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Rethinking the City Alternative Lifestyles for a Post-Pandemic World

Fareed Zakaria’s new book, “Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World,” conveys a broad view of tomorrow’s possibilities within the context of both history and a rapidly changing present. Zakaria covers accelerated change, quality government, the market economy, expertise, artificial intelligence, tomorrow’s city, inequality, globalization, a US/China bipolar world, and idealists’ leadership.

The argument that most attracted me can be found in Chapter Six. It reasons that while people abandoned cities throughout history because of epidemics, wars, fires, natural disasters, and recessions, cities came back, and people rebuild them better and safer than before. Why? Because, as Aristotle put it in 350 BC, humans are social animals.

This argument inspired me to bring up some former and present architectural solutions that can apply to some of the current crisis’s problems. To put Zakaria’s and our urban-related ideas within a broader context, I recommend reading his book in its entirety.

Fareed Zakaria: GPS Program and New Book

Why Cities?

There is a likelihood that after Covid-19, many people will leave the city life, yet cities will continue to grow. While telecommunication will continue to become transformative both to work and education, human beings like to interact in person. According to an estimate by the United Nations, more than two-thirds of humans will live in an urban environment by 2050. So, the question for rethinking the post-pandemic city is not if it will continue to grow, but how.

Urban vs. Rural Projected Population Growth by 2050

Density

One of the most critical issues to reconsider is population density. From the sustainability point of view, an increase in housing density can free up agricultural land for food production, diminish the need to commute to work, and potentially stimulate human interaction socially, economically, and intellectually.  Does living in dense societies increase the dangers posed by Covid-19? Not necessarily. For example, dense cities like Hong Kong and Singapore had a very low death toll, yet other low-density and rural areas in the United States had much higher death tolls.

Is the subject of safety a design problem or a policy problem? Most likely, it is a combination of the two. The recently re-elected Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to turn Paris into a “fifteen-minute city” by making all locations accessible by foot or within a fifteen-minute bike ride. This policy has led to major pedestrian-oriented design transformations throughout the city.

Lifestyle

The speculation as to whether the earth’s population will reach ten billion by 2050 or 2070 can affect how we collectively plan using the planet’s resources for food and shelter to provide a sense of physical and psychological safety.   Furthermore, there will be an increased need for transportation, healthcare, commerce, and education infrastructure. The size of the land-footprint that we create will affect the way we live our lives.

Sample Models of Population Density

High Population Density. Paris is a model to consider. Its buildings are 4-6 stories high, zoned as residential-commercial mixed-use. The city is surrounded by trees and plants in the streets and parks.  Aesthetically, it accommodates contemporary design within a historical context. Culturally, it has an infrastructure that stimulates people’s intellectual growth.

Medium Population Density. The Netherlands is a great example of territorial planning. Only 10% of the Dutch population actually live in a big city. Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, and Utrecht are all connected by highways, allowing many people to commute to work while leaving the country’s heart and soul as the farmlands that the Dutch ultimately wanted to maintain.

Low Population Density. Costa Rica has received a 2019 Champions of the Earth award, the UN’s highest environmental honor, for its role in nature preservation and an ongoing policy to combat climate change. It demonstrates leadership in the use of green energy and the preservation of both forests and oceans. Furthermore, according to the Happy Planet Index, it ranks first in sustainable happiness.

Realistic Idealism

Zakaria titled his tenth lesson, “Sometimes the Greatest Realists Are the Idealists.” While his analysis focuses on policy, I suggest that we can also become inspired by two great architects’ designs.

Frank Lloyd Wright saw policy and design intertwined. When he first presented his 12-foot square model of Broadacre City in 1935, he looked at each individual “broad acre” as a place to enable self-actualization.  The intent was to make room for a large variety of activities, just on a smaller and more personalized scale:

                          “little farms, little homes for industry, little factories, little schools, a little university going to the people mostly by way of their                                        interest in the ground, little laboratories on their own ground for professional men. And the farm itself, notwithstanding the                                          animals, becomes the most attractive unit of the city.”        – Frank Lloyd Wright.

Thirty-five years later, Luigi Pellegrin conceived his new mixed-use model of a spatial structure. He suspended most of the residential units above the areas dedicated to services and commerce.

 

Luigi Pellegrin and Frank Lloyd Wright, 1951

Urban Change with a Stroke of a Pen

Back in 2020: changing people’s minds and rewriting regulations is a long and difficult process. In his conclusion, however, “Nothing is Written,” Zakaria insinuates that changing our mindset is possible.

I would consider changing the residential zoning policies to allow for two units to be built instead of one, doubling apartment availability while also making housing more affordable. Furthermore, one could incorporate edible gardens on the balconies and roofenhancingnce sustainable living aaddingdds beauty to the surroundings. These “stroke of a pen” modifications could have an enormous impact on American cities while generating millions of jobs.

For new developments, medium-rise condominiums could be designed in sections, each with its own private stairway and elevator shaft,  distributing to 12-20 units, which is considered to be the optimal number for socialization,  according to environmental psychologists. Some areas of the city could be zoned for experimentation, free of obsolete regulations.

Medium-Rise: 8-16 Units per Entrance – 2020

Four-Block Transformation with Common Green Areas

Shashlik Scheme: Tree Mixed-Use Towers Interconnected

Coda

My wife and I lived in Tel Aviv during the summer of 1973, having recently returned to Israel following seven years of studying architecture in Rome and then working for Pellegrin. We were twenty-eight years old young professionals, hoping to create our own practice finally.

