Cough-y House: Abandoned Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium

[ By Steve in Abandoned Places & Architecture. ]

The abandoned Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium once housed TB patients seeking relief and recuperation amidst Pennsylvania’s rugged Allegheny Mountains.

Sanatoriums (not to be confused with sanitariums, San Antonio or Santeria) were the “in” thing back in the dark days before antibiotics. These collegial care homes away from home offered tuberculosis sufferers fresh air, bright sunlight and balanced nutrition – beneficial even if one wasn’t inflicted by “consumption”. Often located in mountainous or desert settings, sanatoriums also served to segregate the infected away from the uninfected… a time-honored practice applied to lepers and the mentally ill. Dude, harsh – welcome to the good old days!

In For The Long Hall

The so-called “sanatorium movement” originated in mid-nineteenth century Europe with Switzerland being a popular site due to its abundance of brisk Alpine air. As not everyone could afford treatment overseas, Americans looked to their own backyards to approximate the Swiss sanatorium experience. The year 1885 saw the first American sanatorium open in the New York Adirondacks town of Saranac. By 1900 there were 34 American sanatoriums and by 1925 that number had skyrocketed to 536.

A Cool Reception

The Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium opened in the midst of this clinical building boom.”The San”, as staff nicknamed it, was situated in Cambrian County, Pennsylvania, on land generously donated by wealthy steel tycoon and noted philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

A Clean Sweep

The town of Cresson sits roughly 2,000 feet above sea level in the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania. Though only 80-odd miles east of Pittsburgh, Cresson’s relative isolation contributed to the four years required to build the sanatorium, which finally opened in 1916.

That Sinking Feeling

Tuberculosis – known as “The White Death” – was once one of the leading causes of mortality in the United States. In 1882 the disease’s cause (infection by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis) was discovered but it wasn’t until 1921 that an effective vaccine was developed. Meanwhile, sanatoriums thrived though many of their patients did not, living out the balance of their shortened lives in the palliative care of dedicated staff.

Switches Brew

The Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium had a good run as such institutions go, closing in 1964. That may seem surprisingly recent but CTS wasn’t the last holdout, not by a long shot: the A. G. Holley State Hospital (opened in 1950 as the Southeast Florida Tuberculosis Hospital) closed on July 2nd of 2012 and was demolished in November of 2014.

Steps To Recovery?

Circumstances conspired to shield the Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium from the wrecking ball. After its official closure in 1964, the sanatorium was repurposed as the Lawrence Frick State Hospital (a government-run mental health hospital) and carried on as such until 1984. Subsequently, and following some security modifications, the facility re-opened in 1987 as a prison (State Correctional Institution – Cresson) that closed in 2013.

Caught Red Handled

The current state of the former Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium ranges from mildly deteriorated to post-apocalyptic, depending on which areas were most recently used. Flickr member Thomas (Thomas James Caldwell) visited the facility in April of 2018 and although we’ve only posted his haunting images of the sanatorium’s interior, other areas of the complex can be viewed at his photostream. Hopefully Caldwell wore a face mask – although TB bacteria can survive in a dry state for mere weeks, dust from flaking lead-based paint is forever.

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Urban Forestry: Explore 678,632 Street Trees of NYC with Interactive Map

[ By WebUrbanist in Gaming & Computing & Technology. ]

The NYC Parks Department offers an amazing resource in the form of an online map that “includes every street tree in New York City” (spanning 422 species) first mapped by volunteers in 2015 and now updated daily by their forestry team. “On the map, trees are represented by circles. The size of the circle represents the diameter of the tree, and the color of the circle reflects its species. You are welcome to browse our entire inventory of trees, or to select an individual tree for more information.”

Clicking the trees reveals not just species and size but also ecological benefits provided, quantified in dollar terms, from things like capturing storm runoff and reducing air pollution. “We know that trees improve the environment and the health of a city in measurable ways. Trees can capture storm water runoff, reduce energy costs, and make the air less polluted and easier to breathe. We can calculate the benefits that each tree provides to the people of New York City based on a formula developed by the Center for Urban Forest Research. The benefits each tree provides varies based upon its species, size, and location.”

