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At the entrance of Crestwood Hills, a neighborhood in Brentwood in Los Angeles, the sign reads, “Crestwood Hills: an architecturally controlled community.” It all began in 1946 when four musicians returned from war hoping to build homes for themselves around a swimming pool. They placed an ad in the local newspaper to see if anyone else would like to join them, and, astoundingly, 500 families responded. After pooling together their resources, they ended up purchasing 800 acres of a hillside with views of downtown Los Angeles. This group called themselves the Mutual Housing Association, and they saved money by buying materials in bulk and designing similar midcentury modern homes. For the designs they hired A. Quincy Jones, Whitney Smith, and the structural engineer, Edgardo Contini. They believed in progressive ideals, such as the need to create multi-ethnic communities.

Jones and Smith designed twenty-nine plans for the houses, with the majority being slight contrasts on several different plans. This is where the application of the ethos of midcentury modern flourishes: open plans with wide stretches of glass creating the feeling of free space, while also allowing the ability to see to the end of the property; materials were exposed concrete block, redwood siding, and Douglas Fir ceiling planks. Houses, in accordance to the rules of the Mutual Housing Association, respected the orientation of the homes around them, being put at a 45-degree angle to the street, and all were to be a maximum of one story from the street level, so the neighborhood could maintain the appropriate scale to ensure every home had a view of the mountains.

Though many people call them utopian, these were all simple, common sense ideas—the notion that middle-class families could enjoy a remarkable quality of life in a major city through the implementation of simple design principles. TVOA is proud to have represented one of A. Quincy Jones and the Mutual Housing Association’s homes: 12449 Deerbrook Lane, and now, 12436 Deerbrook Lane.

By: David Plick

Source: Tim Griffith (Photographer), Richard Meier & Partners Architects, LLP

A Malibu home designed by Richard Meier, the Pritzker Prize Winner behind the Getty Museum, and member of the New York Five, sold for $110 million this month. Sold in collaboration with Sotheby’s International, this sets a new record for a single-family home in LA county.

The home, located at Carbon Beach in Malibu, in  many ways reflects the geometric style of Meier, but also differentiates itself through its use of teak wood as opposed to his signature color white. This wooden facade also allows the home to blend in with the grasses of the ocean. The property is comprised of two homes–separated by a courtyard and pool, and is 8,000 sq. feet with seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms.

Simultaneously, Richard Meier has been accused of sexual harassment by five women, and, ironically, it was Sotheby’s, the same company involved in the $110 million transaction, who cancelled an exhibition of Meier’s art work earlier this year after the allegations surfaced. His exhibition at the S2 Gallery in Manhattan was showcasing his collages and silk-screens.

By: David Plick

Snarkitecture is a design and architecture firm based out of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. But to think of them within this construct would be superficial and probably a little insulting. They are the embodiment of the effects of intersectionality—the notion that all ideas, art, and human behavior are interconnected. They focus on experiential design, on user experience, while implementing architectural practices into everyday objects—mirrors, shelves, and tables. They also do installations, for museums, local arts events, and window displays at Calvin Klein.

A lot of their work looks like fragmented glaciers. They are also clearly obsessed with the color white.

It was started by these guys, who studied architecture at Cooper Union and Columbia. Follow them on Instagram here (they have over 200,000 followers).

By: David Plick

SO Architecture in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo by Filippo Poli

At the pinkcomma art gallery in Boston is the exhibition Brutal Destruction, a collection of photos of brutalist architecture in the process of being demolished. The exhibit, which is an examination of how people lack the patience to allow a new art form to develop, and instead, destroy the art, reminded me of people’s eerie response to brutalism. This architectural form has an uncanny ability to elicit feelings, to make people uncomfortable, afraid—feelings that are probably more applicable to going to a museum or an opera house. And it also made me wonder if there were brutalist homes. And if there are, who would live in them?


Leakey, Texas


The Barbican Estate in London, by Chamberlin, Powell & Bon


“Solis” by Renato D’Ettorre, in Queensland, Australia

By: David Plick

“Hip hop architecture is a critique of modernism. It’s a critique of the style of architecture that birthed the culture.” – Michael Ford

On Lexington Avenue and 53nd Street in Manhattan another Sir Norman Foster residential glass tower will finish soon. It will once again not be inhabited by New Yorkers, and will have nothing to do with the street life of New York City. Similarly to Rafael Viñoly’s skyscraper condos and penthouses that are bought by Saudi Arabian princes, tech billionaires, and supermodel Cindy Crawford, all of whom will seldom occupy the space, but simply buy these multi million dollar apartments as ornaments in their collection, this residential tower is designed to create more social injustice, and to separate us from them.

The fact is, in most great cities, the “high architecture” is rarely for the people who are from there and actually call it home for their entire lives. It’s for the outsiders. The ones who love the idea of this great city, but do not understand it. And they never will. Instead, architecture should be for the people, not for the wealthiest few who only want to say they live in a Gehry, a Viñoly, a Foster. That is the bastardization of design. It is design at its worst, at its most egocentric, at its most unjust.

Michael Ford, founder of the Urban Arts Collective and the Hip Hop Architecture Camp, says we need to Design Justice, which to me means we need architecture for the people. Previously, as Ford also stated, urban architecture, particularly in the designs of Robert Moses, only served to exploit people of color and of low socioeconomic status. Moses, by stealing Le Corbusier’s ideas and making “the worst remix in history,” did everything he could to make life difficult for the people of the Bronx. Michael Ford says it’s time to take back control of their lifestyle, and the only way to do that is to design their city themselves. That’s why he’s devoted his life to inspiring young designers and architects of color to build the world they inhabit.

Architecture for the people doesn’t only mean hip hop architecture, but in many cities, especially in the United States, having hip hop architecture would be a great start. For example, the Universal Hip Hop Museum which will open in the South Bronx in 2022, will be a breeding ground for Design Justice.

Hip hop architecture is a movement. And it starts by having more people of color designing our cities and landscapes. Today only 3% of Architects in the US are African American, and that number must change.

By: David Plick

Banksy in Coney Island, Brooklyn (Source: Scott Lynch)

In 2016, a house in Bristol, England was sold for an additional $219,000 than anticipated. And there was one simple reason: it had been tagged by Banksy (who is from Bristol, so his art is all over the city). This example is extreme, obviously, given that Banksy is an international celebrity (houses with his art typically double in price), but overall does data indicate that street art increases property values?

The answer is yes.

In the study, “Quantifying the link between art and property prices in urban neighbourhoods” by researchers at the University of Warwick, it was found that neighborhoods in London that contained the presence of “art photographs” on social media sites also produce higher gains in property prices. These results aren’t surprising as graffiti has become mainstream in the past decade and as cities become more inhabited by young creatives (read: millennials). Today in Bushwick, Brooklyn, for example, a place well-known for its street art, tour companies are popping up to show tourists around the street-art littered neighborhood.

Yet the war between building developers and street artists continues. In New York, when the building in Long Island City, Queens displaying the legendary graffiti Mecca, 5 Pointz, was sold and eventually demolished—thus destroying the many pieces of art on the side of the building—it ended up in litigation. The owner of the property, Jerry Wolkoff, was recently found guilty of violating the artists’ rights, and may have to pay them damages.

In Austin, the Historic Landmark Commission recently unanimously voted to allow the destruction of the HOPE Outdoor Gallery, to allow room for development in the real estate hotspot, Clarksville.

Something that the recent study at the University of Warwick does not measure for, because researchers only looked at property values in one city, London, is that it seems like a major factor in the evaluation of graffiti’s ability to add value to properties is the market in which it resides, most importantly, the sociocultural atmosphere of the city. In looking at several lists for the “best cities for street art,” all of them are major international hubs: Hong Kong, Melbourne, Lisbon, Paris, London, Buenos Aires, Rabat, etc, large market places where terms like “gritty” are attractive to young creatives, and where talented artists naturally flock. Will this vibe spread though, to smaller market, suburbanized cities like Charlotte, Orlando, and Phoenix? Or will their biases remain that graffiti is simply “ugly vandalism”?

By: David Plick

Source: Mamu-Mani

Burning Man, the annual festival which started as an art experiment with a group of friends in San Francisco thirty years ago, and has now grown into 50,000+ participants, is founded on The Ten Principles: radical inclusion, self-reliance, self-expression, community cooperation, civic responsibility, gifting, decommodification, participation, immediacy, and leaving no trace. This temporary city is constructed in the Black Rock Desert, approximately 100 miles from Reno, Nevada, and is devoted to the celebration of art and cooperation. Participants are encouraged to actively share their creative gifts with others, and to hold nothing back.

And a major part of that artistic celebration is architecture. In addition to smaller structures that inhabit the city, every year a temple is constructed on the site. But there’s one caveat about the built structures at Burning Man: they can “leave no trace,” which means they are burned at the end of the festival. It’s a “collective release,” where all participants unite for the sacrifice of the temple—a cathartic act of letting go. Architect Bjarke Ingels and designer Yves Béhar have voiced their affection for Burning Man, and many visual artists, such as David Best and Arne Quinze, have launched major careers there.

This year the sacrifice will be courtesy of Arthur Mamou-Mani, the designer of Galaxia (pictured above), and the director of Mamou-Mani, a parametric design firm based out of London.

Burning Man architecture is clearly striking, but is the culture surrounding Burning Man—the drugs and the disingenuity of it all—a deterrent for serious architecture lovers? While most of us have scoffed at least once at the culture of Burning Man, is there anything to be learned about the ephemeral nature of cities, how they constantly change and transform, only to be reconstructed again with a different population? Perhaps, like at Burning Man, all urban design is temporary, due to the constant evolution?

Yes, Burning Man has seemed to devolve, especially when they went from being a nonprofit organization to a for-profit company (Black Rock City, LLC) in 2014, but what can we learn about the movement of people, our purpose as city-dwellers, as citizens, as people who have the privilege to share our gifts with others (something you can do with or without Burning Man). Or maybe it’s just a crazy party with some noteworthy, unique design, and we should not read into it all that much?

To find out, or just to see that temple get burned to the ground, this year’s Burning Man is from August 26th – September 3rd. Get more info here.

By: David Plick

Image via flickr @leiris202.

Three hours north of Los Angeles lies an architectural experience all aficionados must experience: Poly Canyon Architectural Design Village. Reminiscent of Storm King in New Windsor, New York, every spring since the 1960’s, students from Cal Poly’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design in San Luis Obispo, California have competed in Design Village, a contest where students build structures that they must inhabit for a weekend during Cal Poly’s Open House. Design Village is located on a 9-acre property behind campus, a vast expanse of hills and diverse greenspace.

Metamorphosis, 2012 (Source: Design Village Conference: Cal Poly)

Every year there is a different theme for the competition:  from 2008’s “Mission to mars” to 2014’s “Biologics.” Last year the theme was “Essence.” The theme for 2018 has yet to be announced.

Design Village is an evocative reminder that as far as humans go with technology, we cannot be removed from our physical environment.

Biologics, 2014 (Source: Design Village Conference: Cal Poly)


By: David Plick

“Instead we propose a different framing: that of ‘Deaf gain’. What is it that we gain by the experience of becoming Deaf?” –Derrick Behm, Office of Campus Design & Planning, Gallaudet University

Perhaps the greatest difference between architecture and mass-produced design is its devotion to user experience. Instead of plopping down the same exact building in any space, architecture analyzes the topography of the land, the built and natural environment around it, and the use of the space, by whom and for what purpose. There is perhaps no greater example of this than DeafSpace, Gallaudet University’s pioneering approach to designing for their student population.

“Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English.” It is located in Washington, DC, and has an enrollment of almost 2,000 students. Their motto, because they are the only collegiate institution in the world strictly for deaf or people hard of hearing, is “There is no other place like this in the world.”

DeafSpace is an approach to design that incorporates Deaf people’s perceptions of space and how they live in it. After performing qualitative studies, interviewing many students on their habits and preferences, principles were laid out which guided the design of new buildings and renovations. Here are a few of the design principles:

Group Space

Classrooms and annexes are designed with open space between students. In the classroom the tables and chairs are made into a U-shape, so students can visually connect with each other.

Wider Walkways and Ramps

When people of hearing walk side by side, they can be very close together, or not even look at each other, but this is not so for deaf or hard of hearing people. In DeafSpace, walking paths and stairs are widened to give people the needed space to visually communicate.

Also, if there is an option, ramps are preferred to stairs to also allow for smoother movement, so more focus can be placed on visual connection.

Color and Light

To contrast skin tone, blues and greens are used to reduce eye strain. There are more mirrors to allow people to know what’s happening behind them.

DeafSpace is not only an example of how thoughtful design can truly improve the lives of people, but also of the inherent goodness that exists in people. It shows that humans are social, supportive, and thoughtful creatures.

By: David Plick

Fredonia Apartment No. 4, 1963

“Architecture is an act of optimism.”

—from the SCI-Arc website

In 1972, in an act which could be described as revolutionary, or sheer optimism, or both, the influential midcentury modern architect Ray Kappe quit his position as the Founding Chair of the Department of Architecture at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and founded a competing, unaccredited school. This new school (which was its name until they changed it to SCI-Arc) was entirely independent, unbound by bureaucracy, and sought to innovate urban design through unbounded experimentation while maintaining a high ethical code.

Ray Kappe still embodies this paradigm—ethical innovation—in all his work. While he considers himself a modernist, it’s only because he’s inspired by experimentation, rather than the unnecessary, wasteful, and egocentric use of space and materials that some of his contemporaries are known for. Ray Kappe’s designs, from the Benton Residence to the Truckee Public Works Administration Building and Corporation Yard, solidify his importance in the 20th and 21st century canon. But his founding of Sci-Arc cannot be minimized in his importance because this act of defiance in the face of the architecture establishment changed the game and made it acceptable for a whole new generation of architects to think outside the box.

Known for his rigorous and demanding educational model which forced students to exceed their expectations for themselves, SCI-Arc’s alumni include Pritzker Prize Winner Shigeru Ban, the directors Juan Azulay and Todd Fisher, and many designers and artists who have impacted life in Los Angeles and beyond.

The Value of Architecture is very proud to be featuring one of Kappe’s designs: Fredonia Apartment No. 4, 1963, a “striking mid-century modern home [that] represents the best of the award-winning architect’s signature style: clean straightforward design, tall ceilings, floor-to-ceiling glass, a strong connection to the outdoors, and an abundance of natural light.” You can view the complete listing here.

Ray Kappe is an architect’s architect, but he’s also a generous educator and a sympathetic artist whose devoted his life to his environment, family, and to the honest application of his work. The reason why the SCI-Arc website says that “architecture is an act of optimism” is because Ray Kappe is an optimistic person. In his “Ten Most Important Principles of Architecture” the first one is, “Think positively, not negatively.” He’s that special kind of devoted artist who keeps persisting because he truly believes that his work can make the world a better place.

By: David Plick

Once seen as a fringe company, Airbnb isn’t only for backpackers from Berlin looking to party in LA for the weekend. The company, now valued at $31 billion with over 4 million listings in 191 countries, has recently entered the “experience” market, hoping to attract locals and travelers alike to encounter neighborhoods, restaurants, and social events they wouldn’t normally have access to. But there’s another exciting advantage that we see—this access also applies to Los Angeles architectural real estate.

The question may remain: why stay in someone’s house when you can stay in your own?

For several reasons. First, let’s say you’re looking to buy a house in a new neighborhood you’re not very familiar with. Entering someone’s home for a week in Silver Lake or Pasadena, you can get a sense of what it would be like to actually live there (you never know what a commute really feels like until you do it yourself). Or, if you’re not scouting out locations for a new home, you can always take advantage of the “staycation”—that time when you get to feel like a tourist again in your own fantastic city.

I scouted out some interesting Los Angeles architectural real estate on Airbnb, all of which is listed for under $250/night.

Geometric Openness in Silver Lake, $225 per night

Photo from Property Airbnb Listing

With an open floor plan design inspired by Neutra and Schindler, this home, by architect Tom Marble, AIA, is made of custom steel. The hexagonal geometry of the rooms still flow from space to space with lines that may seem harsh but are completely softened by the surrounding colors and Japanese furniture. It’s an elegant, minimal home on the hillside in Silver Lake with amazing views of the reservoir.

Malibu Midcentury Modern, $175 per night

Right next to the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica mountains is this sleek and simple midcentury modern home. There are floor to ceiling windows that surround you with amazing views of the ocean; raw concrete floors yet a warm sense of comfort and hominess.

High Rise Penthouse in K-Town, $199 per night

With panoramic views of Los Angeles this listing allows you to experience life in the sky. This penthouse apartment is in The Vermont, a building which is conveniently located, trendy, and with luxurious amenities, but is also LEED certified.

Minimalist A-Frame, $249 per night

Photo from Property Airbnb Listing

This is such a unique home. It starts off as a simple A-frame but becomes a wild art project. The roof is asymmetrical but there are also uneven lines on the inside. Not to mention large glass walls allow an abundance of natural light.

Sculptural Design in Malibu, $162 per night

This monolith makes you feel like you’re staying in a temple, which is perfect because you’re in the most zen part of Los Angeles—Malibu Canyon.

Remember: you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire or a broke architecture student to experience Los Angeles architectural real estate. With Airbnb, anyone can inhabit these spaces and learn from their experience.

By: David Plick

Seagram Building (1958) by Mies van der Rohe & Philip Johnson

Thousands of people everyday walk past a marvel of architecture, one of the most influential buildings in existence, and they don’t even know it. That structure is the Seagram Building located on 375 Park Avenue between 52nd and 53rd street in Manhattan. It is designed by two of the most famous modernists, Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson.

I was curious how little people knew about the Seagram Building, so I asked some questions. One day while in front I asked someone standing there in a business suit if they knew of any famous architectural works in the area.

“That church over there is super famous,” he said, referring to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“Any famous office buildings?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe that one?” He pointed to a fairly new, Art Deco building across the street.

“How about this one?” I asked him, pointing to the Seagram Building.

“That thing?” he said. “Why would anybody care about that?”

Unless you knew about the history of the architecture, the Seagram Building would feel irrelevant. It’s a black metal and glass box like the rest of the office buildings in Manhattan. What separates it, though, is that it was one of the first black metal and glass box buildings in existence. It set the standard for what is called the International Style.

What is International Style architecture?

It’s no surprise that this would be confusing because, like the style itself, the title is non-descript. International style is basically the design of most modern office buildings you’re accustomed to looking at in America. It’s a glass and steel rectangle (like the Seagram Building). It is made with reinforced concrete. The reason why this was revolutionary at the time was because it marked a dedication to efficiency. Imagine, it’s right after WWI, and architects, urban planners, and builders were trying to work with “less” materials (i.e., cheap) to make “more” (i.e., more space). It was all about getting the most out of the interior space, which was a radical diversion from neoclassical and Beaux-Arts, which sought physical beauty through decoration. International Style, on the other hand, was formal, practical, and eventually, corporate. These architects rejected design elements that weren’t related to the functionality of the building.

PSFS Building (1932) in Philadelphia by William Lescaze & George Howe

If I were to make an analogy, I’d compare it to pop music. When you listen to Sam Cooke or Otis Redding, or Buddy Holly, it’s so soulful, thoughtful and real, even though it’s simple and straight-forward. In its simplicity it’s an honest art form. But, this simple, honest pop music later influenced “artists” such as The Backstreet Boys and Justin Bieber, which was formulaic corporate drivel designed to make money. No soul, no heart, all marketing. That’s what happened with International Style. At first it was very human because it was meant to be used by people, rather than pad the ego of the architect. But then, like any other art form, it was copied and mass-produced, and that was when the formal “corporate” building took over American design.

By: David Plick

In September 2017 there have been two category 5 (Maria, Irma) and two category 4 (Harvey, Jose) hurricanes. This is the most active month for hurricanes on record.

Whether or not you believe in climate change, or that these hurricanes are a product of climate change, a high percentage of the world does, and therefore, it’s having an impact on design. The way we plan and build our major cities, particularly in the Gulf Coasts (but not necessarily just there, since Sandy tore through New York City), must change. Storms are decimating cities and islands, displacing people, and design can help to prevent future crises, or at least the severity of the crises.

Flood Prevention

Architects and urban designers will consider with greater attention the threats of flooding. The flow of water that will occur must be planned deliberately with attention to high-risk areas. They can use the most effective range of measures available to reduce flooding, and attempt to predict and communicate flood risk, while implementing thoughtful and beautiful structures. For an example of an innovative flood prevention design that has surfaced recently, there is this one from Bjarke Ingels’ office, BIG.

Resiliency Rather than Sustainability

The Resilient Design Institute calls resilient design “the intentional design of buildings, landscapes, communities, and regions in response to vulnerabilities to disaster and disruption of normal life.” Since Hurricane Sandy, and especially this past summer, resilient design is a major part of the urban planning conversation. Resilient design is a devotion to preparing buildings for the worst possible outcome.

Incentivizing Downtown Living

A major hindrance to providing aid to people in Houston was the city’s urban sprawl. When people are so spread out, it just makes sense that emergency units would have trouble to reach everyone. Instead of this trend of having sprawling cities like Houston and Phoenix, the city must provide downtowns with a higher quality of life—parks, bike lanes, walking paths, local shopping, high quality schools, etc—to encourage city inhabitants to live in closer proximity to one another. That way when disaster strikes the aid can be more centralized in one place. To assist in this, the city should implement a centralized emergency operation center in the downtown area.

The summer of 2017 was a frightening time period, but it’s certainly not the last string of disasters we’ll see. Cities must be ready for the next category 5, so people aren’t losing their homes and their livelihoods.

By: David Plick

“Stone likes to be on the ground. It gets nervous and unsettled the higher it gets. Wood loves to be high too, because it was once a tree. Wood does not like to be painted. It likes natural finishes. Brick does not like to be painted. It wants to be brick. Lay brick as a patio and it will thank you every time you walk on it. Stucco and drywall love to be painted. They are unhappy and incomplete when they are not. They mate with the paint for life, like ducks and geese.”

Doug Rucker

Speaking to the architect Doug Rucker is an artistic, spiritual experience. At the risk of sounding sentimental, I would say it’s like speaking to a guru. Rucker, whose homes have been on the AIA Los Angeles Home Tour alongside Frank Gehry, Frank Lloyd Wright John Lautner, and company, has a senstive, holistic approach to design. He believes that “good lines make good shapes”, that “a good line starts decisively, goes somewhere, and stops decisively”, and that “nail on windows are a way of forgetting architecture.” He is a man of convictions, and he applies these convictions wholly and unapologetically to his houses, which have brought joy and comfort to many in Southern California.

Like any guru, Doug Rucker is much deeper than his career accomplishments. In addition to being an accomplished midcentury modern architect, he’s published ten books, has had art galleries featuring his photography, was an improvisational dancer, and a singer in a renaissance group. The Value of Architecture had the privilege of speaking to him about his upcoming book My Midcentury, his approach to designing houses, art, photography, and how all these different art forms construct the fabric of his life.

TVOA: As much as you’re an accomplished architect, you’re also a writer with ten books, and an artist, a dancer and singer. How do these different art forms influence one another? How are your artistic processes similar?

Doug Rucker: I do have a strong background in art. I had the privilege of studying at the Chicago Art Institute. At the architecture school at the University of Illinois we studied art two days a week for four and a half years. Recently, since my retirement, I’ve had my abstract photography in about 100 art shows. I love shooting photos of junk I pick up on the highway: background junk, foreground junk, things that are shiny and reflect light. I photograph the junk in boxes and have shadows move across them.

I’d say that all these art forms are related in that I have a mind that looks to make things completely different. I love improvisational dance. When you get in the habit of improvising, you can do it in any artistic activity.

Curiosity is another thing. I could tell you a quick story. Years ago I almost had a small stroke. It’s called a transient ischemic attack, which is when a small blood vessel in your brain breaks. I wasn’t affected in my thinking except that I couldn’t speak, and I couldn’t add or subtract. I was very tired for three or four months. I laid down a lot and I realized reading helped me get my speech back, so I started reading a 700 page book about the history of Russia. I read that whole damn thing. Then I picked up another book and another book. Then by the end of the year I had read about 30 books. I discovered that after 20 years I had read over 500 books: Stegner, Steinbeck, Somerset Maugham, Virginia Woolf, all that stuff. And I found that reading all that stuff allowed me to consider all these different things that I hadn’t before. I read about the cosmos, religion, atheism. My mind expanded.

I think the transferable qualities in all forms, from philosophy to sports, all come down to this curiosity. And you need the passion and the caring and the motivation to keep learning. That’s the connection between all those things.

TVOA: You mentioned improvisation before. How do you use improvisation in architecture?

Doug Rucker: Any kind of creation is improvisational. In architecture it comes out in the way the architect uses ingenuity to find solutions to problems that arise while building the house. In another sense though, improvisation doesn’t come into play because there are many rules you have to stick to. They have to do with truthfulness and integrity. There are also zoning laws and building codes. Also, the house can’t be so hard to build. Finding a way to make the house work with the rules, though, involves improvisation.

In one sense, architecture is all improvisation. In others, it’s just common sense and logic. For example, the driveway in a house should be close to the door to the kitchen. That way you don’t have to walk so far to carry your groceries. That’s just logic. If an architect finds a way to be improvisational and come up with something original amidst all the rules and regulations, that’s a form of genius right there.

You have to know what the contractor needs, the building department needs, the client needs. And most important: how you want to live your life.

TVOA: What are some problems you see arise in contemporary architecture?

Doug Rucker: There’s been this question of whether or not architecture should be economical or not. Frank Gehry, of course, designs innovative structures with curves and angles, but it doesn’t fit. It’s hard to build and not economical. It doesn’t take into account heating ducts, or economy of any kind. It’s a big waste of money.

I think it’s sacrilegious to see two or three people living in a 20,000 square foot house today. It’s one of the reasons why we have global warming. We have 3 billion people living underneath the poverty level, who don’t have access to water or electricity. How can anyone live in a house that big in this world? It’s horrible. Architecture needs to be more economical than that.

The ego shouldn’t be involved. We shouldn’t be destroying redwood trees or birch trees, cutting down redwood trees to build a house. It just galls me. You have to take into account the world we live in, and the fact that the world is our home. Otherwise, the earth will not sustain itself.

TVOA: It’s very exciting you have a new book coming out. What’s it about?

Doug Rucker: I’ve done about 90 midcentury modern houses, and about 50 remodeling jobs, mostly in the Malibu area, but also in Kauai, Greece, Denver, and Santa Barbara. The book is about what should and shouldn’t be done in midcentury modern architecture.

This form of design had a philosophy behind it. And no architecture styles before it or after had a contemporary philosophy. There was a lot of copying during this time period of colonial styles, Cape Cod styles, etc., but there wasn’t any philosophy behind it. The book is about the role of harmony, the purpose of a house, and the motivation for building a house.

In a midcentury modern, post and beam house, what you see is what you get. We were bringing the outdoors in and the indoors out. We had communication between inside and outside.

The motivation behind it is to make a good house. We live in a house. It’s a home. It’s a place to go to relax. We should love our homes. How can you love it when it’s a piece of junk like a tract house?

Midcentury people wanted to build a good house, and good houses come from what people like. Well, what do people like? As it turns out, they like clouds. They like windstorms. They like soft rain. They like fog as long as it’s not too much fog. They like to see trees and when the wind blows, they like to see the leaves rattle. They like water, not only to swim in, but the sound of it running over pebbles. They love the outside, particularly in California.

By: David Plick

“Climate change did not avoid planning regulations. Climate change did not cause Houston’s population to expand by 40% since 1990. Climate change did not build a chemical factory in a flood zone after politicians lobbied for a delay in safety rules.

No matter what climate change did to the hurricane, a major disaster would have happened. Not from the rainfall or floods, but from the unnatural vulnerabilities and choices which created them. Rather than blaming a natural disaster, we can make individual and collective decisions to live in a hurricane zone without forcing a human-caused hurricane disaster.”

—Ilan Kelman

Due to the severity of Hurricane Harvey and the fact that Houston has no zoning code, this debate about urban design and the role of government in business has escalated. There are those, such as in this surprising piece in Slate, who argue that Harvey’s damage wasn’t affected by Houston’s lack of a zoning code, that this would’ve happened even if zoning laws were in place. Yet this is what Rusty Bienvenue, the Executive Director of Houston AIA, said:

“Some of the criticisms about how Houston is designed are valid, especially in regards to how the reservoirs are designed in the west part of Houston. They were designed at a time when the city didn’t reach that far; now people have built houses in the flood zone. That needs to be addressed.

Though it’s correct to say that Houston doesn’t have a zoning code, it’s not correct to say the city doesn’t have land use regulations. Strengthening those is something that will be done . . .

Katrina was 12 years ago, and I can’t even name all the ones in between. Wake up, people. It’s not a new reality, but it is the reality on the ground now. We will have storms the size of which we can’t fathom, and we need to design accordingly.”

Let’s say something really obvious: urban design and architecture saves lives. It prevents catastrophe in the face of human error and poor choices. For instance, if you sell someone a home in a city for $200,000 less than the market value, would they do their research and find out it’s in a flood zone, or would they be so excited to finally have their dream come true—being a homeowner in America—that they just jump on the opportunity? Or, is it possible that they’d know it was in a flood zone, and do it anyway? Urban design, zoning laws, the “red tape” that conservative journalists like Kim Strassel (who, after Harvey, still boasted of Houston’s approach to urban design) of the Wall Street Journal complain about, saves lives.

Ilan Kelman is a Global Health professor who argues in this Dezeen article for urban design necessities. His article starts to scratch the surface, but more research needs to be done. More compliance needs to happen. Let’s not avoid the issue to make real estate developers and local politicians wealthy.

Here’s a couple of Professor Kelman’s main points of how urban design can prevent catastrophe, but I urge you to read the article in full.

Keep Green Spaces

Having more green space in a city gives the water a place to be absorbed. Trees, grass and dirt soak up water naturally. If the city is designed for the water to reach its lowest point, it can find refuge in a reservoir. In fact, make a park at the reservoir with bike paths and walking trails.

Don’t Build in a Floodplain

Houston grew quickly, and neighborhoods were built by developers. Many of them were either directly in, or next to floodplains. Westlake Forest, Fleetwood and Briar Hills were all in or near floodplains, and the flooding they experienced vastly surpassed their expectations.

By: David Plick

With a net worth of $1.73 billion, which is over six times the wealth of Norman Foster, Miguel McKelvey might be the world’s wealthiest trained architect. He received his bachelor’s of architecture from the University of Oregon in 1999, and moved to New York in 2004 to take a job at Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture. A few years later, he founded a company called Green Desk which provided rental office space in Brooklyn. This company was the foundation for what later became his life’s work—a company called WeWork.

Wework is currently the largest coworking company in the world with a valuation of $20 billion. The company has spaces in 18 countries and most major cities in the world, including New York City, Austin, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Buenos Aires, Tel Aviv and Tokyo.

WeWork’s competitive advantage has always been their devotion to architecture and interior design. With McKelvey as the Chief Creative Officer, WeWork promotes a creative work environment through expressive, comfortable and artistic workspaces. There are open floor plans with open kitchens where workers at various companies can meet, network, and share ideas. WeWork is not only impacting the future of work, it’s impacting the way we live.

