Cap and Trade’s New Champion May Wear Red #green #energy #election

Pollution-power-plant-388

When Jennifer Hicks, @SB_GreenBiz, editor ofSmartBrief on Sustainability, asked me to submit a brief comment on the election regarding environmental issues for their 17,000 subscribers, I said I would be honored.

Here’s my brief plus the background analysis.

Cap and trade’s new champion may wear red  : While environmentalists have few victories to tout in the election, one major hurdle was crossed. Instead of making every vote a party split, as happened on the 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act, cap and trade and other energy measures can be addressed as issues, not political scores. While Democratic votes are nearly assured, Republicans can now lead the way. The success of cap and trade in curbing acid rain, reducing regulations and allowing the free market to work opens the door. If also tied to job creation, climate change may finally have a champion, clothed in red.

Mdtermsbadges2940

What happened, really?

The election sent thirty House Democrats who passed cap and trade (ACES) home on Tuesday, so some claimed these environmental soldiers were doomed by their vote.

However, exit polls showed a different story. Voters overwhelmingly stated that their primary concern was the economy (52%). Energy concerned only 4%. (the deficit was second at 8%). All issues with the exception of the economy held absolutely no sway for the vast majority of the voters.

Plus half the Democrats that voted against ACES were also ousted. This was not a vote against – or for – the Cap and Trade Crew. So long as Dems pushed and GOP said “Hell No,” energy legislation was dead and completely discounted by American voters due to the oppression of economic misery.

This election was clearly about the economy and jobs. Period.

Ap_obama_boehner_2_101104_mn

Lost facts and a confused America

Tell me, has any Congress in history registered so many significant wins and conveyed them more poorly to Americans? Erroneous messages have gone viral. If people only hear conflicting narratives with no clear answers, no compelling vision, then they will be confused.

Clearly explaining complicated issues is essential to successful governance in the 21st century. Never in human history have there been better tools for creating or conveying messages. Washington needs drastic new ways to make difficult topics – like climate change and cap and trade – clear enough that we can agree or disagree with them.

Carbon_emissions_-_pew_2002

A route to victory

If President Clinton’s or President Reagan’s experiences of working with the opposite party are any indicator, we could begin an era of smart legislation and a renewed cycle of prosperity. After woeful beginnings, each of these presidents worked with the other party towards important legislation. And they got re-elected.

Since Reagan’s staff invented cap-and-trade to deal with acid rain from power plant emissions, there is a Republican basis to use this tool. Rather than the huge costs the utility companies predicted, they spend $3 billion a year and save $122 billion! That is enormous financial success in anyone’s book. It worked so well, the Europeans adopted it for their carbon emissions. We are not explaining a new idea; this history is filled with positive facts to tell the story.

Furthermore, while thirty ACES Democrats were ousted this week, far more remained. So did all eight ACES Republicans. If President Obama works with the new Republican House leadership on significant carbon emissions legislation and past ACES supporters and new Democrats sign on, we have the basis for a successful bill.

That’s why I say with a mix of optimism (the GOP is mandated to govern) and realism (the Democrats, esp President Obama, must collaborate, persuade, and stand on real change on GHG’s): Cap and trade’s new champions may wear red.

Thanks SmartBrief on Sustainability

Thank you, Jennifer and SmartBrief for inviting me to comment.

What did you think about Tuesdays elections in terms of environmental issues – energy, rail, smart growth, waste, water, air – green building and green cities? I’d love to hear! 

Obama_-_cnn

 

 We did not come here to fear the future; we came here to shape it. BARACK OBAMA 2009

Images: Obama on CNN; Boehner on ABC News; masthead on UK Guardian; power plant on Smithsonian, carbon emissions from fossil fuels by end-use sector 2002 by Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Hilarious Cities: Do You Live In One? #letsblogoff

This week’s lets blog off  creators want to know:  What Makes You Laugh?  A troop of brilliant blogging buddies aim to make you giggle today. You can link to all of our posts here. and I posted the most recent list at the end of this post – a laugh-fest! 

