There can be no success in “right to the city” struggles that is not, simultaneously, a success in democratically decarbonizing urban life. Once we realize that several core stakes of right-to-the-city struggles—especially housing, transit, and land use—are the also the core stakes of low-carbon urbanism, we see that it is no longer possible (or desirable) to deeply distinguish social from environmental politics
Two published this month;
Daegan Miller, On the liberation cartography of Henry David Thoreau, which concludes
It is tempting to read Thoreau’s river survey as a satirical anti-map, a snide rejection of disciplinary pretension that leaves its viewer wallowing in relativism. How could anyone measure anything with a tripolar scale whose differing notions of what an inch is babble over each other? But irony is only one of the tropes that Thoreau drew on. He was always more interested in improvement than deconstruction, and his countermodern map is affirming in its self-aware subjectivity, its desire to picture Concord as situated in a landscape teeming with life and human usage. This was a political choice. If Baldwin’s and Perham’s Concord River is anonymous and untouched and dead, an ahistorical space that denies change, a river that can be manipulated and controlled; then all those notes pinpointing where the plants grew, all those piles of figures and ghosts of surveys past, make of Thoreau’s a deep map — a view of an impressively interconnected world where nature, commerce, culture, history, and imagination all grow together — something nonfungible and specific: a full, a wild land living at once beyond and beneath the confined landscape of the town’s grasping improvers, both agricultural and industrial, who, despite their superficial differences, ultimately agreed that the best use of a river is to turn a profit.
Lizzie Yarina on Negotiating rhetorics and imaginaries of climate resilience, wherein she examines four large cities in Southeast Asia facing major climate risks: Jakarta, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, and Bangkok. As she explains
Across Southeast Asia, infrastructures (often at incredible scales) are promoted as the answer to climate and environmental risks. Importantly, these projects provide an image of resilience, even if the actual merits are uncertain. But when I spoke with technical experts on the ground in these four cities, they emphasized the gap between what is attractive and what is needed….But the deeper and more insidious problem is that the technocratic language of climate adaptation rationalizes mass evictions….Too often, global media and institutions measure the impact of disasters by their monetary cost, rather than by the number of lives lost or impaired. We must ask, then, whether climate change adaptation is framed through the same lens. Do resilience projects truly alleviate risks for those who are most vulnerable to floods, storms, and heat? Or do they protect investments and foster speculative development by global elites? When adaptation planning is sponsored by developers or international banks, these categories become blurry.
In October of last year, Brian Holmes dug into “a condition of relational awareness” aka “Anthropocene public space“. Concluding with this challenge
“For artists and activists seeking to transform the conclusions of climate science into the convictions of embodied experience, the golden spike is each local place and singular moment in time when a group of people is able to come to grips with their own implication in earth-system processes. Because abstract knowledge is always intertwined with embodied experience, such places and moments in time are never purely local or singular. To take form and consistency as a widely sharable practice of perception/expression, Anthropocene public space must seek the correlation of situated knowledges and experiences. ”
Then in November, Nicholas Korody penned Mere Decorating. As he explains
“While the work of the architect ends with construction, the inhabitant-cum-decorator must continuously maintain the home, adjusting it to suit new tastes. Decorating is the under-recognized labor that constitutes the interior as such through the placement and upkeep of objects and things, such as bibelots, carpets, and houseplants, within pre-existing built space.”
He goes on to review the history of 19th century pteridomania, and the contemporary Millennial interest in houseplants (aka phytomania or “fern-fever“).
Finally later that same month, Peggy Dreamer offered some criticism of “Typical American Institute of Architects (AIA) ‘design-bid-build’ contracts“, National AIA and “relational contract theory” as it might apply to ideas of class, labor and architectural praxis.
1. Start with needs
2. Do less
3. Design with data
4. Do the hard work to make it simple.
5. Iterate. Then iterate again.
6. Build for inclusion.
7. Understand context.
8. Build digital services, not websites.
9. Be consistent, not uniform.
10. Make things open: it makes things better.
Via Design Observer
From November 2017, Shannon Mattern on the material archives of climate science.
As she explains “In the geosciences, there’s a long tradition of regarding the Earth itself, the terrestrial field, as an archive. Talk about big data…Over the next century, this metaphor multiplied across layers of abstraction. First there was the Earth as archive; then fossil records and specimen collections, visual representations of those collections, textual catalogs, and, eventually, databases…In classifying and indexing samples of ice, rock, soil, and sediment, we acknowledge the Earth as a vast geo-informatic construct. It is both geology and data, ontology and epistemology.”
From December 2017, Amelia Taylor-Hochberg on Frank Pick, the London Tube and how as “chief administrator of the London Passenger Transport Board” he leveraged art and architecture to advance the “progressive ideal that public transport ought to be more than a means of getting around and that the ever expanding network was an unparalleled opportunity to enhance the lives of London’s citizens.”
Also from December 2017, John David Rose on The house in American cinema, from the plantation to Chavez Ravine. Therein he reflects on Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird
“When we see a house onscreen, the property relations implicit in the seemingly simple activity of moviegoing proliferate into confusion. And yet there is a kind of clarity in what is at stake here. In purchasing a movie ticket we pay for the right to occupy a space in order to gaze up at a space we can never occupy.
This is the story cinema has been mutely telling all along — a story about the house, the security and ease it promises, and the horrible anxieties produced when we try to force the house to deliver on those promises.”
From Jan 2018, Douglas Murphy on The Modern Urbanism of Cook’s Camden.
Just came across this old book review on Amazon.
From back in 2007. I think I posted a version of this to Archinect’s old Book Review section as well. Which vaporized with the Nect 3.0 launch.
This book is a natural extension of the direction Alan Berger took in his first book Reclaiming the American West. While in his first book he examined the “leftover” space, of human industrial development in the American West in his new book he examines the range of wasted spaces which are created by current urban development patterns. Although specifically about the American urban landscape, his work can be at least loosely applied anywhere where sprawl or horizontal urbanity has become the norm. A key aim of his book is to go beyond the partisan debate of pro-or anti sprawl activists. Instead, Berger sets out to initiate a conversation and to develop a vocabulary through which this phenomenon of “inevitable” horizontal development can be understood and critiqued. However, this is arguably one weakness of the book. Although he develops a wonderful analysis of the phenomenon, his acceptance of it’s inevitably, especially in the face of the efforts of many to change the game, can come off as defeatist. Yet, his focus on the liminal nature of the typologies he outlines does open up many fascinating areas of discussion. For inspiration he draws on everything from William Gibson’s Neuromancer to Lars Lerups’ concept of Stim & Dross. Ultimately, his approach is hopeful though. He concludes that because of the large scale nature of the problem, any solution must draw on abilities and knowledge of all the design disciplines from landscape architecture to urban planning. Berger suggests a paradigm shift, asking “designers to consider working in the margins rather than at the center.“