Blog Articles - December 2007

December Blog Articles

December 31st, 2007

2007's Best: Sustainable Development
Alex Steffen in WorldChanging: Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future
My early look at The Open Architecture Network and the Future of Design, about Cameron's work turning Architecture for Humanity into a design amplifier Some demographers call it the largest migration in human history: the movement of hundreds of millions of poor rural people to the emerging megacities where they believe they can build themselves a better future. Overall, the urbanization of the planet is a good thing, helping people struggle out of absolute poverty, increasing access to essential services like health care and education, and raising the status of (and opportunities available to) young women (and thus helping to bring down birth rates and stabilize population growth). But the sheer magnitude of urban growth -- by some estimates, two-thirds of the cityscapes that will exist by mid-century have not even been built yet -- presents dire challenges as well. Already, over a billion people make their homes in urban squatter settlements: how do we build communities to house the two billion more who are expected to live in slums by the middle of the century?

2007's Best: Sustainable Design
Alex Steffen in WorldChanging: Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future
John Thackara is one of my heroes. The Man Who Mistook a Concrete Pillar for a Global Threat might show you why. Some of you may know Oliver Sacks' book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. It's about people afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations - and in particular a man who looks at something familiar (his wife) but perceives something completely different.

2007's Best: Cities
Alex Steffen in WorldChanging: Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future
Patrick's Remaking the Built Environment by 2030. By 2030, about half of the buildings in America will have been built after 2000. This statistic, courtesy of Professor Arthur C. Nelson's report for the Brookings Institution, means that over the next 25 years, we will be responsible for re-creating half the volume of our built environment.

Greening Montreal’s laneways
Christopher DeWolf in Spacing Montreal
Montrealers across the city are taking a renewed interest in their laneways. Since many of them are too narrow to work as service corridors, their original purpose, lanes can be used in different and more imaginative ways. In October, the Plateau borough announced that an old alley behind St. Louis Square would be converted into a “country lane,” but that won’t be the first time something interesting has been done to a Plateau laneway. That’s what I discovered when I came across the laneway running behind Milton Street between St. Urbain and Clark. Some time ago, I’m not sure when, the pavement was ripped up and replaced by a cinderblock path flanked on both sides by greenery. It’s a peaceful, bucolic space in a neighbourhood that can often be anything but.

Nouvel to In-Spire Manhattan with Midtown Tower UnBeige
The Museum of Modern Art is getting a new--or should we say Nouvel--neighbor. The architectural firm of Jean Nouvel (who we hope will one day tread the boards in an all-starchitect cast of The King and I) was recently declared...

New Archeworks leaders, SEED of Segura, Coudal and Lifson, Lee Bey's Unbuilt Chicago plus 30 more events on January Architectural Calendar
Lynn Becker in ArchitectureChicago PLUS
This is the month Stanley Tigerman and Eva Maddox pass Archeworks on to a new generation of leaders. at a January 16th event that will also feature Lee Bey, Sarah Herda, Joe Rosa, Zoe Ryan, Hennie Reynders and Robert Somol (you know, that whole crowd, as Severn Darden used to say). Two days later, there'll be a SEED conference at IIT which will include Jason Fried, Carlos Segura, Jim Coudal and Edward Lifson. Lee Bey will talk, at a Friends of Downtown event, about visionary Chicago projects that never managed to see the light of day, ...

December 30th, 2007

two prefabs, matteo thun and partners
Justin in materialicious
Heidi (above) and O Sole Mio (below), two nice looking prefabs by Matteo Thun + Partners.

Montreal’s postwar neighbourhoods
Christopher DeWolf in Spacing Montreal
For all of its historic neighbourhoods, Montreal is really a postwar city. In the twenty years after 1941, the number of people living on the island swelled from 1.1 million to well over 1.7 million and tens of thousands of new apartment buildings, plexes and houses were built to accommodate the steadily growing population. Old neighbourhoods expanded, new neighbourhoods were built and the suburbs blossomed, stretching east and west towards the edges of the island. Lately, I’ve found myself drawn to these parts of town, placers where the urban fabric seems raw and unpolished despite its relatively recent vintage. For the urban wanderer, there are plenty of discoveries to be made.

Griffintown’s citizen activists
Christopher DeWolf in Spacing Montreal
This weekend in the Gazette, Steve Faguy spoke to a handful of the citizen activists who are casting a critical eye on the Griffintown redevelopment scheme, including Urbanphoto contributors AJ Kandy and Desmond Bliek. Kandy, Bliek and their associates aren’t necessarily opposed to the project, they explain, but they want to make sure it’s pedestrian-friendly, well-integrated into the surrounding neighbourhoods and loaded with the amenities that a new neighbourhood of nearly 10,000 people will require, like health clinics and parks. They’re also concerned with the way the project seems to be evolving behind closed doors, with little specific information available to citizens. 

