Category Archives: Media

Misleading Narratives

Two posts back, in Repeating Crevice, Revisited, I wrote If Shinohara was aware of having designed certain possibilities into [a house he designed], he never let on. Now I think about it, he can’t not have known he was designing that house to offer its occupants various levels of awareness of the movements within. Instead, he chose to present an alternative narrative having nothing to do with any real benefits his design may have had

A more consciously misleading narrative has to do with Le Corbusier’s Plan Obus. This sketch shows LC was definitely aware he was designing something that permitted certain possibilities for multicultural living but he chose not to make them part of the narrative for propagation. Later historians have largely complied.


The Winslow House is often used as an example of how Frank Lloyd Wright gifted us the open-plan house. Wright’s $5,000 Fireproof House is seen as a lesser embodiment of Wright’s principle of configuring a house around a hearth as the heart of the home and of removing walls to arrive at a new conception of interior space. The first misleading narrative is Wright’s, the second is historians’.

Removing interior walls sounds like there were cost savings to be had, and supporting an upper floor and a roof with a largeish brick structural element in the middle of a symmetrical plan sounds like a very efficient way of using equivalently sized materials at maximum efficiency. If Wright and later historians hadn’t used misleading narratives to describe what was “important” about The $5,000 Fireproof House and the Winslow House and others, then we might not’ve had to wait for Rural Studio to rediscover and make explicit the link between cost performance and architectural beauty.

Economic efficiencies and benefits to society aren’t the opposite of architecture they’re made out to be – they just exist in a parallel yet invisible dimension. The visible world speaks to us of beauty and abundance and the invisible world reminds us how little we want it to cost.

In the decades since Le Corbusier and Shinohara, architects have elevated the misleading narrative to a level of art far exceeding what it exists to describe. The misleading narrative is now the primary means for display of architectural cleverness. In any field other than architecture, goods that please the eye but fail according to indicators of other qualities are called fakes. The English language has the saying “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” and also its more down-to-earth equivalent “You can’t polish a turd.”  Well, actually you can and it’s being done all the time. Since it’s not going to stop anytime soon, I think we should at least explore the mechanism involved.

Many if not all of the misfit architects I’ve listed here over the years have either been totally forgotten, under-remembered or under-acknowledged for not providing misleading narratives to distinguish their noble efforts as architecture. Their innovations have been duly dismissed as idiosyncratic obsession or mere investigations into building science. Last week’s Architecture Misfit#27: Harold Krantz is a perfect example. Perhaps he’d be better remembered as the innovator he was if he’d spent a bit more time designing his narratives than simply indicating what he thought was the real worth of what he was doing.

• • •

For years I’d been trying to track down a Japanese house I vaguely remembered – probably from having seen it in Japan Architect in the late 1970s. I never saw or heard of it again so it must have been a one-off, long forgotten and by now long gone. It was titled House With a Sloping Wall because that is what it had. House With a Sloping Wall

I found myself thinking of this house again last week. Perhaps it had something to do with the one-bedroom apartments that were also very much on my mind.

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I spoke about how one-bedroom apartments are usually a bedroom and a living room side-by-side along the only wall that can have windows, and how the bathroom and kitchen are usually against the corridor where they share a shaft.


I never got to talk about the poetry of architecture and that was a shame since I’ve begun to suspect the poetry of architecture, building science and social utility aren’t as mutually exclusive as we’ve been led to believe. So here’s my memory of House With a Sloping Wall, re-imagined as a one-bedroom apartment.

Sloping Plan

We now come to a fork in the road. Do I present my House With A Sloping Wall as something aesthetically innovative or do I present it as something useful? Do I go for a misleading narrative or do I tell the truth? The former is easy and there’s no lack of impeccable references to work into a misleading narrative.

Firstly, my house has a 45° wall that’s no more wall than it is floor or ceiling – or all three – or two out of three, depending which side of it you are. A reference to Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture seems called for. Going in deeper, I could reference William Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity, as did Venturi.

There’s a long history of the perception of inside and outside being blurred by making building elements or finishes span the boundary between the warm side and the cold side.

There’s a longer and nobler history of trompe l’oeil attempting the same using only two dimensions. The best examples have the surrealism that comes from things not appearing to be what they are – a virtual outside.

trompe l'oeil

From the bedroom of my House With A Sloping Wall, the sloping wall doesn’t appear as a sheltering roof – an effect that, prompted by the skylights, is also apparent on the other side. IT ACTUALLY IS a sheltering roof. The perception of inside and outside is not blurred by extension or confused by illusion, but reset by the suggestion of a roof with skylights and chimney. An element that’s normally outside appears inside. This is not so common, but nor is it so rare. These examples below all riff on the idea of clouds indoors. The church is the least surreal because of trompe l’oeil precedents.

Moving away from inside and outside, I suppose I could leverage my CV and mention Kazuo Shinohara and those strange internal spaces in his 1981 House Under High-Tension Lines,

or the inclined roofs of his 1973 House in Seijo or his 1971 Prism House, both of which have spaces that seem to exist only to be visually appreciated. They’re bonsai versions of double-height spaces but their acutely angled corners intensify not light but shadows.

Did somebody say shadows?! I need to mention Junichiro Tanizaki’s 1977 essay In Praise of Shadows even though it’s about a 3.5 on the Japanese 1-7 scale of cultural inscrutability. 

Victor here! I know you’re not into pattern language but, since you’re narrative farming, another argument for lowered bedrooms comes from Christopher Alexander, who had a thing for ceiling height. He argued ceiling height has to vary according to degree of privacy. It sort of required ceiling to comply with “personal space bubble” that gets the largest in public spaces. Hence high ceilings in public lobbies and stores are comfortable. CA argued that tinier rooms and alcoves are cozier and allow humans to feel closer to each other – if they’d allow each other to get together in there.

Thanks for that Victor! I do admire the way Alexander aims to link sociology and aesthetic predelictions but other factors at work mean we must now pass from the floating world of architectural narratives into the objective world of building science.

Moisei Ginzburg and his Stroykom team’s Type B and Type F apartments had reduced ceiling heights for the bedrooms because they were less important than the daytime living rooms. This seems fair because in bedrooms people don’t move around so much. Space as a visual thing is not something appreciated when asleep.

With houses it’s not rocket science. Many vernacular houses have attic bedrooms because it’s a better use of building volume but, with apartments, this is something neither obvious nor easy to do despite the greater pressure to extract maximum value from their smaller volumes. That pressure never dissipates. Those ingenious apartment conversions having a “sleeping loft” above the kitchen and/or bathroom are a modern trope because they stack two zones needing less ceiling height. The four examples below all allow maximum area with maximum height but only one involves sloping surfaces.

If you haven’t already guessed, the real reason for my sloping wall is to return some of that under-appreciated bedroom volume back to the living room where it can be better appreciated during waking hours. Did I say some? 50% is half!


True, that 50% can’t be used in any meaningful way but then neither can a double height space and look how highly architectural history regards those. Nevertheless, in order to make my diagonally interlocking spaces more appealing, I produced a variation having those crudely approximated diagonals known as steps.

Stepped Wall.jpg

It’s pointless referencing BeFun’s Alley House – despite being ingenious it’s too little known. It’s far better to reference the space for The Baltic Pavilion in the Giardini at the 2016 Venice Biennalle grounds. Bringing it all back to Venice never did any architectural endeavour any harm.

One last card to play are bleachers. They’re the wild card, the joker in the pack, the ace high or low. People don’t associate bleachers with any grand architectural precedent, distinguised personages or unassailable theory. They just associate them with happy memories and enjoyable experiences. I’m not suggesting we return to the dark days of palliative postmodern iconography. What I am suggesting is that we couch our architectural narratives in essential truths. I can reference bleachers in good faith because they’re all about observing a large space in front of them.


