Here, there, everywhere. We have to call it something, don't we? Who's got an idea? Let's call it Toponymy.
I have to link to this great website about Green Building. It's called Architecture 2030 and it outlines the case and the path toward more sustainable building practices. I've never seen these ideas presented in such a visually compelling way.
I also found the Ecological Design Institute today. They've got a good range of projects and resources. Their book list and 5 principles of design are well done.
On a lighter note Metropolis Magazine has a feature on aerial photographer Olivo Barbieri. He uses a tilt-shift lens in a helicopter to create images that look strangely similar to model mock-ups of famous places (especially the photos from Las Vegas, the phony facades must come through even clearer somehow). It's definately worth a look.
I just happened on the term Anti-Pattern on the Wikipedia. This was after another venture into the whole department of Future Studies (which I find extremely interesting). On the link above you'll find a whole bevy of named anti-patterns in computer programming, organizations, and social trends. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Gas factory: An unnecessarily complex design
- Reinventing the square wheel: Creating a poor solution when a good one exists
- Big ball of mud: A system with no recognisable structure
- Creeping featurism: Adding new features to the detriment of the quality of a system
- Design by committee: The result of having many contributors to a design, but no unifying vision
- Escalation of commitment: Failing to revoke a decision when it proves wrong
- Mushroom management: Keeping employees uninformed and abused
While most people who know about anti-patterns know them through the lens of computer programming - it is really a universal concept that can be applied to any rational task. Architecture, Planning, and Design can experience anti-patterns.
One such anti-pattern can be found in the modernist visions for public housing. The not-so-bizzare twist to this is that it happened on both sides of the Cold War. Both failed. Cabrini Green in Chicago is one notorious example of a housing project - while in East Berlin "100,000 apartments were produced using one particular model, the apartment construction series 70." Now, both are undergoing massive reformatting. The concrete slabs of Berlin are now used like lego bricks for new construction, and Cabrini Green was torn down to make way for "mixed income" neighborhoods.
Oftentimes it seems like the design/planning community likes to point out the "best practices" that are ongoing as trends to follow. And I think that's a good practice to keep. For instance, AIA just released the eight winners of the "Regional and Urban Design Honor" award. However, sometimes it feels as though the projects that collapse are too quickly forgotten about. There are exceptions where people have stopped to analyze what went wrong and find out how a good idea with some support fizzled out. One example is the Seattle Monorail. More dramatically, some landscape features are the direct result of an intention to be aggressive or defensive. Such is the case with Ariel Sharon's legacy in Isreal and Palestine. (I plan to write on this more later.) Other landscapes are the result of neglect and catastrophe, another kind of anti-pattern.
Perhaps it would be a good task to identify and classify development and design anti-patterns in the landscape. Some have attempted to classify the landscapes that are on the ground, but has anybody dared to examine the organizational patterns that lead to them?
While I completely and freely admit my ignorance of Zoroastrianism I am really very impressed by their temples. The concept behind the Fire Temples (also called Fire Cathedrals, Dar-e Mihr, or Atash Kadeh) is that the ancient fires that so influenced the early religion are preserved and revered in sacred spaces. The fires also were critical parts of ancient legends and the development of heroic figures throughout Persia. (Luckily, for me, there's a comic-book version of one of these legends in English.) Unfortunately I'll never be able to visit one since non-Zoroastrians are not allowed into the Agiary.
The only parallel I can picture in North America is the Eternal Flame for JFK. Although there are apparently other fire-related monuments for 9/11 and whatnot, I would guess that JFK's is the only one that is nationally and perhaps internationally known. So it brings me to this: when does a culture decide to use fire to commemorate somebody or an event? What is the secret thread here that leads us to this insight. I can't yet grasp it but I think fire is one of the serious boundary-crossing mechanism that can break, and nurture every human on this planet. It is a force unlike gravity, erosion, or biology - it is pure chemistry that is essential to human survival. Thus Prometheus. (Long story short: P. makes people in the image of the gods, steals fire from gods to keep humans alive, tells them to cook up a bull as a way of commerating the event.)
What of the fires that have torn apart Oklahoma and other parts of the American South. Fire's can be thought of in two ways: as an end and as a beginning. Fire can be tragic and deadly but warm and nurturing - there must be a cultural or psychological divide somewhere here because humanity cannot go on without fire, yet it is so often used as a weapon. We are constantly barraged with images of fire's destructive power, but it can also be harnessed to do amazing and comforting things.
Image notes: 1 I consider nuclear power the modern chemical equivelant to the antiquated use of fire for war - they are both truly chemical processes that parallel. Both are natural and all around us. Radioactive energy, however, has only recently been discovered and harnessed unlike fire. 2 The Black and White picture is of FDR in front of a fireplace. I tried to find one where he was giving his "fireside chat" that also included a fire, but that didn't pan out.
Could the future of urban transportation look like this? Stackable Cars? The movement toward chopping down the clumbsy infrastructure of the automobile dominance has taken another step forward. According to the article, "a new MIT car is borne of a complete rethink of people's relationship with their cars in the ever-expanding cities of the future."
