The Cool Architecture thread

Based a little bit around @“mindleftbody”#868 mentioning @“yeso”#385 and I talking about Love and Rockets, and thinking that yeah, these kinds of unexpected interactions here are cool and interesting, I thought I would take a chance and start a thread about cool architecture I'm interested in! Feel free to add yours if you want, but I might also just post random cool buildings and stuff even if no one else wants to.

https://99percentinvisible.org/app/uploads/2016/06/best-retail-store-montage.jpg
Best Products was a 'catalogue showroom' style retailer that was somewhat popular in the 1970's and 80's, but that was out of business by the late 1990's. One of their hooks, by the time I encountered them, was that their stores had wild and unusual architecture. I grew up near the 'tilt' showroom, and I worked there briefly in the early 90's (it's where I bought my Genesis).
https://99percentinvisible.org/app/uploads/2016/06/best-tilted-view.jpg

There's a whole bunch of interesting stuff to unpack related to these stores and their architect, James Wines of Sculpture in the Environment, and some of his other work is [just](https://www.moma.org/d/assets/W1siZiIsIjIwMjEvMDYvMjkvY3ZtcDdkdGIzXzYuMTBfU0lURV9HaG9zdF9QYXJraW5nX0xvdC5qcGciXSxbInAiLCJjb252ZXJ0IiwiLXF1YWxpdHkgOTAgLXJlc2l6ZSAyMDAweDIwMDBcdTAwM2UiXV0/6.10_SITE%20Ghost%20Parking%20Lot.jpg?sha=d6c3b7ad3890d303) [fucking](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highway_86_Art) [bonkers](https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/A1828-James-Wines-Isuzu-Space-Stations-Childrens-Plaza-Image-1.jpg) in a way that hits my brain in the same way that some video games do. I have a real fascination with the kinds of weirdly experimental architecture that had some popularity when these stores got built in the 70's, and the kind of no longer in existence corporate culture that was open to building big box stores that looked like this. 99% Invisible did a show about this subject a few years back that's [a pretty interesting listen](https://99percentinvisible.org/article/site-specific-postmodern-best-products-showrooms-deconstruct-consumerism/) if anyone wants some more context.

I also appreciate that there's something ever so slightly sinister about some of these buildings, something I don't think any of the conversation around them has really gotten into, so maybe it's just me!

It's extremely sad to me, though, that exactly one of these buildings (the 'forest' showroom) still exists in something approximating its original form (most were either demolished or renovated to replace their facades), but that's also a different conversation about the durability of corporate architecture, what constitutes valuable architecture (and how do you preserve it, especially when it's owned by a corporation), and most of all, what kind of architecture do we consider worthy of preservation.

Having trouble uploading an image, but I've always enjoyed that the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis is shaped like the head of a Rock Em Sock Em Robot head.


Wallace-Emerson Community Centre in Toronto was set to be demolished by the time I left, which I felt alone in being upset about. There was, finally, some vocal pushback against the idea last year but was a little too late—it‘s set to be torn down after the new one’s gone up with its associated condo complex ugh. More.

It will be a real shame to lose it, cause I always thought it looked cool and it was a joy to walk beneath its iron arches.

https://twitter.com/shawnmicallef/status/1073285135225610240

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@“Karasu”#p86872 dang that's a pretty big memory unlocked there, I remember that red logo on the building dimly lit shelving inside with micro machines and transformers… and that when they went out of business in our area, a Best Buy moved in making things slightly confusing

@“connrrrrr”#p86886 you are absolutely not alone in feeling upset about the Wallace Emerson Community Centre. It’s exactly the kind of loss that I find most irritating: built in the early 80’s, suffering from borderline apathy and deferred maintenance for probably 30 years, but not old enough to feel (to most people) like it deserves preservation for its significance.

@“edward”#p86879 ooh, this is really good!

@"thebryanjzx90"#p86887 It was a completely serviceable retailer! Although it was totally outclassed by the building, lol. Was the one you remember one of the weirder ones?

@“Karasu”#p86894 I don‘t know enough about architecture beyond what I retained from art school (which isn’t much!!) but I think people can tell when a building is contributing to the livability of a place. I wish people felt more like they were able to defend these structures from being wiped off the landscape.

And for all people talk about sustainability now, uhh what about buildings? Shouldn't our buildings be intended to last for potentially centuries? The city keeps using the euphemism "revitalisation"—why let it die in the first place?

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@“connrrrrrrrrrr”#p87127 I think people can tell when a building is contributing to the livability of a place.

They absolutely can, but at the same time this kind of perception can be weaponized against buildings, by broad campaigns that paint a building as outmoded or somehow inferior to what could come next. Which is eye-rollingly ridiculous, because often the very people suggesting a building is unsafe or outmoded have materially contributed to it reaching that state. But at the same time, we've been taught in media and popular culture that buildings of that particular age are ugly, useless, old-fashioned, and tacky, so of course they deserve to be replaced.

An example of this that always ticks me off is public housing in the States. I'm vastly simplifying, but the basic shape is something like this: in the 50's or 60's, legislation happens that leads to construction of public housing>> Extremely optimistic, or even utopian plans get drawn up (and keep in mind that a lot of US public housing was built with some amount of flawed reasoning-- that's a whole other subject)>> legislatures approve the plans but only 25% of the needed funding, usually starkly along party lines>> buildings get built, but corners are cut, both in cost and in design, so they're even more flawed from day one>> the buildings age poorly, from both lack of budget for maintenance and from cut corners on materials and construction>> the same party that forced funding reduction begin howling that the buildings are ugly, unsafe (and often they are), and best of all, we could knock them down and replace them with new and non-public construction.

