DMAC Debate, Thursday, 26 August

Just a quick note to say that colleague and co-author Jason Alread and I will be debating the merits–architectural and otherwise–of the 1985 Richard Meier addition to the Des Moines Art Center next Thursday evening. Information available on the DMAC website, admission is free but they are asking people to call to reserve seats. Champagne reception afterwards, apparently.

And before you ask, it will be held NOT in the Meier addition, but in Levitt Auditorium, underneath the I. M. Pei sculpture court. Hope to see some of you there…


In transit at Toronto’s City Airport, sitting in the comfortable confines of porter’s departure lounge.  I confess to secretly enjoying air travel, even at its most stressful, but porter is an airline that any design-conscious flyer would appreciate.  They fly only turboprops, and just to a handful of destinations from Toronto, but each flight comes with a snack–or even a full lunch–in a neat box.  The lounge has free coffee, snacks, and sodas, and it’s laid out with low privacy screens, subtle but reasonably stylish chairs, and low lighting.  And, of course, free wi-fi.  It goes without saying that the in-flight magazine is a work of art, and their logo (a stylized raccoon) appeals to all ages.  All of this qualifies as ornament on a reasonably efficient operations set, but details are, of course, what you notice in a space or en route.

It’s been a while since any airline made such a conscious statement about design.  Virgin Atlantic did great things with their cabins and lounges in the 1990s, but most of that was reserved for business class fliers (reader, I confess, I partook).  porter does all this with budget fares.  We flew these guys to the F1 race in June, and immediately changed our mind about driving back to Montreal for the past month.  I hope they inspire some competitive design/comfort/price/efficiency-minded thinking in some of their competitors, but until then we may travel exclusively to eastern Canada.

adieu, Montréal, il a été vrai

I’m packing up and heading south today, after a brilliant month burrowing through the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s archives.  My trip here was ostensibly to review their staggering collection of Monadnock Block drawings–something like 450 sheets–but I also had time to scout their library and to just sit and write.  The CCA acquired the Franklin Institute’s collection of trade catalogues some years ago, and there are some real gems related to 19th and early 20th century building–including some pamphlets on plate glass that I’d never seen, and handbooks from Carnegie Steel and P. B. Wight’s early fireproofing company.

I think I’ve got a good bead on the Monadnock now, something that’s been puzzling me for a year or so.  I’ll eventually post some stuff on it, but for now I’ll just say that its structural behavior is a lot more complex than that of a simple masonry building–in pretty interesting ways.

Perhaps most importantly, I’ve completed the draft of the manuscript–three years and nine months after starting it, according to Word.  It’s about 10,000 words too long, and it needs a year or so of editing and illustration prep, but I’ll count this as a small milestone.

Many thanks to all at the CCA.  Their summer program is extraordinary, sort of a summer camp for researchers, and my mind has been pretty well blown by some of the seminars and lectures they’ve put on.  Highly recommended as both a good opportunity to get some serious work done, and as an utterly inspiring place to think, learn, and write about architecture.

I’m off to San Francisco for a wedding, then back to Chicago for a troll through the CHM’s drawing archive.  Classes start in sixteen days, and we’re frantically putting together studio and the new undergrad SCI-TECH course.