Blog for the Aspiring Architect

The Muppets take Monticello

So imagine if you will that Fozzie Bear, Kermit the Frog and Sam Eagle are on a road-trip to Charlottesville, VA. That would be desperately close to what my past weekend was. AND IT WAS GLORIOUS.

But all joking aside, this past weekend I got to go to Monticello, the foremer home of Thomas Jefferson. Ahh Tommy J, author, diplomat, governer, president, Lousianna Purchaser and most importantly (at least in my opinion), Architect. As much as I admire Thomas Jefferson, I was almost expecting, though hoping against it, that this house would be another quasi-paladian schlock-fest, the kind we have come to expect from other American houses at the time, like Mount Vernon (George Washington's home in Alexandira, VA) 
But I was proven completely wrong. While Monticello is riddled with Paladian references, they're not direct, there is a degree of interpretation that gives a very clear window into the early creation of our nation and what one of our most influential founding fathers hoped it would be.

Designing Monticello was an ever evolving process for Jefferson, his early creation of the house was extremely different from what stands there today. Originally the house was square and closed off, however when Jefferson returned from France he had almost 3/4 of the house torn down so he could start again. Jefferson was extremely influenced by French designs, which themselves were derived from Italian designs. However, during his stay in Paris as the embassador for the United States, Jefferson studied some of the greatest architecture the western world had to offer and his keepsakes from these escursions would be his memory. 

However, in comparison to Versailles, (which is where Jefferson stayed while in France) Monticello becomes as much a criticism of French Design as it is a monument to it.

Versailles is about grandure and decadence with Nature as a means to that end (note the floral designs) while Monticello defines itself as the understanding of nature through the study and persuit of it (not the antlers brought back by Lewis and Clark). Jefferson wanted the United States, and indeed Americans themselves, to be every bit as educated as Europeans but through their own self-improvement and not as a reward for having been born to rich parents. But that's enough on the History, lets talk buildings, yo.

If James Bond had lived in the 18th c. he would have lived at Monticello. Why? Because everything in this house doubles as something else. Like a pen that serves as a phone or a hairbrush that will cause you to die a terrible death.

Example 1: The triple-hung window.
A window that doubles as a Door. you just push all the panes all the way up and walk out onto your terrace.

Example 2: Dumb-waiter Fireplace

When leaving the party is just NOT an option. You can send this baby down to your private wine cellar.

Example 3: Beds in between the walls and open air summer storage

So, you don't want your stuff to get moldy, you want to get at it quickly and you HATE beds crowding up your room? Problem solved. Just hollow out the wall and BAM! done.
However there was a little wierdness as facing one of the beds was being watched byt this bust of John Adams.

The most important thing about Monticello is how well all of these spaces work together and with the surrounding enviornement. This house is the product of a technically minded-man who saw himself, above all things, as a farmer. So therefore all the land is visible from the walkway which overlooks the University of Virginia (another project which Jefferson oversaw the construction on). Through this walkway the house connects to the landscape as well as the herb-gardens by means of the slaves quarters, which appropriately form the foundation. Its the real tradgedy about this house; a wonderous place brought about by one of the ugliest things one human being can do to another.  

That being said, I'm going to state something that may be considered, blasphemous: Monticello is a way better house than FallingWater. 

Don't freak out.

FallingWater is, of course, one of the greatest examples of Architecture we have, but it is not a better house. The kitchen at FallingWater is atrocious and the spaces are overly specific and maybe a little self-righteous. This is not to say the rooms in Monticello are any better, but where Frank Lloyd Wright shoves his ethos in your face, demanding your allegiance, Thomas Jefferson sits back and grimaces while you make a fool out of yourself. FallingWater is a work of art that is too pretty to live with everyday, as admirable as it is unpractical. Monticello is a sweater, something that you could loaf around in but still go to the store. 
The End.

P.S. Sorry for the massive drop-offs in posts. My computer crashed and most of my work is being done at the Public Library which is distracting. How so? The man in front of me is currently searching for "Lindsay Lohan + Blowjob" and the woman next to me is singing "Man in the Mirror" for the third time in a row.

Love Letters to Dead Architects: Revenge is a Dish Best Served Rome
While this is not specifically a love-letter, it does involve a former Letter awardee. That's right. The Ragin' Meditteranian, The Emperor Hadrian.

