Amusement Park Urbanism

Part III: The Crusaders have marched into Scotland, lads!!!


Mind Reading Computers

I know part of psychoanalysis is the ability to "read" facial expressions and how they represent the subject's underlying feelings. Now scientists are developing computers that do just this. And how will the technology be used? For consumption of course.

"Our research could enable websites to tailor advertising or products to your mood..."


Global Cooling - Sci Fi Issue

Since the '60s, when scientists had first understood that global warming would creep up and bite us in the ass one day, research has been moving toward technologies that would help cool the planet. As such, the most prolific of the ideas either reflect or absorb sunlight. From biotechnologies to Synthetic Technologies, these new gadgets are quite interesting. Could you imagine a bunch of plastic saucers in space, floating still and reflecting sunlight? Great Article from the New York Times.



I am a fan of Mr. Koolhaas because his vision is not just aesthetic or selfish. His desire to change paradigms and systems (from building to political and social) puts him in a class by himself. Could this article say the same about Zaha or Gehry? I seriously think not. The key term here is at the beginning of said article. Invisible Cities, the latent and virtual possibilites inherent in any given problem of discovery. Through intense research, analysis, and speculation he and his people are able to realize hidden potential.

AMO and OMA seek hybrids of design, planning, architecture, politics, socialism, and economic development. Impressive.


Amusement Park Urbanism

Gulf Coast Part II:
Are New Urbanists planning a takeover of the American Gulf Coast? Aside from a slew of casinos and condos in Biloxi, it seems as though they are off to a strong start.......The Biloxi workshop looked like an attempt by New Urbanists to hijack the biggest urban planning and regeneration project in America’s recent history – the rebuilding of the Gulf coast. Indeed, they thought there was something almost sinister in the speed with which Duany mobilised his allies and secured the support of Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi, after Katrina.


More on the Middle Class

Our middle class is getting smaller. The indications are that the rate of high and low incomes is rising steadily, while the numbers in the middle are dwindling. Along with the decrease, housing stock in typically middle class communities is becoming delapidated, as upwardly mobile former middle classers move to new developments outside of cities in exurbs. What happens to the neighborhoods left behind? What happens to those that gentrify in non-sustainable ways?

"As upper-income Americans are drawn to the new houses, neighborhoods become more homogenous,..... The zoning is such that it prevents anything other than a certain income range from living there. It is our latest method of discrimination."


To follow or not to follow.

I'm really impressed with the anti-ipod advertising going on. Seems Microsoft will be allying with Toshiba, Victor, NTT DoCoMo and five other companies to release music playing services and players that will challenge the iPod. Microsoft will be developing the software while Toshiba and Victor develop the players, and DoCoMo will add mobile phone functionality to this system

I'm personally interested in this:

Amusment Park Urbanism

I've written about this before, but here's a recent and intensely poignant article in Slate reminding us of the evils of large-scale projects with little or no public input.

I'm going to pick up where Jonathan Lethem left off by including the fact that all large scale public housing complexes of the 60's have failed miserably, in part because of their scale. They swallowed hole smaller urban areas, and became monstrosities in reputation and proportion.

At what point are developers' objectives too big? I agree with Mr. Lethem on the fact that if Mr. Gehry had just assigned a Guggenheim for basketball(The New Brooklyn Nets Stadium, which is what was orginally planned,) Brooklyn would have gained a sort of cultural and economical jewel, just like Bilbao did. But greed took over and the project ballooned to points of no return.

Architects don't get paid much money, and the usual reply is "We do it for the love of the work." What do you think is going through Gehry's mind right now? I would go on a limb to say that he does not need the money. So why do this project?

Finally, I must harken to city design in Europe, where incremental, scaled development has been happening for centuries. The centers grow organically, buildings arise and converse with one another, fitting in to their place (modern and historical juxtapostions abound). Once in a while, a grand gesture arises, its impact lessened by research and study. Research and study of ground related activities, of information flows, of infrastructure, of building stock, of population intensities and time-based activities. I don't see that happening here at all. This has "God Complex" written all over it. Maybe if we knew the architects' process, we wouldn't think it were so arbitrary and ill fated.

