Four illustrators envision what Washington, D.C. would look like if its height restriction is removed—Congress is in the midst of debating the issue. The Washington Monument and the White House disappear, essentially. But more folks can afford to live there?
Hmm. How's that density working in keeping other American cities affordable these days?
H/t to the great Kriston Capps of Architect magazine.
The image says it all:
Photo: urbanrelationsinfo: Left: renaissance-era Florence, Italy. Right: a single freeway interchange in... http://t.co/ydCZh31dh0
— James McLean (@JJGMcLean) April 13, 2013
And so in Portland, one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US, "the tiny house movement for apartment dwellers has arrived":
It's a new milestone for the Portland area's off-the-charts rental shortage, the third-tightest in the nation in the third quarter of 2013. And it might also be the key to a new model for apartment living that's designed to deliver relatively affordable rents for tiny units in highly desirable neighborhoods.
The new buildings, sometimes called "aPodments" or "micro-apartments," typically offer lightly furnished studios including a private bathroom. In order to attract tenants despite the small size, they're located in areas with one of the hottest commodities on the real estate market right now: excellent active transportation. Portland's first such building at 2250 NW Thurman St. proudly proclaims its Walk Score, Transit Score and Bike Score...
This is what I'm talking about:
How did I miss this? After the story about the fake lion in a Chinese zoo, as well the story about the fake beef in a Chinese factory, the internet was busy last week confirming the story about the Chinese apartment building with fake windows:
Lol even Window was fake RT @TheStalwart: Looool. Chinese apartment building has fake window. http://t.co/6iYP8Vf4MU pic.twitter.com/UbYN3B0GRk
— مهدي بن سعد الحبابي (@MrMahday) October 28, 2013
Qingdao's local government later posted a message to their Weibo account saying that they had asked the contractors to remove the fake windows, explaining that they had created an "adverse social effect."
In 2009, there was a fire and a break-in at a local gallery at the same time as a mean-spirited exhibition called Spite House. I wrote about the crimes plus the art plus an actual Seattle spite house in a piece called "On Malicious Erection, Everlasting Fights, and Fire's Power":
There is a spite house at 2022 24th Avenue East in Montlake. It is pink stucco on the outside and only four-and-a-half feet wide at one end. Legend has it that a wife put it up after a judge awarded her husband their house and her just the front yard in the divorce. But that's not true. It went up in 1925; the next-door neighbor who wanted the sliver of land it sits on made the landowner such a low offer that he responded by building the little house right up in the neighbor's face. The spiter won: The neighbor moved.
The neighbor should have fought harder, because the law... was on his side. "Malicious erection" (I know) statutes in many states, including Washington, specifically prohibit spite houses, giving neighbors the right to an injunction or a teardown if the foundation is, say, poured in the dead of night (it has happened). The existence of such laws is a testament to the unstoppable drive to build spite houses, and most of the laws were implemented late in the 19th century, including Washington's.
In this 1989 documentary, Kowloon Walled City, an accidental urban experiment that was demolished between 1993 and 1994, is penetrated by German poetry...
The ordinary practitioners of the city live "down below," below the thresholds at which visibility begins. They walk—an elementary form of this experience of the city; they are walkers, Wandersmanner, whose
bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban "text" they write without being able to read it.
There are two types of utopias: concrete and airy. Concrete utopias are found in Manhattan, Bogota, Havana, and Copenhagen. Airy utopias are the sort of things you find in Inhabitat—roads that absorb carbon, machines that clean the ocean, bottles that purify water. Those who are interested in airy utopias tend to believe the world does not need to fundamentally change. The market remains as is, you remain as you are, and technology does the rest. This is a fiction.
This was once Dubai:
A History of Future Cities, a book by Daniel Brook, links Shanghai and Dubai with two other famous cities, Saint Petersburg and Mumbai. The book, which is smoothly written and packed with historical information (for example, one of the best sections is devoted to Mumbai's main train station, which was built in 1887 and represented in its design and art the Victorian faith in science), argues that these cities have one thing in common: they fell out of the sky. Brook's meaning is that kings and big business interests willed these cities into existence. The book's final chapter on Dubai holds the brightest and saddest goods/insights...
From my drinking column:
"Cities are becoming more female," writes Leo Hollis in his book Cities Are Good for You (which I review on page 39). "Almost everywhere in the world, the proportion of women to men is changing... The rise of women in the city is perhaps one of the least-discussed aspects of the urban future." For so long, we have coded the city as a dangerous place for women, a place that corrupts and abuses them. The story often told in movies and news reports: An innocent young woman moves to a big city, is seduced by some ruthless man, becomes experienced, and ends up a fallen streetwalker. But the real story of the city can be found in another page of Hollis's book: "Kavita Ramdas, head of the Global Fund for Women, noted in 2001: 'In the village, all there is for a woman is to obey her husband and relatives, pound millet and sing. If she moves to town, she can get a job, start a business..."