This is from Dio Cassius documenting one time when Hadrian killed his rival, Apollodorus.

"Now Hadrian spared these men, displeased as he was with them, for he could find no plausible pretext to use against them for their destruction. But he first banished and later put to death Apollodorus, the architect, who had built the various creations of Trajan in Rome — the forum, the odeum and the gymnasium. 2 The reason assigned was that he had been guilty of some misdemeanour; but the true reason was that once when Trajan was consulting him on some point about the buildings he had said to Hadrian, who had interrupted with some remark: "Be off, and draw your gourds. You don't understand any of these matters." (It chanced that Hadrian at the time was pluming himself upon some such drawing.) 3 When he became emperor, therefore, he remembered this slight and would not endure the man's freedom of speech. He sent him the plan of the temple of Venus and Roma by way of showing him that a great work could be accomplished without his aid, and asked Apollodorus whether the proposed structure was satisfactory. 4 The architect in his reply stated, first, in regard to the temple, that it ought to have been built on high ground and that the earth should have been excavated beneath it, so that it might have stood out more conspicuously on the Sacred Way from its higher position, and might also have accommodated the machines in its basement, so that they could be put together unobserved and brought into the theatre without anyone's being aware of them beforehand. Secondly, in regard to the statues, he said that they had been made too tall for the height of the cella. 5 "For now," he said, "if the goddesses wish to get up and go out, they will be unable to do so." When he wrote this so bluntly to Hadrian, the emperor was both vexed and exceedingly grieved because he had fallen into a mistake that could not be righted, and he restrained neither his anger nor his grief, but slew the man. 6 Indeed, his nature was such that he was jealous not only of the living, but also of the dead; at any rate he abolished Homer and introduced in his stead Antimachus, whose very name had previously been unknown to many."

To quote the man who sent this to me: "I think he definitely showed Apollodorus that you can't put a collar on the H-dawg."

The Architect in Fiction: Its (not really all that) Complicated

The Architect in Fiction:
Steve Martin as Adam Schaffer in It’s Complicated

So I’m at the movies on February 14th and the choice presents itself, “It’s Complicated” or the aptly named “Valentine’s Day”. Not to knock the full deck of name-brand actors and actresses that committed to “Valentine’s Day” but I was just not in the mood for something saccharine. Winner: It’s Complicated.

So, long story short: a pair of divorcees rekindle their relationship after 10 years of separation, this situation is further complicated by Streep’s attraction to her architect, Adam who is also recovering from a bitter divorce.

As the film goes on we compare the lawyer ex-husband’s convincing spontaneity and sentimentality to the architect’s earnest intelligence and genuine interest. Personally, I really liked this depiction of an architect, especially in comparison to the other fictional architects we’ve seen. In many ways, Adam is the anti-Roark. Sweet and lonely, confident and gun-shy, this is most evident when he embarrassingly confesses: “I’m not as macho as I seem”. Rather than someone with a demanding vision and a moral high-horse, Adam appears as “you’re friendly neighborhood architect.

What is most interesting was that unlike her ex-husband who sees his affair with her as a return to a former way of life, Adam sees this as an opportunity to learn about the person she has become.

The movie itself was maybe about twenty minuets too long. But still overall pretty good.

Happy Valentine's Shame

Hey Bra, it was the 80's

That is until we break-up

For Reals, dude is a killa

Welcome to all of Architecture

The most obvious case

Our love is Pritzker Prize Winning

You don't remember what it's like to be my age

Love, Prague Style

They're like the Ross and Rachel of Philadelphia Civic Planing.

The PSFS Building, Philadelphia, PA

The PSFSBuilding, PhiladelphiaPA

 I have to admit, I lived Philadelphia for about 6 years and while always walked or drove by this building countless times, knew it was there and that it was, supposedly, great. I had never been before I left and believed the opportunity to visit it entirely lost. It’s shameful thing to admit for someone who allegedly loves architecture to miss something so prevalent in a city, and like so many of my relationships before, I promised each new city that I’ll never do something so stupid again. I pledge, with the earnestness of a alter server, that I will see their beautiful buildings and compliment them. However, I’ve lived in Baltimore for about six months now and have yet to go to the Benjamin LaTrobe Cathedral or the Baltimore Museum of Art, what can I tell you? I’m a bad, bad person.

