% E .
S Th Mihign Dily -* ensdy Deme 6. 2006
Terms of endearment
It's Over Your Head j Architecture Column
By A st [ DinwaiI
Wednesday, December 6, 2006 -The Michigan Daily 3B
name is more than just an identity,
and a nickname is more than just
a name. Take the Biomedical Sci-
ence Research Building, for example. The
building's metallic auditorium that sits apart
from its curved, glass fagade is now lovingly
known as "The Pringle." Before becoming
The Pringle, this uniquely shaped structure
was called the BSRB's "300-seat auditorium"
and desperately needed its own identity. It
was only a matter of time before someone
realized the roof's double-curved geometry
resembles the tasty snack so addictive that
"once you pop, you can't stop." Hence, a nick-
name was born.
Nicknames can be endearing or sarcastic,
especially when derived from appearance. In
high school, I had a friend who we dubbed
"Grimace" in honor of the purple McDon-
ald's character who seems mildly retarded.
We meant no harm, except to say that our
dear friend happened to take the shape of
a pear that hopped around like Barney the
dinosaur. Coming from us, he understood it
was a name of affection.
The best childhood nicknames endure the
test of time. There's the mother who cries
when her "monkey face" finally weds, or the
brother who calls his teenage sister "poopy
pants" as she heads toward the prom.
Buildings also have nicknames that are
based on visual metaphors. This is not a new
concept. Architecture has been down this
road before, especially during postmod-
ernism, when everything boiled down to
the critical abstraction of communication.
In the 1970s, the recognition of building
as imagery was a big step in itself. Charles
Jencks, author of "The Language of Post-
Modern Architecture," describes how cul-
tural metaphors unwittingly proliferate in
the built world. He tells of how the famous-
ly shelled Sydney Opera House was once
caricaturized as "turtles making love." One
postmodern reaction to the metaphor was
identification and exacerbation through
exploitation, but the field has since moved
beyond such notions.
No longer focused on the message, archi-
tecture is currently dominated by form and
experience. Architects are not trying to
make their structures resemble objects, but
as building technologies further diminish
the limitations of form, buildings are becom-
ing more amorphous. Look to Ghery's archi-
tecture for proof. Within these crazy curves
lie shapes that conjure up the imagination.
The new wave of visual metaphors is unin-
tentional and therefore more important.
When architects mean to design meta-
phorical buildings, their success lies in
whether the message carries through to the
public. Steven Holl's Simmons Hall at MIT
was a design based on the properties of a
sponge. The dorm looks like a sponge, so it
works. When, on the other hand, buildings
are shaped by function, visual nicknames
provide feedback to the architect.
In London, this playful use of naming
iconic structures is becoming the fashion.
The cone-shaped, glass Swiss Re Tower was
designed for reducing wind turbulence, but
it's commonly called the "Gherkin" for its
pickle-shape, or the "Crystal Phallus" for
f. .a y
Three things you can talk about this week:
1. Colonizing the moon
3. Splitting egg rolls
And three things you can't:
2. Glendale, Ariz.
3. Rip Torn
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
Danny is a grown man.
I know not to drink
too much ... because it
is really strong. Danny
kept going after I was
done. He clearly got more
hammered than I did."
- Actor GEORGE CLOONEY on friend Danny
DeVito's drunken appearance on "The View"
last week, during which hecailed President
Bush "numbnuts." Despite a minor batklash,
Clooney said DeVito "made me laugh until I
cried when I watched him."
"I don't care about what
might be politically correct
and what's not. I want to live
- MURRAY BADER, a Manhattan resident,
on New York City's decision to ban trans fats at
restaurants, as reported yesterday by
The Associated Press.
"It's hard to look them in the
eye. Heck, we're still not over it.
You never get over it."
