Sweet Track

Reader Chris P writes:

I just got back into reading your blog and spent all day on it 
today. Good stuff.

Yes. Sounds like a good day, Chris.

This is something that’s been in my mind the last few weeks and 
seems relevant to your stuff.

I was back in Long Island for the first time in a while and since 
we’re only doing outdoor things we went on a bunch of hikes that 
have elevated plank walkways through marshes. I was reflecting that 
I just love those things and it’s always a good hike when some part 
of it is on a marsh walkway. You look out on a well made elevated 
marsh walkway and everything feels great. You don’t see them as much 
in California but there are a few.

Then I found this:


Some of the oldest structures ever found in the British Isles are 
elevated marsh walkways. Built in 3800 BC. Older than Stonehenge. 
Lots of good stuff in the wiki piece.

“The track was constructed from about 200,000 kilograms (440,000 lb) 
of timber, but Coles estimates that once the materials were 
transported to the site, ten men could have assembled it in one day”

So it seems like the elevated marsh walkway is one of those human 
-constructed landscape elements that people have a deep almost 
“genetic memory” affinity before. At least people with ancestry in 
the British Isles.

(Similar to the “open” woodlands where natural brush has been 
repeatedly burned out by controlled fires to facilitate hunting.)

Anyway… thought you might be intrigued. If nothing else I feel 
better having told someone.

Lol truly the motivation over here at Helytimes: To feel better having told someone. The Sweet Track design, illustrated here, seems beautifully efficient.

Distant view of the lost city of Qattara

The inhabitants known for their bloodthirstiness would’ve killed me if I approached any further than the Unholy Gate.

Yes to this lifestyle


says the National Archive.

Michael Reynolds would make bricks out of cans.

“More cans dude?”

Getting the cans seems like the fun part.

Here’s a 2014 Business Insider article by Christina Sterbenz about him.

Great Blasket Island


Not easy to get there:

Lucky weather on this particular day.

What we might call in the USA a ghost town.  The last inhabitants were evacuated in 1953:

In 1907 Norwegian linguist Carl Marstander went there to learn Irish from this local:

Tomás Ó Chriomhthain, who later wrote a book about his life there.


Some other islanders wrote, or dictated, their own tales of their hard and primitive lives on this island:

As a girl Peig Sayers was supposed to go join a friend in America, but the friend had an accident and couldn’t send the money.  She gave birth to eleven children.  Five died.

Peig’s book was (I’m told, by the excellent tour guide) forced on generations of Irish schoolchildren.  In 1941 this genre of rural Irish poverty literature was parodied by Flann O’Brien / Brian O’Nolan / Myles na gCopaleen:

An Béal Bocht is set in Corca Dhorcha, (Corkadoragha, Corkadorkey), a remote region of Ireland where it never stops raining and everyone lives in desperate poverty (and always will) while talking in “the learned smooth Gaelic”.

Blasket life does seem rough.

This was my second visit, and both times I’ve been blown away by the Blasket Center / Ionad Blaiscoid Mhór.

The architecture and design and use of landscape on this building is just very cool:

Here’s it from afar:

Couldn’t find online who the architect was, so I emailed them, and they wrote back and told me:

The architect of the centre was Ciaran O’Connor, who is the State architect nowadays.

State architect.  Cool.

Really impressed with the Irish OPW. They take care of their treasures, Ireland.

Let’s wish him well!


Reviewing my notes and recalling that one of my projects over the holidays was designing a house.

Star Axis

When completed it will be eleven stories high and one-fifth of a mile long.  (Star Axis by Charles Ross, not Vali)

Star Axis was begun in 1971. The Star Tunnel is the central element of Star Axis. It frames our north star, Polaris. The Star Tunnel is precisely aligned with the earth’s axis. Within it a stairway rises 10 stories toward a circular opening at the top that frames all of the orbits of Polaris throughout the ages. As you climb the stairway toward the circular opening you see larger and larger views of the sky. The view from each stair frames an orbit of Polaris for a particular time in the 26,000 year cycle called precession. The smallest orbit of Polaris, viewed from the bottom stair, is about the size of a dime held at arms length. The largest orbit of Polaris, viewed from the top stair, encompasses your entire field of vision.

Architecture of Downtown Los Angeles

Annual tradition: a day of architectural touring with Craig D.


The restaurant Otium, with the Broad Museum to the right and some building to the left.

Craigs’s house is beautiful.


Craig helping wife Abby

First stop: LA’s Cathedral.


The cathedral was designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning Spanish architect Rafael Moneo. Using elements of postmodern architecture, the church and the Cathedral Center feature a series of acute and obtuse angles while avoiding right angles.

