Tag: architecture

Quote of the Day: The Architecture of Happiness

 

“In literature, too, we admire prose in which a small and astutely arranged set of words has been constructed to carry a large consignment of ideas. ‘We all have strength enough to bear the misfortunes of others,’ writes La Rochefoucauld in an aphorism which transports us with an energy and exactitude comparable to that of a Maillart bridge. The Swiss engineer reduces the number of supports just as the French writer compacts into a single line what lesser minds might have taken pages to express. We delight in complexity to which genius has lent an appearance of simplicity.”
– Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness

I ran across this quote while developing a list of potential quotes for discussion. Since I’m in the middle of designing my third house, I appreciate the views of other architects and artists as to what is “good” vs. “bad” architecture. I’ve found the British author Alain de Botton’s book interesting, as he relates architecture to various other art forms, most notably common items such as bowls, plates, and water jugs. He properly criticizes architecture based on elitism and the self-congratulation of architects such as Le Corbusier, whose flat roofs leaked within one week of being occupied. Yet, de Botton properly related Le Corbusier’s 1931 interior staircase to a 1768 design in Versailles nearby. Even Modernist architects looked to architecture to support a way of life that appealed to them.

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At least this candidate has a unique idea for a change although I suspect he wants a government takeover/solution. But, interesting that he has singled them out and maybe some need a little guidance and creative thinking nobody has mobilized. There are other philosophic (liberal) articles roasting Malls as relics of over-optimistic captalism, etc. I […]

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Exhibit A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjrFw3MASGc&feature=share also known as “An architect’s subversive re-imagining of the border Wall” More

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Making Better Architecture

 

A recent comment by Ricochet member extraordinaire James Lileks discussed an article from Forbes which stated “Frank Gehry, the world’s most famous architect, recently said that “98% of everything that is built and designed today is pure [crap]. There’s no sense of design, no respect for humanity or for anything else.”*

The Forbes article continues with “insulated architects are “increasingly incapable … of creating artful, harmonious work that resonates with a broad swath of the general population, …this has been a problem for over forty years, and that things are even worse today.” The article also shows a pretty “Katrina cottage” vs. another modern monstrosity in New Orleans. As we have little power over what’s chosen by politicians, we can (still) choose our residence to reflect both our needs and wants.

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I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday. More

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I owe Unsk an apology. Many moons ago, in March, I wrote a piece about the clash between classical liberalism and historic preservation. It occasioned about a dozen comments, all thoughtful. Unsk, an architect, shared a story about his (her? . . . some names are ambiguous) experience with the Secretary of the Interior’s preservation guidelines. According […]

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Suckers for Jesus! Or, Holy Kitsch!

 

I can’t call it “only in America,” because kitschy and silly, though harmless, religious trinkets seem to be a universal phenomenon. Still, there is something endearingly American about this online Christian storefront, selling Testamints, crucifix-shaped lollies, gourmet Scripture suckers, chocolate tulips (must be for the Calvinists), and little gummy Jesus “footsteps”: show that you walk in His footsteps by eating His feet!

“Take and eat… do this in remembrance of me.” In a religion based on the Eucharist, I suppose it’s not exactly blasphemous to consume Jesus in gummy form, though I doubt my grandmother would have agreed: she would have seen candy shaped like all or any part of Jesus as blasphemously irreverent, even if abstract religious symbols were commonplace in eats where she came from. Part of the wider Christian culture in America is to downplay aesthetic differences: high church or low, contemporary or old-fashioned, why argue adiaphora, huh? At the same time, aesthetics go to the heart of worship: whatever we think “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” means, it only seems fitting to give of our best (whatever that is) in acts of reverence. Religious kitsch occupies a funny place, not just strange, but amusing — and not just amusing to snobs who wish to disdain the rubes. The Babylon Bee, a favorite site of many of us here, often pokes fun at Christian kitsch, and it could hardly be said to disdain American Christians: it pokes fun at the kitsch because it’s run by American Christians.

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I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday. More

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The temples of Cambodia are more than just Angkor Wat and that other one with the giant faces. An acquaintance, who just got back from a visit a few weeks ago, said he thought there was just two or three until his driver pulled out a map of Angkor and asked which one he wanted […]

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Interminable Musings on Historic Preservation and Classical Liberalism

 
The Historic Charleston (SC) Foundation, whose store’s proceeds go to historic preservation in the city. / Shutterstock.com

I am a preservationist. I am also, I’d like to think, a classical liberal. By any conventional logic, this makes me a walking, talking contradiction.

