Sunday, September 8, 2013

Archipicture 05: The WALKIE TALKIE

Translated by Hilary Luk |   中文版
New York architect Viñoly designed a London building, dubbed the ‘Walkie Talkie’ due to its unique concave glass design. Recently, the ‘Walkie Talkie’ extraordinarily melted a Jaguar car, which was parked next to the building.

Due to the building’s extremely close-hitting reflective microwave powers, nearby stores have complained that the reflected heat has melted bicycle seats, caused doormat smoke, peeled off wall paint and cooked stored raw eggs. However, one benefit from this scorching heat was that no snow needed to be shoveled in winter.


The architect claimed that he considered this during his design plans. However, he only estimated the temperature of the reflected light to reach 36 C, instead of the current 72 C.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Ming In New York


Antoine was famously known for his love of chicken by all of his neighbours. Not only did he eat chicken everyday, he would buy a large amount of raw chicken meat each week.

One day, Antoine got hurt and rushed to the hospital with his younger brother. Antoine arrived to the emergency room suffering from deep leg wounds, so deep that the bone could be seen, and his body stained with blood. He told the hospital that these wounds were due to bites from his pit bull terrier.

“How big is your pit bull terrier?” The police found Antoine’s claim highly questionable A few hours later, an anonymous report made the police leave for Antoine’s residence in Harlem for an investigation.

It only took one step into Antoine’s apartment to hear a burst of a dragon’s roar and smell a highly suspicious stench. The police did not directly break into the house but instead, from the seventh floor window, a police officer lowered himself on a rope sling to peer Antoine’s fifth floor window.

The police officer had a vague vision of a monster, and ruled out the possibility of a tiger-skin rug. The officer then fired a shot to the tiger’s bottom. Normally, the golden rule is to never touch a tiger’s bottom, let alone shoot it. Immediately, the tiger gave the officer a fierce glare and pounced straight towards him. Not only did the apartment wall shake at its roots, the police officer saw himself face-to-face with the giant tiger’s razor-sharp teeth. For a second, the police officer might think he was dying in a Bangladesh jungle. At last, Ming was shot with tranquilizer gun and was dragged from the scene. The police also discovered an alligator living in the same unit.

This event occurred in 2003. In reality, Antoine does not like chicken meat, but loves wildlife. His parents had considered opening a zoo, but the final plan fell through. Antoine then decided to build his own little zoo in his flat. Ming was two years old and weighed around four hundred pounds during this year. He was of a Bengali-Siberian breed and co-existed peacefully with the alligator. However, Antoine had recently adopted a small domestic kitten. Antoine probably wanted to down-size his wildlife zoo to a petting zoo. Ming the tiger was around ten times larger than the kitten but Ming still felt threatened by it.

Antoine was living a life similar to a husband married to two wives. When Ming attacked the kitten, Antoine, like all polygamist husbands, tried to protect his new love. This whole saga proved that a tiger is not suitable for a petting zoo tiger but it also proved that a family should not have more than one animal or spouse.

Antoine was jailed for six years. He also had the audacity to accuse the city council and request compensation for his lost pet worth $ 7000. This is similar to a bank robber requesting compensation from the police for his fired bullets. A judge dismissed the case, calling him full of "chutzpah".

In the end, Ming was sent to the Ohio animal shelter. Antoine stated, “Ironically, this is both Ming’s and my first time to be locked up in a cage”.


Class A Architect, Class A War Criminal


“I hereby declare the defendant guilty and sentence him to 20 years imprisonment”, said the judge. The defendant immediately gave a huge sigh of relief. He had escaped the much dreaded death sentence. He was laid charges against anti-human rights and war crime. This defendant was probably the most powerful modern times architect. He was also a class A war criminal of World War II, the world-renowned Albert Speer.


Dictators’ Pet

Speer (born in 1905) was not yet thirty years old when Goebbels recognized him. Goebbels was so impressed with Speer that he offered Speer the responsibility of designing the Nazi Party’s headquarters in Berlin. Goebbels then assigned Speer to rebuild the President’s residence, where Speer could meet Hitler every day.


