Frank Lloyd Wright buildings I toured last year

January 8, 2017 Blog, California, Chicago Buildings, Vision and Style Comments (3) 1058

I have had the good fortune to serve on the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy Board for the last three years, and this has availed me of several opportunities to tour this great architect’s work.

The living room in Robie House, Chicago, shot by my daughter Felicity.

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San Francisco and the heritage of cultural innovation

March 31, 2016 Blog, California, Intangible Heritage, Interpretation Comments (0) 175

The Mission, recently

Heritage conservation is about place even more than buildings, which are large and important but not exclusive constituents of place.  “If these walls could talk” is also true of streets (I did a course for over a decade called “If These Streets Could Talk”)  and sidewalks and trees and mountains and streams and streetlamps benches and on and on….  You also have certain places that have an enduring character despite the passing of decades and technologies, these places just seem to imbue activity in a similar way over time, causing us to assign that “character” to place. Continue Reading

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Palm Springs Modernism Week Again!

February 25, 2015 California, Vision and Style Comments (0) 106

I had the opportunity, thanks to the wonderful Mark Davis, to again speak at Palm Springs Modernism Week, which is the coolest, most colorful preservation event anywhere.  I reprised my 2011 talk on Preserving Modernism in Chicago with an update on those icons of Modernism, the Farnsworth House (how do I flood thee?  Let me count the ways….), the sadly demolished Prentice Women’s Hospital (Philistines is too good a word – the Philistines were in fact civilized) and of course the soon to be geothermal Unity Temple.  So let’s get these pictures out of the way so we can move on to Palm Springs itself. Continue Reading

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Resiliency and Climate Change

February 16, 2015 California, Chicago Buildings, Global Heritage, Sustainability, Technology Comments (0) 125

Last week in Colorado I showed two slides of the Farnsworth House, which I have been blogging about for a dozen years.  The first image came in the section of my talk about the Threats to our Heritage, such as Climate Change.  I had also showed images of it earlier in the week, when I participated in a Climate Change and Cultural Heritage conference in Pocantico, New York, with a whole variety of players, from colleagues at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Park Service, Society for American Archaeology, World Monuments Fund, English Heritage and many other, collected together by the Union of Concerned Scientists.  So here is the first slide, which is Farnsworth House experiencing a “100-year” flood for the first of three times in the last eight years. Continue Reading

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Victoriana California

August 7, 2014 California, Vision and Style Comments (0) 126

I have written before about how I am surrounded by Victorian architecture in Northern California, and this week we made it up to Humboldt County where you get it in spades. The capper is of course the Carson Mansion in Eureka, which has inhabited every architectural style book I have owned since 1983.

This over-the-top horror vacui of a composition dates from 1884 and in my first architectural style book it illustrated both Queen Anne and Eastlake styles (it also supposedly embodies Stick and Italianate) and is still the centerpiece of Eureka, which blossomed as a lumber town in the Gilded Age and saved just enough of it for a critical mass downtown, despite a godawful prison and too many parking lots. Continue Reading

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What Hath God Wrought

February 1, 2014 California, Technology Comments (1) 140

This is last March before the drought

Living in Silicon Valley is fascinating in a variety of ways, from the absurdly non-existent weather (we think “Polar Vortex” is something treated with antidepressants) to the car culture, massive amounts of wealth, and the odd internationalism of the computer industries which draw people from every nation on earth. There is also the famously laid-back West Coast ethic and a blissful isolation from the vapidity and noise of national politics. California is the world’s eighth largest economy, and like the second, it has a functional single-party system. Also like the second, it is the most capitalist place on earth – it’s not how much money you make: it’s how much money your money makes… Continue Reading

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Recycling Recycling: Symbols of empathy

January 18, 2014 California, Sustainability, Technology Comments (0) 109

My town is about to join a long list of local communities and counties that are banning plastic bags from stores. LA just became the largest city to do so. Because environment. Like most such actions, the benefits of the ban are primarily symbolic and inspirational, which is how we have approached recycling in the United States for well over seventy years.

Humans need symbols, and the most effective ones are visual. When I was in high school baby harp seals, over-the-top cute and cruelly clubbed, became extremely effective symbols for wildlife preservation. Of course, if the animals were less than cute (snail darter) they might become symbols for the opposition. Continue Reading

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Los Gatos

September 15, 2013 California Comments (1) 112

I have lived in Los Gatos for well over a year now and am past due to blog about it. Like many of the communities in the Bay Area, it has a rich history that is still visible in its buildings and landscape. It also has a kind of branding, namely its name, which is Spanish for cats.

These stylized regal cats are found in many public and private places and seem to be a cross between Egyptian cat-gods and guardian lions rather than the mountain lions which the place was named for. I am tempted to insert a joke about cougars relating to our downtown venues of Mountain Charlie’s and Number One Broadway but I shan’t. Continue Reading

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Virtuality in preservation

August 4, 2013 California, Interpretation Comments (0) 111

So we are driving in Sonoma County and we come to a town and see these lovely Victorian buildings on the hill.

There are some other people there taking pictures of this big old Italianate that looks kind of like a school, and a church and an antique shop. Continue Reading

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Watsonville

June 2, 2013 California, Vision and Style Comments (3) 141

Had to drive to Watsonville twice yesterday. Town founded in 1852 and there is a full range of architectural styles on display, from the Italianate of the 1850s in the famed downtown Mansion House (With a Classical Chicago Skyscraper next door) Continue Reading

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