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Chicago: Frank Lloyd Wright 3

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We now turn to the studio that Wright constructed in front of his house in Oak Park. The original house dates to 1889: the studio and connecting corridor were built in 1898.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

 

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

“Most of the sculptures on the exterior of the Home and studio were designed by Wright’s friend and collaborator, Richard Bock. These include the two boulder figures flanking the entrance of the studio, which features a man crouching and breaking free from the ground beneath him. Bock also designed the stork capitals on the exterior loggia of the studio. The capitals signifies the tree of life, the book of knowledge, an architectural scroll, and two storks full of wisdom and fertility.” (wikipedia)

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

 

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

The studio has lots of natural light thanks to the skylight with its characteristic pattern of coloured glass. The gift shop has, of course, lots of things with patterns like this on them.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

I was a bit surprised that the drawings were all laid out on flat tables – which could be adjusted for height. Most of the popular images for architects drawing boards show them tilted at an angle.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

The guide did a bit of audience involvement here. He got four people to hold hands as they stood around him, and then move back until their arms were extended: then he told them to lean out further. The roof of the octagonal studio is supported by the metal frame and chains, and the four people could all testify to how that works.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/30536490747/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/44751364794/

Model of the Robie House

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/30536487447/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_rees/45476618341/

I imagine that the secretary who had to sit in this chair as she did Wright’s typing has some thoughts about his lack of understanding of human anatomy and ergonomics.

The next post in this series will deal with Wright’s first commission for a public building.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

October 21, 2018 at 2:48 pm

Posted in architecture

Chicago: Frank Lloyd Wright 2

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So long, Frank Lloyd Wright
I can’t believe your song is gone so soon
I barely learned the tune
So soon, so soon

I’ll remember Frank Lloyd Wright
All of the nights we’d harmonize ’till dawn
I never laughed so long
So long, so long

Architects may come and architects may go
And never change your point of view
When I run dry
I stop awhile and think of you

Paul Simon’s lyrics

In order to get a picture of the house and studio I would have had to cross the road and find a way to frame a shot, which would be dominated by a giant ginko tree he planted. So this is not my picture but one taken from Google Streetsview

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The rest of the images are of the interior as we took the guided tour – the only way that visitors are allowed to see the house. The guide was brilliant: I strongly recommend you take the tour if you get the chance.

The house is the first that followed the “open plan” layout that has now become common. Previously houses had many rooms all accessed by hallways. Wright made his home feel more spacious by eliminating or minimising circulation space.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

The inglenook in the reception room: note the carved inscriptions over the fireplace. He thought that drawing the curtains would create a nice warm, cosy place to sit. Over the years more advanced heating and cooling systems have replaced the role of the fireplace. This one is central to the house rather than in one of the outside walls. The chimney had to be cranked to get around the “window” to the dining room.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

The style of the dining room chairs seems to me reminiscent of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

Wright deplored the convention of filling a room with furniture: his built-in seats in the window alcoves were one of his many innovations.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

Skylight: the repeating geometric patterns are formed by natural shapes such as leaves.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

The window has a characteristic pattern incorporating coloured glass based on the prairie grasses that would have been visible when the house was built, when it was still in open country.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

Wright also designed the light fittings

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

In order to reduce the intrusion into the large loft room, the grand piano is suspended over the staircase by a hook. Only the keyboard is visible in the room itself. He also bought a pianola-roll player, to play it for him.

You will note how small the stairway is: that is also reflected in hall which leads into the large upper room. “Compression and release” is a favourite theme of Wright’s layouts.

The next post will be of the studio.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 20, 2018 at 11:12 am

Posted in architecture

Chicago: Frank Lloyd Wright 1

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I took a lot of pictures on my recent trip to Chicago. You will be able to see more of them on flickr. I am going to try and assemble some of them into Blog Posts,  starting on our first full day in the region.

