The Cube




“Nobody likes working in a cube.” Considering how many different kinds of office spaces I’ve had the misfortune to have to inhabit, if you don’t like your cube, trust me there are worse alternatives. Large cubes, small cubes, monitor on top of old drafting tables, individual desks, monitor on secretary’s hutch.  If there’s a good, bad and ugly to offices, I’ve been there.

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In Japan, Modernism Has No Chance In The Face Of Change

The NY Times ran this piece a while back and my dad pointed it out to me, knowing my interest in Japan.

Apparently the author is upset that the Hotel Okura is rebuilding. Apparently a lot of people are.

Hotel Okura Tokyo: A last look


The New York Times article acts as if this a loss of history and as if the Japanese never preserve anything.  Well I don’t consider modern buildings built in the 1960’s historical, and it isn’t hard to find all sorts of old buildings in Japan or Tokyo, for that matter. Still Japan doesn’t have the sense of permanence in structures that many nations do.  If you look at even the oldest structures in Japan  they tend to have a sort of temporary feel to them. It’s the difference between elegance and simplicity of a Budhist temple and bulk and majesty of the pantheon or a gothic cathederal.

I’ve posted about Tokyo Before. It’s a city of contrasts. Of course you have to get out and explore the city, something the New York Times seems have a problem with.


And sometimes it rushes a bit to much and tears away the old to make way for the new.

Still there’s the problem that the old just doesn’t want to go away, no matter how abandoned it is.


There’s also the fact that Tokyo especially, has been knocked around hard by one conflagration or another.

These photos show how Japanese architecture has changed over the last 100 years

What Japan does have is a sense of sameness when construction is sound and a lot of experimentation. Like this small building for instance.

Look for one of the weirdest looking buildings in Tokyo to find some very delicious pineapple cake

Or the Ghibli Museum.

Which is hardly the only strange building in Mitaka

Tokyo certainly doesn’t lack for architectural diversity.  Including some very strange ideas.

Even if the businesses that occupy them have a sleazy reputation.

Still, even the most solid businesses can go to the strange.

Even is some of the decisions seem to have been rather strange.

In Tokyo, even the city government gets a classy building.

True, people looking for Frank LLoyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel in Tokyo will be disappointed, because the hotel was demolished and the lobby is at the Meiji Mura Museum in Nagoya, but there is the girl’s school in Ikebukuro.

Going even further back there are preserved buildings in parks

Considering Japan’s downright strange address system you would think that having lots of buildings easily distinguishable would be considered a necessary part of the city.

Japan Unwrapped #6: Landmark love

Though some things can be overdone

though being creative is never a bad thing.

Of course there are those who reach for the truly weird, and achieve it.

And it’s not to say that Tokyo has had a total loss.

There are old buildings in the Ginza

And railroad stations.


Still, Tokyo is one of the best places to see what’s current in architecture.

The really strange thing is that even right next to the shiny towers of Tokyo, you can find bits and pieces of old Tokyo it you know where to look, tucked away in narrow streets and alleys, building and shops from The Showa era and earlier. Still, Tokyo is a living city and that means change.  Which sometime means that a structure, no matter how beloved has to and be replaced by the next structure.

Anyway here’s a flikr album of Tokyo and Japanese architecture, the large and the small.





Redesigning The Sidewalk Shed

If you have ever visited New York, You’ve walked under the ubiquitous scaffolding sidewalk sheds. I certainly have.  Ugly as they are, they can be lifesavers if there’s a sudden rainstorm and you don’t have an umbrella. But they can stay up for years sometimes as work goes on slowly or stops altogether for some reason.   Sometimes they seem permanent. Well apparently there is a drive to make them more attractive.

This can’t be anything other than a good idea.

Architects Design Kit

I was a building set junkie when I was a kid.  I had a bunch of different sets that I scrounged up from tag sales and church sales including lots of Lego. This is interesting, but it seems inflexible and I’m thinking that you could drop down to a Lego store and just do some scrounging in the bins to get about the same result.  Of course you wouldn’t have the Cad models.

TWA Terminal At JFK Set in Amber

The old TWA terminal was always a place apart from the other terminals. Most of the terminals at JFK are basically large boxes with airport gates on them and frankly they don’t even handle passenger flow very well.  And the whole place looks rather ratty.  I remember picking people up or dropping people off at that TWA terminal and it was always a great experience.  The rest of the terminals, not so much.

I’m glad it’s being saved.  On the other hand, airport terminal and tarmac space is valuable and giving it up for a hotel seems rather pointless.

Large Structures In Space

If we are going to go to space the engineering and fabrication of space structures is going to be completely different than what we are used to.  In space you have to get away from gravity that helps and hinders you.  You have to plan for fabrication techniques that don’t use water or gases.  It looks as if we are on our way.


Interesting article from the Daily Mail.

And a video.

My Favorite Place

I think that my first trip through Grand Central Terminal was in 1968.  My mom took me, my brother and sister to the Statue of Liberty on a very cold February day.  This was my first train trip, of thousands, into NYC.  Now back then GCT was at it’s low point.  The station was seedy and the concourse was filled with advertising in an attempt by the bankrupt railroads to get revenue any way they could. The one large, very large memory I have is of the Kodak Colorama picture on the west side of the concourse.  Over the years all the pictures on that thing were all excellent.  Then there was the frozen custard stand on the Southwest aisle next to the concourse. Along with the pizza stand along the south aisle.  All of which went away in the late 1980’s when Grand Central started to get fancified.  This piece is rather enthusiastic and exaggerates more or less some of the strange things that exist in GCT.

The baggage car at track 61 is NOT FDR’s old car transport.  The fact that it’s painted blue means that the care has been to the Metro North Paint shop at least once and that it’s used for maintenance of Way.  There WAS a New York Central painted converted troop sleeper on the lower level but that is gone because the track it was on is part of the East Side Access project.  The apartment is a fun place to get a drink and all that paneling is wonderful.   The whispering hall works.  That back passageway with the sloping ramps was intended to be a space for a skyscraper that has never been built.   There’s a little museum and library run by a railroad historical society as a meeting room that has a section of the original 20th Century LTD red carpet, the carpet that start the Red carpet.  The Oyster Bar is expensive but the oysters and sandwiches are great.  The skyscrapers going north for ten blocks from GCT have no basements because GCT IS the basement.  While they are no longer used very much both levels have loop tracks to turn trains.

These are just some of the fun stuff that exists in GCT.  I’ve been through the Terminal hundreds of times and I still find surprises.

Grand Central has been a show of people going places since the mid 19th Century. Here’s what it was like back in 1906.  I can’t tell you how much I wish for that package service. Still, some things never change.  Like missing the last train.



Some Pictures I’ve taken over the years.  I will be adding to this album.: