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Recent Posts

  1. Architectural Mazes
    Friday, April 11, 2014
  2. Architecture School Juries
    Saturday, April 05, 2014
  3. 2014 Skyscraper Competition
    Friday, March 28, 2014
  4. Architecture on Instagram
    Sunday, March 23, 2014
  5. Tom Brady LA House for Sale
    Wednesday, March 19, 2014
  6. Design Competitions
    Saturday, March 15, 2014
  7. Indecent Proposal
    Saturday, March 08, 2014
  8. Shower Head Bliss
    Saturday, March 01, 2014
  9. Google Maps and Architecture
    Friday, February 21, 2014
  10. Entablature
    Sunday, February 16, 2014

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Architectural Mazes

It was recently announced that the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) was designing an indoor maze for the National Building Museum in Washington DC. (You can read more here at Designboom.)

For someone like me who loves mazes, this is a cool thing.  I remember back in 1983 when the 4th year architecture students at Kent State University built a big outdoor maze out of cardboard in the main plaza.  I think they charged a minimal fee for people to go through the maze, and I remember going up into the library to look down on the maze to see it from above.

The BIG maze is planned to be about 60 feet by 60 feet (outside dimensions) with 18-foot-high walls along the perimeter.  The walls will be made out of baltic birch plywood but instead of having everyone blindly find their way through the maze, the walls will taper down toward the center so that once you’re near the middle of the maze you will be able to see the path you need to take to complete it.

The maze is set to open in July, 2014 and will run until September 1, 2014, and is a preview for a Bjarke Ingels exhibit that will open in the Fall of 2014.

There are many references to mazes and labyrinths throughout architectural history, like the Minoan Palace at Knossos, Crete (18th Century BC) I remember studying in college.  Perhaps more well-known are the European hedge mazes built between the 16th and 18th centuries.

A number of articles have highlighted the best current landscape mazes, like Woman’s Day and Web Ecoist.

Many of the older European mazes have survived, as well as influencing new mazes being constructed on farmland.  These corn mazes become tourist destinations in the Fall, like the Davis Farmland Mega Maze in Sterling MA, about an hour west of Boston.

And here's a fun video review of landscape hedge mazes around the world, entitled "aMAZEd - Google Earth":

Mazes can create a sense of wonder and are sometimes used by architects as either a symbol or style.  Some are found on facades of buildings, like these:

Al Rostamani Maze Tower by Planquadrat and DAR,in Dubai

Maze Apartments by CHT Architects in Richmond, Victoria, Australia

And if you’ve ever been in a glass maze at a carnival or amusement park, here is Phil Pauley’s concept design of what he calls the “Cubed Maze3”, a nine-level cube labyrinth with stairs and ramps with a rooftop café bar!

Video games are a great way to experience mazes.  The original Pac-Man video game is based on a simple maze, which I think lent to a lot of the game’s appeal.

I remember when my brother first downloaded Wolfenstein 3D in the early 90’s.  This was my first experience of being inside a virtual maze and, despite the violence, I found myself spending time just exploring the maze as opposed to trying to get to the end of each level as quickly as possible.

Wolfenstein led to Doom and Quake, even more violent games that have been accused of causing increased aggression in teens.  I remember starting Doom and then stopping because of all of the shooting.  Then, once I found the “invincibility cheat”, was able to go back in and explore the many levels and hidden passages.

I’ve also played a number of labyrinth-type games.  My first when I was a kid was the wooden box kind with a steel marble.  You used knobs to tilt the top “table” of the box to move the marble and avoid the holes.

There’s an iPhone version of this same game, Wooden Labyrinth 3D, which I enjoy playing every now and then.


In movies, the film “Labyrinth” is a fantasy starring David Bowie as the Goblin King and Jennifer Connelly as a girl who must traverse a series of mazes to reach a castle at the center of the labyrinth in order to save her little brother.

Perhaps the most iconic maze scene in a movie is the one at the end of “The Shining” starring Jack Nicholson.  Jack takes a job as a caretaker for a hotel while it is closed for the winter and brings his wife and son, Danny, with him.  There is an early scene in the lobby showing a model of the hotel’s hedge maze, foreshadowing the movie’s climax:



At the end of the movie, Jack has gone completely insane and believes he needs to kill his son.  Danny runs away from his father and eventually escapes outside in the middle of a snowstorm and runs into the hotel’s hedge maze.  Jack chases him into the maze but soon gets lost.  Danny retraces his footsteps in the snow to find his way back to the hedge maze entrance:

Mazes will continue to inspire designers and fill people with wonder and joy.  Maybe someone will try and solve Escher's "Relativity" through the 4th dimension!




