01 October 2008
It seems like in today's world, often the firms and designers given the most applause and publicity are the ones pushing the envelope of possibility. The more daring the design, the taller the building, the more innovative the project, the more praise, the more success. Of course, it is vital that the profession advance, and that new and innovative buildings are created. As societal and technical advances are made, architecture too must adapt and change. However, as buildings are pushing their vertical limit in Dubai and high end designs are becoming more and more ecologically friendly and technically advanced, what happens to the large portion of our society not only financially unable to reap the benefits of this new wave of innovation, but at the same time seemingly pushed aside in favor of designs that will draw attention and prove economically successful?
How does one determine a successful design, when those measures span in range from the digital morphology of form concocted by architects like Frank Gehry and Santiago Calatrava to new ways to encourage a successful merging of incomes, races, genders, and lifestyles in the multi-family living environment. Could it be argued that a design is actually more societally effective if it is not a multi-million dollar, eye-catching project, but rather a cost-effective complement to the historical fabric of an environment? I make no attempt to answer that question (although I often find myself leaning towards one direction) for both of these components of design are important to progression of the architectural field. The underlying point remains, that although architects are agents of design and artistry, they are also dictators of societal patterns. The successes and failures of institution, housing development, governmental regulations, etc. can often be linked to the surrounding built environment.
One easy example of this is the astounding failure of the American housing projects of the 1900's. Whoever thought it a wise design decision to gather a city's poor population into cumbersome buildings lacking identity, amenities, convenience, or any sort of redeeming factor was soon proven desperately wrong. We now face a possibly endless and difficult process of repairing this damage and creating an integrated societal structure. It is now important for architects to realize their dramatic impact upon these structures and systems. Whatever the motivation behind design, the result directly impacts society and the way people live. It is vital that as society grows and changes, that architecture advances as well; however, it is also important that we realize that a constant pushing of this envelope must strive to encompass all of society and not just stand out from the rest. Buildings and surroundings dictate the way people think, work, and react to the world around them. As architects, we hold the power to influence and enhance the path of society. As Farson points out in his new book, as architects realize their full potential, there is no limit to the role we can play in future societies.
Critics have said that no one in the architecture field can afford not to read The Power of Design. In my opinion, societies and urban structures can't afford for us not to read this book, absorb it's wisdom, and buckle down to make a change.
30 September 2008
The Urban Assault ride was created in
Which is when the beneficiary of the race, West Town Bikes, began to get some well deserved exposure. West Town Bikes is a non profit bike advocacy group here in Chicago. Their team helps get children and adults on their bikes and comfortable riding in the city streets. They provide lessons in bike repair and maintenance as well as helping underprivileged children to get on bikes and ride. WTB is accommodating to anyone with a desire to bike, I encourage you to check out their website and programs at westtownbikes.org.
At the conclusion of the race, we all gathered to celebrate those who participated and enjoy some great burritos and brews together. There's not much better of a way to start your day than with beer, bikes, and big wheels. I will keep you all posted when the 2009 Urban Assault season begins!
24 September 2008
My favorite frankinbike is known as the 'double-decker bike', also referred to as a 'tall bike'. Everytime I see one of these contraptions, I can't help but think, "wow, what kind of crazy adventurous fool first came up with this idea?"
As, you can see a double-decker is constructed from two old bikes, one artfully mounted atop another, usually by welding or brazing. This really is a combination of my two loves, biking and architecture. These bikes always amaze me, usually first for their somewhat outlandish and dangerous appearance, but also for their simple and elegant beauty and construction.
Although, the modern day finds these bikes coveted by hipsters wishing to stand out from the crowd, the design was actually created as a practical one. One of the first uses of the tall bike was as a late 1800s lamp lighting system! Workers would mount this contraption equipped with a torch for lighting gas lamps. The worker would then proceed from lamp to lamp, leaning against the lamp post to light the lamp, and then riding to the next. Upon completing the circuit of lamps, an assistant would help the rider dismount.
I can't explain to you how to ride one of these gems, for I myself would never risk my life atop such a contraption. I can say that modern double-decker riders do not travel with assistants, but rather serve as acrobats of sorts, leaping to and from their seats in the sky. If you attend any of the biking events this weekend, you are sure to see a few tall bikes out there; after all, they are hard to miss.
As a preview for the coming fun, Critical Mass takes place on Friday and will meet in Daley plaza around 6 PM, come one come all. CM is a free event open to anyone will wheels! Also this weekend, the Urban Assault bike ride comes to Chicago! This ride takes place Sunday morning, and riders must register as part of a two person team and pay an entry fee. However, you will be rewarded with tons of cool shwag, a wild and crazy race, and a free after party involving beer and burritos! All of this plus, plus proceeds benefiting local bikers, makes Sunday a great day to GET ON YOU BIKE AND RIDE!
