Category:architecture

September 22, 2014

Google Glass Art Project

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From the moment it launched, I've been trying to figure out what the Google Art Project would look like in real life, what the relationship is between the physical world we inhabit and the spaces and objects we encounter and the digitized pano simulacrum of Google Street View.

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What would these blurred Picassos at MoMA look like IRL? Or these pano-distorted Kellys, or this blur-encased Noguchi table in Chicago? Or this clock, or table, or borrowed bust at the Getty?

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Though a few slipped in at the beginning, even a year ago Google seemed conscientious about avoiding or removing images of its Street View crews at work. In the Spring, the Google camera cart and its operator were still being blurred out of panos at the Getty.

Well, now I wonder if Google's wondering about itself. This morning Google Art Project tweeted these panos from the Votive Hall of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, and I swear, I've never seen a more Google Mapsian space in my life.

The lighting, the reflectivity, perspectival polygons in the air, the glass vitrines with text stenciled on them, little placards floating on wiry stands, the crispy way these matte-finish urns get backlit by the vitrines and end up looking like digital renders of themselves. And then holy crap, what is this thing in the doorway? Now it's like they're just trolling us. Us and Dan Graham.

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Google Maps is not hiding anymore; it's taking selfies. And it's remaking the world in its own image. Googleforming.

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Click the arrow, come on in.

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Turn around, look back, see where we were. Where you were. Where we were.


Getty Museum View, or Seeing Google Seeing
Man With A Pano Camera

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Marseille fixed its Vieux Port for their stint as European Capital of Culture last year, and it turned out pretty great. The biggest win was to pedestrianize it. It's now wide open and full of people.

The flashiest change is the addition of a kind of ridiculous mirror-finish awning on the east end. I guess if you're going to stick a giant awning/pavilion structure on your vast, bare waterfront, you should make it pop, and it does. It actually steals all the attention from what was my favorite element of the port's makeover: these awesome little timber clubhouses that line the north side, along the Quai du Port.

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I was ready to move into one on the spot, even before I realized they were designed by Foster + Partners.

Now that I've read up on it, and on the philosopher's harrowing last days, I think I experienced the Walter Benjamin Memorial in Portbou, Spain the only way it really should be experienced: by total accident. Which is almost impossible.

We'd been visiting family in Provence, and one of the kids, the one who has been taking Spanish, not French, was wanting to go somewhere they spoke her language for a change. Plus, they wanted to go to the beach. Relenting, I pulled up the last town I knew in France, Banyuls, and looked to see what, if anything, was across the border.

The answer was Portbou. Google Maps said it was 3.5 hours away; we figured we'd drive to Spain for lunch and a couple of hours on the beach, send a postcard, and head home for dinner. Extraordinary traffic which had the autoroute backed up for several kilometers before the border, and the caravan of caravans winding along the 1.5 lane coastal mountain road, easily doubled our drivetime, and we arrived in Portbou starving and almost late for lunch.

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We quickly parked in a massive tunnel-turned-one-way parking lot, and wandered back through town to find any open cafe. And that's when I spotted the Walter Benjamin information panel. It turned out to be No. 2 on the town's four-stop Ruta Walter Benjamin, the Hotel de Francia, where Benjamin and his fellow refugees stayed after sneaking across the Spanish border in September 1940. And where he, where, well, as the panel puts it, "What happened over the next few hours is a striking illustration of all of the tragedy of barbarism."

This town has erected a plaque in front of the hotel where Benjamin killed himself.

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We took the kids to the Met yesterday, and in one of the period rooms in the Wrightsman Galleries, which I'd probably been in a hundred times, at least, one kid goes, "Is that a dog house?"

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Why yes, yes, it is, and not just any dog house. This kennel, carved in the 1770s by Sené in gilded beech and pine and upholstered in silk and velvet, is stamped GARDE MEUBLE DE LA REINE. It is Marie Antoinette's dog house. One of just three pieces of furniture belonging to the queen in the Met. The Wrightsmans bought it in 1960, but didn't give it to the Met until 1971. Guess they wanted to use it for a while themselves.

But wait, Aestheticus Rex has a post about two other 18th c. dog houses in the Wrightsman collection--and a mystery. These two were apparently part of the Wrightsmans' gift to the Met, but were then returned to the donors. [To be sold in 2010 at Sotheby's, the hook for AR's post.] And there is some curatorial ambiguity about the provenance of the above house, for which research is apparently lacking, but which nonetheless remains on view. Decades or centuries later, the gossip of the court continues on blogspot.

Dog Kennel, c 1775-80 [metmuseum.org]

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Suarez House, Richard Meier, 2012-13, photo Trevor Tondro/NYT

It's the funniest thing, just last night I was thinking about Richard Meier's first house, which he built on Fire Island in 1962. And lo and behold, Meier's second Fire Island house just turned up on the front page of the Home section of the Times.

