...of things I intend to try before it's simply impossible:
One of The Volokh Conspirators has discovered the physical world:
Natural Rainforest or "Pristine Myth"? For decades it was simply assumed that forest lands in the Americas --- old growth in the North and rainforests in the South --- were "pristine" and largely devoid of human influence prior to European settlement. This "pristine myth" still dominates popular conceptions --- but it is no longer the accepted wisdom among archaeologists. To the contrary, there is increasing evidence that the pre-Colombian forests of the Americas were subject to extensive human alteration and influence.
True enough and Mans Role in Changing the Face of the Earth (published in mid 1950s after ground-breaking no pun intended conference of same name) has also been accepted for decades. It's good to see lawyers (and I am one) discovering environment and the role of humans in the evolution of landscape.
My cautious reaction is "So?"
The Volokh Conspirator says further:
This research has significant implications for ecological thought – if not environmental policy on the ground...
The “pristine myth” of pre-Colombian America is imploding. European settlers did not discover a “natural” America, but one cultivated by Native Americans, who altered and managed the American landscape for several hundred years. The American landscape of 1492 was no more “natural” than those of the last three hundred years. The idea of an untouched American wilderness is ecological fantasy, not historical fact.
Yes? So? Go on. What are the implications?
Certainly we should remember that we are animals and "natural" and our use of the landscape is part of "nature." My caution is what does that means when it does come to public policy? The benchmark of "natural" --- as in pre-Columbian --- may not work when we acknowledge that Native Americans did as much as they were able to change the environment (such as with the use of fire) to make their own lives easier.
But is environmenal despoilation now permitted because the benchmark of "natural" is shown to be illusory? There is just enough triumph --- "See!" --- in the post cited above to make me wonder about the motive for that tone of glee and to wonder where the other shoe will drop.
UPDATE: Crumb Trail takes note and I comment back at his site.
The term `brownfield site' means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.
To speak, as one reader has done in a comment to another post, of "brownfields as any non-greenfield sites, i.e. any piece of land that has been previously developed in any way" is not any usage I have ever heard. Brownfields sites must have some haz-mat issue. The great majority of urban infill sites have no such problem.
Development of urban infill sites is not particularly more complex than development at the urban fringe except insofar to the degree it involves more complex building types such as a multi-story multi-family building as opposed to a single-family ranch-house.
Cleaning up a true brownfield site preparatory to construction adds a great deal of complexity and risk. Building on an infill site which has had nothing on it but single-family houses or small retail (much less office) spaces is not significantly more complex than building on a farm field. Yes there may be a residential oil tank to remove and one has to do a good environmental assessment to determine if one of those shops at one time had, say, a dry cleaner as a tenant. But if the historic and site investigation turns up a null set, it's fairly safe to go forward. In fact some things are simpler in cities. There is usually a municipal water and sewer system so the 'perking' capability of the land and digging wells are non-issues.
And development everywhere is tough. Development within any desirable market ---some place where lots of other people want to live and where there is intense development --- is going to be complex; that's the nature of healthy metropolitan areas.
Fresh Bilge is a wonderful "salty journal" oriented (I wish entirely!) to boats and the water, for which I share a love with the blog captain, Alan Sullivan. Unfortunately we don't seem to share certain political perspectives; I wish it were otherwise.
...that one wants to see the paperwork.
In fact it's so rich that I wonder if maybe just maybe there is a wee bit of hyberbole? Bureaucrats can be dumb but this one is just too funny; surely there must be another side of the story.
My sense of caution started when the author of What have the planners ever done for us? offers that "the wings were abandoned on grounds of expense - well, OK, some of the smaller villas have no wings."
Well then why even bring that up --- in what is obviously going to be yet another one of those diatribes against planning --- when the problem is not caused by the planners?
Then the clincher was the statement that "First they said that only one-story buildings in the modern style are allowed in such an area of outstanding natural beauty."
Uh..I won't say anything except I'd like to see the documentation. If indeed there are planners so stupid and incompetent to say literally that, then they ought to be fired. But that has little to do with planning.
The pathetic story as told:
Not content with messing up future development, Britain's planning authorities are now wrecking ancient ones too.
Friends of mine - I am editor of Current Archaeology - persuaded the Discovery Channel to fund them in reconstructing a Roman villa in Hampshire. Whereupon the planning authorities stepped in. And now it has been reconstructed all wrong.
