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Friday, 25 November 2005
Topic: Food / Chicago
Behind my apartment there have been a number of wildlife sightings around the garbage. In the past year I've seen the usual--crows, rats, an occasional vagrant, and a hissing raccoon. The other day there was a squirrel, notable because it had found a puffy cheeto. The crunchy ones are better.

Posted by thenovakids at 2:34 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:14 AM CDT
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Wednesday, 23 November 2005

All day yesterday my class set up an installation of 180 1-foot cubes that we built for our course Visual Training. The cubes, an invention of our professor, Ben Nicholson, are faced with a kufic pattern that can be arranged to create a number of varying patterns--spirals, bands, Classical meanders, words, etc. It opened last night as part of an exhibit at the Durand Art Institute at Lake Forsest College.

In other news, I consumed an amazing inventory of fast foods throughout the day and night. It started with a mediocre cheeseburger from IIT's cafeteria. Then on our way up to Lake Forest we stopped at a mediocre fast food take-out place in Bronzeville, where I satiated my week-long craving for a hot dog (came with mediocre fries and an RC). In the evening they ordered pizza for us after we set up the gallery, from Papa Romeos. I've never had it before but it was pretty good. I am, however, getting sick of how they cut pizza all fucked up into squares here. It belittles the circular geometry of the pie. WEDGES, PEOPLE. Then I ended up going out with miss Kei and her friends Joe and Nar, and drinking quite a bit. At 3:15, in the AM, we were on our way to Golden Nugget or IHOP or something, but noticed that the Wiener's Circle was still open, so we went in, because as any local will tell you, they have about the best hot dog in Chicago. Also, their employees verbally abuse the customers in a sort of calculated entertaining way that's also heartfelt. Last night they were saying they were closing, so we better tip good. I got a hot dog with everything, and then tipped good, and they threw in cheese fries. Amazing.

Occasionally I go on a binge of this sort of diet, which I describe as eating like an 8-year old living on his own. Kei finds that demeaning, defending the natural course she would follow (and that Joe follows) if left to her own devices. I could be a vegetarian if there weren't so many incredible ways to process meat.

Posted by thenovakids at 3:41 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2005 4:28 PM CST
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Friday, 4 November 2005
Topic: Food
Since thenovakids are all working hard fulltime learning how to build future cities, we've neglected our TAKOTRON NEWS page among many other of the often-overlooked pleasantries of our everyday lives, including decent meals.

We will take this brief but precious opportunity to continue our discussion of food. Specifically, a Japanese dish little known stateside, but quite common in its native land: omuraisu (オムライス) is one of those Western dishes that's been reinterpreted beyond recognition. Dishes like this, are apparently called "Youshoku" (洋食)", which just means Western food. Omuraisu is a contraction for "omelette rice," which is pretty much what it is, except for its magic ingredient, KETCHUP. So first you fry up white rice with chopped onion, ham, bits of carrot, and ketchup. You then wrap it in a thin (1 egg) omelette, and dribble ketchup over that. Pretty simple, though there is a definite art to the process. They make rubber molds you stick the omelette in and then jam with rice to shape the thing. Once in Kyoto (on the restaurant level of the big Kyoto station there is a whole omuraisu restaurant) I saw some chefs add the rice to the pan with the egg and do a little flip and form the shape perfectly. And then some people just drape the omelette lazily over the rice. Beauty in Variety

Last weekend some omuraisu was produced (right) and consumed.

Posted by thenovakids at 2:24 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:18 AM CDT
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Monday, 17 October 2005
Topic: Food
Chicago has a bunch of nice restaurants, and all sorts of different foods. But where Chicago cuisine really shines is with junk food--Hot Dogs, Italian Beef, deep dish pizza, fried chicken, ribs, etc etc. Dishing out this greasy cornucopia are legendary joints, stands, and restaurants, like Al's Italian Beef, The Wiener's Circle, Portillo's, Giordano's, and Harold's Chicken Shack. A tier below these local staples are the national chains, which may or may not be familiar to you depending on your locale. If there is an expert navigating the world of fast food chains, it is Joe.

