Geoff Manaugh is senior editor of Dwell and the author of BLDGBLOG. The BLDGBLOG Book is forthcoming from Chronicle Books in Spring 2009.
I'm writing this a few hours away from the opening of Viennese architect Susanne Zottl's new exhibition at SCI-Arc, A Styrofoam Lover with (E)motions of Concrete. According to SCI-Arc, the show "proposes a new program that at once asks for a transformation of existing spaces and structures, as well as an improvement of the energy efficiency of existing buildings."
When it comes to material originality, this former tavern in Chicago’s trendy Bucktown neighborhood pulls out all the stops. Case in point? Colorful pieces of broken LPs are visible in the glass aggregate flooring of the upstairs master bathroom—-which the architects made from the pulverized remains of old vinyl records.
President Obama is an urban president. During his time in the White House, he and his wife will maintain their home in south Chicago—in Hyde Park, specifically, just blocks from where I once went to graduate school. This will require extraordinary levels of security. Indeed, for the president to live in such a dense and often unpredictable setting, new measures must be taken; one of these is the near-total pedestrianization of the immediate environment to help protect car bombs and other attacks.
How ironic would it be, however, to find that, for all of our calls to pedestrianize parts of the city, it takes the security of a president to make such urban interventions finally happen? In other words, what if Obama's most immediate impact on urban policy in the United States is simply to make people realize that pedestrianization isn't such a bad idea, after all?
Renderings of a new storage facility for the British Library have been released. The design, by HOK, comes with plenty of interesting details—including an expansive green roofing system—but it's the overall purpose of the building complex that seems most astonishing. That is, the British Library expands its collections every year by another twelve kilometers of shelf space. By law, the Library must collect and maintain at least one copy of everything officially published in the UK—so while that zine you put together for some friends on the office photocopier might slip through the nation's archival cracks, that random newspaper published by the Nottinghamshire Secretary's Association will be collected. And all of that paper has to go somewhere.
New York-based designer Sherwood Forlee, through Quirk Books, has produced the Walls Notebook, where everything you write is an act of graffiti. Forlee describes it as "a notebook / sketchbook with pictures of 'clean' New York City walls as the backdrop of each page. Write on, draw on, and even paste onto the walls to create works of street art without being pummelled by the police or serving unwanted community service."
The idea might sound like a gimmick, but the end result is actually quite cool.
As the everyday circumstances of urban life continue to change—whether due to tools like GPS-enabled cell phones or to high-tech security measures passed in the wake of September 11—how can we most interestingly represent the modern city?
The Garden Museum in London has re-opened—and rebranded—after a short and surprisingly affordable modern makeover by the talented local firm Dow Jones Architects. I had the pleasure of sitting down with the museum director, Christoper Woodward, only a few days after the construction dust had cleared. The museum, housed in St. Mary at Lambeth, an old church due south of the London Eye and separated from the River Thames by only one road and a pedestrian walkway, is stunning—even more so when the sun has set and there are autumn leaves on the gravestones outside, as was the case when my wife and I visited.
BLDGBLOG has long been one of our favorite websites for architectural conjecture, left-field landscapes, and dispatches from the bleeding edge of the built world, so much so that we brought author Geoff Manaugh onboard as a senior editor. Now Luddites and linkers alike can revel in Manaugh’s singular weltanschauung as the BLDGBLOG Book, in all its Smythe-sewn perfection, hits bookstores nationwide.