Saturday, December 31, 2011

House of Trough: Jun Igarashi architect



1. Big box – almost a cube
2. Looks inward – exterior windows open into two loft spaces screened off from interior space necessitated by location in a mixed industrial / domestic use neighborhood. These windows are of various sizes, and line up randomly with one another though they all appear to be square, like some of Robert Venturi's windows.* The lofts isolate the interior space from its industrial surroundings and from the cold of northern Japan winters. The lofts echo - by way of a reversal - the more traditional engawa or veranda that is designed to connect the interior with the exterior space of the Japanese house.
3. All white interior
4. Minimal furniture and accessories accentuate the need for technological connections with few other absolutely necessary personal possessions
5. Minimal safety precautions as well – there are extremely minimal railings in stairways, and a thin wire as visual separation of loft from what appears to be a 12-foot drop into the central courtyard or trough of the house.


First, I am inclined to think of this minimalist box as stuck in the minimalist modernism of the first half of the 1970’s decade. However, the minimalist, space with its protective loft/verandas is conducive to the owner’s use of electronic technology for work and play. It provides for never ending change as the owners live, work and play within the space.

Second, I know my Western preoccupation with or need to fill space (horror vacui) leads to the distrust of such an empty living space with its minimal protections against falling. That fear of falling is also acquired from my 21st century American cultural preoccupation with safety, and I can’t help but be reminded of the unforgettable quote from the famous television Elderly Medical Alert commercial, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.”

"I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up." *5



Even though it provides for never ending change in views through the space as the owner’s use the Trough, none of the other characteristics of the Metamodern are present. These are; 1) a return to fantasy/viewer as participant dreamer, 2) the architecture somehow inhabits the space between and among and (I suspect) limitless series of oppositions including the Modern, and 3) the structural presence of the organic, and/or abstract form. While “The Trough” provides for the viewers/owners to be the dreamers, it is at the same time anchored visually to the minimalist modernism of the 1970’s, and does not begin to imply the incorporation and variation in and among oppositional styles. Instead, the structure is limited to the thousands of years of traditional geometric architecture. Thus, while I admire, and find so much about this piece of domestic architecture to be interestingly accomplished, “The Trough” cannot be classified as Metamodern.


• I refer to the Lieb House, among others designed by Robert Venturi, moved from Barnegat Light, N.J., to Glen Cove, N.Y., March 13, 2009.
• Igarashi, Jun, Architects, Architecture Daily Website,, viewed 7:46 PM., EST, December 21, 2011.
• “House of Trough,” Architectural Record, Posted December, 2011, viewed 5:22 PM., EST, December 21, 2011.
•4 Miyamoto, Selya, Photographer, in “House of Trough,” Architectural Record, Posted December, 2011, viewed 5:22 PM., EST, December 21, 2011.
*5 "I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up," Uploaded by Bubbajomama on Dec 17, 2007. Viewed 11:00 AM, EST, Saturday, December 31, 2011.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Christmas prayer…

is that ALL OF US TOGETHER, the 99% and the 1%, Tea Party Republican, moderate Republican, moderate Democrat, and liberal Democrat can make our broken congress and country work again.

As part of this entry I've included a photograph of coconut palms decorated with lights for Christmas, a YouTube video of the Mac Wilberg arrangement of "Still, Still, Still, and a partial list of the things that have made the USA great. They are three seemingly unrelated things, though I would maintain that all things are included in a complete definition of God and the universe.

First, the Christmas Coconut Palms.

Second, Wilberg, Still, Still, Still - As close to a heavenly experience of Chistmas and winter as I can imagine.

And, third - the list.

1. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the most important part of which is the First Amendment – “the right of the people to peaceably assemble.” (broken this year by mayors and police in cities across the country.)
a. The right of the people to bear arms.
b. The separation of church and state
c. Limitation of power of the various branches of government
d. States’ rights
e. A strong federal government
7. Public education available to all
8. Creativity and constant innovation
9. Middle class
10. The Rich
11. The poor
12. Increasing suffrage for all people regardless of religion, sex, ethnicity, race, and sexuality
13. Waves of immigration and immigrants.
14. Capitalism – Super Corporations as well as old style mom and pop capitalism.
15. Socialism – including VA medical benefits and the big 3 (Medicaid, Medicare, and social security.*1
16. A limited definition of family
17. An increasingly inclusive definition of family
18. Abundant natural resources
19. Destructive use of natural resources.
20. Beauty beyond measure
21. A constructive mythology
22. A destructive mythology

Notice anything odd about this list, I ask rhetorically?