Because [human] babies are born immobile, there is no chance that any baby will wander away and latch on to the wrong mother. There is no way for the mother’s milk to get embezzled by the wrong baby. Evolutionarily this is important, because it means that primate mothers don’t have to imprint on their babies right after birth the way sheep and other ungulates whose babies run around right after birth do; and they don’t. Primates are very flexible in this respect. The mother’s emotional attachment to her infant can begin right after birth; but bonding is an on-going process, so that the actual window of opportunity stretches out for weeks and months.What is opened in the absence of imprinting is the way to shared parenting, and this sharing leads us directly to the golden door of our sociality. But the burden of a human baby's born dumbness has mostly fallen on women. In the city, this burden is eased in a number ways, the main of which is that the city offers all more choices.
City Studio Vancouver, an organization that sees the city as a classroom, recently transformed "two parking spaces on Commercial Drive into green space for the day."
The first step to understanding how parking works is to get a grasp of how much it costs and who pays for it. Because it is so plentiful and often free to use, it is easy to imagine that it costs very little. But this is not the case. The cheapest urban parking space in America, an 8½-by-18-foot piece of asphalt on relatively worthless land, costs about four thousand dollars to create—and not much urban land is worthless. The most expensive parking space, in an underground parking garage, can cost forty thousand dollars or more to build. Parking spaces under Seattle’s Pacific Place Shopping Center, built by the city, cost over sixty thousand dollars each.* In between those extremes is the standard aboveground urban parking structure, which can usually be built for between twenty and thirty thousand dollars per space.Shoup actually believes that the best thing to do with parking is to turn it over completely to the market. This will help end the subsidies and reveal the actual cost of this nonsense to drivers. And a sharp increase in the price of parking will eventually translate into a decrease in the number of drivers going up and down and all around town. And if the number of drivers falls significantly, our oceans will not get much more fucked up than they already are (read the excellent Seattle Times report on the state of our oceans). Let's think about missing green spaces...
...Shoup calculates that “the cost of all parking spaces in the U.S. exceeds the value of all cars and may even exceed the value of all roads.” There are also the ongoing costs of taxes, management, and maintenance. If the journal Parking Professional is to be believed, more than a million Americans make their living in some aspect of the “parking profession.” These people have to be paid. Somewhat conservatively, and based on the study of hundreds of parking lots, Shoup estimates the monthly cost of a structured parking space to be at least $125 per month,6 or roughly $4 per day.
This circumstance exists all over the United States, principally because cities and other sponsors keep parking prices artificially low. Because there are so many parking spaces, this cumulative subsidy was calculated a decade ago at between $127 billion and $374 billion a year, which puts it in the range of our national defense budget. This number seems preposterous, until you consider that the typical parking space in the United States is not in a pay-to-park garage at all, but alongside a condo cluster, inside an office park, or in front of a Walmart, where admission is free. If parking is “free” or underpriced in so much of the United States, who is actually paying for it? The answer is: we all are, whether we use it or not. Shoup puts it this way: Initially, the developer pays for the required parking, but soon the tenants do, and then their customers, and so on, until the price of parking has diffused everywhere in the economy. When we shop in a store, eat in a restaurant, or see a movie, we pay for parking indirectly, because its cost is included in the price of merchandise, meals, and theater tickets. We unknowingly support our cars with almost every commercial transaction we make, because a small share of the money changing hands pays for parking...
The woods are full of artists and clothing designers.
This was shot in the Methow Valley, by Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes.
That was shot in rural New York, by Anna Telcs.
Barnes and Telcs are Seattle artists.
Lilah Horwitz grew up in Seattle. She went to Parsons in New York but split from the fashion world over its aggressive commercial cycle, which sends the message that you need to buy new clothes every season. Horwitz designs clothes as direct responses to where she's living. She moves around, so sometimes that's West Virginia, sometimes Milwaukee. I'd like to see her do a Seattle series. She thinks of her clothes as the child of art and journalism.
Then there's the house made of windows in the backwoods of West Virginia.
Industrial design is taking place in the forest.
Dreaming of Africa is one way that Prince William escapes from the stresses he faces as the future king of Britain.
"I regularly daydream," The Duke of Cambridge reveals in the documentary "Prince William's Passion: New Hope, New Father."
