Oh, I see! How inventive! You've actually stacked the boxes I am supposed to live in!

Welcome to the architectural blog discussing New Classicism, New Urbanism, modern and historical architects, their work and the continuum of Humanism in architecture. You may submit articles for inclusion in this website through email.

Friday, September 16, 2011



Co-Sponsored by the Schools of Architecture of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Miami

Reconsidering Postmodernism will gather leading scholars, practitioners, and critics for a rigorous round of lectures, film tributes, and panel discussions. The fully scheduled two-day conference coincides with the 30th anniversary of Tom Wolfe’s seminal publication From Bauhaus to Our House and the themes of the conference—historic significance, impact on design education and public taste, lessons learned and lessons rejected, theoretical underpinnings, and contemporary appraisal—all attempt to illuminate postmodernism’s overall cultural impact.
More Information or to REGISTER:
Institute for Classical Architecture & Art
The UNBELIEVABLE list of special guests to include:
Paul Gunther 
Gary Brewer
Richard John
Robert Adam
Michelangelo Sabatino
Charles Warren
Tom Beeby
Michael Lykoudis
Lizz Plater-Zyberk
Jaquelin Robertson

Martino Stierli
Suzanne Stephens
John Morris Dixon
Paul Goldberger
Mildred Schmertz
Michael Sorkin

Tom Wolfe
Barry Bergdoll
Michael Graves
Robert A.M. Stern
Stanley Tigerman

Paul Gunther 
Peter Pennoyer
Reinhold Martin
Ellen Dunham-Jones
Judy DiMaio
Michael Dennis
Dan Solomon
Gwendolyn Wright

Emmanuel Petit
Andres Duany
Witold Rybczynski
Thomas Gordon Smith
Sam Jacob

Léon Krier
Robert Campbell
Charles Jencks
Demetri Porphyrios
Mark Wigley 

You have to be there!

The conference takes place at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street. Space is limited and reservations are required. Register online or call David Ludwig at (212) 730-9646, ext. 104.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Column: 'Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White'

May 26, 2011 7:23 AM from Architecture Here and There by David Brussat

The photograph above shows the office of McKim, Mead & White in 1892, celebrating its victory in a competition to design the Rhode Island State House. The firm was on top of its profession in America, and rarely deigned to participate in competitions. In the case of the job in Providence, victory came through the sort of social connections set forth in Mosette Broderick's exhaustive, if not quite exhausting, 581-page book Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White, published last year about the architects Charles Follen McKim, William Mead and Stanford White.

 Charles Follen McKim, William Rutherford Mead and Stanford White

Stanford White's sketch of Henry Hobson Richardson's Watts-Sherman House, in Newport

Norman precedent for McKim Mead & White's early work

Isaac Bell House, in Newport

Newport Casino

Boston Public Library

Library and Hall of Fame at New York University

Pennsylvania Station, in New York

"When the office won the competition for the Rhode Island State Capitol," writes Broderick, "the draftsmen decided to celebrate with a high-spirited parade led by a bevy of office men who would later be stars of the profession [in their own careers. Frank Hoppin (of Hoppin & Koen), John Mead Howells (William R. Mead's nephew) and Henry Bacon dressed up as High Commissioners of Architecture performing an architectural Mass. Hoppin played pope wearing a mitre and holding a T square as a substitute for a crosier. The acolytes followed swinging an old Venetian lamp as if incense. (Passage omitted from quote to save space.)] Henry Bacon carried a cutout of the winning design while the office sang a hymn to the tune of

'Onward Christian Soldiers':

"Onward, All ye Draughtsmen,
Marching as to War,
With our office T. Square
Going on before.
We are not divided
All our office, we,
In all competitions,
Ours the Victory . . .

Foes may struggle vainly,
We will Vanquish all,
For they are not in it,
They will have to crawl.
Providence is with us
Thro' the darkest night;
In our blest profession
We're simply out of sight."

That passage is almost all there is about one of the firm's major works, cited but twice in the index, as "Rhode Island State Capitol, [page] 304" and "Rhode Island State House, [page] 407." [The latter mentions the project in passing.]
So, yes, a little local pique slightly affects my assessment of Triumvirate. The Ocean State capitol offered Broderick a tasty nugget: winning a commission by social connections even in a competition, in this case perhaps scandalously so. She did not bite. Too bad. Still, by the time of McKim's death, in 1909, the firm had some 940 buildings under its belt. Triage, however inexplicably achieved, was mandatory.

