Thursday, August 30, 2007
A Convenient Solution To An Inconvenient Truth, from MSN.com
The Urban Revival
Cities may be the key to curbing climate crisis
By Kate Sheppard
Ever wonder what the greenest place is in all the United States? While images of a grass-roofed yurt occupied by back-to-the-landers in rural Montana might spring to mind, it's really quite the opposite. While we might note them for their density and smog, the greenest places in the United States are our urban areas.
There are a number of reasons why urban areas offer the potential for a greener lifestyle. They're dense, meaning people use less land, occupy smaller living quarters and use fewer natural resources. They're home to better public transit systems and, even better, they're more walkable. They consist of a more diverse mix of buildings — houses, row homes, apartments, stores and office buildings are all within the same neighborhood. And they reduce the need to drive, meaning fewer resources have to go into cars, highways and parking lots.
But since the end of World War II, Americans have been moving farther and farther from urban centers, setting up large, resource-intensive homes on big plots of land in sprawling suburbs. We've built highways linking up these homes with jobs and shopping malls, and we’ve made cars a central part of the American way of life. Facilitated by rising income and cheap oil, America spread out, and in doing so helped make us the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. Automobiles are the second-largest contributor to global warming, accounting for 1.5 billion tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere each year, and the energy used to power massive suburban American homes alone accounts for eight percent of all the world's emissions. What would the world be like if we could cut each of our carbon footprints in half simply by changing the structure of where we live?
Red Sox Reflections
Before, last night's game, future Red Sox Hall of Famer Roger Clemens wasn't getting the job done. The Yankees paid him more per start than any other pitcher in baseball, because early in the season they used more than 20 pitchers, who because of injuries, freak injuries, and lack of experience, weren't getting the job done. But going into last night, Rocket's record was 5 and 5, his era was well over 4, and he was making short starts that were wearing out the bullpen.
Last night, Rocket went up against his old team, and it was like old times. Josh Beckett faced his fellow Texan and childhood hero, who pitched a no-hitter until David Ortiz hit a home run to the upper deck. Beckett showed a lot of guts, but he had the same success as other Sox starters this year:
Josh Beckett, 1 - 1, 5.49 era
Dice K, 2 - 1, 6.98
Curt Schilling, 0 - 1, 7.00
Tim Wakefield 0 -3, 10.93
We're liking Chien Ming Wang against Curt Schilling this afternoon. If the Yankees can win, they're in good shape for the last month of the season and making the playoffs, when Andy Pettitte, Chien Ming Wang and Roger Clemens looks like it might be a pretty good trio to go with Mo, Joba and Vizcaino.
Brian Bruney, who hasn't pitched yet in the series, has a 0.00 era against the Sox in 6.0 innings this year. So does Kei Igawa.
Red Sox castoff Johnny Damon had another big hit against is old team.
* No, that's not Yankee Stadium. I was at the Mets - Phillies game last night (the Mets wuz robbed on the final play). That's the view from my seat — pretty good seat.
Architects Really Do Think Like This (if you can call it “thinking”)
Cott, whose firm’s work includes the critically and popularly praised Mass MoCA, a contemporary art museum housed in the shells of a cluster of old mill buildings in North Adams, Massachusetts, dislikes the idea of a neo-Georgian—or indeed, neo-anything—campus in Allston. “We’ve got to get past thinking of architecture in terms of style. We don’t think of cars as modern or not—they are modern, they’re of this time. Once I said to a client who wanted a Colonial design, ‘I’ll make a deal with you. If you’re wearing leather underwear, I’ll design you a more traditional-looking building. But if your underwear is made of some modern material, then I’d like to ask you to keep an open mind about the design.’”
1) Modernism is a style, and it is Modernist architects who always bring the discussion back to style, if a design is not in the Modernist style.
2) Cott is right that "We’ve got to get past thinking of architecture in terms of style." For example, instead of the style of Modernism, which is a limited and limiting language, why don't we think about the architecture of place, or architecture that makes places?
3) More than one-hundred years ago, architects spoke of "an architecture of our time" (by which they meant flat roofs, lots of glass and the expression of technology). But today's architects, in a very different time, want the same expression. How is that an expression of our time?
3) Flat roofs leak, and have for one-hundred years. Glass is a material that has high embodied energy in its production. Le Corbusier and others discovered that glass walls create light and energy problems: to compensate they created inventions like brise soleils that are unnecessary with less glass.
4) Technology is an inadequate expression of human aspirations and needs. A hundred years ago architects talked about "machines for living," but if cars shouldn't look like Classical temples (and they shouldn't), why should buildings look like machines?