Fans can even track their favorite trees over time and add notes about tree-related activities. So far, nearly five thousand trees have been “favorited” and 20,000 activities reported. For those interested in doing even more, the Parks Department also encourages people to become involved: “It’s easy to become a tree steward! We host volunteers all year long. We can train you in basic activities such as watering trees, adding mulch and soil, and removing weeds and litter; as well as advanced activities such as installing a tree guard, expanding tree beds, and installing or removing stone or brick pavers.”

One caveat: the map only shows trees that grow on land under the jurisdiction of NYC Parks, but this includes trees planted along sidewalks or other public rights-of-way (still, it doesn’t have all trees maintained by the state or federal government or, of course, on private property). Still, with over 600,000 trees to explore, urban plant fans should have plenty to do just tracking and examining the ones that are covered!

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Wild Waste: Giant Trash Animals Nest Inside Abandoned Las Vegas Motel

[ By WebUrbanist in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

A classic mid-century roadside motel in Las Vegas has been turned into a fantastically colorful habitat for a series of huge animals, constructed from waste collected from dumpsters, abandoned factories and scrap yards.

This 10,000-square-foot zoo parody (dubbed ‘Wild Wild Waste’) by artist Bordalo II is his biggest installation to date. It’s designed to make statements about the commodification of animal habitats as well as human waste production and management activities.

“Bordalo is inspired by the rejected, the broken, the wasted, somehow our everyday,” explains the exhibit’s curator. “With the trash we refuse to be responsible for he creates a fantastic installation that is playful and, furthermore that question our relation to waste and our responsibility.”

The animals are simultaneously visible as a whole and a set of parts. A flock of penguins emerges from plastic cubes, car parts morph into a family of pandas, while a whale caught in a fishing net and lion caged in a truck further highlight ideas of confinement.

“We were so humbled to have the opportunity to help host the art of bordalo at life is beautiful this past weekend,” said one of the organizers. “The entire installation’s emotional nature gave us all a little lesson in doing more with less in our work and in our environment.”

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We Could All Use a Little More Chindogu, the Japanese Art of Useless Inventions

[ By SA Rogers in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

A little bit Dada, a little bit “only sold on television,” intentionally useless inventions called Chindogu look like a bunch of plastic junk at first glance, but there’s more to it than that. And they’re not quite altogether useless. In fact, as creator Kenji Kawakami stated when he first revealed Chindogu to the world in 1995, these objects are “un-useless.” They have a purpose, but they take their halfway practical solution to a perceived problem and stretch it to maximum absurdity. It’s all kind of dumb, and that’s the point.

Chindogu literally translates to “weird tool,” and that’s clearly what these inventions are. There’s a face shield so you don’t splatter ramen broth in your hair. A tiny broom and dustpan attached to the tips of your shoes let you clean the floor very awkwardly, getting the broom filthy as you walk through the city. A suction cup attached to a helmet holds you upright when you want to take a nap on the subway. Tiny roller skate wheels on the pointy heels of your stiletto shoes – but only the heels – could almost help you skate along the road. But not really.

Whatever the particular invention is trying to address, it does so in a way that introduces other problems, looks incredibly stupid, or both. But most of the time, the so-called “problem” isn’t a real problem at all.

“In our world, all technology is progressing, right?” says Kawakami. “So I thought why not take a simple fork and make it electric. Using this fork, with a single flick of the switch you can effortlessly wind up spaghetti. The only drawback is that the spaghetti sauce goes flying everywhere. So the end result is that it really is better not to use it. And that is what Chindogu means. It isn’t something that anyone would actually use, but it has to be a tool that a person could use.”

