28 February 2012

oh blue heavens above, a walmart?!?

Coop Himmelb(l)au has long been of interest to me. They're based in Austria and much of their work has been built there. When I was in Vienna a few years ago, I did look at their rooftop residence near the Postsparkasse building by Otto Wagner; you can barely see it. I also went out to the Gasometer, some industrial buildings with new spaces by Coop Himmelb(l)au and others. The high school they designed in Los Angeles was almost finished when I was there last time and I went to look at it again this time. I was in Los Angeles for the College Art Association conference and am now sitting in a jetlag/redeye haze. Yesterday I was reading the freebie Downtown News and it said that Walmart is considering putting in one of their smaller stores in elderly housing across the street from the high school.
The better news from the Downtown News was that the Last Bookstore on Spring Street is going to expand!

26 February 2012

words and works

After several days of listening to papers at the annual conference of the College Art Association, it was fabulous today to LOOK at great art at the Getty and the Hammer:
Masaccio: Saint Andrew

Jan Lievens: Prince Charles Louis of the Palatinate with his Tutor Wolrad von Plessen in Historical Dress

Pontormo: Portrait of a Halberdier (Francesco Guardi?)

Francis Harwood: Bust of a Man

All images from the Getty website.

21 February 2012

more is never a bore

"Figuring that more is never a bore, OMA employs three different vocabularies: a Miesian box, the organic blob, and the Postmodern aside."
So says Clifford A. Pearson is a fine report on the new Milstein Hall at Cornell University in the February 2012 issue of Architectural Record. The expansion of the architecture school spaces went through a whole bunch of fits and starts but the new building is now open and I cannot wait to see it. Pearson just whetted my appetite and I've got no excuses since Cornell is only 100 miles from Alfred (even though I'm in Los Angeles as I write this).

You can read the whole article at:

10 February 2012

codex aureus epternacensis

Codex aureus Epternacensis (um 1030)

I'm sitting in on the manuscripts class taught by Kate Dimitrova and am really enjoying seeing the pictures and thinking about great manuscripts.

troubling waters

As you may know, I'm enamored of New Orleans. I love the buildings, cultural diversity, food, tawdriness, and just the general feel of the city. I even went down there for a week in December just because I wanted to be there and to see the Prospect.2 biennial. I've also been watching Treme, the HBO series set in post-Katrina New Orleans. My first time in New Orleans was in 1980 just as I was coming out as gay so the city has an important part in my personal story.

Last night, I watched Trouble the Water, a 2008 documentary focusing on the story of a couple who happened to make a video of the Katrina moment and find the documentary filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin. Their efforts blend into a compelling story that says much about historic discrimination as well as promise. Educational and employment opportunities have long been slim for black people in New Orleans.

All of these swirling thoughts about New Orleans surfaced earlier this week when I went to a program on the Flood of 1972 at the David A. Howe Public Library in Wellsville, not far from Alfred. The 1972 flood was caused by Hurricane Agnes which came up across the Florida panhandle through the Carolinas and back out to sea before coming back ashore across Long Island while a cyclone came up along to the West. Up to 19 inches of rain fell in a few days in western New York and Pennsylvania. The flooding was pretty bad and Corning (50 miles East of us) took a particularly bad hit.

In the question and answer period at the program, I asked the speaker -- Courtney Waters, a young hydrologist -- what she could say to compare the stories we hear about the 1972 flood and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She sighed and said "Oh, New Orleans." She went on to talk about how Katrina was a Category 5 hurricane and that New Orleans is 100 feet below sea level. I have also read that none of New Orleans is actually below sea level. Admittedly, the city is close to sea level and there's not much elevation shift in the region. I mentioned that we saw pictures of horrible mold and mud. A couple people in the audience also commented about how people had worked hard to clean up the city and there seemed to be an implicit statement that the folks of New Orleans hadn't worked hard at cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina. No recognition of the massive evacuation, leaving only the really desperate or higher grounders behind.

I couldn't seem to help myself from thinking that there was perhaps some hidden racism in the comments. You know, white folks up here, we work hard and help our neighbors. I'm probably reading too much into it but it also seems to be reflected in some of the criticism of President Obama.

Perhaps a more viable comparison to Katrina would be to Corning where the flood waters filled the valley rather than rushing past and doing their damage quickly. I haven't checked on that but know that the Corning Museum of Glass was significantly damaged in the Flood of 1972.

06 February 2012

surfing the internet, aka cyberflânerie

When was the last time you surfed the internet? Is there an app for it? Evgeny Morozov writes in the New York Times about how we've lost our cyberflânerie in the face of focused web browsing and social media. The 19th-century Parisian flâneur serendipitously strolled about the city: observing, finding, enjoying, thinking, but mostly not interacting. (Sounds a bit like FRBR user tasks.) Our friends now put articles they find in front of us, taking away our own discovery time and space. And I must admit that my first reaction when reading Morozov's article was to post it to my Facebook wall for all to see.

I've been thinking about intense observation since Michelle Illuminato introduced me to the work of Georges Perec. Among his books are An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris and Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, both great titles. I haven't read either of them yet; I'm too busy reading my Facebook feed.

The Morozov article, in the print edition of the Sunday Review section of yesterday's New York Times, faced two more interesting articles on the internet: "Should Personal Data Be Personal?" by Somini Sengupta and "Facebook is Using You" by Lori Andrews. I very much enjoy Facebook and other social sites and am willing to forgo the loss of privacy but I still want my private thoughts and observations. Solitude, liking yourself, is important. Other articles in yesterday's Times talked about folks living alone. It's not just selfishness ... or loneliness.

The picture is Caillebotte's "Paris Street: Rainy Day" (1877), now in the Art Institute of Chicago (image from Wikipedia article).