Gensler Jilts Bruce and Walter; Shacks Up With Louis
Lynn Becker in ArchitectureChicago PLUS
In a story that I somehow missed, Crain's Chicago Business's Eddie Raeb reported on December 19th that Gensler is moving out of its space in SOM's Inland Steel Building for new digs in renamed Sullivan center, the building Louis Sullivan designed for the Carson Pirie Scott department store. Following that century-old institution's closing over a year ago, Joseph Freed and Associates is in the middle of converting the structure primarily to office space, with retail surviving only on the lower floors.

Simplicity: "We Have Met the Enemy..."
Jon Lebkowsky in WorldChanging: Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future
The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom. It is also the antithesis of freedom and peace. Every increase of needs tends to increase one's dependence on outside forces, over which one cannot have control, and therefore increases existential fear. &mdash E.F. Schumacher, 1973. In the midst of the winter holiday season's explosion of festive commerce, I find myself thinking about voluntary simplicity, a term originally used by Ghandian Richard Gregg in 1936 to describe a focused existence excluding the clutter and complexity associated with 20th century acquisitive lifestyles of the middle classes.

December 29th, 2007  

Walking a Fine Rose Garden Sponsor Line
Brian Libby in Portland Architecture
In mid-December it was announced that the Rose Garden will make available renaming rights to a corporate sponsor. It was very sad news, but not surprising given that most major sports teams play in arenas and stadiums with corporate sponsor names. I think there's a fine line here that's important. I prefer it when a sponsor name is combined with the retained original game. Take the college bowl games being played this week. We know that the Fiesta Bowl is officially called the "Tostitos Fiesta Bowl", but that the Tostitos brand doesn't comprise the identity completely. Then there's "The Rose Bowl Game Presented by AT&T": no argument whatsoever about the people in Pasadena hitching a sponsor to their otherwise intact name. But just before writing this post, I happened to turn on ESPN during the Meineke Car Care Bowl. And my first thought was, where the hell is that? And I'm a huge college football fan--I even wrote a book about it. If I can't remember anything about the identity of the Meineke Car Care Bowl other than who played in it, that's a huge missed opportunity for the city of Charlotte, which my cable-TV info button told me is the host, and for the bowl itself.

Sacred Sands: A Strawbale B&B Guest Retreat
Abigail in Inhabitat We are all in need of some good old R&R from time to time, and the Sacred Sands Guest Retreat in Joshua Tree, California is just the sort of (green) destination to cure what ails you. This two guest room B&B eco-lodge not only offers desert solitude, no frills pampering, and pristine views and panoramas, but also the opportunity to experience strawbale construction first-hand in this luxury outpost near the western entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.

Knafo Klimor Architects

Young in Architecture
Knafo Klimor is one of the Winners of the 2nd International Architecture Competition for Sustainable Housing. to find out more... "Israeli culture is a collage of traditions, assembled over a short period of time. Its source of inspirations and influences comes from both Mediterranean and European cultures, attempting, with simple alchemy, to define an identity. Within this debate Knafo Klimor Architects operates over three decades.

December 28th, 2007  

PREFAB FRIDAY: ‘Option’ Modular House by WeberHaus
Ali in Inhabitat
German prefab firm WeberHaus and architect Peter C. Jakob of Bauart have made a stylish case for sustainable living with the modular concept ‘Option House’. Driven by a modern aesthetic and energy-efficient elements, Option is a fully functional, light-filled dwelling that delivers low-impact living in just 70 square meters of elegant and understated space.

December 27th, 2007

All eyes on the city
Geoff Manaugh in BLDGBLOG
Like some rogue branch of the independent film industry, private security firms are now installing what The New York Times calls "one of the most comprehensive high-tech public surveillance systems in the world," and they're doing it in China. While these cameras and other forms of remote sensing are being installed to keep Olympic athletes and their screaming fans safe during the coming summer's Games, the worry is that the surveillance will simply stay put...

Iskandar Development Region, Malaysia
Young in Architecture
"On January 15, 2008, Mecanoo will present to the Prime Minister of Malaysia the design for the Iskandar Development Region in Johor ..."

Dreaming Big
Chris in Brand Avenue
Yesterday, 2:01 PM
Check out Future City, a 100-day "game" created by the Hamilton Spectator wherein readers imagine what the Canadian city's next 100 years could look like. And you get to influence and vote on how the city morphs and adapts to dramatic changes in climate, shifts in the economy, new patterns in population and immigration as well as through many unpredictable events. The city's future--taking into account changes in climate, population, lifestyle, and economics--plays itself out in a engaging and clever way. Already automobiles have been banned from the city and replaced by trams, and voters have rejected the construction of a solar panel "bubble" covering part of the city in favor of a nuclear reactor....