When Frank Gehry offers the crown jewel of a 16 tower mega development, and calls it "Miss Brooklyn" after a wedding he saw in Brooklyn once, I wonder a) how many drugs he did in the 60's, b) should we consider that he really does design by crumpling up pieces of paper, and c) what kind of incentives is Bruce Ratner really offering?



...Or art? Or social commentary?... I love it. A bit design, a bit gorilla-taggin, a bit political..
Bansky is the man.



The border between Mexico and The U.S. has always been a one-sided political debate: Keep illegal Mexican citizens out of this country at all costs. It's even more poignant an issue now, as the Bush administration calls for more and more technology to be thrown at the problem. Most recently, he called for a "Virtual" wall that would use sensors and cameras to detect illegal crossing and other goings-on.
The question, then, is what can design do to help the situation? There has already been a competition to devise a new border crossing at Anapra via the wonderful Mexican online journal Arquine. Now the New York Times (it's about time) asked 5 architects to propose their own ideas of The Fence.



And you thought the self cleaning oven was convenient. By 2011, we'll be cleaning our toilets with the flip of a switch using nano-tech. I'll be anxiously waiting for the day.

Which brings us to the whole concept of nano-technology. Will this be the end of the world as we know it? A proper understanding of the science behind the technology will give us better clues as to how to use it. What about building skins that change material properties seasonally?

Scenario Planning

At long last, I've come across a condo development where experience comes before maximization square feet. LWPAC out of Vancouver, CA has created a wonderful little jewel box of a housing complex where air, light, public an private space come together, while still turning a profit.

Yes, it CAN happen. "...scenario planning means that each unit can be configured to suit the lifestyle of a variety of occupants, from single entrepreneurs to professional couples to multigenerational immigrant families." The idea of actually designing condos for the types of people who will occupy them seems revolutionary in today's world of multi-family design.


The megalopolis List

...And the problems that persist in these modern city-states:
Check out the price of a movie ticket in Japan.
And you thought they were a ripoff here.


Herzog and DeMeuron

The work speak for itself. Now they've gotten their first commission in Western Switzerland... And it's a pyramid.

Fuck the Monorail

....Or... I wish I could see this headline when some sharp shootin' planner with ideas presents us this.

It's about time people just move the monorail into a museum and relish that it worked for Michael Graves' Hotel in Disney World, as well as various World's Fairs in the sixties.

Transportation + Water

Well, I have been out roaming the streets for a while, taking the break from posting, searching, researching, seeing where this little blog will take me. Sensing change, I imminently came right back to where I started from: Damn how I love the transporation design out there. Why is it that the process of architecture takes so long and seems so archaic? For all of the architects out there, only a few have tranformed their processes, taking cues from automotive and transportation design. Well, Doug Garofolo is one of them. His work creates a hybrid between transportation design, architecture, and digital media.

Are you hiring Doug?


Strategies of the middle class

If you're strictly middle class, knowingly you probably shop for "deals" on ebay, and hit-up Target every now and again for beddings, etc. Well, interestingly enough, the "mid-market" brands such as Old Navy, Macy's, Kraft, Comfort Inns are starting to lose steam in place of highest and lowest end goods. The increasing middle class is starting, "... to be more cost-conscious; but simultaneously more willing to splurge money on luxury items."

"Until the 1990s, broadly speaking, shopping choices tended to reflect spending power. The rich bought expensive things, and accounted for most luxury-goods sales. The poor tended to buy cheap, low-quality stuff. And the middle classes stuck to the mid-market. Today, however, middle-class shoppers around the world are not content to be marooned in mediocrity. Instead, these consumers, who earn between $50,000-150,000, are “trading up and trading down” both at the same time."
To me, it seems we're trading up for status goods, like automobiles, clothes, organic food, yet trading down for household goods at Target and Ikea, to name one segment. What happens to design? Will Target keep costs down while they contemplate an ever-increasingly design-savvy middle class? Will other big box retailers, such as WalMart (which is here to stay) change their tune, knowing there is a bevy of middle class consumers waiting for them to launch new small-scale stores within cities, not out in exurbia? What about dwellings? Will Target begin to offer its own Pre-Fab?

