Posts Tagged “Architecture”

07w49:4 22nd Century Architecture

by timothy. 3 Comments

Bridged City
Figure 1. A 22nd Century Bridged City

The above is from an episode of the Star Trek series Enterprise. It came to my attention the other day through a montage depicting history in another episode of the series. As fans of the show know, one of the running plots involved time travel, and the depiction of human history ‘resetting itself’ (after plot related meddling) was done through the use of images from various sources grouped together into thematically recognizable decades. So the 1980s were depicted by images of Ronald Regan, Margaret Thatcher, and Ruhollah Khomeini, the 1990s by images of the Clintons, George H Bush shaking the hand of Mikhail Gorbachev, etc. After the depictions of the first half the present decade (scenes of 9/11, Bush & Blair) it moves on into speculation. (The images from the stream are available here). The future was represented by a car and a robot and from then onto scenes of the show’s 22nd Century, marked by the opening shot of the series, the launch of the Enterprise spaceship, in the year 2151 (Figure 2).

Captain Archer in the Timestream
Figure 2. Cpt Archer in the Timestream

The 22nd Century is therefore marked by two cityscapes, one being that of Figure 1 the other being the following. These are meant to be Earth cities given the context of the time stream, but both shots are re-used production art from previous episodes. As I’ve mentioned, the cityscape below is from a Season 1 show (‘Dear Doctor’), while the bridge above is from an episode of Star Trek Voyager‘s last season (‘Workforce Part 1’).

Toronto 2110 AD
Figure 3. Toronto, 2110 AD

With regard to Figure 3, because it is otherwise unlabeled and supposed to depict an Earth city in the 22nd Century, I thought it might as well be Toronto. We can imagine this stretch of waterfront as being a bit to the East, or a bit to the West, of the CN Tower thus accounting for its absence (or, I could just invite anyone to Photoshop it in). We can imagine the bridges are subway extensions to the island, and we see that a similar subway/covered LRT path runs right along the water.

This being an image originally from s-f, it reflects the current architectural trends of the beginning of the 21st Century, the postmodernist appreciation of angles, glass and concrete.

But I present this image to you thus as a reflection of what kind of city we’ll get if this century is to be one of starchitects. This is what another hundred years of Frank Gehry and Daniel Leibskinds will result in.

Does this city look like a place you’d want to live? We can spy green-space but it seems very sparse. And don’t give me the old, ‘who cares I’ll be dead’ routine, so common from the likes of the Baby Boomers. It’s precisely that type of attitude which has gotten us our present shit world, and I don’t want to encourage more of that. Given the extension of our lifespans over the past century, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that this could be the city of your elder years, so take the question seriously: is this where you want to hobble and feed pigeons? Further, are you so selfish as to be that uncaring about the type of environment our proverbial great-and-beyond-grandchildren will live in?

Caprica City, Caprica
Figure 4. Caprica City, from the Battlestar Galactica Miniseries (2003)

A much more dramatic depiction of the type of city we could end up with it that from Battlestar Galactica. Filmed in Vancouver, perhaps one could label this ‘Vancouver 2210 AD’ since it seems a bit more harsh than the aesthetic presented above, as if one needed another century to get both the flying cars and the brutal deadness of the civic space:

Caprica City, Detail
Figure 5. Caprica City Detail

The real nightmare of urban development is this uniform cityscape of similar buildings, all equally unadorned, apparently utilitarian, with a neglected use of green space.

As spaces designed on computers to provide semiotic scenes meant to convey an advanced technological civilization, these reflect in turn the imagined futures of our own civilization. This is what we could end up with. But, in all likelihood, my guess is that the 22nd Century will not look like any of these images.

