Dust to Dust

If you were listening to NPR this morning, you may have heard the piece on the surmounting dust storms of the American Southwest. Unfortunately, and to no surprise at all, humans are destroying a key layer of crust which protects us:

"Dust storms are largely the result of tires and hooves, which are destroying natural biological barriers that once kept dust on the ground."

In fact dust kills reefs in the Caribean while contributing to rapid snow melt in the Rockies. And it all leads back to us. Is the desert a place we should be inhabiting with our version of reality?

All this trauma compounds the fact that we continue to build outward. As the sprawl of Phoenix, AZ grows, it will engage Tucson, AZ, once a city almost 2 hours away. Remember the biosphere project? That sustainable eco-experiment in the early nineties? Well, all 1658 acres of it have been sold to Fairfield Homes of Tucson, which will, you guessed it, create more single family, stick built, energy eating, dust creating, sprawl.

A little research on Fairfield homes leads to a long list of environmental destruction.
"David Williamson, the Scottsdale Baby Boomer who owns Fairfield Homes, is fighting conservationists and residents who oppose his plan to build a city of suburban houses and strip malls on the 5,954-acre ranch."

Once a key migratory area for jaguars, the ranch will now become part of the Phoeno-Tucson Megaburb. Be afraid, be very afraid.



Over at archinect, a post on the current situation of certain airports in the world. Out of competitive advantage, select businesses have located themselves around the periphery. The catch phrase is aerotropolis, a city with airport as center, rings of business and support services radiating out from the center. A certain radiant city by Le Corbusier and/or Broadacre City by Frank Lloyd Wright come to mind with visions of utopian cities, built around and with new forms of transportation.

What I'm contemplating is the affect on the design profession. The idea of an aerotroplis opens up a virtual pandora's box of architecture, transportation design, housing, infrastructure, and business innovations waiting to be realized in the physical world. There are ideas already out there, attempting, rather successfully, to implement new visions of "personal" flying devices such as the jetpod.

We've all seen the sprawling highways and office parks extending from aiports. In some cases, such as at O'Hare International in Chicago, it can be nothing less than catasrophic to both the built and natural systems in place. I liken it to the suburbs. As residential real estate has evolved, with modern suburbs being located next to highways for instance, the same has happened. Natural and built systems are compromised for ease of highways usage. What methods worked and what didn't work? How do we handle energy needs?

What happens when we need a short landing pad instead of a driveway adjacent to our homes? What if "mini" airports take the place of driveways all together? If "mini" airports arise, how is housing re-fomulated? Cities such as Memphis , which is already making a splash as a cargo hub, could give us some interesting clues.

Spin Doctor

Interesting interview, interesting, man.

While I will not spin this into anything political, I can now understand why he got elected.



Via Archinect, now you can speak over-intellectualized archi-babble too!!!

Projecting at the Frontera Part 1

Estudio Teddy Cruz has been studying, documenting and projecting solutions on improving the situation along the border between San Diego and Tijuana for many years. I'd call his work high-design meets scavenger, where junk and the organic, shanty-like (good pix in this article)building culture of the Mexican border country meet the world of the American avante garde. His solutions are rich with the chemistry of two cultures, a hybrid of architectural techniques, yet they also provoke a wonderful criticism of the politics of the border. Very relevant at this time.

A selection from the post over at Archrecord.com:
"“Living Rooms at the Border”, is a mixed-use high-density 14,000-square-foot plan built around an old church. It will be transformed into a community center–including an office for Casa Familiar in the attic. There will also be 12 housing units, a community garden, and a central market. The second, for senior housing and child care, is connected by an alleyway and includes a semi-public lobby, a restaurant counter, and small private living spaces."

I think the above quote is rather poignant here. Would this mix of uses be absurd in the U.S.?


Interactive urinals

Gentlemen, I'm positive you've been in a bar or club and had to put up with the stench of some drink hooligan pissing everywhere except in the toilet. Now with the help of the interactive urinal, your pissing experiences will be nothing short of pleasurable. Just think, you can point and play a game at the same time!! So much fun, so much concentration!!! I would undoubtedly think that said drunkards will never miss the target again! Enjoy.

