What I’m Reading: New Years Edition

  • Architects are listening to your brain: In her NYT article today, Sarah Williams Goldhagen (architectural historian and critic for the New Republic) contends that “a revolution in cognitive neuroscience is changing the kinds of experiments that scientists conduct, the kinds of questions economists ask and, increasingly, the ways that architects, landscape architects and urban designers shape our built environment.”  True?  I don’t know, but I am intrigued by one of the examples she sites: the Metropol Parasol in Sevilla, Spain.  This beautiful wooden structure designed by German architect  Jürgen Mayer-Hermann was finished in April, and lives in the old part of the city.  Roman and Moorish ruins are displayed in its underground level, a central market is hosted at street level, and the top two floors have some of the best views in Seville:

  • Tenement time machine: Imagine entering an old boarded up brownstone on a quiet side street in New York’s Lower East Side that has not been touched since the 1930’s.  This is how the founders of the Tenement Museum discovered (and currently maintain) their time capsule of a building, which contains 70 years of history and artifacts reflecting the multi-cultural lives of the many families that shared its space. Maybe it was because the exhibits hit a little too close to home for me – my grandfather grew up in a crowded New York tenement where the living room couch was his bedroom – but this is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to.  A guided tour takes you through rooms decorated with furnishings recreated using pictures and oral history of the people who lived there.  But the real and breathtaking details that make this a different kind of place include the original wallpaper – some areas covered in ancient newsprint and peeling to reveal layer after layer of decorating history, or the original murals in the front hallway.  On a related note, check out the fantastic book “97 Orchard: The Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement”.
Photo by New York Magazine
  • Gray job: Of the nine spots that exist on DC’s Historic Preservation Review Board, only one is currently filled (by Chairwoman Catherine Buell).  This comes after two long-delayed nominees decided they didn’t want to serve after all.  Tommy Wells is not happy
  • The Ghosts of Buildings Past: If you haven’t checked out the informed and wonderfully written blog about D.C. buildings that once were, you must read Streets of Washington by John DeFerrari.  Or better – buy his new book, “Lost Washington“.
  • Long lost relatives?: And, finally, the next time I’m in Canton, OH, my first stop will be at Bender’s Tavern.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 95 year old bar and restaurant ships its seafood in daily from Boston

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