The list includes items that we would tag as diametrically opposed, items that belong on a list of extreme conservative values, and items that belong on a list of extreme liberal values, and items that would be found on both those lists. I refuse to believe that our democracy is no longer capable of reconciling and building on a value system that includes binary oppositions. Yes, Western cultures have a bad habit of thinking in oppositions. However, our nation has not been built on them. Instead our nation has been constructed during its 235-year history by fighting for (literally and figuratively) the reconciliation of seemingly diametrically opposed values.

Today, we are once again engaged in a battle that is based on separating these values into two opposing lists. One group would go beyond separation, and would redefine the values so as to exclude any hint of the other, and that must stop, or we are doomed to fight a second internecine civil war.

I will say no more, but include here, a reminder of our most noble and actual inclusive Christian behaviors based on one of our beloved patriotic songs, the first verse of “America the Beautiful,” by Katherine Lee Bates, and Samuel Ward.

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee

And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!*

P.S. Had to include this glass harp rendition of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies."

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!


*1 In current American Western ideology, socialism is almost always labeled as morally corrupt, while capitalism is labeled as constructive and good. Most historians insist that that is a correct historical analysis. I maintain that the use of social institutions by democracies like our own has proven that a blend of socialism and capitalism is the best system available to date.

• Just to make sure there is no confusion caused by my inclusion of the word “Christian” above. I am not a born again. The accent here is placed on the words “inclusive,” and “brotherhood,” as it is my belief that Jesus Christ was all about inclusion, and his choice of disciples both men and women proved the point.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Full House is “Meta-modern?” *

Part of a continuing series about the possible influence of Metamodernism on Domestic Architecture

Full house is an expanded expression of domestic space as useful space – the ultimate retro-reference to the Modern notion that form must follow function. It is “a homeless home. That’s is more like a machine, than any of the Modernists houses has ever been.” * The authors continue to explain that the house is “Meta-modern” because it has no room left over for anything but the mechanisms of functionality. The authors also state that “dwelling is in the head, not in the house.” In other words, there is no room for a particular human to “be” in the room. The house negates the individual. It is more like the limited space occupied by the character John Isadore in the Postmodern Sci-fi novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” - a novel about what it means to be human - by Phillip K Dick. * 1

Such a space is antithetical to the Metamodern! At its core, the Metamodern represents a return to the individual as the romancer and dreamer, the maker of connections, the believer, the idealist despite the warmed over ironic Postmodern trope in the back of his/her mind that such may not be possible. The notion of a space devoid of individual reference is thus diametrically opposed to the Metamodern, and that makes it a small presence as one opposition of many linear oppositions in the 3-D model of interactive oppositional forces that I proposed (Metamodernism? Part II) upon reading Vermuelin and Van den Akker’s original description of Metamodernism. * 2 and *3 For example, “Full House” is far less Metamodern than the last example given here, “Porchdog House,” because “Full House” is emptied of individual reference, and because the Porchdog House references an architectural solution to problems a particular individual (among many) encountered and solved with the help of the architect, Marion Blackwell, and the Architecture For our Century Model Home Program. * 4 As is so often the case, theorists confuse the notion of the interactive technological “no-space” of our contemporary Twenty-first Century lives – it is but one interactive piece acting within the total epistemological space of human endeavor – with all human endeavor. Thus, Full House does not represent the influence of the Metamodern on domestic architecture despite the reference to it as “Meta-modern.” I can only conclude that the reference on the “Lab4arch” Website to Full House as being “ Meta-modern” references a conceptualization - recognized in the hyphenation of “Meta-modern” - that is only tangentially related to actual Metamodern theory.


* Johan de Koning, Architect. silver prize (cat. AJ), Second DBEW International Design Competition: Beyond East & West, Korea (2002). (I expect that the awkward English is due to the translation from Korean.), Viewed 11:14 AM, EST, Tuesday, December 13, 2011.

* 1 Dick, Phillip K., Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. New York: Doubleday (1968)

*2 Klomp, John Bittinger, “Metamodernism, Part II,” Thursday, June 2, 2011, Viewed, ll:05 AM, EST, Tuesday, December 13, 2011.

*3 Vermeulen, Timotheus, and van den Akker, Robin, “Notes on Metamodernism,” in Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, Vol. 2, 2010 DOI: 10.3402/jac.v1i0.5677. On line at, visited 10:35 AM, EDT, Thursday, June 23, 2011.

