Thursday, July 31, 2008

Houston, We Have a Problem

Dead Zone in the Gulf reaches record sizes. Hell, any size is too big.

San Fran Plan

City plans to help downtown workers ditch their cars.

Thinking Like These People: Two Excellent Posts

This guy overlays JH Crawford's CarFree Cities onto Athens, GA.

I liked this idea:
Planning: It might be a useful planning tool to have a heat-map of the age of all buildings/locations in the existing city. Both for historical preservation and for individual sentimental value, it may be hard to persuade citizens to raze older structures as part of the reorganization of the city. It could bias districts to include these areas rather than leaving them in the designated green areas for reclamation.

...considering much of what has been built in the last fifty years, and increasingly so the more recent you go, has been throw away architecture: Mickey D's, Garden Apartments, Tract Housing...

And this guy thinks that the median housing price will drop from 215K to 70K.

One thing to keep in mind, housing prices in Amsterdam over a 400 year span and accounting for inflation keep coming back to the same baseline. We created a mega-bubble, either intentionally and rapaciously or through ignorant zealotry, many many people were basically looted.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

50! Ding, Ding, Ding...

All thanks to Botswana, coming through in a big way. Well ahead of my stated goal of 50 countries by the end of the year. These "series of tubes" are a fascinating creature.
The proof is in the pudding. See for yourself:

Still Thinking...

I've been thinking more and more about the Starchitects Does Masterplanning article I referenced earlier today from the WSJ. Here is probably the most critical and prescient quote.

"Name-brand master plans are "an entrepreneurial tool" that are key to getting these large projects built.... Urban planning is now "a very weird mixture of marketing and urbanism," he says."

"It's easier to know about architects than architecture. "A banker won't know about architecture but will know that 'Zaha Hadid' or 'Rem Koolhaas' is a brand."
...and therein lies the fundamental virus within City Building today. I've often stated that cities, how we build them, how we organize ourselves, are simply the physical manifestation of the underlying power structures and socio-economic and political ideologies of the day at work. In this case, it is pretty clear that it's all about appealing to the bankers who have no idea about the fundamental principles of what cities are and what they do for us, and why those principles have stood the test of time.

They are simply choosing short-term gains (and long-term losses), via the marketing of "name-brand" architects via indefinite successes, sustainability (environmentally, socially, and economically), and vitality of real cities. I suspect there is at least PhD's to be awarded if not a Nobel Prize for the economist that can appropriately measure the inherent synergies of city building sans my favorite word, "externalities."

There is far more genius and complexity in this picture:

...than today's overly simplistic economic modeling could ever understand. Instead we get big swoops and swirlies...the architectural equivalent of a michael bay film - click the link for South Park's parody.

The Edible Landscape

Grow Your Own.

Two Articles on Fatties

First, a study that suggests by 2030 nearly 9 in 10 americans will be tubby.

I don't buy this. The fundamental flaw in "studies" and projections like these, basically all of economic forecasting, is that they take one data set and extrapolate it over time. The problem is with these types of things is that no line continues on forever. Over a long enough period of time, they begin to resemble more of a wavy sine curve. In this case, rising energy costs, one that I can suggest with fair amount of certainty that no magic bullet exists and allows us to be fat, happy, and stupid with our organizational and lifestyle decisions, to maintain our sedentary lifestyle making us a country full of porkers.

VMTs have peaked two years ago. I believe we hit rock bottom at that point. The economics of our disastrous last fifty years are still lagging behind but I believe that we have seen the light. We are getting out of our cars, riding bikes, reconnecting with our surroundings and community. We have discovered that that glorious lifestyle of sitting in traffic and watching television was actually quite banal. We are humans and we have a fundamental need for social and physical activities and we are beginning to rediscover our human nature and the joys of life.

MSNBC jumps into the water and acknowledges that neighborhoods built before 1950 keep you fit and trim. It's not an accident that it is quite a challenge to find a fat person in Europe. The world of the starchitect more closely resembles the future depicting in Wall-E than it does where we are actually going and that is back to great, human-scaled, fine-grained, locally oriented cities.

And, I look forward to the battle of ideas. We have facts on the ground...maybe we can get the insurance industry behind us because they have to insure the medical problems of an obese society ;)

Oh for Christ's Sakes...

It was only a matter of time, but Starchitects take the superficial act to city building. Unfortunately, for all of us that means just that many more people for them to experiment on. And what do you know, they don't understand that cities are systems and unlike buildings don't respond well to experimentations in form simply for the sake of being unique. They truly are blinded by the cult-like nature that architecture education to which it has devolved; of which I cite and excellent piece detailing the devolution:

...architects are not interested in laws of architecture. They prefer to design buildings on the basis of artistic fashion and ephemeral philosophical concerns. The same reaction greeted the efforts of my distinguished colleagues, Christopher Alexander and Léon Krier, to reform architecture as a discipline.

The paper goes on to detail the definition of a cult and offer background as to how the profession has fallen into such dire straights.

Defining a cult:
A system may be identified as a dangerous cult if it has the following characteristics, combining aims with techniques:

1. It aims to destroy
2. It isolates its members from the world
3. It claims special knowledge and morality
4. It demands strict obedience
5. It applies brainwashing
6. It replaces one's world view
7. It has an auto-referential philosophy
8. It creates its own language, incomprehensible to outsiders

I would conclude that architecture lost its humanity as science began to overtake religion as the dominant means for understanding the world. Seems strange for an admitted agnostic to say, but as the world entered a profoundly rational, descartian world based on formulas, statistics, and calculations of engineers, the expression of architecture found itself increasingly isolated. It didn't help that Le Corbusier became worshipped like a God (very cult-like, its own set of idols - remember: Thou shalt not worship false idols).

Seriously, listen to Thom Mayne sometime. Read Peter Eisenmann. I took enough philosophy classes in school to know how to break down sentences word for word into their deepest meanings. These guys make no sense. They might as well just give up the english language and start babbling like pentecostals. (see point 8 in the article)

From the original WSJ article:

Architect Daniel Libeskind is designing the downtown of Orestad, a five-kilometer-long urban area south of Copenhagen. The 19-hectare area will include two concave 18-story towers, which will dominate the main square and will be visible from the center of Copenhagen, and low-rise buildings with landscaped roofs.
If it/he is lucky the best case scenario for Orestad and the people of is that this achieves an equivalent status of EUR, another architectural experimentation on the city, in Rome; awfully brazen to attempt to compete with through contrast, Copenhagen. I bet he fails miserably. In fact, I'm quite certain of it. Check the pictures of EUR on Google Earth. The most striking characteristic all of them have in common? Not a person in sight. Why? For one, the only people that go there to revel in all its fascistic glory are architecture students, too stupid naive to notice that and object to its study.

The other, and more fundamental, reason is simply that it is not a place designed for people, but an architectural playground of expression. Of what? A particular historic philosophy, exactly as pointed out in the cult article, not the biological, sociological, and psychological needs and wants of humans.

Let's go thru the WSJ imagery shall we:

ooooohhhhh... wavy arbitrarily chosen forms...ahhhhhhh...

Thus proving they have no use for precedent or study of the effect past experiments on the ground have on people and cities. When I was in my early years in design school, I too rejected precedent. I got A-minuses on projects instead of As. Apparently, that was better and more appropriately realized punishment for me to mature past that than receipt of the Pritzker Prize.