Architecture School Juries

As I went through my weekly reading of architecture blogs, I was entertained by Bob Borson's Memories from the Architectural Studio article on is Life of an Architect website.  Not only did it spark memories from my jury experiences in architecture school but also my more recent experience as a juror myself:




The studio I was invited to be a juror for was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture Core 3 Master of Architecture Program and their semester-long investigation of research labs.  It was a great experience and I enjoyed seeing the students' ideas and thought processes in the creation of their solutions.  I tried to be helpful and encouraging, and I think there was only 1 student who I was particularly harsh with - he being the one who presented a half-finished project and looked like he hadn't slept for a few days.

Most architecture schools have juries where students present their projects at the end of the semester - or end of the project if it happens to be of a shorter duration.  Juries are usually comprised of the studio instructor along with other architecture professors in the school.  Frequently, practicing architects are also invited, or other guest jurors who may have some particular experience with whatever the building type is that the students are designing.  As a student, the process of standing up in front of a group of professors and architects and presenting your project can be intimidating.  For me, I think I fared pretty well at juries, but I certainly remember them as most architecture students do, especially when they ripped some students projects apart.  Although there are many who believe the architecture jury process should be done away with, I strongly believe it is an important part of the architecture school experience as it teaches you life-long lessons that you can use in your career - particularly of having reasons for making design decisions that you can present and defend.

There is a long history of juries in the training of an architect.  The Yale School of Architecture in New Haven, Connecticut, is famous in architecture circles for both their jury tradition as well as the importance the school places on the jury experience:


Fourth year School of Architecture jury in the Yale University Art Gallery, 1960. Front row, left to right: Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph, and Vincent Scully. Photograph by Stanley Tigerman. (From the Yale Photographic Collections.)



Tegan Bukowski and Daisy Ames presenting for Peter Eisenman’s Studio for the Final Review at Yale School of Architecture, December, 2012. JURY: Tod Williams + Billie Tsien, Preston Scott Cohen, Mark Wigley, Ingeborg Rocker, Stanley Tigerman, Sarah Whiting, Robert A.M. Stern, Mario Carpo, Emmanuel Petit, Harry Cobb, Guido Zuliani. (From Daisy Ames' website.)

Here's a few images from some other schools:


Princeton University School of Architecture


Architectural Association School of Architecture


University of East London


Harvard Graduate School of Design, this image from Archinect's "Live Blogs" from the Harvard GSD final reviews in May, 2013.

Some have written fondly about their architecture school jury experience, some not so fondly.  Mark Gerwing has an article about both being a juror and his school experience on his blog post, An Architect's Education - Juries.  Architecture: what i wish i'd known offers a critique of the "crit"   in the post, Architecture School: Crits and Criticism, along with the following jury diagram:



Critics can be harsh, many times making un-called for statements, but, after researching this post, I think it's funny that across all the years and all the schools, there does seem to be a commonality to the experience, both how the architecture jury process works as well as how architecture school graduates remember their own experiences.

Here's a fun one from Chris Bozelli from his Bozz Design blog called "Architecture School Jury Review Bingo":


Also, some humor from Subhashree on the Politically Incorrect site called "Architecture Jury Critique":


For those wanting to see a little more of what an architecture school jury is like, here's a few videos from YouTube:


A 2 1/2 minute video of a class' jury at the Fourth-year arch609 juries at University of Kansas School of Architecture, Design and Planning.  Pin up, wait, present, wait, take down.  Repeat.


A less-formal 10-minute jury posted by Margaret Jamison as a 2nd year grad student at Cal Poly Pomona. (Audio is not so great ... but this gives a good idea of how the process works.). I like how the jurors get up to look at the model before she's presented it.

    About an hour-long thesis presentation posted by Daniel Johnson, from the University of South Florida School of Architecture.

    Overall, I found the architecture jury process to be a memorable part of my education and training as an architect.  And even though some jurors' egos and inane comments cause some to make fun of juries (which I enjoy reading, and remembering), being able to stand up in front of a group of people to present and defend your design is a skill all architects can use in their career.

    2014 Skyscraper Competition

    Since 2006 eVolo Magazine has been running it’s annual international skyscraper competition – and this year’s entries continue to explore the use of sustainable systems, novel technologies and new materials that could redefine skyscraper design.  Like past years, the entrants have used digital technology to present ideas that stretch the limits of imagination, and the results are a treat to admire.  This year's competition had 525 entries with 3 top prizes and 20 honorable mentions given.

    From the submissions I’ve seen, this year’s entries covered a wide range of ideas, only some of which were able to successfully show a high-rise structural and architectural solution to the self-made problem statement.