All this guilt aside, the PSFS (Philadelphia Savings Fund Society) is, in fact, one of the beautiful structures I have ever seen. The best? Not quite, but nothing ever trumps your first love. (Oh The East Gallery by I.M. Pei! Why must you always break my heart?) So let’s do a little bit of background:
This building was originally conceived in the 1920s, when architecture was about the power of money. If you had a successful company why not show it off and publicly announce your means. This was the age of great sky scrapers and grander ambitions. Buildings were the same thing as a new Rolls Royce or a trophy wife. And the PFSF wanted the hottest chick there was.

ENTER Howe and Lescaze or Howe I Met My Partner
William Lescaze was a Swiss-born American architect who moved to New York in 1923, after initially settling to Ohio. Lescaze had a natural gift for grandeur and is generally given the credit for the sleek beautiful lines of the building due to his personal taste. However, he insisted to the end that more credit belonged to Howe. (As a side note, I think most Americans are more confident in European architects than our own, but that’s outside the scope of this work.)

George Howe was about as American as hot-dogs and baseball. Educated at Harvard, and then later Ecole de Beaux arts, he received some initial influence from the infamous Furness, Evans & Co, which undoubtedly taught him the importance of human scale. He also served in World War I which lumps him in with those “lost generation” dudes.
They teamed up just before submitting a bid for the PSFS and lo, the dark horse won.

However, during the construction the market crashed and slowed construction significantly, the building was finally finished in 1932 and the HUGE neon sign emblazoned the sky to inspire the people of Philadelphia to dream big. However some believed that PFSF stood for “Philadelphia Slowly Faces Starvation”. The sign is often considered the first use of the modern mega-graphic in architecture. So you can see why Robert Venturi is also charmed by it.

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s.

Having entered it from several different angles (that’s what he said) during the course of my stay. I can safely attest that every initial impression is one of elegance and intrigue. When you first come in there is immediately a sense of being pulled into a scene where you are a character of some importance. The sharp clean marble, the bony lines, and powerful thrusts of cantilevers that hum a low tune, it’s all there for you to be more important than you may actually be, which is what you want when you’ve been traveling.

Traveling makes you alien, you almost want to be forgotten so reinvention becomes more believable. By being in a smart and sophisticated place, you too feel smart and sophisticated.  
The place I most fell in love with was the 33rd floor, which has wide-glass and an almost unobstructed view of Philadelphia and allows you to look down into City Hall as you are almost level with it in height. You feel like a peeping tom. This view, for the time was a revolutionary.

On the exterior there is a nod to the art-deco vogue but there are also the early signs of international style, no doubt brought over from Switzerland. The regimented rhythm of the fenestrated façade would be squat and boring (I’m talking MARY TODD LINCOLN squat) except that it is punctuated by vertical lines which dominate them with subtlety. This creates a balance.
The street level is addressed by one large dark pull that stretches like licorice taffy. This move addresses the curb in a friendly way, welcoming you in but reminding you not to touch anything that looks expensive. 

The only criticism is that the flow of interior spaces is a little jarring, like they were planning on it being wider and then had to skew their design to fit the requirements.

In conclusion: It’s a Pretty Sweet Freakin’ Structure.


Love Letters to Dead Architects: Snowday letter palooza

Dear Imhotep,

Admit it, you’re a woman.

Listen, I know it wasn’t cool in your day to come out as a pre-opt trannie. But it’s been a couple of millennia since then and I don’t see why you need to hide this anymore. You may say to yourself “where is your evidence of this?” the simple answer is: I have none. Except that every sculpture of you has gigantic boobs.

I know they put the same treatment on you as they did to Hatshephut. Putting a beard on you and everything, but don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.

But all of this is irrelevant because FACT: you made the most recognizable building in the world. I have to hand it to anyone who can design a structure that can be seen FROM SPACE. The pyramid may be one of the simplest forms known to man, but that’s only because you made it part of our vocabulary. I know that some people believe that aliens brought the pyramids from the planet Krypton or  Vulcan or Ottawa or whatever but I think they don’t put enough faith into the sheer power of a design, and also the probably forced seasonal labor for generations that took to create it. 

