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Housecleaning

Уважаемые дамы и господа, I’ve made a few changes around the sides and back pages of this blog. The Good Posts page has had some things added, while the About page has gained some more text and lost its cat.

A number of links had lapsed and others needed to be added. For example, the Postmodern Conservative link has been dead since the decline of Culture11, and American Socialism for the Rich and Design New Haven got new URLs.

I’ve added GGW co-bloggers at Beatus EstJust Up the PikeBeyondDC, and City Block. Don’t know why I didn’t have them before, but all you need to know is that they write about the same things I do, just 4-5 miles from Tenleytown, and with a wide range of viewpoints. Also, you can check out Richard Layman’s RPUS.

On the architecture side of things, I’ve updated the list with a number of local architecture blogs, including Design Cult, The Straight Torquer, and hidden gem, Washington, DC Architecture: History and Theory. That last one approaches DC with serious academic depth in a surprisingly legible style that I really admire.

Outside of DC, I’ve added faslanyc and Free Association Design, both frequent readers of Mammoth. Also, you can click through to Polis, a blog that covers global urbanism. With one Polis contributor, Peter Sigrist, we will be beginning a small dialogue about Soviet architecture. Check out his series of posts on the parks of Moscow, which will give you a solid night’s worth of fascinating reading.

Now, if you read Russian, you can now find a little section I hope will be growing over the next few months. Already, there is Вашня и Лабаринт (Tower and Labyrinth), Metroblog, Теории и Практики (Theory and Practice), Москва, Которой Нет (The Moscow that Isn’t There), and Moscow Cycle Chic, now that temperatures are getting up into the 60s.

My friend Anna deserves mention for the log of her social life NOMOFOMO, including, but not limited to, such topics as ancient hams and women in sparkly gold catsuits. Then there’s DC Blogs, which notes various DMV-area blogs, including this one.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Peoples’ District, which is possibly the most interesting web presence in DC right now. All it is is an image and a monologue about a resident. And it’s great.

Architecture Other

Five Things, Arranged by Size and Scope

A few found ideas.

One: First, let’s start with what’s in the room. My friend Anna at NOMOFOMO informed me of the publishing of a rather serious book about John Cage’s rather infamous piece 4’33”. The plainly titled book, it turns out, is by Kyle Gann, probably one of the most famous people ever driven off of Wikipedia. Hopefully the book will cool some of the really obnoxious commentary that trots its tired ass out whenever you mention the piece. On a related note, I was at the Smithsonian American Art Museum when some man wearing a North Face vest walked into the room with his brood and began ridiculing the works as “The Painter who Couldn’t draw curves, The Painter who Couldn’t Draw Faces, the Painter Who Didn’t Care,” repeated smugly for several minutes. Unfortunately for his smugness, we were in a gallery entitled, GRAPHIC MASTERS III. There were no paintings so … no painters either, boss.

Two: Anyway, over in my neighborhood, Richard Layman wrote a simple piece in regard to the recent efforts to build a streetcar on Wisconsin Avenue – and the consequent vicious opposition. The arguments are not that new, but he does break down the current bogeyman that guided transit will be hopelessly snarled up by obstructions. His point: it happens more often on highways, and can be minimized with design. On that note, and getting much bigger (153 comments at writing), is the thread on DCMud about the Safegate Pause.

Three: Moving out to the general idea of the neighborhood,  Kaid Benfield penned a remarkably concise and thoughtful definition of Transit-Oriented Development. He emphasizes the oriented part, making the point that it’s the way the neighborhood and buildings facilitate transit use and walkability that is most important. It’s worth a read.

Via Elemental/Mammoth
Quinta Monroy, via Elemental/Mammoth

Four: Getting a lot bigger, Mammoth covers mammothly (as they promised) the best architecture of the decade. Unlike so many lists of flashy blingitechture and navelgazing critiques of said blingitechture and excess, the list contains projects emblematic of new directions in architecture. Included is the Large Hadron Collider, cheap manifest-traditional housing, Chinese High Speed Rail, geoengineering, and using good design to recover from years of terror. After reading it, I feel like calling this next decade for Latin America.

