Growing up in South Minneapolis, it's hard to avoid the weight of Mall history. Southdale, widely believed to be the first mall (which it isn't, it's just the first CLIMATE-CONTROLLED mall in AMERICA), was about 5 miles from my childhood home. It was actually designed by a Socialist who hated suburbs and was trying to reintroduce downtown style commercial districts what he saw as the soul-sucking horror of suburban life. Way to achieve the exact opposite of your goal, big guy. Anyway, when I was about 11, the MALL OF AMERICA opened. At the time, it was the biggest mall in the world, and, as far as I know, it was still the last mall built in the Minneapolis metro. Over the next few years, the newspapers were generally saying that mall traffic was slacking off, no more would be built, and that the Age of the Mall (you have to say that part with a Lord of the Rings narrator voice) was ending. Well you can imagine how surprised I was to come across a current list of the ten largest malls in the world. Surprise, surprise, MOA doesn't even make the list anymore. Here's the current top ten:

1. Dubai Mall, Dubai, UAE, 12 million sq feet
2. Mall of Arabia, Dubai, UAE, 10 million sq feet
3. Mall of China, China, 10 million sq feet
4. Triple 5 Mall, China, 10 million sq feet
5. South China Mall, China, 9.6 million sq feet
6. Oriental Plaza, China, 8.6 million sq feet
7. Golden Resources, China, 7.3 million sq feet
8. West Edmonton Mall, Alberta, Canada, 5.3 million sq feet
9. Panda Mall, China, 5.0 million sq feet
10. Grandview Mall, China, 4.5 million sq feet*

So basically, Dubai has the biggest Mall in world and the biggest building. Talk about out America-ing America. And then there's China, with 7 of the 10 largest malls in the world. Is anybody else thinking about what's going to happen if Americans refuse to stop consuming at thier current levels and if China starts to too? Cause it kind of freaks me out.

Anyway, on a personal note, I've finished my applications to UBC and Berkeley, and I'll finish U Toronto up today and I've just got two more weeks of school. yea!

*This list comes from Sand, Fear and Money in Dubai by Mike Davis, published in Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism edited by Mike Davis and Daniel Bertrand Monk (New Press, 2007)



Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I spent last weekend at an openhouse at the School of Design at Penn. To be honest, Penn had been the school that I was least excited about, but I had a really great time. The facilities and the staff were awesome (the Planning Studio space is in Louis Kahn's old studio) and the quality of the students work was amazing. I also really liked Phily. I'd only spent a couple of days there before, and I only spent a few hours wandering around this time, but it's got a good vibe. A lot like Boston, but less stuck up.

I go back and forth between being freaked out that I won't get in anywhere and that I'm going to get in to to many schools and I won't be able to choose.

Anyway, my first application is due Dec 1st. I'm taking the GRE in 12 days. Ahhhhh.



Photo Tour: Fallingwater









Pittsburgh is not what you thought...

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

There's a certain west coast city (that I've never had the opportunity to visit) that everyone talks about like it's a mythical Valhalla for urbanists. "There is light rail transit! The housing is so dense! The natural setting is so beautiful!" Now, I don't want to rail on Portland. Like I said, I've never been there, but I have to wonder, after having spent a day now in Pittsburgh: why is Portland so admired and Pittsburgh so demeaned? It's almost exactly same size. Pittsburgh's got the light rail. It's denser then Portland (2,100 to 1640 people per square kilometer). It's got a super cool location. It's even got better universities (Carnegie Mellon is rated 23rd in the country, one worse then Berkeley and one better then Georgetown). So why doesn't anybody know that? Is it all just the way that cities market themselves? Or is it age? Do Americans prefer a newer city?

Anyways, I'm enjoying my time here. The city's got good neighborhoods. Personally I like things a little bit skeezy, which Pittsburgh definitely has down. One thing I really like is that it's the sort of place that can have total dive bars and designer clothing stores on the same block. There's a good mix of shops and people. The residential architecture is mostly little, fairly undistinguished, but nice, rowhouses.

One of the best things is the location. It's kind of perched on the sides of a bunch of littlish mountains (more then Duluth, but less then Hong Kong). So basically, people just plopped houses wherever they could find enough flat land. There are these blocks where people have a huge cliff as a back yard, which gives it a lot of character.

