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NYT: Architecture That Makes the Case for Discomfort
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The courtyard walls of Villa Além, the architect Valerio Olgiati’s home in Alentejo, Portugal, made from subtly tinted concrete.

Olgiati’s house reminds me that I have an opened cardboard box sitting around that I need to stomp flat so I can put it in the recycling bin.

The basic problem with being an ambitious architect in the 21st Century is that after 10,000 years of architecture, virtually almost all the good designs possible have already been done by architects who came before you. We are 10,000 years into diminishing returns on architectural innovations.

So, how can you make yourself a name? By creating bad designs and talking a small number of wealthy clients into putting up with them while you garner media attention.

Not surprisingly, admired architects, such as Valerio Olgiati, tend to have the personality of a conquistador:

The living room of Villa Além, with linen velvet cushions and an Isamu Noguchi paper lantern.

From the New York Times’ style magazine T:


Architecture and Design That Makes the Case for Discomfort

There are some visionaries who, in their refusal to follow the rules of convention, advance their fields and make us reconsider what we think we know.

By Hanya Yanagihara
Sept. 20, 2021

… Should a building — even your home — be comfortable?


Next question, please.

… But it’s the people who think otherwise who can sometimes create the most remarkable designs; who can, in their refusal to respect the rules of convention, push their fields forward. The same for design that’s friendly, likable or understandable — choices all, but if everyone made buildings that were comfortable or likable, where would architecture be?

In our biannual Design issues, we celebrate people who choose the other way. Not always, and not only, but often enough that their projects make us see anew, make us question what we’d long assumed: What is the purpose of a building? How about a chair? How about a garden? Of course, money helps enable many of these rebellions, but it’s not a prerequisite, and nor does money guarantee interesting design. What’s more important is a strong point of view, even if that point of view can be difficult to articulate.

Take, for example, the Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati. Olgiati, 63, who lives in his tiny Alpine hometown of Flims, has only produced some two dozen buildings over the course of his long career, and yet he has had more influence on his peers than someone much more prolific. His refusal to concede — to clients, to the market, to closely held ideas about what architecture should be and do — not to mention his projects themselves, which are expressions of his commitment to pure abstraction, toward non-allusive or -referential design, make him sui generis in a field that has become bloated with money, ego and personalities.

You may not want to live in an Olgiati structure yourself. You may not like them. (Olgiati probably wouldn’t care either way.) But what you can’t do is deny them: not their inventiveness, not their strangeness, not their distinctiveness. And really, isn’t that what design is meant to do? Challenge us, provoke us, unsettle our expectations. Comfort is welcome. But discomfort can be, too.

And more from the New York Times on the Swiss architect who has become the most fashionable purveyor of the Aboveground Hitler’s Bunker school of ugly concrete buildings:

The dramatically sloped concrete exterior of the Plantahof auditorium.

An Architect Who’s Known for Aesthetic Purity and Counts Kanye West as a Client
Sept. 20, 2021

The cult Swiss talent Valerio Olgiati creates austere, often concrete spaces that eschew references to history or place.

By Nancy Hass Photographs by Mikael Olsson
Sept. 20, 2021

… His 25 or so conceptual, meticulously crafted structures, as well as his computer renderings of those never (or at least not yet) erected, have become legendary for their idea-driven purity and shocking forms. … He is regarded as a bulwark of incorruptibility in a world of starchitects who stamp their names on billionaire-friendly residential towers and Instagrammable but ultimately gimmicky buildings. Relying upon a theoretical framework and his own volcanic charisma — he has a reputation for reducing students to tears, and has never shied from expressing contempt for peers who he believes have sold out — his Howard Roarkian devotion stands out as a rebuke to an architecturally milquetoast, commercially driven era. …

Last year, mid-lockdown, the musician Kanye West, whose passion for contemporary design is well documented, took his jet to Zurich for a day, then drove to Flims to dine with Olgiati in a local restaurant. The meeting landed the architect a commission for both a Los Angeles apartment for the recently separated West and a quixotic megaproject that would render literal the underground nature of the architect’s appeal: an artists’ colony built beneath West’s Wyoming ranch (which is reportedly 4,500 acres), as vast as the subterranean cities of Turkey’s Cappadocia, with up to 200 dwellings, as well as studio spaces and a performance venue. …

As with award-winning Los Angeles architect Thom Mayne, Ogliati appears to be motivated not just by egomania but by misanthropy and sadism:

The School at Paspels, completed in 1998, is a bunkerlike structure intended for primary school students, built into a steep hillside in rural Switzerland. The three-story pale concrete exterior is rigidly rectangular, punctuated only by a few elongated, symmetrical frameless window openings. Inside, the four larch-wood-lined classrooms are set about four degrees off kilter from each other; moving through the building, you sense the slight distortion, as though the structure itself were in motion.

One of three nearly identical bedrooms in Villa Além.

After all, who hasn’t wanted to torment children by forcing them to spend much of their childhood in an off-kilter bunker?

What unifies these disparate structures, other than their unforgiving material, is Olgiati’s professional philosophy, which he espouses at international lectures and through classes at the Academy of Architecture Mendrisio near the Swiss-Italian border. Says the British ur-minimalist John Pawson, known for residences that evoke a Zen state of nothingness: “With me, all I can do is show the work, but Valerio has the big idea.”

OLGIATI CALLS THAT idea “non-referentiality.” Historical context is dead, he believes: Architecture should be an end unto itself instead of a reflection of its era, local culture or any sort of concocted narrative. “People think it’s crazy to believe you can make something truly new, but that’s because they lack talent and imagination; they are stuck,” he says. To him, vernacular references get in the way of making truly great buildings. Besides, he argues, such constructs are often tortured and artificial — or made up after the fact — with a self-righteousness he finds repugnant.

Who is less self-righteous than an architect who lectures endlessly on his Big Idea?

A visit to Olgiati’s vacation home, Villa Além:

From a distance, amid gnarled cork trees and a few low-slung farmhouses, its form evokes a massive open gray cardboard box.

Even the NYT critic gets the joke.

But inside, up a 110-foot set of concrete stairs — there’s no railing —


Although all the surfaces and structural elements are concrete, including furniture of Olgiati’s own design, the stark effect is softened by velvet sofa cushions as gray as nearly everything else in the room. (“Linen velvet,” he clarifies. “Just the right texture and amount of relaxation.”) As darkness descends — he’s served both lunch and dinner, including a saffron risotto with green beans, during a 12-hour conversation that has careened from Le Corbusier (“His buildings have no soul”) to issues of race in America (“Why can’t you people figure this out?”) to his disdain for the Pritzker Prize (“It’s become just about who is culturally acceptable, not about the architecture at all”) …

… But his most formative period was the two years he spent in Los Angeles in the early 1990s… Frank Gehry and Morphosis, the collective led by Thom Mayne, were then experimenting with wild geometry, found objects and innovative materials, which made the city a locus of contemporary design.

Ironically, Gehry’s handful of not-ugly buildings are not ugly because he references his hobby, sailboats, which always look nice.

With no contacts, Olgiati had to leave California before gaining a professional foothold, which he still regrets, even though his career flourished only after he returned to his more conservative home country.

Where his father was a famous architect.

“In Switzerland,” he says, “you win the poker game when you have the best cards. There [Los Angeles], you win because you play the best game. I liked the bluffing, the bravado. I would have stayed if I could have.”


The most important thing he learned in the United States, he adds, was that the world had permanently changed, and architecture needed to follow. Ours, he believes, is a globally mashed-up era with no meaningful shared references or objective truth. And so buildings, he says, must stand on their own. … takes his own inspiration, for example, from the monolithic rock pile structures of the Aztecs, for which historians cannot find an antecedent.

Why am I not surprised that human sacrifice platforms appeal to Ogliati? So, maybe I was unfair to the conquistadors by comparing Ogliati to them. At least they were repulsed by Aztec human sacrifices.

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  1. Anonymous[415] • Disclaimer says:

    The pictures don’t crop properly when viewing Blog via my phone. Weird.

    Also those buildings look like Rutgers University’s Livingston Campus, built in the early 70s, they were the setting for Woody Allen’s futuristic landscape in his movie Sleepers. Brutal. Or Brutalist.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  2. But inside, up a 110-foot set of concrete stairs — there’s no railing —

    I can already picture the headline on 63-year-old Valerio Olgiati’s obituary.

    • Agree: slumber_j
    • Thanks: HammerJack
    • LOL: JimB, El Dato
    • Replies: @Muggles
  3. Mike Tre says:

    Here’s the Zurich building in Schaumburg, IL. Looks like ocean containers mis-stacked, which might be the idea, considering it’s the Chicago area:

    • Replies: @JimB
    , @Rob
  4. Tertius says:

    Gerhardt Fjuck already cornered the market.

    • Replies: @Kronos
    , @bomag
  5. joe_mama says:

    Although all the surfaces and structural elements are concrete, including furniture of Olgiati’s own design, the stark effect is softened by velvet sofa cushions as gray as nearly everything else in the room.

