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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Topic: Architecture / Travel
One of Tadao Ando's most recently completed projects, and one of his largest commissions, is Omotesando Hills, a high-end shopping complex on Tokyo's boutique-lined street, Omotesando. It supplants the famous Aoyama Apartments, a landmark of early Japanese modernism, that were controversially destroyed before the new construction began. Ando has kept the shell of a portion of the original structure, erected in 1927 by Doujunkai, a governmental design bureau. I think this small gesture, combined with his attempt to echo some of the forms and proportions of the original, doesn't really exude a full-fledged historical sensitivity, but rather exposes a certain architectural guilt. Ando has a deep understanding of architectural history, as well as a firm rootedness in his national culture, and I'm sure it is only with profound reluctance that he participated in the replacement of a local landmark with a luxury shopping mall.

If only it didn't fall so flat. The rich textures of the old Doujunkai apartments (creeping ivy on rough concrete) have been replaced by Ando's (admittedly beautiful) signature smooth cast-in-place walls, but also layers of steel structure and slick glass. It's all a bit too common. There are of course some wonderful Andoan (?) moments, where shadows meet a running stream of water that separates the front facade from the sidewalk, but then once entered the space is overrun with gaudy lighting effects, decorations, and an open atrium that really seems like an oversized, conventional mall space.

I feel that Ando has made so many great smaller commercial and residential buildings (and some large museums and religious spaces) that display a powerful sense of monumentality in their materials and spatial experiences. It's a shame that a larger commission like this doesn't present an opportunity for those traits to really shine. There's a plan for a Tokyo Tower II for which Ando is listed as a supervisor. This is another apparently-conventional large scale endeavor, and while I understand the importance of a highly accomplished architect to progress and evolve, I worry that his talents should be focused on more sensitive, contemplative, or experientially interactive programs .

Official Site (ENG)
Video: Digital Facade
More Images
Interview with Ando re: Omotesando Hills (ENG)
Specs, Details and Images (JPN)
Tokyo Tower II

Posted by thenovakids at 9:54 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, 15 March 2007 4:24 PM CDT
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Sunday, 18 February 2007
Out on Long Island there happens to be a wonderful college radio station, there to rescue those seeking alternative airwaves. WUSB is SUNY Stony Brook's station, 90.1 FM, and every other Saturday night/Sunday morning they broadcast an amazing show, "Ridding the Mind of Waste." The show's DJs play primarily electronic and industrial songs, but often mix in humorous, creative audio montages and samples that they seem to put together. The DJ who speaks does so with a parody of a smarmy Oldies station host and refers to himself as "Tommy Edwards, filling in for 58 and Barney," though several years ago I remember him calling himself "58 filling in for Barney."

So the mysteries run deep. Please leave a comment if you have any information about these amazing fellows. You can listen to the show from anywhere through WUSB's website: WUSB.FM .

In my college years I, too, was a DJ, and made a number of station IDs and montages to keep the vibes going, loosely inspired by "Ridding the Mind of Waste." You can listen to some of mine: Takotron Sounds

Posted by thenovakids at 2:16 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, 18 February 2007 10:59 PM CST
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Sunday, 4 February 2007
Topic: Chicago
Chicago is in full-throttle Bears mode, ready for a thrilling Superbowl victory. Skyscrapers display encouraging messages in the form of office lights, while cultural landmarks are submitting to crass gestures of support. And that's awesome. The Art Institute's lions are wearing helmets, and Chicagoans are causing traffic problems just to see them (in -20 wind-chill weather, no less). Meanwhile, the Field Museum's outdoor life-size Brontosaurus sculpture is wearing a Brian Urlacher jersey, and a Picasso sculpture a Bears hat. The victory parade's going to be amazing...