The book has been praised for its social tapestry and criticized for going overboard in detailing that tapestry, and also for lapses in the quality of its prose and the paucity of quotation from primary sources, and for many vague references (mostly free of sniggering) to the sexual bent of its subjects. My big problem with the book is its prejudice against the neoclassicism responsible for much of the firm's fame.

Broderick observes repeatedly that the firm relied heavily on precedent. She rarely manages to avoid looking down her nose at the architects for this supposed infraction.
Broderick puts the blame on Joseph Wells, an architect at the firm whom she nevertheless considers the office's chief genius: "He taught the partners how to find precedent in the volumes of Letarouilly and others in their growing library -- and by showing them that the pages of books contained all the answers, he removed their life force. By the end of the century, everything came out of books.
This unwarranted sneer hints at an important subsidiary bias in Broderick's assessment. The "copying" done for the firm's earlier, Shingle Style work based on the quaint vernacular styles of England and Normandy -- rambling masses of gabled roofs, turrets, porches -- is tut-tutted with less severity by Broderick until the firm embraces neoclassicism. She seems dismayed that, as the importance of their commissions increased, the architects adopted an increasingly lofty architectural vocabulary.

A lot of the book is set in Newport. The Isaac Bell House (1883) and Rosecliff (1902) are representative of the firm's earlier and later work. Broderick's ill-concealed contempt for the latter mars her book's scholarship.
Notwithstanding my regrets, Triumvirate is a monumentally fascinating catalogue of how money and social intercourse dressed the Gilded Age in beauty. We may sigh at the evaporation of the past -- so many of the buildings of McKim, Mead & White razed! But many remain to be studied for inspiration today, and we must be mindful that, however rich America was then, now, despite its current travails, it is far, far and away richer, in almost all respects except for its appreciation of beauty -- a need that architecture could easily supply.

David Brussat (dbrussat@projo.com) is a member of The Journal's editorial board. His blog at projo.com is called Architecture Here and There.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Steven Semes this Thursday in Newport

- Free lecture by Steven Semes this Thursday in Newport (Classicist New England)

May 15, 2011 by classicistne
By David Brussat

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chapter members who missed the lecture by Steven Semes a year ago at the College Club can hear the author of The Future of the Past for free at Rosecliff, on Newport’s Bellevue Avenue, this Thursday, May 19, at 6 p.m. Mr. Semes, whose book is a must-read for architects, preservationists and planners, runs the Rome program of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture.

Again, the lecture is free but space is limited, and registration is required. Go here to register with the Preservation Society of Newport County, which is sponsoring the event along with the City of Newport. Or you can call 401/847-1000 ext. 154.

This is the society’s annual lecture honoring Noreen Stonor Drexel, one of Rhode Island’s most dedicated preservationists.

Mr. Semes’s superb book, subtitled “A Conservation Ethic for Architecture, Urbanism, and Historic Preservation,” can be purchased here. I reviewed it here about a year and a half ago.

Mr. Semes makes the case that preserving the places we love means allowing them to evolve naturally, by adding new buildings and additions that fit with their historical character – not attack it, according to the orthodox practice of preservationism, which is led by the nose into bed with the modernists. Modernists aim to lull preservationists into helping them destroy places worth saving. The modernists’ plot has been operating smoothly, alas, to the detriment of civic beauty everywhere, for at least three decades.

The professor is on to their game. What he says is unlike anything you’ve ever heard before (if you missed last year’s lecture), and it behooves rank-and-file preservationists to listen, learn and challenge the professional preservationists who’ve turned preservationism on its head. However novel, much of it will seem intuitively self-evident to us classicists, but how enlightening, indeed enchanting, to hear it from the author himself. And we can bring a friend for whom it might be a revelation.

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Beaux-Arts Atelier Announced

via Programs — Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America.
March 18, 2011

The Beaux-Arts Atelier is a non-accredited, one-year intensive program in the study of architectural design following in the method of the École des Beaux-Arts. Students will receive in-depth instruction in an atelier setting while also pursuing coursework in observational drawing, architectural drafting, systematic design methodology, the classical orders, geometry and proportion, traditional methods of architectural wash rendering and drawing, the history and theory of classical architecture, and modeling and sculpting. Students will also conduct detailed studies of New York City’s architectural masterpieces through on-site observation and field drawing. In addition, field trips will be conducted to leading architecture, decorating, and craftsman studios during each term.