The view back is equally important.


Even the space under the bleachers can also be referenced in good faith since, from what I can glean from the internet, many people associate that space with intimacy. Allow me to present Bleacher House.

The Bleachers3.jpg

Returning some building volume to the living room was the only thing that mattered with this house and, though the idea contained much art its explanation did not. Presenting this idea as architecture didn’t have to involve presenting it as something it wasn’t. This house IS BLEACHER HOUSE because it does the same thing. I suspect that any architectural idea of worth can be communicated more easily by calling attention to something of comparable and real worth.

This is different from those forced and unnatural associations that conceal lack of content behind phrases such as “recalls X” “resonates with X” “references X” “is redolent of X”, where X is the name of some building or architect there was never even the intention let alone the possibility of emulating. The architect Eladio Dieste is often referenced in this way.

• • •

20 Feb. 2017 (11 hours later): HUGE thanks to Daniel Munteanu for solving my mystery. One of the things Daniel does is run the blog OfHouses which “is a collection of old, forgotten houses” so it’s not that surprising he remembered this house. Me, I falsely remembered its name. It’s the Mochizuki House, by Hiroyuki Asai. 1971. I love it. 

Everything has been exquisitely contrived to appear as if it could no way other than the way it is, as all good architecture perhaps should be. If the wall were vertical, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the light from that skylight illuminating that wall. Hiroyuki Asai, wherever you are, thank you.

• • •

There aren’t many kanji variations for the name Hiroyuki Asai. A search in Japanese led me to the site of architect Hiroyuki Asai. Our paths almost crossed.

  • 1970 Graduated from Tokyo Institute of Technology Faculty of Science and Engineering Department of Architecture
  • 1970 – 1976 Studied with Professor Kazuo Shinohara of Tokyo Institute of Technology and learned housing construction through practice

Elsewhere on the site he had this to say about Mochizuki House, his first “work” – everyone called them “works” then.

直方体 内部に屋根の架構を支持する柱一本 それと離れる位置で直方体を壁で垂直に分割 この構成では何も起こらない  分割する壁の頂部を傾ける 何かが起こる 意味の産出 分割という構成により傾斜壁の表裏に出現した空間の関係 <建築> この作品から私の全てが始まる

If a single column supporting a roof frame stands apart from a vertical wall dividing a rectangular parallelepiped, nothing happens. However, if the top of the dividing wall is tilted, something does. Meaning is produced, along with spatial relationships appearing front and back of that tilted wall – Architecture. All of me starts from this work. 

Well done Mr. Asai!




Movies are high-res imagery of elaborate fictions and thus fit naturally into this new media landscape where everything is architecture. It’s not even necessary for a movie to be set in or around a building but, when a movie like High-Rise comes along with a lot of people in a building and one of them’s an architect, it’s like content from heaven. Unfortunately, most of the people in that building behave badly and kill each other and, on the surface, it looks like the fault of the architecture.

This is a big problem for, in this post-depth world, people only pay attention to the surface of things and people might think a building full of corpses reflects badly upon the magic and mystery of architecture. The challenge then, for today’s architecture media content providers, is to write about a movie in which most of the characters end up dead, but in a way that keeps that magic and mystery of architecture alive. Let’s see how they do.

The Architecture Foundation’s sole concern is how architecture is represented to the general public. It has some unnamed writer giving us a string of trivial observations such as the improbability of the off-form concrete and the organisation of the development itself, and basically dismisses the movie as poorly-researched and poorly-styled fluff.


Questions such as the effect a building or its typology may or may not have on people are simply ignored. OK it’s true there’s no evidence good buildings produce good people or bad ones produce bad people, but faith in architectural determinism one way or the other still remains the basis for much architectural activity. The Architecture Foundation doesn’t care if exposed concrete and ducting cause social degeneracy, embody an architectural one, or symbolise a soon-to-be not-so-latent human one. It objects to it as cliché.

Colin Martin, writing for ArchitectureAU, under the promising title of The Brutality of Vertical Living, gives us a movie review with two closing paragraphs saying something about Brutalism to link back to the title. Martin’s interest in Brutalism also goes no further than the degree it impinges upon our consciousness as a style. Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock would be proud.

Architecture AU

Martin’s quick to link the nastiness depicted in the film with Brutalism and thus reinforce the painstakingly-fostered and maintained negative associations that Brutalism has come to have with post-war British council housing. Thought: half a century on, why is this continual vilification necessary? After all, people don’t continually remind us to associate Post Modernism with shoddy construction, Deconstructivism with bubble economies and Parametricism with the hollowing-out of architecture. I sense politics is at work. The never-ending demonization of Brutalism serves to validate not only the destruction of social housing, but to ensure that social housing as a concept is dead and stays buried. We’re meant to think social housing was just an aesthetic fad we grew out of.

Dezeen quotes the director, Ben Wheatley as rejecting the suggestion the set and the egomaniacal architect character Royal were a direct comment on late Modernism. “The film is not a criticism of post-war architecture,” he said. “It’s more that the building is a metaphor.”


This sounds like it could be true but metaphor can be used with critical intent. [I wouldn’t want Wheatley to be my lawyer.] “I think whenever you try to take a god-like view and try to force social stuff [!] on to people and have an overarching idea of how people are going to live, you’re opening yourself up for trouble,” he said. “Not to say you couldn’t get it right, but I wouldn’t be surprised when you got it really, really wrong.” This to me sounds like a criticism of attempts to provide “social stuff” like social housing.

A few reviewers mentioned Erno Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower as a symbol of Brutalism the style but not as the gentrified council housing it is now. The high-rises of Colin Lucas, Brutalist in both apperance and social function, are not remembered.

The Barbican doesn’t get a mention either despite being most definitely Brutalist and of the same vintage but it was housing for the middle classes. It is a recognizable inspiration for the set design and it’s right that it should be. To ignore The Barbican is to miss the point of the book.

In his 2014 introduction to the iBook edition of High-Rise, Ned Beauman writes that the book would not shock if council housing tenants descended into barbarism for this would only confirm what many want to believe anyway. It only works, as Lord of the Flies did, because we believe, also falsely, that the middle-classes are more civilised. He finishes by saying that “any time in human history that two or more households have tried to share the same space, they have lived in the High-Rise.” In that sense, High-Rise is a very contemporary British novel about the inability to share, especially when times get tough. Societal decay begins in shared spaces such as corridors, elevators and stairwells, and comes to a head in scenes set in the shared amenities of supermarket and swimming pool.

A.O. Scott reviews the film for the New York Times without any mention of Brutalism, Britain, or British housing policy.

Zach Mortise, writing for Metropolis 2 (May 24), offers a solid synopsis of the film and notes how the balconies refer to those of the The Barbican.

His closing thoughts emphasise how the architecture of the movie is inspiring but incidental to the thrust of the plot. There’s a lack of Brutalism bashing and attempts to negatively associate it with British council housing.

Zach Mortice

Shumi Bose steps up to the plate one month later to rectify this deficiency, and delivers Metropolis Magazine‘s second review of the same film, and which is immediately broadcast by ArchDaily.


Despite being in Metropolis’ Culture section and not its Architecture section, Bose’s article has much description of buildings already well illustrated. Let’s not forget that these buildings are someone’s imagining of buildings described in a novel. As I think I mentioned, they’re no less real or less architecture [sic.] than what gets presented to us as architecture anyway. Seen worse.


Instead of hearing about The Barbican, we get given a history lesson on Britain’s post-war housing policy. The word Brutalism occurs only once in the header but Brutalism the style and Brutalism the ambition are conflated and the implication is that Brutalism and social housing are both things of the past.

