L'urbanisme commence avec la localisation du stationnement.
Hey cuz. I imagine that you've heard about this by now:
Human populations are tightly interwoven
The most recent common ancestor of all humanity lived just a few thousand years ago, according to a computer model of our family tree.
And then there is:
A single prolific parent can have a vast influence once their descendants begin to multiply, Humphrys says. "The entire Western world is descended from Charlemagne, for example," he says. "There's really no doubt."
No doubt? I can't quite grasp how this one work out. (Remember Do the math!) Charlemagne lived, say, 1200 years ago. No? That's about 60 generations at 20 years per generation. That's not all that many, really. (And does he really mean "descended from" as opposed to "related to"?) What hapened to all the other family lines which existed in Charlemagne's day? There were really so few that they've all intermarried -- Jews and peasants and aristocrats alike and included? -- in those 60 generations? Seems quite counter-intuitive. But of course life itself strikes me as rather extraordinary, to begin with. So who knows.
Context for out-of-town readers: The Alaskan Way Viaduct is an elevated highway which runs through the heart of downtown Seattle and provides a crucial north-south link for about 100,000 trips per day.
"The contingency plan is in draft form at this time."
So wrote Maureen Sullivan (official spokesperson of the Washington State Department of Transportation), on September 27, 2004 about plans to deal with the ensuing emergency should 'the big one' (i.e. earthquake) demolish the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct, as one did to a similar viaduct in Kobe, Japan in 1995:
click to enlarge
(photo credit: Viaduct of the Hanshin Expressway no. 3 lies fallen)
A falling viaduct is not a joking matter.
The Nisqually Earthquake of February 28, 2001 made the entire State of Washington a "disaster area." And that wasn't that big a quake. So people are worried. No one doubts, least of all the Department of Transportation, that loss of the Viaduct will be a very serious emergency. See also Be Very Afraid, The Alaskan Way Viaduct is a Disaster Waiting to Happen. It's Time to Stop Talking and Start Working.(11/27/03)
The answer? Four and one half years later and "The contingency plan is in draft form at this time." (She also wrote that "...we started to develop a more detailed contingency plan about a year and one half ago.")
We are reminded of the issue every day. Today, for example: Shaking at St. Helens and elsewhere makes West Coast jittery.
Download the complete email response from WSDOT here. And weep.
I am no geologist but I assume that there is some connection -- not direct one-to-one but both signs of an evolving earth -- between eruptions of volcanoes and earthquakes:
One scientist is sounding fairly sure there'll be a small eruption at Mount St. Helen in the next few days -- putting the chances at 70 percent...In Washington State today, scientists are warning that Mt. St. Helen could blow again. Scientists have issued an alert, telling people to stay away from the mountain because the lava inside is rising.
Should we stay away from the Viaduct?
(Click the image for a larger version)
(This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.)
In fact he liked it so much he is showing it on his own site.
Which is great except it prompts two thoughts which I am executing right now:
1. Protect the image with the appropriate Creative Commons License
2. Send anyone who provides a serious suggestion about how to improve the graphic with a copy of City Comforts the book. (Adding a female nude to the image is not a serious suggestion and will not get you a book.)
So those of you who have already made suggestions, please contact me with your snail mail address and the book will be on the way. To those of you who have not made a suggestion, putting on those thinking caps! (Limit first 50 suggestions or until I get bored, whichever is first.)
In particular, I'd like to add a photo to illustrate each condition. That would make the graphic less abstract and perhaps easier to grasp for people unfamiliar with plans. If you have an exceptional photo, let's talk.
I'd really like to/definitely need to take this course
Photographing the House, Street, and Town Saturday, October 2 10:00am – 1:00pm and 2:30pm – 5:30pm $200 ($180 Members); 6 AIA/CES LUs Instructor: Sandy Sorlien, Photographer
This special intensive seminar will introduce the student to the role of photography in studying, seeing, and representing buildings. The day will begin with the lecture “Photographing the House, Street, and Town” and will progress to a review of the camera, its mechanisms, and film sensor basics. This will include a brief discussion on correcting architectural distortion in Photoshop, and a demonstration of the perspective controls of the view camera, which is used by serious architectural photographers. The course continues with an outdoor photography shoot to practice interpreting individual buildings and streetscapes. Students may use any camera including point-and-shoot, either digital or traditional. The instructor will assist students with selecting a point of view, evaluating light falling on the subject, framing the picture, and controlling focus and perspective. Time permitting, the instructor will collaborate with the class on Polaroid shots with the view camera so results can be seen immediately. No special equipment is needed for this class as students will learn to employ similar perspective control principles with any camera. Students must have some familiarity with their own cameras.
After the ceremony, I talked to Arturo Schwartz, the great Italian expert on Surrealism, and met the main investors in my Milan project – a 64-acre development that will include Italy's first skyscrapers. In the afternoon, I sat admiring the coastline that Nietszche compared to Nirvana, and wrote an article about Hitchcock's films.
Sixty-four acres is a lot of urban land. (In rough order of magnitude about half the size of downtown Seattle, I'd estimate.) And to give the commission -- and of course maybe it's in name only -- to an architect with very little built, and certainly no demonstrated neighborhood planning experience is preposterous. I am sure that his clients know that and will use him only for the publicity. But then that will get him more work from other developers in need of a PR pop. It's fascinating. And sad.
(And Daniel was too modest to mention that he was able to squeeze in a phone call from a Head of State who sought his counsel on an impending international initiative to bring peace to the world.)
