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kottke.org posts about architecture

Bold Proposal to Make Central Berlin a Mostly Car-Free Zone

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 18, 2022

Berlin pictured with and without cars on the streets

A group of Berlin residents has put forward a proposal to turn all of central Berlin (an area larger than Manhattan) into a car-free zone. What would that mean in practice? Adele Peters at Fast Company explains:

As in other cities, “car free” doesn’t literally mean that no cars could enter the area, but private car use would dramatically drop. Special permits would be given to emergency vehicles, garbage trucks, taxis, commercial and delivery vehicles (though many deliveries in Berlin already happen on cargo bikes), and residents with limited mobility who depend on cars. Others would be able to use a car, likely through a car-sharing program, up to 12 times a year to run longer errands. But most people, most of the time, would walk, bike, or take public transportation.

That sounds amazing and reasonable. There are five main goals the plan is trying to achieve for Berliners: better quality of life (walkable vibrant streets), better health (less pollution & noise), space for people (not vehicles), less climate impact, and street safety:

Berlin’s streets must become safer. There are still too many traffic deaths and injuries in Berlin. Especially the weakest must be protected: pedestrians and cyclists. Children and senior citizens in particular should be able to feel safe on Berlin’s streets; otherwise their mobility will be restricted because the risk or fear of an accident is too great.

The city is currently considering whether to turn the proposal into a law. This would be amazing to see in Berlin (and in some American cities too).

Ghost Signs of London

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 08, 2021

London Ghost Signs.jpeg

From Bloomberg’s CityLab:

Study the buildings flanking London’s older streets closely and you’ll see one soon enough: an old painted sign that, once bright and eye-catching, is now faded into the masonry, the name of the business or product it promoted flaking and faint.

Such “ghost signs” are fixtures of older neighborhoods in many cities around the world, but the U.K. capital, which bustled with competing commercial enterprises in the 19th and early 20th centuries, is unusually well-supplied with them. Ghost signs aren’t always easy to spot, but for sharp-eyed passersby and enthusiasts of urban history, they add an extra dimension to London’s appearance, their florid Victorian or cheerful art deco script and images a spectral reminder that once, not that long ago, these were somebody else’s streets.

London’s ghost signs are merely a fraction of the signage that used to greet 19th city dwellers, an era when cheap paper and a movement towards universal literacy made cities unusually alive with letters. But they are the special project of a new book by Sam Roberts and Roy Reed. From the book’s website:

Ghost signs are fascinating pieces of urban archaeology. Imposing yet hidden in plain sight, these faded advertisements are London’s history written on to the contemporary cityscape. They reveal fascinating stories of everyday life in the capital and each sign has its own tale to tell - not just of the business it represents and the people behind it, but of its own improbably survival.

A feast of history, typography and the urban environment, Ghost Signs: A London Story showcases London’s most impressive and historically significant faded painted signs, located, photographed and presented with archival andother contextual images.

Introduced by Wayne Hemingway MBE, the opening section shares insights into topics such as production techniques, economics and preservation. The themed chapters take on subjects including building, clothing, entertaining, branding and, ultimately, burying the city.

How to Build the Perfect Medieval Castle

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 03, 2021

Castles across Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages were all pretty different, but by looking at the trends over a period of several centuries, you can determine how to build the perfect castle.

We trace the origins of the castle in the feudal system that emerged in France c.900 CE, and look at the early motte-and-bailey castle, used by the Normans to subjugate England and Wales in the 11th century. We then look at how castle’s became stronger and more sophisticated, with the addition of stone curtain walls, massive keeps, towers (square, round and D-shaped), as well as powerful gatehouses, barbicans, machicolations and moats.

(FYI: The sponsorship in this video for a medieval role-playing game is a little annoying but easily skippable and ultimately doesn’t detract from how interesting & educational the video is.)

Recycling Center Made From Recycled Materials

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2021

I love this: the local recycling center in the town of Kamikatsu, Japan is itself made of recycled and upcycled materials. Most prominent of those materials are the hundreds of mismatched windows that form the building’s facade:

side of a building with many differently shaped windows

cozy inside of a building with many differently shaped windows

Brilliant. From Dezeen:

Kamikatsu’s main industry was once forestry, but all that remains of this today are neglected cedar forests. Nakamura’s studio worked with Yamada Noriaki Structural Design Office to design a structure using unprocessed cedar logs that reduce waste associated with squared-off lumber.

