« 99% Invisible

400- The Smell of Concrete After Rain

2020-04-28 | 🔗

There have been over 200,000 deaths as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. All have been tragic, but there are two people in particular we’ve lost due to COVID that were part of the world of architecture and design that we want to honor with a couple of stories today. First, we are mourning the loss of architect Michael McKinnell. Along with Gerhard Kallman, McKinnell designed the unforgettable Boston City Hall, completed in 1968. They won the commission for Boston City Hall after submitting their brutalist, heroic monument in a contest when Michael McKinnell was just 26 years old. It was always a controversial structure, much of the public found it ugly and too unconventional, but architects and critics tend to love it. This is the often the case with Brutalism in general and that is the subject of our first story starring Boston City Hall.

Another voice who is gone too early was Michael Sorkin. Sorkin was a designer and the Village Voice architecture critic in the 80s. He brought a totally new kind of approach to writing about buildings, one that focused on people and politics. We spoke with design critic at Curbed, Alexandra Lange, about Sorkin's work, and Roman Mars reads excerpts from one of his pieces called Two Hundred and Fifty Things an Architect Should Know.

The Smell of Concrete After Rain

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman, Mars There have been tens of thousands of deaths as result of the corona virus pandemic. All have been tragic, but there too people in particular that we ve lost a covert that were part of the world of architecture and desire that we want to honour with a couple of stories today we are more in the loss of architects. Michael Mckenna, along with Gerhard com Mckenna design the unforgettable Boston City Hall, completed in nineteen sixty eight. One- the Commission for Boston City Hall after submitting their brutal list heroic monument in a contest when I called which is twenty six years old. It was always a controversial structure. Much of the public and ugly and unconventional, but architects and critics tend to love This is often the case with blue eyes and more generally, and that
the subject of a peace, starring, Boston City Hall that every shopping reported for us back in twenty fifteen to celebrate My goal was life going to play their story for you now. It's of my favorites hope you like it. The best James Bond is either Sean Connery or Daniel Craig. I lean towards Daniel crack New movies are just better, but the shown country film is definitely had the best villains. There's blow felled, of course who? So I conic that he turned in the act of cats, stroking into a thing that super villains do but bond flashes nemesis has to be gold. Thing expect me to talk about. I expect you to do you expect me to talk, there's, this dorky fun fact that the bond villain gold finger was actually name, after a real person. That's trouble. Every drop of the
there, the James Bond books in funding named finger for a man he found so dastardly, so terrible that he immortalized him in pop culture, the real finger was an architect gold finger anymore giant, hulking, austere, concrete buildings gold fingers buildings were decreed. Soulless inhabitants claim to supper. Health problems and depression from spending time inside them. Some of Fingers buildings were vacated because occupants found them so ugly, and yet many architects praises fingers buildings. His. Like Tower, which was once threatened with demolition, has been awarded, landmark standards. This divide this hatred from the public and love from designers, an architect tends to be the narrative around buildings like gold figures, which is to say gigantic, posing buildings made of concrete what some people refer,
two as brutal list architecture and a lot of votes. Beyond the creator of James Bond love to her we are in worst hall which, to my great dismay and frustration, is often considered, though worse, building on campus or, worse still, ha more. Like worst, I met up with Sarah Briggs Ramsay in Worser Hall, a ruthless building at you see Berkeley. I can't tell you how many times I ve been locking up my bike outside and they over here under guides, walking with their parents and going ironically. This is the architecture school and it's the ugliest building on camp as you, Mister Hall. Is the architecture school sir completed her masters? Their buildings like this are pretty pervasive across missed American and can eighty campuses. There was a big bulky concrete building on the campus, where I went to college, and I hated
I had to go through it just reminded me of a bunker or a bomb. Shelter is big, concrete buildings. Just like me out absolutely. It has these connotations of soviet era construction, sometimes third, world construction, all these negative associations. This is Professor Adrian, forty other of the excellent book concrete and culture he's been searching concrete for around ten years. Now it has a bad name. Apart from us let it criticisms, concrete buildings, present environmental concerns, the lost these buildings bills, I'm when energy was cheap and they
result, an awful lot of energy to heat and cool them. Congress buildings were built with the illusion of plenty that we will always have enough energy to build and heat and cool these massive inefficient structures as harsher. Lux concrete, is an utterly optimistic building material, arguably to opt in essence, really from the nineteen twenty? Is it was seen as being the material that word chain, the world it had. The potential build things in a way that hadn't been seen before concrete was this material. It seemed boundless readily available in vast quantities and cook a massive spaces, unlike any other material, so concrete sprang up everywhere. The second most heavily consumed products in the world. The we think we consume more. Of than concrete is water.