When Martin Rees published his book Our Final Hour in 2003, he famously gave our ‘civilization as we know it only a 50-50 chance of surviving the 21st century.’ (source) Now there’s some ambiguity there: others predict the potential extinction of humanity, which would certainly ruin our civilization, but it could also anticipate a sort of apocalyptic collapse into another form of Mad Max Dark Ages. But I have to point out the civilization known to the British in 1903 – and globally, that of every other nation and ethnic group on the planet (with the exception of those still living isolated tribal lifestyles) did not survive the 20th Century. The British Empire fell, the reliance on coal was replaced with that of processed crude oil, and the colonial projects of the era came to ignominious ends – the consequences of which we are still processing. Given how squanderous of natural resources our present civilization-as-we-know-it is, there’s no reason to want it to survive the 21st Century.King Charles III

Which brings me to Prince Charles, who by the times spoken of here will be thought of as King Charles III. In the early 1980s, Charles was mocked by the media for his interest in organic farming, and he’s currently thought of as daft for his architectural interests, including his sponsorship of the community of Poundbury. Poundbury is the result of Charles’ interest in the work of Leon Krier and Christopher Alexander. As the Poundbury website records:

Poundbury is a mixed urban development of Town Houses, Cottages, Shops & Light Industry, designed for the Prince of Wales by Architect Leon Krier on the outskirts of the Dorset County Town of Dorchester. Prince Charles, The Duke of Cornwall, decided it was time to show how Traditional Architecture and Modern Town Planning could be used in making a thriving new community that people could live & work in close proximity. Poundbury has now become World Famous as a model of urban planning, with regular visits from Councillors and MPs. Welcome to the Poundbury Community Website!

Given how Charles has already displayed some prescience when it came to organic agriculture, anticipating both its sense and its popularity, my expectation is that he’s once again onto something with his interest in such small-scale, community oriented architecture. The end result will be cityscapes of the 22nd Century which will not reflect the imagined exaggerations of the present shown to us through easy digital mock-ups.

I return now to the city of the bridge. When I saw this in the Timestream montage, the lines of it brought to mind the position just stated: that by the 22nd Century, technological advance combined with a rejection of explicit postmodernist, angular, and Leibskind-like egotism will brings us a meld of the traditional and the technological. The bridged city seemed a place inspired by Lord of the Rings, a technological version of Rivendell.

Figure 6. Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Figure 7. Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Rivendell, a bridge
Figure 8. A bridge in Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Figure 9. Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Given a choice between Caprica, or the Toronto of 2110 suggested here, I’d take a Rivendell of any season, of any weather condition. Of course, I expect to be able to continue to use a high speed internet connection, use a cell-phone, browse in an Apple Store, and be able to have sushi. The point here is we can take much more control over our built environment, and expect more from our architects than glass and concrete. Letting current architectural fashion guide the next several generations will only result in a Caprica like monstrosity.- Timothy


The Architectural Contributions of Prince Charles | Nikos Salingaros

Some Notes on Christopher Alexander | Nikos Salingaros

Restructuring 21st Century Architecture Through Human Intelligence | Nikos Salingaros and Kenneth Masden
Abstract: This paper introduces a compelling new way of thinking about, teaching, and practicing architecture. Founded on the basis of how the human mind
perceives and interacts with the built environment, we call this new design process “intelligent architecture”. Perhaps surprisingly, scientifically-conceived rules for architectural design and building can lead to a more human architecture, one with a renewed respect for traditional methods of architectural design. This new process can also be extended by implementing new technologies. By applying the most recent scientific advances to architectural thinking, we can better appreciate the architectural heritage of the past, giving scientific insight into its origins and manner of conception. This development also reverses an unfortunate misunderstanding that required the future to erase the past rather than to learn from it. […] How can anyone believe that a “Dutch Design Demigod” could know more about a place than the very people who were born and raised there? How can these starchitects espouse to know what is best for the rest of the world? More importantly, how do we combat the aesthetic authority that such individuals now exert over our place in the world?”

Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order | Nikos Salingaros

Jim Kalb’s review of Christopher Alexander’s Nature of Order
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Pattern Language | Christopher Alexander

The Nature of Order | Christopher Alexander
“‘. . . Five hundred years is a long time, and I don’t expect many of the people I interview will be known in the year 2500. Christopher Alexander may be an exception.’ David Creelman, author, Interviewer and Editor Knowledge Manager, HR magazine, Toronto”

// what gets me is that Christopher Alexander’s work does live up to that blurb by David Creelman, but his principles of design do not carry over to his shitty websites.

