Friday, July 8, 2011

Casa del Fascio

Giuseppe Terragni was an Italian architect who worked primarily under the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini and pioneered the Italian modern architecture movement under the moniker of Rationalism. In this post we briefly explore his most famous work the Casa del Fascio ‘house of the fascists’ located in Como, Italy. The Casa del Fascio was begun in 1932 and completed in 1936
 Ground floor plan of the Casa del Fascio

Street view of the Casa del Fascio

Interior view of the main hall, Casa del Fascio

Interior view of the main hall, Casa del Fascio

Interior view of the main hall, Casa del Fascio

In his final designs, Terragni achieved a more distinctive Mediterranean character through the fusion of modern theory and tradition. Terragni died of tuberculosis in Como in 1943.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Cartoon from the Leonardo e Raffaello, per esempio 'Leonardo and Raphael for example' exhibit on display at the Palazzo Medici Riccardi

Saturday, July 2, 2011


“All architecture is shelter, all great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.”

Philip Johnson

Thursday, June 30, 2011

World's Longest Sea Bridge

A pleasant article and video on the marathon-length Qingdao Haiwan Bridge. The bridge would easily span the English Channel and is longer than the previous record-holder, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. Home to seven of the world's 10 lengthiest bridges, perhaps China is the new land of engineering feats.

Monday, June 27, 2011

European planners stifling traffic

Yesterday in the New York Times was a fantastic article on street environments

The article briefly describes two opposite attitudes towards the street,in regards to vehicular and pedestrian activities. The New York Times describes that, "while American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation."

Overall a nice article, and an excellent point of departure for further discussion. Judging by the comments section of the New York Times online edition, the debate between the rights of vehicular versus pedestrian usage is indeed passionate.

Further reading

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Best Designer? Nature

Growing up in Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay has always been a part of my life, whether it has been skipping stones on its shores as a child, eating steamed blue crab or sailing in summers past. The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and currently the Bay is in a serious state of environmental deterioration, due to overfishing, poor stormwater runoff, among other factors.

During my studies in school I became familiar with biomimicry after viewing a TED lecture by Janine Benyus. While enjoying a quick pint and some oysters, I thought again of this lecture and the opportunities to utilize biomimicry on an industrial scale. Why fight nature, when it could be possible to harness nature's abilities and in essence put Mother Nature to work.  Oyster filtration can mitigate water pollutants such as excess sediment, nutrients, and algae. An oyster can filter up to 5 litres (1.3 US gal) of water per hour. According to a NOAA report the Chesapeake Bay's once flourishing oyster population historically filtered excess nutrients from the estuary's entire water volume every three to four days. John Smith on his early exploration of the region described the Chesapeake Bay's water as being clear for meters, now the water is a far cry from this description. Today that would take nearly a year for this same process to continue.

According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation the Bay contains approximately 15 trillion gallons of water. Given the aforementioned data a single oyster could filter approximately 31.2 US gal of water per day, it would take roughly 480 billion oysters to filter the water in a single day, but given historical accounts of this process taking every three to four days one could safely assume that at peak population the Bay's oysters totaled around 150 billion. Furthermore given the current analysis that it takes almost a year to utilize the same filtration action on a rough estimate the population is a pale comparison.

Through carefully managed oyster farming, it is possible to harness the fantastic abilities of nature to counteract the effects of human pollution with relatively benign effects to the environment, and in some instances such as aforementioned a restorative effect.  With further study I hope to be able to assemble a comparative analysis of nature based cleaning programs with conventional programs. On a final note this process could be a viable solution to relieving pressure on land-based protein sources.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The 5 B's

The 5 Bs - bricks, banners, balloons, benches and berms - do NOT create streetlife. It is the available shopping that provides it.

- Andres Duany

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Parking is a narcotic and ought to be a controlled substance. It is addictive, and one can never have enough.

