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June 18, 2013

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Blade Runner was a movie to live for.
Loved the paper chickens.

Start at the campuses where our young learn. What ASU has constructed is an insult and abomination. Sterile boxes.

The vast majority of buildings, of course, are not really good works of architecture. But in great places, they don't have to be. What matters is scale, relationship, and context. It's why no sophisticated city should be proud of something like the Viad Tower, which is grossly overscaled for its environment, and utterly lacking in any coherent relationship to it. Most of the boxes in downtown and on north Central may be of marginal architectural merit but benefit from proximity to one another. We were never a great city but the mediocre buildings here don't scramble our neuronal circuitry with brazen attempts at standing out.

For Phoenix, the ongoing problem is a city that is simply too big to be modest and too modest to make great architectural statements. We attract people who vote Republican and aspire to be rich for no better reason than tribal vulgarity. It's why Arcadia is such a mess now. It's why we don't blink when some wealthy yahoo tears down a midcentury marvel on the Bridle Path in order to construct some wretched Victorian fantasy. Bad cities allow this because they have too little consciousness to understand themselves well.

If we're still around in 100 years, which I seriously doubt, I assume for the sake of equanimity that things will be much worse. Phoenix will be hot, dusty, and largely depopulated. New York will be swamped by a rising ocean. Los Angeles will collapse toward its center because of seismic activity. There are no guarantees of happy endings in a civilization where denial and greed are the interwoven strands of our civic DNA.

But in the meantime, we need to act as if there is a sane future instead of the dystopia we seem to be resigned to. Phoenix does have history, architectural assets, and young people who value authenticity over ostentation. When an old Circle K can be retrofitted for a French grocery store in my neighborhood http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bella/2013/06/coming_soon_french_grocery_in.php, not all good things are relegated to Scottsdale and Tempe. I'm grateful to youth for this reason - they're too buoyant to give up. I look at Phoenix's arc of history and feel overwhelmed by the too-rapid growth and the sheer awfulness of most of it. Young people, by contrast, see the things we've given up on, say the old storefronts in a strip center, and imagine another possibility.

Our greatest happiness comes from doing something well. Old buildings lift our spirits because we see the care and craftsmanship that went into them. You don't see love in most modern architecture because design elements became subsumed in the overarching economic strategy of Fast and Cheap. It doesn't mean that modern architects aren't aware of these issues, only that they don't control the process.

There are scattered jewels in this exhausted and far-flung city of ours. I spend a lot of my time looking at them and feeling connected, if only briefly, to the love and skill that created them. It's one of the most beautiful things we can access. It redeems our own failures to act as bravely and as well in our own lives.

Thanks for the reminder about the energy and imagination of the ever-upcoming generations, soleri. It's a tonic this backwards-gazing geezer too often forgets.

Jon - I'm cooking downtown now, so I get to meditate on the architecture as I roll in on the light rail (WBIYB) every morn.

"You will find far better meditations on architecture elsewhere, probably even from Soleri and Emil if they choose to comment."

Nice of you to say, but while architecture is important to me and I have definite (though flexible) tastes, it isn't a subject I have made a study of or thought much about. I'm definitely in the "I know what I like" category.

I'm ambivalent about Bruder's Central Library. In a number of ways, it reminds me of a warehouse: lots of bare, corrugated tin (or something resembling it), unadorned concrete pillars, exposed guy wires (whether genuine and structural or fake and "decorative" I'm not sure); lots of battleship greys, tins, and rust colors; and an exterior that, from many angles, is rather boxy.

See for example the fifth photo from the top, showing a room with book stacks. Now imagine that same photo without those startling yellow lamps (which aren't, so far as I know, intrinsic to the architectural design):

http://architecturerevived.blogspot.com/2008/10/phoenix-public-library.html

Bruder has turned utilitarianism into a aesthetic here; the rusty/tin colors apparently are supposed to be more "natural" in a desert (though nothing could be less natural than a library in a desert).

