One of Jane Jacobs’ most valuable contributions to the understanding of cities was her faith in the wisdom of the urban dweller. She argued that the physical city—and any approach to city planning—could not be separated from the wisdom of each individual inhabitant, “People who know well such animated city streets will know how it is. I am afraid people who do not will always have it a little wrong in their heads, like the old prints of rhinoceroses made from travelers’ descriptions of rhinoceroses.” The complication arising from Jacobs’ argument is simple though difficult to solve; how can we plan a city when planning is one part abstraction and abstraction removes us from Jacobs’ precious “real life” mentality?
A step towards solving this contradiction is sfbetterstreets.org, a website launched last week by the City of San Francisco. Developed by the San Francisco Planning Department in conjunction with other city agencies, the website is part of the city’s larger, “Better Streets” initiative. The legislative concept, described in San Francisco’s Better Streets Plan, is to create streets “designed and built to strike a balance between all users regardless of physical abilities or mode of travel… maximizing features for the comfort, usability, and aesthetics of people walking.”
As part of ongoing subtle austerity measures, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced Monday that as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, they will transfer ownership of 12 lighthouses to willing non-federal-government organizations. Eligible state or local governments, non-profit corporations, historic preservation groups, or community development organizations have 60 days to file a letter expressing interest in the properties. If no suitable taker is found, then a public auction will take place. The measure is part of President Obama’s initiative to save $1.5 billion in federal money by reducing overhead costs of maintaining federal real estate, and the GSA claims that they are on track to save $3.5 billion by the end of the year. Read More
Last week at Audi’s HQ in Ingolstadt, Germany, architect Junya Ishigami of Tokyo succinctly summed up the problem the car company aims to tackle: there is “a gap between people’s speed and the city’s speed,” Ishigami said. In other words, people’s habits evolve quickly to suit a 21st-century lifestyle, but the infrastructure of the cities they live in is constantly playing catch up. And Audi, whose primary product is by nature infrastructure-bound, wants get ahead of the curve.
Ishigami was one of six architects presenting research as part of the first phase of Audi’s 2012 Urban Future Award, a bi-annual program first started in 2010. The 2012 firms were selected for their track records of researching the urban environment and their relationships to one of six metropolitan areas: CRIT (Mumbai); Höweler + Yoon Architecture (the Boston-Washington corridor); NODE Architecture & Urbanism (Pearl River Delta); Superpool (Istanbul) and Urban Think Tank (São Paulo); and Junya Ishigami + Associates (Tokyo). The brief: to “create visions for individual mobility in the future.” Audi defined the future as ca. 2030, when it’s predicted that 70 percent of the world population will live in cities with eight million or more inhabitants.
Hadrian’s Villa—the real one, the 2nd century site of pilgrimages by architects, classicists, and any human interested in the origins of culture—has been selected as the site of a new garbage dump by a Berlusconi-appointed sanitation minister. That stinks!
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The artist’s first major U.S. commission lands at the Met
On Monday, the Metropolitan Museum of Art held a preview of the latest installation to take root in its Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. Designed by Tomás Saraceno, the installation is the largest of the artist’s Cloud Cities/Airport Cities series, and his first major commission in the United States. Under overcast skies and a sprinkling of rain, the installation’s first visitors—or at least those wearing rubber-soled shoes—clamored through its 16 interconnected modules. Some paused to sit or lie in the structure’s uppermost areas, while others were content to view the constellation of mirrored acrylic forms and nylon webs from the ground. The experience of boarding the structure is disorienting, and the piece gives visitors the impression that it would float away from the rooftop and over Central Park if not tethered to the Met by steel cables.
If all the world is a stage, according to Shakespeare, all the city is a kunsthalle in the eyes of the New York City Department of Transportation. Bogardus Plaza, a tiny pedestrian plaza carved out of a little-used block of Hudson Street in Lower Manhattan and named for architect James Bogardus, the inventor of the cast-iron building, just received a well-deserved facelift and has now been chosen to host a prototype art display case designed by Architecture Research Office (ARO).
The word “folly” is derived from the French folie, or “foolishness.” Also known as an “eyecatcher,” a folly was traditionally an extravagant, non-functional building, which was meant to enhance the landscape. Rooted in Romantic ideals of the picturesque, a folly often acted as an ornate small-scale intervention which transformed and visually dramatized the landscape around it. The winners of this year’s Folly Competition sponsored by The Architectural League of New York and Socrates Sculpture Park, competition winners Jerome Haferd and K. Brandt Knapp proposed a new interpretation of the folly, “Curtain.” Read More
Few university art museums have holdings that span from 3000-year old Chinese bronze vessels to bronze coins of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, and from the blue-tiled gates of ancient Babylon to Blam, a red, white, and blue oil painting by Roy Lichtenstein. The collections of the Yale University Art Gallery, both deep and wide-ranging, offer up an impressive art-fueled time machine, and thanks to the Gallery’s current expansion project by Ennead, visitors will be able to travel more easily than ever across history and cultures.