Architecture Du Jour

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

Of each pair, which do you prefer? Which would you rather look at every day? Which do you think has the more inviting and comfortable interior?

chinatown midtown

Click on the images to enlarge.

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Obvious Things

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

ChestertonIn the red circle of the desert, in the dark and secret place, the prophet discovers the obvious things. I do not say it merely as a sneer, for obvious things are very easily forgotten; and indeed every high civilisation decays by forgetting obvious things.

— G.K. Chesterton, “The New Jerusalem”

charles-bukowski-hulton-gettythe important
the obvious

— Charles Bukowski, “Always”

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Haven’t You an Adventurous Soul, Mr. Bayliss?

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


He had scarcely seen her to speak to since the beginning of the voyage. When she was not walking with Rolly or playing shuffle-board with Twombley, she was down below ministering to the comfort of a chronically sea-sick aunt, referred to in conversation as “poor aunt Nesta”. Sometimes Jimmy saw the little man–presumably her uncle–in the smoking-room, and once he came upon the stout boy recovering from the effects of a cigar in a quiet corner of the boat-deck: but apart from these meetings the family was as distant from him as if he had never seen Ann at all–let alone saved her life.

And now she had dropped down on him from heaven. They were alone together with the good clean wind and the bracing scud. Rollo, Clarence, Dwight, and Twombley, not to mention Edgar or possibly Teddy, were down below–he hoped, dying. They had the world to themselves.

“I love rough weather,” said Ann, lifting her face to the wind. Her eyes were very bright. She was beyond any doubt or question the only girl on earth. “Poor aunt Nesta doesn’t. She was bad enough when it was quite calm, but this storm has finished her. I’ve just been down below, trying to cheer her up.”

Jimmy thrilled at the picture. Always fascinating, Ann seemed to him at her best in the role of ministering angel. He longed to tell her so, but found no words. They reached the end of the deck, and turned. Ann looked up at him.

“I’ve hardly seen anything of you since we sailed,” she said. She spoke almost reproachfully. “Tell me all about yourself, Mr. Bayliss. Why are you going to America?”

Jimmy had had an impassioned indictment of the Rollos on his tongue, but she had closed the opening for it as quickly as she had made it. In face of her direct demand for information he could not hark back to it now. After all, what did the Rollos matter? They had no part in this little wind-swept world: they were where they belonged, in some nether hell on the C. or D. deck, moaning for death.

“To make a fortune, I hope,” he said.

Ann was pleased at this confirmation of her diagnosis. She had deduced this from the evidence at Paddington Station.

“How pleased your father will be if you do!”

The slight complexity of Jimmy’s affairs caused him to pause for a moment to sort out his fathers, but an instant’s reflection told him that she must be referring to Bayliss the butler.


“He’s a dear old man,” said Ann. “I suppose he’s very proud of you?”

“I hope so.”

“You must do tremendously well in America, so as not to disappoint him. What are you thinking of doing?”

Jimmy considered for a moment.

“Newspaper work, I think.”

“Oh? Why, have you had any experience?”

“A little.”

Ann seemed to grow a little aloof, as if her enthusiasm had been damped.

“Oh, well, I suppose it’s a good enough profession. I’m not very fond of it myself. I’ve only met one newspaper man in my life, and I dislike him very much, so I suppose that has prejudiced me.”

“Who was that?”

“You wouldn’t have met him. He was on an American paper. A man named Crocker.”

A sudden gust of wind drove them back a step, rendering talk impossible. It covered a gap when Jimmy could not have spoken. The shock of the information that Ann had met him before made him dumb. This thing was beyond him. It baffled him.

Her next words supplied a solution. They were under shelter of one of the boats now and she could make herself heard.

“It was five years ago, and I only met him for a very short while, but the prejudice has lasted.”

Jimmy began to understand. Five years ago! It was not so strange, then, that they should not recognise each other now. He stirred up his memory. Nothing came to the surface. Not a gleam of recollection of that early meeting rewarded him. And yet something of importance must have happened then, for her to remember it. Surely his mere personality could not have been so unpleasant as to have made such a lasting impression on her!