Joe paid a visit to TAKOTRON HQ this past weekend, and we checked out the scene. Our neighborhood here has some unique offerings not normally available to Northsiders.

First, is Checkers, which has an amazing Flash Site, and even more amazing fries. Their other food is pretty standard. I guess they are a southern chain, and according to Joe, who has watched this beloved empire crumble before him, the one on 55th by the Dan Ryan Expressway is the last remaining in the area. This also provides another incentive to come all the way down here. Drive-Thru open till 12.

Next to Checkers, though difficult to see, is a Popeye's at 5401 S wentworth. The reason it is difficult to see stems from it's dimensions. It's about 15 x 25 ft, drive through only. They have wonderful Apple Pies. Similar to McDonald's in format, but 10x superior in quality. And they approach their pseudo-Cajun image conscientiously: POPEYES? CHICKEN & BISCUITS LAUNCHES NATIONAL IN-RESTAURANT DONATION PROGRAM TO SUPPORT HURRICANE KATRINA RELIEF .

The parking lot complex featured a man walking around selling "long socks," aka big white tube socks, at 11 pm. A hard sell.

Monday, 3 October 2005
Lethally Enforcing Chicago
Topic: Video Games

The Takotron street team recently reinvestigated Lethal Enforcers, the classic arcade shooter, after coming across it in the dungeons of Castle Broadview.

It's still pretty fun, after 13 years, but the graphics aren't any better than those for Pit-fighter, which came out 2 years prior (1990). And remember those pesky innocent bystanders, who pop up and yell "NO!" in the middle of your intense gun battle, and then duck back behind their cubicle? But that's all just getting reacquainted with it. The new discovery, infinitely more relevant personally now than in 1992, is that it takes place in Chicago, sort of.

In the shot of the overhead banner you can see the Chicago skyline beyond the plain-clothes "lethal enforcers." Interestingly, it's a shot from the lake, so maybe they're on a barge or water pumping station or in Gary or something. Also of note: the well-groomed hand clutching the pistol; is the female officer an attempt at gender equality, or a marketing strategy--i.e., this is a potentially good date game, family fun, etc.

Posted by thenovakids at 9:11 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:18 AM CDT
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Monday, 12 September 2005
SW Loop
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
TAKOTRON Operation MArch commenced almost 3 weeks ago, accompanied by the inevitable stagnation of TAKOTRON news. But, however it might stagnate, TAKOTRON news will never fall. So here are a few pictures from the weekend. Keipopnation and I wandered around, south and then west of the loop, which can be empty, haunting, surreal, decrepit, beautiful, depressing.

(1.) The south branch of the Chicago River flows between River City, Bertrand Goldberg's (of Marina City aka Corn Cob towers fame) Utopian apartment complex from the 80s, and an old Deco style power station.

(2.) Torn pornography leads to Union Station

(3.) The new SHURE (microphones/audio) headquarters in Niles, by Krueck + Sexton

More info:

Chicago Architects Oral History Project: Goldberg


Posted by thenovakids at 9:37 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:20 AM CDT
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Wednesday, 24 August 2005
Robert Moses
Topic: New York / Commack
A couple weeks ago Takotron made the long return to Long Island to visit family and friends. One positive feature of HQ LI, only applicable in the summertime, is it's proximity to the beaches. To the North is the Long Island Sound and Sunken Meadow State Park, and to the South the equally poetically- named Fire Island.

