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Featured Eyesore of the Month

March 2015

James Howard Kunstler : March 2, 2015 11:33 am : Eyesore of the Month

Google 1

Behold the proposed new Google headquarters, Mountain View (Silicon Valley), CA. Google, of course, has enough walking around money in its deep pockets to indulge in the most fantastic architectural status stunt — meaning that the diminishing returns of great wealth and cleverness will bite extra hard. This, uh, structure, by Bjark Ingles and Thomas Heatherstone employs all the dishonest tropes of our time in order to achieve techno-narcissist lift-off: 1.) the idea that buildings should erase the boundary between being inside and outside; 2) that “nature” is the sovereign remedy for the failure to provide real urbanism; that space functions best when it lacks definition; that work is really just play; and perhaps most insidious, that the modular fabricated materials of today will age gracefully and be repairable. I would not bet on that outcome at all. They say that empires build their most grandiose and grotesque monuments just before they collapse, and Google is kind of a sub-empire of the greater USA techno-clown empire. As the late Rod Serling might say: “…submitted for your approval, a mauseleum for the Information Age….”

Below, check out the childishly-conceived nature installation in all its greenwashed ambiguity. This is the kind of trendoid “landscape urbanism” crap promoted by the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Basically, a park minus artistry. Looks like it was designed by the late Thomas Kinkaid for a creation museum diorama.

Below illustration, find additional comments by Catherine Johnson

Google 2

Additional Informed Comments

By Catherine Johnson
Middletown, Connecticut
Licensed Architect, Charter Member Congress for the New Urbanism.  


Google wants a flexible building. “It is our responsibility to build something that reflects Our Age – technology.” Thus the proposed Erector Set with Stretchy Glass Stocking on top where you can have “a car factory or, after 5 years, something else!” But, poor Googlers, you’ve missed the mark. You’re trying too hard to be groovy. Your goal shouldn’t be on making a literal manifestation of “technology” on the building skin, but rather creating spaces that work best for human beings, and creating the habitat to support their psychological and physical well-being.The focus should not be on inventing new materials to build with, but on creating the kinds of spaces that humans seek and feel good in: intimate spaces, both inside and outside buildings, places with variety of activities, places where one can find stimulation and other places for self-refection.

The space for supporting human activity has changed very little over the past 8,000 years. We still use incredible stone factory buildings from two hundred years ago. Why? Their flexibility comes from of a size and design that reinforce a wide spectrum of human activity (dimension, height, permit natural light and air). Second, they were put IN THE RIGHT PLACE to begin with. They work because they are invariably located in a downtown where there are other things to do, both useful and for pleasure, day and night, accessible by foot rather than only a private vehicle sent specifically for that purpose.

Build something that can be reused not only after 5-15 years, but after Google is gone. If you choose right, you can have a building that will support creative human endeavor for hundreds of years, making hundreds of different types of products, and you won’t have to “rip it down after 5 years.” You plan to build  Rouge River when you should really be building Highland Park.
Maybe you are looking to other tech companies for ideas about how to approach creating modern office workspace, but you’re looking at the wrong models. The “office park in the prairie” complexes are of a 1970’s mindset. Places of business cannot be isolated, no matter how large, in a world of its own creating and last over the long haul. Your Erector Set building will never be recycled, renovated, or worse, able to be sold. Its odd novelty will make it the least flexible building ever conceived. The flashy photo of today will become the icon of a mistake, showing a company who didn’t understand true green buildings rely on the technology formed over millennia instead of the last 15 minutes.
If Stretchy Glass was such a good idea, Buckminister Fuller have already done it 60 years ago. This building is obsolete and nary a sky-brella has even opened. Make you mark by doing something completely radical: look at  traditional buildings that stood the test of time, buildings that are beloved for their design, buildings that support humanity not the technology that may operate within them.

Note: JHK’s 2015 Forecast is available now at this link: Forecast 2015 — Life in the Breakdown Lane

The new World Made By Hand novel

!! Is now available !!