Do you see funny things around your city? How often do you smile or even laugh out loud in your daily travels? A chuckle here, a smile there means you get it: yeah, that’s funny!! 

Does your city make you laugh? 

Z_cherub_on_plaza_peeing

This little cherub on the Country Club Plaza always makes me chuckle. Bet he’s made more people laugh than most comedians!

Z_book_garage_kcmo

And the parking structure for the downtown Kansas City Public Library is a row of … gigantic books! Surely the architects wanted to make us laugh?

Z_modern-communication

A lot of public art cracks me up. This fellow eating a shoe with eyes and ears covered stands blatantly in front of the (believe it or not!) the KC Communication Center.

Z_shuttlecock

The Shuttlecocks make the venerable Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art their badminton net. Fantastic art/architecture joke.

Let’s face it, cities are hilarious! And not in just one way; we have a whole toolbox of humor.

Funny words and pictures

A rare few city forefathers invented some rib-cracking names – down the road from me is Peculiar, Missouri, and a little further is Versailles, named for its proud French ancestor. Now that’s not so funny, except we call it “Ver-say-alls.” (Apologies to France!) What if you were from Accident, Tightwad, or Middelfart?

Z_middelfart_sign

Some sign

-makers have a terrific sense of humor.

Z_golfsign

 

Z_crazy-road-sign1

And some graffiti is silly funny….

Z_graffiti_naked_man_bristol

 

Architecture humor

If architecture is the mother art… who is the dad?? Heh.

If at first you don’t leap over tall buildings in a single bound… build shorter buildings.

Ok, did I mention I can’t tell a joke? Ill just stick to images!

I love those hotdog stands shaped like a hotdog. Guess what the owners of this building, the Longaberger Company, sell?

Z_basket-office

 

This serious building, the Ontario College of Art and Design, looks a bit like a game board.

Z_ontario_college

 

Road fun

Maybe the most fun is on the road. You can watch for riotous vehicles like low riders, Model Ts, and trucks with longhorns or funny bumper stickers. I found a hummer converted to a horse drawn carriage – that’s imaginative!! Or there’s accidental humor…

Z_portapotty_convertible

And finally, the best laugh goes to lunatic driving. The rowdiest 10 secs of driving you’ll ever see.

Cities – Why be funny?

Now that you think about it, arent cities funny? No doubt, cities are very serious places. But sometimes, you just got to have some fun.

Humor makes cities more human, more relatable, and sparks everyday life. Kids in a park, dogs chasing birds, monkeys in the zoo, a cherub statue peeing, or a big book building make me laugh. Pink flamingos make me cringe-laugh, thanks to an oldJohn Waters film. Still some folks find them joyful. Laughter shakes off our troubles, lightens the load.

Who wants cities full of dark and gloom? That says someone didnt care enough to make us laugh, to charm us, to brighten life. A city with humor opens communication and creates moments for sharing something good – laughter.

Come on Cities, show us some heart. Dare to make us smile or even laugh out loud. Thats the gift of common ground, a shared moment among strangers. We can’t be angry when we’re laughing. We can’t hurt anyone, or rob a store.

Ok, we might have a bike or car accident if we laugh too hard. Watch out!!

Can a city add a laugh track?

You bet.

  • What cities, fountains, places, buildings make you laugh?

Enjoy many more witty blog posts, and some quite serious, from the extraordinary ”lets blog off” community.  

Blogger Twitter Blog Post Link
Veronika Miller @modenus Modenus Community
Paul Anater @paul_anater Kitchen and Residential Design
Rufus Dogg @dogwalkblog DogWalkBlog.com
Becky Shankle @ecomod Eco-Modernism
Bob Borson @bobborson Life of an Architect
Tamara Dalton @tammyjdalton Tamara Dalton Design Studios
Sean Lintow, Sr. @SLSconstruction SLS-Construction.com
Amy Good @Splintergirl Thoughts of a Splinter Girl
Tim Bogan @TimBogan Windbag International
Steve Mouzon @stevemouzon Original Green
Madame Sunday @ModernSauce Modern Sauce
Saxon Henry @saxonhenry Roaming by Design
Jane Frederick @JaneFredArch Low Country Architect
Andrea Wolper @AndreaWolper Spin the Wheel
Denese Bottrell @Denese_Bottrell Thoughtful Content
Betsy De Maio @egrgirl Egrgirl’s Blog
Allison A. Bailes III @EnergyVanguard Energy Vanguard Blog
Ami @beckami Multifarious Miscellany
Christian McLean @chirn9980 ChristianMclean.com
Barry and jb @BMoxieBMore Building Moxie
Z_funny_sign_bird

Images:

Calf at Bike Rack; Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto by Wil Alsop,Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto by Wil Alsop,Hummer Coach,Longaberger Company Home Office, Newark Ohio,Bird Sign and Portapotty;Bristol graffiti ;gargoyles at Notre Dame Cathedral, Modern Communications” by Terry Allen, Nelson AtkinsShuttlecocks by Oldenburg and van Bruggen,Book Parking Garage at KC Central Library;town signs.

21st Century Cities and Architecture Need Possibilianism #sustainability #poptech

 

Have you heard of PopTech? Some say it’s TED for brainiacs, arguably more cutting edge, always looking for emerging thinkers. Andrew Zolli, lead curator, attended the same Futures Studies masters program in Houston I did (and where I teach), although our paths unfortunately never crossed.

PopTech is posting the best videos now; here’s one worth watching.   

   

Cowboy up or geek out?

The annual PopTech event was held in Camden, Maine last week. Neuroscientist and fiction writer David Eagleman gave one of those rare “don’t miss” talks about a notion he’s devised called: Possibilianism. Rather than simply “anything goes,” he says that science allows for any possibility that can be proven using the scientific method. In other words, we need to think of many alternative hypotheses and then apply the tools.

Approach ideas with an open mind. Rather than firmly committing to a single answer or “cowboy up” with a certain solution, we engage in active exploration. For the largest questions in the universe like dark matter and how the brain works, we don’t even have any good answers yet. So we need to “geek-out” until we have the needed data. Be comfortable to multiple possibilities. That’s what he means by possibilianism.

In short: Praise uncertainty.

I think it’s very clear that we made mistakes on cities and building design. We use too much energy, overheated the planet, and created cities of haves and have-nots where some parts are nearly unlivable and others are sadly ugly, lacking beauty or lovability. Plus sitting all day at work and in cars makes us unhealthy. That’s not to say all cities or all parts of cities fit this image but let’s face it, it’s enough that we need to make some serious changes.

Think about it: What else could we have done?

We need a heavy dose of possibilianism.

0_us-ghg-sector_030707_102413

Here’s a wild thought: What would happen if tomorrow you woke up and your car was gone? Your neighbors’ cars and the pickup trucks were missing too. There were no taxis, only large-haul trucks and delivery vehicles too busy to carry passengers. Boom, you were caught with your feet and an old bike as transportation. What would you do?

I bet you would call into work and say you couldn’t make it. You would cancel all other appointments and walk your kids to school. Soon you would be taking the bus or rail and walking or riding your bike for shorter trips. Delivery trucks would replenish your kitchen pantry.

Over time, you would become physically fit, your wallet would be a little thicker with cash, and you would know people that share your routes. Plus, since transportation emits 28% of greenhouse gases, cities would immediately experience an impressive leap in sustainability. 

Cars are so deeply embedded it’s truly a challenge to imagine car-free lives, isn’t it?!

Car-fee cities

0_freiburg

We don’t start completely from scratch. Several urban theories and their flagship examples lead the way on car restrictions, specifically,

CarFree Cities, New urbanism, Eco-towns in UK, and to some degree, the Slow City Movement

Many sections of cities and islands, most famously Venice Italy, are fully pedestrian.

  • Freiburg Germany (pictured) reclaimed the center of the city for pedestrian uses.
  • Curitiba Brazil created one of the most efficient networks of buses (BRT) in the world.
  • Bogota Colombia employed a combination of BRT, bike paths, and pedestrians-first policies.

