Category Archives: Uncategorized

Mickey Mao’s Playhouse (or why weird architecture isn’t that new, and why we need this weird crap)


Can weird architecture contribute to society? It depends on your definition of weird, and if that definition of weird includes any reference to starships, phallic symbols, and teapots.

I came across this article ( regarding some recent unique architecture being built in China. Is it weird? Yeah, you could say that. Is that bad? Kinda, kinda not.

“Weird” architecture has always been around. The first time a nomadic civilization came across a permanent settlement one of those nomads declared, “Holy crap that’s weird.” (Imagine a Sumerian accent.) And when people first saw the completion of the Pyramids of Giza and The Sphinx someone uttered, “Holy crap that’s weird.” (Let’s go with a Hittite accent.) And when the Europeans in the Middle Ages were constructing buildings within the ruins of ancient Roman stadiums you know someone thought, “These ancient structures provideth us with stable and firm foundations to buildeth our homes.” (Okay, maybe not the best example of my point, but only because saying “Holy crap that’s weird” in Europe during the Middle Ages usually meant being excommunicated by The Church.)

So where was I… yes, there has always been weird architecture. More recent historical weirdness includes Antoni Gaudi, Buckminster Fuller, and Robert Venturi. And maybe their weirdness came across as kitsch or gimcrack (my word of the day), but within the DNA of this weirdness came a new perspective in design, architecture, structure, and perception. Yes, Gaudi is weird, but it gave us Santiago Calatrava. Bucky was way the hell out there, but it gave us Renzo Piano. And Bob, yeah, he had these weird ideas of ducks and decorated sheds, which basically has led to all of the images in the above link to Chinese architecture.

Weird architecture is not only good, it’s necessary. It’s the architectural proving ground to all future ideologies that will define how we live, how we worship, how we do business, and how we ultimately shape who we are now and in the future.

Live long and prosper.


The built environment and its occupants (or why Gymkata is the greatest gymnast-themed movie dealing with the American ‘Star Wars’ program)

I’m a guy, so I like stupid stuff. A 1989 Ford Escort painted neon green with a five foot tall spoiler and an exhaust system louder than most NASA rockets at takeoff? Like it. A video of an elderly man nearly snapping his spinal cord after falling off an obstacle during his run at American Ninja Warrior? Definitely smitten. An American gymnast being chased by cannibalistic villagers in the fictional country of Parmistan and confronting these “foodies” in Pommel Horse Square? You had me at cannibalistic.

I could write about how architecture is shaped by its occupants, and how this relationship ultimately shapes societies, but that would take time away from you watching the above video and I know you only had a few minutes before you needed to walk away from the computer to 1) go to bed, 2) get back to work, or 3) head off to gymnastic practice.

Seriously though, what are the odds that Johnathan Cabot, the champion gymnast working for the United States government, would face his pursuers here? How many villages in the world have a pommel horse in the middle of a square, and under what search term on can I find them?

Again, you had me at cannibalistic.

Architecture shaped by none other than that person in the mirror

Yes, I did find my WordPress log-in and password information. Thank you for asking.

Above is a video about architecture being shaped by you, the person, the individual that eats your food and spends your paycheck. Do yourself and everyone else on this planet a favor and shape everything around you, especially the architecture, before the apes take over. The last thing we all need is architecture shaped by simians that fling their feces around (no offense Mr. Libeskind).

When fenestration was a fad


Architecture, like fashion and music, is driven by fads. I don’t think architects intend to follow another architect’s lead, but it’s very easy to see something you like and try to emulate it. Sometimes these fads promote revolutions that redefine how we design and construct buildings, and ultimately how we live our lives. Other times these fads make us vomit in our mouths.

I live close to a middle school that is in the process of being demolished. I’ve been trying to think of an eloquent segue into why it’s being demolished, but it really comes down to the fact that the damn thing was built without windows and doors.

When this building was being designed, someone (which it’s safe to say the architect whose stamp is on the drawings and the client who paid for its construction) thought that windows and interior doors leading into the classrooms were a bad idea.

I can begin to somewhat understand that maybe this school was an experiment in teaching methodologies, and they (whoever they are) wanted to observe if windows were a distraction to learning, and if doors leading into the classroom were a distraction to learning. There’s a part of me that can see the logic of this thinking, just like how I can see the logic for a drunk person to run head-first into traffic.

I actually know a few people who attended this middle school, and they each said the same thing–the school sucked. There were no windows. The classes were basically in a large open space separated only by thin partitions and no doors, so half the class could hear their teacher while the other half heard the teacher in the adjacent space.

The new school building that replaced the school-of-no-windows is a huge improvement (here are some images of the new school). Of course this new school follows its own fads (mix of mass and space, technology integration, and apparently desks that promote collaboration and cheating).

Fads come and go, and sometimes they come back. But living without fenestration is a fad that apparently ended with a wrecking ball.

DIY Dominator Guest Judge (or I Really Hope This Isn’t My Full Fifteen Minutes of Fame)

It’s not who you know, but rather who knows you. One great example of this is how I became a judge on DIY Dominator. A very good friend of mine worked on the show, and when they needed a judge she told them about this incredibly talented person with a great personality. And when that person declined, my friend remembered that I was probably available.

The show is located here. (

It was an absolute blast to do the show, and I hope an opportunity like this presents itself again.

Home disimprovement

I love being able to do certain improvement projects around my house. I typically approach the projects with the mindset that it doesn’t require the education of a NASA engineer to figure it out, and as long as I have a good home improvement book to use as a reference then I’m pretty much set.

Apparently that’s not the case for some home improvement books published by Oxmoor House (which when I first read the name I thought it read Oxymoron House) dealing with the installation and repair of electrical wiring. Apparently the errors in the technical diagrams and wiring instructions could cause people to be shocked or create a fire hazard. The books have been available for over thirty years, so if you were installing a new light in your house in the mid 1980s and wondered why the house went up in flames right after you turned the light on now you know it wasn’t just you.

The article stating this recall can be seen here:

Barcode design

If you honestly believe that there are some things on this planet that just weren’t intended to incorporate a sense of design, here is a great example of design penetrating the realm of the truly mundane world of barcodes.

The name of the design firm is Bar Code Revolution ( Here’s an interesting article about the company on Fast Company’s website.

The Zoo and Mankind’s Influence on the Animal Kingdom

I have mixed emotions about zoos.  On one side I think it’s great that people have the ability to see strange and exotic animals without traveling all over the world, but I also think that the artificial biomes these animals call home are usually on the pathetic side.  What if your entire universe consisted of your bedroom, and one of the walls was transparent so that creatures outside of your universe can stand and stare at you going crazy?

The Schonbrunn Zoo in Vienna has taken another route in showcasing its animals.  Some of the artificial habitats include remnants of mankind’s effects on the environment, including oil derricks, train tracks, pollution, and a stylish red sedan parked partially submerged next to the hippos.  These displays are a deliberate attempt to raise people’s consciousness on how we, the citizens of this planet, are affecting the environment.  It definitely makes you think, and for that I applaud them.  Maybe this isn’t appropriate for every single display, because we as humans have an incredible power to ignore a message if it’s shoved down our throats everywhere we turn.