Notice that there is zero sidewalk and the plethora of sky bridges. Are they all stuck in 60s Futurism or just wayyyyy smarter than all of us and realize that in fifty years we will have no clean air to breathe outside and the lack of ozone will melt our skin right off? Well, guess what? If it comes to that point, all life support systems on the planet will have shut down and we'll be extinct, or the last vestigious will be feeding off Soylent Green.

I've got an idea. Lets make a cylinder... no that's been done before... Now lets TWIST it. Hell Yeah! High Five! We'll get an award for this, no doubt!

I love being in buildings that look like they might fall over how about you?

Overscaled spaces, lack of understanding of human-scale. The mark of the beast. 666.

Nice facade. Seems like a pleasant building to stroll along. What? Again, no sidewalk? Has this building been dropped into the desert or is this actually the physical realization of that dystopian world I described above? Is this the Soylent Green factory?

In all seriousness though, I really don't worry about this. I know for a fact that all of these efforts will fail miserably, because they simply don't understand that true genius is in the details and subtlety. The problem is that for every one of these projects that gets built (most of which won't I presume because of the exorbitant costs of their fantastical dreams in a poor world necessitating practicality) that is another acre, another dime, another brick, and tens of thousands of people that have to endure failure.

We're coming to a point where we can't bear to make such mistakes of the over-grand any longer and need to focus on building sane, people-first, people-friendly places.

Post Script: I couldn't find room for this portion of the article, so here it is:
An example of a new approach to urban planning, Mr. Frenchman says, is the Arabianranta development in Helsinki, which emphasizes digital technology as much as architectural structures. It is a "smart city," where personal and professional relationships are fostered online. The 85-hectare development, expected to be finished in 2012, conceives of interconnectivity as a new form of public space; the 3,500 dwellings are networked so residents can share information. Computer technology is treated as public infrastructure, like water or electricity.

"Technology can help us rethink how cities function," Mr. Frenchman says.
Because of their unified vision, master plans have the potential to create great beauty. But for the same reason, they risk provoking strongly negative reactions.
Now that is a smart way to think about the city.
The city of Brasilia, built in the 1950s according to a master plan by Lúcio Costa, is hated for its barren public spaces, even though individual buildings by Oscar Niemeyer are admired. Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, redeveloped under a master plan by Renzo Piano in the 1990s, has been criticized for the mediocrity of its architecture and its inability to blend into the surrounding older neighborhoods.

Ms. Hadid's 3-D drawings of the Kartal project are instantly recognizable as the work of the designer, who is known for buildings and furniture that capture a sense of movement. The Kartal structures have a surreal, sand-castle quality.

Surrealism. I rest my case.

Monday, July 28, 2008

You Know Times Are Tough When...

Manhole covers are disappearing, stolen.

And, Matt Taibbi on America's Disappearing Middle Class, what once made this country strong and a beacon of democracy and economic prosperity, rather than the phony ostentation of debt-driven nouveau and never were riche. Yeah, and since I'm decidedly Middle-Class and will probably remain that way indefinitely given my crusade self-righteous suicide career choice, I don't look like such a bad option now, do I, impoverished ladies of the working class? ;)

Oh, and don't go chasing after bankers. They'll be manhole cover theives soon enough.

Sobering Articles

Seeking Alpha on the worthlessness of Suburbia.
For some time now, we've been noting that the recently-concluded housing bubble wasn't like most of the bubbles that preceded it. Unlike the railroad, telegraph, and dot-com bubbles--which, for all their short-term wreckage, created new infrastructure of immense economic value, as Daniel Gross argues in Pop!--the housing bubble has left behind virtual ghost towns, economically useless infrastructure (e.g., roads, water, and power leading to virtual ghost towns), and a brutal overhang of household and government indebtedness.

From the Telegraph on the ripple effects:

“It feels like the summer of 1931. The world’s two biggest financial institutions have had a heart attack. The global currency system is breaking down. The policy doctrines that got us into this mess are bankrupt. No world leader seems able to discern the problem, let alone forge a solution. The International Monetary Fund has abdicated into schizophrenia. . . . My view is that a dollar crash will be averted as it becomes clearer that contagion has spread worldwide. But we are now at the point of maximum danger.”


La Cité, C’est Moi
Vainglorious French architects set out to destroy Paris

"As it happens, Nouvel, who won the Pritzker Architecture Prize this year, is the architect who managed the supremely difficult feat of producing a museum even more hideous than the Centre Pompidou. Located near the Eiffel Tower, his Musée du quai Branly, which now houses the national collection of African and Oceanic art, is an eyesore so terrible that for a man of normal aesthetic sensitivity to look at it is sheer torture. It is the perfect example of the egotism of certain modern architects, who believe that the most important quality of a building is the stamp of the architect’s originality."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Completely Rhetorical, but...

Overseas Foreign Service personal were forbidden to attend the Berlin Obama rally, but they can be used as props behind the President?

Google Adds Walking/Transit Directions to its maps.

One might say, "Patrick, you've gone mental! How can you live without a car in one of the most automobile oriented cities in the country?! Where do you shop?"

Truthfully, I've done a lot of my recent shopping since my downtown move three months ago online and haven't been to NorthPark mall since. But I need a new belt dammit, my favorite reversible Kenneth Cole belt buckle recently broke. So using Google Maps new directional feature utilizing walking and transit directions, I'm going to try to venture to NorthPark Mall this weekend based on the directions it spits out to me:

Walk to Akard Station
About 6 mins
Beta: Use caution when walking in unfamiliar areas.
Duly Noted.

Train - RED - DART Rail Red Line - Direction: N - Red Line - Parker Road Service run by Dallas Area Rapid Transit
Depart Akard Station
17 mins
Arrive Park Lane Station

Walk to N Central Expy
About 4 mins
Hide detailsShow details

Travel time: about 33 minutes

Another Magic Bullet, Not So Magic After All.

WSJ: Stadiums, falling way below projections, don't actually incent economic development.

When planned as an integral part of a district/neighborhood they can be beneficial (so don't jump on me), but how many stadiums are situated in such a manner? Fenway, Wrigley? The Columbus Blue Jacket's Nationwide Arena does a good job, as does the Memphis minor league baseball team, and Staples Center in LA because they all recognize the ephemoral nature of their event spaces. The areas around them must work without or in spite of the facility not because of them.

Meanwhile, Glory Park hangs in limbo with the 2011 Super Bowl in the balance and DFW's nationwide reputation along with it. Do you want to be remembered like New Orleans, San Diego, and Miami as Super Bowl hosts? Or Detroit, Jacksonville, and Houston as utter disgraces and embarrassments? You think the City of Arlington is kicking themself for not participating in DART or any public transit as the largest city in America to do so? Instead, being forced to pay X amount of millions to shuttle Super Bowl festivity goers from Dallas to Arlington and back. Fun Times.

In a related note, Athens regrets having the Olympics, further supporting London's approach to "break-away" facilities.

I wonder if Atlanta regrets bribing the IOC with free tuition for their children to Georgia Tech among other improprieties.

I Hate Columbus, Ohio

Nothing personal, you just have a dirty football program (and dirty fans) that puts shame on intercollegiate athletics and the term student athlete, and the closest I've ever been was driving on the freeway through it to get back to PA, so maybe I should root against the potential ballot measure for a streetcar in downtown Columbus.