The Association of Architects and Engineers in Israel sponsored a conceptual competition to design a 5,000 dwelling-unit neighborhood. The submission deadline was scheduled for November.

 

On October 6, the Yom Kippur war started. When the war was finally over, the competition deadline was rescheduled to November of the following year. We had time to rethink. The influence that Wright and Pellegrin had on us was powerfully present in our thinking, along with thoughts about the future of a world with limited resources, projected to reach a population of six billion by 2000 (at the time, the world population was three billion).

Main Concepts – 1974

 

Forty-six years later, after winning the competition, we are facing a post-pandemic future. I still believe that most of the principles that guided our never-built design remain valid. Change for the better is possible.

 

 

End of an Era Ray Kappe and Dion Neutra: Close of a 100-year Time in Architecture

With the passing of Ray Kappe and Dion Neutra in Los Angeles, a heroic era of architecture has come to an end. The tributary sources were two: Organic Architecture in the United States, envisioned by Frank Lloyd Wright and, in Europe, Rationalism / International Style, headed by Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Pieter Oud, and Erich Mendelsohn.  These two tributaries bifurcated into many streams, becoming a present-day “delta,” mislabeled as “Modernism.” Both sources wanted to change the world. The first one, by changing people’s mindsets. The second one, by providing how-to solutions easy to apply.

Sources: Wright, Gropius, Neutra, Mendelsohn, Schindler

Ray Kappe’s most creative segment of his productivity belonged to the first source. His houses in Pacific Palisades’ Rustic Canyon remain excellent examples of an indoor-outdoor architecture conceived as a whole. Yet, in spite of this Wright-influenced architecture, Kappe continued to evolve, both as an educator and as an architect. In the last two decades, he embarked on the challenge of creating quality prefabricated homes.

Dion Neutra’s father, Richard Neutra, although aware of the difference between the two currents from having spent some time working for Wright, belonged to the European source. Later called “therapeutic architecture” adapted to California’s weather, it remained linked to the International Style.

Milton Goldman Residence, Encino, 1951

Dion Neutra and Eric Lloyd Wright in Malibu, 2017

Kaufmann Desert House, Palm Springs, 1946

When I read that Kappe didn’t like the term ‘modernist,’ I was not surprised. “He embraced the term ‘modern’ because it represented to be current with the latest ideas, technologies, and materials.” In that sense, as stated by Bruno Zevi, both Michelangelo and Borromini were, in the 16th and 17th centuries, modern to their times.

My first encounter with Ray and Shelly Kappe, Ray’s partner in work and life and an educator in her own right, was during the mid-1980s when they invited Luigi Pellegrin to give a lecture at SCI-Arc in Santa Monica. I was then asked to be the Italian-to-English translator. During Pellegrini’s visit, the Kappes invited us for dinner at their residence in Rustic Canyon. The conversation was definitely “organic.” Following that visit, Ruth and I met the Kappes several times. We sympathized with them. We felt that we had many ideas in common.

My encounters with Dion Neutra were more recent, at Carol King’s Salon, in Pasadena. Dion, who had worked with his father on many projects was, in the last few years, embarked on a one-man crusade to save some of the Neutra buildings from demolition.

The “architectural delta” of the early 21st century is melting into the ocean of the world’s challenges: climate change, sustainability, affordable housing, infrastructure, food production, universal health and education, preservation of nature, and much more. In spite of notable self-expressions by some architects, a meaningful new direction in architecture demands now an urgently needed change of mindsets, beyond that of architectural design language, towards a new meaning of what represents life quality today.

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals for 2030

'>Jasper Johns in L.A. and Vanguard Art Today Who are today's Jasper Johns? What is really 'avant-garde' today in art and architecture?

 

Jasper Johns’ exhibition at The Broad, titled “Something Resembling Truth,” is revealing. It illustrates the integrity of a life-long research and provides a stimulant example to the young generation. At a time when art flows in all directions without clear distinction and criteria between serious or trivial, committed or casual, Johns shows us how one can be an explorer of meaning and forms of expression without falling into platitude. The documentary tries to establish a link between one of the most important artists of the 1960s avant-garde, and some of today’s avant-garde artists in multiple disciplines and media: painting, sculpture, film, video-art, choreography, architecture. 

The show raises some questions: What is really ‘avant-garde’ today? Who are today’s Jasper Johns? Are there any ‘Leo Castelli-like” art dealers around? Are today’s architects connected to the art scene, and artists connected to architecture?

Fast backward: the display triggered some memories. During the late 1960s we were students of architecture in Rome. Since the National Academy of Modern Art was next door to our school, we visited it frequently. The Gallery’s director, Palma Bucarelli, was a strenuous promoter of Abstract Expressionists as well as Neo-Dada, Pop, Minimalist and Conceptualist artists. It was during that time when we first came across some of Jasper Johns’ paintings.

In parallel, while working as apprentices at the studio of architect Luigi Pellegrin, we listened to time and again his insights on the new American art. Opening a publication illustrating contemporary American art, he would say “Look at this well: it is acid, it is crude, it is purposefully not-finished. It reflects our time.” The design of his house in via Aurelia carried some of these attributes.