Long story short: someone had to think of the word “Cat” and I am so glad it was you.

Love, eternally,

Retly Corm 


My Dearest Inigo Jones,

I look to the horizon and think of you adoringly, passionately, deeply and desperately. I know you had to go, but now without you, the blistering Italian sun feels like a stab of coldest winter, come actual winter I am sure I will die. Andrea Palladio told me to forget you, he said you were a fling, there to study from him, doing the grand tour. Deep down I think Palladio wants me to forget you, in favor of him, but I can’t.

            Far from where you are, I just think of the last time we were together. In Greenwhich. I remember having to wade through all the dark Tudor wood of London, the insufferable half-timbering. Layer and layer of cloth masking the stink. Before I knew it I was in an open field of perfection. I was far from home but there was a gleaming white Jacobean dream. Italian, with a thick English accent, Just like you. Clean and organized with an inner passion that burns like a fire in the night.

            I wasn’t sure you had missed me, but after seeing the spiral staircase I knew I had at least meant something.

Find me soon,

Retly Corm

Did you ever notice that Earl of Bedford’s chapel looks like a barn? Granted the finest barn in England, but STILL.

Did you ever catch those guys who peed on your rug? I mean that rug really tied the room together, did it not?

Dear Adolph Loos,

You don’t know what you want.

You tell me that all ornament is crime...and then have a mustache? If no one else is going to tell you, then I guess I have to. MUSTACHES ARE ORNAMENT.  

I can’t live like this anymore, no spices in the food, no flowers in the kitchen and every time I try and get these things or tell you that I want them, you talk down to me, like I’m too stupid to know better.  Well let me tell you something, buddy.

Yes, decoration is unnecessary, and so is art. And so is a soft kiss in a rain. And so are love letters. Like the ones you sent me. I don’t need them, they are unnecessary, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want them. Maybe those things we don’t need are the things that make us the happiest. You used to understand that. Back in those drifter days before you got all ridged and hard.

I know that nothingness makes you happy, but it’s not enough for me.

This is goodbye you will not see me before I go,

Then again, you don’t need to do you?

Retly Corm

Dear Otto Wagner,

I know you detest the superfluous, so allow me to be frank. Since the first moment I met you I have come to feel for you deep respect, furthermore, as of 3:07 pm today I have fallen in love with you.

I know you are planning to secede from Academy of Fine Arts and I’m coming with you when you do. But might I offer a suggestion? Let’s only be loosely affiliated the New Artists Liberation Front, who I think are changing their name to the much less catchy “L’art Nouveau”. I mean “New Art” what an obvious name, what’s next? Calling something “The Style”? Or just simply “Modern”? Honestly, so stupid. They really need to work on their names.  

Together, you and I, we can cast away the shackles of bourgeois oppression. They wrap themselves so tight so they never have to feel anything. Not the cold of night, not the hunger of passion, not the harsh reality that, they too will die. We can cut through the cloth and reveal the rigorous forms of truth.

I believe that concludes my business, but as a recap.

1. I respect you

2. I love you

3. “Modernism” is a dumb name

Oh, and tell Joseph Maria Olbrich that MARIA is a girl’s name. He’s not fooling anyone.

Yours ever,
Retly Corm

Professor Carlo Scarpa,

What was I supposed to do? How could I fight you? I tried, I tried so hard not to be where I am now. I’ve had my heart broken so many times and I’ve done terrible things, awful things to other hearts.

I just want what you do to concrete for you to do to me. You take something naturally formless, stubborn and hard and make it sing with elegance. I spend so much time running, trying to forget, dying to remember, but when I see your work, I know you are the kind of man I could grow old with.

More so than anyone else you think about the full life of your structures. I see you, never forgetting the past but beating relentlessly and determinately to the future. I want so badly to be part of that future. Your future

I love you and all your infinite possibilities.

Retly Corm


Dear Gianlorenso Bernini,

Don’t think that I’m not onto you; I know this good guy act you give everyone is a front. No man who sculpts David like that can be as holy as you keep presenting yourself.

