All the magazines came in the same day yesterday. Here's what i know so far:

The Economist: The housing bubble is about to burst. I've been saying this for awhile, but it's kind of weird when a main stream (even slightly conservative magazine) says so. The Economist kind of says the world is going to end, but here is what should happen from an urban development standpoint (it's not the first time this has happened): much like farmers, suburbanites (and city dwellers with large lots) will begin to reallize that the land thier property (or business) sits on is worth more then the property itself. They will either develop it further themselves or sell to developers who will rebuild at higher density. The urban and suburban infill will bring people back from the outer suburbs to the city and first ring suburbs, especially as property gets cheaper (both for companies and individuals) and gas prices continue to rise. It's terrifying for people who thought thier houses would be thier retirement fund, but it's actually a very natural part of city development.

Metropolis: Boing bulit a new "democratic" workspace. I'm not sure what that means yet, because I haven't read it. I think it has to do with glass curtain offices like the Daimler Chrysler headquarters in Berlin.

Foriegn Affairs: Avain flu is going to kill us all. No seriously. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, if the virus mutates to be transmited human to human, 18 million Americans would die and well over 1/3 would get sick (that's with only a 20% mortality rate, in actuallity, the death rate so far is over 50%). They also talked about the spanish flu outbreak of 1918-19. 6% of the US population died and the average life expectancy went from 55 in 1917 to 37 in 1918. Fricken A.

I haven't started reading National Geographic Traveler or Foriegn Policy yet. I wish they would spread out over the month a little more.



I've had nothing to write about recently, so here is a tidbit from the most recent book I’ve been reading:

The suburbs in California grow by a space equal to that of the entire state of Massachusetts every ten years.

Anyway, I've been spending my time lately trying to find a part-time job or internship within my field so that I can start getting some professional experience before I graduate. I'm really hoping to get into a really good grad school and I know that some good experience will make me stand apart. These are my favorite two things I’ve applied for so far:

1. A job for a part-time planner at a consultancy in Lexington that specializes in zoning law.
2. A research fellowship with a think tank. I'd be doing research regarding a Hope IV grant for the revitalization of a housing development that happens to be in my neighborhood. I'm hoping since I have the neighborhood in I'll be more likely to get the position.

Naja. I'm looking forward to seeing you Minneapolis kids soon. What's going on with the Twins game? Someone call me or something.

Oh, yeah, I'm also now an official member of the American Planning Association, so that's pretty cool.



The District


I think this is my fifth or sixth trip to Washington, which puts it near the top of the list of time spent in cities that I’ve never lived in (with Chicago and Rome). That’s kind of strange for me, because, to be blunt, it’s never really been my favorite place. Don’t get me wrong, I like DC, just not the way that I like New York or Chicago (or Rome or Amsterdam).

I love DC’s planning. L’Enfant’s grid plan mixed with the diagonal boulevards and circles is probably the best grid plan in America. It manages to mix logic with beauty in a way that upper Manhattan or Chicago just don’t. Unfortunately, the architecture doesn’t carry it through. Despite the grandeur that DC’s great buildings exude, the classical styles are just kind of bland. This is carried to an even further extreme in the office buildings. They are large, imposing and uninspiring. It’s understandable though, it’s a democratic city, and when you try to please everyone in planning and architecture you end up with substandard fare. Washington is the vanilla of American cities. Everyone can get by with it, but most people would like it if it were spiced up just a bit.

Anyways, we got $50 round trip tickets, and there are some new museums that I really wanted to see, along with a surprisingly good brand-spanking-new baseball team, so how could we really pass up a few days? We flew in to Dulles early yesterday (a word of advice: fly to Reagan-National instead if you can. Besides the fact that Reagan was less evil then the Dulles brothers, which says something, it is way easier to get out of the airport and into the city). We’re staying in a run down flophouse in Dupont Circle above a bar that proclaims the most different types of beer in the world. Side comment: It is so weird seeing people smoking indoors. Even the dude checking us in to the hotel was puffing away.

First stop was the National Zoo. It was all right. I was hoping for one of those older urban zoos like Como or Lincoln Park where you can actually see the animals, but it was more like the Minnesota Zoo where you have to really try. They did have capybara and cavies (wild guinea pigs) so that made up for it. It was also freaking hot though, and we both got a little burned.

In the afternoon, we went to the new International Spy Museum, which rocked so hard. I think it’s replaced the Vatican’s Modern Religious Art Museum as my favorite. All the way through the museum, you got to spy on the people behind you with listening devices and crawling through ductwork and the like. There were also lots of interactive displays where you could identify people undercover and look for signs of dead drop sites and stuff like that. So cool.

We had a late dinner in Chinatown, and then it was off to bed. End day one.


We decided to start off the day with a walk around all of the national monuments, since there are a couple of new ones since the last time we were here. Jefferson and Lincoln were both pretty much as I remember them. I’m not a fan of the concept of the temple as a memorial. It creeps me out a little bit, but it is still hard to not be moved. I also enjoyed Jefferson’s memorial more now that I’ve traveled more and was able to pick apart the architectural bits that they took from elsewhere; for example, the roof is a smaller copy of the Pantheon in Rome. I loved the FDR memorial. I found it very fitting. The Korea and Vietnam memorials I had seen before, but they are still very moving. The new World War Two memorial was a stark contrast. Vietnam and Korea are both dark marble and rather small. The statuary at Korea shows a tiredness and fear, and the way the Vietnam is sunk into the ground reflects the role the Vietnam played in America’s history. World War II is huge and white and exuberant. Jessica pointed out that it seemed very victorious.