Chinese Grand Prix
Rubens Barrichello clinched second place in Formula One on Sunday when he won the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix...
The very idea of a Formula One...Chinese Grand Prix astonishes me.
Race drivers power their cars at the start of the first ever Chinese F1 Grand Prix at Shanghai International Circuit Sunday Sept. 26, 2004 in Shanghai, China.
In a very interesting post, Francis Morrone suggests rhetorically:
"Now, we are all supposed to hate gentrification."
But we don't.
Because we keep doing it.
And it's basically a very good thing.
And even if it isn't, we'll keep doing it.
Because, ultimately, you cannot stop a free market unless people essentially agree with the social premise behind the regulation. Rent-control's "key money" -- under-the-table transfer of a rent-controlled tenancy -- is a prime example that when people value things more than the law is supposed to allow them, then they find their way around the regulations by what becomes illegal transactions. The free market prevails except when there is a very broad social consensus that the regulation is appropriate (e.g. child labor laws.)
That's part of the issue with gentrification, at least in cities where the housing stock at issue is primarily owner-occupied single-family detached: What could really be done to stop it? At the same time as one is arguing about whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, consider whether it is amenable to social control at all. I'd suggest that gentrification is far too organic and natural a social process and is largely beyond social control, unless one wanted to bring back racially-descriminatory laws.
Even if one wanted to, and I certainly do not, what could one do to stop gentrification? Require all sales be run though some sort of "community commission" to see if the buyer "qualified" and would not change the demographic mix of the area? I hope the absurdity of that is self-evident. One can argue that gentrification should trigger more subsidy for poor people. Well more subsidy for poor people may well be a good idea. But the free-market sale of a house is a transfer of monet from (presumably) a richer person to a poorer one. So who is the loser? How would you prevent a (presumably, let's posit) poorer and blacker person from selling to a (presumably) richer and whiter person? Would anyone dare? It seems to me gentrification, if it is indeed a problem, is not one with any apparent solution. Unless one intends society to remain fixed in some current configuration, I see no plasuible solutions.
Note: Don't miss the comments on Morrone's post at 2Blowhards; there are some very thoughtful ones, and I don't mean my own.
In my early days -- late 1970s -- I was on Task Force set up the City of Seattle to stop "red-lining": the practice of not lending to people in poorer, usually black areas od a city. From what I can tell, that practice is pretty-much long gone, especially in a city like Seattle. And that's good. It would be bitter irony if in any way, in any city, anti-gentrification became the rationale for a new kind of red-lining to restrict new investment by "outsiders."
Stefan Beck thinks so:
Besides, all the planning and musing and nuance in the world couldn't have prepared us for the breathtaking savagery of our enemy.
Rubbish.The very fact that we are surprised is convincing evidence of the lack of planning. Had no one ever heard of the savagery of the Russian war in Afghanistan? Such whining excuse is what happens when you put children in charge of the White House.
In fact I remember quite distinctly hearing a Chris Mathews talk show, just right before we invaded Afghanistan, in which he alluded forebodingly to the savage tortures inflicted on Russian soldiers by the Afghans. So let's not have any nonsense about "couldn't have prepared us."
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
As steady readers know, I am purely a one-trick pony, a hedgehog (as opposed to a fox) and the one thing I know is the centrality of parking, street wall etc etc. in creating a real city. My purpose in creating this animated GIF is to have a useful didactic prop to stimulate discussion and to maintain focus on what is important. As I have discussed here on this blog at probably tiresome length, it is the relationship illustrated by the animated GIF above which explains why some streets are dead and then how to animate them (at least the physical pre-condition for animating them.)
Any suggestions to make it clearer, simpler, more direct and forceful will be happily accepted. I wondered, for instance if we should include on-street parking to the urban model and possibly eliminate the sidewalk in the suburban one as both are associated factors. But with that added complexity perhaps, I guess, we'd have to have a series of GIFs which cycled through and added/deleted elements? And I have to consider whether this is a stand-alone animation for the blog and/or if I'll use it in some sort of public presentation where I would be expanding and commenting on it. Hmmm. But enough for today!
(And thanks to Carl Juarez for his essential and indispensible technical assistance in actually creating the GIFs.)
UPDATE: Thanks for the suggestions! It's very helpful to receive feedback.
I was reminded of City Comforts by this BBC piece on the rebuilding of the World Trade Centre site, which states that the new transit station is set back from the street, for security reasons. I wonder what Mr Sucher makes of the impact of terrorism threat on the urban environment. As one of his central tenets of urbanism seems to be that buildings should meet the street, how does that mesh with pedestrian plazas to fend off vehicular access? And what should one make the of occurrence of concrete blocks to do the same? How long will it be before we see public art flanking the road, which looks an awful lot like those trapezoid world war 2 anti-tank lumps of concrete, that still dot occasional beaches and haphazard bits of countryside?
Phil Langdon knows a lot more about that issue than I do. See the September, 2004 issue of New Urban News, for instance. (Scroll down page to commentary on "Urban fallout in American war on terrorism.")
Way back when, I did a post Do the math! in which I promised that
Do the math! will be a continuing feature of this Blog. There are examples every week in the media about which to chuckle. Most of them breathlessly present a dramatic number without creating a relationship to show the importance or triviality of the number. And I promise, this Blog's Do the math! feature will never, ever go beyond addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Because I can't. Even with a computer.