Posted by thenovakids at 12:58 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, 18 February 2007 1:50 PM CST
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Wednesday, 20 December 2006
Several weeks ago I visited some of the Art Institute of Chicago's popular European Painting galleries. My intention was to take photos of people looking at art (right), which I use to collage into architectural renderings for school. While on the prowl I came across a gory relief sculpture by the Baroque Venetian sculptor Francesco Bertosa entitled The Massacre of the Innocents from 1700. It depicts a scene from the Gospel of Matthew in which King Herod orders the massacre of all of Bethleham's male children to prevent the rise of a new King of the Jews. It looks like a Cannibal Corpse album cover, what with the severed baby heads and limbs rolling around. I usually associate such "Metal" scenes like this with the Old Testament, which is of course full of regicide, patricide, suicide, infanticide, and general spurts of sex and violence.

Posted by thenovakids at 12:11 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, 18 February 2007 1:53 PM CST
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Saturday, 25 November 2006
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
In his popular book, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture (1977), architectural historian Charles Jencks makes a number of cheeky, provocative, humorous, and often enlightening observations about high-Modern and contemporary architecture. In his first chapter, "The Death of Modern Architecture" (which occured at 3:32PM in St. Louis on July 15, 1972 with the demolition of a notorious housing project), Jencks includes a rather sarcastic analysis of IIT's campus. He calls the Boiler Plant a cathedral, since it is divided into 3 long sections with a smokestack/tower--"a central nave structure with two side aisles expressed in the eastern front....there are clerestory windows on both aisle and nave elevations. Finally, to confirm our reading that this is the campus cathedral, we see the brick campanile, the bell tower that dominates the basilica." He goes on to (mis)read the plain campus chapel as a boiler house and the architecture school's Crown Hall as the President's Temple.

He caustically attributes the unexpected employment of these forms to solemn old Mies van der Rohe's "stunning wit." I came across this book in a used section of the Prairie Avenue Bookshop, Chicago's fabulous architectural bookstore. It seems to have been owned (and discarded) by an offended Miesian who wrote several angry comments in the margin (which abruptly end halfway through the first chapter). I found Jencks' analysis to be irreverently hilarious, but there are reasons why Mies is still interesting and relevant today. His forms are ambiguous, and depending on their function might communicate a number of conflicting ideals: do the open glass ground floors of his Federal Center in the loop denote a transparency and honesty of government, or a higher pure order of authority? Does an empty glass house place its inhabitants in the midst of nature, or do its materials, in their climactic insuitability and bird-killing invisibilty betray a complete disregard for the environment? There are no right answers, but to get the most out of Mies, it's important to ask all the questions, and I think that's something Jencks does well.

Posted by thenovakids at 3:38 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, 25 November 2006 4:22 PM CST
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Saturday, 28 October 2006
Topic: Baseball
In other baseball news, a campaign started by a sports writer, Paul Lukas, aims to do away with the Mets' use of black in their on-field attire. I am excited that someone is playing such close attention to "athletics aesthetics", approaching cultural analysis through the scrutiny of icons and uniforms.

However, I completely disagree with his conclusion regarding the Mets recent color theme. He's worried that black will replace the dominance of blue and orange, and cites numerous examples of the team's on-field apparel and a more recent (not universally adapted) black logo. But generally the black is just a replacement for the previous base color, white. It's true that some of the solid blue color schemes seem to be getting phased out, but this is part of contemporary style that should be accepted. Other teams have done similar things, and it looks sharp. Notice the shine on

I love the Met's orange and blue theme, and the depth of its meaning: colors derived from New York's two preceding NL teams (Giants and Dodgers); New York City's flag. But let's not get carried away. I would even go so far as to suggest a black-on-black alternative road uniform, and/or employment of a Mr. Met alernate logo. Because the Mets iconography is just that deep! They are now old enough that they can have "throwbacks," like the traditional blue cap or the belovedly unpleasant pajama-style 80s v-neck with side stripe.

Posted by thenovakids at 1:09 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006 1:41 PM CST
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Friday, 27 October 2006
The St. Louis Cardinals, despite my desperate plea for otherwise, won the World Series tonight. Detroit's fielding was horrendous, and Pudge couldn't hit a thing. The Cardinals continued their pesky, wormy ways, sneaking in revenge-runs after every inning Detroit laboriously managed to score.