Sao Paolo Street Art

I'm at a loss for words here. Poetic, strange, relevant, fill in the blanks. I could use some of this on my walk to work, that's for sure. I can't seem to save any images off their server to tease you, so you'll have to trust me and check out the website.

Sent to me from a certain Brazilian fellow I know. Go through them all, you will not be disappointed.

Damn I need to get to Brazil, and not just for the graffiti.


North American Auto Show

This is a real crappy web interface, but plenty of pix of concepts as well as production vehicles. I am particularly fond of the efficiency of the Japanese firms.

Golf Anyone?

Just kidding. But can you argue with this photograph?

An article in today's New York Times discusses Andres Duaney's rebuttle to criticism of his Congress for New Urbanism, currently reaking havoc on the Gulf Coast. He seems to think the avante garde (or in his mind anyone that designs in a non-traditional style I might add) should only design "civic buildings" because there are no constraints. Are you kidding me, Andres? Maybe you and Prissy Alexander should get together and wrestle to see who really has the largest ego. ugh.


100 People 100 Apartments

Via Archinect, great photo blog of people in their tiny apartments in Hong Kong.

Sweden free by 2020

This just made my friggin day. Very cool indeed .

Thanks Joe

For those of you who drive

Green Car Congress is an informative website on emerging technologies, hybrid vehicles, etc.

Worth the visit. I've added it to the links section.


The age-old dilemma: Is beauty really in the eye of the beholder, or, as Mr. Alexander thinks, an objective reality.

The dangerous architect reveals his astounding ego in the new manifesto, going so far as to say that modern architects have "ruined" civilization, placing ego above organic building.

I must ask, then:
Seeing as this volume is so full of absolutes, who exactly has the largest ego?

Amusement Park Urbanism

Only in America can a city be hijacked like this: "MA Architecture Studios and Development Design Group, in partnership with Executive Home Builders, envisions "The Village" as an Old World European town. There will be Jerusalem limestone, Dolomite and Alicante marble from Spain as well as pilasters, domes, cobblestones and statues. The development will feel like an aging complex that has evolved organically over several hundred years."


Leisure Cities

I noted some interesting research about Chicago in a previous post, but after this past weekend, I'm compelled to keep up with the topic of the evolution of cities:

Joel Kotkin, Urban Theorist, in an article for SFGate.com , described the "ephemeral city" as,
"a kind of city that makes its living selling luxury services." He argues that San Francisco has lost its middle class due to rising land values and job exports, and that once a city of healthy fisheries, industry, and warehousing, it has become a leisure city, afforded by, and lived in by, wealthier types with multiple incomes. With a gorgeous natural setting, liberal politics, and hundreds of cool restaurants and shops, the city has become less a commercial hub than one large white collar neighborhood, with few exceptions.

With an immense interest in the evolution of cities, I've undertaken travel to 5 American cities surfing the new wave of urban renewal over the past year: Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle. Most recently, I was in Portland, a city
noted for its progessive urban design, and rightfully so. It is remarkably green, clean, and community oriented. Every neighborhood close-in to the downtown area is witnessing gentrification, and on top of its progressive policies, it is now becoming a city with good architecture, with blogs to boot.

Neighborhoods dangerous by any measure as recently as five years ago have been turned into lively Art Districts, with art this, that, and everything. In the three days I was there, I experienced at least a dozen absolutely wonderful new constructions and/or renovations of older buildings. However, even with all the eye candy, I missed the scent of the bygone Weinhard's Brewery in the middle of town, I missed the gritty port town.

I better watch what I wish for, but dirt and graffiti are good things. They provide layers to experience and understanding once found in abundance, now few and far between.

In the spirit of Projective Architecture, I'd like to think that Portland could make itself into a research hub for urban design, giving the city some substance to go along with its stylish appearance. OHSU is a world-reknowned research facility on the edge of town, and seemingly a good starting point. Having a satellite Architecture program of the University of Oregon already in place, I'd like to see money granted to lure theorists such as Kotkin, and project solutions into creating a hybrid blue and white collar city, call it a "sky blue" city. Blue collar types could feel comfortable living and working within the city, finding a way to coexist with creative types, instead of retreating to outward suburbia.

More later.