Five: Finally, getting into centuries and abstract ideas, Kirk Savage will be doing a live chat tomorrow on Greater Washington.  Savage is the author of Monument Wars and Standing Soldiers Kneeling Slaves. The latter book is about the depiction of slavery in public art. The former traces the role of the monument in America over two hundred years as the changes played out in Washington, DC. I’m only about halfway through the book, but it is really good. He puts an impressive amount of information about monuments, memory, and architecture into a genuinely enjoyable read. I don’t have enough thoughts at the moment, but there will be more coming from it.

Until 1 PM Tuesday, you can always submit questions at this page, and I’ll let you go with some bonus Eames:

Architecture Local

McMillan Two gets some feedback

Last week, I published the McMillan Two concept, after hearing about it on the Kojo Nnamdi show and interviewing the designer, Nir Buras. I’ve been pretty excited by the dialogue – the post of GGW received 88 comments and several thousand views. Others have jumped in.

First was the excellent constructive criticism by Alex Block. But he outdid himself with another article arguing for an ecologically balanced solution, which built on a post by…

…Mammoth, who delivered a strident critique of the more Eurocentric and anti-wetland flaws in the proposal. I commented on the article, and the exchanges between me, J.D. Hammond, and Rob Holmes are all good dialogue. The example of the Port Lands project in Toronto is worth examining in depth.

Straßgefühl, the only other blog whose name rivals mine, offers a counter-proposal based on the Sumidagawa river in Tokyo. The post opens up a new direction of thought, but it’s marred by insisting that Buras would be building a pseudo-historical development,  since the proposal has no pretensions of history.

Obviously there was the news coverage too. BDC offered his thoughts, Ryan Avent jumped in with a skeptical but enthusiastic reception, JDLand noted that the plan exists, and DCist had its usual commentary.

If you’re still thirsty for information, you can look at the earlier reactions: City Block’s initial thoughts and then a look at precedents.  Straßgefühl kinda-sorta liked it before; and Spencer Lepler was generally ok as well.

But it is great to see this kind of dialogue happening. The issues of nature, tradition, environment, autonomy, and culture have a lot of intersections not yet explored. The only thing everyone agreed on: tear down the highways. Interesting, no?

Bonus: Here’s an in depth article about Buras from Las Vegas Weekly. Read it!

Architecture Theory Writing

Reburbia and the future of suburbs

Frogs Dream, the winner, brings back the wetlands
Frog's Dream, the winner, brings back the wetlands

Beginning with this post, I’ll be writing on some local and urbanism-related issues at Greater Greater Washington from time to time.

In “Eyes That Do Not See,” Le Corbusier noted that airplane designers were unable to achieve heavier-than air flight until they understood the underlying issues of aeronautics – until they had posed the problem correctly. Until the tinkerers stopped imitating birds and kites and began investigating lift in a scientific way, they just produced spectacular failures and beautiful dreams. So, when looking through the finalists to the Reburbia suburban redesign contest, it was curious to see how, although many projects owe a debt to the Swiss architect, a great deal show confusion about the problems of “suburbia.”

Reburbia was a design competition where designers were invited to remodel, reuse, redevelop, and restructure the landscape of suburban development. Sponsored by Inhabitat and Dwell, the contest presented 20 finalists and a number of other notable entries for public viewing. Although they’ve already announced winners, the issues that appear in the submissions deserve more discussion. These open competitions are like fashion shows, where the offerings exist as inspiration for other designers more than practical solutions. Some of the ideas tossed around here might make their way into an abandoned mall, but the ideas that grow out of Reburbia are more important. As architects, planners, and citizens look for solution, we have to keep in mind what the problems are to judge any given solution.

Edible Parking? Bumper Crop
Edible Parking? "Bumper Crop"

Declaring that the suburbs need to be re-burbed begs the question of how much, and which kinds, of suburban development are unsustainable, undesirable, or inefficient.  Following that line of thought, designers need to consider whether mitigation of costs can solve an issue, whether simply pulling out unfair subsidies would help, or whether a total revamp has to occur. The projects in Reburbia revolved around a handful of issues that are unique to automobile-dependent sprawl, as well as others that all cities face. The entrants posed their problems around land use, energy waste, sustainable energy production, loss of natural habitats, low density, unappealing or unwalkable street design, transportation inefficiency, water runoff, and the legal mandates for development. read more »