    Below are the 3 winners and some of the honorable mention recipients, along with some of my thoughts on each:


    Vernacular Versatility Versatility – Yong Ju Lee (First Place)

    I don’t know a lot about traditional Korean architecture, but applying computer modeling software to redesign ancient construction techniques is great.  I thought it was a bit of a stretch to reference a standard square plan but then show a bending, curved structure,  and I would have expected the final solution to have at least some symbolic roof elements to tie back to the traditional Korean house.  However, the entry is carefully rendered and shows how the individual columns, beams and girders are assembled to form the entire structure.  From all the entries, this may be the most realistic while also being a beautiful structure.


    Car and Shell: or Marinetti’s Monster – Mark Talbot and Daniel Markiewicz (Second Place)

    The suburban grid gone vertical!  A fun solution (although completely unrealistic) but a nice commentary on suburban sprawl.


    Propogate Skyscraper – YuHao Liu and Rui Wu (Third Place)

    Interesting idea for a skyscraper to naturally expand using a patterned framework at its core.  However, I think the innermost parts of the building would become un-useable once the material expanded outward.


    Sand Babel - Qiu Song, Kang Pengfei, Bai Ying, Ren Nuoya, Guo Shen (Honorable Mention)

    I like the idea of using a solar-powered 3D printer to create the structure and this entry’s sustainable grand idea.


    Climatology Tower - Yuan-Sung Hsiao, Yuko Ochiai, Jia-Wei Liu, Hung-Lin Hsieh (Honorable Mention)

    A skyscraper that analyzes its surrounding urban environment is interesting, but I’m not sure how the outer skin could be constructed.


    Rainforest Guardian Skyscraper - Jie Huang, Jin Wei, Qiaowan Tang, Yiwei Yu, Zhe Hao (Honorable Mention)

    This is a similar entry of an environmentally-friendly skyscraper, this time in the Amazon Rainforest.


    PieXus Tower - Chris Thackrey, Steven Ma, Bao An Nguyen Phuoc, Christos Koukis, Matus Nedecky, Stefan Turcovsky (Honorable Mention)

    A beautiful, organic design, but has no relationship to the surrounding city and seems to rely only on automobile and helicopter traffic to get people in and out of the structure.


    Project Blue - Yang Siqi, Zhan Beidi, Zhao Renbo, Zhang Tianshuo (Honorable Mention)

    Another tower design that has a main purpose of energy efficiency and sustainability.


    Urban Alloy Tower – Matt Bowles and Chad Kellogg (Honorable Mention)

    Building around and above a city’s transportation spines considers a great use of unused space, although how it all gets supported in and around the roads and train tracks is questionable.


    Skyvillage for Los Angeles – Ziwei Song (Honorable Mention)

    Another entry the builds above transportation, this one with a more fantastic concept.


    21st Century Neoclassical Skyscraper – John Houser and Parke MacDowell (Honorable Mention)

    A new mannerism style using computer technologies to re-invent classical forms.  I like the idea, but the solution looks like too many columns and arches, more like roman aqueducts piled on top of each other.

    There are many more entries shown in the eVolo Skyscraper Competition 2014 website, as well as previous years’ competitions.  I encourage everyone to explore the ideas and form your own opinions!

     

     

    Architecture on Instagram

    I admit, I was at first hesitant about starting on another social media site, especially one that seemed to be dominated by the Kardashians and Biebers of the world.  But I think once you look past the self-promoting celebrities, there a re a lot of pleasant surprises to be found on Instagram, and it is a great way to share images of things you are doing or places where you are traveling with friends and followers.

    Some may argue that the over-use of sepia tones and filters on Instagram pictures makes for bad photos and that Instagram is flooded with bad photography.  But I've found that on certain pictures a filter can enhance the image and even allow photographers the opportunity to alter the picture instead of simply using whatever the camera gives them.  Today's phones have pretty decent cameras and, according to Flickr, those that post photos are using iPhones more than all other cameras, both by other phones and "point and shoot" cameras combined.  And since most who use smartphones always have their phones with them, the opportunity to take a photo in the right place at the right time allows even the most non-creative person to take very good photos.

    Like Flickr, Instagram is used to share photos.  However, instead of sharing large numbers of photos, Instagram is more about the social aspect of each particular picture, and its engine is designed to allow for comments and sharing, and is also easily searchable through the use of hashtags.  For architects, the most popular hashtag on Instagram is #architecture.  On Entablature, I've added a widget on the right column called SnapWidget which will capture random images from Instagram which use the #architecture hashtag (and which I have no control over, so if something non-architecture-related comes up it's not my fault!).