- Auburn coach TOMMY TUBERVILLE on his
team's snub to play for a BCS Championship title two
seasons ago, as reported Monday by ESPN.com.
e Bentley Historical Libr
The Ypsilanti water tower is often noted for its phallic appearance.
other obvious reasons. London's City Hall
was built to maximize energy efficiency but
looks like a "Misshapen Egg," or as the mayor
called it, a "Glass Testicle." Lord Norman
Foster, designer of both, has probably accept-
ed these nicknames as good-natured but will
probably think twice before he makes his
next building look like a piece of male anato-
my. Other London examples include Leaden
Hall, or "The Cheese Grater," and Bishopgate
Tower, otherwise referred to as "Helter Skel-
Nicknames can even tell a story or make a
change. Ypsilanti's mushroom-shaped water
tower enlightens the visitor that Eastern
Michigan University is full of dickheads.
VSBA's bright yellow "Halo" around the Big
House in 1999 was a nickname that discred-
ited a design that ultimately perished. Ann
Arbor's City Hall is an upside-down layer
cake: a biting critique on local politics?
We need more architectural nicknames
that inform designers what they are actually
creating. To clarify, I am not talking about
buildings that espouse symbolic tags like the
World Trade Center's Freedom Tower that
purports to pierce to the clouds. Nor am I
speaking of nicknames that merely involve
clever wordplay, like the shortening of the
Duderstadt Center to "the Dude," the com-
bining of Mosher Jordan into "MoJo," or the
pronouncing of acronyms like the "UGLi."
Strictly speaking, I wish to focus on architec-
ture that reminds us of an object based solely
on its appearance. For example, the Pringle's
roof looks like a friggin' Pringle.
University students, we need more visual
nicknames on our campus. Relying on "the
Fishbowl" will not cut it. A friend recently
told me that the new Public Policy build-
ing reminds him of "Gotham City." That is
a vivid image that entertains me every day
as I walk by. I would like to know if others
have concocted creative monikers that might
Architects should know how their eternal
quest for a perfect form appears to the lay-
person. Designers can provide the structure
while the public provides the name. Besides,
nicknames are just plain fun.
Carrying a tin of marijuana that
looks like a box of cookies from
Grandma, stockbroker Irv Rosen-
feld speaks in front of the State
House Committee on Government
Operations in favor of medical mari-
Rosenfeld says he has smoked 10
to 12 joints aday for 35yearswith no
harmful effects to his health.
Rosenfeld, who has suffered from
a bone disease since childhood,
receives 11 ounces of marijuana
from the government each month
as part of a now-canceled medical
Halfway through the video,
Rosenfeld seems to brag he can use
cannabis while an elderly, wheel-
chair-bound woman behind him
can't: "I'm a federal patient. I'm
using marijuana. I'm legal," Rosen-
feld says. "But that woman? I don't
know - she's a criminal. She should
be locked up and put behind bars."
To watch the full video, log onto
YouTube.com with the username
and password michigandaily and
check the favorites section.
BY TH E NUMBERS
Number of Taco Bell locations that were temporarily closed this week
as a precaution against E. coli contamination.
Approximate number of Taco Bells in the nation.
TREND OF THE WEEK
Comparing Nathan Lane's acting with the set
designs of Ming Cho Lee.
RANDOM WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE
OF THE WEEK
Cambodian Midget Fighting League
The Cambodian Midget Fighting League (or CMFL) is the premise
of an Internet hoax that was widely circulated around the Internet
beginning in May 2005. A fake BBC news article was created for the
purposes of a prank within the author's group of friends, although it
leaked out to the general Internet.
The hoax was particularly significant as the article was taken on
face value by a good deal of British newspapers and magazines. Some
newspapers referred to the incident as a tragedy, but - interestingly
- some magazines, notably "lad's mag" FHM, reported it as news, but
did so from a humorous angle. Whether wittingly or not, the hoaxers
drew attention to the callous nature of the British press.
The article reported a tragedy at a midget-versus-lion fight in Cam-
bodia. A fan of the Cambodian Midget Fighting League challenged the
league's president in response to a recent league advertising campaign
that the midgets will "take on anything - man, beast, or machine."
The fan claimed one lion could defeat the entire league of 42 midget
fighters. Accepting the challenge, an African lion was flown to Kam-
pong Chhnang especially for the event.
Number of patrons who were reportedly infected by E. coli in
ground beef at a California Taco Bell location in 1999.
SHUBR OH RI/Daily
Angell Hall's Fishbowl is one of few spots on campus that students have given a widely known name.
Source: The New York Times