Saturday, January 31, 2009

Paul Laszlo: Rich Man's Architect

Laszlo bomb shelter for US AirforceLaszlo bomb shelter for US Air Force

In one of my conversations with Julius Shulman, he said Laszlo would come to him with a wallpaper sample and ask if the material would look good in a magazine photograph...
How's that for a total design concept?

"Building a house is like giving birth to a baby. The client is the mother, and I am the father." - Paul László 1900-1993

"Rich Man's Architect" Monday, Aug. 18, 1952 TIME Magazine

Architect-Designer Paul László, 52, is a comfort-loving Hungarian expatriate who arrived in the U.S. 16 years ago with $200 in his pocket and a one-word vocabulary: okay. Since then he has enormously expanded both. By catering to the comfort of his rich clients, he has built up a $1,5OO,000-a-year business as designer of some of the nation's most luxurious showplaces. And in his fancy Beverly Hills showroom last week, he was volubly admiring the first samples of his latest commission: $1,000,000 worth of modern furniture to be manufactured in Europe.

Architect László designs his houses down to the last ashtray or built-in Kleenex holder. He protests that money is not everything: "One million dollars will not build the perfect house. You somehow can't put everything you want into it. It's largely a matter of taste, judgment and talent." But money helps.

Among his fanciest projects: the million-dollar Wichita Falls palace of Texas Oilman Charles McGaha (built in collaboration with Architect Allen Siple), which includes a horseshoe-shaped swimming pool, Lucite-legged chairs, hand-painted draperies, and a radio-controlled main gate;* and Movie Producer William Perlberg's cozier ($250,000) rambler, with swimming pool, projection room, Lucite wastebaskets and hip-high combination shelf and hearthstone. Other László clients: Gloria Vanderbilt Stokowski, Freeman (Amos 'n' Andy) Gosden, Barbara Hutton, Sonja Henie, Hollywood Director William Wyler.

Like most modern architects, László makes full use of uncluttered space and free access to the outdoors. His aim: simplicity with elegance. "Warmth in luxury," he says, "is easy. But it is full of pitfalls. You can overbalance a house with the furnishings . . . Today's modern furniture is mostly glamorized boxes. Furniture must help balance a home ... It should so blend with the wallpaper and contours of the room that it does not annoy ..."

It is this "idea of balance," says László, that distinguishes him from most modern architects. And too few of them pay enough attention to the house owner. Building a house, says László, "is like giving birth to a baby. The client is the mother, and I am the father."

From Time Magazine article titled, "Rich Man's Architect" Monday, Aug. 18, 1952
Paul Laszlo @ Wikipedia

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Venturi's Lieb House in New Jersey to be Demoed or Moved

lieb house-vr & sb
Venturi, Rauch, & Scott Brown- Buildings and Projects

Architect Robert Venturi and partner John Rauch's historic Beach House (lieb House) is under a real threat of being demolished. The new owner is willing to give the house free if it could be moved away from the site to make a room for his planned new house. If the efforts by architect's son to move the house on a barge don't materialize by the first of the month, Feb. 2009, the historically invaluable house will be demolished.

Venturi, Rauch, & Scott Brown- Buildings and Projects

Robert Venturi is a living architect and the principle writer of two very important book s on architecture, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture and Learning From Las Vegas. He is also the recepient of Pritzker Prize, the highest award given to architects, and many other medals for his work.
His firm VSBA is still active from their offices near Philadelphia.