I doubt we’ll recognise ourselves. The idea of different socio-economic classes inhabiting the same building is unthinkable now. [c.f. Poor Doors]

Julia Ingall, writing for Archinect, unsurprisingly sees the high-rise building as a WYSIWYG allegory and her review is given the racy title Devastation is in the Details. For the first time we learn the interesting fact that the movie “was filmed in the real-life Bangor Leisure Center designed by Hugo Simpson in Belfast, Northern Ireland”. Uh-oh.

Chris Hall, writing for The Guardian noted that Ballard’s most psychologically fulfilled characters look to transcend their physical surroundings, however hostile, by embracing them. … Ballard argued that “people aren’t moving into gated communities simply to avoid muggers and housebreakers – they’re moving in … to get away from other people. Even people like themselves.” In this way, Ballardian environments actively select for psychopathic traits and it’s the egocentric Laing who is best adapted to the high-rise who ultimately survives all the tower can throw at him.”

Wilder: “Living in a high-rise requires a special type of behaviour .. aquiesent … restrained … absolutely slightly mad. The ones who are the real danger are the self-contained types … impervious to the psychological pressures of high-rise life … professionally detached … thriving, like an advanced species in a neutral atmosphere.
Laing: I am sorry you think that.
Wilder: No you’re not.
Laing: Perhaps you’re right.

[Dinner’s ready!]

Laura Mark in Architects Journal wasn’t given much space but she managed a good summary and to also link its message to contemporary society.

This is a new and refreshing slant. I’m glad she noticed EVERYTHING WAS FINE UNTIL THE LIFTS STARTED TO FAIL. If we buy into the hierarchical allegory and the superior classes being at the top, then failing lifts mean no prospects for social mobility. But without such overthinking, the novel and film could easily be read as a cautionary tale arguing for backup systems and better maintenance regimes for residential buildings. Sadly, this doesn’t make for good novels, movies or architecture media content. It’s a shame, because we have one well-documented precedent for poor maintenance leading to the breakdown of societal norms, and we learned the wrong lessons from that.

Pruitt-Igoe was demolished three years before High-Rise was published. Well before 1975, inadequate maintenance was a thing. Had it not been demolished, Pruitt-Igoe would surely have been repaired, refurbished and gentrified by now. The site still lacks replacement buildings of any kind. Anyone who achieves anything on this site that’s been systematically stigmatized for decades deserves more than some miserable Pritzker.

As it remains with Brutalism even now, what happened because of the absence of backup systems and ongoing maintenance is wrongly thought of today as an aeshetic failure. This over-concern for the aesthetics of social housing projects seems confined to the English-speaking countries. It’s as if their occupants aren’t allowed aesthetics of any kind, let alone decent maintenance. The elevators in The Barbican seem to work fine. Stylistically, some of Brutalism’s architectural ideas such as raw finishes and the absence of ornament weren’t bad ones but it’s the social optimism of Brutalism that really needs keeping going. It’s precisely this that’s under continual attack.

Patrick Sisson, writing for Curbed, was the only person who wanted to see more of that optimism before the movie revels in its unravelling.

• • •

In the closing scenes of total social and mechanical breakdown within the building, the Wilder character [one of the lower-floor tenants] makes his way to the penthouse where he kills the architect he sees responsible for the dysfunction. His assault on the integrity and authority of the architect is swiftly avenged by those still in thrall to his magic and power. This observation seems to be mine alone but you try saying something less than completely praiseworthy about any renowned architect living or dead, and see what happens.

• • •

FUN FACT 1: Nearly all reviews mention the architect character living in the penthouse. Some mentioned the architect Erno Goldfinger who famously lived on the top floor of his Balfron Tower – but only for two months, as some troublemaker mischievously repeated.


FUN FACT 2: Not a single reviewer mentioned the architect Ian Simpson and his fantastical apartment at the top of the 47-storey Beetham Tower he designed in Manchester, 2004. This’ll be it.

Two-hundred year old olive trees were helicoptered up there one by one, I remember reading at the time.

• • •

• • •

29/09/2016: An article, published on the same day, encouraging us to consider Brutalism as a style devoid of social content or application.




Misfits’ 2015 Midsummernights’ Quiz

Welcome to misfits’ 2015 Midsummernights’ Quiz! I know I know, there wasn’t one in 2014 but don’t worry – misfits haven’t gone all biennale on you. The quiz is only ever a compilation of oddities and curiosities that hadn’t yet found their way into a post. So go on – enjoy it for what it is!

Q1. First up, what’s this?


Q2. Who all-capped this on April 10?

all caps

Q3. One of the signs of a dysfunctional architecture is when buildings have active online lives but don’t know what to do outdoors. It’s increasingly common for a building to be more image that substance. Images however, are all image and no substance and this is why they have become the purest expressions of a dysfunctional architecture. Which of the following images is the odd one out?

Q4. We’re so used to looking back at images of buildings we’re becoming less and less curious about the intended user experience. Part of that experience was to appreciate a view of one’s expansive property or the views it affords. Here’s some views. Name the buildings.

Q5. Country and approximate date please.


Q6. What do you first think of when you see the following photographs?

Q7. What’s the significance of this next? 


Q8. What do you first think of when you see this image?

ALM_Museum (1)

  1. Total harmony with surroundings as strong verticals resonate with surrounding forest.
  2. Touches the ground lightly.
  3. Unapologetically industrial aesthetic.
  4. Looks a bit like the previous building.
  5. For such a simple building, it manages to look extremely pretentious.

Q9. Who lives here?


Q10. What do you notice about this washbasin? [Clue: washbasin]



kth_engQ1. It’s Arata Isozaki’s once-famous Marilyn Ruler derived from, one can all-too-easily imagine, a shot or shots from Playboy’s 1949 Marilyn Monroe “Red Velvet” photoshoots. In his early buildings, Isozaki claimed to use this ruler whenever he wanted a “sensuous” curve …… such as in the Kamioka Town Hall 1976-78. If you weren’t alive then, be glad – they were horrible times.

all capsQ2. An easy one! The answer’s Patrick Schumacher on Facebook. The most important thing I’ve learned from this man is to stay away from the keyboard if I’ve had a drink. 

AGAQ3. The correct answer is C. It has been built and is the Art Gallery of Alberta. When winter arrives I’ll no doubt agonise over the real-world function of architectural invention as we currently understand it but right now it’s summer so I’ll let it slide.


Regarding Fallingwater, has anyone ever seen a photograph of the eponymous falling water taken from the living room terrace? Do we care?


Not really. Ol’ Frankie wasn’t the first, and certainly not the last, architect to get a wealthy client to pay for their media content.


It would be an interesting exercise to design a house – in the style of Wright – for the spot Mr. Kaufmann originally envisioned his house would be.


F-R.van't Hoff, Villa Huis ter Heide, Netherlands 1915

F-R.van’t Hoff, Villa Huis ter Heide, Netherlands 1915

Q6. It’s not a Rorschach Test, but your answer may indicate you’ve had too much architecture this past year. For want of a correct answer, architectons is the correct answer.

The early career of Zaha Hadid and, for all we know, THE ENTIRE FUTURE OF 20TH CENTURY ARCHITECTURE might have taken a different turn had Kazimir Malevich used sand instead of plaster. The physical impermanence of sandcastles is something we learn at an early age as our parents tell us pick up our buckets and shovels and get a move on. These sandcastles use an inexpensive and impermanent medium to allow us to enjoy gratuitous form-making for the fun of it. This is vastly more responsible than using the medium of architecture. Take a bow, Calvin Seiberg.