“I wish you could do something better than newspaper work,” said Ann. “I always think the splendid part about America is that it is such a land of adventure. There are such millions of chances. It’s a place where anything may happen. Haven’t you an adventurous soul, Mr. Bayliss?”

No man lightly submits to a charge, even a hinted charge, of being deficient in the capacity for adventure.

“Of course I have,” said Jimmy indignantly. “I’m game to tackle anything that comes along.”

“I’m glad of that.”

Her feeling of comradeship towards this young man deepened. She loved adventure and based her estimate of any member of the opposite sex largely on his capacity for it. She moved in a set, when at home, which was more polite than adventurous, and had frequently found the atmosphere enervating.

“Adventure,” said Jimmy, “is everything.”

He paused. “Or a good deal,” he concluded weakly.

“Why qualify it like that? It sounds so tame. Adventure is the biggest thing in life.”

It seemed to Jimmy that he had received an excuse for a remark of a kind that had been waiting for utterance ever since he had met her. Often and often in the watches of the night, smoking endless pipes and thinking of her, he had conjured up just such a vision as this–they two walking the deserted deck alone, and she innocently giving him an opening for some low-voiced, tender speech, at which she would start, look at him quickly, and then ask him haltingly if the words had any particular application. And after that–oh, well, all sorts of things might happen. And now the moment had come. It was true that he had always pictured the scene as taking place by moonlight and at present there was a half-gale blowing, out of an inky sky; also on the present occasion anything in the nature of a low-voiced speech was absolutely out of the question owing to the uproar of the elements. Still, taking these drawbacks into consideration, the chance was far too good to miss. Such an opening might never happen again. He waited till the ship had steadied herself after an apparently suicidal dive into an enormous roller, then, staggering back to her side, spoke.

“Love is the biggest thing in life!” he roared.

“What is?” shrieked Ann.

“Love!” bellowed Jimmy.

He wished a moment later that he had postponed this statement of faith, for their next steps took them into a haven of comparative calm, where some dimly seen portion of the vessel’s anatomy jutted out and formed a kind of nook where it was possible to hear the ordinary tones of the human voice. He halted here, and Ann did the same, though unwillingly. She was conscious of a feeling of disappointment and of a modification of her mood of comradeship towards her companion. She held strong views, which she believed to be unalterable, on the subject under discussion.

“Love!” she said. It was too dark to see her face, but her voice sounded unpleasantly scornful. “I shouldn’t have thought that you would have been so conventional as that. You seemed different.”

“Eh?” said Jimmy blankly.

“I hate all this talk about Love, as if it were something wonderful that was worth everything else in life put together. Every book you read and every song that you see in the shop-windows is all about Love. It’s as if the whole world were in a conspiracy to persuade themselves that there’s a wonderful something just round the corner which they can get if they try hard enough. And they hypnotise themselves into thinking of nothing else and miss all the splendid things of life.”

“That’s Shaw, isn’t it?” said Jimmy.

“What is Shaw?”

“What you were saying. It’s out of one of Bernard Shaw’s things, isn’t it?”

“It is not.” A note of acidity had crept into Ann’s voice. “It is perfectly original.”

“I’m certain I’ve heard it before somewhere.”

“If you have, that simply means that you must have associated with some sensible person.”

Jimmy was puzzled.

“But why the grouch?” he asked.

“I don’t understand you.”

“I mean, why do you feel that way about it?”

Ann was quite certain now that she did not like this young man nearly as well as she had supposed. It is trying for a strong-minded, clear-thinking girl to have her philosophy described as a grouch.

“Because I’ve had the courage to think about it for myself, and not let myself be blinded by popular superstition. The whole world has united in making itself imagine that there is something called love which is the most wonderful happening in life. The poets and novelists have simply hounded them on to believe it. It’s a gigantic swindle.”

A wave of tender compassion swept over Jimmy. He understood it all now. Naturally a girl who had associated all her life with the Rollos, Clarences, Dwights, and Twombleys would come to despair of the possibility of falling in love with any one.