Still, there are some interesting and unusual features, and the wide-open design combined with large scale structures has its appeal, as do select individual interior elements.

My architectural musings on the Central Library should appear when Mr. Talton rescues them from the spam trap.

Meanwhile, as far as Star Trek Into Darkness is concerned, allow me to note that, in my universe anyway, the first movie in this new franchise, which was supposedly released in 2009, was actually first released back in the late 1990s. I didn't see the movie either time, but I did have a television back then and remember with annoyance the ads for the new movie with those young whippersnappers posing as Spock et al. So, when it came out again in 2009 it was definitely a WTF moment: but by 2009 I had experienced so many of those that it was merely another "spacetime anomaly" (to borrow a Star Trek term) to add to my long list.

So, a better name for the first film (the second time) would have been Star Trek: Resurrection.

As with all such second appearances, there is no longer any record of the first appearance in any online databases or even in microfilm collections of newspapers: it is as though it has been edited out of reality. Nobody will admit to the first event, either.

Sorry for the odd digression, but this came strongly to mind when I saw the reference.

The past two weeks I have been driving older neighborhoods and noted many have quit watering their yards. These are homes that for years that have been green. The desert returns.

As far as Star Trek Into Darkness is concerned, allow me to note that, in my universe anyway, the first movie in this new franchise, Star Trek, which was supposedly released in 2009, was actually first released back in the late 1990s. I didn't see the movie either time, but I did have a television back then and remember with annoyance the ads for the new movie with those young whippersnappers posing as Spock et al. So, when it came out again in 2009 it was definitely a WTF moment: but by 2009 I had experienced so many of those that it was merely another "spacetime anomaly" (to borrow a Star Trek term) to add to my long list.

So, a better name for the first film (the second time) would have been Star Trek: Resurrection.

As with all such second appearances, there is no longer any record of the first appearance in any online databases or even in microfilm collections of newspapers: it is as though it has been edited out of reality. Nobody will admit to the first event, either.

Sorry for the odd digression, but this came strongly to mind when I saw the reference.

Emil, are you talking about Star Trek: Insurrection ? If so, that is a continuation of the Next Generation series which was released in 1998.

Also in the late 90s was Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and Star Trek Nemesis (2002).

I like the interior space of Burton Barr Central Library. I even like the north elevation but feel as though little thought was put into the west elevation, save the entrance to the library which looks modern and impressive.

CityScape was supposed to be so much more but we were left with simple glass boxes again. If we get more buildings on the last two remaining lots in the area, the contiguous urban streetscape will, in my mind, be enough to make up for the glass towers...one caveat: no more parking entrances please! Those are the cause for so much of the fractured feel of the place when strolling along the sidewalks. Another place in the city I feel has so much potential and promise is Roosevelt. New residential coming along and colorful murals abound.

I always liked the functional appeal of Bud Brown's Square Dance Barn, the old Cactus Stables near Squaw Peak, and the eerily modernistic prescience of the Mugs-Up root beer stand on Glendale Avenue near Washington High.

I even admired the fake Pueblo-style apartments of the mid to late 1970's.

Lucy, what did you think about Don Dedera's house on top of the hill near Squaw Peak (Piestewa Park).

ASU is the Taj Mahal compared to the prison boxes elementary and secondary employ as classrooms. No windows, square, overcrowded. No doubt to get the compliant ones used to cubicles (where i'm writing this) and the noncompliant ones used to prison.

Is this even under consideration(?!):

http://kunstler.com/eyesore-of-the-month/january-2013/

the Mayan and Aztec structures covered by vines make Frank Lloyd Wright like a child with tinker toys.
But the most sensible abode is one U can move when necessary or U just need a change of Scenery. A tepee on wheels.