We use concrete for sidewalks bridges, tunnels and highways and, of course, for giant buildings, whether we are talking about stage here, Would you Teresa condominium or gymnasia, or planetary, so historically, government programmes all over the world loved concrete, particularly in soviet Russia, but also later in Europe and North America. It was used for welfare welfare state projects, concrete then in the most efficient way to house Hugh numbers of people and philosophical it was seen as humble, capable and honest concrete, was just there in all its rough glory, not hiding behind any paint or layers here. I am love me or hate me is concrete. Buildings came to signify humility, honesty and integrity. They were wrecked.
It all over the world as housing projects, court houses, schools, churches, hospitals and city halls. You'll stand outside and deter bustle go by and they'll be late Gentlemen, voted the most ugliest building in the world with Boston City Hall. How do you compete with that Chris Grimly is up against a lot, but he is trying Restore Boston City halls reputation? My name is Chris grimly I'm with my fellow heroic people mark Pass and Michael Cuba Christmas and Michael had embarked on what they call the heroic project. Chronicling, the concrete structure in and around Boston, rather than referring to these concrete buildings as brutal list. They prefer that heroic because legs, many superheroes. These structures have best, most noble intentions, but are sorely misunderstood. Also, just gender Brutal ISM is a big broad label that gets used inconsistently in architecture. People tend to
disagree on one precise definition. The name blue also just sounds intense, even though it's not actually related to brutality? It comes from debt on brute, which is a french term for Iraq. Concrete in any case, to these guys heroic feels like a better term, especially in Boston where concrete architectures. Dan and save the day. You have to situate Boston in late fifties. Nineteen sixty is it America's first city- well, it is America's most historic city, not really, but I get your point and yet it finds itself in the doldrums. Boston, like a lot of other american cities, was played by loss of manufacturing jobs and white flight to the suburbs and for decades. Boston had the highest property taxes in the nation and almost no development. There is this recognition from civic authorities that something needs to be done and something needs to be done quickly
so Boston sets an agenda to make the city great again with big, soaring, capable thoroughly. Modern buildings made, of course, out of com, and though some of these buildings were celebrated others, were really not what we call the third rail of Boston, concrete, modernism, a city. Ah, when Boston City Hall was built in nineteen, sixty eight critics or put off by this concrete style, it was called alienating cold, and since it was a government building, this criticism became impossible. To remove from politics Austin all became a political pawn, mayors, the council members kept trying to win public support with promises to get rid of the building like John too, did when he ran principally council. I value your job or not. They should visit vote just open God come here. We are sitting all partner for passing through the hall, a modern architecture, but I know baggage. Actually it is about building can I do
can do a lot by blocking this building doubt former mayor, Thomas Menino actually started a study to really look into tearing down turn out as a result of the study that you would need something like a nuclear grade weapon basically to destroy this. Because it was said so heavily overbuilding concrete, and so when they wouldn't tear down city all officials, it was to ignore it, people that occupied the building for decades in decades, didn't like it, and so they did invest money into the building and ineffective. We wanted to see the building go away. This who called active neglect happens with a lot of concrete buildings. They are intentionally underprepared on renovated and uncared, for which only makes the building more awkward. Amendment he did and then more ignored in Greece. Is a vicious cycle for the public hate
Boston City on feed itself, and then the discussion here is on really became about what the original architect had done wrong, as if this were not a failure of maintenance, but a failure of the initial design when people bill is mammoth concrete structures? No one really thought about maintenance. They seemed indestructible. The early days of concrete people assume This was an everlasting material that wouldn't need any attention at all, and I mean that's wrong. We know that it does need to be looked after it does to Terry right does decay, but it can be hard to tell when concrete is decaying. If you think breakin timber, the occur takes place on the surface of them, but with concrete the deterioration is internal, concrete, deteriorates chemically from the inside out part of this a city with a metal reinforcements than help hold up. Most