    Levels Jerry!

  6. his tiny Alpine hometown of Flims

    The Flimsy School!

    Well, not quite:

    Valerio Olgiati = I, igloo varietal. Violate a oil-rig.

  7. This would make a great FEMA camp

    Also note that in just a day’s worth of Steveposts the NYT has given us bylines of Hanya Yanagihara and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura — is this a newspaper or a plenary session of the UN Human Rights Committee’s Decade of the Female Commission?

    • LOL: kaganovitch
  8. These designs look either like prisons or tombs. Beauty ended with the Greeks and Romans. Most architectural designs since that time are merely derivative. The ugly has replaced aesthetically pleasing. The Romans and the Greeks built for both the eye and the practical. Roman Aqueducts not only brought water down from the mountains but were marvels to behold. Both state and federal buildings follow classical models. They serve the purpose of conducting government business and project power by their visual grandeur. These buildings speak to the outside world as to who we are as a people. Ugliness is a sign of decline not a civilization on the rise.

    • Replies: @Dutch Boy
  9. The world’s first above-ground basement!

  10. . . . but if everyone made buildings that were comfortable or likable, where would architecture be?

    That question is remarkably revealing, although the answers that come to mind are obviously not those the author anticipates.

    • Agree: ic1000, bomag
    • Replies: @slumber_j
  11. Anon[134] • Disclaimer says:

    Well, it is plain to see one source here, at any rate:

  12. Anonymous[415] • Disclaimer says:

    That Villa Além place looks like a memorial for some horrible war or disaster.

  13. 2BR says:

    Food that makes the case for tasting bad and gastrointestinal discomfort.

    • Replies: @Ganderson
    , @Buck Ransom
  14. Have you seen this YouTube about the fictitious genius Gerhard Fjuck? He’s the architect who builds buildings that will make you feel challenged, interrogated, and tired. “I want you to feel like I hate you personally.”

    • LOL: El Dato
  15. Alfa158 says:

    Not surprised he hates Le Corbusier, who did the same thing, but did it 70 years ago. This is just retreading the same crap. As an architectural critic sardonically said about Le Corbusier, “He liberated architecture from the shackles of habitability”.
    If Olgiati was a genuine rebel who wanted to shock his fellow architects and stick a finger in the eye of the glitterati, he would be designing Victorian ginger bread palaces fit for a railroad tycoon.

  16. Wow. Someone has supplanted Le Corbusier as the worst Swiss architect ever. As well as the last real Calvinist of note. But it must be cheap– Dollar General without the yellow. The whole point?

    Auditorium Plantahof, Landquart:

    Yellow House, Flims:

    School house, Paspels:


    Visitors’ Center, Swiss National Park:

    Pearling site, Muharraq, Bahrain:

    Céline flagship store, Miami, Florida:

    Museum XXI, Perm, Russia:

  17. They are replacing you.

  18. It’s like women’s shoes. People have to suffer for fashion.

    Cruel Shoes:

  19. @Alfa158

    You are correct. This shtick is old now, like so many things we complain about here.

    • Replies: @Jim Don Bob
  20. The US Embassy in Havana is in this style. But embassies have to be. They are often targets.

    And yes, this is your ((great) grand-) father’s Oldsmobile. Or Pontiac.

    • Replies: @Jack D
    , @PiltdownMan
  21. @Buzz Mohawk

    You are correct. This shtick is old now, like so many things we complain about here.

    True. So why do so many supposedly cultured people fall for such obvious crappy expensive ugly humiliations?

    Years ago, I drove past this taxpayer funded“Public Art” in Arlington Virginia with my three year old daughter. Amanda saw it and said, “Look, Dad. Broken”.

  22. Jack D says:

    The basic problem with being an ambitious architect in the 21st Century is that after 10,000 years of architecture, virtually almost all the good designs possible have already been done by architects who came before you. So, how can you make yourself a name? By creating bad designs and talking a small number of wealthy clients into putting up with them while you garner media attention.

    A lot of fashion design is based on the exact same principle. In some cases, the rich people don’t even wear the worst designs – they have models wear them on the runway but they’re never seen in public (except maybe by some starlet on a red carpet who also gets paid to wear them) because they are completely impractical as well as ugly.

    Many years ago Carol Burnett did a parody of Scarlett O’Hara wearing a dress made from the window drapes of Tara. Some of these dresses remind me of her outfit except that was supposed to be a joke.

  23. As darkness descends — he’s served both lunch and dinner, including a saffron risotto with green beans, during a 12-hour conversation that has careened from Le Corbusier (“His buildings have no soul”) to issues of race in America (“Why can’t you people figure this out?”)

    Switzerland is something like 95% white. Easy to lecture the United States about racism when where you live doesn’t actually have other races.

    Racism in Switzerland: An expat’s perspective

    • Replies: @Pericles
    , @James J O'Meara
  24. Barnard says:

    To call any building by Gehry not ugly is being generous and can only be done in comparison to his other hideous buildings.

    • Agree: dimples
  25. Jack D says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    A lot of US Embassies nowadays are done up like fortresses with truck bollards and so on because of the terrorism risk. The new one in London is going to have a literal moat around it.

    Havana is not one of them because, whatever else you may have bad to say about repressive Communist dictatorships, they are pretty good at controlling terrorism. Also because Cuba doesn’t get a lot of vibrant Muslim immigrants seeking to get in on the joys of living in a Communist economy. I don’t think that chain link fence is keeping anyone out.

    • Replies: @Jenner Ickham Errican
  26. rebunga says:

    Should one’s home be comfortable? I dunno . . . . .should one’s pizza be tasty?

    • Replies: @6dust6
  27. @Jack D

    Havana is not one of them because, whatever else you may have bad to say about repressive Communist dictatorships, they are pretty good at controlling terrorism.

    Hmm. If Havana syndrome is real, i.e. actual brain damage caused by covert weaponry, I’d say that’s pretty terrifying.

    • Replies: @Jack D
  28. @Jim Don Bob

    It looks like they put this metal sculpture through a giant paper shredder.

    • Replies: @Bill Jones
  29. In other architecture discomfort news:

    Experts from around the world, including UC Santa Barbara, uncovered pottery shards that had their outer surfaces melted into glass, ‘bubbled’ mudbrick and partially melted building material in a 5-foot thick burn layer in the Jordan Valley.

    Researchers find 3,600-year-old evidence that ancient city of Tall el-Hammam was destroyed by ‘cosmic airburst,’ which may have inspired Bible story of destruction of Sodom? (#134)

    • Replies: @El Dato
    , @epebble
  30. • Replies: @Ralph L
  31. Anon[377] • Disclaimer says:

    This guy is a hardcore modernist architect, and modernist architecture is a movement that’s older than a century by now.

    The postmodern architecture of the past 50 years was a reaction to this severe, austere modernism and tends to be whimsical, playful, and campy. Pomo architecture tends to be hit or miss, but it’s not actively hostile to the past or traditional architecture and open to borrowing traditional elements and so there are many nice and fun pomo buildings. They’re kind of like buildings 10 year old boys draw with Crayons and that they’d design if they were architects.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  32. JimB says:
    @Mike Tre

    Here’s the Zurich building in Schaumburg, IL. Looks like ocean containers mis-stacked, which might be the idea, considering it’s the Chicago area:

    I’ll take reflective glass over ponderous concrete monoliths any day.

    • Agree: Jim Christian
  33. syonredux says:

    Still too conventional. These fellows need to embrace the possibilities of alien geometries…

    Without knowing what futurism is like, Johansen achieved something very close to it when he spoke of the city; for instead of describing any definite structure or building, he dwells only on broad impressions of vast angles and stone surfaces—surfaces too great to belong to any thing right or proper for this earth, and impious with horrible images and hieroglyphs. I mention his talk about angles because it suggests something Wilcox had told me of his awful dreams. He had said that the geometry of the dream-place he saw was abnormal, non-Euclidean, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours. Now an unlettered seaman felt the same thing whilst gazing at the terrible reality.

    -THE CALL OF CTHULHU, HP Lovecraft

  34. JimB says:

    Whatever happened to geodesic domes? I kind of like those. They make you feel like you are living outdoors but immune to the harsh elements.

    • Replies: @Jack D
    , @Reg Cæsar
  35. SafeNow says:

    In 2006, a list of 150 of America’s favorite buildings was compiled. It was a two-step process. First, professional architects narrowed the field to 248 buildings. Then, choosing from this list, the general public selected the top 150. There is a good Wikipedia article on this, which I have linked below. The top 150 are listed in a table that provides not only a short description in words, but also, a photograph.
    Just scanning the photos, I would say that the winners are monumental yet affectionate. My guess would be that if this were repeated today, the winners not be as affectionate, because the country is less affectionate.’s_Favorites%22

    • Thanks: Gordo
  36. Today my wife and I took a drive to Pifard, NY, an hour ride, to visit the Abbey of the Genesee, home of the Trappist Monks. Their Chapel is constructed of exposed concrete and huge field stones. The concrete buttresses that support the roof trusses are rough faced, as the were poured in rough hewn forms. The field stones have polished surfaces and some how it all creates a warm feeling. The windows are colored chunk glass so the natural lighting is mellow. So concrete can work as an interior surface but Olgiati’s buidings have a rub your nose in it look and the critics’ reviews have that that we so smarter than you tone. Good for Olgiati if private people buy his homes, but shame on those who inflict his designs on children in a classroom.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  37. @Anon

    The big theoretical exposition of post-modern architecture came in a 1960s Robert Venturi book about Las Vegas.

  38. Somsel says:

    If you can afford 20 or so houses, what not build one just for a favorable mention in the NYT?

    Once the PR chatter dies away, you can always turn it into a piggery.

  39. @syonredux

    Hmmm… 1924 Soviet SciFi…

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  40. Jack D says:
    @Jenner Ickham Errican

    Havana syndrome is not what is normally thought of as terrorism (in any case blast walls are not going to stop whatever is causing it – Faraday cages might work). We’re really not sure who is blasting microwaves at people or something like that but the best guess is that it is a state actor – most likely either Russia or China. Or the whole thing might be mass psychogenic illness.

    You would think that by now CIA agents and other US diplomatic personnel would have been given radiation detectors/alarms and maybe metal mesh hoods to put over their heads when they felt that they were being “lit up” but so far proof of actual radiation seems to be lacking. Or else our government now sucks so much that they can’t even do that much anymore.

  41. Comfort the affected and affect the uncomfortable.

    • Replies: @Kronos
  42. Jack D says:

    We live in a square world. Sheets of plywood, furniture, bookshelves, etc. – everything is rectangular. So a house made of triangles is difficult to build (a lot of waste material) and difficult to furnish and partition effectively. And they tend to leak.

    • Replies: @HammerJack
  43. @Reg Cæsar

    This is the American Embassy in Singapore, designed to resemble both a fortress and some kind of Mayan temple. Note the slit windows on the top floor, which will come in handy if there is ever any need for snipers to defend the place.

    There is, of course, no reason why a fortress needs to look ugly.

  44. @Jack D

    Or the whole thing might be mass psychogenic illness.

    That seems like the most likely diagnosis.

    X-ray technicians wear radiation meters to measure their exposure, so I don’t know why diplomats could not.

    It certainly is mysterious if after more than a half century of sanctions, the Cubans have undetectable microwave technology that can fry the brains of US diplomats.

    But then again, since foreigners can easily fix US elections simply by remote-controlling ballot counting machines with Whatsapp, and can implant listening devices in pillows to pick up pillow talk, then anything is possible.

  45. Kronos says:

    That he did. His buildings smell like urine for a reason. It’s to mark his territory.

  46. epebble says:

    O/T: Trudeau wins election betting on vaccination

    Trudeau’s Liberals win Canada election, but miss majority

  47. Kronos says:
    @Ghost of Bull Moose

    Maybe it’s a Cold War thing? It’s striking how much these buildings resemble nuclear silos and nuclear bunkers. Those 20 inch cement walls are meant to make you feel safe and secure.

  48. Anonymous[141] • Disclaimer says:

    I worked for a while for an MEP firm. People have the idea that architects are some sort of artsy farts. But it’s really about putting stuff in places and dealing with the contractor and design engineers. That’s for commercial construction.

  49. As Moses said, this heap of rubble is the worst display of ostentatious bad taste since Trump Tower, and I have a good mind to demolish it so that posterity doesn’t have to put up with it blocking the view.

  50. @Jack D

    You’d be amazed at how readily a square or rectangle can be converted into two triangles.

    • Replies: @res
    , @Rob
  51. SF says:

    Could this become a usable political issue? Kamala Harris wants us all to live in Olgiati buildings . . .

  52. Pericles says:

    to issues of race in America (“Why can’t you people figure this out?”)

    Switzerland is something like 95% white.

    As he said, why can’t you (we) figure it out?

    • Agree: The Anti-Gnostic
  53. So this guy’s “Big Idea” is to just rip off Tadao Ando designs from 45 years ago. At least Ando’s stuff looks cool in moonlight.

    One time I spent a few weeks house-sitting for a friend who lives in one of these neo-Brutalist, concrete monstrosities. My kid brother came over to visit; he took one look around and said, “Who the hell lives here — Uncle Fester?”

    • LOL: El Dato, InnerCynic
  54. Pericles says:

    The Curse of the CAD Program.

    Most of these buildings cry out for some creative spray painting, yo.

  55. Anon[398] • Disclaimer says:

    I saw an architect’s own concrete slab residence (eating his own dog food) set in a dense forest off a forestry road in the Japanese mountains, on a Japanese TV show. I have to say, surrounded by trees and with a cryptic entrance, it was really, really cool. I think there’s a place for this kind of thing.

    My view is to buy your home from a generic commercial developer: They know the market, so you will be able to sell the thing more easily. In addition, all the cool ideas you have for your home will change over time and seem stupid later.

    Architects should be paid by the hour for creative work, and you should get the result on paper to take elsewhere for modification and construction. That would eliminate a lot of the ego. Attorneys, on the other hand, should be paid by the project, not by the hour, and should have set fees for standard jobs. Corporate clients have forced project billing on attorneys already, but star architects would never accept hourly, transfer-of-rights jobs. The good thing is that most architects are not stars and are starving. Their only commission is their parents’ house. In Japan young architects compete on commissions to do police boxes, “koban,” and you wouldn’t believe the number of bizarre, artsy koban there are. So portfolios are the parent house and a koban and a bunch of drawings of other stuff. I think this category or architect could be dictated to, and they may be future stars.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  56. There are some visionaries who, in their refusal to follow the rules of convention, advance their fields and make us reconsider what we think we know.

    In science this works because there is the check of experiment, of verification. I.e. does your bold new idea match with actual reality.

    We see a lot of would be “geniuses” in the arts trying to ape this–but their “bold ideas” just suck. And unfortunately what seems to be lacking is the clear–“hey you suck”–check that experiment gives to scientists. Instead we have far too many of these pathetic groupies–like the gal who wrote this piece–slobbering all over the “great man”.

    This guy sucks and shouldn’t have even been able to have a career. (Not that academia isn’t full of people who suck at what they claim to be good at.) He should have been maybe sweeping floors in actual buildings.

    And unfortunately, he is hardly alone. Most of these modern big shot architects suck. Their buildings are not particularly good places for people to live, work, socialize enjoy. Doing that–making buildings that are terrific places for people to be in–actually takes some work. And these guys, on the whole, don’t want to do the hard work of figuring out how to do it. They are either untalented, or simply lazy.

    • Replies: @Peter D. Bredon
  57. Somsel says:

    I was once given a tour of the original offices of the US Atomic Energy Commission outside DC.

    Nuke bombs were their main business and it was indeed built like a bomb shelter.

    The commissioners offices had windows but they faced to the NW, away from Ground Zero.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  58. @Anon

    The new fire stations built in L.A. in this century have been pretty good. There’s apparently one firm out in the Inland Empire that specializes in doing fire stations in pleasing styles.

    • Replies: @James J O'Meara
  59. Anonymous[232] • Disclaimer says:

    He seems to be inordinate fond of concrete formwork.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  60. Anonymous[232] • Disclaimer says:

    Part of the joy of being an architect, one would imagine, is of the freedom to select from the myriad of different colored and textured materials on the marketplace, be it bricks, mortar, stone, wood, tiles, paints etc.

    Limiting oneself to variations of the theme of a grey concrete shell seems rather unambitious …..

    • Agree: El Dato
  61. @JimB

    Whatever happened to geodesic domes?

    If the guy living in a dome near me is right, monolithics like his are outperforming geodesics. No joints in the joint, for instance. No leaks.

    • Replies: @David
  62. El Dato says:

    I could manage to feel uncomfortable in that kind of concrete box. Really! Can I have it?

    Anyway, games explore the design space nowadays (though they are unconcerned about physical plausibility). Your Amazon/Bridges distribution centre somewhere in the Dakotas in the United Cities of America, some of which have been nuked and the rest of which are under siege by the souls of the dead or something:

    OT: Exploring genetic design space

    Mathematical Analysis of Fruit Fly Wings Hints at Evolution’s Limits


    Apparently morphology has strong attractors in that you don’t get organisms that are completely nonfunctional and bizarre (unless you irradiate them I suppose). Much space for future work and application of math.

    Global constraints within the developmental program of the Drosophila wing

    Unexpected simplicity emerged from this rich data. The scientists saw a narrow range of possible appearances for the wings, which mostly diverged in a small set of characteristics. The variation was concentrated near the hinge of the wing and showed up in a few particular spots, such as the shape of the frontmost vein. Moreover, these variable traits were linked: When one of the traits on a wing was far from the average, the other traits usually were, too. This was true no matter which genetic or environmental modifications that fly experienced, implying that these factors individually have very limited influence.