The classic Romano-British villa is what is known as a winged corridor Villa. There are wings projecting forward at either end, and a low veranda running along the front. In this case, the wings were abandoned on grounds of expense - well, OK, some of the smaller villas have no wings.
But it got a lot worse when the planners stepped in. First they said that only one-story buildings in the modern style are allowed in such an area of outstanding natural beauty. Then the veranda, instead of being left open at the front, had to be built in. Finally they insisted on having a continuous roof instead of a double roof (one over the main building, and one over the corridor, with clerestory windows above the corridor).
The whole thing sounds so unbelieveable that maybe it is true. (I have been myself involved in planning idiocies but this one would take the cake if it is true.) Or maybe just a great urban myth? The idea that a planner would chose the "modern" style as appropriate for an area of "outstanding natural beauty" is simply asking me to believe a bit too much.
I would love to see some of the documents involved. As the author of the post -- Andrew Selkirk -- is a friend of the people who were trying to do the project, it should be rather easy to find. The blogosphere is a wonderful thing. I do hope Mr. Selkirk reads this post here. Maybe I should even make sure he sees it; I'll suspend judgment on the accuracy of the story until I hear from him.
Link via Brian's Culture Blog.
I wonder about Arnold Schwarzenegger's position on urban growth boundaries, sprawl, etc. His site says:
Would you support a state law, similar to one in Oregon, that controls where development can occur on the outskirts of cities?
While often well-meaning, such laws are not always solutions to the complex problem of poor land use planning, which has resulted in fiscally unsustainable sprawl, traffic congestion on commuter roadways, air pollution, pressure to consume scarce infrastructure resources, and loss of valuable open space. We must invest in our existing urban areas and remove barriers to smart growth. For example, there is currently no effective, widely used mechanism for identifying vacant or underutilized sites in urban areas to evaluate their potential for infill redevelopment. Working with local officials, my Administration will develop an Infill Incentives Package to help local governments deal with the jobs/housing imbalance throughout the State and to spur smarter development by providing a mechanism for planners to identify and evaluate redevelopment of blighted and underutilized sites, allowing cities to accommodate mixed use, compact development and urban infill growth, while curtailing urban sprawl.
Huh? I am missing something.
Lest anyone wonder why I am spending so much bandwidth on what appears to be an off-topic subject like "genre fiction", it's really quite simple. It interests me.
But more importantly it directly relates to the way our cities are formed.
I had sensed but hadn't been able to articulate the connection until M. Blowhard pointed it out --- the issue is working within a set of forms and rules --- in the post just prior to this one. I'd recommend you read that post if you haven't. The key lines are in the paragraph which starts
"I'd be a little rougher on TT than you are."
Btw, a big related and interesting issue which is part of the "genre fiction" discussion is the formation of popular and elite "taste" and how that happens.
These related issues are on a lot of minds, such as Henry Farrell, Michael Jennings and even some with regrettable political positions such as ARMAVIRUMQUE which addresses the issue so consistently and often so intelligently that no specific link need be offered.
Just remember what Bob Dylan said: "To live outside the law you must be honest."
Michael Blowhard made such an awfully intriguing comment that I want to make sure that it is not missed so I am making this a Michael Blowhard Guest Post. He's commenting on my earlier post on the genre fiction stuff.
He draws an exceedingly interesting connection between literary and architecural forms and the utility, even the desirability, of having firm structures, structures which might appear at first to the uninitiated to pose nasty limitations --- "all action takes place at sea; there must be a bloody death every 3 chapters" --- but in fact aid creativity by offering a tight form within which to work.
Perhaps if I understand his approach, one might say that "just as a building must have a door on the streetfront, so too must a sentence have a verb and a novel have a plot." They all fail to do their job of simultaneously giving pleasure, succor and enlightenment unless they adhere to certain norms. So-called "genre fiction" may have certain expectations which must be met ---I'd still like to know what they are when it comes to, say, "sea stories" except that it must involve water --- but those requirements are not even remotely impediments to "genius."
But Michael says it better:
"Hear, hear. But I'd add a couple of things. One is that the distinction between genre fiction and serious lit is, for better or worse, like it or not, a market reality. That's the way it's divvied up in the publishers' computers as well as the bookstores' computers. And, again like it or not, that counts. It's nothing we have to accept intellectually, but it does affect the making and production of books, let alone (unfortunately) how they're taken and discussed. As a writer, you can choose to do genre book or you can choose to do a serious-lit book, or you can choose (daringly!) to do a hybrid. But you can't really choose to ignore the distinction.