If all of this feels like a critique on consumer culture – or you’re just feeling a little ornery about the proliferation of crap on a planet that seems to be rapidly circling the drain – Kawakami has something to clarify about that. Kind of.

“I despise materialism and how everything is turned into a commodity, things that should be belong to everyone are patented and turned into private property. I’ve never registered a patent and I never will because the world of patents is dirty, full of greed and competition.”

Just browse any old listicle of “products that shouldn’t exist” and you’ll see plenty of wacky items that appear to be based on early Chindogu designs, but with no self-awareness or sense of irony. Ostrich pillows, goldfish walkers, metal-detecting sandals, gag gifts. But not only are these objects a little too useful at times, they fail to be Chindogu immediately simply because they’re available for sale, invalidating the entire purpose. They’re mass-produced and distributed. They’re almost always patented.

So what actually makes an object Chindogu? Kawakami has helpfully laid out ten vital tenets of Chindogu to explain. To summarize: Chindogu cannot be for sale; it must exist in the real world as a physical object; it must have a spirit of anarchy; it must be a tool for everyday life; it can’t be created purely for the purpose of humor; it must not be used as propaganda; it can never be taboo; it cannot be patented and it can never be prejudiced, i.e. “Chindogu must never favor one race or religion over another. Young and old, male and female, rich and poor – all should have free and equal chance to enjoy each and every Chindogu.”

Just like Chindogu objects themselves, Kawakami’s ‘Ten Chindogu Tenets’ contradict themselves a bit, but that just means any object that claims to be Chindogu has to be a lot more carefully thought out than it appears at first glance. For instance, that seventh tenet says in full, “Chindogu are not propaganda. Chindogu are innocent. They are made to be used, even though they cannot be used. They should not be created as a perverse or ironic comment on the sorry state of mankind.”

So yeah, they may be weird creations that look like junk – but what they actually are is a form of art (or perhaps anti-art) that begs you not to take it seriously. Back to that spirit of anarchy: “Chindogu are man-made objects that have broken free from the chains of usefulness. They represent freedom of thought and action: the freedom to challenge and suffocate historical dominance of conservative utility; the freedom to be (almost) useless.”

Eschewing the internet for the way it isolates people and threatens to make human interactions more superficial, Kawakami hasn’t released many more Chindogu creations of his own outside a series of books, including ‘101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindogu‘ and ‘The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions.

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Finally a necktie that makes sense! (dry clean only)

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CHIND?GU #1 Pillow hat for lazy days ?? for @hungermagazine Chind?gu (???) is the Japanese art of inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that, on the surface, seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem. However, chind?gu has a distinctive feature: anyone actually attempting to use one of these inventions would find that it causes so many new problems, or such significant social embarrassment, that effectively it has no utility whatsoever. PHOTOGRAPHER : @aleksandrakingo STYLIST : @natashakfreeman MODEL : @vita_kan MAKE UP : @erin_kristensen HAIR : @delphine_bonnet NAILS : @bangbangnails ART DIRECTOR : @gemfletcher SET DESIGN : @amy_friend SUPER AGENT : @angelawoodsagency CASTING : @bunterbear RETOUCHING : @studio.glossmarc

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But plenty of people have come to love Chindogu, and contributed to the movement with their own strange inventions. A look at the #chindogu tag on Instagram reveals a wealth of recent creations (and a lot of love for the concept.)

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Selfie arms! #chindogu #ontheblog today.

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In a our 24-hour news cycle era of looming climate change catastrophe, stranger-than-fiction political buffoonery and an ever-growing feeling that we’ve slipped into a parallel timeline, sometimes it’s nice to just embrace the absurd, revel in it, and maybe walk around with rolls of toilet paper attached to our heads.

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[ By SA Rogers in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

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Redesigners Pack Derelict Bridge Framework with New Condos & Rooftop Park

[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

A Swedish design studio aims to bring new functionality to a century-old bridge in Stockholm, fitting 50 residential units into the framework below while creating a pedestrian path and linear park on the paved thoroughfare above.