When we traveled to the United States to visit and photograph Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture across the country, we started our trip in New York. It was 1971, and we were in our twenties. At the time, Soho was the epicenter of contemporary art. Leo Castelli had just opened two branches of his gallery on 77th street, one on the second floor of 420 West Broadway, and an even larger one at 142 Greene Street. It was there we saw newer works of Jasper Johns, along with those of several vanguard artists of the time: Frank Stella, James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Bruce Nauman, Sol LeWitt.

A month later, when having a private stopover at Phillip Johnson’s glass house in New Canaan, we visited, within his estate, Johnson’s ‘buried’ panting gallery and his underground sculpture gallery. They both contained multiple masterpieces of contemporary art.

Did we see any reflection of the art-of-the-times in architecture? Wright was out of all trends. The architecture of the establishment  “didn’t talk” to the on-going art vanguard. A rare exception was John Johansen’s Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City, built in 1970, outrageously demolished in 2014. Bruce Goff and Herb Green’s architecture were in-between organic and dissonant.

Fast forward to the present. The Broad exhibition of over one hundred Jasper Johns’ works, spanning sixty years of his career, is not a retrospective.  Works from different decades and in various media have been curated thematically, to demonstrate Johns’ career-long preoccupations.

And today? Art is breaking away from the confines of museums and art galleries. Perhaps the more strident example street art is the work of JR, which surpasses in scope that of Christo. He is not alone. There is a good number of forefront artists breaking new ground in film, video art, dance, sculpture, painting, music.

And in architecture? It is a tough call. Gehry led the way to liberate architects’ forms of expression, but the results come with many question marks about their social content. There seems to be an infatuation with the endless possibilities offered by new 3-D technology, but is… are these result also socially responsible?

Copyright R&R Meghiddo, 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Seen, Done, Thought, In-the Making On Photography, Films, Architecture, and 2018 Challenges

The turn of the year offers an opportunity to summarize what we have seen, done and thought, and to program a new year. I am sharing with you selected photos we shot, films we watched and produced, architecture we recorded or selected, relevant books I read, and some thought on “The State of the World,” and what we can do to create a better tomorrow.

IMAGES

Showing images is the best way of “making a long story short.”

Click on: Selected Photography 2017.

Selected Photography 2017

Selected Photography 2017

The selection is personal and eclectic. Some have value as a document of an event rather than for its quality as a photograph.  The gallery includes panoramic photos, images of historical value (such as of architects Eric Lloyd Wright and Dion Neutra getting together in Malibu during Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday celebration, and civil rights activist  Dolores Huerta, who coined the slogan “Yes We Can – Si Se Puede,” borrowed by Obama ; film directors, producers and actors at Q & As’ we frequented;  Richard King’s memorial and the spreading of his ashes; and some people we met. As a coda, I also added recent underwater photos sent by our daughter Gabby from the Maldives Islands, southwest of Sri Lanka and India; and a few shots of us.

“Stars” included veteran director Marcel OphulsAlexander Payne (“Downsizing,”) Kathryn Bigelow (“Detroit,”) director Joe Wright and actor Gary Oldman (“The Darkest Hours,”) Annette Bening (“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,”) some images of nature in Idyllwild, and even a bird visiting my desk.

This year I also published for the first time a selection of photographs shot during our “Frank Lloyd Wright pilgrimage” back in 1971, when we visited over one hundred of Wright’s buildings across twenty-five states. 

http://archidocu.com/the-wright-way-2/ 

The Wright Way Photos.

The Wright Way Photos.

SELECTED FILMS SEEN IN 2017

We had a busy year watching documentaries + Q & As’ (presented by the International Documentary Association – IDA ) We also saw many feature films at the American Cinematheque,  at the WRAP, at the LA Jewish Film Festival, and at the Israel Film Festival. I share the list of some of them. They are all very good. The ones in bold letters are “must see.”

Alone in Berlin, Neruda, Hidden Figures, Gigi Gorgeous, Hell on Earth, Nobody Speaks, Dolores, Trophy, Icarus, Intent to Destroy, City of Ghosts, New York Times Op-Docs, 11/8/16, God Knows Where I Am, I Call Him Morgan, Step, One of Us, The Work, Oklahoma City, Finding Oscar, Atomic Homefront, The Rape of Recy Taylor, Under One Sun, An Inconvenient Sequel, Detroit, Columbus, I Am Evidence, Arthur Miller – Writer, Kedi, Chasing CoralBen Gurion, EpilogueCries from Syria, The Divine Order, The Final Year, MachinesFoxtrotCall Me by Your NameDownsizing, Film Stars Don’t Die in LiverpoolThe SquareHuman Flow, I Am not your Negro, Intent to Destroy, Strong Island, Phantom Thread, The Post.

Documentarians are real contemporary heroes. Many risk their lives in bringing to us images of genocidal wars, human brutality, racism, inequality, global warming, migration tragedies, political and corporate corruption, and also beauty in nature, indigenous cultures and extraordinary human beings. Most of this is produced following prolonged research, scouting, shooting, hard-editing work, meager budgets and scarce distribution.

They are a unique mix of artists-journalists working with passion, combining filmmaking excellence with the search for truth. Their work contributes to expanding our consciousness of the world we live in.

FILMS PRODUCED IN 2017

My own production this year was intense. With fifteen published titles, most of which have been published in Cultural Weekly, they exceeded two hours of film. This year I crossed the mark of sixty short documentaries. The ones published during 2017 are:

Tangoing with Paul & Amigos (12:13) A non-scripted experiment.