Long Island is a heap of refuse that Ice Age glaciers left at the end of their descent. Over the thousands of years since, barrier islands formed off the south shore, among them Fire Island. There are a number of geological explanations for the common presence of such islands in coastal regions. In general, they separate a main land from the ocean, with a marsh or lagoon area in between (right). Here's a summary of existing theories for their formation by some Army geologists: PDF

Long Island's barrier islands remained disconnected and remote until the 1920s and 30s, when Parks Commissioner and master builder Robert Moses began executing his dramatic developments across Long Island and New York City. The creation of the south shore beaches is undeniably successful--he built coastal highways and bridges to make Fire Island and, to the West, Jones beach, accessible to the public. But before reporting on our Robert Moses State Park beach paradisiacal romp, let us say a few things about the controversial mastermind.

Robert Moses (left) was born in NYC, to an upper-class Jewish family, and received university degrees from Yale, Oxford, and Columbia. In the 20s he became an unnofficial advisor to Governor Alfred Smith, and later held the official position of Parks Commissioner, remaining in power through the 60s. During his reign he forever changed the shape of NYC and LI. Among the numerous NY civil accomplishments he is responsible for are the Throgs Neck, Whitestone, and Verrazano bridges; the Cross Bronx, Brooklyn-Queens, and notorious Long Island Expressways; the Belt, Northern State, and Southern State Parkways; the Lincoln Tunnel; Shea Stadium; the UN campus; and 2 World's Fairs.

Despite his immense power and influence, occasionaly his projects met their demise. One of the more fantastic proposals he drafted was the Mid-Manhattan Expressway, a 6-lane highway across Manhattan, elevated 10 stories over street level. Linking LI and NJ, it meant to connect the Queens-Midtown tunnel to the East and the Lincoln tunnel on the Jersey side. Space could be developed around and above it, with buildings accessed via elevators rising through the expressway's meridian.

By the end of his career Moses was considered by the public with mixed emotions, if not outright hostility. Undeniably, through his volition, diplomacy, and strength he was able to connect the region with his expansive network of highways, as well as build a number of beloved public parks. What he failed to do, however, was accomodate the middle and especially lower classes, whom he almost openly despised. His policies purposefully excluded mass transit, which became his perpetual nemesis.
The LIE's overpasses were consciously built at a height that prohibited public buses; The Northern State was zoned to cut through middle class property while winding around that of the rich (from whom he received questionable funds); The Cross-Bronx tore through poor neighborhoods, displacing 1530 families and isolating the South Bronx.

Moses was also responsible in part for the massive suburban sprawl of the 50s. Proposed as vacation routes for Manhattanites, the major highways to Long Island immediately became commuter routes enabling families to move further East. The LIE was developed without a called-for accompanying rail line down the meridian, enabling communities to develop outward on an automotive rather than more concentrated pedestrian scale (right). As highway traffic jams became a daily nuisance, Long Island Rail Road use was nearly halved.

But growing up my family had some great times at Robert Moses State Park, just about due south of Takotron HQ LI. Earlier this month Agent Hotoda, RADM Townes-Anderson, and I made a special trip down there, and had a wonderful time frollicking in the sand and waves, getting knocked around by the violent, sublime, infinite Atlantic ocean (left). It was overcast and cooler that day, which held back the masses, giving us free reign over the beach (right). Notice the Robert Moses water tower in the background. The tower is a monumental marker, visible on the horizon from the Robert Moses Causway that leads to the park. At its base a traffic circle
winds around it, memorializing the car-culture Moses helped create.

More on Robert Moses:

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
Mid-Manhattan Expressway on
Robert Moses, The Master Builder on
Robert Moses State Park

Posted by thenovakids at 2:10 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:22 AM CDT
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Tuesday, 2 August 2005
Topic: Architecture / Travel
Topic 3: Aoyama Apartments / Tod's Omotesando / Yoku Moku

We continue with another installment of our architecture/food theme.