Now, don’t get me wrong sweet cheeks, you’re good, maybe even the best. But your buildings don’t have an original bone their  handsome, chiseled bodies. Every time you make a dome, or add some welcoming arches to St. Peters, I know what you do. You steal from someone poorer, younger, more obscure, or in the case of Borromini, uglier and then cover it in gold and expect everyone to freak out. 

Why don’t you try once, just once, to have an original thought. Your sculpture does it, learn from that. But before you do, look around you, all you see are yes men and cronies. They make you think you’re king around here, but remember, eventually heads will roll and I’d hate to see your pretty face covered in blood.

Take care, my love,

Retly Corm

Dear Antonio Palladio,

You little rascally tramp. You’re a scoundrel, you know that, right. Showing up all over Northern Italy like the little flirt you are, creating an intellectual yet accessible guide to good taste. I bet you think pretty highly of yourself, changing your name to “Pallas” like you’re the great goddess of wisdom come from the head of the Zeus himself. Geez, you enlightenment groupies and your classical allusions, it’s like you guys just can’t get ENOUGH Ovid.

Your arrogance is almost insufferable, luckily for you, you can seamlessly mix architectural orders under the guise of neo-classicism (nice marketing by the way), oh, and then there are all those palazzos. Each one individual, but unmistakably done by your elegant hand. The light, the space, the clarity, it’s all so ordered. No wonder the Georgian Architects are falling all over themselves for you. (I think Christopher Wren is still crying himself to sleep over your rejection and Thomas Jefferson, last I heard, was moping around Paris making himself a nuisance.)

But how do you handle it? Having people declare their eternal love for you constantly. It must get annoying. Then again, if Goethe had called me a genius (don’t worry he never will), I think I’d feel pretty confident.

Well, don’t worry, I’m never going to tell you how I feel about you. You’ll just have to figure it out on your own.

-Retly Corm


Dear Lu Ban,

Thank you for sending the grappling hooks so promptly. They will come in handy soon.

I have never wanted to see you as badly as I do right now. I am at war, and as such I know it is sacrilegious to think of you as I stand here, stained with the blood of my enemies. When the night falls and the horses become restless, I think only of you in your workshop hammering away, mastering the art, working the material to your whim.

Even when the wood would not bend, you always found a way. Your sharp mind and superior craftsmanship, the always win in the end. The other day I saw a hawk flying over the battlefield and briefly remembered you wooden bird that flew for three days straight. I was sure it was magic, and when you explained about the wind and how it overpowered the weight of the bamboo, I must admit I stopped listening. I decided that magic was enough of an answer for me.

I must finish now, for fear I will not be able to write again.

If that is the case, you know the workings of my heart as well as you as the mechanics of a ladder, so I need not be explicit.

Retly Corm

Dear Donato Bramante,

You can fool the other eyes, but you can’t fool mine. You play this bad-boy routine, but I know you’re just hiding the truth; you’re a sensitive little boy who’s trying to handle the hard, cruel world.

Your work is harsh, fast, loose, but also painfully poetic and earnest. Look at the Piazza Navona for example the sexy expansiveness is at first dramatic, but then you realize it’s all a set-up for the specatacular buildings and fountains. You think you’re only good enough to be a middle man, but hide behind your muscles because…do I have to say it? You’re insecure.

Of course You know your best was in the Tempietto de San Pietro, the first true Renaissance masterpiece. The clarity, the proportions, the mathematical rigidity, its all there to try and convince people why it’s perfect, but it’s not perfect, it’s just beautiful.

You don’t have to hide anymore Don, its’ ok to be your wonderful self. No one will judge you…no, that’s a lie, everyone will judge you but I’ll love you, and isn’t that more important.

With Love,

Retly Corm

P.S. if you say “it’s not more important” I’m going to sock you straight in the jaw.

Dear Louis Kahn,

I don’t want to be the one always thrilled, but I think people have started to see me that way. So I’ll level with you here Lou, I hate mostly everything. The only joy I have now is in fleeting novelty. True greatness is almost extinct. I just walk the streets, annoyed. Seeing all these glass boxes is like going to a “Retly’s Exes” convention. (Oh, and Philip Johnson is exaggerating, it’s not been That Many) My day is just a series of bad memories and tired regrets punctuated, matrimonially, with incompetence. This is exactly why I can’t be around you anymore Lou.