The Wright Way – An overture (17:21’)   The Wright Way Hint (2:36)  Both the “Overture” and the “Hint” were preliminary warm-ups towards  The Wright Way feature documentary (work-in-progress.)

Tongva Park and the Angelbird (5:33′) This open public space is the best architecture that we have documented this year in Los Angeles.

Architecture + Cinema + Hollywood (29:52) Renzo Piano’s Academy Museum under construction provided an opportunity to link the museum’s content with the Hollywood context and with architecture.

Idyllwild Idyll (9:12) “Back to nature,” this documentary includes the little-known Pearlman Cabin designed by architect John Lautner in 1957.

Netflix Night (2:55’) A not-scripted documentation of my first visit to Netflix.

Normality “Lo-Normali” /(4:56’) It summarizes the documentaries I shot in Israel during 2016.

Radio Day Unabridged (26:11) and  Radio Day (16:43) Both the full version (“Unabridged,” which includes questions on Israel) and the short version are the result of a radio interview hosted by Nancy Pearlman, to which I added visualization later on.

Architecture in a Nutshell (9:20’) An introduction to principles of architecture.

Human-Made Plastic Ocean (3:55) A Plastic Ocean premiere in Beverly Hills. See full cast.

Hanukkah’s First Candle (40:32) The lighting of Hanukkah’s fifth candle in a Greater Los Angeles home was not only the place for the gathering of people from many backgrounds and areas of the the city, but also for the screening of “Never Again is Now,” a new documentary telling a unique story of survival in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation, and sending a message about the danger of raising antisemitism in Europe and elsewhere, including the United States.

Mormon Temple Visit (1:51) A brief first visit to the secluded Mormon Temple in Los Angeles.

Food for Thought (2:58) Farm Urbana, as presented in “Food for Thought,” proposes practical solutions to help the rapidly growing urban population’s access to fresh food close to home.

FILMMAKING PLANS

The Wright Way, my first feature documentary, is on the way. It is to be a cry-out documentary about how some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas and principles can help to inspire and appeal the young generation to create a sustainable future of livable cities and human settlements. Not a biography, it looks at Wright with fresh eyes and will suggest alternative scenarios for the future of the human environment with a sense of urgency.

ARCHITECTURE

Although 2017 has produced many new projects, I found most of them dominated by “acrobatics,” infatuation with 3-D renderings, and little concern confronting an urgent agenda towards sustainable quality mass-production, to narrow the gap between population growth, decaying cities, climate change and poverty. The production of Organic Architecture was practically zero. I chose to produce a short documentary on one of the exceptions, the  Tongva Park in Santa Monica (see “Tongva Park and the Angelbird” listed above.)

The exception is  Snøhettaan international architecture, landscape architecture, interior design and brand design office based in Oslo, Norway and New York City with studios in San Francisco, Innsbruck, Singapore and Stockholm. A major new building  has opened in the south of France, framing a huge replica of one of the world’s most important examples of prehistoric cave art. Called Lascaux IV, the new visitor complex recreates the appearance and atmosphere of the caves in Montignac where the 20,000-year-old Lascaux paintings are located, but which have been closed to the public for over 50 years.

The examples that follow have been produced by committed architects and designers: Brooks + ScarpaSnohettaWhitaker StudioEric RosenPatkau Architects,  Thomas Heatherwick, and Herzog & de Meuron.

CHALLENGES

World politics had been dominated by the ascent of Trump to power. He is a symptom that denotes a sick society suffering from branding brainwashing, widespread ignorance of the world’s reality and dogmatic beliefs, all of which have been brewed during the past half-century.

Solutions will demand both talking and action, such as:

  1. Containment of Trump until 2020 through the rule of law. All other alternatives are worse.

  2. Awareness of reality as-is. Documentarians have much to say and show on this.

  3. Action-oriented assumption of responsibility, particularly by millennials.

  4. A vision of a better world in healthcare, housing, justice, the urban environment, closing the gap of inequality and much more.

     The UN goals for sustainable development are quite detailed about 17 areas of challenge.

BOOKS

From the books I read during 2017, the ones that I found the most relevant are:

Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari

Internal Ecology, by Darío Salas Sommer

No Is Not Enough, by Naomi Klein

TEACHING

Scheduled to give a six-week class on “How to Look at Architecture” at the Skirball Cultural Center and at OLLI/CSULB,  the classes will include the screening of architecture documentaries I made, to convey visually a better understanding of the importance of good design in our life.

"How to Look at Architecture" class at the Skirball Cultural Center, Jan. 16 - Fe. 20, 2018.

“How to Look at Architecture” class at the Skirball Cultural Center, Jan. 16 – Feb 20, 2018.

Radio Day A Radio Interview Hosted by Nancy Pearlman

 Radio Day from Rick Meghiddo on Vimeo.

 We went to the open-house day of the “Pearlman Cabin” in Idyllwild, designed by John Lautner.  While being at the event, Nancy Pearlman asked me if I would be willing to be interviewed for her  KBPK 90.1 FM Environmental Directions program. I said, “Yes, when, where?” “Today, here,” she said. “OK,” I answered, surprised.

Pearlman Cabin, Idyllwild. Architect: John Lautner.

Pearlman Cabin, Idyllwild. Architect: John Lautner.

