A hybrid Culture


a full year

I've been on a long hiatus - posting to resume soon under an evolved viewpoint.



It's hard to believe that Dubai used to be a desert outpost. This promotional video gets into the guts of what these crazy bastards are doing, and the ideas behind some of the more popular destinations being marketed to....well, the rich, of course.



Architecture is becoming extinct as a service profession. More and more, clients are eschewing architecture for more off the shelf product, often induced by builders and developers, who REALLY control design, except for the fortunate few. The process of the profession is slow and not agile. Most of our time is spent documenting our projects in two dimensions. And when we're finished with that, we watch as contractors, subcontractors, clients, and city authorities tear our drawings apart, withering what creativity we've infused into the design with multiple constraints. In a nutshell, we don't have that much control over architecture, that art or craft or whatever it's now called.

The light at the end of the tunnel? technology and business savvy.



Climate change is obviously on everyone's mind these days. Designers and architects have been jumping wholeheartedly on to the sustainability bandwagon - and for good cause. It is essential, however, that politicians begin to understand the importance of this issue, because at the end of the day, the world we live in is a political one. Business deals, planning decisions, and urban management are all subject to political review. Nothing is exempt.

Enter Al Gore. The piece in Time is a very well written, provocative look into Gore's forthcoming book, The Assault on Reason, as well as a timely discussion of his metamorphosis into something beyond politics, beyond the presidency. Because at the end of the day, he's more powerful as a private citizen than as any bureaucrat.

"What would President Gore do? Well, on Capitol Hill in March, Citizen Gore offered his ideas. He advocates an immediate freeze on CO2 emissions and a campaign of sharp reductions—90% by 2050. To get there, he would eliminate the payroll tax and replace it with a carbon tax, so the cost of pollution is finally priced into the market. "I understand this is considered politically impossible," he told the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "But part of our task is to expand the limits of what's possible." He would adopt a cap-and-trade program that would allow U.S. industry to meet reduction targets in part by trading pollution credits. Critics often dismiss carbon offsets as the green equivalent of religious indulgences, but in fact they stimulate the market—moving entrepreneurs to find dirty plants, clean them up and sell the CO2 reductions. Gore also wants a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants that don't capture and store their carbon emissions and much higher fuel-economy standards for cars. After Gore presented these views on Capitol Hill, critics assailed them as costly, unworkable economy cripplers. His reply: in a few years, when the crisis worsens, these proposals "will seem so minor compared to the things people will be demanding then." And, of course, he's not running for anything these days. He's in the vision business now."



A month or so without writing about a Rem Koolhaas siting is a month lost, in my opinion. But alas, as I was doing the morning walk around the web, I confronted this little diddy. I love the idea of architecture and architects branching out to the many other design disciplines, carrying the creative spirit over and beyond one's comfort zone. This, however, seems odd considering Koolhaas' fixation on re-imagining skyscrapers, or examining the potential of future urban experiences embodied within modern shanty towns and squatter settlements.


new (sino)urbanism

Unveiling the new city of Dongtan, straight out of the ground. And green. Well worth the read:

"Dongtan breaks ground later this year on a plot about the size of Manhattan on Chongming Island. The first condos and commercial space will hit the market by 2010, around the time a 12-mile bridge and tunnel combo and subway extension will link the city to Shanghai's new international airport (45 minutes away) and financial district (30 minutes). By 2050, Dongtan will have a half-million residents, more than Miami or Atlanta today."



With today's topics centered on sustainable cities and their ancient counterparts, as seen in previous post, I've found an example of a truly unique, seemingly organic growth of a building complex by Moshe Sofdie in Montreal. The cellular division create many different spaces above, below, beside, etc. It also hearkens to modern prefabrication techniques.

"Safdie's dwelling complex 'Habitat' was designed to give 'privacy, fresh air, sunlight and suburban amenities in an urban location.' It was designed as a permanent settlement and consists of 158 dwellings, although originally it was intended to provide 1,000 units. The resulting ziggurat was made up of independent prefabricated boxes with fifteen different plan types."


Does anyone out there remember that martian sci-fil extravaganza starring the green governor himself? This article of an eco-city by Norman Foster conjures up images of that movie, for some odd, and fairly obvious reasons. Check it out. via archinect.

The scale of the project is rather daunting, considering building a city from scratch. One could question how sustainable a city really is if it is designed from scratch rather than organically grown over time, adjusting itself to climate and economic conditions, such as ancient Arabian towns and their related souks.



In New York it is fairly obvious that retail and restaurants are constantly worried about their images, where re-branding is becoming as common as waiting in line for a cup of coffee. The retail scene is as fickle as they come, as stores open and close in a constant domino effect of which-neighborhood-is-cooler. I don't know what the statistics are, nor do I care, but seen from the street, a store can be boarded up one day, selling merchandise the next (profiting over short term trends), then shutting its doors because that trend they were supporting, died off. To counter this annoying process, along comes Grand Opening, a refreshing take on retail that befittingly transforms itself every 3 months. On the website, "Now Storing: Pong," is announced as if the very idea of retail was actually a verb or an action.

Perhaps this is all a sign of things to come: Will we finally realize that design for dis assembly will be necessary in order to perform to market conditions? As is, the construction industry's methods are outdated and heavy. By heavy, I mean they are not conducive to change and manipulation like their counterparts in the aeronautical and automotive industries. Metal studs and dry wall are the heavy, non-malleable elements of choice, but why? Could these materials be replaced with prefabricated elements, or even materials that perform to an entropic point, then signaling to change? I think this little store on the Lower East Side of NYC can help us realize that designing for changing conditions can ensure shop keepers that they must be AGILE in the face of rapidly changing demographics in urban environments.



It most certainly is welcome in airplane design.

street art

I won't explain why streets are in my head right now, but this is a MUST SEE. French graffiti. If you like your latin to be more (South) American, check out this brother from Brazil.


streets part III

Interesting article to follow on the previous post: "Stopping to smell the roses" may be more poignant than ever.

streets part II

In New York, we walk everywhere. That or we take the train to a location where we exit the tube and go walk somewhere. It is one of the most appealing aspects to this city. If you're in a car, you'll miss the most fascinating people watching on the planet, you'll miss the vendors, the humanity. Its vaunted "edge" is because of it street life. Sure, there are many European cities that would balk at the above statements, and they would be quite correct. However, here in the states, we really haven't been able to figure out what streets mean to us over and beyond vehicles for vectorizing traffic, i.e. they are there for cars. I write this because of the well written (and quite long) piece over at bldgblog which gives a thoughtful rant about an event in LA entitled "Great Streets," in which, it seems, the whole idea of street as public realm sort of went over everyone's head. Well worth the read.