    There have been a number of stories over the past year which have highlighted some of the best architecture-related Instagram users, such as Lifescoop, ArchDaily, Architizer, and Architectural Digest.  A couple of others have concentrated on architectural photography, such as Archilovers and Wix

    Below are some of my favorite architecture users that I follow on Instagram:


    @vdubl
    (http://vdubl.vsco.co)


    @mauriciotufino
    (http://about.me/mauriciotufino)


    @adhocism


    @urbanscape


    @bobborson
    (http://www.LifeofanArchitect.com)


    @lifesansbldgs
    (http://twitter.com/lifesansbldgs)


    @shoparchitects
    (http://www.shoparc.com)


    @dwellmagazine
    (http://dwell.com)

    And here are a couple of architectural rendering users:


    @archarchive
    (http://archarchiva.tumblr.com)


    @jdhanchett
    (http://www.jdhanchett.com)

    And here are a few architectural photography users I follow:


    @archiandinteriordesign


    @emaphotographi
    (http://www.emapeter.com)


    @wmannphotography (Boston local photographer!)
    (https://www.facebook.com/wmannphotography)

    As Instagram is becoming more popular by architects to share their projects and/or architecture-related pictures, even the American Institute of Architects is jumping on the bandwagon.  The AIA is now running a competition called Architecture is Awesome, in collaboration with National Architecture Week, where between March 18 and April 12 (2014) photos uploaded to Instagram using #archweek14 are entered in the competition.

    I'll be posting random pictures to my Instagram account @krisspettersen, so please follow me along with any of your favorites above.  I think you will enjoy the sliver of Instagram related to architecture and how many creative and inspiring architects, designers and photographers are out there!

    Tom Brady LA House for Sale

    Tom Brady wants to make Boston his home.  He and Giselle Bundchen completed construction on their Brentwood home in Los Angeles a couple of years ago, designed by architect Richard Landry with interior designer Joan Behnke.  But they now have it listed for sale with the Westside Estate Agency for $50 million dollars.



    The house has 13,890 square feet with 5 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms. 
    Architectural Digest profiled the house last year - here are some of the pics:


    French Provincial limestone exterior


    Entrance Hall


    Family Room


    Kitchen


    Workout Room


    Master Bedroom


    Master Bathroom


    Gisele's walk-in closet


    The back yard with swimming pool


    The view from the pool (with the Pacific Ocean in the distance)

    Not too shabby, huh?

    So, where are Tom and Giselle going to live?  Well, last year they bought a $14M condo in the new One Madison Park glass tower in New York City:



    And they are also completing construction on their new 14,000 square foot house in Chestnut Hill outside of Boston as reported by TMZ:



    Design Competitions

    In a recent commentary in The Architect's Newspaper, Marshall Brown of the Marshall Brown Projects suggests that architects should no longer participate in large-scale design competitions.  He states a number of reasons, including the opinion that most winning entries are rarely built as they were designed, and that competitions are held more for the publicity of the proposed projects' owners than the actual designs themselves.  However, that didn't stop Marshall from showing off some of his own designs from competitions he had entered in that same commentary, like the Chicago Fan Pier entry from the team of Marshall Brown Projects, Davis Brody Bond, Martha Schwartz Partners, and Halcrow Yolles.



    Personally, I think design competitions are a good thing - they can often lead to "out of the box" thinking and extraordinary solutions that might never have been imagined if the project had gone a more traditional architectural design route.

    In architecture school, students learn to be competitive.  From design charettes and over-nighters to presentations in front of a jury, architecture students are taught to be competitive with themselves.  There is usually a good-natured comeraderie in the design studio, and most times students support and help each other come up with the best design solutions possible.  But underneath that comeraderie is an underlying desire for your project to be better than your classmates.

    Students are encouraged to enter design competitions, both those sponsored by the AiaS (which are also sometimes folded into a design studio), as well as "ideas" competitions that don't have an architectural commission at the end, but reward entries based on their originality.  Some schools hold actual design competitions.  I was part of a yearly tradition at Kent State where the 4th year architecture students designed energy-efficient projects in teams of 2 called the Ohio Edison Energy Competition.  My partner was Rick Hansal and we were in the same 3rd year design studio where we studied symbolism in architecture.  So, for the 4th year design studio we teamed up and started our OEEC design with lofty goals.  We were both interested in rationalism.  But about midway through the project our instructor warned us that we were headed down a path that might be too difficult to find a good solution, so Rick and I scrapped the entire design and started over with a more contextural approach.  After all the work we had done it was amazing how quickly a new design solution presented itself and we ended up with the winning entry!