- Victor Dover


Founded by Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus School operated in the interwar period from 1919 to 1933 in Weimar. The principles behind the Bauhaus School operated under the idea of creating a 'total' work of art in which all disciplines of the arts, including architecture would eventually be unified. This Bauhaus style eventually became one of the most influential factors in the inception of  Modernist architecture and modern design. This post offers a glimpse into the Bauhaus complex designed by Walter Gropius  in Dessau, Germany.
Walter Gropius
First Floor Plan Bauhaus Building complex
Dessau, Germany, 1926

Walter Gropius
Balcony Details Bauhaus Building complex
Dessau, Germany, 1926
Walter Gropius
Renderings Bauhaus Building complex
Dessau, Germany, 1926

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Museum for the Decorative Arts

Museum for the Decorative Arts
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Richard Meier

Conceptual Sketch
Museum for the Decorative Arts
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Richard Meier

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Colosseo Quadrato

The Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, also known as the Colosseo Quadrato ‘Square Colosseum’, is an icon of Fascist architecture. The Colosseo Quadraato lies in the Roman district of the Esposizione Universale Roma.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Transit v. Transit

As growth becomes denser, highway costs rise while transit costs decline.
 - Anonymous

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Manhattan of the desert

Shibam, Yemen
Contained within the desert towers are the earliest examples of high-rise apartment buildings

Soaring many stories over the desert city of Shibam, Yemen, desert towers scrape the Arabian sky. Often called "the oldest skyscraper city in the world" or "the Manhattan of the desert", Shibam is one of the oldest and best examples of urban planning designed around vertical construction. The city is home to the tallest mud buildings in the world, with some of them over 30 meters. Contained within the desert towers are the earliest examples of high-rise apartment buildings.

In order to protect the buildings from the elements, the façades are thickly coated with and must be routinely maintained.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Penguin Pool

Berthold Lubetkin and Tecton with Ove Arup
Penguin Pool, London Zoo
London, GB 1934

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Urban Living

No urban area will prosper unless it attracts those who can choose to live wherever they wish.

- Jonathon Barnett

Monday, May 30, 2011

Futurist Manifesto

  1. All the pseudo-architecture of the avant-garde, Austrian, Hungarian, German and American;
  2. All classical architecture, solemn, hieratic, scenographic, decorative, monumental, pretty and pleasing;
  3. The embalming, reconstruction and reproduction of ancient monuments and palaces;
  4. Perpendicular and horizontal lines, cubical and pyramidical forms that are static, solemn, aggressive and absolutely excluded from our utterly new sensibility;
  5. The use of massive, voluminous, durable, antiquated and costly materials.
  1. That Futurist architecture is the architecture of calculation, of audacious temerity and of simplicity; the architecture of reinforced concrete, of steel, glass, cardboard, textile fiber, and of all those substitutes for wood, stone and brick that enable us to obtain maximum elasticity and lightness;
  2. That Futurist architecture is not because of this an arid combination of practicality and usefulness, but remains art, i.e. synthesis and expression;
  3. That oblique and elliptic lines are dynamic, and by their very nature possess an emotive power a thousand times stronger than perpendiculars and horizontals, and that no integral, dynamic architecture can exist that does not include these;
  4. That decoration as an element superimposed on architecture is absurd, and that the decorative value of Futurist architecture depends solely on the use and original arrangement of raw or bare or violently colored materials;
  5. That, just as the ancients drew inspiration for their art from the elements of nature, we—who are materially and spiritually artificial—must find that inspiration in the elements of the utterly new mechanical world we have created, and of which architecture must be the most beautiful expression, the most complete synthesis, the most efficacious integration;
  6. That architecture as the art of arranging forms according to pre-established criteria is finished;
  7. That by the term architecture is meant the endeavor to harmonize the environment with Man with freedom and great audacity, that is to transform the world of things into a direct projection of the world of the spirit;
  8. From an architecture conceived in this way no formal or linear habit can grow, since the fundamental characteristics of Futurist architecture will be its impermanence and transience. Things will endure less than us. Every generation must build its own city. This constant renewal of the architectonic environment will contribute to the victory of Futurism which has already been affirmed by words-in-freedom, plastic dynamism, music without quadrature and the art of noises, and for which we fight without respite against traditionalist cowardice.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