In the afternoon, we went to the new Museum of the American Indian. I loved it. I’m part Cherokee, and I’ve always had a bit of a thing for Native American history. The architecture was stunning. Probably better then any of the other Smithsonian Museums; it really fit the subject matter. The exhibits were also very good. There was one side that showed several nations history and then on the other side they showed the lifestyle and belief systems of other nations. There was also an exhibit of modern native art. Jessica and I bought a piece of Inka pottery.

In the evening, we went to RFK stadium for a Nationals game. I like RFK. We had seat just above home plate, which is usually better then we get, but it was cheep. It reminded me of old-timey baseball. The beer was still in bottles (made of glass!) people smoked inside, food didn’t cost an arm and a leg and the crowd got excited when people hit doubles. It was a good game too. The pitching on both sides sucked, but that always makes for an interesting game.


In the morning, we went to the Natural History Museum. It had been several years since I’d been, and they’ve been doing some remodeling. About half of the displays were close while they were being redone. The new ones looked great, the old ones not so much. One of them actually had wood paneling. I felt like I was in a rumpus room from 1965. The new mammal hall looked really nice. I remember last time I was there everything was all dusty and dark.

We had lunch at a bistro at the National Sculpture Garden and then went to a couple of the art museums, The National African Art Museum and the Sackler Gallery. The Sackler Gallery is all Asian art, mostly from the Middle East and China. There was a very interesting display of stuff that showed how Iraqi and Chinese art had affected each other as they started trading. You’d start with this white bowl from China then the next one would be a white bowl in the same style with simple blue calligraphy from Iraq and then there would be a white bowl with a little more complex patterns from China and so on. It was very interesting.

The African Art Museum was also quite good. My favorite exhibit there was of life items (you know, stools, pipes ect.) from across Africa. The curators of both museums were great. They were housed in identical buildings, however the African museum was very warm and comfortable. The Asian museum had more of a stark, simple exquisite beauty. I highly recommend both.



New Urbanism and the Emerging Church

A few weeks ago, I was reading the new Metropolis and there was an article that got me thinking, so I thought I’d make a post about it and see if I can get anybody else’s thoughts.

Metropolis Magazine

There was an article titled “The Manchurian Main Street” talking about New Urbanist shopping districts. For those of you who don’t know what New Urbanism is, it is a style of planning that “promotes the creation and restoration of diverse, walkable, compact, vibrant, mixed-use communities composed of the same components as conventional development, but assembled in a more integrated fashion, in the form of complete communities. These contain housing, work places, shops, entertainment, schools, parks, and civic facilities essential to the daily lives of the residents, all within easy walking distance of each other. New Urbanism promotes the increased use of trains and light rail, instead of more highways and roads. (from the new urbanism website).” To break that down a little, they seek to return to a time when development was a. multi-purpose b. easy to get around with out cars and c. aesthetically pleasing. For examples in Minneapolis, you can go to Grand Place on Excelsior Blvd or to “Main Street” in Maple Grove. Block E downtown also uses some New Urbanist architecture, but fails to follow through because it lacks multi-use tenants and also does a poor job of connecting to the street level. In Boston, there is a development near Beacon Street in Brookline and a shopping center called Mashpee Commons on the Cape that are good examples.

I’ve always been a fan of New Urbanist planning. In fact, when I choose a neighborhood to live in, the ideas behind New Urbanism are what I look for. I want to be able to walk, have public transit, shop and interact with my neighbors in my neighborhood. As I do not (nor do I plan to in the near future) own a car, these things take on even more significance. The only major difference is that I have always chosen to live in actual historical districts. If you take the average year that the building was built in my last three apartments, you get 1887. Despite the fact that New Urbanism seems to be the best planning out there right now, you still get the fact that they are only trying to copy something out of the past. To quote the article in Metropolis, it’s “a strategy that doesn’t solve the problems we’ve created so much as teaches us to forget them.”

I also see parallels between this and the post-evangelical church movement. Essentially, we are reaching back to our imagined past to try to overcome the real problems that we’ve encountered in mixing Christianity with modernism, however, the problem is the same, we’re not finding solutions to our problems, we are just going back to a time when we can forget that there were problems.

My question is, is this necessarily a bad thing? Like I said, it is all of the proponents of New Urbanist planning that I look for in a neighborhood. Does it matter if it was built in 1860 because it was the cutting edge or in 1990 because people wanted to forget the last 70 years of bad planning? But I have to ask myself, if we progressed from good planning in 1860 to bad planning in 1960 or from good Christianity in 1480 to bad Christianity in 1980, what is to prevent us from making the same mistakes again? Modernist planning and Christianity both grew out of trying to correct the problems of what came before, if we revert back, won’t we just be doomed to repeat the cycle?

on a completly unrelated note, I just rearanged my links to be from people who post the most to people who post the least. I also added Dugan, though let it be know that I do not support his content. I always think its good to hear both sides of the story...both right and wrong... and at least he's thinking, which is more then you can say for most people.


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