Friday, February 24, 2017


While looking at random houses in the town I'll be moving to I discovered a whole neighborhood of do-it-yourself houses. Boy, people are ambitious in that part of the country! When they feel the need for a house they just buy the materials and build it.

Here's (above) a home that's better than some. It has a driveway that leads to nowhere, a basketball net right outside the dining room window, bushes that strangle the mailbox, and a very tiny wishing well, but these are minor problems.

The closets in this home are interesting. Here's (above) a closet that's been converted to a guest room.

Here's (above) another closet that provides a decorative bench for putting shoes on. I imagine that you walk backwards and ease onto it, pushing aside the clothes on the hangers. When you take your hand away the clothes cover you up again... but I guess that's what flashlights are for.

 Here's the living room where you're always able to tell the time. The light fixture gets in the way of the clock so it looks like the owners will have to buy an even bigger clock...if one exists.

Here's another view of the tiny living room, showing the oddly proportioned, dollhouse-type stairs. I like the front door which can open unexpectedly on someone running down the steps.

This is a great kitchen. It's easy to find your way in from the living room but hard to find your way out. It's like a fish trap. I imagine that guests regularly get lost in here and have to call for help.

But there's no need to panic. If you get trapped you can always leave by the back door and walk around to the front. Watch out for the back steps, though...the yard's on a different level than the rest of the house.

This neighborhood abounds with do-it-yourselfers. How do you like the DIY house across the street (above), which is also for sale? I like the Venus Flytrap railings and the disguised door. As a matter of fact, I find myself wondering if the house has a door.  Well, doors are overrated, everybody knows that.

Believe it or not, this place (above) has lots of square footage.

Maybe it needs that because all the the many rooms are so long and narrow.

Farther down the street are homes (above) with minimalist yards.

The houses are giant white monoliths; austere blocks with no back doors and very few windows. Maybe this was a penal colony at one time. 

Yikes! The yards I can see are separated by a bleak fence with a single open door. You need that so the neighbor's vicious dog can detect you trying to use your yard. If he tries to run you down don't leap over the grey fence. There might be a freeway on the other side. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017


For comparison: two small moons of Saturn, both embedded in the planet's rings. The one above is Pandora. It's strangely smooth. Where are all the little craters you'd expect? Maybe the surface is relatively young, but how could that be?

Here's the other one: Hyperion. Wow! Could two moons be more different?

Just to fill out the post: here's (above) the view from Jupiter's South Pole. Where are the bands?

Above, the surface of Comet 67p., seen from 16 kilometers away.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


What do you think of this tiny house by Sou Fujimoto?  Okay, it doesn't look very comfortable, but it's only a proof-of-concept structure, not a finished house, and it certainly makes its point. 

Geez, if the world is going to contain many houses like this then we better start planting trees on a massive scale. 

Fujimoto loves wood and who can blame him? it's a beautiful material that's easily worked. 

Enough talk about wood! Let's talk about bricks!

There's some terrific brick ideas out there, like this one (above) by Ninbo, but they're not mass market yet. You have to special order them, or make your own designs at home.

Maybe the reason the new styles haven't caught on yet is that so many are not load bearing. Not only that, but they're porous...they let in too much cold air to be practical in a house. 

Well, that's okay. You can always plaster the interior side. Besides, I see bricks of this type as being more useful for purely exterior walls like fences and retaining walls. Just don't build them too high.

Too high and you lose sight of the individual stones and tiles. You get a texture that resembles a wool sweater.

Haw! All this is making me realize how beautiful and practical standard bricks are. Even a sloppy mortar job looks good on them.

BTW, What do you think of the color of these bricks?

Sunday, February 19, 2017


Boy, the 50s was a great time for architecture.

 I suspect though, that few thoroughly modern houses were built in that period. Most were hybrids.

There was a transition period where modern design was simply incorporated into traditional houses. That's okay. It was a great combination. 

