GSD Platform 2

Another book that I have a small piece in has come out. You can buy a copy here. The Platform books are a yearly overview of the work that goes on at the GSD. Unlike A View on Harvard GSD, which everyone submits to, the work that goes into Platform is selected by the instructors.

My chunk is page 165, which was, unfortunately, mislabeled, and honestly isn't my favorite image from my first year. That said, it's always nice to be selected.

The book was published by Actar in Barcelona, and is available on Amazon and pretty much anywhere you can get architecture books.



Dirty Coast Sojourn 1




A View on Harvard GSD Released

A book that I contributed to is now available on the internets for those who are interested. It was published in London, so it's a bit expensive here in the states, but if you're in the market for an architecture coffee table book, it looks quite nice (though I have yet to actually see a physical copy).


For the book, students and faculty at the GSD were asked to submit a single page highlighting our current research or studio projects. Over 350 of us contributed. My contribution was a short essay entitled "The Territorialization of Identity" that highlighted my research from the Balkanization Seminar I took with Srdjan Weiss last fall.

The book is available for sale at Tank Books for £29.90 with shipping to the US. I believe it will be available on Amazon here soon as well. *Update: Amazon.co.uk has it available for pre-order for £12 plus around £7 shipping to North America*

There is also an opportunity to win a free copy here.



No There, There

Once again I've fallen far below my goals about posting here more often. I've been planning a long critique of Oakland culture for some time now, but I think I'm going to do the short version now instead.

The most famous thing that's ever been said about Oakland has to be Gertrude Stein's famous observation that when she got there, she found out there was "no there there." For most people not in the know, Oakland is at best a footnote to San Francisco and at worst "California's Detroit." I can't say I'd ever thought much about Oakland before the possibility of my moving out here for the summer came up, but when I did, it was often through the lens of my own childhood in those other Twin Cities. Specifically, coming from the big one and not thinking the other one had much to recommend it at all (though I've changed my mind about Saint Paul a lot in the last few years).

So of course, I was pleasantly surprised when I came out here and found that I actually prefer Oakland, in all of its decrepit, funky weirdness to its more touristed, upper-class sister across the bay. I mean, how uninteresting can a city that inspired these guys:
07-01-04-seale and newton
this guy:
and these guys:

really be?

Also, what other city would purchase dozens of Imperial AT-AT Walkers to guard the coastline?

Open Late, originally uploaded by Jeremy Brooks.

Due to my job, I've also been following a lot of great Oakland bloggers. They're saying more about Oakland culture then I ever could, so let me round this out with a few links. Living in the O and A Better Oakland are two of the very best. Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out just how awesome Oaklandish is.



Week One in Oakland

I'm just finishing up my first week in lovely Oakland and loving it so far. I'm living right next to downtown in a neighborhood called Lake Merritt. For Minneapolitans, think a cross between Lake Calhoun and Loring Park. It's a fabulous neighborhood and I'm sort of right in between Vietnamese and Mexican sections, which means being surrounded by great food.
I borrowed an old bike from one of my co-workers, so I've been spending a lot of time exploring the East Bay by bike. Oakland is great and has a ton of cool neighborhoods. I've especially enjoyed hanging out around the Grand-Lake area, which has a spectacular farmer's market on Saturdays (mmm. nectarines...). I got to an A's-Twins game last week, courtesy of my roommate/landlord's amazing box seat. The Coliseum is definitely one of the crappier stadiums I've visited, but in sort of a lovable way. I spent a day in SF (reminded me of Manhattan. lots of reasons I should like it, but too many yuppies and tourists) and Berkeley (which has great bookstores and a beautiful campus).

More on all this later, but I wanted to get up a short update.



A Little Radical Cartography...


My new home superimposed on my old home.



As part of my summer internship with TransForm, a transportation advocacy group in Oakland, CA, I'm going to be experimenting a lot with the possibilities of using social networking sites for community organization. It's an interesting project, and one that I feel a lot of people are talking about, but no one has really completely figured out. The first project is actually a part of a larger fund-raising event that we're throwing called the Car-Free Challenge. It's sort of a reverse walk-a-thon. Instead of raising money based on how much you walk, you raise it based on how little you drive. We've got well over a hundred people participating, and one of the main things I'm doing is encouraging them to blog. The following is one of my own posts about the first day of the challenge.

originally uploaded by Professor Bop.

Day One: 984 Miles Car Free

I usually tell people that I try to avoid flying for the same reason I try to avoid driving. A) It’s bad for the environment and B) It stresses me out. For me, June 1st happened to fall on the last day of my vacation. I’d spent the previous two weeks in Minneapolis (visiting family) and Chicago (visiting friends) and was traveling back to Boston on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.

