This is my favorite piece of architecture in Seattle right now....
Let's begin with a passage in a book, Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability, by David Owen:
Energy Star program, which was introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 and which has transformed the market for all kinds of power-consuming devices in the United States and a number of other countries, including Japan and Australia, as any consumer who has shopped for a household appliance in the past fifteen years probably knows. The U.S. Energy Star program was extended to residential and commercial buildings in 1995, and the EPA expects that by 2010 more than 2 million new U.S. houses will have received Energy Star labels. The EPA also estimates that, in 2007 alone, Energy Star saved Americans $16 billion in direct energy costs and reduced greenhouse-gas emissions by an amount equivalent to those produced by 25 million cars.
Now, recall that Section 179 of the United States Internal Revenue Code still (in the age of Obama) gives Americans money for buying SUVs (the expense limit: $25,000; weight of vehicle: 6,000 lbs; business use: 75% ). With this in mind, let's consider the most eco-friendly mode of transportation in our uncertain times of climate change:
Because only two percent of Americans walk or cycle to work (that figure is taken from P.D. Smith's book City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age), and because the future will not happen in the way we understand or desire it unless that terribly low figure dramatically improves, should we not be offering substantial tax breaks for those who walk to work? A smartphone app could make the claims on such a tax benefit easy to verify. But as it currently stands, it is totally unfair that pedestrians and cyclists are not rewarded for not only reducing their impact on the environment but also on the health system. One more from Green Metropolis:
A British study concluded that every minute spent walking extends life expectancy by three minutes.
If you want a good footing on the biggest anti-capitalist story since Occupy, read this essay: "The Right to the City Movement and the Turkish Summer." Here is its heart:
But this protest is the latest manifestation of a movement that has been stirring for some time now. The shopping mall is only one component of a plan to entirely redesign Taksim Square into a more car-friendly, tourist-accommodating, and sanitized urban center. Mass protests have also taken place recently to stop the closure of the landmark Emek Cinema, located on İstiklal Avenue off Taksim Square, which is also being converted into (no surprise) a shopping mall.It really is a struggle between the capital and democracy. Even the most quiescent, tranquil, sleepy city park is packed with more political energy than the nosiest, busiest, loudest mall imaginable.
Taksim Square is the heart and soul of Istanbul. It is common sense to Istanbulites that if a revolution is to come to Turkey, it would begin in Taksim. Protests are regularly held in the square, and issues run the full gamut of concerns of Turkish citizens: LGBT equality, recognition of the Armenian Genocide, an end to the Kurdish conflict, an end to military conscription, economic justice, and more. In 2011, there was a massive one-day protest in support of a free and open internet that drew upwards of thirty thousand people.
The protests started late on Monday after developers tore up trees to make way for the controversial construction project featuring a shopping centre in nostalgic Ottoman style and building a replica of an old military barracks.
Police staged consecutive raids on protesters, using tear gas and water cannon, but the protests grew in scale, with artists, intellectuals and opposition MPs joining the ranks.
Who knew that a small park in Instanbul, Taksim Gezi Park, would become the new front line in the post-crash struggle between neoliberalism and democracy. In this sequence, it takes the form of private versus public space, open versus closed space, development capital versus green urbanism. Indeed, the defining theories of David Harvey, which are an extension of the theories developed in the middle of the 20th century by Henri Lefebvre, have become a reality on the streets of Istanbul. Harvey, in his essay "Right to the City":
The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from that of what kind of social ties, relationship to nature, lifestyles, technologies and aesthetic values we desire. The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.There are some people who are saying that the current sequence of protests are about larger, national, political issues rather than just the privatization of a park. But this kind of thinking only belittles the great importance of city parks. We should see this sequence as mainly about a city park because cities are filled full with the future of our species. If you lose a park, you lose a lot. We need and must fight for our trees, our shade, our places outside of the mania of the market.