The company has led the field in designing inspiring coworking spaces but there are many other innovators, including: Sinergics in Barcelona, Guateque in Mexico City (by the architecture firm, Estudio Temporal), and Palmspace in London.

Miguel McKelvey and other coworking design pioneers can serve as an inspiration to architecture students today, showing that thoughtful design can change the world, but also provide a sizeable living for yourself. Sometimes it just takes a little forward thinking in tandem with design principles to make it happen.

By: David Plick

Sherman Residence, Encino, Los Angeles, CA

Three weeks ago The Value of Architecture had the pleasure to host a Twilight Event at Richard Neutra’s VDL Research House II, a designated National Historic Landmark. It was there where we had the pleasure to meet Sarah Lorenzen, AIA, a professor of architecture at Cal Poly Pomona, and partner at the innovative Los Angeles firm, Peter Tolkin Architects. Sarah has been spearheading the renovation of Neutra’s VDL House for the past ten years, and during the event she shared with us some of the work she’s been doing at her firm. Immediately we became enormous admirers.

This is an exciting time for Peter Tolkin Architects. In the coming months the firm will be breaking ground on a pilot project for the State of California in collaboration with Southern California Edison to test the feasibility of a “Zero Net Energy Building”—a building that is off the grid. The project, currently entitled 245 ZNE, and located near Los Angeles’ Gold Line, will be a small medical office. The firm will test the building’s pioneering features, and report data back to the state. 245 ZNE, which features a fabric façade shading structure, a VRF air conditioning system, and photovoltaic panels and batteries on site to store energy, exemplifies the approach of Peter Tolkin Architects—a firm that is simultaneously scientifically innovative and artistic, engineering and design-focused, yet still process-oriented and creative.

Sarah Lorenzen and Peter Tolkin took time to speak with us about Los Angeles architecture, Richard Neutra, modernism, and the role of narrative in their creative process.

TVOA: Sarah, how has the experience been restoring Neutra’s VDL House?

Sarah Lorenzen: It’s been a highly collaborative process. Marmol Radziner helped us with this pro bono since they have a lot of experience in restoring Neutra. We also worked with Cal Poly Pomona architecture students, and some of it my husband and I did ourselves. The city also came out to help us. The LA Conservancy and Linda Dishman were instrumental in helping us to get funds. We had all kinds of people helping: Neutra’s children, a lot of different preservation groups, many architects, many donors, many manufacturers.

The goal was to follow the interior’s standards of restoration and make sure that everything that was original in the house that could be salvaged was just cleaned up and put in, and anything that had to be replaced was replaced with exactly the same materials. The only thing that we altered were the roofs because they had leaking problems. We replaced them using contemporary high-end roofing technology, and they still look exactly the same on the exterior.

The VDL House is also a lab for our architecture students at Cal Poly Pomona to learn historic preservation and the legacy of modernism, the history of Richard Neutra, and to speak to the public about what architecture is and what it isn’t.

TVOA: Were either of you influenced by Neutra when you began your professional careers?

Sarah: Not really. I wasn’t. My interest in Neutra was circumstantial. Since then I would say that it has had a big influence on me, but I wouldn’t say that I started out with a big interest in it. I came out of, and I’m sure Peter did too, a period of education more focused in postmodernism. It was a different kind of education, really not observing the legacy of modernism, but looking at how to overturn it.

Peter Tolkin: I grew up with a father who I would say is a modernist architect. So I was exposed to Neutra at a very early age, but I also think Sarah’s right that there was a critique of modernism going on when we started our education, and I think it still continues today. At the same time, there was a resurgence recently in the marketplace of mid-century modern in major design publications. I think we’re a part of that, but also with a slightly different relationship. What I find more interesting is contemporary architecture—it certainly absorbs the lessons of modernism but also takes it from a slightly different position.

TVOA: How has midcentury modern filtered into your designs?

Sarah: There are a few things. One of the tenets of midcentury modern is the idea that we should have a more relaxed life, connect the inside and the outside, and maximize the use of outside spaces. Also, the notion of dematerialized architecture—when the focus is on not containing spaces but making the most out of the site, connecting the site to the larger environment. I think those things are particularly relevant in California, because of the climate but also the lifestyle. And I think that remains. A lot of the work we’re doing here connects to the landscape and takes advantage of the site itself.

Peter: There are distinct differences though, between our contemporary approaches and midcentury modern. Neutra’s approach, what he sought to embody, was scientific and economic rationalism. In a way the social mission that’s a part of that rationalism is still really important and active, but today there’s been some questioning of that rationalism. Our work is not purely rational. We do seek to create a sense of openness of freedom with our work, but because the constraints are different in our time period, the designs are different.

Sarah: The formal language the architecture has taken has also changed, and so has the thought process.

Peter: Also, because of technological advancements, digital design, for example, we can build in ways that weren’t possible before. And a lot of these ways aren’t purely rational. They could be expressive. They could incorporate sustainability.

There’s a whole new system of rules now too with current zoning codes and laws. So, the things that were done during the heyday of midcentury modern couldn’t be done today unless you were working in a historical preservation like Sarah’s doing with the VDL House. For example, windows today have to be dual paned, which changes the relationship to the light coming in the house, the relationship between inside and outside. Also, the amount of drawings that architects had to do during Neutra’s period to build a house is a small fraction to the amount that are required today.

Sarah: The other thing about technology that’s a little bit different, particularly with Neutra, was the material palette he used. He purposely used inexpensive, off the shelf products. These are products that are readily available but that could be assembled in an interesting way. The goal wasn’t to make unique products. And in some ways, that’s continued in architecture. But the advent of technology has made people interested in what’s possible, like with new fabrication techniques. Our bicycle shed was an inexpensive, off the shelf product, but it’s also using fabrication technology that allows you to bend the material in a certain way to create a new geometry that wouldn’t have been possible before. It’s not using the product as a raw product, but manipulating it to become a new and different shape, a new extraordinary expression of a material that used to be ordinary.

Bike Transit Center

Peter: We can use tools to do something special, something that’s customized, but not handmade. There are just so many possibilities that architects can explore.

Sarah: Also, one of the goals of modernism was to create a universal language, a common culture and style that modern humans share, a globalized architecture that would apply to all people. It was supposed to be exportable.

To some extent that is still true—we live in a globalized world. But there’s also an interest in saying that architecture is a cultural industry, one that is influenced and inflected, either from resources or artistic traditions, from all different parts of the world. The work in this office is primarily interested in being of the time, being contemporary, but we are also interested in how borrowing from other cultures, not appropriating them, can inflect the design in some way.

Peter: We work towards trying to have some kind of synthesis. There’s no such thing as a universal global architecture. That was what they tried to do with clothes. I think that the best work we’ve done, and are trying to do, somehow does take various influences and internalizes them which comes out in the work in some expression or the way it’s actually made or feels. For instance, an early project where I was influenced by another culture was Saladang Song.

Saladang Song, Pasadena, CA

I wasn’t making a Thai pagoda or lifting a motif and putting it on a building. I really tried to look at how a culture could inflect a building but also how it could transform the way we make it. In that case it was a tilt up building, something commonly used in Southern California back to the 1920’s, but also we used technology, such as using lasers to cut steel, to incorporate patterns into the facade. With those two elements coming together, everything becomes transformed. I think that transformation is critical. In Southern California there is a prevalence of an attempted presentation of some other culture. And it’s just appropriated, but not transformed. We try to be open to all the experiences that happen when you work in a city.

TVOA: On your website you have a section for the stories of your projects. What’s the role of narrative in architecture?

Peter: I don’t exactly know what the role is, but I know that it’s been a way of generating the work on some level. It allows for an entry point to the experience of a building. At the same time, I think that buildings are experienced differently, often subconsciously, as opposed to a narrative in a movie or book or telling a story to a friend. When people experience architecture, they try to untangle it. They start to look at the structure, and there’s a moment when the pieces come together.

The best work transcends the boredom of reading a sentence. It’s something you experience and feel.

Sarah: It’s also our interest in the culture of architecture, the fact that we’re looking at so many sources, so many inputs into the design process. To manage all those inputs, to string these elements together, you need to construct a narrative.

Some architects rely on a coherent style, something that’s recognizable project by project: they’re always white or a certain shape. For us, we’re always taking as many influences as possible, but then for us to be able to manage all those inputs, we need to construct a narrative.

The stories on our website are capturing the design process for the public, but even internally in the design process, a lot of it is about constructing a narrative that will allow us to move forward.

Foyer at the Sherman Residence

Peter: That’s an important difference, Sarah mentioned, that a lot of architects have their signature that they do from one project to the next. This office, by contrast, is more interested in the project becoming what it wants to become, rather than being predetermined by an aesthetic outcome. It causes problems from a marketing standpoint because the client doesn’t really know what they’re going to get. So, a lot of the clients we get tend to be rather adventurous. They have to be wiling to go on a journey. For instance, the Sherman Residence is a ranch style house coupled with modernity, and a new project, the Branch House, might have the same elements to it, but I’d say it’s much more contemporary.

Exterior South View of The Branch House

But if you look at many of the arts, I think there is a logic and coherence from project to project—you just have to understand that it’s a process-oriented way to get to that logic. If you look at different artists, musicians and filmmakers, the story or song might be different, but the way they tell it could be the same.

By: David Plick

Robin Hood Gardens, East London

“In other places you see doors painted and pot plants outside houses, the minor arts of occupation, which keep the place alive. In Robin Hood you don’t see this because if someone were to put anything out, people will break it.”

– Peter Smithson

In 2008, starchitects Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers rallied to save London’s public housing complex Robin Hood Gardens (by Alison & Peter Smithson, 1972) from destruction. The tenement was designed in the brutalist tradition, inspired by Le Corbusier’s “streets in the sky.” While architectural enthusiasts thought it was a historic accomplishment, residents weren’t as enthused with Corbu’s influence, because, as Smithson said, “The week it opened, people would shit in the lifts.”

The attempt to save Robin Hood Gardens from extinction was merely a delay of the inevitable. The demolition is planned for the coming weeks, and this isn’t the first time architect-designed public housing was destroyed due to public backlash. Famously, Pruitt Igoe, designed by Minoru Yamasaki of World Trade Center and IBM Building fame, was demolished in 1972. More recently, 5468796 Architecture in Vancouver had their public housing called “crime in the community.” For decades architects have been attempting to heal the wounds of poverty, but this usually results in it blowing up in their face.

Another starchitect whose largely made his name due to his devotion to affordable housing is the Chilean Pritzker prize winner Alejandro Aravena. His most famous urban housing project, Elemental, consists of two-story half-houses (the other half is empty space—which is a provocative image) that residents help build with simple materials. Like with the previous designer social housing projects though, residents are complaining. They don’t want to build their own house, and they don’t like working with the contractors, etc. Some of them even threatened to go on a hunger strike.

All of this makes me wonder if architecture can solve the housing crisis. All of these well-intentioned, intellectual architects design these structures with artfulness in mind, but what if the people who inhabit them do not have the context to “appreciate” the art, the role that it plays in the city, and the architectural context to understand that this building is brutalist, minimalist, or neo-formalist (could you imagine saying to someone in a housing project, after they shit in the elevator, that they shouldn’t do that because the building is deconstructivist?)? Does that mean, then, since the inhabitants hate it, that the architecture doesn’t work? And is there a way to reconcile the desires of the architects and the people?

Recently, this article was published on how architects planned to solve the housing crisis in London. Here are a few ideas.

Live on Water

With global climate change seeming to have an imminent impact on our lives, perhaps a better idea would be to just get used to living on water. This article has several floating homes I’d gladly live in.

Build on Top of Trains

In New York City there is a series of high-rise residential towers called Bridge Towers that are built on top of highway bridges on I-95 near the George Washington Bridge. Approximately 4,000 residents sleep as thousands of cars pass right beneath them, and they breathe in toxic fumes from the motors. It’s quite a hideous site to see, a massive building on top of a highway.

This idea, though, seems far more practical. Benjamin Marks suggests that London builds on top of their underground system which would allow for 53,000 homes.

Hostel Lifestyle

Didn’t we all love when we backpacked through Europe in our early 20’s, living out of our backpack and meeting all kinds of interesting people? Well, how about doing that for the rest of your life? For those who are excited by that idea, there is Y:Cube by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. These are modular unit 26m² one-bed studios for single occupancy. The units can be plugged and unplugged to conserve energy. Units can be added and taken away as needed.

In 1990 in New York City there were approximately 20,000 homeless people, and this number has risen to around 62,000 today. In San Francisco there are tent camps all throughout the city underneath bridges, in parking lots, next to railroad tracks. The tents have been sweeping across the city so badly that Oakland has sanctioned a space specifically for a homeless tent encampment.

Nobody wants tents to be the answer. But how can architecture solve the housing crisis? How can creative solutions come together in a way that will be accepted by the general public?

By: David Plick

“Your [designers] were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” –Jeff Goldblum

Currently at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in Manhattan is an exhibit called Process Lab: Citizen Design. This interactive exhibit compels attendees to embark on the design process in its most primitive and critical stage through asking yourself fundamental questions all designed to get people to think: what is my purpose?

This exhibit is for the general public, yet we see everyday that it’s so easy for a professional designer, architect or artist to lose sight of that because we can get so wrapped up in the building process. Sometimes the last thing anyone wants to consider while we are creating and ideating, shaping and reshaping our product, is whether or not the design meets its primary purpose. If it didn’t, that would mean we’d have to start over again.

At Cooper Hewitt, they’re forcing us to get back to basics with these simple approaches.

Is your goal to get people healthier by riding their bike more often? Do you want people to read more? This value: family, diversity, or health, shapes the entire approach of the design process.

Take your value, then use it to formulate a design question. This question is what your design seeks to solve.

Now that your question has been formulated, what are the tools you can use to solve the problem?

Write down your process as you proceed.

Decide what to design to solve the problem: an underpass, a warehouse, a plaza, sidewalk or parking lot.

What are the questions you ask yourself as a designer? Do you ever stop to consider if the design is aligned with your values?

By: David Plick

Do you remember that scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day when teenage John Connor is driving his mini-sport motorcycle only to become chased by the T-1000 in a Mack truck? Young Connor, thinking he can lose his much larger opponent, enters a sparse and menacing concrete area with a tiny patch of water running through it. Then, of course, in comes the T-800, the future real-life Governor of California, on his Harley wielding a lever-action shotgun in his right hand to save the day. The location for this shoot is utterly depressing, a perfect locale for such a morbid and terrifying exchange.

Yes, of course, this dismal place where robots from the future go to murder adolescents is the Los Angeles River Aqueduct.

In recent years though, the Los Angeles River Revitalization movement has made significant progress in changing all this. In 2002 an Ad Hoc Committee on the Los Angeles River was created, and among the most significant efforts to renew the area was the creation of the Revitalization Master Plan – a plan designed at adding value to local communities through the creation of a secure environment: parks and trails, along with environmental restoration, riverfront living and commerce, job opportunities, and increased neighborhood pride. The Value of Architecture understands that the purpose of good design is living with nature, not against it. This revitalization plan marks an important movement in cities—that, no matter what, we must cohabitate with our natural environment and not force humanity’s hand on nature, no matter how densely populated the area is.

The Los Angeles River Revitalization movement has attracted the attention of some of the top architecture firms in the world: Gruen Associates, WSP, and Mia Lehrer + Associates, to name a few. Recently an Archdaily article offered up plans that include sculpture gardens, promenades in elevated parks and walkways, overlooks and cascading gardens, art installations and galleries, bike paths, and eateries. It’s a reminder that the purpose of architecture and design is to improve the quality of life of citizens. It’s a reminder that even the most affluent of cities, there’s always room for improvement.

LA River Ecosystem Restoration. Source: LARiver.org

No matter what the average Angeleno thinks, the Los Angeles River is the first creator of life for the city. For centuries this was the home of the Tongva and, later, the European settlers first made home there. Today, the Los Angeles river flows through 51 miles of urban areas, through the San Fernando Valley, in Burbank and Glendale, Griffith Park and Elysian Park, through Downtown LA and then through some of LA’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods, such as South Gate, Lynwood, Compton, Paramount, Carson, and Long Beach.

The Los Angeles River Revitalization is a vital step in creating a livable Los Angeles for the future.

By: David Plick

One night in 1934, the Oscar nominated director of Shanghai Express, Josef Von Sternberg, stayed up far too late into the evening with Richard Neutra, whom he had commissioned to design his home, because he couldn’t stop speaking passionately about the intersections between film and architecture. This was not an atypical moment, though, in the life of the Richard Neutra. Meetings with Universal Studio executives, with the surrealist director Albert Lewin, with the Hollywood elite of the era—Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, and Mae West—Richard Neutra hardly lived the life of an average architect.

It was in his Strathmore Apartments, now a featured property at the Value of Architecture, where Orson Welles and Dolores Del Rio began their very public love affair. At Strathmore, Neutra could allow his creativity to truly run wild, as he funded the project himself, and used it as a palette for his more avant-garde urges. Inspired by the Pueblos of the southwest and 20th century garden courts, Neutra sought to fuse public and private life. Even though there is the open garden in the center, Hollywood royalty used it as a getaway. The actress Lily Latte told her partner Fritz Lang—director of the groundbreaking film, Metropolis, to never contact her there because it was her refuge.

Neutra was known to have deep relationships with his clients. To them, he wasn’t just an architect—he was their therapist, confidant, and friend. They would open up to him about their personal lives and he would listen, using these conversations as the backbone of his work. Because of these numerous relationships he had, and of course his designs, which live on today, he’s a large part of Los Angeles history. It’s truly hard to imagine Los Angeles without Richard Neutra’s influence.

By: David Plick

Buckminster Fuller – Dome Over Manhattan (1961)

Sometimes ideas are just too innovative for their time period: the first electric car, for instance, came 150 years too early, and if Friendster had waited just a few more to launch, we’d all be “Friendster-ing”. It’s these initial fails that pave the way for their far more successful predecessors. Who knows, though, when these failed ideas will resurface to make an impact on our daily life? This September an exhibition is coming to Queens Museum to show us that, and make us rethink how we always viewed New York City—Never Built New York. Inspired by the A+D Architecture and Design Museum’s exhibit Never Built Los Angeles, this exhibition will chronicle the past 200 years of projected, yet ultimately abandoned projects in New York City. It is a reminder that New York always strives to reinvent itself, to search for originality.

Never Built New York is brought to you by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin, writers for the Architectural Record, The Architect’s Newspaper, and many other journals. The exhibit is designed by Christian Wassman.

One last thing—they need your help! In order to make this alternate New York reality complete, they need to raise $35,000. Currently, as of May 25th, they have about $15,000. Please support this fantastic show by visiting their Kickstarter here.

By: David Plick

Offround Mirrors (Seeing Glass Project, 2013) by Sabine Marcelis

If there’s anything deconstructivism taught us, it’s that there’s always more to learn. This is true in all modes of creation, including contemporary furniture design. Yes—a chair must hold us up, candlesticks must hold candles, and we must sleep at night in beds, but these constraints simply mark a boundary, like the edge of a canvas or the fourteen lines in the sonnet. Everything else in the middle though is where creative minds roam.

These four contemporary furniture designers remind us of this. All of them are accomplished artists and designers—the ones that are pushing the built environment into places we’ve never seen before. Our future lives in their dreams, and after they build, it becomes our reality.

Sabine Marcelis

Candycubes, 2014

Winner of the 2012 Braun Prize, Sabine Marcelis’s integrative and functional pieces create a dialogue between the object and the user. A prolific artist with exhibitions in London, Milan, Dubai, and Paris, she creates in many modes, from furniture to glass objects, and installations. Not to mention, she has collaborated with the legendary architectural studio, OMA. Check out more of her work here, which she makes in her Rotterdam, Netherlands based studio.


Crepido Pedestal Platform

Based out of Germany, Notoria focuses on reshaping the way we view steel. Instead of limiting this dynamic material for raw, industrial aesthetics, Notoria hammers, welds, and paints steel with bright, boisterous colors, creating a symbiotic relationship between it and other materials—wood, copper, and marble. This relationship then is transferred to the user to create a pleasant yet powerful user experience.

Guilherme Wentz

Gambito, 2013

Before starting his brand WENTZ, Guilherme Wentz worked with the Brazilian luxury brand Riva, and won the Brazil Design Award, and the International iF Design Award. Out of his studio in São Paulo, he creates furniture which pushes all boundaries, ranging from pieces that feel ancient to futuristic, minimal to highly decorative. Check out his portfolio here.

Samuel Amoia

Coffee Table of Lapis Lazuli

The always innovative Samuel Amoia found his inspiration to become an interior designer after traveling the world in his youth, and seeing intimately how different ways of life impact how we construct our physical environment. His work has been featured in Architectural Digest, Vogue, New York Times, Forbes, Elle Décor, Wall Street Journal, and NY Magazine among many others. Amoia was also named “one of the Young Interior Designers to watch” from Vogue.

By: David Plick

Winners of the Los Angeles AIA design award and National AIA award, along with many prestigious distinctions and fellowships, Griffin Enright was established in 2000 by Margaret Griffin, FAIA and John Enright, FAIA. Griffin Enight is devoted to applying inventive design strategies to increase the quality of urban life. Their approach is a Los Angeles design philosophy that the city needs—the belief that the movement of the inhabitants and the many contexts of the space must all work symbiotically. With their creativity and devotion to functionality, architecture is created which is breathtaking yet effortless. In experiencing a Griffin Enright structure you may stop to notice its beauty, but it’s also very likely that you wouldn’t because you’ve been swept up by the journey of the space.

In continuing their tradition, Griffin Enright has designed specifically for this site in Encino a stunning contemporary home with a fluid movement that responds to its physical environment. Sculpturally alive with panoramic views of Los Angeles and the Santa Monica mountains, their elegant design is a home to observe and a home to live in. The plans are fully approved, and this house is ready to go. All it needs is you.

By: David Plick

Courtesy of Holger Ellgaard

Before I get to Los Angeles midcentury modern, where did the term “midcentury modern” even come from?

Since movements are rarely named while they’re happening (unless you’re Andre Breton and write a manifesto), but rather, have scholars name them decades later, it is unsurprising that the term “midcentury modern” was first coined by Cara Greenberg in her famous book published in 1984, Midcentury Modern: Furniture of the 1950s. Because of the book’s popularity, and the resurgence of interest in mid-century design, marketers in the industry and the general public started using the term to describe the period of post World War interior, architectural, furniture and graphic design.

Rooted in Bauhausian minimalism and the functionality of the International Style, American midcentury modern’s ultimate goal was comfort for everyone, for the 1950’s middle-class families fleeing cities for the suburbs, and artists fleeing suburbia for California. In architecture there was also the influence from simple Scandinavian lines & symmetry, yet also the free-flowing texture of Oscar Niemayer’s work. In California, this meant square, geometric shapes amidst open floor plans, abundant windows to allow sunlight to stream into the house, and the movement from indoor to outdoor space. It was a square, but it moved, ya dig?

Why was Los Angeles Midcentury Modern so prominent?

While there are many reasons for the rise of Los Angeles midcentury modern, including post-war real estate booms, the influential design trends that led up to it, the weather of Southern California, the Hollywood film industry, the vibe that something special was happening in California, something that widely goes unnoticed, which also happens to be the primary reason for its success, was the presence and influence of the American military industrial complex in the region. As the US entered WWII approximately 60% of American manufacturers of aerospace products were located in Southern California, mostly in Los Angeles and San Diego. All of this wartime production meant a lot of money was streaming into the area—$70 billion in federal funds to be more precise. Los Angeles emerged as a military production hub and the city grew. Among the beneficiaries of US military funds was Charles Eames, who was commissioned to build plywood splints for soldiers, a modification of his innovations on plywood furniture.

Money, time, people, and space (mostly money)—that’s what makes a movement. Trends come and go, but a movement will always come back. Think about it: in any movement, there were just too many of them doing it, too many people that took part and wrote essays, articles, pieces in The New York Times fifty years later called “Why Won’t Midcentury Design Die?” for it not to make a continual impact. It’s true that we have short attention spans and we forget. We also have a tendency to reject what the previous generation loved. But a movement will always come back. Sometimes it just takes a show like Mad Men to remind us that it was all so cool.

By: David Plick

“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.”

― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

In the shadows of one of the most underrated pieces of New York City architecture, the Lenox Health Hospital (formerly St Vincent’s) in Greenwich Village, lies a wonderful new design addition to downtown, adding elegance and a welcoming public space: the NYC AIDS Memorial. Designed by Studio a + i who won a competition launched by Architectural Record and Architizer, the memorial is located in Vincent Square, on 7th Avenue between 13th and 12th Streets and features a distinctive, geometric steel canopy which protects the stone benches underneath. In the granite underfoot, the words of Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself” are engraved. The memorial is an inspiring example of how design cannot only empower people and unite communities, but also create compassion and healing.

Not even a block away from the LBGT center in the West Village, the site is in remembrance of St. Vincent’s Hospital, an important landmark for LGBT communities and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the 100,000 men, women and children in New York City that were lost due to the disease.

Lenox Health, formerly St. Vincent’s Hospital of Greenwich Village

By: David Plick

Last week the Federal Reserve raised the benchmark interest rate for the second time in the past few months. While the Fed raising this rate ultimately shows that the American economy is healthy and growing, it puts pressure on buyers who fear the increase, and perhaps further increases. While interest rates rise, it is expected that incomes rise with it, as a result of the booming economy. But for those of us who are locked into our jobs and not seeing a raise in the future, we are left pondering how we are to benefit.

So how do these rising rates affect buying your Los Angeles modern home?

In order to boost sales in the housing market after 2008, interest rates were brought to record lows to incite people to buy. As a result, many of this generation’s homeowners only learned of a housing market with historically low interest rates. But, the reality is that that was abnormal, and now things are changing. How much will they change though? The truth is, no one knows for sure. Economic forces are complicated and multidimensional. There’s no way of saying if interest rates will go up even higher.

The Good News & Why It’s Time to Buy Now 

For now, data is showing that this last hike of the rates from a range of 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent did not affect 15-year and 30-year fixed mortgage rate loans. But, it is not clear whether that statistic will remain. Also, the Fed’s benchmark rates still could go up further, and if they do, and you’re considering buying, right now would be the time to pull the trigger and buy that Los Angeles modern home, before interest rates go up again.

By: David Plick

Even if you’re not a sports fan, chances are you’ve experienced the designs of Dan Meis, possibly the world’s most renowned stadium designer. His architectural visions have spanned the United States, in major cities including New York at Madison Square Garden, the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Safeco Field in Seattle, and in Las Vegas, Sacramento, Phoenix, and many other cities. Globally, he’s designed throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, as seen in Stadio della Roma in Rome, Saitama Super Arena in Japan, and more recently in Qatar, for the upcoming World Cup games. This past year Meis also moved into designing homes and wooed actress Eve Plumb and her husband Ken Pace with his simple yet elegant model for a modern home.

With all of this work on his plate, Dan Meis needed a respite from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and New York. After travelling the world, it was a short conversation with Brian Linder that led him up the Santa Monica Mountains to Calabasas, where he found a dream home. This same home is now listed at The Value of Architecture, and Dan Meis spoke to us about how this house wooed him, what it was like for him to live in another architect’s vision, and what he did to keep the narrative going.

The Value of Architecture: So what made you first interested in the property?

Dan Meis: It’s a funny story. My wife and I didn’t know Calabasas at all, and I had talked to Brian about potentially moving back to LA because we had lived in the Palisades. Brian asked me if I would be interested living in what is officially Calabasas, because there was a house there that’s really special. He sent me the photos, and I was on my way to the airport, and literally missed my flight so I could come see it and decided to put an offer on it that day.

TVOA: How long did you look at the property before you put an offer on it?

Dan Meis: Maybe 15 minutes? I’ve always loved the Case Study, indoor/outdoor, mid century modern vibe. I’ve had other houses that were similar, but this one has such a beautiful post and beam design, and a lot of it is about the site itself. It opens up onto this acre of protected oaks that create a canopy that is almost like the world’s largest living room. It’s really special. After a quick run through the house and a walk under the oaks, I was pretty sold.

TVOA: It seems like a place where you could really get some thinking done.

Dan Meis: It definitely is. I get a lot of thinking done there. It’s become my office in the woods. It’s not far from LA, but it’s so tranquil there that I get a lot done. I commonly work from home and just do everything electronically from there.

TVOA: How long does it take to drive to Santa Monica?

Dan Meis: It takes about forty minutes to get to Venice on an average day. But you’re also driving along PCH, so it’s not a bad drive.

TVOA: As a successful architect, how is your process in investigating a property different from a non-architect, or layperson?

Dan Meis: I think one of the things that architects do, and this is true for myself and my wife, is we look for a home with provenance. It’s not just another home. There’s a story to the home, and it’s the architect’s job to tell that story. Now, it’s not necessarily a stylistic thing, though I have a tendency to be drawn more towards mid century modern or contemporary. But mainly, I want to live somewhere that has a narrative of the provenance of the home. I want to live somewhere that has some meaning to it.

TVOA: Were you familiar with that narrative and Douglas Rucker’s work before you saw the property?

Dan Meis: I wasn’t, but I quickly got a sense of it, and absorbed it. Douglas Rucker is a well-known Malibu architect, and he did a few homes with a similar style. And he was a very interesting guy in general. For me, all of those components combined to tell the story of this house. And I loved being a part of that, an architect living in another architect’s vision.

TVOA: And you did some renovations on the house. How did you continue the narrative?

Dan Meis: Luckily, the former owner had it for thirty years and took great care of it, so not a lot of things were necessary, but we did a few updates. Part of it is the functionality of how people live differently. The former owner had a lot of carpeting, so the first thing we did was put in a lot of hardwood floors. But we looked for a flooring that was very deep in color because of the color of the structure itself. Also, the flooring has a worn, aged look to it. And I built in shelves for my somewhat unnaturally large book collection. Every time I move I have to figure out a way to make the books part of the architecture.

We also renovated the bathrooms and made it much more contemporary. We put in subway tiles, and a lot of marble which contrasts the deep, dark colors of the structure beautifully. I like the idea that houses evolve much like buildings evolve. This happens in my work too. For example, if I work on a stadium that was built 100 years ago, I don’t try to recreate it entirely. I draw from the history, and also update it to have the modern amenities of a modem stadium.

TVOA: Is there a difference in the way you design in your personal life compared to your professional life?

Dan Meis: No, I think they cross over a lot. I may not have the budget my clients do—we may have to be more clever about what we do and what materials we use—but I think it’s a similar eye. I like things simple, functional, clean with durable materials–things that are easy to maintain. I like a darker palette.

It’s all influenced by California modernism. I grew up in Colorado actually, but the only textbooks that existed on drafting or architectural drawings were about mid century modern, the case study program, all in California. I was always influenced by stone materials that ran from the living room all the way to the patio, wood used in a contemporary way, flat roofs, square windows. That influence carries through in all the work I do, both personally and professionally.

By: David Plick

From Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West to Zaha Hadid’s London Loft and Philip Johnson’s home in New Canaan, Connecticut, we always have this fascination with the inner lives of artists. Of course, we’ve seen the work that they produced for their clients, where we recognize that a great deal of collaboration and compromise (sometimes begrudgingly) have been made during the design process. But what would they do if they had complete creative control, because they were simultaneously the architect and the client? That’s what we have here with Morris Bolter’s LA Mid Century modern (1966) near Lake Hollywood Park, which he built for himself and his family.