The Cardinal's rookie closer, Adam Wainwright, has been incredible this postseason, filling in for the injured star, Jason Isringhausen (formerly a mediocre Mets starter). Wainwright pairs his mid-90s fastball with an impossible 75mph curveball. Brandon Inge struck out on 3 pitches in the 9th tonight. Similarly, he froze Carlos Beltran with his 3rd pitch to end the NLCS. See my Fox Trax approximation of the curve that killed the Mets (right).

There is however, a more important Wainwright of St. Louis: Louis Sullivan's Wainwright Building (left). Erected in 1890-1 in St. Louis, this landmark represents the architect's discovery of a 'solution' to the problem of the skyscraper (commercial base, offices above, mechanical at top).

Posted by thenovakids at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006 1:30 PM CST
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Friday, 20 October 2006
2006 METS
Topic: Baseball
The 2006 Mets postseason ended last night in an exciting game against the Cardinals at Shea. It was a major disappointment for the organization and their fans, but it's important to realize this was the greatest mets team since 1986. If you act entitled to a trip to (and victory in) the World Series people will start mistaking you for a Yankees fan. Newsday ran a headline today, "Heilman couldn't get it done," but the bullpen was close to impeccable this postseason, including last night. If anyone couldn't get it done it was the middle of their lineup--Beltran, (who struck out looking on 3 pitches with 2 outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th!!!), Delgado, and Wright, all of whom failed to get that big hit the team desperately needed. But let us rejoice in the wonderful season the tenacious and pesky Mets had, stealing bases, playing small ball, and being postseason contenders despite losing 2 of their big starters. They finally have a lineup that can build a dynasty, that they can keep more or less the same for the next several years. One thing that was lacking, to my knowledge, as an estranged Midwestern Mets fan, was a peppy campaign song like this one from 1986. Watch it to the end for the cameos by New York celebrities partially obscured by the poor digitized quality. Please leave a comment if you figure any out. So far I am able to discern Mayor Ed Koch, Twisted Sister, and Cameo.

Posted by thenovakids at 11:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 31 July 2008 9:15 PM CDT
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Sunday, 1 October 2006
Topic: Food/Sports/NY

It is now October, a month of great importance for the 2006 New York Metropolitans.


Posted by thenovakids at 1:26 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, 1 October 2006 10:44 PM CDT
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Saturday, 9 September 2006
Topic: Architecture/Food/Chi

"We shall emphasize image--image over process or form--in asserting that architecture depends in its perception and creation on past experience and emotional association and that these symbolic and represetational elements may often be contradictory to the form, structure, and program with which they combine in the same building. We shall survey this contradiction in its two main manifestions:

1. Where the architectural systems of space, structure, and program are submerged and distorted by an overall symbolic form. This kind of building-becoming-sculpture we call the duck in honor of the duck-shaped drive-in, "The Long Island Duckling," illustrated in God's Own Junkyard by Peter Blake.

2. Where systems of space and structure are directly at the service of program, and ornament is applied independently of them. This we call the decorated shed.

The duck is the special building that is a symbol; the decorated shed is the conventional shelter that applies symbols."

From Venturi, Robert and Denise Scott Brown and Stephen Izenour. Learning From Las Vegas (Revised Edition). Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1972, 1977. p. 87.

Posted by thenovakids at 1:03 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, 10 September 2006 8:48 PM CDT
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Thursday, 27 July 2006
Topic: Food

Last week I attended, with my companion from Keipopnation, my cousin's wedding in central Pennsylvania. It was great seeing my family, and everyone had a good time. There are many things I could discuss here about our visit, but will instead use this medium to share with my audience our discovery of an unhealthy snack food called Hulless Cheese Puff' N Corn (whose discarded remains [right] have been lying on my floor since July 18).