Nancy Pearlman

Nancy Pearlman

Nancy Pearlman is an award-winning broadcaster, environmentalist, college instructor, anthropologist, editor and producer and who has made safeguarding the earth’s ecosystems a career. Since 1977, she has hosted and produced the country’s longest-running environmental radio show: Environmental Directions. 

I thought the main subject of the radio interview was going to be John Lautner. Unscheduled, and spontaneous, we touched many subjects: Wright, organic architecture, sustainability, Lautner’s architecture, the cabin’s integration to nature, Idyllwild, organic architects, Ruth’s Farm Urbana, solar energy, desalination and irrigation in Israel, population growth and a view of the future.  Several weeks later Nancy sent me an unabridged copy of the recorded interview, edited by Robert Payne. I decided to produce an abridged version of it, including relevant images and background music. The result is in the documentary included here.

John Lautner / Bob Hope Residence

John Lautner / Bob Hope Residence

John Lautner is one of the few Frank Lloyd Wright’s disciples I appreciate for his originality. He absorbed the essence of Wright’s philosophy without becoming an imitator of “the Wright’s style.”

I met him once. The encounter was circumstantial. During the late 1980s, a couple of clients we had planned to buy the Concannon Residence in Bel Air, designed in 1960, and wanted us to remodel it. We went to visit the site. The house was in very bad shape. It had been abandoned for more than five years by its owner, and puddles of water from leakings were everywhere.

Concannon Residence

Concannon Residence

Since Lautner was still an active architect, I suggested to visit him and check if he wanted to do the job, or if he had any particular suggestions. We went to his office, on the 7000-block of Hollywood Boulevard. In the middle of the waiting hall there was a huge model of a house at scale 1:20. When we entered his private office, a tall man with a grave voice stood up and shook our hands. I explained to him why we came. Facing my clients, he asked “with whom of you two shall I talk? I deal only with one person. If you have any differences of opinion, you solved them at home.” After listening what they had to say, he decided to delegate the project to us.  Before leaving, he handed to me a complete set of working drawings.

Our clients had indeed different opinions. So much so, that they ended up divorcing before the house was bought, and the project vanished. Recently, thirty years later, I learned from Lautner’s daughter, Judith, that the Concannon Residence had been demolished.

 

Stevens Residence, Malibu.

Stevens Residence, Malibu.

Segel Residence

Segel Residence

The problems ahead of us are not only quantitative, they are also qualitative. The message is how to create spaces for people in tune with resources and Nature.

 

 

 

 

Renzo Piano and Kerry Brougher at theThe Samuel Goldwyn Theater

Architecture + Cinema + Hollywood Work-in-Progress: The Academy Museum of Motion pictures in Context

Rendering of Academy Museum. Courtesy of Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The work-in-progress of the Academy Museum in Los Angeles, designed by architect Renzo Piano, is scheduled for opening in 2019. In “Architecture + Cinema + Hollywood”, the three are connected through images of the museum’s construction at the present time, historic and contemporary examples of architecture, mementos from classic movies, metaphors of Hollywood, and segments from my previous films.

We live immersed in architectural spaces throughout our lives. Filmmaking tells us stories through space, light, motion and human scale. The Acadamy Museum of Motion Pictures offers an opportunity to make tangible the connection between the two sisters’ arts.

 Both crafts have many things in common. They both are realized with the help of a team guided by a creator. On both disciplines, a spatial sequence is critical. In architecture, we perceive space as we move. In cinema, the spatial movement comes to us linearly, as may have been defined through editing.
Both disciplines interact with the other arts. Both must control sound, operate at different scales and deal with significant costs for their realization. Both create stages, one for everyday life, the other as a background for a story.
Architecture’s fundamental difference lays in its materiality. It deals with the law of gravity and with the nature of materials: strength, weight, texture, color, shape, durability. Yet the thinking process of architectural design and filmmaking is the same: we first dream, then we program/script, then we design/shoot, then we build/edit and finally we occupy/distribute. Criticism follows!

Architect Renzo Piano

Prof. Bruno Zevi

What does the museum’s “program/script” tell us? There are two main components: exhibitions and movie screenings. The exhibitions will be housed within the 1939 May Co. building, at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard. The main screenings will be presented in the new 1,000-seat state of the art theater.
To emphasize the contrast between the existing building and the theater, Piano chose to formalize the later with a sort of molded sphere “suspended in space,” mostly cantilevered, standing on mayor pillars. This approach reminds me both Michelangelo’s structural support of Saint Peter’s dome and John Johansen’s Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City, more than Bucky Fuller’s dome.
The overall context couldn’t be more eclectic. Within the LACMA campus, old and new “connect” only by adjacency. Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass” , reminding us that we are still standing on the Earth, is in total contrast with everything else. The Petersen Automotive Museum, at the opposite corner of the intersection, wraps around with metal ribbons a Bernard Tschumi-like red box, bringing to the scene a sort of caricature of adaptive-reuse. In a way, the whole area represents ultimate Los Angeles’ exiting disjunctions.

Using filmmaking techniques to communicate architecture, short of providing the physical experience of moving through space, can bring to the viewer much more than a succession of single frames. It can create associations with other places or stories, it allows for multiple perceptions in seconds, it can use drawings, photography, and art to illustrate a point. The film at the top of this blog tries to express that.

