Saturday, June 26, 2010
What I'm Reading (Summer & iPad Edition)
More fires in the Bronx. I'm a big Yankees fan but not a big fan of the Boss and his management style, so Steinbrenner was a great book for my iPad. The iBook is half the price of the hardcover, available practically instantly, and you're not wasting paper when you throw it away after reading it. The iBook reader is much better than the Kindle, but so far books are limited.
Camillo Sitte has a translation of Sitte's classic text, along with annotations, extensive footnotes and a long introduction. I've had this book for years, but never read it. Recently I picked it up and so far I've been enjoying the Collins's introduction and I'm looking forward to reading their translation. There are many similarities between Sitte's period and the early years of New Urbanism.
Steve Mouzon's Original Green. Steve has more than 10,000 followers on Facebook.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
And thinking of Maine
Another iPhone photo, this one from Camden, Maine
Untouched, from the original iPhone
Live from New York
I'VE BUILT UP a collection of iPhone photos taken around New York City and State. Soon I should have them all up at MobileMe: http://gallery.me.com/massengale#100028
Sunday, June 20, 2010
BP R US
MY FATHER LOVED POGO. So I was long ago introduced to "We have met the enemy and he is us." As the BP tar balls head towards the Okefenokee Swamp, Pogo and Albert Alligator on Father's Day, I think of him again.
The US consumes far more oil per person than any other country. We long ago passed our peak oil supply, and now the rest of the world is too, at the same time that they follow our example of profligate oil use.
Because of me and my older sister, my parents moved from New York to the suburbs. For most of my first decade, we lived in a three-bedroom, one-bath house that was about a third the size of the average spec house built in this decade. We had one car – my father either walked to the railroad station or my mother would drive him there. My sister and I walked to our neighborhood school. No one talked about organic food or local produce, because petro-chemical based agribusiness was in its infancy. In many ways, it was a more pleasant life than the average suburban life today, but it is suburban life today that produces most of our carbon footprint. As a resident of Manhattan, my footprint is around a third of the average American's.
In a very short time, we've built a way of life that requires most Americans to drive everywhere for everything, even though more than half of all Americans can't drive.* We save Wal-Mart money by driving to their scattered warehouses to pick up our purchases, and we bring them back in bulk to our home warehouses, that we also fill with inexpensive Chinese stuff from Target, Best Buy and Bed, Bath & Beyond. To do this we buy SUVs and vans that get terrible mileage. It all adds up, and in the end we have to drill for oil way out in the gulf.
* The young, the old and the poor.
after Steve Mouzon's BP or US?
Saturday, June 19, 2010
BS R US
SORRY, BUT WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? -
Because of the devastation caused by industrialization, designers can no longer pretend that their parks are untouched or natural. - New York Review of Ideas
The author of the article, and others in the article, specifically contrast the designer of the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, Michael Van Valkenburgh, with Frederick Law Olmsted, the the landscape architect of the great Central Park and Prospect Park. Brooklyn Bridge Park is a wonderful place, a park on the East River, next to the fabulous Brooklyn Bridge and across from the towers of Wall Street. It's design, however, can't compare to Olmsted's masterpiece in Manhattan, in my opinion. It has an frequently unappealing artificiality, as the quote above might suggest, and it doesn't do enough to add to the beauty of its setting.
The quote is part of the repackaging of Modernism that has been going on in academia recently. Having realized that in the public mind Jane Jacobs was right - Modernism usually meant bad urbanism - academia has invented Landscape Urbanism, which says that cities are dynamic and our urban designs must be experimental. Then it implies that sustainability is somehow a style issue, when style has nothing to do with it.
Olmsted came 100 years after the profound disruption of the Industrial Revolution and thought our parks must be beautiful. Beauty appeals to the senses and produces a sense of well-being. Intellectual concepts appeal to the brain and can produce a sense of dislocation. In retrospect, one of the most unsatisfying aspects of the 20th century was the materialistic way that we promoted the intellect and the ego over the harmony of the other senses.
Our civic structure and the public realm need much more than intellectual concepts. With other principles we built a beautiful and satisfying city. More later.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
BBC: The Genius of Design, Episode 1
POSTSCRIPT: For 24 hours, the BBC put the first episode of The Genius of Design on the web. Then they took it down. They don't seem to believe that information wants to be free (or that one free episode can get you to buy the other ones from iTunes).
Friday, June 11, 2010
Live from New York
The Grand Central Academy finished a week-long sculpt-off tonight. The work was impressive, the students enthusiastic and inspiring.