The school year runs from September to June, and is divided into 5 six-week terms and a 2-week travel term in Rome.

Applications due May 15, 2011. Any application received after the deadline will be reviewed and processed within 2-3 weeks.

Click here to download the application.


The Design Studio is the heart of the program, where students integrate what they learn in other courses into a series of architectural compositions of increasing complexity. All coursework is related directly to the Design Studio, which meets 3 times per week. Crucial to the Design Studio’s approach is the imposition of time constraint in learning to design. This was a central precept of the École des Beaux-Arts method. Each six-week term begins with a new design problem followed by an intensive one-week exercise in establishing a ‘parti’ or preliminary design. The subsequent five weeks are dedicated to working with the studio instructors to develop the student’s design in detail and render it for presentation to an invited jury of distinguished practitioners. At the discretion of the jury, prizes are awarded at the end of each session to the top projects.

The curriculum is based on the following areas of study:

Students must complete a series of courses in the above areas of study, each building upon the last in range and difficulty. Students will be expected to complete a specific set of drawings, models and sketchbooks for each of the courses. Certificate completion will rely upon the instructors’ evaluation of all required student work.

Each term also includes field trips and tours to local museums, traditional craft workshops, the city’s principal monuments, and local offices.

All students are guaranteed a spot on the ICA&CA annual Rome Drawing Tour. This trip provides an invaluable completion to the students’ year of study. The experience of Rome is central to understanding the history of classical architecture as well as the inspiration for the great buildings of America, and will be a vital part of the students’ artistic and intellectual development.

All Atelier students are eligible for Rome program scholarships in addition to their existing scholarships. These scholarships will be awarded to students during the spring study term.

 Interested students will be assisted by the Registrar and the Atelier’s instructors in obtaining an internship in one of ICA&CA’s professional member firms. The internship will provide students with professional experience in firms that practice traditional and classical architecture.

Housing is not provided by the ICA&CA. The registrar’s office is available to help with inquiries and will assist students in finding appropriate housing.

Tuition for the program is $15,000 for one year.

Scholarships and financial aid are available to all students and are decided on the basis of merit and need. Please inquire for additional information.

 Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America
20 W 44th Street 3rd Fl
Attention: Beaux-Arts Atelier
New York, NY 10036
212-730-9646, http://www.classicist.org/
Questions about the Beaux-Arts Atelier may be directed to Anne Wolff Lawson,

212-730-9646 × 108, alawson@classicist.org

This program does not lead to a degree, academic credits that can be counted towards an academic program, and is not registered as a higher education institution by the state of New York.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is Landscape Urbanism the new New Urbanism? The RPA continues the debate

