Palaces for the People cover. Image courtesy Penguin Random House. On the same day I received Palaces for the People to review, I wandered through the Carnegie Library Downtown & Business on my lunch hour. A whiteboard faced the front door advertising the month’s events. Book clubs, reading lists, support groups. Men and women in suits mingled with the less well-heeled to browse the new book tables and utilize the free WiFi. In Palaces for the People, Eric Klinenberg (who also authored a previous work of social history chronicling the Chicago heat wave of 1995 that inspired this book) advocates for stronger “social infrastructure,” of which the library is a prime example. The author defines social infrastructure as “the physical...
Palaces for the People
How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life
By Emily Pierson-Brown, AIA Posted on September 12, 2019
“I Like an Arch”
Review of You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn
By Robert Bailey, AIA Posted on May 7, 2019
Image courtesy Macmillan Several biographies of Louis Kahn have been written in the 21st century, but Wendy Lesser’s may be the most compelling. Lesser, a writer, critic and editor in the arts, founded the literary magazine The Threepenny Review, and has published both fiction and nonfiction. Lesser authored Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets, a narrative in which the quartets guide the reader through the composer’s life The Life of Louis Kahn is her first book with an architectural subject. Kahn’s story is interspersed with chapters describing what it’s like to visit five of his greatest buildings: Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Kimbell Art Museum, Phillips Exeter Library, National Assembly Building of Bangladesh, and Indian Institute of...
Review of Emmanuel Panagiotakis' New Black and White Photography Exhibit
By Robyn Engel, AIA Posted on July 22, 2018
Stepping down from the street, Emmanuel Panagiotakis’s gallery feels like a cool cavern away from the hot breath of the city behind you. Upon entering the space, one is immediately bombarded with the deep saturations and bold, sweeping lines that often characterize post-card images of Pittsburgh and other souvenir-worthy destinations. Amidst the showy, prototypical images that speckle the gallery, Leading Lines is an oasis of thoughtful, balanced photography. Panagiotakis capably explores themes of texture, rhythm, and void space within this black and white exhibit that is magnetic and unique in a way that other gallery pieces struggle to achieve. Examining Ceiling Detail, Full View (above), and Ceiling Detail, the observer is first aware of the many textures of the image,...
Great Design is Not a Finite Resource
A Review of John Cary's Design for Good
By Robert Bailey, AIA Posted on March 28, 2018
This is a book about stories – remarkable stories –that are primarily about people and secondarily about satisfying design projects. The stories tell us of projects that came to fruition because people had the will to make them happen. We learn about architects who realized that their mission is designing for social justice. We discover the individuals engaged in nonprofit or nongovernmental agency work that the designers have partnered with in moving these projects forward. Most importantly, we learn about people who have been directly affected by the projects described in the stories. Author John Cary is an architect by training and an advocate for architecture born of, and contributing, to social change. Cary is also a writer and speaker...
Petrochemical America: From Cancer Alley to Toxic Valley
Environmentally Anxious Art at SPACE Gallery
By Bea Spolidoro, AIA Posted on October 2, 2017
”Great nations, write their autobiographies in three manuscripts – the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art”, said J. Ruskin (St. Mark’s rest; the history of Venice. (1877). The exhibition PETROCHEMICAL AMERICA: From Cancer Alley to Toxic Valley, currently at SPACE Gallery until October 7, is an exquisite example of how to touch on all the three manuscripts in one show, while leaving for us to decide whether the nation is getting greater or not. Curator Sophie Riedel walked me through the exhibition, showing how Louisiana’s natural geography has been radically repurposed into a vast network for extracting and storing. One wall at the exhibit relays the history of environmental injustice in...
Is Wellness Design the New Sustainable Design?
A Review of Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes our Lives
By F. Jeffrey Murray, FAIA Posted on August 18, 2017
Image courtesy Harper Collins Sarah Williams Goldhagen’s new book, written for the general public more so than the design community, is timely, important and worth a careful read by design professionals. Her fundamental claim is summarized in the preface: “What the new paradigm of embodied or situated cognition reveals is that the built environment and its design matters far, far more than anybody, even architects, ever thought that it did.” (p. xiv) Her book is timely because in the last couple years we’ve seen new checklists and scorecards for ‘wellness’ design (14 Patterns of Biophilic Design, The Well Building Standard, Fitwell — to name a few). Wellness design appears to be a trendy term for what has traditionally been called...
Architecture That Sparks Conversation
Action, Ideas, Architecture: Arthur Lubetz/Front Studio at the Heinz Architectural Center
By Bea Spolidoro, AIA Posted on May 1, 2017
The Heinz Architectural Center is currently displaying an exhibit covering five decades of work by Arthur Lubetz. Lubetz, fully active and with no intention to retire, is one of the principals at Front Studio, an award-winning firm based in Pittsburgh and New York City. It is rare to see the work of an active architect being celebrated in a museum, but if you visit the exhibit, you will immediately understand why. The architecture of Arthur Lubetz is always provocative, even when it’s only proposed, and sparks conversation. That conversation typically involves colorful, modern architecture, but in a more traditional context. Although Arthur Lubetz says “I learned a long time ago that red paint doesn’t cost any more than beige,” the...
Seeing the Impact of a Public Architecture
A Look at "Building Optimism" at the CMOA
By Brian Gaudio, Assoc. AIA Posted on November 4, 2016
As I walked into the Heinz Architecture Center I was greeted by large 4’ x 8’ sheets of finished plywood leaning against the wall. On them was printed in bright blue letters, “Building Optimism: Public Space in South America.” The exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art showcases “the powerful public role of architecture and urban design.” Many of the projects are located in informal portions of the city where residents use found materials and repurpose them in meaningful ways (hence the plywood title boards seen throughout the exhibit). The show features innovative public space and infrastructure projects in Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, and Colombia. El Equipo de Mazzanti’s awe-inspiring Biblioteca España, ELEMENTAL’s incremental housing project Villa Verde, and Urban...
The Story of Collapse
The Art of Seth Clark
By Bea Spolidoro, Assoc. AIA Posted on August 18, 2015
The first time I viewed Seth Clark’s work, the intern architect in me felt threatened. What loss and shame in all of these collapsing architectures! Clark’s collages, though, are too mesmerizing to be dismissed that easily, and I couldn’t resist that attractive pull of something that scared me. I decided to learn more and set up an interview with Clark, who has been named the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts 2015 Emerging Artist of the Year. I started with a joke about the fact that, initially, he could be seen as a nemesis of architects, and believe it or not, that broke the ice. While also working as a graphic artist, his installations and collages focus on collapsing buildings and...
Looking Inside “The Wrong House”
The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock
By Raymond Bowman, Assoc. AIA Posted on April 29, 2015
Alfred Hitchcock was an indirect part of my architectural education at Carnegie Mellon University. The professor who taught one of my strangest studios had a list of recommended media that included Vertigo, along with an album by the Flaming Lips that required four CD players to listen to. I also remember (somewhat more fondly) seeing a few of Hitchcock’s other movies, including Rope and Strangers on a Train, when they were playing in the University Center for $1. But I may never have considered his movies as a kind of architecture until I heard about The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock by Steven Jacobs. Steven Jacobs begins with a simple and compelling idea: to watch Hitchcock’s movies in the service of painstakingly...