Cities must not only be committed to a war on modes of private transportation fueled by fossils, but also build neighborhoods that are less like suburbs and more like slums. In this short paper, "Slums as the Model for Future Projects," Anna Papova presents a sketch for this kind of thinking...
While the mainstream view on the slums describes them as places to escape from and to destroy as soon as possible, more and more people look at slums in a different way. What if we analyze the slum and approach it as a self organized system that contains both flexible participatory input and a defined structure? Research on relocation of occupants of slums to housing projects shows that most of them are not satisfied with the move and would have preferred to have stayed in their homes. This means that people actually like to live in slums and there must be a reason for it. The squatter cities can teach us much about future urban living.Because the solutions to many of our problems are already in the world, our eyes must be as open as our imaginations. The crucial flaw of 20th century communism is that its thinking was almost completely informed by the 19th century faith in progress. And so instead looking at the world that was present to it for answers and ideas, it turned to the future, to nowhere, to utopia. Communism was something you went to, something that was in the distance, on the horizon. Urbanism must not make this mistake. The city we want is here already: bikes, service sharing, urban farming, and...
A new installation in Hong Kong returns to the only kind of thinking that can make a human truly happy to be a human—thinking about the city...
Lots of people are sending us links to this Seattle Times story, about Amazon's plans to build three biodomes in the Denny Triangle:
The online retailing giant is expected to discuss the new plans at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall before the downtown design review board, part of the city’s permitting process for large developments like Amazon’s campus, which the company has nicknamed “Rufus 2.0” after a former employee’s dog...The spheres, which would range in height from 80 feet to 95 feet, would be on the block between 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue and between Blanchard and Lenora streets.
And I guess I'm supposed to have some sort of an opinion about this? I dunno. Biodomes are cool. Lots of readers are expecting me to hate on the biodomes, but I don't automatically hate every Amazon idea just because it's Amazon. They can spend their money however they want, I just wished that more of that money went to the arts and to taxes. If I had one wish for these biodomes, it's that I'd like them to be open to the public at least part of the time, because I'd like to walk around in them. I think they'll be a neat addition to the downtown area.
I want this book...
Hong Kong is a city without ground. In Hong Kong, it is possible to walk all day without ever having to set foot on the ground. "Cities Without Ground" deconstructs the unfathomable paths of pedestrian bridges, tunnels and walkways, which make up pedestrian Hong Kong. The book graphically dissects this labyrinth in a series of snappy axonometric drawings of 32 various routes through the city.It's like one of those cities in Invisible Cities.
This video, which concerns this new and amazing building...
The world’s first algae-powered building just opened in Hamburg! Dubbed the BIQ House, the project features a bio-adaptive algae facade and it will serve as a testing bed for sustainable energy production in urban areas......is a keeper:
Hint: It's in Pioneer Square. Hint 2: It functions like a big terrarium. Sort of.
Also, this is not a test: I don't know what it is, so you'll be telling me. I saw it last night during art walk.
The dreamy New Mexico-based architect Antoine Predock always intended his silvery Tacoma Art Museum to dissolve into the sky. It worked so well that some people actually had trouble finding the place.
I loved this "problem." TAM was the opposite of the modified-phallic, extroverted Museum of Glass just across the waterway. And they were a pair.
Now, ten years later, Tacoma Art Museum is planning a big, heavy, earth-colored addition for its new Western art wing. Like that whole endeavor, the success or failure will be in the execution. If Western art means cowboys, we're in trouble. If this earthiness turns up drab or imperious, likewise. This will be Tom Kundig's first completed museum. The renderings don't thrill me.
I'm curious about what's going on in the middle area, where there's that screen that extends down to street level. Its back leg will block part of the glorious view out the top floor of TAM. Will it bisect Mount Rainier? Please tell me it will not. Probably that's a dumb question. Nobody would let that happen.