So I won't extoll the virtues of mass transit or its abilities to leverage private investment, its eventual fiduciary self-sufficiency due to it's nature of incenting urban density and, in turn, ridership, or the reduced per capita VMT's, or reduced energy consumption, or that individual street cars can last decades if not centuries in use (while the average bus life span is merely approximately five years).

Columbus planners want a streetcar.

Developer Robert Weiler, a COTA board member who said he was speaking on his own behalf, not on behalf of COTA, led the debate against a streetcar, saying Columbus already has a fabulous rapid-transit system.

(To which, afterwards he said was full of "scary people," thus bolstering his argument stupendously)

"It's called the freeway," Weiler said.

Preach it, redneck, inbred Ohioan. For this day, I'm with you as one, 100% and won't wish your state to vanish in one giant sink hole.

Local Food Movement

From the Bottom Up.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On Bailouts - A-freakin'-men

An excerpt from a letter to the editor, found here:
In short the only TRUE solution is to treat both the little guy and big guy equally, let the punishment happen so people can learn from what us more frugallittle guys already know, that you need to live within your means and to save.Markets will always fluctuate and the only way to deal with that reality (yestits a predictable reality) is to be prepared and not act shocked when the nextbubble finally bursts.

Bailouts, also, are never the solution because they only come back later tohaunt you.

Marc Itzkowitz - Palo Alto, CA

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Spatial Fix

Richard Florida, author of the incredibly dense with way too much dry statistics for this brain, Rise of the Creative Class, writes:

But what's happening here goes a lot deeper than the end of cheap oil. We are now passing through the early development of a wholly new geographic order – what geographers call “the spatial fix” – of which the move back toward the city is just one part.

Suburbanization was the spatial fix for the industrial age – the geographic expression of mass production. Low-cost mortgages, massive highway systems and suburban infrastructure projects fueled the industrial engine of postwar capitalism, propelling demand for cars, appliances and all sorts of industrial goods.

The creative economy is giving rise to a new spatial fix and a very different geography – the contours of which are only now emerging.

Rising fuel costs are one thing, but in today's idea-driven economy, it's time costs that really matter. With the constant pressure to be more efficient and to innovate, it makes little sense to waste countless collective hours commuting. So the most efficient and productive regions are the ones in which people are thinking and working – not sitting in traffic. And, according to detailed research by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman, commuting is among the least enjoyable, if not the single least enjoyable, of all human activities.

Thus providing necessary background, data, and theory to my assumption that we're leaving the industrial age and it's economy altogether. On to the biological revolution!!! (see: Cradle to Cradle and Biomimicry)

Outta their Cars and on Foot. No sign of Dunkin' Donuts to be Found.

As Gas Prices Rise Police Return to Foot Patrols

“The average officer thinks that if they’re constantly on the move, they’re doing a better job of preventing an incident from occurring,” said Chief Ric Moss of Woodstock, Ga. “Candidly some of them have said, ‘Well, gee, you know, it’s hot out there.’ Well, if you go in that store, you’ll cool off, you’ll get to know the manager and you’ll get your presence known. We’ve had to educate them as to the benefits.”
Call me a sucker, for being led in ideological belief by a TV show, in this case the most brilliant masterpiece ever put on the small screen, The Wire, but I'm a firm believer in the return to Community-Based Policing strategies where the officer walks the streets, gets to know the people, and is a respected and integrated part of the community, rather than disconnected in their centurion like squad car and a subject to be feared, thus creating a natural opposition to the rule of law rather than a faithful adherence to a more lawful and just society. Much like war, the battle of ideas is the most important to be won.

Say goodbye to the infinite world of excess and hello to a world of poverty imposed rationality and limits:

“It’s changing the way we police,” said Chief Mike Jones of the Suwanee Police Department, who has asked his officers to walk for at least one hour of every shift. “We’re going to have to police smarter than we have in the past.”
Simply put, we just have to be smarter about everything we do sans the luxury of ignorance. But, first and foremost, we need to build a city that is more policeable, and for one, that means achieving similar levels of mobility while in foot through more walkable environments. Simply put, sprawl is unpolice-able.

Actually, I'll give a real expert the final word:

Still, some jurisdictions have resisted any notion of restricting patrols. “I have one beat alone in the northeastern division that is larger than the city of San Francisco,” said Detective Gary Hassen of the San Diego Police Department. “To say, ‘Gee, are you going to walk that?’ — it would be impossible.”

George Kelling, a professor of criminal justice at Rutgers University and a longtime proponent of community policing, said police departments that clung to their cars were missing the point.

“There are areas even in suburban areas where citizens congregate, and it seems to me that we would want to have police officers in areas where people congregate,” Professor Kelling said. “You can increase and decrease the number of police riding around in cars, and the public can’t tell the difference. You can increase the number of police out interacting with the community, and people can tell the difference very quickly.”

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Free Beer Guess the City

Do you know? Last week, Gitesh got a 9.5% Golden Monkey for his efforts (mostly because I'm a retard and left the name of the place on the source file)... funny thing is the bartender put it on Magee's tab. whoops. We'll see if my irish good looks luck lasts another week.


I'm gonna go ahead and count Hong Kong as China even though the little country on the map didn't light up. Also added Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovenia and Delhi, India. That inspires me to go take a look at how Sarajevo is doing these days on Google Earth.

Makes me want to paraphrase from last sunday's Generation Kill

"Think of all the wisdom and science it took to build these machines...the love, in their hearts for their wives and children that loved them back home... and the hate, that it took to blow these mother fuckers away..." Sgt. Espera.

Buying the Wrong House

Jonah Lehrer at Science Blog:

What's interesting is that the more time people spend deliberating, the more important that extra space becomes. They'll imagine all sorts of scenarios (a big birthday party, Thanksgiving dinner, another child) that will turn the suburban house into an absolute necessity. The lengthy commute, meanwhile, will seem less and less significant, at least when compared to the allure of an extra bathroom. But, as Dijksterhuis points out, that reasoning process is exactly backwards: "The additional bathroom is a completely superfluous asset for at least 362 or 363 days each year, whereas a long commute does become a burden after a while." For instance, a recent study found that, when a person travels more than one hour in each direction, they have to make forty per cent more money in order to be as "satisfied with life" as someone with a short commute. Another study, led by Daniel Kahneman and the economist Alan Krueger, surveyed nine hundred working women in Texas and found that commuting was, by far, the least pleasurable part of their day. And yet, despite these gloomy statistics, nearly 20 percent of American workers commute more than forty-five minutes each way. (More than 3.5 million Americans spend more than three hours each day traveling to and from work: they're currently the fastest growing category of commuter.
Interesting and yet predictable. Jumping back to the beginning of the article:

One way to understand the collapse of the real estate bubble (and our current financial mess) is as a massive case of bad decision-making. The mistakes, of course, were made by many different people and organizations: the investment banks who bought subprime debt, the credit rating agencies who gave that debt high ratings, the mortgage brokers who gave out shady loans to people with bad credit, etc. But, in the end, the bubble really began when lots of people chose to buy the wrong home. They bought homes that were too big and too expensive, fueling an unsustainable boom in new home construction. They took our mortgages they couldn't afford.
I believe this to be an oversimplification. This presumption is fundamentally based on actually having a choice. When you really look at it, schools, parks, affordability (because there are so few quality urban dwellings), and the peer pressure of ownership, particularly in the 'burbs really eliminates the possibility of choice.