I fell down on the job. Now I have come across a good example of one of those breathlessly-presented numbers which prove, exactly, nothing. It's in The Seattle Times and by its Editorial Page Editor, Jim Vesely, in his weekly (?) column:
Close to your neighbor, sometimes too close
Frustrations from homeowners in Magnolia over a dense, new development say something about what happens when neighbors get too close. Neighbors took offense to a plan to put 39 homes on roughly four and a half acres of an old Seattle community. That level of cluster housing always looks good on paper. It has levels of density only achieved in Europe or East Coast planned communities — or badly planned ones. Here we have almost 10 houses per acre. The complaints from the neighborhood swarm around a familiar landscape: increased traffic, a fundamental change to the neighborhood and too many choke points.(italics added -- DS)
Only one problem: if you do the math you find out that the developer’s proposed density is actually extremely comparable (i.e. same order of magnitude) to what Jim correctly suggests is typical density in Seattle. (Seattle lots are very typically 3 - 5 thousand SF.)
He contrasts the prevailing density in Seattle:
Here we have almost 10 houses per acrewith the Magnolia proposal of
39 homes on roughly four and a half acres
Vesely concludes/implies that the Magnolia neighbors' concerns/objections are warranted.
Uh?...Do the math!
Of course the numbers suggest no such thing. In fact they illustrate, if anything, quite the opposite: that it is not density which is the issue but simply too much time on the hands of affluent home-owners with nothing better to do than pull up the draw-bridge.
The Magnolia proposal -- if one simply divides 4.5 acres by 39 houses -- indicates 8.7 houses per acre which is less than what is prevailing in Seattle (“here”) -- almost 10 houses per acre -- in general and in Magnolia in particular.
Vesely’s point was (I think -- and I say "I think" because of the column's odd muddle of issues) that people don’t like increased density. No argument there. But to use a neighborhood conflict where the proposal is just about the same as existing density to prove that point reveals...uh...only that the writer probably did not, even a bit, do the math!
His mistake in (not working out? working out incorrectly?) such simple arithmetic nullifies his use of that particular factoid to support his argument. In itself this failure to "Do the Math!" is not that big a deal. I would have thought that Vesely, after the mistake, was brought to his attention would readily (and laughingly — hey! we all make mistakes! I make vastly bigger ones every day) acknowledge the mistake and maybe even issue a clarification/correction on his own editorial page.
But he seems not to get the message; and that is the issue, if in this case a humorous one. People in postions of leadership have a particular responibility to be humble and to admit mistakes. That the Oval Office and the Editorial Page of the Seattle Times have a similar inabilty to be self-reflective is a disappointment. The editorial pages of great papers do not, it appear, have any room in them for clarifications or corrections.
UPDATE: Btw, I have no intention of getting into a discussion of this particular project. From what I know, it seems quite appropriate and well-designed. (In particular, I know the architect's work and it is a very good firm.) Other people, from their own perspective, may reasonably disagree. My cautionary point was that Jim's example does not -- by his own numbers -- prove his point as the simple exercise of do the math! shows us.
UPDATE 2: But nn this density issue: I was recently involved in the development of a cluster development with detached houses on lots as small as 1600 SF. Before we built it I was somewhat concerned/curious about the density -- How it would look and feel? Would buyers like it? Would I be pleased and proud of it when it was done? -- as it is very difficult to imagine "density." And in fact so much depends on execution.
Now that it is 100% complete, with people living in the great majority of the houses, I have absolutely no doubt that gracious and dignified and even very luxurious housing can be built on very very small lots. I do sympathize at a human level with people who resist change in their own neighborhood. But I think that their fears are usually not justified by any objective standard, certainly not justified if the standard is "urban living."
In this post from just a few days ago -- Remove the viaduct? Honestly, I have no opinion at this time; but I do have one question -- I realize now that I should have emphasized the importance of the contingency plan. The immediate issue is not whether it would be nice to rid ourselves of the Viaduct -- of course that would be nice -- but what does the Plan say if nature does it for us.
There are several reasons for placing importance on the Contingency Plan.
1. If the experts who assure us that there is an emergency -- that the next big quake will bring down the Viaduct -- are correct, then we will have to deal with the situation. Period. It will happen sooner or later. And we should be prepared for it. Are we?
2. The contingency plan should reveal a great deal about the actual impacts of removing the Viaduct and leaving it down i.e. a contingency plan for such a horrendous event would I assume include some very specific assumptions, numerical models, likely impacts described to a very specific degree and over a period of many months and plausible emergency prescriptions.
Now if there is no contingency plan at all, that also means several things:
1. That the people in charge of this element of our infrastructure are indeed incompetent;
2. They really don't believe that the Viaduct will come down in anything short of a ten-thousand year earthquake and for which no amount of planning is sufficient.
So in either case, it's relevant to ask "Where's the Contingency Plan?"
UPDATE: I am assured by a high government official -- about whom everyone says only nice things -- that indeed there is " an extensive contingency planning exercise." My question is whether such a "planning exercise" is like the "WMD development program" which Mr. Bush told us existed in Iraq.
I don't know.
And in fact does this article -- Genes From Engineered Grass Spread for Miles, Study Finds -- in fact describe a circumstance which could come under the umbrella of the precautionary principle?
A new study shows that genes from genetically engineered grass can spread much farther than previously known, a finding that raises questions about the straying of other plants altered through biotechnology and that could hurt the efforts of two companies to win approval for the first bioengineered grass.
This principle (at least one version) states:
"When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically."
...even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.
...odd post which seems to suggest that...well what does it suggest? I am puzzled. It's way too clever for me, perhaps. Is the blogger suggesting that people who make movies, who deal in fiction, are all Democrats and Kerry supporters? Or that all Democrats and Kerry deal in fiction? Or what? Is the blogger implying that Karl Rove is really behind the Killian memos? I'll be damned if I can figure it out.
