Apocalypse-Proof - 33 Thomas Street
A windowless telecommunications hub, 33 Thomas Street in New York City embodies an architecture of surveillance and paranoia. That has made it an ideal set for conspiracy thrillers.
When it was completed in Lower Manhattan in 1974, 33 Thomas Street, formerly known as the AT&T Long Lines Building, was intended as the world’s largest facility for connecting long-distance telephone calls. 1 Standing 532 feet — roughly equivalent to a 45-story building — it’s a mugshot for Brutalism, windowless and nearly featureless. Its only apertures are a series of ventilation hoods meant to hide microwave-satellite arrays, which communicate with ground-based relay stations and satellites in space. One of several long lines buildings designed by John Carl Warnecke for the New York Telephone Company, a subsidiary of AT&T, 33 Thomas Street is perhaps the most visually striking project in the architect’s long and influential career. Embodying postwar American economic and military hegemony, the tower broadcasts inscrutability and imperviousness. It was conceived, according to the architect, to be a “skyscraper inhabited by machines.”
Art Deco skyscrapers were America's greatest contribution to the world of architecture
Washington is a city of great bridges and terrible bridges. These are their stories.
Inside Nithurst Farm — an architect’s sci-fi dream
As you approach Nithurst Farm, architect Adam Richards’ new house, the sheep look up suspiciously from their grazing. You feel like an intruder. Sitting in the middle of the undulating Sussex countryside, the house looks more like a piece of railway viaduct or a bit of agricultural or industrial infrastructure left over from some obscure purpose than a conventional dwelling. It might even be a ruin, the stray remains of a Roman villa.
How Giant Ships Are Built
Almost everything at this American shipyard exists at enormous scale. Vessels are constructed over years. Experience is developed over decades. The work is so spread out across the yard and over time that, to the untrained eye, it can be difficult to tell what is being hammered, wired or welded — and whether it’s right-side up or upside down.
When finished, more than a hundred pieces are fused into a hulking mass of metal that will be set afloat to connect an ever-shrinking world.
Paved for the people
“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” sings Joni Mitchell. But at Prahran Square, almost the reverse took place. Lyons Architecture and Aspect Studios have transformed a carpark into an urban sanctuary of sorts, an island of open space and amenity in Melbourne’s rapidly densifying suburbs.
The cutting-edge holiday cottages of Dungeness
Dungeness is unusual both biologically and geologically: a cuspate foreland formed by the meeting of longshore drift from the north and west, there are 600 species of plants, abundant birdlife as well as moths and invertebrates not found elsewhere. Officials have designated it a National Nature Reserve, a Special Protection Area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. There’s a birdwatching centre, a miniature railway for day-trippers, two lighthouses and two pubs. And looming over it all, the power station — two of those in fact, opened in 1965 and 1983, sitting side-by-side on the beach.
Recent years have brought an even more intriguing element to this unlikely mix: Dungeness is becoming a focus for pioneering architecture, as former fishermen’s shacks, coastguard cottages, industrial and military buildings are transformed into cutting-edge seaside retreats.
The Unrepeatable Architectural Moment of Yugoslavia’s “Concrete Utopia”
Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija, in Petrova Gora, Croatia. Abstract, boldly expressive memorials once dotted the Yugoslavian countryside by the thousands.
A look inside the never-before-seen interior of San Francisco’s Ferry Building clock tower
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An Incredible Move: The Indiana Bell Telephone Building
The massive undertaking began on October 1930. Over the next four weeks, the massive steel and brick building was shifted inch by inch 16 meters south, rotated 90 degrees, and then shifted again by 30 meters west. The work was done with such precision that the building continued to operate during the entire duration of the move. All utility cables and pipes serving the building, including thousand of telephone cables, electric cables, gas pipes, sewer and water pipes had to be lengthened and made flexible to provide continuous service during the move. A movable wooden sidewalk allowed employees and the public to enter and leave the building at any time while the move was in progress. The company did not lose a single day of work nor interrupt their service during the entire period.
George Peabody Library
College libraries can be claustrophobic, institutional affairs, more concerned with eliminating distractions than providing a scholarly atmosphere. But the George Peabody Library on the campus of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, now owned by Johns Hopkins University, was seemingly designed to create a space where studying feels monumental.
Built in 1878 at the behest of philanthropist George Peabody, the library was originally part of an arts and culture institute—America’s first music conservatory—that he created to be available to the people of his beloved Baltimore. The Peabody Institute is still among the world’s finest music schools, graduating many of classical music’s finest performers, teachers, and composers.