But, at the end of the day every one was pushed to buy in the last five years because public opinion was stupidly coerced into believing that housing prices could rise ad infinitum. As MillionaireMommyNextDoor has shown, median housing prices should be about 3x median income levels, yet people were buying 10x and greater, largely because brokers pushed it, banks allowed it, etc.

It also doesn't help that all federal funding for highways was the real boondoggle behind the whole faulty engine.

Top 40 Most Walkable Cities by

LA ahead of Portland huh??

This only examines the 40 largest cities and the walkable neighborhoods within them, averaging them all out into a lump sum. Dallas' score is hurt by this. while having numerous walkable clusters throughout the metroplex, they sit isolated in a sea of sprawl, largely disconnected from one another and evolving in isolation like Darwin's finches on the Galapagos.

1. San Francisco, CA
2. New York, NY
3. Boston, MA
4. Chicago, IL
5. Philadelphia, PA
6. Seattle, WA
7. Washington D.C.
8. Long Beach, CA
9. Los Angeles, CA
10. Portland, OR

24. Dallas (Score 51) Government District, Main Street District, West End Historic District

Government District? Que? West End, I guess is walkable, if you're a tourist. It's some office space, a TGIFridays and a Hooters. Clearly, the most walkable in Dallas are, in order by my estimation:

1. Cityplace/West Village Area
2. State Thomas
3. Downtown/Main Street
4. Lower Greenville up to the M Streets
5. Lakewood

Quotable from the article:

"We're not talking about everybody moving downtown," Goldberg said, adding that even in cities that aren't very walkable there are neighborhoods that are friendlier to pedestrians.
Atlanta, for instance, has a reputation for being "the poster child of sprawl," he said. However, there are places nearby, like Decatur, Ga., that offer amenities and transit options without being a high-density neighborhood, he said.
Well, if we're dealing with outside the city limits, then we can include

Addison Circle

Legacy Town Center

Southlake Town Square

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gas Prices May Revive Cities

From USNews and World Report.

Sprawl—that scourge of urban designers who prize a tightly packaged city, walkable neighborhoods, and mixed-use development that brings together homes with businesses and shops—may have finally met its match. At least, that's the hope of the enclave of people who study settlement and land use, and who now sheepishly admit they're rooting for high energy prices. "Urban planners have been beating their heads against the wall for decades trying to get Americans to settle in a more compact pattern on the landscape for the very reasons we're starting to see now," says Thomas Campanella, an associate professor of city and regional planning at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. "To be honest, I feel that rising gas prices...are going to do more for good, sustainable urban planning than the entire urban planning profession."
First, I don't see walkable neighborhoods and mixed-use development as a "prize." First, it should be fundamental to living, or at least the option to do so, but there are so few options in this country. In this way, the "market" has failed us.

So it's either of two things: either the market truly isn't the fairest and most equitable method of delivering products to the people OR it isn't actually a "free" market capable of meeting the needs and demands of the populous. I already know the answer to be the latter. "It was a rhetorical question, Erol. What 'ave I told you about thinking." ~ Bricktop.

Also, it is that we understood that the natural resources the system was built on were quite finite and there was a fundamental understanding of the inherent efficiencies economically, as a subset of the natural environment from which said natural resources are extracted and then in turn exhausted, of that "tightly packed, walkable" construct. Businesses do better, people are happier, tax base is stronger and better appropriated, how much more proof do you need?!?!?!11

Second, I'm quite flabbergasted by all of the secondary and tertiary affects of high gas prices. It's as if all ills are reversing as people begin to exercise more, walk more, bike more and the fattest country in the world (in history?) begins its diet.

"The American Love Affair with Cars...It's a lot like Stockholm Syndrome." ~ Me. I'm oh so clever.

More Articles

While I rub my newly shaved head for good luck:

"Energy Corridors" Planned Through National Parks. Sounds like a ruse to drill. Sad state of affairs it is when not only can you not trust the current government, but you fear the opposite of all their public intentions to be true. Seriously though, this is the wrong type of thinking when energy sources (among other (all?) things) must be (re)localized.

Walking and Well-Being: Walking toward Happiness.

A recent international study on happiness by researchers at Leicester University in England ranked the United States as only the 23rd happiest place in the world. Denmark is the happiest, according to the research.

It's probably no coincidence that more than 20 years ago, Denmark set a vision to become one of the best places to walk anywhere. It took a long time to get there, but the Danes apparently are very happy with their results.

One of the reasons certainly, but socio-economic conditions and high levels of education (because it's socialized - ewwww bad word! boooooooo!) play a part as well.

In Silicon Valley communities, most people don't live near where they work. In fact, many of the cutting-edge thinkers and innovators of the region have the worst commute times in the country.

Studies also indicate people are least happy when in their cars, largely because they cannot predict what will slow them down, or when. Thus the long commutes of Silicon Valley have gotten more and more costly, not only in terms of money and time, but also happiness.

I've never been happier in Dallas than I am now.

Unfortunately, over the past several decades, we've designed our communities to move automobiles, not people. Too much is tied to the auto and is out of walking and bicycling range for residents. The happiest places in the world were designed to accommodate and support people, not their cars.
Amen brother! Preach it!

It's really starting to bite us in the ass financially from an individual perspective and economically nationally as well. And not even because gas prices are high and people aren't spending anymore. It's because of the dislocation, loss of spatial efficiencies and synergies of mixed uses and vibrant places. It's because of the lost time and productivity spent idling down a freeway giving the finger to your metal cladded neighbor on a highway to unhappiness.

This article reminds me of when I first moved down here and I also walked to work then (fifteen minute walk rather than the two-minute now). I was struck by how miserable everyone looked in their little metal cages on wheels, envoked pity really. Perhaps, because there are so few opportunities and choices to live in walkable communities here in Dallas (the U.S.) that supply is SO short of demand that costs are out of the reach of the common American. Hence, the article below on Atlanta rapidly gentrifying.

Links of the Day

Turkey and Romania up in here. 35/50. Well ahead of 50 countries by the end of the year pace. Here is hoping for Leichtenstein next.

Cities Scramble to Meet Mass Transit Demands - Cnn. I have found myself riding the trolley more than DART seeing as I can meet most of my needs/wants in DTD and Uptown, but I've heard they started cracking down on riders without passes. Might as well fill the coffers while the ridership is up, especially with the overbudget Green Line.

The Changing Demographics of Inner-City Atlanta - I just checked out Atlanta on Google Earth. A lot has happened since I moved out. Atlantic Station still sucks though.

Befitting of a Banksy.

School District Eyes 4-day Week. Or how about schools designed and built as focal point of walkable communities... oh nevermind, we once built that way.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kunstler's Latest

Wile just ran too far.

Reaganomics started it, Clinton, at best, one could say slowed the run to a trot, and Bush II, when reaching the edge of the cliff hit the accelerator. It's not his fault. He didn't want to be president. His handlers found the perfect buffoon that wouldn't know anybody better while they run roughshod over the economy, wrecking the government and the dollar.

[edit] Actually, I shouldn't say Reagonomics started it. For all the good the New Deal did, the Keynesian policies (government spending on programs to kickstart the economy after laissez-faire policies wrecked it) that continued post-WWII, ie the GI bill (college loans good, house loans could've been good if they all didn't go to Levittowns - bad) and all of the highway programs really ignited the sprawling wasteland we see today [end edit].