    Besides the recognition for winning OEEC, we were awarded $350.  Hey, for an architecture student, that wasn't too shabby.

    I've been fortunate in my professional career to work in some high-end design firms.  At Arquitectonica, I assisted on a number of design competitions, including the Bibliotheque de France, the competition design entry for the new French national library.  The firm's design was one of two American finalists, but Dominique Perrault's entry ultimately won.



    At Kallmann McKinnell and Wood, I was on the design team for the proposed US Embassy in Berlin.  We had a great design, but it was Moore Ruble Yudell's entry that prevailed and was eventually built after a 12-year delay and many changes due to increased security restrictions.  However, we did win the OPCW competition.  The project was for a new headquarters building for the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Warfare to be located in The Hague, the Netherlands.  We knew we were competing against Rafael Moneo and a Dutch firm.  After the final push, including two all-nighters, I traveled to The Hague with Rayford Law to help put together the presentation which our dutch developer-partner was to give to the project committee.  Our project won the competition and the building was constructed in the late 90's.



    So yes, I'm a fan of architectural design competitions.  

    Many buildings in history have been designed through the competitive process.  It is said that the design for the Acropolis in Athens, Greece was decided through a competition.  And  the most famous competition for architectural historians was for the Dome of the Florence Cathedral, won by Filipo Brunelleschi in 1419.  There was a competition for the design of The White House in Washington DC in 1792, won by James Hoban, as well as for the famous Opera House in Sydney, Australia by Jorn Utzon in 1955, and the Boston City Hall, won by Kallmann McKinnell and Knowles in 1962.  (The firm would become Kallmann McKinnell and Wood in 1965.)

    Perhaps the most public was the competition for the design of the World Trade Center site in 2002.  Layered in politics, financial greed, and what is referred to as "the most complex real estate transaction in human history," the end result is turning out to be one giant compromise.  But with so much at stake and so many interests involved, I think they are fortunate to finally be getting anything built.  Did that competition have a chance for any great ideas?  Well, Frank Gehry declined to participate in the World Trade Center competition due to the inadequate compensation to the invited firms.  And the ultimate "winning" entry by Daniel Libeskind ended up just being a framework for the site development, albeit a great one that preserves the footprints of the original twin towers.  But the competition did become a forum for architects to be in the public eye, and anytime architecture makes newspaper front pages it's great for the profession.



    On the internet, I think the best list of architectural competitions can be found at Archinect.  Death by Architecture is also a good resource.  ArchDaily has an in-depth listing, and Bustler shows images of competition shortlists and results, which include many displaying out-of-the-box thinking that most design competitions strive for.  The design competitions site at Dexigner covers many different types of design, from architecture to illustration to lighting.  The Competitions Blog has a good listing of both upcoming and recently completed international architecture competitions.

    For students, the American Institute of Architecture Students has a great site.  There is also studentcompetitions.com and Archmedium, which is more geared toward international competitions.

    You can see there are a lot of design competition opportunities out there, so if you have the time and creative ideas and talent, register for a competition and start designing!

    Indecent Proposal

    I'm working on a building design based on modules.  These "mods" not only set the square footage allotted to each person, but can also define the window mullion patterns and structural bay spacing for the building.  It got me to thinking about other modules I've worked with, and then an image of an architect holding a brick up in the air came to mind.  



    Then I remembered - Woody Harrelson from Indecent Proposal. What a terrible premise for a movie.  A married couple who both lose their jobs, and they meet this guy who tells them he will give them $1 million dollars if he can sleep with the wife.  Of course, it probably doesn't hurt that the guy is Robert Redford and the wife is Demi Moore ... But c'mon, would any happily-married couple actually agree to this?  You're probably wondering if that's what I think, then why did I watch the movie?  Well, to be honest, it was pretty much because there was a character who was an architect.  And I remember the movie because of the brick scene, not the night Demi Moore spends with Robert Redford.  Yeah, you may call me an architecture nerd, but even after all these years (the movie came out in 1993), this scene still inspires me.  The lecture scene happens later in the movie, after Woody's character breaks down and ends up taking a teaching job at the USC School of Architecture:



    Those of you that aren't familiar with architectural history probably don't know who Louis Kahn was or how great of a project The Salk Institute is, even though it is more of a composition in concrete than brick.  Makes me wonder how a scene like this ends up in a movie like Indecent Proposal.  The other architectural references in the movie were kind of laughable.  I mean, the guy spends all of their life savings (and an additional $50k loan) designing, and starting to have built, his "dream house" - a structure that sums up everything about architecture that matters to him.



    ArchitExploitation has a funny synopsis of the movie (and where I found the pics posted above).  And I like what Scott Allen of Centerbrook's The Millrace said about architects in movies: "When Hollywood requires a character who is intelligent but self-absorbed, attractive but socially awkward, dedicated to work but unhealthily consumed by it, it often casts an architect for the part." And what could be more self-absorbed than drawings plastered all over your house, even stretching out into your bathroom?  That's one of the scenes in Indecent Proposal:


     
    Someone must have had fun designing this house and doing the drawings to be used as a prop for the movie.  The scene highlights Woody's character's obsession with the house, which sets up the proposal.

    Other websites, such as IMDb and Rolling Stone, offer movie reviews for Indecent Proposal, but don't say much about the architect-line of the story.  That the architect-character chooses the chance to save his dream house over his wife's fidelity adds to the desperate architect archetype who will sacrifice anything in his or her life for architecture - a theme which is also studied by Nathaniel Kahn, the son of Louis Kahn, in My Architect.

    Which leads us back to the brick.  Louis Kahn was a master architect, particularly with the use of bricks in his designs.  The movie highlights Kahn in the USC scene, and celebrates the uplifting spirit that architecture can create; and in looking back at that scene again, I'm inspired to be better.

    Shower Head Bliss

    In the mail the other day, I got the latest issue of Snap, a product catalog that is put together by the Sweets Catalog folks, and also affiliated with Architectural Record (through McGraw Hill publishing).  I usually put these on my reading table next to the couch so I can browse through them on a weekend (when I have the time!).  However, this one caught my eye because there, on the cover, are the shower heads we just installed with our new house addition!



    I normally wouldn't get so excited about a building product, but I must say, these shower heads are awesome!  How did we end up with them?  About a year ago as I was designing our house addition, I had been dragging Julie to the big box home improvement stores (you know which ones I'm talking about) in order to get her input into the finishes for the master bedroom suite and the boys' bathroom.  The new master bath was challenging in that I wanted the room to be special, like what you would find in a nice hotel.  In fact, the entire upstairs addition was inspired by a number of different hotels that Julie and I have stayed in.

    Finally, Julie said she would never go into that god-forsaken orange home improvement store ever again, and I knew she meant it.  A friend of mine had told me about the FW Webb Bath Center, and that it was a great place to get ideas for bathrooms.  In looking online, I found that there was one only a few miles away, so Julie and I made plans one Saturday to go take a look.

    When we got there, we were at first a bit overwhelmed with all of the displays scattered about the place.  There didn't seem to be much order, and with so many people in the showroom it was hard to tell who were shoppers and who worked there.  So we just started going through the displays, noting what we liked or didn't like about different fixtures and finishes.  Eventually, Erica, someone who worked there, came up to us and asked us if we were being helped.  When we said no, she said she had to finish up with another customer and would be right back to assist us.

    We had pretty much already decided on the Toto air tub, and Julie was interested in some of the cabinetry, like the ones with built-in mirrors and a makeup counter.  But we hadn't really found fixtures we liked in the displays.  Erica took us to a display of shower heads near the back of the showroom.  I call it the "wall of showerheads"!

     

    The wall has a lot of shower heads on it - I didn't count.  But they are all plumbed so you can see how each of them work.  (There is a walled area around them at the base so you can't actually stand under them like you're taking a shower ... that would be weird.)  At one of the hotels we had stayed at the previous summer, it had a large round showerhead that we both really liked.  That's when Erica showed us the Hansgrohe Raindance.  We loved it right away.  Erica explained to us the water saving features and how the shower head injects air into the water so it feels like you are getting more water than you actually are.  The shower head meets the EPA Water Sense requirements, and it looks great!

     

    Erica started to show us fancy shower controls but we already knew we just wanted something simple, and could match bath and vanity fixtures.  After looking through the different displays, we ended up with American Standard controls and faucets from their Portsmouth Collection.  And now that it is all installed and finished, I'm very pleased how it all came out.  And that's not easy to do, as picky as I am!

    Here's the finished shower with the Raindance shower head and the rest of the finished bathroom:




    Google Maps and Architecture

    As an architect, I think a building design is all about its place.  At the start of a new project, the first thing we want to do is visit the site to look around, see the existing context, and take photos of the terrain, views, and any other existing conditions particular to that site.  With Google Maps (and Google Earth), its possible to virtually "see" the site without actually being there, although as good as the online information is now getting, it still can't replace being there.

    When Google Maps started a few years ago, you could only see street maps or satellite imagery.  It was fun to look at your neighborhood and find your house or perhaps a project you worked on.  But Google soon added Street View, and then you could virtually place yourself right on the street and look around.  