    Richard Carthew had anticipated that more of the flies’ developmental complexity would be captured in their physical forms. That the variation was all funneled into a short list of menu options is “quite a marvelous thing,” he said. As flies grow into adults, they have “this magical ability to correct for differences and create a very robust final form.”

    The photos of fly wings offered no clues as to the mechanisms that restrict the possible morphologies that can develop. Rather, the results substantiated the extensive power of these guardrails. Natural selection must mostly act on the significant diversity exhibited in the small number of linked, variable traits, while robustness tightly constrains the rest.

    • Replies: @Kronos
  63. @SafeNow

    Wrigley was Chicago’s second-best ballpark until 1991.

    The WTC is only on the list for sentimental reasons. (It was 2006.) Where are the Woolworth, the Singer, and 40 Wall St, much handsomer Manhattan edifices? Or Yamasaki’s own much better Lambert Field in St Louis?

    • Replies: @Ganderson
  64. David says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Nothing on “monolithic rock pile,” Reg?

    • Replies: @nokangaroos
    , @Reg Cæsar
  65. @Buffalo Joe

    Today my wife and I took a drive to Pifard, NY, an hour ride, to visit the Abbey of the Genesee, home of the Trappist Monks.

    Piffard, a hamlet of 220, is also the site of Westerly, built by Julia Tyler’s in-laws the Spencers. Julia was the daughter of President Tyler, and the aunt of Harrison Ruffin Tyler, who lives to this day. Julia didn’t share her menfolk’s longevity; she died at 22.

  66. Steve Sailer:

    “After all, who hasn’t wanted to torment children…”

    Swiss/German/Austrian children are used to being tortured. Von Trapp was nice and tempered in the disciplining of his kids by pre-WW2 Germanic standards of education.

  67. @Steve Sailer

    It is indeed a very good list. I count myself quite fortunate in that I’ve had the chance to personally see, and often go inside, more than half the buildings listed here.

    My only complaints are:

    — Chrysler Building should be at number two; and

    — I realize these things have to have limits, so they sort of stuck to the greatest hits. But I would have liked to see an appendix with a bit more folk architecture, like

    Bob’s Big Boy,
    the Coney Island Cyclone,
    Jo’s on South Congress in Austin.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  68. Percival says:

    When we’re talking about architecture or other creative arts in general, people tend to be less original than they would have you believe. Olgiati and his contemporaries are simply the product of a particular school of architecture, with each individual bringing his (modest) contributions or quirks to the field. There is nothing particularly original in this man’s work. By the standards of stand-out designs I wouldn’t even say Olgiati is remarkable in any sense of the word. He is as much a conformist as the journeyman architect designing nondescript suburban family homes, only with a much bigger ego and thus producing a much bigger stain on the natural environment.

  69. El Dato says:

    From J.G. Ballard’s Freudian “The Terminal Beach”


    The Blocks

    As usual on these enervating afternoons, when not even a breath of on-shore breeze disturbed the dust, Traven sat in the shadow of one of the blocks, lost somewhere within the centre of the maze. His back resting against the rough concrete surface, he gazed with a phlegmatic eye down the surrounding aisles and at the line of doors facing him. Each afternoon he left his cell in the abandoned camera bunker among the dunes and walked down into the blocks. For the first half an hour he restricted himself to the perimeter aisle, now and then trying one of the doom with the rusty key in his pocket – found among the litter of smashed bottles and cans in the isthmus of sand separating the testing ground from the airstrip – and then inevitably, with a sort of drugged stride, he set off into the centre of the blocks, breaking into a run and darting in and out of the corridors, as if trying to flush some invisible opponent from his hiding place. Soon he would be completely lost. Whatever his efforts to return to the perimeter, he always found himself once more in the centre. Eventually he would abandon the task, and sit down in the dust, watching the shadows emerge from their crevices at the foot of the blocks. For some reason he invariably arranged to be trapped when the sun was at zenith – on Eniwetok, the thermo-nuclear noon.

    One question in particular intrigued him: ‘What sort of people would inhabit this minimal concrete city?’

    The Synthetic Landscape

    ‘This island is a state of mind,’ Osborne, one of the scientists working in the old submarine pens, was later to remark to Traven. The truth of this became obvious to Traven within two or three weeks of his arrival. Despite the sand and the few anaemic palms, the entire landscape of the island was synthetic, a man-made artifact with all the associations of a vast system of derelict concrete motor-ways. Since the moratorium on atomic tests, the island had been abandoned by the Atomic Energy Commission, and the wilderness of weapons, aisles, towers and blockhouses ruled out any attempt to return it to its natural state. (There were also stronger unconscious motives, Traven recognized: if primitive man felt the need to assimilate events in the external world to his own psyche, 20th century man had reversed this process; by this Cartesian yardstick, the island at least existed, in a sense true of few other places.)

    But apart from a few scientific workers, no one yet felt any wish to visit the former testing ground, and the naval patrol boat anchored in the lagoon had been withdrawn three years before ‘Traven’s arrival. Its mined appearance, and the associations of the island with the period of the Cold War – what Traven had christened ‘The Pre-Third’ – were profoundly depressing, an Auschwitz of the soul whose mausoleums contained the mass-graves of the still undead. With the Russo-American détente this nightmarish chapter of history had been gladly forgotten.

    • Thanks: Rahan
  70. TyRade says:

    you gotta give the guy some credit – he’s a top drawer huckster. Potential suckers, sorry, buyers don’t care and can’t anyway discern what’s good or not architecturally, but they must be seen to buy from an architect with the correct ‘lines’, ie straight outta (Swiss) Critical Theory Finishing School: “The most important thing he learned in the United States, he adds, was that the world had permanently changed, and architecture needed to follow. Ours, he believes, is a globally mashed-up era with no meaningful shared references or objective truth. And so buildings, he says, must stand on their own.” No one can say his houses are something Albert Speer might have knocked off after a bad night deploying slave labour to concentration camp construction – for each of this Swiss chancer’s buildings has its own ‘lived experience’, ‘truth’. Another brick in the wall of woke.

  71. At this point they’re just taking the piss.

  72. @Steve Sailer

    It used to be a Confederate General on horseback.

  73. Ugly-art-I. I admire his style. He’s like a magician who asks you take a card, tell him what it is and then takes a round of applause.

  74. Gordo says:

    I expect our first buildings on Mars to look like that for many reasons, but there is no reason for anything on earth to look like that.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  75. @The Germ Theory of Disease

    The roof of the Chrysler Building is maybe the greatest object in America. How’s the rest of the building?

  76. El Dato says:

    Actually they will be much more organic, a bit like Alien eggs, but without the fleshy bits that get feminists excited:

    And why not right here on Earth?

    This would put fly-by-night contractors out of business.

  77. @Rockford Tyson

    My cousin’s best friend was one of the Von Trapp children in the movie.

    • Replies: @Ralph L
  78. Valerio Olgiati’s school in Paspels is cool in the hallways and the stairs, but warm in the classrooms – an interesting contrast:

  79. Ugh. This guy is Clownworld’s #1 punk’d-itect.

  80. @David

    Like this?

    (Church of the Holy Trinity in Liesing/Vienna)

    • Replies: @El Dato
  81. @David

    Nothing on “monolithic rock pile,” Reg?

    That’s oxymoronic. Though any band with Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe is bound to be good.

  82. @Reg Cæsar

    “Though any band with Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe is bound to be good.”

    Well, yes and no. “Cruel to Be Kind” is an indestructibly great song, but “Heart of the City” is lukewarm imitation-Bob-Seeger pisswater, I don’t care how many times they tried it.

    If only they’d had a time machine, so they could’ve listened to the Mats doing “I Will Dare” and learn how this sort of thing is REALLY done.

    • Replies: @Tom F.
  83. David M says:

    “There are some visionaries who, in their refusal to follow the rules of convention, advance their fields and make us reconsider what we think we know.”

    If that was REALLY the aim, wouldn’t it be much more efficient to just build a tract house and set up Steve in the corner of the living room with a laptop?

  84. @Rockford Tyson

    Trapp was nice and tempered in the disciplining of his kids by pre-WW2 Germanic standards of education.

    Not to mention those of stage fathers Murry Wilson, Bud Cowsill, and Joe Jackson. Hugh Gibb, George Osmond, and Antonio DeFranco seem to have been better.

  85. @Steve Sailer

    The roof of the Chrysler Building is maybe the greatest object in America.

    Certainly the most dramatic of debuts. Chrysler was in a race with the Bank of Manhattan Trust to top the Woolworth. Chrysler appeared to back off, allowing their rival to finish with a higher announced summit.

    But William Van Alen was hiding his roof inside the building. Three weeks later, he pushed it up through to take the title. For a year, anyway.