This process is really out of control now. The bottom line is the comprehensive bankruptcy of the United States. The Republican Party under George Bush will be known as the party that wrecked America (release 2.0). Painful as it is, Americans had better get a new "Dream" and fast. It better be a dream based on the way the universe actually works, which is to say an operating procedure run on earnest effort and truthfulness rather than merely trying to get something for nothing and wishing on stars. We might begin symbolically by evacuating Las Vegas and calling in an air strike on the loathsome place -- to register our new reality-based attitude adjustment.

After that, we've got to get to work re-tooling all the everyday activities of life, including the way we grow our food, the way we raise and deploy capital, the way we do trade and manufacturing, the way we go from point A to point B, the way we educate children, the way we stay healthy, and the way we occupy the landscape. I know, it sounds like a lot, maybe too much. But grok this: we don't have any choice if we want a plausible future on this portion of the North American continent.

Morning Articles

Farms in the Sky.

I question the long term viability of the shallow soil per each level… as well as the energy intensiveness of creating artificial sunlight, when there is real sunlight. Conceptually, it’s good, bringing food close to people, but I think that’s what pruning back the suburbs will do.

Save the Country, Ride the Rail.

I really believe the only thing to save Detroit is to retool their plants to build hi-speed trains (at least temporarily so they can diversify their economy). People need to listen to Obama when he says he wants the fastest train in the world to be built here. In the Vegas airport, I met several people from Detroit, and they bought into my idea.

Picture of the Day - Downtown Dallas, 1951. Ya might call it the high water mark of the City.

Spain and Argentina make their debut, 33/50 and I finally got some love from the state of Florida.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sunday DMN was full of Articles

Stop designing as if people are stupid. Another legacy of engineers and the faculty of engineering, everything is not a conveyer belt. People can think, design appropriately. Don't allow them to turn their brain off or they will.
Another Sane Conservative that Gets Wall-E. - eerily related to the above; a world where everyone on the Axiom's brain had been turned completely off.
Is anyone proud to live in Dallas? - Atlanta is a sad comparison. Having lived in both, I find Dallas to be better poised and positioned for the future than Hotlanta, which always struck me as Bladerunner-ish. Dallas feels like a collection of small villages and towns within the city. The cohesiveness is the issue. However, the author cites the wrong things to be proud of: the arts district? Puh-lease. What percentage of the city would care about or ever use those buildings? 2%? 5%? But, he makes an important point here:
We've got a long way to go as a city, there's no doubt. While some point west to the Cowboys' new stadium as evidence of the city's woes, there are far more indicators that must be considered when diagnosing the prospect of a healthy Dallas. Measuring crime rates, recycling levels and usable park space are more significant than who's in town on any given Sunday.
Restoring the Cotton Bowl won't do that. If the Cowboys would have stayed in Dallas wouldn't have done that. Victory won't do it and certainly the Arts District won't do it. Trinity River won't do it. Why? Because at the end of the day it was merely a disguise to build another unnecessary highway. Dallas is stuck in antiquated thinking in regards to city building. Until we have leadership that recognizes that real progress is made through incremental change, rather than the smoke and mirrors of headline worthy projects, nothing will have changed.

Step 1) Set up a split tax on land in Downtown, so that it is basically an inverse ratio of the FAR on a site. For example, underdeveloped property is taxed at a level that makes little sense to maintain it as a surface parking lot. Otherwise, it will sit as is until the downtown renaissance creates the same effect. The problem is that the surface lots are what is holding back that renaissance. My hometown of Harrisburg, PA did this twenty-plus years ago and the city went from 4,000 vacant buildings to 400. On the flip side of the coin, if the property is adequately used, then the property tax rate declines. All downtown stakeholders should like that. The ones that won't, the surface lot owners? They're mostly out of town. Screw'em, this is our city. I take pride in that.
Step 2) Remove the noose from Downtown's neck. This is essentially the effect of building highways completely enveloping downtown, as if somebody tied a belt around their neck and sat down. It killed downtown. I will have more on this when I start scanning images of all the buildings knocked down in Downtown - they were ONCE a source of pride.
How to do this? Well, the most radical would be to tear down a freeway and reduce the level of service to a transit/pedestrian-friendly boulevard - with dedicated bike lanes, ya know, something tangible that people can use, and love, and be proud of. Milwaukee did it with the Beer Line, San Fran with the Embarcadero, Paris is removing all surface or elevated freeways from the entire City. That is leadership and it's one of the reasons why Paris and London have become the cultural capitals of the world.
Other ways to mitigate highways:
- Dallas did it with Central, sink it, maintaining bridges across for connectivity, but it is still a barrier, although slightly lessened.

- Bury it like the big dig. Expensive.
- Build a park over it like Woodall Rogers Deck Park.

But what if they are elevated? How about build underneath?

These are examples of building beneath Viaducts in Paris, but I have other examples in New York. This is necessary in my opinion to maintain connectivity between two sides of the "tracks" so to speak. Furthermore, it makes use of wasted space. In the economy of the future, we can't afford infinite growth. We have to focus on developing and improving what we have. This is one example of how it relates to real estate development. What works under freeways? dog park? eh. skate park? eh.

There are two locations off the top of my head where this is critical. The Gaston-Live Oak-Elm connections from Downtown to Near East Dallas and Deep Ellum and between the West End and Victory.

Hmmm... Where are the dead areas? The way to revitalize the edges of downtown are two-fold, push out the surface lots and mitigate the effect of the highway, and in my opinion the most cost effective way to do that is by building under the elevated ones and over the sunken highways.


oh shit, the Medellin cartel found me:

Medellin, Colombia
Costa Rica

Links to Articles of the Day:

Krugman: Privatized Profits, Socialized Losses
No way to build a healthy capitalist society.

Great Depression of 2008
Malloy (always fun) on the "Ownership Society"
House of cards is unravelling.

Torture with your Peanuts? Taser Bracelet Idea floated by Homeland (In)Security
I'd put up with this once. On my flight the F outta here.

Hawaii - Too Much Trash! - Wall-E isn't that far fetched now is it?
I don't believe our economy nor our planet will be healthy until we acknowledge that the economy is merely a subset of the environment and we begin to shift to a cradle-to-cradle society. It makes perfect sense. We haven't expressed the true costs of extraction or wastes because they were "externalized." The way to maximize profits will be to recycle wastes as the source object (ie food) for another supply chain, either thru selling it to another process or back into the original.

Monday, July 14, 2008

NYC High Line

I feel like I'm yapping about NYC more than Dallas, but ya know, things are happening in NYC. ahem.

NYTimes has an OpEd up suggesting the High Line lacks vision and while his point is taken (and the author freely admits his proposals are unrealistic - so then what's the point?), I rather like the design, and like Central Park, sometimes a little nature in an intense urban environment can go a long way. Most cities would be so lucky for such an amenity and not all things New York have to be outlandish. What makes the city great are the subtleties of the neighborhoods and the intricacies of the community fabric, what Jane Jacobs wrote about, not the mega-projects.

But, at the end of the day, for such a ballyhooed project, this is rather trivial compared to what they should be focusing on, which is what the Embarcadero did for San Fran: downgrading (engineering term) highways into pedestrian-friendly boulevards and reconnecting to the water, even if its nasty water and capitalizing on wasted land that should be maximized thru the development of new neighborhoods.
You can see here how a portion of it winds thru the city.

Guest Contributor: McCready

On CNN's outdated Best Places to Live Rankings:

Another year, another notification that I live across the street from one of the greatest cities in the USA! Not only that, my personal winner for "Best 1980s-era development planning and codes" is just outside the top at #11.