The Times says "it was like coming full circle," but honestly, if the projects show anything, it's how far Meier has traveled in the intervening 50 years. The 1962 house, built for Saul Lambert, was a prefab box, assembled in a couple of weeks from a pile of lumber cut to order by a log cabin manufacturer in Michigan. The 2012 house, built for Phil & Lucy Suarez, is a 2,000-sf steel and triple-glazed cube which the contractor called "a little skyscraper," and which the Times dubs "Meier's high and mighty beach house." It's basically a penthouse from Meier's West Village towers, plopped down amidst the scrub oak and stick shacks of Fair Harbor.

Which is not to say it doesn't look great. 2,000 square feet turns out to be plenty to get the full Meier Effect.

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Lambert House, Richard Meier, 1961-2, image via architect/NYMag

But call me old-fashioned, I really like his first house best.

The Lambert House is special for me because it was one of the first obscure things I dug up. An architect friend, Chad Smith, had noticed an interview with the actress Anne Bancroft, where she mentioned living in a shingle-clad Meier beach house with her husband Mel Brooks. Which set off some cognitive dissonance. So I started Googlediving and turned up more info on the oceanfront house, which was in Lonelyville.

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Over the course of a couple of days of back and forth, Chad wrote about the Lambert/Brooks/Bancroft House on his architecture blog; and he heard from neighbors, and eventually, from the house's current owners, who shared stories and pictures. It was a somewhat euphoric process, connecting these blog worlds to the real world, and pushing information, then knowledge, out there.

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Chad was stoked, too, and kept up conversations with the owners for a while, maybe floating the idea of a renovation, but I don't think anything ever happened. For my part, it was too soon so speak ill of the dead in 2006, and though Mel Brooks is still a genius, let's face facts: between the shingles, the second story, the rooflines, the doors and cut-out windows, the add-ons, and on and on, they completely ruined Meier's design.

The only proper thing to do is to strip the house back to the original box.

I mean, just look at it; there's nothing there, and it's perfect. How many times has this exact open-plan, 2BR house been designed by prefab-loving modernists on a budget in the last 50 years? It's the Glass House made out of 2-by, on stilts. Anyway, I resolved [again] last night to earmark my 15th, but certainly no later than my 20th million toward buying Richard Meier's first house and restoring it to its stripped down glory. And if someone beats me to it, that's probably fine with me.

Richard Meier's High and Mighty Beach House [nyt]

June 27, 2014

Uncle Sam's Club

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The Department of Homeland Security released this photograph of Secretary Jeh Johnson and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and their respective entourages visiting the Males 16-17 aisle in the Nogales Placement Center, where several hundred ? thousand? unaccompanied minors are being detained, after being arrested while crossing into the US.

I'm going to be Gurskying up images of these juvenile prison warehouse stores as I find them. I just cannot even right now.

Readout of Secretary Johnson's Visit to Arizona [dhs.gov/news]

June 17, 2014

On Roman Balls

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I was looking up something else entirely when I came across this post at the travel blog, Rome the Second Time, an architecture professor explaining how giant balls are a "very fascist" architectural element, which were popular starting in the 1920s.

The photo above is of a fascist-era housing complex in Garbatella, for example, and there are several more great examples.

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Which, on the one hand, good to know, because seven years ago, when I first mapped out the world for places that could accommodate showing a 100-foot-diameter satelloon as an art object, the Pantheon in Rome was one of only a handful of possibilities. In concept, in fact, it seems like it'd be the perfect choice. [Eventually the Grand Palais in Paris joined the list, too.] But if spheres read to Romans as fascistic artifacts, you'd need to take that into account.

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The perfection the fascists loved also made Gerhard Richter very skeptical of spheres. He complained that with spheres it's "impossible to get any closer to perfection," and so you stop. Except when you don't; 16 years after he said this Richter created his own shiny steel sphere editions.

The Balls of Rome [romethesecondtime]

previously:
If I Were A Sculptor, But Then Again...
Les Sateloons du Grand Palais
Shiny Balls by Gerhard Richter

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Can I just say how much I like the new aesthetic of the New Jersey Turnpike expansion project? I honestly cannot imagine that many people going to or from the Pennsylvania Turnpike; at least in my 10 years of DC-NYC shuttling, I've never seen that kind of volume, but aesthetically, I'm generally for it.

It's not the only place that has it, and maybe it's just the standard now in overpass and on- and off-ramp construction, but instead of bulky concrete pillars, the ramps are held up by huge, road-spanning I-beams. They all have a beautiful, oxidizing protective finish, too, like the best Richard Serras.

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Even cooler, though, are the new electronic signs, which are constructed of square, Cor-Ten pipe, and they have meshed-in spaces for maintenance. Not just catwalks, or ledges, but actual spaces. What we perceive as a flat thing--a sign--turns out to be a space. Like the window halllways at Grand Central or Philadelphia 30th Street Stations. The Turnpike signs are New Jersey's newest architectural icons, suspended across that state's iconic landscape: a 12-lane highway.

And someone designs this stuff. Probably someone at PKF Mark III, the firm which the Turnpike Authority awarded three contracts in 2011, totaling over $44 million, for the "Installation of Variable Message Signs at New and Existing Locations on the Turnpike."