Christopher Alexander | Project for Public Spaces

Prince Charles honored with Scully Prize
//contains a brief account of Poundbury

Prince Charles On Being Relevant | CBS’60 Minutes
LINK (60 Minutes)
//If you can handle the clutter of advert garbage on this page, your welcome to it. It was from this 60 Minutes story that I learned about Poundbury.

The Future of Cities: The Absurdity of Modernism | Nikos Salingaraos interviews Leon Krier
NS: Has humanity, as you claim in your writings and talks, made a fundamentally false step in building its cities, and if so, what can be done about it now?
LK: Humanity lives by trial and error, sometimes committing errors of monumental scale. Architectural and urbanist modernism belong — like communism — to a class of errors from which there is little or nothing to learn or gain. They are ideologies which literally blind even the most intelligent and sensitive people to unacceptable wastes, risks, and dangers. Modernism’s fundamental error, however, is to propose itself as a universal (i.e. unavoidable and necessary) phenomenon, legitimately replacing and excluding traditional solutions. Thank God there are, through the applications of New Urbanism in the last 20 years, enough positive experiences worldwide to see a massive return to common-sense solutions.”

Reforming the Suburbs | Conference Page, March 2007
// I wish the images here were better, but this link is pretty much just an FYI

Image sources and references:

The Time Stream Images | Star Trek Enterprise

Star Trek Voyager Workforce Part I Screencaps

Star Trek Enterprise Dear Doctor Screencaps
(Cityscape here)

Lord of the Rings Screencaps

07w40:1 No Shit Sherlock

by timothy. 0 Comments

Leaks, woes a smudge on Crystal’s sparkle | Val Ross
As winter approaches, fingers are crossed that there will be no more puddles, and that the Crystal’s cladding, designed to prevent it from turning into an avalanche-maker, will function as well in cold reality as it does in theory. But it’s clear, four months into the Crystal’s life, the new spaces pose huge challenges, and leaks are the least of them. An unveiling concert in June shows the Crystal in Toronto. Its new spaces pose huge challenges, and leaks are the least of them. Far more daunting are the problems of mounting exhibits in the strange new spaces, ensuring public safety and budgeting for the new reality. There are rumours that the Crystal’s oddly shaped, difficult-to-access windows have increased window-cleaning costs by $200,000, a figure ROM’s executive director of capital development and facilities, Al Shaikoli, disputes. “But it is considerable,” he admitted. “In the old days, our window-cleaning budget was next to nothing.”

05w51:1 Everything, or Throwing the Backlog on the Winter's Fire, or Xmastravaganza

by timothy. 0 Comments

Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 51 number 1 (everything, or throwing the backlog on the winter’s fire, or the xmastravaganza)


But first the news….

“Welcome to Ohio! Ihre Papiere, bitte!” | Metafilter
“Governor Taft of Ohio is about to sign Senate Bill 9, the Ohio Patriot Act. Among its provisions: * Police can deny entry to “transportation infrastructure” to anyone not showing an ID; * Police can demand the name, address, and date of birth of anyone suspected of having committed a crime or being about to commit a crime, or having witnessed a crime or a plan to commit a crime. Failure to provide this information is an arrestable offense — so basically all demonstrators could be required to give their names, addresses and dates of birth or face arrest; * Reminiscent of Joe McCarthy’s famous question, many state licenses will begin with the question “Are you a member of an organization on the U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List?”. Failure to answer means no license; answering affirmatively is self-incrimination. * Perhaps worst of all, the original version of the bill simply prohibited state or local governemnts or government employees from objecting to the USA PATRIOT act. The current version allows criticism, but threatens local government with the loss of funds if they in any way “materially hinder” Federal anti-terrorism efforts. “Welcome to Ohio! Ihre Papiere, bitte!” is from Metafilter, and included this comment: “The men who founded this nation were brave and forward thinking, the United States formed as the most modern and enlightened government in history. And now, through the spoiled tricksters in power, it is being dismantled while the citizens are at home watching another sitcom, laughing, laughing, laughing. […] Oh, and f*ck Jesus and every moron who voted for Republicans because they promised to stop homosexuals from getting married.” Yeah, f*ck ’em.

