Melissa Hope Matlins


Empire State Building Tickled Pink
February 20, 2009, 7:50 pm
Filed under: Architecture, New York City

The canyon-like streets between New York City’s tall towers sometimes create strange and wonderful natural lighting effects. For example, there are photos all over the web of Manhattanhenge, an evening every summer when the sun aligns perfectly with Manhattan’s east-west streets.

I catch a sliver of the Empire State Building out of my window at work, and towards sunset last night the low winter sun lit up the building like a giant pink floodlight for about five minutes.

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CCTV Fire Signals the End of Boomtown Architecture
February 10, 2009, 3:18 am
Filed under: Architecture, Design, Urbanism

PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images

Incredibly, all it seemed to take was a few sparks from the Lunar New Year’s celebrations to ignite a 500 foot high tower, part of Beijing’s iconic new CCTV development, designed by Rem Koolhaas of OMA. Thankfully the structure was unoccupied, so we can ponder the figurative meaning of this destruction, and not the mourn the loss of life, surprising considering how close this person got to the blaze.

If the end of the olympic games marked the technical end date of China’s great building boom, this fire has surely marked the symbolic end. This building pair was cutely dubbed the “underpants” and “boot” because of their radical shapes. From some angles, it would appear that the boot was kicking the underpants forward, almost encouraging the CCTV tower, and China by extension, to stride confidently into the future. At the time the building was conceived in 2004, the future was an endless building boom for China, fueled by a surge in US consumer spending. I think we know how that turned out.

A massive urban development, an abundance of cheap labor and financing, a star architect, an ambitious design, a worldwide event, a now vacant tower, a project over budget, a year or more behind schedule, finally a huge burnout. It’s like the program summary of an avant garde opera. Architectural critic Paul Goldberger, recognizing the building’s flair for drama, recently wrote: “a building which I had thought was going to be a pretentious piece of structural exhibitionism—turned out to be a compelling and exciting piece of structural exhibitionism.”

Below, a rendering of the CCTV development in happier times.

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Photograph: PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images via Times Online

Architecture’s Ten Best of 2008 by Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker



Going Green in Antarctica
February 5, 2009, 7:51 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Design, Green, Sustainability, Travel

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In some ways, designing for a climate like Antarctica is like designing for another planet. That is exactly what I thought when I saw my friend Ken’s pictures of McMurdo Station, like the one above – this is what a future human settlement on Mars will look like. Not like the Jetsons house at all. Just bunkerlike, uninspiring, unsustainable, and thoroughly un-designed! And how unfortunate, because the idea of designing a building to house all those arctic researchers, ice pioneers and  penguin aficionados that could be both beautiful and green is darn exciting.

That is exactly why I find this design competition for a “green” research station in Antarctica so intriguing. And not just a little bit green, but zero carbon emissions no less! I am imagining some sort of igloo, but with solar panels on it? I am really looking forward to seeing the results.

Competition via: Bustler

More Antarctica fabulousness: SpaceBit



Sleepy Subway Surfers
January 29, 2009, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Travel, Urbanism

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Why is there a blog dedicated to pictures of people asleep on the subway? In the words of is creator, “Because seeing people fall asleep on the subway is a universal language…” I didn’t realize it, but I have been holding on to this picture that I took on the train back from the airport last summer, just waiting for a site like this. Thanks for the post, Asleep On The Subway! And for letting me know that blogging about micro-topics is a legitimate trend. If you have any doubt, check out my friend’s blog on Round Signs.



Inauguration Day Artworks
January 26, 2009, 7:30 pm
Filed under: Design, Travel

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I spent inauguration day far from the D.C. crowds, in my sister’s first grade classroom in Miami. While we watched the historic moment, she led them in two art projects – coloring in printouts of the iconic Shepard Fairey posters from the campaign, and making collages of the day’s newspapers. Big thanks to Sandra for sharing her amazing photos, more here.

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Fine Day for a Cruise
January 15, 2009, 8:16 pm
Filed under: Design, New York City, Urbanism

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I thought I was crazy for trying to bike through the winter, but then Stephan has to go and one-up us all by taking a leisurely paddle down the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn just as temperatures were dropping into the teens yesterday. Nice looking dory. For more information on this handmade boat check out The Free Seas/Mare Liberum.

Image via Gowanus Lounge



Shoes in the News
January 5, 2009, 8:25 pm
Filed under: Urbanism

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Shoes are in the news a lot lately. It’s still unclear if the thousands of pairs of shoes that fell off a truck and onto the Palmetto Expressway in Florida this morning was an accident, performance art, or political commentary. The Soles4Souls charity plans to aid in the cleanup effort and re-distribute them, in a more orderly fashion, in Haiti.

Image via: Sun-Sentinel