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Architecture

37 articles
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Gary Barnett, Controversial Master of New York City Luxury Real Estate

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.

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Champ de Mars

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."

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Jeff

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."

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Ornament and Crime

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."

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Forensic Topology

How architecture has made Los Angeles a bank robber’s paradise.

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City of Human, City of Machine

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."

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Not Even Silicon Valley Escapes History

What remains of the past’s cutting edge.

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Millionaires Clash Over Shadyside Mansion

A strange, ongoing property battle among the richest of Texans.

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Your House Is A Body

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."

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Reimagining Recreation

On New York City’s “Young Turks of radical urban playground design.”

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The House that Christian Ponder Built

The political fight over a new football stadium in Minnesota.

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Colossal in Scale, Appalling in Complexity

On Norman Bel Geddes, pioneer of miniatures and maker of the “most iconic World’s Fair exhibit of all time.”

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Downtown Is for People

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.

-M. Yglesias

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Glaciers [Excerpt]

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."

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Gaudi From The Grave

Contemplating Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia church, as the controversial finishing work is completed.

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Tomorrowland

On Astana, the grandiose new capital that Kazakhstan built on the site of a remote Tsarist fort, and its striving young inhabitants.

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The New French Hacker-Artist Underground

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.”

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Paved, But Still Alive

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.
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A Country Of Warehouses

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."

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Downtown is For People

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.

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The Big Party

Life inside the original Playboy Mansion.

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Window Shopping

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.

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The Terrazzo Jungle

How the mall was born.

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Heartbreak Hotel

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.

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The Ascension of Peter Zumthor

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”

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Burning Man and the Metropolis

When (temporary) cities swell; a short history of the Burning Man festival.

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Why Nicolai Ouroussoff Is Not Good Enough

The uneasy dance of the architecture critic, the big-name architect, the towering new building, and the city beneath it.

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In Search of Lost Paris

“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.”

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Zion on the Prairie

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.

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Can Rem Koolhaas Kill the Skyscraper?

A globe-trotting, pre-CCTV profile of architect Rem Koolhaas.

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My Lost City

When New York was perpetually on fire.

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Disneyland with the Death Penalty

William Gibson’s controversial take on the sanitized wonderland that is Singapore.

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The Miracle in Bilbao

The story that certified Gehry as a genius and the Guggenheim Bilbao as the building of the late 20th century.

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The Mega-Bunker of Baghdad

Foreign policy as architecture; how embassies went from lavish social hubs to reinforced strongholds.

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Condos of the Living Dead

A mid-boom critique of New York City’s high-priced, mostly glass condo buildings.

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The Dymaxion Man

Buckminster Fuller reconsidered.