A few new towns will be zero carbon, reduced-car developments for environmental purposes.


0_tongzhou

No doubt, we will not go gently into that good night of car-free cities. Too much has been invested, particularly in America and in perimeter development globally, China being the most eager recent adopter. Cars have the obvious benefits of convenience and security, and have long been status symbols (now not having a car shows status among some groups).

Plus, honestly, given an open road, cars are a blast! Dont all addictions begin with pleasure?

Two options – with and without cars – is bogus!

If we’ve learned one thing from the crazy world we live in, it’s that choices are not black and white, either/or; they are both/and. An entire constellation of possibilities waits for our imagination to ignite.

My car-free fantasy is a game of “what if,” a thought experiment played to its extreme. Imagine the possibilities, what would that option solve and what would it destroy?

That’s where possibilianism leaps in.

If you were designing a brand new city for you and your loved ones or making radical changes to your city, what would you choose? How would you create vibrant, thrilling, beautiful places to live? What would be your criteria? How many options can you imagine?

How would that new place be better than how you live now? How do you envision your better life? And how can you bring some of those possibilities into your real life?

Think about it: Are you a possibilian?

Piano_new_caladonia_evening

Related lists: “Green cities: Where to travel green” compiles 6 lists of top green cities.

Images:EPA Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector;Freiburg Germany;Tongzhou China,Tjibaou Cultural Center in Noumea, New Caladonia by Renzo Piano Workshop

 

Balancing Optimism, Waste, and the Newly Improved American Dream #letsblogoff

The current #letsblogoff asks: Is there a reason to be optimistic?

I have heard it said: be personally optimistic and globally pessimistic. I get that. My best life is still ahead of me and my familys working through these tough times. That makes me personally optimistic.

1_trash_dnorman

Global situations strike me as less rosy. In the mid 1970s, Linus Pauling told me and my eager college-mates ten ways people might destroy the planet. Whoa, we were shocked! He started with nuclear weapons. Then I recall over-population, hunger, water, trash – really? Death by waste?

I had never thought like this. It sounded epic. And I took it to heart. From that day forward, I understood the fact that we live in catastrophic times. Disasters seem to occur with increasing frequency.  

How to stay optimistic despite constant threats? To me, that’s the heart of it.

American Dreamers!

What times were worse than the Great Depression? Financial woes at all levels, joblessness, shanty towns, even the weather pitched in with the Dust Bowl. That’s when we invented the idea of the American Dream. We needed a strong dose of optimism.

1_american-gothic-by-grant-woo

Actually, the American Dream contains two parts, moral and material. We believe that all men are created equal, our moral thread of egalitarianism. And we believe that anyone can win big, from rags to riches, the Horatio Algiers story. We love the underdog, success through hard work and thrift, the puritan work ethic.

The American Dream embraces opportunity and reshaped America as a nation of hopes and dreams. It is after all, the first country to make “the pursuit of happiness” a constitutional right.

Most importantly, the American Dream seeded the largest middle class in history. After nearly 80 years, it’s essentially a national motto.

American Nightmares 

Over decades of growth and prosperity, we narrowed the definition to “keeping up with the Jones.” A new home, new car, new tech, trips to Disney World. More things, more consumer debt, boom. The Dream becomes Buy Stuff. No Way.

1_home-ownership-american-drea

Now the American Dream has been boiled down into one thing: owning a home.

If you narrow your definition to just one idea, and then it becomes more difficult, the entire idea is destroyed. In other words, the house becomes the dream becomes the country. Lose your house and you lose your sense of identity.

The American Dream is not merely home ownership. That’s a total rip-off. We lose the gist, the heart and soul of it. We are stuck on materialism without the moral thread, the hope and optimism. That’s not the dream, that’s imbalanced, a nightmare.

American Dream ReShaped

Long before the idea of the A.D., Americans deeply understood hope and equality. We had imagination. And we had confidence. I’m not willing to live without those.