Good enough for a berth in the liveability Ryder Cup.

Honestly, their qualifications for quality are so outdated. It's almost criminal to hold most of these cities in high regard in such a public location. Lists like this set back planning a full year. I can't imagine walking into the city council of Overland Park and telling them their city is fatally flawed. All they would have to do is showcase this ranking and their supporting stats and happily bury their heads in the sand. They would also probably point to their tiny lifestyle centers that are separated from the rest of the city by 6-lane collector roads and promote them as progressive design.

I would love to see the population density, population growth, and codes for these cities and see if they are even remotely sustainable. Can you imagine a Ryder Cup for liveability? I would love to see the 12 best places to live in Europe in a competition with the cities mentioned.

Would it be a 28-0 sweep?


Seriously. They don't say much about their methodology, but it appears the only factors weighing heavily enough to matter or housing affordability and public schools, I suppose. There isn't a single place on this list I consider remotely interesting, except perhaps Fort Collins, CO and that is only because of the New Belgium Brewing Company. From their website:

In 1999, New Belgium became the largest private consumer of wind-powered electricity at that time and the first wind-powered brewery. In 1998, when we were researching ways to lower our environmental impact, Fort Collins was launching the first city-sponsored wind program in Colorado. We made a 10-year commitment to buy all of our electricity through the program, which allowed them to install an additional turbine, in Medicine Bow, WY. Since the wind premium increased our total cost per kilowatt-hour by 57%, it impacted employee's profit sharing pool. So, we asked employees: wind-power or not? They unanimously voted for clean energy, and the decision is a fabled moment in New Belgium history.
But, four texas 'burbs make the list: Round Rock, McKinney, Carrollton, and Richardson. I don't find any of them remotely as well-prepared for the 21st century (unless by well-prepared you mean easily adaptable because so much of what is there is temporary) as say, State College, PA, which makes the list as highest percentage of work commutes by bike or foot, at a whopping 42%.
I wonder what the foreclosure rate is as well in those places? They've all boomed in the last twenty years and are extremely homogenous, which is the way to construct extremely fragile and brittle systems. Furthermore, they are all essentially bedroom communities leaching off the amenities of the larger city.

State College, a place where having a car, at least as a student, was literally a detriment. You would drive up at the beginning of the semester. Park your car somewhere towards the edge of town and not see it again for four months.

NYC Trying to Keep up with the Rest of the World

Closing lanes on Broadway for Pedestrians

Tragically, Dallas lags behind, under the 60s era, Mosesian impression that highways and road construction means progress, jobs, and, as engineers put it, a widening means "road improvement." I quote from Suburban Nation:
"...a recent British study found that downtown road
removals tend to boost local economies, while new roads lead to higher urban

Road improvement only based on their narrow criteria of moving traffic. Keep in mind that civil engineers get paid on a per material basis, more pavement, more cash. PAVE THE WORLD!!!!

In other news, found myself in the West Village Borders this weekend where I picked up a new book. Similar to Dallas Rediscovered, Downtown Dallas: A Romantic Past, Modern Renaissance does more to depress with all of the buildings that have been torn down (once again in the name of "progress") to make room for parking and other buildings, aka the modern renaissance.


Dominican Republic
Zagreb, Croatia
Jakarta, Indonesia

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Free Beer Guess the City

This place just won an award for best urban neighborhood built in Europe (clue 1) within the last 25 years. It is suburb of a larger city. First beer goes to the name of the larger city, second goes to the name of the walkable 'burb (must be at Friday happy hour the day of to collect).

Can you name it?

Reuters: Suburbs Feeling the Pinch

I know, I know, same story, different day.

This is nothing new. People just didn't realize it. I can't tell you how many times I met with city officials for the first time here, there, everywhere, and they were in the midst of internal crisis because they just got a price tag on infrastructural upkeep.

The irony is that the most "conservative" of places, i.e. the most laissez-faire when it comes to development and property rights, end up having the highest tax rates (hardly conservative) to support that style of development.

Here is the important part:

One such place is Stapleton, on the site of what used to be Denver's airport. Its developer, real estate company Forest City, puts homes within walking distance of schools and stores while linking them to the workplace by public transportation.

Resident Evelyn Baker says Stapleton appeals to a "cheapskate" side of her nature that favors towing her offspring about in a trailer attached to her bike over paying for gas for her car.

"We're a family of four with two young kids and the obligatory yellow Lab, but we've managed to get by with one car," said Baker, who has lived here since April 2006.

And, with gas prices above $4 a gallon, Baker said her move to Stapleton feels like a smart decision both because of lower day-to-day costs and the durability of her home's value.
[I'm sad blogger is having difficulties and I can't play with font colors]

I was worried about Stapleton. It's a bit generic. It's a bit suburban, in that the mix is mostly single family housing and the uses are still fairly segregated. It's not well-served by transit yet and the most damning of all? It's got NO little blue google dots (one of my indicators for sacred places within the community).

But it is gridded out, in terms of its street network. There is a variety of housing types, sizes, and affordabilities, so it's good to see it's possible to live there with one car and that the home values are holding steady. This is the model most suburbs should look to as the regenerate.

Electric Scooter as Taxis in Paris


I prefer the Austin Pedicabs myself.

Part Trois

Something to read while I B!tch about hitting every light on my walk to work.
2003 Screed, Final Addition...

Both economists and engineers, with their trusty outdated formulas, will tell you that an efficiency of scale exists. Meaning as stores, businesses, or roads get larger, they become more efficient; when in reality there is actually a deficiency of scale when viewed at the larger scope. To accurately assess efficiency one must, for the first time, begin to quantify environmental and social costs. A Super Wal-Mart pays low wages, requires a ridiculous amount of land for the box retail development, and goods must be shipped from far away locations that very well might have originated in sweatshops. A network of small gridded roads can handle more traffic, move it more safely and efficiently than any hierarchical system. These roads are also pedestrian oriented, encouraging activity on the street, also effectively policing it, encouraging more dense development, which is sustainable, and benefits retailers more as well. This is a no-brainer were it not for the road building lobby of car manufacturers, AAA, and gas and oil companies, all only buoyed by engineers formulas which are based on sixties and seventies style development patterns which have led to the derelict American landscape of today.

Another course of action we must pursue is that of taxing consumption and pollution. A tax should be a punishment, thus penalizing those who consume beyond their needs and pollute the environment occupied by all. Taxing income means penalizing the workforce and the individual, rather than the corporation. Ideally then, these taxes would go to schools and affordable housing, in a time we are told that the gap between rich and poor at its widest point in history and homeless rates approach the levels during the great depression as the billionaire mayor of New York happily strips away rent controls.

To finish the quote from Tyler Durden, "...we're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives." And consequently, escapism is born. We hop into our car and madly race away from work, to get away from our jobs, we do the same in the morning to get away from our homes, and now we have nothing but a life spent on the road to nowhere. We watch reality television to lose ourselves in somebody else's so called life. Eventually, we must begin to address truth and our own well being, and those after us or this process which has culminated in our generation will only worsen.

The founders of our country set forth to create a representative democracy, the system established requires an informed population. The accessibility of information was never as widespread as it is today, with Internet, television, and publications, yet as our generation enters the 'real world', we find that all media is owned by an increasingly small number of corporations, all of which favor advertising, right-wing viewpoints, and corporate-favored censorship.

