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Posts tagged ‘architecture’

When More is Really Less

The tendency in architecture these days is to go bombastic: think big hair beehives in the 60’s, not to be missed, in your face, flashy and maybe a little tacky….and all under the guise of modernity.

Frank Gehry’s Louis Vitton Foundation

Just like mentioned in the Devil Wears Prada, economics doesn’t trickle down but style does. So when there’s this tendency for grandiose object making architecture by brilliant architects, the aesthetic trickles down to the more common, but the buildings become more desperate. Without the knowledge and context of a season architect, it becomes a hodge-podge of copy and paste. If you can have wood sliding, wood panels, metal and copper, why not add metal screens, glass, tile and stucco?

The facades become only skin-deep, full of materials and not much else. But the good news is, no matter how horrifically a building is, someone will deem it worthy of publication, 15 seconds of fame on the Internet.

Humor aside, it isn’t just the lack of weight and meaning behind the facades. It really is what this represents. The thing here is that these buildings are supposedly modern in form but really there are post-modern in their exterior expression—an attempt to resolve the architecture of the new with the appreciation of the old. The ornamentalism and contradictions of post-modernism cannot co-exist without much education, thought and deliberation. Post-modernism is a beast of rule breaking and remaking. This is the ultimate revenge of post modernism (ugly post modernism, at that), which got shunted by modernism in the 90’s. It has insinuated itself back–behind the scenes– reemerging in the hands of the modernist who are desperately trying to differentiate themselves.

All the glass facades have begun look alike. How many variations on mullions, glass colors and module layout can you do? Is the issue education? How young architects sometimes seem oblivious to any “modern” architecture before 2000? History is a subject no longer taught or in fashion in architectural education. So the newbies to the industry design with panache, unaware that it has all been done before. Worse yet, they design without much reference to the successful buildings of the past. But it’s a hard to slay a beast if you don’t know why you’re fighting it in the first place.

The Amazon by Acronyms

I just came back from a phenomenal trip to Brazil, visiting some of the world’s most unbelievable architecture. But nothing truly compared to the Amazon: fantastic sites, unbelievable nature and no cell-phone reception! But we don’t all have the luxury of wistfully dreaming of the Amazon (or reading someone’s 1,000 word blog post), so I bring you the abridged version.

ICYMI: It’s amazing. It’s awesome.

The Amazon covers 40% of South America (including 8 different countries), it’s 20km across at its widest and it’s been around for over 10 million years.

FYI: There aren’t many animals and there are a lot of hiding places.

Don’t go to the Amazon for exotic wildlife. Movie depictions tend to romanticize this area, which is more overgrown with monkeys and bird populations than jaguars and anacondas.

OMG: It hasn’t always been the green heart of the world.

Scientists have now found evidence that humans occupied this area for thousands of years till the 15th century (the Amazon was previously considered “unlivable” by scientists). Estimates show that there were over 15 million people living in the Amazon at one time. And human cultivationthat’s what made the land so fertile. The astounding conclusion is that it is a man-made product.

IMG_4102BTW: It’s not one climate.

It’s easy to imagine the Amazon as humid, unbearably hot and wet. In truth, there’s a dry and wet season for the Amazon and the amount of rainfall varies from location. There’s a lot more rainfall in areas closer to Peru while Manaus in Brazil is known for its dry season.

P.S. Ever heard of El Tunchi?

He’s known as an evil spirit that haunts the jungle, terrorizing (and eventually hypnotizing) humans who disrespect the environment. He lures people with an eerie whistling sound. Legend is, if you hear the whistling, do everything in your power to not respond to his whistle—or it will be the last thing you do.



Due to the sensitive nature of this piece, we’ve redacted certain language. This blog post is not suitable for children and probably chauvinists while we’re at it. To read the uncensored piece, click the read more link.

This past Sunday was International Women’s Day, for over 80 years, March 8th has been a day to █████ women, to celebrate how far we’ve come and acknowledge how much farther we ████████. My daughter, who is now 25, had a ██████ with me about the word “███████████,” how when she was younger she felt it was harsh and stigmatized, how she didn’t like to ██████████ herself a feminist until her 20s.

It made me think of college, where we slung the term “feminist” around like people do “dude.” We were all feminists and loudly, proudly so. My daughter’s previous ███████ at “feminist” also reminded me of my college moniker, “█████ ████████ ████████” (TFB). A lot of people may find the name rude or inappropriate, but I find it as apt and accurate in 2015 as it was in 1975. I am French and yes, I am a ███████, well a ███████in the patriarchal interpretation of the word. Understand that the name was given to me at ████████████ and that my friends were well aware of the ironies. They called me TFB because I was an honest friend, open about my opinions (even if they were unpopular) and perhaps a bit ███████████.

As ███████, we fear that which is “harsh” (I think we often conflate strength and resolve for grittiness), the identities or adjectives that separate us from our ██████████. I don’t mind TFB because I am one and proudly so. I am not only unwilling to accept sub par work and I will tell you it is sub par. I will not let my ███████ colleagues talk over me in a meeting. I have little patience for ████████ or laziness. And, as any woman can tell you, these traits in a man would have him lauded for excellent leadership: a clear and honest communicator, a confident ██████████████ and a hard worker with exceptionally high standards.

But I am a █████, and therefore in order to be everything a male counterpart is, I must be a “███████.”

I will not allow the boring (patriarchal) laws of “female decency” to █████ my personality. I am proud of the work I have accomplished, I am proud of the firm I have built and I am proud of the ██████ that I am. And if that makes me a ███████, then so be it.

