21 December 2008

ground zero from above

At a party on the top floor of 7 World Trade Center a few weeks back, I managed to snap a photo of the massive construction site below. Seeing the state of affairs laid out before my eyes some fifty stories below, I thought to myself: Wow, we've come a long way; but boy, do we have a lot of work yet to do.

I'll leave you with that, as I escape to the dark woods of the the northern wilderness for the holidays. See you all in 2009. Here's hoping it's a good one.


15 December 2008

donovan to HUD

As you've likely heard by now: Barack Obama has nominated Shaun Donovan, present head of NYC HPD, as his Secretary of Housing & Urban Development. Now I know ShaunDon wasn't on my wishlist of potential HUD nominees [posted in the comments section of one of Nick Kristof's posts from last month), but it should be noted for the record that this Progressive Reactionary did politely suggest hiring an architect to head up HUD—a position unknown to most but that could loosely be defined as supervising the American built environment. And while ShaunDon is not really a practicing architect, he was indeed trained as one, so I suppose that's close enough. [As if my insane suggestion of Michael Sorkin ever had a chance...] The mere fact that he doesn't come from the development side of things, that he has in large part dedicated his career to public investment in housing and urban issues—this alone should ease our nerves, even just a little. Here's hoping that the new HUD chief will heed the call to bring more architects and planners into the fold with regard to housing construction and urban growth.

It's an exciting time, seeing all these cabinet appointments come to light. But my word, what a lot of work there is to be done.

12 December 2008

now this is what i'm talking about

Ada Louise Huxtable valiantly reenters the fray this week with a piece in the Wall Street Journal on the endless 2 Columbus Circle debates. It's fitting that the critical history of 2CC both begins and ends with Huxtable: she is the critic who initially catapulted the original Edward Durell Stone building into infamy in the 1960s with her branding of those "lollipop" columns, and with this article, it is she who has the final word on the building's latest incarnation.

It's also fair to say that this week's piece is nothing less than a critical tour de force, indicting not only the building and it's architects, but also the entire discourse surrounding 2CC. And while I don't entirely agree with her on all the counts (see my thoughts on the matter), you can't help but give credit where credit is due. Huxtable is as ever a critical force to be reckoned with. if there's one thing we probably do agree on, it's that the whole tortured history of this little building—for the moment complete—makes me nostalgic for a time when critics both had something to say and knew how to say it.

29 November 2008

"by the time one future's there, there's another one being imagined"

I am presently reading Tom McCarthy's Remainder— a brilliantly complex novel that will merit its own post once I complete the book. But in the meantime, I thought I'd share a passage from the beginning of the novel that today is eerily poignant. The book's narrator, recently recovered from an accident and awarded generous compensation by those responsible (it's all very vague), meets with a stockbroker named Matthew Younger to discuss investment strategies for this newfound fortune. Younger begins by explaining the workings of the stock market to his new client:

"Over the last century the stock market has outperformed cash in every decade apart from the thirties. Far outperformed. As a rule of thumb, you can expect your capital to double over five years. In the current market conditions, you can reduce that figure to three, perhaps even two."
"How does it work?" I asked him. "I invest in companies and they let me share in their profits?"
"No," he said. "Well, yes, that's a small aspect of it. They give you a dividend. But what really propels your investment upwards is speculation."
"Speculation?" I repeated. "What's that?"
"Shares are constantly being bought and sold," he said. "The prices aren't fixed: they change depending on what people are prepared to pay for them. When people buy shares, they don't value them bu what they actually represent in terms of goods or services: they value them by what they might be worth, in an imaginary future."
"But what if that future comes an they're not worth what people thought they would be?" I asked.
"It never does," said Matthew Younger. "By the time one future's there, there's another one being imagined. The collective imagination of all the investors keeps projecting futures, keeping the shares buoyant. Of course, sometimes a particular set of shares stop catching people's imagination, so they fall. It's our job to get you out of a particular one before it falls—and, conversely, to get you into another when it's just about to shoot up."
"What if everyone stops imagining futures for all of them at the same time?" I asked him.
"Ah!" Younger's eyebrows dipped into a frown, and his voice became quieter, withdrawing from the room back to his small mouth and chest. "That throws the switch on the whole system, and the market crashes. That's what happened in '29. In theory it could happen again." He looked sombre for a moment; then his hearty look came back—and, with it, his booming voice as he resumed: "But if no one thinks it will, it won't."
"And do they think it will?"
"Cool," I said. "Let's buy some shares."
I should also mention that this book was published in 2005.

24 November 2008

recycled landscape

Another good one from New York magazine: Robert Sullivan on Fresh Kills Park and its designer, James Corner of Field Operations. Worth a read. Precisely the kind of mega-infrastructural project that we've been talking about as a means to stimulate the economy (and keep architects in business).

21 November 2008

the infrastructure gap, cont'd.

Over in New York magazine, Justin Davidson picks up where I left off with a call for a massive national program of infrastructural rehabilitation. Although perhaps a little too fixated on bridges (there are other kinds of infrastructure, too, you know), Davidson does touch on all the important arguments for such a much-needed stimulus: the economic advantages, the moral imperative, the symbolic/psychological effects. Again, I ask: isn't this a no-brainer? I have yet to hear or read a legitimate counter-argument why a massive infrastructural spending initiative is not a good idea right now.

An aside: Anyone else out there impressed with Davidson's writing over the past year or so? It's refreshing now and then to read a critic who actually has something to say...

20 November 2008

derivative of what?

Finally. John Lanchester, of whom I must admit I have never before heard, has a stunning piece buried in the back of Nov. 10 New Yorker on the credit crisis as it relates the broader cultural paradigms of modernism and postmodernism. Although I've appreciated the commentary of Krugman (who just today so succinctly declared: "This is an economic emergency"), Reich, and others these past few months, this is really the first piece of critical analysis that I've read that situates the credit crisis within a larger cultural and philosophical context.