Oh, and I finally did find a part of town that smelled (for reference: worse then East St. Paul, better then Gary, Indiana).

Today I basically wandered around neighborhoods. I like the South Side Flats a lot and the Mexican War Streets. Downtown is pretty nice. Oakland was kind of generic. Station Square sucks. The gate for the Pirate's stadium was open, so I wondered in and looked around. It seems really nice.

I also went to the Andy Warhol museum. It was pretty impressive. Warhol's images are so common that I don't think I ever really appreciated them before. When you are right in front of them, you can't help but be struck by both the scale and coloring. Its all so vulgar but beguiling. They also had a cool exhibit of Bruce Nauman, who works entirely in neon lights. My eyes didn't go back to normal for quite a while, but it was pretty cool.

Tomorrow, I'm going to see Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.



First Impressions of Pittsburgh

1. It doesn't smell. I always imagined it smelled.

2. I have the distinctive feeling I'm not on a coast anymore. I don't know why.

3. It's layed out interestingly. Because of all the hills, it seems more like a bunch of little villages then a continuous urban space.

More later...



We're Moving!!!

So, we've officially taken a new apartment. It's larger, and slightly closer to the center of the earth (which means we're keeping the same address, so no blog-name-change). Major pluses include a bedroom that's big enough for us to actually walk around the bed, a washer-dryer, a backyard, and enough space to have friends stay with us when they visit Boston (hint, hint). We're spending the next week or so painting and then moving slowly down.

In other news, ArchitectureBoston has an entire issue about Boston City Hall. Check it out. I especially like the article where several area architects reimagine how the building could be adapted for the future. My favorite is Moskow Architects design, which reminds me of my childhood idea of what Babylon's hanging gardens must have looked like.



Toronto, Ontario

J and I are just back from TO.

We really liked it there... but then we stopped in Montréal for a day on our way back, so now I'm basically forcing myself to go back and justify why I liked it.

So, here are things I really liked about Toronto:

1. Streetcars. I really like subways, but having quiet, roomy streetcars running above ground is really awesome. I love being able to watch the city go by.

2. People. TO is all about the hipster (in a good way). People seem very political and activism driven. Just in the days we were there, there were protests for Native Treaty Rights and for a "don't ask, don't tell" policy in housing illegal immigrants. The demographics were really interesting. It seemed to be about 50% Asian.

3. Food.

4. Neighborhoods. TO has a lot of great neighborhoods. The Annex was very cool. Kensington Market was unlike anything I've ever seen in the first world (it reminded me a little of the neighborhoods in Berlin that had been taken over by Anarchists. The Islands were also really cool.

Anyways. In a lot of ways it reminded my of a really nice Minneapolis. You get a major sense that the whole city is in a major state of change right now. It'd be an interesting place to live.

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto, Ontario

We also stopped at Niagara:

Niagara, Ontario/New York

And in Montréal:

Montréal, Québec

Montréal, Québec

And J got her nose pierced!

Toronto, Ontario



Month and a half without a blog post, huh. I assume that's long enough to ensure that no one is reading this anymore.

My official excuse is that my computer was broken for a few months and I didn't have money to fix it. Unofficially, it seems like everyone is getting pretty lazy about their blogs lately. I'm thinking it's just that facebook is easier/faster then actually having to come up with something to write, which is kind of too bad. Technology allows us to communicate faster and easier, but it also homogenizes the sort of discourse that we have until all we do is update our status and put up a different picture once and a while and post on everyone's wall for their birthdays. (I'm ranting).

Anyways, I promise (well, maybe not promise, that's kind of a strong word) that I'll be writing a little more on here now that my computer is ok.

I’m FINALLY in my last semester of semi-full-time undergraduate studenthood (it’s looking like I may need one more elective next semester to completely finish). I’m looking forward to finally being done my degree so I can go on to grad school. I’m for sure applying to University of Toronto, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, University of British Colombia and UC Berkeley.

J and I are actually going out to Toronto this weekend to check out the city some (we’ve never been there before) so there should be some more posts and photos about that.