    The BoMT edifice at 40 Wall St is now the Trump Building. Here is Van Alen at the 1931 Beaux Arts Ball:

  86. bomag says:

    Was not sure that that was a parody.

  87. @Steve Sailer

    Chrysler building lobby is very handsome. Glad I went in to look.

  88. El Dato says:
    @Jenner Ickham Errican

    Researchers find 3,600-year-old evidence that ancient city of Tall el-Hammam was destroyed by ‘cosmic airburst,’ which may have inspired Bible story of destruction of Sodom?

    Highly speculative though, but more realistic than “mRNA vaccines integrate themselves into your DNA through radio waves and will kill your any minute now (and they already do but the hospitals are empty because COVID does not exist)”

    This new article is dated 20 September 2021, but on 29 November 2018:

    ‘Cosmic airburst’: Tunguska-like blast destroyed part of Middle East 3,700 years ago

    Why the disinterment?

  89. @Steve Sailer

    Last time I saw the inside of Chrysler I was a teenager so it’s hard to say. I recall being impressed, but not as impressed as the inside of the Woolworth Building, which is really something. But like you say, the roof of Chrysler is truly hard to beat.

    But as interiors go, it’s hard to beat the inside of the bar at the Carlyle Hotel — not for architectural grandeur, but for the whimsical, one-of-a-kind, round-the-whole-room mural “Central Park”, painted on all the walls by the zany Austrian ne’er-do-well Hans Bemelmanns, the guy who wrote the “Hotel Splendide” books and wrote/illustrated the lovely “Madeline” childrens books.

    If you’ve never had an illegal martini at the bar of the Carlyle at age 15, served by a bartender who didn’t even ask to see your fake ID, while staring all around at the work of Hans, well, you’ve missed one of the strange pleasures in life.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  90. bomag says:
    @Jim Don Bob

    Yes, the emperor has no clothes, and it takes a child to point out the obvious.

    Except today, a mob descends upon the child.

  91. @The Germ Theory of Disease

    Sounds like Holden Caulfield’s adventures.

  92. @Buzz Mohawk

    Those guys should have made sure they weren’t wearing suede shoes when they were “scent marking” a cement wall.

    Just relating a personal experience from a “friend.”

    • LOL: Buzz Mohawk
  93. Why would anyone (even the Swiss) inflict that on kids? I suppose very young kids adapt, but there is probably a limit.

    I sometimes find myself liking some non-descript, low-rise, 1960s steel and glass box – especially if there is a lawn with an artificial hillock and young birch trees. That is what my first school and (much of the new housing at the time) looked like.

    I was watching The Quiller Memorandum recently and felt déjà vu when they cut to a typical ’60s/’70s classroom. These Swiss kids might feel the same way if they ever play Wolfenstein3D.

    • Replies: @LP5
  94. @SafeNow

    Denver International Airport Terminal Building on the top 150 list?

    You cannot walk to your plane, even if you want the exercise. You have to take this stupid train to your concourse, and then you have to hike/ride moving belts for another few thousand yards to your gate.

    You can see the terminal off in the distance if your gate is on the correct side. There is a kind of “here we are, there we wuz” aspect to the recognition of what it is.

    Your travelling companion asks, “What is that thing that looks like it is under construction?” Yeah, it does look like one of those tent-city homeless-person encampments certain Progressive cities have authorized.

    “That is the terminal. That is were we were wandering around aimlessly for 30 minutes because our stupid hotel removed their computer where you could print your boarding passes because COVID, the Avis shuttle dumped us off at United Airlines at the other end of the terminal from United check-in, nothing is properly marked with signs in there, and we stood in line for an hour for security while a leather-lunged TSA dude was yelling something — maybe that the Security line at the opposite end of the terminal was much shorter — but no one else in line could make out what he was saying, and there was the ‘sunk cost’ of already being halfway through the line when he showed up.

    I guess it is supposed to look like the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains, which are not visible from the airport because Denver smog or the wildfires farther west or something.”

    • LOL: bomag
    • Replies: @InnerCynic
  95. Given our host’s tendency to do mash-ups with his various obsessions (interests?), I’m surprised he didn’t fold in some sort of reference to the tech mogul’s underground bunker in Ex Machina (bonus points for including a side reference with a picture of Alicia Vikander).

    Our host has from time to time mentioned the theory that LA is so weird bcs it creates Spring weirdness in northern Europeans without ever giving them Winter (don’t have time to sit and try and phrase that better). So, on the evidence of HR Giger and this guy, perhaps some Swiss don’t get enough Spring? Discuss…

  96. @Jim Don Bob

    So why do so many supposedly cultured people fall for such obvious crappy expensive ugly humiliations?

    Yeah, why is that?

    taxpayer funded“Public Art”


    When it’s someone else’s money people can fall for anything.

  97. slumber_j says:
    @The Last Real Calvinist

    Just one example of the article’s incredible stupidity: it just contains a lot of sloppy non-thought and actual mistakes, throughout.

    And really, isn’t that what design is meant to do? Challenge us, provoke us, unsettle our expectations.

    No, that’s at best a second-order goal, and it probably shouldn’t even be a goal at all: I’d say that if you end up with a “challenging” design as the result of thinking things through in the other, actually important, ways (Form ever follows function etc.), then okay: I’m up for considering it. Otherwise, up yours. And anyway those two sentences seem written by a really dopey middle-school art teacher.

    takes his own inspiration, for example, from the monolithic rock pile structures of the Aztecs, for which historians cannot find an antecedent.

    Two big mistakes right there: because you can’t make a pile out of only one rock, “rock pile structures” cannot be monolithic; and Mayan architecture would seem to be a clear antecedent to Aztec architecture–and the Olmecs were building pyramids thousands of years before them. I could go on.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  98. Tom F. says:

    Loving the unfinished concrete slabs, but it doesn’t look right.

    Am I wrong to think this could use a little graffiti and a lot of housing-insecure? Some chrome shopping carts and bright blue tarps would really pop!

  99. Ganderson says:

    I’m sure that’s coming…

  100. Gamecock says:

    Neolithics discover concrete.

  101. Anon[944] • Disclaimer says:

    So, how can you make yourself a name? By creating bad designs and talking a small number of wealthy clients into putting up with them while you garner media attention.

    Architecture is just a bunch of publicity stunts.

  102. Ganderson says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    I used to sit on the second deck behind home plate at old Comiskey. A great place to watch a game. I’d love to say I was there for disco demolition night, but alas…

    Roughly the same spot at old Met Stadium in Bloomington was a good vantage point as well.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  103. Ganderson says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Edmunds did a great version of Graham Parker’s “Crawling from the Wreckage”, better than the original IMO.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  104. @Steve Sailer

    “Sounds like Holden Caulfield’s adventures.”

    Well: yes, no, maybe, and not quite. My crowd were a bunch of bridge-and-tunnel yobs who happened to think that the Carlyle and the Blarney Stone were equally interesting, just for different reasons. But seated just a barstool away from the bitter, moneyed “Igby Goes Down” Salinger types who were always plotting to run away from their wealthy parents to join the merchant marine in search of Reality and Experience… which we always thought was hilarious.

    “They cried their tears, they shed their fears…”
    — The Clash, “Hitsville UK”

  105. 6dust6 says:

    You are right…nowadays we operate on curious logic and distorted sense. Your comment reminds me of the discussion I had about implementing Quiet Zones in our neighborhood due to the incredible commotion caused by freight trains after the state bought the track that runs through town. I asked those against the Quiet Zones whether the peace and quiet of not hearing the loud train horns sounding at quiet back road intersections would disturb them. The response was…”don’t you realize that silence can be deafening.”

  106. peterike says:

    As far as I can tell Olgiati is that rarity: A vile and monstrous architect who isn’t Jewish.

  107. Kronos says:
    @El Dato

    I liked the game. The building kinda looks like a whale. No idea if it’s intentional.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  108. Mr. Anon says:

    Once again – Architects to People: “We hate you.”

    Their professional society should be called: Architects Against Humanity

  109. El Dato says:

    I think so, yes. Beached things (in particular, dead whales) are a recurrent motive.

    That game weirded me out – in several orthogonal directions at once. Also predicted COVID:Isolation. Also features Guillermo del Toro.

    Steve writes:

    The dramatically sloped concrete exterior of the Plantahof auditorium.

    “Mountain Knot City” (the little girl in charge there wouldn’t let me into the Bridges distro centre, condemning me to death by frostbite and pulling-into-hades-by-ghosts like a run-of-the-mill Amazon pleb, but then again, I didn’t follow imposed scenario-imposed chronology) is supposed to have several 10’000 souls but is pretty small for that but… look at those little concrete boxes huddled in the mountain’s flank:

    • Replies: @Kronos
  110. El Dato says:

    It thought it was a Holocaust Memorial.

    I would not consider this a success.

    Built between 74 and 76 by Fritz Wotruba.