The logs are roughly sawn along their length to retain their inherent strength and natural appearance. The two sawn sections are bolted together to form supporting trusses that can be easily disassembled and reused if required.

The building’s facades are made using timber offcuts and approximately 700 windows donated by the community. The fixtures were measured, repaired and assigned a position using computer software, creating a seemingly random yet precise patchwork effect.

Recycled glass and pottery were used to create terrazzo flooring. Materials donated by companies, including bricks, tiles, wooden flooring and fabrics, were all repurposed within the building.

Unwanted objects were also sourced from various local buildings, including deserted houses, a former government building and a junior high school that had closed. Harvest containers from a shiitake mushroom factory are used as bookshelves in front of windows in the office.

exterior of a building with exposed wooden beams

The recycling center also includes a “take it or leave it” shop where residents can exchange used goods and a small hotel. (via colossal)

An HD Walking Tour of the Giza Pyramids

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2021

If you, like me, haven’t had the opportunity to visit the Giza Pyramid Complex outside of Cairo, Egypt, this 2-hour HD walking tour is probably the next best thing — it feels like walking around about as much as a video can. Strap on those headphones for the full immersive experience. (via open culture)

Nomad Architecture: Pitching a Yurt in the Arctic Winter

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2021

Every few days, Nenet reindeer herders in the Siberian Arctic break camp and erect their tents (called chums) in a new location. This video documents how they do it.

The Nenet reindeer herders need to move their tent every few days throughout most of the year. Every time they migrate they must pack the whole tent away, drag it across the tundra on sledges, and erect it again in a fresh place, sometimes in temperatures of minus thirty degrees. Survival depends on working together as a team.

After staying in the wooded taiga for two months they start to migrate north following the ancient paths of migrating reindeer (caribou). In four months they will travel up to 1200km and must pack and move every three to five days to keep up with their herd. They must reach their summer quarters before the snows melt and flood great rivers with icy waters too cold and deep for the calves, born along the way, to cross.

See also How to Build an Igloo. (via the kid should see this)

Continuous Sidewalks

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2021

This video highlights one of the ways in which the Netherlands makes their streets safer for pedestrians: continuous sidewalks. Instead of sidewalks ending at the curb and picking up on the other side of the street, many sidewalks in Dutch cities continue across roadways, at the same height and using different surface materials, forcing cars to slow and signaling to drivers to be alert for pedestrians.

It’s hard to describe how much nicer it is to walk in an environment like this. It feels like the people walking are in control and that drivers are a guest in their environment, not the other way around.

(via @davidfg)

Fiat’s Rooftop Racetrack

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2021

a photo of the racetrack on top of the Fiat factory in Turin, Italy

a photo of the racetrack on top of the Fiat factory in Turin, Italy

When it was built in the 1920s in Turin, Italy, the Fiat factory was designed with a racetrack on the top of the building, both for car testing purposes and for racing.

The factory’s best-known symbol is the test track, which is a superb piece of design modeling, and construction that occupies the whole roof surface of the workshops. Two 443 meters straights, joined by parabolic bends, form a continuous track for testing the cars.

Originally, as soon as the cars left the assembly lines they could flow directly upward to the test track through the snail-shaped ramps completing the whole processing cycle inside the factory. Moreover, these spiraling ramps inside the building allowed the cars to be driven back down and into showrooms.

The track was a little over 1/2 mile long. Many more views at Rare Historical Photos. (via @laxgani)

Surrealist Architecture

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2021

a tall building with surreal addiitons coming out the top

a tall building with surreal shapes

an apartment building that's bent at a 90 degree angle

For his City Portraits series, Victor Enrich digitally modified photos to create absurdist and surrealist buildings that look like a lot of fun to live in.

See also 13 Jaw-Dropping Examples of Photoshopped Architecture.

Evergreen Architecture

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 19, 2021

large building atrium with a bunch of trees and plants

a building with plants and trees all over it

a building with a green roof

a residential building with plants and trees on every balcony

I’ve been a bit obsessed recently with urban architecture that incorporates nature & greenery into the mix, especially since seeing the technique employed so creatively in Singapore last year, so this new book called Evergreen Architecture is tickling that fancy right now.

As more of the earth’s surface is swallowed up by the built environment, architects are increasingly advised to integrate urban flora and fauna into their designs. Whether developing green roofs, living walls, abundant indoor courtyards, or balconies that connect interior and exterior spaces, the urge to intertwine nature and architecture has never been more apparent.