The Wright Way Hint A Teaser of a Future Documentary


h4>How can Wright’s ideas and principles help a young generation to create better livable cities and human settlements? This is the central question that motivated me to start the production of a feature documentary, The Wright Way, as a transformational film that may benefit people of all cultures around the world. I know that when young people begin to study Frank Lloyd Wright, a better future will be invented based on the laws of nature, which includes human nature.

Wright’s iconic works should not be turned into objects of worship, nor should his writings become a dogma. After studying Wright in depth, his ideas should be challenged to generate new ideas. By learning from history and from Wright, a new generation of designers willing to transform the world can get inspired to create original organic architecture from the city to the private dwelling.
Having visited many of his works, including less famous Usonian houses, and having met with some of his best followers, The Wright Way Hint “hints” at the production of a feature documentary that may contribute to a needed global transformation.

TRANSFORMING THE WORLD

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, 2016,

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, 2016,

In 2016 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution of 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. They included:

1. End poverty; 2 . End hunger; 3. Ensure healthy lives; 4. Ensure inclusive quality education; 5. Achieve gender equality; 6. Ensure water and sanitation; 7. Ensure sustainable energy; 8. Promote sustainable decent work for all; 9. Build resilient infrastructure, sustainable industrialization and foster innovation; 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries, 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change; 14. Keep oceans, seas and marine resources sustainable; 15. Protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems; 16. Promote peace and justice for all; 17. Strengthen the means of implementation.

It is an ambitious wish-list out of which architecture can play a vital role (Goal #11.) If adopting Wright’s organic architecture principles, the result could extend a sustainable life on Earth well beyond 2030.

Frank Lloyd Wright, c. 1957.

Frank Lloyd Wright, c. 1957.

WRIGHT IDEAS IN A NUTSHELL

 Like Galileo, Newton, Darwin and Einstein, who discovered laws of nature, Frank Lloyd Wright formulated principles which have affected design throughout the ages, from the Nuraghe of Sardinia (1900-730 BCE,) to the Katsura Imperial Villa (1624,) to Fallingwater (1939.) Although he was as prolific a writer as he was an architect, the reading and studying his ideas has remained confined to few scholars. His language is not easily accessible, his books are rarely put in the schools of architecture’s “must read” list. How can one overcome these obstacles while young people’s span of attention is getting shorter and shorter?

What are Wright’s essential ideas?

Nature is the architect’s principal school. The creative possibilities of form, color, pattern, texture, proportion, rhythm and growth are all well expressed in nature.

The building grows out of the landscape as naturally as any plant. Its relationship to the site is so unique that it would be out of place elsewhere.

Materials are to be used based on their intrinsic nature: strength, color, texture. One material is not to be disguised as another.

A building should convey a sense of shelter, refuge, or protection against the elements. Its inhabitants should never lack privacy or feel exposed and unprotected.

Space: “The reality of the building does not consist of the roof and the walls but the space within to be lived in”, said Wright, quoting Lao Tzu. The interior space determines the exterior form. Interior space is not packed in boxes called rooms; rather, space should flow freely from interior area to interior area. An area is never fully comprehended when viewed from a single point, but it must be slowly experienced as one moves through space.

The human body should be the only scale of a building and its furnishings.

Each building has its own grammar, its distinct vocabulary of pattern and form. All parts of the building, from the smallest detail to the overall form, speak the same language. The grammar may be completely different for two buildings of similar functions.

Ornament, when used, it is to be developed as an integral part of the material, not applied.

Simplicity in art is a synthetic positive quality in which we may see evidence of mind, breadth of scheme, wealth of detail and with the sense of completeness found in a tree or a flower.

Furniture should be built-in as much as possible.

Sculpture and painting are to become elements of the total design.

MODERN, CONTEMPORARY AND ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE

What became labeled as “Modern Architecture” or “Modernism,” originated in Europe of the 1920s. Walter Gropius’ BauhausLe Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe’s ideas, based on constructive social programs, provided with a machine –like  with no decoration and easy to learn slogans, such as “less is more,” ribbon glass windows, all-white rectangle walls, and building on piloti. They influenced the design of thousands of architects around the world, some with positive results, many with catastrophic effects of massive housing and urban sprawl lacking identity.
Wright’s work, although classified by historians under the umbrella name of “Modernism,” refused to be categorized in any one architectural movement. His master-teacher, Louis Sullivan, who pioneered the use of steel for office building, had coined the concept of “form follows function”, later on modified be Wright as “form and function are one.” Simplicity for Wright was an end-result of chiseling out the unnecessary, not a point of departure.
 For most young architects eager to start building their own projects, it was impossible to learn Wright’s principles and ethic code without studying in depth his writings, analyzing his drawings and visiting his buildings. Most chose the shortcut.
 In the 1960s the term “modern” was substituted by the more inclusive term “contemporary.” It included hundreds of art and architecture languages and grammars. Some were authentic, some were progressive, like “High-Tech,“ some were regressive, like “Post-Modernism,” many were trendy, and some “stararchitects” indulged in building acrobatics having little to do with people’s needs. “Contemporary” implied a freedom of expression that many interpreted as “anything goes.”
 The Italian Website ADAO (Friends of Organic Archirecture) (http://www.architetturaorganica.org/architetturaorganica/HOME.htm ) shows links to many organic architects, such as John Lautner, Carlo Scarpa, Bruce Goff, Bart Prince, Kendrick Bangs Kellog, Robert Harvey Oshatz, to name a few, their numbers remain a small fraction in comparison to all what is being built.