A few years ago, I had used one of those internet emissions calculators to find out how I compared to the average. OK. Let’s be honest. As someone who’s been car-free for a long time and lives in an apartment building in a downtown neighborhood, I was looking to confirm how awesome I am. However, I found that, due to the amount of flying that my partner and I do (she’s an anthropologist and we tend to travel to Asia more often then most), we had the emissions of a family of four in the suburbs. My first thought was, of course, to pay for carbon offsets. But when it comes to making a decision between paying some money and changing my behavior, I usually lean towards changing my behavior. It makes me more comfortable. Obviously, there are very few ways to get to Asia from the US, but I did decide to try out Amtrak for as much of my domestic travel as I could.

Since then, I’ve traveled by rail as far as Boston to Santa Fe… and I’ve loved it. One of my favorite things about traveling across the country by rail is the view of America it gives you. Traveling by interstate, the country is remarkably uniform. You see the same highways, the same gas stations, the same cars and the same subdivisions all over the country. The rail lines tend to go through back areas, far off the beaten path. You get an amazing view of America before the interstate system. Mostly though, unlike flying, which is just transportation, taking the train really becomes part of the trip. We pack enough food, wine and games and just sit back to enjoy the ride…



Bicycles and Rooftops

Day three in Minneapolis and we finally got out on some bikes to enjoy a record-settingly-hot day in the city. We took the Minnehaha Creek from my parents to the Falls, then the light rail to the 29th Street greenway, hung out for a rooftop beer in uptown, then cut by the lakes and back to Minnehaha back home. Yeah for Minneapolis biking!!!


(click this one for a MUCH larger version)




Everyday Aquidneck: Core 2 Project 3






Summer Home?

originally uploaded by altair nouveau.



Now that studio is finished for the year and I'm wrapping up my writing projects for my other classes, I'm gearing up for hitting the rails for a few weeks at the end of May.


We'll be in MPLS from May 16th through the 27th and Chicago from the 28th to the 31st. Drop a line if you will be too.



The Superblock in the American Psyche

One of my current projects is a historical piece for a book on the Megablock in Chinese urbanism that is being put together by Columbia's School of Architecture. One chunk of the book is going to be on international comparisons, so I'm writing a short piece about the experience of Boston's West End.

The West End is (or was?) a neighborhood on the northwest side of the CBD bordering the North End, the Financial District and Beacon Hill. It was one of the city's densest neighborhoods and had a building stock much like the North End does today. It was a pretty mixed neighborhood ethnically (especially for Boston in the 50s), with big Italian, Jewish, Polish and Albanian populations as well as a small mixture of Blacks and Bohemians (in the Greenwich Village sense, not the Prague sense). As I already said, it was dense, with about a 150 units per acre (the North End today is around 100, a suburb is usually between 2 and 6) and over 70% building coverage. At its height around 1910 there were about 22,000 people living there, although by the 50s this had dropped to around 7000.

And then came urban renewal:

originally uploaded by Nick DeWolf Photo Archive.

Through the 50s and 60s, the neighborhood was demolished and the roughly 1000 3 to 5 story buildings were replaced by about 10 highrise apartment buildings (strangely enough, the number of units stayed almost exactly the same, although they tended to house significantly fewer people). The intricate street grid was replaced by a pair of superblocks. Ever since, the West End has been the example to generations of architects and planners being trained at MIT and Harvard as what not to do as a planner.

To me, there are several stories here. The first is, obviously, the displacement. For Bostonians thinking about the West End, this sociological story is the most important part of what happened. Indeed, I've been working lately with the community in Allston and I don't think it's a coincidence that the West End comes up fairly often in discussions about their own struggle with Harvard's expansion. What's interesting about this is that the West End, as it exists now, is being judged an architectural or planning failure for sociological or political reasons.

When judged by straight up quantitative methods, the West End is pretty successful. The apartments are almost always fully rented. The income levels of residents is higher then the area median. If I was an urban planner from Mars, with no idea of the history surrounding them, I think it's possible that I would accept that they are a successful part of Boston and say that they, in terms of architecture and planning, could be replicated in other parts of the city. Yet, the historical background of displacement makes that sort of statement completely impossible.

Obviously, this isn't just a statement that is true in Boston. Almost every major city in US has had some type of horrible urban renewal story that ended in highrise apartments and superblocks. And so, instead of being a tool that planners can use today, the superblock and highrise apartment housing are persona non grata in American planning.



New Layout

As you've probably noticed, I've been working on a new layout for this site over the past month or so. I'm hoping to start using it more professionally. I've cleaned up a lot of old (no longer functioning) links and added a CV. My full portfolio will be following soon, but for the moment, I've simply linked to work examples on Flickr. I'm also hoping to start writing more often about my various research objectives. I feel that, for the last two years or so, I've been too busy to blog, but at the same time it's taken away from the ease and fluidity of my writing. In any case I think it's important to start again. If you do link here and you haven't already switched, the URL is now www.zakcqlockrem.com as well.

Also, I recently finished up working on a short "zine" for the GSD's Ecological Urbanism conference (which I also live-blogged here) with some other people from the TRAYS journal. Click on the image below to download.



NOLA Spring Break

I just uploaded pictures from spring break in New Orleans to Flickr.









Studioworks: Core Studio 2: Assign. 2

Core Studio II: Project 2

Core Studio II: Project 2

Core Studio II: Project 2

Studio project number 2 for this semester. This is basically a smart growth project where I used bicycle paths and pedestrianization as an organizing principle.



Studioworks: Core Studio 2: Assign. 1

Core Studio II: Project 1

I almost forgot to post this one. This is the first project for Core Studio 2. We were given a square in Cambridge and told to make a collage of a temporary use for the square. My partner and I came up with this idea of burying a Mammoth in the snow and then letting it slowly be uncovered as the snow melted.



If anyone is going to be in Montréal any time soon, make sure you check out the Canadian Centre for Architecture's current exhibit Actions: What you Can Do With the City by Mirko Zardini, who happens to be teaching a Montréal studio at the GSD this semester, and who also did the awesome exhibit Sense of the City a few years back.



My Playground

I guess in retrospect it probably was pretty unlikely that Free Style Walking was invented in the nineties in the parking lots of Southwest Minneapolis and Edina... we were this good though... at least as I remember it.



I finally got pictures uploaded to Flickr for Mexico City:

México, DF

and Teotihuacán:




Green Street Project Progress

Happy New Year everyone.

I finally managed to get some pictures to upload to facebook, although, for some reason, flickr still refuses to cooperate.

Thinking about my project here, one of the most challenging things has been trying to some up for a framework for what "sustainable" really means in the context of Mexico City. I got this following chart from a book called Environmental Problems in Third World Cities by Jorge Hardoy, Diana Mitlin and David Satterthwaite (and in true GSD form, made it prettier... the little icons, by the way, are based on the Mexico City Metro icons).

As I'm sure anyone who knows me much could tell you, my personal interests lean towards the upper left and the lower right.

During my final review for studio last semester, I got called to task, essentially, for not having presented on what my project was really about. Without having thought much about it, I made a lot of decisions in my plan that had a lot to do with reducing car traffic and creating a good public realm. To be honest, those things come so naturally to me that I didn't even realize that I'd done them until it was pointed out in the review. It was a reminder to me to develop my own interests instead of thinking that my projects need to be about something else. You have to dance with who you came to the dance with.*

The first few days of my current project, I found myself getting frustrated. The sites weren't great and I was having a hard time figuring out what, exactly I was here for. My task had been cast pretty wide. It was basically do whatever you need to to move this project forward. Yet, during all that time, I was having a really hard time reconciling the project that I'm working on and the life of the city (which I was really enjoying). On about day four, after having participated in Ciclovia, hung out in beautiful parks and watched pedestrianized streets fill up with thousands of people, just happy to be out for a walk without worrying about traffic, I realized what the project is about...

And it made sense. In a lot of ways, Mexico City already has many of the habits of a "green" city, at least as it's defined by LEED standards. People live in dense situations in smallish apartments. They use significantly less water then a city like New York or London. Buildings are made mostly from local materials, and, even more importantly, those materials work well in the climate, reducing the need for heating and cooling. I've even seen double flush toilets.

So the question became: what parts of that sustainable development chart are most lacking? My personal opinion (but one that I feel is based on the evidence that I've seen) is that the worst part (socially, economically and ecologically) of Mexico City is the traffic and along with that, the amount of otherwise usable human space that is taken up by it.

What I'm planning on proposing now is that the "Green Street" should actually be a bike and pedestrian path that links a few other "green" districts on the east and west sides of the city. To that end, I've been working on designing a few small, inexpensive, design interventions that can convert car streets to bike streets.

In terms of research, I've really started to pay a lot of attention to the bike infrastructure in the city... existing bike lines, bike sharing programs, ect. Today, I went down to UNAM (the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) and took a look at the amazing bike infrastructure (everything from cages to bridges over major roads) that they've invested in. And, unsurprisingly, it's one of the few places in the city where I've seen lots of people actually using bikes, despite the fact that the campus was pretty empty because of the holiday.

bike cage at UNAM (you notice I got the Arquitectura one!). As I understand it, you can park your own bike here, or, if you want, you can borrow one of the university's bikes and drop it off at any other cage within a half an hour

this is a bike and pedestrian bridge over a major road

this is the major bike facility right next to the university metro station

Tomorrow I'm taking a day off to visit the ruins at Teotihuacan. Then it's a few more days of site visits and measuring streets until I'm back to Boston on the 6th, where I'll write up my report and develop a presentation for the foundation.

*if anyone gets that reference I'll be really impressed


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