from Veritas & Venustas by John Massengale  
The winning design for Horticultural City in Xi'an China, from the AALU website
THE LATEST E-LETTER FROM THE RPA (New York's Regional Plan Association) has an interesting contribution from the RPA's Vice President for Environmental Programs called When a Park Is More Than A Park, and a Building more than a Building. He looks at Landscape Urbanism, and seems to agree that it's "the next big thing."
"Academics at the Harvard Graduate School of Design are attempting to capture these [environmental] practices under the label 'Landscape Urbanism,'" the VP writes, "and are saying it's the new 'New Urbanism' or 'Smart Growth.' As theory, it's an appreciation of city form that relies less on traditional notions of mass and density and aesthetics as it does on process." But if you study Landscape Urbanism, you discover that it was actually an aesthetic long before it found what could be called its marketing theory. The process the VP refers to is only a secondary or tertiary part of the theory, and it grows naturally from the philosophy of the aesthetic.
A little background helps explain why. New Urbanism advocates the preservation and creation of a strong public realm (in America, that usually means "streets" and "parks"). The form of NU is an update of the time-tested city, town and neighborhood, indistinguishable from what the RPA advocates in our region. That's antithetical to the philosophy of Harvard's GSD, which is ideologically (one might even say "rabidly") Modernist, and therefore opposed to the traditional form of the city. As the sustainable, walkable model of New Urbanism gained ground across the country, Harvard needed to fight back. Professors in the school came up with the theory of Landscape Urbanism to support their aesthetic, which was essentially the straight-out-of-the-box 20th century Modernism taught at Harvard since Gropius arrived there in 1937, heightened by the latest CAD drawing fashion. It favored auto-based planning over the more sustainable walkable planning of NU, preferring the model of Atlanta or Houston to New York's.
Modernism was a materialistic philosophy that substituted ideas like Form Follows Function for traditional concepts of design, which balanced function, construction and beauty. Ancient Romans called those UtilitasFirmitas and Venustas, and they were considered the three legs of all architectural and urban design until Modernism banished history and said that function equals beauty. The RPA VP seems to be at least partially agreeing when he explicitly endorses LU's sound environmental ideas and process and implicitly endorses their aesthetic. But there are three problems with that: LU's sound environmentalism is everyone's sound environmentalism; much of it has been used for centuries without determing or being mistaken for being beauty; and the LU process has little to do with making places that people enjoy. (An academic friend who slogged through the entire reader-hostile Landscape Urbanism Reader points out that people are not shown or discussed in the book.)
The details of New Urbanism come from observation of what works and what doesn't work, including the details and dimensions that produce spaces where people want to be. The details of Landscape Urbanism often come from more intellectual parts of the design process. In a famous example (because there is a limited amount of LU built so far), a leading Landscape Urbanist designing a park used the location of dead tree trunks to determine some of the fundamental geometry of the park's plan. Someday those trunks will all be gone, and the conceptual meaning of the geometry will be gone. But that is typical of the way that LU designers favor intellectual concepts over the experiential placemaking New Urbanists use, and it is consistent with the Modernist desire to generate design details from the process rather than fromverboten concepts of beauty.
Looking at the history of Modernism, we can see that form rarely follows function.* And the form of auto-dependent Modernism is simultaneously environmentally unsound and bad for the making of walkable places. Add to that that before Modern engineers told us they could rebuild the world, we often had to build environmentally soundly, because our cities had poor stormwater systems, for example, or we didn't have modern fertilizers and biogenetics to sustain unsoundly planted trees or crops. Of course we had many unhealthy practices, many of them introduced by the Industrial Revolution and agribusiness, but before Modernism gave us the means to re-engineer the world, we often had to live more closely with the consequences of our actions.
One result of our actions is that we can all agree on the need to be more environmentally responsible to preserve future life on Earth. The first built New Urban works were Seaside, Florida and Manhattan's Battery Park City, both started in 1981 and both proposed community and walkability as a way of reducing our carbon footprint. But it's a little known fact that Seaside was also one of the first planned xeriscape developments. The term was actually coined in the same year, although not well known outside very small circles of Western environmentalists.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Architects Experimenting on the Poor (Again)

from The Civitas Chronicles by Clem Labine, May 26th, 2010 
The New Carver Apartments in Los Angeles provide 97 small living units for homeless residents. Upon approaching this bleak, hard-edged structure, however, it’s hard not to feel that one is about to be locked up in some sort of detention facility. The building looks more like a jail than a residence.  Photo: Abitare
The New Carver Apartments in Los Angeles provide 97 small living units for homeless residents. Upon approaching this bleak, hard-edged structure, however, it’s hard not to feel that one is about to be locked up in some sort of detention facility. The building looks more like a jail than a residence. Photo: Abitare