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Oak Park is a suburb of Chicago just north of the City Limits. It is where Frank Lloyd Wright built his home and studio, a number of large houses and a strikingly original church. We had booked a tour of the house and studio. Arriving early we were able to walk around the block where his house was built – and recognised his style in many of the houses.

Moore-Dugal Residence Oak Park

Completed in 1895, this was Wright’s first commission after he left Adler and Sullivan’s firm. The third and fourth floors were destroyed by fire in 1922. Wright immediately returned, redesigned and rebuilt the home.

Oak Park

Oak Park

Oak Park

Oak Park

Oak Park

Oak Park

Oak Park

Oak Park

Oak Park

Hills-DeCaro House, Oak Park

“The Edward R. Hills House, also known as the Hills–DeCaro House, is a residence located at 313 Forest Avenue in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. It is most notable for a 1906 remodel by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in his signature Prairie style. The Hills–DeCaro House represents the melding of two distinct phases in Wright’s career; it contains many elements of both the Prairie style and the designs with which Wright experimented throughout the 1890s. The house is listed as a contributing property to a federal historic district on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is a local Oak Park Landmark.”

It is pretty easy I think to pick out the Wright houses in the selection above.

The next post will deal with Wright’s home and studio.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 19, 2018 at 10:53 am

Posted in architecture

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Vancouver Public Library: New Roof Garden

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We went downtown today to see the recently opened extension to the main public library. There is a new top floor with an large public space, currently hosting an exhibit about the changing city and above that a rooftop area that is mostly paved but with some planting (shown above).

I have also uploaded a set of photos to my flickr stream which I am linking to below

Vancouver Public Library

This poster is displayed in the main lobby. It is not meant to be taken literally.

Vancouver Public Library

As you can see it is not that hard to find your way around the new 9th floor.

There are two open patios on the 8th floor, also accessible from new exterior stairs as well as the internal escalators, elevators and stairs.

Vancouver Public Library

There is also a planted area that is not open to the public on the 9th floor as is the green roof above it.

Vancouver Public Library

The whole thing is all very nicely presented but I have to confess a feeling of being underwhelmed. The new space did get quite a lot of notice in the media, so I suppose I was expecting something more.

Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Public Library

Movable tables and chairs are a very good idea. Maybe as the plantings grow and more people start to use the space, things will look better. No doubt sunshine will help but frankly the view is unimpressive. Not much of our glorious setting is visible from here – just the towers and the roof of the stadium

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Written by Stephen Rees

October 3, 2018 at 4:55 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twisted

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Vancouver House is a condominium at the end of Granville Bridge that makes the most of a restricted site by a design that is twisted. This photo was taken a month ago, and the construction is now nearer completion.

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By a curious coincidence Price Tags – another Vancouver based blog has a more recent picture this morning.  Which saves me having to go out a try for a better shot. I can’t say that this design fills me with affection, but it is unusual.

Somewhere in my photostream is a picture of a very twisted tree trunk, but Flickr’s search engine – as usual – seems incapable of finding it. Maybe that will be one of the benefits of the takeover by SmugMug.

UPDATE

WordPress has announced that the Daily Post and all its challenges will cease issuing new challenges on May 31. I am leaving Vancouver for a cruise tomorrow – and I doubt that I will have a connection to the internet for a couple of weeks. So this is the last post I will make with this heading. It was fun while it lasted. Thanks to those who followed me, as a result of these WPC posts. And thanks to all those who “liked” my posts.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

May 23, 2018 at 10:13 am

Weekly Photo Challenge: Transformation

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via Photo Challenge: Transformation

I can’t do credit to the subject of today’s challenge in just one photo. Here are a series of photos taken at the Casa Santo Domingo in Antigua, Guatemala. This used to be a convent – now it has become a hotel, spa and houses a number of museums. Visitors are encouraged to wander around. It was the last stop on our walking tour of the old city. We had booked an excursion with the cruise ship company (Holland America) but decided to chose one that allowed us to wander around at our own pace, and look at the things we found interesting, rather than follow a guide. I would have liked to have spent more time here, since we had really left ourselves enough time as it did not sound like it was going to be the best part of the tour. There are a number of ruined monasteries and convents in the city, the result of the earthquake in 1773. The death toll was around 600 with about the same number dying of disease and starvation subsequently. The toll was particularly heavy on the occupants of these massive stone buildings and several still lie in ruins. We did visit another smaller scale hotel at Santa Catalina which was also a convent but nothing like as lavish as this one.