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Oh wait, nope. Here it is, from the NJ Turnpike Interchange 6 to 9 Widening Program website: "Advanced Fabrication of Overhead Span Sign Structures for Variable Message Signs and Variable Speed Limit Signs," awarded to RCC Fabricators, Inc., on August 13, 2009.

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The project was one of the highlights in the 2011 newsletter for the Railroad Construction Company, Inc. family of companies [pdf, img above]. RCC Fabrication made 61 VSM sign structures, 41 for the Turnpike and 20 for the Garden State Parkway. The structures span up to 95 feet, and were built entirely off-site. I can't tell from the acknowledgements who is actually responsible for this form, but it works.

The architect/sculptor Tony Smith famously described the revelatory experience of driving down the unfinished New Jersey Turnpike in 1951 [pdf]. Me, I would like to move in before it opens. And before it gets too hot.

Previously: Michael Ashkin, "For Months He Lived Between The Billboards", 1993
Related infrastructure as domestic architecture: That Minnesota Skyway for sale again/still
Mies Gas Station

Has anyone ever bought artist wallpaper from Maharam Digital Products? Or have you ever seen it installed? 1 I'm kind of fascinated to know when, where, and who. Because is it seems to exist in this unusual space between pattern, image and object, between art and decoration. It has that visual punch, but compared to an artwork artwork, it's pretty cheap. [I think it starts at around $5-10,000 per installation.] Also, it's consumable, a one-time deal. You can't take it with you, and perhaps more importantly, you can't really resell it.

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So it really is for love. But it's also a little weird, like a counterfeit somehow. It feels strange that it's so customizable, a servicey product. Some artists' wallpaper feels close to their "actual" work. Some really tried to get into the essence of wallpaper as a tradition and a medium. I'm undecided which is the better approach.

Guyton/Walker's Orange_Lemon_Chex looks like it came straight out of an installation. But then if you just had wallpaper, wouldn't you wonder where the rest of the stuff is?

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Allan McCollum's The Shapes Project uses each of his 31 billion or whatever shapes only once, so each wallpaper installation will be technically unique.

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Goldkicker is one of two Marilyn Minter wallpapers, and I think it'd really, really hold a room. Part of me wonders how hard it'd be to have art in a room with artist wallpaper, though.

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Which is ironic. The degree with which an artist's artwork can be replaced by a wallpaper version of it has some critical implications. Also, it might cut into his market. Or maybe the price points are just so different, it's not an issue. Fred Tomaselli probably hopes so.

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James Welling's Glass House May, 2008, meanwhile, is similar enough to one of my favorite photomurals, the rare, surviving photomural that started it all [or at least my interest in photomurals]: a 1966 triptych of Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion.

Maybe artist wallpaper is closer to architecture than to art.

Maharam Digital Products [maharam.com]

1 [I realize I have seen at least one installation before: L&M Arts had Paul Noble's wallpaper in its offices a while back. But maybe it wasn't this one; it seemed more city than ruin.]

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image: AA

Turkey is trying to control the flow of refugees from Syria and the unregulated trade and traffic across the open border by constructing a "portable" wall near Kusakli, a border village under the jurisdiction of the nearby town of Reyhanlı, in the Hatay province. No biggie, though, this wall's just 1200m. Really more of an installation.

The AA photo above shows workers installing the prefab concrete segments with a crane. They look like jacked up Jersey Barriers.

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As this DHA photo shows, they are jacked up Jersey Barriers, 30cm thick, and 3m square. Each weighs 9 tons. From their popular use in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the US military's technical term for a jacked up Jersey Barrier may be a Texas Barrier [3.7m] or an Alaska Barrier [6m], or a Bremer Wall, after Paul Bremer, who did so much to create the demand for them during the early days of the occupation.

All these US-style barriers, though, are thinner, rectangular, more 2001 monolith-shaped. Their design heritage traces back to the model for an instant wall along the US-Mexico border that congressman/earthworks artist Steve King (R-IA) exhibited in 2006. And to the decidedly non-temporary, non-portable wall Israel built in the occupied West Bank.

Turkey apparently does not want to use Israeli-style oblong walls, so they go with the square. A little heavier, but fewer lifts. They're apparently installing the wall at around 75 segments/day.

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I looked Kusakli up on Google Maps, and the awesome, gridded Benday dots of the olive orchards in the surrounding landscape are suddenly the second most interesting feature. Because there is this unusual Pentagon overlay around the town. What even is that? There's no way it's the wall. Or the demarcation for a wall, since the wall's only 1/8th built. Right? That'd turn Kusakli into West Berlin without limiting the flow of Syrians anywhere except in this tiny village. So it's something else.

Turkey builds portable wall on border with Syria [hurrietdailynews, image: AA via @aljavieera]
Turkey builds portable wall on Syrian border [todayszaman, image: DHA]

Previously: Study For A Fence And A Wall (2006)
Related: Afghanprogettazione: HESCO X DIY Troop Furniture

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Category: architecture

recent projects, &c.


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It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
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Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
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Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
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"Exhibition Space"
Mar 20 - May 8 @apexart, NYC


HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.


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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
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"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

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Canal Zone Richard
Prince YES RASTA:
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
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