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kottke.org posts about architecture

How an Architect Redesigns NYC Streets

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2022

In this video, using before-and-after satellite imagery, Claire Weisz of WXY, an architecture and urban design firm, explains how her company helped redesign three of NYC’s unruliest intersections: Astor Place, Cooper Union, and Albee Square. Unsurprisingly, the redesigns all involved taking space away from cars and giving it to larger sidewalks and more green space, to benefit people other than drivers.

The Bagworm Caterpillar’s DIY Mobile Log Cabin

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2022

The bagworm caterpillar is quite the animal architect. In preparation for its transformation into a moth, the caterpillar builds itself a house that it carries around on its back out of materials it finds in its habitat, like sticks or leaves. When it enters the pupa stage, the caterpillar fastens the house to something solid and hunkers down inside.

a little house a bagworm caterpillar has built on its back out of twigs

a little house a bagworm caterpillar has built on its back out of twigs

a little house a bagworm caterpillar has built on its back out of twigs

I couldn’t source the top photo but the bottom two were taken by John Horstman, who has a bunch of incredible photos of bagworm caterpillar houses on Flickr. Nicky Bay has also taken many photos of bagworm caterpillar architecture.

An Elegant Bamboo Structure in Vietnam

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2022

the exterior view of a welcome center made from bamboo

interior view of a welcome center made from bamboo

Vo Trong Nghia Architects designed this resort welcome center on Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam out of approximately 42,000 pieces of bamboo, rope, and bamboo pins. Beautiful. From Dezeen:

Skylights incorporated into the building’s thatched roof also allow daylight to illuminate the interior, while the grid system enables breezes to ventilate the space naturally.

“The light comes in beautifully and, along with the natural colour of bamboo, creates a warm and intimate atmosphere, even though the structure is very open in terms of airflow,” the studio added.

(via colossal)

Impeccable Digital Recreations of TV Game Show Sets

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2022

digital recreation of the set of Jeopardy!

digital recreation of the set of The Price Is Right

digital recreation of the set of Match Game

If you, like me, grew up semi-obsessively watching game shows from the 70s and 80s, you will get a big kick out of this. Photographer Steven Rosenow makes incredibly accurate digital renderings of the sets of old game shows like Jeopardy!, The Price Is Right, Wheel of Fortune, Match Game, and Family Feud, which he shares with a Facebook group called Eyes of a Generation. David Friedman shared some of these recreations in his newsletter. Here’s Rosenow’s notes on the Price Is Right set:

This was a fairly difficult set to model in 3D even though I had blueprints of the set to work with, as well as blueprints of CBS Studio 33… Assistance in this project was provided by the current owner of Door No. 2, who bought it from CBS when it was auctioned off.

I might have a new aspiration in life: to be “the current owner of Door No. 2”. (via waxy)

Lovely Precise Watercolor Paintings of Hotel Rooms

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2022

Architect Kei Endo creates really lovely watercolor paintings of hotel rooms that she’s stayed in — you can find her work on Instagram and her website. The paintings include floor plans of the rooms, exterior and interior views, illustrations of the food, and even precise renderings of the bath products. I love these so much.

watercolor painting of a hotel room by Kei Endo

watercolor painting of a hotel room by Kei Endo

watercolor painting of a hotel room by Kei Endo

watercolor painting of a hotel room by Kei Endo

You can check out her painting process on Instagram (for instance) and YouTube. (via spoon & tamago)

How Insulated Glass Changed Architecture

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 18, 2022

Before the invention of insulated glass (i.e. double-paned windows) in the 1930s, builders and architects had to balance bringing light into a structure with keeping heat transfer to a minimum. For buildings in most climates, that resulted in the use of small windows and not a lot of natural light. Insulated glass meant you could keep the heat in (or out) while letting in large amounts of light and this changed how both residential and commercial buildings were built. (via the morning news)

The Giant Chainmail Box That Stops a House From Dissolving

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2022

The Hill House in Helensburgh, Scotland is considered an architectural masterpiece, but it’s falling apart in the wet Scottish weather.

Mackintosh was a revolutionary designer, but the materials and techniques at the cutting edge of architectural design in 1900 haven’t withstood a century of the west of Scotland’s harsh, wet weather conditions.

The external render of the property has not proved watertight and the walls have gradually become saturated and are crumbling, with water now threatening the interiors.

If we don’t act soon, the house will be irreparably damaged and we’ll lose its iconic architecture and unique interiors forever.

So what they’ve done is put a giant structure built mostly from chainmail around the house to dry it out. And cleverly, they built a system of observation platforms within the box so that visitors can see the exterior of the historic house like never before. (via waxy)

1980s Dollhouses Designed by Architects

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2022

a dollhouse designed by an architect for a 1983 Architectural Design Magazine contest

a dollhouse designed by an architect for a 1983 Architectural Design Magazine contest

a dollhouse designed by an architect for a 1983 Architectural Design Magazine contest

From a 1983 Architectural Design Magazine contest, a collection of dollhouses designed by architects, courtesy of Present and Correct.

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.