No generation has achieved what we must, to become the first informed and empowered generation and follow the words of Thomas Jefferson, ideas whose actions not even he could match. We must find a new enlightenment, towards community, ecology, art, sustainability, both economic and environmental. We cannot continue on our current course, in an economy that requires the ignorance of eighty percent of the population to function.

Evolution requires revolution; the veneration of our generation requires an audience. There won't be one if there isn't a world for our children. The me generations have passed on an overwhelming debt and we cannot afford to do the same. It is time to bite the bullet and overcome and repair the feeble and dying landscape that offers us life, and asks little in return, with less than 100 years left of topsoil worldwide, and rainforests are still being consumed rapidly. One quarter pound hamburger requires the clearing of 54 square feet of rainforest, destruction of 165 pounds of living matter, including 20 to 30 plant species, 100 insect species and dozens of bird, mammal, and reptile species, and like the great American bison, we don't use all it either, just the land, to become pasture, which quickly becomes desertified and useless after several years of cattle-grazing.

These are the most exciting of times and terrifying at the same moment, and many in our generation might miss it due to apathy. My guess is that is exactly what those in power would like to see happen, for we are vote wielding, yet often not utilizing, if indeed our votes do count. I would encourage any readers to research the ownership of electronic voting machines.

It is terrifying because we are in the throws of fascism. We claim democracy, yet the powers that be own the polls. Our democracy has succumbed to the corporate takeover, installing jingoism and propaganda instilling fear. Sit idly by and watch as the clear skies legislation, healthy forests, homeland security, and the patriot act and perhaps its big brother of martial law, set to roll out later this year, so the attorney general can throw all dissenters in jail without warning, due process, or just cause, other than free thought and action, which are guaranteed in the bill of rights, only to be undermined. It is frightening because the words of Dickens, Orwell, Shaw, Shelley, Wilde and many others have never been more apt.

It is exciting because there is a grass-roots movement growing one mind at a time. People are waking up; eyes are opening to this new energy in the air, electrified by the arrogance and disregard of the powerful and wealthy. Every sign, every protest, every word and thought of dissent for the current system is helping to create and layout the foundation of conduit out of which the future will flow. Censorship has never worked, art will return. Now we will see a spiritual return to the sixties in terms of energy, the capacity for a beginning to change that can become a mass movement that came so close to effective societal change as Kurt Cobain so often lamented, and nearly single-handedly brought about again.

In A New London, Richard Rogers and Mark Fisher laid out a blueprint for the renaissance of the then troubled city as, "a metropolis of social and ecological harmony" with "beautiful buildings, tree-lined avenues and new parks where the commonest sounds are voices, footsteps and the buzz of the electric tram...." We can go beyond this, however with wild flowers and restored stream corridors and drainage basins as ecological fingers through our cities offering recreation and aesthetics along with the quality as a functioning ecosystem. We can live in cities with new, beautiful buildings where earth and structure essentially become one, generating their own energy, ventilate, heat and cool through natural processes, and infiltrate rainfall into the ground, so it can be cleansed naturally and effectively. This is all not only possible, but it has already begun.

As stated previously, cities are the image of our self, collectively. We have begun the repairing and progressing of them towards a sustainable future, but like many ideals before, we will never attain it, unless it becomes part of our everyday lives and beings. I believe in a hybridization of philosophies, a communal ideology overlaid by a natural capitalist system with socialized education and healthcare, and a standard living wage for all of a working age. But most of all I believe in personal growth and activism. Our current situation is too important for continued complacence. We are Atlas....

Thursday, July 10, 2008

City of Dallas: Stuck on Cartoonchitecture, Mega-Projects, and Starchitects

The winner of the Convention Center Hotel. The development team did the best job putting together their team, I can see no other way for this winning. Pictures say 1,000 words... or in this case, just one: guh.

This brings to mind Two Girls, One Cup (or at least my reaction to it) and how a Pritzker Prize winning architecture firm can come up with something so poor. If I was a prof. and this was a submitted student project I'd sentence said student to the firing squad (and I don't mean a harsh crit, but literally; a real one with bullets of the ouchy, hurty persuasion).

Let us count the ways, shall we:

1) The buildings define no space with the exception of the little circular plaza. This is what we call indefensible space. Buildings don't "own" it or address it, which is what activates it and presents "eyes" on it, thus "protecting" it, making it feel safe.

2) Relatedly, the open space is vastly over-scaled. There are acres of leftover land as suggested "open space" even replete with theoretical people shown in the plan.

3) The circle plaza is generic and doesn't feel enclosed. It faces a generic small office building. Do they really want this as their front door when they could define it and build it themselves?

4) The plaza isn't two sided enough for retail that feeds off each other and generates cross-shopping or synergies. In fact, there isn't enough retail space in this plan to begin with. I know, I know, retail won't work down there. Not yet, which is why we designed boat loads of ground floor "flex space" to be used as meeting rooms until the areas around redevelop. Two-sided retail is needed to make this a destination. It's why the single-sided Victory is struggling. They phased that poorly. This is merely designed poorly.

5) The building, although soft, curvy, and shimmering, is an awful lot like 60's style project towers. How'd they work out? Same problem, indefensible, leftover, undefined space.

6) The creation of pill box residential buildings to a) create a micro-climate - the space between is about 4 acres. That ain't no micro-climate. b) The other pill-box is intended to protect from highway noise - this is a residential building mind you.

7) The buildings have little aka zero relationship to any blocks adjacent, thus spurring no other development. We suggested to the City that this plan only succeeds as part of a larger vision. I guess they dissented. Mega-project to save the day!!!

8) Good thing the tower is there to protect from those awful winter winds in Dallas. First, the average temp in the coldest month is 58 degrees. Second, towers create wind tunnels. Low-rise buildings allow wind currents to pass over and create more temperate micro-climates.

9) The tower is about 800 feet from the Convention Center. I admire their efforts to put the tower out on the corner to make a statement. But, the connection is elevated off the street. This does nothing to address the problems inherent in the current convention center that there is no front door. Visitors are confused, he11, i'm still confused how to get in the thing and I've been there several times.

10) This is what I might call a "selfish building." It is thinking about nothing but itself: not how it relates to adjacent blocks, not how it improves the Convention Center, and certainly not how it might spur redevelopment (other than say I'm pretty, I'm different, look at me -- that wears off quickly). Fad.

The rendering sure is flashy though:

It makes it look as though the Convention Center is actually used more than a handful of times a year. The only way to get that many people on/near the site was to actually create this as the first phase of development of a real mixed-use neighborhood with the Convention Center and Hotel as anchors, NOT merely an object building (although in my initial proposal, I suggested a two-faced design - the postcard view up top and the urban interface at-grade, pedestrian-scaled buildings to relate to the rest of the city).

A couple of diagrams from our schemes (I'll leave out the tower b/c I can't even defend it):

The convention center currently sits by itself, in a sea of gray, like a slug eating its way across the city.

This diagram shows the dual-purpose of the two-faced scheme. First to present an iconic tower to the Trinity River as mentioned above, but also give what is a rather ugly building two front doors by reaching out to the redevelopment successes in downtown and the Cedars.

The plan creates a series of repeatable mixed-use blocks and a direct connection to El Centro College and the West End. The purpose of carving the site up into three smaller blocks is simple. This is an urban site, constrain the design as much as possible even though there are vast amounts of undeveloped blocks around it, b/c there will be development.