Embracing this ubiquitous trend, Evergreen Architecture surveys a broad spectrum of residential, institutional, urban, and rural spaces. But as change occurs and solutions to the climate crisis are being integrated on the ground, many new questions are posed. How do residents keep moss-covered walls alive? How can a skyscraper uphold the weight of hundreds of trees?

You can order the book from Bookshop. (via colossal)

A Drone’s View of the Great Pyramid of Giza

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2021

overhead view of the pyramid at Giza

closer overhead view of the pyramid at Giza

Alexander Ladanivskyy recently photographed the Great Pyramid at Giza from an unusual vantage point: straight overhead with a drone. The final photo in the series is so close-up that you can see the graffiti on the stones at the tip of the pyramid. (via colossal)

See also How the Great Pyramid at Giza Looked in 2560 BCE.

Half-Renovated Houses

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2021

half-renovated houses

half-renovated houses

half-renovated houses

When the mining industry declined in the Ruhr region of Germany, workers began selling their houses…but only half of them. Colossal explains:

When the once burgeoning coal industry in Ruhrgebiet, Germany, began to decline, many of the workers’ apartments were sold off. Oftentimes, new owners only purchased half of the building — miners maintained a lifelong right of residence to their quarters — creating a stark split between the left and right sides of the structure.

Photographer Wolfgang Fröhling documented a number of these split-personality houses where the two sides of the buildings have diverged post-sale, a particularly stark representation of gentrification.

The World’s Most Beautiful Gas Stations

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2021

one of the world's most beautiful gas stations

one of the world's most beautiful gas stations

one of the world's most beautiful gas stations

one of the world's most beautiful gas stations

one of the world's most beautiful gas stations

I pulled some of my favorite images of gas stations from the following sources: Get Pumped: 8 Filling Stations Fueled By Great Design, It’s a Gas!: The Allure of the Gas Station, Gas Station Design — The World’s 10 Best Filling Stations for 2017, It’s Weird, But We’re Super Inspired by Gas Station Design, and Sometimes, Gas Stations Are Beautiful. May these buildings and their less attractive brethren soon fade into obsolescence, be converted to electric car/bike charging stations, or be repurposed for other things.

Aerial Footage of Chicago from a Dirigible (1914)

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2021

From the US National Archives, an 8-minute film of aerial footage filmed from a dirigible piloted by Roy Knabenshue in 1914. I am not super familiar with Chicago and the architecture of the time, but given the city’s role in the development & popularization of the skyscraper, I bet there are some amazing views in here of iconic buildings not so long after they were constructed as well as some buildings and spaces that no longer exist.

If you wish, you can also watch the upsampled, colorized, and “AI enhanced” version of this video. As I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of these, uh, restorations. We shouldn’t accept crappy colorization of historic B&W films just because an AI did it. (via @davidplotz)

Every Bridge For Every Situation, Explained by an Engineer

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 12, 2021

Educator and structural engineer Nehemiah Mabry sat down with Wired to talk about all the different kinds of bridges in the world (cable-stayed, suspension, arch, truss) and which types are used in which situations.

See also Fantastic 3-D Animation of How Medieval Bridges Were Built. (via the kid should see this)

The Secret of Synchronization

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2021

What do swaying bridges, flashing fireflies, clapping audiences, the far side of the Moon, and beating hearts have in common? Their behavior all has something to do with synchronization. In this video, Veritasium explains why and how spontaneous synchronization appears all the time in the physical world.

I was really into the instability of the Millennium Bridge back when it was first opened (and then rapidly closed), so it was great to hear Steven Strogatz’s explanation of the bridge’s failure.

Oh, and do go play with Nicky Case’s firefly visualization to see how synchronization can arise from really simple rules.

A Dutch Timber Skyscraper

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 08, 2021

Dutch Mountains

Dutch Mountains

Architecture firm Studio Marco Vermeulen has designed a 38-story building to be situated in Eindhoven, Netherlands that’s partially constructed from cross-laminated timber. They’re calling it The Dutch Mountains. From Dezeen:

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) sourced from sustainably managed forests will be used for much of the building, which will be largely prefabricated and assembled on site.

The publicly-accessible interior lounge and winter garden on the lower levels will be wholly constructed using timber, while heavy loaded structural elements, including lift cores and tower floors, will be made from concrete.