“You haven’t met the right man,” he said. She had, of course, but only recently: and, anyway, he could point that out later.

“There is no such thing as the right man,” said Ann resolutely, “if you are suggesting that there is a type of man in existence who is capable of inspiring what is called romantic love. I believe in marriage. . . .”

“Good work!” said Jimmy, well satisfied.

” . . . But not as the result of a sort of delirium. I believe in it as a sensible partnership between two friends who know each other well and trust each other. The right way of looking at marriage is to realise, first of all, that there are no thrills, no romances, and then to pick out some one who is nice and kind and amusing and full of life and willing to do things to make you happy.”

“Ah!” said Jimmy, straightening his tie, “Well, that’s something.”

“How do you mean–that’s something? Are you shocked at my views?”

“I don’t believe they are your views. You’ve been reading one of these stern, soured fellows who analyse things.”

Ann stamped. The sound was inaudible, but Jimmy noticed the movement.

“Cold?” he said. “Let’s walk on.”

Ann’s sense of humour reasserted itself. It was not often that it remained dormant for so long. She laughed.

“I know exactly what you are thinking,” she said. “You believe that I am posing, that those aren’t my real opinions.”

“They can’t be. But I don’t think you are posing. It’s getting on for dinner-time, and you’ve got that wan, sinking feeling that makes you look upon the world and find it a hollow fraud. The bugle will be blowing in a few minutes, and half an hour after that you will be yourself again.”

“I’m myself now. I suppose you can’t realise that a pretty girl can hold such views.”

Jimmy took her arm.

“Let me help you,” he said. “There’s a knothole in the deck. Watch your step. Now, listen to me. I’m glad you’ve brought up this subject–I mean the subject of your being the prettiest girl in the known world–”

“I never said that.”

“Your modesty prevented you. But it’s a fact, nevertheless. I’m glad, I say, because I have been thinking a lot along those lines myself, and I have been anxious to discuss the point with you. You have the most glorious hair I have ever seen!”

“Do you like red hair?”


“It is nice of you to put it like that. When I was a child all except a few of the other children called me Carrots.”

“They have undoubtedly come to a bad end by this time. If bears were sent to attend to the children who criticised Elijah, your little friends were in line for a troupe of tigers. But there were some of a finer fibre? There were a few who didn’t call you Carrots?”

“One or two. They called me Brick-Top.”

“They have probably been electrocuted since. Your eyes are perfectly wonderful!”

Ann withdrew her arm. An extensive acquaintance of young men told her that the topic of conversation was now due to be changed.

“You will like America,” she said.

“We are not discussing America.”

— P.G. Wodehouse

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(Semi) Naked Ladies of the Week: Girls of Zishy

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


I don’t know about you, but I like looking at real (if beautiful) girls; Photoshopped-smooth simulacrums of pulchritude aren’t what get me going. Internet nudity used to offer a ton of funky naturalness — it’s what first attracted me to it. But now that internet porn is mainstream, much of what you find out there looks a lot like the digital-era version of “Playboy.” That is, drained of personality. And it can be so over-explicit, sometimes in a way that’s almost clinical. Zishy and its proprietor Zach Venice have provided a corrective to that. Zishy is an erotica site that doesn’t skimp on natural textures and funkiness. The avoidance of beaver shots, special effects, and post-production tinkering hasn’t resulted in boring pictures. Just the opposite — the photos on Zishy are enjoyable largely because you can sense the photographer and the models improvising as they try come up with interesting poses, looks, and attitudes. There’s a sense of fun and play in them. They have personality.

There’s not much outright nudity on Zishy. Venice has a keen sense for tease. He understands that part of what makes cheesecake so enjoyable is its tantalizing intimation of more: you keep looking because you haven’t seen everything.  The “about” page on Zishy makes this clear:

This site is about photography, fun, tease, and of course, attractive young women. The aim is to excite and entertain through an innocent and playful means. For all those bored (and possibly overwhelmed) by porn and nudity on the Web, but still interested in seeing beautiful girls in photos, Zishy is for you.