Second, it allows for that two-sided retail I mentioned above; necessary in the creation of a destination. Plus, it creates a greater amount of residential, thus providing 24/7 activity.

Third, the repeatable blocks stretch northward and frame the current green squares which are basically useless now without development around them. I don't care if it's a Belo surface parking lot. It needs to redevelop. This is downtown, i.e. no place for a surface lot.

Last, it starts to define a series of interconnected districts like a patchwork quilt, seamlessly stitched together but with clearly defined neighborhood characters. Some of these exist currently, downtown, west end, victory, and the cedars. But, the creation of the Austin Street corridor defines the Convention Center District, while the future DART line by City Hall spurs redevelopment around City Hall Plaza in a Civic District.

Lastly, the green represents a new deck park over a sunken portion of Stemmons Freeway, linking the Convention Center to the Cedars and repositioning the southern part of the Convention Center and its underutilized parcels for future park front development. The future Woodall Rogers Deck Park is already spurring development along it, an ROI if you will.

This clearly has to be the last phase for a few reasons. First, downtown is a more important connection than the Cedars, more hotels, more retail, more restaurants, hell, it's downtown. Second, the connection is far easier and cheaper.

But, this is coming from a guy who wants to rip out most of the freeways. Someday.

WalMart Goes Local

Buying/Selling locally grown produce.

But if it's local, why not just cut out the middle man? I have a hard time seeing this as a viable solution to keep WalMart in business. The right step, but why not walk up the entire set of stairs ourselves?

Guess the City: Lagos, Portugal

From TxDOT of All Places

No Road Pays for Itself.

Why do I feel skeptical about their intentions? Just because they are as corrupt an organization since 1880's Railroads, doesn't mean I shouldn't take data in support of my opinions at face value, right?

Either way, if they're looking to make roads toll roads to pay for them or to place roads on equal footing as mass transit as both being heavily subsidized (one of which brings a greater return on investment - I don't think I need to spell out which) I am with them 100% either way. Make them all toll roads!!!!

I can't think of anything that would change driving/living habits faster...other than $8/gallon gas.

Tea Party - Part 2

Welcome to Feudalism, Inc., serf. Our government is founded on the principles and ideals of democracy, rule by the people through directly elected representatives. However, our representatives have been corrupted, and then incorporated. Corporate lobbies have for a long time, distorted the goals of government and who was actually benefiting, until today, where representatives of major corporations now occupy the most powerful positions in the land, big oil, energy, pharmaceutical, auto, healthcare, agribusiness, chemical, machinery-warfare, tobacco, banks, media, etc. This has become the land of the nothing is free, ruled by the few and dedicated to the few.

So in return we get genetically modified food with unknown effects and an FDA that can be bought off to release a class A carcinogen among the populous because it is zero calories and 200 times sweeter than sugar!!! Mismanaged agriculture has left us with 50-75 years left of topsoil worldwide and maybe that much time remaining of some fossil fuels while clean energy sources are available, under funded, and largely unpracticed.

Many in my field express their distaste for the term sustainability as a mere buzzword without definition. To me, this is its strength, for it is all encompassing, a Weltanschauung or zeitgeist that must take hold. But I feel that not many understand that sustainability is more than a method of design to attain developmental bonuses, tax incentives, and design awards. It is a lifestyle, individually and worldwide. It should pervade economics. It should guide politics.

The reason the world hates us, the reason we were attacked on the 11th of September, 2001, is not because of our freedoms, but rather because of our liberties, those we take from others to support our current lifestyle. It might take fifteen planets to support the requirements of the average American. Vicious civil wars are being fought in Africa over control of diamond mines, corporate paramilitary groups rape and kill villagers in Indonesia and the Philippines in the name of imperialism. Our military uses chemical weapons in the drug wars in Columbia killing the fertile soil and driving honest farmers of all agricultural types off of the land, and polluting the water supply. Despite our claims, we actually subvert and prevent Democracy all over the globe, until we find a leader that can be bribed or is submissive to our corporate interests as low-wage factories open all across the country. I guess it depends upon your definition of Democracy, rule by the people and free elections or third world enforced servitude.

There are two sides we can take, perpetual war on the right, that alienates the international community, unless regime change is imposed in every nation, breeding more terrorism and making our habitats less safe, with success or failure resulting in the failure of the economy as the dollar slides and the euro gains support and circulation or do we reject imperialism, what America has become, a symbol of feudal corporate oligarchy. In no way, does this mean appeasement, we must find, arrest, and convict the surviving perpetrators of terrorist attacks. But we can no longer be ignorant as a people and hypocritical as a government, as the largest purveyor of militarism and conquest in the world. We killed our father, we no longer pay taxes to the British Empire, and then we became him. If we wish to prevent future attacks here and globally, we will begin to understand, not simply utilize, the interconnectedness of the globalized world.

We have been conditioned through advertising into a state of over-consumption, disregarding needs for supposed and instilled desires. As Americans living in our single family house in the suburbs, working a job with no personally accountability or enjoyment, and driving our little cars to and fro, throw in time for sleep and average television watching and that leaves about 30 minutes a day available. Our commutes to work are so long that we have to stop at fast food places to eat. We angrily spend hours a day in traffic, as we try to race ahead of the next guy to get to wherever. Our lifestyle has made us fat, angry, and for the most part, pretty misinformed. The much of the population's entire belief system regarding politics and world events are based on the lies and deceit fed to them.

Because of our advanced culture we don't die from disease, starvation, and civilian casualties of war, although many others do suffer from these, largely because of our culture, but rather the highest cause of deaths here are from our lifestyle: diet, stress, car accidents, medical malpractice, suicide.

Sprawling development and supply-side measures have allowed for suburbs that stretch as far as the eye can see all interconnected through highways. None of which have been designed with natural resources or community in mind, just short-term profits for the developer. This kind of development pattern destroys ecosystems directly by replacing them with sparse population patterns, road construction and widening, and single-family homes, and indirectly through improper, heavy-handed design that forces water run-off into pipes and eventually into streambeds unable to handle what is essentially a man-made flash flood, eroding stream banks and slowly killing ecosystems.

The children who are fortunate enough to go to suburban schools are latchkey kids riding the bus back to the sanctuary of home. Children who bus to and from school watch four times as much television as those who can walk. The insanity of television, and the accompanying mind numbing jolts of advertising, as well as the isolated life-style are now the dominant element in the formative years of our children.

We have destroyed community through fenced off neighborhoods, sparse living conditions, and poorly planned street frameworks. The idea of the house with the white picket fence was little more than a marketing ploy for the Levittowns, and Sears-Roebuck, and other early suburban developments marking the beginning of the flight from cities, left desolate and lifeless, the perfect place for crime. Our cities today suffer from misconceptions that they are dangerous, foreboding places. They are only this way, because all the vitality was sucked into suburbia where it subsequently rotted away. Entropy can be defined as the inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society. We must begin to reverse this chaotic spiral and focus on creating internal synergies.

Many believe that technological advancements will save us from peril at our own hands, however a study from Cornell University recently revealed that clean energy at its optimum capacity will only accommodate half of our energy needs, justifying the mandate for living more sustainably. The oft recited phrase of reduce, reuse, recycle, preferably in that order is one way to stop the supply-side linear consumption pattern from production to waste. Another way is by moving back to the cities, a trend happening all over the country. Unfortunately, many cities have yet to establish urban growth boundaries. Absorption of land must be controlled and directed towards the cities.

Part 3 manana