Venturi, Rauch, & Scott Brown- Buildings and Projects

Following is the architect's statement and description rephrased by Stephen Lauf via
Venturi, Rauch, & Scott Brown- Buildings and Projects

"The Lieb House
Loveladies, New Jersey, 1967
(with the assistance of Gerod Clark [who may the first architect to collage magazine people within architectural renderings])

It is easy to explain what the Lieb House is not: It is not a tasteful natural-wood-shingled configuration of complex and contradictory wings and roofs. It is an ordinary shed with conventional elements. It uses asbestos shingles with imitation wood-grain relief, once the indigenous building material on Long Beach Island. And it uses big elements, such as the stair that starts out the width of the house and gradually decreases to three feet on the second floor. Its unconventional elements are explicitly extraordinary when they do occur, as in the big round window that looks like a 1930s radio loud-speaker. It is a little house with big scale, different from the houses around it but also like them. It tries not to make the plaster madonna in the birdbath next door look silly, and it stands up to, rather than ignores, the environment of utility poles."


venturi28-aPhoto; ED HILLE

Story at Philadelphia Inquirer


Watch the video of the move and the temporary new location via

Robert Venturi's Lieb House - On the Move/flickr/tud5000/2009.01.29

Robert Venturi's Lieb House - On the Move/flickr/tud5000/2009.01.30

lieb house temporary locationthe temporary new location via


more pictures of the latest move @ tud5000's flickr photostream

It's for reasons like this that I wonder: all quibbles over philosophical purity, in situ vs not in situ, or just generally whether Venturi represents a "discredited" "obsolete" "crap" legacy and we should merely let some kind of style-libertarian nature take its course...*what on earth is wrong with this*? It's the best positive publicity one can ask for; and even the creator himself can appreciate--on an inherently philosophical basis, no less.

Indeed, as an "architectural event", the move is poetry in its own right. It's its own best self-justification.
- a comment from an Archinect member, rondo mogilskie.

Also from New York Times:

The spectacle attracted a throng of about 150 onlookers to the third floor of Pier 17 at South Street Seaport, including Mr. Venturi, the 83-year-old Pritzker Prize-winning architect who built the house in 1969 for Nathaniel and Judy Lieb. The Liebs had it built near the northern tip of Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore. The current owner of the property planned to demolish the structure, prompting the unusual rescue effort, which involved selling the house to an owner willing to relocate it.

Standing next to his wife and partner, the architect Denise Scott Brown, Mr. Venturi ignored the tangle of microphones and cameras thrust in his direction at the seaport, and applauded and waved with a weak smile as the 1,500-square-foot house and the barge carrying it came into view, wending its way northward propelled by a tugboat and trailed by a helicopter.

Photo: Rob Bennett for The New York Times

more photos/flickr/tud5000
Discussed at
more @ NYT : Moving on a Barge to a Long Island Berth

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Alexander Kluge: Brutality in Stone

Début by Alexander Kluge is an analysis of the Nazi system based on the architecture it left behind. This experimental documentary - ending a period of denial in German cinema - also marked the start of the Neue Deutsche Welle.

In 1960, Kluge (1932, Halberstadt, Germany) co-directed his first short film with Peter Schamoni entitled Brutality in Stone, a poetic montage film reflecting on the notion that the past lives on in architectural ruins; that the ruined structures of the Nazi period in particular bear silent witness to the atrocities committed.
This film is important for a number of reasons: Brutality in Stone marks the beginning of a process in which German film makers of the 1960s and 1970s began to overturn the apparent amnesia German cinema had demonstrated during the 1950s in regard to the Nazi period. In addition, the film was premièred at the annual Oberhausen short film festival in February 1961. The festival was significant because it functioned as a forum for young and experimental film makers attempting to develop modes of cinematic practice outside the rigid, commercial framework of the industrial system - modelled on Hollywood - that had been set up with the assistance of the American occupying forces in the immediate post-war period. A year after the première of Brutality in Stone at the Oberhausen festival, Kluge was one of the authors and signatories of the 'Oberhausen Manifesto', a document that outlined the imperatives of bringing a new kind of German cinema into being.