But it is Jesus’ birthday and all, supposedly. But maybe Jesus was a bastard. Maybe he was born in the summer. Ah well, at least it’s time off work, and we get to eat well.

Where is Santa Claus? | Timothy Comeau
from 1990 when I was in Grade 10

Sata Claus | Timothy Comeau
Santa loves logs

Santa is Satan right?
at first I thought this was satire than checked out the rest of the site and saw that it’s a looney Christian one and so the video I guess is supposed to be serious.Thanks to Rany (whoever you are) for the link.

Merry Religious Assimiliation Day | OmniNerd
“The first recorded Christmas on December 25th took place in the 4th century, a date coinciding with the birthdate of Mithras, the Persian sun god. Pope Julius I is rumored to have adjusted Jesus’ birthday to match Mithras’ because the church was unable to stop the pagan celebrations and thereby could associate their festivities in Jesus’ name. Other traditions owe their roots to non-Christian origin. Evergreen trees were revered by Druids for good luck and fertility because they withstood the hardships of winter. The tree became a religious symbol of everlasting life and was decorated to symbolize the sun’s power.”

The Earthly Father: What if Mary wasn’t a virgin? | Chloe Breyer
“Should Schaberg and other scholars who question the virgin birth be hurled into the outer darkness? The problem with dismissing them, as the fourth-century church authorities dismissed their forerunners, begins with Scripture. The biblical sources for the virgin conception are a few short passages in two of the four Gospels. In Matthew, an angel appears to Joseph, who is perplexed about his fiancee’s pregnancy. Should he divorce Mary or have her stoned her to death, as the law of Deuteronomy requires? “Joseph, Son of David,” says the angel, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus.” The angel then goes on to quote the Hebrew prophet Isaiah. “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.” (In fact, “virgin” comes from Matthew’s use of a Greek mistranslation; the Hebrew in Isaiah reads “young girl.”) The version in Luke is similar.”

Mary’s Not a Virgin | The Current speaks to Jane Schaberg
Mary’s wasn’t a virgin, she was just unfaithful I guess

Eluding Happiness: A Buddhist problem with Christmas. | Jess Row

Oh, but now Buddhism’s in the picture. Which is interesting because….

Scientists to check Nepal Buddha boy | Navin Singh Khadka

Introduction to Meditation | Gil Fronsdal

…which reminds me of the Buddhist joke I once heard which I never really understood. I guess that means I’m stupid. But whatever. It went: ‘what did the Buddhist say to the hot-dog vendor? — I’ll have one with everything.’

so, on to everything….

Blink and The Wisdom of Crowds | James Surowiecki & Malcolm Gladwell

Preacher of the profane | Daniel Binswanger

Ad glut turns off viewers | Gary Levin

Are you there God? It’s me Margaret | Mathew Fox interviews Margaret Atwood

Move Toward Plain Language in Canadian Court Decisions | Michel-Adrien Sheppard

The Plain Language Association INternational Vincent Van Gogh, the drawings | Franklin Einspruch

Art in Newfoundland | Craig Francis Power
nobody writes me letters anymore. boohoohoo

this was awesome:

Optics in Renaissance Art | Charles M. Falco
(link to realmedia presentation, or go here: Lectures at Princeton page)

and this was really good…:

Urban Planning | The Current speaks to Fred Kent

Fred Kent complained about Frank Gehry’s work and that of similar architects, which in Toronto, means he’s talking about our reno-projects…. he refered to it as ‘starkichecture’ and spoke of design being a disease. Monuments to ego (*cough* Liebskind) maybe, but as public spaces, they leave much to be desired. Personally I can see an historical connection to architecture and fascism, but who cares what I think.

Some pigs are more equal than others | Timothy Comeau

Not Special | Timothy Comeau

Let’s have a culture of six pack minds baby. Because then the world might be a better place. In the meantime there’s Muhammad Yunus.

Muhammad Yunus is one of the most inspiring individuals I’ve ever come across in the media-scape. A highly recommended video presentation….

