Showing posts with label spectacle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spectacle. Show all posts

November 9, 2010

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

nice piece of writing over at Frieze Mag:
Perhaps the truest screw heir is Paul Octavian Nasca, a Romanian programmer who wrote the software used to create recent viral hit ‘U Smile 800% Slower’ (2010) – a Justin Bieber track stretched to 800 percent of its original length while the pitch remains unchanged. A Florida-based electronic musician used Nasca’s algorithm to smear the three-minute single into a half-hour epic of shimmering, sensual ambience. Bieber-haters and his legions of fans were equally enthralled by the transformation, which made the Canadian teen star’s corn-syrup pop sound like Icelandic band Sigur Rós. In less than a month, it was heard by more than two million people, received the endorsement of Mr Bieber (he tweeted: ‘this version of u smile is incredible to just chill out and fall asleep to. feels epic’), and spawned copycat slowdowns. - Jace Clayton, Music: The slowed-down tempos of screw and its influence on contemporary bands

October 9, 2010

Ohio Swiss Fest: A Photo Essay

Sugarcreek, Ohio is a tiny town about 2 hours north of Columbus, Ohio. It consists of a spectacular Alpine Village nestled amidst the endlessly rolling hills of Amish country.  But what sets this place apart from other rural towns of Middle America is a bustling cheese industry and an unexpeted dose flaboyantly decorated buildings.  I recently visited this "Little Switzerland of Ohio" and have returned triumphantly with what I hope to be a dazzling photo essay. 


Driving into the town, you know you have arrived by the typical office and residential structures...they are quaint unassuming structures with something a bit more added on for good measure.  A hint of what's to come and you anxiously speed toward Main Street!

An Amish Monument cheerfully basks in the sunlight...the suspense builds....

We have finally arrived! Welcome to Sugarcreek, the Little Switzerland of Ohio!

Main Street is full of buildings like the one pictured above, however none are as large or impressively ornate as the Alpine Hills Museum: a must-see destination inside and out for visitors of all ages. 



Vintage posters, newspaper articles, and children's depictions of Sugarcreek can be found among historical re-creations of Amish interiors and old cheese-making barns.

The interior lobby of the Alpine Hills Museum is a bizarre mash-up of general country nostalgia/folk art, Swiss heritage, and conservative Middle America propaganda. This space is perhaps the epicenter of Sugarcreek's identity: a place where one would expect Google's little red map pin to land while searching for Sugarcreek, Ohio.  Nevertheless, this space projects the dark, unsettling side to Sugarcreek: for this is a non-place, torn between conflicting identities of Swiss heritage and Middle American conservatism.  Celebrate cheese, chocolate, and those omnipresent snowcapped Alps, but don't you dare fly that red and white crossed flag!

Pure spectacle, but unfortunately the world's largest functioning cuckoo clock (debatable) is currently being restored. Thankfully, there's always YouTube.



Architecturally, the most impressive area of Sugarcreek can be found at the intersection of Main St & Factory St. It is here that artist Tom Miller has created fantastic murals on the gabled facades of commercial buildings. The Swiss Alp landscapes are highlighted by moving model trains and alpine skiers.  The concept of motion in architecture is witnessed here at a most miniature scale. A whole building provides the canvas for a motorized small piece of metal.  I call these fantastic pieces of art "active facades" and have uploaded a couple of examples over on YouTube.



As for the actual festival, 8 million pounds of cheese are annually produced in Sugarcreek, which create the (desperate) need for a massive event to sell all of the excess cheese reserves.  Many different awards are given, but to the average cheese eater such as myself, it is all mouthwateringly (?) delicious. This region also produces wine, but I would (politely) defer similar high praise to the California varieties.


There were all sorts of spectacles to witness including a "cheese chase" (5K run), grown men wearing traditional Swiss folk gear, an Alphorn concert, a Steintossen competition, and a curiously American-themed parade complete with an impressive car show of hot rods and post-war gas-guzzling muscle cars.   


The winning float in the parade was provided by McDonald's. Who knew Ronald McDonald was so crafty!? A late afternoon visit to McDonald's revealed that Sugarcreek's Swiss Miss Main Street spirit had begun to penetrate the global superpower's cookie cutter red and yellow boxes. A surprising end to an equally surprising (but unfortunately brief) visit to Little Switzerland.

July 8, 2010

Die Schwyzer Hut

Welcome to Sugarcreek: the Little Switzerland of Ohio!  I discovered this gem of a town purely by accident while browsing through vintage postcard stands at a local antique mall.  Needless to say, a roadtrip is already being planned...



Die Schwyzer Hut!!! "The Swiss Hat Restaurant, Popular Sugarcreek eating place. Sugarcreek is the home of the Ohio Swiss Festival, held the fourth Friday and Saturday after Labor Day each year. It is also the center of the Swiss Cheese industry in Ohio, with 21 factories making 8,000,000 pounds of Swiss Cheese Annually."
Aside from the World's Greatest Decorated Shed (pictured above), Sugarcreek, Ohio is also where you can find the Reeves Banking and Trust Company Building.  Aesthetically, I admit this is quite radical and challenging to take in: an optimistic blend of mid-century modernism, Swiss traditionalism, and Bob Ross. 


As mentioned earlier, plans are in store for a visit during the much anticipated Ohio Swiss Festival in early October. More images to come then...

June 19, 2010

Party In The City Where The Heat Is On

Ignore your surroundings. Ignore the economy! With technology and LEED Points, we will prevail!!  It's time for a new decade!!! THE FUTURE IS HERE!!!!


Who thought getting 15,000 architects together in one of the country's hottest cities (during the summer) would be a good idea? The AIA, of course! Nevertheless, there we were sitting in a larger-than-usual air conditioned box listening to messages about the future broadcast to us via teleprompter-informed surrogates. "Design for the Next Decade," as it was called, came complete with branding images showing a serene view of Earth from outer space - creatively dodging the political/social/environmental turmoil of today.  The events were ironically held within a rather large flamboyantly pastel and neon decorated PoMo box. After spending four days there, I got the feeling no one else saw the humor in the situation.  Toss in the awarding of the AIA Gold Medal to Peter Bohlin - a life-long modernist (the humanist type, not the angry type) - and you have some theoretically confusing environments to take in. I predict this will all subconsciously rub off on the emerging architects who attended the conference which will end up designing in an awkward hybrid 1980's style well into the 21st century out of confusion. This is probably why I am not a trend forecaster.


The convention itself consisted of all the predictable themes: globalization, BIM, and of course the dreaded "s" word, sustainability.  Such jaded themes were nearly unbearable to take in, but the aggressive use of movie theater stylized carpeting throughout the convention center, paired with what could only be described as a spectacle of building products in the expo's main floor kept me on my toes. After all, this was the super bowl of the building trades industry! Partaking in "the scene," I felt what Wall Street traders must go through, being constantly bombarded by hungry salesmen showing off everything from virtual reality headsets, to oversized double hung windows, to fancy paver stones.  The experience was somehow both my worst nightmare and the most interesting architectural spectacle I have ever witnessed.


Biggest disappointment: the lack of discussion of the convention's dicey history in Miami vis-à-vis Morris Lapidus vs. the Modernists at the Americana in 1963. I did, however, stumble across Art Center on Lincoln Road which did a good job of showcasing both Lapidus' work and personality. Aside from drawings and photographs, a presentation of his bow ties were prominently displayed around a minimally black monolithic bow tie shaped table.  This managed to satisfy most of my MiMo cravings.  Additionally, I managed to drive by the Bacardi Building by Enrique Gutierrez, one of my absolute favorites. It's international corporate style overlaid with radical tropical-influenced aesthetics must have caused quite a commotion fifty years ago:



The Bacardi Building makes me want to use any Meis building I can get my hands on as a canvas for experimental decorative art.  I can't help but wonder if the convention center's aggressive use of movie theater carpeting was a symbolic nod to the Lapidus & co.'s cinematic take on Miami:


No overview of Miami would be complete without mentioning 1111 lincoln which was at the time still under construction. This parking garage/"mixed-use" space actually scares unsuspecting tourists. It looks as though the garage has swallowed a portion of the nearby 1960's era SunTrust Bank building. No mercy.


When seen in context with Lapidus' Lincoln Road the car park begins to make a bit more sense. From the Wall Street Journal: 
"'I envisioned a park-like mall with pools and fountains and exotic concrete shelters,' wrote Lapidus, whose plan included plantings and splashing waterworks interspersed with a series of architectural follies made from concrete white-painted stucco, each with its own flamboyant shape--flaring shells, fin-like canopies, undulating vaults, simple slab roofs hovering on narrow steel pylons--Lapidus's own vocabulary of forms, minimal but whimsical."


The most powerful moment of the entire convention occurred in Peter Bohlin's last comments which seemed to undermine the futurist theme of the convention. Upon being asked what advice he could give to young architects, Bohlin simply reached into his pocket, pulled out a pencil and held it up saying don't forget about this. The gesture generated a great deal of applause more so than at any other point during the convention, suggesting perhaps the popularity and value of low-tech in an increasingly high-tech era.

June 6, 2010

Society as Spectacle

American Highway Roadmaps from the 60s are perhaps the single greatest cultural artifact from the modernist era.  The purpose of these maps were to encourage multi-day auto trips to discover the vast corners of the country.  They embrace the spirit of modernism by celebrating the triumph of man over nature: the progress of a nation through innovative use of technology.  Seen from the perspective of the ongoing BP oil spill, a technological blooper in the grandest sense, these postcards and maps present an image of society as spectacle: a no longer accurate view of technology as savior. 
 