Kunstler skewers everything from kitsch to greed, prejudice, bloodshed, and brainwashing in this wily, funny, rip-roaring, and profoundly provocative page- turner, leaving no doubt that the prescriptive yet devilishly satiric A World Made by Hand series will continue.” — Booklist


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March 2015

James Howard Kunstler : March 2, 2015 11:33 am : Eyesore of the Month
Behold the proposed new Google headquarters, Mountain View (Silicon Valley), CA. Google, of course, has enough walking around money in its deep pockets to indulge in the most fantastic architectural status stunt — meaning that the diminishing returns of great wealth and cleverness will bite extra hard. This, uh, structure, by Bjark Ingles and Thomas more »

February 2015

James Howard Kunstler : February 2, 2015 12:51 pm : Eyesore of the Month
Here come the borgs! Introducing the new US Federal Courthouse in Salt lake City designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners. They’ve really caught that old security state spirit in a building that looks uncannily like the computer server that contains your credit record, your tax filings, your phone log, your internet purchase trail, the drone photos more »

January 2015

James Howard Kunstler : January 5, 2015 11:19 am : Eyesore of the Month
Behold, another 80-story hotel / condo tower by the industrious Chicago architect Jeanne Gang for a site on the south bank of the Chicago River. I suggest this new style be labeled “architwerkture,” since it looks like a digitized schematic representation of something Miley Cyrus might do on an awards show. The project is a more »

December 2014

James Howard Kunstler : December 2, 2014 9:25 am : Eyesore of the Month
Behold the grandiosity of the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art proposed for the Chicago lakefront. It is unclear exactly what it might contain besides the costumes and props for Lucas’s Star Wars cinema franchise.  The public relations bullshit cooked up to promote this roughly 30–story-tall monstrosity tells the tale in superlative bombast: The Lucas more »

November 2014

James Howard Kunstler : November 3, 2014 11:14 am : Eyesore of the Month
Behold the official reception hall of the Kansas Expo Center in Topeka, the state fairground. Heritage Hall, one of the oldest buildings in Kansas, has been retrofitted as a party shack enclosed between the convention center, Capital Plaza hotel, and a great American desert of parking lots. Curiously, they stuck a plastic portico on the sandstone more »

October 2014

James Howard Kunstler : October 6, 2014 10:00 am : Eyesore of the Month
Behold the creeping bollards of Boston. These globules are found in front of the Tip O’Neill Federal Building on Causeway Street in Boston. Combine post 9/11 paranoia with the endemic American hatred of artistry, with the opportunity to money-grub in the trough of public works, and you end up with another parody of civilized life. Below, more »

September 2014

James Howard Kunstler : September 3, 2014 11:58 am : Eyesore of the Month
  Behold the new gerbil cage for children in Queensbury, New York. Notice that there are no children there. The reason: it is a completely unrewarding place to play. In fact, it was designed not for children but for lawyers in this lawsuit-happy land. In attempting remove every possible hazard to health and safety, they more »

August 2014

James Howard Kunstler : August 4, 2014 10:12 am : Eyesore of the Month
  Behold, the latest addition to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass, by architect Tadao Ando. Add to your collection of sleek Modernist bowling trophies. The world has had enough of minimalism on steroids; it just doesn’t know it yet. It’s ironic, for sure, arising as it does out of such a maximalist culture more »

July 2014

James Howard Kunstler : July 2, 2014 10:35 am : Eyesore of the Month
Behold the proposed new addition to the suite of glass boxes on Granville Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia. O Canada! Are you trying to out-do the stupidity and vulgarity of your neighbor to the south? Apart from the obvious perversity of cantilevering over the  historic Province House — an early legislative building — note the more »

June 2014

James Howard Kunstler : June 4, 2014 9:43 am : Eyesore of the Month
Behold the Aqua Tower by architect Jeanne Gang, Chicago. Of course, the skyscraper is an obsolete building form because the ones we’ve already got will never be renovated in the coming era of resource and capital scarcity. But that doesn’t stop the developers and architects from creating new ones — especially at this climax moment more »
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