Ground Condition #14

Concrete follies, sofa shopping, and reality TV

Well hello. How are we feeling, folks!!! Fully vaccinated? Recently returned from a desert quest? Socializing at the nearest backyard bonfire? Planning work travel to cities one used to live in? Fantasizing about an occasion to once again wear real shoes? I’ve been doing all the above, plus swapping out the standard-issue lights in the house we moved into last fall, vintage furniture shopping IRL, and popping into jaw-dropping Bay Area modern homes. A glimpse:

One of three concrete pavilions designed by Arata Isozaki, commissioned for a piece of private land outside of Joshua Tree.
(L) Folk weaving from Poland repurposed as a rug, scouted at the newly reopened Alameda flea market. (R) Inquiring minds want to know: Will she ever decide on an upholstery fabric for the banquette in her kitchen???
Tragically not my house. This is the Northern California home of Charles de Lisle and Ralph Dennis, both designers. As if you weren’t jealous enough, they found this house on Craigslist.


  • Conspiracy theories, but make it architecture. (Seriously, this piece by Zach Mortice on the “Tartarian Empire” is full-tilt insane and I loved every word of it.)

  • My work wife’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago, so this in her honor.

  • Ceramist Helen Levi designed a collection of drawer pulls for Pretty Pegs.

  • Egg Collective’s third Designing Women exhibition is up all month in their Tribeca showroom. “Mother” is an exploration of craft, trailblazing, struggle, and critical success, featuring work by the likes of Eva Zeisel, Gae Aulenti, Faith Ringgold, Maria Pergay, Kai Avent-deLeon, and Lucia DeRespinis.

  • Food52 bought Dansk (!) and my friend Christine Muhlke will be digging into the archives to reissue some of the many vintage treasures.

  • Speaking of reissues, Herman Miller’s “Chiclet” modular sofas are BACK, baby, and I had the pleasure of interviewing the designer, Ray Wilkes. (I will not be “speaking of” any other design acquisition announcements, thank youuuu.)

  • Feel free to ask me anything about architect couple Alfred and Jane West Clauss, however.

  • Cheap tricks, contd.: The dumbest, most inconsequential thing that has vastly improved this trudge through late-pandemic ennui is none other than a $20 milk frother.


My friend Arielle Assouline-Lichten was one of seven designers selected to compete in the Ellen Degeneres-produced reality show that’s currently airing on HBO Max. Arielle doesn’t need me to brag because she’s been killing it. She’s an architect by training and therefore rigorous as hell—everything she designs under her studio moniker, Slash Objects, is meticulous, and the judges have been eating it up.

Quick story: Not too many years ago, Arielle and I went to the AIA National conference in Philadelphia to see Denise Scott Brown receive her gold medal. I’d been writing about architecture for a few years, and was at the time the EIC of Curbed. Arielle, already an architect running her own studio, had quite the DSB history: She co-founded the group at Harvard GSD that famously petitioned to award Scott Brown a belated Pritzker Prize.

Arielle and I had just watched DSB give a warm speech to a crowd of friends in the Furness library at UPenn which followed the public ceremony. (Sample line: “When the glass ceiling hits you, you will think it is your fault, unless you know a bit about feminism, and it will destroy you.”) We were feeling awesome! So inspired! We mingled, and ended up in a group of good-old-boy architects who, I gathered, had worked at Venturi Scott Brown in the early days of their careers. After about ten minutes of reminiscing, one of them turned to us and asked, in all seriousness, “And who are you? Someone’s daughters?”

…And while half the world is technically “someone’s daughter,” I don’t think that’s what he meant. It was a small insult, but it makes me laugh every time I remember it, because he had no idea who he was dealing with.


This year, I’ll be serving on the jury for Docomomo’s Modernism in America awards. I am extremely pleased to be in the company of Marcel Quimby, FAIA; Michael K. Chen, AIA; Gina Ford, FASLA; and John T. Reddick.

Docomomo is an essential source for awareness and advocacy around preserving midcentury buildings in America—most recently, they alerted me to this travesty. Recognizing quality work at every scale, in every possible location in the US, is key to making sure that more good buildings don’t get razed for surface parking. I know a lot of you reading this newsletter have projects to submit—don’t sleep on it! The deadline is June 2.

Take care out there,