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Archive for the ‘architecture’ Category

the old neighborhood

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7) The drawings themselves. Any chance you want to take a harder look at your plans? When unveiling the latest, you explained the appearance of the spearhead tower, which you’ve named “Miss Brooklyn” (spurring the inevitable quip, We’ll miss it, all right). You explained: “When we were studying Brooklyn, we happened upon a wedding, a real Brooklyn wedding. And we decided that ‘Miss Brooklyn’ was a bride. She’s a bride with her flowing bridal veil—I really overdid it. If you had seen the bride, you would—I fell in love with her.” Pardon me, but bleeechh. I don’t know whether many great buildings have been founded on notions at once so metaphorically impoverished and so slickly patronizing. But somehow I doubt that any have.

Bleeechh indeed. Every time I’ve seen Gehry open his mouth about Brooklyn, this sort of shit comes out. Tony and Tina. Moonstruck. Cheezecake. Fuhgeddaboudit. What is it about Bklyn that makes him so soft in the head?

Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can even categorize this one as “multinational capitalist chic.”

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Written by adswithoutproducts

June 21, 2006 at 9:23 am

Posted in architecture

à une passante

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What began as a shocking development, as unsettling as it was enlivening –

La rue assourdissante autour de moi hurlait.

Longue, mince, en grand deuil, douleur majestueuse,

Une femme passa, d’une main fastueuse

Soulevant, balançant le feston et l’ourlet;

Agile et noble, avec sa jambe de statue.

Moi, je buvais, crispé comme un extravagant,

Dans son oeil, ciel livide où germe l’ouragan,

La douceur qui fascine et le plaisir qui tue.

Un éclair… puis la nuit! — Fugitive beauté

Dont le regard m’a fait soudainement renaître,

Ne te verrai-je plus que dans l’éternité?

Ailleurs, bien loin d’ici! trop tard! jamais peut-être!

Car j’ignore où tu fuis, tu ne sais où je vais,

Ô toi que j’eusse aimée, ô toi qui le savais! (translations)

– becomes the fix that we missed, what we’ll move mountains and monuments to have again. We’ll pay handsomely for it, this love at last sight. We will, we say, plan contingency into our plans.

Diventity: Identity, Density and Diversity

I propose one simple caveat urban design should strive to implement:

“Good urban space optimises Diventity” *.

Diventity is a concept that links diversity, density, and identity, and I define it as such:

Diventity allows identity to recursively emerge from the density of diversity, when that density reaches a critical mass.

A city is much more than its stones, a city is memories and relationships and friendships and fears and ambitions; it is stories and histories interacting in the society-space-time continuum.

We form these subjectivities only if the city provides us the right opportunities, because a city is first and foremost our memory-forming medium. We remember our first kiss through who we kissed and when and where we were when we kissed.


A place with enough differentiated identities (spatial, social, etc), distributed in the right proximity (or density) to allow them to interact without obliterating one another, might create enough such moments to allow for identity-shaping memories to emerge. We can say that such a place has Diventity.

It is worth remembering that Les fleurs du mal was published during the early years of Haussmann’s transformation of Paris. An anti-“diventity” plan if there ever was one…

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Written by adswithoutproducts

June 15, 2006 at 12:04 am

eerie modernity

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Eerie paragraph in a nifty piece by Geoff Dyer in today’s FT. He’s talking about the model of Shanghai 2020 at the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall (which I was lucky enough to visit when I was there 2 years ago. The picture above is mine…) :

Government is a top-down process in China, which the city models also reflect. It is part of the folklore of the Shanghai museum that when it opened in 2000, many local visitors discovered for the first time that their neighbourhood was to be razed to make way for some new high-rise.

In a similar vein

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Written by adswithoutproducts

June 14, 2006 at 11:21 pm

Posted in architecture, china


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Owen Hatherley, at The Measures Taken (one of the best blogs going, btw), on just what’s so disturbing about the Victoria & Albert Museum’s new exhibition, Modernism: Designing a New World 1914-1939.

Rather, what disturbs here is what Jenkins, quite rightly, calls politics in the guise of art. One scribbled comment in the book asks why the connection between modernism and Nazism wasn’t emphasised (well, that would be because there wasn’t one), others use phrases like ‘cold’ or ‘brutal’…what the detractors have noticed is that much of this essentially comes from, or supports, the possibility of a system other than the one we are perpetually told is the only possible. Whether it’s the photos of militant stronghold siedlung Karl-Marx-Hof in Vienna, a huge model of the Vesnin’s Pravda building, Rodchenko’s oddly alluring workers’ overalls, Corbusier taking a pen and scribbling out the centre of Paris…there are hundreds of possibilities dotted around these Victorian corners.

UPDATE: And today there’s more, complete with a very provocative quotation from Stalin:

“The combination of the Russian revolutionary sweep with American efficency is the essence of Leninism in Party and state work.”

Joseph Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, 1924

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Written by adswithoutproducts

May 17, 2006 at 9:04 pm

not architecture

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From an interview (not as yet online) with Oscar Niemeyer in this month’s Metropolis:

You built you personal driver’s house in a favela here in Rio. Is it a good example of architecture helping those who are excluded?

Yes, but we are talking here about my driver – my dear friend for more than half a century. He is a Brazilian man, a poor man, one who was born poor and will die poor. Of course his life is improved with his new house, but this is an exception. Housing is always the beginning of any change in someone’s life. One needs to have a worthy place to live, and the state should provide it to everybody. But I insist that the answer to this change is not architecture. It is revolution.

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Written by adswithoutproducts

May 12, 2006 at 11:38 pm

Posted in architecture, socialism