I'd be a little rougher on TT than you are. I see no reason why genre shouldn't be a source of strength, rather than a limitation, in much the same way that the rules and laws of writing formal (ie., patterned according to accepted rules) poetry can be a strength. I think claiming that the no-rules-apply, wide-openness of serious lit leads, or even can lead, to better, deeper literature is buying into a naive belief. "Total freedom" in an absolute sense tends to lead to despair, overambition and collapse rather than blazing, all-guns-firing creativity-- and I'd argue that that's a pretty good description of a lot of what's issued as serious lit in this country. In my experience, the genre fields are much less ego-ridden and much more centered on delivering an enjoyable and comprehensible experience to readers than the serious-lit world is -- and I take that to be a sign of health. The serious-lit world is peddling inspiration, genius, etc. Balls to that. And it ain't healty -
- they're peddling the equivalent of what you call precious-object architecture. Fine, sure, why not. But let's not mistake it for what's really important. (And, a minor sidelight, the serious-lit world has its own subgenres -- multicultural extravaganza, protest novel, po-mo picaresque, etc. Which means that "serious lit" has become every bit as much of a meta-genre as, say, "crime" is.)
I'd argue, with a perfectly earnest and straight face, a couple of things. First, "The Long Goodbye" and "The Maltese Falcon" are every bit the achievements "The Great Gatsby" is (and I say this as someone who loves "Gatsby.") And that it's got to be acknowledged that some of today's very, very best writers are people like Donald Westlake, Ruth Rendell, Patrick O'Brien, P.D. James, George V. Higgins, etc.
I confess I don't know how or why someone like Teachout, who eloquently makes the case for jazz and for the Classic American Songbook, doesn't see that the fiction-book equivalent of that stuff is genre fiction ... But I've run into this before -- movie critics who eloquently make the case for trash and for art, and for the two of them a mutually complementary, yet who fail to accept that the same dynamic might apply in the fiction-book world.
Part of my guess on this is that the serious-lit advocates often haven't read much genre fiction, and that they fail to register that genre fiction writers are playing a different game than serious-lit writers. Would someone who's drunk on Gehry and Hadid even be able to register that much is going on in a pleasant neighborhood that works? Yet that pleasant neighborhood is, in my view, probably the greater achievement than a flashy new Gehry or Hadid...
I have one. Or I should say that I am feeding a feral cat who lives in my yard. Her name is Heidi. (Humor me.) Like all cats she is independent but especially so; she bolts if I come within 30 feet of her. So I was surprised when she came up on the deck allowed me to photograph her through the door:
I first saw her about six months ago. She disappeared over the summer, then with the first rains she has reappeared. As it started to cool, I put up a makeshift shelter--- a cardboard box with a garbage bag. At first she loved it; curled up in there all night long. Here I am approaching --- still a dozen yards away on the deck --- and she is bolting:
But we've had snow and nights in the high twenties (Farenheit) --- fairly brisk for Seattle --- and she seems to have another place to huddle. How good that is I have no idea of course; she doesn't leave me any clues. But my original Heidi Hut was a shabby shelter for a builder's feral cat. So I've made her another. (I went to the pet stores and while there are dog houses galore there are none small enough for a cat. I was surprised. So I went online and Googled "feral cat shelter" and found some great leads.) The best idea was to take a plastic tub (mine is from Rubbermaid), cut a cat-sized entry and line the whole thing with two inch high-density foam. Voila! A Heidi Hut. Nothing quite so evolved as the sort of thing you'd see in The Cats' House:
But I hope she likes it. I just put it out with a bowl of wet (canned, smelly) food inside it to entice her. We'll see.
Picture of the Heidi Hut soon. Suggestions appreciated.
There are two ways (at least) to ask a question:
1. As a rhetorical trick in which one knows where one is going and the "question" is only used as a device;
2. Sincerely, for feedback, as a way of testing & playing with an idea.
The following remarks are meant in the vein of the second possibility.
I don't really disagree with About Last Night's perspective on "genre fiction" as prompted by Stephen King's lecture at the National Book Awards but I wonder why TT too seems to have joined King in falling into the trap of such categorization?
