Reference Page: July 2007

Going Dutch
With growing public awareness of air pollution and the importance of exercise, bikes have definitely become the new black of transportation trends. There’s nothing better than an iconic black steel Dutch bike paired with jeans, a homemade combination helmet/iPod holder—they call the look “punk,” though some might say “loonyspace-age” —and a bit of give-me-the-right-of-way attitude to appear superhip and politically conscious at the same time. Of course, the Dutch imports won’t be great democratic equalizers—you’ll have to pay a high price to obtain your European-chic look. At Jorg & Olif, one of the North American manufacturers of Dutch-style bicycles, a basic one-speed will cost you, gulp, $895, though from the look of its Web site, www.jorgandolif.com—featuring pictures of the Oma bike with speech bubbles emanating from it—you may be getting a ride that recites greetings in awkwardly formal English for your extra moola.

Grand Vision
New York City dwellers are often caricatured as being a lovable bunch of liberal hippies, but wouldn’t you know, we just love our Republican mayor. Mike Bloomberg’s extensive PlaNYC report, detailing the environmental future of the city, won over the vast majority of New Yorkers, even on the most controversial aspect: congestion pricing. Despite a lot of noise from opponents in the beginning (much of it in the New York Post: www.nypost.com/seven/05012007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/mikes_congestion_headache_opedcolumnists_david_i__weprin.htm), according to recent polls, most city dwellers are behind congestion pricing: www.observer.com/2007/congestion-pricing-poll-0. And several New York media outlets have published stories citing case studies derailing accusations that the tax would put an unfair burden on the working class, like this piece published in the New Yorker, which takes a look at London’s congestion scheme: www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2007/05/07/070507taco_talk_kolbert. During a recent speech, Bloomberg referred to congestion pricing as “the elephant in the room”—apparently there’s an elephant that even donkeys can love. A glance at the huge PlaNYC document, www.nyc.gov/html/planyc2030/html/downloads/download.shtml, reveals that Bloomberg’s initiatives are a lot more than just political bravado, and his dedication to a better environmental future for New York is crystal clear.

Patchwork Project
Thanks to the talents of Auburn University students, master quilter Mozell Benson ended up with a home studio she loves that features a cantilevered roof and pine-detailed interiors, but there were a lot of other options on the table. As part of a class assignment, the students conceived of and drew sketches depicting different options for Benson’s studio, ranging from a green-roofed bungalow to a domelike abode that resembles an exploded loom: www.cadc.auburn.edu/soa/index.php/programs/architecture/fyp/summer-option/summer-2006/images-final. A short but charmingly modest interview with Benson, a 2001 NEA fellow, in which she talks about teaching her granddaughters to quilt, is available online at www.nea.gov/honors/heritage/Heritage01/Benson2.html. And for a more thorough take on Benson’s work, check out Maude Southwell Wahlman’s Signs & Symbols (Tinwood Books, 2001), a historical analysis of African-American quilts and their design influences that repeatedly references the bright colors and large patterns of Benson’s 1979 Log Cabin quilt.

The Discreet Charm of Bernard Khoury
There’s an odd similarity between the nightclub B018, designed by Bernard Khoury, and any random club in New York’s Meatpacking District. Note the nonstop pulsating techno music, for instance, on B018’s Web site: www.b018.com. The site’s photo galleries show DJs spinning to a crowded house replete with canoodling guests and scantily clad girls dancing on bars; perhaps not the ideal place to go for exotic escapism from the American bar scene. (We’re pretty sure that one can say, “Am I dead? Because you look like heaven,” in both Arabic and French.) While the club’s interior may stink of Western club culture, the exterior is something else, especially from a 3-D view on Google Earth. Type in “Beirut” and “the quarantaine” and watch as the application zips you halfway around the world and centers right over the underground bunker that houses the club. For a full list of Khoury projects in the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere, go to www.bernardkhoury.com.

On the Cusp
“We’re the funny ones!” Amale Andraos insists when divvying up the complimentary attributes of Work Architecture Company and former employer OMA. Work’s project for the 2007 Rotterdam Biennale, Cadavre Exquis Lebanese (translated as “Exquisite Lebanese Corpse”), certainly possesses more dark humor than OMA’s somewhat stuffy research on the Persian Gulf for the 10th Venice Biennale. Work’s project—set up as an ironic vision in which a warf-sports stadium built to satisfy the world’s bloodlust generates enough income from ticket sales to make Lebanon a prosperous country—is accompanied by surrealist renderings akin to Salvador Dalí paintings on Work’s Web site: www.workac.com (click the “Beirut” icon on the bottom row, third from the left). For those who would rather view the project in the nice, tangible form of a book, the exhibition catalog, Power: Producing the Contemporary City, profiles Work’s Beirut vision as well as 13 other futuristic conceptions of world cities: www.naipublishers.nl/architecture/power_e.html.

Teaching Tools
Middle schools aren’t typically reputed to be on the cutting edge of environmentalism—“conservation” usually amounts to using scrap paper or being that kid who leaves the middle stall unflushed (not a go-green tactic that Metropolis endorses, by the way). But at the new Sidwell Friends Middle School sustainable practices are as prevalent as braces and toastie dogs. Students interact with the green building designed by Kieran Timberlake, www.kierantimberlake.com, in dynamic ways like tending the gardens on the roof or examining the building’s water system for science class. You can get a glimpse of the Sidwell kids working the land and a tour of the premises in a local NBC news report: www.sidwell.edu/about_sfs/greenbuilding_media.asp. Nothing quite captures the complexities and complications of junior-high reality like a student-produced musical; as part of a “Why I Love My Library” video competition, Sidwell middle-schoolers put together a two-minute piece utilizing the talents of the school choir as well as the acting prowess of two hardworking librarians to demonstrate the great big love they have for their great big greenified library. It’s not to be missed: www.youtube.com/watch?v=auSOhF0sUv4.

Lofty Ideals
Once the cultural property of bohemian artists, the loft—that highly romanticized and now steeply priced former warehouse space—is currently basking in the spotlight of mainstream popularity, as evidenced by the appropriation of its aesthetic by Piero Lissoni for Boffi’s New York showroom: www.boffi-soho.com. So much so that even the classic magazine of suburban domesticity, Better Homes and Gardens, has dedicated an entire series to loft-decorating ideas, including the feature “Live Large in a Small Space” and the photo essay “Country Style in a City Loft”: www.bhg.com/bhg/category.jsp?categoryid=/templatedata/bhg/category/data/Decorating_Rooms_Lofts.xml. The loft-focused quiz at the bottom of the page (“Is Loft Living Right for You?”) asks 11 sharply discriminating questions, such as, “How often do you visit museums, theaters, or concert halls?” If you pick option one: “Hardly ever—and I like it that way,” we’re betting that loft living is not right for a culture nonenthusiast like you. But assuming BH&G approves you as a loft-ready member of society, it’s worth checking out Katherine Stone’s manual Loft Design: Solutions for Creating a Livable Space (Rockport, 2005) for somewhat more avant-garde ideas.

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