Lanchester's article, which uses the format of a book review of recent books on the credit crunch as an excuse to analyze its cultural/theoretical dimension, is as revelatory as it is simple. Of course derivatives, credit-default swaps, and all those other bizarre financial instruments are nothing more than financial incarnations of the classic late twentieth-century disjunction between the signifier and the signified. And of course the root of the crisis lies in the escalation of this disjunction to the point where the signifier no longer retains any connection whatsoever to the original signified. Lanchester's piece echoes critic/philosopher/writer Mark C. Taylor (see his book Confidence Games from a few years back) in this idea of how money has essentially become nothing more than a floating signifier. All value is relative—or derivative, if you will. It's all a house of mirrors. Lanchester's key line:

It seems wholly contrary to common sense that the market for products that derive from real things should be unimaginably vaster than the market for things themselves.
Now forgive me for my sudden, euphoric lapse into the language of post-structuralism and deconstruction; nobody should have to parse such nonsense. But in all seriousness, most people have no idea what the hell is going on with this credit crisis, and hopefully Lanchester's reading of the situation can help to encourage a broader understanding. It sure did for me.

link: "Melting Into Air" by John Lanchestor, in the New Yorker

blog typology

Via Andrew... I just ran this site through the Typealyzer, which claims to analyze a website and categorize the author in terms of right-brain/left-brain dominance. This Progressive Reactionary landed smack-dab in the left-brain camp of the so-called "Mechanics":

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generelly prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.
The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

Not entirely inaccurate... although I'd hate for these pages to become a product merely of the left brain! We must be fair and balanced, as they say. Keep your eyes peeled for future postings on "imagination," "symbols," "spirituality," and other right-brain oddities.

10 November 2008

urban policy in the whitehouse

Following up on an earlier post... there's an interesting rumor going around about President-Elect Obama's plans to establish a Whitehouse Office of Urban Policy. This is a good sign for the 70% of us Americans who dwell in urban areas! Dare I suggest that maybe an architect or planner should be appointed to head up such an office? Stay tuned for more....

06 November 2008

on hope, redux

I'll spare you, dear readers, my own gushing post-election thoughts. Instead, I point you to a fitting coda to the tremendous milestone of Tuesday's election and to my own ruminations from a while back on the possibility of an Obama presidency. From TomDispatch.com: a followup by Rebecca Solnit to her beautiful 2003 essay "Acts of Hope." Read it.

05 November 2008

signed, sealed, delivered.

[image: Reuters]
Remember this moment, America.

04 November 2008

in the unlikely story that is america...

 [image: Getty Images]

...there has never been anything false about hope.

Please vote today.

02 November 2008

the end draws nigh...

...and not a moment too soon. Let's go out there and win this thing, once and for all.

This Progressive Reactionary has been dispatched to the swing-state hinterland for one last effort to spread the gospel of hope and change, so you won't be hearing much until I return on November 5.

In the meantime: get off your ass, and go do something. History is on the verge of being made. Be a part of it.


26 October 2008

the election, from an architect's point of view

Some readers wonder why this Progressive Reactionary—typically so obsessed with such architectural obscurities as locative cartography, John Portman, and Swiss bunkers—has switched gears in recent months to become so fixated on the presidential election. Well, besides the obvious fact that we have a real chance with an Obama presidency to pursue an alternate (and better) future for this country, I think there are several direct implications for our small microcosm of architectural discourse. I've been thinking lately how to contextualize the election within the realm of architecture, and to start, I can offer the following quick thoughts:

  • An Obama presidency would of course represent a truly generational shift for American politics. One hopes that such a revolution could possibly ignite a similar generational transformation in the world of architecture, architectural criticism, and design in general. Part of the reason why I've shied away from things architectural in recent months is because the discourse and the production has become so stale and, frankly irrelevant to what is going in the world that it is hard to bring myself to even look at another Zaha folly or absurd project in Dubai. It sounds way harsh, I know; but really: who gives a shit anymore? Aren't there more pressing issues facing us? Aren't we, as responsible designers and writers, obligated to address these issues? I mean, really. I think the architecture industry and architecture culture in general could benefit from leaving the starchitecture system behind once and for all, and embracing a new mission of architectural responsibility and advocacy. I see this already as a generational difference, in the schools and the young design start-ups, and I really think that much of the Obaman rhetoric of responsibility, sacrifice, and progress is in line with what I see as a new generation of design activism.
  • Without getting into the nitty-gritty of federal housing policy, I think it's fair to say that an Obama administration would no doubt redefine the goverment's role in housing assistance, construction, and much-needed oversight of the housing market. Besides addressing some of the problems that are at the root of the currently unfolding global financial crisis, a realignment of federal priorities with regard to housing would hopefully present a huge opportunity for new thinkers, planners, and designers to be brought into the process. Furthermore, questions about urban growth and suburban development dovetail with issues of sustainability, environmental responsibility, and even energy conservation. I'd be interested to see who a President Obama would appoint for his Secretary of Housing & Urban Development.
  • Along those same lines... Obama is a truly urban figure, and one assumes that his background gives him a far greater understanding of urban issues than any other politician in recent memory. The Washington Post ran a piece today on this very issue, which also brings to mind recent commentary by critic Karrie Jacobs, as well as this almost-over-the-top manifesto in the Seattle Stranger, written in the aftermath of the 2004 elections. The Stranger piece is inflammatory (and understandably so, considering the great disappointment of that year's election) for its polarization of America into two irreconcilable urban and rural components; given Obama's tremendous and unprecedented efforts to attract Republican votes in rural areas, it is evident that the Obama candidacy does not subscribe to this ideology. But the fact remains that should he win, he will be the first president in a long time who is a product of urban America. For those of us (two-thirds of the nation, in fact) who live in metropolitan areas, this is something to celebrate.
  • As I've argued previously, infrastructure spending should be a central component of the next president's economic recovery plan. This is a no-brainer: such spending immediately creates jobs, stimulates a suffering construction industry, and will rebuild the nation's crumbling infrastructure. One could argue that our infrastructure—highways, railways, public parks, ports, even energy production—are facing a 21st century "tragedy of the commons" that desperately needs to be addressed. If this sounds like a call for some sort of Depression-era W.P.A.-type program, well, that's because it is. 
These are just a few examples of what's at stake, from an architect's perspective, and what's possible if this election goes our way. Doubtlessly there are more — feel free to offer your comments below.