You can also see from the next rendering that the screen section creates a plaza where before there was only longing. Those figures-for-scale almost look like they're enjoying a feeling akin to standing outside at the Kennedy Center in DC, under that overhang with views to the water on one side and the street on the other—know what I mean? (The entrance always was the weakest moment of the building—its interior is a freaking wonder—and that was partly because the original design was "value-engineered" away, meaning they didn't raise enough money to make it happen.) Three cheers for a real entrance.
But what's with the brownie with blinds?
I have nothing against the Beacon Hill Station (yes, it leaks; yes, the elevators are slow), but it recently occurred to me that the business directly above the pay stations is supposed to be, or wants to be, a green wall...
Reconversão, which is part of the Northwest Film Forum’s superb The Built World series, is about the work and theories of Eduardo Souto de Moura, a Portuguese architect who won the 2011 Pritzker Prize. The greatness of the documentary is found not just in the content (Moura’s buildings are just something else) but also in the fact that it’s narrated and directed by Thom Andersen—the film scholar and culture critic behind the long argument called Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003). The result of this encounter between two very different sensibilities (a European modernist and an American postmodernist) is one of the best films about architecture that has ever been made. What Andersen does is to present Moura without sounding academic or employing architectural language. The plainness of his English is like a window into the heart of a sophisticated artist. Do not miss the opportunity to watch this film. It's really happening.
It took forever, but it's finally here; finally this part of Seattle and the old multimodal dream is coming together nicely...
At 12:50 p.m. today, the defeated mayor of Seattle climbed up to the 11th floor of the clock tower at King Street Station (a structure that should have been demolished instead of endlessly being renovated) and officially restarted the station’s long-dead clock. These are the words he offered for the sad occasion, sad because at the very moment life was returning to the clock was also the moment that life was leaving his mayorship: “For the first time in more than a decade, Seattleites can once again set their watches by the King Street Station clock.” (Yes, Nickels, we will now be able to see if the Global Positioning Systems's time synchronization for cellular phone networks is correct or not.) As the mayor descended the tower, step by step, the sound of time's ticking diminished.Now we have to deal with the old tracks. We want our bullet trains between the big cities. This want needs new tracks. Obama talked about doing something about it years ago. But because Obama is only good at being the first black president and not much else, we continue to only hear talk about this upgrade. (To be fair, there has been some serious talk about high-speed rail in our region since 1992. Obama is only continuing this solid tradition of talking.)
From the Dailymail:
There are houses for cold climates, which are designed to keep in the precious warmth; there are houses for hot climates where architecture allows for air to sweep through and keep inhabitants cool.
However, until now, the two were difficult to combine.
But this new incredible folding house is able to, in the words of its creators, 'metamorphosize' into eight different configurations to adapt to seasonal, meteorological and even astronomical conditions.
But you should pre-order it anyway!
Did you like Devil in the White City? Of course you did. Who doesn't? Chicago By Day and Night: The Pleasure Seeker's Guide to the Paris of America was a guidebook published for visitors to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Daniel Burnham might've picked it up, though he's never once mentioned (the book was written before we began to worship architects as artists). H. H. Holmes's hotel might've rated a mention, had it been built when the book was composed. If you're a DitWC fan, this book will complement your enjoyment of Larsen's.
CBDN guides potential visitors to "free and easy" shows, saloons, carousels, masquerades, and other fun things to do away from the Fair itself. It's a fascinating artifact of the late 19th Century, when any woman who flirted with a man on the street might be an "adventuress" who planned to take him for all he was worth, via blackmail, the badger game, or the panel room. A taste from that chapter, with our notes after the jump:
The term adventuress is applied to women of careless reputation who, being much too smart to endure the ignominious career of professional demi-mondaines, resort to various shrewd schemes to fleece the unwary. Some of their class work in concert with male partners, and in such cases the selected victim generally becomes an easy prey. The confidence man may be dangerous; the confidence woman, if she be well educated and bright, as well as pretty, is irresistible except with the most hardened and unsusceptible customers. The shrewdest old granger of them all, who steers safely through the shoals and traps set for him by male sharpers, will go down like the clover before the scythe under a roguish glance, as it were, from a “white wench’s black eye,” as Mercutio said.
There is no mortal man in this universe of ours, be he never so homely or ill-favored, who does not cherish in his heart of hearts the impression that there is a woman or two somewhere whom he could charm if he wished to. It is the spirit of masculine vanity that forms the material upon which the adventuress may work. With the art of an expert she sizes up the dimensions of her victim’s vanity the instant she has made his acquaintance and plays upon it to just the extent she deems expedient and profitable. If it were not for masculine vanity, the American adventuress could not exist.
Along with my colleague Paul Durica, I've introduced, edited and annotated this fascinating bit of history. Some key features you might like: lots of dirty jokes, along with serious economic history (the chapter on gambling, for instance, includes the Chicago Board of Trade as just another way to lose your shirt, along with back-alley craps games or faro banks in saloons). Reminders of how cities change, and how they stay the same. Very cool illustrations, and lots of double-entendres (watch for the "delicious lays").
But all in the service of scholarship. Pre-order! Use the code DURICA13 for a discount.
Charles has serially waxed rhapsodic about the supergreen Bullitt Center, which is grand-opening at 15th and Madison, where C.C. Attle’s used to be, right this very moment. Indeed, it is impressive. More importantly to my bicycle, part of the grand opening is free bike repair, carried out on the spot by a very nice man named Matt, who runs the Polka Dot Jersey bicycle shop in Leschi. (The reference is to the winner in the climbing stages of the Tour de France—if you can demonstrate any knowledge about this, Matt will be gratified.) My bike had been changing gears all on its own, as if by an unseen hand, or indeed, as if there were a ghost in—or on—the machine. Matt remedied this situation in approximately four minutes, and also added air to my tires, changing the relationship of my bicycle—indeed, my very self—to the road.
The point here is: This building may be beautiful, it may be green, it may know when to shade its own windows, it may have composting toilets, but this building has done me a concrete service—you might even say a service involving concrete itself. The building has also, for a brief moment on a sunny day, thrown off the shackles of capitalism, escaped the unseen hand of the market, giving this concrete service that at any other time requires payment in kind for no kind of payment at all. This is a thing that changes one's relationship to architecture.
It is unclear how long Matt will be there, but go now, and change your bicycle's world.
The speechs by the mayor and other important people are over...
Today is Earth Day. Today the greenest commercial building in the world opens to the public in Seattle. The opening begins at 11 am. Now, I want you to read this description of the Bullitt Center by Denis Hayes, the head of the Bullitt Foundation:
It does not look at all like a douglas-fir forest but it is like a douglas-fir forest. The impact it has on this site is pretty much the same as a douglas-fir forest had on this site 200 years ago. The douglas-fir got all of its energy from the sun through photosynthesis, it gets its energy from the sun through photovoltaics. The forest supported a complex ecosystem; there’s a complex ecosystem in the building. The forest got water and disposed it in the ground, this building does the same for the most part. It disposes most of its water not in the bay but in the ground.
Now look at this image of the building, which was taken by Brad Kahn...
The Bullitt Foundation is warming up for its opening on Earth Day (Monday), and the renovations to triangular McGilvra Place (created in 1901) were finished this afternoon.
While the grass is totally gone, it looks like it may turn out to be a nice spot for a lunch or coffee on some of the tree-stump furniture that's been added. That is, if the constant flow of traffic down Madison Street doesn't bother you.
Another picture after the jump.
The glass staircase on the side of the building that faces Madison Street...
This is a remarkable staircase. It’s enclosed in glass, and so the higher the floor, the better the view of the neighborhood and the city. Seattle on the sixth floor is something to behold—the office towers, the Space Needle, the blue sky or low clouds, depending on the day. Like every nut, bolt, and plank, in this building, thought went to into the decision to make a glass staircase. The thinking: The elevator continually adds to the energy costs of the building; stairs, once completed, once built, do not. But people naturally prefer not to use their own energy to get around but to exploit the energy of something else—a car, a rickshaw, an elevator. How do you solve this conflict? Make the convenience of using something else’s energy lower than the reward of expending your own. In the Bullitt, that reward is the spectacular view in the glass-enclosed staircase.