I think there's some reference to Bush (and his "military service") via the line "fake but accurate." which is of course true, so there's no joke there. Whatever. Maybe it's British humor?
Remove the viaduct? Honestly, I have no opinion at this time; appealing in theory as it might be, in fact I am skeptical that such a plan makes sense, as the conventional opinion also seems to hold:
Study shows effects of no viaduct
"Seattle and state officials yesterday rejected a proposal to tear down the city's aging Alaskan Way Viaduct without replacing it with any new roadways, saying the idea would wreak havoc on local streets."
"If the Alaskan Way Viaduct were torn down and not replaced, traffic along Alaskan Way would more than quadruple and the number of cars on downtown streets would grow as much as 50 percent, according to a new study released yesterday by the state Department of Transportation."
But I do have one question
It seems to me that there is a piece of the story missing: what happens during construction? With a +6 year construction period, the reality is that the Viaduct WILL be down for a while...What happens then?
Or, of vastly greater concern — What is the contingency plan if and when (so we are assured) an earthquake takes down the viaduct? Certainly there must be a contingency plan? What is it? How does it deal with the traffic in the case of a forced but predictable event?
Opposition to the People's Waterfront Coalition Plan to tear down the viaduct — and leave it down forever — is based on the idea that it wouldn't work, that there would be civil chaos, that we need that traffic corridor etc etc All well and good; I happen to buy that argument at first blush; chaos may indeed be the result. But if so how are things going to work during the 5-6 year period it will take to rebuild the viaduct if it is destroyed in an earthquake? Such a situation sets the boundaries of the tolerable, possible and likely.
Just to make sure you understand: if taking down the viaduct permamently (voluntarily) will unleash chaos, then taking it down semi-permananetly (by act of nature) should also be a pretty scary situation. So what is the contingency plan? How do we handle the situation for the years -- not forever but still a pretty significant time -- it will take to rebuild the viaduct?
(Photo credit: People's Waterfront Coalition.)
Francis Morrone thinks that this article by Mark Helprin is a "must-read." I don't happen to agree but what is interesting is that the Helprin article and another piece by a fellow named Thomas Powers both discuss, to a small and large degree respectively, "preventative detention" as a means of battling terrorism.
Crooked Timber noted the Powers' article but lets it off just a bit too lightly, I think. I left this comment (more or less) there:
"What puzzles me about Powers is that it seems to me that we in the USA already have preventative detention: it’s called conspiracy law. The crime of conspiracy consists simply of “conspiring” with one other person to commit a crime.
"You don’t have to actualy commit the crime — just plan it. And the degree to which you plan it is very flexible. Some concete action must have been done -- but it might be as little, I believe, as buying a blasting cap. An aggressive prosectutor might well convince a jury that purchasing a one-way ticket is a sufficient act.
"The existence of the crime of conspiracy seems like such an obvious riposte to Powers that I wonder what, if anything, I am missing."
On futher reflection there is one thing which "preventative detention" might offer: ability to lock up an individual since conspiracy, by definition, involves two or more people.
But then, so what? The horrendous crimes/acts of war which we have seen and which we characterize as "terrorism" have almost (the unibomber the sole exception, to my knowledge) have all been done by groups -- fairly substantial groups, in fact -- of people. Conspiracy law would it seem to suffice quite nicely, at least for the actions which scare us. Let's worry about the lone terrorist when we have gotten the current situation in hand.
(And if you think that conspiracy law can be trumped by the head terrorist delegating an operation to a single person, you have missed the power of conspiracy law: the crime was comitted in that very delegation.)
What we lack is not sufficient power under law but the intelligence -- no pun intended -- to find people who are planning bad things.
UPDATE: A concerned reader tells me that I should be embarrassed -- Columbia grad and all that -- for using the word "preventative." She writes: I hate to be such a nag, but THERE IS NO WORD "PREVENTATIVE"!!!!!!! It's "preventive".
But then I go and find this definition of PREVENTATIVE. What do I do? The Powers' article uses "preventive" and so in terms of style, consistency etc I should probably use that spelling. But is "PREVENTATIVE" incorrect?
(On reflection I do find "preventative" a bit awkward as a sound. So I shall try to avoid it in the future. But, strictly speaking, was I wrong? And, more significantly, is Dictionary.com wrong?)
I have posted a PDF which explains The Three Rules of Urban Design. It's an extract from my book City Comforts.
Just click here to download it. (If the size of the file presents a problem for you, please email me and I will see what I can do.)
Practically and theoretically The Three Rules are the fundamental "pattern generator" for creating "city-ness." When it comes to figuring out how to make a walkable neighborhood or city, after The Three Rules everything else is epilogue.
UPDATE: And don't miss this animated GIF which illustrates the difference between "city" and "suburb." It's really quite amazing (and hard to believe until you start observing it for yourself) but the whole world of urbanism revolves around the location of the parking lot.
Or, you don't pour money down a rat-hole.
So let's concede ad arguendo (though I hasten to add -- only ad arguendo) that John Kerry has no better idea than George W. Bush of how to clean up the mess that George W. Bush and George W. Bush's national security team have made in Iraq. If that's the case, who do you want handling the next foreign policy crisis -- the team that made such a mess out of the previous one that neither party was able to put together a plan for cleaning it up, or the other team? ....
My own response, when it comes to most local government bond issues, is similar.