Donor Hall By Inaba
Frame Magazine
Jeffrey Inaba designed Donor Hall, an installation in the SANAA-designed, New York City, on the subject of world cultural philanthropy. Jeffrey Inaba uses a radical approach to research and design to make opaque information come alive. Inaba has created Donor Hall for the New Museum’s lower-level hallway, a bold, immersive graphic environment that identifies and quantifies public and private philanthropy around the world. The presentation is based on research on dozens of organizations—from sports, media, politics, education, religion, finance, paramilitary, and non-governmental organizations—and tracks the amounts of money various organizations donate to culture. Read more…

Transforming Digital Architecture from Virtual to Neuro
Young in Architecture
"A few years ago, architects were almost obsessed with the question of how cyberspace and virtual reality are changing basic ideas about architectural space. But events like the Neuroaesthetics conference here in London , along with the increasing impact of neuroscience on contemporary architectural theory, marks a clear change of interests -- if not a paradigm shift. Significantly, the then almost ubiquitous word "virtual" is now being replaced by "neuro."...

Touring Cardinals Stadium, Admiring Pentagram UnBeige
Because we're home for the holidays and our boyhood home in Glendale, Arizona happens to be in the same place as the new Cardinals Stadium, we thought we'd pop in and take a tour of the mammoth Peter Eisenman-designed...

Mao's Home Province Goes Green
Mara Hvistendahl in WorldChanging: Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future
The China Daily reports on a campaign to make three cities in Hunan, Mao’s home province, test zones for energy-saving and environmental protection strategies. Changsha, Zhuzhou, and Xiangtan will be singled out for improvements in public transportation, energy efficiency, and pollution treatment: The provincial government will help the three cities build energy-saving, environmentally friendly industries, and make them more beautiful and livable....

Solar Wind Pavilion by Michael Jantzen
Mahesh in Inhabitat
Michael Jantzen’s experimental designs are a fascinating amalgamation of art, architecture, and environmental sustainability. The visionary architect’s design for the Solar Wind Pavilion is no exception. Planned for the California State University at Fullerton, the Solar Wind Pavilion is an impressive integration of wind power generation, solar energy, and rainwater harvesting, all combined into a gathering place for students and faculty for special events, studies, relaxation and meditation.

December 26th, 2007

The Suburbanization of Walt Disney World
Brendan in Where
"It was really nice. I loved being able to walk around to everything and not have to worry about traffic or parking. We could just leave the hotel and catch a bus and ride it right to the parks, and then if we wanted to go somewhere else we could take the monorail. Everything was just really easy to get to." That is an (imperfectly reproduced) comment from my mom during a conversation we had about y family's recent trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I've been home for the holidays, and it was the first chance I'd had to really hear about their trip. It's certainly not the first time they've been to WDW -- in fact, it was their fourth (I was along for the first two trips, for the record). But this time -- and I have a feeling that blogging over this past year had something to do with this -- I found renewed interest in hearing about the same parks I'd visited and heard described so many times before.

enviro board
Justin in materialicious
Enviro Board Corporation has developed and patented a sustainable, ‘ultra-affordable’ housing infrastructure solution that employs waste agricultural straw as a base substrate material.
Enviro Board panels offer a superior building product that is easy to handle and assemble. Enviro Board Panels are solid “concrete like” fiber panels comprised of highly compressed straw fibers. Panels are extruded through the mill in a continual process, covered with a durable waterproof paper membrane, cut to desired lengths and end-capped. Panel density and thickness can also be adjusted.

World’s Biggest Building Coming to Moscow: Crystal Island
Karim in Inhabitat
Moscow’s rapidly growing skyline will soon feature an eye-popping new addition: Crystal Island, which will be the world’s biggest building when completed. Sir Norman Foster’s mountainous 27 million square feet spiraling “city within a building” will cost $4 billion and it is scheduled to be built within next 5 years. The Crystal Island will be Lord Foster’s second large scale project in the Russian capital, and his third new building design that resembles a volcano (we’re talking about his two mountainous buildings in Astana, Kazakstan). Although many people are calling this design the ‘Christmas Tree’ of Moscow - we can’t help but be reminded of the utopian and also rather volcanic X-Seed 4000 design for Tokyo. Unlike that pipe-dream project, however, Foster has a track record of getting buildings built, so the likelihood is high that we will see this striking structure towering over the Kremlin within 5 years time.

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