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Architects and Optimism: Harmony or Horror?

The other night, I was up late, watching yet another British crime-mystery show. I would call myself a fan of good wine and cheese but only an addict to one thing: this sub-genre of television. I have now resorted to online subscriptions to English web sites so I can stream the most obscure shows. Anyway, in the climax of another whodunit plot, the corrupt business-type “perp” (I like to use context-appropriate jargon) is finally coming clean. In a long, pessimistic, diatribe he describes the world as a cesspool and that only greed is a value worth considering.

Pessimist is a word I am used to and if you sat it at a dinner party with most architects, you can get a sense of negativity. I think a lot of people would describe architects as pessimists; we’re certainly tempestuous enough. But while we architects are often a bitchy, mournful lot, forever complaining about the complexities of our jobs, our poor financial compensation and the trouble of trying to make good architecture in a profit driven world, we are really a bunch of optimists.

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Ray and Charles Eames

My daughter and I had a debate this morning on the telephone. The previous night, I had sent her an interview of Charles and Ray Eames done by Arlene Francis for the Arlene Francis Home Show in 1956.

See video below Ray Eames shows up 1:38 minutes into a 4.25 minute video.

I went off how the video was the epitome of sexism in American society of the 1950’s. That there was something patronizing and pejorative by calling her the “interesting and able woman behind the man.” Eames looks to the floor, seemingly embarrassed. And Arlene Francis doesn’t seem to know how to balance the interview; at times completely ignoring Ray and then diverting attention back to her.

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Fougeron Architecture in Vogue!

Fougeron Architecture’s Fall House was recently featured in a photoshoot for Vogue.


The photoshoot was titled Beauty and the Beast and surrounded the trend of “earth tones, suede and high-laced boots are more than just Bohemian throwbacks–they’re essential pieces for a night on the prowl.”


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Does anyone remember the Outrage/Delight sections of The Architectural Review? We should bring that back.

In case you missed it, the New York MOMA is planning on tearing down a 12 year old building. The building in question, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, housed the American Folk Art Museum. After going bankrupt, MOMA bought the Williams/Tsien property which was adjacent.

I have a lot of feelings on this decision and none of them are positive.

From a strictly reason perspective, this seems like a waste. This building isn’t even a teenager, and now, in a time in which we lament the economy, we’ve decided that it should be torn down. It is expensive to design and build something. There are hundreds of jobs, thousands of hours and millions of dollars that go into a project of this magnitude.

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Hercule Poirot and Modernism

So who says you can’t learn something from TV?

I have been continuing my marathon of “Poirot” episodes and movies. I can’t seem to resist the weird Belgian detective of Agatha Christie fame. But, in my defense, it was raining this weekend. (If you missed my last post on Poirot, you should check it out now)

One of the best things about the series, which I did not touch on in my last post, is the great locations where the episodes are shot.  I don’t often look to television for architectural inspiration but Poirot’s apartment alone is a gem: a great deco, mid-rise with a bathroom you could have sworn was built in 2002 and not 1922.

The houses in the series are always owned by the wealthy English families. And we’re talking about a time in which homes are the ultimate emblems of success and heritage. Yet, we find something so refreshing about the modern architecture. It’s a statement! You don’t need to be an earl and live in Downton Abbey!

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The phenomena of signature buildings without a signature.

New Year, same blog and more complaining!

Maybe when you get old, you just get cranky and think everything is worse than before and it isn’t! Maybe one day I will look back at this rant and realize I was wrong!

The issue is that  I find myself looking at a lot of architecture, all over the world, and I can’t say I am impressed. The irony of the urge to rant using phrases like “in my day” is not lost on me.

I’ve talked before about signatures (whether it be in jeans, in food, in fashion) – greatness comes from an appreciation of the rules and then an ability to break them. The same, of course, goes for architecture.  It was only a few months ago that I was complaining about the dwell light phenomena!

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12 Things Architecture Has Taught Me

  1. It is slow, inversely slow to the pace of emails you’ll receive, documents you’ll have to read. As everything else gets faster, it gets harder to build and it takes more time.
  2. Making space is complicated; making good space is enormously difficult.
  3. You get better at it with time, practice really does make “almost” perfect
  4. It is addictive, an intense high, when something works and you know you hit a home run
  5. Failing is the most brutal, the evidence remains there forever.
  6. Architects are not the friendliest bunch: too competitive and insecure
  7. BB, don’t TT. Be bold and don’t twinkle toe. Wise words borrowed from my UC Berkeley professor Marvin Buchanan.
  8. Being a woman does not means I am the interior designer. Thank you vey much.
  9. Also, why is a 2×4 actually 1.5 x 3.5? Or a 2×8 is 1.5x7.25? Absurd! Give me metric any day My favorite example: There is such a thing an 13/32. In the field a carpenter refers to a 32nd as plus or minus a major fraction. For instance, 13/32 is 1/32 less than 14/32 or 7/16, so it is called “7/16 minus” and 11/32 is 1/32 more than 10/32 or 5/16, so it is called “5/16 plus.”
  10. I have to worry about birds and glass, a lot, and then there are the endangered species like red-legged frogs and the steelhead trout, and the invasive species like Cape Ivy that all influence the design and its footprint. I should not have skipped those science classes in college.
  11. If you invite architects over for dinner, don’t set a place for your kid they will be bored out of their mind.
  12. Every day the quote, “we shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us” – Winston Churchill, becomes more and more apt.

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