Sunday, January 29, 2012

day job, continued

Our exhibition, Metropole/Colony: Africa and Italy, opened Wednesday night at the Frost Art Museum on FIU's main campus. My colleague, Elysse Newman, took some great photos of the opening with her iPhone. The exhibition is open until April 14. On February 1, I'll be giving a brief gallery talk at 6pm.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

day job, exhibitions edition

Four new exhibitions open tonight at the Frost Art Museum at FIU, including Metropole/Colony: Africa and Italy. I curated the show with Jon Mogul of the Wolfsonian-FIU. The exhibit uses materials from the Wolfsonian collections to explore the relationship between material culture (all of the physical and visual stuff a society produces) in Italy and its colonies during the 1930s. I'm particularly interested in the relationship between Italy and its African colonies: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Libya.
[update: photos from the opening]

Thursday, January 19, 2012

ornithology, again

A peacock in the park next to tin box. Our site visits are getting more colorful.

ornithology, continued

There are some amazing birds around tin box. We're not sure what this creature is. It looks like a cross between a chicken and a vulture. We have no shortage of vultures here. And, apparently, we have chickens, too...

Sunday, January 15, 2012


At the risk of running afoul of child labor laws, we also put Lydia to work varnishing the new construction site sign. The sign is made of MDF (medium density fiberboard), which cuts very smoothly on the CNC milling machine, but which swells and disintegrates when exposed to water. We don't expect the sign to last long (it doesn't have to) but we thought we'd try extending its life with a coat of marine spar varnish. We were also just curious what varnished MDF looked like...


The insulated wall panels have a layer of plastic on the exterior side that protects the finish. Peeling it off is somewhat addictive, and makes for a fun, Saturday afternoon family activity.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


A quick site visit this evening with friend of tin box, Peter Lang. It was an unusually overcast afternoon in Miami, but that gave way to a beautiful sunset, which gave us a chance to see the house's silver skin react to the rapidly changing crepuscular colors. When we decided on a silver metallic finish, we anticipated that it would respond elegantly to the changing light conditions. So far, so good.

Monday, January 9, 2012


We've been playing with the CNC (computer numerical control) milling machine at FIU's School of Architecture. This is a new technology for us (though it's pretty standard for architecture students nowadays) and we're trying to figure out how to use it. In the next two weeks, we'll use the CNC to cut metal sheets into custom trim to use around the beams and purlins that pop through the exterior walls of the house. Today, we carved a large piece of MDF (medium density fiberboard) into a large construction site sign. This little project was a dry run for another project (an exhibition that opens in a couple of weeks) and gave us an opportunity to play with the technology. Eric Peterson, scholar, craftsman and fellow faculty member at FIU, was instrumental at making this work.

Admittedly, the video of the CNC machine at work is not exactly gripping. The system includes software that translates three-dimensional data into carving patterns, and instructs the milling machine on how to subtract areas from solid materials. The video is backwards (reversed left to right) because the only camera I had available was the built-in video on my laptop.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

more wall panels

Our installer is making progress on the wall panels. They've put up about half the panels, but still have some tricky areas and a lot of trim to do in the coming weeks. For now, we're enjoying having a chance to see the front of the house (left, with the porch in the foreground) and the courtyard (after the break) take shape.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Tropical Park isn't a sublime landscape on the scale of New York's Central Park, nor is it a vast constructed wilderness built to contrast against an overly dense metropolis. It is a collection of highly programmed play spaces (baseball, soccer, tennis, boating) interspersed with picnic pavilions and barbeque grills. There's also an equestrian facility. The park is well used, which means it produces a lot of refuse. And in South Florida, trash means vultures.

The huge vulture population in Tropical Park illustrates how even after trash has been thrown "away" it continues to transform our ecology. Nourishing dump buzzards is probably not what William McDonough and Michael Braungart meant when they wrote Cradle to Cradle.

Below, iPhone video of vultures circling over the football field at Tropical Park. Better than flying toasters...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

toxicity and politics

New Jersey, 1972. photo: National Archives
A few months back we posted an appreciation of Richard Nixon's environmental record, which included signing the 1970 Clean Air Act. The National Archives just digitized a huge collection of images from the Documerica project (1971-72), which documented the state of our natural and built environments at the outset of this and other pioneering legislation (Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and so on). It is amazing to see how badly polluted the country was forty years ago, and, conversely, how far we've come.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

gott nytt år

Nothing says Happy New Year like a trip to IKEA. While we're having our kitchen cabinetry custom built by Surface Workshop, we're leaning toward using IKEA cabinetry and sinks for the bathrooms. We'll write more about this after we make some decisions. For now, we like the flexibility and design of the IKEA cabinetry. We're less sanguine about their durability, but we think we can make it work for a few years.

Of course, it's not just the merchandise that inspires us at IKEA...