Just a few weeks before the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, the New Yorker published a profile by Jon Lee Anderson (“Letter from Caracas: Slumlord”). The subject of the profile was less Chavez and more a Chavez-era phenomenon, the so-called Tower of David in downtown Caracas. “It embodies the urban policy of this regime, which can be defined by confiscation, expropriation, governmental incapacity, and the use of violence,” Guillermo Barrios, dean of architecture at the Universidad Central in Caracas, told Anderson.
For a long time in the West there has been a common misgiving that aid is about patronage. The Cooper Hewitt’s latest exhibition, Design with the Other 90% : Cities, which opened this weekend at the United Nations Visitor’s Center, rebukes this notion by spotlighting communities in the southern hemisphere who are taking the initiative, harnessing local resources to solve their own problems. In the show, designers and architects are tapping into existing currents of change.
Just Architecture. The Van Alen Institute announced that NYC is about to welcome its first bookstore and reading room singularly devoted to architecture, Van Alen Books, located on 30 West 22nd Street. Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects (and one of the two candidates for the next PennDesign Architecture Dean) and architectural historian Anthony Vidler will be presenting their latest books at the opening party scheduled for next Thursday, April 21.
Flash Sale Curator. Curbed shows today that there is no boundary for what architects can do. A popular flash sale venue, Gilt Groupe, is having a home products sale today at noon, curated by an architect, Richard Meier. Items up for sale include “a signed copy of Taschen’s Meier, a mezuzah he designed for The Jewish Museum of New York, and his Architectonic Menorah,” normally sold for $1K!
Breathing Times. According to Streetsblog, New York’s Times Square, visited by 250,000 pedestrians each day, has become much more breathable since the 2009 installation of pedestrian plazas (find out why Bill Clinton is a fan) on Broadway. Concentrations of two traffic-related air pollutants, nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide, have gone down by 63% and 41%, respectively!
Suburban Slumification. Business Insider identifies 18 cities (including a less-than-expected Minneapolis) where suburbs are rapidly turning into slums. In the past, cities suffered crimes and poverty during recessions, while the rich stayed away in their safe suburban havens. But not anymore. Suburban slums are growing five times faster than cities.