Casa Santo Domingo

Casa Santo Domingo

Casa Santo Domingo

Casa Santo Domingo

Casa Santo Domingo

Casa Santo Domingo

Casa Santo Domingo

Casa Santo Domingo

Casa Santo Domingo

Casa Santo Domingo

From convent to ruin to “best hotel in Antigua” – quite a Transformation. By the way in this picture – and some of the others – you can see the conical peak of one of the three volcanoes that encircle the town.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 22, 2017 at 1:49 pm

Choosing the happy city

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There is a storify based on the #happycity hashtag,which now features many more pictures thanks to the recent Twitter upgrade

At SFU Woodward’s on Wednesday March 26, 2014 the third in the Translink series.

Choosing the Happy City
Charles Montgomery

There were many empty seats even though SFU had “oversold”. If you reserve a seat at one of these events and then find you cannot attend, please remove your reservation as soon as you can. There were people who would have liked to be there. But at least there was also a live stream and the event will be added to the Youtube site in due course.

The introduction was made by one of Fraser Health’s public health officers. Happiness is fundamental to health. We need a system that promotes physical activity. Urban form and transportation determine how people choose to move around, and also affordability of housing and access to green space. People who live in the suburbs of Vancouver walk more than other places. We must improve and maintain choices especially for non urban places. She made the point that some policies which seek to deter car use can adversely affect the mobility of people who live in places where there is no other choice but to drive for many trip purposes. There is an inequity in adopting such deterrents before there are adequate choices fro everyone.

Charles Montgomery started his presentation with two “exercises” – the first to identify  Translink staff “the institution we love to hate”. He invited audience members to hug a member of Translink staff if they were near them. The second related to two images of dorms at Harvard University. One was a traditional building, the other a somewhat forbidding modern block. Most people indicated they preferred the traditional building, as did newly arrived students. But a study showed that there was no difference in the happiness of the students after three years. Many factors determine happiness not just the design of the buildings but social environment within them is important.

The idea of idea of increasing happiness is not new. Early economists called it maximizing utility. However often  “we get it wrong.I think pursuit of happiness is a good thing. We can measure it. … More pleasure than pain, healthy, in control, meaning, security but strong social connection underlies all of these. Both the GDP and creativity in a city depends on opportunities for social interaction. He showed a three dimensional graph of space time prisms, which showed the people who are more dispersed find it harder to connect. They spend much less time in the spaces and times when they can meet others. The edge of the urban agglomerations are the least likely to be socially active. If you live in the exurbs you do not have the time, energy or willingness to join things or even vote.

The shortness of the the commute time is the best indicator of satisfaction. “How we move is how we feel”, and even only five minutes of walking or cycling improves mood and regularly moving under our own power also  improves health. Equally driving a nice car on an open road also improves our mood. The trouble is that open roads are rare – and impossible to find at commute times. Driving even a nice car in a congested city is like piloting a fighter jet in terms of the stress experienced. People rate the experience of using transit lowest of all mostly due to the loss of control and that the trips on transit tend to be the longest.

In Greater Vancouver 40% of all trips could be done in 20 minute bike ride. In cities the design of the built environment determines both our behaviour and our bodies. If we build infrastructure for cycling – making it safer – more people will cycle. People will walk 800m to shop in a good urban environment but less than 200m in the typical suburban big box centre. The huge parking lots are a deterrent to walking even short distances.