“Although not visible in every place, the wood gives a tactile quality to the interior,” Studio Marco Vermeulen said.

Looking at the pictures, it’s a head-trip seeing wood used so overtly & prominently in a building of this scale. We’re used to wooden houses but not wooden skyscrapers. I’m a fan of the vibe here: sustainable, more organic shapes & materials, big spaces that feel like they are, even in some small way, part of nature instead of deliberately apart from it. (via moss & fog)

Floorplan Alphabet

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 26, 2021

Floorplan Alphabet

Floorplan Alphabet

Floorplan Alphabet

As someone who lives in an A-frame house, I love this architectural alphabet designed by Johann Steingruber in 1773. A typically great find by Present & Correct (see also).

2000-Year-Old Snack Bar Unearthed in Pompeii

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2021

Pompeii Snack Bar

Pompeii Snack Bar

This was widely shared last week but I wanted to post about it anyway in case you didn’t see it because it seems just so strikingly contemporary: a Roman snack bar from 79 ACE was recently unearthed in Pompeii.

In this new phase of excavation, the last section of the counter to be unearthed revealed other exquisite scenes of still life, with depictions of animals which were likely butchered and sold here. Bone fragments belonging to the same animals were also discovered inside containers embedded in the counter, which held foodstuffs intended for sale, such as in the case of the two mallard ducks shown upside down, ready to be cooked and eaten; a rooster; and a dog on a lead, the latter serving almost as a warning in the manner of the famed Cave Canem.

The photos are blowing my mind here. You never really think about the to-go food stall as an architectural archetype — much less one that’s 2000 years old — but all the elements are right there. It doesn’t look so much different from a hot food bar at an NYC bodega or Whole Foods. Archaeologists also found graffiti scrawled on the wall of the snack bar, just like that on the walls & tables of a place like John’s Pizzeria. You could completely imagine yourself standing there, two millennia ago, looking at the pictures and containers of what’s on offer, ordering some lunch, and chuckling at the graffiti with a pal.

The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 23, 2020

The 99% Invisible City

I somehow1 missed this a few months ago: Roman Mars’ venerable podcast 99% Invisible has resulted in a book that seems right up my alley: The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design.

In The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to Hidden World of Everyday Design, host Roman Mars and coauthor Kurt Kohlstedt zoom in on the various elements that make our cities work, exploring the origins and other fascinating stories behind everything from power grids and fire escapes to drinking fountains and street signs.

Urban historian Kenneth T. Jackson gave the book a good review in the NY Times.

A brief review cannot do justice to such a diverse and enlightening book. The authors have sections on oil derricks, cell towers, the Postal Service, water fountains, the transcontinental telegraph, cisterns, telephone poles, emergency exits, cycling lanes, archaeological sites in Britain, national roads, zero markers, the Oklahoma land rush, cemeteries, public lighting, pigeons, raccoons and half a hundred other eccentric topics.

I suspect that with Mars’ podcast pedigree, the audiobook version of this (Amazon, Libro.fm) is pretty good too.

  1. Lol, “somehow”. How anyone manages to keep up to speed on anything but their job and family (and maybe a couple of shows) during this pandemic is a wonder.

Private Views

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 17, 2020

Private Views

Private Views

Posing as young apartment-hunting Hungarian billionaire, artist Andi Schmied was able to gain access to more than two dozen luxury apartments in Manhattan and photograph the views from them. The resulting project is called Private Views and you can see some of her photos in this portfolio. Christopher Bonanos interviewed Schmied about the project for Curbed. Regarding the banal sameness of rich people things:

Did you discover anything interesting about the apartments themselves?

They are all the same! I mean, really! For example, the layout of the apartments are essentially identical. You enter, and there’s a main view, always from the living room — in the case of Billionaires’ Row, everything’s facing the park. The second-best view is from the master bedroom, which is usually the corner. Then there’s the countertop, which usually a kitchen island in the middle, and there’s different types of marble but there’s always marble — Calacatta Tucci, or Noir St. Laurent, or Chinchilla Mink, and they always tell you, “It’s the best of the best,” from a hidden corner of the planet where they hand-selected the most incredible pieces. After five of these, it’s incredibly similar, all of them. Also they put a lot of emphasis on naming the designer.

The branding.

Yes. And there’s a big competition for amenities, who has the craziest amenities. Of course there’s the pool and all of that, but one of the newest things in the past two years in every single development is the golf-simulator room - it’s just the standard now.