Q7 It’s Le Corbusier’s Villa Harris. Designed in 1930 for a Swedish-American Marguerite Tjader Harris. (For some reason, she’s usually mentioned as the Swedish-American heiress Marguerite Tjader Harris.) It was never built. She divorced Overton Harris in 1933. Le Corbusier designed this house for her in 1930. When their long-term affair began is conjectural. According to kiss-and-tell Tjader Harris, he “was not a complicated man, not even an intellectual, in the narrow meaning of the word. He lived by his faith and emotions.”

ALM_Museum (1)Q8 The correct answer is 5) It manages to look extremely pretentious for such a simple building. It does this by using few resources and simple techniques to do something that, if it needed doing at all, could have been done much more easily – by simply building on the adjacent ledge, for example. If this building is a lookout of some kind, one would have been looking out from just as high. The project is a zinc mine museum in Allmannajuvet, Norway.

peter-zumthor-allmannajuvet-norway-zinc-mine-project-ryfylke-designboom-01Here’s another building from the same project. Take an unpretentious building and, rather than build it on the stone wall, hang it off the edge. Peter Zumthor’s genius is to give complex buildings a devious simplicity. We know we’re looking at “architecture” but we quite can’t pin down where the necessary wastage is.

Bill-Gates-House_1Q9 Bill & Melinda Gates. The most unusual thing about this house is how little we know about it. It breaks the historic pattern of using architecture to flaunt wealth. This isn’t to say that it wasn’t used to flaunt other things. At the time of its construction, the media was flooded with articles describing its technical “innovations” that, curiously, have not come to pass.

809432_809432_Abisko-WashbasinQ10 The problem of overflowing has been ingeniously solved by making it impossible for the basin to ever fill! The English word ‘basin’ does not do it justice.

The Things Architect Do #8: Cherry Blossoms

And so, as Japan’s 2015 cherry blossom viewing (花見) season draws to a close , it’s time to reflect upon what these flowers have come to mean to us. 

A cherry blossom is the flower of any of several trees of genus Prunus, particularly the Japanese Cherry, Prunus serrulata, which is called sakura after the Japanese (桜; さくら). Currently it is widely distributed, especially in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere such as: Europe, West Siberia, China, Japan, United States, etc. (ref.)

Cherry blossoms are getting to be widely distributed in the virtual world as well. Here’s four renders of W57th Street, courtesy of BIG/Glessner Group. “Yikes – they’ve got the joint surrounded!” 1297114794-w57-image-by-big-10-1000x625 img_glessnerA_06-2 cherry West-57th-Street-by-BIG-ARCHISCENE-net-06 Glessner and BIG have history. Here’s their 2009 VIL School With Cherry Blossom.


That same cherry tree went on to have further adventures in America . seeing double

London also has its fair share of cherry trees, most recently those associated with Rafael Viñoly’s 20 Fenchurch Street death-ray generator. bbc-car-2

It’s risky enough on the ground but radioactive cherry blossoms in the Sky Garden up top are a sinister infra-pink.


Eternal spring beats grim realities. We know we’re being cheated, but more on this later. maxresdefault

Here’s some cherry blossoms from a virtual Italy. No vertical forest is complete without a cherry blossom farm.


Render for Bosco Verticale

Just as a side-note, before and during cherry blossom viewing season, Japanese people often make polite conversation about the stage of cherry blossoming they most prefer viewing. It’s taken as an succinct indicator of character type whether one prefers 1) the fresh beauty of barely blossoming and full of promise, 2) the splendrous beauty of promises fulfilled, or 3) the fading memory of promises fulfilled. There’s added kudos for appreciating those sexually charged moments between 1) and 2) or the varying degrees of inevitable pathos between 2 and 3), and yet more kudos for articulating the appreciation of some tertiary stage even more fleeting. But Japanese will be Japanese, aestheticising everything. For us in cherry blossom render land, it’s always full-on.

But cherry blossoms in Arizona – really? This next image has the contrivedly balanced colour palette of a Chinese poster. It may not be accidental.


poster_baby30 copy

This one’s from


You’ll remember this turgid scene from The Third And The Seventh. Or maybe not. roman2

Sensing demand, CGI specialists share their triumphs and notes on how to best render cherry blossom trees. This is Tech Plaza Changsha (claimed to be) “for Austrian architectural company COOP HIMMELB(L)AU in 2013”.


Here’s one from Snøhetta for, it seems, a new kitchen for a French laundry in California.

Snøhetta and friends MIR are responsible for this next. It has a dreamy, surreal whimsy.


Not unlike a Chagall. But overall less gloomy. And with more pink.


Heatherwick (“Best of Class”) Studio isn’t beyond adding what seems to be cherry blossom as the eleventh of Bombay Gin’s famous botanicals although, to be fair, at this distance, it could be an almond tree.


It seems unfair to call this next building a “roadside café” but that’s what inhabitat did. These images are unique in that the cherry blossom trees are real. Imagine that!Mirrors-Cherry-Blossom-Cafe-Bandesign-Japan-2

* * *

On the zero–to-ten scale of EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG IN THE WORLD it’s not that important but have you noticed ArchDaily doesn’t make any distinction between photographs and visualisations? It’s all “photographs” to them. This is not right. The architectural marketplace has been slow to adapt to online selling but is now beginning to fully embrace it like anyone else with product to shift, hoping to convert likes into sales. In ignoring the distinction between reality and image, ArchDaily are going with the flow. In blurring that distinction, they’re really just lowering standards of content and therefore facilitating the flow of imagery from producers to consumers and, in the grand scheme of things, maintaining their advertising revenue.


I don’t know how this advance of the cherry blossom trees is going to end but I have a bad feeling. Like Macbeth had about the forest.

In a last attempt to work out what this all means, I avoid the haiku poets’ poet Bashō, and instead consult poet-for-the-people, Issa Kobayashi (1763-1828). He wrote about 20,000 haiku. Which is quite a lot. Though none are very long.

And what did I learn? Inconclusive conclusions, but I sense a trend. In haiku, cherry blossoms often indicate an ethereal beauty or the transitory nature of existence. Or both. Or something else.

末世末代でもさくらさくら哉 (masse matsudai demo sakura sakura kana)

the world is corrupt, approaching the end of days … but cherry blossoms!

[ how easily we are distracted from what desperately needs putting right ]

米袋空しくなれど桜哉 (kome-bukuro munashiku naredo sakura kana)

I know my rice sack is empty but just look at those cherry blossoms!

[ people stupidly prefer pleasure to nourishment ]

大かたは泥にひつつく桜哉 (ôkata wa doro ni hittsuku sakura kana)

most of them end up trodden over in the mud … those cherry blossoms

[ we choose to not see the bigger picture ]

神風や魔所も和らぐ山ざくら (kamikaze ya madoko mo yawaragu yama-zakura)

their divine wind makes an evil place less evil mountain cherry blossoms

[ renders of shit buildings look better with a few cherry trees ]

Silent City vs. Hello Kitty

In September 2006, the mayor of São Paulo passed the so-called “Clean City Law” that outlawed all outdoor advertisements, including on billboards, transportation, and in front of stores. Within a year, 15,000 billboards were taken down and store signs had to be shrunk so as not to violate the new law. Outdoor video screens and ads on buses were stripped. … In a survey conducted in 2011 among the city’s 11 million residents, 70 percent found the ban beneficial. Unexpectedly, the removal of logos and slogans exposed previously overlooked architecture, revealing a rich urban beauty that had been long hidden.  


People began to see the city instead of reading what was covering it. It wasn’t all good. The mercifully hidden became just as visible as the unfairly concealed. I can relate. Here’s a corner of Dubai so far untouched by outdoor signage. It’s my favourite point on the drive home and I dislike having to share it with other drivers.