He cited Larry Frank’s work in Atlanta showing maps of destinations available within a 10 minute walk of home. While there are many in the traditional city centre in the suburbs there are none. It is not surprising then that people who live in the suburbs on average have 10 pounds more in weight

Status interventions

– Equity
Having  low social status is bad for health. When transit viewed as a “hand out for the undeserving” – he used the notorious ads in the Georgia Strait some years ago for a GM car dealer which had a bus with the words “creeps & weirdos” as the destination sign – it is unsurprising that it is difficult to persuade people to change modes. Enrique Penalosa redesigned the city of Bogota and it was all about equity. He cancelled a new freeway but built the Transmilenio BRT based on the Curitiba example.

 – Freedom
This is represented by our having mastery of our movement. In one experiment they used skin conductance cuffs on people  in a mockup of a subway car. Even though this was staged at a party, as the space available to the group in the car became more restricted so their stress levels rose. He showed a picture of the Navigo card in Paris which is much more than a transit ticket. It also gives access to Velib bike sharing – and (he claimed) car sharing (which if so is a change since I was in Paris). “It also gets you cookies” But mostly it gives people the freedom to live with less stuff. they do not need to own a car or a bike [and can get around without worrying about either being stolen]

He then showed picture of the land the province has recently put up for sale in Coquitlam. This “swathe of Burke Mountain will not be well connected”. But families can save $10k a year by not owning a car. He cited Daniel Kahneman’s Book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” We are rightly fearful of house fires and build new suburbs to allow access to big fire trucks, with wide roads and sweeping curves – like a race track.  Streets aren’t safe enough for kids to play on – but we somehow think that we have made them “safer” and the areas they serve. There was a notorious experiment on children with Oreos. They could take one immediately or wait awhile and then get two. He says that the problems we require that we slow down and consider their complexity.

The challenge is the cost of congestion, but we attempt to solve it by designing disconnection. He illustrated this with a picture of the new Port Mann Bridge construction and remarked that we only realized that the new bridge was not needed until after it opened. All the traffic and people that now use it could have been accommodated if the old bridge had been tolled and a rapid bus service along Highway #1 introduced. [This was actually something that the Livable Region Coalition pointed out at the time, by the way. No-one believed us.]

“We did it before” He showed a slide of the Livable Region plan from the 1970s. And he also showed the “Leap Ahead” transit plan which its authors (Nathan Pachel and Paul Hillsdon) estimated would cost $6.5 bn but could be paid for with a $0.05 sales tax.

Referendum = fast brain disaster

“The best thing to do is cancel the referendum.” However since that is unlikely  we can save ourselves by adopting the recommendations that Roger Sherman used to win the second Denver referendum. Their program was called “Fast tracks” It was a clear plan and fully costed designed to appeal to the core values of the voters. Most of them drive so it has to show how improving transit improves life for drivers

It is not enough to present a clear picture – it has to have a champion, preferably a celebrity and since Brad Pitt is unlikely to be available he suggested Diane Watts

Bring it back to happiness

Working together is good for us build more resilient community

Q&A

The first question pointed out that the Leap Ahead plan did not seem to have much for the North Shore

“Now is not the time” to determine the details – though it does have a fast bus, and I suggested adding another SeaBus

The second noted that he used an illustration of Disneyland. Expectation of good time in built form

Tests in Disneyland show that architecture that speaks to us is good for well being

Technology in design of transportation

Vehicle sharing systems, driverless cars, use of Car2Go in East Vancouver shows that is a bedroom community. there are plenty of cars there overnight but none during the day. We have to have more activity in our residential areas – this is not a technology problem.

Eric Doherty pointed out that he had not mentioned climate change

“While it feels good to do the right thing but not everybody agrees on what that is. Trying to convince people to think like us does not work”. Gateway sucks did not work – it did nothing to convince people who had to drive that there was any concern over their needs.

How do we overcome this mindset of entitlement?

Golden (referring to the first presentation in this series) got all the players in the room and respecting others point of view. sophisticated comm??