LA Mid Century Modern: Morris Bolter, 1966

Morris Bolter’s open plan design comes with gorgeous views of mountains and the Hollywood sign that can be seen from the Zen fountain. Architectural Digest called this LA mid century modern Bauhausian, and with the simple, elegant line, it’s clear why.

By: David Plick

Detroit native William Baker, founder of LAModernHome, moved to California from Chicago in 2005 after his international design company relocated him to the West Coast. After a short stint in Newport Beach, William landed in Los Angeles and immediately felt at home amongst the eclectic modern real estate, diverse cultures, art, music, food, and fashion of the most contemporary city on Earth. Because of his background in design, William has also always been inspired by architecture, most specifically, the famous mid-century modern homes of Los Angeles. In 2006, William bought his own mid-century modern (1962, John L. Pugsley, AIA) in Montecito Heights with Deasy/Penner as his agent. Excited by this process with Deasy/Penner and the energy in Los Angeles’ design scene, William joined Deasy/Penner as a partner, opening up his own office in LA’s legendary Silverlake neighborhood. Today, William brings that same level of design knowledge and sensibility as he represents buyers and sellers of architectural real estate throughout Los Angeles.

Similarly to the properties that LAModernHome and The Value of Architecture represent, William and Brian bring their own integrity, for both design and business, to the process. They both understand that buying a home is often the single-most relevant financial purchase in a person’s life, and they are sensitive to the needs of the buyer or seller, recognizing that this is a delicate time for them. William is inspired by LAModernHome’s alliance with The Value of Architecture, and the thoughtful service that these companies can give to the people of Los Angeles.

The Value of Architecture: So how’d you become interested in architecture?

William Baker: When I moved to LA from Chicago, where I had lived in a downtown Wrigleyville loft with a beautiful, modern design, I realized I always had an urban design focus to my aesthetic naturally. When moving to LA I discovered this new magazine Dwell, and saw that Los Angeles had the most pedigreed architectural property in the world. After that I was hooked, and started attending home tours, seeking out Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, Gregory Ain, Cliff May and others.

Additionally, I quickly learned that you can’t buy as much property in LA as in Chicago. The great thing about mid-century modern though, is its’ great utilization of space, with seamless transitions between inside and out. For example, my house in Chicago was three times the size of my house in LA, but my house here has three distinct outdoor spaces in the design.
Mid-century modern appeals to me aesthetically but also, when it was first conceived, was designed for the masses—something small and affordable for everyone, given that it utilized the space so well. For my own home, because of its uses of steel, glass and wood, and blurring the division between indoor and outside so much, its’ vibe is of a treehouse.

TVOA: Isn’t that everyone’s dream?

William Baker: It’s definitely my dream. I love my house. It was designed in 1962 by John Pugsley, an architect who designed several significant homes in the Pasadena area. It doesn’t have the notoriety as a Schindler or a Neutra, but he designed other compelling gems in LA, and then in San Diego. It’s a small house but it feels bigger.

TVOA: How does the design of your home affect your lifestyle, your behavior and choices?

William Baker: I’ve been in this house for more than ten years and every time I come home I’m on vacation; for myself it’s a sanctuary. I don’t like a lot of visual noise and my house reflects that. When I get home at the end of the day it’s just me and my chocolate lab, Bodhi.

TVOA: Do you consider yourself a minimalist?

William Baker: I have been described as such. My house is only 1,500 square feet, so I also don’t have a lot of room for furniture. What I do have though, is nice—I like quality furniture, from my experience working in high-end interiors for such a long time. But I recently purchased a great turntable so I’m getting back into vinyl. Really, the only thing I have is my dog, and a few cars—I’m a big fan of German cars.

TVOA: And you just went through your own renovation. How’d that go?

William Baker: It was great. I wanted to make a commitment to this house; I had the opportunity to be highly involved in the project and make some cool changes. I wanted to make the house more open, lighter in feel and modern. When I first moved in I installed cork floors, which were period-correct, and chose grey walls, which were all pretty dark. In reimagining the space, I instead painted the walls a crisp white and brought in a light grey, bleached hardwood for flooring, and I opened up some rooms. We ended up ordering too much wood and I installed the remaining on one of the walls, which I think give that room a fresh energy. I completely renovated the kitchen, purchased new appliances and put in this awesome Gaggenau stovetop. The process took a great deal longer than I expected, but the good news with that was I had a chance to sublet a beautiful two-bedroom apartment in Venice for eight months. It became a rewarding process.

This house represents all that’s great which has happened to me since I’ve lived in LA. It was the first house I viewed when looking for property here; I saw nearly fifty homes after it, but this one kept drawing me back. This is home. This isn’t a house I’m going to flip. Coming from the Midwest, not truly understanding at that point LA’s values, the purchase was a leap of faith, and I’ve been able to share that experience with others. That perspective is consistent with LAModernHome and the Value of Architecture. It’s consistent with the type of value that Brian and I bring.

TVOA: How so?

William Baker: Our value isn’t just in selling houses. Our value is deeper than that; it is helping people understand how to maximize the selling price of their house; how to design and decorate, for example. Brian and I are involved in the staging of properties before they’re on sale. We both have a great eye and not a lot of real estate agents do. For sellers, that comes into play when we advise people on this, because of our design experience, but we’re also homeowners doing renovations ourselves. I just completed my renovation and Brian is almost finished with his. You’d be surprised how many real estate agents in town don’t own their home. Brian and I don’t just sell it. We live it.

Real estate affects people’s lives. It’s important to recognize as a realtor that in the moment when someone engages your service significant change is going on in their life. At times the change is exciting for them—someone’s getting married or having a baby, perhaps they’re making more money. But other times it’s not a celebration; for other clients, it’s an unfortunate death or divorce.  It requires us to be a steady, calm influence for them. Our goal is to not only give them incredible results, but also a great experience.

We recently were honored to represent the sellers of the 1925 Rudolph Schindler How House in Silverlake, one of the most significant properties in all of LA and produced a record setting sold result of $2,500,000.

We’ve begun seeing mainstream real estate firms now opening their “architectural divisions”. But LAModernHome and The Value of Architectural were created to function as dedicated specialists in the sale of unique, historic and architectural properties.

As Architectural Realtors, our fundamental goal is to raise awareness of the value of good design, and to assist our clients in maximizing the benefits of a design-oriented lifestyle.

By: David Plick

Isamu Noguchi was a citizen of the world. Born in LA, raised in the American Midwest, Tokyo, New York, and Paris, he viewed the world through many lenses. He loved Italy’s piazzas, Mexico’s temples, Egypt’s pyramids, and designed furniture with these inspirations as he sought to construct open spaces for civic life. His connection to people in the present was rooted in his devotion to our universal past.

Currently at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC, there is the exhibition, Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern. The exhibit, showing until March 19th, features an impressive variety of Noguchi’s monolithic basalt sculptures, aluminum sculptures, his Akari lanterns (Akari means “light” in Japanse), furniture, and also the designs for several patents he registered in the United States.

Oaken (Hiroshima Mask), 1954


Cloud, 1959


Freeform Sofa

Akari (70F), 1978
Paper, Bamboo, Metal



Noguchi’s U.S Patents for Akari Lanterns


Stool and Table


Patents for Stool and Table

Black and Blue, 1958-9, 1979-80
aluminum, electrostatic paint, and polyurethane paint

Isamu Noguchi admired inventors over anyone else, and he also admired the American spirit of innovation. He didn’t see a difference between artistic creation and invention, and sought to unify these approaches. He said, “Every American in a sense is an inventor. After all, that’s how America was made . . . We admire people like Alexander Graham Bell. Those are the real artists of America.”

Isamu Noguchi died December 30th, 1988 in New York City.

By: David Plick

Photo Courtesy of InSapphoWeTrust

Boyle Heights is not an ethnically diverse community. Far from it. More than 90% are Latino, and it has been that way for the past sixty years. The median income is approximately $34,000 annually, and the average home costs $397,00, about half the average for Los Angeles County. But with the opening of the Gold Line Metro at the Mariachi Plaza stop several years ago, gentrification is knocking at their door. Even Gloria Molina, an L.A. County Supervisor, said at the opening of the metro stop, “Naturally, these neighborhoods will be gentrified.” And who’s coming? The typical gentrifying culprits: young, upwardly mobile professionals with their cafés, brunch spots, organic food stores, tattoo shops, art galleries—the aspiring artists who are willing to pay a little bit more in rent than Boyle Heights’ current inhabitants, but who also cannot afford neighborhoods like Silverlake or West Hollywood. With the prime location—thirty minutes to Downtown LA on the train—and cultural vibrancy, Boyle Heights real estate is alluring, but is it ethical to buy there?

That all depends on who you ask. If you ask Serve the People – LA, a local political and community organization who systematically combats eminent domain, rapid development, and the displacement of local people, they would tell you it is imperialism. Their site says, “Our communities struggle with the effects of systematic displacement, deportations, unemployment, underemployment, and criminalization of our youth that destabilizes our community and creates a hostile environment for working class families, particularly women and children . . . it is our responsibility to come together and build revolutionary solutions . . . and to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure such a [safe, healthy, and prosperous] existence.”

But if you asked local business owners, whether they are born and raised in Boyle Heights or not, they would most likely tell you something different. In an article in the LA Times, Conrado Herrera, the owner of Las Palomas and Eastside Luv, said, “You always want to have a space for everybody in the community, but we’ve also got to deal with what’s in front of us.” It does make sense that local businesses would welcome a new resident population who’s coming with spending cash in their pockets.

Whether you’re a local business owner or a militant political organization, everyone would agree that the true villain is rapid and mindless expansion—when developers get in there and buy up huge lots of land and start making tacky, eye-swelling high-rise condos (See: Williamsburg, Brooklyn).

But let’s say you’re a non-Latino young, upwardly mobile, middle-class married couple. You want to buy a townhouse where you can live in the upper-floor where you will eventually raise a family, and rent out the bottom floor, or use it as an AirBnb. You love Boyle Heights’ energy, its atmosphere. You want to add to the culture there, not take anything away. Is it unethical for this couple to buy Boyle Heights real estate? Should Serve the People – LA run them out of town with pitchforks?

In all large cities like Los Angeles, neighborhoods have a natural transformation process. People move in, move out, and leave their mark. At what point do we draw the line and say here are the changes we like, accept, and finance, and here are the ones we don’t?

By: David Plick


“It’s a pretty amazing building. It’s a little like a spaceship landed. It’s got this gorgeous courtyard in the middle … It’s a circle. It’s curved all the way around. If you build things, this is not the cheapest way to build something. There is not a straight piece of glass in this building. It’s all curved. We’ve used our experience making retail buildings all over the world now, and we know how to make the biggest pieces of glass in the world for architectural use. And, we want to make the glass specifically for this building here. We can make it curve all the way around the building … It’s pretty cool.”

—Steve Jobs

In 2009, Steve Jobs called Lord Norman Foster on the phone and simply said, “Hi Norman. I need your help.” It wasn’t until 2013 though, two years after Jobs’ death, that construction finally began on Apple Campus 2. Even though it was his energy from the start that got it going, he didn’t even get to see the first bit of earth dug in the site.

Jobs’ spaceship, this new Mecca for technology, will run entirely on renewable energy, and will constitute 2.8 million square feet of office space amongst an 176-acre campus. The space will include 100,000 square feet of gym access for employees, and a 1000-seat Apple auditorium. It looks, perhaps because Steve wanted it that way, like a place of worship, a place of perfect balance and order. I can already hear the echoes of Steve’s name in the hallways—those who knew him personally (both before and after he became humble), those who worked with him, those who only know the legend. He’s their patron saint, their dictator, their martyr. How could he not have a shrine dedicated to his memory?

Apple Campus 2 is expected to be completed next year.

By: David Plick

“If it’s not sustainable, it’s not architecture.” —Joshua Prince-Ramus

Driving down Lamar or Oltorf, it’s very clear that there’s a lot of bad architecture in Austin—those faux-modern apartment complexes that are made to look like California motels with bright orange and aqua blue color schemes; those mass produced complexes where every house looks exactly the same. While developers attempt to use buzzwords like “economical” or “efficient”, we know what it is—assembly line chain houses, about as interesting as a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. On the one hand, we can’t blame them for wanting to make money, but on the other, they rob Austin of its uniqueness and individuality, and thus, we are fully permitted to be derisive, scoff and say we hate it.

Thankfully, if we apply Joshua Prince-Ramus’ definition, it’s not even architecture, because those things are not built to last. I can say this for a fact because I lived in one of those obnoxious aqua-blue apartment buildings, and they were practically made out of cardboard. And if the cardboard started to crack, they fixed it with scotch tape.

Austin is still a perfect location, though, for the slow architecture movement. There’s plenty of space to work with, plenty of money to go around, and plenty of intelligent people with discerning taste. There’s also a distinct culture that emanates off of places like The White Horse, Rainey Street, not to mention the essence of the southwest, of Texas, of Mexican and Native American heritage. All of these combined elements allow for a vibrant architectural and design scene.

And there certainly is one. There are so many distinct, slowly designed modern homes like this masterpiece by Shane Pavonetti:

Like the other great joys in life: food, love, personal growth, architecture is best when it’s done slow. Take Bercy Chen’s work, for example, arguably the best that Austin has to offer. Here is Dan Loe, project architect at Bercy Chen, explaining how the firm elicits a slow architectural process in their projects:

“It’s very tactile—on-site working out the details. No matter how much time you spend on the design side there’s always going to be these elements that pop up during construction that you have to resolve. You have to figure out how the steel is going to meet the wood. It’s this constant process of analyzing and reassessing, and coming up with solutions. And sometimes those are really the best.”

In his recent interview with TVOA, Loe echoed the calls of Joshua Prince-Ramus, that the best design choices don’t happen in the preliminary sketches. They sometimes don’t even happen when the building is first being constructed. They happen when the architect is on-site, with the client, and they both have the time to look at it, reflect, and say, “This could be better. Let’s try this out.” It happens when intelligent people get together and collaborate, which is further proof that it’s impossible to make something to its fullest potential in the first try. It always takes re-drafting, re-thinking, changing. The good news in all this is genius, actually, isn’t natural. It only comes through hard work, discipline, and humility, the willingness to look at your ideas and think they could be better.

By: David Plick

In 1989, Kevin Costner uttered the iconic words “If you build it, he will come . . .” in the beloved melodrama Field of Dreams. Approximately ten years later, these words seemingly became architectural truth when Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao opened, which, highly arguably, saved the deteriorating city’s local economy. It was at this moment, when witnessing the Bilbao Effect, that architects, designers, and planners began viewing architecture as a possible impetus, and not the result of economic stimulus. Kevin Costner and Frank Gehry planted the seeds for this philosophy: build first, work out the details later.

Then came China. In the early 2000s, the Chinese government, sitting on an enormous trade surplus and seeing only greater economic boom in their future, made the decision to build hundreds of urban areas in which hundreds of millions of people would move to from rural areas. They built, and then they waited. But, nobody came.

There were a couple of hiccups along the way. First, it’s not so easy to uproot your life and move to a brand new area you’re completely unfamiliar with—especially when this place is empty with no jobs, and no one else seems to be going. Second, there was this little thing that happened during the construction project known as the Global Economic Crisis.

Most notably of China’s many vacant Ghost Cities, is Ordos, a city in Inner Mongolia, which was the place of Ai Weiwei’s famous Ordos 100 competition. Curated by Herzog and de Meuron, architects from around the world sent designs in a 100-day competition to build avant-garde residences. Today, it’s a few abandoned shells in a vast desert.

Atmospheric modern architecture is compelling and adds value to the quality of life of a city, but is it enough to attract inhabitants and boost local economies? Below is a photo of the Ordos Art Museum, designed by MAD Architects, with its polished metal cover and subtle undulation. Truly a work of art, it was completed in 2011. Yet, this museum has no website. They have no exhibitions. It’s unclear what it’s even doing.


By: David Plick

16001109780_dfc55bd504_bDue to the current political climate in the U.S, it might be as good a time as any to start getting accustomed to, and hopefully appreciate, fascist architecture. Let’s hope though, that our American version will have a little more pizzazz to it, a little bit more Hollywood glitz. For example, on top of the massive, white marble columns, it could say TRUMP in gold, sparkling letters. Instead of a godly and imposing concrete podium with a giant swastika underneath it, there could be gold thrones with the names of our emperor and his heirs and heiresses in neon. Let’s hope that, like the rest of American culture and sports, our fascist architecture will steal from past traditions, then just make it a lot more fun.

Stalinist Architecture

It’s hard to believe that Joseph Stalin could give birth to a school of architecture while exterminating 50 million of his own people, but he managed to make it happen. In fact, there was a new efficient system of urban design being considered in Kiev and throughout the whole country. Stalinist architecture was Beaux-Arts meets Bernie Sanders, a stark and simple realism for the everyman that still sought to let you know that Stalin was a god.


Pictured: Red Army Theater

Thing to Steal: Because of its proletariat roots, there is a devotion to public space. That’s not so bad.

Hitler’s Architect: Albert Speer

Albert Speer was Hitler’s right-hand designer, and a major player in the Nazi Party, yet he claimed to not know the Holocaust was happening (Hello Ben Carson . . .). Many of his grand structures did not get built, but he did make Zeppelinfield Stadium, which, like everything else Hitler wanted was grand, menacing, and most importantly, white.


Pictured: Zeppelinfield Stadium

Thing to Steal: Making a stadium look like a religious monument intimidates your opponent.

Giuseppe Terragni & Italian Fascist Architecture

Giuseppe Terragni was openly fascist, and his design mentality showed. His buildings are strict, rational and straight-forward, and not fun at all. For Terragni, architecture didn’t require creative expression. Instead, he sought logical perfection.


Pictured: Casa del Fascio

Thing to Steal: It makes great use of the space, and we’ll need somewhere to go when all of our social services get stripped from us.

While the designs in fascist architecture vary depending on the dictator’s taste and the cultural values in that country at the time, what unites all of them is their purpose: to unify the people through their collective pride in their nation. In the U.S, with over 2 million more votes going to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, the wretchedness that is the Taj Mahal casino, Trump’s rants against Hamilton & SNL on Twitter, it’s doubtful whether his bravado can amass the same architectural success historically.

But then again, I also never would’ve dreamed that he would make it this far.

By: David Plick

Roof Modern Facade Building Architecture Inside

Los Angeles receives 292 sunny days annually, while Austin boasts 229. Compare this with New York City or Seattle, which has 152 sunny days, and it’s clear that in both of these climates, where The Value of Architecture is based, sunlight as a natural element is a major part of the design process in their modern homes.

Similarly to painters, architects and designers are certainly no strangers to the study of light. Throughout the design process it’s in their creative consciousness, much like the slope of the land, the way the tree branches bend towards the empty space that will soon possess the house. Great architects, from Louis Kahn to Zaha Hadid, have talked about how they are deeply influenced by light.

“Just think, that man can claim a slice of the sun.”
Louis Kahn

“The history of architecture is the history of the struggle for light.”
Le Corbusier

“Wherever I am in the world, my perfect day begins with waking up and heading to the beach or the pool or somewhere I can be semi-comatose. I just wake up and go to the sun.”
–Zaha Hadid

“Light belongs to the heart and spirit. Light attracts people, it shows the way, and when we see it in the distance, we follow it.”
–Ricardo Legorreta

“Architecture which enters into a symbiosis with light does not merely create form in light, by day and at night, but allow light to become form.”
–Richard Meier

“Light has not just intensity, but also a vibration, which is capable of roughening a smooth material, of giving a three-dimensional quality to a flat surface.”

–Renzo Piano

“More and more, so it seems to me, light is the beautifier of the building.”
–Frank Lloyd Wright

By: David Plick


Water and steel. Two natural elements that seem like utter contrasts, which is perhaps why they work together so well. In this Los Angeles architecture spotlight, I’m talking about Case Study House No. 21, designed by Pierre Koenig for the renowned psychologist, Walter Bailey, which was completed in 1959. This property is currently featured here at The Value of Architecture.

The house came about because Koenig was commissioned by Arts & Architecture magazine and their editor, John Entenza, in the Case Study House Program, which was designed to create innovations in Los Angeles architecture through the use of industrial materials. The program was intended to create inexpensive homes after the Great Depression, and also foster dialogue between architects and the general public. Other homes in this program include: Omega by Richard Neutra, Fields House by Craig Ellwood, and the Eames House by Charles and Ray Eames. Case Study House No. 21 is a registered Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (#669).

Koenig’s entry into the program came about when Walter Bailey came knocking on Entenza’s door, requesting a 1200-1300 sqaure foot home for him and his wife. Entenza immediately set him up with the young architect Koenig, whom had been working extensively with steel.

The rest of the story is this:

Simple, straight lines.


Open, expansive design that creates a sense of movement.

Water and steel.

By: David Plick

8267996765_2ef43c308a_bThis article is for someone who just became interested in design and wants to know how to analyze architecture. Maybe you just moved to a big city, or you’re thinking about buying a modern home, or you just started dating an architect. At this point you’re probably wondering what exactly are the criteria for qualifying a building’s value? One option is to speak talkitecture and fake it. But, you’re better than that, so read this:

How to Analyze Architecture—questions to ask yourself:

What is the Building Built for?
Not all buildings should have the same shape and size. So, ask yourself, is this a residential, office, cultural (museum, library), or multi-functional building? Is it a government building (which means you’ll resent them spending your hard-earned tax dollars if it’s TOO nice)? Does the design match the purpose? How will the building be used? Does it seem useful?

Materials and Facade
What materials are they using? Glass, concrete, stone, recycled tires, shipping containers (very chic right now)? Is it clear how the choice in materials was influenced by the building’s purpose? How about the facade (aka, the exterior)? Does it seem appropriate for the building’s purpose? Does it have the client’s name in big, shiny gold letters on the side?

More on its Usefulness
If you really want to know if a building “works” or not, you should speak to someone who uses it, like the elevator operator or a tenant (in fact, it’s better if they’re not architecture aficionados because you’ll get an honest, unfiltered response—for example, if it’s a Gehry building, perhaps an architecture enthusiast would be less inclined to note its negative aspects). How does this person use the building? Are there facets of its functionality that they complain about? Like, is the bathroom in the kitchen? Do you have to go to another floor to access the bathroom? Wait—there is no bathroom?!?!? See what I’m saying.

What’s the Surrounding Area Like? Does the Building Fit In?
So, I’ll start with perhaps the exception to this conversation—some buildings are meant to be “disruptive” (did you see that duck up there?). The whole purpose of that design was to do something different. Now, whether or not you support disruptive architecture is a matter of taste, and I will not debate that here. But, you should recognize if that is the intention when you analyze the building. And if not, see if the building “fits in” or not. Now, I don’t mean that it has to be identical or even close to the design of everything else. But, on some level, it should make sense with the rest. Is it of a similar height, width, girth to he rest? A lot of architectural analysts believe that the scale of the building should match the surroundings and respect the natural environment.

So, this is actually extremely important in analyzing a building. We are deeply affected by sunlight, and a building should be designed with that in mind. In fact, how an architect works with light is what separates a chump from a talent. Ask yourself, how much natural light is there projected onto and into the building? Are the windows properly positioned to let light in? What does it look like when light is projected onto it? Overall, what is the building’s relationship with light?

Human Movement
How do humans move throughout the building? On stairs? Escalators? How do they ebb and flow? Would it be easy to get lost? Do you like walking around it or does it give you vertigo?

Get Inside and Play with the Thing
Buildings, to a certain extent, are machines, and machines were meant to be used. Use the machine and see if it feels good. Remember: Mercedes isn’t the best car because of that symbol on the hood. It was the superior engine that gave the symbol its reputation.

By: David Plick

moma_ps1_ffpDon’t look at pictures on the internet of Meeting James Turrell at MoMA. Just go and experience the thing for yourself.

That’s what I did. In fact, admittedly, I didn’t even know it was there. I went to PS1 last Sunday because I said to my roommate, “What should I do today? I want to do something that’s outside and free.”

She said, “Go to MoMA PS1. It’s both of those things, at least on Sundays.”

First off, MoMA PS1, unsurprisingly, given the organization’s devotion to architecture and design, is architecturally fascinating. They have all these brutalist concrete walls in the front and the building is a renovated Romanesque school. It still has the hardwood floors that you’d remember from 5th grade and those high windows in the entrances of rooms. In the basement you can explore old cavernous heating rooms with exposed pipes that they painted gold. The atmosphere in general is warm and inviting, yet the art is challenging.

Most of MoMA PS1 is currently the Mark Leckey show. But this article is about Meeting James Turrell, so I’ll just leave it at that.

After seeing a bunch of his stuff—it is funny and provocative; don’t want you to think I didn’t like it—I wandered upstairs and saw a door that was shut. There was a MoMA employee there like how they usually stand outside exhibitions, but I had never seen a door closed to an exhibit before. At this moment, I did have a lot of fear, thinking that this had to be exclusive, maybe only for inviteés or staff, but the staff member didn’t say anything. I looked at her and thought of Albert Bandura’s self-efficacy framework—if you believe you can do it, you can do it—and I reached for the door handle. I figured, if I’m not allowed to do this, they’ll say something.

A couple seconds later, as I entered the room, I was transported. Everything that had happened before a couple seconds ago was the past, and was in no way connected to the present. I sat (I don’t think that’s giving away anything) and observed. I saw people—mostly very stylish and from various races and ethnicities, because you’re in Queens and at MoMA PS1—full of joy and gratitude. It was like we could just look around at each other and say, “We all made it here. We did it.” Maybe I’m crazy, but there was a general feeling in the space that we were all so lucky to witness this. It was so simple, so natural. It was one of those things that just had to exist.

I stayed for about 15 minutes and that was the most serene 15 minutes I’ve experienced in a long time. After awhile I left because I felt like I had to, because I needed to give up my space for someone else to experience this.

And that’s what it was like Meeting James Turrell at Moma PS1.

By: David Plick

Through April 23rd MoMA is featuring the exhibition, How Should We live: Propositions for the Modern Interior. The exhibition examines the frameworks and designs that have shaped the various modern environments, from suburban homes to boutiques and shops. They also enter the personal spaces of famous designers such as Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier for perspective on how design legends design their own lives. You can even drink coffee in a rendition of Lilly Reich’s Velvet-Silk Café (1923).

With the global population currently at 7.5 billion and that number expected to reach 10 billion in our lifetime, what we do with our limited space has never been more important. Google responded to this challenge for space by pioneering the open-office movement which has been met with much hostility (like here, here and here, oh, and here). People hate the open office, because, what do they love? Privacy.

But is privacy going to be an option when you’re sharing the Earth with 10 billion other people? At the end of the widely popular article, “Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace,” by Lindsey Kaufman, after complaining throughout the entire piece like a privileged Goldman Sachs exec having to take the train one day because their driver got into a fender bender, she actually diverted her thesis and entered into a new and more likeable argument: instead of an open-office, why don’t we just work from home?

As companies allow for more and more “work from home” models to save space and expenses, this also may provide for a potentially higher quality of life for their employees. But now, all of a sudden, the space that we use for “work” and “home” have become one.

By: David Plick

“If we were to look closely at architecture, it is perhaps one of the least inclusive professions. In a recent Atlantic Monthly poll on the thirty-three whitest jobs in America . . . architects were ranked as 93% white . . . In comparison to other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, architecture has done very little to address how race, racial representations and racial thinking have shaped its own practices and discourse.”

Mabel O. Wilson, Professor, Columbia GSAPP

In 2015, Ta-Nehisi Coates won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction for his memoir, Between the World and Me. The book is written as a letter from Coates to his teenage son where he describes the history of racial violence in America, along with stories from his childhood in Baltimore. Twenty-two years prior, Tori Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature for her novels Beloved, Jazz, Paradise, her enduring contributions to the art form. In visual art, the painters Archibald Motley, Jacob Lawrence, and Jean-Michel Basquiat have left enormous influence and are important to the history of American art. And, of course, it’s too obvious to mention African-American contributions to music because they invented our finest art form: jazz. Amongst all of these groundbreaking contributions to art, philosophy, political & social theory (is anyone smarter than bell hooks?), not to mention hip-hop, breakdancing, graffiti, urban art—the list of African-American innovation goes on and on and on—why amongst all of this, is there still a lack of a historical African-American presence in American architecture? Why are the voices and perspectives not nearly as varied in this form like in many others?

And there’s no sign that it’s improving. In the U.S., 13.3% of our population is African-American, yet in 2014, only 5% of the admitted architecture students that year were African-American. Compare this disproportion to the more represented majors in this group–health and human services, social work, nursing, and early childhood education–and we’re still left with the question: why aren’t there more African-American architects?

When the National Museum of African-American History and Culture opened on September 24, 2016, Philadelphia’s Philip Freelon became perhaps the most important African-American architect in our history. But he is very much in a minority. In fact, the amount of registered African-American architects has virtually not changed in the past thirty years. Why? Watch the thought-provoking discussion on race and architecture at Columbia GSAPP above to get involved in the discussion and work towards an answer.

All disciplines benefit from different cultural perspectives. Diversity is crucial within a field not because it is nice, or fair. Not because it is wrong to not include a group, but because inclusion broadens everyone’s horizons and deepens the competition, making sure the very best, rather than the best within a select group, rise to the top. America, and the world, need African-American architects, so why aren’t there more? And how can we assure more inclusion in years to come?

By: David Plick

800px-adobe_pueblo_revivalThe famous war criminal, rapist, and human trafficker Christopher Columbus first touched “American” soil on October 12th 1492 when he reached the Bahama Islands. Fast-forward 524 years later and indigenous people of the Americas are still routinely discriminated against as federal courts are currently fighting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s efforts to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline which would destroy some of the tribe’s consecrated sites; Native Americans have massive disproportionate prevalence of alcoholism and poverty on reservations; only just this year there was the first Native American federal judge, Diane Humetewa, of the Hopi tribe, and in 2014, only 97 out of 24,989 architecture students identified themselves as “American Indian or Alaskan Native.” Every American knows of the crimes against humanity that European settlers did to native people; along with slavery, it’s the dark spot on our history that we should always be ashamed of, always remember, and always seek to counteract with love.

Slowly but surely, there’s progress—even if it’s rarely seen in the architecture field. Alongside Humetewa, influential Native American writers like Sherman Alexie and Louise Erdich are revered, with an enormous presence in the broader landscape of American literature, in addition to being indigenous nationalists. The stereotype in film, as far as I can tell, of the dangerous, vicious Indian warrior has disappeared; though the more innocuous stereotype of the stoic, wise, magical Native American remains.

In the U.S, the oldest living architecture was built by the Pueblo Indians, with their contribution of adobe designs. Today, this influence still lives in the Pueblo Revival movement, and buildings such as: Painted Desert Inn, Zimmerman Library, and La Fonda Hotel. But overall, Native American architects are widely underrepresented in the field with over 90% of American architects still being white, and most of that 90% being men. In searching for Native American architects there are practically none. The architect Billy Hinton of HKS identifies as Cherokee, and Mike Laverdure of DSGW is Chippewa, but overall, this is a field with an unseen Native American presence.

Why does architecture lag behind literature, visual arts, music, and other fields in its utter non-inclusion of Native American people? What needs to happen to reverse the racism embedded in the status quo? Because surely bringing more voices and viewpoints would only serve to advance the field by allowing for enhanced creativity and openness.

By: David Plick

Just when we thought we had turned the corner and made drastic progress against racism, bigotry, and xenophobia, in comes Donald Trump, Blue Lives Matter, ISIS, the mass shooting at the gay club Pulse in Orlando, and all that noise on the Internet. Today, these subjects are very present in our national consciousness and violently argued about in social media, from people with accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Reddit that we’re not even sure are real (it could just be one angry racist with one hundred accounts, or a thirteen year old who gets a kick out of seeing adults get angry), but we’re sure they do upset others. In the academic world, and the architecture world, these topics can feel somewhat childish, like it’s beneath us to even debate something as ridiculous as racism. But there still is so much bigotry in this world.

And then there’s this—a video called “What Made Me” of architect Charles Renfro, partner at the superfirm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which shows that there’s still so much beauty too. In the interview Renfro describes his experience growing up gay in a small town outside of Houston, Texas. He had been bullied and bullied and bullied, until one day he couldn’t take it anymore, and he said to his mom, “I didn’t want to go to school anymore.” His mom, clearly a wonderful and supportive woman, says, “Well ok. So what do you want to do?”

Eight-year-old Charles Renfro, just a little boy in nowhere Texas, who has no idea that in about thirty years he’s going to design some of the world’s most important structures, goes to his spirit, his instinct, and his future for the answer, and says, “I want to go to look at buildings.”

Show this video to anyone who is facing adversity, has faced adversity. Show them the advice that Renfro says to his eight-year-old self, “You’re really scared, but don’t worry.”

By: David Plick

800px-taj_mahal_atlantic_city_new_jerseyThe following buildings could be bulldozed right now and humanity would only benefit: Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, Trump Plaza New Jersey, Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, Trump International Hotel and Tower New York, Trump Palace, Trump Place, Trump Plaza New Rochelle, Trump Tower New York, Trump World Tower, Trump Tower, not to mention all of his casinos, especially Trump Taj Mahal, which one has to wonder how that even happened.

But, then there are these three. Now I’m not saying these are architectural achievements. They’re no Whitney Breuer, or Broad Museum, or anything Bercy Chen has ever touched. I’m just saying they have a quality. They have an atmosphere beyond grotesque, shiny gold letters spelling out T-R-U-M-P against a rectangular, flat wall of glass. They actually aren’t complete pieces of . . .

Trump SoHo, New York, NY


This building was (and still is) controversial and hated by many, but what building of Trump’s isn’t? The most pervasive argument is that it attempts to disrupt the scale of the neighborhood by towering over all other buildings. I walk this neighborhood often, and while this argument was true when the reviews came out a few years ago, the neighborhood caught up, especially now with Herzog & de Meuron’s 56 Leonard dominating the Tribeca / SoHo / Financial District skyline.

What is striking about Trump SoHo are the skyboxes that protrude from its façade, giving the structure a sense of movement and fragmentation. Much better than Trump’s other buildings which are only pieces of . . .

Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower, Panama City, Panama

Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower

I’m so tempted to do a wall joke right now, but I won’t. This Trump building in Panama is peculiar looking, even adventurous. It’s postmodern and uses its architectural language to express a relationship with itself and its surroundings. It’s also clearly modeled after a vagina. But at least it’s shaped like something, and not just a piece of . . .

Also, the labia flaps opening like that have the function of creating views from all of the hotel rooms in the interior. It reminds me to Bjarke Ingels’ Via 57 West, but not as good.

Trump Palace, Sunny Isles, Miami

Trump Internatonal Beach Resort

In Northeast Miami there are five Trump buildings—Trump Towers (three of them), Trump Royale, and Trump Palace, the tallest—and all of which, add, and do not take away from Miami’s revered MiMo, or Miami Modernist architecture style. These buildings have character, and actually aren’t obnoxious at all. Also interesting to note is that one of the principal architects on the project was José Suarez, who was raised in Miami, trained at the University of Miami School of Architecture, and most likely identifies as American, but who was technically born in Cuba. Perhaps Trump is more open to diversity than he leads on, especially when he can make money off of the deal.

By: David Plick

c6ba13787c807e017c62ce4f19f9becd1473441065Whenever people rate the best neighborhoods in Los Angeles so much focus is put on A) proximity to highways, and B) public schools, but to judge Silver Lake in those terms, this contest would just be too easy. Instead, this coveted prize of Best Neighborhood in Los Angeles (which pretty much means it’s the best neighborhood in the world) is based on quality of life. And while it is true that Silver Lake is not an inexpensive neighborhood, it is also not exclusive. In fact, it’s mid-to-upper-range economic sensibility alongside its bobo/hipster style is what makes it so great. Silver Lake is very accomplished, but it would prefer that you wouldn’t bring it up at a dinner party. Instead, it prefers to sit there under the radar, doing its thing, yet, weirdly—it’s still so close to downtown and very convenient. In fact, maybe we shouldn’t post this article, so it doesn’t become uncool.

So, why is Silver Lake the best neighborhood in Los Angeles?

Artistic Engagement.


While it’s true that not everyone at Intelligentsia is doing something important, and many are actually just pretending while they Facebook, it doesn’t matter. They’re there. They look cool and interesting. They’re doing their part in creating this atmosphere that says, “Go make something.” So you do. Or you don’t. (Because maybe you’re one of the ones that’s not doing anything right now—that stupid nine to five job . . .) But you will. You will.

Bobo, but not too bobo, you know what I mean?


The artsy scene here, where being too well-put together is frowned upon, where the cooler answer to “what you do” is, “I’m a journalist . . .” instead of, “I’m an actor . . .” is all very well-known. But it’s also not too in your face. Because there’s places like this: L&E Oyster Bar. No self-respecting dirty hipster could in good conscience truly claim to love a mignonette.

You go to restaurants, bars, and shops because they have character, not just to be seen.


Mohawk General Store, Red Lion Tavern, Lacausa Clothing, Silver Lake Wine, Dream Collective, Foxhole Vintage, Space Station, Vacation Vinyl, Shinola, OK!

Note: did you see the words Crate & Barrel, Pier 1 Imports, or Home Depot on that list?

No one is too cool to love a beautiful view.


Look at this: mountains, water, rolling hills. Would this ever get old?

Oh yeah, architecture.


Silver Lake has the greatest collection of adventurous residential architecture in Los Angeles. With the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, R.M Schindler, Neutra, Gregory Ain, and John Lautner, a home here sits among architecture royalty. When a contemporary architect designs in Silver Lake they know they’re competing against the best, so they bring their best.


By: David Plick

schindler-chase_house_rudolf_schindler_1922_bThe Value of Architecture is proud to have represented and sold homes this year by two Los Angeles architecture legends: Harwell Hamilton Harris & R.M. Schindler. And on Sunday October 2nd the MAK Center for Art and Architecture will host home tours of properties designed by those two, both protégés of Frank Lloyd Wright, and four other mid-century modern masters: Raphael Soriano, Gregory Ain, John Lautner, and James DeLong. Tickets are $90.

Here are some of the designs that you will see on the tour!

Lipetz House (Raphael Soriano, 1936)

Via flickr by J Jakobson

Via flickr by J Jakobson

Orans House (Gregory Ain, 1941)

Via flickr by Kansas Sebastian

Via flickr by Kansas Sebastian

Jules Salkin House (John Lautner, 1948)


Alexander House (Harwell Hamilton Harris, 1940-41)


By: David Plick

PrintIf there’s anything New Yorkers complain about along with rent, it’s the subway. Yes, it’s one of only three cities in the world with a 24/hour 365/day a year public transportation system. Yes, it’s far cheaper than the Tube in London, not to mention a car payment + insurance + gas. Yes, it brings New Yorkers together as a people, forcing them to share public space, thus further enabling cultural and racial acceptance, the fundamental trademark of New York City society. Yes, it gives New Yorkers something to collectively joke about—such as: “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s showtime!”

But don’t we still just want to murder someone when we hear the words, “We’re delayed because of train traffic ahead of us. Please be patient . . .”?

There’s something else though, that largely goes unnoticed in the subway, and that’s the MTA’s Arts & Design projects—the murals, installations, paintings and sculpture that inhabit stations throughout the city. Subway station art adds atmosphere to the metro, is socially and politically conscious, and sometimes done by world-renowned artists who were commissioned directly from the city. There is so much work to admire, and we should stop and take a look at it. If anything, to take a little break between our complaining.

Here are a few examples of some subway station art, but there are many more.

Station: 8th Avenue and 14th Street, A/C/E and L

Artwork: Life Underground by Tom Otterness


This one is a favorite of New Yorkers. These hilarious cartoon bronze sculptures really take over the station depicting playful yet sometimes disturbing situations, such as an alligator dipping its head out of a manhole to bite a person with a moneybag head. So, what’s going on here? The installation is a parody of Boss Tweed and big money greed.

Station: 50th Street, 1/2 Trains

Artwork: Alice: The Way Out by Liliana Porter

Source: MTA Arts & Design

Source: MTA Arts & Design

As you were waiting for the 1 Train to come did you ever think to yourself, “Wait, is that the Mad Hatter?” Yes. Yes it is.

Station: Prince Street, N/Q/R Trains

Artwork: Carrying On by Janet Zweig


This one is very sad. What the Prince Street subway station is actually depicting is a narrative of 1,200 people who were walking away from the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks. The artwork simultaneously speaks of the people who had to walk from the event carrying things in their hands, but also how New York as a place must carry on. The piece pays homage to those directly affected by 9/11, and is also a testament to the spirit of New Yorkers.

Station: 42nd Street – Times Square, Too Many Trains to List

Artwork: Next Stop, Times Square by Roy Lichtenstein


Lichtenstein’s 6 feet high and 53 feet long enamel mural was a gift to New York City, the place of his birth, death, and most of his life. It’s a futuristic depiction of NYC transportation, something that Lichtenstein loved and believed in. The MTA commissioned Lichtenstein for public art in 1992 and installed the piece in 2002.

By: David Plick

14-chicago-jackson-parkSince politics is dominating our national conversation, particularly as the dust of the Democratic National Convention settles, it seems an appropriate time to start a series analyzing the architecture of presidential libraries. On Wednesday night President Barack Obama spoke to the convention and the rest of the country, urging them to “feel the Bern” and also to “carry her like you carried me.” Amidst this media frenzy surrounding our political landscape, another frenzy is happening because of Barack Obama at the firm, Tod Williams Billie Tsien, Architects | Partners, as they work on the plans for his presidential library.

The Obama Presidential Center will be constructed in Chicago’s South Side, a predominately African-American neighborhood, in Jackson Park, the third largest in the city, which comprises 500 acres. NY-based architects and married couple Tod Williams and Billie Tsien was chosen for the project. They boast a prestigious catalog of work including the American Folk Art Museum, Asia Society Hong Kong Center, the US Embassy in Mexico City, among many others, and also state that “architecture [is] an act of profound optimism.” It makes complete sense then that they would design the first major monument dedicated to our president who said, “Yes we can.”

The architecture of presidential libraries is fascinating. For example, something important to note in the last two presidential libraries—The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum—is that both clearly reflect their presidents’ personality.

Source: Southern Methodist University

Source: Southern Methodist University

Architect: Robert A.M. Stern

Here is W’s library. Notice the strong, cream-colored limestone. It’s stoic, serious; it doesn’t blink when it needs to make a decision. Also, it can just sit there, still and silent and unsmiling. It has a purpose: to be quiet and do what its told.


Architect: James Polshek

Next we have Clinton’s library—now this thing is fun! It’s hovering over the air like a spaceship, like it just wants to take off and fly away from pesky tabloid journalists. An interesting contrast though was the use of glass—the building is more transparent than he was.

The architecture of presidential libraries is a fascinating way to view our nation’s modern architectural and design history. Starting with Abraham Lincoln all the way to seeing the first preliminary designs for Obama’s Presidential Center, it’s a peek into how design mirrors our politics, and how our culture is tied with our physical environment.

By: David Plick

Desks_of_architecture_students_in_the_Yale_Art_and_Architecture_Building,_September_29,_2008It’s July. Maybe you don’t even want to think about how to prepare for architecture school yet, but maybe you do because you’re so excited and can’t contain yourself. You’re going to architectural school, baby, and the future of the built environment lies in the 7” — 10” of the palm of your hand.

Even with all the bunking and debunking of stereotypes on the Internet regarding the professional life of the architect, it’s still easy to fall into the idealist, extravagant mindset as you start architecture school. In fact, this article isn’t meant to deny you that. It’s your right and you should soak it up (before you work professionally . . .) because that’s what being a graduate or undergraduate architecture student is all about.

But for those of you looking to enter with a Zen mindset, here are a few tips in how to prepare for architecture school.

Leave Hubris at Home

The Buddha said, “A man is not called wise because he talks and talks again; but if he is peaceful, loving and fearless then he is in truth called wise.”

10752549794_776db226c2And in graduate school, there’s a lot of the “talks and talks again” variety. Because it’s very common to go into architecture school (or most arts schools) thinking you have it all figured it out, and that you’re just going to get in there and blow everyone out of the water. But then inevitably the first time that student presents their first piece to design studio, it gets torn to shreds—and by “it” I mean their fragile ego. Instead, I would suggest to simply go in with openness. You’re here to learn, to grow, to practice so you can to discover all of your strengths and weaknesses. You’re here to apply what you’ve been practicing, or have been wanting to try, in a professional setting. The first time you get your work torn apart, don’t pout. Embrace it. Welcome criticism and listen to it. Those are the pains of becoming a working artist.

Throw Away Your Smart Phone

Studies show that people spend on average around five hours a day on their smart phones. Also, in 2014, the average person spent 103 minutes on social media. Not to mention all the energy spent and the headspace of thinking about what people are saying, the jealousies, the trying to make other people jealous—all the fear and loathing. I suggest staying focused on what you’re doing. You don’t have to show people your models, your work (start a website/digital portfolio for that!), your interesting life. It’s only a distraction. Plus, this election season is only going to get nastier. You don’t need to subject yourself to that.

Learn How to Cook

If you’re an American between the ages of 18-24, chances are you have no idea how to cook—I’m not talking about Easy Mac and cereal. And today, with the mental and physical punishment you’re going to inflict on your body during school, you must take care of it. Learn how to do simple things: make yourself salad, make salad dressing out of oil, vinegar, and mustard; steak, fish—proteins, get yourself some proteins, STAT! And if you’re vegetarian (totally understandable—it’s art school), soak yourself some lentils! And don’t say you don’t know how to do it. If you can undergo the complex process of designing a hospital, you can watch a three-minute Youtube video on how to make salad.

Come with a Rhythm in Mind, Then Be Prepared to Change It

Know what schedule works for you and your body. Are you a morning person who is productive from 6AM-8:30 while everybody else is still cursing their alarm, their boss, their family, their life? So, get up early and get to work. Don’t feel like you have to do what everyone else is doing in terms of their workflow—staying up all week until a project is done. Find out what pace and schedule your body and mind needs to stay productive. And remember: research shows that taking consistent breaks throughout the day produces productivity. Don’t think that killing yourself and never sleeping is what you need to do.

Bring Your Tools

Of course you know that you’re gonna CAD your ass off—free-CAD, auto-CAD, Vectorworks—but remember that it all starts with drawing, so make sure you have all your drawing tools: pens, drafting paper, scales, bottle of bourbon—all your different paint brushes, canvases, ukulele, tape, glue, rubber cement, paddles, binders, mats, boards, strings, whistles, glow in the dark stars, tent, plywood, Voodoo doll.

Remember to have fun, and that the process in how to prepare for architecture school is personal for all of us. It’s really a wonderful time full of experimentation and personal growth, and you’ll never get it back. So enjoy it—life is never quite the same again after.

By: David Plick

Vitra_Design_Museum-1If you’re passionate about architecture, you definitely had a moment at some point, no matter your level, from beginner enthusiast to Pritzker Prize winner, when you asked yourself, “What the [expletive] is deconstructivist architecture?” (Quick side note: Microsoft Word keeps underlining the word “deconstructivist,” insisting that this word doesn’t exist. Which, somehow, actually makes complete sense). The philosophical movement “deconstruction,” which is where deconstructivism derived, is theoretical and complex enough to understand, but it becomes even more confusing within the context of architectural theory because buildings are literally “constructed” by construction professionals. So naturally when people hear the word they immediately think it’s the process of demolishing a building. But no—that would just be too easy, now wouldn’t it? Because “deconstruction” was actually started by some smarty pants French/Algerian guy named Jacques Derrida in his book Of Grammatology.

So What Is Deconstruction?

Deconstruction is a late 20th century philosophical movement primarily fathered by Derrida. It basically sought to undermine preconceived beliefs surrounding reason and logic (things that previous philosophers such as Kant and the Enlightenment revered). Instead, Derrida argued that meaning, from words, symbols (actually, remember symbols for later—it’s what deconstructivist architecture is founded upon), or whatever, exist because of relationships, the yin and yang between things. Good exists only because of bad; a chair is a chair and has meaning to us (the audience) as a chair because we know what isn’t a chair, etc. In addition, the meaning of a thing changes over time. Today, in 2016, a laptop has a particular meaning and significance but will it have the same meaning and significance in a thousand years? Today, if someone showed you a sword or armor, would you actually think they’re taking that thing into battle? Or would you think they just were into collecting antiques? Anyway, the whole point is that the meaning of anything is fluid, always changing based on context, relationships to other things, cultural attitudes, gender, age, time, and other factors too.

Semiotics: How This Relates to Architecture

First off, let’s define semiotics, a word maybe you learned in college and probably forgot about as soon as the class was over. It’s the study of non-verbal communication, and how we derive meaning from symbols. Now, take this through the same line of thinking Derrida applied to words—symbols take on different meaning depending upon context, relationships to other things, cultural attitudes, time, and other factors too. A classic architectural example of the fluidity of symbolic representation is how classical Greek columns, the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian order, receive different responses throughout history. In its inception Doric columns were considered masculine, Corinthian was feminine, and Ionic was neutral. But hundreds of years later during revivalist periods of architecture, when these same columns were built, viewers responded saying that Corinthian was strong and straight-forward, or in other words, masculine. Same column, different response. Who’s right? This is when we would quote Le Corbusier and say, “It’s life that’s always right, and the architect who’s wrong.”

UnknownSo now, what is deconstructivist architecture? It’s basically saying, “The hell with those symbols anyway . . .” because who knows what they mean? It’s about fragmentation—challenging the idea of what a building or structure even is. So, late 20th century architects like Daniel Libeskind, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Peter Eisenman, and company said, let’s make buildings that sway and wave like they’re being blown around by the wind. Let’s make them bend. Let’s make them interact. Let’s make them human. Let’s make them not only stand out, but disrupt the system. Let’s change the landscape, change cities, and change lives. Let’s make weird looking windows and build staircases to nowhere. Because, what’s a staircase anyway?

And so on, and so forth.

To Review:

Modernism = “Less is more.”

Postmodernism = “Less is a bore.”

Deconstructivism = WEEEEEeeeeeeeEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeEEEEEEEeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By: David Plick

RM Schindler's InteriorsRudolph M. Schindler, or R.M. Schindler, was born in Vienna in 1887. While studying in several prestigious fine arts schools in his native country, he found the framework of his artistic approach with the teachings of Adolf Loos, an architect who espoused the importance of architects focusing on the details in interior spaces instead of ornamentation.

This led to R.M. Schindler establishing his own style that he called Space Architecture—and to visually stunning yet functional interiors like the one you see above in the How House.

Later, after pretty much stalking Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago for several years, Schindler convinced Wright to give him a job, which eventually got him sent to Los Angeles—and thus, the love affair began.

Why did R.M. Schindler love designing in Southern California so much?

The answer isn’t that different to why so many people are attracted to the region—the sunshine—but it’s essential to note how this is particular to Schindler’s design choices and artistic ethos. But before we get to that, let’s also mention that Schindler was a true LA bohemian with progressive views who thrived in the art scene there. He was friends with with many notable filmmakers, dancers, artists, and was, in general, a badass dude.

“The West Coast Has the Sunshine . . .”

Every month in Los Angeles receives an average of over 200 hours of sunshine with June, July, August, and September receiving over 300. Now, compare that with his native Vienna where they receive a maximum of 250 in July with a meager 50 hours in November, December and January. This remarkable difference is what granted Schindler the artistic freedom to design with “space, climate, light, and mood.” Los Angeles is the place where Schindler could truly be Schindler. It couldn’t have happened anywhere else.

He’s So West Coast . . .

When Philip Johnson turned R.M. Schindler down for the 1932 International Style exhibition at NYC’s MoMA, he did the classic west-coast thing and rejected him right back, deciding instead that he didn’t want to conform to any style anyway. Schindler was basically west-coast architecture’s original Tupac Shakur—saying his vibe was way too cool for uptight New Yorkers (he has no designs there).

And also like Tupac, R.M. Schindler died with a lot of artistic life still in him. Designing all the way to his death from cancer in 1953, Schindler had already produced around 150 projects to continue his legacy, of which, is the How House.

This Sunday at 2PM, The Value of Architecture will host the only public open house of the property ever.

By: David Plick


“The object of the ‘Welfare Brotherhood’ is twofold. I want to make the ‘hoboes’ not only better citizens, but better ‘hoboes,’ and I want the public to appreciate what the ‘beat’ is, what his rights are, and how he should be looked upon.”

James Eads How

James Eads How came from a dynasty family in St. Louis. His father, James Flintham How, was the vice-president of the Wabash Railroad, and his grandfather, James Buchanan Eads, designed and built the famous Eads Bridge, which still stands in St. Louis today. Though his family had the means to provide the highest luxuries for James, he always chose the monastic life. He studied theology, and later, while studying at Harvard, attempted and failed at starting a monastic society. Later, he became a vegetarian while a member of George Bernard Shaw’s Fabian Society—a democratic socialist organization with ties to the Labour Party—and went to medical school.

But what distinguishes James Eads How in American history was his devotion to the cause of homelessness. In 1905, How founded the International Brotherhood Welfare Association, which was devoted:

To bring together the unorganized workers.

To co-operate with persons and organizations who desire to better social conditions.

To utilize unused land and machinery in order to provide work for the unemployed.

To furnish medical, legal and other aid to its members.

To organize the unorganized and assist them in obtaining work at remunerative wages and transportation when required.

To educate the public mind to the right of collective ownership in production and distribution.

To bring about the scientific, industrial, intellectual, moral and spiritual development of the masses.

To bring about the scientific, industrial, intellectual, moral and spiritual development of the masses.

How didn’t stop there though. For several years in his twenties, he actually lived as a hobo. He grew out a long beard, traveled around working odd jobs, and attempted to support himself through his own labors. With his organization, the International Brotherhood Welfare Association, How later founded Hobo colleges, conventions, and he started a magazine called Hobo News. Though the media mocked How, calling him a “Millionaire Hobo”, he was dedicated to the cause of empowering migrant workers his entire life.

This is all to say, how amazing it is to be a part of this unique piece of American history. How, a man who lived by a different order than almost anyone, who dedicated his life to something that he believed in, and then, R.M Schindler, who How assigned to design his home (later called the How House) in Silver Lake, a modernist architecture legend who changed the art form in the 20th century. This is some of Schindler’s most inventive work. He applied intricate three-dimensional forms, center-cut Redwood and poured-in-place concrete inside and out; it is striking visually yet offers an immensely comfortable lifestyle.

Commissioned by the owner of the property, Michael LaFetra, Jeff Fink, an architect who has done many restorations of Schindler’s properties, restored the How House in 2004.

On November 20, 2007, the How House was declared an Historic-Cultural Monument by the city of Los Angeles.

By: David Plick

UnknownThe UK shocked the world today as citizens voted to leave the European Union. For reasons unclear: national pride, fear of immigration, fear of European economic instability, just plain ol’ drunk fun—they voted at a slight majority to “Brexit,” and quit a political and economic partnership which sought to create peace, unity, and security through the acceptance of various cultural and social ideas. Now, their Prime Minister has resigned; Scotland may vote again to leave the UK, financial markets around the world are plummeting, and millions of English people are still googling “what is the EU?” So, in the spirit of English humor, the Value of Architecture will give homage to great British architecture and its accomplishments throughout history (while they’re still there . . . ).

Neolithic (10,000 BC – 2,000 BC)


Looking like it would’ve been constructed by obscenely strong children, this early form of Brutalism was just bunch of rocks pushed next to each other. The designers didn’t factor an HVAC system into these structures because “human” bodies were most likely still covered head to toe in thick body hair.

Roman (43 – 410)


Wait—Rome in Britain? But wasn’t that the whole point of leaving the EU—to keep their nationality? That’s weird . . .

But believe it or not, the UK actually is geographically close to other European countries, which is why the Roman Empire did conquer some of their territory, extending into southern England into a province called Brittania.

Well, at least they got some Corinthian columns and Roman baths out of the deal.

Medieval (600 – 1200)


This style of British architecture probably makes the lads happy that they were invaded by the Normans, who ended up destroying almost all of these buildings, but who also, replaced them with much more stylish ones, i.e., in the Gothic and Romanesque form.

Tudor (Late 1400’s – 1600)


So many Henrys. So many mistresses and murdered women. So many bricks and stones, and depressed chimneys and long hallways with tapestries hanging on the walls. Somehow, even amongst all the misogyny, still charming in its own way.

Victorian (1837 – 1901)


The Industrial Revolution gave birth to the modern economy, Charles Dickens novels like Oliver Twist (and the horrid American Upton Sinclair), but also new materials that British architecture could use such as iron and steel. Manufacturing became mechanized, and this was a period of massive growth architecturally in cities like London.

International Style (1920 – Present)


Probably the most vague, non-descript name of any artistic movement in history, the International Style emerged because Hitler and the Nazis blew up so much of London (wait—wasn’t that one of the reasons the EU was supposed to be a good idea in the first place?) they were almost starting from scratch. Because there were so many buildings that had to be built, architects realized that the easiest thing to do was build something that is a square. So that’s what they made, and they called it “functional.”

The International Style was then co-opted by bloody Americans like Philip Johnson after they had an art exhibition at the MoMA.

Brutalism (1950 – Present)


It’s heavy, it’s dark; it’s somber and brooding which makes it look perfect in the rain. It would just rather not be bothered.

How utterly British.

By: David Plick

A special thanks to Kon von der Schulenburg of the fantastic architecture firm Cantrell Crowley in Dublin, Ireland who shared this article and brilliant infographic on urban planning with us.

Cantrell Crowley IG v2 Feb

Year after year, urban planning has changed radically. The building of cities and towns has a multifaceted and complex history. Although urban planning has only been recognised as an urban profession for less than a century, cities all over the world highlight the different elements of conscious design from everything from layout to functionality.

Since the dawn of time, cities have provided protection from outside forces and have been centres of government. In history, during attacks, the surrounding countryside rural community fled behind cities’ walls and fortresses, where defence forces assembled to resist the enemy. With the introduction of modern aerial warfare, cities have become key targets for destruction rather than safe zones.

Consequently, over time, the needs of cities changed. The concentration of talent, economic surplus and the mixture of peoples have allowed for a grounds of the evolution of human culture, from the scientific research to technical innovation.

From Giambattista Nolli to Jean Gottamn, architects have created some of the most influential urban designs in history. Let’s take a look at this infographic that has some simple visualisations of complex planning ideas that have changed how we live.

By: Brian Linder

Via flickr by Susluriel

Via flickr by Susluriel

If you’re in the game to fall in love with somebody, I recommend falling in love with an architect. They’re born with this hyper-intuition where they instinctively understand things without having to put them into words. For example, if you’re upset at all and maybe you’re just not in the mood to show your feelings to your architect, they will probably still pick up on it. They’re just in-tune with the world (and if they love you like you love them, they’ll be in tune with you). They’re easily going see that something is “off” about you.

I’m not saying you’re dating Sherlock Holmes or anything like that. They’re not necessarily going to be suspicious and looking for clues, but it does help to produce a healthy relationship if both people express how they feel—and you can do this with your architect.

What else?

They’re smart.

Architects of course vary in style, personality, but as a general rule, they’re smart. First off, getting into architecture school is very competitive, as is finishing the degree. An architect needs to have the imagination of a visual artist along with math and science aptitude. They’re both left and right brained which makes for fun conversation.

They’re hard-working.

The aforementioned architecture school is a killer with more than 10% of architecture students dropping out of the major before their second year, and over 80% of students never actually registering as architects. Most people do not have the discipline to make it through architecture school, but if you find someone that has, you know they have the ability to be devoted to something—to have a lofty goal and see it through.

They have great style.

Architects have that look like they just finished eating ceviché in San Sebastian. And you can always tell who the architect is in the room: the unkept hair that somehow still looks perfect, drifting across their face; the casual chic, unbuttoned at the top Oxford with a Prada blazer, the thick-framed Corbu glasses. The style somehow is unnoticeable—unless you’re in love with the architect and noticing everything about them—because it’s so effortless.

They’re engaged with the world.

Architects are trained in spatial relationships, how different physical environments affect one another, and how we can use the natural world—these things that grow all around us—as usable materials to build structures to keep us safe. They’re trained to be engaged, to react. They’re like actors in that sense, but instead of responding to feelings in a moment in time, they respond to everything else. This is why they read literature, listen to opera, and love ballet. It’s not because they’re snobs. It’s because they seek to connect.

They love art.

Architecture is a high art form, so it makes sense that architects would engage in other modes: theater, film, dance, literature, etc., and they have opinions on all of these things. Even if they don’t write because they excel more at expressing themselves visually, they’ll tell you what they think of Roth, of Susan Sontag, or Woody Allen. If you asked them to go to the Whitney on a Saturday night, they’d go. And if, on the third date, you asked them to go to an Italian film at your friend’s non-profit, they’d go to that too. During the movie you’d hold hands, and when a tense moment arrived in the story with Italian lovers who have not seen each other in years, your architect would look at you ironically and say, “Tough situation.” You’ll fall a little in love with them at this moment in time.

They love nature.

Since they are innately interested in the use of space, it makes sense that they love nature. They love to notice that a certain species of tree grows in a particular place because of the way the sun hits the earth at that angle. They like to watch the relationship develop between the birds, the trees, the deer, and us. They love going to a state park for the afternoon, hiking, and bird watching. And especially, above all things, going to the beach. They like to sit back and observe. And they’ll have no trouble sharing with you everything they think.

They love Paris.

Yeah, I know, everybody loves Paris, but architects will have specific things they love about it. They’ve been to Musée Marmottan and prefer the Musée d’Orsay to the Louvre. They’ll get an AirBnb in the 19th as opposed to staying at a dumb-looking hotel on Boulevard Saint-Michel, and they love, love, love Berthillon.

They challenge you to be a better person.

They don’t do this consciously. They don’t want you to be better for selfish reasons. It’s just that when you’re around them you want to be better. Not better, like, more successful. But a more disciplined, balanced, decent and kind version of yourself. The you that you want to be.

