“reflects the technological transformation of the world’s markets”

In last weeks’ SundayBusiness section of the NYT, Nathaniel Popper explored the implications of the purchase by IntercontinentalExchange (headed by chief executive Jeffrey Sprecher) of the New York Stock Exchange.

I  couldn’t help but think of it as perfect example of contemporary network culture and the New Aesthetic of algorithmic machines. For instance we read:

Does it really matter who owns the New York Stock Exchange and its parent company, NYSE Euronext? For most people, stock exchanges are probably a bit like plumbing. Most of us don’t think much about them — until something goes wrong. But lately, some things have gone spectacularly wrong…One sign of trouble came in 2010, when an errant trade ricocheted through computer networks and touched off one of the most harrowing moments in stock market history. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 900 points in a matter of minutes, and a new phrase entered the lexicon: flash crash…Since then, flash crashes in individual stocks have been remarkably common, as the centuries-old system of central exchanges has given way to a field of competing electronic systems…ICE wasn’t involved in any of these problems. In fact, it has been praised as one of the first exchanges to put limits on lightning-quick, high-frequency trading“.

Below a comparison of the two entities, architectural or physical manifestion/presence.

Credit: Rich Addicks for The New York Times

IntercontinentalExchange is based on a few floors of a suburban Atlanta office building, a sharp contrast to the colonnaded temple of the N.Y.S.E Credit: Rich Addicks for The New York Times

The contrast with the New York Stock Exchange is striking. Behind its neoclassical face, the Big Board is a sprawling labyrinth of historic oil paintings, gilded leather chairs, stained wood and elegant dining rooms — all set amid crowds of gawking tourists…ICE, meanwhile, occupies a few floors of an anodyne black-glass cube surrounded by trees and parking lots. The employees share their cafeteria with the building’s other tenants. The walls are lined with dry-erase boards“.

The New York Stock Exchange, photographed on January 12, 2002.Photographed by Luigi Novi

The New York Stock Exchange, photographed on January 12, 2002.
Photographed by Luigi Novi

An interesting side-note is the fact that Jeffrey Sprecher was featured in a recent (Jan 12th 2013) edition of the Download column in the SundayReview NYT section, wherein he updated  readers as to what he was: Reading, Listening, Watching, Following and Purchasing. At that time he was still awaiting regulatory approval to acquire the New York Stock Exchange.

A quote: “I have an affinity toward street artists who are provocateurs and can capture the essence of a controversial topic in a single image“.

Additionally, he notes for Download, that re: the three websites he regularly reads (about watches on watchprosite.com; Porsches on rennlist.org; wines on cellartracker.com), “All three sites delve into the complicated nuances of seemingly simple objects and appeal to the side of me that is an engineer“.

a new social geography of the global maritime system

Mega-Ports by Olivier Mongin on the new geography of containerization for Eurozine.

Mongin writes of a “multi-speed urbanism”, a “hyper” and “hypo” urbanism, and “exo-urbanism” shaped by connections to globalized flows, nodes, and a littoral quality.  The business slogan of “JIT flow, zero storage” takes advantage of the multimodal character of the container. Specialized ship architectures take on logistical parameters with terms such as Malaccamax or post-Panamax.

Excerpted from a forthcoming book Une mondialisation urbaine à plusieurs vitesses [“Cities under pressure: Urban globalization at several speeds”].

via @subtopes

Bankruptcy in Jefferson County

In Jefferson County, Alabama’s most populous, which includes Birmingham, officials say they had to stop paying even their general obligations because they were draining the cash they needed for essential services.

“Jefferson County made a very different decision than Rhode Island did,” Mr. Klee said. “Rhode Island put bondholders ahead of its citizens, and Jefferson County is not going to do that.

He called the notion that a full faith and credit pledge was inviolate, and that a debtor must honor it even in bankruptcy, “a myth and a scare tactic.”

Via the NYT (here)

Good for them I say. Seems as if Jefferson County administrators/staff have their priorities weighted correctly. However, it does make one wonder what would happen if other municipalities or government bond issuers, took this approach? Might have some very serious long term consequences both in terms of restricting local government(s) in future efforts to raise money by issuing bonds and also in terms of bond markets and the stability of the larger financial system as a whole.

Euro debt crisis and spatial memory as baseball nostalgia.

Data Points: Bill Marsh for NYT

Arrows show the imbalances of debt exposure in Europe during this current and ongoing Euro monetary and PIIGS crisis in a great infographic from the NYT. Image found in this article It’s All Connected: An Overview of the Euro Crisis.

Steven Heller for the NYT reviews Nader Vossoughian’s Otto Neurath: The Language of the Global Polis “, wherein Vossoughian, argues Neurath believed that “the dissemination of images or pictures could foster Bildung, that is, education and self-actualization” and Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman’s, Symbolwhich contains over 1,300 logos classified by visual type” divided into two section Abstract and Representational.