19 October 2008

a reality check

This morning's political television provided a fitting contrast of the choice this country faces in two weeks time. On Meet the Press, former general and Secretary of State Colin Powell eloquently and wholeheartedly endorsed Barack Obama. In a 7-minute delineation of what led to his decision (which, like the New Yorker's long endorsement from a few weeks back, goes down the list, issue-by-issue, demonstrating how Obama is overwhelmingly the better choice), Powell issued perhaps the most comprehensive and well-spoken endorsement of the candidate to date. And this is no minor development: Powell is a pillar of the Republican Party, and a figure of almost mythic esteem and appeal to independent voters. This will be seen, no doubt, as an attempt by Powell to atone for past misadventures in the Bush administration, most notably the charades that led up to our invasion of Iraq. And while such a redemption cannot happen overnight, this observer sees Powell's endorsement of Obama—undeniably a brave political move—as a step in the right direction. Listen to his words; they are powerful:

It's also worth noting that, as with other conservatives who have become disillusioned with McCain's candidacy, the ultimate dealbreaker for Powell—the last straw that pushed him over the edge—is McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Powell echoes what the majority of the country feels in his judgment that Sarah Palin is not qualified to be Vice President. The implication, and the reality, is that the selection of Palin, someone utterly unfit for office, thus renders McCain (who chose her) equally unfit. If things go our way, this fact will no doubt dominate the "why McCain lost" election post-mortems.

Meanwhile, over on Fox, after casually dismissing the Powell endorsement (Surely, McCain must realize its import? Maybe not), McCain was grilled by Chris Wallace on the flood of "robo-calls" that has been unleashed in the battleground states in the past week:

The stark contrast of McCain's delusion with Powell's nuance speaks for itself.

I agree with Josh Marshall's assessment that the McCain/Palin/Republican strategy from here on out will be a last-ditch, desperate attempt to tie Obama through innuendo to the (implicit) twin evils of blackness and Islamic terrorism. And while the media and Obama partisans may be tempted to brush such a strategy off as desperation, we dismiss it as such at our own risk. Not-so-distant history teaches us that such tactics, unfortunately, work; and as I've written before, the very chance that the agents of this intolerance could possibly emerge victorious in two weeks time make the stakes that much higher.

Disregard the polls. They are a meager attempt to quantify the unmeasurable, and I fear that this election will be shockingly close. So, I urge you, all of you who are on the side of decency and justice and virtue and common-sense and, yes, hope: with 16 days left in this epic election season, go out and do something to help make sure that in three weeks time, we won't be once again looking back, saying "What did we do wrong?" If nothing else — come November 5th, should Obama lose this election, I don't want to be able to say I didn't do anything about it. Make phone calls, and go to a battleground state. And if you can't do that, then contribute. Put your money where your mouth is; it's a worthy investment.

06 October 2008

"landscapes of nostalgia"

Geoff Manaugh, in true form, has a great post up today at BLDGBLOG. It's is his own kind of geographical take on the state of American politics, and it's not to miss. As good an argument against rancher presidents as I've ever read. Check it out: "Minor Landscapes and the Geography of American Political Campaigns."

04 October 2008

i want my house back.

Earlier today, in Philadelphia:

02 October 2008

the choice

This says it all.

28 September 2008


Following up on an earlier post... I'm quite taken by Jon Mooallem's article ("This Old Recyclable House") in today's Times Magazine on the art of deconstructing old buildings. Actually, maybe it's less of an art and more of a science: the article, a profile of "deconstruction" pioneer Brad Guy and his Building Materials Reuse Association, describes how the proponents of deconstruction are trying to figure out how to extract the maximum value from a building in its last days. Of course, the process also provides the added ecological benefit of recycling the building into new construction materials, which immediately places it under the uber-umbrella of "sustainability"—that term that I am growing to loathe more and more for its increasingly empty meaning. But what I like about Guy's experiment is that it inserts itself into the urban politics and market of demolition, thereby instrumentalizing the motivations that lay behind the sustainable urge. In particular, the most promising aspect of this model is Guy's claim that his brand of demolition is actually a manufacturing process, by which it generates reclaimed materials to be used in the construction of new architecture.

22 September 2008

"holy urbanism"

From our friends @ MONU Magazine:


The one thing that all religions on our planet have in common is their distinction between the holy and the profane. All religions appear to be organized as systems of beliefs with distinctive practices and all have built structures in relation to things holy. And those distinctive practices and structures have always shaped our cities in a profound way.

The list, for example, of well-known holy practices - not even mentioning the city-shaping and structuring effects of holy constructions such as mosques, synagogues, temples, shrines, churches, or other holy facilities, that take place within cities, whether inside or outside holy constructions, whether performed individually or within groups - is endless. Just think of the terrifying urban intensity of the annual Christian celebrations during the Holy Week in Sevilla, or the tremendous density of Islamic prayers surrounding the Kaaba during the Hajj period in the world's largest mosque in the city of Mecca, which can accommodate up to 4 million worshippers as one of the largest gatherings of people in the world.

But apart from those obvious and well-documented relations between religions and cities, our urban life is probably even more deeply penetrated by all kinds of rather unknown and hidden religious moral codes, sacred values, faith traditions, holy communal organisations, supernatural spiritualities, devine beliefs, or superstitious institutions that pervade and shape our urban realm continuously. But what do those unfamiliar penetrations actually look like and what kind of effect do they have on cities? How do the effects differ between the different religions and how do they coexist in our cities? How are they manifested in built-up form?

The upcoming issue of MONU will unveil those effects and investigate the impact of holiness, faith, and religion on cities. How does religion influence urbanity and in what way does it shape our cities? Which religion's deep-rooted influences have we taken for granted already, so much so that we cannot even trace their roots anymore? What kind of extraordinary urban phenomena are created through religion and how could we define Holy Urbanism in general?

We invite uncompromising texts, untamed speculations, refined analysis, bold photography, and heroic projects on the topic "Holy Urbanism" for our next issue of MONU. Contributions or questions should be sent to info@monu-magazine.com by the end of November 2008. MONU #10 will be published in the winter 2009.

Promises to be interesting. Maybe I'll take it upon myself to write up an architectural critique of the Wasilla Church of God, which specializes in (among other things) the Rapture and praying for oil pipelines.

19 September 2008

2 columbus circle redux

With all the talk of the impending opening of the Museum of Arts and Design at 2 Columbus Circle, I thought I would preempt Ourossoff's review (coming any day now, I presume) with a reference to my own take, written back in May.

I also wanted to mention the conversation with critics Justin Davidson and Jerry Saltz printed in New York Magazine. It's short but worth reading - I especially agree with Davidson's final comments on how the design just doesn't go far enough with any of the concepts at hand.

I still haven't been inside, so we'll leave that for another post.

