Architecture Monday

This little folly deliciously straddles the line between sculpture and architecture.  Situated atop a hill, it’s a meditative spot from which to gaze out over the picturesque valley while also being a fun little object to observe from everywhere else.

And that’s pretty much it (in a good way)!  A simple splaying concrete base into which is integrated a wood lounging bench, capped by two bent sheets of weathering metal that rise from the open embrace of the bench to form a kind of open tent.  Though the metal panels are quite thick and rigid, their scale and the random deformations make them look delicate.  It’s not a design that dominates, accentuating the hillside in both directions.

I dig it.  Nice little piece of work.

Sonnenklang Installation by Christoph Hesse Architects.

Let’s get down to business…

In an amusing way, I feel “compelled” to review the new live-action Mulan, if only because my review of the original animated version has been archived for decades at IMDB for the whole world to see.*  But this was also one of the only Disney remakes I was actually keen on seeing.  When they announced that they would not be doing a near shot-for-shot remake and would instead be shaking things up (not making it a musical, the removal of Mushu, etc) my interest was piqued.  As long as they had good writing, I figured, this could be a good thing: a chance to tell the story in a new way, opening up new avenues to explore and to play in.  And even though I have very much disliked most of the remakes thus far, as long as they nailed that one, crucial, thing of good writing, it could turn out well!   Continue reading

Wonder Saturday

Wow, it turns out that the Kurt Vonnegut quote I posted on last Tuesday’s philosophy post was, indeed, an actual quote by Kurt Vonnegut!  (There’s so many miss-attributed or just plain fabricated quotes out there, one never can quite be sure…)  Even better, here’s a reading of the whole letter in which it was contained by none other than Gandalf himself, Sir Ian McKellen!

 

Philosophy Tuesday

“When I was 15 I spent a month working on an archeological dig.  I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports?  What’s your favorite subject?   And I told him, no I don’t play any sports.  I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.  

And he went, “WOW.  That’s amazing! “

And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.” 

And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them.  I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”

And that honestly changed my life.  Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them.  I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them. “

 — Three Rings

(I love this.  Pair it with some previous thoughts I shared on on art and self-expression, which also references the myth of Talent (or as I put it, the Tyranny of Talent).

The blog post by Three Rings also quoted a letter purportedly written by Kurt Vonnegut, which contained this lovely gem in it:

“Here’s an assignment for tonight… Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed.  Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

Now that’s an assignment!)

Wonder Wednesday

I love the movie Ratatouille.  It’s delicious (pun intended) on so many levels… lovely animation, great and quiet storytelling, risk-taking, it’s all about Paris and food and wine, and it has some wonderfully powerful philosophical moments.

So it was with delight I heard a story on NPR this past weekend that one of the hot things on TikTok of late is a bunch of fans coming forth to craft a Ratatouille musical.  (Or Rattatouisical, if you prefer!)  One even went so far as to create a fake Playbill for the thing, complete with a brilliant illustration of the signature dish on a fork, subtly shaped to look like Remy!

Very fun to muse over and great to see so much excitement and creativity.  Check out the NPR story, and a quick ‘net search will find you all the various TikTok submissions as well.

La fête va enfin commencer
Sortez les bouteilles; finis les ennuis
Je dresse la table, de ma nouvell(e) vie
Je suis heureux à l’idée de ce nouveau destin
Une vie à me cacher et puis libre enfin
Le festin est sur mon chemin

Une vie à me cacher et puis libre enfin
Le festin est sur mon chemin

Architecture Monday

There’s this local office building that’s been catching my eye as I’ve driven by it both while it was under construction and now that it is complete.  Finally stopped to take a walk around it!

At its heart it kinda follows the glass box typology, but in so many ways it is very far away from ever just being a box.  For one, it’s not just a box – a good half of it skews diagonally like a parallelogram.  For two, it is split in two – with each half getting a slightly different expression (while still using a similar language of black glass and steel with the addition of integrated sunshade blades) and the area where they meet being sculpturally demarked.  For three, it’s not just a mirrored surface of undifferentiated glass, with the steel frame being nicely detailed and sculpturally handled, using double mullions, different mullion depths, and those aforementioned sun shades to give it nice articulation, playing with composition enhanced by differing shadowlines.  (Similar in the way that the detailing of Mies van der Rohe’s TD or Seagram buildings make them lauded while other generic glass towers can easily be eyesores.)

All that is what caught my eye during the construction phases.  But what really catches the eye now is that remarkable glass artwork that sits prominently on its prow.  Abstract in its leafiness and rendered vibrant due to the black background, it really works well, avoiding feeling like a billboard or just some giant image slapped wantonly onto the building.  (Amusingly it is very much held onto the building like something resembling the support structure for a billboard!)  It’s a bit of art that manages well to feel like it’s a part of the building.

Architecture lives in our communities, and we live in it.  This isn’t what we might term a “major” or “glamourous” project, but it’s an err to think good design should only live there.  Good architecture is welcome everywhere and makes our built environment worth living in.  Good stuff.

223 North Mathilda Avenue by, unfortunately, designers unknown.  (I tried to find them but haven’t yet – I’ll keep looking!)