In the mid-20th century, Modernist architects were notorious for trying out social engineering theories on projects for low-income people. Many of these experiments were ended by dynamite.
But it looks like design experiments on the powerless continue. In Los Angeles, architect Michael Maltzan has just completed the 97-unit New Carver Apartments next to the Santa Monica Freeway to provide housing for the homeless. The 57,000-sq.ft. project was built by the Skid Row Housing Trust, a nonprofit organization devoted to creating various types of low-income housing. All laudable goals; so far so good.
Besides providing affordable housing, however, apparently the Trust is also devoted to the Modernist ideal of creating “architectural icons.” Molly Rysman, the Trust’s director of special projects, summed it up best: “It’s not about blending in, but about having an impact.”
No one will accuse Michael Maltzan’s building of “blending in” – or looking anything like a traditional apartment building. But the structure certainly fits right into the pattern of stand-alone sculpture-buildings that architecture critics routinely label “iconic.” Because of its bizarre appearance, commentators love the New Carver Apartments, with the cheering being led by Nicolai Ouroussoff, architecture critic for the New York Times.
The critics love it, but what about the people who have to live in the structure? Architectural critics seem to make a point of never interviewing the people who actually use these “iconic” buildings. To this observer, the building looks like a prison – not a residence. Do men and women who are already powerless feel comfortable in a cold, machine-like, sharp-edged building? In my opinion, this building does not say “home” but rather gives residents the feeling of being in the grip of a powerful alien force.
The New Carver Apartments are a perfect example of the different world views of Modernists and Traditionalists. Modernists can’t help but project their own egos onto a project in a never-ending quest for novelty and “something entirely different.” That’s what they were taught to do. A Traditionalist architect handling this same project would have been more concerned with giving psychic comfort to the residents by furnishing them with forms and ornament that provide emotional connection to their homes of memory.
It’s a shame that well-intentioned designers serve the ultimate users of their buildings so poorly because they’ve been blinded by the ideology they’ve been dosed with since architecture school.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tear Down the Corviale! 

New Urbanism Comes to Rome

from Planetizen
24 May 2010 
Nikos Salingaros presents the case for demolishing a modernist eyesore in Rome and replacing it with a high-density, mixed-use New Urbanist neighborhood.
The Corviale building outside Rome is a social housing block that exemplifies the established Corbusian tradition of treating human beings as battery chickens. It was built during 1972-1982 as a single one-kilometer-long building. It is now estimated to house 6,000 people. Apologists who are nostalgic of Soviet-era social experiments continue to defend its paradigmatic modernist design on the grounds that every resident is EQUALLY oppressed in this inhuman environment, an ideal consistent with totalitarian notions of social equality.
Apartments in the Corviale Building. (Photo courtesy of Flickr user Matteo Dudek)
I am involved in an architectural revolution that is occurring today in Italy, and which may hopefully spread to the rest of Europe and the World. We are proposing tearing down the Corviale and replacing it with new urbanist fabric consisting of 3-5 storey buildings tightly knit together with pedestrian and vehicular connections, and supported by a network of urban spaces and green on the human scale. This comes as a shock to many Italian readers.
Immediately after the Italian elections of just a few weeks ago, incoming politician Teodoro Buontempo announced that he is going to tear down the Corviale. The Corviale monster (also called the "Giant Serpent") will be replaced by a high-density mixed-use city. At this moment, we have three very nice projects by three of my friends in Italy: Ettore Maria Mazzola, Gabriele Tagliaventi, and Cristiano Rosponi. These very different new urbanist designs offer three responses to the problem of building new urban fabric and replacing existing urban tissue that is gangrenous.
The Corviale site as it is currently planned.
It is worth discussing what these solutions represent within their broader political, historical, and social implications:
  1. This is probably the first time that new urbanist projects are laid out in front of the Italian public accompanied by strong political support. Thus far, the press has conspired with the Universities to bury any traditional urban projects so as to be able to deny their very existence. That way, the architectural establishment could continue to live off the deception that buildings and cities "simply cannot be built that way anymore".
  2. Mazzola's project is new (2010). Tagliaventi’s project (A Vision of Europe, 2008) was published in magazines and on the internet but was ignored by the mainstream media so that no one remembers it as having existed at all. Rosponi's project (Agenzia per la Città, 1997) was presented to the Italian government about 13 years ago, which then included Teodoro Buontempo in a less powerful position than he holds today, but the design was not implemented and was buried in the cupboard by the succeeding administrations.
  3. Having three very different new urbanist projects on the table exposes the second great deception of modernist urbanists: the claim that traditional architects supposedly offer the same tired solution which copies old buildings. This self-serving statement is false. Having discovered the correct mathematical rules for human-scale architecture and urbanism, we can generate an infinite number of adaptive solutions, each one different from the other, yet all comparably human. It is the modernist image-based pseudo-solutions that turn out oppressively similar in their non-adaptivity to human needs.
The Gabriele Tagliaventi Plan

