Reference Page: February 2009
Pushed into the Limelight
EM2N’s new public archive in Liestal, Switzerland, has a pleasant library with sweeping views of the town (www.em2n.ch). Naturally, it also houses a bomb shelter. A decades-old Swiss law requires sufficient shelter space to protect each of the country’s more than 7.5 million citizens. The Wall Street Journal reported that there are some 261,418 bomb shelters in this peaceful, mountainous land. In our post–Cold War world, these underground spaces are used for less serious purposes, such as “rock-band practice and pistol shooting and wrestling competition and mushroom breeding and bowling alleys and saunas.” (For the full story, Google “bunker-building boom.”)
Poor Atlanta. Hot, landlocked, and home to the NFL’s vilest player (and PETA’s mortal enemy), Michael Vick (www.sackvick.net), it seems forever doomed to an adolescent identity crisis. Here in the Big Peach, the value of a new development hinges entirely on its likeness to another city’s landmark. Downtown Peachtree Street? The next Rodeo Drive (www.midtownalliance.org/RET_Vision.htm)! A new central library? The next Seattle Public Library! Las Vegas seems like Greenwich Village by comparison. The library is a particularly tragic case, given that Atlanta’s existing main library is itself a landmark. Completed in 1980 by Marcel Breuer (www.marcelbreuer.org), it was the designer’s farewell project and a rare example of concrete Modernism in a sea of sentimental pastel stucco. A wealth of resources about the library—floor plans, models, photos—is available through the Smithsonian Archives of American Art (go to www.aaa.si.edu/collectionsonline/breumarc/series8.htm, and scroll down to “Libraries”). Atlanta preservationists, of course, are desperate to save the building and have emerged, teeth bared, ready to rumble (www.centralbranchlibrary.blogspot.com). They might be outnumbered. Atlanta has a lousy reputation when it comes to preservation, and an online petition in defense of the library has a measly 35 signatures. Even Vick could probably get more support than that.
Grasse, France (www.grasse.fr), which is also known as the “Silicon Valley of the Perfume Industry” and the “World Capital of Perfume,” now boasts a newly renovated International Perfume Museum (www.museesdegrasse.com), with more flasks, room scenters, and incense burners than you can shake a fragrant silk handkerchief at. (Presumably, the fresh paint smells fantastic.) It is in this sleepy Provence town that many of the world’s essences are produced, mostly from violets, daffodils, lavender, and jasmine. Grasse is also famous for being the birthplace of Chanel No. 5, a blend of musk, Bulgarian rosebuds, and 100 other essences. It was created in 1921 by Ernest Beaux, a Russian-born chemist whose first successful fragrance, Bouquet de Napoleon, was meant to commemorate one of the emperor’s military victories. Make your own unforgettable scent at the Parfumerie Galimard (www.galimard.com), where $69 gets you a two-hour perfume workshop and a bottle of custom perfume.
The Joy of Stumbling
Behold StumbleUpon, the toolbar that dispatches Web surfers to all sorts of odd, whimsical sites. On a recent Stumble, Reference got to paint like Jackson Pollock (www.jacksonpollock.org), learn the inner workings of the cat mind (www.xmission.com/~emailbox/mapping.htm), and revisit The Great Gatsby, which has, in our humble opinion, the greatest last line of any novel ever written (www.readprint.com). Useless knowledge? Sure. But on the Internet, the more inane the Web site, the better it sells (see www.slate.com/id/2201325 regarding PerezHilton.com). Curious, then, that eBay is rumored to be unloading StumbleUpon, as TechCrunch reported last fall (www.techcrunch.com/2008/09/18/that-was-fun-but-now-ebays-selling-stumbleupon). When asked about the possible sale, the Web site’s spokeswoman gave your standard politic answer: “StumbleUpon does not comment on rumor or speculation.” Perhaps she’s parrying because the market isn’t exactly lucrative these days. And so StumbleUpon beats on, boats against the current. …
The Goldberg Remedy
Bertrand Goldberg, the Chicago hospital architect who spent much of his career shunning right angles, was an avid, obsessive researcher. He was known to don a white lab coat and play doctor with unsuspecting patients in the name of inquiry (browse the architect’s oral history at digital-libraries saic.edu/cdm4/index_caohp.php?CISOROOT=/caohp).
He took the words of the anthropologist Edward T. Hall, the man who invented the concept of personal space (bless him!), as a blueprint for architecture (The Hidden Dimension, 1966). Perhaps Goldberg learned his doggedness from the Office of Strategic Services, where he, along with a surprising number of prominent midcentury figures (Buckminster Fuller, the baseball player Moe Berg, Julia Child), jumped at the chance to spook for Uncle Sam (www.bertrandgoldberg.org; select “List of projects” from “Works,” and click on “Mobile Delousing Unit”). Imagine discovering 50 years from now that Nick Lachey was a CIA spymaster! (That might explain a few things, actually.) In the end though, Goldberg’s probing ways couldn’t stave off his own artistic decline, which was inauspiciously coupled with difficult clients. As the architect’s son, Geoffrey Goldberg, recently told Metropolis, “In later years, there was some drop-off in quality. The office aged. In the Providence Hospital—you know, it’s a pretty cool building—but the relationship with the client got very sour. The client tried to shake him down, and it didn’t work. It was not pretty.”
Tracking the Future
In this issue, Andrew Blum explores the recent writings of Kazys Varnelis, the director of Columbia University’s Network Architecture Lab (www.networkarchitecturelab.org
). Although Varnelis has made appearances on both Lithuanian and Dutch television shows, he apparently finds journalists particularly pernicious. In a description of his Advanced Studio V class, he bemoans that, due to overexposure in magazines and blogs, “buildings are dead before they are built.” Armed with Derrida, Freud, and Foucault, Varnelis promises to strike back: “Rather than lamenting the servility of architecture to media, we engage media head on, not innocently, but rather as a praying mantis embraces her mate.” There’s more at www.varnelis.net.
Carney and Chili, the Bay Area architect Olle Lundberg’s beloved pets, may be two of America’s luckiest dogs. During the week, the brown mixed breed and black Labrador share a decommissioned ferry in San Francisco with the architect and his wife. On weekends, they escape north to a Lundberg-designed wood cabin in Sonoma County. “If the dogs can’t go up there, they’re totally pissed for like a week,” their master told Metropolis. For shots of this forest retreat, go to www.apartmenttherapy.com and search for “Olle” and “cabin.” (You will quickly see why they miss it.) But the two devoted dogs are not just about fun; they also have careers at Lundberg Design, where Carney is director of security and Chili is director of human relations. Full bios are available in the (misleadingly named) “People” section of www.lundbergdesign.com.