This playful 1962 South Dakota highway map packs a punch.  Imagine the shocking surprise I received after opening up the map to read this text on the inside cover:
"The Missouri is being gentled. A whole generation of human intelligence, muscle and desire, armies of brute machines, and billions of wealth are transmuting the wild proud river into a vast chain of blue water lakes that stretch across South Dakota. Four gigantic dams - dams so big they beggar the imagination and confound the camera's ability to capture their hugeness - are harnessing the Missouri ... there is a sense of involvement in America, in knowing and understanding a strong free nation whose direction is west and which creates its own future."
The "World's Largest Interchange" in Ohio gives South Dakota a run for it's money.  A family somewhere between these two places must have had a difficult time deciding whether to head east or west.  
 
Concurrently, in 1963, we see an aerial view of the Iowa landscape: a lone highway slices through the agricultural heartland of the country.    

 
Unfortunately, not all attractions seem worthy of visiting to me, but for some reason still warranted a postcard.  Take, for instance, the "Sweeden House Smorgasbord" pictured above...

 
...or the Anderson Clock Exhibit: "An entire room is devoted to this display owned by Mr. H. E. Anderson. We like to refer to it as horology's finest hour. Some are more than 250 years old. All are in excellent condition."

It seems fitting here to conclude a post about artifacts from the American Roadside with Guy Debord, and his 1967 Society of the Spectacle: "In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation."

*for more of this, see Postcards From the Future
**I've stolen the same link to Debord's text which was was included in a456's post just two days ago. I'm secretly proud of this, but somehow think that it is a new experimental contemporary/subversive form of plagiarism that should be brought to your attention.

May 18, 2010

Steamboat Gothic

Before roadside vernacular, there was riverside vernacular more accurately described as "Steamboat Gothic." This style came to existence almost entirely as a product of adaptive reuse of otherwise boring structures into delightfully playful objects of desire. The Floating Palace, circa 1888, embodied the glamour and popularity of Steamboat Gothic: instant nostalgia, if there is such a thing.




In 1873, the White House was retrofitted with Victorian ornamentation, interestingly mocked by some who downplayed the changes, labeling the new style as a degrading "steamboat gothic" rather than a more civically-pleasing "pure Greek" style.  Nevertheless, an impressive online gallery of images can be found at the White House Museum.  In the 1950's, the White House was stripped down to it's bare structure in (what I would like to imagine) was a fit of rage by emerging Modernists.  It's about time for a steamboat gothic resurgence.

Images from American Shelter, by Lester Walker.

March 24, 2010

Going Gaga for Google

Google's recent announcement to install fiber optic cable systems in at least one American city has unexpectedly unleashed a firestorm of creativity from want-to-be towns of the future.  An entertaining 4 minute news segment from NPR reveals that aside from Topeka, Kanasas' name change to Google, Kansas, many other cities are desperately trying to get Google's attention.  From mock press conferences, to ridiculous publicity stunts, to catchy jingles, to parades; you name it, they've done it.

Quite frankly, we're envious of all the fun everyone else is having.  In response, we've devised our own plan (unofficially on behalf of Branson, Missouri. Their Chamber of Commerce can thank us later). Why Branson? Why not!? Architectural spectacles seem to be at home in Branson. A new city hall building will quite literally put them on the map.

It turns out, designing a Google-themed architectural monument is quite easy, as Google has already done much of the work for us.  First, our building is selected from a variety of pre-established templates.  The classic red map pin icon will do just fine for our project...

Next, we perform a simple Google Maps search for Branson, Missouri which effortlessly provides us what appears to be the towne centre.  Just like that, in 0.25 seconds, we have generated the site for Branson's new administrative headquarters.

And voilà, our building magically appears! It looks beautiful :) 

Branson's City Hall will have a commanding presence over the city below: a powerfully iconic building amidst one of America's greatest collections of iconic buildings.

Surrounded by the vast range of Ozarkian Mountains, only one question remains...when will the fiber optic cables be installed???

March 14, 2010

Some Books and Other Things

Fantastic Journal's focus on the architect's bookcase has gone viral.  In a shameless attempt to piggy back off of FJ's popularity, I present a bookshelf from my apartment.  Most prominently, you'll find a few Robert Venturi classics including copies of Mother's House and Complexity and Contribution.



Looking closer, you'll find a pair of outdated "2006" glasses from New York City's 2006 New Year's Eve, multiple decorative ceramic roosters, and perhaps the creepiest drawing ever created (purchased in Roswell, New Mexico). I am also particularly fond of my coffee table, pieced together from various bits of IKEA components.



February 25, 2010

Diner Nostalgia

Continuing our review of a mid-January drive across America, we present this Route 66 roadside gem spotted in Springfield, Missouri. "Steak n' Shake: It's a Meal."


A remnant of early fast food culture, the slogan "we protect your health" reveals the degree to which restaurant cleanliness was once a significant concern to Americans.  We should probably all care a little more about our health these days, but honestly, who can turn down triple steakbugers, wisconsin buttery steakburgers (butter + hamburger), cheesy bacon french fries, and double chocolate fudge milk shakes?


Aside from the preserved signage, we especially enjoyed the classic awnings, taking note that the alignment of the red and white stripes strictly matches the notched cutout patterning.