From May: "The Ghost of Huntington Hartford"

17 September 2008

patchwork nation

From the Economist's Democracy in America blog: a fascinating exercise in political mapping and analysis by the Christian Science Monitor. Called "Patchwork Nation," the interactive map divides the country into eleven so-called "communities," ranging from "Evangelical Epicenters" to "Emptying Nests" to "Monied 'Burbs," and the interface allows you to explore what parts of the country fall into these predefined categories.

While the underlying concept—the idea that whole counties can be generalized based on demographic data—falls into the old Karl Rove / Mark Penn "divide and conquer" methodology*, the map is nonetheless eyeopening. It's kind of a wake-up call that makes you realize how utterly daunting the task of a national campaign must be.

The site also represents each candidate's campaign history as a graphic compilation of which kind of constituency he/she has visited over a certain period of time. It looks as if Obama's spectrum is (just) slightly more heterogeneous than McCain's, but it's hard to make any real conclusions from this.

* A word on these old politics of "divide and conquer." I've been thinking lately about how Rove and Penn have become inexorably linked (at least in the minds of most of the lefty blogosphere), and I think that while there are certain similiraties in their strategies, it's worth pointing out some differences.

The Rove strategy relies on dividing the country on a mega-scale into two halves, and utilizing primarily social/cultural issues to mobilize the conservative base and boost turnout just enough to reach a 50% +1 majority. This is what worked so well for Bush four years ago, when Rove's ingenious under-the-radar machinations to get gay marriage referendums on the ballot in so many states arguable provided Bush's 3 million vote margin.

The approach of Mark Penn (the Clintonian Rove, and almost equally as detestable as the original) is an atomized version of the Rovian strategy. Instead of dividing the country into two, Penn amplifies difference even further and looks for what he calls "micro-trends," thereby breaking down the population into ever-smaller groups such as Soccer Moms and Joe Sixpacks. Instead of exploiting existing cultural divisions, it's about creating even more difference and polarization, even in cases where there otherwise wouldn't be any. The task then becomes how a candidate can tailor their message to somehow win the support from as many different of these sub-populations as possible in order to, as in the Rove playbook, capture the 50% + 1. Some would call this pandering; needless to say, it didn't work this year for Mrs. Clinton.

The bottom line is that the similarities between the politics of Rove and Penn outweigh the differences, which are largely scalar in nature. Political success, of course, always entails building a coalition, which necessarily involves courting different interest groups and populations. It's refreshing, however, how the Obama campaign has managed to leave the Rove/Penn politics behind: Instead of appealing to that which makes us different from each other, Obama's promise lies in his appeal to what we have in common. A little touchy-feely? Certainly. But powerful nonetheless.

14 September 2008

on hope.

Labor Day has come and gone, and we find ourselves with just over seven weeks until November 4, when this country will go to the polls and decide whether or not it wants to put an end to what an unknown state senator from Illinois once referred to as "our long political darkness."

You may have noticed that with a few exceptions, there has not been much talk in these pages of the endless build-up to this year's election. This is not to say that there is a lack of interest, commitment, or passion on the part of yours truly with regard to the election's outcome. Quite on the contrary: I've been biding my time, conscious of the fact that oversaturation breeds numbness, which in turn breeds apathy. I am also acutely aware that the last thing the world needs—particularly the micro-world of this blog's readership—is another ranting, raving, lefty lunatic touting the twin mantras of hope and change.

So, with this mind, I am shifting gears. Be forewarned that in the coming weeks you may notice a marked change in the content of these pages. What follows is a kind of summary of my own thoughts and emotions over the past year or so. My comments may seem a bit too over-the-top in their passion and urgency (even for this Progressive Reactionary), but the stakes are just too high this time.


A few months back, I came across an essay written by critic/journalist/thinker Rebecca Solnit called "Acts of Hope: Challenging Empire on the World Stage." It was written in the immediate wake of the worldwide, synchronized protests that preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March, 2003, and it situates that coordinated effort of activism within the larger history of epic struggles of hope against fear, of right against wrong. Solnit's main message—and keep in mind that this was written knowing that the protests could not, would not prevent Bush's war—is one of gentle reassurance and encouragement, a pragmatic acknowledgment that real political change takes time and is not, contrary to the beliefs of the hardest core activists, immediate. At the root of this argument is a dialectical vision of American history and politics, but Solnit expands upon the standard dialectic by asserting a topological notion of politics, whereby myriad small events and occurrences converge and diverge and interrelate over time to effect change. Nothing complicated here, but it's still quite compelling:
...History is shaped by the groundswells and common dreams that single acts and moments only represent. It's a landscape more complicated than commensurate cause and effect. Politics is a surface in which transformation comes about as much because of pervasive changes in the depths of the collective imagination as because of visible acts, though both are necessary. And though huge causes sometimes have little effect, tiny ones occasionally have huge consequences.

And what is the fate of movements for progress and change within this topological worldview, particularly in times of apparent hopelessness? For the answer, Solnit channels the ghost of Virginia Woolf, who in the midst of World War I once pondered to herself, "The future is dark." Darkness here, of course, is defined not as terror, but as the unknowable. We are to find solace in this darkness, in the knowledge that yes, sometimes things don't work out, but you know what? Sometimes they do. Sometimes the stars align, as they say, and a multitude of inputs converge to produce something good. "The world gets worse," writes Solnit. "It also gets better. And the future stays dark."


So what does this all have to do with the election, you ask? Well, I believe that after a long period of darkness (the other kind), this moment is the crest of one of Solnit's "groundswells," and that this election is an opportunity for those who believe in progress to take back the helm. I believe that many social, political, cultural, and demographic trajectories that have been percolating for the past forty years or so are converging—or at least have the potential to converge—at this very moment in the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. I believe that Obama, beyond his positions, talking points, and qualifications, is a once-in-a-lifetime figure of transformation, the likes of which my generation certainly has never seen and, odds are, will not see again. He is a game-changer, and we are in the midst of a game that so desperately needs to be changed. So yes, in Obama's words, "This is our moment, this is our time" (am I the only one to pick up the Goonie's reference here?), and we cannot let this opportunity slip away.


Enter Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, who has somehow managed in the past several weeks to turn this race upside-down, and who has once-confident Democrats worried that the prize will once again escape their grasp.