Micro Architecture

Kinetic Architecture at MIT


A while back, two colleagues and myself traveled to Ciudad Juarez on the Mexican border with El Paso, TX. We went down to immerse ourselves in studying the city for an international border crossing, contemplating politics, economics and social structures of the maquiladora assembly faciltities. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is immensely helpful to American companies who can manufacture parts here and have them assembled down in Mexico for bottom-feeder prices. They then ship the product back up to border areas and store them until they're shipped to American consumers at marked-up prices. Who wins? American Corporations. Who loses? Mexicans working for nothing, made to believe their lives have been eradicated of any potential poverty.

But, though all this exists as the "normal" workings of capitalism, G.W. still insists on his own way.

See some interesting pictorial observations here. And if you want even more stories, drop me a line.


Pre Fab

This competition is a start for innovation within prefab housing. Getting away from the shipping container #$%^ that's proliferated for a while, these designs are getting closer to a hybrid of architecture and industrial design. Architecture product.


Because of my interest in network theory, I am conistently being led to Chicago. What grew as a railroad hub, the city with big shoulders has consistently re-invented itself as a hub. Railroads have been replaced by O'hare international, one of the busiest airports in the world, but far more interesting is the fact that Chicago has positioned itself as a global (think: much bigger than continental) hub for information techonology business.

Re-inventing cities with arts and culture and such has been the M.O. of the post-dot-com world, aided by Richard Florida's bogus claims of "cool" factors in cities. His "Creative Class" musings are aiding-and-abetting the crime of extreme real estate costs. Think what you will about his theories, but I find them shallow.

On the other hand, Chicago has completely circumvented this easy way out by investment in telecommunications infrastructure, positioning itself as both a cultural as well as businss mecca of the new millenieum. So, when other cities, such as Seattle and San Francisco invest heavily in gentrification without business-oriented solutions, they may lose their pizaazz after the trend dies down. Chicago will move forward with a plan which also includes an avante garde green strategy, making it powerful politically, economically, and culturally. Good work King Daley.


Amusement Park Tourism

Vertigo: Complete with cafe, and judging from the enclosed structure, maybe even souvenirs, you now get to experience an amusement park without paying admission.. And it's only the beginning. Read on. Via Popular Science.

Cliff-HangerWant a more thrilling view of the Grand Canyon? Take a stroll over the all-glass Skywalk, and you can hover above it.

Step out onto the new Skywalk, and only a few sheets of glass will stand between you and a 15-second free-fall to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Set to open late this year, this horseshoe-shaped footbridge (commissioned by the Hualapai Indian tribe, which owns the land) will jut 65 feet from the cliff edge and suspend 3,800 feet above the canyon floor, a height more than twice that of the world’s tallest skyscraper.
If you’re a bridge, the Grand Canyon is probably the last place you’d want to be: 90mph vertical winds whip upward with tornado-like force, a condition endured by no other bridge in the world. To secure the Skywalk, Lochsa Engineering in Las Vegas has cantilevered it atop the cliff with 94 steel rods that bore 46 feet into the limestone rock. As a result, it can support 70 tons of weight, equivalent to roughly 700 hefty men, although the maximum occupancy is set at 120 people. Three oscillating dampers—steel plates, each 3,200 pounds—inside the hollow bridge beams act as shock absorbers, moving up and down to neutralize the vibrations from foot traffic and wind gusts. For further support, the walkway itself will be constructed of three-inch-thick, heat-strengthened glass and enclosed by five-foot-tall glass walls.

Too tame for you? Lochsa hints at future plans to ratchet up the thrill factor by turning a maintenance car designed to run on a track along the bottom of the Skywalk into a trolley ride for visitors.


It seems there is little for the imagination when it comes to starchitects. Anyone could spot this one a mile away. Even in Barcelona, where at present the number of home grown architects outnumbers even NYC, Zaha still gets the commissions.

Cognitive Mapping

Do you take the same or different route to work everyday? Do you give directions based on landmarks? Do you know your city by your own personal catalog of bars, eats, etc.?

These are elementary forms of cognitive mapping, as defined by Fredric Jameson. Kevin Lynch wrote about imageability of the city, where a city is "read" individually so that many stories can be created from the same route, path, or landmark.

Now, mapping has been fused with digital technology to create hybrid art/geopolitical cartographies lending graphical sense to complex informational data. Check out the post at Critical Spatial Practice. I myself am fascinated by the complexity and the vast amount of research. A long process, but in the end, telling essays on global culture, even mapping the business relationships of the "US Ruling Class."


