A sign of victory…

Finally, the beginning of the rollback of clutter created by billboards. Passed in Toronto, the long-time hometown of Jane Jacobs. Can that be an accident?

The First Meaningful Billboard Tax is passed in Toronto

Corporate creep, the profit-minded takeover of public space, is not unlike a roach infestation: stomach-churning, not pretty, and always a losing battle. Yet the battle rages on. The issues underlying many current debates re-exert the right of the public over public space, whether real or virtual: Social networking site privacy uproars, state and city university walk-outs, the low-power FM radio movement, sponsored public transit stations. And the sad fact is, despite that they greatly outnumber the, ah, vermin – the public is losing this fight against the corporate creeps.

Except in Toronto, Ontario. There the public, angered by the realization that about half the billboards in their town are illegal, lobbied for landmark legislation last week that will curb the corporate crime that goes on before our very eyes. Everywhere. (An estimated two-thirds of the outdoor advertising here in Chicago sits outside of permitted zones.)

A sign of victory…

Design pays

Or A Tale of Two Houses

Here’s an example of poor design not paying and following that, an example of good design paying off.

The projects are in many ways opposites of each other: one is large (over sized, really at five bedrooms, four bathrooms) and the other is small (just one bedroom, one bath), one is cheaply built, the other has been built to last a long time. One is built in the suburbs, another built in the city. One is built to a certain standard and would look the same in Seattle or in Florida, the other is connected to its community is very particularized to its environment. One is an energy hog and one is sustainable. One is (probably) not designed by an Architect, the other is designed by a very capable one. Those sets of factors are connected.

Moral of the story: Hire an Architect! [In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll note that–yes, you guessed it–I am an Architect!]

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Design pays

Now we know the Mall owners are scared, really scared, of new competition (revised 15 November 2007)

Here’s an interesting and important legal decision that will have some very real urban design/architectural implications. It’s yet another example of small, local and very particularized developments eclipsing centralized, consolidated, and homogenized ones.

It’s also interesting from another point of view: what information we get from this lawsuit. Lawsuits are actually very efficient ways of distributing information, as each lawsuit reveals things through the adversarial process that wouldn’t always come out. In this case the information is clear: Caruso’s development model is such a threat that his competition thought the legal risk they placed themselves in was worth it. That gives an insight as to how dangerous they thought this competition is, and what means they have to counter it. They think this competition is dangerous, and they don’t have a clear way of adapting to this threat.

And we see the theme of competition between things of different scales that was discussed here. The quote from Schumpeter (I’ll get to it in just a bit) that I just love also talks about changing scales. (I hadn’t noticed that before! How could I miss that?)

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Now we know the Mall owners are scared, really scared, of new competition (revised 15 November 2007)

The Ghost Map & 5GW: The answer is blowing in the wind

John Robb has an interesting post in which two astute points are made, and flowing from these, an important question is raised. The answer to his question depends on our thinking across disciplines, to see a very similar structure in a problem that was solved in Victorian London. A comparative analysis of the differences and similarities of John’s question to the problem in Victorian London provides a clear path forward, showing us how to address John’s question. First, his post starts:

Friday, December 08, 2006

As the debate over the value of the Iraq study group’s report rumbles on, it’s important to reflect on larger frame within which this debate is taking place. This frame, little discussed, encapsulates nature of the threat we face in Iraq and will be increasingly likely to face in the future. With Iraq, we can catch a glimpse of a the new class of threat that will increasingly define our future (and given that even a glimpse is enough to stump the establishment should be a dire warning). This new class of threat is characterized by its bottoms up pattern of growth rather than the familiar competition between nation-states. It percolates upwards through catalyzed organic growth until it overwhelms our ability to respond to it. These new threats include (not exhaustive):

  • Global guerrillas: Open source warfare and systems disruption. Fragmentation and chaos that can swallow states and regions. In the mid-term: super-empowered actors that can wield bio-weapons.
  • Peak oil and resource depletion: The acceleration of resource consumption due to the mainlining of China and India at the very point these resources are reaching capacity limits.
  • Global warming: Not the slow change discussed, but rather a cascading change in weather patterns and ocean flows that drastically change continental climates. Ditto the mainlining of China and India as a driver here too.
  • Pandemics: Bird flu and other forms of infectious disease that can sweep the world in the matter of days. Have infection, will travel.

The two points implied here are that: (1) sustainability and the response to the 5GW war are linked, (a theme of several posts I have made here at enigma foundry, as well as several comments I have made over at Global Guerillas) and (2) bio-weapons are the pre-eminent threat and weapon of choice for those who want to cause modern western states to fail.

Now the very important (in fact crucial) item we see here is the contention of the extremely small scale structure (the global guerilla) with with the large scale structure (the world’s last remaining super-power). Any time there is contention between items of very different scales, it is a sure sign that the equilibrium of the system is being disturbed. (This will be explored in future post I will write about Persistent Networks)

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The Ghost Map & 5GW: The answer is blowing in the wind

Rita, educating us all

Well, we can learn much from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, and, as noted several times here, there exists a whole set of connexions between Sustainability and War processes, especially in the way that they will both drive Urbanism/Urban Form in the next century or so. (When I say War here, I am referring to 5GW, as described and discussed over at John Robb’s excellent website Global Guerrillas.)

So, looking at the New Orleans Principles, a set set of ten guidelines for Sustainable development formulated in response to the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, I am not at all surprised to find:

8 • Provide for passive survivability
Homes, schools, public buildings, and neighborhoods should be designed and built or rebuilt to serve as livable refuges in the event of crisis or breakdown of energy, water, and sewer systems.

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Rita, educating us all

Journey to the End of the Night (Hugh Ferriss edition)

News Building
Hugh Ferriss‘ renderings, at their best, are some of the most evocative examples of American art of the previous century. His renderings were at once broadly and lastingly influential (just look at the set design of Batman or Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow for proof of this) However, for all their timelessness, they also captured the unique aesthetic spirit of an age. For all the influence he had, one would think everyone would know who Hugh Ferriss was.

The setting of his best renderings is night, but not just any night. It is a night where his buildings radiate light and life, and that’s because something is happening in them. Sometimes, the night is glamorous and his buildings are beacons of light. Other times, the night has become menacing and heavier, but the buildings still radiate light, and are shelters from that night. This often results in a very layered space, similar to Piranesi, in which bright objects in the distance are pushing dark objects in the foreground out towards the viewer.

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Journey to the End of the Night (Hugh Ferriss edition)