Author Archive: Alan Miller

Alan Miller

Alan Miller is a graduate of the Sydney University Faculty of Architecture and the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. A fanatical cyclist, he is a former Sydney Singlespeed Champion. He reports on cycling, film, architecture, politics, photography and various mixtures of the above.

Urban Planning: A Manifesto

The people of New South Wales have been anticipating the upcoming state election almost since the last election four years ago, never a good situation. As regular readers of our dispatches from Sydney know, the soon to be defeated Labor Government has for the past sixteen years, with its inimitably bland, shiny-suited glee, trashed poor old Sydney. A place which with the slightest effort could be the most beautiful city in the world has instead deteriorated into a kind of Los Angeles without a Raymond Chandler, a Melbourne without intricacy, a Singapore without ambition.

One of the most urgent tasks facing the next state government will be the reform of NSW’s broken planning system, a system I saw in action (if that is the right word) during the disillusioning two years I spent in a cubicle at the NSW Department of Planning.



This Bespoke Content is Powered by OFFICE MELNIKOV

OFFICE MELNIKOV, Project for a VIRTÙal Venice, 2015.

OFFICE MELNIKOV is the world’s preeminent bihemispherical atelier for the repositioning of post-architectonic, post-spatial contemporary urban outcomes. We aim to monetize underutilized urban problematics through such interventions as active frontages, hot-desking, mandatory wifi corridors, vectored elegification, meMORALization, bespoke damage control, pop-up interventionalism, pre-conceptualized ‘just in time’ consumer harmonics, inspirational value engineering, demographic smoothing, fact-based ironification, storytelling, nuancement, guided flânerie, n+1ism, Big Data, Smart Data, cloud-based bricks and mortar and maximalized floor space envelopes. We also celebrate heritage and ecological values, where practicable.



A Window on his World: Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Jordan Belfort might be content to be a jerk if only he knew that he was one. Or perhaps his jerkiness is as self-evident to him as the truth that life is all about the Benjamins. At first The Wolf of Wall Street seems like the “I was going to be busy all day” climax of Goodfellas extended to three hours and accelerated from Cadillac to Ferrari pace. No other Scorsese movie is so playful, few are so funny; what a thrill to see Our Greatest Director disburdened of the weight of prestige almost to the point of bad taste. Like CasinoThe Wolf of Wall Street is a three hour film which never settles down. Instead of exposition, character development, subplot, landscape and wallowing in production design, there are fake TV ads (starting with the one which opens the film, blending with the production company logos), cover versions of once good songs, direct address to camera, the thoughts of characters narrated to us as voice over and several interminably uninspiring “inspirational” speeches. This is the world of a man whose vocabulary, grammar and syntax are made of such ticky-tack.



MoMA mia!

Rendering of proposed expansion of MoMA from 53rd Street. Image Diller, Scofidio + Renfro © 2014 .

Disqualification: I haven’t been to MoMA in at least fifteen years and after this week hesitate to ever go again. If this disqualifies me from commenting on the museum’s latest expansion plans then adieu, dear reader and happy days. The planned demolition of the former American Folk Art Museum is scandalous and, after MoMA seemed ready to reconsider earlier in the year, surprising as news rarely is. It is one of those demolitions, not on the order of the old Penn Station, but similar to the extent that thought of a wrecking ball piercing that facade, the actual moment of impact which now seems so likely to happen, makes one wince. Absent ideas and evocations, architecture can fall into this particular etiolation of the imagination, a kind of dime store minimalism whose effects are indistinguishable from the property developer’s philistinism. It is also self-punitive; if the former AFAM needs MoMA as an earthworm washed up onto the sidewalk needs a kind rescuer with a leaf, MoMA needs AFAM just as much, for a child needs to eat more than white bread and margarine for dinner. You can’t just dress up in glass and call yourself modern.



Proust, architecte

Proust.

— “C’pauvre vieux, i m’fait d’la peine1”.
— Mais pourquoi?
— Son truc est bourré de SPOILERS. Il m’a gâché pour moi le bouquin de Marcel.
— Mais il ne faut que lire l’avertissement au lecteur; voilà au tout début t’es bien prévenu:

Avertissement au lecteur: cet article est bourré de SPOILERS.