In many cases, new bridges are constructed while their predecessors remain active, so why not use the old adjacent one for something new instead of carefully dismantling it? That’s what Urban Nouveau asks (and answers).

“Gamla Lidingöbron is unique and its cultural historical value increases with time,” say the architects. “It is more resourceful to fix the existing structure than to create tonnes of garbage by demolishing it. The bridge contains public memory and is an important symbol for Stockholm.”

Selling the newly built and centrally located two-story homes (with wonderful views) would bring in the revenue required to renovate the structure for its new use over the next few years while the new bridge is constructed. These units would also take advantage of the existing truss system holding up the bridge structure, requiring less energy and effort to build in the first place.

Getting this idea to go viral could, as it did with the High Line in NYC, help it become a reality. “Rather than conservation, this project is about restoring and developing a historic structure as a way to save it from demolition. After publishing our proposal in local media we received mostly positive comments from the local community. A public debate has started. With global support we will bring this project to reality.”

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Sliced and Folded: Modern White House Tumbles Down a Hill in Los Angeles

[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

Looking a bit like an architectural Transformer in the middle of taking on a new form, this Highland Park home by the firm Urban Operations takes a highly structured, geometric approach to occupying a hillside. There are no organic forms or curves following the contours of the land; rather, the house seems to exist in tension with the topography that surrounds it, as if it’s ready to fold into a different shape altogether in the event of a landslide or earthquake.

The 2,400-square-foot house features three volumes that step from the top of the hill to its base. Stuccoed white planes seem to fold, expand, retract and crack open to reveal peeks at a dark gray volume underneath, creating an illusion of potential movement. Angled cutaways reveal rooftop decks, terraces, stairwells and entranceways.

The architects dug into the hillside at 4752 East Baltimore Street to partially embed the new house, giving it an anchor. They based the roof deck on villas designed by Le Corbusier, giving the residents views of Griffith Park in the foreground and the San Gabriel Mountains in the background.

“The design marries strategic hillside engineering with a series of stepped programmatic volumes, which are then sliced and folded at various code-generated orientations in order to produce a unified holistic design,” they explain.

The three-bedroom, 3-bath house is now up for sale by Urban Operations architect John Southern for $1.3 million.

“The exquisite hillside modern places you in prime Highland Park with sweeping views and effortless urban access. Stepping gracefully up sloping topography, the spacious home presents a dramatic profile designed around the concepts of open flow and seamless integration with the outdoors. Custom wood and tile craftwork are abundant; the kitchen is outfitted with a center island, waterfall quartz countertops and a pro-grade appliance suite. Strategically located light-wells flood the home with sunlight. Second-level bedrooms access decks and an at-grade patio which transitions into a yard landscaped with native species”

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Exhibits On The Beach: Sculpture By The Sea Makes Waves

[ By Steve in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

‘Sculpture by the Sea’ returns to Sydney‘s beautiful Bondi Beach, featuring awesome open-air art exhibits by over 130 artists from 21 countries.

Now celebrating its 22nd year on the brilliant white sands of Bondi Beach, “Sculpture by the Sea” still has the power to bemuse, bewilder and beguile beach-goers Down Under.

It’s not just that some of the exhibits are larger than life. Pieces like “Cool Shit” (above) by notorious and provocative modern artist Damian Hirst are guaranteed to trigger a wide range of emotions that may differ between individuals – even between different viewings.

Art of the Surreal

Sculpture by the Sea began as a volunteer initiative in 1997 and over the years has grown to a three-week event drawing large and appreciative crowds to beautiful Bondi Beach. Remaining true to its roots, Sculpture by the Sea is a not-for-profit organization though it does receive just under 20% of its revenue via government funding.

That’s Just How He Rolls

The event’s popularity has surged over its 22-year run and not only visitors are impressed – artists from beyond Australia have taken notice. This year, the roughly 70 participating Australian sculptors have been joined by eight Chinese artists from Beijing’s prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts. One of the Chinese contingent’s more er, notorious exhibits is “Bank” (above), by Mu Boyan. Does this beach backdrop make me look fat?