The 38th International Film Festival Rotterdam

update: watch the entire film at UBUWEB

Monday, January 26, 2009


lind building1

lind building2

lind building3


I think it was around 1985, the glorious 80's, the grandfather of recently dead real estate gluttony.
Oh yes, where were we? At that time working in an office with a receptionist (the good old days of architectural practice.)
One day my the attractive idol, who just got a divorce and had the boss on a leash, told me she had seen 'the most gorgeous building' on the way to work that morning...
Almost 25 years later, then newly built LIND Building still stands. For lease...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Drive by: LAUSD The High School for the Visual and Performing Arts

arts highschool3

When working for Los Angeles Times, Nicolai Ouroussoff, the architecture critic now writing for The New York Times, called it, "The proposed design for the LAUSD's new arts academy is a boisterous vision for downtown's blossoming cultural landscape."" In his article dated June 8, 2003, Mr. Ouroussoff also called the original version designed by A.C Martin, "a model of banality." Perhaps rightly so...

old ac martin version of arts high school"a model of banality."

Without much anticipation, I have taken pictures of unofficially completed building from my car knowing that the building's pictures, when opened, will probably be everywhere, without a doubt.
Rumors are; there is no operating budget for the iconic high school in these trying times.

arts highschool4"The glass lobby resembling an enormous faceted crystal, a piece of jewelry built on an urban scale."

arts highschool1

arts highschool2Back wall of the Cathedral, freeway below, palm trees and the Arts HS, a gateway to "LA's arts district"

arts highschool5Art Bubble Economy Depicted

Following is my overall commentary about this building, developed while driving back to my office. It gets optimistic and pessimistic depending on the westbound traffic!

I think it is a beautifully massed complex of structures. However, I have a hard time to superimpose an arts high school's integration onto it. First it was the iconic museums and now the iconic art schools. I wonder if a civic building would be a public success if there were no pedestrians in the vicinity? I wonder if the centralized model can ever win in a city of vast spread? I wonder if it is a good thing to spend millions for a school and then have operating budget issues unresolved. I wonder if the priorities of LAUSD is determined by educators or the local developers eying arts fueled gentrifications for the public face of their investments in the area. Sure, who can argue against an educational facility, specially the one involving arts.
I wonder what other uses could be appropriated for the building, let us say there is no money to operate as a school. Would a hospital, a hotel or a mall work? We already know it is not good for artist lofts, the ultimate name for any building no longer functions for its intended use...
But that was hardly the architects' decision in the prior rosy economy.
Given the program and the client, Austrian architects, Coop Himmelb(l)au delivered an overbudget building.
Perhaps one has to ask what other schemes needed to make billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad's downtown dreams? If in fact he is still dreaming multi faceted crystals in the neighborhood or wants to move to Beverly Hills, and say the hell with downtown...
Of course none of these help the opening time of this building after all the hardships and political wrestling went into it.
I also think, once above issues are resolved, and if ever in the near future, the economic recovery is underway, the building's legacy will be well appreciated in the long run. And, if the building not converted to some other function by then, like a new age church...

But for me, after all, it is an art school and it will shape many kids' lives, and the community's hopes in a positive way, assumed it remains a public school and not an art institution for the privileged.

Imagine what if this wasn't aborted? few hundred yards down the freeway.

Critics of the high school from the formalist angle, count your blessings that the steel cloud is not upon us and Los Angeles was not symbolized by a pile of steel however it was stylish in its days.
As for the comments regarding the spiral ramped tower, just imagine taking a group of art students up there and ask them to describe in any medium what they have observed. I would...
One more point before I pull into my parking spot; I am curious how much of this campus will be accessible to public? The Public has just paid too much effort to be cut from this space. I hope it will be accessible to visitors and there will be plenty of open programs to make the building complex function as a true public education center and be appreciated by all.

arts high0 copy

Monday, January 19, 2009


Ancient Persians were the first to use chemical warfare against their enemies, a study has suggested.

