Child running home in the destroyed city of Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina in the hot summer of 1995. Photo by Thom Hoffman.

When Cities Fall: Urban Histories and Political Memory

Destroyed city of Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995. Photo by Thom Hoffman.

Our experience of the present is shaped by our understanding of the past. By ignoring the urban narratives of  monuments, structures, city parks, memorials…what messages are we missing for the present?  > Read More

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Save SLO County!

Heading into Paso Robles from the west, 2013

 

Will San Luis Obispo (SLO) County remain predominantly agricultural, or will it sink into the same morass of rural sprawl that took out Orange County? It could go either way, but there’s still hope if we act now. > Read More

The New Urban Opera House

The future of opera may soon arrive at the 16th Street Station in Oakland. Photo by Christopher Hall.

Opera is a child of the city. It was born in 1600 in Florence, the cradle of civic humanism, in the homes of a wealthy group of intellectuals who were investigating Greek drama. With its agglomeration of poetry, drama, music, costume, sets and stagecraft, opera became a popular entertainment that spread to other urban centers with a supply of musicians and artisans large enough to create and articulate the spectacle. > Read More

“Woodward’s Gardens,” photo from California State Library.

On Making Documentaries

Woodward’s Gardens, photo from California State Library.

 

I like projects that teach me things I never expected to learn.

 

When the economy melted in 2008, I realized that I could take a rest from my practice’s residential focus. The downturn called for something different. I had time to look at what was happening around me. I had done movie projects before, so I found myself with an impulse to make documentaries on architectural subjects. > Read More

Buckminster Fuller and Chuck Byrne, Non-Symmetrical Tension-Integrity Structures, United States Patent Office no. 3,866,366, from the portfolio Inventions: Twelve Around One, 1981; screen print in white ink on clear polyester film; 30"x 40"; Collection SFMOMA, gift of Chuck and Elizabeth Byrne; © The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, all rights reserved. Published by Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati.

Bucky

Buckminster Fuller and Chuck Byrne, Non-Symmetrical Tension-Integrity Structures, United States Patent Office no. 3,866,366, from the portfolio Inventions: Twelve Around One, 1981; screen print in white ink on clear polyester film; 30 x 40 in.; Collection SFMOMA, gift of Chuck and Elizabeth Byrne; © The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller, all rights reserved. Published by Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati.

 

The only time I heard him speak, Buckminster Fuller managed to jump from the geometric properties of his geodesic domes to the proof of God’s existence. > Read More

Union Iron Works, photo by William Porter, 2004.

Preserving Industry in the Eastern Neighborhoods

Union Iron Works, photo by William Porter, 2004.

 

The Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, adopted in late December 2008, states that “San Francisco is a special place because of the way in which it has always balanced preservation with change.” It is true that despite generations of natural and manmade disasters, demographic shifts, and  radical economic realignment, San Francisco has managed to hold on to its essence as a place that “doesn’t look or feel like anywhere else.” > Read More

Ant Farm, 50’ x 50’ Pillow, 1970, temporary installation in Freestone, California. Photo: Chip Lord. Courtesy Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

Tracing a History of Architecture Installations in the Bay Area

Ant Farm, 50’ x 50’ Pillow, 1970, temporary installation in Freestone, California. Photo: Chip Lord. Courtesy Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

 

San Francisco is often compared unfavorably to other major cities in terms of its tolerance for architectural experimentation. One area where this experimentation has thrived, however, is that of installations, which by dint of their short duration and theoretical orientation, have been a potent force for examining the limitations and potentials of architecture and its social ramifications.

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Caption: Costantino Nivola at his farmhouse, Dicomano, Italy, 1981. Photo courtesy of Richard Ingersoll.

TINO THE GIANT (PART ONE)

Costantino Nivola at his farmhouse, Dicomano, Italy, 1981. Photo courtesy of Richard Ingersoll.