    Street View was only available in major metropolitan areas of the US, but it is continually being added to more and more places around the world.

    Recently, I noticed that when you use Google Maps and zoom in to certain sites, the view turns into a three-dimensional isometric.  I looked up how they did it - and its basically Google employees flying around in planes at 800 to 1,500 feet taking digital photos from North, South, East and West.  These images are mapped together to create almost a continuous isometric mapping of those areas that have been photographed.  To look at a different angle from the default North, you can grab the dot in the little circular compass in the upper left hand corner and rotate it at 90 degree intervals.  It's really cool!

    So, I decided to "visit" the sites of all of the major projects I've worked on and here's what I found:


    The U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru - Arquitectonica, 1988.  Google Maps link here.  Looks like Peru is just satellite imagery.


    Sawgrass Mills Mills in Sunrise, Florida - Arquitectonica, 1989.  Google Maps link here.  This part of Florida is also just satellite right now.


    Three Palms Center, Jupiter, Florida - Arquitectonica, 1989.  Google Maps link here.


    Leopalace Resort, Manenggon Hills, Yona, Guam - Taniguchi-Ruth-Smith, 1993.  Google Maps link here.


    University of Washington Paul Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering, Seattle, Washington - Kallmann, McKinnell and Wood, 1996.  Google Maps link here.


    OPCW, The Hague, Netherlands - Kallmann, McKinnell and Wood, 1997. Google Maps link here.


    The Venetian Casino Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada - The Stubbins Associates, 1999. Google Maps link here.  Las Vegas maps turn to 3D when you zoom in. And you can also do Street View!


    Street View of The Venetian.


    Tivoli, Henderson, Nevada - The Stubbins Associates, 2004. Google Maps link here.


    Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at The Center for Life Sciences, Boston, MA - Payette, 2009.  Google Maps link here.  Boston also has 3D views when you zoom in.


    Shire HGT, Lexington, MA - Payette, 2011.  Google Maps link here.

    Entablature

    Entablature debuted in February, 2000  Here is what it looked like then:



    How did it come about?  The 90's were a time of incredible growth for the internet.  In the early days of Compuserve and America Online, the chirp, chirp, buzz of the modem meant you were connected to the Information Superhighway, where from the comfort of your home you could look up information on what seemed to be an endless number of topics.  But modem connections were slow and not always the most reliable in being able to stay connected.  Images and graphics were also limited, as most users wouldn't wait 10 minutes for pictures with any detail to appear on the screen.  In the late 1990's, broadband subscriptions began to increase in popularity as they became hosted by cable companies that already had wired networks for cable television.  As prices for more direct internet connections dropped, more people switched over to cable, DSL, and eventually fiber connections.  This led to the astronomical growth of internet useage by more and more people.

    For architects, use of the internet was fairly limited in the 1990's.  There were a number of Usenet newsgroups, such as alt.architecture, where anybody could post questions related to architecture, answer other people's questions, or simply browse through the discussions.  I was a frequent visitor to these forums and engaged in many "conversations" about a wide variety of architecture-related topics.

    Online resources for architects were also fairly limited.  These were the days before Google and Wikipedia.  The most popular search engines were Alta Vista and Yahoo, along with America Online's search engine, added to the AOL software as they found users were dropping AOL and its limited (and controlled) information within AOL's communities and chat rooms in favor of Netscape (which was eventually acquired by America Online). But what were users finding when they searched the net for architecture-related topics?  Not much.  Most of the architecture information could be found on university websites such as Mary Ann Sullivan's pages at Bluffton University and Jeffery Howe's Digital Archive at Boston College.  In 1998, Great Buildings Online started, but there still wasn't much else regarding architects and buildings.

    The internet boom of the late '90's was a time of tremendous growth across the world wide web.  Start-up companies with a simple, memorable dot-com name were able to make incredible profits.  At the same time, web portals were also increasingly popular.  Yahoo was the most popular portal at the time, but many smaller subject-specific portals were being created, and in 1999 I got the idea to create an architecture web portal.  Both of my brothers were in the internet business - one was in advertising and search engine optimization, and the other provided internet connections and designed web sites.  And me?  I was living in Las Vegas at the time, had just finished 3 years as a project architect on The Venetian, working for The Stubbins Associates (now KlingStubbins, owned by Jacobs), and was marketing for new projects while providing follow-up support to The Venetian.  So I started by brainstorming names while putting together a business plan, attending conferences about start-up companies, and mapping out how an architecture web portal might work.