great buildings, the rebar. Well, it can rest and the rest eats away at the overall structure, but Adrian for he says tearing them down is not the answer because assumes you tell them down, then you have a problem. First of all, what you do with Faye Debt treatise. That's left and secondly, you got to replace them with something else and use up a lot more energy, create a lot more co2 in building something in that they already used up all that energy when they were made their already there we can adopt these buildings to make them greener and make them more appealing places to be by adding windows, for example, but basically, professor forty, We can all developed the capacity to love these concrete brutes in awe other hulking glory. Show people can learn to love anything but dinner, as with any
form whether its approval saying literature, the more you know about it, the more you get out of it no, you will appreciate it, and this is especially true of concrete buildings architecture. Students appreciate them because they know that concrete actually requires a hell of a lot of skill and ass to work with to do our kitchen. Cheering concrete is proof that you are really are an architect. It's the tests being an architect, the concrete building every but all detail needs to be calculated in advance, concrete, His wildly intimidating to work with once you poor, There is no going back with a concrete building its life the result of an immaculate conception. The whole thing is an integral monolithic hull, eight. It has to be right
aside from the interesting design challenges that poses com you did self as a material can be suddenly beautiful. If you look closely, you know what we think of it as just a monolithic, consistent, homogenous texture is actually really rich and has a lot interest when you actually go up to it and consider Et Cetera, Briggs Ramsay, the one I spoke with at Berkeley worst or how did a year long project travelling around the world. Looking at concrete, things in Europe and Asia and South and North America to create a global comparison of one material that, I think is so sort of under considered. It's like the background of all the city, is but no enacts his sandstone luck. We call the city a concrete jungle to talk about the artificial,
on this of the urban landscape, but concrete can actually be a very natural expression of the environment. Concrete color and texture can be dictated by local climate, local earth and local rock. This is the Harvard Science Centre on the Harvard Campus and it's gotta very per believe. Come really pronounced purple and that's the ground from the site. Concrete can also be an expression of local style and custom. Like our you, a concrete has big stick: textured chunks of rock, while japanese concrete is very fine and flat but the beauty of concrete architecture is all the better when you can just observe the buildings like pieces of sculpture without actually having to live and work in them. It brings in concrete, surprising, ally, photography, concrete, looks good jimfred loves. It provides this kind of neutral background. It provides a
wonderful searching for peoples. Skin tones, color clothes fashion for jobs. First realized this first and then pockets of the internet started to appreciate these concrete buildings. There are lots of these blogs, some on which show you kind of extraordinary enthusiasm for concrete photography, is allowing a new audience of non architects to appreciate these buildings for their strong lines, the crisp shadows and increasingly the idealism they embody. Representer set of ideas about. The state of the world and what the future Breeze imagine to be that we want to preserve. They should remember what people with thinking. Fifty years ago, These buildings down will lose all of that. Sure whether we want to admit it or not, as a sort of shelf life
I'm after which buildings ball out of fashion, and then are allowed to fall. Apart back in the nineteen sixties, victorian style buildings were considered hideous, falling apart impossible to repair and we were tearing batches of them down all the while erecting big concrete buildings, but enough victorians were saved that today they are these beautiful, lovingly restored. Treasure Brutal list heroic whenever you want to call it conquered, architecture, now finds itself at a potential inflection point two data to be modern, too young to be classic in a small but growing band of architects, architecture, enthusiasts and preservation is, would like us to just wait a bit and see
Maybe with a little time in love, we might discover some architectural diamonds in the rough that we just can't see right now Michael Mckinnon, architect, abortions. Any all died in look of related illness. At the age of eighty four he survive his wife and architectural partner. Stephanie malice heart goes out to all who knew yeah,
after the break. We honour a true vanguard of architectural criticism. Michael Sorkin stay with us we're starting to get used to doing things virtually virtual drinks with brands virtual, but clubs and virtual birthday parties, and maybe you discovered that your virtual tools are not up. There's enough, when it comes to a new and improved website, you should let square space help you out square space gives you the ability to customize lookin settings and more with just a few clicks, their templates created by world class designers. So they anticipate your needs, Look sharp doing it. I may Moon squares Base website at Roman moors dot com was really easy to drag and drop is simple editing when aid to change anything in an array of customizable features. Try it for yourself had the squares based outcomes, less invisible.