Sure, it's just a concept now. Just like so many programs and comanies that are actively reducing the burdens of automobile ownership. Carpool lanes (HOV), Bus lanes, Time-Sharing Companies, Smart Cars and Hybrids are all part of this megatrend. The long-term ideal is to make transportation easy, clean, and efficient. Stackable Cars and Segways are highly technological approaches that might answer some of the key spaital problems associated with "traditional driving."
For some, city driving is a nightmare, and understandably so. Taking a GMC Yukon or a Ford F350 through the hills of SanFrancisco or Chicago' Lower Wacker Drive could be terrifying. This is in essence a scale problem: vehicles should fit the scale of the place and purpose of their trips. This is where devices like Stackable Cars and Segways get fascinating. Their manueverability can adapt to the demands of a densely urban landscape. For instance,
The MIT concept car is a complete re-think of vehicle technology. For a start, there is no engine, at least in the traditional sense. The power comes from devices called wheel robots. "These are self-contained wheel units that have electric motors inside," says Mr Chin. "The interesting thing is that the wheel can turn a full 360 degrees so you can have omni-directional wheel movements. You can rotate the car while you're moving, any direction can be front or back and you can do things like crabbing or translate sideways. It's almost like you imagine yourself driving a computer chair."Now that would be cool.
To call these
twelve, I mean ten steps some kind of break-through for the business community would be melodramatic. The truth about the corporate-culture and business practices of Wal-Mart has been obvious for a while now. In Part One of Hanft's piece for Fast Company there are two unique suggestions:
2. Fire your consultants. ... Now, you've over-corrected in a really scary way, and have gone out and hired a rogue's gallery of spinmeisters who've worked for Reagan, Clinton, Kerry, and Bush. Is that something to be proud of? These are the people who have thrown gasoline on our obscene culture of partisanship and demonization of the "enemy."
3. Leverage your size to help your 1.6 million employees in unexpected ways. The public views you as resisting health insurance benefits because you are cheap and evil. Turn that around. Imagine the radical impact you could have on the marketplace and your brand optics if you focused your ruthless cost-cutting skills on HMOs, forcing them to crumble under the same margin pressure that you so regularly exert on vendors.Then in Part Two he goes on to mention a few more (and one that I disagree with completely).
7. Stop treating your employees like commodities. No one thinks of Wal-Mart as a place to get a first or a second job, stay on, and build a career. You've got to change that.
10. Lastly, you've announced you're running a big holiday TV campaign, using celebrities for the first time -- names that include Garth Brooks, Queen Latifah, and Destiny's Child. That timing really makes a lot of sense. Kill it. You can't afford health care benefits but you can afford to pay over-priced celebrities to dance around the TV screen? Celebrity advertising has lost its luster anyway, and does anyone really believe that these chauffered millionaires actually shop at Wal-Mart?I'm glad he (and hopefully a large segment of the American population) has recognized that Wal-Mart is not only a nasty example of how a company can operate but an entirely phony enterprise that can barely hide its disdain for working-class people.
The one problem I find with Hanft's piece is his Sixth suggestion "Expand your vendor base." This would defeat Wal-Mart's key ingredient: aggressiveness and directly impede two other suggestions he made in this piece (one I mentioned above about leveraging against HMOs and another I didn't about preserving small town business by allowing niche market competition) . The retailer's aggressive tactics are perfectly suited to other non-descript giant manufacturing firms. First, Wal-Mart must change its ways, then perhaps small-scale manufacturers would be interested in selling at Wal-Mart. The most critical way Wal-Mart must signal this change is to demonstrate (not with actors) that the wealth that passes through each Wal-Mart clearly benefits the surrounding community and the people who work there.
These are basic demands.The US retail market is currently at a crossroads: the continued reign of Wal-Mart's approach can be accepted as a necessary sacrifice or it can turn toward alternative approaches that reward work and talent; respect existing communities; cooperate with vendors; and ultimately value human life. This is not a choice that the executives at Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, and dozens of other firms will sit down and ponder about. It's one that every "consumer" can act on. Every time a person decides that he or she WILL shop somewhere this alternative approach is used - the board rooms hear it. Call it a Trickle-Up theory: the force of hundreds of thousands of hands carrying merchandise out of smaller, more thoughtful establishments throughout the country might be enough to move the Wal-Mountain.
As most of you know I'm now done with my Bachelors degree in Urban Planning. Considering that I might find myself with more time to contemplate issues that I find interesting I'll probably also have more time to update this website. So, here's the first post-MSU posting.
The East German 'Palace of the Republic' is a controversial landmark located on East Berlin's Museum Island. The deterorating building is a hairsbreadth from demolition at the hands of those who believe the concrete, steel, and glass building is wildly out of place in a "proper" European capital.
I couldn't disagree more. While the building is an eyesore to those seeking classical elegance, it is an undeniable part of Berlin's striking history. If the facility were cleaned up a bit and landscaped to conform to its surroundings (a herculean task in such a spatially dysfunctional city) it could become a new kind of landmark - one that honestly portrays an important part of the late 20th century.
According to the NY Times, "The Palace is ugliest when approached from the west along Unter der Linden." - thus the entire building was an intentional political statement at a critical junction of East-West politics. Read the rest of the NY Times article, here.