That sounds inefficient cal...imagine everyone owning even more "wheels" in this country.

eclecticdog, "The Pin" is under serious consideration by the City. The developer, Novawest, really believes they have something. Novawest wants to incorporate items from the Phoenix Museum of History, which is now closed, into The Pin. Personally I find a few things disappointing regarding the design elements: The biggest disappointment being that the observation tower will not be taller than Chase Tower.

high density urban dwellers will become a royal feast for the rats. As the cockroaches scurry over your rotting remains. Likely survivors will be goat herders in the Afgan mountains and right wing nut jobs in rural Idaho.
They might even survive Hawkins latest prediction.

Cal, no one can claim you don't have an active imagination.

"Lucy, what did you think about Don Dedera's house on top of the hill near Squaw Peak (Piestewa Park)." Lash

I only vaguely remember it and that only after you reminded me -- so it might be a false memory. I used to hike up and down Squaw Peak several times per week as part of my exercise regimen, and not particular house stood out.

Those were the days,eh? Erma Bombeck and Don Dedera...

My exercise regimen now is very similar to the one used by Hank Hill.

"Likely survivors will be goat herders in the Afgan mountains and right wing nut jobs in rural Idaho."

If the goats and the right wingers ever meet, there could be an occasion for W's prediction about 'human animal hybrids' to come true.

Phxsunfan not my imagination.
Google.
Ancient Mayan City 'Chactún' Discovered In Mexican Jungle; Site May Have Been Government Center

Headless
and Paul Dean and Answer Line and Al Sitter and Don Dedera to mention a few. and Hurley trucking is still doing the hauling.

Cal,

They found documents in the Mayan buildings which proposed "building the dang fence" to keep the Spaniards out. We know how that turned out.

For you climate chicken-little's out there, I purchased a car and it has an ECO button. According to the sales folks, when you push that button you get better mileage, it helps the environment and will help stop global warming. I push it everyday, so adios climate problems.

P.S. My favorite vines are Red Vines. I love em.

I've always thought there are some beautiful buildings here. The Luhrs building, the old court house, and the Union Pacific train station.

JJ, the Luhrs had its beauty but it's interior walls were killing people with asbestos. And my CPA's uncle committed suicide by jumping off the Luhrs.

re Perez: "For you climate chicken-little's out there, I purchased a car and it has an ECO button."

"If only being a wisenheimer would solve the climate problems, we'd all be wearing golden diapers."
David Bruce Vitter, Republican Senator from LA

Lash -- Don't forget Dewey Hopper and Don Tutt (possibly the ugliest human to ever succeed in the television business).

So headless U up to joining petro, AZ rebel and eclectic dog and I for a cup next time?

Late as usual, but inspired to write two posts, the first one by Jon's reference to architecture and Taliesin West.

When I left Jon and Aid Ambulance in 1977, I went to work for a construction company working on the Central Arizona Project canal. Jon's mother, who I would meet during Thanksgiving that same year, worked on making the project a political reality. I worked as an EMT with the people who built it.

The first pieces I worked on were in western Arizona, near the Colorado River. Then there were other jobs in California and then came Reach 12, which was northeast Phoenix, north Scottsdale and Fountain Hills. Thanks to that job, I can say that I didn't just live in Scottsdale, but in McCormick Ranch.

Reach 12 flows eastward north of Shea until it crosses Shea at N 116th St. It cut the access road to Taliesin West and the new bridge we built was designed by staff and students of the school.

The bridge is a post-tension, box culvert bridge. Its a trapezoidal tube across the canal and you drive on top of the box. The outsides of the box and the railings are decorated in a western Indian motif. The concrete sides were cast with this decoration in deep relief.

A post-tension bridge has steel cables strung through it after the concrete is poured and then tension is applied to add strength to the structure. The combination of decorations and post-tensioning made it harder to build than most bridges we worked on, but I thought it looked good- or at least different.

Last time I was in the area, I tried to look at the bridge, but the sprawl Jon mentioned had caused a lot of changes to the neighborhood. The road to Taliesin West now goes through the housing north of the canal and bypasses the bridge, missing it by a hundred yards or more. I could just make out the place where it stands, but I couldn't get to it because of the security fencing.