Well, one thing is clear: The selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate represents a tremendous error in judgment on the part of John McCain. It's important to point out that the Palin issue really has nothing to do with her corrupt misuse of state office to pursue a personal vendetta, long history of political cronyism, association with secessionist movements, or other such misadventures. The real shocker here—and what I think the Obama campaign has smartly grasped—is the rash, impulsive decision-making process that led to the selection of such an unknown, unqualified running mate. As a presidential candidate, one's choice of a running mate represents perhaps the single most important decision leading up to the election, and McCain chose political expediency over experience, expertise, and competence.  The choice of Palin was clearly prompted by short-term political imperatives—mobilizing the Republican base, closing the "enthusiasm gap," appealing to women, whatever—and shows no regard for the long-term consideration that, should the election go their way, there is a real possibility that Sarah Palin could become our president. If you thought the stakes were high in this election, I have news for you: with Governor Palin on the ticket, they just got much higher.

Appearances can be deceptive: Palin is nothing more than another right-wing reactionary repackaged as a down-home hockey mom. We are right to be concerned about her ascent to the most powerful office in the land, for many of her positions and creeds fall alarmingly to the right of George W. Bush. However—and I say this with some caution and hopeful humility—I do think that the conditions of her selection will ultimately come to undermine the candidacy of John McCain. Choosing Palin is not, as some in the media would have you believe, a brilliant strategic move; rather, it is a sign of desperation, of a candidate sadly compromising the last remnants of his own political identity in a last-ditch effort to futilely replicate the coalition of his predecessor. But frankly, the American people are smarter than McCain insultingly takes them for. This country is desperately craving something else, and McCain, by picking Palin, the newfound standard bearer for the conservative right, just gave up his last best hope at offering that alternative to the status quo.

So yes, while it's now evident that Obama and the Democrats underestimate Palin at her their own risk, I cautiously reassure those who are rattled and shaken by the events of the past few weeks: nothing has really changed.  This is still our moment, and the old Karl Rove playbook of dividing and polarizing the electorate isn't going to work this time around. Despite the rancorous past few weeks, despite the disgusting and disingenuous Republican attempts to once again divide us into two halves, appealing not to our hopes but to our fears, I still subscribe to the assertion by Obama back in January that "we are not as divided as our politics suggest." Not this time.


One final thought, as a kind of coda to the contentious primary between Obama and Hillary Clinton (which, by the way, I think has ultimately bolstered Obama in preparation for the general). This election could certainly go either way, and I continually hesitate to allow my excitement bubble over into naive overconfidence. In many respects more so than four years ago, all bets are off for this one. But I tell you, even if the other side wins, even if a year from now we all look back on 2008 with regret and dismay of going with a young, "unconventional" candidate (which in itself is a fallacy—in many ways, Obama's stunning political ascent has proven he is the most skillful conventional politician in a generation), it will still be worth it.

Why? For moments like Obama's speech in Berlin, when Obama's stirring claim that "these are the aspirations that join the fates of all nations in this city" allowed me to actually imagine a productive, progressive role for my country in the world. For moments like the concession speech in New Hampshire, when it suddenly became clear that we were dealing with a new kind of political animal and when, arguably, the tide turned irreversibly towards Obama. For moments like the Minneapolis speech in June, when simply the image of the Obamas on that stage and all it promised inspired a long-lost feeling—call it hope, call it what you will—that at first I wasn't sure I even recognized, since it had been so long that such a feeling stirred inside.

Yes, Rebecca Solnit is right: the future is dark. It could go either way. Here's hoping it goes ours.

the infrastructure gap

From the New York Times today, a good effort by Nicolai Ourossoff to once again draw attention to the plight of post-Katrina New Orleans.

Using the opulent backdrop of the Beijing Olympics to contrast the shameful lack of progress in New Orleans over the past three years, Ourossoff smartly links the New Orleans inaction to a larger national neglect of large-scale infrastructural projects. It's becoming apparent that this aversion to build (or rebuild) on a grand scale is one of the lasting victories of the anti-government conservative revolution that began in the late 60's and came to horrifying fruition with the W. presidency. Ourossoff is right to lament the fact that the best and the brightest of the architectural profession are fleeing to distant shores, to countries that are "not afraid to invest in the future of [their] cities." And while such architects are often criticized for their fleeting loyalties and willingness to overlook certain political realities in the process of getting a commission, even this Progressive Reactionary must admit that it is unrealistic to expect them to stick around and work for free for a grossly underfunded reconstruction effort for which there is no political support from the state or federal levels. Indeed, the $400 million of public funding for New Orleans reconstuction mentioned by Ourossoff pales in comparison to the roughly $12 billion currently being spent each month for the Iraq/Afghanistan wars.

What really shocks me is that, especially our moment of economic turbulence, there hasn't been a more widespread acceptance that infrastructural projects (like rebuilding New Orleans) are a decent way to create jobs, stimulate the economy, and maybe do some good for society while you're at it. People like Robert Reich have been quite vocal on this, and Obama has a "National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank" as a central component of his economic recovery plan which would disburse $60 billion over ten years. Call me crazy, but doesn't this seem kind of a no-brainer? Or, at the very least, a worthy alternative to the current misguided approach?

But back to Nicolai, and his crusade for New Orleans. It's worth noting that over the past few years since Nicolai took over the helm of architecture criticism at the Times, New Orleans has become kind of a pet issue for Ourossoff. In fact, one could say that a good deal of his writing, beyond the frequent, frivolous paeans to starchitects and their condo buildings, has been in defense of large-scale, classically Modernist initiatives, particularly of the infrastructural and mega-public kind. This is commendable journalism, and it is good to see the Times partaking in such an enterprise every now and then.

It is also worth noting that Ourossoff includes an equally commendable shout-out to local efforts in New Orleans to preserve several modernist landmarks from the 1950s and 60s. He should have extended the shout-out, however, to bloggers like Life Without Buildings (whose post from a few weeks back has helped lead the charge in saving these buildings) and Regional Modernism, but I suppose that would be asking for too much.

11 September 2008

what you didn't hear about at the conventions

Via Andrew Sullivan, some incredible photos of the protesters and their law enforcement counterparts at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.


04 September 2008

sustainable destruction?

This has been out there on the internets for a while now, but it's still quite compelling. Apparently a demolition company in Japan is pioneering a way to demolish a building from the bottom up. Check out the video:

The process (called "daruma-otoshi") is like construction in reverse, literally. Much cleaner, safer, more efficient. Pretty cool.