Wheel Be Seeing You

Flickr member Ian Sanderson (iansand) visited Sydney in October of 2018 and came back with a wealth of brilliant photos, and probably a lousy t-shirt to boot. Sanderson’s images of Sculpture by the Sea, posted under an international Creative Commons license, benefit from the famously clear and sunny weather of a typical New South Wales spring. Weather of not, though, artist Cao Hui’s sculpture titled “A Bicycle Covered by Snow” was designed to be cool no matter how hot it got.

Oh Say Cairn You See

Italian-Australian artist Alessandra Rossi created “Cairn” as an homage to ancient megalithic sites found worldwide which evoke a certain common humanity displayed by our species dating back to prehistoric times. “The abstraction and simplification of form contains the light and colors of the landscape in which it is placed,” explains Rossi, “exposing the hidden and the imaginary, in a balancing act between fragility and impermanence.”

Layers Not Lawyers

The 2018 edition of Sculpture by the Sea ends today (November 4th) so consider yourself lucky if you’ve been able to enjoy the many sculptures spread along over a mile of Bondi Beach’s exquisite white sand coastline. Besides the artworks themselves, the event featured guided tours, free artist talks, an indoor sculpture exhibition in case of inclement weather, and last but not least a “sculpture conference” at the Sydney Opera House. The somewhat disturbingly organic sculpture above, by the way, is “Layers” by artist Charlie Trivers.

Making Great Strides

Artists who participate in Sculpture by the Sea do so for a variety of reasons, one being the Aqualand Sculpture Award presented to the “winner” near the end of the event. As art’s appeal varies depending on the beholder, who can really state which artwork is best? Nevertheless, every year one artist walks off with a cash prize of A$70,000 (just over $50,000) while their sculpture is gifted to the Harbour Trust and displayed permanently at George Head in Headland Park. Wei Wang’s “Walking” (above) won’t step up to claim the prize but the artist (and his sculpture) can still stand tall regardless.

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Architect Ordered to Demolish New Award-Winning Apartment Building in London

[ By WebUrbanist in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

Normally, a new structure is safe from the wrecking ball so long as it is structurally sound, but not so with 15 Clerkenwell Close, a housing block that is at issue for reasons of appearance rather than engineering (and despite recently winning an RIBA award). Designed by architect Amin Taha, the six-story facade features raw quarried limestone stone (with exposed fossils) that the Islington Council argues was not adequately represented in planning documents, and therefore never properly approved. Taha also lives in the threatened building.

But there may be more to the story: Taha believes the decision to demolish was led by the planning committee chair not for failure to disclose but rather a personal dislike for the building’s unusual visual expression. He says it is “entirely on the initial opinion of the councillor and a handful of neighbours” and that it “has now escalated from an error in not uploading the stone approval – so that it was evident for anyone who cared to look – to the mistaken first demolition notice, to the now face-saving second notice entirely driven by someone’s opinion that it’s ugly.”

“After an investigation, the council has come to the view that the building at 15 Clerkenwell Close does not reflect the building that was granted planning permission and conservation area consent in 2013,” an Islington Council spokesperson said. “In the council’s view, the existing building does not benefit from planning permission, and the council issued an enforcement notice” earlier this year.

The building has drawn both praise and criticism, having been nominated for the Carbuncle Cup (a “worst building” award in the UK) while also being nominated for other more positive awards. But there’s a deeper question at work here: how much say should communities have in the appearance of new structures around them? Aesthetic-based choices made by citizens can result in truly powerful architecture never seeing the light of day, or in this case: being threatened with destruction despite being perfectly functional. In the end, too, if the building facade is deemed by the council to be too offensive to stand, why not simply demand that it be reworked into some kind of compromise? (images by Timothy Soar)

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