You remind me of who I used to be, defined, not by a style but by an interpretation about what buildings could be. Buildings without agenda, without social dogma, without a little red book or flag, I don’t know if I know how to deal with that. Your goal is to understand the material, the light, the spaces alone, not the fame they can gain you.

Your work is just so Nostalgic and Intellectual yet Relevant and Clear, like Shakespeare or Fried Chicken. I’ve become so jaded, and you scare me because you shout, (through glass, through steel and mostly through concrete) that the delight of architecture is still there. I don’t want to get hopeful again, it just hurts too much in the end.

I don’t want to leave, so I’m putting the ball in your court. You can stay and make things awkward and horrible for me, or you can go and leave me pining and unharmed.

Just so you know, this is a multiple choice, not an essay test.


Retly Corm

Luis Barragan Morfin, mi amor,

He decidido para escribir en su lengua maternal, sobre todo porque, usted ha traído gran orgullo a la gente Mexicana. Qué Frank Lloyd Wright hizo para los Estados Unidos, usted hizo para México . Usted demostró el mundo la originalidad y el alma de una gente, eso había sido imitada y puesta en ridículo por Europa, como si usted estuviera debajo de ellos. Eran incorrectos.

Su trabajo es más que “máquinas para vivir” si, si, son “lugares a amar”. La púrpura que encanta tan, la madera tan serena. Recuerda me noches calientes, y los mares fríos. Agudo, elegante, encantador y no demasiado presuntuoso. Como usted.

Mi amor para usted es como un semental salvaje. Usted ha ahorrado el modernismo para un sino frío, terrible. Y estoy por siempre en su deuda.

Venga verme pronto,

Retly Corm


Conduzca excusan por favor español terrible de las albóndigas.

Dear Philip Johnson,

I don’t get you, man. You are always changing your mind. Are you absent minded, or just indecisive? I just sit there watching you change your life dramatically, never batting an eye. Are you a leader or a follower, I don’t think there is a way to tell. You don’t ever invent the ideas, but often you perfect them. Now, I know you make friends and enemies as quickly as you take breaths but how can one man be so many different things to so many different people. How can you stand being so complicated?

First you’re a modernist, then a post-modernist, then a deconstruvist, but you slide right into those styles, as if you had been there the entire time. Maybe it was all that time in the MOMA, you figured that everything has its time and place. I guess you’re the lucky one who gets to dictate when that is.  

I can’t ever really see what’s good for me, you might be the worst thing that’s ever happened. Or the best. I don’t know. Who cares. I just need to be near you, with you I become a fully fleshed believer in my own style, rather than a silhouette admiring the sun.  

I guess I’m not asking you to explain yourself, I’m asking myself to understand.

Retly Corm

Spicing it up

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day about how much you could learn about a person just by reading their google searches. While, these are not necessarily architects; I thought was close-enough to warrant joining this blaaaahhhgg.

Great Artists and Their Google Searches

“Leonardo Da Vinci sucks” “Everyone around me is incompetent and sucks” “What jobs can I get my brother” “How do I deal with my incompetent brother?” “Marble” “What to do if I hate the pope” “How can I tell if I’m gay”” “hot + naked + dudes” “How to prove I’m not gay” 

“How to be more assertive about sharing credit” “working with difficult personalities” “Bernini is a jerk” “my hair looks awful all the time” “Everyone likes someone and they suck” “ Vatican Hill core tests” “PSI formulas” “How to deal with popularity” “Bernini is a BIG STUPID JERK” “No one ever pays attention to me” “discount swords” 

“Sketching is for nerds” “How to be a Bad-ass” “Legal advice-Rome” “How to knife fight” “sword carrying rules-Rome” “Is stabbing always fatal?” “Trains out of Rome” “how do I convince people I’m a good person” “How to become a knight of Malta” “getting over guilt” “Legal Advice: Malta” “Newsfeed: Caravaggio, Guilty or Not Guilty” “Cargo ships to Rome 

“Life is a highway-youtube” “What do old people like?” “Cashing out on the elderly” “Ebay” “” “brooks brothers” “custom pools that look like my face” “ “Debt solutions” “Dutch origin” “Damn Kids and their stupid fads” 