I agree on sustainability, but of course the capitalist drive to knock it down and replace it is huge, especially in a desirable location occupied by an older (but not too old!!) building. What I think is weirdest (but, you know, not actually weird, just capitalism capitalism-ing) is buildings being reduced to rubble that gets hauled to a landfill, with no attempt to recycle or reuse. Portland, OR, briefly required a certain amount of recycling to happen, before caving in to the developer lobby and reversing course.

Ugh, at some point I'm going to need to make a post about the now-being demolished Nagakin Capsule Tower, an absolute treasure that I have trouble even talking about without tearing up a little, but that is a perfect example of an irreplaceable thing that is now nearly lost.

new Nonsite issue all about midcentury architecture. I'm making my way through the essay on wilderness

https://nonsite.org/issues/issue-40-new-views-on-modern-architecture-at-mid-century/

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@“Karasu”#p87139 Portland, OR, briefly required a certain amount of recycling to happen, before caving in to the developer lobby and reversing course.

Revolting.

I'd love to see the archway at least reused, but I don't see any sort of even acknowledgement of what was standing before it in the new plans. Just looks like some dull glass box.

@“yeso”#p87140 this is extremely good, thank you! How had I never heard of Nonsite before??

i recently attended a film screening of Paradise Lost: History in the Unmaking, about birmingham's brutalist central library that recently got pulled down. the whole thing left me feeling depressed. the library had been but one planned aspect of a modernist “Paradise” complex, a pedestrianised hub of public services amidst the commercial motorway sprawl of postwar Birmingham.

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while i don't especially love the look of the building, the purposeful disregard for the structure by local authorities, followed by the privatisation of what was once public space just paints a picture of this societies race to some kind of dystopia. [the new library is even uglier and barely ever open](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Library_of_Birmingham_(32958941706).jpg#/media/File:Library_of_Birmingham_(32958941706).jpg). the brutalist/modernist one was built low so as not to impede the skyline of the more ornate victorian buildings around it. that kind of consideration has been rare during and since the postwar restoration efforts.

the site of the old brutalist library is the epitome of bland instagrammification. pale stone that catches the light on the three sunny days we get, evoking... the mediterranean maybe? anywhere on earth but the west midlands, where the soil is usually black due to high carbon content. glass-clad feats of architectural vulgarity housing white-collar financial firms and their upper-mid chain bars and cafes, somehow often heaving with the kind of people who wouldn't know what culture was if it kicked them between the legs. this is where the tory party conference is happening right this moment.

@“rootfifthoctave”#p87408 I think there‘s a whole thread to be written about the purposeful destruction of post war architecture in the UK. It’s depressing, and makes me want to have a sit-down over it. It's also so wild to me how the new Birmingham library immediately brings to mind present day shopping mall architecture tropes in a way that will almost certainly lead to it being viewed as tacky and old fashioned in even less time than the old one took to get to that point.

Edmonton is far from the kind of architectural city that Birmingham is, but we recently 'repurposed' the old Centennial Library building, a relatively sedate but still cool 60's brutalist building...
https://cityarchives.edmonton.ca/uploads/r/city-of-edmonton-archives/7/6/d/76d3f2070ba09c39193c5cdef8783d461ac3c8a0ede59b439b2d1cedde9ddf59/ET-28-192.jpg
...into a building that one local journalist compared to the tanks in Battlezone.
https://www.arch2o.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Arch2O-stanley-a-milner-library-renewal-teeple-architects.jpg
Don't get me wrong! It's not that I hate it, per se, it's that it's got that very recent contemporary thing of being designed to look like it was built in 2020, exactly, not 2019 or 2021, pretty much guaranteeing its dismissal as dated sooner rather than later.

I remember loling about a glass tower in I think London that focused a beam of sunlight at a certain time of day and it melted a car

here it is

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-23930675.amp

@“yeso”#p87431 I'm most amused that it was a Jaguar

@“yeso”#p87431 oof looks like the blacked out D pillar on an XJ? Expensive car.

the owner is quoted as saying “crikey” in the article

Wish I had a better picture, but I'm fascinated by this home every time I pass it (only visible from the highway, and on a gated private road).

It seems to have some kind of Super Mario Bros castle - looking brick dungeon attached on the back.

Maybe this is an east coast thing but out of the ordinary in these parts.

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I thought that after being depressed over building demolitions and other things, we deserve something a little lighter. Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an Austrian artist who started designing buildings in the late 1980‘s, and his built work is… well, it’s kind of a mess, honestly. I appreciate some of his work where he‘s playing with shape and colour and line, but I’m not so much of a fan of his pseudo-Gaudi-piped-through-postmodernism repeated motifs like giant gold finials and onion domes. Also, his work is wildly impractical– even more than famously impractical architects like Frank Lloyd Wright– and it‘s all absolutely by design. I’ve visited Kunst Haus Wien, a museum of his work that's housed in a building he designed, and none of the interior floors are flat.

Anyway, here's the Maishima Incineration Plant and (beautifully named) Sludge Centre in Osaka:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0b/Maishima_waste_treatment_center_Osaka_JPN_001.jpg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/06/Maishima_Sludge_Center_Osaka_JPN_001.jpg

Hundertwasser was (predictably) a really odd guy-- a hyper environmentalist but also somehow an outspoken fan of monarchy.