Q from twitter on codes

Self reports on happiness higher in small towns

Rural areas

Everybody can benefit from a village

Codes for rural community Gordon Price commented  “The City is not shaped by market forces”

Nathan Woods (Unifor)  said: We need $3m and Brad Pitt. How do we get that?

Developers stand to benefit – they have the resources. The Surrey BoT strongly supports transit

Can you supply examples of success of postwar planning

Lewis Mumford
False Creek
New Urbanists
Seaside FL

Lean urbanism

Forest Hills Gardens NY (GP again)

Is a dense urban environment enough?

Towers are as bad for lack of trust as exurbs
Just pushing us together is not enough
“Lazy tower style in Vancouver”
Town houses, courtyards, green space

Example of Copenhagen – can we transfer that here?

The answer would be Long and complex. But in one word-  Experiment – just line Janette Sadik Kahn did with bike lanes in New York

Gordon Price pointed out how really emotional the fight over bike lanes here had become

Change is very difficult. Regarded as intrusive

One action for individuals?

Started out as a journalist feeling I had no right. We can all change a bit of the city. Those of us who live here have the right to change where we live

What has surprised you in the reactions since the book came out

Jarret Walker told me that on these examples its not the planners who are the problem. “We know that.  You have to convince the politicians … and the people.”
Try not to scare people

Someone from modo talked about Share Vancouver and its implication for resilience, during disasters for instance

Life changed in New York with Sandy. How can we create that sense of urgency?

Experiment Granville St what are we learning?

The questioner felt that all the changes we have seen have been controlled by the business community

Times Sq occurred with support from the BIA – who have benefitted as rents are now going up. The police closure of Granville St at weekends was a response to violence. It gave more space for people to move around and thus reduced conflicts

Councillor Susan Chappelle from Squamish said that they were trying to get  a regional transportation dialogue going – they are outside the Translink area with a small transit system provide by BC Transit.  They remain “disengaged”. The immense changes he talked about are not translated into budget of small town. In the current situation “Words are used, with no change happening.” Squamish is left disconnected

The measures are the same for reducing GHG and increasing happiness. Should we encourage commuting [between Squmish and Vancouver]? The industrial zoning is out of date.

Can design offset crime?  Social justice?

Some people assert “None of this is going to work until we overthrow the 1%” But his work shows that the way we design cities has an immediate impact. It’s an equity issue. Many people complain that they can’t afford to live here but then they oppose the density increase essential [to get reduced housing/transportation combination cost reduced]

Some who was arranging a summit of cultural planners pointed out how hard it was to get a large meeting to places which did not have good connections. Change the way transit works to support the summit

BC Transit should take cue from TransLink interagency approach We can crowd source all kinds of stuff

btw People actually talk on the #20 bus

Big issue is transit funding. A city has found solution?

Richmond is the only place where car ownership has fallen – obviously a response to the Canada Line
See the example of the Los Angeles referendum which was not just about transit – it paid for everything with something for everyone

REACTION

This was by far the best presentation in the series so far, in large part because it was not read from a script. He was speaking to the slides he was showing but clearly enjoyed interacting with the audience. It was indeed a performance – and a good one at that. On the other hand there did not seem to be a great deal that was new or remarkable in the content. Working in this field for forty years means that I have actually witnessed exactly the same set of prescriptions proffered for a what at the time seemed like different problems – congestion, growth, inequity, sustainability, bad air quality, global warming. And now happiness – or its absence.

I have got into a lot of trouble for stating unequivocally “transit sucks” to transit management. They of course would rather boast of their accomplishments, how well they do under difficult circumstances, and how resistant politicians are to pleas for more money. But the fact remains that despite increasing expenditures, the overall transit mode share is very difficult to change. We know what the solutions are – we always have done – but we seem reluctant to embrace the changes necessary. And he is probably right that we have an elite stuck in fast brain mode whenever they deal with these situations. He actually cited Kevin Falcon – more than once – and it seems to me he is right. The Jordon Batemans of course simply play to that preference. It is a lot easier than actually thinking clearly (slowly) and then acting.