ruminations about architecture and design

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I read the news today oh boy

This is gone now

I read the news today oh boy

The rumblings in the stock market are of mild interest to towers of ilium. That stock markets exist is strong proof that human psychology demands organized religion--in whatever form happens to be convenient.

Speaking of betting, this blog sets 50/50 odds on the Wynn casino ever getting built. Despite having won the right to develop a Boston gaming center, Wynn will back out of it if he ever senses that it's a money losing possibility. He does not seem like a man who succumbs to the sunk-cost fallacy, rather he depends on others to be susceptible. Everett is a rough place.

The quick death of the Boston Olympics bid has generated some muttering from a few Globe columnists. Mayor Walsh may have been weakened, but he demonstrated his loyalty to some moneyed interests. He needs to make a string of mistakes to lose the next election. Most people don't care about the Olympics. It is an event that happens Elsewhere.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Towers of ilium is perplexed, and for once, somewhat lacking in an opinion on the issue of Eileen Gray. Perhaps she was brilliant.

We can't jump to conclusions about one particular work. There's no opportunity to listen in on the conversations or peek into the trashbin for the sheets of trace paper that didn't express the right set of ideas.

One things seems to be clear: the Modernists were anti-Urban. They hated cities. They hated the fact that cities were fundamentally beyond control. The intent was to turn the city into a set of disciplined landscapes that would be discrete enough to make the glorious buildings look as good as the renderings. The danger has not yet passed.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

more on this later

Like many things, Eileen Gray has not been on the radar of towers of ilium. This is high modernism--and it photographs very well. Significant modern houses share certain things in common--natural surroundings in exclusive locations, superb landscaping, light color tones, and impractical staircases. Except for Philip Johnson's house. Maybe he didn't like stairs.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

hold off on the footsteps of doom

Towers of ilium tends to rush to judgment on things. The recent attack on the Facebook headquarters is the most recent example of this. After reviewing the architecture, it is best to pause and reflect on several things:

1. Frank Gehry is an architect. He does what he is told. His design for Facebook demonstrates that he can respond effectively to the spiritual and functional needs of his client. He can do sheds.

2. Facebook has a more realistic attitude about the role architecture plays than other companies. They successfully branded their firm with a new building that is almost completely anonymous. A warehouse for soft skinned white guys who drink too much coffee.

3. Facebook really doesn't need architecture. They'll be able to sell that place when they need to. It will be renovated many times. It has enough parking. It will never be finished.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

footsteps of doom, etc....

Towers of ilium is hiring a consulting firm to help with more engaging titles for these blog posts. Stay tuned for details.

Big recessions can usually be predicted by grandiose architecture. Currently, the Chinese building boom seems to be fading, but their inventory of white elephants is still impressive. Certain projects in the Middle East exceed any reasonable level of common sense or economic justification. But, it is the building boom in Silicon Valley by Google, Facebook, and Apple that give towers of ilium the most concern. These efforts to rethink the very idea of office space have resulted in architectural expressions that are certainly doomed to failure. Their value lies in the fact that they will set a cautionary precedent and not inspire similar projects.

In many respects, Wright's demonstration of office design feels more credible and sustainable.
Office space is the end product of humanity. We will successfully mechanize all miserable jobs someday--from milking cows to re-roofing buildings. Our collective future will be drab, secure, and comfortable spaces where we can spend seven or eight hours pondering the next step in civilization--specifically, whether or not we should have medium or light roast coffee at 2pm.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

continued idiocy

The Globe devoted more than two pages to various discussions about the destiny of Widett Circle. Towers of Ilium is not impressed by any argument about the viability of the land as prime development property.
-The proximity of critical transportation systems makes its current use stronger than most people appreciate. Also, the site is loud, dirty and isolated for pedestrians.
-The construction challenges associated with building and maintaining a deck over the rail lines are not consistent with the scale of any proposed development. The Hudson Yards projects in New York features massive skyscrapers.

No changes will occur on this property for another 20 years. Something will happen to the South Bay Center before then.