Rafael Moneo

Rafael Moneo

Cardinal Roger Mahony’s decision to rebuild the Los Angeles Cathedral in such elaborate and postmodern architecture has drawn great criticism. Many argued that a church of that size and expense was unnecessary, overly-elaborate and money could have been better spent on social programs. Many felt that either St. Vincent Church on West Adams Boulevard or St. Basil Church on South Kingsley Drive could easily perform the functions required of a cathedral with minimal additional cost. Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral was also criticized for its departure from historical California Mission-style architecture and aesthetics.

Had been reading this book:


which talks a lot about why LA feels so odd to the pedestrian, and the ways LA’s public buildings have of shutting off the street:


I’ll say:


LA’s cathedral, finished in 2002, seemed a bit ’90s to me:


That’s the Grand Arts School / Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts behind Craig.

IMG_4631Disaster waiting to happen at the mausoleum?

Quick tour through Grand Central Market:

IMG_4651A walk past the retired Angels’ Flight:


On February 1, 2001, Angels Flight had a serious accident that killed a passenger, Leon Praport (age 83), and injured seven others, including Praport’s wife, Lola. The accident occurred when car Sinai, approaching the upper station, reversed direction and accelerated downhill in an uncontrolled fashion to strike car Olivet near the lower terminus.

On to the truly bizarre angles of the Bonaventure Hotel designed by John C. Portman, Jr.

IMG_4665I mean what is going on here?:


In his book Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (1989), Edward Soja describes the hotel as

a concentrated representation of the restructured spatiality of the late capitalist city: fragmented and fragmenting, homogeneous and homogenizing, divertingly packaged yet curiously incomprehensible, seemingly open in presenting itself to view but constantly pressing to enclose, to compartmentalize, to circumscribe, to incarcerate. Everything imaginable appears to be available in this micro-urb but real places are difficult to find, its spaces confuse an effective cognitive mapping, its pastiche of superficial reflections bewilder co-ordination and encourage submission instead. Entry by land is forbidding to those who carelessly walk but entrance is nevertheless encouraged at many different levels. Once inside, however, it becomes daunting to get out again without bureaucratic assistance. In so many ways, its architecture recapitulates and reflects the sprawling manufactured spaces of Los Angeles

You said it, pal.

Hely at Bonaventure

Frank Gehry, William Pereira and SoCal architecture


Is this a good building?

Is Frank Gehry, who designed it, a good architect?

How would we answer that?

What is good or bad architecture, really?

INTO this NY Review of Books piece by Ingrid Rowland which explores these questions.

gehry bilbao

http://www.archdaily.com/tag/guggenheim-museum-bilbao, credited to flickr user Iker Merodio

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Whoa.  FullSizeRender (30)

I can only find one of those three “exquisite little paintings” on the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum’s very decent website.  The Annunciation:

el greco annunci

El Greco was rad, my goodness.  FullSizeRender (31)


Here, Rowland talks about Gehry’s house in Santa Monica:

FullSizeRender (32)Let’s have a look, photo from Google Street View:

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 1.47.26 PM

Maybe the most eye-opening part of this piece to me though was Rowland talking about earlier SoCal architect and Gehry mentor William Pereira.  This guy designed so many buildings that I see every day!  5900 Wilshire

5900 Wilshire, for example.

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Pereira’s Oscar was for Reap The Wild Wind:

Did he design boats or something?  The history of Irvine is topic for another day, but here’s some of Pereira’s work on the UC campus there:

murray krieger hall

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The Theme Building of LAXtheme

(Wikipedia doles out the credit a bit more generously:

It was designed by a team of architects and engineers headed by William Pereira and Charles Luckman, that also included Paul Williams and Welton Becket. The initial design of the building was created by James Langenheim, of Pereira & Luckman.

Luckman was no slouch himself, he went on to do Boston’s Prudential Tower:



Wikipedia asks me to credit user RhythmicQuietude with the photo

Luckman did the Forum here in LA as well:


A modest sentence from his Wiki:

Then in 1947, President Truman asked him to help feed starving Europe.

Here’s Pereira’s ziggurat for the Chet Holifield Federal Building:

chet holifield

which is of course modeled on Chet Holifield’s head:

chet holifield

More Pereira from UC Irvine:

library at uc irvine

The Disneyland Hotel:

CBS TV City:


dope tumblr Jet Set Modernist has some good classic pics of CBS TV City in all its Mad Men era glory.

Not sure which of these buildings in Newport Beach Pereira did, but they all have a style we might call Pereiraesque:

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 2.04.09 PM

Wiki asks for attribution to user: WPPilot

More more! :

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Here’s the Assyrian-revival tire factory turned Outlets:

And the Patriotic Hall I always wonder about when I see it south of the 10:

Bob Hope Patriotic Hall

You can see Frank Gehry in the first few minutes of Kate Berlant’s episode of The Characters:



A Reader Writes:


Re: architects whose works sound like their names, how could you forget Gaudi?

Good point!

gaudi 2

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 11.11.24 AM




In my opinion, this is the architect whose stuff looks the most like his name sounds.






Second place?  Rem Koolhaas.


Although isn’t an architect called Cool House a bit on the nose?