By: David Plick

Via flickr by CreativeMornings Austin

Via flickr by CreativeMornings Austin

Earlier this morning, the founder of The Value of Architecture, Brian Linder, led a group of enthusiastic and creative Austinites in a tour of a Harwell Hamilton Harris’ Barrow Residence near Mt. Bonnell. Among the Creative Mornings audience, which included many talented interior designers, graphic designers, filmmakers, historic preservation officers, and creative directors at advertising agencies, there was also Chris Krager, the architect and founder of KRDB, whose sleek modern designs are changing the face of East Austin, and Ben Myers, a developer whose commissioned work from Bercy Chen Studios. Brian Linder spoke with me this afternoon about his first time being a Creative Mornings host.

The Value of Architecture: So it was a good crowd this morning?

Brian Linder: It was great. I arrived at about 8 AM, and we had twenty minutes for people to walk around and check out the house. Then I launched into a discussion of Harwell’s life—his birth in Southern California, all the way up to his time studying sculpture at the Otis Art Institute, and how he ended up being blown away by architecture as a sculptural art form because of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, and how he ended up apprenticing with Richard Neutra for years until opening up his own firm.

TVOA: So you really were able to get into talking about architecture. That’s really cool.

Brian Linder: We could talk about a lot of things because there were so many accomplished and creative people there. Another thing we discussed was this really interesting dialogue happening around this time—there was some tension between the Case Study Program, which had been commissioned by Arts & Architecture magazine and was all about that International Style of pre-fabricated, sort of hard-edged, modern. The publisher of the magazine commissioned Harris to design his home in the International Style. And House Beautiful, which was promoting the Pace Setter program, a more organic architecture inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and a return to American regionalism. So, there was this big dialogue around post-war housing. At the same time, the Museum of Modern Art had introduced the International Style in the exhibition by Philip Johnson in the 1930’s. So, during this time period in the 1950’s there were opposing viewpoints, and it was Harris that bridged that gap. He had done the International Style, and then he moved to Texas to become the Dean of UT School of Architecture, and began advocating for the organic regionalism once championed by Wright. The Barrow Residence was born out of this national dialogue happening in the architectural community at the time.

TVOA: That’s great that you could get into the history.

Brian Linder: I consider myself more of an art dealer interested in the art of the real estate rather than dollars per square foot. I’m promoting the artistic value of the real estate. But of these designs, this art, does add tremendous value to the property in the marketplace.

TVOA: Was there any practical advice given to aspiring artists/designers?

Brian Linder: Yes, there was. Fortunately two of my friends came: Chris Krager of KRDB, and Ben Myers, who recently commissioned two houses for Bercy Chen Studio. They shared their tremendous knowledge about Austin history and architecture, and of course Hamilton Harris, but also about their roles as developers and how to bring design to the market and actually make money and not go bankrupt, which is actually a complicated equation. It’s very difficult to hit that sweet spot of building more expensive modern architecture, yet not doing everything you always wanted to do in architecture school, like installing the kinds of finishes that would bankrupt the project. So those guys introduced a really lively discussion.

TVOA: That’s so helpful to get first-hand advice from architecture and design entrepreneurs.

Brian Linder: It was amazing. It definitely ended up feeling like a salon where incredible people could just exchange ideas. It was a great turn out, and I would definitely do it again!

By: David Plick

IMG_1790Currently showing at The Met Breuer, the building which was formerly the Whitney Museum of American Art, is the exhibit, —Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visiblewhich features unfinished works by notable 20th century artists like Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Jackson Pollock, amongst other masters such as Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne, and Manet. This exhibit provokes the question: when is a work of art “finished”? What makes one work “finished” and not another? And who decides this?


What makes this Jackson Pollock painting unfinished? What is it missing?

Pollock Unfinished






How about this Picasso?

Picassso Unfinished







This philosophical question pertaining to the constantly evolving relationship between art, the artist, and humanity—its deeply personal relationship to the artist, but then to the greater society throughout history—has an ironic architectural twist in The Met Breuer. The building, a symbol in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, was originally commissioned in 1963 for the purpose of housing American art, which was seen to be inconsequential and pedestrian at the time. The Whitney represented all of the things about art that the Met once rejected.

But now the tables have turned. And The Met Breuer is an extension of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and will house featured exhibitions and contemporary works that have historically been ignored by the organization. Amongst this conversation of unfinished business, we have to wonder now if The Met is finished, or if they will continue to expand not only in artistic breadth but also physical width and length, throughout NYC.

A Final Note About the New Whitney Building and the Breuer Building:

In being to both the new Whitney by Renzo Piano, and the former Breuer design in the past two weeks, I can tell you that the stark contrast couldn’t be clearer. While Piano’s design looks so light and airy it could fly away to heaven, Breuer’s heavy granite, concrete, and stone driven building looks like it wants to slowly sink deeper into the earth. The new Whitney uses light pine for the floors and expansive ceilings to create further openness, whereas Breuer’s is a slate floor and heavy granite slabs in the ceiling which makes you feel like you’re exploring an obscure cave. Breuer’s building is dark and brooding—an angry, misunderstood, misanthropic artist (Dostoyevsky, if you will) whereas Piano’s is the playful, delightful, whimsical artist (Voltaire or Oscar Wilde, if you will). To say one is better or worse is not only unfair, it’s incorrect and a gross misinterpretation of architecture.

Because the crucial difference in evaluating the contrasts between these buildings is their location—trapped within the enormously wealthy families of the Upper East Side, Breuer’s building is trapped. In fact, as it was the new kid on the block, formerly rejected by the mainstream, it deserves to feel like a misanthropic outcast. With all those rich, fake-happy people around you—all tightly packed together in an urban garbage heap—how could you not be?

On the other hand, Piano’s building flirts with the ocean, and the openness of downtown. It can fly because it has room to take off; it has the space to be free and alive.

Both buildings are architectural achievements, and the Met’s embracing of modernism, both in the art they hang on the walls inside, and the building they chose to put it in, marks a significant moment in America’s artistic history, and the fact that “the times, they are a-changin’.”

By: David Plick

4d0c9227059fafecceed6428fe338b7c1461690172In 1914 modern architecture changed when the Viennese architect RM Schindler made the decision to take a paycut to move to Chicago to become more involved in the progressive architecture scene made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright. Always determined, Schindler, not knowing Wright personally yet still hoping to establish a professional relationship, repeatedly wrote letters to him, even though his English skills were limited. It wasn’t until 1916, when Wright was commissioned to design the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, that he was able to hire RM Schindler to run his office in Chicago while Wright was abroad. Later, from 1920 and on, Schindler’s work, through Wright’s influence, was based out of Southern California, where they established an alliance which changed American modernist architecture and midcentury modern designs, including the Schindler House, Lovell Beach House, and The McAlmon Guest House, which RM Schindler completed in 1935.

The McAlmon Guest House was first built for Victoria McAlmon, a feminist and activist for workers’ rights, and an acquaintance of RM Schindler through their bohemian artistic circle. McAlmon’s brother, Robert McAlmon, was known for his role in the Lost Generation in Paris. He ran a literary magazine called Contact which was an early publisher of Hemingway and Gertrude Stein.

Today, the owner of The McAlmon Guest House is Larry Schaffer of the very popular store OK in Los Angeles. He was gracious enough to take the time to speak with us about his process in buying and restoring the home of an American architectural legend.

The Value of Architecture: Brian Linder told me you bought the house before it was on the MLS. How did you find out about it?

Larry Schaffer: A close friend of mine, Eric Lammers, had been working on this kind of architecture before the recent interest in it. He used to simply knock on doors. He met the owners years ago. When they passed away, a friend of his noticed some activity, people coming and going, alerted him, he alerted me. I told Brian, and convinced the niece who was the executor to sell to me. As Eric’s friend, I would honor the memory of the Johnson’s, the previous owners.

TVOA: What appealed to you about the RM Schindler design?

Larry Schaffer: I am interested in early modern, especially International Style architecture. I was actually always a bigger fan of Neutra than Schindler because his places were purely rational, and Schindler more exuberant. Now that I am living with Schindler, I see his mastery is that he gets the important stuff exactly right, the light, the sense of space, the functionality of the spaces are great. What sets him apart from Neutra is he gets that stuff right, while the sculptural expressive stuff happens naturally. I feel strongly this is what differs him from so many contemporary architects, who are so concerned with self-expression, that they either can’t, or don’t bother getting the critical stuff right before they expend useless budget on the expressive stuff that doesn’t matter.

Light and Space. That is architecture. The rest is a waste of time and money.

TVOA: Speaking of time and money, I understand you did a great deal of renovations on the house yourself. How did you replicate and preserve Schindler’s style?

Larry Schaffer: Schindler spaces are next to impossible to imitate so since the layout of the room (as it was) was so similar to the master bath from the main house, we decided to recreate the master bath down there. I visited several Schindler structures in the area to make sure I got all the details correct. I included 45 degree tile molding, and all other tile details to make sure they were the same details that Schindler used. We moved the shower position, recreated the shape and design of the shower stall from the main house master bathroom, and used B&W tile throughout, which was the manufacturer of the original tile in the other house. All the fixtures are restored, original 1930’s Standard (which became American Standard years later). The faucet is wall mounted. This was not available in the 1930s, so Schindler used bathtub fixtures. Normally the problem is the water simply gurgles out, so I had the original 1930’s spout machined to take a brass threaded insert and put a modern aerator in, so it flows like a normal lavatory faucet. Towel bars are copies from those at the Sachs apartments.

The sliding windows in the living room probably hadn’t operated for decades. There was no such thing as sliding windows in the 30’s, so Schindler devised a mechanism to make it slide, but it was so primitive that the slightest settling made the windows not operate. We just removed all the glass, made the window frames slightly smaller to fit the current size and shape of the opening and replaced all the glass with new laminate.

The floors are brand new. We made sure to use narrow oak, with a mix of white and red—typical of the period was for the mix to be a bit random.

TVOA: All the work you did, and the research involved, is so impressive. Where do your interests in architecture and art come from?

Larry Schaffer: I grew up in Orange County with no culture. My mom took me as a young boy to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. While other people were admiring the architecture, I was just thinking how much I would love to live there. Forty years later, I bought this house, which is about as close as one can get. It pays to dream large. I lived for twenty years in a Neutra duplex from exactly the same year.

TVOA: As someone who is a business owner and buyer of real estate, what is your opinion on buying modern architecture as a means of investment? Is it more of an activity to do because you have a passion for it, or is the profit motive enough of a motivation to get into it?

Larry Schaffer: Ownership of this property is pure passion. I lived for twenty years in a Neutra home and assumed I would never be able to own a place that is as nice. I treat it both as if I will live here forever, and also that I have the place temporarily, for my lifetime, in trust for the future. Everything we do to the house we do for the house, and its future benefit, without regard for value. This is why we just sunk 30k into the guest house, to get it right, for now and the future. Someone doing a financial calculation would very likely have done things differently (and not only spent less money, but not spent the hundreds of hours of time researching to make sure the details and materials are right).

I am sure good architecture represents a great investment. The only calculation here is that the increased value of the home justifies spending as much money as we need to restore it correctly, but that is not the reason we do it.

By: David Plick

001front“Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.”

—Frank Lloyd Wright

Los Angeles is the kind of place that people love to hate. There are the obvious attacks which have become boring—the pretension and exclusivity of the film industry, the traffic, and the superficiality of the people; while on the other side, for the people that love it, the obvious go-to defense is the amazing weather. But for those that live, work, and create in LA, there’s something untouchable, indescribable in the atmosphere. Is it the fact that this is a new and international city that lacks Rome and Athens’ ruins (or even the pre-war buildings of New York)? Or does contemporary Los Angeles architecture come from the west-coast mentality of progressive thinking? Is it the cultural diversity or the film industry that people love to complain about? These are all factors, but there’s still that other thing that people can’t put in words—the feeling, that artistic symbiosis that is created when you put all these crazy and talented people together in one place.

That’s the feeling that Sean Briski, the CalArts trained painter and architect, is describing when he talks about Los Angeles. He took some time to speak to TVOA about his artistic approach and philosophy in the creation of his project at 2358 Silver Ridge Avenue, which hit the market this week.

The Value of Architecture: With exposed steel on the exterior, Silver Ridge feels industrial and futuristic on the outside, yet is also very comfortable and inviting all around. Do you have any architectural influences in terms of futurism / deconstructionism?

Sean Briski: I work part time for Eric Owen Moss, and he is a major influence in my work. Eric has been “disruptive” long before the term became popular.

I don’t often think about the future or the past. I try to recognize the contemporary. For this reason I like Los Angeles a lot. The city is a strong influence because there are so many different points of view that it starts to be unknowable. This makes LA amazing.

The Value of Architecture: What do you mean that Los Angeles is unknowable?

Sean Briski: LA is so geographically large it’s not possible to visit all the neighborhoods. It’s also culturally diverse. It’s hard to get the opportunity to get to know most of the cultures in any kind of significant way. So it is literally & culturally very hard to get a complete picture. The unknown is always present.

The size & space allows it to remain unknown. The lack of history gives more freedom. This is very true for architects.

I don’t know of many similarities between LA & New York.

The Value of Architecture: Something striking both visually and environmentally is your use of found materials to construct the house. How did you select the materials to use, and how much did the materials influence your design decisions?

Sean Briski: The shredded tire is a riff on early greenhouses which were made out of tires. Tires are a waste disposal problem. So, by showing that they can be beautiful in the right context, trash is made beautiful. The window next to the stairs is a display window, and the tires are the display object.

The Value of Architecture: In terms of the design process, did you have drawings for a house like this before you saw the site? Or, did the slope in which the house stands force this design upon you?

Sean Briski: I’m not sure how the site could not be a big influence? The house has four floors because that is what was needed in order to connect the backyard to the street. I would have preferred a smaller house but then there would not be the connection to the backyard. And of course, the view is terrific.

The Value of Architecture: Is Silver Lake still a progressive neighborhood architecturally in LA?

Sean Briski: Silver Lake has gotten very expensive. As things get more expensive there tends to be less experimentation, but Silver Lake is still a great place to live.

The Value of Architecture: You’re a trained painter. How does painting inform your architecture, and vice-versa?

Sean Briski: I was an artist who made paintings. I like art that is very grounded in conceptual ideas. I like art or architecture that that make the common seem unfamiliar.

The Value of Architecture: What is architectural modernism to you? And how does contemporary Los Angeles architecture factor into it?

Sean Briski: Architectural modernism is a historical style that spanned from 1920 to 1960. I’m more interested in contemporary architecture.

There should be many futures & access to be able to choose your future. Currently, choice is a real luxury. In the future I hope this is not the case. Architecture should allow people to do things that are currently not a choice. This is why I put basketball hoops in the living room. It’s about more choices. There are 3 hoops because it’s more choice.

By: David Plick

Zaha_hadid_-_Flickr_-_Knight_FoundationToday’s blog post brings me to the High Line in New York City, a famous elevated park designed by New York’s Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which brought liveliness and energy to this city’s west side. But I’m not here for them. I’m here to honor Zaha Hadid, through watching the growth of the only structure in this great city which will bring her liveliness and her energy, 520 W 28. For decades, tourists and New Yorkers will pass by and marvel at the motion of its curves, how it seems to be coming at you. They might not realize it—but the building is speaking to them. And so is Zaha (even though she claims that her work isn’t “personal”, it’s her art. And now it speaks for her).

I’m a little disappointed no one is here with me. I expected to see candles burning and flowers, other people who wanted to share in her glory with other lovers of work, but I’m the only one who seems to know who she is. People are coming here though, to take pictures. Even in its current state, all raw concrete and guts, windows being hoisted by cranes, the building is piquing people’s interest. I’m sitting here thinking about her, how she pushed forms into sciences it wasn’t ready to perform, how she took the stuff that dreams are made of, and brought it to life, how she infused various forms—brutalism and minimalism with futurism—and embraced technology by using it to advance the art of architecture, rather than having technology simply replace the human elements of design. I’m thankful that her wonderland made it to New York, even though she didn’t live to see its fruition.

520 W 28 isn’t her first building in the US. But, sadly, it will actually only be the second, the only completed building being the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati. Her legacy abroad though, is the stuff legends are made of, at Azerbaijan’s 600,000 square foot cultural center Heydar Aliyev, and Guangzhou’s Opera House, which was completed in 2010.

She was truly a marvel of a human being. The first woman to win the Prtizker Prize, she also won the Stirling Prize, and was selected as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her contributions to the field of architecture. But even further, her contributions to womanhood, to Middle Eastern women, to art, have yet to be fully realized. While us in the architecture world are shocked and saddened to our very core, others may not know who she was. But they will. Even if they don’t know it as they walk past her condos in NYC or her many buildings across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, Zaha is speaking to them. She’s playing with them, sharing her energy.

She will continue speaking to us. That is her power, and hers only.

By: David Plick

Graves_Art_Gallery,_SheffieldSo this blog post is essentially a review of an article The New York Times ran this week entitled, “Los Angeles Art Scene Comes Into Its Own” (more on that title in a minute), and the fact that only the Times would look at the City of Los Angeles with precious, paternalistic, unknowingly dismissive eyes saying, “Aw, how cute . . . Look at them trying to go to college.”

The title is hilarious. First off, what exactly is a city’s “art scene”? Is it measured in the amount of money spent in galleries by big time investors? The amount of museums with ancient Roman nude statues and Egyptian Sphinxes (which only serve to bore tourists)? Or is it measured by the number of artists currently producing work? Let’s say in fifty years it’s revealed that the most important visual artists of this generation were actually working the whole time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Is that not right now the most important “art scene” in the country, and we just don’t know it yet?

If The New York Times is going to treat the second most populated city in the United States, which is internationally known and lauded as a center for fashion, film, and progressive thinking as an adorable place “com[ing] into its own” (like the nerdy kid you root for in a teen comedy), then they definitely are going to ignore Milwaukee, Detroit, New Orleans (two cities that are well-known living destinations for young artists) and the rest.

The article also repeatedly mentions that the art scene is developing in Los Angeles due to oil money, which probably doesn’t sound invigorating to the average NY Times reader. It says that “the Hammer . . . one of several cultural institutions in Los Angeles, along with the Getty Center and Getty Villa . . . were founded on the eclectic private collections of billionaires who made their fortunes in the oil business.” I could just see those high-brow east coasters rolling their eyes at that one. In the meantime, let’s just forget that NYC’s art scene lives off the money of hedge fund billionaires, real estate tycoons, and if you look back far enough: slavery. Is anyone going to sit here and say that great wealth in New York is achieved in the most noble of ways?

“Los Angeles Art Scene Comes Into Its Own” also interviews a couple of artists who recently relocated from New York to LA and hate it. They try to stay optimistic, but are wishy-washy about it—much like any New Yorker is when they move to LA, much like every LA person is when they move to New York. One of them, Jordan Wolfson, is clearly going to go back to New York one day, and the other, Michael Williams, felt “extreme doubt” upon arrival, and also said that the artists in LA aren’t “trying to make something happen here” (which is such a New Yorker thing to think—that everyone else in every other place is lazy). I can’t help but think that this is a biased sample that the journalist chose for the article.

This is all to say: is this article necessary at all? Is it nothing else but more of the same NYC vs. LA, which one is better? Tupac or Biggie? Car or subway? Film or theatre? East coast vs. east coast mentality? Pacific or Atlantic? And then during election times when we feel that sense of camaraderie because, well, we’re all liberals anyway. The bottom line is: some people prefer LA. Some people prefer NYC. You can keep arguing until the end of time, and it won’t matter.

But more importantly, a city’s art scene is too complex to break down in one article. It’s something that just exists within the people. It exists in Korea Town, in Echo Park, in the cafes with local art on the walls, that host poetry readings that only the boyfriends and girlfriends of the poets go to, in the music scene, the stand-up comedy and improve scene, even the drug scene. It exists in artists selling their work on the street, on the walls that are graffiti’d, in the open space where people can share ideas. This, to me, is a city’s “art scene”, and this certainly isn’t validated when The New York Times says so. It just is what it is. And if that means that it’s different than New York, that it doesn’t have boring Roman nude sculptures, or a Van Gogh that tourists take selfies in front of and never think about again, then so be it.

By: David Plick

2000px-Ikea_logo.svgWhether we like to admit it or not, we all shop at Ikea. For certain things, it just makes sense: the children’s bedroom or when we know we’re moving to a new city for a short period of time. Ikea does the work of looking pretty cool without the big price tag. Plus, who doesn’t have fun with the names of these things. “Hey, Honey! Check out this Malm! You won’t believe how much this costs!”

Here’s a list of five new minimalist designs from Ikea 2016:

Nockeby, $1,099







At over $1,000 for a couch it seems a little pricey for an Ikea product, but certainly the sleek and simple design has enormous charm and comfort. Plus, after you buy it, you can get a plate of Swedish meatballs for a dollar.

Lisabo, $129







This coffee table looks like it could be a carpenter’s workbench or an ironing board. The subtle rounded corners and legs positioning at an angle suggest the idea that the table is purposely imperfect. It’s a table meant to be noticed in the room, rather than simply blend in.

Vardagen, $9.99










This is a cool looking apron, and so simple, just a solid color with two pockets in the middle—a great combination of function and form—with three lines on the bottom. The tan straps are also elegant. Perfect for when you’re cooking for a Tinder date or a family gathering.

Barvalla, $12.99










This bathmat looks like it should be hanging in the Whitney Museum. Not only does it look like a Frank Stella, it also is “ultra soft, absorbent, and dries quickly.”

Skogsta, $34.99

Wall Shelf






Their new design Skogsta is hit or miss. For some items the style doesn’t work as well, such as the storage crate or bench. But the wall shelf is striking. The blend of the natural elements and the way the wood angles into itself definitely suggests it would be a good place to put your Anthony Bourdain cookbooks and Aerosmith CDs.

By: David Plick

27200 pchSometimes things in life just come together at the right moment—the right person meets someone at the right time, and it creates magic, whether they realize it at first or not. That’s what happened this year when Ken Pace and Eve Plumb had a friend introduce them to Dan Meis. During their meeting, in which Eve described as “folks just talking,” Dan Meis revealed his passion for this project for a few reasons. First, being widely known for his world-class stadiums and large-scale projects, he wanted to work on a smaller scale, and build a beautiful home in Malibu. Not to mention, Meis told Eve, who famously played Jan in The Brady Bunch, that his first inspiration to join the field came from Mike Brady, the iconic fictional architect and role model father.

This moment is a reminder of how cyclical everything is, how our present is a constant reminder of our past. And also that the best things in life happen when folks just get together to talk. When they build trust through personal relationships.

Through these remarkable coincidences arrives Dan Meis’ design for Eve’s property. It’s a bold, courageous design made in concrete, glass and steel, but one that also offers the utmost comfort through its simplicity and its respect to the surrounding nature. By looking at it, it feels like Meis was inspired by the California dreams of his youth. Now, fast forward a couple decades in the future, and he’s collaborating with a Brady Bunch star and making a future client’s California dreams a reality.

I spoke with the lovely couple, Eve Plumb and Ken Pace, about their move from LA to New York, their experiences in working with Dan Meis, Malibu, and how they’re living their own dream.

The Value of Architecture: So how did you guys meet Dan Meis?

Ken: We met him through a friend in New York actually.

Eve: Kane, right? We met him through Kane.

Ken: He’s a realtor in New York that we met at the Cinema Society, which Eve gets invited to.

Eve: The Cinema Society holds screening of films, and then they have parties afterwards at these really great venues. We ended up meeting Kane there—this guy who had been an actor and now is a wonderful realtor in New York. We told him about our property in Malibu, and he said, “Well, I’ve got this great architect.” And we met Dan, and he was interested in doing this with us. He got us so excited about it, and now is now.

Ken: We had lunch and everyone got along great. We talked about the sensibilities of the project, the pluses and minuses of the land itself. Dan noticed that there’s no one next door, so basically it’s a public beach but with a little space, which means there’s an unobstructed view of the bay. Plus, the waterfront, so he was very enthusiastic about the designs. We gave him a little input about it, told him what we thought about the designs, so there was a little bit of collaboration about it, but what is there to criticize because his designs are so phenomenal.

Eve: I basically said you should do what you think is best. Because he’s so good.

TVOA: When did you guys meet Kane?

Ken: We met him about nine months ago, last winter.

Eve: It’s one of those things where you follow a thread back, and you don’t really realize how it happened because it happened so slowly and incrementally.

TVOA: And it’s great when it happens through personal relationships as opposed to finding someone on the internet. It grows organically.

Eve: Right, because it creates the feeling of trust. You get to know them a little bit and you get the feeling like you should do this.

Ken: We liked Kane a lot.

Eve: And we liked Dan.

TVOA: So also what I’m hearing is that when you hired Dan you actually didn’t know how accomplished he was.

Ken: No, we just liked him a lot. And we liked the way he thought about architecture.

Eve: And that also comes from the trust that developed when Kane said he was good. When we met Dan we only spoke about the project. And Dan isn’t the kind of guy to blow his own horn. He didn’t come in and say, “Well I’ve built stadiums all around the world, so you’re really lucky to have me.” We were just folks talking.

Ken: Also, the design that Dan made is specific to the site. Before Dan was hired we had an architect friend of ours do preliminary surveys of the land—in Malibu there’s a whole lot of diagrams and legal stuff that has to be done before the project could start, so we gave that to Dan. When he designed the house, it was specific to that space, and not like he just took this design that he made and plunked it down somewhere that didn’t fit.

TVOA: Eve, could you tell me about the property itself? I read somewhere you’ve owned it since 1969.

Eve: I was just a wee-child at the time, of course. My mother had a real estate gene. She saw the ad for this land in Variety, and we were looking for a weekend place. It was a teeny-tiny ad that said, “Beach House Available: Sandy Beach.” And that was her main thing—that she wanted to have a sandy beach because a lot of Malibu is wet sand beach. You’ve got beautiful, fancy houses, but you can’t sit on the sand. The water comes up under your house. That was the main selling point for her. So we went out and bought it, and it was our weekend house for many years. It was only a half-hour from where we lived in Van Nuys.

TVOA: How many renovations happened to that house over time?

Eve: Well that’s been odd actually because another fantastic thing about this property was that it was a great rental property. But the people that rent it long-term seem to have the idea that they own it. So they have done renovations—either with or without permission, that we have since had to backtrack and have approved. It started right away with someone replacing the 1950’s formica—the house is from the 50’s—with tile in the 80’s. Someone also converted the garage single-car into a three-bedroom, and someone added a bathroom. So now it’s three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Some renters are a little crazy, but it’s a good thing overall. I think because people fell in love with the house, they wanted to make it better.

Ken: We left the good stuff, and tore out the stuff we didn’t like.

TVOA: How long would the long-term renters stay?

Eve: One stayed for five years, another four years. We had serial long-term renters.

TVOA: So it was never a summer rental for people on vacation?

Eve: No, that’s never seemed to happen. It’s not like the Hamptons where you can make a lot of money off of a summer rental.

Ken: And also the issue of wear and tear. If you rent it out to vacationers, they might invite people over and have big parties. You don’t want thirty people in your house everyday. It’s a good little cabin, and we want to be nice to it.

TVOA: With the new design by Meis is anything going to be kept in the existing structure?

Eve: I don’t think so. I think the idea that this location is really quite wonderful, and it affords the ability to create this amazing design.

Ken: The bungalow was built in the 50’s on telephone polls, so it would need to be updated. I don’t think there’s anything going to be kept. Up and down Malibu though, this house would get noticed as one of the most extraordinary designs in the area.

TVOA: Speaking of the area, what else can you tell us about it?

Eve: Escondido Beach Road is a unique spot in that it does have a lot of sandy beach that hasn’t been eroded as opposed to Trancas where all those amazing trophy houses had to put in rocks because the ocean is encroaching. I think it has to do with the fact that the sand shifts, and in the next twenty years, it will come back, but currently Escondido Beach is still a beach. And it has a lot of history actually, up and down the road. There are houses that have been there since the 20’s and 30’s, Geoffrey’s Restaurant, Paradise Cove where they filmed Rockford Files. Plus, the city of Malibu, which is just a couple miles down the road, has gone crazy in the last couple years with beautiful shopping centers—the whole caché of Malibu.

Ken: It’s a great beach town. A great place to walk your dog and hang out in. It’s also south-facing, so you get less of an issue with storms.

Eve: And the view with the hills behind, and Sycamore Creek right there.

Ken: One other thing, there’s actually a lot of stand up paddle boarding, but there’s also a lot of kayak fishermen because there’s kelpbeds out there that are pretty spectacular. It’s a little niche cove that doesn’t exist in a lot of Santa Monica Bay.

TVOA: What’s the next step for you guys?

Ken: We made the move to New York.

Eve: We sold our house in Laguna Beach and decided to make the move. We wanted a change and New York is such a great city to live in. Not to mention all the real estate opportunities out here. It’s very enticing.

By: David Plick

VIA West 57Yesterday, Bjarke Ingels Group, aka BIG, unveiled its design plans for “The Spiral,” a 2,850,000 square feet, 65 story mixed-use tower on the western edge of Manhattan in the newly revitalized Hudson Yards District in Midtown. As captivating as The Spiral is, it is just one of many projects solidifying the tremendous presence of Bjarke Ingels Group in NYC.

Why is it called “The Spiral”? Because the building features a series of twisting and turning verandas and gardens which spiral down the building, simultaneously giving the structure the effect of fluid motion, and also its inhabitants outdoor recreational space and gorgeous scenic views. The project’s client is Tishman Speyer, the same company that owns Rockefeller Center.

The announcement of “The Spiral” comes as no surprise to New Yorkers and architectural enthusiasts around the world. The presence of Bjarke Ingels Group in NYC is well known, due to their courageous modern designs, which evolve the city’s landscape everyday with every fascinating project they take on.

Here’s a quick peek on how this Danish mastermind is taking on The Big Apple:


Status: Under Construction

That’s the building in the photo accompanying this article. Part pyramid, part spaceship, this residential building is a tetrahedron that lives at 57th street along the West Side Highway. Its design is not only revolutionary, employing cutting-edge structural design techniques to create its funky shape, it also adds to the quality of life of its residents because every window has a beautiful view of the Hudson River (and New Jersey . . .). Most importantly though, the space that is created at the tetrahedron’s center—the VIA Garden—is an open, green courtyard facing the Hudson River, with breathtaking views giving you the feeling of privacy while still knowing you’re in the big city.

2 World Trade Center

Status: In Progress

Perhaps you’ve heard of this one—this is a building that sits amongst a collection of other WTC towers known as the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan’s Financial District.

Here’s how this happened: 

After James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son, didn’t like Lord Norman Foster’s design for WTC2, they handed the reigns (and the already built foundation) over to BIG.

But what’s going on now?

Plans are stalled because the tenants, 21st Century Fox and News Corp, bailed due to high costs. But BIG’s design, with Ingels’ signature stacking boxes and all, still prevails.


Status: Completed

Here, BIG shows that they can not only go small, but they can also have a lot of heart, with their homage to the I♥NY campaign. This 10-foot brightly glowing sculpture was commissioned by the Times Square Alliance, and uses the “natural light” that already bounces around this cultural epicenter to further brighten its 400 translucent LED powered glass rods. It lived in Times Square during Valentine’s Day, 2012, and if people joined hands, the heart beat faster.

The Dryline

Status: In Progress

This is where BIG shows their drive for sustainable urban living. Commissioned by the US Department of Urban Housing and Development after the disastrous effects of Hurricane Sandy, this waterfront park is designed to prevent flooding in all climates, and stretches 10 miles from West 54th Street down to the Financial District, across the island, and back up to East 40th Street. Bjarke Ingels called The Dryline “the love-child of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs.”

NYPD 40th Precinct

Status: In Progress

Imagine humming, “Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do . . . ” as you walk into a modern, Brutalism-influenced police station, something that is a stunning combination of strength, efficiency, and beauty. That’s going to be the NYPD’s 40th Precinct located in the Melrose neighborhood in the South Bronx, a place synonymous with toughness, but which also shows BIG’s reach into the Outer Boroughs, that his designs aren’t only for Manhattan’s elite.

The building is an assortment of concrete boxes stacked, a simple minimalist approach with a striking effect. Let’s just hope that when we go there it’s as visitors, and not in cuffs from NYC’s Finest. “Bad boys, bad boys . . .”

By: David Plick

19765718278_768320a04a_zIn Austin and around the country the “buy local” movement has taken off. But “buy local” has only come to mean buy local food—fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses that people grow and produce themselves in their local garden or farm. Obviously this is a great start, but does it have to end there? Everyone buys local, but then they head to Ikea or Pier Imports to get their chairs, tables, and cabinets. These stores have their advantages as well for certain products, but why not also support local craftsmen, artisans, and designers who are producing beautiful, charming, and sometimes challenging works right in your backyard? They’re making things everyday that you can show in your home with pride, that you can think to yourself, “I know the girl/guy that made that. I know where it was made.” Seriously, why don’t people buy local furniture?

There’s so many reasons to do this, particularly in Austin and Los Angeles, two places that are brimming with local artisan talent. Such as:

It stimulates the local economy.

Studies have shown if you spend $100 at a local business, 68% of that sale returns to the community, whereas if you spend $100 at a big multinational corporation, there’s only a 43% return.

It creates and sustains local jobs.

Everyone knows Walmart underpays and abuses their employees. Giving money to Walmart means you are taking away from local jobs.

It helps cultivate local culture.

Austin and LA have their thing—that thing that is only theirs, that Walmart and Applebees, Bed Bath & Beyond and Pier Imports, can never touch. This thing is special, unique, and you are a part of it.

Best Reason of All: It looks cool.

The only downside to buying from a local craftsmen is that it can cost more. But, like in anything else, you pay for what you get. Local woodworkers, metalworkers, and designers are using higher quality materials and using thoughtfulness when assembling it. They care deeply about their craft, their art, which means you buy a product that lasts decades, as opposed to breaking the first time you move.

And if you’re still not convinced, check out these artisans’ chops:

Michael Yates

Designing and building furniture in Austin since 2003. Michael makes everything from chairs and tables, to cabinets and coffins (Don’t worry, I’m sure you won’t need the coffin).

Adam Young

Adam was featured in our piece, “A Tale of Two Builders.” He’s a woodworker and the brain (and hands) behind Yellow Jacket Social Scene and Javelina.

David Clark

You may know him from his amazing company Kartwheel, but David has had several galleries feature his work, including the Barrel Art Collection.

By: David Plick

Flag_of_France.svgSalon: “a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation . . . Salons, commonly associated with French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, were carried on until as recently as the 1940s in urban settings.”

Last night in East Austin, Brian Linder, in collaboration with architect Chris Krager of KRDB, hosted his first in a projected series of Twilight Salons, an event designed to provoke artistic discussion and engagement in the city. It’s a forum for artistically-inclined Austinites and architecture lovers to meet, talk, form connections and collaborations, but more importantly, drink wine and eat cheese.

A salon, which is the French word for “living room” or “sitting room”, is simply a place for people to gather and talk. But this word goes far deeper than that, with roots embedded in various artistic movements, from the Enlightenment to the Modernists.

Here’s a look at some of the most legendary salons in artistic history. How can TVOA’s Twilight Salon live up to their legacy?

Hotel de Rambouillet

This is the first salon on record which gained international prominence. Held in Paris’ 1st arrondisement during the early part of the 17th century at the Hotel de Rambouillet, the hostess was Catherine de Vivonne, an heiress of a noble Roman lineage. Vivonne’s literary salon was notorious for its displays of wit and etiquette, and included such notable artists and thinkers as: Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac, Cardinal Richelieu, and La Rochefoucauld.

Le Marais

This was Hotel de Rambouillet’s primary competitor. Hosted by Madeleine de Scuréry, an accomplished author and essayist herself, this salon is historically important in the feminist movement because of the gathering of “blue stockings,” a term for the intellectual women who frequented the parties.

The Stein Salon

Modernist writer, public intellectual, and art collector Gertrude Stein famously said, “We are the lost generation,” which gave voice to a literary movement, but she also hosted the premier salon of the twentieth century. Revitalized in the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris, Stein’s devotion to the promotion of artists from Picasso and Matisse, to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thornton Wilder, and, of course, Hemingway, all happened in her sitting room at 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris.

Salons in Austin? But this is Texas?

Paris will always be Paris, but Austin is internationally admired for its explosion of artistic energy. Austin is a city where people are coming together from all over the world to “keep it weird” and develop new technologies that will empower generations. There are some special things happening here in the Texas capital, and TVOA’s Twilight Salon will definitely be a part of it.

By: David Plick

Via flickr by One More Go

Via flickr by One More Go

Since the famous demolition of St. Louis’ Pruitt-Igoe housing project in 1972, and the infamous preservation of Robin Hood Gardens in East London, architecture’s role in social housing has been a publicized and controversial debate. At the core of all of these class-oriented arguments, of course, is the cost. Is it worth it to apply modern, sophisticated designs, most of which are more costly to construct, to public housing? Many taxpayers, who commonly do not feel responsible for the poverty of others, do not agree that they should bear the burden of footing the bill.

Many starchitects though, including Richard Rodgers and Zaha Hadid, both of which have campaigned for the historical landmark status of Robin Hood Gardens, and this year’s Pritzker Prize Winner, Alejandro Arevena, who established an entire career on public housing, think it’s worth it.

The debate this past week re-erupted when the architecture firm 5468796 responded via ArchDaily to The Guardian’s article entitled, “Crime in the Community: When ‘Designer’ Social Housing Goes Wrong” which criticized their social housing project, Centre Village in Winnipeg. The widely-acclaimed firm, who calls Winnipeg home, had their design choices attacked, saying that “families [were] living in cramped and unsuitable conditions . . . [in] a building structure that seems to act as a magnet for drinking and drug-taking at all hours.” The firm, who won the 2014 Canadian Architect Award of Excellence, attempted to respond to this article directly to The Guardian by writing them a letter, but the magazine declined to publish it.

And in reading the letter, it’s clear why.

With tremendous clarity and sincere emotion, 5468796 argued back. They countered the notion that the project wasn’t properly researched by citing the two years of research they performed, the fact that they had already completed a similar project within walking distance of Centre Village, not to mention the deep roots the architects have implanted in the city. 5468796 defended the logic of their design choices, such as their use of public space to create community, and the irregularly shaped windows that “create the sense of casual surveillance.” They cited the personal experience of one of their founding architects, Sasa Radulovic, whose family immigrated to Canada as war refugees, and said that “providing safe, inspiring and well functioning housing for refugees and immigrants is very personal, and an issue that the practice of 5468796 cares very deeply about.”

The argument over design decisions at Centre Village is a part of a larger, crucial discussion of architecture’s role in social housing—how much to spend? Who to protect? How to keep it going?

Today, Centre Village is up for sale, and as the building changes hands, and ultimately transforms, time will be the only judge of its success or not. Will it pay the price that Pruitt-Igoe paid, or endure like Robin Hood Gardens?

And even further, will talented design firms continue to take on these daunting, bureaucratic, and sometimes thankless projects? How many will decide that it’s not worth the time, money, and the headache?

By: David Plick

IMG_1048Frank Stella: A Retrospective currently inhabits the fifth floor of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the largest gallery space in the museum. In addition to large-scale paintings, the exhibit features many of the artist’s sculptures, mixed media pieces, small models, and photography. The retrospective, whose organization was done through a collaboration with Stella himself, is structured so brilliantly to experience this man’s tremendous range as an artist. Stella himself remarked that his greatest artistic gift is “structure . . . and the strength of all the paintings [he] made in the sixties lay in their organization.” The movement from bright colors to neutral, from minimalism to maximalism, is all clear, deliberate, and evocative.

From this exhibition it is clear that Stella’s greatest success lies in his sculptures, in his tremendous ability to maximize unused space for effect, yet also employ sleek, and sometimes chaotic objects and shapes in the structure that make you feel like you’ve inhabited a fairy tale world. His sculptures are simple, made with shapes and natural materials, yet you feel transported into the emotion of the work—into its eeriness or excitement, its hope and joy, the way it just sits there with you so naturally. He is at his best when the focus isn’t on the piece’s details, but rather, the spatial relationship between things—empty space, the viewer, shapes, color, and the piece’s relationship to itself.

Stella’s work illustrates the relationship between space, shape, color, and the audience. It’s about emptiness, and how the emptiness is as functional as the busy-ness. It’s about how less is more, because we as Americans don’t know what to do when we have less, which is why I think minimalism is so powerful here. In this land of consummation, artists like Frank Stella provoke the question, “What if we had less? How would that make us feel?” Perhaps that’s where American minimalism came from—the need to peel off our county’s skin.

His work is also very interactive. In the exhibit I saw a three or four year old boy in his mother’s arms as she approached one of Stella’s mixed media pieces called, “Eskimo Curfew,” and the boy started getting dangerously close to the shapes which were jutting out at him. I saw his mother pull him away, and say something to him, probably, “Don’t touch.” But I wondered if Frank Stella would mind if the boy grabbed on. It seems like he wants you to be a part of it all.

The highlight of the exhibit is what I called “The Grey Room”, which featured many of his large scale sculptures, such as “Raft of the Medusa: Part 1,” and many smaller scale models that looked like toys. What was so clever about this section was that its use of the collected dark colors—there’s essentially no color in the room except black and grey—amidst the backdrop of the Department of Sanitation station that lies across the street and is very visible from the window. And what’s beyond the Department of Sanitation? Something far more gross, detestable, and ugly: New Jersey. It’s hard to believe that this wasn’t an intentional choice.

Frank Stella: A Retrospective shows the artist’s great diversity and range as an artist. It’s wonderful proof that he is an important American artist, and a world-class sculptor. It’s also wonderful fun, and will be at the Whitney until February 7, 2016.

By: David Plick

IMG_0821We all know that Austin is a great place to live—a place to settle down, get some cute kids and chickens and feed your cute kids chicken eggs. This is your home, and there’s no dollar amount that can measure that feeling. But, you also do want to feel that you’ve gotten a good deal, and that there’s the potential in your home for a profit because, let’s face it, you never know when your company’s going to move you to Dallas. So, here’s five neighborhoods in Austin where you’ll get bang for your buck.

Windsor Park

While Mueller’s identity has already been established, its neighbor to the north, Windsor Park, is still being defined. There are three things that make this a hood to watch: the 1950’s designed ranch homes that have great potential for expansion and improvement, its proximity to major highways (I-35, 183, and 290), and its location in East Austin, next to the ultra-charming Hyde Park. It’s in East Austin, guys. You can tell people you live in East Austin.


Yes, this neighborhood is already established and coming with a high price tag, but those values are still just going up up and up. With its proximity to downtown, its walkability to Town Lake, South Congress, East 6th Street, and anywhere else you’d typically hang out in Austin, it’s the most easy-livin’ livin’ in the city. On top of that, everywhere you look Austin architects are building dynamic and funky looking modern homes. This is where going artsy pays off.


This is the three L’s and a W of Austin real estate: Location, Location, Location, and Weird.

The anti-Westlake right next to Westlake, where you can get all of the advantages of being close to Zilker Park and downtown, yet still live weird and free, right on the water. Don’t let the mobile homes scare you. That’s just the soul of Austin refusing to die.

Central East Austin

Throw a coin in the air and you’ll hit a cool modern home. Driving around this area, it is astounding how many exciting new projects there are—Chris Krager or KRDB alone has several in the works. And if the value isn’t doing it for you, the location will. From here you can walk to anywhere downtown, to UT, and Franklin’s is right there, so you can be the first one there in the morning.

Western Trails

Here’s an important Austin tip: go where the Central Market goes. And Western Trails has not only that, but an Amy’s Ice Creams, yoga studios, and a Hyde Park Bar & Grill. Wait, what? Hyde Park? Is this neighborhood the next Hyde Park?

Just south of Ben White, which means it’s convenient for highway access, Western Trails has the amenities of Hyde Park without the congestion. You can live your laid-back Austin lifestyle, and not feel like you have to fight for your space with 50,000 UT undergrads. But, this space also means there’s plenty of room for development, so watch this neighborhood for expansion and rising property values.

By the way, median home price in Hyde Park = $630,000

Median home price in Western Trails = $430,000

By: David Plick

Contemporary AustinAustin is widely known for its live music—concert festivals such as Austin City Limits and Fun Fun Fun, and also the local music scene that flourishes everyday. But visitors to Austin have so much more art and culture to sift through than indie rock bands playing for wobbly twenty-somethings deep into the night. This fact is exemplified no better than in The Contemporary Austin, the city’s premier art museum.

Centrally located at Congress Avenue and 7th street, right around the corner from the historic Driskill Hotel, and the infamous 6th street Alamo Drafthouse (where the ever so lovable Master Pancake call home), The Contemporary Austin is a cultural institution enriching the local artistic life while also connecting Austin to the present-day art world. Their mission is to “reflect the spectrum of contemporary art through exhibitions, commissions, education, and the collection.”

Currently at The Contemporary is the thought and soul-provoking exhibit, Strange Pilgrims, inspired by Gabriel García Márquez’s short-story collection, which is the museum’s first multiple location, thematic group exhibition, and which invites the viewer to consider themselves as travellers, pilgrims, and the relationship between their memory and fantasy, between their own fiction and reality. It is an interactive exhibit and viewers are encouraged to get involved, which means getting a little dirty.

This experientially focused exhibit is centered around a few themes—Environment & Place, Performance & Process, and Technology & Information—and has newly commissioned works, site-specific refabrications, and already existing works by artists: Charles Atlas, Millie Chen, Phil Collins, Bruce Nauman, Yoko Ono, and many more. There are experimental films, mixed media video installations, and a sculpture by Andy Coolquitt entitled, no I didn’t go to any museums here I hate museums museums are just stores that charge you to come in there are lots of free museums here but they have names like real stores. All designed to make you question the reality of your memories, mind, and consciousness.

The exhibit is on display at three Contemporary Austin sites: the Jones Center, Laguna Gloria, and at the Visual Arts Center in the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Texas at Austin, and is showing until January 24, 2016.

By: David Plick

Via Flickr by Alec Perkins

Via Flickr by Alec Perkins

Now, it just would seem plain-old dumb to tear down a starchitect’s first project in NYC, wouldn’t it? Thank goodness the Durst Organization had better ideas, The New York Times reported.

“It’s aged very well,” Douglas Durst said, speaking of the cafeteria Frank Gehry designed for the Condé Nast building. “There’s no feeling that it’s from a different era at all.”

The year was 2000, and Frank Gehry had just achieved the impossible with his Guggenheim Bilbao. His friend, S.I. Newhouse, Jr., who was the chairman of Condé Nast at the time, asked Gehry if he would design a restaurant for the media empire’s employees. While this was a small-scale job for Gehry at the time, he took the opportunity so he could finally climb the NYC hurdle, something that remained elusive to him for years.

He approached the project in a similar way to Bilbao, and curved enormous glass panels that weighed 800 pounds giving them a billowing effect. In contrast to the glass, there are blue, rolling titanium walls surrounding the room. These waves in the titanium created seamless and flowing banquettes for groups of Condé Nast editors and writers to gather, eat, and gossip during their lunch break. To mix in more color, Gehry added stunning yellow tabletops.

Durst says they’re keeping Gehry’s designs intact because they want to use it to attract potential clients to their building. Good for them—what a perk it was to buy a building with an internationally famous artist’s work in it, right?

By: David Plick

IMG_0261America is weird. Its suburbs alienate intelligent, eccentric, or alternative minded people simply because they can’t launch a football, or tackle, or fight. Years of this belittling, isolating, pushing people to the fringes of the social order, does something to a person. That’s why in this country there are such strong underground counter cultural movements, from the hippies and punks to something far more interesting—cults. Jim Shaw, in his first major survey exhibition in New York City at the New Museum, The End Is Here, examines all this and more.

He’s the kind of artist that looks at America through a microscope, and what he sees through the lens looks like a fun house—a beautiful, nauseating, disturbing mess. He then takes this mess and organizes it into a fascinating collage, a study of what we’ve been, are, and never were, of what we could only be in our dreams. The End Is Here shows us what we’re capable of—and most of the times, this is shocking.

Shaw is the artist for the bored and intelligent who rot away in the American suburbs, who turn to comic books and fantasy to escape the reality that is the desired conformity of the small American town. This exhibit, aptly located downtown on the Bowery at probably New York’s most progressive and ultra-hip museum, will speak to anyone who counted the seconds until they could get out of that piece-of-shit town, all the while reading Allen Ginsberg or watching John Waters and David Lynch films and thinking, “Someone finally gets me.”

Someone does get you. And their message to you is this: get out of there. Run away from that oppressive town and never go back. Do like Shaw did—leave, and let your passion and work be your ticket and your guide. Shaw abandoned his native Michigan for California Institute of the Arts in the early 1970’s and has made Los Angeles his home ever since. He was an influential member of the LA art scene, and his work has travelled all around the world, to Paris, Denmark, Bordeaux, Luxembourg, and England, amongst many other places, and now back to New York City.

Jim Shaw’s imagination in The End Is Here occupies floors 2-4 of the New Museum. Through his theatrical backdrops, paintings, drawings, thrift store collectibles, sculptures, and even a film depicting the religion he invented called “O-Ism,” Shaw clearly shows a mastery of style, which is lovable and charming, yet grotesque and smutty. Perhaps most impressive is Shaw’s ability to not only work within many mediums, but also within vastly different scales—he has remarkable skill in producing an evocative 6×6 pornographic drawing, and also in a 30×20 foot magical and fantastic tapestry. He can produce an object that will fill a room, or have a tiny, shocking image that will shake you to your center. His body of work is so large, so complex and detailed, that it is virtually impossible to digest The End Is Here in a single viewing.

Certainly the treasure of this exhibit is his theatrical cutouts on the fourth floor entitled, Labryinth, I Dreamt I Was Taller than Jonathan Borofsky, which is where Shaw’s imagination, comedic flare, artistic skill, political seriousness, craftsmanship and showmanship are all on full force. This installation is a vast expanse of images which depict carnival performers, futuristic superheroes and landscapes amidst iconic historical and cultural figures including: Richard Nixon and the Watergate Scandal, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, Detroit rioters and Parisian protestors, and Casper the Friendly Ghost—his work employs collage, comic book fantasy, political satire, all in evocative yet gorgeous images that never sacrifice the composition and design of the art for its ideas. The work is suggestive, and the opinions are there, yet they remain subtle and subtextual. Walking through The End Is Here, I never felt the sense that Shaw sought for me to feel this way or that way—there was no intended message. Instead, he does something far better, and more skillful: he succeeds in creating a surreal world that you are free to inhabit, rather than feeling restricted to his vision.

And the work is intensely fun. It plays with the grotesque, creating villainous sea creatures, a skyscraper-tall vacuum cleaner that sucks up 1860’s Gold Rush land prospectors, mythical creatures and giant bugs, aliens having sex, and creepy small-town America sentimentality. In every room there exists an element of discomfort, and even of violence and danger, yet through the exhibit’s organization, there also remains the assertion that our horrible treatment of one another, in capitalism and our collective greed, in our laughing at and exploiting the little guy, in our perverse and exploitative sexuality—is hilarious. Jim Shaw shows that no subject matter is beyond ridicule. Everything and everyone can be mocked—especially cults, politicians, and the rich.

I know I said that there’s no one idea Shaw intends for you to get out of this, but get this: America is longing for an identity. America is longing for a place. We are begging for community, and we go to the strangest lengths to reach it.

The End Is Here is showing at the New Museum until January 10, 2016.

By: David Plick


Via flickr by Payton Chung

Via flickr by Payton Chung

New Yorkers love speaking their New Yorker dialect about their city. They always notice when someone pronounces Houston Street like it’s Houston the city, or when someone is confused when they are told to take the BQE to a neighborhood called DUMBO. For them, all this stuff is common knowledge.

But sometimes New Yorkers take it too far, like when they give every three-block radius its own distinct nickname. Some of these have become famous and commonplace such as SoHo or Tribeca, but there are many other lesser-known ones like NoHo (North of Houston) or NoLita (North Little Italy) or Bed-Stuy (Bedford-Stuyvesant). And further still, there remains acronyms which are obscure and should probably stay that way. In this quiz, let’s see if you can distinguish the difference between a NYC neighborhood acronym and a species of bacteria.


  1. ViBrio
  2. BoCoCa
  3. NoCarDia
  4. GoCaGa
  5. NoBat
  6. CoCCI
  7. ProCro
  8. FiDi
  9. BrucElla
  10. Peptostreptococcus


1. No, ViBrio isn’t between Gramercy Park and Stuy-Town. It’s a type of gram-negative bacteria commonly found in salt water. Duh. What were you thinking?

2. Ahhhhhh, you may think BoCoCa is a species of facultative anaerobes, but it’s actually a neighborhood at the intersection of Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens. Not only is it not a bacteria, it’s really pretty too.

3. NoCarDia sounds like it would be uptown, right? North of Columbia and Riverdale, maybe? But no. It’s a bacteria found in rich soil.

4. GoCaGa . . . Ahhhh GoCaGa, just rolls off your tongue. And what a neighborhood. The intersection between Gowanus and Carroll Gardens has the Whole Foods closeby, and the oh-so amazing shuffleboard club, Royal Palms. No bacteria here, guys (except in the canal itself, these things take time).

5. NoBat sounds seriously scary. I don’t think I’d go near it if it was a bacteria or a neighborhood. But, it’s actually not so bad. It’s just North Battery Tunnel. Basically Battery Park City, or if you’d prefer, FiDi.

6. CoCCI—ahhhh, wouldn’t you just love to raise your kids in CoCCI? But I’d actually think twice. It’s the term for any round-shaped bacteria. Yikes. Keep the kids away.

7. ProCro won’t kill you guys (well, maybe in the 80’s it would have). It stands Prospect Heights/Crown Heights, and it’s one of the most trendy neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

8. FiDi stands for the Financial District. It probably would be better if it was a bacteria.

9. BrucElla sounds pretty chic. It probably has an old Italian charm to it. But no, it’s a gram-negative bacteria cause of brucellosis which is a zoonosis (I have no idea what that means).

10. There’s no way you thought Peptostreptococcus was a place. Please don’t tell me you considered it.

So how’d you do? Do you know the difference between obscure NYC hoods and bacteria? Oh, and if you have a B.S in Biology, no fair. You cheated.

By: David Plick

Via flickr by Milo and Silvia in the World

Via flickr by Milo and Silvia in the World

He’s one of those divisive artists you either love or hate, so will the Frank Gehry exhibition at LACMA, simply entitled “Frank Gehry” be any different?

We think so.

Because whether or not you are an admirer of his work, the exhibit is important to Los Angeles simply because Gehry is an essential part of the urban design of the city. He’s been based out of Los Angeles since 1962, and contributed arguably its most important structure—the Walt Disney Concert Hall, not to mention Santa Monica Place, the California Science Center, his home in Santa Monica, and many other landmark residences which have established Southern California as a place to turn to for the new kind of urban living. Gehry has also been revolutionary in terms of engineering, most notably through his use of a machine called CATIA, a software tool used in aviation and automobile industries, which manipulates 3-D representations digitally. The exhibit showcases over sixty projects through hundreds of drawings and sixty models.

The exhibit will show upcoming and recent work including Gehry’s design for Facebook’s campus in Silicon Valley, his transformation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the architect’s most recent residential jobs—both private homes and large-scale developments. You will not be surprised to discover that the exhibition itself was designed by Gehry Partners.

Frank Gehry won the Pritzker Arhcitecture Prize in 1989.

The Frank Gehry exhibit at LACMA will run until March 2016.

By: David Plick

Via flickr by Jay Sterling Austin

Via flickr by Jay Sterling Austin

Located at 221 South Grand Avenue in Los Angeles, the Broad Museum is one of the most highly anticipated architectural projects of 2015. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the NYC-based firm who brought us The High Line, there was great hype with The Broad Museum due to its pivotal location in LA’s architectural scene. After all, in addition to being right around the corner from MOCA Grand Avenue, who’s The Broad’s other loud and impolite next door neighbor? No one other than Frank Gehry’s divisive Walt Disney Concert Hall.


Overall, the reviews lean towards the positive. Architectural Record’s Sarah Amelar called the building “exciting yet incongruous . . . the belief-suspending exhilaration of a theme-park ride . . .” How do the other critics weigh in?

LA Times, Christopher Hawthorne

“It . . . has moments of real charm . . . [yet] for all its imaginative talent, is still figuring out how to shepherd its boldest design ideas through a challenging construction process, so they emerge fully and powerfully intact.”

Curbed, Alexandra Lange

“Critics searching for what the Broad looks like aren’t searching the skies or the waves, but the supermarket aisles . . . [It] is a fascinating museum experience, but one which doesn’t quite achieve the ends of its architects or its patrons. I see its design as a move toward a completely artificial, hands-free architecture, but as a construction culture we are not quite there yet.”

The Washington Post, Philip Kennicott

A space for art that respects the experience of looking and engagement, as a thing apart, and something worth leaving the world behind to do on its own terms.”

Wall Street Journal, Julie V. Iovine

“Though too eccentric to be an enduring touchstone work of architecture, the building deserves to be celebrated for a bravado and smart urbanism.”

The Broad is a FREE museum open everyday except Monday and houses works from such artists as: Carl Andre, Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Barbara Kruger, Roy Lichtenstein, and Chuck Close.

By: David Plick

51B9q0pgZ0L._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_“Architecture is all around us,” announced Curbed editor-in-chief, Kelsey Keith, at the beginning of the Brooklyn Book Festival’s panel entitled “The Culture of Architecture” featuring Pulitzer Prize winning architectural critic, Paul Goldberger, and architect and author, Witold Rybcznski. A perfect location to say this as we sat in Downtown Brooklyn in the shadows of DUMBO, the cranes hoisting up Bjarne Ingel’s World Trade Center Two, and Frank Gehry’s 8 Spruce Street.

It was a good crowd. They laughed at all of Paul Goldberger jokes about Frank Gehry and Philip Johnson. They oo’d and ahh’d at Rybcznski’s brilliant ideas about the role of the critic in the construction (or destruction) of buildings, how globalization could be ruining the local architecture and feel of a place—a great line he said was, “You can’t just parachute into a city and understand it.”

Another highlight was both of these men’s beliefs that architectural contests are unfair and immoral—both for the architects themselves and the general public. Goldberger complained that these contests exploit architects by forcing them to do work for free—a great deal of work goes into their designs, which could easily be discarded without any form of payment. Rybcznski also criticized contests saying the judge panels are mostly formed of non-architects whom do not have the background and/or education needed to make informed design decisions.

“The Culture of Architecture” asked many questions—what is the role of the critic in the starchitecture system? Are architects famous, and does that matter for the future of their designs? But throughout all of this inquiry, there was the very noticeable energy in the room that these questions would always continue as criticism does, but perhaps more importantly, that this moment in this room was to be shared amongst a group of people inspired by this timeless art with two experts who were immensely passionate about the subject. It was a time to celebrate the form, which, yes, is underrated and underappreciated, but that everyone in that room was in on a little secret: that architecture still is a part of our everyday lives. It was there with us during our drive to work today, during our train ride, during brunch on the weekend—every time we visit a new city and notice the differences. It’s the blueprint of our past, our present, and our future.

Which is why the conversation continues, as it does for these two men right here: Goldberger’s book, Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry, is out now from Knopf; Rybcznski’s Mysteries of the Mall: And Other Essays has been released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

By: David Plick

Penn_Station3“Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.”

“Farewell to Penn Station,” New York Times editorial, October 30, 1963


Last week I was catching a train to visit my family in New Jersey, so where did I have to go? Penn Station, of course. It’s in midtown, situated between 7th and 8th avenue and 31st and 33rd streets. From the outside there’s really no semblance of it being a train station. It looks more like a non-descript office building with the vague markings of an arena around it. The station is underneath all of this in the basement.

Taking a train in Penn Station is a grotesque experience. I try to time it precisely so that I can immediately get on my train the second I get in there. If I have to wait in line for my ticket, I always get overcome by this empty, anxious nausea. Sometimes I have trouble breathing because of the lack of ventilation, and there’s always yelling and screaming, whether it be from homeless people, or an arguing couple. I look around just counting the seconds until I can leave.

But there are . . . amenities . . . There’s a KFC, Jamba Juice, Starbucks, Planet Smoothie, or, if you’re feeling extra chic, TGI Friday’s.

To push me deeper into my depression, I am always reminded, such as in this recent Mashable article, how stunning, how utterly magnificent, the former Penn Station was. It was in the Beaux-Arts tradition and composed of pink granite. The primary waiting area was modeled after Roman baths, and was over a block long with a glass ceiling 150 feet over your head. The concourse had an arching glass and steel greenhouse roof. It was the kind of place, as art historian Hillary said, that “made you feel important.”

Today, tourists flock to Grand Central to bask in its glory, in its history. But, it’s common knowledge that the old Penn Station was far more impressive. Yet the only people who flock to Penn Station now are angry commuters from Long Island and New Jersey, and they’re counting the seconds, like I always do, to get the hell out of there.

Let Penn Station be a lesson to Austin, Los Angeles, and all major cities. Let’s not let our homes be destroyed for immediate economic gain. Let’s demand a better future than the cookie-cutter one we’re heading towards. Let’s leave monuments that are legacies for our collective cultural heritage, that give future generations a sense of society, that they come from somewhere. Our future needs a past, so let’s demand that we have one.

Now that talks have begun for the destruction of Madison Square Garden, there is a resurgence in the conversation to bring the old Penn Station back, or at least something a lot better than the gruesome version we currently have. I, for one, will be on the picket line to bring the old Penn Station back.

By: David Plick

IMG_1033Currently showing at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens is The Young Architects Program, a partnership between The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 that seeks to support groundbreaking design research and advance the careers of emerging talent. In addition to choosing a winner at MoMA PS1, the competition occurs in several other major modern museums throughout the world including: Istanbul Modern, Rome MAXXI, CONSTRUCTO in Santiago, Chilé, and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, South Korea.

Currently in its 16th year, the Young Architects Program at MoMA and MoMA PS1 challenges emerging superstar architects to design an outdoor installation at MoMA PS1. Their designs must tackle environmental issues, most importantly sustainability and recycling.