Any right-leaning lover of luscious latticework — any Hayek-hawking historian of handsome hoodmolds — faces a conundrum. He studies a very particular sort of thing. The supply of this thing is forever dwindling. It’s in his interest, naturally, to prevent the supply from dwindling quickly. But doing so demands that he betray his philosophical and political convictions. How, then, ought he to proceed? Work at a breakneck pace, I suppose. Wring his hands in frustration. Snap a heap of photos.

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The Hobbit-hole is a tubular, subterranean dwelling, built into a hillside. Hills are of course a scarce resource in a dense city, especially in a place like Hong Kong, which is naturally hilly, but very built up. Architect James Law has come up with an ingenious urban solution for those craving that tubular, subterranean feel: […]

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Do modern campuses actually value ideas and intellectual discourse? Should there be limits on capitalism? Is modern architecture bad? Sir Roger Scruton and Christina Hoff Sommers join ‘Viewpoint’ on the AEI Podcast Channel to discuss each of these topics and more. This conversation originally aired on the AEI YouTube Channel on March 22, 2017. More

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Cambodia is dotted all over with temple ruins, big and small. Some of you might have heard of Angkor Wat or recognize the giant faces at Bayon. Most of the temples are congregated at Angkor, modern day Siem Reap province. Angkor was the seat of the Khmer Empire (802 CE to 1431 CE), where naturally […]

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Roman Through Paris

 
Lutetia
Lutetia, Vulgari Nomine Paris, Urbs Galliae Maxima

To lift your mood on the Ides of April, I hereby invite you to the Inaugural Ricochet Pariscope walk with me tomorrow at 7:00 pm local time. That’s 1:00 pm in Charleston, noon in Dallas, and 10:00 am in Oregon.

I’m not going to plan the route overmuch, because the whole point is that you can see something interesting and say, “Hey, what’s that thing, down there on the right?” But my general plan is to begin at the beginning of time.

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Colossal Wonder of the Ancient World May Be Rebuilt

 

Colossus-of-RhodesThe Colossus of Rhodes was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. But unlike the Great Pyramid of Giza, no one today really knows what it looked like. We do know that the nearly 100-foot-tall statue was built in 280 BC to commemorate the Greek island’s victory over Cyprus, but collapsed in an earthquake just 54 years later.

Many centuries on, artists have imagined how the statue appeared, the most fanciful (and improbable) of which was a massive Helios straddling the entrance to Rhodes’s harbor as warships sailed underneath. (Don’t look up, kids!)

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Book Review: Concrete Planet

 
640px-Beam_in_the_dome_of_the_Pantheon
Beam in the dome of the Pantheon

Visitors to Rome are often stunned when they see the Pantheon and learn it was built almost 19 centuries ago, during the reign of the emperor Hadrian. From the front, the building has a classical style echoed in neo-classical government buildings around the world but, as visitors walk inside, it is the amazing dome which causes them to gasp. At 43.3 meters (142 ft.) in diameter, it was the largest dome ever built in its time, and no larger dome has — in all the centuries since — been built in the same way. The dome of the Pantheon is a monolithic structure of concrete, whose beauty and antiquity attests to the versatility and durability of this building material which has become a ubiquitous part of the modern world.

To the ancients, who built from mud, stone, and later brick, it must have seemed like a miracle to discover a material which, mixed with water, could be molded into any form and would harden into stone. Nobody knows how or where it was discovered that by heating natural limestone to a high temperature one could transform it into quicklime (calcium oxide), a corrosive substance which reacts exothermically with water, solidifying into a hard substance. The author speculates that the transformation of limestone into quicklime due to lightning strikes may have been discovered in Turkey and applied to production of quicklime by a kilning process, but the evidence for this is sketchy. But from the neolithic period, humans discovered how to make floors from quicklime and a binder, and this technology remained in use until the 19th century.

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Whether it’s a cathedral or a coffee shop, post a picture of where your worshipping goes down. The parish I attend now is the same one I grew up in, Nativity Church in Dubuque. More

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My parents I spent three nights collectively building the Lego pirate ship back when I was a little scamp, because they were good parents. But, during the day, they had jobs. And friends. And lives. I certainly respect the skill and dedication, but only an upper-middle/upper class white mom with means and excesses in both money […]

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Walking around in SoHo Manhattan today, I felt pride — actual pride — and delight for a great period of American architecture. This nation’s sense of security, its understanding of itself and of its purpose, its self-confidence in its inherent goodness and rightness, seems to have been reflected in the strength and beauty and elegance […]

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