Category Archives: Architecture

Anatomy of a skyscraper

Terry Gross (Fresh Air) recently interviewed Kate Ascher on the topic of How The World’s Tallest Skyscrapers Work. Fascinating stuff. Kate’s book The Heights looks good.

What struck me in this interview is that the world’s tallest building (at the moment), The Burj Khalifa, built in Dubai is a very modern building built in a city with no city wide sewage system (yet). Because of this waste from this huge building has to be trucked away constantly and the trucks wait in lines to dump their waste into a sewage treatment plant for as much as 24 hours. Kate mentions in this piece that in many ways a city sewage system is a bigger challenge to build than a skyscraper. As an American, this strikes me as amazing because even though I live in a rural place where we have our own well and septic system I take for granted that cities and towns have services like these built in from the start. But, what we as Americans might call a natural evolution of a city or an infrastructure gets turned on its head with things like the internet and cellular phone systems which allow everyone in a developing country to have a cell phone or even a smart phone long before there is a land line infrastructure.

Simon Rodia and Watts Towers

Watts Towers is an incredible group of structures in the Watts district of Los Angeles, California built by brick and tile layer, Simon Rodia over a period of 33 years from 1921 to 1954.

I visited the Towers in the mid 1960′s with my parents but haven’t been back since. I think a trip there is called for on one of my next trips to LA.

I’m a gonna do something.

- Simon Rodia

I think Simon really did something.

Empire State

Empire state

Lunch in New York with some friends. Took this walking from Grand Central diagonally across town toward Chelsea. I’m enjoying the Instagram filters even though stuff like this isn’t part of my “regular” (whatever that means) photographic process. I’m also noticing that my S90 isn’t coming out as much because it’s fun and easy to upload images from the iPhone from almost anywhere. I have no faith that even when digital cameras have this capacity natively (without adding an Eye-Fi card) it won’t be as slick and easy as Apple/iPhone/Instagram.

Empire state

Split Reflection

Split reflection

New York City. Glass covered buildings make all sorts of reflection images possible, including the merging of two different buildings. Modern cities are full of details like this and once discovered they make it difficult to walk around without stopping every few feet to check out a shot.

Another image shot this summer with rented equipment.

New York over the Holidays


New York City. This image is from a trip to New York I made with my friend Gary over the Holidays.

If memory serves, Madison Square Garden is a block to my right. Gary and I spent a good twenty minutes photographing the flags in front of this building. The wind was just right to blow them into fascinating shapes.

Lights in the sky

I love these reflections where you can see a clear reflected background but also hints of a life inside the glass. It would be perfect if someone were standing at one of the windows.

First Congregational Church, Washington, Connecticut

First Congregational Church, Washington, Connecticut

Almost every town in New England has one of these traditional Congregational churches and while they look great in daylight they also look great lit up at night. The coldness of New England winter and the traditional white exterior offset the warmth of candle-lit windows.

I’m not a Christian nor do I belong to this church but churches like this one are like wormholes back through American history and as such, I’m both fascinated by them and feel moved when I’m inside them.

It’s been a tradition in our family to go to the late Christmas Eve service at this church to both sing and hear Reverend Cheryl Anderson deliver a "Christmas meditation" (better known as a sermon). If this church is a wormhole back through American history Cheryl acts as a tour guide or facilitator helping those of us who come on Christmas eve to understand the Christmas story in a larger context and connect it to everyday ideas. I almost always come away from her sermons thinking which is just what she wants. She’s quite an amazing person and my entire family hasn’t missed one of her Christmas eve sermons in over ten years.

Cuban Staircase

I guess even the most spectacular, most historic of stairways become boring after a while ...

My flickr contact Michael Greenwood did a great job framing this historic staircase.

Two female staff look bored as they gaze over the grand white marble stairway entrance to the Museo de la Revolución in Havana.

Those steps look pretty now but in 1957 they were flowing with the blood of students who died trying to storm the palace and oust then President Fulgencio Batista – you can still see the bullet holes even though someone has tried to fill them in.

Met Life in fog

Met Life in fog

New York City. A quick shot looking up into the fog before we went inside Grand Central and boarded the train home. Fog is beautiful and had I had more time in the city I think I could have made some nice images of these big buildings with their lights in fog. I’ll call this image a placemarker for a future trip.