Reference Page: October 2007

Teaching Las Vegas
Viva the Springs Preserve! Though we can’t help but begrudge the glistening oasis of money and sex (and more money) its lack of repentance: Why hasn’t the flush city subsidized the new ecopark’s hefty admission fee altogether? Still, it seems a worthwhile distraction during a trip to Vegas, if only for the history lesson—and perhaps it’s far enough removed from the strip to be free of those hooker leaflets that seem to litter every gutter. Of course, there’s much more to be found on the preserve’s home page, www.springspreserve.org, which offers a fair amount of interactive features. The most comprehensive online section is the “Origen [sic] Experience” tab, which helps trace Las Vegas’s history from gentle stream through Pacific Coast stopover to where it is now. (And where is it now, anyway?) If you’d like a better primer before making the trip, grab a copy of Las Vegas: An Unconventional History (Bulfinch, 2005) and discover what you could retreat from once there.

The Price of Capitalism
Let’s take for granted for a moment that our nation’s capital, with its rolling verdancy and virgin-white monuments, is a symbol of our national virtues (never mind whatever machinations and myriad contradictions lie therein): ordered and placid, prideful but reverent, green, great big, and wide open. Let’s also take for granted that something as luxurious as “sightlines” has by now been reserved solely for the highest-bidding penthouse applicant or the stricken Midwestern farmers (they still exist, right?) who watch the strip malls come as though a rising tide to obscure the moon and stars, let alone their pastures. So then: What gives? Where to draw the lines of encroachment? Has there ever been a better metaphor for a self-inflicted wound? (As the man says: “I haven’t a dime-store clue.”) An interesting dilemma and, in fairness, here’s a Reference site for each side: Visit the municipal Web site of Rosslyn, Virginia (www.rossren.com), to hear its cries for a vibrant downtown. See a history of Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s capital planning here: www.exploredc.org/index.php?id=3. And then check out the national commission designed to protect our hallowed ground: www.ncpc.gov.

Free Space
Chicago’s Access Living is such an ingenious synthesis of universal and sustainable design that it’s hard to be surprised that the goings-on within are every bit as practical and ambitious themselves. From film screenings and discussion groups to organized protests for disability rights, there is plenty to keep tabs on at www.accessliving.org. The Access Living Youth Center has its own home, www.alyouthinfo.org, complete with advice on dating, voca­tional rehabilitation, and “getting your own crib.” Also linked is the impressively audacious blog the Gimp Parade, thegimpparade.blogspot.com, where one discovers photographic evidence of a peculiar strategy for “creating a successful sit-in protest”: lots and lots of wheelchairs.

Bunker Chic
This is Christian Boros (notice the curatorial verbindung of eye and shirt color): www.boros.de/de/agentur/team/christian-boros/index.html; and this, www.sammlung-boros.de/index.php?id=1350, is his bunker (notice how gosh-darn big it is). You can read a brief interview with Boros concerning the project in Form, a German design magazine: www.form.de/w3.php?nodeId=3621⟨=2
. Selected excerpt: “I collect art that I do not understand. I find works I understand immediately boring.” (Do you suppose this means he only casually frequents that other WW II bunker turned art gallery, www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/www/html/185-bunker-cartoon-gallery.asp, devoted mainly to Aussie cartoons?) The photographer Wolfgang Tillmans is slated for an upcoming exhibition at bunker Reinhardtstrasse, and if you’d care to study up in preparation for the visit, you might start with this rundown of the artist’s career, along with some rather inexplicable snapshots: www.designboom.com/contemporary/tillmans_ham.html. Also: Denkmal!

Without Redundancy
The I-35W collapse puts us in mind of the opening lines of Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey: “On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” Leave it to sudden tragedies to urge investigations of fate. Too bad, then, that our own Karrie Jacobs’s search for meaning necessarily contains more anger and indignation three centuries later, when structural engineering has evidently grown to take posterity for granted, and the story now is one of negligence, at worst, or architectural corner-cutting, at best. As for the fate of our crumbling infrastructure, in hindsight it seems as forgone a conclusion as the rise and fall of highway Taco Bells. For a primer on the impressive birth of the U.S. interstate, those arterial rivers with commercial America crawling their banks, pick up Tom Lewis’s Divided Highways. (Oh, and by the way: 53,000 bridges!) You can read the genesis of Jacobs’s interest in nonredundancy, by way of New York magazine, here: www.nymag.com/nymetro/realestate/urbandev/features/2371/. At any rate, the sentiment most worth sharing (partic­ularly if these accidents should continue in multiples) is found in Wilder’s closing, as good a soul salve as any: “There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

Between Noise and Light
Philip Nobel offers the rhetorical free association and you, dear reader, are set to thought: “Louis Kahn. Oh, sure: Louis. The Kahn man. Of course.” Well, without presuming too much, and with our chests anyway puffed with Referential purpose, here is the Louis Kahn syllabus you (yeah, yeah, we know) probably don’t need. Upon the centenary anniversary of Kahn’s birth, Paul Goldberger—who in 1974 sketched his obituary for the New York Times and who is a contributor to this magazine—wrote a more complicated profile of the architect’s life for the New Yorker: www.newyorker.com/archive/2001/11/12/011112crsk_skyline. If our columnist leaves you, against reason, wanting more opaque “zenisms,” then rest assured that there exists for your pleasure Louis Kahn: The Collected Texts. But then again, maybe you should just grab a book of art essays by the poet Octavio Paz, and keep to relishing Kahn’s buildings, as Nobel suggests. NPR has some good coverage of Nathaniel Kahn’s My Architect while you wait out its slow ascendance up your Netflix queue (www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4531474
), and Yale provides video commentary on Kahn’s art gallery for the school, including its restoration last winter: artgallery.yale.edu/pages/collection/buildings/build_renovation.html.

Growing Up Camper
The official Camper dream shoe of Reference is the Pep. By virtue of its velcro straps and loafer ornamentation, it would politely go along with our wrinkled khakis and fraying cowboy shirt, our three-day “deadline imminent” beards, the limp, etc. If you’ve ever wanted to play inside a quirky commercial, Camper’s Web site, www.camper.com, may be as close as you’ll get. It’s sort of like visiting a kids’ museum designed in the fun-loving spirit of Michel Gondry, only they’re trying to sell you shoes (or hotel stays or, until recently, little flavored balls of rice). Like the headline font in our layout? Want to see it in even more variations?! Set your mouse a-clickin’ to Martí Guixé’s home page, www.guixe.com, or to www.amazon.com for the Camper designer’s eccentric monograph, Martí Guixé Context-Free, and observe the crayon scrawl’s origins. As for Jaime Hayon, the designer’s own site has slides of his many projects, including his (truly) beautiful Camper stores: www.hayonstudio.com. The Campana brothers have an interesting Internet presence themselves, www.campanas.com.br, and you can book your Barcelona stay at Casa Camper here: www.casacamper.com.

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