Space Colonies

To keep up with the nostalgia of the 70's, (see below) I came across this little photo album of NASA illustrations for Space Colonies. Brilliant.

Mickey D's

Drumroll please........... Extreme Makeover, McDonald's edition


I realize this is yesterday's news, and I was going to skip it as something actually relevant, but this proposal is nothing less than disturbing.

Before this, Brooklyn actually had an identity. Can anyone out there remember when the credits rolled in on "Welcome Back Kotter," and the sign read something like "Welcome to Brooklyn, 7th largest city in America" or something like that? The romantic sluminess of those credits always held a little place in my heart. Now it's no more.


Leg Extensions

For those of us who longed to be in the NBA, but only fell short by 8-10 inches,

Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush

Hey at least he's trying.

Thanks Milos.


Dubai World Central

As everyone knows by now, Dubai is fast becoming the Las Vegas (and more) of the 21st Century. The plans of islands mimmicking the earth's land masses are nothing new, but now they're planning on "branding" a whole city! To be included is an airport with the capacity of O'hare in Chicago and a "logistics city" that will be a hub for most of the middle east, Northern Africa, and parts of Asia. The scale is mind boggling. read the whole article

Sections of the new city:
Dubai World Central International Airport:
This new facility will be 10 times the size of the current Dubai International Airport and Dubai Cargo Village combined. Its passenger capacity of over 120 million passengers a year can be judged in context alongside the world’s busiest airport Atlanta which in 2004, for which the latest figures are available, handled 83.5 million passengers.

Dubai Logistics City:
This key plank in Dubai’s unique truly integrated multi-modal logistics proposition represents Phase I of Dubai World Central. It is designed as the region’s unchallenged logistics hub with a geographic consumer footprint of some two billion people throughout the Middle East, Indian Sub-continent, African and the CIS – and all within three-to-four hours flying time from Dubai.
To quote, "With Dubai World Central we are taking the future into our own hands,” said HH Sheikh Ahmed. “Dubai World Central will be a global brand known for its superb facilities and infrastructure and for the boost it will give to local and regional economies and downstream to billions of consumers."

Residential City:
To be developed in three phases and covering some 7.16 million square metres, freehold land plots in Residential City are to be offered to developers on the open market who will then build in accordance with masterplan guidelines. Up to 250,000 people are expected to live in the ‘city’ where some 20,000 people will be employed. The Dubai Metro will serve Residential City which will also have a dedicated, integrated road network.

Commercial City:
To be developed in five phases, this ‘city’ will cover some 14.53 million square metres. Designed as Dubai World Central’s business and finance hub, Commercial City will feature more than 850 towers, ranging from 6-75 storeys in height – which will be home to a variety of businesses expected to employ around 130,000 people and offer superdeluxe homes. A cluster of luxury villas are also included in the masterplan.

and of course:

Golf Resort:

To be offered on the open market to a private developer, Dubai World Central will feature two 18-hole golf courses each having a distinct feel from a traditional desert links style to a more lush tropical resort course. In addition to the courses there will be extensive practice facilities, driving ranges and putting greens as well as a luxury clubhouse with restaurants and a pro-shop.


Brain Gate

I find this new techonology to be fascinating, yet scary as all hell. It is a brain implant, being tested currently, which will allow the brain to directly communicate with computers. Not as over-the-top as infrared tatoos or human implants, but this is going to be a socially potent elixir when it comes to market. And guess what one of the uses already planned? Exactly, the military. Check out the (long) thread.

Amusement Park Urbanism

Well, I guess this morning has turned into a morning of shocks. This story is on point with my little theory above: Instead of building museums, schools, and communtiy colleges, cities are building water parks! WTF?

Kids are getting "bored" with the good ol' swimming pool? I absolutely $%^#$%^ loved my swimming hole when I was a kid. But I guess I only had a crappy Atari 2600 as well.

I really think we're spoiling are children way too much these days, to the point where now our built environment is suffering. Suburban Nation, ugh.

Uh Oh

If I were to read you this quote:

"I would like to see Jeb run at some point in time, but I have no idea if that's his intention or not."

Would you move to Canada without even reading the article?