A ONE-HUNDRED YEAR AGENDA

 At a philosophical level, the quests of Dario Salas Sommer’s Moral Physics, Yuval Noah Harari’s New Human Agenda, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Organic Architecture, interact as “a cosmic vision beyond ever-changing creeds or viewpoints that have until now divided human beings according to their geography, their culture or their ideas.” God / Nature / Truth / Unity / Existence  / Being / Whole become interchangeable words implying the working and interacting together as a whole. The time is now. As the world’s population grows to a likely ten billion by mid-century, twelve billion by 2100 and possibly 30 billion by 2200, planetary management that crosses borderlines and governments become indispensable.

In addition to all said, mixed-use and multi-functionality are integral components of a sustainability agenda. While mixed-use juxtapose multiple functions (housing, commerce, education, )  multi-functionality makes possible the multiple uses of the same space, and the multiple-use of a same component: a stairway as structure, a column or beam as a container of ducts, a wall as container of storage, a roof as an edible garden.

Proximity between living space and working space are part of the sustainability agenda. Working space can be: a. within the dwelling unit; b. adjacent to the dwelling unit ( see Price Tower); c. Within walking or bike distance from the dwelling.

Mobility is integral to both human needs and to sustainability, yet it demands a total revision of how it works. It consists of three categories. A. Emergency access (firemen, ambulances, police, rescue from disasters.) b. Public use: air mobility and public transportation of multiple kinds: trains, tramways, air tram cable cars, moving conveyors, buses, taxis (with drivers or driverless,)  hot air balloons. c. Private: bikes, skateboards, cars, trucks (owned or rented.)

Organic architecture needs to awaken from its long sleep. It requires reinterpretation without falling into nostalgia or an imitative expression of Nature. Although nature remains the most important source of inspiration, it is to be interpreted, not copied.

The United Earth Wheel of Synergy

The United Earth Wheel of Synergy. Copyright United Earth, 2016.

 

'>The Wright Way – An Overture On Wright's 150th Birthday and the Future of Organic Architecture

Why Wright now? What can a man born 150 years ago, tell to a young generation of architects likely to be responsible for the invention of the future? The following documentary is intended to emphasize the link between Wright ideas and the needs of tomorrow.

At the time of his death, the world’s population was three billion. Today it is 7.2 billion, likely to become ten billion by mid-century. We must confront sustainability, higher mix-use urban density, working space closer to dwellings, less dependence on the car, food production closer to home, flexible prefabrication and self-help.
During the last years of his life, when asked how he saw the future of architecture, Wright’s answer was: “the future of architecture is the future of the human race. If civilization has a future, so will architecture. Democracy was never intended to be a mass production affair. A free life is not necessarily a free-for-all. It is nothing someone gives you. A free life is something you work out for yourself. Freedom is not conferred, must be worked out from self.”
There is no substitute for reading Wright’s prolific writing while filtering “the Wright’s Style” from his principles. There is no alternative to walking through his spaces, to absorb them in their totality – fluidity, scale, light, views, and details. To take Wright’s words literally would be as misleading as all dogmas are. Wright’s principles of Organic Architecture can be understood and reinterpreted to match the needs of our time.
Here is my take:
1. Space is the fundamental component of the architecture. In a profound sense, it is mostly “interior space,” where streets and plazas are the interior spaces of a three-dimensional city.
2. Continuity, physical and spatial, is as essential for organic architecture as the relationship between skin, muscles, bones, organs, blood, and nerves.
3. Nature implies not just the nature of a site, or the nature of materials, or the nature of production; it also means the nature of humans, both in their ergonometric and psychological dimensions.
4. Human scale is the only scale of architecture, and it should not be confused with “size.” Human scale defines the relation to purpose. Bernini’s Saint Peter’s square is at human scale, in spite of its size. Fascist architecture, whether governmental or corporate, is not.
5. Context is not only the relationship between a building and its surroundings; it is also a connection between a building and the culture within which it surges.
Flashback: we were recently graduated architects, influenced by our master teachers and mentors, Prof. Bruno Zevi and architect Luigi Pellegrin when we decided to come to the United States to experience Wright by ourselves. Together with our friend Viviana Campajola, we embarked on a “Wright pilgrimage” that took us through ninety-six of his works along more than twenty states.
Following are some samples of photographs we shot during our trip (click on the link.) They are presented here for the first time. After more than 40 years we remain amazed at seeing how much of Wright’s architecture withstood the passage of time. His works look as fresh today as when we visited them.

 Let’s face it: the world won’t stop at ten billion. The order of “pragmatic idealism” remains unchanged, independently of scale, place or time: DREAM first, then PROGRAM and quantify, then DESIGN, and then BUILD.

 The Wright Way Photos. Copyright Ruth and Rick Meghiddo. All Rights Reserved.

Wright 150 - by Rick Meghiddo.

Wright 150

 SOME TIPS

– For The Wright Way gallery of selected photos, click here.

– A great PBS visual biography of
  Frank Lloyd Wright by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick Part 1
  Frank Lloyd Wright by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick Part 2
THE MIKE WALLACE INTERVIEW with Wright, 1957.