A thought: what if Pruitt Igoe had been demolished in this manner? It certainly would have made for a much less dramatic event, and perhaps Charles Jencks would not have been prompted to proclaim the death of architectural modernism. Imagine an alternate future: a gentle demolition of a modern icon prevents postmodernism from ever happening. The horror!

Unrelated: Still reeling from Sarah Palin's acceptance speech tonight (and the other assorted exercises in poor taste proffered by tonight's roster at the Republican National Convention), I sincerely hope that this will be the moment to which, 9 short weeks from now, we will all look at back and say, "That was the beginning of the end." Here's to hope.

02 September 2008

no ordinary leader...

... for no ordinary time.

18 August 2008

goldberger on 2 columbus circle

Paul Goldberger returns—in true, clueless form—to the pages of the New Yorker this week with a real doozy of a review of Allied Works' redo of 2 Columbus Circle. As you've no doubt heard me lament before, dear reader, it is unconscionable how a publication of such supposed critical esteem can contract someone as critically impotent as Paul Goldberger to be their in-house architectural authority. It's a travesty.

With regard to the new building, I haven't been inside yet, but I still stand by my earlier thoughts.

Link: "Hello, Columbus" by Paul Goldberger, in the New Yorker

04 August 2008

"ingenious, but useless"

From the New Statesman: an interesting tale of war, historic preservation, and what to do with Vienna's Flaktürme. Relics of the Nazis' visionary but ultimately futile plans for defending the city from Allied bombing raids, these six towers are now lightning rods at the center of a debate on how to recognize and memorialize the city's history under Nazi rule.

In a standoff with the government, which seems to want to keep the towers shuttered, a group of would-be preservationists/activists are hoping to open the towers to the public in the interest of historical transparency.

I suppose you could call it nostalgia in the name of justice. 

In any case, they're gorgeous. I especially dig the oversized, clover-shaped pancake-turrets.

link: "Secret History" by Robin Stummer, in the New Statesman (via the ever-titillating things magazine.)

20 July 2008

Sante on nostalgia

I'm currently reading Luc Sante's Low Life—something I should have done when I lived in the Lower East Side before I escaped to the Brooklyn countryside. I'm quite taken by the book's critique of nostalgia, which Sante defines in his preface as a kind of false, delusional sentimentality for a version of history that might not have actually existed in the first place. There's something quite compelling about Sante's take on nostalgia, and even though his words are directed towards a specifically New York-centric brand of repackaging the past, I think the critique can easily apply to any number of architectural or urban adventures in nostalgia. Sante:

[Nostalgia] can be generally defined as a state of inarticulate contempt for the present and fear of the future, in concert with a yearning for order, constancy, safety, and community—qualities that were last enjoyed in childhood and are retroactively imagined as gracing the whole of the time before one's birth. [Low Life, xi]
New Urbanism, anyone?

16 July 2008

home delivery opens at moma

Despite evidence to the contrary (the embarrassing dearth of activity at this spot over the past several months), I've been enjoying busier-than-normal summer with the Day Job, among other distractions. I did manage to escape momentarily to attend last night's opening of the Home Delivery show at MoMA. The show is certainly worth checking out for those in New York at all this summer - it revisits the troubled history and perhaps-promising-yet-likely-also-troubled future of prefabrication in architecture. The most exciting elements are of course the pieces commissioned by the Museum specifically for this exhibition: five full-size buildings constructed in an adjacent parking lot and three speculative wall prototypes installed in the interior gallery. Should be interesting to see how the public, press, and pundits receive it all. As for this Progressive Reactionary, once I have a free moment I hope to post some more cohesive thoughts on the show. Until then...

19 May 2008

the ghost of huntington hartford

[image credit : progressive reactionary]

Huntington Hartford, retail heir and spendthrift extraordinaire, died today at age 97. Some may see this as a merciful end for Mr. Hartford: whatever suffering he endured in his final years, he has been spared from seeing his eponymous museum, left vacant and forlorn for so long on the southern side of Columbus Circle, destroyed and reborn as a building which he would surely disdain.

As you must know by now, the Huntington Hartford Museum is no more, and in short order will be reincarnated as the new Museum of Arts and Design, which opens later this summer. The scaffolding has peeled away in recent weeks to reveal the re-skinned update of Edward Durell Stone's seminal, trivial, or controversial (depending on who you ask) 1964 building. Redesigned by Portland, Oregon firm Allied Works, surprise victors over Zaha, Toshiko Mori, and locals Smith-Miller Hawkinson in a 2003 competition, the building is the latest step in Columbus Circle's long and lucrative march towards sanitized sterility.

[2 Columbus Circle in happier days. Image credit: New York Architecture Images]

It is hard to think of another site in Manhattan that has generated more controversy and ire over such a long period of time. (For a start, refer to the site's Wikipedia entry.) In recent years, the likes of Bob Stern, Tom Wolfe, Herbert Muschamp, Frank Stella, and, finally, even Sir Nicolai himself have chimed in to defend the peculiar little Stone building. All for naught, though. The building's fate was ultimately sealed by the dubious inaction of the city's Landmarks commission, which politely declined even to consider a discussion of granting landmark status. And here we find ourselves: May of 2008, the scaffolding down, and expectations are—to say the least—high.

[image credit : progressive reactionary]

Based on information gleaned from Allied Works' website and elsewhere (and elsewhere), the retrofit design basically consists of a series of strategic incisions that leave the building's existing concrete structure intact, but begin to open up the solid exterior wall (newly clad in ceramic tiles and glass) to provide views outward and allow light to penetrate the interior gallery spaces. The slicing of the facade and floor plates will no doubt provide some interesting visual moments, creative interplays of interior and exterior, and hopefully some exciting views of Central Park to the north. And one can surely expect fine detailing, as is typical for Allied Works' projects. But it all smacks of a kind of Diller-Scofidio-lite, with careful attention devoted to a few, select moments of visual calibration at the expense of the building as a whole. Indeed, the new building as a totality is, frankly, not that interesting.

[21st Century White Brick. Image credit : progressive reactionary]

The architects have put all their eggs in one basket by selecting pearly white ceramic tiles for the new building's cladding. Brad Cloepfil, the main Ally in Allied Works, will surely regret this decision—if he doesn't already. White tiles aren't very evocative of New York, to say the least, and I fear that time will be harsher to them than it was to the much-ridiculed but also endearing "lollipop" columns of Stone's building. The white color and the scale of the tile's module both suggest unfortunate connotations to the city's plethora of boring (and soot-caked) white brick buildings from the 1980s. Supposedly these special tiles, fabricated and hand-glazed in Germany, possess an "iridescence" that will lend a certain dynamism to the facade as the light changes. This is a good sound bite, for sure, but the effect is so subtle and fleeting that it will hardly deflect the inevitable "white brick" comparisons mentioned above. I daresay this choice of material represents a complete and fatal miscalculation on the part of Cloepfil and his Allies.

