Category architecture

Location, location, location: Renzo Piano’s new Whitney

As I write this I’m sitting in the much-adored High Line in the Meatpacking District of NYC. The revitalization of this area seems to be getting better and better every day. It must be quite the case study for urban planning turnaround projects.

When I heard Renzo Piano was designing a new Whitney Museam I was intrigued. I love his work and this project is a bit personal to me as my wife Andrea used to work at the existing Whitney on 75th Street. When I heard it was going to located in this area and straddling the Hudson River I was instantly smitten.

This project feels similar to the Guggenheim Bilbao. That museum, also a satellite of a NY icon and also straddling a river, almost overpowers that region. I take that back, it DOES overpower the city of Bilbao. It acts as a stand-alone monument, a one-man show.

The Piano-proposed Whitney seems to have learned a bit from that project. It embraces the wide vistas of the Hudson, takes in massive quantities of natural light from the south and yet it doesn’t seem too in love with itself. It’s design offers a modern juxtaposition to nearby industrial, turn of the century warehouses and also seems to feel right at home. I love it.


The best user interface is the one you don’t see

We all knew the day would come when we looked into a mirror and saw more than our reflection. That day has arrived.

I’m sharing this because I find early versions of new product categories particularly interesting. They are usually crude, presuppose we want to port our existing applications onto the new platform and fail to truly see “how” lives are impacted and changed by such innovations.

The best new product introduction video I’ve seen in recent years was the original Flipboard video. It presented something that felt new, it felt more than a simple platform evolution. The recent Microsoft Productivity Future Vision video also comes to mind but feels more like a concept car sketch and not actually market-available solutions.

Regarding the mirror, it seems like it’s wouldn’t be a stretch to have a mirror recognize you first and serve up your individual, ephemeral interests on the fly. That might include showing you your most important emails based on ever-tuning algorithms or a recent text from a friend meeting you for a surf along with a live feed of the waves at that destination.

In a way this reminds me of a new way South Korean’s are doing their grocery shopping, while they wait for subway trains. I blogged about that here.

I’m sure a large percent of people will hear about this device and say “that’s horrible, I’d never use it… I don’t want to have information fed to me in the bathroom.” We almost always fail to see the utility in new categories and years later we almost always forget our initial, passionate disregard. That shift happened with cell phones, email, social media, media players, etc.

Interesting shift.

Jump on this sculpture

Numen is Spiderman-meets-Calder-meets-Kafka-meets-Gymboree.

What else would you call installations that are three-dimensional, moving, interactive, web-based, shifts in front of your eyes and is (potentially) kid-friendly?

Who says art should come on a flat surface, be rectilinear and reflect some kind of image or representation of our lives.

Art should take you somewhere you haven’t been.

This isn’t just a neighborhood-size hammock it’s shifting, jiving sculpture you can jump on.

Check the rest of his work; his site is here.

Everything is a remix

Intellectual property is the new Lego blocks.

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Everything is a Remix Part 4 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

The original information architects: Ray and Charles Eames

Before there was Google, Jobs or Nick Fenton there was Charles and Ray Eames.

This is the story of two castaways who find their muses and end up influencing design, information presentation, furniture, photography, interiors, multimedia exhibits, games and in the end… modern society.

These are quite possibly America’s two most relevant designers and the film Eames: The architect and the painter tells this story.

3 thumbs up (and streaming free on Netflix at the moment).


CCTV: Going up and then left

The CCTV building (left) by Rem Koolhaus rises above all the major architectural feats of the last decade.

The structure offers a near-perfect representation of this era; the building mixes stark, modern lines and takes healthy advantage of complex math-fueled computer-aided design. But in today’s day and age that’s not enough to stand out… a number of buildings do those things. The Bird’s Nest (鸟巢) comes to mind with it’s complete lack of symmetry. And of course Gehry’s fantastical forms seem to have more in common with sculpture than they do with architecture.

The reason this building rises above the others, at least to me, is because it rises so differently.

I cannot think of another building in the world, let alone a major work, that rises perpendicular to the earth and then takes two ninety degrees turns before it acknowledges the laws of gravity and continues back toward ground.

This building is beyond what most people could even imagine to be possible and for that reason… I love it.

Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright

I have a vivid memory of a white water rafting trip I took in college. The truth is that the rafting itself was a bust, there was too much water and so our class 5 rapids ended up producing something not very interesting.

What snagged me and captivated my attention was a side trip. We were in deep in the heart of Pennsylvania and driving on roads surrounded by thick woods. If my memory serves me right we were lost. We saw a sign for an attraction, followed the signs and this is what we found.

Falling Water.

The idea of a home in the woods isn’t new.

The idea of modern, horizontal architecture isn’t new either.

The idea of putting a dwelling that for all intents and purposes offered a frontal-assault challenge to Bauhaus designs of that era… in the middle of a 5,100-acre nature reserve… was a radically new idea.

Even today it feels new.


After I saw this I became a bit of a Frank Lloyd Wright fan/fanatic. I remember making side trips to see places like Oak Park, Ill where one can see entire neighborhoods of his designs. I also have spent a fair amount of time walking the interior spiral of the Guggenheim in New York.

I love his comprehensive approach. He didn’t just design the structures… he designed tables and chairs. He designed the napkin rings.

And yet after it all I still come back to this house. It’s beyond what most people would enable themselves to dream. It’s peaceful, it’s elegant, it has a stream running thorough it. To cap it all off it has it’s own soundtrack, falling water.