Jacques Louis David:
“speech impediments” “Bad-ass Roman Myths” “Revolution activities in my neighborhood” “Marat” “Marat + revolution” “Marat + revolution + awesome” “Charlotte Corday is a filthy whore” “What to do if the tides have turned in your revolution” “how to prove I’m innocent” “Napoleon” “Napoleon + horses + alps + AWESOME” “Napoleon is my best friend” “Mapquest: Paris to Brussles” 

Van Gough:
“Walking on sunshine Lyrics” “craigslist: Houses in southern France” “I’m in love with someone but they don’t love me back” “My roommate hates me” “Christmas gifts for your roommate” “How to stop hemorrhaging” “James Blunt- Goodbye my lover lyrics” “How can I tell if I have syphilis?”

Pablo Picasso
“women” “Picasso” “women in paris” “Pablo+ Picasso” “how to make sure you’re girlfriends don’t find out about each other” “Pablo+ Picasso+ Great Painter” “what do I do if my girlfriend is pregnant” “Pablo + Picasso+ Great Painter + Better Lover” “how can I change the entire course of western culture with one painting?” “Picasso has great abs”

The Newseum in Washington D.C.

Over the weekend, I finally got to the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

I am a little predispositioned to like it, as the title is a portmanteau, which is usually pretty amaziful.

What struck me the most was how much this building reminded me, not of journalism, but of journalists. Overall the structure was driven, determined, accessible, honest, pompous and flawed.

The interior spaces were open, filled poetically with the blinding light of criticism and truth. The whole building sits gingerly and tidy on the edge of its seat, like a well-dressed wallflower begging to be asked by anyone.

What bothered me the most was that the floor plan and progression of spaces were overly complicated. You are confused on purpose and I suspect the intention was to force discomfort which then allows you to discover how to get along on your own. It’s possible that this was the architect’s intention, because that’s what reporters have to do when they follow a story.

That may be what journalists have to do, but it shouldn’t be what architects do. Museums are for the people, and as such you should make it as clear as possible for us to understand why we should know what’s going on. It may be my own bizarre bias, but I think confusion only works in religious space and homes. Being lost should be a personal experience, just like finding your way is always a measure of personal success.

Confusion, when pushed onto other people, is just rude and inconvenient.
The one area I did like was the +40’ First amendment etched in stone on the front. Often journalists are accused of hiding behind the first amendment, but that’s what its there for. And having it physically shielding the building not only allows it to pay homage to the other great architecture in DC

but it also shields this building from the terrible fate of being overly indulgent and boring.

Long Story Short: Stephen Colbert, may have been right: Newsoleum.
Also, Jo, we might have competition:

Love Letters to Dead Architects: Mrs. Potter's Lullaby

Mi Caro, Antoni Gaudi,
Before you, what was there? I can’t even remember.

In my foggy memory there are visions of flat forms and half-hearted cold, stone, dead flowers. Buildings that seem like cracked china dolls in dresses of ancient and stained lace. Then out of no where, a Skeletal, Barcelnonian Dragon bursts through and consumes all things with the flames of passion, hyperboles of terror and arches carved from purest love. That dragon’s name: Catha Bathillo. No knight in shining armor is coming to stop this monster. It was the shining knight that set it free.

You set my world on fire, and filled me to the brim with your glory. 
Well what now then? You and I both know what is coming: You’re going to give yourself to that Church. La Sagrada Familia. I have been to the beginning and I will never need anything to make me see the infinite you create there, no concoction, no drug, no drink. In your perfectly imperfect hallucination there is only true beauty…this does not mean I will not have a drink, drug or concoction anyway.

So GO. Fight that clean industrial and unforgiving crispness, Go to your church, GO to God, and don’t forget to put in a good word for me. I will need it. 
With Love,

Retly Corm

My Dearest William Le Baron Jenney,

I’ve missed you terribly. More than I thought I would as a matter of fact. Ever since you went away I can barely look outside without thinking of you and slowly but surely I realized how much you meant to me.

I know I pushed you away. I can’t tell you how many times I regretted yelling at you. I’m sorry for telling you that your desire for change was just an unpractical dream and that you chase these strange visions through moats, boats, jungles and cities only to find nothingness. I was wrong, but you didn’t need me to tell you that, you already know.

