new phenomenon of dead downtowns:
It is not only for amenity but for economics that choice is so vital. Without a mixture on the streets, our downtowns would be superficially standardized, and functionally standardized as well. New construction is necessary, but it is not an unmixed blessing: its inexorable economy is fatal to hundreds of enterprises able to make out successfully in old buildings. Notice that when a new building goes up, the kind of ground-floor tenants it gets are usually the chain store and the chain restaurant. Lack of variety in age and overhead is an unavoidable defect in large new shopping centers and is one reason why even the most successful cannot incubate the unusual--a point overlooked by planners of downtown shopping-center projects.
Dreaming of the perfect apartment.
Should anyone ever choose to remake and bastardize Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I propose an opening sequence re-imagined to reflect more contemporary preoccupations. The revised opening scene should be filmed against the backdrop of an early evening in Brooklyn. The throngs of suits coming home from their nine to five grinds in Manhattan would be emerging from the subway stairwells like ants from an anthill, rushing off down various streets towards their various homes and families and dinners. All except for the would-be protagonist who, as the crowd rushes past her, makes her way to the closed-for-the-night real-estate storefront opposite the subway station. Somewhere, “Moon River” might still be playing, as if it had never stopped. Disheveled, lugging her purse and gym bag, she pauses for a number of minutes to read listings she has already read, and which she committed to memory weeks ago: a studio on Pineapple Street; a loft on Gold Street; a townhouse on Argyle Street; a two-bedroom coop on First Place; a one-bedroom condo on Carlton Avenue; a brownstone on Henry Street. It’s fall and the leaves blow in eddies on the sidewalk. She gets cold and turns away from the window to walk off down the street just as dusk begins to arrive in earnest. The occasional “For Sale” sign swings on its hinges, and the story of the day ends only to begin again in the morning.
When Chicago’s Stevens Hotel opened in 1927, it was the biggest hotel in the world. By the time it was closed, it had bankrupted and caused the suicide of a member of the Stevens’ family (which included a seven-year-old future Justice John Paul Stevens), and changed the city forever.
Peter Zumthor, who recently won the Pritzker Prize after a career of few buildings and mostly modest-in-size projects, on the “architecture of actually making things”
When (temporary) cities swell; a short history of the Burning Man festival.
The uneasy dance of the architecture critic, the big-name architect, the towering new building, and the city beneath it.
“Most cities spread like inkblots; a few, such as Manhattan, grew in linear increments. Paris expanded in concentric rings, approximately shown by the spiral numeration of its arrondissements.”
On the visionary architecture and disturbing goals of Yearning for Zion, the utopian experiment undertaken in rural Texas by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
A globe-trotting, pre-CCTV profile of architect Rem Koolhaas.
William Gibson’s controversial take on the sanitized wonderland that is Singapore.
The story that certified Gehry as a genius and the Guggenheim Bilbao as the building of the late 20th century.
Foreign policy as architecture; how embassies went from lavish social hubs to reinforced strongholds.
A mid-boom critique of New York City’s high-priced, mostly glass condo buildings.