"OK, gummint folks. Show me that you know how to manage things now -- how to maintain and even revitalize neighborhoods, how to deal with traffic congestion, how to administer a fair land-use permit system etc etc etc and I will be glad to give you more money. But you guys are like the failing business which shows up at the bank and says 'Hey! We've got a great idea for a new business!' The sensible banker is going to say: 'No more money until you clean up your existing mess and bring your line-of-credit current. At least.' "
In my view, to bring it back to Yglesias' point, GW's presidency is Arbusto'd and it will never grow beyond a tiny, sickly bush; so we gotta call the loan. It's not easy being a banker but sometimes you just have to say "No" -- even when you like the borrower. And GW has certainly pushed his credit. Most would say overdrawn. As I said many, many months ago: Is Bush the man to carry out the Bush doctrine?
V&A's £70m Spiral extension axed.
The museum's board of trustees voted to abandon the ambitious design after the Heritage Lottery Fund rejected its £15m application.
Designed by radical architect Daniel Libeskind to showcase modern design, The Spiral had provoked controversy because of its futuristic look.
V&A director Mark Jones said scrapping the project was "a sad loss".
The plans had faced funding problems and the architect was asked to reduce the project's cost as far back as 2001.
Although private money had been donated, the trustees said it could not go ahead without public funding.
Plans for The Spiral's Exhibition Road site will be rethought, Mr Jones said.
Monorail recall measure on ballot
Campaigns on both sides gear up for yet another voter battle.
And now, the fourth Seattle monorail campaign begins.
It got under way yesterday after the City Council agreed to put an anti-monorail initiative on the November ballot, apparently ending the pre-election legal battles that have kept the measure in limbo.
The initiative would effectively kill the monorail by barring it from city streets...
It's unfortunate that the anti-monorail folks are jumping the gun and moving ahead to try to stop the project before the propoal to build & operate is made public. It could be that that proposal is so bad that I would change my position and vote against it as well. The antis claim they are only against the project because it has been "changed" so much from what we voters approved. That's not accurate, of course, and if the vote turns on whether they can make that case convincingly, they will lose.
It's not even her first day in the blogosphere (as I write this in Seattle on Thursday PM) but I can already see that there'll be another architectural critic to monitor. But Nancy Levinson's sidebar includes reference to a book I've never read. And probably never will, though it seems just preposterous enough to be intriguing:
Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture, by Kate Nesbitt
An anthology that follows the dizzying currents of architectural theory from the mid-Sixties through the mid-Nineties; most of the major themes are represented, including semiotics, poststructuralism, postmodernism, phenomenology, feminism, gender, etc. Theory is no longer on the rise, and lately more than a few observers have — with more than a little relief — declared it dead. Collections like Nesbitt's help us to assess whether the obituaries were premature.
Themes of "Feminism?" "Gender?" "Semiotics?" in architecture? Could it be? It seems a bit strained to me. And by contrast no mention of something truly important? i.e. New Urbanism, "contextualism," etc. etc. Very odd indeed.
Michael Blowhard says:
City Comforts, the book, by the way, would make a terrific Wiki.
Interesting. How would it work? Is the idea that an individual could/would/might contribute his/her own suggestions --- i.e. specific details of a city which add comfort? And then someone else might comment? Amplify? Carress? Polish? And/or even diagree? Vehemently? etc etc.
What's my role? Do I edit? Or is the idea that once this City Comforts Wiki is let loose on the world it no longer needs my tending? And is this "thing" thus no longer "private property"? But some sort of communal asset? And I lose the right to exclude idiots and boors? Is that realistic? Desirable?
My observation over a number of years is that everyone's property is no one's property and ultimtely gets ignored and run-down. Of course that's the whole thrust of Anglo-American property law and the reason, for example, that we have such a thing as "adverse possession": use it or lose it. The world is better off, the theory runs, when property is taken care of by specific people who have a direct stake in maintaining it. Of course that theory by no suggests that all property should be private, owned by non-communal bodies; there is ample role for non-profit institutions which have a stake in taking care. But the property has to vest with someone, some specific body.
But then again, wikis do exist and, apparently, fairly successfully. The few that I have run across don't, however, seem to have an "owner."
UPDATE: Well I guess I am having one of those senior moments i.e. I didn't remember that I had already blogged about having a City Comforts Wiki.
From INTBAU News Pages
There have been conflicting reports this week from Portugal where an apparently modernist professor and faculty have been installed in the acclaimed Viseu New School of Architecture and Urbanism... "orchestrate[d] a take over", without consulting existing teaching staff...The group reportedly arrived with a new curriculum, schedules, and all the bureaucratic work in place. When the new curriculum was rejected by indignant members of the existing faculty, a faculty member reported that the group became "confrontational and argumentative". A faculty member reports that, "They told us that they had instructions to change the school in every aspects, from the practical to the philosophical".
This is big news on the Tradarch Listserv, understandably provoking a fury of comment but so far no first-person narrative, documentation or media verification. I'd like to read that "new curriculum" referred to in the quote above, for example, to see how such a coup manifests itself. Did the plotters say something like "The new curriculum will no longer allow any Doric columns?" Were the "instructions" mentioned above in writing? What did they say? Specifically? And how exactly do you replace a "new urbanist" architectural education with a "modernist" one?
I could find nothing about this matter on Google News Search: Viseu New School of Architecture. Does anyone have any hard facts? The INTBAU post above itself refers to "conflicting reports." What does that mean?
On the surface this appears to be a sad affair: Starchitecture winning in the school room as well as in the board room. Alas.
UPDATE: Sadly but predictably, some people think this sordid tale is Encouraging News.