People are still moving in, taxi drivers learning the building names, how to get around. No-one’s yet targeted with advertising or tempted with retail opportunities. It’s a refreshing change from every urban surface being intensively cultivated to add value to some square footage nearby. Surfaces are what’s being cultivated but it’s the people who look who are being farmed.

My refreshing scene isn’t without its noise. There’s that curvy building on the left crying out to be looked at and just out of frame left are a few screamers you don’t want to know about. Buildings such as these are the descendants of look-at-me architecture – architecture as advertising.

Robert Venturi is credited with some words that formed a basis of some kind for Post Modern architecture. He rightly picked on the Big Duck (1931) as a building that says something – a building that, in addition to originally providing a place for the sale of duck produce, also said “We sell duck produce!” to passers-by. Well … fuck the duck. There’s nothing new to say. This next image describes Post Modern architecture better than anything I’ve ever read or seen. It also describes the form–content relationship of pretty much everything since.

the duck architecture

Venturi could have made much the same point with the 1956 Capitol Records Building in Los Angeles. It’s likened by many to a stack of records. “Hey Granddad – tell us again what a record was!”

Capitol Records Building and AA Airlines Building from

1956 was already Post Modern. The beacon at the top of the spike spelt out “Hollywood” in Morse Code – how Post Modern contextual was that??!!  :-o#  Post Modernism existed, waiting to be brought to our attention. The signs were there.


When Claude Bell‘s restaurant sign no longer pulled in the customers, he built a building that said look at me! The year was now 1964.


Post Modernism made us aware buildings send messages but the one thing literary Post Modernism taught us was that different things mean different things to different people. Looking back, the duck and the dinosaur were kind of cute, casually inviting us to look at them and hopefully enter and buy stuff. After that it all got rather complicated.

Buildings began saying things. More things, witty things, ironic things, social commentary things, self-referential things, architecture things. Buildings sent messages, but there was no guarantee those messages were ever correctly formulated, encoded, transmitted, received, decoded, and finally interpreted in the way the sender intended. And, even if they were, there was no guarantee those messages were ever necessary or even relevant to begin with. Enthralled with the elegant simplicity of signifier and signified, Post Modernism in architecture ignored these inconvenient truths.

It all stayed up in the air for a while but, with entire cities of complex and contradictory statements, well … is it any wonder we needed a rest? These days, we still have some pointless shapemaking which, by the complexity and expensity of those shapes, still manages to say stuff about their clients and thus satisfy THE major social function of architecture. Such buildings are really just big billboards and it’s a shame we can’t pass a law against them too.

Even if there was, people would still find ways to circumvent it. This is Rolex Tower, by SOM. 2009-ish. It’s generally regarded as one of the more handsome buildings flanking DubaI’s Sheikh Zayed Road. And it probably is.

Exteriors of Rolex Tower, SZR

To their credit, SOM didn’t design a building that looked like a watch. And to his credit, the client did not just give it some swanky name but instead named it after one of the products one of their companies distributes. Branding – that beautiful synergy of form, content and message. We know it’s branding because the contractors didn’t get the logo font right first time.

A story: Mario Bellini designed many calculators for Olivetti at the time when a calculator was something that was designed, that could be designed.

Divisumma-28In the 1970s, Signor Bellini observed the Japanese make calculators smaller and smaller until they were just the size and thickness of a credit card. He graciously accepted the calculator was no longer something that could be designed. It no longer needed a designer. It could do its job just as well without having a sexy shape. Bigger and better calculations were being performed. Life went on. The form and content of a calculator lost all logical relationship. Desktop calculators still exist but nobody bothers to make them look special anymore. It’s all about the functions.

2684Mostly, but let’s not digress with ornament. It’s criminal, and also very wrong.


Surface kicks in when shape can do no more. Using shape to add dubious value was always rather primitive when you think about it – especially in the case of buildings where those shapes usually cloak those architectural stalwarts of columns and slabs. There’s not much different you can do with them. It’s all just space enclosed.

The forced representation of shapes that change (whilst cloaking columns and slabs) is also rather crude – it’s still a fixed representation of something fluid – a lie. People may get off watching algorithmic morphings onscreen, but there must eventually come a time to freeze-frame the fun and work out how to build it. Buildings with shapes that actually do change is an idea that crops up every now and then.

rotating-tower-nov08The merciful credit crunch killed such explorations into dynamic shape but – swings and roundabouts – encouraged lighting effects as the more cost-effective way to get people to look at buildings.


In many ways, the 1999 Burj Al Arab was a groundbreaker with the whole bagful of lighting effects thrown at it. In the architectural lighting business, this is what’s known as a colour vomit. It fairness, it’s not usually as technicolour as this.

Venturi got it wrong, couldn’t see the wood for the trees. It wasn’t about architecture at all. It was all about the lights, the fake glamour, and the advertising.


Learning from Las Vegas II won’t happen only at night. Buildings with expensive shapes may still perform macro city branding but daylight-readable LED advertising is what we actually look at while waiting for the lights to change.


It’s only a matter of time before buildings such as this next one cut out all the middlemen and open up entirely new vistas of dynamic decoration, dynamic camouflage and dynamic advertising.


We’ve already been trained to want it. Building surface sold as advertising space goes back a long way.

The signs became larger, the technology better, and the lease duration shorter and shorter to match our attention spans.

Sites and cities where this wouldn’t be considered long-term, can still make effective use of site hoardings. This is good you might say, but it taught us to appreciate real buildings as 2D images of real buildings, and to be grateful for it.

Here’s Casa Mila shrouded in a site hoarding showing us what we can’t see, but even that pseudo-view is thwarted by a billboard. Brave new world.


2D graphics have been granted the legitimacy of Art. We learned a new term: “building wrap”. We learned to say “that’s amazing – so much better than the real building that was there before – this is a good thing.”

We were taught to want more, another dimension. Cities around the world now offer us sponsored building projection performances as Art – or at least as an attraction to entice us to some location where we can dispose of our income.

The best examples of architectural projection tend to use the existing building as a base for deformations and distortions that remind us of how amazing the thing is we’re watching. Building facades thus become screens upon which more interesting fantasies are projected.

In passing, my friends. Here we are, inside Casa Battlo, looking at a fantasy projection onto a model of the facade of Casa Battlo. Outside, on the street, the actual facade can be viewed for nothing.


In the future, every second we look at a building, we will want it to be thrilling.

The building is not trying to be a cinema. It just wants you to look at it.

When all this can be done in full daylight, it’s game over. It’s pretty much game over now but as soon as we have large-scale, daylight-viewable holograms then we’ll have entered a new and possibly final level. Using buildings to make puerile statements about Form will have gone the way of the desktop calculator.

I say “Bring it on!” We might yet get the buildings we need but probably only if better and bigger screens can be found out there to exploit. Hello, Kitty!


We all know about skywriting. People tend to notice messages written across the sky. So far, it’s mostly been text, although the resolution did improve some with the pseudo-digital puffs of stuff.  However, given the state of the lower atmosphere, we’re probably not going to see much growth in signwriting technology or usage. For the same reason, growth for cloud projections is limited. They just can’t be produced on demand. But here’s a cheeky one.


New Type of Hell #1:  Hi-res holographic images projected into the stratosphere.

Dames and dudes, listen. Why bother building pyramids, palaces of justice, cathedrals, culture centres, or any of the other architectural representations of immortality and omnipresence when holograms of one’s favourite benevolent client, despot or brand can be embedded in the sky? It won’t be cheap. Piling rocks on top of each other is so 3KBC. Buildings are too rigid and slow to be entrusted to carry communications with the flexibility, speed and immediacy that modern society demands. So sorry Schoomy. Live by the sword, die by the sword, etc.