"Africa is definitely one of the places I go to ... I have hundreds of animals on my iPhone. So if I am ever having quite a stressful day ... you can put a buffalo on in the background or a cricket," he says.
This may sound like a small, even trivial, detail but it's a thought that may one day help define the British monarchy. "It takes you back instantly to the (African) bush. And it does completely settle me down."
This interesting PI series is devoted to the dead towns of our state. The first town in the series is Lester. The best image the photographer, Jordan Stead, gathered from this ghost town is of a decaying telegraph pole. What makes this image is that the pole looks much like and as old as the cross used to execute the human animal many still believe died for our sins. As a whole, however, the ruins of a small town are not as impressive as the ruins of a major city. Lester far from Detroit.
Raw concrete, Barbie:
SHOWstudio has collaborated with Roksanda Ilincic to create a new home for the toy doll, her tenth home since 1962. It features a cluster of brutalist structures, a forest of silver birch trees on the roof and a basement cinema. Unlike its plastic predecessors the house exists as a virtual environment.
The housing bust didn't just sink the world economy. It sunk the suburbs too.
Now, you probably think of white picket fences, big backyards, and perhaps a whiff of existential despair when you think about the suburbs. But you should think of economic despair instead. As Elizabeth Kneebone of the Brookings Institution points out, suburbanites made up almost 50 percent of food stamp recipients back in 2007 — and 55 percent in 2011.
For the image that best fits this data, I turn to Steven Spielberg, the poet of the suburbs...
From Jeff Speck's important book Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, which you can purchase at our very own Elliott Bay Book Company.
For Dr. Jackson, the epiphany [about health and urban design] came in 1999, when he was driving on Atlanta’s Buford Highway—voted by the Congress for the New Urbanism as one of the ten “Worst Streets in America”—a seven-laner flanked by low-income garden apartments, “with no sidewalks and two miles between traffic lights.” There, by the side of the road, in the ninety-five-degree afternoon, he saw a woman in her seventies, struggling under the burden of two shopping bags. He tried to relate her plight to his own work as an epidemiologist: If that poor woman had collapsed from heat stroke, we docs would have written the cause of death as heat stroke and not lack of trees and public transportation, poor urban form, and heat-island effects. If she had been killed by a truck going by, the cause of death would have been “motor-vehicle trauma,” and not lack of sidewalks and transit, poor urban planning, and failed political leadership. That was the “aha!” moment for me. Here I was focusing on remote disease risks when the biggest risks that people faced were coming from the built environment.Dr. Richard Jackson wrote with Howard Frumkin and Lawrence Frank Urban Sprawl and Public Health, a book that transferred at once all the talk about urban walkability from the aesthetic realm to that of hard science.
Welcome to the world's tallest slum: poverty-ridden Venezuela's Tower of David. Squatters took over this very unfinished 45-story skyscraper in the early 1990s, and they've been there ever since. The tower was originally intended to be a symbol of Caracas' bright financial future, complete with a rooftop helipad, but construction stopped because of a banking crisis and the sudden death of the tower's namesake, David Brillembourg.
Today, as the government is grappling with a citywide housing shortage, the tower is a stark monument to what could have been in the country's crime-plagued capital. The tower is dogged by accusations of being a hotbed of crime, drugs and corruption.
The story quotes neighbors talking of drug dealers and prostitutes. But the building residents say that while there used to be a crime problem, today, it is the safest place around. In my three times there, a few hours each, I did encounter one guy who was drugged out, but nobody who seemed like a dealer. To the contrary, I met a lot of people who were aggressively evangelical about Christianity and who were pushing everyone they met to eliminate vices from their lives — even alcohol and extramarital sex. The presence of the guard is exactly what gives the lie to the neighbors’ claim that thugs take refuge there. In fact, before the building was squatted, it was a crackhouse where thugs came and went freely
We talked about a certain ugly building in Ballard last week, and comments on last week's restaurant review of Stoneburner in Ballard are still going. This one just caught my eye:
To the polls!
People are MAD about the exterior of the building in Ballard that houses Stoneburner, the subject of this week's restaurant review, and rightly so. It's hideous and Vegas-y, especially compared to its handsome, classic Ballard brick next-door neighbor. In fact, when I was walking in one evening, a woman in front was saying to her friend, "It looks like it belongs in Las Vegas!"—and she did not mean it in a complimentary way. Check out the comments over here for more, including this from commenter d.p.:
Rumor has it that one of the owners got himself elected to the Ballard Avenue Landmark District, after the initial approval but before the design changes and substitution of crappier materials could come to public awareness. If true, this should be a scandal, but since we live in ahistorical Seattle, such cancers are left to fester with impunity. It is impossible to find out anything about the Landmark District Board, which seems to operate in secret and without any written standards.