I left a comment here about a magazine named City Journal and it was not an entirely complimentary comment. An on-line friend for whom I have the highest regard suggested that I might reconsider, that there was some pretty-good stuff there. So I have.
And my principal gripe -- that one can hear the City Journal axe-grinder in the background honing every sentence -- is reinforced.
But he's right: there are a few good pieces there. In particular I found an intriguing essay -- Statues and Civic Memory --
Here's a great story. A British psychologist takes on decoding the Voynich manuscript, a 16th century hand-lettered book written in an unknown code that has frustrated cryptographers since its discovery in an Italian villa in 1912.
How impregnable is the Voynich? During World War II, US Army code breakers - the guys who blew away Nazi ciphers - grappled with the manuscript in their spare time and came up empty. Since then, decoding the book's contents has become an obsession for geeks and puzzle nuts everywhere.
If that wasn’t interesting enough, it turns out the reason he did it was to demonstrate a model he has been developing that could have great impact on scientific research and creative endeavors.
His approach is built on the observation, noted as far back as the 1970s, that experts tend to cut to the chase. In their zeal to get to an answer, they make many little mistakes. (A recent study of work published in Nature and British Medical Journal, for example, found that 11 percent of papers had serious statistical errors.) Experts unknowingly fudge logic to square data with their hypotheses. Or they develop blind spots after years of working in isolation. They lose their ability to take a broader view. If all this is true, he says, think of how much big science is based on flawed intuition.
You can read the original story here.
Well not quite; I have been waiting, and somewhat impatiently, for E-books to emerge out of the collective expectation and it looks as if
1. I am not the only one,
2. We may not have very much longer to wait (i.e. in a matter of a few more years.)
The link (above) updates us to the apparent state-of-the art:
...another commenter supplied a link to this gizmo, the Sony Librie.
The important thing about it is that its screen is a lot more like paper than the traditional computer screen. It is not back lit, any more than paper is when you read that.
Not a screen in the usual sense: i.e. not back lit. Extraordinary. I am looking forward to seeing one but they are not yet sold in North America.
Of course I am hoping that the eBook will fulfill my hopes as a travel tool -- the ability to carry a few dozen titles for casual reading plus a host of guidebooks. Imagine a hiking trip. You stop and see an odd flower. Out comes the eBook and you scan one of the 3-4 plant guidebooks you have stored to see which one has the closest image of what you see right before you. This actually happened to me -- sans eBook, of course -- and it was at that moment that I sensed the possibilities for the eBook as a device particularly useful for outdoorsing.
Beyond that, my own City Comforts is a work extradordinary well-suited to re-formation and re-creation as an eBook.
Doug Kelbaugh offers a nice essay about Seven Fallacies in Architectural Culture. I particularly appreciate this one...
4. "Architecture Trumps Urbanism."
As we move back to mixed use urbanism with its walkability and chance encounters—the one tendency on which everyone from Krier to Koolhaas agrees—architectural type becomes more important than architectural style.
...though you could have fooled me about Koolhaas.
Maybe so. But which thousand words out of the many millions available? That old cliche about a picture and a thousand words is incomplete, perhaps even a bit misleading, for it ignores the not-very-minor-point that one can tease a great many mutially-exclusive sentences out of the very same picture.
It is not at all clear to me what Marcus (the poster to whom I link, above) means, or what the image means to him.
I see the great and admirable vitality of a (somewhat) entreprenurial society manifesting itself, rebuilding itself, re-creating itself -- but in what I believe is an indifferent urban plan. Is that what Marcus sees as well? I like that thought but I doubt it as very few "political bloggers" seem to grasp that the rebuilding of Ground Zero is first, before it can become anything else, a physical and urban event.
(And I haven't studied the plans enough to really feel firm in my own opinion. I did, however, see part of a Frontline show on the 9-1-1 Sacred Ground which was so uninformative about the characteristics of the various physical proposals set forth by David Childs and Daniel Libeskind as to be startling.)
UPDATE: Seablogger comments on my post.He gets it partly right and partly wrong:
David Sucher of City Comforts has some doubts about the WTC site redevelopment plan. I am utterly repulsed by the image that Sucher reproduces. I only hope Libeskind's prismatic horrors are never inflicted on the skyline of New York. Even some stripped down, compromise version could hardly be as dreadful.
Better yet, surround a footprint-based plaza with low-rise structures that would welcome New Yorkers and visitors into a human-scaled environment. There will always be a morbid fascination about the site, and I think nothing tall should ever stand there again, other than the memorial towers of light.
Partly right (and I am not absolutely clear on this one as I have not studied the plans -- so see John Massengale for a more authoritative opinion) because the plan is probably not a very urbane one.
Partly wrong because it appears that Sullivan seems to be placing too much emphasis on the skyline rather than, it appears, (and I could be wrong on his intent) on how the site feels to the pedestrian.
Moreover, I wonder if the overall vision for the site -- vacant, low-rise, or high-rise -- is really fairly debatable i.e. that there is no right way. My initial reaction -- on September 11, 2001 -- was that we should go ahead and rebuild the WTC Towers exactly as they were, notwithstanding that they were a hideous urban design, because such a reconstruction would be as clear a statement of defiance as any.
I have rethought that impulse. Why should we inflict on ourselves a mistake from the past in order to epater l'Osama? But that does not mean that we shouldn't knit back the site into the life-and-commerce of the city. So I wonder about Sullivan's approach, though I don't toss it away out-of-hand. There are probably a host of meaningful ways to re-develop Ground Zero.