La Citta Nuova

Antonio Sant'Elia
 La Citta Nuova, central railway station and airport
ink and pencil on paper

Antonio Sant'Elia was an influential Italian architect. Originally a builder by training, Sant'Elia opened a design office in Milan in 1912, where he became involved with the Futurist movement. Influenced by industrialized cities of the United States, Sant'Elia  began a series of conceptual drawings for the futurist Città Nuova ‘New City’, that were intended to be symbolic of the new age.

Antonio Sant'Elia
 La Citta Nuova
ink and pencil on paper

Antonio Sant'Elia
 La Citta Nuova
ink and pencil on paper

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I've always described Density in terms of dollars: The more you have of it, the more you can "buy" with it -- referring to amenities, of course (cultural, entertainment, dining, etc.). When I get asked what's the single most important thing that can be added to a city to help revitalize it (they are always waiting for the latest retail or entertainment thing...), I always say "housing."

- Seth Harry

Monday, May 23, 2011


Photo montage of Riomaggiore

Located on the rugged Ligurian coast, Riomaggiore is the first village in the Cinque Terre.  The Cinque Terre or ‘five lands’ is a collection of villages comprising Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The buildings of Riomaggiore have been carefully built into the steep landscape, however given the terrain and the terracing utilized in construction, it appears as if the buildings have grown directly from the rock of the Italian Riviera.

Ligurian Sea from Riomaggiore

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Casa Malaparte

In the summer of 2008 I was fortunate to participate in the Casa Malaparte Workshop through the Catholic University of America. Located on a strip of rock jutting from the eastern coast of the Isle of Capri is the Casa Malaparte. Initially conceived in the late 1930’s by Italian Rationalist architect Adalberto Libera, however Malaparte rejected Libera's design and undertook the project himself with the help of Adolfo Amitrano, a local stone mason. The house is an excellent example of Italian modern architecture, as well as the built environment eminently adapted to its surroundings.
 The Punta Massullo with Casa Malaparte as seen from trail leading to house

The house can only be reached by two methods, firstly by traversing the island on a circuitous path or secondly by sea. According to our guides it takes roughly an hour and a half  to walk from Capri's Piazzetta to Casa Malaparte, however with a little trail running we were able make it from Casa Malaparte to the hotel in Marina Piccola in almost an hour.

Final approach to Casa Malaparte with steps to roof and sail element 
“It has been called the twentieth century's most beautiful house. Isolated at the tip of a craggy promontory on the Italian island  of Capri, Casa Malaparte has captivated modern architects and designers with the graceful power of its lines and the drama of its setting...the stuccoed, Pompeian red box appears to have grown straight out of the rock. Its remoteness adds to its dreamy allure. Its simple shape belies its assertive, sculptural presence.” 

– Michael McDonough
Section of Casa Malaparte and surrounding environment

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


"Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die"
- Daniel Burnham

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Seagram Building

Seagram Building from Park Avenue

The Seagram Building located in midtown Manhattan is one of the finest examples of the International Style and corporate modernism. Designed by Mies van der Rohe, at the behest of  the Canadian distillers Joseph E. Seagram's & Sons, the Seagram Building soars 516 feet over Park Avenue.
Ground floor plan of the Seagram Building

Mies intended to create an urban open space in front of the building, and it became a popular gathering area. In the late 1960s when New York City enacted a major revision to its 1916 Zoning Resolution (the nation's first comprehensive Zoning Resolution) it offered incentives for developers to install ‘privately owned public spaces’ which were meant to emulate the plaza of the  Seagram's Building, however the following 40 years of development in Manhattan have done so with little success.

Corner detail Seagram's Building

Mies’ sensibilities would have preferred the steel frame to be visible; however, American building codes required that all structural steel be covered in a fireproof material, usually concrete. As a protective blanket of concrete hid the structure of the building, Mies suggested structure with the non-structural bronze-toned I-beams.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Beauty and Well being

Architecture is a art when one consciously or unconsciously creates aesthetic emotion in the atmosphere and when this environment produces well being.