But why stop at the stratosphere? Here’s LASERCAT. Same shit. If we can project Art onto the moon, then some company will jump at the chance to sponsor it. Art is the advance guard of advertising. I fully support this. The sooner buildings cease to be attractive mediums for messages of any type, the sooner we’ll be able to see and appreciate our buildings for what they are and can be.

Good on Paper

I’m rediscovering magazines now that magazines are rediscovering architecture. I recently renewed my subscription to The Architectural Review and, in their The Big Rethink series of articles which I’ll have more to say some other time, immediately found what I’d felt a lack of.

big rethink

I’ve dipped into Blueprint once again, less rewardingly, but still better than I remembered. My biggest rediscovery so far has been MARK magazine.


As a thing, it’s well put together and a pleasure to hold and read. The content is well curated and edited. Turning over a page in anticipation of the next one, I gave every page my full attention, knowing that somebody had chosen and designed its contents in order to obtain it. I rediscovered interaction. Content was more than something somebody provided. I read things I would never otherwise have bothered with. I learned things. I learned things I thought I knew. I saw some things in new ways, bigger ways. It was money well spent. I want a subscription.

mark magazine

I WANT THESE PEOPLE TO HAVE MY MONEY. Some of this enthusiasm is the result of shared interests. There were some updates on Kurosawa’s Nakagin capsule tower you’ll remember from The Microflat post back in March.

nakagin 1

I admired the way MARK presented it as documentary with description, photos and answers to some set questions about the residents’ motives for living there – mostly for mundane reasons such as close to work, etc. Nobody said “to live in a Metabolist icon” or similar rubbish. Rather than perpetrate some myth of the building, the article just showed some regular people with regular lives getting on with them in some rather extreme housing.

The piece assumed we weren’t even that interested in “what they did with the space”. And why should we be? It reminded us that people are different anyway, and that those differences show anyway, even if – ESPECIALLY IF – their spaces are identical. As a stance, architecture is not something that is derived from humans, but that lets humans be humans. This is the essential humanism of post-humanism.

Remember NEST? (Here’s a link to a description over on pedro gandahno’s blog.) I remember the first issue with a spread of some dude who decked his room out as a shrine to Farah Fawcett.


The magazine has become a bit of a legend itself. Over on Wikipedia, Rem Koolhaas is re-quoted as saying NEST was “an anti-materialistic, idealistic magazine about the hyperspecific in a world that is undergoing radical levelling, an ‘interior design’ magazine hostile to the cosmetic” – a statement with a core of truth struggling under The Remster’s ornamentally dense sentence stylings.

Moving back to MARK, the next article was on Hugh Broughton’s Halley VI research station – that misfits mentioned in last November’s Antarctic Architecture. Like with the Nakagin story, the text is in factual Q&A form that has none of the stench of scripted promotional interview presented as information.

sustainable halley VI

Any architectural writing struggles to convey the non-visual qualities of buildings but efforts in this regard tend to gravitate towards the ABSTRACT and CONCEPTUAL aspects of the visual rather than describe regard given to senses OTHER THAN THE VISUAL, or even the PHYSIOLOGICAL aspects of that stuff we call LIGHT and that makes the visual stuff possible. It was informative to see the regard Hugh Broughton Architects gave to the non-visual senses, and refreshing to see it reported in terms of their importance for human well-being rather than opportunities for luxury stimulus.

Halley VI stimulusThe striking exterior blue on white (with a dash of orange) image made the cover but the other images of bedrooms and corridors and dining area conveyed a sense of what the building might be like to inhabit. Can’t ask for much more than that from a magazine.

Other parts of the magazine featured some European house+landscape porn,

Paul de Ruiter

and some of the amusingly inventive but irreproducible stuff from Japan that, although trivial, would brand a magazine as insufferably highbrow and intellectual were their sort excluded.

Takeshi Hosaka house

All projects were given space according to how much they deserved. There was a feature on some well thought-out slum-clearance housing in untrending São Paulo.

Untitled 5

Untitled 8

There was also an introduction to the Luodong Cultural Workshop titled THE POWER OF EMPTINESS and which was a refreshing antidote to the parametric dross we’re being led to believe is popular in China.

Luodong Cultural Centre

The only bum note for me in the entire issue was Aedas’ “The Star” in Singapore and the accompanying non-committal text by Aaron Betsky.

the star aedas

“The building itself is a spectacle but one that does not expose what is so spectacular from the outside. For all its expressive forms and vertical stacking, the Star remains an enigma, a mystery shot though with riddles and a rock riddled with openings.”

This is what the sound of one hand clapping sounds like. My mother always said that if you can’t find anything nice to say, then don’t say anything. That’s not always true, but it seems to be Betsky’s policy for this tricky commission. The words “DOG’S DINNER!” do spring to mind though, if not to lips or fingertips. There’s something desperate about The Star that reminds me of Arabian Performance Venue by the same architect at Aedas.


Thank you over in Korea, for this image and for not letting the memory of this project die. WE MUST NEVER FORGET!

O friendly Credit Crunch! Thank you for preventing this. We owe you.

And finally we come to this piece that provided the inspiration for this post.

Architecture workshop TD from Flachau, Austria, organizes a workshop every last Friday of the month. The entire office spends the whole day working out themes that are not related to TD projects but that contribute to the profession of architecture as a whole. The most recent workshop assignment was to conceptualise architecture magazines that would be interesting to read and would help the profession to evolve. … Would more specialised magazines reinforce the trend towards fragmentation, or is fragmentation a trend that can’t be stopped and should be acknowledged and served?

Dunno. But I do know that this little assignment that “reinforces the profession of architecture as a whole”, somehow (as these things do) found its way into a magazine for us to think about. So let’s do the right thing and think about it.

Once Upon

The idea of this magazine was to have a genealogical tree developed for every building featured. At first, this sounded like a good idea but the PR side of large architects offices do this anyway – it’s just that we can’t trust them. Maybe High-Tech was a mash-up of Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace, Chareau’s Maison de Verre, Eames’s Eames House and the sexier of the Case Study Houses, and with a dash of horizontal Gothic spiced up with that all-purpose influence Archigram. Whether or not this is the real lineage or a made up one hardly matters because it has now become the accepted WAY IT HAPPENED. I’m okay with this Once Upon magazine in principle.


This one is good. If we’re going to be stuck with celebrity architects, then let’s expect them to give more like we expect of other celebrities. Let’e get to know them, and not in a HELLO! way either. Let’s see them falling drunk out of taxis after a client schmooze and doorstepped and papped TMZ-style. Let’s see our favourite sleb architects pay the true price of fame. And let’s not just stop at time and space intrusiveness. While we’re at it, let’s also see them held to account for their ethical choices in much the same way as Sting was held to account for his earnings in Uzbekistan. (See ARKYTEKTYSTAN for more.) Here’s an update in the run-up to the opening of ZHA’s Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre in Baku. Expect a PR masterclass. Excited to see how they’ll play it.

ilham aliyev

This next one’s a novel idea. How about an architectural magazine that actually criticises design choices and decisions made? It’s a wild idea, but it just might work.


Or how about this next? A magazine about architecture but that describes everything using words. No images. The people who had this idea seemed to imagine readers using these descriptions of the visual to form an image in their minds to be later compared with the actual building they would presumably experience someday. Nice, but I think the real worth of such a magazine would be to take some of the emphasis AWAY from the visual, rather than indirectly emphasise the importance of it. For me, this imaginary architecture magazine only rejects the visual culture of magazines in order to more fully embrace the culture of visual architectural experience. Not good.


* * * 

All this thinking about magazines makes me think that paper hardcopy is in a good place once again. The internet did kill off many magazines but now the dust has settled, it was probably for the best. It’s true that the internet is more image-driven than text-driven, as proven by image-driven sites such as DEZEEN that publish text such as this.