    What to call the site?  I looked at both successful and unsuccessful dot-com sites and determined I wanted a site with one name, somehow related to architecture, that was still available as a .com.  I remember having a long list of names but can't find my notes from this time.  (I'm sure they're somewhere in the basement . . .).  But Entablature was the one that stuck.  I registered the site in late 1999, and, with my brother, set up a corporation!



    I soon mapped out how the main page would look, and then began the process of collecting links.  At the time, search engines did a poor job indexing sites, and since there still weren't a lot of websites associated with architecture-related information, putting together the lists of organizations and resources didn't take too long.  I then decided I wanted to include links to architecture schools and architecture firms, not realizing the huge number of websites that needed to be captured.   Many late hours were spent adding information to our database, and early test-users suggested including both interior design and landscape architecture to catch a bigger audience.  My brother wrote the code while I put together the marketing materials and established the e-commerce associations (Chiasso, Sharper Image, Art.com) as well as the advertising that would appear on the site.

    After a couple of months of user testing, entablature.com launched in February of 2000. In just a month, we were averaging about 500 unique visitors a day, and there were many postings on the discussion boards and comments on the early features and projects.  While gathering links, I had also collected e-mail addresses, and upon launch had about 5,000 direct-targeted e-mail addresses with which to send out marketing information about the site.  We also received many e-mails with suggested new links while I traced and corrected broken links.  But after a few months, the website was still not making any money.  Pennies per click on ads plus low percentages of revenue on purchases of direct-linked products ended up not being a good start-up business model.

    The excitement of the website soon turned into a nightly chore of checking and updating the site, as I still had my day job as an architect (good thing!) But I kept at it and the site continued to be well-used, but without any profits.  We had talked about getting investors, but had decided we needed to first have a product to show.  At the same time, the dot-com boom was going bust.  Many successful web-based companies went into tailspins; amazon.com had a stock value of over $100 per share in 1999 but $7 per share in 2001, Cisco lost 86% of its market share,  pets.com went bankrupt.  

    My architecture career also took another turn, as I began two exciting collaborations: with Rem Koolhaas and OMA on the new Las Vegas Hermitage Guggenheim Museum and with Frank O. Gehry Associates on the Art of the Motorcycle Exhibit, the first (and only) exhibit in the Las Vegas Guggenheim Museum.  I was travelling between Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Rotterdam on a monthly basis, and no longer had time for Entablature.  The site soon became stale, no new posts, features or news stories were being added.  Entablature eventually lost all of its users.

    With all of the travelling, I had a lot of time on airplanes, so decided to re-design Entablature so that it wouldn't require constant oversight and wouldn't look like it wasn't being used.  That meant getting rid of the discussion boards and any manual uploads of news stories, features or projects.  Widgets for web sites were fairly new at the time, so I added one of these for architecture-related news, but everything else on the website became static.  Here's what version 2 of Entablature looked like:



    I would occasionally add some links to the site, but for the most part Entablature was quiet.  During this time I also got married and started a family.  With the premature birth of my son, Leo, I spent a lot of time at home, taking a 3-month leave of absence from work.  Leo slept a lot, so I had lots of time to do projects around the house, but also was on the computer.  I noticed some sites that were hosting awards for website design, so decided to put together a website awards program for architects.  It didn't take long to assemble a project plan and by the summer of 2002, the Architecture Web Site Awards was born!



    The first year I received 125 entries, gave out "awards" (which was nothing more than recognition), and included direct links to their websites and marketing materials for their use.  To enter the awards program, firms had to pay $25 per entry, and I also had a student category for $12 per entry.  At last, I had found a way to make some money through Entablature.  Wasn't much, but at least it paid for the site and started to re-establish Entablature on the web.

    I repeated the awards program in 2003, received 116 entries - different firms this time, and Entablature got a lot of recognition.  I repeated the program again in 2004 and had about 84 entries.  But after the birth of my 2nd son, Daniel, I no longer had any time to devote to Entablature, so the whole endeavor kind of died.  The Web Marketing Association was doing other website awards and began a Best Architecture Web Sites Awards program in 2006, so mine was officially dead.

    I took Entablature down in 2011, no longer thinking it was worthy of even being a website.  But after a few years, I'm now debuting Entablature, version 3!  Yeah, the links are still there, many of them broken by now, but I had put so much time and energy into creating them in the first place, I kinda hate to see them no longer published anywhere.  Maybe I'll get around to updating them, who knows.  But it's still kind of fun to explore different sites.

    So welcome to the new Entablature.  This will now be a place where I post my thoughts on Architecture on the Internet, along with projects I've worked on and other miscellaneous ramblings.  I hope you enjoy it!