Heather McAuliffe of the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods confirms that the owner of the building, James Riggle, is indeed a member of the Ballard Avenue Landmark District Board and that he has been a member since June of 2006.
Also from commenter d.p.:
You don't see any problems with a behemoth of yellow stucco punctuated by air conditioning vents and balconies that wandered in from a Southern Plantation mail-order catalog? You have no qualms about archways of chalky, chunky sandstone on loan from the Magic Kingdom collection?
The entire Hotel Ballard facade (and the hotel interior, I'm told), screams of money without context or taste.
The design that was approved by the Ballard Avenue Landmark District was already mediocre and of questionable appropriateness. Everything about the final installation (which strayed far from the approved version) is worse.
Hotel Ballard owner James Riggle has not responded to a request for comment. How about a poll?
UPDATE: Hotel Ballard owner James Riggle responds:
I am an elected member of the Ballard Avenue Landmark District Board.
Much of the project was approved before I was elected to the Board.
I have no idea why anyone would think there was a "substitution of crappier materials."
With Board approval, we substituted a copper roof for composition. This was a much more expensive material to use. Also, in my opinion, it’s much nicer. The Sandstone and Stucco were approved in the original submittal as were the balconies and canopies.
I was required by Heather McAuliffe, the Board Coordinator, to recuse myself whenever the hotel submittals were discussed, which included leaving the room during discussion and voting.
We do need to be concerned with the rapid growth in Ballard.
The Landmark Board meets every month in the Community Center next to the Library.
The Guidelines and meeting minutes are available online.
Please come to the meetings.
As Cienna mentioned in Morning News, today the house of Ariel Castro—the former bus driver who pleaded guilty to imprisoning and raping three woman in his basement for the better part of a decade—is being demolished and the pieces destroyed. What she didn't mention was that you can watch the destruction live!
Last week, Castro was sentenced to life in prison, plus 1000 years. Right now, it's unclear what'll happen to the site, although the local Cleveland bank that owns the property has said that Castro's victims, along with members of the community, will help determine what's built there.
Demolition is standard procedure for buildings where terrible people have done terrible things. Serial killer Jefferey Dahmer's Milwaukee apartment was razed and the Austrian dungeon of Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter in his basement and fathered seven children with her, was filled with concrete last June.
This was the cover of yesterday's USAToday:
Which place has people who live the longest? Dense Hong Kong...
It is the heart of Porto Allegre, Brazil. It is composed of Tipuana trees. It was almost destroyed in 2005 by mall developers. It was saved by the citizen. It is now considered to be the most beautiful street in the world. It is the Rua Gonçalo de Carvalho...
Update on the downtown Carhartt's door handle drama. Looks like the store put the frying pan handle back up, and it looks stupid:
If China wants to dominate the world, it should not make itself into a second-rate USA:
In the next two years, the city will need a great number of parking spaces for at least 2.5 million cars, according to a joint analysis in Beijing.China should do everything it can to become something that's as far from the US as possible. Building more parking lots (a distinctly American solution) will not solve a single problem, but only entangle more and more people in a form of transportation that can only work if it's heavily subsidized. These parking lots will not only be a waste of space but, if the US is an example, will also need to be cheap to attract users. And if they are cheap, it will mean they will not be able to pay for themselves in a conventional way but by distributing their costs into other areas of economic activity (the prices of goods, taxes, and so on). This means those who do not use cars will also end up paying for these ugly and for the most part useless spaces.
By the end of May 2013, more than 5.31 million vehicles were owned and operated in the streets and that number grew at a rate of nearly 20,000 vehicles per month.
Along with the heavy traffic congestion, the lack of parking lots have been a development woe for the city. By 2010, there were about 2.17 million parking spaces, including 1.39 million in parking lots and 0.78 million in residential areas.
The only way mass car ownership can work is if the society is politically committed to the cost of its maintenance—a cost which is far too high to be supported by the market alone. Remove the politics, and the whole thing falls apart—the jams, the pollution, the accidental deaths, the waste, the destruction of urban spaces will overwhelm its small bits of usefulness. The fact China is turning to the car system reveals the emergence of a political order that's absolutely needed to sustain it.
What is visualized in this video is "15 hours and 40 minutes of geotagged Tweets from London (beginning at 21:45 on the 1st of July 2013)." From this information emerges the virtual city...
At the end of Jeff Speck's excellent little book Walkable City is an image that was "in stark distinction to most American cities portrayed on TV at the time." That image, which is at the end of the opening credits for the Mary Tyler Show, apparently inspired Speck to become an urban planner: