Thanks to architect Chris Milford and members of the Ames family, Utile was treated to a comprehensive tour of the gatehouse (designed by H.H. Richardson), main house, and grounds of the Ames estate in Easton, MA.
There are many comments to make about the building, but most surprising was the audacious size of the boulders that make up the veneer of the building (a “real” wall of brick sits behind the stone). In some places within the pattern, the boulders take on an expressiveness that is almost gargoyle-like (each stone was hand-selected and positioned in the wall) – but gargoyles that are camouflaged by the allover pattern of the stones.
Popular for years in student proposals up and down the East Coast, Diller Scofidio Renfro’s most recent addition to Lincoln Center in New York might be the first built example of a walk-able tilted plane/roof in North America (not quite counting Weiss Manfredi’s waterfront park in Seattle). What’s most interesting to me about the proposal is the way the architects have gamed the code for maximum slope (5%) and the requirements for railings. It seems from the photograph that the curving railing on the outboard side of the lawn (but very smartly – NOT at the edge of the plane) is determined by the boundary between >5% and <5% (at least that’s my misreading of the solution – for our future deployment of the strategy!).
See Nicolai Ouroussoff’s slightly bitchy critique of the project in the New York Times – an excerpt:
More important, however, is a surprising insensitivity to the way bodies flow through space, something that is as fundamental to architecture and urban planning as to ballet and theater. . . . The problem is especially apparent in the north plaza. In Dan Kiley’s original design for the space, for example, the shallow reflecting pool in front of the Vivian Beaumont Theater was flanked on two sides by rows of low square planters, which allowed people to filter through the site from various directions. Diller Scofidio & Renfro replace this grid with a more linear scheme that feels comparatively oppressive.
Since when has Ouroussoff been a people-sensitive behavioralist? Maybe after all of the grief he has been getting in the blogosphere about his pampered and pampering approach to architectural criticism. See Alexandra Lange’s hilarious (and spot-on) takedown of Ouroussoff in Places/Design Observer.
While on design reviews at the University of Virginia, I had time to visit one of the most instructive pieces of urbanism in North America – Thomas Jefferson’s Lawn – important to our practice because of the careful weaving of public, private, and service space. On this trip, I was reminded of the clever hardware on the garden gates – gravity balls that keep the gates closed.
Two maps I have produced in the last few months. The information comes from (mostly) free GIS layers that I collect from various websites. Each panel of the Boston print is 21” x 14” and each of the DC print is 20” x 36”. Both are printed on canvas.
The smallest possible “complete” outdoor café, courtesy of the Outdoor Cafés Group at the Project for Public Spaces. Please note the safety tape on the corner post – yet another conflict to manage on a Complete Street. See the Greenway District Outdoor Café Guidelines, researched, written, and presented by Utile – to understand the required kit-of-parts of an outdoor café in the City of Boston.
This 1958 film, produced for an episode of the Disneyland TV show, comes on the heels of the Federal Highway Act of 1956 and parallels the development of Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland Park (1955) at Disneyland and prefigures the Contemporary Tower at Disney World (1971). GPS and reverse-view screens (a cool feature in my Mom’s Lexus) are both predicted, but we’ll need to wait for most of the technologies. Please note the complete disregard for the environment and existing cities (this was produced three years before Silent Spring and the Death and Life of Great American Cities) and the Mad Men-like sexism.
The film was brought to my attention by John Fregonese, an urban planner who spoke at the recent The Reinvented City conference at Harvard/The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
From Dallas, Texas: a guerilla-style street re-design, complete with a bicycle lane, traffic calming, sidewalk espresso sipping, traditional street lamps, etc.