Category Archives: Culture

Murray on division in America

Sorry for not posting in a while. It’s been a busy couple of weeks. I promise I’ll do better.

Perhaps the most interesting piece I’ve read in a long while comes from the libertarian scholar Charles Murray in the Wall Street Journal: it’s the essay “The New American Divide.”

I recommend reading the whole thing, but for those who don’t, basically Murray argues that we have a massive class divide between upper-level income earners and lower-level income earners that spans beyond income to almost all aspects of our culture. He blames this largely on government entitlement programs but doesn’t present a clear plan for moving forward (this is not necessarily a flaw in the writing).

I haven’t yet read Murray’s new book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” which pertains to many of the same themes, but I plan to soon.

Murray’s work has gotten only some of the attention it deserves (here’s David Brooks of the New York Times drawing a nonsensical conclusion from it). You don’t have to agree with all of his conclusions — I don’t — to recognize the validity of a massive phenomenon that he cogently recognizes and presents.

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This not architecture-specific, per say, but I do believe that it has significant implications in terms of both architecture and urban planning. Look forward to another post on that topic soon.

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Defending my post on cycling

This is quite the photograph.

I had some pretty harsh words yesterday for what I see as the often excessive and self-indulgent culture of cycling. My criticism certainly went against the grain and drew some strong criticism of its own. Some is legitimate; some less so. And much of it seems based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what I was trying to say — perhaps I wasn’t as clear as I should have been. A full defense of my post after the break. Continue reading

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Architectural lessons from Arrested Development

This is not the first time I’ve blogged about architecture as it relates to a TV show. Remember my post about The Office?

The Bluth family's model home. Photo courtesy

But this time I’m not going to write about social commentary in a show — instead, I’m going to address the architecture of a set.

The show is Arrested Development. If you like The Office and other shows in the same vein, you probably know it. If you don’t, watch all of it right now. (Don’t worry, there are only three seasons.)

Much of Arrested Development centers around a family living in a model house — the Bluth family’s company sells homes, and when the business starts to fall apart, almost the entire family moves into the model for a new development. The home is frequently seen as it is above: a lone McMansion sitting in the middle of what appears to be something of a desert.

A running joke in the show is the home’s shoddiness: everything in it seems to break constantly, a testament to the company’s poor work and, perhaps, to the state of most American residential architecture. It’s poorly thought-out, badly built and very, very ugly.

But it’s still the Bluth’s. It’s still a home. And it seems to say that in a way, despite all the bad features of today’s American architecture — and today’s American life — we’re maybe still not all that far from what it really means for something to be a home.

But we are somewhat far off, and we really ought to try to get back on track.


The Third and the Seventh

Is this:

Many, many people think that this is just brilliant. Probably has something to do with the drawn-out, ‘epic’ soundtrack or grandiose tracking shots, or the fact that it’s entirely CG. Yes — that’s right: entirely CG. More on Alex Roman’s The Third and the Seventh (including a poll on your thoughts on the film!) after the break. Continue reading

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Architectural lessons from The Office

What does the NBC comedy The Office tell us about architecture?

The answer, as it turns out, is quite a bit. More on this after the break. Continue reading

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Baltimore’s Morris Mechanic Theater

Once in a while, something just really irritates me. Here is a good example: Melvin Greenwald, a Baltimore developer, recently purchased a now-closed Morris Mechanic Theater, and would like to do everything in his power to modify it or tear it down. He says, “They call it Brutalist architecture, I call it a mistake. It’s ugly. I don’t know anyone that likes it. The building was obsolete when they built it.”

I cannot stand uneducated, ignorant pronouncements. More of my rant, and more pictures, after the break.

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Obama at the 2011 Pritzker Prize Ceremony

That’s right. President Obama gave a great, albeit brief speech at the Pritzker ceremony on June 2. (For those who haven’t been paying attention, the 2011 prize went to the Portugese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, a choice I very much agree with.) Here’s the president’s speech:

I’ve always thought of Obama as intelligent (even if I don’t always agree with him), and this really reinforces that. He clearly has an acute sense of some of the most meaningful facets of the profession. Maybe he wouldn’t make such a bad architect after all. What do you think?

Vanishing Happiness in the Suburbs

I was recently assigned to write an English paper about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Naturally, I chose to focus on the most architectural facet of the novel that I could find — the role of the suburbs. Check it out after the break. (Note: the paper I actually turned in had proper citations.)

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