Two circles look like the fucking number 8! Dezeen really are taking the piss. But it seems to be sufficient to flog watches in some pop-up store. Meanwhile, ArchDaily relies on promotional text supplied by architects. Although it covers the world, many of its houses from Equador to South Korea to New Zealand and back to Chile look oddly the same with their tastefully balanced mix of white walls and feature stone/timber walls seen against a forest/ocean. The New International Style. When every media event building and wannabe media event building now files dutifully through sites such as these, anyone addicted to the consumption of architectural imagery deserted magazines long ago. Producers and consumers of hardcore architectural imagery have now found each other in internet hell.

Now that magazines are rid of this readership (lookership?) and the obligation to gratify them, I sense that some are beginning to refocus on the slow cooking of thought, re-igniting real debates conducted with words instead of comment boxes and thumbs-up/down symbols, and rediscovering useful topics and agendas neglected these past two decades.

Misfits’ Hit List

Yes, it’s that time of the year again for a quick roundup of who’s searching for what and see how it compares to misfits’ all-time hit list. We’ll never know if they found what they were looking for but there is data for where it got them. First of all, here’s the all- time list of popular search terms, unedited.

All Time

Search Views
ak 47 3,756
microprocessor 2,140
hannes meyer 941
sanaa 691
unite d’habitation 630
unite d’habitation plan 507
unitè d’habitation 491
villa savoye 419
ak-47 397
le corbusier unite d’habitation 393
unité d’habitation 314
tv tower 239
eileen gray 237
le corbusier unité d’habitation 214
le corbusier unitè d’habitation 205
unité d’habitation plan 199
unite d’habitation floor plan 197
jungfraujoch 172
antonio sant’elia 147
microprocessors 130
barajas airport 125
unite habitation 113
oil rig 112
villa savoye site plan 112
yakhchal 111
hannes meyer bauhaus 110
unite d’habitation plans 108
domino house 106
domino system 96
maison jaoul 93
irving gill 91
corbusier unite d’habitation 87
unité d’habitation le corbusier 79
villa savoye plan 76
portland building 76
auguste perret 75
le corbusier plan 75
tv towers 74
unité d’habitation berlin 74
steiner house 73
sanaa architecture 71
josefa moreu 71
unite d’habitation floor plans 71
unitè d’habitation le corbusier 70
dogma architecture 70
bauhaus 67
unite d’habitation le corbusier 67
prosopis cineraria 65
michael graves 63
al madina supermarket 61
misfitsarchitecture 61
madrid airport 60
michael graves portland building 58
le corbusier plans 58
misfits architecture 57
lincoln house mary otis stevens 57
big architects 57
superstudio 55
michael graves portland 55
melltorp 54
unite d habitation 54
le corbusier unite d’habitation plan 54
diagrid structure 51
halley iv 51
unitè d’habitation plan 50
unite le corbusier 50
sant’elia 50
wolkenbugel 50
unite d’habitation grundriss 49
unité d’habitation plans 48
mary otis stevens 48
weissenhofsiedlung 48
unite d’habitation section 47
diagrid 47
peter eisenman 46
maisons jaoul 45
tashkent tower 44
plan unité d’habitation 44
cctv structure 43
guangzhou opera house plans 42
chaparral 2j 42
villa savoye site 41
cctv building structure 40
guangzhou opera house 40
oil rigs 40
television tower 40
fair landscape 39
villa savoye orientation 39
le corbusier floor plans 39
beijing national stadium structure 38
unite d’habitation berlin 38
eileen gray architecture 38
space architecture 38
unite d’habitation marseille plan 37
brick country house 37
peter zumthor 2014 37
vernacular architecture 36
sanaa plan 36
pier luigi nervi 36
unite de habitation 35
eileen gray e1027 35
villa savoye dimensions 35
auguste perret rue franklin 35
microprocessor images 35
eileen gray house 34
valve to prevent water from gravity feeding 34
portland building michael graves 34
unité d’habitation 34
plan unité d’habitation le corbusier 34
villa savoye aerial view 34
madame savoye 34
ак 47 33
offshore rig 33
guild house venturi 32
unite d habitation plan 32
tashkent tv tower 32
diagrid detail 32
al noor mosque sharjah 32
corbusier unite d’habitation plan 32
cap martin 31
islamic architecture 31
paris opera house 30
corbusier unite 30
unité d’habitation marseille plan 30
niemeyer berlin 30
villa savoye plans 29
unite d’habitation marseille plans 29
lincoln house stevens 28
corbusier unité d’habitation 28
weissenhof 28
villa savoye location 28
unite corbusier 28
disguised mobile phone masts 28
basic design in architecture 27
paris opera house staircase 27
villa savoye inside 27
villa savoye floor plan 27
al noor mosque 27
villa savoye aerial 27
unité d’habitation le corbusier plan 26
twisted architecture 26
sanaa housing 26
robert venturi guild house 26
chicago school of architecture 26
ensco 104 26
unite habitation plan 25
villa savoye surroundings 25
le corbusier apartment 25
villa savoye construction 24
graves portland building 24
english for architects 24
madina supermarket 24
chicago school architecture 24
hannes meyer architecture 24
ikea melltorp 23
misfit architecture 23
shell structures 23
dogma architects 23
orientation villa savoye 23
hannes meyer architect 23
seagram building 23
peter eisenman house iii 23
mary otis stevens lincoln house 23
sanaa leaking architecture 23
le corbusier marseille plan 23
corbusier 23
le corbusier unite d habitation 23
bauhaus drawing 23
lc6 22
portland michael graves 22
unitè d’habitation berlino 22
mies van der rohe brick house 22
cctv facade 22
apple store new york 22
pepeta moreu 22
domino house le corbusier 22
carbon fiber table 22
unitè d’habitation de le corbusier 22
opera garnier plan 22
useful buildings 21
microprocessor architecture 21
le corbusier unite d’habitation floor plan 21
unite d’ habitation 21
big architecture 21
adolf loos 21
bauhaus hannes meyer 21
le corbusier floor plan 21
corbusier plan 21
beijing national stadium structural plan 21
beehive 21
parametric architecture 20
offshore oil rig 20
diagrid construction 20
materials architecture antarctica 20
falconcity of wonders 20
farnsworth house plan 20
different types of palm trees diagram 20
depero 20
zaha hadid architecture 20
maison jaoul le corbusier 20
al madina supermarket dubai 19
villa savoye bad 19
karama metro station 19
maisons jaoul le corbusier 19
unité d’habitation grundriss 19
prosopis cineraria tree 19
unite d’ habitation plan 19
unité d’habitation floor plan 19
villa savoye bathroom 19
mukesh ambani car parking 18
cctv diagrid 18
unité d’habitation marseille 18
portland building graves 18
le corbusier unite 18
unite d’habitation marseilles 18
beijing stadium structure 18
corbusier table 18
frederick kiesler 18
brick house mies van der rohe 18
muslim mosque 17
tower tv 17
guangzhou opera house plan 17
sydney opera house inside 17
corbusier unite plan 17
shading devices 17
unité le corbusier 17
villa savoye floor plan dimensions 17
perret rue franklin 17
sanaa diagram 17
sun shading devices 17
diagrid architecture 17
rokko housing 17
venus project 17
villa savoye structure 17
le corbusier apartment plan 17
shell structure 17
le corbusier habitation 17
riba pylon competition 17
patrik schumacher logo 16
farnsworth house details 16
all towers 16
a k 47 16
mukesh ambani house 16
hannes meyer petersschule 16
villa savoye 16
guangzhou opera house section 16
rigs 16
zaha hadid architects 16
auguste perret casa in rue franklin 16
unite d’habitation pläne 16
unite d habitation floor plan 16
plan sanaa 16
oil rig fire 16
mies van der rohe brick country house 15
peter eisenman architecture 15
the emperor’s new clothes 15
frank lloyd wright buildings 15
heating hannes meyer 15
diagrid cctv 15
brick country house mies van der rohe 15
big archi 15
weissenhof stuttgart 15
image of microprocessor 15
barmpton 15
images of microprocessor 15
unité d’habitation marseille grundriss 15
unité habitation 15
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adalberto libera 11
though the great expanses of glass that he favors may occasionally turn his rooms into hothouses, his flat roofs may leak and his plans may be wasteful of space, it was architect le corbusier who in 1923 put the entire philosophy of modern architecture into a single sentence: “a house is a machine to live in 11
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Unknown search terms 26,683
AK-47 remains the top all time and yearly search term.
Here’s something you probably didn’t know. I didn’t, until just then.
The AK-47 was mentioned in an early post as an example of something that may not look that great as the M-16 or similar devices might, but it works. The magazine of the AK-47 is not curved because it looks good. I hope the people who searched AK-47 apply this thinking to the built environment where it can hopefully be put to better use.
The top ten architects searched were as follows. Again, I’ve linked back to the relevant posts.
  • I expect that Hannes Meyer, Mary Otis Stevens/Thomas McNulty, Irving Gill and Superstudio feature on this list because there isn’t much information newly available on the internet about them. You’re welcome. 
  • And I imagine that some people come to this blog after searching SANAA, Sant’Elia, Bauhaus and BIG because, with the number of students probably searching those terms, chances are they will.