Why I am a Whinger

laide, moche, laide moche moche laide (belle). Photo © 2011 Alan Miller.
My reaction to the release of what Infrastructure NSW calls a 20 Year State Infrastructure Strategy was what I am going to call an epiphany. It was almost nothing, certainly born as much out of laziness as principle, more the morbid blue glow of the florescent lights in Sydney’s new made in China train carriages than an incandescent halo centered over the head. To decide ‘I shall have a cheese sandwich for lunch’ would be both more useful and more profound than my realization that I can’t, or won’t, or don’t want to write about Sydney’s boring and intransigent problems anymore.





The Tour of Guimardia (English Version)

Métro Porte Dauphine (1900). Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

In its shopfronts cashmere sweaters the colors of macaroons. Behind their digicodes its reposing hameaux. In its ballot boxes three out of every four votes for Sarkozy. Hidden in their Maseratis its children dressed in black. The sixteenth arrondissement of Paris is a peninsula between the Bois de Boulogne (which belongs to it) and the Seine; there is the slight feeling of a border crossing, of breaching a feeble forcefield, upon entering or leaving. One can find here the works of Perret, Sauvage and, soon, Gehry, but it is the section of the Earth’s surface with the greatest concentration of buildings by Hector Guimard (1867-1942). The seizième is to Guimard as Oak Park is to Frank Lloyd Wright, except that it contains works from all periods of the architect’s career, from 1891 to 1927. Along the way one passes other buildings which support the contention, inherently arguable and worth arguing, that the sixteenth is the most architecturally interesting arrondissement. Annexed to the city in 1860, the seizième grew up in what we might call, with light apologies to Robert Caro, The Years of Hector Guimard, a complex, under-appreciated and richly contested period in the history of modern architecture. A new eclecticism began to rebel against the last moments of a played-out Haussmannization. Many modernisms were in play. Art Nouveau, which seems barely able to contain Guimard’s work, let alone the output of the entire period, may now seem the stuff of coffee table books, a particularly beautiful dead end, a fashion, a decorative style, but its surviving remnants hint of an influence more spiritual than physical.



Le tour de Guimardia (version française)

Métro Porte Dauphine (1900). Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

À ses devantures les pulls en cachemire aux couleurs des macarons. Derrière leurs digicodes ses hameaux reposants. Dans ses urnes les trois-quarts des votes pour Sarkozy. Cachés dans leurs Maseratis ses enfants habillés en noir. Le seizième arrondissement de Paris est en effet une péninsule entre le bois de Boulogne (qui lui appartient) et la Seine. Une frontière invisible le cerne, une petite résistance entre l’arrondissement et sa ville. On peut y retrouver les bâtiments de Perret, de Sauvage et (bientôt) de Gehry mais le seizième est le lieu de notre planète avec la plus grande concentration des bâtiments de Hector Guimard (1867-1942). Le seizième est à Guimard ce que Oak Park est à Frank Lloyd Wright, mais on peut y voir les bâtiments de toutes les périodes de sa carrière, de 1891 à 1927. Parmi ces bâtiments il y a bien des autres qui soutient la proposition, discutable j’espère, que le seizième soit l’arrondissement le plus intéressant sur le plan architectural. Après sa annexion à Paris en 1860, l’urbanisation arrivait au seizième pendant les années de Hector Guimard, une époque de plusieurs modernismes. À Paris un nouveau éclectisme architectural a commencé à résister l’Haussmannization épuisée. L’Art nouveau ne peut pas décrire l’ensemble de l’architecture de ces années, ou même l’architecture de Guimard lui-même, qui changeait au fil du temps. Puisque sa architecture n’était pas influente par rapport aux modernismes des années suivantes, l’oeuvre de Guimard vive trop souvent aux musées plutôt que dans les rues. Bien qu’il était une impasse dans l’histoire de l’architecture, qui ne veut pas habiter une telle ruelle.





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