A graphic depiction and following news at BBC service has particularly got my attention today. It was, I guess, more about the use of gassing (!) terminology and appropriation of the 'method' to the contemporary 'villains' aka 'Persians.'
Sometimes it is clear the news-writers has a specific memory hunt and manipulation in their mind. Of course, at the end even the archaeologists 'suggest' this is a 'suggestion'.
Nevertheless... Those Iranians... Even and after all, they were the ones our Romans slaughtered after overcoming bad gas!
Photo: Dead and gassed Roman in 3rd Century AD, Syria

Full allegations (!) as follows via BBC.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Progressive forest clearing and town making in Bolivia

pie shaped settlements, boliviaThe pie or radial patterned towns and fields

^Click this text to enlarge^

The rectilinear soybean fields funded by foreign loans

These images from Landsat7, acquired on August 1, 2000, shows the new agricultural settlements east of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia in an area of tropical dry forest. Since the mid-1980s, this region has been rapidly deforested as a result of the resettlement of people from the Altiplano (the Andean high plains) and a large agricultural development effort, called the Tierras Baja project. The pie or radial patterned fields (top) are part of the San Javier resettlement scheme. At the center of each unit is a small community including a church, bar/cafe, school, and soccer field-the essentials of life in rural Bolivia. The rectilinear, light-colored areas (above) are fields of soybeans cultivated for export that are mostly funded by foreign loans. The dark strips running through these fields are wind breaks. These are advantageous because the soils in this area are fine and prone to wind erosion.

The eastern half of Bolivia is covered with tropical rainforest. In the 1990s, Bolivia initiated a large-scale effort to increase the rate of logging and create tracts of land for commercial agriculture (primarily soy and sugar cane, but also cocoa) on the Amazon Basin side of the Andean highlands. Today, the commercial fields are well established and easily mapped from space as large, rectangular clearings in the forest. The agricultural developments are still growing today. The clearings start off as small rectangles arranged perpendicular to an access road; early clearings take on a herringbone pattern when viewed from above. The intact areas (dark forest) are gradually logged and then cultivated, filling in the pattern to make a larger cleared area.
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) routinely observe intensive land use and document their observations through imagery so that changes can be identified. These two photographs (below) of the Bolivian forest along the Rio Parapetí in Bolivia (south of Santa Cruz, not shown) show different stages of the clearing process and agricultural field development. The top image, a wide panoramic view looking toward the west and the Andean foothills, was taken from the Space Shuttle in November 1995. The clearing efforts were just getting underway, evidenced by the crosshatched and herringbone pattern of clearing north of the river. On the south side of the river, old, abandoned stream channels show up as lighter regions with lesser forest cover.
The bottom view, a composite of two images taken from the ISS, provides a more detailed view of today’s landscape, showing completely cleared regions that stretch for more than 10 kilometers. For scale, the white line is about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles). The geographic area covered in the 2008 view is approximated on the top image by the white box.



Source: NASA

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Imagine a world of transparency where all desires are negotiated on a global market and their risks are evaluated and optimized.

The Dadameter is a tool for the profiling of language at large scale and the historical tracking of artistic and literary movements. It brings about a new alliance between art, science and global finance.

Although this map could be used to locate any couple of words, the main objective is to define different zones of language, using the three criteria mentionned above: Homophony, Google Similarity (semantic relatedness) and Equivocation. By considering the different boundaries of each coefficient we can build regions which have quite simple interpretations:

Homophony - High homophony region.
Wasteland - Low relatedness: couples of words that are barely used in the same contexts and have very few in common. A zone from where new significations and surprises emerge (friche or jachère in french).
Mainstream - High relatedness: words are strongly correlated to each others and everything is very predictable.
Utilitarianism - Low equivocation: each word has a univocal meaning and there is no place for ambiguity.
At the end of the Mainstream region lies the kingdom of Boredom.

Finding precise boundaries for these different zones is for the moment an impossible task. We just don't know how to define scales, separating what is big from what is small. The Equivocation Separation Line that delimits the high equivocation zone from the low equivocation zone is not therefore very precisely located and it is not our aim to claim that we have localized it with accuracy.

A region of particular interest is the one with high homophony, high relatedness and high equivocation. This is what we called the Dada region and it was the starting point of our sudy. It is the red region at the top left of the map. If this zone is big, then mankind is very Roussellian or Dada. Of course Dada is not limited to this region and goes beyond the range of this map