Luis Barragan 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Villa Stein

Le Corbusier
 Villa Stein/de Monzie(Les Terrasses)
Garches, France 1926-1928

Dominant and Subdominant Spaces

This diagram was originally a brief exploration of Venice as a collection of public spaces linked by a series of  thoroughfares. However the distinct hierarchy apparent between Piazza San Marco and the other public spaces reminded me of a less apparent concept in the urban environment, namely dominant and subdominant spaces that work within a city. Edmund Bacon's fantastic work The Design of Cities describes it as thus:

"establishing a primary center of the city, and a system of subcenters which recall the dominant center, the citizen feels pride of belonging. His identification with Piazza San Marco is an expression of the total civic life of the city, and with his daily life centering around the local square with its church, cafe, wellhead and perhaps monument, he feels a reflection of the total civic magnificence in his own neighborhood. Or conversely, as he identifies with the intimate square where his children play in his own community, he is able to move from this personal experience to an identification with the more difficult concept of the city as a whole"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Project for a skyscraper on Friedrichstrasse
Berlin, Germany, 1921

Sunday, April 10, 2011


"I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and leaves less room for lies."

Le Corbusier

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pazzi Chapel

Sectional analysis of the Pazzi Chapel

Located with the grounds of the  Basilica di Santa Croce, the Pazzi chapel was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi at the behest of Andrea Pazzi. Construction began around 1441 and was not completed until the 1460s. Brunelleschi's design was based on simple geometrical forms, namely the square and the circle.

Friday, March 18, 2011


"Between believing and not believing, it is better to believe. Between acting and disintigrating, it is better to act. To be young and full of health means to be able to produce a great deal, but it takes years of experience to be able to produce well"

Le Corbusier

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Newgate Prison

Newgate Exercise Yard by Gustave Dore , from London : A pilgrimage, 1872

Monday, March 7, 2011


While democracy does most things well, I think we need to confront the fact that it does not make the best cities. And that the cities that were great were rather top-down. You know--Paris and Rome, the grid of Manhattan. What would those have been like if there hadn't been some top-down stuff? Every landowner would have done a separate little pod subdivision. That's one of the things that's naive about Americans--extremely naive, I find, as an outsider having lived in places that are possibly less democratic, like Spain. This idea that you have an individual right to do whatever you want with your land is very democratic, but the result is pretty questionable. Unfortunately, it's hard to have a debate in this country about certain things. We talk about bottom-up planning. And by the way, I make my living doing this bottom-up planning. But if you unfilter what people want--they don't want poor people, they don't want income diversity, and they don't want shops anywhere near them and they don't want rapid transit and they don't want streets that connect and they don't want anybody bicycling past their yards and they don't want density. So you can't just do unfiltered bottom-up planning. We need to educate.
– Andres Duany

Saturday, March 5, 2011


“There are three classes of people: those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see.”

Leonardo da Vinci

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sir Christopher Wren

Post Boy No. 5244 London 2 March 1723

Sir Christopher Wren who died on Monday last in the 91st year of his age, was the only son of
Dr. Chr. Wren, Dean of Windsor & Wolverhampton, Registar of the Garter, younger brother of Dr. Mathew(sic)
Wren Ld Bp of Ely, a branch of the ancient family of Wrens of Binchester in the Bishoprick (sic) of Durham
1653. Elected from Wadham into fellowship of All Souls
1657. Professor of Astronomy Gresham College London
1660. Savilian Professor. Oxford
After 1666. Surveyor General for Rebuilding the Cathedral Church of St.Paul and the Parochial
Churches & all other Public Buildings which he lived to finish
1669. Surveyor General till April 26. 1718
1680. President of the Royal Society
1698. Surveyor General & Sub Commissioner for Repairs to Westminster Abbey by Act of Parlia-
ment, continued till death.
His body is to be deposited in the Great Vault under the Dome of the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Methods of Design Growth: Axes as Connectors