[image credit : progressive reactionary]

But let's go deeper: there's more going on here than what Cloepfil would have us believe. This is not just a simple, polite re-cladding operation that lets some more light into the galleries. What's at stake here is the definition of what constitutes a landmark—and what kind of values system determines which buildings deserve protection and which buildings don't.

Don't get me wrong. Our dear Huntington was a reactionary patron who squandered a sizable fortune largely in the name of a bizarre crusade of anti-modernism. The building itself, constructed in the heyday of International Style curtain-wall ecstasy and designed by Stone just as he began to hit his stride in opposition to this new, cold status quo, was itself a polemic statement: a symbol of a world view that sought to terminate Western art history somewhere before the turn of the last century. Furthermore, the building was certainly no masterpiece; it had plenty of problems inherent to its design and construction that contributed to its decay and disuse.

But remember, this progressive is also a reactionary. Ever a proponent of the creative destruction of modern architecture, I also have great respect for history, especially those moments, too rare if you ask me, when a small cadre of iconoclasts have banded together and, with a collective "fuck you," decided to turn the tables on a stale status quo. This building, to me, represents one of these "fuck you" moments that deserves not necessarily celebration or repetition, but certainly recognition and preservation. The building (were it still with us) is a valuable relic of a time when not being modern was itself a provocative idea. I don't think it's possible for us today to fully recognize the gravity of such a move; there really is no contemporary equivalent, at least in architecture culture, that I can think of.

[Historic Preservation, by Allied Works. Image credit : progressive reactionary]

This is not all to say that the building should have been left as an untouched, decaying memorial to some episodic, bygone aesthetic rebellion of the 1960s. I do support the new Museum's ambition to establish itself in a new and prominent location, and I wish it luck. But I think the architects could have come up with a more creative way to address and engage the storied and tortuous past of this structure and this site. Cloepfil heralds the preservation of the iconic lollipop columns at the building's base as some kind of concessionary offering to the Sterns of this world. But this is nothing more than petty lip-service to preservationists, and Cloepfil should be ashamed for his brazen contextual ignorance. His project ends up so anodyne, so plain, and so gutless that it fails to make any statement at all about anything other than the 2-foot wide light slots that wind around the facade. (And which, by the way, are completely out of scale and exhibit the innovative capacity of a 1st-year graduate school project.)

Sure, the Stone building oozed kitsch and ersatz, and its faux-Venetian mystique had absolutely nothing to do with Columbus Circle or New York City. But at least it had something to say: about its place in history, about its relationship to the evolution of modernism in architecture, about something. The more I think about it, the more I realize that in a strange and twisted irony, Huntington Hartford may indeed have had the last word. Progress seems to have hit a brick wall at Columbus Circle—and maybe Mr. Hartford wouldn't mind that at all.

A coda: I couldn't go without mentioning once again the late Herbert Muschamp's totally bizarre ponderings on the building's social history, from January of 2006. One wishes there were more scandal, but the article was just plain weird.

07 May 2008



07 April 2008

lost city

[Staff House, North Brother Island. image: Christopher Payne]

[Tuberculosis Hospital, North Brother Island. image: Christopher Payne]

Via Architect's Newspaper: Christopher Payne's photos of the abandoned buildings of NYC's North Brother Island. Very cool.

Also check out Payne's website for lots more photos of waterfront scenes, asylums, power substations, and other fine industrial detritus.

06 April 2008

hudson yards: a critique

From Metropolis: Stephen Zacks offers a critique of the recent bid contest for the development rights to the West Side rail yards in Manhattan. Without going into too much detail: in the wake of several failed attempts to develop this mega-site with public funding (Olympic stadium, Jets stadium, Javits Center expansion, etc. etc.), the MTA, owner of the site, solicited bids from developer-bank teams for the air rights to the railroad yards. Teams included, among others, architects Steven Holl, a KPF-Stern partnership, and a super-st.architecture lineup of Di-Sco-Fro/SANAA/SOM/Field Operations/Thomas Phifer/SHoP/Gary Handel. In the end, a Helmut Jahn / Peter Walker scheme for developers Tishman Speyer / Morgan Stanley took the cake. Needless to say, the winner's a real doozy.

[image: Tishman Speyer's scheme for Hudson Yards, from Metropolis]

I had some reservations with Zacks' piece on Dubai a few months back, and his positioning with regard to the role of corporate capitalism in architectural patronage is still a tad too accommodating for my tastes (for example: "I don’t have that much of a problem with corporations per se"). But I can agree to disagree: this is a fine piece, full of bite and wit, and it deserves a close read.

link: "Follow the Money" by Stephen Zacks, in Metropolis

"a nation worth defending"

Came across this speech that critic Jim Kunstler gave back in 2004:

In true form, he's a bit all over the place, but I must confess a certain affinity for Kunstler's ranting and raving. At times. There's something interesting about his simultaneous progressive posturing (sustainable living in the face of "peak oil") and his reactionary leanings (an apparent partiality for New Urbanist planning strategies). Plus, he's deniably an entertaining and captivating speaker. I could do with a little less of the apocalyptic doomsday scenarios, though. I think a small dose of utopian optimism is in order—this might add a bit more bite to his bark, if you know what I mean.

01 April 2008

foot in mouth

[image: Inhabitat]

Just when I go ahead and put myself out on the line for Frank Gehry with an adamant defense of not only his ugly Serpentine Pavilion but also his entire career, he goes ahead and does this.

And to top it off, it took me half the day to realize that it's all a big April Fools gag. Nicely done, Inhabitat...

30 March 2008

nouvel nabs the pritzker

Looks like it goes to Nouvel this year. Yawn.

Update: Looks like the Times was, as they say, in on the fix... they've already linked to a profile on Nouvel by Arthur Lubow, which will appear in next week's Magazine. Double yawn.

26 March 2008

home delivery @ moma

Just got word that MoMA has launched their website for this summer's exhibition on prefabrication titled Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. Looks like it will be an online journal recording the progress of the five mega-prototypes that will be constructed in the empty lot next to the museum in time for the exhibition opening. As reported by RoPog in the Times back in January, MoMA has commissioned these projects to accompany the exhibition upstairs as a way to showcase contemporary approaches to prefab. It's Barry Bergdoll's debut as his new position as chief curator of architecture & design... so expectations are high.

List of the outdoor prototypes:

  • "Cellophane House" by prefab vets Kieran Timberlake
  • BURST*008 by Douglas Gauthier and Jeremy Edmiston, the duo formerly known as System Architects
  • System3 by Austrians Oskar Leo Kaufmann and Albert Rüf
  • Housing for New Orleans by MIT's Lawrence Sass
  • Micro-Compact Home by Richard Horden of Horden Cherry Lee in London
There's also word that the museum has commissioned a few smaller-scale prototypes to be located within the main exhibition inside the museum...

25 March 2008

a welcome mess

[Gehry's Serpentine Pavilion 2008. Image: Serpentine Gallery]

Via Archinect... The Serpentine Gallery has released images of its newest pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry and scheduled to be installed in Kensington Gardens this summer. A jumble of wood and glass, the pavilion is most striking for its departure from the Gehry aesthetic that has been popularized and globalized over the last fifteen years or so. There's no wavy, shiny metal panels here, folks. No fish scales, no ship sails, not a hint of Bilbao, not even a dash of Disney. Indeed, the only resemblance to concurrent work coming out of Gehry's office that I can recognize is the haphazard (and trademark) method by which the presentation model seems to be thrown together.

Upon inspecting the handful of model photographs, I can deduce the following: The pavilion consists of an armature of four oversized posts—echoes of Gehry's early postmodern scalar awkwardness—supporting a trellis of what looks to be oversized railroad ties. This entire assemblage floats precariously over what is described in the Serpentine's accompanying text as an amphitheater space, surrounded by some sort of criss-crossed glass fence.

The whole thing is a mess, really. There's just no two ways about it. But it's a welcome mess, and I daresay I am not the only one who appreciates something new and different from Frank Gehry, something other than the standard panelized, gestural blobs that are multiplying across the globe.

Judging by initial reactions across the blogosphere, there seems to be a general consensus that the Gehry Serpentine blows. The Archinect discussion is particularly entertaining, as well as this morning's posting on Curbed this morning titled "Gehry Finally Loses It." All respect to my comrades out there, but this Progressive Reactionary disagrees. I would venture so far as to say that this project has the potential to be Gehry's finest work in almost two decades.

[Gehry House in Santa Monica. Image: progressive reactionary]

Why? Because it represents a return to the excitement, verve, and ad-hoc-ness of Gehry's earliest projects. The Serpentine model immediately brings to mind Gehry's own self-designed house in Santa Monica, which is, in my book, a masterpiece that validates his entire career. The jumble of everyday materials might look like a mess, but it's a mess with a lot of thought and consideration behind it. It's a mastery not only of such traditional architectural notions as composition, structure, transparency, and scale, but also of how to subvert and creatively reposition these notions. It's playful. Maybe Uncle Frank, in his 79th year and jaded with the expectations of all his conventional clients for his brand of iconography, feels like he wants to stir things up a bit have some fun?

Two footnotes to this commentary: First, many will say that the Serpentine represents a return not only to Gehry's roots, but also to the "Deconstructivist" oeuvre in which he solidified his st.architect status. Bull. I always found the connections between 1980s avant-garde architecture and Decon theory to be tenuous at best, especially in Gehry's case. Say what you will, but the man has always worked more in the mode of a conceptual artist than that of an architect-theorist.

Second, some might say that this project represents a retreat from Gehry's digital-centric practice of recent years. But I would argue that the "digital" was never central to Gehry's modus operandi. Digital fabrication for Gehry was, and continues to be, simply a means to an end—a technique certainly necessary in order to realize his extravagant forms, but completely irrelevant to the production of those forms. In other words, digital fabrication serves a post-design role in the Gehry processl; it comes into play after the fact. (Although, one could argue that the IAC project in New York is an exception—but that's a discussion for another time.) To me, it was always a matter of the right guy being in the right place at the right time (with the right clients and the right projects and the right employees and the right software). So the fact that the Serpentine design seems to have no connection to any kind of digital process really has little bearing on how it should be judged in the context of Gehry's career.

* * *

On another note: I just read recently that Barack Obama, when asked if he had to choose a different career, responded that he always wanted to be an architect. Yet another reason to bring this circus to an end...

21 March 2008

good news for brooklyn

If there's any silver lining to the credit crunch and the ensuing tumult in the markets, I suppose this would qualify.
According to today's Times, the slowing economy threatens to stall the infamous Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. As far as I'm concerned, as upsetting as this must be for the Ratner-Gehry contingent behind the mega-project, this is fantastic news. As an architect partial to the Mega as a means of enacting major urban and, potentially, social changes (that ever-elusive Progress), I must admit some measure of excitement about such the opportunities afforded by such a large project. And as a realist, I can't deny that something must, will -- and should! -- happen on this site, at this bustling yet oddly vacant junction of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. The real-estate is just too valuable to let it sit unused, and the City and the Borough desperately need the housing (if not the sports arena...). But as a resident of a neighborhood directly adjacent to the Atlantic Yards site, I can't help but rejoice at this particular side-effect of the market's downward spiral. Yes, something will happen at Atlantic Yards. But it doesn't have to be that. If nothing else, it looks as if the credit crunch has bought us all a little more time.

link: "Slow Economy Likely to Stall Atlantic Yards" by Charles V. Bagli, in the New York Times

Update: Nicolai voices his thoughts on the matter. It's difficult to understand exactly what point he is trying to get across.

26 February 2008

earth's future, deep in the arctic.

[Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Image credit: NY Times/AP -John McConnico]

A harbinger of a darkly dystopian yet also—somehow—an impossibly beautiful utopian future: the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Norwegian Arctic. Can't wait to see more images of the project.

link: "Buried Seed Vault Opens in Arctic" by Andrew C. Revkin, in the New York Times

25 February 2008

save robin hood gardens.

A different—but no less urgent—political campaign across the pond catches my eye.

link: "Building Design Launches Campaign to Save Robin Hood Gardens"

Update: Check out this photoset on Flickr with some heroic images for your enjoyment.

04 February 2008

yes we can.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Democracy is not a spectator sport. Please vote tomorrow.