Ending Global Poverty | Muhammad Yunus
“ABOUT THE LECTURE: Imagine a bank that loans money based on a borrower’s desperate circumstances — where, as Muhammad Yunus says, ‘the less you have, the higher priority you have.’ Turning banking convention on its head has accomplished a world of good for millions of impoverished Bangladeshis, as the pioneering economist Yunus has demonstrated in the last three decades. What began as a modest academic experiment has become a personal crusade to end poverty. Yunus reminds us that for two-thirds of the world’s population, ‘financial institutions do not exist.’ Yet, ‘we’ve created a world which goes around with money. If you don’t have the first dollar, you can’t catch the next dollar.’ It was Yunus’ notion, in the face of harsh skepticism, to give the poorest of the poor their first dollar so they could become self-supporting. ‘We’re not talking about people who don’t know what to do with their lives….They’re as good, enterprising, as smart as anybody else.’ His Grameen Bank spread from village to village as a lender of tiny amounts of money (microcredit), primarily to women. Yunus heard that “all women can do is raise chickens, or cows or make baskets. I said, ‘Don’t underestimate the talent of human beings.'” No collateral is required, nor paperwork—just an effort to make good and pay back the loan. Now the bank boasts 5 million borrowers, receiving half a billion dollars a year. It has branched out into student loans, health care coverage, and into other countries. Grameen has even created a mobile phone company to bring cell phones to Bangladeshi villages. Yunus envisions microcredit building a society where even poor people can open ‘the gift they have inside of them.'”

I’ve linked to things relating to Bonnie Basseler’s work before. Here is a video presentation from Printceton. I’ve linked to the real audio version, but there are others available from the source website here: Lectures at Princeton page

How Bacteria Talk to One Another | Bonnie Basseler speaking at Princeton (video)

Merry Christmas everybody.

-Mr. Timothy

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emailed by Timothy on Saturday 24 December 2005 @ 5:24 PM

04w17:1 Architorture

by timothy. 0 Comments

Good Reads Mailing List | 2004 week 17 number 1 (architorture)

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” | John Massengale
“At the same time, the university announced a gift of an increasingly ubiquitous Gehry-designed building on the edge of the campus. Much of the money for Whitman College was donated by Meg Whitman, the young Chairman of eBay (a BoBo). While the Gehry building was donated by the octogenarian Princeton alumnus Peter Lewis, Gehry’s biggest patron. For ideological reasons, Whitman is more likely to appreciate Gehry’s design than Lewis is to like the new Gothic building. Gehry himself ungraciously and publicly criticized Whitman College, as did Robert Venturi, who has designed several important buildings at Princeton. I say ‘ungraciously’ not only because they are biting the hand that feeds them: why does Gehry feel that it is his role to lecture the students and tell them they must like what he likes? He went so far as saying that an institution of higher learning should not build a traditional building today. (How tolerant and pluralistic is that?)”

Eyesore of the Month (Nov 2003) | James Howard Kunstler
“Behold the new $30 million Ontario College of Art & Design classroom and studio building by British architect Will Alsop — a totemized retro-futuroid coffee table joined umbilically to its Soviet-style predecessor below. The message, apparently: art and design are nothing but fun fun fun. Nothing to get serious about. A playful spirit of induced hazard will keep students wondering when the checkered box might wobble free of its cute swizzle-stick legs and come crashing down on their heads. This exercise in hyper-entropic avant garde faggotry is so cutting edge that it is already out of date. The only question: which of the two conjoined buildings is more cruelly ridiculous?”

The Terrazzo Jungle | Malcolm Gladwell
“Fifty years ago, Victor Gruen designed a fully enclosed, introverted, multitiered, double-anchor-tenant shopping complex with a garden court under a skylight – and today virtually every regional shopping center in America is a fully enclosed, introverted, multitiered, double-anchor-tenant complex with a garden court under a skylight. Victor Gruen didn’t design a building; he designed an archetype. For a decade, he gave speeches about it and wrote books and met with one developer after another and waved his hands in the air excitedly, and over the past half century that archetype has been reproduced so faithfully on so many thousands of occasions that today virtually every suburban American goes shopping or wanders around or hangs out in a Southdale facsimile at least once or twice a month. Victor Gruen may well have been the most influential architect of the twentieth century. He invented the mall. ”

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emailed by Timothy on Monday 19 April 2004 @ 10:47 PM