A perfect example of using the axis as a tool in large scale design is seen in the five 'new' fora of Rome. One enters the first forum on the central axis located in the lower right hand corner of the diagram, the fora built by subsequent emperor's relate to the larger whole, by having the central axis of the newly built forum perpendicular to the proceeding forum.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Climate has little to do with [how much people walk]. Toronto residents, New Orleanians and Manhattanites, with extremes of weather, walk more than Atlantans. The variable is the quality of the urbanism. Not the weather. People in Stockholm walk more than people in the suburbs of Seville. People in Stockholm's center walk more that they do in Stockholm's 1950's new towns. The variable is always the quality of the urbanism--not the weather.

- Andres Duany

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Food for Thought: Artificial Photosynthesis

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

Artificial photosynthesis is a research field attempting to replicate the natural process of photosynthesis: converting sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water into carbohydrates and oxygen. However, with artificial photosynthesis this process is slightly different instead converting sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into fuel.

The term is used lightly, as splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen by using solar energy is also referred to as artificial photosynthesis; as appears in this video. Although still in the research phase this new technology would be able to generate fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Campo de Fiori

Campo de Fiori, Roma, Italia
Located in the heart of Rome, the Campo de Fiori has an infamous history. Nearby in ancient Roman times was Pompey's Theatre, which was the site where Julius Caesar was murdered. During the Roman Inquisition philosopher  Giordano Bruno and theologian Marco Antonio de Dominis were burnt alive in the Campo de Fiori. In fact the statue at the center defiantly standing in the direction of the Vatican is a monument to Bruno. Today however, the Campo is more likely to be filled with intoxicated students than agents of the Vatican.

The Birth of Sprawl

The cities will be part of the country; I shall live 30 miles from my office in one direction, under a pine tree; my secretary will live 30 miles away from it too, in the other direction, under another pine tree. We shall both have our own car.

We shall use up tires, wear out road surfaces and gears, consume oil and gasoline. All of which will necessitate a great deal of work....enough for all.

 - Le Corbusier, The Radiant City (1967)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Architectural Gems: Shait Gambuj Mosque

Located in the verdant Bagerhat District lies one of Bangladesh's true architectural gems. The Shait Gambuj Mosque was constructed during the reign of the Turkic general Ulugh Khan Jahan in the 15th century. The mosque is referred to as the 'sixty dome mosque' but it actually contains eighty-one domes; there are seventy seven domes arranged in seven rows of eleven, with additional domes at each corner of the mosque.

Exterior view of the Shait Gambuj Mosque

Interior view of the Shait Gambuj Mosque

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

El Morro

Fort San Felipe del Morro

Located on the entrance to San Juan Bay, Fort San Felipe del Morro was built to protect the approaches to the bay as well as nearby Old San Juan. this drawing is a sectional analysis that explores the multiple levels of the fort. The earliest fortifications of the fort were located slightly above the water's edge.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Food for Thought: Revitalizing Detroit

Watch the full episode. See more Blueprint America.

An excellent look at current proposals to revitalize Detroit, Michigan, the birthplace of the American automobile industry.

In effect Detroit is almost the most advanced case of the effects an automobile centric culture has on the urban fabric and social landscape. During the 1920’s and 1930’s Detroit was a thriving city of almost 2 million thanks to the automobile industry; today the population is less than half that. What was once a dense urban environment is now a virtual ghost town. It’s quite ironic to see what fueled its meteoric rise is ultimately leading to its demise.

However, Detroit’s situation highlights difficulties facing many cities and communities across the country. By relying solely on the automobile in lieu of diverse transportation options and lack of investment in infrastructure, Detroit's current predicament gives room for pause. This is most apparent as a Spanish Transportation Official describes the effect of a country’s infrastructure and how a lack of investment leads to,“a slow decline in importance and their weight in the world.” This is indeed, food for thought.

The Ruins of Detroit