It begins with the Doujunkai apartments. The great Kantou earthquake in 1923 left the region in ruins, but also opened up a unique opportunity for the nation to push forward their ongoing process of modernization. A variety of European-influenced building styles were being employed since the Meiji restoration, and the results often look like strained attempts at old Europe--heavy masonry, sometimes with a Japanese-style roof plopped on top, or with some traditional detailing. On the other side of the design spectrum emerged the Doujunkai, a design division for the government's Public Housing department. The Doujunkai foundation was responsible for building a number of mid-rise, reinforced concrete, Modernist apartment buildings throughout the 20s, among them the famous Aoyama Apartments on Ometesando near Harajuku, completed in 1927 (see my photo from 2002, right). At the time the Doujunkai apartments were state-of-the-art, fitted with trash chutes, electricity, modern plumbing, and toilets. They were also adaptable for a variety of middle-class tenants, and sometimes contained tatami rooms, sunrooms, communal courtyards, and even public cafes and restaurants.

By the 1990s demolition of the numerous Doujunkai complexes began amid much protest, and today only 2 remain. The Aoyama Apartments were destroyed about 2 years ago. In their place "Ometesando Hills," an apartment/retail comlex designed by world-famous architect Ando Tadao, is in the midst of construction. It is exciting that Ando has been granted this opportunity, and I'm sure the completed project will be as thoughtful and elegant as his previous work.
From what one can see so far, it looks as thought the new design makes a conscious effort to memorialize the buildings it displaced, with it's similar proportions and the preservation of the zelkova trees. 75 years is a long time for a building to last in Tokyo, no matter how beloved it becomes, but we can hope that the style and functionality of the Doujunkai apartments will be remembered historically and remain influential.

Here's a link to some multimedia:NTV Documentary

Item 2 on the agenda is Ito Toyo's building for Tod's Omotesando, an upscale Italian shoe company (left). Before we departed I discussed visiting it a mission. Consider that mission accomplished [report to base: Takotron mis012667 code 034 affirmative]. When you walk down Omotesando away from Harajuku and past Aoyamadori, you will come across a district of upscale boutiques and classy brand shops with things you can't afford. But often the retail spaces are designed by high-profile architects and are of notable quality. Herzog & DeMeuron designed the Prada store, Ando built Collezione which houses a number of small showrooms, there's a new Dior store(right) with a big star on top by SANAA (Sejima Kazuyo and Nishizawa Ryue), and now Ito has the Tod's. The structure is based on the abstracted sillhoute of a tree-line, folded several times to create an L-shaped floor plan. The tree branches are cast in concrete, and the 270 openings between them paneled with glass or, in some places, opaque aluminum. The facades are structurally striking, and the irregular polygonal spaces continue throughout the interior, which also contains furnishings by Zaha Hadid. That said, some of the interior details were a little if-y; seams that weren't quite matched up on some pexiglass light panels, some cracks in the concrete over the stairs, a rough corner, etc. All forgivable, but paired with the no-longer-working Tower of Winds outside Yokohama station's west exit, I'm still waiting for realized, long-lasting perfection.

About that tower, (see Takotron News 22 June 2005) we asked at the koban (police box) right in front of it if it still lights up. The officer there said it glows blue at night around 10 or so once in a while. He said he had trained to become an architect before he began his cop career, and was a friendly guy considering we were bugging him about something sort of irrelevant to police duties. Though people always ask them for directions and use them as a lost and found, so I guess it wasn't bad. But we checked that Tower of Winds a million times at all times of the day and night, and it didn't do a damn thing.

Past Tod's is the Yoku Moku Confectionary Headquarters, featuring a fancy dessert cafe, home of the ¥1000 coffee. We went there with Miss Jenny Wu and Brian and ate exquisite cakes. Mine had genuine gold flakes on it (Tranche Champenoise). Then we bought some more Yoku Moku cookies in the store, and Kei got a couple little tarts. Their Double Chocolate au Lait sandwich cookies are incredible, and possibly even more addictive than the $1 variety pack of sugar wafers. In the US you might find them at Neiman Marcus. YOKU MOKU HQ DREAMLAND EAT THESE COOKIES