John Prescott today launched design rules for new homes inspired by Prince Charles' mock village Poundbury, despite a warning by government advisers that it will lead to "architectural fundamentalism".
The deputy prime minister chose a seminar hosted by the prince to announce that thousands of new homes should be built to strict style rules or design codes.
Such a system was used on Poundbury, the prince's retro Dorset village, and the Florida town of Seaside - the setting for satirical film The Truman Show - which Mr Prescott visited earlier this year.
The move comes on the day that the government's architecture watchdog published a report cautioning against the use of prescriptive codes.
Of course as you notice the story offers no specifics so we are not quite sure what the Code will prescribe.
The 10 Most Hated Eyesores Voted by Country Life Readers. When Country Life asked readers to nominate the worst eyesores in Britain, nominations flooded in.And among those nominations, "wind farms" float to the top of the list.
Paul Goldberger's little piece in the hard-to-read medium-is-message over-sized magazine Metropolis titled Disconnected Urbanism was noticed by the trend-spotters at Arts & Letters Daily so I'd better weigh in, too. Goldberger discusses the urban experience in a way which calls forth no plausible reaction except "that's an interesting perspective."
PG is complaining about how cell phones destroy a sense of place because the person standing next to you waiting for the light to change --- assuming one is in a city where pedestrians actually observe the lights, which is no longer the case in Seattle, for instance --- is talking on a cell phone to someone in Madagascar or even two blocks away, which is probably the case --- well that is supposed to destroy our sense of place.
Even when you are in a place that retains its intensity, its specialness, and its ability to confer a defining context on your life, it doesn't have the all-consuming effect these places used to. You no longer feel that being in one place cuts you off from other places. Technology has been doing this for a long time, of course--remember when people communicated with Europe by letter and it took a couple of weeks to get a reply? Now we're upset if we have to send a fax because it takes so much longer than e-mail. But the cell phone has changed our sense of place more than faxes and computers and e-mail because of its ability to intrude into every moment in every possible place. When you walk along the street and talk on a cell phone, you are not on the street sharing the communal experience of urban life. You are in some other place--someplace at the other end of your phone conversation.
That's not my experience. I rather like the thrill of sitting in a cafe in, say, Whistler, BC, and hearing some woman rattling away in Spanish on her cell phone and wondering if she is talking to the head groom at her stables on the pampas, or perhaps to her boyfriend in Seattle. Human settlements have always been and continue to be about mixing. New York for example would not be half the city that it is if they were not foreign voices in the air. It doesn't bother me in the least or destroy the sense of place which I create to sense that people around me have myriad and mysterious connections and that they manifest those connections -- and only maybe, because for all we know that guy on the phone could simply be calling home 2 blocks away to see if his mates want extra cheese on the pizza --- through a cell phone.
As for me, I say that all these distance-compressing technologies are just pentimento, another layer, another fold in the noosphere, an enrichment of life. The idea that Seattle --- or Paris --- is less itself because some person standing next to me is talking to someone ten thousand miles away strikes me as a journalist looking for an article to write.
UPDATE:Gizmodo also sees it somewhat the same way as I do:
Goldberger also unfairly discounts how this virtual space he refers to can be meaningful and powerful in its own right. Believe it or not, sometimes walking down the street while talking to another person can actually augment, rather than diminish, your own experience of a place.
I am indeed somewhat dubious of this kind of stuff. Perhaps I simply don't get it. Or maybe I do.
But of course the real test --- no matter my a priori opinion --- is actually trying it.
I hope my astute London friends will sign up and tell us what it is all about.
And of course let's bear in mind that sometimes totally unexpected yet marvelous things come out of failed experiments.
As I wrote earlier on this blog, many of the environmental problems of golf courses relate to turf care and in particular to the "cultural" preference of North American golfers for smooth, perfect green fairways even in the heat of August. Such perfect surfaces --- Augusta National is reputed to be a prime example --- can only be created and maintained by very close cropping of the turf, which stresses it and requires, commensurately, high inputs of water and chemicals, both as nutrients and as pesticides. Scottish fairways I am told are allowed to brown out when it is dry; and therein lies the "cultural" aspect. High environmental impact is not inherent to the game but largely a function of how perfect you want your fairways a greens. Permit a little more chance in the game from bumps? Well you have a lower environmental impact. At least that's my thumbnail understanding.
A design student is travelling the world by bike and reports on interesting things at ArchitectureWeek.