I am confident that at some point everyone has become frustrated with popcorn's offensive texture. That is, its tendency to disintegrate into an armada of fibrous, undigestible pellets and flakes that lodge themselves in your gums, teeth, throat, and probably digestive tract. Somehow Snyder of Berlin, a snack foods manufacturer based in Pennsylvania, whose product we discovered at a gas station in that state, has created an enjoyable, artificial-cheese-infused snack that boasts the airy, slightly gritty aspect of popcorn without the inedible obstacles.

Suspiciously, Snyder of Berlin (pronounced BER-lin) is located near the location of the better-known/more widely distributed Snyder's of Hanover, though their packaging declares, "We are not connected with Snyder's of Hanover, Inc." In fact, it seems they were once the same company but split in 1981, at which point the Berlin plant became the lesser-known company. However, Snyder's of Hanover does not offer Hulless Cheese flavored puffed corn, giving Berlin a distinct advantage. But you know who does? Utz Quality Foods, located in...Hanover, PA. It seems Pennsylvania is home to an incestuous and overly complex battle of snack foods.

Posted by thenovakids at 11:18 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006 8:24 AM CDT
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Thursday, 29 June 2006
Topic: Miscellaneous
For several years I have ignored the hype and barrage of commercials FOX runs for 24, remembering Kiefer Sutherland as no more than the punky teenage vampire gang leader in The Lost Boys, and son of Donald, the elderly vampire slayer mentor from the Buffy movie.

But then the more contemporary, non-vampirical, potential awesomeness of Kiefer was communicated to me last July (spent in Yokohama), via a Calorie Mate commercial in which Jack Bauer crushes through a subway car full of school girls. That was my first exposure to his shouting (which I now look forward to seeing in each episode), made all the more sweeter by being directed at seemingly innocent high school girls.

I should metion that Calorie Mate is a nutrient-rich blocky biscuit thing, whose purpose is analagous to that of the PowerBar. They also make a gel (as in the embedded commercial) and flavored drinks. Details of their products can be found here: Calorie Mate.

The 24 campaign has an exciting site, as well: CMT24

Posted by thenovakids at 10:52 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006 11:02 PM CDT
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Thursday, 22 June 2006
Topic: Architecture / Travel
The famous Japanese architect, ISOZAKI Arata, known for a number of international projects including LA's Museum of Contemporary Art and Kyoto's concert hall, appears in an interview regarding Japan's results in the World Cup. An interesting choice, but since it's pretty much just soccer talk, it's probably only interesting if you like soccer more than architecture:

Posted by thenovakids at 11:58 AM CDT
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Tuesday, 20 June 2006
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
Metra, the Chicago area's commuter rail system, antagonizes expressway drivers with its self-rightous billboards that boast, "We're On Time. Are You?" It's their job to be on time, and not their business whether mine is. Otherwise, from my one experience riding one of their trains, I think they do fine. But if especially irritated, one might be tempted to pose a similarly accusatory question like, "I Don't Present Myself as a Pile of Standard Lumber Scraps Nailed Together Haphazardly. Do You?"

Earlier this month the Chicago Tribune printed an article on Metra's Roosevelt Street Station. Despite being a primary city hub for the system, located across from the Museum Campus, it is a long-neglected and never fully realized facility. It is built from standard 2-bys, and is crooked and leaning. Walkways are reinforced with diagonal members that prop them up from the sides. I have admired its ramshackled crudeness from the CTA bus many times, but it seems like people are getting pretty sick of it. It is certainly absurd that neither the public, the city, or Metra's own dignity have demanded its replacement. The Tribune article offers explanations about budget delays, and other predictable set-backs. But with the shiny new condos going up around it, I imagine something's going to have to happen soon.

Chicago Tribune: "Showcase Metra Station Suffering"

Posted by thenovakids at 10:42 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006 10:43 PM CDT
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Monday, 5 June 2006
Topic: Site Features
The 1908 Chicago and Northwestern Railway Bascule Bridge south of Kinzie Street has been added to TAKOTRON BRIDGES. The site is now up to date and complete, at least until another wave of research and accompanying field trip takes place.

Posted by thenovakids at 2:40 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 5 June 2006 2:49 PM CDT
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