The Ettore Maria Mazzola Plan

The Cristiano Rosponi Plan
Since all three protagonists are my friends, and I could be involved with the detailed execution of one of the designs when it is chosen, I will not compare the relative merits of these three alternatives. They are distinct in approach and show many interesting differences in implementation. All three are viable alternatives and have valuable urban lessons to teach. Suffice it to say that we welcome having even more new urbanist suggestions on a new Corviale: even a fourth and fifth design of a living quarter on the human scale, just to show the Italian public the rich variety of adaptive design possibilities without the need for any duplication.
All three proposals plan to build one portion of new city, then move some of the residents and demolish the vacated space, repeating this process in stages until the entire Corviale has been replaced. Increasing the eventual total area of habitable space without spreading beyond the original grounds will enable the new urbanist projects to largely pay for themselves.
The Critics
We are facing competition, unfortunately supported by the Italian press as being of comparable value to our more radical proposals for rebuilding, coming from young architects who are still fixated upon formal geometries and propose some superficial changes such as paint, making the wall surfaces look "contemporary", and other palliatives. Those architects haven't learned that the human use of architecture depends upon its basic geometry, not upon surface appearances. It is the inhuman scale of the cement slabs and they way they are arranged that create the Corviale's deadly oppressive environment. The absolutist out-of-scale geometry was wrong to begin with, and that error has to be admitted before the built environment can be fixed. Friendly surfaces are certainly essential, but if placed upon the wrong forms they can never fix the basic problem.
Another argument that has blocked previous attempts to condemn the Corviale in the past as an architectural, social, and political failure is the following. Apologists keep mentioning the "incompleteness"of the project, supposedly needing more investment to realize its initial dream (of course); with just some more money everything will turn into a dreamland of joy and happiness. The planned shops on the fourth storey were never completed; the lovely play gardens were never built. But children are happy to play anywhere they feel psychologically comfortable, yet such spaces are sadly missing in the Corviale. Here, the most basic laws of urban structure were ignored, because urban complexity arises through people's movement, which can never occur on the fourth storey. Healthy commerce develops and thrives from network connectivity. What happened instead is that the optimistically labeled "commercial" spaces were occupied by squatters (and still are). Calls for evicting those illegal settlers ignore that they are merely obeying urban pressures to occupy vacant unconnected interior space. The squatters turn out to be better informed about urbanism than the original architects.
Commerce did in fact develop as appropriate to the Corviale's geometry of dreary and dark corridors. The Corviale is recognized as a thriving center for the narcotics trade, prostitution, and a variety of criminal activities. The business perfectly matches the architectural and urban form. If you want retail commerce and schools, then you simply need to change the geometry.

Another view of the Corviale Building. (Photo courtesy of Flickr user Matteo Dudek)
Tearing down the Corviale is a great opportunity for human-scale urbanism. But there also exist strong obstacles of a deep ideological nature. I urge readers around the world to watch this battle because the modernists and their political allies could choose to make a last stand. It is not simply an argument about a monstrous and ugly building, but about the monstrous and ugly ideology that permitted such a building (and many others like it) to be built in the first place. Losing Corviale to New Urbanism could well represent the beginning of the end of totalitarian rule in urban morphology, and so for the entrenched ideologues, it's worth fighting to preserve it.
The Corviale was sadly built just at the time when the US recognized that monstrous social housing blocks were an inhuman mistake, a failed experiment on a massive scale. Pruitt-Igoe in Saint Louis began to be dynamited by the Government in 1972, whereas Corviale was begun at exactly this time. It’s a pity that the Italian architecture community did not learn from American mistakes, as it would have saved them a lot of grief. Corviale was called "visionary", a term still used in Italian academia. Urban crimes against humanity are taught to architecture students as examples to follow, and their architects presented as heroes. Severe criticism of inhuman housing projects in Italy over several decades has not made the slightest difference.
If the reader does not mind me quoting from one of my papers, I wish to conclude on a note of warning about the seriousness of the underlying issues:
"Choosing to erect anonymous blocks without the slightest reference to the essential properties of a house, projects are then executed with pseudoscientific accuracy… they have been planned, exalted, advertised, and studied in all the universities. Those projects have been taught as positive examples to students, by architects who have transformed a vision they originally declared to be "ethical" into an "aesthetic" dimension, which ended up as a mix of mechanization and political ideology… Four examples of public housing built in Italy: Monte Amiata in Milan, Corviale in Rome, Scampia in Naples, and Zen in Palermo, were condemned by European urbanists in 1991 as being total and abysmal failures. Nevertheless, 15 years later, those very projects were spotlighted in an exhibition of innovative Italian architecture, which toured the major Italian universities. These examples, wherein similar cases gave rise to opposite lessons, underline that the discipline itself stubbornly sticks to a failed ideology."
-P. Pagliardini, S. Porta & N. A. Salingaros, "Geospatial analysis and living urban geometry", Chapter 17 of: Bin Jiang and Xiaobai Angela Yao, Editors, Geospatial Analysis and Modeling of Urban Structure and Dynamics, Springer, New York, 2010.