Anyone have any familiarity with his work?
Going with the flow
"Town planning began as an attempt not to understand cities but to replace them with something better," says Bill Hillier, director of the Space Syntax Laboratory at University College London. Idealists like Robert Owen aimed to create a bucolic-industrial utopia, and paved the way for "balanced urban environments" such as garden cities.
These visions didn't really have any theory. They sounded nicer than the bleak, regimented industrial cities that American social theorist Lewis Mum ford dubbed Coketown in the 1930s, but were they truly more conducive to healthy living? What made the problem particularly hard was that no one was quite sure what urban design was. To some, it was architecture writ large, which meant it should embrace the modernism of Le Corbusier. To others, it was a form of social planning that should be rooted in economics.
But the science-based work of Hillier, and his spinoff company Space Syntax, takes a different point of view. If we are going to design good cities, says Hillier, we need first to observe them scientifically to deduce their fundamental rules. He believes good urban planning means relinquishing some control. Cities are organic: they grow, evolve and adapt. "I wouldn't design a new city," Hillier says. "I'd grow one."
Of course no one is talking about actually design a whole new city. But of course I agree with his point. I am curious to know what he specifically suggests. Or whether his work merely (and that is not a bad idea) provides some sort of "scientific" rationale for what we already know: that the New Urbanism and The Three Rules are the way to go.
Don't hold your breath. I hope I am wrong but it appears to me that their scrutiny of character is a one-way street and for purely narrow and partisan purposes of re-electing George Bush, as if that is really going to solve anything.
...the lesson of history that teaches that world-transforming discoveries about the nature of man and the cosmos were, by intuition, first adumbrated by poets, philosophers and other men of genius using the same sort of metaphorical language Freud was compelled to use in order to make his revolutionary theories comprehensible.
Is there much or any basis to such a statement? Was gravity "adumbrated by poets, philosophers and other men of genius" before Newton described it? Was earth's rotation around the sun "adumbrated by poets, philosophers and other men of genius" before Galileo set it forth? etc etc. I'm not saying that the author of the paragraph above is wrong, or is a kook or a crank. Hell's bells, he may well be correct. But I have never been aware of this "lesson of history": that art precedes science. Is it a generally accepted one? Certainly scientists "guess" and then test their guesses by how well the guess describes the physical world. And maybe that's all this fellow means. But who is to say where the "guess" originates, whether it is "intuition"..whatever that is.
From Here to Maternity
If Gore's America (and presumably John Kerry's) is reproducing at a slower pace than Bush's America, what does this imply for the future? Well, as the comedian Dick Cavett remarked, "If your parents never had children, chances are you won't either." When secular-minded Americans decide to have few if any children, they unwittingly give a strong evolutionary advantage to the other side of the culture divide. Sure, some children who grow up in fundamentalist families will become secularists, and vice versa. But most people, particularly if they have children, wind up with pretty much the same religious and political orientations as their parents.
And I guess I simply don't get the joke in "If your parents never had children, chances are you won't either." It's obviously makes no sense logically from the start so how can it be funny?
The larger logical flaw is that the article denies intellectual evolution. The parents of Martin Luther's generation were all Catholics. Does that demonstrate that Martin Luther and his cohort will all be Catholics? Guess again. People do change and such change emerge out of generational environments which are often (seemingly) 180 degrees away. No? Just look around.
So it should be cold comfort to conservatives that they have more babies. More conservative babies may well turn out to be more adult liberals.
"Loose lips sink ships."
That's an expression from WW 2 warning people to be quiet, discrete lest enemy spies learn strategic information -- the expected departure/destination of a troop carrier, for instance.
There is another possible meaning: that the morale of a people at war is one of their most valued assets. When I hear personal attacks on politicians -- let's say John Kerry -- from folks such as Seablogger I am concerned because crude and slimy attacks on a politician have a corrosive effect on national unity and trust and hurt our war efforts.
Now is the time for us to be discussing how to deal with terrorism. No one has a clear idea of what will be effective. Oh, fellows like Dick Cheney prance around and posture as though they have an inside track. But obviously the facts on the ground indicate that they don't.
Now fair criticism is fair criticism. Am I entirely satisfied that Kerry has a coherent understanding of how to deal with fanatics whose only political tactic is terrorism? No. I am not entirely satisfied. And it's fine for people to critique him based on what he says (or doesn't say, for that matter.)
That's why it's fair to point out the failure of the Bush foreign policy. (i.e. "Do you feel safer now than you did on September 12, 2001?")
[For example: "...top Pentagon officials said Tuesday that insurgents controlled important parts of central Iraq and that it was unclear when American and Iraqi forces would be able to secure those areas."]
But what wouldn't be fair is to characterize Bush as a coward for not serving in Vietnam for even a coward might have some insights into foreign policy and the best interests of the USA. Nor would it be fair to highlight a person's sexuality as a key to their political opinions.
There is a war going on and we'd better face the enemy rather than turning the guns on each other. That's what annoys and upsets me about the attacks on Kerry that I read on Seablogger: they divert us from the real task at hand of figuring out how to deal with terrorism. They divert us to irrelevant attacks on each other which only weaken us.
Criticism is fine. Smearing is out of line. (Unless, of course, you follow the Dick Cheney school of anything-goes personal behavior and smearing makes you "feel better.")
(Find -- or more practically, discard -- similar odd out-of-proportion The Lady doth Protest too Much rhetoric at, for example, Horsefeathers.)
Alan Sullivan is a good writer. He stretches out a toilet-tissue defense of his own lack of factual knowledge of the Swift Boat situation into a cunningly-written post.