Frank Lloyd Wright Collected Writings:

     Volume 1   Volume 2   Volume 3 

     Volume 4   Volume 5 

One of the best books about Wright:

   Frank Lloyd Wright by Neil Levine 

Principles: Time. Copyright Rick Meghiddo. All Rights Reserved.

Architecture in a Nutshell The Times, Principles and Process of Architecture

We live within architectural spaces throughout our lives, 24/7. From the moment we open our eyes until we close them, the spaces we live in affect our lives and contribute to shaping who we are. They impact us physically, psychologically and monetarily. They contribute to our happiness or unhappiness.

While we can choose to eat healthily or to eat junk food, choose to listen to music we like, go to a museum or read a book, the spaces we live in – dwelling, work, streets – feed our subconscious at all times. Why is it that few people, besides professionals, “can see” architecture? The following video is a nine-minute jumpstart to better understand architecture.

There may be as many definitions of “What is Architecture?” as they are architects. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the art or practice of designing and building structures and especially habitable ones.” Are the millions of dwellings around the world “architecture?”

The problem is not a semantic one. The point of “Architecture in a Nutshell” and of www.architectureawareness.com is to help more people to see. In a world where at least half of its population lacks essentials such as decent housing, schools, hospitals, open public spaces and institutions, architecture awareness can be a matter of survival. Even if all the world’s architects would be working 60–hour weeks, even if we would be using the best available technology at 100% efficiency, there’s no way we will be able to catch up in fixing the existing urban chaos while absorbing a population growth of about 80 million people per year. By or around 2050 we will be ten billion.  And then?

It is a key issue today not just to inform people, but to change mindsets, so that many may learn how to help themselves and to contribute to the building of better environments. By combining architecture awareness with filmmaking knowledge, it is possible to help not only the consumers of architecture but also its generators – architects, institutions, government, educators – who are instrumental in the world’s betterment.

From Architecture to Urban Farming

A Brief Story of a Vision

“While doing research on solutions for sustainable mixed-use urban corridors, I came to foresee the advantage of incorporating a food-growth area integrated to the common spaces of the habitat at arm length of people’s home.”

In a brief story of her vision, Ruth brings us the case of urban farming as a growing movement to tackle problems that the world faces in the 21st century. Her story is personal.  She tells us how her vision evolved from childhood experiences in the Romanian countryside, to her life in Rome, to the mentorships of Zevi and Pellegrin, to her fascination with Wright’s thinking and works, to her practice as an architect, to her discovery of Permaculture, to her new passion for urban farming and local edible gardens.

She posed to herself some critical questions:

  • How can urban farming contribute to make the world a better place?
  • What is the connection between architecture, planning and urban farming?
  • What can each of us do to become self-reliable on the food we put on our table?
  • How can edible gardens become a design component integrated to urban development?
  • How can urban farming provide a stage for social interaction?

 

Some facts may help to put a global problem into perspective:

  1. The First Agriculture Revolution started about 10,000 years ago. As nomads settled, cities were born. Until about a century ago, they were surrounded by farms, which supplied its population with fresh food.

    San Gimignano, Photo: Pablo Charin, Rick Meghiddo

    San Gimigniano surrounded by farms – Photo: Pablo Charin / Minube

  2. As the world’s population grew from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7.5 billion today, the way we feed ourselves was transformed radically. Industrialized farming brought us ecological degradation, aggravated by the massive use of toxic chemicals. In addition, the path of food from the farm to the city became dependent on carbon-based fuel for transportation.
  3. As the temperatures will continue to raise, climate change is likely to expand the areas of drought hurricanes and floods, diminishing the existing cultivable areas.
    Nwesweek 10/30/2015

    Nwesweek 10/30/2015

    Milano EXPO 2015: Feeding the World, Rick Meghiddo

    Milano EXPO 2015: Feeding the World

  4. Today’s global growth is about 75 million a year. We are likely to reach ten billion around by 2050. Too far away? Not really! That is just “around the corner.” By 2050, children born today will be in their thirties.

    World Population-1800-2050

    World Population-1800-2050

  5. One acre of land is needed to feed one person for one year. By 2050 we will need additional not-yet-existing cultivable land of about 10 million km2, equal to the size of the United States.

How shall we continue to feed the planet? How shall we invent the future while we free cultivable land from the voracious appetite of urban sprawl?  If we want to create a decent living environment, action is needed NOW. Here are some possibilities:

  • Increase mixed-use urban density along urban corridors.
  • Create cultivable areas within residential multi-family buildings, office buildings, schools, factories, hotels, etc.
  • Design common edible gardens as places for social interaction.
  • Design workspaces that provide edible gardens to its tenants.
  • Plan neighborhoods that include collective cultivable areas.
  • Build multi-story farms.
  • Vertical Farming - Rendering: Blake Kurasek

    Vertical Farming – Rendering: Blake Kurasek

    Vertical Farming

    Vertical Farming

 

No single solution can fit all needs. The use of eco-friendly lightweight hydroponic systems that consume 90% less water than traditional farming can be incorporated into the built environment.

On the other hand, permaculture, first developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, brings a holistic approach that combines agricultural and social design principles. By increasing our awareness of “thinking globally and acting locally,” each of us can contribute to make the world a better place to inhabit.

 

Jean Phillipe Pargade Technical and Scientific School, Paris. Photo: Sergio Grazia

Jean Phillipe Pargade Technical and Scientific School, Paris. Photo: Sergio Grazia