    Die Kirche Zur Heiligsten Dreifaltigkeit (auch: Wotrubakirche) in Wien ist eine römisch-katholische Kirche aus Betonblöcken, die zwischen August 1974 und Oktober 1976 nach Plänen von Fritz Wotruba erbaut wurde. Sie ist eine Rektoratskirche der Pfarrkirche Mauer.

    Built on the domain of the military barracks for … air reconnaissance (“Luftnachrichtentruppen”)?

    Lage: Die so genannte Wotrubakirche liegt am Georgenberg im Stadtteil Mauer (Ecke Rysergasse/Georgsgasse) im Bezirk Liesing auf dem Areal der ehemaligen Luftnachrichtentruppen-Kaserne. Nahe der Kirche befindet sich eine Betonplattform die als Freiluftplanetarium dient.

  111. epebble says:
    @Jenner Ickham Errican

    I am not convinced it supports Sodom story as much as inspiring the concept of Apocalypse.

    It might have also inspired the notion of Fire God/Sun God/Burning Bush God/Meteorite God that later morphed into Zoroastrianism, Vedism, Judaism and Islam.

    The original research paper is well written. While reading it, I came to know there was a bolide in prehistory too in what is today Syria.

    Evidence of Cosmic Impact at Abu Hureyra, Syria at the Younger Dryas Onset (~12.8 ka): High-temperature melting at >2200 °C

    Dr. Klaus Schmidt thinks Göbekli Tepe in Turkey might have been the first temple. It is possible that Abu Hureyra bolide might have inspired the notion of divinity.

  112. FPD72 says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Someone has supplanted Le Corbusier as the worst Swiss architect ever. As well as the last real Calvinist of note.

    I wasn’t aware that Le Corbusier was a Calvinist, although he did propose his five points of architecture, which would correspond to the five points of Calvinism:

    1. Pylon
    2. Roof Terrace
    3. Free Plan
    4. Ribbon Window
    5. Free Facade

    With no vowels, the acrostic PRFRF lacks the elegance of TULIP for Calvin’s (and the Synod of Dort’s) five points.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  113. There’s an old bunker at the top of Serra do Cume on the Island of Terceira that I’ve been wanting to renovate… gotta hire this guy.

  114. El Dato says:
    @Rockford Tyson

    Imagine you black and invade that home for easy pickings. It would like “Blitz Wolf attacks Little Red Riding Hood”.

    “Death by well-handled MG08 nests”

    • Replies: @Rockford Tyson
  115. res says:

    But I think a geodesic dome uses equilateral triangles. Those 60 degree angles don’t fit nicely into rectangles.

  116. @Jack D

    Havana syndrome is not what is normally thought of as terrorism (in any case blast walls are not going to stop whatever is causing it – Faraday cages might work).

    Jack, you’re thinking of this as an all-or-nothing deal.

    Think of it in terms of ionising radiation – a thin piece of lead will stop a small amount of radiation, a thick piece will stop most of it.

    Think of the blast wall in terms of an absorbing dielectric medium that will convert the incident electromagnetic wave into heat for each millimeter it traverses – it is attenuated.

    Fortunately, people have run lab tests against specific building materials and it turns out materials like concrete can have considerable attenuation against microwaves in nominal building material depths.

    Electromagnetic Signal Attenuation
    in Construction Materials

    • Replies: @Jack D
  117. @CapitalistRoader

    Alternatively, you could point out to him that Switzerland solved its racial problems, via a decentralized system of cantons, and four official languages. I.e. racial separation.

    The Left’s solution, of course, is the opposite: total Nationalization (misleadingly called “Federalizing” which is of course anti-Federalist) followed by extermination of the Whites.

  118. Who can argue with an article that references the word “eschew” in describing brutalist prison-like concrete “dwellings”? They look like an orphaned Romanian museum to the New Man.

  119. @Inquiring Mind

    Denver is a joke. The airport, and I’m being generous in describing it as such, is a mess. I’ve never seen lavatories so lacking in privacy in any major airport that I’ve traveled to worldwide. Seriously? Its pathetic. And don’t get me started on the retards who scoot about berating passengers for not wearing their muzzles correctly.

  120. This is the kind of loser who fights like heck for each and every grant and award. Because he can’t put anything together to please anyone but architectural critics and faux-intellectual snots pretending to be deep.

    Defund the arts, its all a scam now.

  121. Ralph L says:

    No wonder my gaydar went berserk.

  122. LP5 says:

    Somewhere there is a message about blue-eyed blond kids blending into the gray concrete facades. Say, wasn’t Haven Monahan’s mom from Switzerland?

  123. Muggles says:
    @Harry Baldwin

    But inside, up a 110-foot set of concrete stairs — there’s no railing —

    I can already picture the headline on 63-year-old Valerio Olgiati’s obituary.

    What amazes my wife and I when watching House Hunters International is how many of the European homes/apartments have stairways without any railings or anything else to keep you from killing yourself.

    They seem to permit the “open stairway” aesthetic which might look elegant but is clearly a waiting death trap. I don’t think any building codes in the USA would permit that in a residence or really, anywhere.

    Stairs are dangerous enough especially as one gets older or with children, who often run too fast or teens who skip stairs. They can and do kill you even if you have something to grab onto.

    We think for some reason that Europeans are more civilized than Americans. And that their soft socialism is about “caring for people.” Yet they happily allow death traps. This is what happens when you don’t have proper personal liability laws for tort claims.

    In general I notice that non US locales have more dangerous paths, sidewalks, stairs, curbs, etc. which are hazards. And builders/architects can build stairs without railings or hand holds.

    Just try and sue this nutty architect because his “home” bunker killed your kid with dangerous stairs. In this case, it is his own life at risk. “Greatly admired” by the sophisticated intelligentsia. no doubt.

    On the same show we’ve seen Parisian basement “apartments” with no windows and only one door exit. Of course much of Europe is very old construction. But again, no American building code would permit that. Or insurer.

    No liability, no worries mate…

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
    , @Ralph L
  124. @AnotherDad

    “In science this works because there is the check of experiment, of verification. I.e. does your bold new idea match with actual reality.”

    You’re trying to squeeze this into the usual iSteve, manly man, STEM rules, arts drool mold.

    What would it mean for an idea to “match” reality? Obviously, some ideas, when executed, will simply fall down — as you manly STEM guys like to say, about bridges built by AA hires collapsing.

    Less dramatically, IIRC, the problem with F L Wright’s buildings, and other with the flat roofs loved by modernists, is leaking; which is why buildings had pitched roofs in the first place. This is a kind of willful “FU” to reality, which, in moderate ways, is why artists are less boring than STEMers.

    Moreover, the only “reality” an architect’s idea has to “match” is the client’s wishes (sorry, Howard Roark), and the problem is that for various reasons — bad taste, status seeking — clients will accept or even demand awful buildings based on fashionable “ideas” rather than, say, Beauty.

    (This is why Howard Roark was supposed to be “heroic” for ignoring his clients and hewing to his own idea of Beauty. In the film, unfortunately, it turns out that Roark’s ideas are generic modernism and mostly quite ugly and impractical).

    Lack of a sense of Beauty — due, as elsewhere, to the rise of Semites in the arts (*) — is the problem. The idea is being matched against a false reality, or no reality at all.

    “Ah, modern architecture — efficient and beauty-free” — Kevin, MST3k

    (*)This is what Tom Wolfe could only barely hint at in his otherwise excellent From Bauhaus to Our House.

  125. Rob says:
    @Mike Tre

    Compared to most avant-guard architecture, that is a building for the ages. Symmetrical, windows in straight columns and rows. It leaves a huge amount of wasted space, and there is s ton of that triangle that will be useless. A corner office in the triangle is less reward snd more punishment. The rectangular buildings’ extra stories and one give it s clearer sense of directionality. Though I’ll be they end up having to spend a ton when the suspension building starts sagging in the middle. Hopefully, that’s what happens. The alternative, that it just cracks one day, could kill a lot of people.

    I don’t know what Zurich looks like, but I’d guess that this is a fairly unique look, and it could become a landmark. Though your building can become a landmark in a bad bad way, “go south and take a left at the orange dog turd.” “The what?’ “You’ll know.”

    An ostentatious building in my city has city is known as “Warner’s Last Erection,” after the company’s president/CEO, Warner X (I’m not using just last name. He is mot Nation of Islam) who scandalized society by divorcing his well-liked wife, and marrying his much younger mistress.

    The building above, I give a B+. Warner’s Last Erection, I give an A- on a curve with modern architecture. ELE is at least rectangular in footprint. It’s mostly the golden pyramidal head on the building that gets people. It’s much better than the Taubman Museum of Art, which looks like the aliens wanted to make their dominance and power seen. Monstrosity:

    I give it D- a scale where A+ is beautiful form and brilliantly functional, and where F is no building at all. That’s just an architectural scale. In reality, I’d prefer an empty lot. An empty lot has potential.

    • Agree: Barbarossa
  126. @Muggles

    Stairs are dangerous enough especially as one gets older or with children, who often run too fast or teens who skip stairs. They can and do kill you even if you have something to grab onto.