Check back for my updates on these events, and more to come, and while your at it, click over to qbike.com for all of your biking needs. I have just signed on as a contributing writer for the site, and will be doling out advice for all you commuters out there!
23 September 2008
Details of the buildings form, function, and intent are described quite elegantly in a recent Dezeen article,
Ok, I do have to admit, from this vantage point, the building takes on the appearance of what could be described as a giant bundle of scaffolding. Perhaps not the refined elegance HdM pride themselves on.
However, as one delves deeper into the design, the seemingly haphazard stacking of form unfolds to reveal an intricate and complex weaving of architectural solid and void. The architects embrace the simple desire to give each residence a unique floor plan and private outdoor space, multiply that concept by 145, and equate a 57 story residential condominium which HdM describe as "houses stacked in the sky".
With this bold design, HdM are set to redefine the iconic American skyscraper. Through an artful stacking of form, possibly best described as the largest scale Jenga ever created, the image of a skyscraper as a hermetically sealed, impenetrable object has been shattered into literally 145 individual and unique homes, open and exposed to the city around them.
Articulated surfaces, dramatic cantilevers, profiled slab edges, profusion of balconies, expanses of glass, and views from downtown Manhattan to as far as the Atlantic Ocean.......oh my! I for one cannot stop ogling this fascinating design. Perhaps I am a bit biased due to my somewhat inexplicable fascination with multi-family living. I did just finish a master's thesis dealing with the issue of preserving the qualities of single family living in a multi-family environment. I too devised a system of stacking and twisting forms, only to soon become exasperated and overwhelmed by this daunting task. Of course, HdM immediately comes along and beautifully articulates this thought in massive scale, right in the heart of Manhattan! Perhaps it is time to admit a feeling I have had for awhile, Herzog de Meuron are much more worthy than I.
Alas, all that is left for us Chicagoans to do now is admire these photographs, and grow continually jealous of the rich and famous New Yorkers who will someday inhabit this gem. I for one have decided to immediatly start saving my pennies in hopes to one day reach the $3.5 million to $33 million price tag on the condos, which range in size from 1,430 square feet to 6,380 square feet, and will include two- to five-bedroom residences and 10 penthouses.
I did gain a small fracture in my "New Yorkers have it all" rant, when I came across this familiar image.
That's right Chicagoans, artist Anish Kapoor has created a younger brother for our beloved bean. The sculpture will make its home at a prominent corner on the lot, drawing public crowds in a further attempt to integrate the building with the public community. It will be the artists first permanent public work in New York City.
I encourage you to check out the Dezeen article mentioned above for futher details of the design. I, however, will leave you with this thought from Jacques Herzog, referring to artist Andy Warhol, “He used common Pop images to say something new. That is exactly what we are interested in: to use well known forms and materials in a new way so that they become alive again.”
From a firm that has achieved just that thought through recent works like the Beijing bird's nest, the San Francisco de Young museum, and London's Tate Modern, HdM have now set the stage for urban centers around the world, providing the fuel and innovation needed to enter a new era of design.
22 September 2008
_ The Chicago Lakefront_ Burnham envisioned a continuous string of shoreline parks stretching from the far south side all the way to Wilmette. As a former Chicago Beach Lifeguard, I admit even I take this for granted. In how many cities can one run marathon distances while constantly being surrounded by the beauty of both nature and man made skyscrapers. Get down to the lakefront and revel with the runners, walkers, bikers, skaters, etc. before winter rears its ugly face!
21 September 2008
First, a side note must be made that I am on a constant quest to discover the perfect title for my first big book deal (coming soon). Many of these may be ridiculous, however I firmly believe they will all be wildly popular, so don't get any ideas of stealing these gems and slandering my epiphany of the day.
Ok, on to the story. I believe this idea first came to me while looking around at a particularly disjointed crowd one afternoon while riding the El somewhere. I thought to myself, "why is it that some people seem to be having the time of their life while trapped in this metal transport device while the person sitting next to them appears as if their dog just died?" Which led to a long 'train' of thought as to how my fellow travelers and I all ended up in this train car together, at the moment all going in the same direction, yet clearly each on a distinctly individual path.
So, fast forward a few weeks to a group of friends at a friendly neighborhood pub. After a few beers, I thought it appropriate to yell, 'hey did you guys ever think about how our lives would be different if all these buildings weren't here?' To my surprise, one of my friends took me up on the philosophical debate, and we spent a good deal of the next hour pondering how buildings tend to blur into the background of our daily lives, yet in their own quiet way really dictate nearly everything we do in daily life.
As you can tell, I can ramble on about such topics pretty much endlessly, which is what I intend to do through the use of this handy little blog. I hope to delve into some actual facts and knowledge about this great city and the others I intend to experience in the future. However, often I will just spout my own theories about 'post-institutionalized' life. Often (as you can tell) my ramblings will contain disjointed theories and random facts and ideas I come across from day to day. Basically, I graduated from college, and miss theorizing about mundane things all the time. Who's with me?