Private Views is performance art as much as it is about photography and architecture. I love the details about how she conned her way into these buildings by using the eagerness of real estate brokers against them.

But after a while I realized that it absolutely doesn’t matter what I wear: From their point of view, you’ve passed the access, and you can do anything — anything is believable. For example, all the pictures were taken with a film camera, which is [gestures broadly] this big. I’d just ask, “Can I take some pictures for my husband?” which is a very obvious and normal thing to do. There were a few agents who noticed that it was a film camera, not a digital camera, and those who noticed asked, “Oh, wow, is it film?” And I’d always say something like, “Oh, my grandfather gave it to me — to record all the special moments in my life.” And they’d just put me in this box of “artsy billionaire,” and would start to talk to me about MoMA’s latest collection. So anything goes.

For a taste of the real estate banter, you can watch videos that Schmied recorded of her visits in a talk she gave early last year. Schmied is crowdfunding a book based on the project — you can back it here.

Imagining a Covid-19 Pandemic Memorial

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 25, 2020

Covid Memorial

Even though we’re still in the midst of it, The Atlantic commissioned three designers/artists to design hypothetical Covid-19 memorials. Ian Bogost writes:

So this might seem like a strange time to imagine memorializing the pandemic in a formal way. A premature time. Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial was conceived in 1981, six years after the United States had withdrawn from the conflict. Michael Arad and Peter Walker’s 9/11 memorial broke ground at the site of the World Trade Center in 2006, almost five years after the attacks.

But there are downsides to waiting. A traumatic event is an author of its own memorial; as a famous anecdote attests, when a Nazi soldier asked Pablo Picasso if he had made Guernica, the famous painting the artist created during the month following the Luftwaffe’s bombing of its Basque namesake in 1937, Picasso replied, “No, you did.” The feelings, facts, and ideas available during a calamity dissipate as it ebbs. The temptation arises to contain tragedy in a tidy box, closing the book on its history.

Each of the three ideas is intriguing in its own way. I liked how Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello (who made those border wall teeter-totters last year) explained their thought process (which Rael elaborated on here).

Quarantine has limited our ability to use smell and touch for communion, so she and Rael became interested in finding a way to replicate the experience. That’s where pennies come in: Copper is an antiviral — a quality with obvious symbolism in the moment — and one that evolves over time, developing a patina as it interacts with water and air. So the pair latched on to it as a material.

Rael San Fratello’s first idea was a pragmatic one: a traditional memorial made of copper molded into a bulbous, organic wall. The copper material would invite the touch lost to quarantine. Outdoors, it could develop a green or purple patina. “If touched constantly,” San Fratello said, “the patina might never occur, and the memorial will remain shiny.”

See also the design for a pandemic memorial already in the planning stages in Uruguay.

The Game of the Year: the 3D Virtual Walkthrough of 8800 Blue Lick Road

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2020

This week’s fun internet plaything has been the 3D virtual house tour of this three-bedroom house at 8800 Blue Lick Rd. in Louisville, KY. If you take the tour, you’ll quickly see why: from the standpoint of physics, the house doesn’t seem to make any sense. You think you’re in the basement and then head up some stairs to find yourself…still in the basement? It’s all very Inception crossed with the Winchester Mystery House with a side of How Buildings Learn.

So of course people turned it into a game: find the oddly located bathtub. They even started speedrunning it.

Resident internet meme sleuth Andy Baio called the owner of the house and got the scoop on the puzzling residence.

A larger question remained: what’s the deal with this place? Whoever owned it, they were too organized to be hoarders. The home appeared to double as the office and warehouse for an internet reseller business, but who sells a house crammed floor-to-ceiling with retail goods?

Internet sleuths unearthed several news articles from 2014, outlining how police discovered thousands of stolen items being sold online during a raid at the address, the result of a four-year investigation resulting in criminal charges for four family members living and working at the house.

But it didn’t add up. If they were convicted for organized crime, why was there still so much inventory in the house, with products released as recently as last year? Why is it still packed full while they’re trying to sell it? And what’s with the bathtub!?

I had questions, so I picked up the phone.

He also explains why the bathtub is no longer viewable in the 3D walkthrough.

Fantastic 3-D Animation of How Medieval Bridges Were Built

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 23, 2020

The animation above shows how bridges were built in medieval times, well before the advent of backhoes, cranes, and bulldozers powered by steam and gasoline. I could explain what you’re about to see, but you should just watch the video.