You might get a decent view of it from N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd on the south side or you can find it on Google Earth (or elsewhere) at Latitude 33 degrees 36' 2.22" N and 111 degrees 50' 51.70" W.

I think I've suggested to Jon that it might be a place for a historical homicide mystery. A body found in the culvert (as it was being taken down?) would date to the construction period or shortly afterward. There's even a place for a spectacular end to a high speed chase not far away, but I'll leave that a mystery for everyone but Jon.

My second comment is inspired by soleri's first comment in this thread. He holds out little hope for our survival over the next 100 years and I won't argue the point. But it does allow me to return to something I often say here: if the US populace hasn't risen up to demand change, its (in part) because things haven't gotten bad enough yet.

Every time the US has done its famous rescue of the world, it has always been as a late arrival, not a 'first responder' unit. One of these days, we'll either be too late to make make a difference, or what we can manage to do won't be enough to matter.

When the effects of climate change become undeniable, many people who are now reluctant will suddenly want drastic action. That will be our last chance to make a difference. Maybe we win and maybe we lose, but we'll try something, sometime in the future.

Now I framed that as a US response, but others may not wait for us. The rest of the modern world may mobilize before we do. Most industrialized countries are already doing more than the US is, but its hard to do enough when the biggest contributor is not playing along. Anyway, I want to acknowledge that the US may not be the hero in this story.

If you've seen 'After the Warming' by my "close personal friend" James Burke (I've met him twice), you'll know some the worldwide conflicts that could come from the adults trying to control the children who don't have sense to some in out of the storm.

Soleri may be right about our survival, but there will be some drama before its over.

Dont know if you all caught Bill Moyers Special on ALEC but reference Global Warming, ALEC is promoting the world temperature rise as having good profits for corporations. The drama may play out when a war against things like ALEC are recognized by the populace as the enemy. The coming internal war in the US will not play out like Star Wars where the little guy wins as the corporate Death Star ship is gearing up with the NSA and the military complex including the likes of Booze Allen and Blackstone to insure the survival of the Barons and their city states. Serfdom will be back and your children will be the ultimate losers. The time is now not later. Subscribe to Adbuster.

JON, U left the final sentence off the above?
Cal Lash a 72 year old conservative Arizona Republican.

What am I missing, Cal?

Cal Lash a 72 year old conservative Arizona Republican.

Salacious Cornerstone,

Most of the campus is re-purposed buildings like University Center, Mercado, U.S. Post Office, The Y, and A. E. England Building. Technically ASU has constructed only three buildings Cronkite, Taylor Place and Nursing and Health Innovation I and II.

Lash -- I live in Issaquah, WA now and get and get to AZ infrequently -- The last time I was there was in the Fall of 2012 for the 100th anniversary of ASDB.

I don't know when I'll get to Phx again, but when I do. I'd be happy to tip a glass with you guys.

I'm a little late to this discussion, but I'd like to add my two cents about Will Bruder's Central Library building which I love. This is a masterpiece of engineering and modern architecture which is so sophisticated that one needs to study it to appreciate the conception and details. There's more than initially meets the eye about the practical and aesthetic design of the exterior, but the interior intrigues me the most. Entering on a gradually inclined ramp through a softly lit, air conditioned tunnel is like the childhood excitement of a Disneyland attraction, opening up to a spectacular central corridor space bordered by tilted glass walls that make all the upper floors appear light and airy. The smooth elevators and luminous stairwell invite you on a trip to the top floor, where you'll be flabbergasted at the elegance of the ceiling. The expanse seems miraculous, held up by an amazing "tensegrity" structure ("tension-integrity" invented by R. Buckminster Fuller) consisting of very light tension (cable) and compression (steel rod) components that appear to float above the seemingly few slender columns to which the cables are attached. The round skylights directly above the columns highlight the seeming levitation. It is a very special experience that is not to be missed.

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