    Some older folks run up stairs two-at-a-time. There are 25 steps up to our pad, and time is more precious when there is less of it left. However, I no longer lounge on a stair to watch TV. Discomfort is no longer the feature it is to teenage boys.

  127. Kanye West as a client isn’t much of an endorsement.

  128. Dutch Boy says:
    @Woody Weaver

    Aut Vitruvius aut nullus!

    • Replies: @woody weaver
  129. Ralph L says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Some of their names were changed to be less weird to Americans.
    Someone told me after we saw the movie in ’65 that the Captain had stupidly gone back and they’d boiled him in oil. I believed it for years.

  130. @Ganderson

    Did you catch Germ Theory’s reply to the same comment? He cited the “Mats”. That particular obscure nickname has slipped the surly bonds of Minnesota!

    And speaking of architecture and Minnesota Nice Surly…

    Cheeseheads do breweries better:

    • Replies: @Ganderson
  131. El Dato says:
    @Jack D

    It’s probably swastikas invisibly hidden behind wallpaper that do this.

    Our enemies are nothing but devilish.

  132. Ralph L says:

    In 24 years, I’m the only one I know to point out the lack of a guardrail between Diana’s Mercedes and a concrete pillar. There’s a high curb, and that’s it, even now.

    • Thanks: Muggles
  133. Ganderson says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    I’m pretty sure Surly is in the building that used to house Harris Canvas- we used to get army surplus jungle boots and those white cold weather boots called “ bunny boots” there.

    Brewing has long history in the Ganderson family- not jusy on the consumption end. My dad was, in the ‘50s, the controller of the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company in St. Paul. “The Brew That Grew With the Great Northwest”

    As for Mats, he should go back to Sweden….

  134. Rob says:

    Architecture is what film would be if critics wrote and directed movies. Critics see slot of movies, and they have come up with somewhat unique and interesting things about every movie. They reach a point where they don’t so much care about if a movie is good, they want it to be different.

    We all see a lot of buildings, but the ones that are written about in architecture magazines are the interesting ones, not necessarily the good ones. I’m willing to bet that most architects are not allowed much freedom to “play” with designs. The client wants a box and has a budget. Building codes limit what one can do.

    The innovative ones, the clients don’t know architecture, so they are easy to snow with powerpoints. They probably don’t have time to talk to people at other institutions that built innovative buildings, so they don’t know how hard a triangular floor plan is to deal with. They don’t know your monolithic roof cannot be repaired and replacement will cost as much as the building.

    Unless you’re a starchitect, in which case your employees do the details, and you make an inspired sketch, you don’t get many of your buildings built. So in that sense, it’s a lot like directing movies.

    The difference from making movies is we don’t have to watch BattleField Earth every day on the way to work.

    On budgets for buildings. When a corporation has an innovative and unique headquarters built, or when a hospital corporation builds something like that neurology center Steve wrote about a while back that I am too lazy to search for, I think that’s evidence that the company is misusing investors’ money, the company is a de facto monopoly, or in regulated industries, prices are set too high. In an efficient market, wastes of money like that would be punished. Consider your local hospital. If it’s anything like mine, a lot of the hallways have LCD (is assume) screens every however many feet that display changing art, or nature scenes. I would prefer lower prices to lots of muted TVs like that. It’s getting to the point where the headlines, “Carilion unveils \$300 million Podiatry Center” will be tight below “None of Carilion’s Hospitals Covers its Costs” But when you don’t have investors who want your retained earnings turned into dividends or buybacks, or at least have some interest in how you spend money, and you otherwise run your non-profit like a for-profit corporation – in fairness, Carilion may be for-profit. I’m offline now and laugh at the thought that I will check on that before I post – then something is very wrong. Not to mention I am pretty sure non-profits do not pay property taxes here. But a non-profit that I have to Google to check on is not a “business” operating the way non-profits were intended to.

  135. @FPD72

    I wasn’t aware that Le Corbusier was a Calvinist…

    His native canton was:

  136. Ralph L says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Locals call it “the toilet bowl building,” a reader said.

    That’s what we called it in the mid 80’s when I worked across Rt 7 from it.

  137. @Anonymous

    “Brutal. Or Brutalist”

    No one will visit you in these concrete tombs. Cold. Lifeless. Spirit crushing. An affront to the natural landscape. People repellent. Can I have one?

  138. Jack D says:
    @Joe Stalin

    Sure but people want to have windows in their buildings to let in natural light. You could probably add metal mesh such as found in microwave oven doors or even some kind of metallized reflective/conductive coating that would attenuate if not eliminate the signal.

    No one know the exact nature of these attacks (if any) but it appears that they are not bombarding the entire target structure uniformly with microwaves but using some kind of focused beam that is very localized and intense (such that a little bit of attenuation might not be enough). Tinted windows might shield you from sunburn but not from an intense laser beam. The latest instructions from the gov. are that if you feel as if you are being bombarded you should get up and move out of the location immediately.

  139. Zingy, fashionable, magazine-and-awards type architecture often makes me think about the food world. What if we were rewarding prizes to the chefs who serve the world’s most bizarre (if attention-grabbing) food instead of to chefs who create delicious food people love eating? What if our cooking schools trained their students not to make time-tested dishes that are guaranteed to please but strange, chic novelty items instead? It’d be widely recognized that something was wrong.

    The persistence of the academic/corporate style of architecture really puzzles me. Who really likes it, after all? Maybe a really tiny coterie of “design” maniacs.

    I think a difference between food and architecture may be in the immediacy of the feedback. If an item on the menu doesn’t sell or gets returned regularly, management will pull it and put something in its place that’s more likely to please. With food, the feedback loop is quick, even brutal. But with buildings … Well, what *is* the feedback loop, really? Everyday people, even the people who live and work and shop in these buildings, aren’t getting to share their reactions. We have no say in the matter, really. There’s nothing calling the builders and designers back to widely-shared tastes, and so, without any kind of sensible check on them, the designs grow ever more bizarre.

    Meanwhile there are lots of designers and builders in the world who are creating really beautiful buildings in often-trad styles. They don’t get much recognition or publicity, though, because the prize committees, profs and editors don’t tell us about them. Trust me on this. I looked into the new-trad world very thoroughly back during my work years in the arts-journalism trenches, and I pitched stories about it to many different design and architecture editors. They looked at me like I was the crazy one. Here are a few:

    • Replies: @Ganderson
  140. @Joe Stalin

    “1924 Soviet SciFi”

    Russian Cosmism was a philosophical and artistic movement which existed in the late 1800s/early 19oos. It’s style and mythological SF elements inspired the space operas of Olaf Stapledon, Jack Kirby, and George Lucas. It is also infused with the splendorous imagery of the Russian Orthodox Church.

  141. @syonredux

    “– THE CALL OF CTHULU, HP Lovecraft”

    That image is rather Gigerish. Like a first draft of R’lyeh from his sketchbooks.

  142. Some less-formal — but still beautiful and new — work:

    Crazy thought: what if we considered “livability” to be as important in judging and appreciating buildings (neighborhoods, towns, etc) as “showboating visual strikingness”?

  143. @Ganderson

    I used to sit on the second deck behind home plate at old Comiskey…

    Roughly the same spot at old Met Stadium in Bloomington was a good vantage point as well.

    I had a similar seat at the Metrodome, and arrived in the second inning. Good thing, too– I’d’ve been way too close to the pitch that ended Kirby Puckett’s career in the first.

  144. Kronos says:
    @El Dato

    True, but they might be VERY deep bunkers. Like NORAD the main structure might hide deep within the mountain. That way 10,000 may seem more plausible.

  145. Kronos says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    That’s not an apartment complex, it’s a mass relay from Mass Effect. It’ll slingshot your ass to the other side of the galaxy in mere hours.

  146. @Rockford Tyson

    Swiss/German/Austrian children are used to being tortured.

    The few of them who are left, anyway. “In a hundred years, German will be spoken only in Hell.”

    Speaking of child torture, Joan Crawford had a gay best friend named Billy … something-or-other. He was a big star in the silent-movie days but dropped out of sight after the introduction of the Code.


    Supposedly he was offered an ultimatum: marry a beard or quit the business. He chose the latter option. He and his husband, who made no attempt to hide in the closet, were said to have had the happiest marriage in Hollywood. Then one of them died of cancer, and the other one blew his brains out. (With a gun, that is.)

    After walking away from his acting career, Billy went into interior decoration. Joan was his first client. He did her mansion for free; she repaid the favor by allowing numerous design publications to showcase her residence, giving him ample publicity. He did very well for many years.

    If Christina Crawford is to be believed, then Joan’s gleaming domicile – her floors were as clean as her dishes – was something of a house of horrors.

  147. Rob says:

    Go easy on poor Jack. Verbally ability is the Hewish strength. Not visuospatial!

  148. @Reg Cæsar

    This celebrity twit of an architect seems to prove over and over that lack of talent or imagination is no barrier to success. And, that less is less.