The key statement is below, where Alan explains that his special status as a blogger means that somehow he doesn't have have to the facts because bloggers, well, deal with "opinion," and it is OK to go around spreading lies about people who actually did serve in Vietnam, without regard to the truth, because i>other people are spreading them first. And they have blogs too and thus provide a source which one can quote as "authority." (Of course that's not what he thinks he's saying but that is indeed the only maning.) He writes:
Being a voter, not a jurist, I feel entitled to make up my mind on a preponderance of evidence, rather than evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Being a blogger, not a journalist, I feel entitled to express my opinion without citing every jot and tittle of background information. I don't have a staff like James Taranto. And I'm tired, after writing a big essay on Beslan, which included quite a few citations. So I'm not going to google up supporting links for every Kerry-story ever told. I have repeatedly informed David where he can find documentation of the allegations against Kerry. My list includes sites like Power Line and Captain's Quarters, where political obsessives have pursued every rumor.
Let's put aside whether Alan remembers correctly if he offered any sources at all (in his blog or privately.) In the final analysis, he admits defeat and admits that he doesn't have the facts to back up his inuendos. But hey! He's a blogger! He has opinions! And he does write well. And a good writer can always find a way to make nothing sound like something.
Bear in mind, btw, that I am agnostic on this issue. I wasn't there and I haven't studied Kerry's record. But I have a great BS-detector. What I find disappointing as well as offensive is how casually Alan has repeated the inuendos about Kerry as if they were accepted fact...how he lets down his critical gaze and accepts statements from parties who have an axe to grind etc etc. (And all this from a guy who I believe, like me, never served in the military. It also strikes me as unbecoming for people who, for good reasons or bad, never took part in the Vietnam war to so easily insult people who did.)
Gardens are fun to visit yet some of the most famous and financially-successful ones -- Butchart Gardens for instance -- turn out to be a bit of a let-down. So for the novelty I'd like to visit the "avant garde" ones described below, though I wonder if they might turn out to be a bit precious, contrived, striving. The pictures on line (at the Cornerstone site, linked below) make them look a bit silly, actually. And the accompanying words are so intellectual, abstract, dry...can I say pretentious?...I think so...as to presage boredom.
But hey, maybe it's worth an afternoon:
Landscaping as a Fine Art
Do gardens, like art, have something to say about the human condition? That question --- along with the more basic "just what is a garden, anyway?" --- is posed by an ambitious project taking root amid the vineyards of Sonoma County, an hour north of San Francisco.
Blurring the boundary between landscape architecture and art, the Cornerstone Festival of Gardens is the first gallery-style exhibition of avant-garde landscape architecture in the United States. It is modeled in part on international garden festivals in Chaumont-sur-Loire, France, and Grand-Mtis, Quebec, which, since 1992 and 2000 respectively, have acted as prestigious laboratories for experimentation in landscape design....
Just to make sure you understand, I think that reasonable people can disagree and that there can well be a reasonable man or woman who supports George Bush on a principled and rational basis. What I object is to the off-hand, casual and smarmy smearing that I found at Fresh Bilge. That blog is too good to stoop to such a low.
But hey, maybe the Republicans are all learning from Dick Cheney for whom the only test for acceptable behavior is whether it makes one "feel good."
If I still need to keep up my clock-hours, I take this Continuing Legal Education Course:
In a new twist on ethics presentations, we will discuss a number of lawyer jokes. These jokes are all grounded in patterns of behavior persistent enough to have given rise to unkind jokes. The jokes will be a humorous spring board to a serious discussion of underlying ethical rules and actual disciplinary cases. These jokes, ethical rules and disciplinary cases span all areas of the practice of law. ~ Program Chair: Peter L. Buck, Esq.
Anyone who follows the developments in the Arab Islamic world will be struck by the complete absence of self-knowledge and introspection that characterizes these vexed cultures. Almost every problem is attributed to hostile external forces. The poverty and underdevelopment that plague most of the Arab world are the result of malicious machinations of Americans and Jews.
The Arab world, a significant part of it drenched in oil wealth, has been remarkably successful in persuading people -- particularly some American & European liberals -- that it is the United States and its Israeli client which are to blame for all problems, everywhere. The use of terrorism as a tactic, for example, is supposed to have its "root cause" in poverty, alienation etc etc. Tell that to the truly poor people of the world -- I don't count Saudis as poor -- who do not use terror to advance their interests. That so many well-educated folks can fall so easily into the trap of thinking that the the USA has any role in creating terrorism at all is cause for concern for it implicitly condones the use of terror -- as opposed, say, to peaceful sit-down demonstrations -- as a response to any grievance. Sure we in the USA may do things with which people find objectionable, against their interests, wrong-headed, stupid, and so forth. But terrorism is a tactic and it is not the only means of getting one's point across. Especially if you are a rich, well-educated Saudi. The very notion that terrorism comes from desparation and absence of choice is silly. That any American liberal -- and yes, this is based on conversation with friends so I am not making up a straw-man -- thinks that legitimate grievance is sufficient to condone terrorism is sad indeed.
It's preposterous for you to criticize CT for not covering an issue, especially one which is breaking and for which no moralizing tut-tutting is required.
I could constructively criticize -- and I have to OB, privately -- this blog's total blissful blindness to the condition of our built environment and (more germane to your interests) of the language used to discuss it.
But while that would be true, and sad, such criticism would also be a bit silly because that's just not what you cover: you are not a newspaper and I do not turn to you for comment on every aspect of life. So too, with CT.