Or a free trial, and we are ready to launch use the offer code, invisible to say ten percent off first purchase of a website or domain. Ninety nine percent of visible supported by better help online counselling with everything going on today stress can easily start to feel overwhelming. If your struggling with anxiety, depression or isolation, you are not alone. Better help has been a resource for many people during this time and they continue to hire councillors simply fill out.
A snare to get match with the license professional counselor to fit your needs. Its quick and easy to connect and the online environment is safe and private. Anything and everything you share is confidential. Better help is an affordable option and our listeners get ten percent off your first month with the discount code. Invisible you can get started today, go to better helped outcomes, thus invisible. That's better hd, LP, Dotcom, slash invisible talk to a therapist online and get help when you want in wherever you are. In late March, we also wars, designer and architecture gridlock, Michael Sorkin, to complications brought up by covered nineteen. He started writing for the village voice, the nineteen eighties. He brought a totally
a new kind of approach to writing about buildings, one that focused on people in politics. I fayaway he really stretched the boundaries on how confrontational you can be in print. Is our architecture, critical, curbed in front of the show, our gender. Who can became famous for ripping into conventional wisdom and sometimes ripping into important builders and other critics to a gale of vitality, to earth pictures, criticism and stretch stretched abound, he is and what it could be in a way that really brought it to new generations attention and has continued to be really important for young, Michael Sorkin wrote about buildings, but also the much bigger fact: there's that make up and urban landscape. You know things are comes through really strongly in his work. Is this idea that it's not architecture isn't just as pure profession of Leslie, mostly you know, thinking about forms and placing them in the city.
Algeria is something that is shaped by social change, political change, dirty money. All these things and Serkan always really brought out into the mix. In two thousand nine Sorkin published a book called twenty it's in Manhattan, which traces the walk from his home? his studio in New York Sorkin wrote about paying special close attention to the little details of his neighborhood The small details taught him so much about history and community is gonna book that nine imps, invisible listeners would love. Feels especially relevant right now. The kind of attention that he was paying to that part of the city is something that we
I can do now. I mean people are always a feeling stir crazy in their homes, but if they are also feeling stir crazy in their neighborhoods one way to get over, it is to add another layer of attention or go down streets. Are you don't let it normally go down, and I feel like that twenty minute limit could actually be a little form of freedom. If you really want to drill down and think about your neighborhood in a deeper waving, usually do because your rushing through it to go somewhere else. A lot of Michael slogans. Writing is not online, but why the pieces that has made the rounds of both times and the internet was a provocative meditative list called two hundred and four, do things in architecture now I thought I'd be nice to read some of the now some selections Two hundred and fifty things in architecture now the feel of cool marble under bare feet, how to live in a small room? Five strangers for six months with the same thing,
and the lifeboat for weak the distance a shout carries in the city, the distance of a whisper The number of people with rent subsidies in New York City in your town included the rich The flowering season for azaleas the insulating properties of glass, the history of its production and use and of its meaning? Adelaide bricks What Victor Hugo really meant by this will kill that there in which the seas are rising. Information muddling behind the energy embodied in aluminum how to turn a corner? How to design a corner at a sit in a corner.