Posted by thenovakids at 8:03 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:20 AM CDT
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Monday, 1 August 2005
Topic: Architecture / Travel
Topic 2: Kisho Kurokawa's Nakagin Capsule Tower / IMAHAN SUKIYAKI

When thenovakids first began to emerge in 2002 during a semester abroad at Jouchi Daigaku, we went building-seeking on many occasions. At the top of our list was Kisho Kurokawa's Capsule Tower in Ginza, Tokyo, but we lacked the background information, navigation skills, and discipline to find it. For just a second I thought Tange's ugly brown Shizuoka Broadcasting Headquarters might be it--it's modular I guess (right). But this time, EPISODE III, we were prepared, with KENCHIKU MAP TOKYO, among other things, to strike.

The Capsule Tower in Ginza was completed in 1972, and represents the pinnacle of realized Metabolist architecture (left). During the 60s and 70s Metabolism represented a movement in architectural design that advocated principles of modularity through the use of interchangable, mass-manufactured, replacable components. That is, a new type of building that could be modified indefinitely over time to suit the occupants' changing needs. As influential as the group's ideas were, much of it remained only theoretical (like the projects of England's sometimes similar Archigram group).

However, a suprising number of projects were actualized. These included a 1968 Discotheque Space Capsule in Roppongi and the Capsule House "K" in Karuizawa. Then the 1970 Osaka World Exposition provided a forum for such experiments, allowing Kurokawa to prove the relatively easy installation and disassembly of his system with the Takara Beautillion, an expo installation for a furniture conglomerate. The Beautillion was made up of cubic units formed by steel pipes bent at right angles then bolted to steel plates. The pipes were fitted to plug into one another, and the completed capsules were joined to one another with high-tension bolts.

The Nakagin Capsule Tower in Ginza has two concrete shafts, bolted to which are 2.3m x 3.9m x 2.1m capsules made from modified shipping containers. The tower was originally intended to provide short-term housing for transient businessmen on trips to Tokyo.

More than 30 years later, it's still around. It could use a power-washing. There is a prototype capsule room on the ground floor. If you ask the surly security guard inside the building, he will coldly let you go in the prototype, which is fitted with a built-in rotary phone, air jets, and a TV/Audio system from the 70s with a reel-to-reel tape deck (right). It's those electronics that betray the building's age, not the overall form, which still approaches the science fictional. The mobile urban society the Metabolists were planning for didn't quite develop the way they imagined, and the Capsule Tower remains something of a monument to some foward-looking thinking that resonated with enough people that it materialized. Planning for a possible future that never panned out.

Our day in Ginza did not end with the Nakagin Tower, however. We wandered over to the fancy part of Ginza, which is like the 5th avenue of Tokyo. There we purchased several bags of the greatest green tea produced on this planet. I won't tell you all the secrets, but the place is called CHA GINZA. If you can find it you can get some. Otherwise, it's strictly for those with grandmotherly connections.

We had a few hours before dinner and Kei had to pick up some CDs so we went to Shibuya, got drinks at Fujiya, went to HMV, and took some purikura. Then we returned to Ginza for the fanciest meal of my life.

We wanted to try Sukiyaki, which is supposed to be pretty fine and very expensive. Kei's uncle recommended a place, IMAHAN. We had a private Cha-shitsu style room, into which a young woman came and cooked for us. There's a boiling broth in which she cooks various vegetables and then the thinly sliced, perfectly tender beef. You dip it all in raw beaten egg. The environment and the quality of the ingredients were incredible, and the service is traditional (and slavish). But Kei got our server to lighten up by exhibiting her purikura collection, and ultimately donating a picture to her.

Posted by thenovakids at 10:12 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:21 AM CDT
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Sunday, 31 July 2005
Topic: Architecture / Travel
We have returned from a month-long residence/experiment at our satellite base in Totsuka (Yokohama, 30min to Tokyo). We have collected an overabundance of information and ideas, and now must begin filtering our data in order to transmit it to our beloved audience.