São Paulo did it five years ago and the city is doing just fine with absolutely no outdoor advertisements...
Imagine a city of 11 million inhabitants stripped of all its advertising. It’s nearly impossible when the clutter and color of our current urban landscapes seem inextricably entwined with the golden arches of McDonald’s or the deep reds of Coca-Cola.
Yet for the residents of São Paulo, Brazil, this doesn’t require imagination: city dwellers simply have to walk down the street and look around to see a city devoid of advertisements.
In September 2006, São Paulo’s populist mayor, Gilberto Kassab, passed the so-called “Clean City Law," outlawing the use of all outdoor advertisements, including on billboards, transit, and in front of stores.
All of this brings to mind the beauty of Lead Pencil Studio's "Non-Sign":
Here is one thing you might not know about the Bullitt Center, which has its grand opening on Monday, April 22, at 11 a.m. The building's large windows are intelligent.
And commenters already do not like his not liking it. Representative comment: "This article was so fucking stupid, second only to the cloud article from last year."
I disagree. You gotta read it. It begins:
You have seen this before. An immigrant is having a drink by himself at a bar. He is enjoying his day off. He works so hard for his money. He is giving himself a little treat by not ordering the cheapest beer. He is dressed in some of his best threads and wears with pride a hat that's a bit fancy—it's a safari Panama straw fedora. Suddenly, a group of drunken white men burst into the bar. They are loud and laugh at anything that falls from their mouths. As one of them requests a bucket of beer (it's party time!) from the bartender, another begins to show great interest in the immigrant's exotic hat. "Man, that's really cool," the white man says to the immigrant. The immigrant smiles weakly and continues drinking. "Can I try it?" asks the white man. But before the immigrant even gives him an answer, the man grabs the hat, puts it on his own head, and begins to move his neck back and forth like a funky chicken. "Man, I should buy one of these. It's so cool."
You have seen this sort of thing before. You have seen it and felt your soul cringe, felt it crinkle like tinfoil. Oh no, he didn't. Oh yes, he did—and he just won't stop doing his jive thing with the rim of the hat low on his eyes.
Keep that image in your mind and now think about the Beacon Hill Library...
In the future, the final race will be every race...
Here is a preview...
I'm beginning to realize that the Beacon Hill Library is not only ugly but is actually getting uglier. It has gotten so bad that when ever pass it, to avoid unbalancing my spirits, to prevent my thoughts from slipping into the gloom that this kind of architecture was built for, I have to look across the street and fix as much attention as possible on the vivid mural on the Beacon Hill branch of Washington Federal. This is a small part of that useful distraction...
Just as the inner city is being improved for pedestrians, cyclists, and those who use public transportation, the poor are being pushed out to places that are hostile to these cheaper forms of transportation. David Moser at City Tank breaks it down:
Though poverty poses dire and unjust challenges no matter where it exists, sprawling and auto-dependent land use patterns can exacerbate these difficulties. And this problem is gaining urgency, as more and more of America’s low-income individuals now live in suburbs (or are being pushed there), a phenomenon the Brookings Institute has called “the suburbanization of poverty”.One of the major challenges for the urban environmentalist movement is to make green living affordable. The way things are heading at the moment, however, we can expect what happened to health foods to happen to our neighborhoods.
There are many reasons suburbs make the experience of poverty worse, but first among them is that automobiles are really expensive. Purchasing, maintaining, repairing, insuring, and fueling a car can easily consume 50% or more of a limited income. For someone struggling to work themselves out of poverty, these expenses can wreck havoc on even the most diligent efforts to maintain a monthly budget. With gas now approaching or exceeding $4.00/gallon, a full day’s work at minimum wage sometimes won’t pay for a single tank of gas. The burdens of sprawl weigh heaviest on the poor.