The bridge constructed in the video is the real-life Charles Bridge in Prague, which was built over several decades in the 14th and 15th centuries. From Amusing Planet:

Construction of the Charles Bridge started in 1357, under the auspices of King Charles IV, but it was not completed until the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge has 16 arches and 15 pillars, each shielded by ice guards. It’s 512 meters long and nearly 10 meters wide. The balustrade is decorated with 30 statues and statuaries depicting various saints and patron saints, although these were erected much later, between 1683 and 1714. To preserve these statues, they were replaced with replicas during the 1960s. The originals are at Prague’s National Museum.

Until the middle of the 19th century, the Charles Bridge was the only crossing on river Vltava, which made the bridge an important connection between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town and adjacent areas.

When I was younger, I remember watching (and loving) a PBS series on the building techniques used to construct the pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge, the Colosseum, and Incan buildings. That the internet is now overflowing with engaging history videos like this bridge video is truly wonderful.

How Cities Can Make the Most of a Pandemic Winter

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 25, 2020

As winter approaches in North America and Europe, cities should be thinking about how to encourage and enable people to spend as much time outdoors as possible to help keep everyone sane and safe from Covid-19. From a great piece in CityLab by Alexandra Lange:

Dress in layers, invest in silk and wool long underwear, get over your prejudice against parkas. Many people do this as a matter of course when gearing up for a day of skiing or a turn around the ice rink. But in cities, people dress for the destination, not the journey. “People dress saying, I’m going from my home to this business. What’s the least amount of clothing I can wear for the tolerance of walking x feet?” says Simon O’Byrne, senior vice president of community development for global design consultancy Stantec. “We have to switch that, and dress to loiter.”

O’Byrne, who is also co-chair of the WinterCity Advisory Council, adds, “Stickiness encourages people outside. Moscow does year-round farmers markets. The artists’ community has been pulverized by Covid. As much as we can, we should embrace things to help the local artists, community.” He suggests commissioning visual artists to illuminate dark spaces, via murals or light installations, and hiring musicians for distanced outdoor concerts.

Cities should also invest in places to loiter. All of those outdoor restaurants that are supporting local businesses and bringing liveliness back to the streets? In New York City, at least, they are scheduled to shut down at the end of October, while the mayor and governor bicker over indoor dining. But cities need to catch up to ski areas, which long ago figured out how to make après ski activities like outdoor bars and music venues as much of an attraction as the slopes. Wind breaks (with openings above and below for ventilation), patio heaters and sun orientation can all take outdoor dining further into 2020. WinterCity’s Four Season Patio Design Tips also include higher insulation value materials, like wood or straw bales rather than metal seating, as well as simple solutions like blankets, which offer customers the winter equivalent of being able to reposition your chair in the sun — though that works year-round.

And indeed, NYC just announced that the increased outdoor dining that the city has allowed during the pandemic will become “permanent and year-round”.

Tens of thousands of parking spaces will be permanently repurposed from free private vehicle storage for use by the city’s struggling restaurant owners as part of a revolution in public space unleashed on Friday by Mayor de Blasio.

On WNYC’s “Ask the Mayor” segment, Hizzoner revealed that restaurants would be allowed to occupy curbside spaces - which more than 10,000 are already doing — for outdoor dining, not just through the coronavirus pandemic, but all year and, apparently, forever.

It may turn out to be the single biggest conversion of public space since, well, since car drivers commandeered the curbside lane for free overnight vehicle storage in the 1950s.

But whatever measures are taken, they need to be inclusive for the diverse populations that live in cities. Here’s Lange again, who spends several paragraphs in her piece on this issue:

Snow clearance has become an ongoing political issue for winter cities, with disabled people, the elderly, and parents and caregivers arguing that sidewalks and crossings deserve the same priority as cars, lest people be essentially trapped in their homes. Many physically disabled people have already had their mobility limited during quarantine due to pre-existing health risks, the inability to avoid using elevators and the difficulty of maintaining social distancing. Temporary urban design changes also need to be inclusive.

Cool Modular Signage for the National Library of Luxembourg

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 08, 2020

Modular Signage for the National Library of Luxembourg<br />

Modular Signage for the National Library of Luxembourg<br />

Modular Signage for the National Library of Luxembourg<br />

Sascha Lobe’s team at Pentagram has designed a functional and stylish modular signage system for the National Library of Luxembourg. The signs use cubes (inspired by LED clock displays?) that can be reconfigured into different words by library staff.