Since Speer came to earn Hitler's trust, the 29-year-old became the Nazi Party’s chief architect. His designs include Nuremberg Parade Grounds and the German Pavilion for the international exposition in Paris. His architectural style is both solemn and grand with an emphasis on power and authority. Speer’s designs were of a typical totalitarian style as he aimed to promote ideology whilst praising the great political power of Hitler. This in turn earned Speer the dictator’s approval.

Hitler assigned Speer to rebuild the “Germanic-styled” Berlin. Fortunately, WWII thwarted the rebuilding plan. Even Stalin respected Speer, and invited Speer to Moscow, but Hitler did not allow Speer to go.


In 1942, Speer became the Minister of Armaments, which was the peak of his powers. Other than Hitler, Speer was not accountable to anybody. Speer revamped and improved the German model of industrial production, transitioning from the previously peaceful era into a time of war. Goebbels called Speer a genius in his diary. Late into WWII, the Allies considered Speer to be a more important enemy than Hitler himself.

Speer ‘improved’ productivity by forcing a large number of Jews to perform manual labor as prisoners of war. But according to Speer, after his visit to the slavery camp, he proposed to enhance the production environment, and therefore countless lives were saved.



The important question remains to be “How much was Speer involvde in the Holocaust?” According to his memoirs, Speer knew nothing about the Holocaust, the gas chambers and had never visited the concentration camps.

During the very important Posen Speech, where Himmler gave a speech detailing the ongoing Holocaust to Nazi leaders, Speer claimed that he had left Posen before Himmler's speech; therefore he had no idea of the “Final Solution”

However, Speer was the Minister of Armaments who was responsible for supply distribution and productivity. It is extremely hard to believe that someone can mass-murder millions of his laborer behind Speer’s back.

It was only after his release that Speer began to give up on his own story. He has publicly declared, “If I didn’t see it, then it was because I didn’t want to see it”. In recent years, many files have been publicly released, including Speer’s own letter written that proves that Speer was in fact, well informed.


At the Nuremburg War Crimes Trial, Speer had admitted to other allegations except the Holocaust. He was successful as he not only evaded the responsibility of the Holocaust, but he became a ‘good’ Nazi. Speer became one of the few who escaped the death penalty that many Nazis were sentenced.

German film director Heinrich Breloer once said that Speer created a new excuse, people started to say , 'Believe me, I didn't know anything about [the Holocaust]. Just look at the Führer's friend, he didn't know about it either

Speer was released from prison in 1966 after he published his memoirs. He anonymously donated 80% of the proceeds to the Jewish Trust Fund. However, these proceeds cannot compensate even for his smallest crime. 

In 1981, Speer died of a stroke in London. For a man who has caused painful deaths to die such a natural and  peaceful death, makes us breathe the heaviest sigh of sighs.




This story begins with Mr Austin, an English hunter, and his 24 rabbits. Austin had arrived in Australia during a time where communication platforms were scarce. Facebook or Twitter did not exist then and there was no platform to launch a hunting group for people to “like”. Austin resorted to have rabbits sent to Australia from England and have them released into the wild. This way, Austin was able to display his hunting talent.
Austin’s "Famous Last Words"
“The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting.”


Australia was found to be a paradise for rabbits, in addition to Mr. Austin and his fellow hunters. The weather was warm, the soil was rich, the plants were plentiful and lastly, predators were nowhere to be found. These English rabbits had never seen such delicious plants, which were abundant in Australia. Rabbits were well known to be highly reproductive. Very soon, these 24 rabbits became a million troops. These rabbits transformed into Australian zombies, destroying the entire ecosystem, and rapidly spreading across Australia. This led to an extinction of one eighth of native mammals and countless native flora


After the outbreak, Australians devised a plan fit for a zombie attack. They had several attempts from shooting with guns, spraying with poison, butchering their meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, the effect was not noticeable at all. Finally, in 1890, there was a proposal to erect a long fence from North to South in order to preserve the last portion of pure land, which was in the West. However, before the project was completed, the rabbits had already reached this last piece of pure land. Thus, two other fences had to be added to the existing North to South fence.