Here’s the list of finalists for the Young Architects Program  at MoMA PS1:

Drones’ Beach by Brillhart Architecture

Principal: Jacob Brillhart

Based out of Miami, Brillhart Architecture brings us Drones’ Beach, an installation designed to provoke the senses, and which seeks the boundaries of space to change it entirely. Brillhart’s use of a beach as a setting promotes the playfulness and audience interactivity.

Roof Deck by Erin Besler

Principal: Erin Besler

Chicago’s Erin Besler offered up Roof Deck, which repositions MoMA PS1’s existing roof into the courtyard, where it becomes an area for socialization, including yoga to partying. Besler’s design reflects our time period with our current fitness craze, and the summer. It is simultaneously aware yet always seeking further awareness.

Phenomena by Dillenburger/Hansmeyer

Principals: Benjamin Dillenburger and Michael Hansmeyer

Dillenburger and Hansmeyer collabaorated to create something truly unique. Their design is a performance space with a beautiful, glowing fountain, and contains a projection screen for video art and for reflecting daytime sunlight. Experiencing Phenomena the same way twice is impossible.

Gels by The Bittertang Farm

Principal: Michael Loverich

New York’s own Michael Loverich entered Gels into the competition, which flows water throughout the design to give it all life. Water is taken in many ways across the installation to make living things. One of the main materials is bundled hay, which will grow wheatgrass and wildflowers. This installation, which is a living and growing thing, will eventually wither and die.

Young Architects Program Winner:

COSMO by Andrés Jaque / Office for Political Innovation

Principal: Andrés Jaque

Andrés Jaque, and his Office for Political Innovation, made COSMO, which is inspired by NYC’s water system, and constructed out of irrigation parts. This installation takes once hidden pipes and makes them visible, and it is built to purify 3,000 gallons of water over a four-day cycle.

By: David Plick

Lous VuittonRight outside the périphérique in Paris, in the chic banlieue Neuilly-sur-Seine, lies the Fondation Louis Vuitton, an art museum designed by Frank Gehry, which is dedicated to the spread and cultivation of arts and culture. It is also the home of the personal art collection of Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH (Louis Vuitton / Moët-Hennessy).

Approaching Fondation Louis Vuitton through the Bois de Bologne (Boulogne Woods) is probably very similar to the experience of finding a shipwrecked spaceship in the forest. In one moment you’re walking through nature enjoying the simple comfort of trees and leaves, flowers blooming, birds chirping, and then you come upon a shocking and imposing glowing image. This might be a good time to remind yourself that you’re in Paris, and not the Yukon Territory.

In the distance as this structure becomes larger and more imposing, Paris’s financial district, La Défense, reveals itself to you with its futuristic skyscrapers. Really, if there’s anything that “works” in accordance with Fondation Louis Vuitton, it’s these images off at the edge of your vision. And while it is true that Frank Gehry’s design does not seek to blend in with its surroundings, but rather, tries to defeat them, it is still an elegant and fluid building. The movement of the fragmented outer shell created by the twelve glass sails gives the feeling of movement, as if the museum could fly away, and the system of steel and wood beams do give it a sense of calm. The most enjoyable experience as a viewer of this museum is certainly the top floor outdoor terraces with its patches of nature intertwined with sculptural art pieces. It’s a place of Zen where you can be in the city but away from it. You have the feeling of being in the middle of it all, yet completely separate.

Viewing art, on the other hand, can be a struggle. As I navigated through Fondation Louis Vuitton I found myself not knowing where to go, and a couple times I literally thought to myself, “Where is the art?” which is probably not a good question to be asking yourself in a museum. The layout is very unclear once you do succeed in finding art. Once I was walking through an exhibition space in the wrong direction and a guard stopped to tell me I should be going the other way. And finally, I lost the group of friends I was with.

Perhaps this was Frank Gehry’s intention when he designed the building. Maybe he didn’t want the art inside to take away from his elegance? Or maybe he wanted to design a building you could get lost in? Perhaps there is something kind of charming about that type of artistic experience.

When I exited Fondation Louis Vuitton I saw someone had written in the guest book something that best sums up this museum’s experience:


(sometimes it’s hard to think about the actual people inhabiting the building, but give it a try . . . )

By: David Plick

IMG_0552About two hours south of Paris—a simple yet serene drive through countryside and small, quaint towns and villages—lies the Loire Valley. In visiting the Loire Valley, there are two things that people commonly associate with this region: wine and chateaus. And while this is true, this area offers so much more than that. In visiting the Loire Valley you have the idyllic French atmosphere: thin, windy alleys with bistros at the end where the chef is the mother and the father serves you the most delicious meal of your life, dogs wandering with their owners far behind, families with proud fathers teaching their children about how precious and rich their heritage is, and, of course, because it’s summer, the many closed shops saying: Gone for the Summer . . . bonne vacances ! Also, as an American, you will be one of the few non-French people there because in the interior of the country, it is mostly the French themselves who are soaking in their culture and wine (which is actually ironic: the two things the country of France was against: the aristocracy and the power of the religious state, are the things they want to visit the most in their chateaus and cathedrals). Here are a few tips in visiting the Loire Valley:

Stay in Blois:

When in the Loire Valley, I highly recommend staying in Blois. It is simultaneously quaint and convenient. It’s a compact yet stunning medieval city-town with a grand cathedral, chateaus, and gorgeous winding streets. In Blois, you will feel transported to another time. You will think that a joust between two knights could erupt at any minute, when in fact, what will happen is you will just get some amazing crepes.

Chateau de Chambord

About twenty minutes by car from Blois, this chateau is one of the most important in the world because it embodies French Renaissance architecture, which combines French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. It is also the biggest chateau in the Loire Valley, which was first intended to be a hunting lodge for King Francis I. It is rumored that Leonard de Vinci, an inhabitant of the region during the time period, was involved in its design.

Chateau de Chenonceau

Depicted in the photo above, this place is the most exquisite chateau I’ve ever seen. The Chateau de Chenonceau sits atop the Cher River with its foundation in the river bed with designs by the French Renaissance architect Philibert de L’orme. In addition to the stunning castle, the gorgeous manicured gardens–one named after Catherine de Medici and another for Diane de Poitier–give both solace and amazement. At the Chateau de Chenonceau you feel the absolute power of the beauty of architecture. It’s a reminder that building something extraordinary, something that can sit for centuries and centuries, only begins at the enjoyment of the builder and user–it really goes far deeper than that. It’s a cultural gift for us all to enjoy.

By: David Plick

Photograph by Fuzheado

Photograph by Fuzheado

With exponential population growth and our dwindling resources being problems we have no idea how to solve, what’s the future of big cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and Shanghai? That’s the question Metropolis II seems to ask us due to its hyper-efficient use of space. But if you asked Chris Burden, the provocateur and performance artist who got famously shot for art, he was more interested in “[t]he noise, the continuous flow of the trains, and the speeding toy cars . . . the stress of living in a dynamic, active, and bustling 21st Century city” than in making a scale-model of something.

Metropolis II is currently an ongoing featured exhibition at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This frenetic and loud sculpture, composed of steel beams which create a chaotic yet highly thoughtful city grid, holds 1,100 toy cars that traverse the city at 240 scale miles per hour, weaving in and out of residential and office buildings, in a complex map of eighteen roadways, including one six-lane highway. In this film Burden explains his motivation behind the work before it first premiered at LACMA in 2011.

Burden’s importance in LA art culture is epitomized in his piece, Urban Light, which sits at the entrance of LACMA. It’s a sculpture in the style of a Classical Greek temple while being composed of over two-hundred restored, antique cast-iron street lamps from Los Angeles.

Chris Burden died this past May at the age of 69 in Topanga Canyon, California.

By: David Plick

Photograph via Flickr by Daniel

Photograph via Flickr by Daniel

Full disclosure: I have no idea what I’m talking about. I don’t have a degree in architecture, and I’ve never studied design. I can’t draw, paint, or build anything. Except maybe books and stories, if you consider a novel to be something “constructed” (a lot of people do). I have an MFA in creative writing and learned how to talk about art intelligently though, so I probably didn’t struggle too much during my transition into speaking Talkitecture—the official language for non-architects to sound smart when discussing architecture. Speaking Talkitecture is a fun way to engage with other artistic and urban minded people, so if you are interested in further developing your fluency, here are a few pointers:

Already consider yourself an authority on the subject

You’ve heard the expression “fake it until you make it” before, right? Well, that’s what success in talkitecture (and life) is all about. No one knows what they’re doing at first, so you fake it until you do. It’s all about confidence. To quote George Costanza, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

Because the fact is no one really knows anything anyway (except architects, who build the stuff), so why not just be confident in your ideas? You’re a part of this city, this street, this world. You’re entitled to feel feelings and have ideas on things. Do you like this building? Do you feel that it works amidst the other buildings? I say, go with your gut, then fill in some fancy words around it to back that gut up.

Use Buzzwords

Here’s a list of buzzwords you can throw out there to solidify your architectural authority.

Daniel Libeskind and the “New York Five”

Le Corbusier


Functionalism and New Formalism



Zaha Hadid

Ok, so these are some terms. Now, where do you learn what they all mean? Wikipedia, of course.

Consider Wikipedia your university PhD in Talkitecture

First of all, you don’t need to know everything all at once. You only need to know enough to enter the conversation you’re currently in. Let’s say you’re going to a Deconstructivist exhibit at San Francisco’s MoMA. All you have to do is look up Deconstructivism on Wikipedia and read what it is, what it stemmed from, and who the key players and/or structures are. You probably won’t even have to read the entire page.

Don’t reference artistic movements you have yet to look up on Wikipedia

Let’s say the conversation jumps from formalism and aesthetics, to Marx, the Protestant Reformation, and then the Baroque period and the aristocracy, don’t feel the need to contribute. Intelligent people love being listened to. Just take this time to sit back and hear what the person has to say. Nod and say, “Right . . . exactly . . .” Trust me. They’ll just be happy you haven’t run away yet. It’s better to remain quiet than to say something untrue.

Don’t be specific about materials

Let’s face it. You don’t know the difference between a brick and concrete, and you know have no idea what Terracotta is. But that’s ok. You don’t have to. You’re not an architect. You’re a keen and thoughtful observer of the world around you and that counts for something. Don’t worry about not knowing materials. People probably won’t quiz you. And if they say something like, “As you know the floor was made of stone . . .” Don’t correct them. Just say, “Of course . . .” And move on.

If all else fails, use the expression, “I’m actually not familiar with that . . .”

Look, unless it’s something like Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Gehry, or another Frank, it’s fine to not know it. Intelligent people love to teach other intelligent people things, especially in a museum or art gallery where they can be heard doing it.

By: David Plick

123Yesterday I went to the exhibit, “Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980,” at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, which is “intended to challenge the notion of Latin America as a testing ground for ideas and methods devised in Europe and the US.” The exhibition is the second time the museum has investigated the design and architecture of the region, the first being in 1955.

As I entered the exhibit I got the sense of being projected into a different time period. The first room is highly sensory. The lights are dim, and there are black and white films and newsreels projected onto screens amidst models of schools and theaters. There is a map of Latin America on the floor, showing the major cities: Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City, and as I stood in the middle of it all and watched the films, the exhibition absolutely made me feel the sense that I was in the middle of a rapidly changing world. The newscasters, which, all seemed to be American, called out for everyone to hear, “There was no place to go but up . . .” and announced wars and protests, coups and political tension. The images on the screen were haunting at times—of school children lining up to get medicine, of people hustling and bustling to work in urban centers, of wars, and of skyscraper after skyscraper getting thrown up with decisive quickness. I felt the power of this change, and considered the current context of the exhibit in New York City, a place which endures rapid change everyday from its fervent capitalism, and which also runs on the blood, sweat, and tears of Latin Americans.

Amidst the lingering feeling of the harshness of city and urban life, there remains an enduring optimism, in the innovative designs that were birthed in Latin America, and in the spirit of its people. The second room in the exhibit connects the history of this region to the architecture and design practices. The exhibit bounces from city to city, showing photographs and models of government buildings, concert halls, stadiums, schools, residential and office buildings, and airports. Structures such as Brasilia’s Palácio do Planalto and Congresso Nacional, Aula Magna in Caracas, Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro, Escuela Nacional de Ballet in Havana, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, amongst many others, all presented within the notion that these advancements came from necessity. These Latin American cities were among the fastest growing in the world, and because of this there was the enormous demand to house, employ, educate, and support these rapidly growing communities. “Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980,” is an amazing study of design and architecture’s place in urban development, and how this largely comes from necessity—economic, political, and social. The 20th century’s best and brightest were showing off their work in Latin America because this is where their ideas had a chance. As opposed to Europe, which was already established and set in their ways, there was a greater willingness in Latin America to experiment and innovate.

As the world continues to watch Latin America grow and develop economically, this exhibition, and the example set by Latin America’s greatest cities, argues also for the value of architecture, that it is not only worth the time and money to make a place both efficient yet also comfortable and beautiful, a place for people to grow and prosper, but that it is also imperative for a culture’s growth and future.

By: David Plick

ebd42c8f0a9d6d9204e29e6e0449f0711434566078After having designed homes for celebrities such as the notorious Chris Brown, and completed other impressive projects such as the ambitious and wildly successful Hollywood Colony, architect Jay Vanos knows a thing or two about collaboration. In fact, it’s his firm’s ethos. JVA is “collaboration based . . . and believes that architectural design is a community activity, and that [their] best projects and ideas are the result of vigorous conversations among highly motivated individuals.”

And this collaboration pays off. JVA’s most recent work in Agoura Hills, CA, bordering Santa Monica Mountains National Park, is a post and beam design estate, a reinvention of previous work by the legendary Los Angeles architects, Buff + Hensman. This dream home, recently put on the market, is full of natural light with high ceilings and plenty of open spaces, inside and outside the house. Check out more exciting pictures here.

From the Sweetwater Mesa Residence, which brings unparalleled elegance to a desert setting, to the Browning Residence he did in Hawaii which looks like a treehouse from heaven, Jay Vanos has shown that his ability to create living dreams has no boundaries. He is a cutting-edge Los Angeles architect. Plain and simple.

By: David Plick

© RPBW, ph. Stefano Goldberg / PUBLIFOTO Genova

© RPBW, ph. Stefano Goldberg / PUBLIFOTO Genova

Renzo Piano is the great champion of public space. Whether the visitors and citizens of the city are aware of it or not, he improves their quality of life by sharing with them a living space designed specifically for the cultivation and dispersion of ideas and the enrichment of civic life. He’s the architect who cares about the individual’s experience of a building, who cares about how people interact with the space, and how the space then interacts with the world. At the Whitney Museum of American Art, much like the Centre Pompidou, or Beaubourg as he would say, he showed this by including a large area in front—a “piazza” he calls it—for people to meet, congregate, chat, and even loiter. He’s somehow simultaneously innovative and selfless. And because of this, he can masterfully fuse form and function, creating beauty for himself because he loves it and thinks it will save people, yet it all means nothing to him if he can’t share in this emotion with others.

Renzo Piano is Italian, but he is a citizen of the world. He made his home in Paris, but also has offices in New York and Genova. And today, it’s hard to visit a major international city without being able to experience the joy of a Renzo Piano space. There is a Renzo Piano “piazza” in Fort Worth, Texas at the Kimball Art Museum, in San Francisco at the California Academy of Sciences, in Chicago’s Art Institute, in Amsterdam’s NEMO Science Museum, in Rome at the music auditorium Parco della Musica, in Paris, Los Angeles, London, and now in the Meatpacking District—New York’s center for international art and fashion.

When I initially contacted Renzo Piano’s office for this interview, I didn’t expect a response. I thought he was far too internationally recognized and busy changing the world with beauty to speak with me, but I was remarkably and joyously surprised to hear that he not only would do the interview, but he would prefer to do it over the phone. I thought to myself, “That is so Renzo Piano. He would prefer the more human connection of a phone call, rather than emailing back and forth.”

Right now, I’m writing these words on the seventh floor terrace of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and what do I see? I see people congregating out front, sharing ideas and uniting to celebrate art and beauty. I see people peering over the edge of the terrace, interacting with the space. I see movement—the citizens of this city and the world moving up and down the stairs of the terraces and throughout the outdoor sculpture parks in this magical building that really looks like it could just get up and fly away, which was Renzo Piano’s wish because “the destiny of any architect is to fight against gravity. Actually, it is the destiny of everybody to fight against gravity.”

To anyone who hasn’t embraced this man and his work, do yourself a favor and not only experience his buildings, but listen to him speak. Listen to his genuine passion and sincerity when he speaks of beauty, art, and the poetry of architecture. Listen to him when he speaks of humanity and the joy of the collective experience. In his Whitney dedication speech he called his design “a bit impolite,” but nothing could be further from the man himself—who is gentle, kind, and sincere. Renzo Piano is not just an architect who makes mesmerizing buildings—he’s the kind of artist the world needs to bring us closer together, to share in the simple joy of a piazza.

TVOA: Your building workshop in New York is located on Washington Street, which is right around the corner from the new Whitney. When they approached you with the project eight years ago, had you already an intimate relationship with the Meatpacking District? Did you already have an idea of the style the neighborhood needed and demanded?

Renzo Piano: Actually, when we started, it was more than that. It was twelve years ago.

TVOA: It was twelve years ago? In your Whitney dedication speech you said that the process took eight years or nine years.

Renzo Piano: Well, for two or three years we were working on Madison Avenue and 75th street to make the extension on site, but this didn’t work because it was too much—too much trouble, too much work, too much money for too little result because it was impossible to have enough gallery space, so then we started and the client started to struggle about finding a new site, possibly downtown, because this is where Gertrude Whitney came from. And then, I remember, we went down to see three sites in the west part of the city in Chelsea. I got the impression that this site on Gansevoort and Washington Street was the best one so far, because it was at the end of the High Line. It was in a position where you could connect with the rest of the city. That was about eight years ago. And at that time, just walking in the street I saw the office to be let upstairs on Washington Street, so I said, “That’s the perfect place for our office to be.” I don’t know if the office came before the site, or the site before the office, but it was at the same time. So, that was the moment when we started thinking about that place, and the opportunities that that new place offered to the new Whitney. Of course, when you go there, even eight years ago, it was changing very fast—and clearly it was going to change. Because it’s a typical thing happening all the time, when you have an industrial place like that, it’s an inevitability—there’s going to be a mutation in the city, and that was attracting everybody, including me.

TVOA: What were the advantages of that space over the previous Upper East Side location?

Renzo Piano: Well, the reason why we fell in love with this place and immediately started to work there was to have space on the ground floor. That’s the most important thing that Breuer missed in the design for the building on Madison. He missed space in front of the building, to connect to the street. But in our case, we immediately thought we needed the space on the ground for pedestrians to come to enjoy the space, to make the building accessible, to create that sense of urbanity and openness. That was the most important thing in that moment.

Nowadays, when you think about a cultural institution like the Whitney, you think of something else. It’s no more like a fortress. Now, it’s more accessible. It’s a big revolution, but it took about forty years. When we designed Centre Pompidou, Beaubourg, it was ’71, so it was about ten years after Breuer made the Whitney. Beaubourg was one of the first public centers which had the idea that a public building should be accessible, not creating intimidation, but just openness.

I feel that a public building, generally speaking, especially when they are a building for culture, but even any public building like a library, school or university—they need to have this quality of openness and accessibility because this is what makes a city a better place to stay or to live. Cities are based on this. Cities are not cities when they are based on buildings that take possession of the land. They don’t talk to the streets. When you make buildings for public use, it’s the opposite. You have to make something that talks to the street, that creates a sense of communication, a sense of belonging to the community. In some ways, it was quite inevitable to move from uptown to downtown, to create a place that is more in this logic. Of course, the Breuer building is a great building. I love that building. I think it will always be there. Good quality architecture can survive forever, but the time had come now for the Whitney to have a different dialogue with the city.

TVOA: You mentioned the High Line before and that an advantage of the Gansevoort Street location was that this park terminated right at the museum. But, the High Line wasn’t completed or opened yet when you began your designs of the new Whitney.

Renzo Piano: No, no, it was not yet open. It was still in work. Actually, we collaborated in the design of the Maintenance and Operations Building of the High Line that is located exactly there at the end. So, we finished that about one year ago, but back then, at that time, The High Line was just a promising idea. It was just on paper for the moment. But it was clear that it was a fantastic and inspiring element that can happen in a city like New York—inspired from the strong, frank willingness—inspired by the industrial quality of the manufacturing. The High Line was inspiring in many ways. It’s a public space, elevated, inspired by our tallness in certain ways. Also, the form of the High Line, the language of the High Line, the semantics of the High Line, became part of the inspiring elements of the building. That’s for sure.

TVOA: Did you know what the design of the High Line at its termination near the museum would look like? Did you have the plans in advance?

Renzo Piano: Yes, the plans were done at that time. Diller & Scofidio made the stairs going down, so we knew that. We met with them, and they already made the project for the garden. So we knew everything. We knew everything.

TVOA: So, it was really inspired by so many different elements, not just a single vision.

Renzo Piano: When you make a project like this, you cannot just say, “I was inspired by this.” We were inspired by one hundred different things. The High Line was certainly one of those, but so was the street life. The other was the fragmentation of west Chelsea as a structure of the city. It’s not massive in that part of the city. It’s actually broken into little pieces. The buildings are not very tall, so the idea was that our building would be in dialogue, talking to that part of the city with the idea of breaking the scale of the buildings on the side coming down to make a transition to the High Line. And also, not to take the light away from the High Line. Because that’s the other point. In the afternoon, we are able to keep the sun and the light on the High Line for a long time. That was part of the idea.

And also, scale—the scale of the buildings coming down became part of the fragmented west Chelsea. And at the same time, with the fantastic location on the west side towards the Hudson River, it is exactly the opposite. The dialogue was not with the city. It was with the high-speed traffic of the highway, and then of course, the vastness of the Hudson, and the vastness of the rest of the country. You can feel it. You can feel it through New Jersey, feel the vastness of the sunset. The building is so reactive to each different direction. On the south side, the building must be in dialogue with the big buildings built in the 70’s—the big building right there on Gansevoort is just massive. And also, we got the sun. We decided to put an opaque wall there because you don’t want to have too much sun in the gallery. You can’t. But on the east side, you have this dialogue with the city. On the west side you have the dialogue with the vastness of the country. On the north side you have a dialogue with probably an extension. It may happen because the piece of land on the north of the Whitney is open to transformation. Because we are not using all the meat market space, of course, we are all only using the south part of that land. So, there’s extra land there. We felt from the beginning that this site was talking to a very different gravity in each direction—north, south, east, west, in a very strong, almost contradicting condition. On the north, it’s growth. On the south, it’s value. On the west, it’s the vastness of the sunset. On the east, it’s the fragmentation of the city. So the building had to react to all those things.

TVOA: Did the art itself influence your design decisions?

Renzo Piano: The collection was always in mind. The Whitney collection of American art is a fantastic collection: brave, strong, and free. I’ve said a number of times—freedom is what you feel when you look at that collection. Generally speaking, when you look to American art, it’s about freedom.

TVOA: Are there any works currently at the Whitney that you’re inspired by or pique your curiosity?

Renzo Piano: Mark Di Suvero is a great friend, and he has a beautiful piece on the sixth floor, I think. And Jasper Johns is great. I saw him in those days of the opening. He’s a great man. I have such a long list. American art is something that has always been inspiring. I’m Italian, living basically in Europe my whole life. For people like me, we grew up with the idea that freedom was coming from many expressions of American art. From literature—Kerouac and Steinbeck. All of this is about a sense of freedom. In theatre and music—John Cage and all those people. In theater, cinema, dance, ballet, the poetry of literature. It’s fundamentally the sense of the big prairie, the big space, for us. When you grow up in Italy, you have the double inspiration: one of course is gratitude for the history that has been feeding your family and your subconscious, but at the same time, you have this love for rebellion and freedom. So, for me, this idea of working on American art, and making a building for American art, is giving homage to this sense of freedom.

TVOA: How much did the history of the Whitney Museum and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney affect your process?

Renzo Piano: It’s very difficult to make a good building if you don’t have a good story to tell. It’s also difficult to make a good movie when you don’t have a good story to tell. It’s difficult to make a good novel if you don’t have a good story. Of course, you have to be a good writer. You have to be a good moviemaker. You have to be a good architect, but at the end, you need a good story. Otherwise, you are in trouble. And the Whitney is a great story, from the beginning with Mrs. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. She was a collector this lady. She was somebody rich in art, but free in art. She set up this funny club, a meeting place for artists. That’s another story. As an artist you had to pay one dollar to be a part of the company. At that time, it was 1920, or something like that. Downtown, not uptown. So, for forty years the Whitney was growing and feeding interest and exchange, emotions, in the southern part of the city. And then they moved uptown in 1961, and Mr. Breuer did a fantastic job. I always loved that building. It’s so strong, so brave.

TVOA: So you loved the brutalist design of the previous Whitney?

Renzo Piano: Forget the brutalism, it was a building with character. It’s a miracle because when you go inside, it’s quite perfect from that point of view. And many of the inspirations for the new Whitney came from there. I actually wanted to talk about this because inspiration is not like mimicking. Mimicking is wrong, but stealing inspiration is good. For example, in that building you used to take the elevator, and when the elevator was opening, you were right in the middle of the gallery. And this is what we also did, in a different way of course. And also, Breuer’s sense of flexibility, openness, the unpretentiousness of the space, for the gallery, is something we tried to preserve. And also the roughness of the material—Breuer used stone for the floor, and we used pine. But the pine we used is a special kind of pine that was recycled from old factories. And this recycled pine is almost like saying, “Artists, come and lay down whatever you want to lay.” That’s Breuer. That’s Breuer.

TVOA: To what extent did you collaborate with the Whitney staff? How involved were they in the process?

Renzo Piano: Oh, very much, from the top to the bottom. It’s immense work. We made this project in our office in Genova.

TVOA: That’s interesting that you actually didn’t make it New York. I would’ve thought that.

Renzo Piano: Well, people were traveling a lot—up and down, to New York, then to Genova, making prototypes, and doing a lot of testing in Germany. Architecture is a teamwork. And Adam Weinberg, of course, has been a constant presence. But other people, like Bob Hurst, Scott and everybody on the board, Mark Di Suvero, Chuck Close, who was a member of the design committee, and so many others—collaboration was essential. They first called me in 2001 or 2002, maybe. I was on site at the Morgan Library, and they invited me for a coffee at the Whitney, and I went for a coffee, but it wasn’t a coffee, it was a design selection committee.

(We both laughed.)

And when you say “Whitney,” you really mean those people: Adam Weinberg, Donald, Carol, the board, the curators. Architecture is a teamwork, and it’s hard to say who had the idea, but when you have a good client you don’t really keep account of what you did, what they did. It’s a nice game where you get together. Without a good client, of course, there’s very little hope that you can do something good. A good client, and a good story, and then eventually you can do something good.

By: David Plick

Whitney PhotoStep One: Reserve your tickets in advance. Or, better yet, buy a membership, because the line is very long (with a membership, it took me five minutes to enter from the outside, use the bathroom, check my bag, and get to the top observation deck. Five minutes. And the Whitney Museum just opened).

Step Two: Take the A, C, E, or L train to the 14th street and 8th avenue stop. Be sure to admire the sculptures in the station, because this is NYC, and art is everywhere, even in the dirty subway stations. Walk over to 9th avenue and the Meatpacking District. Feel that air of superiority as tourists scurry around you with their selfie sticks to wait in line for the bathroom at Starbucks—all the while avoiding that pang of inferiority as you scurry around fashion models and Mickey Rourke—because you’re not one of them. You’re going to the Whitney, damn it.

Step Three: Stop to eat at the Gansevoort Market at 52 Gansevoort Street. They have many purveyors of food including: Thai, Italian sandwiches, crepes, organic teas, falafel, and some of the salesman chat you up and are hilarious. You can sit at their bar and order quickly.

Or, if you’re in too much of a hurry to get to the Whitney Museum, you can bring food in. They don’t seem to search your bag (they didn’t with mine, and I asked a security guard, and he said it was okay as long as you don’t eat inside), so you can eat at one of the many outdoor terraces. It’s up to you. If neither of those options is appealing to you, you can eat in the museum, but be prepared to wait for a table.

Step Four: Look at the Whitney and all of its massiveness from Gansevoort Street. Take a picture if you want. Try not to be persuaded by what the architecture critics have said. Ask yourself, “Do I like this?”

Step Five: Start at the top and work your way down.

Now, maybe you do this anyway, but at the Whitney Museum it’s a particularly great idea because the top three floors are all linked with outdoor steps, so you can avoid taking the stairs or elevator. Instead, you can simultaneously take in the exhibition, America Is Hard to See—levels eight through five, which is a retrospective of the history of American art, while you enjoy the sculpture garden outside along with gorgeous panoramic views of New York City.

Level 8 Highlights: Ralston’s Crawford’s, Steel Foundry, Coatesville, PA, and Elsie Drigg’s, Pittsburgh.

Level 7 Highlights: Norman Lewis’, Untitled and John Chamberlain’s, Velvet White.

Step Six: Stop at the level six outdoor terrace and lay in this reclining chair. In the afternoon it faces the sun, and you can bask in the glow of NYC, art, your life, and repeat the words of Renzo Piano, “Beauty will save the world.” The chair also has perfect support for your back, so you can browse through the photos you’ve taken so far, and do some reading up on the art you’ve seen.

Step Seven: Back to the art, and America Is Hard To See.

Level 6 Highlights: Donald Judd’s, Untitled and Eva Hesse’s, No Title.

Step Eight: Reluctantly take the stairs or elevator to level five.

Step Nine: Go to the west side window on level five and notice that it looks directly at the New York City Department of Sanitation and a series of dump trucks. Appreciate the irony of this—they built a huge window just to look at that (side note: it’s hard to find a picture of the garbage trucks. No major media outlet seems to acknowledge this).

Level 5 Highlights: Chuck Close’s, Phil (which is not Lou Reed), Nam June Paik’s, V-raymid, Jeff Koons’, New Hoover Convertibles, Green Blue, New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Blue, Doubledecker, and Cory Arcangel’s, Super Mario Clouds

P.S. Level 5 is HUGE, politically oriented, and super sensory. It could just be called, America Is Dumb.

Step Ten: Go outside to the fifth floor terrace and peer over the edge to watch people walk on the High Line. Notice how much fun they are having, how they are beaming with positivity and optimism. Now, go over to the south side and look at Weichel Beef, and think to yourself, “Wow, they really do still pack meat around here.”

Step Eleven: Awkwardly stare at the Whitney staff working on level four in glass rooms and think to yourself, “Wait, am I lost . . . . ? Is there art here . . . ? What are they talking about . . . ?”

Step Twelve: Ask someone working there if there’s anything else left to see. They are all so polite and super helpful. They’ll tell you that there’s another gallery on the first floor, which is actually open to the public.

Level 1 Highlight: John Sloan’s, Backyards, Greenwich Village.

Step Thirteen: Step outside and stand in front of the new Whitney and consider your own feeling towards the design of the new building. Think about how the inside and the outside compliment one another. Think about how immense it is, how you could spend a whole day in there, and about its presence, in the Meatpacking District, downtown, New York City, and the world.