This wasn’t a very good post. I apologize. I’m rusty.



mmmm. Crisitunity.

So, I've got to make this a pretty quick post, but I wanted to react to something that Driver 2165 said on his blog regarding the recent 35W bridge collapse in Mpls:
"Unfortunately they're going to rebuild it as a freeway. It's not like when the Embarcadero and the Central Freeway in San Francisco collapsed twenty years ago; they were able to scrap those unnecessary freeways and turn them into functional streets and public space."

Responding to that comment, Bill said:
"I love the freeway removal project in S.F. I was there this spring, and walking around down by the embarcadero is so lovely now. It's almost impossible to imagine a raised interstate existing there."
and I responded as well that if people are interested they should mobilize to do something different (like in SF, BOS, Portland, ect).

Ryan responded (and in some ways I agree with him):
"I don't think there's anything that can be done regarding the freeway. It's still freeway on both sides of the river, and you can't really connect that with with anything other than a freeway bridge. San Fran lost the whole highway, not just a 300 foot long bridge."

I did want to point out the other possibilities though. For example, what if 280 was renumbered 35W and widened slightly:
This would eliminate what seems to be a fairly redundant highway anyways. 35W from the south would still feed commuters to downtown, and from the north there is still 280 or 94. The major benefit would be the improved movement between neighborhoods like four corners and downtown and generally between the university and northeast and north mpls. And unlike the current alignment, which severs neighborhoods, 280 runs through mostly industrial land. It would also be a possibility to keep a little of the current 35W on the northside to serve that industrial park.

These are just thoughts of course, but I would hope that if this sort of thing is something that Minneapolitans want that they would speak up instead of being bullied by the status quo.



PBM logo
So, awhile ago I wrote about my annoyance that the Guthrie Theater got torn down. As I see it, we are entering a pretty dangerous era for Modern Architecture. It’s just nearing the age at which it can be put on preservation lists but many people currently see it as being so common (or so ugly) that it really doesn’t matter. I think it does.

Anyway, I’m taking a grantwriting course this summer and had to pick a topic to write a fictional grant about. I decided to do a grant relating to the preservation of Boston City Hall. Well, after a bit of research, it’s come to my attention that there are no groups in Boston, and very few in the country, that are working on preservation issues relating to Modern Architecture. So here’s the deal: I’m thinking of actually starting one.


I figure that we could start by trying to learn the process using City Hall and then, if we’re successful there (or even if we aren’t) move on to identify other Modern buildings that should be put on lists and work to get them there.

I don’t want to do this alone, so I’m looking for people who are good with research, photography, graphic design, web design, handing out money, ect., who might be willing to partner with me on this. If anyone is interested, please pop me an e-mail.



Half-past Fifty-Second Street

New York, New York
I'm not really much on repeating things from other people's blogs, but I found this on bldgblog and it seemed cool enough to repeat:

"As it happens, then, Manhattan's mathematically rational street grid is actually rotated 29º off the north-south axis – and this angle has interesting astronomical side-effects... because of the off-center orientation of Manhattan's street grid, you can only see the setting sun "down the middle of any crosstown street" on two specific days of the year: May 28 and July 13. July 13 is, of course, next week – so watch out for it."

This reminds me of both Aztec and Khmer city building, in which cities actually functioned as giant calenders.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia

If I were in New York, I think I'd throw some kind of party.



Schmap used another one of my photos for their new Harlem guide (I've also contributed to thier Newport, Rhode Island guide). They are pretty neat looking free downloadable travel guides. Of course they don't have a Mac reader yet, so they aren't much use to me, but if you are a PC user or are travelling later then July of this year, you should check them out.



So, apparently a Boston Blog-News aggregator thingy called Universal Hub has been picking up my blog lately. Not as cool as my buddy's best Minneapolis blog of the year in 2005, but still enough to amuse me. I shall be adding a link.

Boston, Massachusetts

I've been taking a Transportation History class this semester (actually, it probably should be called Tangents Relating to Transportation History) and have come up with several amusing anecdotes for your enjoyment:

- You know how the Green Line takes a really tight turn between Boylston and Arlington? That's because there is a cemetery above the tunnel. They wanted to disturb as few bodies as possible when they were building it. Of course, this really freaked people out, so they used to have priest come down a bless the tunnel every now and then and they even used to whitewash the walls so that ghosts wouldn't have anywhere to hide.

- America didn't start having timezones until November 18, 1883. Before that, noon was whenever the sun was directly overhead (so Noon in Manhattan was 12:01 in Brooklyn and 11:59 in Jersey City). They railroads needed a way to regulate the train schedules so they pushed it through. Of course the Christian Fundamentalists of the time had a problem (surprise, surprise) with us not using "God's Time" so it wasn't made official until 1918 (way to go guys!)

- The first year that gas prices averaged around $1 per gallon was 1973. The last year that they did was in 1999. During the same time, the cost of a new car when from about $2000 to about $18,000 and the average cost of a house went from about $40,000 to about $250,000. So if anything, gas prices are way below inflation. Let's stop whining, huh?

- During the height of the construction of the Interstate, there was a plan in California to vaporise up a mountain with 22 atomic bombs so that they wouldn't have to tunnel through. The Kennedy Administration was on board because they wanted to demonstrate the peaceful uses of atomic weapons. Of course, they still didn't really understand radiation at the time, and if they had done it, Phoenix would probably still be uninhabitable.



Boston, Massachusetts

The summer is always a little bit of a weird time in Boston. Since there are so many students here, a lot of the leases for apartments turn over in the summer, so neighborhoods tend to have a big change over of residents all of the sudden instead of just a little bit at a time. Every year that we've lived in Eastie (we'll be starting our 4th in August) we've noticed a big change demographically about this time of year, and this year is no different. What is a bit strange is that it seems like the commercial scene of the neighborhood is catching up to the residential: that's right, Eastie now has it's first yuppie coffee shop.

Not that I'm complaining. Coming from a cold northern city, one of my biggest complaints about Boston is the complete lack of coffee shops that aren't Dunkin' Donuts. But is it kind of funny to have a place that is always full of hipster white kids in the middle of Eastie. Especially one that names their paninis after large condo complexes. I guess for me it's just a case of the first gentrifiers complaining about everybody who comes after them. It's like when you are a punk in high school and all of the little junior high punks kind of piss you off.

The other major change in the neighborhood is the two new parks (Memorial and Bremen St.) that just opened. From a planners perspective, it's amazing to see. The parks were created from unused industrial sites, one was a rail bed and the other a parking lot if I'm not mistaken. Both of the parks were pretty much completely full from the day they opened. It's one of those cases where you can really see that there was a need in the neighborhood that has now been filled. Plus it cuts a few minutes off of my walk to work, so that's a bonus as well.

Overall, it's been a pretty interesting process to watch in East Boston, but so far, I don't feel like the new people moving into the neighborhood have been displacing many old residents (at least not ones who didn't want to go). Rents have stayed pretty stable. But I kind of feel like this year we might be hitting a tipping point where the process is going to accelerate. It'll be interesting to see what happens next.




There is a pretty interesting article by architectural critic Philip Nobel in the newest Metropolis about the ICA in Boston (which I've also posted about before).

Boston, Massachusetts
the ica when it was under construction

Now, obviously a critic is paid to be critical, so the article is a little down on the building. His biggest complaint seems to be about the way the building relates to its surroundings, which is a valid complaint considering the building is currently surrounding by nothing. It is a little silly though to complain about planning when there is already a plan in place and beginning construction.

Generally though, what I get from Nobel is that he's unhappy with the way the building is oriented. It turns it's back to the city, with it's harbor-side being the photogenic part and the interior most of its most interesting (architectural, philosophically) feature.

So here's my question: Is it important for every building to relate at street level to the city? Can some buildings work better (especially symbolically) relating at a skyline (or seashore) level? And, for a public building like a museum, is the interior (which, in the ICA, is an intense experience) perhaps the more important feature?

I'd love to hear ideas. For pictures of the museum check out my previous post on the subject or my flickr account.

**** I happened upon this quote today from the architect (Ricardo Scofidio) and thought it was pretty interesting:

"We began the project with the assumption that architecture would neither compete with the art nor be a neutral backdrop. It had to be a creative partner. The first step was to reconcile the paradox: the museum wanted to turn inward; the site wanted to turn the building outward. The building had to have double vision."



Physical Politics

Before I get into the meat of what I actually wanted to post about, I have a couple of quick things that are off topic. First, J actually has gotten around to posting a couple of times about Thailand, so you should all really go and read those. Second, In the last few days, I've read Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood twice, and I pretty sure it's on it's way to being my favorite book (I need to wait a couple of weeks to see how it weathers to say for sure), so everyone should really read it. Now on to what I really wanted to post about:

Boston, Massachusetts

I've been withholding my judgement on what I think about Menino's new plan to move the City Hall to the Fort Point waterfront. Mostly, I've been waiting to see if it's just Menino saying something so it looks like he has opinions or if it's something that could actually happen. Well, a few months have passed now and it seems that people haven't forgotten about it, so I figured it's finally time for my grand opinion to come out. So here's what I think... I'm in favor of it, but only if the old building is preserved. I know what you're thinking. Most everyone who has come out in favor of moving the City Hall have done so emphatically and loudly because the city would knock down the old building, and as a student of planning in Boston I obviously have heard (and participated in) numerous bashing sessions against the Government Plaza (which has actually been named one of the worst public spaces in the world, not just the US, the world). I am not, however, one of those people who is unable to resolve the apparent contradiction between hating Modernist planning and loving Modernist architecture. They simply aren't the same thing to me.

So let me try to explain my position. First though, I have to get into some of my general beliefs about cities and architecture. I believe pretty strongly the ideology and social beliefs shape the physical environment. And that goes beyond the obvious cases like Washington, DC being a symbolic tie to classical democracy, for example. Rather, I think pretty much everything is shaped by those forces. What I really mean by this is that I think that, instead of writing the history of the city from the perspective of the forces that shaped it, I think you can "read" the physical fabric of the city and figure out the forces that constructed them.

Let me give some brief examples from Boston. If you look at the earliest colonial maps of the city, most people note how random the layout appears. Especially when you compare it to other contemporary cities, like Utopian Philadelphia or Charleston, SC, you are really struck by how strange Boston is. This probably reflects a high value on individualism in the colony (or maybe not individualism, but rather a general distrust of government). If you look a little further, you'll also notice that the city was lacking in a defined hierarchy of spaces. There are various small squares spread throughout the city, not one central one. Important buildings (churches, government ect) are scattered throughout the city. This is what I call a centrifugal city. If you look culturally at Boston now, you'll still see the social leftovers of this beginning. For example, New Englanders still really, really distrust government. Look at Christy Mihos' (from the perspective of an outsider) completely insane campaign for governor last year. The man's main point was that he was just going to do whatever the hell he wanted but at least he wasn't with a party and people still voted for him. I really don't think there is anywhere by New England where a campaign like that would get a second thought.

Another good example is the creation of the Back Bay in the early to mid nineteenth century. By that time, the randomness of Boston's streets had stopped symbolising individual opportunity and instead were understood as symbolic of the disorder of immigration and Catholicism. What the Anglo-Protestants created for themselves in the Back Bay, by comparison, is the epitome of logic, order and cleanliness. When you look at a map of Boston, you can tell by the fact that that is the only part of the city which is on a grid that there is something different about that neighborhood, both socially and spatially (especially since the Mass Pike cut through and started serving as a "city wall" to protect the Back Bay from the neighborhoods to the south: the South End and Roxbury).

Boston, Massachusetts

So back to my point: why do I think moving the City Hall is a good idea and why do I think the old one should be preserved? I think the City Hall is also, symbolically, important to Boston's history. It represents the period of authoritarian Boston, when the West End disappeared and the city fell apart over busing and in the worst period of public housing. The building itself, with its brutallist facade raising fortress like over the windswept no-man's land of Government Plaza is a fitting memorial to all of the people who lost their homes or lived in poverty during this period. To remove it would be to give up or gloss over this period of Boston's history, and I think that's wrong. I think we need the building there to remind us what urban governance in the second half of the twentieth century was like. We need to remember Boston's dark age. My personal hope would be something like a Museum of the West End (how cool could that be, with so many residents still living who could contribute), Museum of Boston History, Museum of "Urban Renewal" or something like that. The square itself could still be redeveloped, but with building still intact.

But that doesn't mean that we need to keep the functions of our government there. To me, the movement to the waterfront makes perfect sense in our new post-industrial city. It symbolizes the democratization of space that has come with deindustrialization, namely, the fact that we've now regained the waterfront from its former industrial uses for uses of public space and recreation. Now, there are still a lot of questions that need to be addressed to make sure that the City Hall actually would be public space. For example, transit would need to improve to make sure that everyone can get there. But that's maybe for another post. For me, the idea of a waterfront City Hall perfectly fits into Boston's vision for the future, one that, hopefully, will be a whole lot more participatory then the past.



Advertising a la Montreal

Montréal, Québec

I commented in my last post that the tourist agency for Montreal had put up a billboard outside my window last week. It turns out that that was just the tip of the iceberg. Walking around the city last weekend, I found myself overwhelmed by advertising for Montreal. They actually have street teams out talking to people (and by the accents, I would say they were probably actually Quebecois). There is a little movie theater set up at Feneuil Hall (I would have taken pictures, but the camera is with J in Thailand) and one of the street walker guys had a cool backpack thing that supported a flat screen TV over his head. All around this seems like a huge investment from Montreal's tourism board.

This isn't the first advertising campaign that I've seen in the city for another city. Philadelphia and Quebec both have adds sometimes and Berlin did for a summer too (which I think is because Boston buys its street furniture from a Berliner company, Wall), but this is by far the most intense campaign I've seen. It's really got me thinking about the nature of tourism today.

I guess it's no surprise that urban space is being commoditized (that's what Disneyland is, isn't it?), but it seems like it's reaching new levels. It's almost like cities are being repackaged as baseball cards. You're given a quick and easy view of what's different about that particular one and then you can move on a collect the rest (I know I'm guilty of that). Why else would things like this exist:

create your own visited countries map

I'm not really sure where I'm going with all this, but it really does raise some questions for me. First of all, is this kind of advertising really good for a city? It's marketing something that is created by a huge group of people (all of the citizens of the city) but obviously the most tangible benefits only accrue to a small group. How can the city even gauge what kind of an effect this advertising has? And lastly, I can understand why a city like Philly, which has had some tough years, might need to advertise (by the way, Philly's "City of Brotherly Love" adds in gay neighborhoods around the country were pure genius), but why do cities like Berlin and Montreal, who have been at the top of the quality of life reports for years, have fairly strong economies and well-known cultural contributions need to do this kind of advertising?



Having missed posting for so long, I'm now in the awkward position of having too many things to say. What that means to you, the reader, is that I am going to say to much. You will read the first paragraph or two get bored and stop. Next time you see me, you will ask me about something that I wrote here, and I will look at you confused, since you should have already read it here. Or you will read the whole thing, so as not to antagonize me now that I have warned you. Which puts the pressure back on me (I said I had things to say... not that they are interesting). Also, I've been reading Haruki Murakami lately. If you read him too you'll probably have more idea what I'm talking about. Especially if you like metaphysical sheep.

I digress. The most important news is that J graduated:
Jessica's Graduation
She made it through with a 4.0 and got first in her class (Northeastern calls them Class Marshalls). Her parents and brother were out and a good time was had by all.

We took of the next day for a few days in NYC with her parents, who had never been there before.
New York, New York
Followed by a few days in Philly, just the two of us.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
More on that later...

During the time away, i was still finishing up the semester. I just finished the last of my thesis on Monday. I'm so tired of thinking about Montreal... hence all of the novel reading that's been going on the last week. I'm really liking both Murakami and Jonathan Lethem. I'm reading The Fortress of Solitude right now. It's about growing up in Brooklyn, but it really reminds me of growing up on my block in South Minneapolis (yes, I realize that mpls is a poor excuse for a real city). The way the kids roam the streets and have a world that the grownups don't really see resonates my childhood. In his world it's all out on the street, in mine it was up and down the alley, but still. There was just a section where the main guy got his bike stolen. I felt some pain for my awesome red bike that disappeared. sigh. (As an aside, the day I finished my paper on Montreal, Tourism Montreal put up a giant billboard directly outside of my kitchen window.)

On Sunday, J flew off to Thailand to work with an NGO for a month (after which she'll be visiting "family" in Ho Chi Minh City for a couple of weeks). She promised to resurrect her blog, so look out for that. I've talked to her once since she got there. So far she's lived through a small earthquake (which she said was probably God's wrath upon the earth for allowing Jerry Falwell to die, which is impeccable logic that the would have done the old man proud).

So, back to Philadelphia. What a cool city. As one of my friends at work said, it's like something halfway between Boston and New York. It's got the oldness and the row houses of Boston but the big city feel and ghettoness of New York (or at least that I'm told NY used to have before Giuliani had all the poor people sent to Siberia or whatever the hell he did with them). I really like a city that has a little bit of edge. Both Boston and New York are a little too clean. I like having some great graffiti and street art around:
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Yeah, I gots work ethic too, boy.
There was also a dude who did these incredible mural things all over the place. This is his "garden":
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
And here's a couple of his buildings:
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
No way you'd see that in Boston. Menino would have it re-facaded with red brick before you could say wicked.

We went to a Phillies - Cubs game, which was awesome. Great stadium. Ryan, don't worry about those wide concourses. If they do it right it'll be great. At Citizen's Bank Park, everything was just kind of open, so you could get your Hot Dog (or Cheesesteak) and still watch the game. And if you felt like it, you could stand there with your beer and watch from wherever you feel like. Also, the Fanatic could beat TC to a bloody pulp.

Also on the enjoyable list: The Institute of Contemporary Art at UPenn with J's friend Nicole and the crazy security guard lady. Oh, oh, and cell phone audio tours!!! What a great idea. And so democratic. And the theater where we saw Lookinglass Alice.

Horrible transit though. It's not good when your subway is creepier in the daytime then the streets are at night.

Anyways, I'm rambling, and no one really cares.

Last thing, I promise. I ran into James Howard Kunstler at work yesterday. He wroteGeography of Nowhere and The Long Emergency both of which I highly recommend. What an interesting guy. He said he's now writing a dystopian novel about the post-oil world.

Well, that's it. Congratulations for those who made it.



One class down... unfortunatly, it was the one I liked the most.

Here are some perspectives from my final project. Last semester I did a master plan for a chunk of land overlooking the harbor in Boston for a final group project, so this semester I actually did a design for one of the buildings that we had called for.

goldenstairs final

goldenstairs final

goldenstairs final



Spring Cleaning

Hey, I figured out enough html to change my header! Now I'm not exactly the same as several million other blogs! yeah!

On top of that, I've done a little other rearranging. All of the people I actually know are under Friends Blogs now (democratically arranged in alphabetical order) and I made a bigger section of planning and design blogs including several internet people I know and read a lot (like Urban Compass from Springfield Mass or BldgBlog from California) and some Magazines I like (like Next American City and Dwell).

I've still got the five books that I've most recently read or am reading (which does not equal a recommendation) and then I added my tags so that the blog is easier to search.

I do this stuff when I'm putting off writing papers.



Baridi Night African Refugee Art and Photography Exhibit

This is very late notice I know, but one of J's friends used to work at a refugee camp in Zambia. While there, she set up an arts center for the camp. 2 years later, it's still running. Tomorrow (Saturday) there is going to be an exhibit of photographs and artwork taken/made by children from the camp. Some of the stuff will be for sale (at very good prices) to benifit refugees in Africa.

The show is from 1 to 5 at the sacred space at Northeastern University (On the 2nd Floor of Ell Hall, 260 Huntington Ave).

The photos will be for sale for $10. You do have to have a student ID to attend.



So, here's a question... is it possible to get yourself into Wikipedia?

Anyway. J and I got to go see Glenn Murcutt last night at MIT. He's an Australian architect that won the Pritzker Prize a couple years back. He does pretty amazing stuff with natural ventilation and renewable resourses and sustainable building practices and so on. It was a pretty interesting lecture, although the combo of the Australian accent and trying to get through 6 projects in an hour made it a little difficult to follow. I wish I could throw some photos up, but my flickr doesn't seem to be working.

J and I finally got all of our travel arrangments worked out following her upcoming graduation. We will for sure be in NY from 6-9 May and Philadelphia from 9-12 May (Phillies/Cubs, yeah!) if anyone wants to get together. J leaves for Thailand on the 13th. She'll be in Vietnam and Myanmar for sure too and might throw in a side trip to KL or Singapore. I think I may also be in Mpls for a weekend in June for my brothers graduation.

And speaking of Phillies/Cubs: One of J's professors, Alan Klein, does research on the anthropology of baseball. I just read his book Growing the Game, which is about Baseball and globalization. It was really interesting. I'd highly recomend it for all the baseballers out there. He's also got a book on Baseball in the Dominican Republic and one on a team that plays in both Loredo and Nuevo Loredo that I'm planning on picking up.

Just three more weeks/two papers/one building away from the end of the semester!



One would think the semester should be winding down, but it seems like I've still got a ton of stuff due. I just spent all morning working on this project for my architecture class:
now I've got to build that out of wood. Not that I don't love doing that, but it's still going to be time consuming.

On top of all that, I'm starting to look seriously at which grad schools I'm going to apply to. Right now, I think it's going to be CCNY, Pratt Institute, Columbia, McGill, U of Toronto, University of British Columbia, MIT and Harvard Design. I'm still considering throwing UCLA in there (I'm not really excited about living in LA, but they've got a great program). I'm really looking for somewhere that is really strong in design. If anyone out there has any other suggestions I should look out for, please comment. J has pretty much decided that she's going to work for a few years instead of applying right away, so I'll really get to concentrate on school for my masters.

Anyway. J is graduating in a little over a month! I think she's only got three more weeks of actual classes. She's had one interview already for work after school, although she's going to be leading a student trip to the "golden triangle" (that's where Laos, Thailand and Myanmar meet) for a month and then for two weeks in Ho Chi Minh City to visit her "family" there before she starts working.

So yeah, that's about it for us. We're going to be in NYC for a couple days at the beginning of May and then either in New Mexico or Cascadia for a week after that if anybody wants to get together.

btw. I'm watching the Braves and Phillies right now. It makes me really happy that baseball is back... but at the same time, it's a little sad that I live in a city where it's too expensive to actually go the the games. What happened to baseball for the people man?



I guess if your computer has to freak out on you, spring break is the time to do it. For some unknow reason, my poor laptop is freezing up after about 20 minutes. The guy at the Mac Store says it's probably software related, so I've been frantically trying to transfer all of my important files to J's computer before I send it into the shop.

Anyway. I've been wanting to write for awhile, but haven't been able to because of the whole crappy computer situation.

We had a good spring break. We went up to Montréal, which is fast becoming one of our favorite places around.
Montréal, Québec

It was a bit cold, but I also had some research to do for my thesis at Quebec's National Archives, so it worked out fine. We got to see some cool Architecture, including the Archives (that's the Bibliothèque et archives nationales de Québec for the Francophones out there), which were designed by Patkau Architects out of Vancouver and Menkes Shooner Dagenais Letourneux from Montréal:
Montréal, Québec
Moshe Safdie's awesome Habitat 67, which he designed at 24 for his Master's Thesis:
Montréal, Québec
and The American Pavilion from Expo 67, designed by notable ecentric Buckminster Fuller and architect Shoji Sadao:
Montréal, Québec

We also got one nice day and were able to take some nice walks around Parc du Mont Royal and Parc Jean Drapeau.

We took a day to go to Ottawa too, which was fun. J is taking an anthropology of travel class and she needs to write her final paper on her spring break travel, so she got some good stuff about cultural identity in the capital.

Ottawa, Ontario

I'm using J's computer now and she's got some papers to write so I'll have to write more later.



Where We'll Be and When...

...get your dance cards ready...

Montreal, Quebec
March 8-11

New York, New York
May 6-8

Bangkok, Thailand
May 15-June 15

...with more to come...



The Institute of Contemporary Arts - Boston
A Photographic Essay

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts


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