In 1907, the project was finally completed. It is a difficult job to keep a three thousand kilometer long fence. This is for a number of reasons. One being, some rabbits can hop over or through the fence. In 1920, the number of rabbits reached a record-breaking ten billion. (What? Yes, this figure has been repeatedly verified).

Is There a Solution to this Rabbit Over-Population?
The rabbit problem was never solved. Even today, Australians are still tackling the rabbit invasion. However, in 1950, the South American rabbit virus was introduced and it reduced the number by a great 90%. Nevertheless, some rabbits were found to be immune to the virus so, in 1996, a new disease was introduced. The new disease saw very successful results, but it formed a new ecological balance where predators had to face a greatly reduced number of rabbits. Today, Australians still face this dilemma with two to three thousand million rabbits.

(The South American rabbit virus has also been introduced in Europe and it too, greatly reduced the number of rabbits and endangered some predators)

Dingo-Proof Fence

Australians probably fell in love of the idea of fence building, so much that they began building a dingo-proof fence before they even completed the three rabbit-proof fences. This was due to the discovery of the construction workers that the rabbit-proof fences not only stopped rabbits, but also mammals such as dingoes.

The dingo is believed to originate from Thailand or India, and came to Australia three thousand years ago. Due to their aggressive mongrel-like nature, it is estimated that dingoes are the culprits of the Tasmanian Tigers’ extinction.


In order to protect the sheep industry, the Australians decided to erect a longer railing from Queensland to Western Australia. The dingo-proof fence has separated South-Eastern Australia from the rest of the country. Farmers from South-East Australia culled dingoes vigorously. Outside the fence boundary, farmers mainly bred cattle. Fortunately, dingoes seldom eat veal so the two animals were able to co-exist well. The dingo-proof fence was 5400 km long, which is longer than the Great Wall of China. (Like the Great Wall, the dingo-proof fence is not visible from inter-space satellites)

The dingo-proof fence was considered successful, though it was still highly controversial. The number of kangaroos and other animals increased due to the fence. To date, the Australian government has spent ten million dollars per year to maintain the fence’s operation.

In addition to rabbits and dogs, Australia also suffers from an over-population of cats, pigs, foxes and camels. These animals may perceive Australia as heaven but unfortunately, the Europeans who introduced them into the country are actually Australia’s hell-keepers.


Empire State Building


It was just a normal working day when several policemen suddenly invaded the office. They stormed up to the 25th floor, climbed out of the window and onto the terrace. Staff who sat near this window had to stop working and a quarter of the company were in standstill. Many workers were at a loss at what to do and the waiting dragged on for several hours. What was just described is the first-hand experience of this blogger. This incident happened in 2009, during the Global Financial Crisis. A 54-year-old woman had jumped off the 39th floor of the Empire State Building and landed on this blogger’s office, which overlooked the 25th floor’s podium. Soon after, the woman was certified dead.

Architect William Frederick Lamb

Since its completion, the Empire State Building can be said to have undergone countless ordeals, except for 1933 and 2005 when King Kong ravaged the structure. There have been more than thirty suicide cases other than the one described above.

One includes a woman who, in 1947, jumped from the 88th floor’s observatory and died. Not only did the photographs taken of this woman become famous newspaper shots, her suicide has been hailed as “The Most Beautiful Suicide”. Afterwards, her suicide note was found where she wrote: "Without me, he would be better off…I cannot be a good wife”. Her story is a certainly a very poignant one.