By: David Plick

B+U's Apertures, SCI-Arc Gallery, Los Angeles

B+U’s Apertures, SCI-Arc Gallery, Los Angeles

In a recent lecture at SCI-Arc entitled “The Familiar and the Uncanny,” the innovative Los Angeles based design team B+U discussed their interest in the manipulation of objects such as: windows and edges, and aggregations and multiples, to create the uncanny. A prime example of this is their exhibition Apertures, which “reflects a current architectural discourse of digital ecologies, emphasizing the relationship between the natural world and advances in digital technology [which] leads to a new type of interactive, organic building . . . [and] challenges how architecture can interface with its users and its environment in a much more intuitive way.” From the surreal designs of Lee+Mundwiler’s “Breathing Buildings” to the very literal issue of sustainability in urban design, the relationship between the natural world and advanced technology is an important trend in architecture.

Before this gets a little too abstract and theoretical, let’s establish that the apertures B+U are speaking of here are literally windows. As seen in the image, their art piece has a series of holes designed to interact with the viewer. Because these holes, these “windows” take on unfamiliar shapes, we as viewers are placed in the uncomfortable position of having to reconsider exactly what a window is. For example, in this video we see a child interacting with Apertures in a personal way, by peering into a hole. In this basic sense the child is having a relationship with the structure, and the windows are the passageway in this relationship, the one that exists between the outside world and the inside world of the piece, all made possible through human interaction.

In “The Familiar and the Uncanny” B+U discuss their interest in the uncanny, and how it’s still rooted in reality. They explain their fascination with the relationship between fiction and reality, and how architecture can be pushed to both. “The uncanny opens the door to the unknown,” Baumgartner says. “Yet it has one foot in reality and one in fiction. It is this duality of multiple realities that is of interest to us, and how this can be translated into architecture.” What seems to be very evident through their work is that this uncanniness is created through the simple manipulation of the most everyday, the most common of objects: windows and edges. It is the things that are the most familiar to us which have the power to create the uncanny.

For windows, which, in addition to being familiar, also have a liminal function, this power is seen in Apertures, and the recent plans for their Condo Tower in Lima, Peru. In their mesmerizing Frank Kim Residence, B+U create the uncanny through edges; in their gorgeous and magical soccer stadium, they create it through aggregation. And throughout all of this work is the wonderful reminder that architecture constantly shows us what is possible by pushing us further and further towards the impossible.

By: David Plick

0c408dcf721ea40f4b537009e80faeab1424797018Cara Lee and Stephan Mundwiler are Los Angeles modern architectural design innovators, and artists in every sense of the word. Their work, from the plans for the Iraqi Ray of Hope, to their modern homes, breathing buildings and the Dapeng Geology Museum and Research Center, is simulteanously visually stunning, culturally relevant, and forward thinking. It is both globally conscious yet deeply intimate and human.

Most recently the couple’s studio was a WAN Awards Winner for Civic Buildings, for the Dapeng Geology Museum, but recognition was not new to them. They have won AIA awards for urban design, housing, and in 2011, they won the Emerging Practice Award. They have been successes in their industry since the mid-1990’s, yet because they are so visionary, it seems like they have only just begun.

The Value of Architecture is currently teamed up with Lee+Mundwiler in selling their award-winning Coconut House in Mar Vista, and had a chance to talk with the couple about their past, present, and future in LA architectual design, and the rest of the world.

TVOA: You two met in the mid-90’s while pursuing Master’s degrees in architecture at SCI-Arc. Did you collaborate on a project while studying? What was the first project you collaborated on?

Lee+Mundwiler: The first project we collaborated on was the Hornli Cemetery, Riehen, Switzerland in the summer, 1994. By then Stephan already had won the competition of the Swiss Government Piazza collaborating with graphic designers from Basel. Stephan and I met at Vico Morcote in Switzrland, SCI-arc’s branch campus in 1993. It was my first semester and his last semester doing his thesis. The following year after two semesters of staying in Vico, I needed to come back to LA to take the rest of my classes to get the degree. I was in a hurry to finish my education that I decided to take a summer course as an independent study, which SCI-arc gratefully allowed. I was looking for a subject for the independent study at that time and Stephan mentioned one interesting competition—a cemetery near Basel needed to be redone due to being old and running out of burial space. It was a fascinating subject to us that involved urban planning, building and landscape design, all in one pot that had to be dealt with human emotion; morbidity, death, grief, reflection within architectural content and context. The city was looking for the best solution for that matter and we were up to this challenge!—just kidding, I was just happy to utilize the material to get on with my studies.

While I was in LA and he was in Basel, we’d communicate design progress through fax; a dawn of civilization. And it was one week before the due date when we made our decision to enter the competition for the heck of it, so I was losing my sleep for one week to wrap up the design to meet their submission requirement, and sent it out to Stephan. He had to translate it into German and deliver it to the city in person: no Fedex overnight. We took our vacation afterward, and completely forgot about the competition. When we got home Stephan almost fell from his seat when he heard the voice from the answering machine: the guy from the city directly called and informed that unfortunately they chose another project as a winning but our project was compelling enough to give out as Archive, which was a higher prize money than 2nd prize.

TVOA: So your first project together never ended up being made?

Lee+Mundwiler: No, but they really appreciated our design. Their regret was our project wasn’t developed enough to build the cemetery right away, which would take months to work on details and they were in hurry to build for the need. We were disappointed yet elated by the validation of our design approach. The concept was to contour all of the cemetery land, which was located on a hillside, as a gradual descendent and ascendant approach respecting existing topo. The distant view of Basel city as descending and the forest view as ascending was the magnitude of people’s field of view to calm the mind/body down. The slow and gradual move was sync’ed with people’s emotional and physical condition. The chapel and urn storage were tucked in under this landscape as earthy touch/consolation. I imagined myself in it, how my body would slow down if I were in shock. For visitors, mainly elderly in wheelchairs, it would be easier to access with this approach. We still think the design is the best solution even if the cemetery was built with the other one, but I still hope it has a second chance someday.

TVOA: Your firm, Lee+Mundwiler, has worked on a total of 88 projects. Do the two of you always collaborate on every project? Are there times when you work individually, but still bounce ideas off of each other? Is it always different or do you have a “process”?

Lee+Mundwiler: Our blessing or curse on some occasions is we both have a similar taste in liking things around us, yet there could be a rebel coming from either side. In sum, we are turned on by an object, concept, and ideology that get to the point. We know by our experience, the conciseness is intrinsically different from simplicity or being minimal, that how it is to be that way needs to be thought out in a much deeper level to resonate to intellectual latitude with no frilled appearance. That said, we are the cruelest critics during our design process and we both are pretty much in it for the design process all the way; some with no drama, some with a huge commotion, a project gets done while one smiling, one grieving.

TVOA: Your Swiss Pavilion project seeks to “simulate the way a living organism’s skin, or a living cell would respond to environmental stimuli.” You also are interested in the way a “Thing Breathes.” What is your interest in cellular biology and organisms breathing? How does it relate to architecture?

Lee+Mundwiler: While most of our projects are in line with the lineage of established architecture, progression has been always in our mind. Yet, we are not interested in installation or sculptural objects. As much these can be footing for the next development in architecture, for most cases, these are the architect/designer’s end goal rather than their first goal.

The way the public responds, thus diluting their understanding of architecture, has been a trouble for us to digest. At the same time, we are conscious about the fact that the architecture field hasn’t progressed much more than on the conceptual level with few viable new building materials. Thus, at the right given time, we’ve tried to experiment with our idea of “what if?”.

The first one we were into was the sand panel with House of Sand—that’s another story. 2006-2007 was our prolific time before the 2008 economic downturn. In 2006, we were participating in another competition—the Swiss Pavilion for the 2010 World’s Fair in Shanghai. We won two AIA National Awards and we were recognized at the AIA national convention in LA. Coconut House was awarded the AIA National Housing Award and included in the convention tour for architects. Soon, it was published in The New York Times as an Eco Green building. Plus, Bundesplatz, Swiss Government Piazza, also won the honor award. This was in about ten years of our practice and after four years of Stephan’s California architect’s license. We got deep into our vigorous process of making buildings 24/7, at least for the two of us. Around this time, we went for the test of our “what if”.

We’d been developing a design concept: what if a building being static, becomes dynamic, responsive to its environment in same way a living thing animates by nature? And we explored this premise step by step from a very elemental stage to a complex setup. We thought of the World Fair, the global event of introduction, of assumingly the most progressive technology and ideology among nations, as the optimum platform to introduce our idea. We plugged this concept into the real project proposal—the Swiss National Pavilion. Our design was chosen to be one of the twelve finalists and went on to the 2nd stage that engaged in serious level of reality. The outcome of the competition was, ours was the highest scored but took 3rd place with a mysterious reason: still we don’t know the answer. We were very disappointed by missing an opportunity for R+D on this concept. A German magazine nominated our design as one of the most advanced façade technologies right after the competition. We were told that our idea was ten years too early. Again, we are hoping to get into serious R+D with this concept and are still waiting for a right opportunity.

TVOA: As you just mentioned, your work is futuristic and progressive minded. What do you think is the predominant social and/or environmental issue that will shape the design and operation of future buildings?

Lee+Mundwiler: Both of us are more into getting to the point, and believe that the level of talking and reasoning of many in the architecture field is deceptive, and misleads the public in a damaging way. This should be stopped, especially with the sustainability and environmental issue. We need to see the big picture, cause and effect, not just prescriptive measures. Many do this for economic and political gain, and not for collective interest. The issue we are talking about should be a given thing for architects from the beginning, not an opportunity for flaunting. Further, what architects should engage actively in is any aspect in the process of making. Currently, the majority, in my opinion, underestimate their power and influence as an architect. I always believe that the intensity of architecture education can get anyone through any complex situation and I wish school teaching and practicing architects were involved more in bigger scales than of object making: in infrastructure such as the Mojave Desert Solar Power Station, water conservations, community building, city making, name a few. Further, many should be into the R+D in architecture based on reality.

TVOA: You have offices in both Basel, Switzerland and Los Angeles, California. In your opinion, what does America need to learn from European design, and vice-versa?

Lee+Mundwiler: One thing US can adopt from Europe is leveling the playing field. There is no system of opening up to truly talented designers unless you are a big firm or established name. These are very few and they are loaded with resources, while the rest are just getting by. Now, Europe is changing as well that RFQ, Request for Qualification, or invited competition, is usually only for a few. You can name them, and it becomes a norm.

I am very sympathetic to the talented yet struggling architects that we’ve been lucky enough to have a footing in due to Stephan’s home base. Also, I think if you could build a good residential building, you can build a museum, a hospital, an education facility, etc, with an army of consultants around. The fundamental issue for an architect/designer is the same as of a single family home: sensitivity to human condition. I am always muted by the question, “What kind of buildings do you design: residential or commercial?” Duh . . . I don’t know, if I said we design everything, they look at me suspiciously, and I am OK with that.

TVOA: Who’s the tougher art critic out of the two of you?

Lee+Mundwiler: Both. We don’t let the other win. It’s either the project gets built with one window or no window! And we call each other BS and shallow or “Bobby Trendy.”

TVOA: What are some museums you love to frequent—for the design of the building, or the art hanging on the walls, or inspiration?

Lee+Mundwiler: Dia Art: Beacon . . . envious of that space!!

TVOA: Where is your favorite travel destination?

Lee+Mundwiler: Any place related to good food.

By: David Plick

This combined office and home with pool and integrated landscape is comprised of three systems: a long galvanized metal wall folds over to serve as the roof and carport; a series of material samples separated by glass forms the envelope; and an exposed concrete slab on the grade contains radiant heat, plumbing, electrical, and up-lighting. The 104-foot long wedge evolves from a 22-foot wide studio, through a combined kitchen-lounge-gallery, to an 11-foot wide bedroom at the eastern end. With no interior doors, two floating cores for storage and bathrooms provide the only spatial separation, aided by the production of distinct moods though the disposition of materials and the organization of lighting conditions. An 18-foot long ribbon window transforms traffic into a continuously changing cinematic event. A large “letter box” opening in the living area offers deep views of nature across neighboring backyards. Titled the Off-Use House by the architects, this unique space has been featured by Architecture, L.A. Architect, The Los Angeles Times, Metropolitan Home, and Sunset magazine.


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By: Brian Linder

The Art & Design of Coachella 

(deasy/penner & partners) 

Tonight marks the launch of the 2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, where attendees’ will be greeted by vibrant, towering sculptures from artists such as Charles Gadeken, Don Kennell and Poetic Kinetics. Here we took a look back at some of the more creative installations from Coachellas gone by.

Cynthia Washburn :: Poetic Kinetics :: 2013

Rock and Roll Fantasy :: SCI-Arc Studio :: 2009

The Creators Project :: United Visual Artists :: Goldenvoice :: 2011

The Empire Polo Club :: 2013

Mike Ross :: Big Rig Jig :: 2007

The Creators Project :: United Visual Artists :: Goldenvoice :: 2011

Through The Cattails :: aphidoidea :: 2013

The Empire Polo Club :: 2013

Flaming Lotus Girls :: Serpent Mother :: 2009

The Dome :: Héctor Serrano :: 2013

The Empire Polo Club :: 2013

Crimson Collective :: 2010

By: Brian Linder

Open Sunday, April 13th
Open by Appointment Only

2 – 5pm Sunday


513 Grand Boulevard

Venice, CA 90291


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Offered at $2,495,000
  Status: Active

  Single Family House

  3 Bedrooms

  3.5 Bathrooms

  2,522 square feet

  Lot Size: 2,701 square feet


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor




Featured Architect
Lean Arch, Inc.


Visit our Gallery for details.

Coop Himmelb(l)au, Architects



Steps to Abbot Kinney and the beach, this dynamic urban intervention is a rare private residence by Viennese architects Coop Himmelb(l)au, and the first project built by the Austrian team in the United States. Here the architects explode the constraints of functionalism into a thousand pieces, in the process creating a complex sculptural form interwoven with the apparatus of living. An impeccable Bulthaup kitchen and the finest European fixtures and appliances set an uncompromising standard of elegance inside, disguised by the raw drama of the exterior. The expressive use of concrete, glass and structural steel is tempered by an open plan with direct connections to the landscape, natural wood ceilings, the play of daylight and cool ocean breezes. At the top, a generous roof deck commands panoramic 360-degree views from the Getty Center to the Hollywood sign and mountains beyond downtown.

Listing Brokers:

Brian Linder, AIA

Mike Deasy

Deasy Penner & Partners

The Value of Architecture


Quiet Listing – not on MLS
1401 Red Bud Trail

Austin, TX 78746


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Offered at $1,200,000
  Status: Active

  Single Family Residence

  4 Bedrooms

  3 Bathrooms

  2,754 square feet

  Lot Size: 1.06 acres


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor



Featured Architect
Dick Clark + Associates


Visit our Gallery for details.



Paul Hatgil, Designer


Additions and renovations by architects KRDB, Paul Lamb, and Gregory Thomas

Landscaping by Austin Outdoor Design


Hatgil Residence, 1965

Here on a gently sloping wooded site in scenic West Lake Hills only minutes from downtown and the best public and private schools in Austin, U.T. professor emeritus Paul Hatgil brought his polymathic fine art background to the design and construction of this Mid-Century Modern masterpiece, while subsequent additions and remodeling by KRDB, Paul Lamb, and Gregory Thomas have brought the home into the new millennium with contemporary finishes and fittings that dialogue between old and new. Inspired by architect Richard Neutra, the design is fluent in the language of modern architecture with an open plan, exposed post and beam structure, floor to ceiling glass, clerestory windows, and the judicious interplay of forms and materials. The focal point of the spacious living room is a dramatic wood-burning fireplace with cantilevered concrete hearth, exposed metal flue and stacked stone wall that continues beyond the building envelope, drawing the eye outdoors to the treetop ipe wood deck. At each end of the home are two separate and spacious master bedroom suites, each with its own entry, ideal for in-laws and overnight guests. A screened-in outdoor living room provides a central meeting place for outdoor dining and hill country viewing, collecting north-south breezes, and distributing this natural air conditioning throughout the house. A Hatgil designed fountain and tranquil Koi pond draw the eye and ear, while highlighting the natural but sculpted landscaping.

Listing Broker:

Brian Linder, AIA

Archetype Realtors

The Value of Architecture

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By: Brian Linder

Architectural Getaways

By: Brian Linder

Open Sunday, March 23rd
2 – 5pm


2170 Stradella Road

Los Angeles, CA 90077


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Offered at $8,850,000
  Status: Active

  Single Family House

  6 Bedrooms

  7 Bathrooms

  5,402 square feet

  Lot Size: 26,572 square feet


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor




Featured Architect
Carson Architects


Visit our Gallery for details.

Patrick J. Killen, AIA

Holmby Hills

The Dazzling Ground-Up New Construction With Spectacular Views Of Stone Canyon Reservoir and Head-On Downtown City Views. Bold Contemporary Design Made Of Concrete, Exotic Wood, and Walls Of Glass That Burst Out To The Endless Views. Gorgeous 73-Foot, Glass Tiled Infinity Pool. All Green House Includes A Photovoltaic System, Solar Pool Heating, 9 Hvac Zones, and More. Customized By The Owner With Exquisite Attention To Detail, Including Sumptuously Chic Glass Tiled Bathrooms, Three Fireplaces, Steam Shower, Elevator, and Automation. Stylish Living Room With Fireplace, Open Dining Area, and Den/Family Room With Second Fireplace. Cutting-Edge Aluminum and Stainless Steel Bulthaup Kitchen With Mille and Wolf Appliances. There Are Two Bedroom Suites On The Main Level. Featured Upstairs Is A Stunning Master Suite With A Third Fireplace. Additionally There Are 3 Upstairs Bedroom Suites and Media Room Or Gym. Designed By Renowned Architect Patrick J. Killen, Aia.


Listing Agent:
Steve Frankel

Coldwell Banker


Featured Austin Property
227 Turkey Drive

Dripping Springs, TX 78620


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Offered at $795,000
  Status: Active

  Single Family Residence

  3 Bedrooms

  2 Bathrooms

  5,612 square feet

  Lot Size: 6.13 acres


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor



Featured Architect


Visit our Gallery for details.

Sallie Trout, Designer

Chris Krager, AIA, Architect


Jakalope Ranch


Jackalope Ranch has 295 feet of Pedernales River frontage on 6.13 tranquil acres in the heart of the Hill Country. A playful mixture of rural functionality and urban sophistication, part artist’s loft and part ranch vernacular, the design combines environmentally conscious materials and systems in a manner both efficient and visually stimulating. The home takes full advantage of its location, with panoramic views, outdoor living areas and a large saline lap pool. An expansive great room defines the living space, with tall ceilings and an open living, dining and gourmet kitchen area. A spiraling library stairway connects levels vertically, from ground floor to screened-in sleeping porch at the top of the tower. Finishes include broad board maple, African mahogany, Texas pecan and granite, with top-of-the-line European appliances and fixtures, and custom-made built-ins by the artist. 3,812 SF house + 1,800 SF studio.
Listing Broker:

Brian Linder, AIA

Archetype Realtors

The Value of Architecture

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By: Brian Linder

Featured Austin Property
7062 Comanche Trail

Austin, TX 78732


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Offered at $1,995,000
  Status: Active

  Single Family Residence

  4 Bedrooms

  4.5 Bathrooms

  4,291 square feet


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor



Featured Architect
Vanguard Studio, Inc.


Visit our Gallery for details.

Vanguard Studio, Inc.

John Hathaway, AIA, Architect

Contemporary on Lake Travis designed by John Hathaway/Vanguard Studio – featured on the front cover of Texas Home and Living. Sophisticated commercial grade construction meets cutting edge technology and security. Home offers luxury finishes, multiple outdoor entertaining areas, ample guest parking, gated access and privacy walls. Kitchen equipped with Viking appliances, Calcutta Marble countertops, and a built-in Miele coffee machine. Available fully furnished. Pool with spa, double master and parking for 12+ vehicles.


Listing Agent:

William Steakley

DEN Property Group


Open Sunday Sept. 8
1 – 4 pm


1654 Hi Point Street

Los Angeles, CA 90035


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Offered at $1,599,999
  Status: Active

  Single Family Residence

  4 Bedrooms

  2.5 Bathrooms

  1,834 square feet

  Lot Size: 8,499 square feet


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor



Featured Architect
Koffka|Phakos Design


Visit our Gallery for details.

Koffka|Phakos Design

Mid City Modern

This modern LA stunner offers an unmatched, luxurious indoor/outdoor lifestyle. Koffka|Phakos designed and built this rare 8,500sf lot into a two-structure compound featuring an expansive courtyard, pool/spa and lavish landscaping designed by Dwell favorite, Daniel Garness. The 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath main house centers around a light-filled great room featuring Velux skylights, and disappearing Fleetwood doors that spill onto a covered veranda. The Italian Valcucine kitchen, Miele appliances, marble countertops, formal dining room, and multiple covered porches are an entertainer’s delight. Anchoring the R1-1 property is a 2nd fully-permitted dwelling with 10-foot ceilings- use as a poolside cabana, lounge, media room, or guest room.
Listing Agents:

Nina Kubicek

Helene De Kock

MD Properties

Remodeling and Home Design          

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By: Brian Linder

Featured LA Property
1650 Queens Road

Los Angeles, CA 90069


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Offered at $1,595,000
  Status: Active

  Single Family Residence

  2 Bedrooms

  2 Bathrooms

  1,496 square feet

  Lot Size: 5,816 square feet


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor



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Please visit our online Gallery and Featured Architect:


W3 Architects

Raphael Soriano, FAIA, Architect

Restored three level Bauhaus cube resting on street-to-street lot in lower Sunset Strip. Urbane kitchen, living and dining zones are surrounded by a continuous band of well proportioned horizontal steel casement windows and doors leading to the outside. Master suite and adjacent office or additional bedroom with select city views. 20′ x 10′ opaque glass wall washes light – threading the staircase through each volume. Master bathroom with steam shower. Swimmers pool, sunning platforms and bridge to terraced gardens lend to seamless entertaining. Dual HVAC systems, fireplace and electronic gated entry. A rare example of International, pre mid-century architecture in Los Angeles.

Listing Agents:
George Penner
Joshua Gaunya
Deasy/Penner & Partners

The Value Of Architecture


New LA Listing
933 Chung King Road

Los Angeles, CA 90012


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Offered at $649,000
  Status: Active


  3 Bedrooms

  1 Bathroom

  4,000 square feet

  Lot Size: 1,695 square feet


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor


Visit Our Gallery
Please visit our online Gallery and Featured Architect:


W3 Architects

Artist’s Live/Work Space

Legal Mixed Use: Commercial Gallery, Residential Apartment

In the heart of the Chinatown art scene, this unique live/work loft has an apartment upstairs, a gallery at street level and a workshop in the basement. Zone LAC2 for “mixed use” (Commercial, Office & Residential), the legal uses for this property are seemingly endless. The glass storefront is a magnet for retail customers by day and a lantern illuminating the neighborhood at night. The 2-stroy 1,600 SF gallery is divided into 2 smaller spaces, each with private office and mezzanine. The 3 BD, 1 BA, 1,200 SF apartment on top is a diamond in the rough, ready for a complete remodel, but one of few properties with a balcony overlooking the walk street and panoramic rooftop views. The workshop effectively doubles the commercial square footage, with a substantial darkroom, meditation space and art studio. Walk to the Gold Line, Union Station, Olvera Street and downtown from this exceptional property- ideal for owner/occupancy. 4,000 square feet total, including a basement workshop.


Listing Agents:

Brian Linder, AIA

Scott King

Deasy/Penner & Partners

The Value Of Architecture


Save the Date!

Chinati Weekend

Marfa, Texas

October 12-13


And visit our new listing while you’re in town.

309 N. Highland Street

Marfa, TX 79843


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Offered at $695,000
  Status: Active

  Single Family Residence

  2 Bedrooms

  2.5 Bathrooms

  2,726 square feet

  Lot Size: 8,320 square feet


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor


Featured Designer
Barbara Hill Design
Marfa House 1 (Hill Residence)

Marfa, Texas is 200 miles from anywhere, yet Vanity Fair describes it as an international art world epicenter, where the intelligentsia flies in on private jets to rub shoulders with urban expats, outsider artists & local cowboys. North of the small city center, Barbara Hill transformed this old adobe house into a timeless residence that features an exterior casita. The quiet adobe blocks have been preserved and supported by exposed steel beams. The New York Times calls the Marfa House “A Contemporary Retreat with a 100-year-old Soul”. Inside, the overwhelming serenity of the space is magnified by white plaster walls, minimalist architectural features and a collection of mid-century designer furniture. The embracing aura of this organic home makes it attractive to owners in search of a peaceful residential home.

The Marfa House will be open October 12-13 during Chinati Weekend. More information: http://chinati.org/programs/chinati-weekend


Listing Broker:

Brian Linder, AIA

Archetype Realtors

The Value Of Architecture

Remodeling and Home Design          

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By: Brian Linder

Open Sunday Sept. 22
2 – 5 pm


2128 Glyndon Avenue

Venice, CA 90291


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Offered at $1,495,000
  Status: Active

  Single Family Residence

  3 Bedrooms

  2.5 Bathrooms

  1,800 square feet

  Lot Size: 5,600 square feet


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor



Visit Our Gallery
Please Visit Our OnlineGallery and Featured Architect:


W3 Architects



W3 Architects

Warren Wagner, AIA, Architect


In a family-friendly neighborhood on the quiet side of Lincoln, this recently renovated bungalow is a pleasant study in contradictions. Close to the beach, yet far from the Boardwalk bustle; thoroughly Modern, yet rooted in 1920’s craft; open and airy, yet filled with intimate spaces. Here the architect has finessed these conditions to create a cohesive architectural statement, effectively reconciling old and new. Living, dining and kitchen form a spacious open volume where tall ceilings, skylights and clerestory windows define an artistic lifestyle, enriched by entertaining. A huge glass pocket door opens the entire space to an outdoor deck and private garden. Beds and baths are secluded on the other side, with hardwood and polished concrete floors, ceramic tile and French doors open to the landscape. A separate garage studio looks onto a green lawn, fruit trees and a children’s tree house, so rare in this urban context. 3 BD, 2.5 BA, 1,800 SF including studio.


Listing Agents:

Scott King
Brian Linder, AIA
Deasy Penner & Partners
The Value Of Architecture


Photography By: Shawn Bishop


New LA Listing
933 Chung King Road

Los Angeles, CA 90012


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Offered at $649,000
  Status: Active


  3 Bedrooms

  1 Bathrooms

  4,000 square feet

  Lot Size: 1,695 square feet


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor



Visit Our Gallery
Please Visit Our Online Gallery and Featured Architect:


W3 Architects

Artist’s Live/Work Space

Legal Mixed Use: Commercial Gallery, Residential Apartment

In the heart of the Chinatown art scene, this unique live/work loft has an apartment upstairs, a gallery at street level and a workshop in the basement. Zone LAC2 for “mixed use” (Commercial, Office & Residential), the legal uses for this property are seemingly endless. The glass storefront is a magnet for retail customers by day and a lantern illuminating the neighborhood at night. The 2-story 1,600 SF gallery is divided into 2 smaller spaces, each with private office and mezzanine. The 3 BD, 1 BA, 1,200 SF apartment on top is a diamond in the rough, ready for a complete remodel, but one of few properties with a balcony overlooking the walk street and panoramic rooftop views. The workshop effectively doubles the commercial square footage, with a substantial darkroom, meditation space and art studio. Walk to the Gold Line, Union Station, Olvera Street and downtown from this exceptional property- ideal for owner/occupancy. 4,000 square feet total, including a basement workshop.


Listing Agents:

Scott King

Brian Linder, AIA

Deasy Penner & Partners

The Value Of Architecture

Remodeling and Home Design          

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By: Brian Linder

Open Sunday, Oct. 6
2 – 5pm


11228 West Sunset

Los Angeles, CA 90049


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Offered at $1,550,000
  Status: Active

  Single Family Residence

  3 Bedrooms

  2 Bathrooms

  1,948 square feet

  Lot Size: 0.23 acres


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor




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Studio 9 One 2


Palmer & Krisel Architects


A rare period treasure by the iconic So Cal architects, Palmer & Krisel, who established the celebrated “Palm Springs style” of the 50’s and 60’s. The light-filled, comfortable & unpretentious space boasts many signature design features of the Era: simple lines & classic, relaxed, seamless indoor-outdoor flow. The elegant interior merges with mature trees & abundant greenery, around the resort like pool & spa, providing for a California lifestyle, and year-round alfresco entertaining. Living room is highlighted by signature exposed beam ceilings and magnificent architectural stone wall, with floor to ceiling fireplace. A generous master suite with walk in closet, and limestone bath, flows to the outdoors. Updated gourmet kitchen features Viking range, Granite counters, center island, abundant storage, and built in wine fridge. Beyond a walled & double-gated circular drive, the home is nestled in lush tropical landscaping. A one of a kind turnkey classic.


Listing Agents:

Christopher Watson

Betty-Jo Tilley

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices




Featured Austin Listing
694 Windsong Trail,

West Lake Hills, TX 78746


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Offered at $2,950,000
  Status: Active

  Single Family Residence

  4 Bedrooms

  5 Bathrooms

  5,770 square feet


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor



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Miro Rivera Architects



Jackson & McElhaney Architects

Connected with the natural beauty of the private 7+ acre setting, the fluid, open spaces provide artistic modern living. Public & Private spaces are defined by the grand two-story central living room. 5,770 sqaure feet with four living areas: spacious library, family room, living room, and the automated media room. Four Bedrooms, Five Baths. Miele appliances, black granite, and natural wood cabinetry create a gourmet kitchen with al fresco entertaining on the covered pool patio with gas fire pit.

Listing Agent:

Diane Lipsitz

Amelia Bullock, Realtors


Remodeling and Home Design       

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By: Brian Linder

Open Sunday Oct. 13
2 – 4 pm


516 East Annie Street

Austin, TX 78704


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Offered at $899,000
  Status: Active

  Single Family Home

  3 Bedrooms

  3 Bathrooms

  2,354 square feet


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor



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Clayton&Little Architects

Moore-Tate Projects + Design

Travis Heights Bungalow 

Realtors all attest that the high demand and low supply for new homes in established, close-in neighborhoods has never been higher in Austin.  So this home hits the buyer’s trifecta—a new architect-designed home in Travis Heights within walking distance to South Congress. This handsome bungalow is simply gorgeous. Distinctive modern lines, a private and shaded lot, an ideal location just a half-block away from Stacy Park—all combine to address the highest demand for urban dwellers who want it all. With breezes and light sources in mind, this home is well designed to capture morning light from large windows facing north and east.  A large covered porch and fine hardwoods give this house a distinctive custom home feel.


Listing Agent:
Clayton Bullock
Moreland Properties


Open Sunday Oct. 13
2 – 5 pm


229 San Juan Avenue

Venice, CA 90291


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Offered at $2,245,000
  Status: Active

  Single Family Home

  3 Bedrooms

  2.5 Bathrooms

  2,684 square feet

  Lot Size: 2,707 square feet


For more information, contact

Brian Linder, AIA, Realtor



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Rockefeller Partners