Rewriting History

A friend sent me this article. It needs no explanation. I'm at a loss for words

Starchitects over and done?

In this crazy market-driven condo world, starchitects have become brands.

They are marketed, they are driven by ego and their own style. But, just like in pop music, product, and furniture design, the new market-driven architecture culture is in search of the next big thing. Marketers and developers seem to be getting a little tired of the branded architect, and are searching out edgy, un-discovered, un-fettered-by-success younger architects. These young firms are driven by a collaboration and a replacement of top-down hierarchies with horizontal, multi-disciplined heterarchies.

Hybrid offices: Encompassing more than just style, the innovative are bridging gaps between disciplines and creating work not driven by a singular style, but more by process: I'm definitely on board.

To no one's surprise.. "in Europe, young architects have benefited from the wealth of government-funded projects, in which designs are often chosen in blind competitions."
via Newsweek.

Is your neighborhood on the up or down?

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Call it a top ten list:

I especially love, "Counterfeit sportswear being sold from a cardboard box in corner of previously gentrified pub as original clientele starts coming back in." Nice.

Here's the list via The Telegraph:


Pubs painted slate-grey, furnished with recycled railway sleepers, espresso machines, DJ booths etc. Cafes rebrand themselves as coffee shops and start selling at least 10 variations on the cappuccino theme

Bookshop has "local authors" display in window

York stone pavement installed along high street after strenuous lobbying by residents

Retail outlets include: organic butcher's, two or more baby boutiques with elaborate window displays

Windows flyposted with crude A4 posters calling for Conservation Area status
More than 10 different kinds of salami available within 200m radius

Rumours of a Waitrose

New tram/Tube links announced weekly

Men wrestling with fold-up bicycles in the street

Charity shops staffed by concerned local residents


Counterfeit sportswear being sold from a cardboard box in corner of previously gentrified pub as original clientele starts coming back in

What bookshop? Five or more bookies

York stone pavement pilfered during cable-laying works and sold on to pave residents' patios

Shop window displays consist of star-shaped signs announcing a furious price war on a wide range of little-known lagers

More than 10 nail bars in a 200m radius

Local paper leads on "shootings" or "slayings" at least twice a week

New fried-chicken outlet arrives - now one for every state of the Confederacy

Men wrestling in the street

Charity shops staffed by young offenders doing Community Service Orders


Idea Stores

A burough in London decided to modernize its decperit library infrastructure. They came up with a fascinating hybrid building, combining cafe, gymnasium, language center, digital ktichen, and of course, books. Some may call it absurd, I love it. The combinations of program will appeal to a broad audience. In this brave new world of limited attention spans, the English hit the nail right on the head. Maybe the idea will move across the pond sooner than later.

The Digital Device Boom

I knew it wouldn't take long for the naysayers to go scientific on us. The curse of the mobile phone age is upon us people: Electronic smog . Now all we need are more pharmaceuticals to counteract these new ill fated side effects of our addictions.


Human Implants

I found this at the apartment a long time ago. Unlike radioactive tattoos (see below), human upgrades will have your boss asking questions. Just don't tell him why.

Something to think about what with the new X-Men soon coming to theatres: How close are we to mutant ability? I'm finding more and more scientific proof (cloning, gene splicing, growing food in incubators, growing human organs on mice, to name a few) that maybe we're closer than we think to a hybrid-human such as the judgement jurors, art work incorporating research performed through the human genome project. In this series, Daniel Lee created pieces using Chinese mythology's circle of reincarnation to establish personalities, then performed a "what if" by splicing human and animal genetics.

It's all sci fi to me. I keep asking myself, how long till these scenes play themselves into reality? What affect will it have on the world of design? Will "clients" be asking us to design their own alter-egos, and in turn bring the "designs" to scientists who will have the tools to create?


The opening of Dick's mouth has the Russians upset. They're talking Cold War 2.0, and it couldn't come at a worse time. Has anyone been paying attention to the fact that (impossibly) Dick Cheney's speeches are actually more uni-laterally offensive than George's? Even this Right Wing paper does.


