A Joke Until It’s Not

by Don Friedman on September 1, 2017

Plenty of building sites in 1903:

It’s not often you see a parody as well executed as the website for One Liberty, the redevelopment of the Statue of Liberty as condos. From the “One [Something]” name to the tagline “Goodbye Huddled Masses, Hello Muddled Cocktails” it manages to encapsulate everything mockable in the current real estate boom.

In reality, we’ve turned churches, factories, office buildings, schools, and warehouses into condos, so how big a stretch is it really? Many of the converted buildings are designated landmarks; many are landmarks in the sense of being important to people who live and work nearby.

I don’t expect to see national monuments turned over to developers any time soon, but honestly if you’d have told the executives of the Irving Trust bank and the New York Life Insurance Company a hundred years ago that their headquarters buildings would be converted to apartments, I doubt they’d have been able to stop laughing.

An Added Benefit

August 27, 2017

We climb scaffold for a single purpose: to see some aspect of a building up close in order to better understand it. But a lot of the time (click on the panorama above to enlarge it) the view is worthwhile in itself.

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What Do We Do All Day? Revisited

August 15, 2017

Internet discussion can be many things, with good and bad. Once in a while, a reply is more interesting than what triggered it. This short essay by Yonatan Zunger was a response to a “manifesto” that I’m not going to link to, on the topic of diversity. It should come as no surprise to anyone who […]

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A Thousand Words

August 7, 2017

From Beyond My Ken: There was an interesting demonstration of the relative inadequacy of language during my trip to Governors Island last week. If you click on the photo above, which shows the Governors Island ferry tied up on the island as seen from the Manhattan shore, you can make out the configuration of the […]

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Dress Like An Architect

July 30, 2017

A semi-serious discussion of fashion clichés among architects: here. I’m not going to poke fun, since the stereotypes of engineers’ clothing are far worse. The fellow up top is George Melville, Chief Engineer of the United States Navy Bureau of Engineering, whose magnificent beard and top hat were featured here once before. In the way of […]

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Three Thoughts In 285 Words

July 21, 2017

I read Doug Stowe’s blog regularly. There’s a pretty good size gap between his work and mine, but what he has to say is always interesting and he says it in a way that both informs and entertains. His July 4th post is a good example of why I read his blog. In a very small […]

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Mental Mapping

July 13, 2017

This article from the Architectural League on avoidance mapping is interesting in itself – it has a lot to say about what different people feel is important in their local environment – but it’s also interesting in what it has to say accidentally about how people see those environments. Some of the people interviewed have […]

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An Old Argument

July 10, 2017

Hilyard Robinson, architect and engineer, working on plans and specifications for war-housing projects at Ypsilanti, Michigan (courtesy of the NYPL): And frankly, it’s a tired argument. Not only are architects and engineers not inherently enemies, we do our best work in collaboration with one another. Cody Tharpe’s piece at ArchDaily is not wrong, but is, […]

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July 8, 2017

This is a little off from my usual topics, but here’s an article on categorization by Emily Drabinski that’s worth the time. It relates to our work in a fairly straightforward way: physical reality around us does not have categories, but rather we create them and impose them in order to better understand reality. This […]

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