I believe the below models are Lilly Gardner, Anastasia Black, Rachel Snowflake, Alice Wonder, Anya Amsel, Ashlee Hills, Blake Crawford, Bree Abernathy, Debbie Vogel, and Natalie Moore. Cheesecake-style naughtiness below the jump. Have a great weekend.

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Crap Space

Paleo Retiree writes:

For no doubt perverse and disgraceful reasons I enjoy snapping photos of architectural goofs. One of the mistakes I’m most drawn to noticing and documenting is what I think of as “crap space” — pockets of in-betweenness (or out-in-frontness, or just plain overlooked-ness) that might have had some life had they been conceived of and created with care and respect, but which in reality weren’t and so just don’t.

Modernism, you’ll be stunned to learn, has been spectacularly successful in the generation of crap spaces — plazas no one lingers in, parks the public avoids, indentations that collect windy swirls of garbage, etc. This particular tendency of modernism — its disastrously bad record where the spaces in between its art-thing buildings go — used to be openly  acknowledged even by modernists themselves. But that was back in a more lively, open and rowdy era. As the architectural establishment has reasserted its dominance over the public discussion of buildings and urbanism, that simple and self-evident fact — apparent to anyone with eyes and instincts — seems to have vanished down the memory hole. It’s time to pull it out and proclaim it loud, sez I. So today I kick off a new series: crap spaces. Let’s acknowledge that they exist; let’s talk about what may have gone wrong.

Today’s example strikes me as a primo example of something all too common: a new, or newish, park that simply isn’t working. I passed by and snapped it on a beautiful summer day. Why is almost no one using it? Despite the fact that it’s a handy shortcut between two streets, no one’s even walking through it. Why?

My own hunch is a very general one: it’s because nothing about this park really says “park.” Instead, despite the efforts that have been made to humanize it with furniture and greenery, this crap space declares itself to be pretty much what it almost certainly is: empty space that’s been inserted between two buildings for the sake of earning a developer a tax break. You can pretty much see the proposal’s checklist laid out in front of you: X number of square feet, X amount of vegetation, X number of benches, X touches of liveliness and playfulness, X pieces of movable furniture … According to current academic/urbanistic theory, the above list should, when translated into actual fact, all come together to equal “an inviting and user-friendly park.” Yet for some reason it doesn’t. The recipe remains a recipe, and never turns itself into a dish. A park is something more — something more traditional and more organic — than an empty space that has been filled up with a checklist of items that committees associate with parks.

Curious to hear what others’ hunches are about the failure of this crap space.


  • To my mind, Christopher Alexander and Leon Krier explain better than anyone else why some buildings and spaces have life and some don’t. (As far as I’m concerned, in fact, Alexander and Krier both qualify as Major Geniuses of Our Era.) The best Alexander book to start with is this one. This is the Krier to start with. Both books are easy to read; they’re also complete mind-blowers with implications for all the arts, not just architecture. Read and be amazed. I reviewed the Krier book for Salon.
  • Back at my old blog, I did several interviews with the mathematician and architectural theorist Nikos Salingaros, an associate of Christopher Alexander’s. He’s very brilliant and clear. Start with this interview: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five.
  • David Sucher’s “City Comforts” is a down-to-earth distillation of a lot of wisdom about how to create better towns and cities. Buy a dozen copies and give them to whoever it is who’s in charge of development in your town, county or city. I interviewed David at my old blog: Part One, Part Two.
  • It’s a mystery why the architecture-and urbanism-world doesn’t spend more time revisiting its creations and evaluating how well they work or don’t work. (Imagine a chef who takes no note of whether people enjoy his food …) William Whyte was an urbanist who did exactly that. His book “City” (which he co-wrote with Paco Underhill) was the result of his studies, and it’s full of fascinating looks at things like parks and street corners.
  • The Project for Public Spaces is a “placemaking” organization inspired by Whyte’s work.
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Roller Girls, ’30s-Style

Blowhard, Esq. writes:


Click on the image to enlarge.

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Blowhard, Esq. writes:


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