  149. @Dutch Boy

    Dutch Boy

    The quote in Latin names a Roman that was unknown to me. When I perused his Wikipedia page, his three criteria for building were “strength, utility, and beauty”. I could not think of three better words that should characterize most architecture.

  150. I once had a job in a very large office building in midtown Manhattan, where the main client was some sort of investment bank which occupied about 15 floors of the building.

    While we were working there, this bank (or whatever it was, some sort of finance thingy) very suddenly went bankrupt, went out of business, and everybody working there suddenly split town without winding anything down, it all just vanished overnight, whoosh.

    The building management was indifferent or incompetent regarding this sudden change, and so all of a sudden, fifteen floors of the building went completely unoccupied and un-policed.

    When our staff noticed this, we started to bring in skateboards and bicycles and tennis rackets, and we hung out in this empty corporate space that nobody was looking at. We played tennis in their conference rooms, we had bike races through these empty corporate corridors. Somebody even pitched a tent in an empty executive suite. It was a little bit like “The Shining” but without the elevators full of blood.

    Just goes to show that “architecture” is a rather elastic word.

  151. Ganderson says:
    @Paleo Retiree

    Old guy repeating himself alert:

    In many, if not all of the serious arts, classical music, architecture, visual arts, the artists get money from various places, foundations, academic institutions, corporate PR departments, etc, and the dispensers of these grants can be bullied thusly: “If you don’t love this (building, sculpture, painting, etc) you’re a Philistine, and thus won’t get invited to the chic soirees and functions that all the cloud people get to attend. I have no corporate experience, but I imagine the people who hire the architects have the same forces acting on them,

    In other words no powerful patron says to an artist, “that sucks- I’m not paying for that.”

    As with many things today all we are required to do is nod and go along.

    Reg’s list of ugly buildings contains one that could be the worst in the entire country: Frank Gehry’s Wiseman Art Museum at the U of Minnesota. In addition to being hideous in its own right, during certain times of year motorists heading east across the Washington Avenue Bridge must contend with the tremendous glare thrown off by the building.

    Speaking of soirees- when I saw there was a Met Gala I thought “Cool! I’ll bet Bud Grant, Rod Carew, Fran Tarkenton, Camilio Pascual, Larry Hisle, Bert Blyleven… what a guest list! Imagine my disappointment…

  152. I suspect Olgiati homes are for people who already have 3 or 4 comfortable houses and are looking for something different.

  153. Tom F. says:
    @The Germ Theory of Disease

    “Cruel to Be Kind” is an indestructibly great song

    So true. My brothers and I used to hear Rockpile on world-famous KROQ 106.7 in the late ’70s, and it was also part of our introduction to rockabilly licks, along with Link Wray, Chris Spedding, Rocky Burnette, and ‘new wave’ Elliott Easton thing in ‘My Best Friend’s Girlfriend’.

    So I heard Nick Lowe in a longform interview with Marc Maron some years back, promoting one of his box-sets, and he opened up about his non-relationship with Dave Edmunds. Quite sad, it just kind of died off from Edmunds’ side. “I went to a lot of trouble and effort, traveling and going out of my way, to remain friends with Dave. But he wasn’t having it.” Edmunds could be cranky and disagreeable; Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead hired him to produce an album, and had to let him go. Fun time for music, great to remember.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  154. @Tom F.

    I saw Rockpile opening for Van Morrison in c. 1979-80. They played really well, but as the opening act they evidently didn’t get to do much of a soundcheck, and the acoustics were awful. I can definitely imagine VM hogging the soundcheck time. And now that you point out that Edmunds was a crotchety guy, I can imagine him and Morrison not getting along well, with a frustrated Lowe trying to crack jokes to defuse the tension.

    Morrison wasn’t much of a performer, he didn’t seem to like the audience much, but what a songbook he had to just keep pulling great songs out of.

    • Replies: @Tom F.
    , @MEH 0910
  155. Tom F. says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Wow! That must have been an amazing show! Never had the pleasure of seeing Van Morrison, and wouldn’t have appreciated it then. Don’t know why this popped into my head, but both Rockpile and Morrison had songs with antiquated lyrics concerning telecommunications, i.e. Domino “and if you never hear from him, that doesn’t mean he didn’t call” that explanation wouldn’t work today. Switchboard Susan “can we be friends? After six, and weekends.” Nobody under 40 would understand long-distance rates.

    Van Morrison did have a reputation for being a cranky, anti-social jerk. Sammy Hagar tells a story about having a songwriting meeting with Morrison on Monday, but the night before he went to the movies with his wife and Van Morrison and his wife were in line in front of the Hagars. It was raining and line was moving slowly. “Morrison knew we were there, but he turned his back on me so hard I knew we weren’t writing. I was so embarrassed, but I wasn’t going to get out of line. Just as Van Morrison got to the window, I told him, “we are going to sit right next to you.” Morrison grabbed his wife’s hand and got out of line.

    Not in the book, but I think Morrison’s former guitar player Ronnie Montrose, and Hagar’s stealing Morrison’s former drummer Denny Carmassi and bassist Bill Church from Montrose might have had something to do with the hard feelings. Hagar got into the RnR HoF, while Montrose did not. I’m sure Morrison didn’t notice.:-)

    • Replies: @MEH 0910
  156. @2BR

    Or as Edgar Wilson Nye remarked about Wagner: “His music is better than it sounds.”

  157. Anonymous[402] • Disclaimer says:

    Anybody else get the mechanical/auto-cannibal H.R. Giger vibe from this Swiss concrete guy? In attitude if not necessarily output

  158. MEH 0910 says:
    @Steve Sailer

    I saw Rockpile opening for Van Morrison in c. 1979-80

    You’ve mentioned this concert in a couple of previous comments:

    I never could find online confirmation of the concert taking place in 1979-80 in Houston. What I did just find is the 1978 Houston concert:

    Sat 18 Nov 1978 – Houston Texas – Cullen Auditorium support Van Morrison Concert Ad
    Concert Review


    An exact setlist wasn’t found. Here is their closest one (from 11/26/1978), which may be similar:
    1. “Brown Eyed Girl”
    2. Wavelength
    3. “And It Stoned Me”
    4. “Checkin’ It Out”
    5. “Hungry for Your Love”
    6. “Sweet Thing”
    7. “Crazy Love”
    8. “Kingdom Hall”
    9. “Moonshine Whiskey”
    10. “Purple Heather”
    11. “Help Me”
    12. “Tupelo Honey”
    13. Caravan
    14. “Cyprus Avenue”

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  159. MEH 0910 says:
    @Tom F.

    Switchboard Susan” is a song written by Mickey Jupp[1] and recorded by Nick Lowe for his 1979 album, Labour of Lust. The song was released as a single in north America only, and reached #81 Canada and #107 on the US pop chart.[2]

    The song was produced by Lowe.[3]

    • Rockpile released a version of the song on their 1980 live album, Live at Montreux 1980.[8]


    Mickey Jupp – Switchboard Susan

    Switchboard Susan (Live) · Mickey Jupp

    Switchboard Susan · Nick Lowe

    Switchboard Susan (Live) · Rockpile

    Switchboard Susan (Live) · Rockpile

  160. @MEH 0910

    Thanks, yes, the weekend before Thanksgiving 1978 at the U. of Houston is the one. I wonder how many concerts I went to in 1978.

    Bad acoustics did in Rockpile as the opening act. I put my fingers in my ears and could hear they were playing great, but otherwise … just a lot of random noise.

    Van Morrison clearly got more time to do his soundcheck. (I mean … he is Van Morrison. He composed Gloria, Brown Eyed Girl, and a whole bunch more) Not a charming performer, but what a songwriter.

    Have concerts gotten more reliable at giving the opening act good acoustics? In Chicago, I mostly went to concerts in Uptown at the Riviera and Aragon, both of which had bad acoustics for everybody. I saw a book online about music in Chicago in which my late father-in-law was quoted as saying the Aragon had bad acoustics when he started performing there in the 1940s and old-timers told him it was bad since it opened in the 1920s.

    I’d seen The Clash at the U. of Houston a few weeks before. Strummer was great, but Mick Jones was drunk, even knocking over his mike stand. Apparently, The Clash were hit or miss live performers. The second time I saw them, at the Hollywood Palladium in the spring of 1982, the first half of their 90 minute show was much more competent than in 1978, but a little tepid. The last 45 minutes, however, caught fire.

    Reading up on the Clash’s 4 or 5 1982 Hollywood performances, the night I saw was apparently considered by far the best by people who saw more than one.

    I got lucky with a few other shows: the October 1980 Talking Heads in Pasadena (with the English Beat as opening act) was phenomenal. David Byrne was ecstatic over how well the 9 piece band played that night. (I’d seen them three times before, in one of which in 1979 he got into an argument with Jerry Harrison during a song. The 1980 show was by far the happiest I’d ever seen Byrne.)

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