Numerical and alphabetical cubes are the foundation of the BnL’s modular signage system. In handling massive volumes of information and growing library collections, it is essential to free the library staff from rigid systems and equip them with the ability to easily make signage changes.

The flexible signage plan, consisting of 25,000 resin cubes, 6000 tableaus and 2,400 numerical shelving characters, enables staff to independently customize information as the library’s collection fluctuates. The resin cubes, constructed from a durable material, also translate the timelessness of the library and its long-standing presence throughout the years and into the future.

The only (but perhaps significant) downside to the signs is that they are not actually super legible when compared to a non-modular alternative. They sure do look great though.

Update: This post got shared on Twitter by a couple of librarian pals and Librarian Twitter was not impressed by this signage at all. Not legible, not accessible, and difficult/fiddly to maintain were the main complaints. As someone who believes that design is primarily about how something works and not how something looks, I’m a bit embarrassed that I didn’t hit that point harder in this post. I do love the aesthetics of the project, but from the photos, the legibility looks terrible. Maybe it’s different while navigating the space in person, but if not, you have to wonder how helpful hard-to-read signs are to patrons.

The World Memorial to the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 27, 2020

The World Memorial to the Pandemic

The World Memorial to the Pandemic

Uruguayan architecture firm Gómez Platero is building the world’s first large-scale memorial dedicated to victims of the Covid-19 pandemic. From Architecture Daily:

The memorial will be located on the edge of an urban waterfront, accessible only by a long pedestrian walkway. At the center of the platform, an open void to the ocean beneath allows people to observe nature. It is designed to allow a high percentage of the structure to be pre-assembled for on-site assembly, minimizing the impact on the natural environment. The large, circular structure will serve as a “sensory experience that bridges the gap between the urban and natural worlds, creating an ideal environment for introspection.”

(via print)

Interior Space: A Visual Exploration of the International Space Station

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 17, 2020

Interior Space ISS

Interior Space ISS

Roland Miller, a long-time photographer of space exploration projects, and Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli has teamed up to produce a book of photographs of the interior of the International Space Station. According to a profile of the project from Colossal, Miller used interior views of the ISS on Google Earth to stage shots, which would then be executed by Nespoli in space. Nespoli, an engineer, also built a stabilizing rig for the camera.

Because the ISS was in a weightless environment with fluctuating light, many of the images astronauts typically capture utilize a flash, which Miller, who generally photographs using a very low shutter speed, wanted to avoid. “The first problem you run into is you can’t use a tripod in space because it just floats away, and the station itself is going 17,500 miles an hour. Just because of the size and the speed, there’s a harmonic vibration to it,” he notes. To combat the constant quivering, Nespoli constructed a stabilizing bipod and shot about 135 images with a high shutter speed, before sending the shots to Miller for aesthetic editing.

You can get a copy of the book (or prints) by backing the project on Kickstarter.

Skateboarding Architecture: A Tour of Legendary Skate Spots

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 28, 2020

Estelle Caswell talks to Tony Hawk and architectural historian Iain Borden (author of
Skateboarding and the City
) about some of skateboarding’s most iconic spots and how skate architecture has changed over the years, from sidewalks to empty swimming pools in the desert to home-built halfpipes to “if you can see it you can skate it” structures (curbs, handrails, hydrants) all over cities.

Plus, their reference list of historic skateboard videos should keep you occupied for several hours/days/lifetimes.

The Sculptor Tasked with Completing Gaudí’s Sagrada Família

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2020

In this meditative short film, Etsuro Sotoo talks about what made him want to spend 41 years working as a sculptor in an attempt to finish Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona. From a website dedicated to Sotoo:

In 1978 Etsuro Sotoo arrived in Barcelona. He had just graduated in Fine Arts, he had just one year of experience as an Art teacher. When impressed by the unfinished temple: “It was the most fabulous pile of stones I had ever seen” …He asked for a job as a stonecutter. He wanted to continue the Nativity façade (the only façade that, thanks to his work, would be declared by Unesco World Heritage). He did a test and they gave him the position. Since then, he has completed what Gaudí did not even have time to think about. When he finished with the gaps, he started with the architect’s notes. When the tracks are over, it’s up to him to make decisions.

According to the video, Sotoo even converted to Catholicism as a way for him “to know Gaudí”. (via craig mod)