You’re not writing a great tragic novel. You’re designing places for people to live

The original article found here:

Architecture is not the place to work through our collective guilt. Leave that to the poets and artists, says Leon Krier

Let’s imagine that Antoni Gaudi had not just designed the Casa Mila but the entire urban block of which the building forms a corner. If that doesn’t do it, assume that he designed every single block of Barcelona central and suburban, including all churches, schools, villas, factories, railway stations, airports, bridges and parks and, keeping the momentum, every single town and village of Catalonia, of Spain, of continental Europe, of the entire world, including the furnishings, tools and vehicles therein, private and public.

If you don’t shudder at the thought, replace the Catalan “master” by any of the recognised “modern masters”, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Gropius, the current star architects and weigh the consequences.

Change of scene.

Viewed from a certain distance and under good light, an ugly, dysfunctional city may appear like a promised land. I had this experience overflying at high altitude Novosibirsk, the desolate capital of Siberia, the sun rising over a frozen urban abstraction, a Soviet version of the Charter of Athens.

It is common knowledge that the atomic mushroom, rising over Hiroshima, was a revelation of immense beauty for American bomber pilots. It follows that, by holding the appropriate distance, a cruel spectacle can be appreciated, independently of its moral implications. Observing pointedly portrayed human suffering in plays and films we experience aesthetic pleasure. In literature, distance and detachment allow us to appreciate tragedy.

In architecture no valid aesthetic experience can exist without proximity, without the closeness to masses and details, without our experiencing the constructed artefact from without and from within. The intimacy of the inhabitant with his home, of the citizen with the city has to exclude all dominance of the tragic and the catastrophic from architecture and urban design. While this may appear self-evident, there is today a tendency in design that confuses literature and architecture. By means of unbalanced and disruptive plastic violence, arbitrarily reducing innovation to form rupture, this trend professes to express the tragedy of our times through architecture.

For its champions, the memory of the unprecedented Holocaust crime must impregnate all architectural design and, as a consequence, architecture must be in mourning and revolt. In my opinion, this attitude is understandable but unsustainable for, if the proposition were true, it would not merely concern architecture but would have to deconstruct all artistic and technical cultures, languages, object design, industry, agriculture, education, services etc.

We are dealing with an absurd mind-set that confuses the objective and the subjective, the means and ends of culture, technology and morality, or more simply of memory and remembrance, mixing up conscience and emotion.

It fails consequently to grasp the diverging means of literature and architecture. It confuses the roles of the reader-spectator and the actor-inhabitant. We cannot inhabit tragedy without being overwhelmed by pain, and we cannot be passive witnesses of architecture that aggresses and horrifies us.

Franco Purini, proposing a 1000m long and 500m high slab building for central Rome pontificates that “L’architettura deve far’ male” – “architecture must hurt”. Hurt who and why is the question, especially when the architect lives, works and teaches in a beautiful quarter of the capital.

For architectural design, memory is neither moral precept nor obligation; it is not an archive of deadly testimony; it is on the contrary an instrument of knowledge and know-how; it represents an inexhaustible inventory of practical and aesthetic solutions and techniques that respond to the recurring problems of building structures and places; it is the treasure house of the art of building.

The Beautician

I got my eyebrows done at my favorite salon. A rare treat indeed.

Are you French?

No, I’m from the South. 

oh, I knew you weren’t from here. You have such an accent.  And your brows are so thick. You know that’s very in these days. 

oh, is it?

Yes, some women would die to have these brows. 



Although, they are rather stubborn aren’t they.

yes, very.

Just relax. 


do you like an arch? you really do have a natural arch let me bring it out a bit. 


Your dress is very pretty

thank you.

we used to call them empire waists. do they still?

yes, I think- well, that’s what I call them. 


Such pretty colors too. 


She begins to fine tune her art (for brow taming is an art!) with tweezers. She must not remember me, but I certainly remember her and her work. She is one of the few beauticians who takes time to look at the face and the brow as a whole.  And by some miracle create a perfect arch, strengthen the bone, round the head- just so, and annihilate those exiled hairs.  

There. take a look. 

she hands me a mirror. the difference is unbelievable. 5 years taken off at least. What craft.

Perfect, thank you. 







How Young


I was picking dandelion bouquets

to place on my mother’s lap

My youth almost spent, I asked,

how long will I be old?


Age last longer than youth.

And those who see only age spots and skin

will look at faded images

and in their dotage say,

how young!


I don’t even have to be be a beauty

for such a remark

my youth will speak,

shout out from those graphs:


How young.

Look! How young.


Upon Wearing Skirts & Dresses For 2 yrs

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When I made the decision to wear only skirts and dresses, something happened that I really didn’t expect, I matured. I became more aware of the way I carried myself, of the way I sat, and even spoke. I became more restrained, intentional. I became more comfortable in my femininity and in turn less childish.

I have been wearing only skirts and dresses for two years now and I have just begun realizing its impact. A skirt reminds me that I am not here to compete with men – that I don’t need to compete with men to prove my worth. It is a gentle reminder of who I am- a wife, a mother, a woman.

At first it was difficult. Skirts and dresses had always been the exception for me. I grew up in the country spending my days riding horses (astride *gasp*) and building forts in the woods with my brothers. But I began to take more thought into what I wore when my second daughter was born.

At first, I was afraid people would ask me why I didn’t wear pants. But that hasn’t happened yet. I have only received compliments on my outfits. The only question I have ever received in two years concerning my dress is, “where did you find such a beautiful skirt?”

Do I miss pants? Surprisingly, no, not really. In fact, I recently tried on a pair of jeans and was shocked to find them intolerably uncomfortable. We lost something when women gave up their long flowing dresses for jeans. We lost a certain elegance, modesty and femininity; I wanted to regain it, if only for myself.

Beauty and Housekeeping


I have been reading Little house and the big Woods to my girls. In it there was a lovely description of an everyday item- the butter churner.  I was struck by its elegance. It was part of everyday life and it was beautiful:

In winter the cream wasn’t yellow as it was in summer . . . Ma liked everything on her table pretty so in the wintertime she colored the butter . . .

When the cream was ready, Ma Scalded the long wooden churn-dash, put it in the churn, and dropped the wooden churn cover over it. The churn-cover had a little round hole in the middle, and Ma moved the dash up and down . . . she churned for a long time . . . When Ma took off the churn cover, there was the butter in a golden lump. . . Then Ma took out the lump with the wooden paddle, into a wooden bowl and she washed it . . . After that she salted it.

Now came the best part of the churning Ma molded the butter. On the loose bottom of the wooden butter-mold was carved the picture of a strawberry with two strawberry leaves.

With the paddle Ma packed butter tightly into the mold until it was full. Then she turned it upside-down over a plate, and pushed on the handle of the loose bottom. The little, firm pat of golden butter came out, with the strawberry and its leaves molded on top.

Laura and Mary watched breathless . . .


The butter churner was sturdy, useful, practical, elegant, beautiful. So often we overlook our everyday items. We think “it will do” and leave it at that. But we should strive to fill our homes with beauty. Our everyday china should be sturdy and beautiful, our everyday clothes should fulfill our needs and be attractive, our kitchens functional and peaceful. Ma didn’t have to color the butter or mold it into a strawberry, but look at the joy it brought to her home.