 

Memories of the sculptor and painter Constantino Nivola, a friend of Corbu, a neighbor of Jackson Pollock, and in the 1970s a lecturer at Berkeley CED.

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Charles and Ray Eames "pinned" by chair bases, 1947. © 2011 Eames Office, LLC.

Overexposed?

Charles and Ray Eames "pinned" by chair bases, 1947. © 2011 Eames Office, LLC.

 

The Architect & The Painter, the new film on Charles and Ray Eames, is broad in its ambitions and captures a few things very well. > Read More

Macintosh 512K. Photo: Steve Garfield

Steve Jobs’s Unified Field Theory

Macintosh 512K. Photo: Steve Garfield

In his truncated life, Steve Jobs exerted a measure of influence in design that few architects have managed to achieve. As an architect in the most general sense, Jobs helped to shape the desktop worlds we occupy on a daily basis; his design interests encompassed all scales from typography and product packaging, to furniture and retail stores. > Read More

Randel Farm Map no. 55, vol. 1, p. 16, showing 101st to 109th Street, from Third Avenue to the East River, July 21, 1820. Used with permission of the City of New York and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President.

Mash-up at Right Angles

Randel Farm Map no. 55, vol. 1, p. 16, showing 101st to 109th Streets, from Third Avenue to the East River, July 21, 1820. Used with permission of the City of New York and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President.

 

The 1811 plan mandating an orthogonal street grid helped make Manhattan a paragon of urban form. Today we take rectilinear New York for granted, and love its vitality. An exhibition reveals both prescience and problems in the grid’s rich history.

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Minoru Takeyama: Number 1Building, Tokyo. Photo courtesy of the architect.

MY POSTMODERNISTS

Minoru Takeyama: Number 1 Building, Tokyo. Photo courtesy of the architect.

 

Postmodernism is enjoying a modest revival, with a retrospective exhibit at the V&A, a conference in New York, and several new books that reassess its past and present claims. Postmodernism emerged here in the late 1970s as serious competition for the corporate modernism and bay regionalism predominant earlier in that decade, but my personal encounters with postmodernists began slightly earlier. This short essay recounts them.

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View from Yerba Buena Gardens. Image courtesy Snøhetta.

SNØHETTA DESIGNS THE SFMOMA EXPANSION

View from Yerba Buena Gardens. Image courtesy Snøhetta.

 

Compared to the existing San Francisco Museum of Modern Art building, the new addition designed by Craig Dykers of Snøhetta looks, well, very new. This is not stating the obvious; it seems as if the museum itself is about to change into something completely different. > Read More

Under-utilized parcels of city-owned land in San Francisco, re-imagined by Nicholas de Monchaux as part of his Local Code / Real Estates project, 2009. Image: Courtesy Nicholas de Monchaux

Cities and Spacesuits: An Interview with Nicholas de Monchaux

Under-utilized parcels of city-owned land in San Francisco, re-imagined by Nicholas de Monchaux as part of his Local Code / Real Estates project, 2009. Image: Courtesy Nicholas de Monchaux


Nicholas de Monchaux
is an architect, urbanist, writer and Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at UC Berkeley. His recent book, Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo, unearths the truly fascinating story behind the design of the Apollo spacesuit, which has surprising relevance to architectural and planning discourse, particularly in the Bay Area. > Read More

Aerial photo of Ronchamp today. Photographer: Iwan Baan (Bauwelt)

Renzo Against Corbu

Aerial photo of Ronchamp today. Photographer: Iwan Baan (Bauwelt)

When Renzo Piano was commissioned to make some additions and adjustments to Le Corbusier’s iconic Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp, it caused an uproar. Now that the scaffolds have been removed, Richard Ingersoll wonders what the controversy was about.

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Random Selection, or Intelligent Design?

1020 Pine, Kennerly Architecture; Photo Tim Griffith

 

Kennerly Architecture’s 1020 Pine, San Francisco, received a Merit Award for Architecture from the AIA California Council this fall. Justly so: it’s a handsome project. > Read More