Dr. Nikos Salingaros is professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and is also on the architecture faculties of the University of Rome III and the Delft University of Technology. He is consultant to the Schools of Architecture of the Catholic University of Portugal, Viseu, and the Tecnológico de Monterrey, Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico. Dr. Salingaros is Associate Editor of Katarxis III -- an online journal of New Architecture, New Science, and New Urbanism; the Nexus Network Journal; and the Online Planning Journal. He also ranked 11th in Planetizen's 2009 poll of Top Urban Thinkers.

Corviale is one of the housing projects built on the outskirts of Rome in the 1970's as part of the 1964 regional plan to alleviate crowding in the older central city. It is well-known as the longest single residential building in Europe: an 11-story high slab of apartments nearly 1 km in length. Conceived as an independent community for about 8000 people including other facilities such as schools, shopping, recreation facilities and even a church, the building was based on the idea of social housing to provide all needed infrastructures of a city within the complex itself, and to encourage social contacts between the occupants. For internal and political reasons many of these originally planned structures were never realized or are, almost 20 years after the first occupants moved in, still unfinished. The area suffers from the lack of an adequate metropolitan infrastructure and it remains isolated from the greater city of which it was intended to be a part.

Sunday, 6 February 2011 New Palladians
architect, Ettore Maria Mazzola, Roma

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why Hire an Architect?

Architects are more than building designers—they are men and women who create the spaces in which we live, work and play. Architects are creative problem solvers who translate the requirements of an owner into a three dimensional form by visualizing the design and communicating it, both verbally and in drawings, so that it can be built.

No matter what kind of project you have in mind, you should speak with an architect who is a member of  The American Institute of Architects (AIA) at the earliest stage of the design process.

Licensed by the state to practice architecture, the architect is the only professional specially trained to design the places in which people live and work and to manage all aspects of potentially complex projects from design through construction. Architects must balance multiple requirements in each design: functional, aesthetic, economic, environmental, life safety, and regulatory. Architects have the education, training, experience and vision to maximize your construction dollar and ease the entire design and construction process.
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Architects are the single participant in the building industry most capable of guiding the overall design and construction process to a successful conclusion. They respect the industry’s traditions and train themselves to be masters of technology and change. An architect listens to you and serves as your advocate throughout the project.

Licensure as an architect is the result of a special educational process, rigorous training, and completion of a complex series of exams. An architect usually has a minimum of five years of professional schooling and three years experience in the workplace before becoming eligible to take the licensing examination. Only licensed architects may use the title “architect” and their project drawings should bear the architect’s seal before construction may begin. To check on the status of an architect’s license in Connecticut, contact the AIACT or by phone  203-865-2195.

Value of Working with an Architect 
Architects provide a broad range of services and can provide value at every stage of the design and construction process. By working directly with you and assessing your requirements in great depth, the architect tailors the design to suit your personality, needs, budget, and lifestyle. The architect’s extensive study of design alternatives allows you to choose the design most appropriate to your needs. An architect’s knowledge of site-planning and natural energy processes helps accommodate your project to the site characteristics and neighborhood context. By overseeing construction, your architect helps to make sure that your project is built according to design.

The architect also saves you money and time. By keeping abreast of the latest construction materials and technologies, architects can recommend materials and systems that fit your budget. Your architect provides documents for the contractor bidding process, which should result in a fair contractor price. Construction is expedited through an architect’s careful planning and complete drawings and specifications. The architect serves as your agent with the contractor, resolving disputes that may arise and analyzing additional costs the contractor proposes.

The design aesthetic of the project is perhaps the most obvious area in which an architect makes a unique and valuable contribution, creating a visually appealing place with pleasing character and style. Ultimately, your property’s value is increased through appropriate design, improved functionality, and high-quality detailing. 

