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Latest Articles in Essay

nathaniel russel sandwich house

Your House, Your Sandwich

An Architectural Drama in Five Parts
May 3, 2010
garrett morin somerville

Stuck Inside of Somerville

In the late winter of 2003, I watched out my window as a fuel truck idled below, belching black smoke. A hose, snaking through the frozen grass, stretched from the back of the truck to the side of our house. I’d just been marching in Washington, D.C., under a banner that read “No War for Oil.” And now here I was, guzzling petroleum at home in Somerville, Massachusetts. At that moment, I vowed to find some way to kick my addiction—and not only because of the war. The black goo in my basement was a nonrenewable, climate-killing nightmare.  
April 8, 2010
charles barsotti chair cartoon  crop

When We Talk About Good Design

Many architects and designers, when talked down from the theoretical towers of “sculptural forms” and “floating volumes” and made to speak of their craft in humbler terms, are apt to use a phrase as naive as it is loaded: “good design.” It suggests such an apparent universality that any of us should be able to spot it. But implicit in “good design” is a system of values, aesthetics, and objects that demonstrate that the seemingly innocuous little term is anything but. Nowhere is the idiom as alive and well as in the realm of modern design, which wants to suggest—formally, stylistically, and most importantly, commercially—that the two might just be synonymous.
April 5, 2010
surrogate cities

Surrogate Cities

So this is what city life boils down to: flat roofs, right angles, and steel-mesh awnings for industrial spice.  
April 1, 2010
anne trubek nantucket summer house

Learnings from Nantucket

I am looking at my favorite photograph of my summer house in Nantucket. It is not a particularly pretty picture. It was taken on a cloudy and gray day. You cannot see the beach, or the moors, or much of the house itself. What you can see is this: in the foreground a man, dressed more like a European tourist visiting a church than a beachgoer. He is wearing jeans and a beige pull-over sweater. A large camera bag is slung over his right shoulder. He is standing near the bushes, bushes I know to be prickly and filled with poison ivy. He is holding a large camera in front of his face. The camera is pointed at a rather ordinary-looking shingle-style house. I, the photographer, am standing behind the man. I am taking a picture of him taking a picture of my house.
March 31, 2010
scott chambers home sweet  rgb

Home Sweat Home

The land we purchased—a little less than 40 acres in the Floyd County foothills of southwestern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains—is the hilly, unfarmable center of several large agricultural tracts accessed by a gravel trail that follows a deeded right-of-way through several gates, across a creek, and up a steep hill.
March 29, 2010
christopher neal all roads

All Roads Lead to Home

Davy Rothbart is the editor of Found magazine, a frequent contributor to public radio’s This American Life, and author of the story collection The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas. His documentary film, How We Survive, about the punk rock band Rise Against was released by Geffen Records in 2006.
March 27, 2010
pietary posti cultivating

Cultivating Appreciation

Sixty years ago it was Mies, Alvar, and Lou. Today it’s Zaha, Rem, and Renzo.
March 25, 2010
garrett morin sound design urae

Sound Design

Years ago, the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas won a design competition for an addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) by suggesting the entire museum be torn down and replaced. There was such an outcry over the idea of demolishing this collection of unremarkable but well-loved buildings that Ruth Seymour, the general manager of KCRW, the leading NPR station in Los Angeles, California, suggested we debate the pros and cons on a half-hour show called Politics of Culture. She asked me—a producer at KCRW and a freelance design writer—to moderate.
March 24, 2010
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