Topic 1: Antonin Raymond/Fujiya/The Family Restaurant

Antonin Raymond was a Czech-born American architect who brought the International Style to Japan first with his own reinforced concrete house in Tokyo, completed in 1923. He arrived there in 1919, when he oversaw the construction of his mentor Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel. Wright's hotel remarkably withstood the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, which helped fuel the growing interest in Modern design.

Raymond was instrumental in helping the region rebuild after the destruction, and continued to work in Japan from 1923 until 1937, the year the FUJIYA FAMILY RESTAURANT building in the Isezaki-cho district of Yokohama was completed!!! Notice the International Style glass brick and reinforced-concrete facade.

Inside is FUJIYA, famous for PEKO-chan, the Milky candies campaign girl (left, with Takotron campaign girl Kei-chan), and their delicious desserts. The stairwell is bathed in light from the glass bricks, which you can see amid all the manga promo from the internet/manga cafe on the second floor (right).

All throughout Japan exist family restaurants like Fujiya. Though none of the others make good candy, they're all pretty similar--SkyLark, Sunday's Sun, Jonathan's, and of course DENNY'S--that very same Denny's you find in little Midwestern towns, where teenagers hang out and smoke cigarettes. And yet it's quite different. All the Japanese family restaurants serve standard Japanese interpretations of American food. These always include such favorites as Hanba-gu (Hamburg Steak--a tender, bunless burger with a ketchup-based meat sauce, served with rice) and Guratan (Gratin, usually seafood with macaroni in a white sauce, baked as a casserole), plus you can get beer and good desserts. But in only one location can you enjoy such things in an elegant, historically significant landmark of Modern architecture.

But here our story takes a troubling twist. Deep in the Utah desert the wartime Allied forces built the Dugway Proving Ground, a test site for new weaponry. Because of his experience with and knowledge of Japanese architecture, Raymond was commissioned to design a small replica Japanese village on which the military could test incendiary bombing techniques (they found that tatami, both imported and recreated from local grasses, and shoji burn real well). Similarly, nearby was a replica German urban working -class block designed by the Jewish-German architect Erich Mendelsohn. It is difficult to understand the position he must have found himself in, engineering the destruction of a place he seems to have loved.

After the war Raymond returned to Japan where he reestablished his office and would ultimately design more than 250 Modern homes and buildings in Japan, including such notable projects as the Fukui house in Atami (1933-5), the Rising Sun Petroleum Company's Yokohama offices (1926), The Reader's Digest Building in Tokyo (1947-9), and the Catholic Church in Shibata (1965).

Posted by thenovakids at 10:52 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:22 AM CDT
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Friday, 1 July 2005
Topic: Japan (misc)

TAKOTRON field trip: Hanshin Tigers at Yokohama Bay Stars
Yokohama Stadium, 1 July 2005

Baseball fans of all nations bow your heads in shame. You can sing "we will rock you" and "who let the dogs out" all you want. But you will never reach the level of fandom here. The Bay Stars won tonight 5-4 against the Hanshin Tigers. The Tigers are know for having the best fans. But you know we held it down tonight. Some high schoolers led the cheering, and brought out the flags and brass-band. With the energy of conbini beers and onigiri within, the rain was no matter, as the bay stars came back in the seventh after giving up the lead 2 innings prior. YATTA.

Posted by thenovakids at 8:39 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:23 AM CDT
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Wednesday, 22 June 2005
Kanto Tour '05
Topic: Architecture / Travel

The TAKOTRON field research team departs tomorrow for Narita international airport, to begin a month of extensive work/pleasure in Yokohama and Tokyo.

I love NY pizza and Chicago hot dogs, but Japan is the pinnacle of fast, efficient, wonderful food. We will also investigate some baseball, Kei's new baby cousin, and some buildings.

