Monday, October 29, 2007
For two weeks or so, I’m back in
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 9:44 AM
Sunday, October 21, 2007
(for the video, just view it without the sound for now....I'll work on that...thanks)
Originally intended for water conveyance, since the turn of the 20th century this hefty white arcade, also known as the Arcos da Lapa, has supported a streetcar (or bonde) which descends from the Santa Teresa neighborhood and crosses over to its downtown terminus. With the once-dense city fabric scraped from its flanks, today the aqueduct looks a bit out of place. Older photographs show structures clamoring up to the level of its lower arch. The aqueduct picks its way neatly across Lapa—which has seen safer days—to join the conical cathedral and the Petrobras cube (both visible in the center image) in the center city's curious scattering of monumental forms.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 4:26 AM
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Designed by Affonso Eduardo Reidy and built between 1949 and 1951, the Pedregulho housing development was intended as a model for subsidized lower-class housing. The 850 foot-long building, with its 272 apartments, met with effluent critical approval from such international figures as Max Bill, Walter Gropius, and Siegfried Giedion. It takes center stage in a broader development scheme consisting of four apartment blocks, an elementary school, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a health center, playgrounds, a laundry, and a daycare center.
Pedregulho’s third floor open corridor—the building’s main entry via bridges—provides communal space while allowing the building’s full seven stories to function without the aid of elevators. The building shares an intimate and sophisticated relationship with its sloping site. Perched on sturdy pillars, the building approximates a contour line with its floorplate and allows the ground to flow fluidly beneath it.
The project’s sinuous curve resembles Le Corbusier’s unrealized urban proposals for
Conceived as a white bastion of working class sanitation, Pedregulho is now more of a rotted hulk than
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 7:25 AM
Sunday, October 14, 2007
(View the video without sound to avoid the wrath of the evil chipmunks....I'll get them under control shortly)
Rio is a can of
The beach at Ipanema (image at left) wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. I think I had in my head something more intimate; coves and palms and old men playing cards and drinking from coconuts, perhaps. And that untouchable girl walking to the grocery store or whatever. But in reality Ipanema is a substantial stretch of sand. It’s a sunbathing institution.
I fleshed out the beach’s remarkable social dynamic over three moderate-to-heavy sunburns. With my fellowship I’ve been looking at types of public spaces and Ipanema is certainly the epitome of its type. Without trees, without buildings (other than public bathrooms, flimsy tents, and the occasional kiosk), and even without paving, Ipanema presents unfettered (or, at most, scantily fettered) social space bounded by the ocean on one side and the boardwalk on the other.
The ocean is a dynamic boundary. The water is so cold it makes the sand feel like that granulated ice you get at Burger King soda fountains and the waves are sufficiently grand for surfing, so languid lounging doesn’t bleed into the blue like it does in more tranquil surfs. The rise of the tide acts first as a compacter and then, past a certain threshold, as an eroder. Reminded of their mobility, people eventually peel away to take their lunch or go on with their lives. With a handful of bills though, no one ever really needs to leave. An unceasing army of purveyors vending all types of food, drink, and trinkets overlays the corporal spectacle. They pass within five feet of any given point every thirty seconds singing songs of mate (tea), grilled cheese, beer, papery fried donut-like rings, and other curiosities. Some relish their patrol while others trudge along subdued but available.
Weekends usher out the entire undressed Brazilian world. The strip transforms into an unabashed repository for bodies of all ages, types, and timbres. Weekdays, however, are reserved for the specialists. There are two types of people on the beach during the weekday: men and women. Men stand and pose, women lie and bask. When the women do parade—a rare and beautiful thing—one can appreciate a unique spinal curvature that protracts the rear and ratchets the breasts horizontal. Less interesting (but very much interested) people such as myself rent chairs and wear sunglasses. The women I understand; I’m used to the idea of sunning on a beach. It’s relaxing and with a warm sun and soft breeze you can snatch an easy nap sunscreen permitting. But for the men, I can’t quite see the payoff. Well toned, chest-shaven youths will simply stand there for hours staring into space, not speaking to anyone but periodically shifting positions to self-consciously indicate various aspects of their upper body. It’s a rare brand of unrequited narcissism. Full-length beach mirrors would be a huge hit.
*center image courtesy of Ivan Valin
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 7:32 AM
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Please excuse this harmless bit of ecstatic self-indulgence and gosh-look-how-special-we-are-this-year-ness.
*images courtesy of Ivan Valin and Yuki Bowman
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 8:11 PM
The two differences between the cities (and look, I realize full well that there are about a million and a half differences between these two cities but I’m talking about experiences and impressions here so just come with me on this one) are (1) the modes in which the city accrues its layers and (2) the means by which the city supersaturates one’s senses.
In the images above, note how this spatial sensibility plays out at progressively smaller scales.
At left, superimposed traffic lanes configure not unlike Park Avenue behind Grand Central in
At center, a multilevel metro station (Estacio Se) endows the transit connection with generous monumentality and yawning efficiency.
At right, a multi-floor galleria gives the same priority to multi-level unification at much more intimate commercial dimension. Small shops, each one bay wide and more often than not packed with alternative lifestyle paraphernalia, line the promenade.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 5:22 AM
Designed by Oscar Niemeyer and completed in 1953, the
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 5:18 AM
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 5:15 AM
Monday, October 1, 2007
La Plata is located a bumpy 2-hour train ride from Buenos Aires, during which time Ivan and I were serenaded twice and given ample opportunity to purchase candy bars, scrunchies, elbow braces, flashlight-tipped pens, anti-inflammatories. As usual, Corbusier did not disappoint. Maison Curutchet hybridizes the Villa Savoye and Mill Owners’ Building to accommodate a doctor’s house and clinic. Two pre-existing houses flank the ambiguous airy façade (in the image, foliage largely obscures the house to the left) and Corbusier opportunistically knits the structure into context by carrying dominant horizontal lines--terrace floor slab from the right and brise soleil from the left--and by stepping his building’s silhouette. Throughout the project, Maison Curutchet’s massing caters to its neighbors’ respective heights in order to maximize sun and view penetration. In reference to the park across the street (note the rich foreground green) the house is intensely layered from front to back with thickened two-dimensional planes that cede to inhabitable volumes once the façade is breached. A tree rising in the interstice behind the clinic ushers greenery into the heart of the house (well, it will in a few weeks) and intensifies the framework's complexity.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 4:27 PM