Photos by Gregory Han
Halfway across the world I find myself thinking about my AHBE Lab colleagues, wishing they were here in Tripoli, Lebanon at the International Fair of Tripoli – a phantom landscape that never realized its intended purpose due to an outbreak of civil war that began in 1975 just at the precipice of the project’s completion.
Designed in 1965 by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the International Fair of Tripoli is the sort of public utopian modernist project we never see today, an expanse of visionary landscape intended to unite people shoulder-to-shoulder under a unifying experience intended for global audience at a massive scale. The landscape of Niemeyer is grandiose, yet immediately inclusive – firmly, yet invisibly guiding visitors through carefully articulated arteries of walkways interconnecting 15 pavilions, halls, auditoriums, and other structures at a massive scale. The invisible hand of the designer still haunts these abandon walkways.
Perhaps the closest one could imagine as the modern day equivalent of Niemeyer’s International Fair of Tripoli are the commercial campuses of Apple’s or Google’s respective headquarters, each incorporating a similar architectural vocabulary of communal spaces and pavilions, but each restrictive and redefined by their privatized intent – a pale equivalent to an era of design that embraced an internationalist, humanistic egalitarianism rather than one manufactured and guarded by capitalistic mechanisms. For that, we are all a little less well off.
This is architecture at both its most political and apolitical state, somehow both defining and erasing the lines of where and how humans of different backgrounds interact and engage with one another. Ironically, it was the last gasp of optimism before the dire pessimism of conflict swallowed the region whole, leaving the grounds abandoned for years, now to slowly fall into a state of beautiful decay (but become a playground to skaters as the sun falls, a small consolation) – a crumbling concrete reminder our best intents occasionally succumb to the worst of social forces outside a designer’s control.
This Saturday I took a bike ride from Silver Lake to Long Beach via the Los Angeles River Bicycle Path. It was about a 30 mile journey, one way, with many memorable sights, sounds, and characters along the way. These images above reflect my experience and show a side of Los Angeles you don’t always get a chance to see.
All photos by Jessica Roberts
All photos by Calvin Abe
I had the opportunity to visit Biei, the northern most Japanese island of Hokkaido, for the third year in a row this past winter. Although I have never traveled to the island’s quiet and beautiful landscape in the spring or fall, photographs online tell me that the location is equally beautiful during those seasons.
As I reflect upon my last visit – already almost three months ago – I wonder what is it about this place that piques my interest and ignites a strong desire to return. Biei is a place where I return to experience silence, beauty, and the sacred. The simplicity and the quiet is surreal, unworldly and restorative. And besides, there is nothing like sitting outside in zero degree temperature in an “onsen” (hot bath) naturally sourced from a hot spring, with long distant views of nothing but rolling snow covered landscape.
All photos by Calvin Abe
Over the holidays I went up to Sacramento to visit my family. While there I decided to visit the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant in nearby Herald, California, about 12 miles from my where I grew up. Although the plant was decommissioned back in 1989, it was built in the early 1970’s when I was in high school, and was operational for nearly two decades. The plant was eventually decommissioned due to operational problems.
This post and accompanying photos are not presented to argue the merits or criticism of nuclear power, but simply to share a dualistic thought that popped into my head as I drove around the facility: the admiration for the bucolic beauty and sculptural qualities of the reactor towers as structures – each sitting atop the landscape – while at the same time recognizing their potential to alter the face of the landscape for thousands of years in an instant. Chernobyl in 1986, Three Mile Island in 1979, and the recent Fukushima incident still remain vivid memories of this dualism between potential and pitfalls.
Is the future of nuclear power a sustainable or resilient approach? I’ll let you decide. But here are a few of my photographs from the two days I was there to view and witness their history firsthand.
All photos by Erik Schmahl
At the end of the year there is a tendency to wrap up the last three-hundred and sixty-five days into a packaged time thing. Once packaged, these collected memories can be put in a box, labeled, and stacked neatly on the shelf atop the previous year. For me this practice usually means emptying the refrigerator door of all out of code condiments, pruning the struggling branches on the philodendron, and clearing up space on my phone by archiving and deleting the thousands of photos I have taken since the last big purge. This practice of reflective cleansing typically coalesces with resolutions for the new year.
My original intent was to write a pedantic expose of animal agriculture’s effects on water usage in the context of California’s drought – but at the risk of a self-righteous diatribe, I decided to take a different approach to bringing in the new year.
The following images were taken during the summer of 2016 in Japan, curated to help me express personal moments of ‘ah-ha’ inspiration through cellular candid captures. Our phones are the ultimate documentarians – we take them everywhere and snap digital shutters vigorously, often furiously out of simple wonder for the world around us, a ritual that is easily wasted if we don’t take the opportunity to go back through and see what all the fuss was about.
Ever look back and wonder “why did I take seven photos of this curb?” These are those photos. My personal data base of design inspiration, shared.