* 4 Klomp, John Bittinger, “Flying Armadillo,” Thursday, December 1, 2011, Viewed 11:30 A.M. EST, Tuesday, December 13, 2011.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Occidental Grand Xcaret Royal Club

The Second Time Around

Or as I titled my Trip Advisor review about our visit last year, “How to be Treated Like a Millionaire Whether or Not You Are One.”

Main Lobby, River Fountain and lounge Occidental Grand Flamenco Xcaret Hotel

From the moment you are greeted at the Concierges’ desk with a glass of champagne to the final moment when your luggage is delivered back to the huge portico of the hotel lobby you enjoy the most attentive staff and excellent amenities imaginable. From the Royal Club’s own private pool and restaurant, and meals delivered to your suite’s dining room - ours had a view overlooking lawns, coconut palms and Caribbean Sea – to the staff that treats you as though their life’s task is to take care of you personally, this experience exceeded my expectations on both occasions.

The View from our suite's dining room

The Royal Club lower Pool at Night (our suite was in the building in the background)

The Royal Club's practice does involve a bit more expense, but has little to do with prestige or lavish and pretentious expenditures. Instead it has everything to do with a truly relaxing vacation away from the “madding” crowd, with people who want you to feel as pampered and well cared for as is possible. There is the ubiquitous spa that one expects to find at any resort that pretends to Twenty-first Century perfection. I mention it so that those who adore being served in this way know that a spa with all the amenities is available. However, the most important element of the Royal Club is the flawlessness of care and service brought to each guest in an environment that is - honestly, and almost unbelievably in our technologically self absorbed culture - loving, and reminiscent of a different era in which the middle class could afford the occasional excursion into such restful luxury. We left the hotel with hugs from staff members who have through these two visits become friends, and left envelopes with small gifts - I refuse to call them "tips" because they were inadequate as such, and - in an all inclusive one is not expected to tip.

I could continue with a detailed description of all the other amenities that the hotel and the huge extended complex beyond the Royal Club has to offer, including a fun packed day at Xcaret Water Park. I prefer, however, to write only about the perfection this staff brings to the vacation experience of each guest precisely because it is so unusual, and they care to provide the best of service in a world that has forgotten that love of work and ones fellow human beings can be accomplished simultaneously. I believe that the Royal Club’s mission is to make each individual feel as though the Mayan Riviera is his/her home away from home. It is, however, a home without the problems that this fast paced contemporary life brings to each of us on a daily basis.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Flying Armadillo


It looks as though it is perched on its back legs, ready to launch into the air. It has an all-metal exterior 2nd story, and is raised 11 feet into the air in order to avoid any possibility of being destroyed by a future Katrina like storm surge in Biloxi, Mississippi. Owner, Richard Tyler has named it “Porchdog House” - I guess thats because he loves to sit on and enjoy the view from his living room porch with its cantilevered roof - the front porch being an extremely important part of the indigenous culture. The house is a modest 1492 square feet, based on the typical shotgun house of the region. However, Porchdog House stands the shotgun house type on its head, by cutting it in half and stacking the portions on top of one another. I like this house because it is not a house built for the 1%, and because the design program makes practical solutions of all the FEMA requirements for structures in the region destroyed by Katrina in 2005, and at the same time, it is fanciful and a bit surreal. I look at this house, and for some odd reason I think, “Flying Armadillo. “


The association makes sense because the armadillo wears his armor as protection against enemies, and makes him practically indestructible in his increasingly enlarged territory throughout the deep south. The contradictory image of a flying armadillo is humorous though dissimilar to Porchdog House. Instead, Porchdog is an elegant and fanciful solution to a program of necessity. The house was the last and possibly the best built under the Habitat for Humanity Biloxi Model Homes program by local architect Marion Blackwell, AIA. I am enthralled with it because the Metamodern has materialized in this working class neighborhood as a practical and inventive solution for an actual middle class individual and his family. How wonderful!

Mario Salvio Rage Against the Machine (1964)

Violation of the United States constitution - In light of the police pepper spraying peaceful demonstrators in California, and police violence against Occupy Wall Street nationally I'm posting this clip, and I will continue to move it and place it in future entries until the anniversary of the speech, December 2nd. Sad that our First Ammendment rights can be violated, but guns can be legally carried into the work place in Florida and peaceful gatherings nationally!


Spencer, Ingrid, “Porchdog House,” in Architectural Record: House of the Month, at September, 2010. Viewed 9:30 AM., EST., November 23, 2011.

* “Tyler Home: Tyler Residence/Porchdog,” in Open Architecture Network , Viewed 10:00 AM, EST, November 28, 2011. It is thougt that one time use of images for intellectual purpose is legal under U.S. copyright law as long as appropriate credit is given.