"The Most Beautiful Suicide"

The Empire State Building, being in the United States, has experienced shooting twice, once in 1997 and then in 2012.In addition to the shootings, a U.S military aircraft also struck the Empire State Building in 1945. Due to inclement weather and low visibility, the aircraft crashed into the top of the Empire State Building. Luckily, the bottom of the building structure was not affected. However, this accident claimed fourteen innocent lives.



It was during the year when the architectural style of decorative arts (Art Deco) was popular when architect William Frederick Lamb, designed the Empire State Building. However, the Empire State Building faced a mean competitor- another Art Deco-styled New York landmark- the Chrysler Building. When Lamb discovered that the Chrysler Building was undergoing height extension from eighty to eighty-five floors, he retaliated by adding a “hat”.
Today, the Empire State Building holds a mighty 102 floors. The added hat was originally intended for airships. However, it was found to be too dangerous and highly impractical to use for landing and take-off. Thus, only one airship ever landed and used the hat. The hat then transformed into a transmitter tower for telecommunications.


The Novelty Wears Off

In 1930, construction of the Empire State Building began. However, the landowner requested its completion to occur as soon as possible. With every ounce of brain and manpower available, the construction lasted one year and in fact, forty-five days earlier than expected. Construction occurred during the Great Depression, meaning engineering and labor costs were reduced. Overall, the whole building project can be said to be very successful.


Building the world’s tallest building during the Great Depression requires enormous courage, and there was also a price to pay. The Empire State Building suffered a very high vacancy rate and thus, it was satirized as the “Empty State Building”. The skyscraper had to wait until 1950, two decades after its completion, before it started bringing in the dollars.

The Empire State Building, completed in 1931, became the world's tallest building. However, time passed and the Twin Towers rose up to the challenge and stole its title. Unfortunately, in September 11, 2001, the Empire State Building retrieved its title to become the tallest building in New York. The building

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What made Gehry Great?


Gehry the Great

You may ask yourself, who is the existing world's most famous architect? Is it I.M. Pei? Is it Foster? If you answered Frank Gehry, you are not far off. Frank Gehry was a Toronto-born Jew, under the name Frank Owen Goldberg. For fear of being discriminated with his Jewish surname, he changed it to Gehry. This later became his lifelong regret. 


What made Gehry Great? 

One must mention the creation that transforms him from a famous architect to a household celebrity. It was the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum that made him a household name. In many ways, the museum is the most successful building of the 20th century. 

The Bilbao Guggenheim was constructed on time and within budget. This was very rare for such a bizarre building design. The Bilbao Guggenheim Museum can be contrasted to Foster’s Apple headquarters, which not only ran behind schedule but also over budget by two billion U.S. dollars. 

Economically, the museum successfully redeveloped a former ship and steel construction city. The city had dwindled from its once prosperous metropolis in its glory days. Gehry transformed this outdated city into the renowned cultural city that it is today. Bilbao’s mayor intention was to have the museum to lead the redevelopment of the city. Many cities attempted to do this but had failed. Ever since the resurrection of the city of Bilbao, the term “Bilbao effect” was coined. 

Architecturally, Philip Johnson described it as "the greatest building of our time". Considering his age, His he had witnessed countless great structures in his era. The Bilbao Guggenheim Museum is considered to be both a building and sculpture. This created the style we know today as Archisculpture. 

Bilbao Guggenheim is not only leading edge in its architectural ideas but also in its technological ideas. Frank Gehry invented new computer technology to accommodate the complexity of the building façade. Frank Gehry became a pioneer and consequently the designs of Calatrava, Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas were made possible. 


Some may argue that Bilbao Guggenheim is not physically attractive. Out of all possible form of the world, he had to choose this bizarre and crooked one? Some struggle to praise the interior while others criticize the design to be completely disconnected with the environment. In my opinion, Frank Gehry was a pioneer to grasp and master the latest ideas and technology. He even became somewhat obsessed at times. Nevertheless, his minute flaws should be forgiven. 

After the Bilbao was constructed, Frank Gehry continued to become famous for Disney Concert Hall, Seattle EMP Museum and many others.