Here is his particularly incisive Postcard from Ukraine.
click image to enlarge; photo courtesy Matt Bridgestock
Heading eastward on my round-the-world bicycle tour, I passed through villages in southwest Ukraine. Here, the humble bus stop has been elevated to a position of civic pride and collective creative outlet. These colorful bus stops appear at regular intervals along the road and provide delight and orientation in the flat, open landscape.
More info at Matt's own World On Wheels.
No sooner did I say that I had no knowledge, much less an opinion, of the merits of the various plans for Ground Zero than I stumbled on this Interactive Map of Ground Zero Area which prompts me to think about the whole matter. Much initial reaction on 9/12/01 was "Replace 'em exactly." But that was a reaction of defiance which does not actually serve as our long-term interests since the Trade Center Towers were both financial and urban design failures. So I am becoming curious as to what should happen there. Now if I can find an interactive map which shows the various plans, I can start to learn about it.
Don't miss this article by John King of the San Francisco Chronicle about how a Provocateur becomes a pragmatist.
Given Eisenman's history as a provocateur, it would be easy to dismiss this as one more provocation. But I'd like to think I heard something deeper - - after 71 years on earth and one attack on the city he loves, it sounds as if Eisenman is trying to come to grips with the impact that architecture has on the lives of ordinary people.
But that was later. He began by critiquing a world where spectacle is in style -- and his criticism cuts with sharp, swift strokes.
"Architecture has gotten more and more frenetic. It has spun out of control," Eisenman, who from afar could be a slightly rotund Peter Graves, said with droll precision. He sat at a table in the darkened auditorium "one, because of advanced age and two, because it is less pretentious than standing at a podium."
There were no slides as he discussed the frenetic now because -- who needs them? Eisenman mentioned a new bridge by Santiago Calatrava that seems to lean backward; a better-known example is Disney Hall by Frank Gehry. Even if you think it's a great building -- I do -- it remains the very definition of spectacle, all about confounding expectations.
Just like much of Eisenman's own work. His first major building, the Wexner Center for the Visual Arts in Ohio, includes walls that tilt and lurch as if they're about to collapse; his new City of Culture in Galicia, Spain, is shaped like the sloping hillside that it replaced. Now, though, even Eisenman scratches his head at the latest designs shaped by the far reaches of computers and engineering -- buildings that take pride in pretending that gravity does not exist.
"The New York Times demands these [unconventional] images because dumb, straightforward images don't sell papers," Eisenman said, but he also took a bit of the blame: "I'm probably partly responsible. I'm not pointing fingers."
Ever since I was a small boy I've had a dream of going "pony treekking in Wales." I'd better do it soon if this story at Horse & Hound Online is accurate or even relates to "pony trekking":
The common sight of hardy Welsh Mountain Ponies grazing on the hills of Wales could become a thing of the past if financial assistance for breeding initiatives is not found Welsh Mountain pony enthusiasts believe that the future of ponies living in their native habitat could be in jeopardy unless funds are found to enable current breed improvement initiatives to continue.(A note on relevance: Lest there be any confusion about the relation of pony-trekking to cities, it is my opinion that one of the greatest comforts of the city is to be able to leave it. That is, that a city is a place sufficiently dense, even crowded and with a clear boundary, so that one knows when one has left it. Therefore, discussions of wilderness, the outdoors, sports and so forth are all well within the purview of an urbanistic blog. At least this urbanistic blog.)
We wrote a few months ago about the the I-670 Cap. A lot of people thought it was extremely cool, as did I, and "important."
A thoughtful reader writes to tell us about something quite similar but built many years ago: a Long Island Rail Road overpass in Kew Gardens (Queens, New York). It has an overpass with shops to connect two sides of the tracks and conceal the railroad below.
He says that "i've driven over this bridge without realizing it was in fact a bridge."
Pretty amazing, I'd say.
Adam Nicholson tell us of The challenger:
Hastings Borough Council has just made the bravest decision of its life. To design the key element in its £400 million redevelopment of the seafront, it has just chosen the most exciting, radical and innovative architect now working in Britain.
Spare me, please, yet another "exciting, radical and innovative architect" who is being trained (such as by this piece) that the path to success is to create stand-out precious-object buildings.
But all is not lost.
Lest anyone believe that my discussion here of Terry Teachout's posts here and here suggests that there is no possibility that a cultural center per se or a even a starchitect-designed one is able to contribute to the revitalization of a district, I offer this earlier post about Daniel Libeskind's "Spiral Extension".