Last year we went to see Ito Toyo's Tower of Winds, built over an air vent outside the Yokohama station (upper right). It's supposed to light up in response to surrounding weather conditions and air patterns. Instead, it was just sitting there in the middle of traffic, gray and dead-looking. Maybe they revived it. This years target is Ito's new "Tod's" building on Omotesando in ritzy Aoyama, Tokyo. In that same area Ando Tadao's plans for a row of apartment houses is under construction. They will replace some iconic and well-liked apartments from the 50s, so it was a sensitive project. Down the street is the new Prada building, by the Swiss partners Herzog + DeMeuron. This was last year's novakids field trip highlight (lower right, with Kei and Yusuke). So you can hope for a field report within the next month. But no guarantees. More on Tod's Omotesando

Posted by thenovakids at 4:23 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:27 AM CDT
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Thursday, 9 June 2005

Topic: Architecture / Travel
The other day I got around to reading a long article on the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer that appeared in the May 15 New York Times Magazine (my mom takes care of her novakids, and sends me the good ones). Niemeyer, who is still working at 97, was the head architect for Brasilia, the capital planned by fellow Brazilian Lucio Costa, and the only realized Modernist utopian city.

Politically, Modernist architecture was a complicated mess. The ambition to execute new ideas through new forms and technologies led admirable architects seeking opportunities down some questionable roads. Philip Johnson helped organize an American Fascist Party and attended Hitler's rallies in Nuremberg. Le Corbusier joined the Vichy government and was a proponent of something like Technocracy throughout his career. Mies left Germany for Chicago at the onset of war, but made every effort to avoid politics on either side.

Niemeyer, on the other hand, was an avowed Communist during the most politically dangerous times. During the 60s the US government backed a coup that overthrew Brazil's government. Niemeyer's office and studio were destroyed, he faced arrest and interrogation, and spent more than a decade in exile. Brasilia failed, ultimately, as political change, overpopulation, and suburban ghettoization took hold, but it survives. The architect says,

You may not like Brasilia, but you can't say you have seen anything like it--you maybe saw something better, but not the same. I prefer Rio, even with the robberies. What can you do? It's the capitalist world. But people who live in Brasilia, to my suprise, don't want to leave it. Brasilia works. There are problems, but it works. And from my perspective, the ultimate task of the architect is to dream. Otherwise nothing happens.

Niemeyer's Modernism also attempts a sympathetic relationship to with the environment: "We absolutely need to look at the sky and feel how insignificant we are--the offspring of nature."

In other news, a remix of Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" is getting play on Power 92.3, the Chicago hip-hop station ("#1 in the Streets"). I don't know what to think about that. But what thenovakids dig about 92.3 is that it promotes a more positive hip-hop culture than 107.5 and expecially Hot97 in NYC, where people are always getting in fights outside, shooting at eachother, or mocking Tsunami victims on air. But 92.3's djs promote discussions on serious issues affecting the community, like AIDS (black women account for 72% of new HIV/AIDS cases among women), poverty, inequality, single motherhood, etc. So, whether you're making buildings, creating cities, or playing music, remember you can do it conscientiously.

