Point of View - Point of View June 2011

 

Big Easy Bike Boom

NOLA native Sarah Markel on the levee bike path along the Mississippi. Photo: Catherine Markel. Earlier this month, I spent a week in Madison, Wisconsin, where I sat through lectures by some of the world’s leading authorities on ways to make cities more appealing, functional, and sustainable. But the most valuable takeaways came not from inside the Madison Convention Center,…

+ Pool

A plus-shaped pool could make it possible to swim in polluted rivers.

A plus-shaped pool could make it possible to swim in polluted rivers.

Modernism Mummified

The Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust Company building at 510 Fifth Avenue, New York. The lower levels are being renovated. The ancient Egyptians were the ur-preservationists, but I have always thought that there was something perverse about their method of immortalizing dead kings. The first part of the process, carried out by skilled professionals, was to extract all the internal organs of…

Q&A: Michael Braungart

Michael Braungart after meeting with legislators  in Sacramento to discuss green initiatives the state is considering. Eco-effective products and their processes should not only “do no harm,” but actually benefit the environment, people and the economy. That uncompromising design philosophy was outlined by Michael Braungart, the German chemist, and William McDonough, the American architect, in their seminal 2002 book, Cradle…

Too Much History

The caption was promising. “Cloud is a work of experimental architecture,” it said, “a floating roof made simply from helium gas, water and soap; an instantly deployable canopy for conversation in the shade.” In reality, it wasn’t quite so deployable. Little clouds of soap foam did rise into a net spanned over Asif Khan’s installation—but they sadly yielded to gravity…

Places that Work: Seattle Central Library

The Seattle Central Library works so well because of something obvious: its architects carefully considered the role of a public library during its projected lifetime and designed it accordingly. When Rem Koolhaas, Joshua Prince-Ramus of OMA/LMN, and their teams set to work they went into a detailed analysis of what it would take to enrich citizens’ lives and how the…

Holding Pattern at MoMA PS1

With an abundance of activities happening in New York all summer long, it’s hard to decide where to spend those valuable weekends. I’m told one of the hottest summer traditions though, is not a party on a roof, in a pool, a park or an abandoned warehouse but instead takes place at an institution like MoMA PS1. Nestled in Long…

Q&A: David Gottfried

In 2010, David Gottfried founded his latest membership organization, the Regenerative Network; a business consortium that brings together leading green building product manufacturers and service providers and connects them to real estate portfolio owners, architects, engineers, and contractors. The mission of this invitation-only organization, he says, is to elevate the triple-bottom-line profitability of members and affiliates through fostering deep business…

The New Agro Model?

I’ve always had an obsession with abandoned buildings. Maybe that’s because they speak to the nature of change in society, and always seems to be bursting with potential. They are often reincarnated as business parks, apartments, galleries, but these transformations are mere shadows of what the buildings were once. Bustling centers of industry, of innovation and commerce, they’ve been left…

Q&A: John King

John King, the estimable architecture and urban design critic at the San Francisco Chronicle, recently published his first book, Cityscape: San Francisco and Its Buildings. Based on a weekly feature that debuted in the Chronicle more than two years ago, the book is a nifty little hybrid: one part prose poem to the built environment, one part a walking tour…

Tomorrow’s Designers

I’m trying to remember, did I ever think about things like public design, civic planning, or product innovation in the eighth grade?  I’ll be honest, the eighth grade wasn’t all that long ago. I know that in language arts we mapped sentences; we learned about Julius Caesar’s murderous frenemies in Latin class. But the real-world work of designers–isolating problems, then…

Q&A: Jason McLennan

Jason McLennan, CEO of the International Living Future Institute (home of the Living Building Challenge, a standard launched by the Cascadia chapter of the Green Building Council in 2006 and intended to push beyond LEED at the time) has published a memoir about his own effort to live green, Zugunruhe: The Inner Migration to Profound Environmental Change (published by the…

The Artist in the Architect

Large Baths, Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli; Louis I. Kahn, 1951; Pastel on paper; 7 ½ x 8 ½ inches. Looking through the Metropolis magazine archives, I recently came upon a quote from Eero Saarinen, “To me, the drawn language is a very revealing language; one can see in a few lines whether a man is really an architect.” Reading this quote,…

Phyllis Wheatley Falls

Photo: Matthew Hinton/The Times-Picayune. Not even a month after we wrote about the impending demolition of the Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School, the battle over one of New Orleans’s last standing mid-century modernist schools has come to an abrupt but decisive conclusion. On Friday, bulldozers began their work on the dilapidated structure, two months before anyone had any reason to expect…

America’s Deteriorating Treasures

Since 1988, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has been compiling a list of national treasures, sites of architectural and cultural significance that are facing demolition or serious decay. Each year, one-of-a-kind historical places are added, cataloguing American architectural history and raising awareness of endangered cultural gems. While some of these sites are threatened by new development and projects, others…

Building Social Responsibility…Right

The Make It Right Foundation, established by movie star Brad Pitt, has received a lot of press. He and his equally famous partner, Angelina Jolie, are well regarded in philanthropy circles because they do so much of it. Poverty and its resultant ills are their main focus. For instance, in Cambodia,  they work to increase access to medical care and…

Part of the Process

In our June 2011 issue, Peter Hall writes about the fascinating relationship that the giant design consultancy, IDEO, has with a very particular type of client – governmental agencies. The firm’s trademark design thinking method is showing mammoth bureaucratic juggernauts like the Social Security Administration a deep insight into who uses their services, and how they can help streamline even…

High Line Expansion

Like many others, I was brimming with anticipation last Wednesday to see the High Line’s recent expansion, the second section of a three-part plan to build a linear park out of an abandoned railroad on Manhattan’s West Side. Ever since my first visit to the High Line last September, I have been smitten with the experience of standing on an…

Successful Blue Ventures

courtesy Blue Ventures Buckminster Fuller was an architect, but in the truest sense of the title, he was a problem-solver who viewed complexity with the eyes of a scientist. Upon his death in 1983, his family established the Buckminster Fuller Institute to carry on his legacy of visionary innovation through holistic, interdisciplinary, systems thinking to tackle large-scale problems that affect…

New Life in the Old Plaza

Just as Seville was about to construct a new parking facility under one of its historic plazas, archeologists discovered Roman ruins below ground. So instead of digging down, officials in the Spanish city decided to build up. In this way, the ruins would be preserved, while a new structure, hovering above them, would give new life to the plaza. To…

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