Will, do you remember that day in Paris when you gave us all such a great scare? You fell off the bridge and I went diving in after you, and when I pulled you to shore you were babbling about how stone was a pathetic structural choice, that you could do the same job at one third the weight with steel. You said we could be free, all of us. You said that stone just made us cling to our notions that we had to pay homage to the ghosts of dead empires we no longer feared. We all thought you had a concussion.

Then Gustave Eiffel brought you a flask of wine and you refused to drink it. He listened as you continued to ramble. I realize now what I should have realized then. That in those few moments of terror you had reached a clarity it would take me years to see.   
I know that it’s too late, for me, for us. I’m here. You’re in Chicago. You can’t possibly leave, what with that team of Lost Boys you call a firm, and my duty is here. But know that if I had to do it all over again, I still would have jumped into the Seine, but this time I would have listened to your nonsense. 

With Love,
Retly Corm


Dear Margaret Macdonald,

I can’t take it anymore darling. Last time we sat there, our merry little party; your sister, Frances, her husband McNair, Charles, you and I, I realized I can’t keep this is a secret anymore. I know my timing is horrible and it doesn’t make any sense for me to feel this way; our lives are such that any sort of action on these emotions on my part would be foolhardy and inevitably lead to heartbreak.

That being said, I didn’t want to lose the lottery jackpot just because I didn’t buy a ticket, so you see why I had to tell you how I feel… Your paintings are so beautiful; I fell in love with them, and with you. And not just the paintings, you are a true renaissance woman. Metalwork, ceramics, textile, all of them speak not only of the modern aspect but also speak of your deep investment in your Scottish heritage. You prove that a lack of formal decoration does not mean a lack of history and memory…Come with me, you can escape the eclipse of your husband. He may be a good architect, but you are great everything.

Yours, ever,
Retly Corm


Dear Charles Rennie Mackintosh,

Fine. Be that way. But JUST SO YOU KNOW, Margaret was coming to tell me that she is staying with you.

You didn’t need to make that scene in the Willow Tea Room. We could have been adults, we could have talked. But what you did, honestly, it was just embarrassing. Just because you designed it, doesn’t mean you can smash that perfectly executed chair over my head.

I think your rage was just because you know deep in your heart that I see what you see. Margaret has real genius, you only have talent. Look at your work before you met Margaret and your work after her influence. It’s undeniable.

Admit it. Hill House never would have happened without her. The clean, angular lines are out of her sketchbook and transferred into three dimensional spaces by your hand. Your work is impressive Chuck, maybe even timeless, but that is no excuse for your behavior towards me.

By the time you read this, I will have left with Giles Gilbert Scott. If you want to fight me, find me in London. I’ll be the one in Red Glass box.

-Retly Corm


Salve Marcus Vitruvius Pollio,

It is no longer possible for me to live with you, yet I cannot live without you either. Is it secure to feel this way? In short, tortured by you, am I.

Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas. You are my strength, my utility and my delight. I have never found a man who is more the balance of all three like you. Often, both in men and in buildings, there is clarity and strength but no joy. With others, their charm is unmistakable but so it their frivolity.

Now I know that you, yourself have never created a structure to match your dogma perfectly, clearly this is intentional on your part. For as your patron’s sire once said “Creating is better than learning. Creating is the essence of life.” Following rules to the letter is irrelevant as long as beauty in the end creation is your desire.    

Sometime now I’ve have feared your wary eye,
The logic and order of these things gone by,

Having seen you at lupercalia, that great festival,

So now there is nothing for me but to fall.

Eternally yours,
-Retly Corm

Hideout FINALE! 39-50

Hideout 39
Inspired by: Bob Venturi

Hideout 40
Inspired by: Trees

Hideout 41
Inspired by: Owls

Hideout 42
Inspired by: Tetris

Hideout 43
Inspired by: Deer

Hideout 44
Inspired by: Crows

Hideout 45
Inspired by: Molemen

Hideout 46
Inspired by: Orange Sherbert

Hideout 47
Inspired by: Igloos

Hideout 48
Inspired by: Seasons

Hideout 49
Inspired by: Diogenese

inspired by: SoulCoughing


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