? 2005 TAKOTRON Department of Education, Propaganda Division

Posted by thenovakids at 8:12 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:30 AM CDT
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Saturday, 4 June 2005
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
Since our last entry, Architecture Day in Chicago has come and gone. It was a'ight. You know TAKOTRON was V.I.P., cuz we're the CORPORATE SPONSOR of bold expression everywhere. So first up was the groundbreaking ceremony for the Art Institute's new North wing, which should be pretty cool, if they get the funding they need--twice what they have to reach their goal, and everyone knows these things can end up costing a lot more than the original estimate. Renzo Piano designed it, and the plan is to have a bridge leading from Millenium Park to a new entrance with a sculpture terrace on the second or third floor of the new wing. Piano explained that the bridge will be "straight, like a knife," forming a dialogue with Frank Gehry's serpentine titanium-paneled bridge over Columbus drive on the park's east side. The new-ish President and Director of the Art Institute, James Cuno, started off the morning with an optimistic speech on Chicago and the Museum's relationship with one another, and their collective place in the world, or something close to that. From what I've seen, he's intelligent and well spoken and a nice guy. He was followed by an appropriate recitation of an excerpt from Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago (1909) and then inevitible speeches by the museum's Board of Trustees and the CEO of JPMORGANCHASEBANKONE, the real corporate sponsor. Yay, mergers. I thought banks were supposed to exhibit an image of stability and permanence. Why do they always merge and buy eachother out, then, and end up with dumb names like JPMORGANCHASE and AMALGAMATED and FIFTHTHIRD? Throughout the whole thing, which involved no actual ground-breaking, the Redmoon Theater had these Spring Nymph people with painted white faces wandering around on stilts with watering cans, sprinkling petals around with branches stuck on their heads. What's up with theater?

Mayor Daley was up next at the podium. His gestural presence was more important than his speech, thankfully, because he had a few slips, like "Renzio Piana," and "Rim Kole-us," which sent an audible shutter through the crowd, especially those in the architecture field (like Frank Gehry and Renzo himself). Then Piano took over and talked about his plan a little bit. He was humble, grateful, and focused, and even made a few funny little jokes, but maybe they seemed funnier or cute (in an old guy way) because if his accent.

Then in the evening, with a flash of the VIP badge, we got up close on the Pritzker presentation in the Pritzker Pavilion (left), designed by 1989 Pritzker Laureate Gehry, in Millenium Park. There were all these starchitects around, so i tried to be the architectural papparazzi, but sort of failed with my crappy old digital camera that kept focusing on peoples thinning hair in front of me. Anyway, I'm posting these images as thumbs, so you can click on them and get a closer look at the stars. How come architects and artists are never targeted for celebrity gossip? No Joan Rivers interviews, or E.T. exposes. This despite the efforts of Dali and later Warhol. It's not like Colin Farrell or Oprah are showing up in limousines filled with cauliflower.

Back to the presentation, it was ok, Daley was there and spoke again. Thom Mayne was a little emotional, and certainly grateful, and gave props to his whole Morphosis team, the wifey, the kids. It was generally pretty formal, of course. I spotted the suave Helmut Jahn arriving on the scene. Up on stage were the big guns, former winners and then the 2005 jury. Now I'm gonna explain who's in on the action in these photos here.

right:(l to r) Victoria Newhouse, architectural historian and author, founder and director of the Architectural History Foundation; Tom Pritzker; The Honorable Archduke Daley; Thom Mayne, at podium; woman in white, oops, forgot her naem; Frank Gehry; Ada Louise Huxtable, author and architecture critic of the Wall Street Journal; another person I forgot, but I think it's the architect Carlos Jimenez

left:(l to r) Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi, architect, sharp dresser, planner and professor of Architecture from Ahmeddabad, India; Rolf Fehlbaum, charman of the board of Vitra, Basil, Switzerland; Zaha Hadid, last year's Pritzker Laureate; Renzo Piano, 1998 Laureate; Thom Mayne; Victoria Newhouse; Mayor Daley, looking aloof

Not shown is Lord Palumbo of the UK (that's really his title), who gave a well-spoken, motivational and optimisitic speech at the beginning on the importance of architecture and it's most prestigious award.

Friday, 27 May 2005
Architecture Day in Chicago
Topic: Architecture / Chicago

8:30 AM
The Art Institute of Chicago
North Garden at Monroe and Michigan
111 S. Michigan
Groundbreaking Celebration for the Art Institute's New Building, Designed by Renzo Piano
Zero Gravity Exhibition

6:30 PM
Millenium Park
2005 Pritzker Architecture Prize Awards Cermony, to be Presented to Thom Mayne of Morphosis
more info
Morphosis Home

Posted by thenovakids at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006 12:32 AM CDT
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