Selecting an Architect
You will benefit by involving an architect in your project as early in the process as possible. The most popular, and usually the best, way to select an architect is by interviewing several candidates. You can also learn about reputation and ability of architects in your community by visiting completed projects, talking with clients and users, and checking design awards programs and professional design publications.

A brief call to an architect can help determine if his or her expertise is appropriate to your project. When you find a few with related experience, set up interviews with them to discuss your project and review photographs and other samples of their work. You will then be able to narrow the list and, after more meetings, it will become obvious to you which architect is best for you.

Check the architect’s education, training, experience, and references. Most importantly, however, is good “chemistry” between you and your architect — you will need to feel comfortable with each other and will get to know each other well. Your architect should be a good listener, responsive to your phone calls, clearly interested in your needs, and able to communicate without using jargon. Be patient: This process will take some time and it is one of the most important decisions you will make to shape the success of your project. 

20 Questions to Ask Your Architect
  1. What does the architect see as important considerations in your project? What are the challenges of the project?
  2. How will the architect gather information about your needs, goals, etc?
  3. How will the architect establish priorities and make decisions?
  4. Who from the architecture firm will you be dealing with directly? Is it the same person who will be designing the project? If not, who will be designing it?
  5. How interested is the architect in this project?
  6. How busy is the architect?
  7. What sets this architect apart from the rest?
  8. How does the architect establish fees? When will fee payments be expected?
  9. How will you be able to relate fee payments to milestones in the architect’s scope of work?
  10. What would the architect expect the fee to be for this project?
  11. What are the steps in the design process?
  12. How does the architect organize the process?
  13. What does the architect expect you to provide?
  14. Does the architect have a specific design style? Can he/she show examples of past design work?
  15. What is the architect’s experience/track record with cost estimating?
  16. What will the architect show you along the way to explain the project? Will you see models, drawings, or sketches?
  17. If the scope of the project changes later in the project, will there be additional fees? How will these fees be justified?
  18. What services does the architect provide during construction?
  19. How disruptive will construction be? How long does the architect expect it to take to complete your project?
  20. Can the architect provide a list of past clients with whom he or she has worked?
Information from AIA New Hamphire website

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Winsted selectmen vote 'no' on land trust's preservation plan

WINSTED, CT — Townspeople and taxpayers won’t be voting on the Winchester Land Trust Proposal and the $450,000 grant that comes with it, the Board of Selectmen decided Monday night.

 photo by John Nordell on Flicker.com

Coming down to a 4-3 vote, the board decided not to take the next step in the bureaucratic process. Instead, the majority voted to deny the proposal, which would have allowed the trust to protect 360 acres abutting Crystal Lake and the Algonquin State Forest, as well as small parcels along Highland Lake altogether.

“They stopped it in its tracks,” said land trust president Shelly Harms. “I’m disappointed the voters didn’t get the chance to decide.”

“We thought it was a win-win for everyone,” she added.

During its discusssion, members raised a few issues with the proposal which would have cost the town $50,000 over the span of eight years, including a $10,000 fee up front. The remaining cost for the easement would break down to $5,000 for every year following. 
One of the issues the board had with the proposal was terrorism.  
The land trust’s proposal would have allowed for one guided tour a year for outsiders visiting the area — and some board members were worried about allowing people near the area’s source of drinking water.

“I don’t care,” said Selectman Karen Beadle, defending her opinion that water at the lake could be affected somehow. “That’s one day too many.”

“That money — it’s a big number,” Selectman Glenn Albanesius said. “It’s seductive. You’re making a decision for future boards.”

Even if selectmen in future years won’t have to worry about the cost, some of those in charge today said they felt like a golden opportunity was botched.

“This grant isn’t going to come again,” said Mayor Candy Perez, who agreed the proposal may not be perfect, but it was better than nothing. “If we don’t do this...we won’t increase fund balance.”

“This was denied to the taxpayers,” said land trust member Susan Closson. “That was an opportunity as a once in a lifetime.”

Harms said the trust, made up of volunteers, is not quite sure what its next step is or if it will have the opportunity to apply for other grants soon. She also believed the board made a mistake in dealing with its future federal funding.

“I wonder if anyone is going to want to deal with the town of Winchester now,” she said.

Ricky Campbell can be reached by e-mail at rcampbell@registercitizen.com and followed on Twitter at Twitter.com/rickycampbellRC. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/registercitizen.

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