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June 22, 2020

Inspired by a cryptic poem and the riches of Croesus, thousands have searched for an ornate bronze lockbox filled with gold, diamonds and pre-Columbian artifacts ever since Forrest Fenn hid it somewhere in the Rockies in 2010. In the last decade, thousands of people have tried to decipher the nine clues buried in the poem ("Begin it where warm waters halt”) and find the treasure, combing the mountains of New Mexico. At least two people have died. Yet the hunters pressed on. Many, stymied by the clues, questioned whether there even was a treasure to find. I...

May 25, 2020

The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery honors all those in the US military, known and unknown, who gave their lives for our freedoms. Always worth contemplating, today more than ever. The mystery that once shrouded the Tomb has lifted with the availability of DNA testing, but the memorial continues to make visible the noble sacrifice of a few for the many. If you’d like to know more about the Tomb and how they selected the unknown soldier interred there, you can read a downloadable excerpt from MONUMENTS here. Photo © Lee Sandstead

May 17, 2020

The artist FAKE created “Super Nurse,” a tribute to healthcare workers, the supermen and superwomen who are working unceasingly to save lives and quell COVID-19. You can download this and hundreds of other free high-rez images at Amplifier.  I like Amplifier’s model, a lot. They commission artists (i.e., pay them) to create images that address social change and then freely release this visual and societal inspiration to the public.  

March 27, 2020

Mourning Michael Sorkin, architect and humanist, teacher and friend, who died yesterday of the coronavirus. This grievous loss presages the many brilliant minds that will be lost to the craven avarice of the Trump administration. If anyone could have come up with inventive building solutions in a post-corona world, Michael could have. To give you a taste of his beautiful mind, moral authority, and acerbic wit, here’s an excerpt from his Skyscrapers primer, linked here. He starts with AMERICA (and if you want to turn green with literary envy, check out the...

March 17, 2020

March 3, 2020

“The awe that accompanies a new supertall is now tempered by the economic reality for many residents that they simply can no longer afford to live in their beloved city,” said Ms. Dupré, the architectural historian. And other insights via the New York Times into Manhattan's high-rise building boom. Stefanos Chen's excellent article also includes an illustrated timeline from 1925 to the present aspirant moment, along with a discussion of the technologies and zoning changes that have contributed to the evolving, ever-taller skyline. Photo: Tony Cenicola...

October 17, 2019

I’m delighted that Mario Botta: The Space Beyond will be screened on October 16, 17, 18 at the Architecture & Design Film Festival in NYC. The conversations Mario Botta and I had over the course of an amazing week in Lugano, Switzerland, were published in CHURCHES (HarperCollins, 2001). Translated by Lily Prigioniero, that interview remains Botta's most extensive interview in English. His insights into architecture’s fundamental motivations are evergreen. If you would like a PDF of the full interview, please contact me.

Mario Botta: The Space Beyond was co-...

August 28, 2019

Thinking, gratefully, about the wisdom of the late Richard Benson, photographer and printer, MacArthur Fellow, and former dean of the Yale School of Art, where I interviewed him in 2003 for my book, MONUMENTS (Random House, 2007).  As we spoke about a writer’s obligation to readers, I shared my fear that my words wouldn’t adequately convey the emotional and psychological weight of memorials. Benson’s reply was liberating, bedrock advice that has guided my writing ever since:  

“Your job is to make things clear. To be very clear headed.  It’s not a...

July 20, 2019

Skyscrapers: A History of the World’s Most Extraordinary Buildings is the first book to be published under a new agreement between the Department of Culture & Tourism-Abu Dhabi @dctabudhabi and Emaar Properties @emaardubai to support reading and increase literacy and cultural literacy throughout the United Arab Emirates. I'm honored that my work supports this effort, which recalls an earlier era in the United States, when it was understood that an educated populace is a public good, benefiting all of us.

Right: Yours at the magnificent Qasr Al Watan Library...

March 17, 2018

New York Times Sunday Book Review | Nonfiction

Once, in a younger America, architects and engineers alike were simply called “builders”: people, mostly men, who had both design and construction skills. But after the American Institute of Architects was founded in 1857, the professions split. Architects began to garner all the glory while engineers toiled in their shadows. At the 1964 dedication of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, then the world’s longest suspension bridge, Robert Moses actually seemed to forget the name of Othmar Ammann, its designer and argua...

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