The gist of it is simple --- putting aside the other issue of whether it makes sense to group "culture" into districts ---what a strange manifestation of "Euclidian" Zoning that is!--- if you want to have a "culture building" activiate a neighborhood, then you must design the building so it activates the street.
And the only way to activate a streetfront is to have human activity at the sidewalk level. Period. You have to bring human activity --- and not a silly "open-space plaza" with a fountain --- to that sidewalk level. Then you can let loose above with whatever goofy design your starchitect Gehry or Libeskind or Koolhaas or Hadid design to express his or her artistic "genius."
The key is pedestrian-oriented (not architect-oriented!) design guidlines to lay out the basic program for the building which must at the outset include the fostering of a lively street-scape.
Terry Teachout writes a very interesting piece (and not just because my name appears in it) titled Among the fortresses (foreshadowing his conclusion) on a very contemporary subject: the "culture center" as an urban redevelopment tool. Putting aide whether packaging culture into reservations somehow subtly debases it, (I think it feels smarmy and Teachout suggests "potential confusion of artistic aims that occurs when such a center is viewed as a means, not an end)", TT's post focuses on the pragmatic question: Does it work?
"An amateur what? City planner? I'm not sure how one can practice city planning other than as a professional."
Well that's interesting. If by "practice city planning other than as a professional" he means that one has to be employed by a public planning agency, what about, to start from the top, Jane Jacobs? Her influence on thinking about American cities and even on cities themselves is, I think, without peer in the past 50 years (except perhaps for her wicked twin, Robert Moses.) And to my knowledge she never ever worked for a public agency.
And then there is the activist who emerge from time to time in his/her respective community and wields enormous influence (if perhaps mainly through populist veto) on the planning/zoning codes of their towns.
Or what about Donald Trump? Certainly he primarily reacts to what he sees as economic opportunities. But I believe --- and put the merits aside for the moment --- that he has been involved with zoning changes? There is an enormous residential development on the west side of Manhattan which involved changing the plan for the area. It is (or was) a Trump project. So Trump too is an urban planner; his vision helps form the actual physical reality of Manhattan.
So I wonder whether if it is only the professional who can "practice city planning."
Unlike almost everyone else, I have absolutely no opinion about the merits or demerits of any particular plan for Ground Zero. I have not thought much about the problem of Ground Zero much less formed any perspective. It is indeed a knotty site and with many facets, not the least of which is that whatever happens there must act simultaneously as memorial to the deaths of real people, as a symbol of cultural resolve, and of military defiance against tyranny and also of course to function as part of working city.
So I have no opinion about any of the plans which have been brought forth.
But the error in this comment by Herbert Muschamp about Design Guidelines for Ground Zero should not go unremarked. He says:
Wisely, and stylishly,Roger Scruton does.
There used to be one object in every English village that stood out as a symbol of stable government and a refuge to the traveler: the telephone booth. This cast-iron structure in imperial red was designed in 1924 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, architect of Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, itself the last great British venture in the Gothic style. Like many architects who worked in the Indian summer of the British Empire, Scott was eclectic, able to draw on classical, Gothic, and proto-modern motifs in order to provide a rich vocabulary of detail, responsive to the new demands of the industrial age. His telephone booth is a case in point: classical in outline and inspired by Sir John Soane's tomb for his wife in Saint Pancras Churchyard, it is nevertheless an unashamed product of the industrial age, with a suggestion of Bauhaus naughtiness in its fenestration. Raised on a slight plinth, and in the form of a classical column base, it is capped by a gentle pediment, beneath which a panel of opalescent glass, lit from behind, makes a kind of cornice, bearing the word "telephone" in sober classical letters. The door, divided into three parts by its mullions, has a brass handle set into the cast-iron frame, and above the cornice a little crown is embossed or perforated, symbol of national identity and promise of enduring government. So suitable did this form prove to the streets, countryside, and villages of England that it would often be seen on Christmas cards, upright in a sea of snow, beside the Gothic spire, the gabled cottage, and the five-barred gate. And it was a paradigm of what street architecture should be: permanent, dignified, and expressing an idea of public and legitimate order.