That transition is still going on. Still targeted for conceptual demolition is the traditional living room (above). It hasn't exactly been replaced yet, but it's gradually being "nudged" out to the margins.

Newer architects prefer to emphasize the kitchen. Fireplaces and sofas are retained but are increasingly seen as comforting symbols rather than workhorses that pull their own weight.

Foyers and entrance points also have less emphasis now. They're not seen as an art form in themselves but rather as an introduction to the  puzzle presented by the odd angles in the living room and kitchen.

Living rooms are the sites of endless experiments now. Here (above) Frank Lloyd Wright toyed with idea of putting bleachers in the living room. Yeah, the ones in your high school gym... and they work, at least I think they do. I've never actually been in a room like that.

Even staircases are being re-evaluated. Here's (above) an interesting staircase that looks traditional and modern at the same time.

The new idea (above) is to de-emphasize stairs. Maybe that's a carry-over from the tiny house movement. It might also have come about through the influence of film.  Set designers always like to stage action in front of deep perspective or glimpses into other rooms.

Well, there's lots more to say about this but I'll save that for another post. Geez, I hope all these architectural posts won't scare away all my cartoonist readers. I'm moving and will almost certainly have to remodel a bit. For someone like that thoughts about architecture are inevitable.

Friday, February 17, 2017


I have lots and lots of pictures I want to put on the walls of my new house...too many, really. I might be heading for a nightmare of clutter.

It occurred to me that maybe I should minimize what's framed on the wall and let the architecture speak for itself. Maybe I should aim for a just a handful of emotionally neutral pictures that recede into the background. Something soothing and relaxing. Some subject like.... fishing.

When I looked up fly fishing posters on the net I discovered that they're anything but relaxing. They're all pictures of stressed out manly men, men who are pitted against horrific, titanic forces.

Who'd have thunk? It's odd because the fish most Sunday fisherman catch are tiny things no bigger than your hand. 

I was surprised to find so many posters dealing with fish grabbing. That's a relatively new sport.

Fish grabbers see themselves as more humane because they release the fish after they catch them. I don't know, though.  I don't think fish like to be manhandled.

I was amazed to find posters of...of all things...bait!!!  Yes, worms and bugs! Fisherman are a breed apart, no doubt about it.

I even found lots of abstract, Cliff Sterrett/Picasso-type fish posters. Who'd have thought that fish people would go for artsy stuff like that?

Well, eventually I found the sedate pictures I was looking for, but... I dunno...maybe I'll try something else.

Chess posters?  Here's the world famous Nimzo Indian Defense (or maybe Nimzo is the name of the poster company).

Or a lucky poker hand.

Or a picture of a singing cowboy. Aaaargh! I don't know.

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Like most people I'm a huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright, but he's not above making mistakes.  Nobody is.  I thought it might be fun to review some of his faux pas.

Let's face it. A lot of his chairs don't look very comfortable.

Some of the worse offenders are his plywood chairs, like the one above. This chair is missing its cushions, but even so....

For a time Wright fell in love with plywood and used it to make visible walls even in his upscale houses, something few modern architects would do.

A more serious problem is his lack of interest in bedrooms and kitchens.

Here's (above) a Wright bedroom. It's a living room with a bed in it.  Taken alone it looks great but imagine a whole house where every room is a living's just too much of a good thing. I see homes as a confederacy of different moods and purposes, the way nature itself is.

Here's another bedroom. It feels like a family room or a study that's doing double duty.

Here's a kitchen that also looks like a study. You get the feeling that the man never spent much time in kitchens.

Lots of people think of landscaping as an art form but the subject seemed to bore Wright.  All he seemed to want around his houses (above) was a nicely mowed lawn. 

His low-budget Usonian houses seemed all the more stark and unappealing on the plain lawns. 

Does anything I mentioned diminish the architect's stature in my eyes? Nope. Not a jot.  He's still the greatest builder of homes that I'm aware of.  I only mean to point out that nobody's ever perfect, not even the greatest geniuses.