In short, the middle class is fast becoming the beacon of the new culture of consumption, and retailers might want to respond. To start things off: In-city locations (the new capitals of consumption), more sustainable products, more appealing shopping experiences (start with lighting, for example), and more commitment to contemporary design. As Koolhass put it, shopping space is the new public space so, aside from the obvious moral issues, when is branding going to respond?

On the other hand, and rapidly adding to the middle class' spending power, are on-line stores. Who needs physical space when you can purchase goods at lower costs while sitting at home in virtual space? Of course, the discussion starts out with a poignant question: Are on-line spaces really places? And if so, are we ready? What about the design of the interface? Can on-line retailers really provide a pleasant space to shop? If the notion of shopping space as public space holds its power, will we completely transform into a network of individuals where "village" is replaced by "network?"

"The developed world has been experiencing for over a century a shift away from communities based on small-group-like villages and neighborhoods and towards flexible partial communities based on networked households and individuals."

Much potential exists here for designers such as product and package design, advertising, urban design, and architecture, all the while having strong political and economic ramifications.



One of my favorite blogs, Archidose, offers us a wonderful project exploring interstitial spaces. The space between things. The thickness of building materials.

How can designers exploit the seemingly ordinary, mundane space between?

The firm Airesmateus gives us one idea, as they take advantage of the large interstice offered by an old winery and convert it into a residence. The design causes an almost dangerous feeling "teetering" of new private volumes cantilevered into the large open, public space. The effect can only be achieved with the thickness of those walls.

Which leads me to think about a project in the works which exploits the poche of precast concrete panels and home design. More later.



With all the talk about how suburbs are destroying our country via an inexplicable land grabbing parade, Michael Wolf's photographs of Hong Kong are nothing short of refreshing. Yes, the work can be daunting at times, but the success of Hong Kong is a direct result of stewardship, ie they have no choice. With a mass far smaller than the U.S., architects and planners have to build up and close. As far as sustainability goes, isn't this a good start? Albeit not to the crowded extent represented here, I think we can learn a great deal from the urbanism of the former city-state, and that is another subject unto itself.

One more thing: a small tradition in Hong Kong is to grab every little chunk of buildable land, (even if it's 3 or 4 meters square) and extrude straight up. They call them pencil towers.


Hydro Wall

Metropolis Mag online has a great article on the Next Generation Prize winner, Virginia San Fratello's Hydro Wall concept. The idea that building components can by multi-functional is wonderful.. Integrate.


Urban Atmospherics

Over at Bldg Blog, a posting about noctilucent clouds, or clouds that glow in the dark because of their extreme height. He provides an interesting conjecture into how an urban situation might harness this strange natural occurence into experience or even infrastructure (harnessing light energy?)

I have personally been interested in atmospherics and their affect on urban environments since graudate school. What is fascinating are the ways with which, beyond LEED sustainability $%^&, we can harness energy such as light, wind, water. There is an abundance of energy in various forms in our atmosphere, existing as virtual phenomena (Please note that I would deem oil as physical phenomena, ie we know it's there, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see it).

For example, what if there were a Nicola Tesla-type of device, suspended 300o feet up, that could harness turbulence, or lightning, then deliver it to our power system? We could be looking at technologies thought of only in Science Fiction.

When studying in Calabria, IT, a friend and colleague devised what he called the shade tree: Nets strewn on trees to trap moisture and dissipate it into water vapor which would in turn replenish crops and provide livestock with an essential element. As part of a study we did, this solution, albeit quite theoretical, was exactly what we're talking about here. Water was absolutely scarce, and gathering inspiration from olive harvesting, with its netting, we devised this method of trapping cloud roll-over in higher mountain areas.

Another idea posted is the Air River,
"If groundwater or rain is not available, there are several little-known alternative methods to obtain fresh water by condensing atmosphere humidity. We live in a dilute ocean of aerial moisture. There are also real "sky rivers" full of fresh water from which we can draw."

Fascinating information. Want more? Please share.