Some weeks ago someone referred to me as an amateur. I bristled silently as I do indeed have sufficient paper credentials to be legitimately considered a professional. But then this very astute though unimportant man put the amateur vs. professional matter in a different and more pleasing light in his discussion of dictionaries, specifically Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman about the Oxford English Dictionary:
Which raises the question: Why is it, of the three great lexicographical projects of the last three hundred years (Johnson's Dictionary, the OED, Mencken's The American Language), all were supervised by unschooled amateurs? These great linguistic achievements were not in the least compromised by having high-school dropouts at the helm; on the contrary, these works seem to revel in the language of the practical, working world.
And here is the mother lode.
And this Op-Ed on From Rail to Ruin is also worthy:
But the quirkiest and most invisible place in all of New York City is the High Line, an elevated railroad spur stretching 1.45 miles from the Jacob Javits Convention Center to Gansevoort Street in the once grimy (and now fashionable) meatpacking district. A concrete and steel structure two stories above the sidewalk, it is so big that anyone can see it, but so nondescript and so much a part of the urban landscape that it mostly goes unnoticed.
Tyntesfield, one of Britain's greatest Victorian mansions and also one of its most closely guarded architectural secrets, has been saved for the nation and will be opened to the public for the first time....The spectacular Gothic country house outside Bristol has been sold to the National Trust for £24 million, plus a further unspecified amount negotiated in a tax deal between the Government and Tyntesfield's owners...A key element in the agreement negotiated just before last Friday's deadline was a tax deal between the Government and the 19 heirs of the house's owner, Lord Wraxall - a reclusive batchelor - who died last year...The house, dated 1875, and a farm on the estate, together with almost 540 acres of land, will be taken over by the National Trust, while the remainder of the 1,870 acres will be sold...Tyntesfield was built by William Gibbs, a Victorian entrepreneur who made his fortune from importing guano from Peru for use as fertiliser.
Forget light rail and monorail and buses and bicycles.
The seated woman would like all of you to consider the sulky, as shown here:
as the up-and-coming means of urban transport.
(The pooch looks as quizzical as I.)
Some folks have a slightly different take and suggest that the answer to NYC gridlock is actually the human-powered tricycle.
Joel Kotkin's perspective is L.A.'s Core Already Has a 'There' There .
At the heart of the issue are conflicting views of urban development. The one now popular with planners, developers and theorists hinges a downtown's survivability to its ability to attract upper-middle-class residents to live there or to frequent "hip" restaurants, clubs, arts and entertainment palaces, and sports and cultural facilities. In essence, a city's future depends on outsiders.
A member of the group blog unfolio is dubious about the power of single structure to create a neighborhood and says so here:
I would argue that a single building can destroy an area by being so uninviting that it kills the atmosphere, but one building can hardly create the atmosphere. A successful environment for nightlife requires a diversity of activities, from high-end restaurants and opera houses to art galleries, coffee shops and sports bars. Surely it will take all the magic in the Kingdom for Disney Concert Hall to save Los Angeles.
Of course. but that's a headline from New Zealand. I still find it amazing & fascinating that these development/neighborhood/sprawl issues are a global phenomenon. These tensions appear to be a universal byproduct of every materially successful society.
One of Samizdata's most interesting members might consider doing just a tiny bit of fact checking before despoiling an otherwise worthy post about Green terror --- his post instigated by this surprisingly reasonable piece at The American Spectator (I have a very unfavorable recollection of that mag) with a statement like:
As Virginia Postrel noted on her blog some time ago (cannot find the exact article, I am afraid), we need to hear from mainstream green lobbies about how much they deplore violent acts. So far, I have heard diddely squat from any such group on this matter.
Indeed, environmental extremists do wicked things and rational people are against their actions; terrorism from any quarter must be both condemned and battled.
And had Mr. Pearce taken a moment (it took me all of 2 minutes at most) to Google, say, the premier North American member-based environmental group --- the Sierra Club --- he would have found at the Club's top-level entry page a link to the Club's Press Room. That is the obvious place to find public statements. And if we go there (and follow just one more link to the archived news releases) we do indeed find the not unexpected (unless one prefers not to find it) Statement on Violence in the Name of the Environment. It's dated August 25, 2003 and is from Carl Pope, the Club's Executive Director. It starts as follows:
"The Sierra Club strongly condemns all acts of violence in the name of the environment, and we specifically denounce the Earth Liberation Front's recent acts of arson and vandalism at a construction site in San Diego and at car dealerships in Southern California."
I don't get any sense that Mr. Pope was winking.