The third edition of Jim Heimann’s California Crazy from TASCHEN asks what happens when you build out a new city in the car-crazy age of the early 20th century. The result? A freethinking (and wheeling) design style that cut ties with the past and dropped giant owls, ice cream cones, and hot dogs across the desert landscape. Southern California, according to Heimann, has always been a land of roadside attractions, movie lots, amusement parks and attention-grabbing style. The rebar-and-plaster animals made for movie sets gradually became larger as roadside businesses, looking for ways to lure in customers whizzing by at high speeds, constructed buildings to be seen from a distance, but also act as attractions in and of themselves. The access to cheap land and loose (or no) zoning let builders in the 1920s and beyond build increasingly fantastical buildings as well as mini-golf courses and life-sized recreations of historically famous buildings. The core premise was always to entertain and attract, even if the results drew scorn from architectural critics. But over time, the conglomeration of “buildings that look like other things” across Hollywood and Los Angeles created their own architectural vernacular, one that eventually spread east to cities like Las Vegas. California Crazy also includes David Gebhard’s essay, in which he defines the relation this language has to the automobile and “normal” domestic architecture. The original version of California Crazy was published in 1980, but our fascination with fanciful architecture seems like more than a passing fad. Buildings like NBBJ’s Big Basket or the giant chest of drawers in North Carolina continue to draw attention, and in California Crazy, Heimann breaks down exactly why we still find them so intriguing.
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Meier In A Box Pin-Up: Magazine for Architectural Entertainment features Richard Meier in its Summer 2009 issue. Turns out “architectural entertainment” is not an oxymoron after all, at least not at Pin-Up. Meier poses on the cover with the box containing his $1,800 limited-edition lifetime opus from Taschen. Box placement and the architect’s sheepish grin remind us of that infamous Justin Timberlake/ Andy Samberg SNL video skit. You know the one. It’s that musical DIY about how to create an extremely personal boxed gift. Coincidence, or is Pin-Up just living up to its tagline? Buy the issue and tell us what you think. Buy it now. Asymptote’s Buildable Blob Eavesdrop loved the “Build It Bigger” episode on Discovery’s Science Channel featuring the Asymptote-designed Yas Marina Hotel under construction in Abu Dhabi, which aired on June 1. Granted, every project in the UAE is the biggest, best, only, and first, but the Yas Hotel is truly an amazing grid-shell-veiled, buildable blob. Besides the building, the project’s second-most glamorous feature is the Formula One Grand Prix raceway over which the hotel spans with extraordinary finesse. The show revealed the complexity of both design and engineering and the effort required to fast-track it into existence. As the signature component of the $36 billion Yas Marina development, it must open its doors by October, making the raceway a literal reminder of the overall need for speed. Sidebar: Architects typically enjoy all the credit in the press, but Eavesdrop insists on credit where credit’s due. Introducing the engineers: Arup, Dewan, Tilke, Schlaich Bergermann und Partner, Waagner-Biro, Centraal Staal, Red, Taw, and Front, Inc. Shocked About Saadiyat Speaking of speed, the program’s host, Danny Forster, casually mentioned that 50,000 workers are needed to maintain warp-speed construction for the entire region’s multibillion-dollar developments. Now, that head count is big news: An 80-page report issued by the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims “abuse and severe exploitation” of thousands of laborers at projects throughout the UAE, particularly those on Saadiyat Island (cue eye-rolling: Saadiyat is Arabic for “happiness”). HRW sent letters outlining the violations to Jean Nouvel, Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando, and other architects who are building island happiness. The recipients issued instant denunciations: We’re shocked! Who could’ve imagined that tens of thousands of migrant workers from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan could be vulnerable to exploitation? Here at Eavesdrop, we’re 100 percent not for it. Send peace and strong labor laws to firstname.lastname@example.org