Now Anthony Gouty, muddled, the Sagrada Familia and calculated at structure the rate at which the carpet you specified off gases the migratory patterns of warblers and other seasonal travellers, the basics of mud, construction, the direction of prevailing winds. Hydrology is destiny, Jane Jacobs in and out Elementary ergonomics, the color, will what the glowing wants. What the growing things at once for the client needs with a client can afford the planet. The theoretical basis for modern day, a great about its factions in inflections the brick really wants What went wrong in private I go. What went wrong with the common narrows bridge?
where the cctv cameras are the secrets of the success of Robert Moses theirs. Bristle influences of chinese and japanese building the proper, portions of a gene martini how the crow flies how the pyramids were built. Why the pleasures of the suburbs, the horrors The quality of life passing through ice the meaninglessness borders the reasons for their tenacity, the need for a possible to begin this anyway, the smell of concrete after rain the angle of the sun with equal. How to write a bicycle Lee Death prefer beneath of a handicapped ran away. Is of construction workers where materials come from get lost
pattern artificial light at night, seen from space the reasons for the split between architecture and engineering Many ideas about what constitutes utopia would jump safety. The architectural impact of colonialism on the cities of North Africa, a distaste for imperialism, the history of Beijing, Dutch, domestic, architecture in the seventeenth century, the rate at which copper acquires a patina, though levels of particulates in the air of tension. City of white pine trees to sequestered Carmen the fire code. The seismic occurred the health code, how to listen closely But there is a big danger in working in a single medium. The logging
you don't even know you're stuck in will be broken by a shift in representation how to escape amaze Corti the proper way to behave with interns, because three, a big machines, including those that can fly, how to calculate ecological footprints, Three good lunch spots within walking distance, the value of human life who pays, who profits what to refuse to do even for the money, the fine print in the contract, a smattering of naval architecture real practices in a wide range of cultures, the dense, needed to support a pharmacy. The density- needed to support a subway effect the design of your city on food miles, fresh produce, squatter settlements, the visits in conversations with residence, the history and
techniques of architectural representation across cultures, a bit of care stream, physics, import of the Amazon how to bachelor weeks the component, of a comfortable environment for asleep strengths of materials. If only intuitively Why you think architecture does any good? The radiation cycle. What rusts good model, making techniques in wood in cardboard how to play a musical instrument, the acoustic properties of tree? It's Rob's how to guard a house from floods, how to give directions efficiently courteously and how close it is to floss bicycle safety, Connecticut the acoustic performance of Boston, Symphony home open the window? the diameter of the earth
the number of gallons of water used in the shower the distance at which you can recognize faces How and when to bribe public officials for the greater good concrete finishes: straw, bail, building technology, Rachel Carson, your neighbors the remediation capacity of wetlands, the capacity of wetlands to attenuate storm searches. The depths of desire, the heights of folly the golden another ratios those are selections from two hundred and thirty things in architecture no by Michael's work. He died. On March, twenty two twenty twenty from coven he was the head of the Michael Sorkin Studio and president of terror form a nonprofit research group, survive by his wife. Joan cook check. She is a professor culture and media Brownian worsening with
turn our sincere condolences and thank her for giving us permission to are Michael or control. Ninety nine percent of visible was police this week by every Travelin and Crisp Reuben music by shown, Katy Mink Is this your critical state aid is the digital director arrested, grew senior, editor, Delaney Home, Joe Rosenberg Sophia Clatter Sharif Use if in this world Vivian lay and me women Mars. We are, project. May one point: seventy w in San Francisco and produced on radio row, which is distributed in multiple locations throughout these bay, but in our heart and will always be in beautiful, downtown Oakland, California, We are proud founding member of red. You took a from Pierre, Collective, officially independent collective, the most innovative listener, supported podcast fun law. Every utopia
you can find the show enjoyed has shown things booking treated me at Roman Mars and show at nine p m or run is degree I am ready to, but forever home on the web page nine. P r dot, Org radio.
Transcript generated on 2020-06-10.