Hydrogen City

The Danes (obviously) are at it again.
Think what you will about the actual architecture, but the idea is nothing less than fantastic.
World's first Hydrogen Community

The Lighter Side

For everyone that wants the ink, but thinks the boss might actually care: Now you don't have the excuse. blacklight reactive ink


Why does this guy represent us?
Big Dick


ART + COM is an over-the-top interactive exhibit / media collective doing very cool work. They are elegantly finding solutions for atmospheric conditions within architecture and trade show exhibits, among others. Check out the Virtual Vehicle under Projects.

I find myself thinking of this word, atmosphere, and how we can really begin to explore interior space as a sentient enclosure from the elements. A plan cannot really demonstrate what space is all about. It's rather an abstract version of a map, showing adjacencies, etc. Technology is beginning to let loose the concept of interior space, making much more fluid, and dynamic space.

Designing in 3D was the beginning, and now with firms such as this becoming more and more common, interaction with walls, ceiling, and floor will even further limit the plan. Who knows, maybe soon there will (hopefully) be digital scent and air devices in museums, etc. that can aid the presentation.

Israel offers Division of Jersualem

Interesting: I'm wondering how this will affect the built environment. There is something interesting about a hybrid Jewish/Arab Community. So many variables, possibilities.

Toyo Ito

Toyo Ito had passed under my radar until coming across an El Croquis some time ago. After going through every ounce of that journal, I came to love Ito' evolving organicism, not in the hippy sustainable way, but in the natural geometries of structure and light. His Sendai Mediatique was the beginning of this new phase of his work, combining organic ornament with structure. A modern day Gaudi, only with technology on his side. Here is one of his more recent projects via DOMUS. Relaxation Park

Renzo does it again

Some may think he's lost it, I think he takes that builder-blood in him and keeps on keeping on. A master of light, he can design and build at any scale. The Morgan Library is a wonderful example. Enjoy.

Stephen Coblert in the White House

I guess this is old news now, but I can't pass up the opportunity to share this with those who haven't seen it. If only we could get an architect to sit in with a crowd of developers and do the same. Great commentary on the silliness of this country.
Seems as though George and his lady were a bit taken aback by the anti-O'Reilly in a White House Press Luncheon (or something to do with food). Colbert went off. Good for him. Check out the MP3 file download, or the IPod audio file. Colbert Goes off.


Concept Cars

As an architect, i find it very useful and informative to blur the lines when researching precedent: Where am I going with this? Looking into the automotive design industry for hints into manufacturing, prototyping, design process, and, possibly, form-making.
Coventry University Transport & Industrial Design Show

Urban Plough

Matthew Moore is a visual artist making an interesting observation of suburbanism and is subsequently creating his own version of destruction by planting, then destroying the plantings to create this landscape: Urban Plough

A Survey of New Media

As designers, we must understand the many cultures that converge around each other, creating sub and hybrid cultures. To most, blogging is nothing more than daily musings from individuals across the world with something to say. This series of articles explains the phenomena of blogging and its place in history as a start of a New Media Renaissance. I thought I was in the know with all the cool younger kids by teaching at an art school, but now I feel totally on the brink. Turns out that teeangers don't even use email as their #1 correspondence.

I think there is something here for us to learn from. To me, we must formulate our theories and ideas through research, and what better way to record that research than on-line?
The Economist. More Later.


Hopefully, as this space matures, I will find a method of incorporating the various disciplines into a cohesive whole, where we all regularly make connections between the information presented. Bare with me as I get going, as this is definitely an experiment which will grow.
This weblog is created to share information and stories about contemporary design, culture, and politics. Each day will afford new opportunities to share and make connections between the goings-on of these disparate, yet inter-connected worlds. As citizens of cities, it is our duty and privilege to be informed of movements within the design world. Going beyond just design may begin to stretch what we do and begin to make "gray" areas where we intersperse ourselves into other area of the contemporary discourse, creating hybrid subjects and research topics.

Let's begin by posting the goings on in Italy, a place close to my heart, where Silvio Berlusconi finally conceded his prime minister post, after nearly a month in denial. This guy has been a pain in the side of many Italians. I personally am quite relieved he has let go of his little throne, so to speak: Berlusconi loses.

With Prodi's center-left party coming to party, Italy will surely dis-align itself with the current American regime, creating tighter ties with Europe. Can design in Italy begin to establish momentum and begin to carry the weight of its Dutch, German, and French contemporaries?