The Top Ten searched buildings were …

unite ‘habitation plan 3920
villa savoye 1114
CCTV diagrid structure 366
E1027 eileen gray 310
Michael Graves Portland building 300
lincoln house mary otis stevens thomas mcnulty 215
jungfraujoch 172
unite d’habitation berlin 171
irving gill dodge house 149
yakhchal 107
Unité d’Habitation remains the clear winner. This probably reflects the number of architecture students in the world and how little the education of architects has progressed in the past 50 years. Kids, make sure you see how understand how crap the lower apartment is, OK?
Homework: Use the floor layout above, to calculate how many apartments can actually have the plan commonly presented as (and thus thought to be) typical.
Here’s a studio apartment. From the same floor layout plan above, estimate the minimum number of them.
Unité Marseilles 18th floor studio 2Unité Marseilles 18th floor studio

With all its search input variations, the Unité d’Habitations was remains the clear winner and, of those searches, the majority were for the section and/or the plan. At last – somebody’s drawn an new section! Here you go!


Villa Savoye info for student purposes is far more abundant elsewhere but, it’s It’s nice to see Eileen Gray’s E1027 and Irving Gill’s Dodge House make the list.

Eileen Gray E1027

Letting people know about these wonderful yet unpretentious houses is one of the main reasons this blog exists.
Irving Gill Dodge House

And for the Sphinx Observatory at Jungfraujoch as well – a personal favourite.


As is the Lincoln House – my adolescent shapeist infatuation. I’m well over it now of course, but the memory of that first crush remains. I’ll always think of this building fondly.

lincoln house aerial

The Stevens/McNnulty Lincoln House makes the list because there is very little about it on the internet. I speculate on why that is, here.
lincoln house front
The only vernacular building making the list was yachchal. There is also very little new information about these. Views of this post spike occasionally.
So, with all this searching, what did people find? As I mentioned, once people clicked on a page, it’s impossible to know if they read or learned anything or if they downloaded or copied anything. But, for what it’s worth, here’s where they went –

The All-Time Top Ten Misfits Posts

All Time

Title   Views
Home page / Archives   32,886
The Things Architects Do   12,010
The Microprocessor is Not Trying to Look Beautiful   8,900
The Things Architects Believe #1   5,223
The Things Architects Do #3: SANAA   4,374
The DARKER Side of Villa Savoye   3,036
Architecture Misfit #1: Hannes Meyer   2,463
The Things Architects Do #2: Ornament   2,248
The Television Tower is Not Trying to Look Beautiful   1,936
The New Architecture of Austerity   1,916
Architecture Misfit #3: Eileen Gray   1,542
The Dark Side of the Villa Savoye   1,344
Inspirations for Performance-Beauty Architecture   1,220

There’s actually thirteen there. The first doesn’t count since it’s the home page at any given time.

The Things Architects Do reflects the number of people searching for information on Le Corbusier, the Villa Savoye and the unités d’habitations.


The Microprocessor is Not Trying to Look Beautiful probably reflects the number of insurgents, freedom fighters, rebel forces and other interested parties looking for information on AK-47 assault rifles, not to mention government internet monitoring organisations wanting to find out information on people who want that information. I’d just like to mention that misfits’ architecture is only interested in the AK-47 as the inspiration for a new type of building aesthetic that is the result of designing something that works.


The Things Architects Believe #1 is a catch-all post that includes information on Le Corbusier and concrete (he didn’t really invent it), Auguste Perret (who didn’t either) and other facts it’s useful to remember.

The Things Architects Do #3: SANAA is probably a reflection of who’s hot right now, and who’s a student favourite or figure to aspire to. I’m no great fan of SANAA but am pleased to offer an alternative opinion from the general fawning puff pieces one reads these days.


The DARKER Side of Villa Savoye dares to suggest that Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye is something less than a shrine to all that is good in the world of architecture. Can you think of a movie star who was never really a good actor – or even popular – but, long after they stopped making movies, became famous for being famous? The Villa Savoye is a bit like that. Who would the Villa Savoye be? Email me suggestions.

the Villa Savoye being constructed

the Villa Savoye being constructed

Architecture Misfit #1: Hannes Meyer It is the misfits’ belief that if the principles Hannes Meyer was proposing back in the 1930 had been followed up and improved upon in the time since, we would have much better buildings today. Additionally, that humanity would do well to get back to that fork in the road and follow the other path.

Hannes Meyer, Access Balcony Housing, 1929

Hannes Meyer, Access Balcony Housing, 1929

The Things Architects Do #2: Ornament was a quick history of people using decoration and ornament to fool themselves into thinking that buildings are more than they are.


The Television Tower is Not Trying to Look Beautiful was just me using the example of another highly functional object to illustrate that ornament is not really necessary. This post is surprisingly popular. I don’t know why it should be more popular than any other post in the XXX is Not Trying to Look Beautiful series. Remember, the tree is not trying to look beautiful.  


The New Architecture of Austerity highlighted a few trends in what’s considered to be architecture these days. Most of these trends resulted from trying to make architecture using less effort or resources. It would be good if those efforts weren’t misdirected to the making of pretentious architecture of little or no use.

other stuff

Architecture Misfit #3: Eileen Gray is our only heroine so far. E1027 embodies much of what architecture is trying to be now. If anyone says that Modernism (as a philosophy, not a style) had no heart or soul, then they do not know of E1027. The world is about to rediscover Eileen Gray. Blame Le Corbusier for her being sidelined in the first place. Oh, and read the post.

Eileen Gray E1027

The Dark Side of the Villa Savoye is probably the first piece of Villa Savoye bashing that many people encounter. No building is perfect but it is a call for keeping it real, and admitting that VS had a few problems, some of which were construction related, some design-related, and some were just the prejudices of the times.

Inspirations for Performance-Beauty Architecture could just be more people searching for info on AK-47s but we like to think not. This post sets out the inspirations for an architecture where performance beauty replaces visual beauty as the only type of endeavour of relevance for architecture.

Sukhoi SU-37

This post was an early one and remains an ongoing theme of this blog. The flow of posts may drift from this theme occasionally, but will always return to it.