Stairs to nowhere are everywhere these days. Where are they taking us?
We love to look down on other people, and we love it even more when they look up at us. The architect Morris Lapidus understood this when he designed the grand staircase of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. He called it the “Stairs to Nowhere” because they led only to a coat closet, where the beautiful people could leave their jackets and then swan down the stairs, catching the eye of everyone below.
Sixty-five years later, the new stairs-to-nowhere are “stepped seating” — though it may look like the thing in high school you called “bleachers” — and it’s become one of the most Instagrammable and possibly the most overused architectural features of the decade.
“Building Meaningfully”: Burroughs Wellcome Corporate Headquarters, 1972
In 1969, pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome commissioned renowned modernist architect Paul Rudolph to design its new corporate headquarters and research facility in Durham, North Carolina. The result was a visionary modular complex whose geometries created a futuristic melding of spaces and forms.
Living with a starchitect’s early work
Young, ambitious architects are known for cost overruns, impractical layouts — and the occasional work of genius
A catalog of complaints, and some advice:
Le Corbusier, never the most self-deprecating of architects, returned to the site and, looking around, is reported to have said: “You know, it is always life that is right and the architect who is wrong.” That was not an admission of error: Le Corbusier meant that his designs were able to accommodate change.
Mirrored Ceilings and Criss-Crossed Stairwells Give a Chinese Bookstore the Feeling of an M.C. Escher Woodcut
Zhongshuge bookstores, designed by Shangai-based architecture firm X+Living, feature incredible rooms coveted by book and illusion lovers alike. Each location in this chain of Chinese bookstores has uniquely designed spaces with reflective elements that immerse guests in parallel environments. In the Chongqing branch, criss-crossing staircases and a mirrored ceiling double the room for an effect that seems straight out of an M.C. Escher woodcut or an infinite Indian stepwell.
X-ray imaging reveals the secrets of termite mounds
Turner found that the assumptions of Pearce and others that the mounds’ complex tunnel systems serve to circulate air and remove heat to regulate interior temperatures isn’t accurate. The air mixing isn’t the result of the colony’s internal heat but air pressure from outside the mound. The termites build the mounds so tall to catch the wind, and their porous outer surface is what allows the air to move into and through the colony. Turner likens the effect to the alveoli in human lungs: the mound almost “breathes.”
After a winter restoration, the famed Hornbean Ellipse is almost back
The historic garden at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown is a necklace of finely crafted spaces, but one garden room stands out as particularly special. The Hornbeam Ellipse is an enclosed oval terrace in the heart of the 16-acre garden, formal yet serene. Its soulfulness comes from its perfect proportions — it is both expansive and intimate — and from the strength and simplicity of its design.
The Bell Labs Holmdel Complex
The Bell Labs Holmdel Complex in Holmdel, New Jersey was created as a new research and development facility for Bell Telephone when they decided to move operations out of Manhattan. Constructed between 1959 and 1962, it was the swan song of architect Eero Saarinen, who also designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Center. Saarinen died a year before Holmdel was completed and six years before the six story complex would be named Laboratory of the Year by R&D Magazine. The outside curtain wall of mirrored glass that allowed in 25 percent of the sun’s light while blocking 70 percent of its heat led to the Holmdel Complex being christened “The Biggest Mirror Ever” by Architectural Forum, and the complex was used in universities as example of one of the crowning achievements of the modernist architectural style.
Architect Alexander Gorlin allowed me to photograph Bell Labs shortly before the renovation began. Much of the interior had been stripped to the basic elements and the plants in the atrium were gone, but the architecture was still mesmerizing. I had visited the building when it was open many years ago but it was unfamiliar to me now. Many of the rooms were entirely anonymous after everything in them had been removed.
Cat ladders: a creative solution for felines in flats
Strategically placed ramps and ladders for urban cats are all the rage in Bern. Brigitte Schuster’s photo book Swiss Cat Ladders documents the phenomenon
The 26,000-Year Astronomical Monument Hidden in Plain Sight
On the western flank of the Hoover Dam stands a little-understood monument, commissioned by the US Bureau of Reclamation when construction of the dam began in 01931. The most noticeable parts of this corner of the dam, now known as Monument Plaza, are the massive winged bronze sculptures and central flagpole which are often photographed by visitors. The most amazing feature of this plaza, however, is under their feet as they take those pictures.
The plaza’s terrazzo floor is actually a celestial map that marks the time of the dam’s creation based on the 25,772-year axial precession of the earth.