5) My underwear, like most Americans', is cotton, which has been around
for at least two millennia. According to Cott's logic, therefore, he
should be designing traditional buildings.
BTW, I know very little about Cott, other than what I see on his website and what I read in Harvard magazine. Judging by his website, he's a better architect than philosopher, if his words here are typical. And they're typical of what 99 out of 100 architects will say.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
More Breaking News (Better This Time)
A new Katrina Cottage will be featured on ABC’s Good Morning America on Wednesday August 29, the 2nd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Some details:
- Designed by Marianne Cusato Cottages.
- Sponsored by Cottage Living Magazine and Mercy Housing (Gayla Schmitt is the local coordinator)
- Donated to local family Chris & Tina Swanier and their children, Chris Jr., Alicia and Aaron.
- Materials donated by Lowe’s.
- Labor by countless volunteers, including the new owners.
The contrast between this local house and Mayne's dark ego vision could hardly be clearer. One is for the people, and makes a place. The other is for Mayne, and ignores the place.
This is why Kroloff and the Starchitect groupies hate New Urbanism. Educated as ideologues, they expected that as they got older they would be the unchallenged tastemakers of America. Instead, New Urbanism is presenting a humane, idealistic and practical vision that threatens their top down control of design.
OMG - The Invasion of the City Snatchers
UPDATE: This Times-Picayune story comments on many of the architectural and planning issues in NOLA today. More comments from me later.
A city is a terrible thing to waste.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
A Lyrical Poet / A Blinded Critic
UPDATE: It seems that previous articles by Ouroussoff have given me similar thoughts.
Pierre Chareau's Maison de Verre (Glass House) is a great house. Chareau designed it in the early 1930s, a time in Paris when Modernism was mainly in the future and its promise was great. By Modernism, I don't mean stylistic elements like flat roofs and glass block, but the promise of technology and even democracy.
When I first went to France 35 years later, it was still, along with many great things, the land of smelly Turkish toilets and unpotable water. But Chareau's bathroom in his first residential design was lyrical, with magical exposed pipes and tubs on display in the middle of the room like great works of art.
I was moved by Chareau's eloquence when I got to visit the house in 1977 as an architecture student. On the same day we saw the ham-fisted poetry of Richard Rogers at the Pompidou Center, still under construction. Rogers gave us a tour, and described a massive indent in a cavernous floor as "the poet's corner." Only a decade or two later, his giant and clumsy exposed pipes on the outside of the Pompidou had to be replaced at great expense. Putting them out in the rain had been a silly idea.
At the Maison de Verre, plumbing and technology were new, and Chareau's design was responsive and inspired. Forty-five years later, Richard Rogers rehash of the same ideas at the Pompidou Center sometimes descended into the insensitive and clichéd. Modernism was a tired ideology.
The New York Times architecture critic, Nicolai Ouroussoff, doesn't get this. He is single-minded propagandist for Modernism and the Avant Garde. Worst of all, he thinks these are new ideas.
In today's Times, he writes about the Maison de Verre, calling it "the best house in Paris." What nonsense. He's so blinded by ideology that he writes off two millennia of better houses. Why does the Times put up with this architectural Babbittry?
PS: It's interesting that one of America's architectural masterpieces was also called the "Glass House." Following Philip Johnson's death at 98, it's now open to the public, and the Maison de Verre soon will be, following its restoration by its new American owner.
So why are architects today acting like glass is a "new" material? In a recent review of Bob Stern's apartment house at 15 Central Park West in Manhattan, Paul Goldberger (a former architecture critic for the Times), called glass "the new white brick." He was referring to the period in the 1960s when New York architects essentially abandoned stone and red brick in the design of Manhattan apartment houses, using glazed white brick instead.
Fast Slow Food
I like Indian food, but since I had my gall bladder out, Indian food doesn't like me. The oils they use are hard on my bile-less liver, causing all sorts of problems you don't want to know about. But now a company in Brooklyn has come out with a line of organic Indian spices that can be used with olive oil, which is not only easy on the liver but actually good for it.
And judging by the Bhindi Masala spices we had last night, they're delicious. I didn't read the instructions quite right, so I made it wrong, and it was still as good as the best Bhindi Masala I've had in several Indian restaurants in London and New York — Bhindi Masala is one of my favorite dishes, so I've tried it in many places.
Why is that Slow Food? Well, I bought the okra at the Union Square Farmers Market. It came from a nearby Hudson Valley farm, and was organic and fresh. I don't think the 3,000 mile okra from California can be as good.
And it was fast: very little preparation time, and 12 minutes cooking time, with only a little attention now and then. www.aroracreations.com