In No True Sense of History Without a Sense of Place, Jane Leavy explores baseball’s heavily nostalgic and rich sense of history and place, particularly with regards to the architecture/layout of baseballs stadium/fields (for instance see here and here). After noting how many historic diamonds have been lost over time, she proposes “Why not create a national baseball landmark society to protect the places that still exist and mark those that once mattered?“. The piece raises interesting questions about the role space plays in memorialization. As Leavy explains, as fields are moved or closed physicists, are even dragged into to assist with the detective work need to correctly identify and landmark (if only with a plaque), sites of various record holding significance…

All of these articles are from a Sunday NYT edition, which is now almost two weeks old, but I have been busy and they are interesting anyways…

Thinking about “Innovation Square”

Is economic development an example of a more generative urbanism if compared to traditional, design project? Does it take a more projective position? It certainly seems more formulaic, calculated and free-market (biologically/virally?) oriented?  These are the sorts of thoughts that were circulating in my head after I attended the recent public unveiling or “show and tell” of the University of Florida’s planned Innovation Square project.

The event was covered in the local press by Nathan Crabbe (here), (here) and (here). An official press release can be found (here).  Overall the local reception has I think been positive if only because everyone wants to see Gainesville’s economic base diversify and grow and the “potential impact” of this project in the ongoing revitalization of eastern Gainesville could be huge. I took some notes at the event and have compiled them and additional thoughts about the redevelopment plans below.

Both the planner and University of Florida executive staff talked the talk. Meaning the event flyers and presentations were liberally sprinkled with words like livability, walkability, adaptability and sustainability. The goal is a “24/7 live/work/play urban research community” to attract the best and brightest researchers from around the world.

Lots of those kind of buzzwords. Reference was also made repeatedly to marketing and the need to brand the project. We were told that the process of growing the brand will be key to the success of the project and the already existing University of Florida and Gainesville brand will make it easier to create “a platform for global expansion and sustainable job growth“. Amenities like the adjacent historic district, downtown and university/health care campus’s will allow the district and Gainesville to compete, state-wide, nationally and even globally, drawing the best and brightest.

While not the ugliest thing going up in Gainesville right now this building still screams more suburban, corporate office park, than North Florida, Gainesville.  I certainly wouldn’t call the proposed building “stunning“. Adding a bricked panelized, facade as UF and Shands have been doing on so many of their projects lately isn’t what I am asking for either. As for it being (one of) the tallest buildings in Gainesville, I would take the Seagle Building over this any day. The proposal talks about “creating a place not space” but doesn’t that necessarily mean something contextual, reflexive and “authentic”.

That being said I did find some of what they were discussing quite interesting. Particularly, some of the language they used to describe their efforts at business “incubation“. Each building/lot is in their parlance an incubator, a self-contained development of sorts. These can be replicated as needed, based on economic factors. They talked a lot about the pre-programming: infrastructural upgrades, re-zoning, support structures and foundations. The University’s Economic Development Corporation (spinoff) owns and they (in collaboration with GRU (which wants new customers, energy hungry customers I suppose) will upgrade and then lease the site.

After defining a master-plan/site the individual “incubators” can be plugged in as other stakeholders (private real estate developers) come forward. They will offer Class A, fit-to-size, office space. The perfect, public/private partnership. It is also an explicitly generative and biological, urbanism. The terminology in the following quotes (from the project’s website) illustrate the point: (emphasis added)

With 45,000 square feet of incubator space encompassing laboratories, collaboration rooms and other support areas, this expansive downtown-to-university, multi-use complex is certain to serve as a breeding ground for breakthrough ideas and products for tech-based companies.

and

Innovation Square offers developers a rare opportunity to literally get in on the ground floor and grow along as a key component in a truly unique endeavor.

The plan also calls for: expanding streets to green-ways along a number of major corridors as well as a connection/expansion from the project site to the nearby Tumblin Creek Park. My concern with these parts of the plan, which I brought up during the Q+A session, is that if the project vision is on a 10-30 year span at what point in the phasing are those important public realms benefits implemented?

Will they be paid for as developers build the site out? I emphasized the need to phase those parts of the project earlier. Particularly, since now that Alachua General Hospital (the former site occupant) has been torn down, there is an approx. 30-40 acre hole in the urban fabric between the University and Downtown. One that the currently funded and almost completed first building will not fill. I urged them to at least get the construction fence down sooner than later. The answer was “as soon as the grass (which they have seeded for dust control) has “taken”.

Additionally, it is suggested that the project because of it’s location between campus and downtown could knit these two districts together, However, if these major corridor and green-way upgrades are not done upfront the whole argument falls apart. Without good connectivity even to surrounding neighborhoods the project risks becoming an all-inclusive, mixed use office park. Live, work and play, so that one never has to explore the city at large.

The Innovation Square project is really just part of a larger effort to build real momentum behind the theme of economic development in Gainesville as outlined by the Innovation Gainesville project. Innovation Gainesville is a united drive by various business, government and educational leaders to make sure Gainesville harnesses the force of the creative class as a tool of urban revitalization. Now as a alumni of the University of Florida and a longtime resident of the city I am glad to have a job and all the benefits of consumptive regeneration. However, I can’t help but be aware of the larger economic, social and political questions that such a direction engenders. I would always much rather see something like the Citizens Co-Op (and affiliated urban garden) or a bike trail than I would a Starbucks (Editor’s note: this is being written at a Starbucks) or another TIFed condo/student housing tower….

Regarding: gentrification, see my Pecha Kucha presentation from last year where I highlighted my more general concerns about this sort of creative class, securitized, cleaned up (of homeless and post-industrial/manufacturing) form of urban development.

Finally, as a coda of sorts any number of passages from a recent discussion on Archinect, “Gin Fizz Urbanism” may be instructive. Other applicable terms could include Alka-Seltzer Urbanism?, or concepts such as David Harvey’s The Right to the City.