So let’s imagine: What do you do with the highest GDP in the world?

1_urban_farming_03_timemag

You educate everyone, you feed, clothe and house us all, and make damn sure we have health care and are not overloaded with debt. You wipe out poverty, declare a war on crime and make peace with the rest of the world.

More than that, you leave a better place for future generations, a clean and vigorous environment with bright green, livable cities. And invest continually in new ideas, inventions, innovations that improve quality of life and feeds commerce and jobs. That’s the path to long-term prosperity and opportunities.

Our dream needs to emphasize social and environmental goodover materialism and hope over hate and fear. And assume responsibility for our neighbors. We are in this together. Not just in the US, but the global community. 

It’s not just an American Dream; it’s a World Dream.

1_india_kids_endymion

Mahatma Gandhi said: “Your beliefs become your thoughts; your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits become your values; your values become your destiny.”

To me, that’s optimism, the belief you can make dreams into reality. 

What’s optimism for you? How do you make your dreams become reality?

Here’s some of my favorite people’s thoughts on optimism for #letsblogoff.

Images: Music video: Balance by Aceyalone; House on Milwaukee Apt Finders/Prowess R/E blog; “God Bless America” by Seward Johnson; urban farming on Time Magazine; India children by Vincent Desjardin on Flickr cc; trash by Darch Norman on Flickr cc 

 

Blog Action Day 2010: Water Is Life #water

October 15th is blog action day and this year, the topic is water.

In developing countries, water problems are linked to survival. The numbers are staggering. One billion without clean water, 1.4 million children die each year of water born diseases. Their daily lives revolve around water access. Through the efforts of many, their water opportunities are improving, although the work remains still monumental.

5_2-mlsp-blog-300x225
Greywaterpiping
Untitled
Us_uncon-semi
Water_01
Wsci_03_img0398

On the other hand, developed countries problems are worsening.

In cities, water is almost always poorly managed. Enormous pipe systems and hard pavements move water as fast as possible, causing overflow and failures during huge rains. Meantime water supply pipes bring water right back to the same places. Terribly inefficient.

Water needs to be treated as a cycle from rain to collection to use.  

  1. Say you have peak rains of 4 or 6 or even 10 inches. Imagine how you could retain that much rain for 24 hours with rain gardens, ponds, barrels, and tanks.
  2. Encourage cities to use swales and ponds to retain water and collect it slowly rather than move it fast to piped systems.
  3. Paved surfaces need to be minimized and permeable with frequent openings, not the mindless swaths of pavement for parking. That lets the water seep into the ground slowly rather than speed to piped systems.
  4. Think of potable and gray water differently.Separately pipe gray water from clothes washing, sinks, tubs, and rainwater and use for irrigation.
  5. Plant drought resistant landscaping and crops. Only irrigate from stored rainwater.
  6. Conserve water use.  

For years, islands have managed to exist with rainwater alone; we all need to learn from them. However, they do not feed the world.

How to think about water

Water is a cycle and in terms of our use and management, it’s a system. When we change our use and collection patterns, it changes entire ecologies including water tables and lake and river levels. That in turn affects crop irrigation, transporting goods, and recreational uses. In other words, nations and regions with adequate rain, temperate climates, and arable soil have a huge competitive advantage. They can feed their people.

Depleted water tables and subsidence are among the worst problems facing cities. I worked on a Houston stormwater management project where they struggle to assess grade elevations because of subsidence, with the land dropping over a foot in areas. We are all familiar with sink holes and busted water mains; it’s a problem that will only get worse with our aging infrastructure and water abuses.

Farmers in trouble

Kansas, my home state, is part of the Ogallala Watershed, as are eight other states. It is the largest and most at-risk watershed in the world. After the infamous Depression-era Dust Bowl of the 1930s, farmers installed massive irrigation systems that fed off the deep layer Ogallala aquifer. They did it for survival. In the 1970s, warnings were dismissed regarding the hazards of continued irrigation.

What were the farmers to do? Sell their farms? Quit farming? They continue to this day to remove water at an unsustainable rate, knowing their future is finite.

The depletion of this aquifer is estimated to begin in the lower reaches – west Texas – in the next decade and continue into Oklahoma, Kansas and eventually the northern states. Consequently, current wheat farms live with a short life line. Their only hope is discovering crops that can live on virtually desert land.

Fighting for every last drop

Every nation moves water through infrastructure, including massive dams that re-configure entire watersheds. Future water wars may take to the sky. Geo-engineering enables changes in precipitation patterns through cloud seeding (primary tech for now, so what’s next?), generating claims of “rain stealing.”

In the western United States, water wars erupted a century ago and continue to threaten neighborliness between states. Countries suffer even greater strains due to fewer shared benefits and dependencies. Passions between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida over the Chattahoochee River basin are not likely to ignite a war; disputes in east Africa between Kenya and Ethiopia might.  

Privatized water only worsens the problem, bringing corporations into direct battle with sovereign nations and private citizens. 

What is the future?

The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas develops drought tolerant grains that self-seed much like the prairie once did. They offer one of the few glimmers of hope for these farmers and for the global populations that rely on their grains.

When we rebuild or add infrastructure, and when we develop land, we need to stop building massive stormwater systems and huge parking lots. Instead we need to think sustainably. How can we minimize run-off? How can we retain the water? How can we use water where it lands?

Most importantly, how can we use less water?

Water brings all people into a single ecosystem, perhaps the most fragile. Our behaviors in cities are linked directly to the farmers ability to grow crops. Water ignores political boundaries. Rain does not recognize urban versus rural.

The amount of fresh water doesn’t change; only our appreciation of water and behaviors do.

 

Images: Ogallala Aquifer center-pivot irrigation systems in Water Encyclopedia; Ogallala Watershed Map in theparagraph.com; Land Institute deep root prairie in National Geographic; Grey Water Retention and Use; Water landscape for World Water Day at Wayne State University; Bioswale from EPA Green Infrastructure.

 

The Future of Education: A Twitter Chat #apf #futrchat

Millau_bridge_arcticpuppy

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is hosting our first tweetchat.

  • Thursday October 14, 2010 from 4:00- 5:00 Eastern time, Washington DC/New York (check your time zone via world clock )
  • Topic: Future of Education
  • Hashtags: #futrchat #apf

 We welcome anyone that is interested in the future and/or education to join us.

Jennifer Jarratt  and I plan to co-host; I think Jennifer will be throwing out questions and I’ll try to spark conversations. If you have ideas for questions, please send them to either of us.

What’s a TweetChat?

For those who haven’t participated in tweetchats before, here are a couple of how-to’s by Content Maven Meryl.net (pt 1  and 2 ).

You can view the tweet chat a couple of different ways:

  • Tweetchat  is a special site just for this purpose.
  • Tweetdeck  you can search for the hashtag #futrchat which will open a column with all the tweets in a timeline.
  • Tweetgrid you can search for multiple terms: #futrchat, #apf, education, future, or any of our twitter names.

I have participated and lurked on a few chats over the past six months. What I’ve learned is:

  1. Always include the hashtags #apf #futrchat somewhere in the tweet.
  2. When you arrive, say hello and introduce yourself briefly.  
  3. Always start your response with the number of the question, Q1, Q2 and so on.
  4. If you like someone’s comment, retweet it so that others see it.
  5. Add links if appropriate, which builds value. People can read these later.
  6. Comment as often as you think of something, at least once per question.More comments are better.
  7. Ask other people direct questions if they say something that intrigues you.

We are building a community and exploring a topic. I hope in the end we have a transcript from Tweetchat to share. More importantly, I hope we learn something together.

Kids_learning_timesonline

Future of Education

A few of the futurists in APF specialize in education and plan to participate. I worked on nearly 100 education facilities as an architect and teach in higher ed.

That’s the thing about education – we all have a vested interest. Education matters. People are immersed in today’s education problems; the key here is to think long-term.

What will be our problems, our needs, our realities in 2020, 2030, or 2050?

In terms of education, are we preparing people for careers in 1990 or 2030? How do we deal with the explosion of change? Longer life spans? Who are the students? What is knowledge in 2030 or 2050? Its speedy obsolescence? New technologies? What tools, new or old? Preparing teachers? Building schools? Engaged and integrated in communities, at home, or in classrooms? Participatory action learning? Global connections? Remote teaching, remote learning? Creativity, practical vocations, science, math emphasized? If everyone learns differently, how do we build learning communities?

Dr. Michael Wensch, an inspiring teacher and cultural anthropologist, studies the effects of technology on students. I recently saw him speak at a TEDxKC event, a treat.

You are the key!

I hope you will join us! Thursday October 14, 2010 – 4:00 East coast US time. Let me know if you have any questions, here or on twitter as @urbanverse.

We plan to do these on the second Thursday of the month. Your ideas for improvements, new topics, and questions are appreciated. We may invite special guests at future chats, including some APF members.

Here’s a few education links from my delicious site.

Images: Kids learning: School Gate, The Times Online; Millau Bridge, Arctic Puppy on Flickr CC

Seeing the Big Picture: Cities of the Future. #architecture #eco

For the first Urbanverse guest blogger, I am very pleased to  welcome Ana Maria Manzo, an architect practicing in Valencia, Venezuela. Thank you, Ana, for this excellent inaugural contribution on future cities.

by Ana Maria Manzo

Venus_project_ana

I remember hearing that when designing a park, the best way to define the route that would follow the trails, was to put a group of people in the area and observe the paths they followed, the places where they stopped to take breaks.

When I think of how to design future cities, it always comes to my mind that idea I heard once. From my point of view, it is people, those who will be the inhabitants of the cities of the future, who hold the key to show us the way toward a better life.

To create successful cities, we must begin by reviewing what we have, the way we live, what people want and need, and evolve from there.

Architecture should be made by people and for people, and not for architects. We must remember that not everyone in the world are architects, therefore, not everyone has the ability to visualize things that have not been created yet, because they have not been trained for it, unlike us. Accordingly, not everyone will easily accept the idea of feeling comfortable in a place so different than the one they are accustomed to living.

An architect who faces the image of a city of the future may think it is impressive and exciting; can feel drawn to it and compelled to find ways to make it real as soon as possible; live the change, experience the differences.

Proposals such as the one presented by the Venus Project makes us dream and believe that change is close.

Part 1:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqplP-E8Dvw

Part 2:

But it is precisely this type of change the one that comes to my mind when I write about non-architects not being able to visualize and relate easily to; drastic changes that erase what we have, eliminating cities and creating new ones. It is possible that this is the best solution to create a better future, but the truth is that there are many people that we must convince first. And the best way to do it is by identifying their needs and then designing based on them.

Big changes are already happening in some countries.

Masdar_ana

Masdar, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.

 

Dongtan_ana

Dongtan, China

 

Bedzed_ana

BedZED, London, U.K.

These are some examples that show us that it can be done; but there are still many skeptics.

For non-architects, or at least for some of them, the images of these cities of the future they find online, are a crazy fantasy; many may even get afraid when seeing them, fear of change, of the unknown. And, as a result of this fear, rejection appears.

Urban_future_scary_ana

(I think this picture is scary even to me)

That is why I think change should be gradual, at least in the most skeptic countries but, above all, should be made thinking of non-architects. We must think of the best way to reach people, to sell to them our futuristic ideas which have to be created based on their own needs so they can relate to them. I think the most important thing is to take one step at a time so as not to frighten these countries with an absolute transformation, in one fell swoop. Small changes are easier to digest, therefore, are more likely to be accepted quickly and can be seeing come true in the short term, unlike what would happen to big changes.

We must see the big picture, dream big and go after that dream; and sometimes the best way to do it is by making small positive changes which will gradually turn into big changes for the world and its inhabitants.

Let´s observe the paths that people follow and change the world one small change at a time…

Ana María Manzo

I am a Venezuelan architect who has devoted the last nine years to developing residential, commercial, industrial, and interior design projects. I have designed for Chrysler, Kraft, and Lucky Strike, among others. I recently started writing, which has been my passion for years. An eternal daydreamer, always looking for happy thoughts.

twitter: @anammanzo

blog:the place of dreams

Images credits

Scary futurehttp://abduzeedo.com/beautiful-3d-futuristic-scenes

The Venus Projecthttp://www.thevenusproject.com/

Masdarhttp://bit.ly/bPB5q6

BedZEDhttp://picses.eu/keyword/bed%20zed/

Dongtanhttp://blog.lib.umn.edu/evans391/architecture/

 

An Extraordinary Year of Blogging: an Architect’s View #letsblogoff

This week, Let’s Blog Off asks: “Are blogs as important as bloggers think they are?” I think my colleagues have answered the basic question. Paul Anatar gives statistics. Veronika Miller and Saxon Henry merge blogging, travel and design. Architects Steve Mouzon and Bob Borson talk about the importance of blogging; Steve to build sustainably, and Bob for insights as a residential architect. All agree: blogging is important, especially for designers.

So let me rephrase it: “Why blog?” More specifically, why should architects, designers, engineers, contractors, or anyone in the construction industry blog? and what I’ve learned from blogging.

Why Blog?

Seth Godin and Tom Peters, blogging and publishing giants, praise the life changing effects of blogging. Blogging makes us think. And, it’s FREE!

I have blogged for about a year. It’s my 50/50/50 milestone. Over 50 blogs in 50 weeks for over 50,000 people. I didn’t have a clue what to expect, and I humbly say, thanks to all that read and comment! The best moments are when you leave some pithy remark, exuberant cheers, tell me I’m full of crap, or extend the ideas.

One thing I assure you is: it’s not free. It takes time. It takes effort, commitment, ideas, organization, focus, and consistency. It’s a substantial investment, both personally and professionally. And it pays dividends. You sort through ideas, you take risks, engage with people. And you learn enormously.

Yet, blogging takes courage.

Not the kind of courage that makes you charge in battle, pull a child from a burning building, or climb Mount Everest. Yet still utterly risky.

Exposing your ideas shows you have gumption, plenty of it.

No one forces you blog, or even asks you to. You blog because you have an urge to contribute beyond your normal duties. You have more to say, something to share. You want to engage people and influence memes. Blogging builds ideas and stretches our thinking, our beliefs. It’s creative, experimental, at times uncomfortable and even a bit crazy.

But when you write a blog,  it’s your choice, your creation. The entire burden rests on your shoulders. That’s brave. and also thrilling.

Frankly I have at least as many posts in my “void” file as those posted. They’re incubating for future use. I learned from every one of them. These posts are not yet ready for you to invest your time in them. Attention is the new currency.

Why architects need to blog (and all design/build pros)

Predock_sketch

We simply don’t learn to write or even to communicate well in architecture school, and perhaps not in the field either. We practice designing, drawing and modeling. We learn by making things, not necessarily by speaking and writing, except for marketing and specs (yes, I said specs, thoroughly lacking in readability.)

Blogging cures that gap. When architects blog, we practice explaining our ideas, what we think about, and most importantly perhaps, what we believe. Rather than every few weeks to a client, we have to do it regularly, sitting at a computer, and then put it out there for you to respond: “Aha! Now I get it.” Or: “That’s crap, no way!”

Mostly design pros and contractors talk to each other. Isn’t that true? Think how much of your week is spent talking to people outside the industry about the industry? Blogging goes well beyond our everyday communications; we actually have to cut out the jargon, or at least explain it. (A client cursed me roundly for calling a drawing of the building exterior an elevation. whew, a stinger.)

Why do I blog?

I blog to rev up the idea chain, engage in conversations, and learn. Some of my blogging looks to the future, like “Twitter for Futurists,” my series on 21st century cities, and my current True Green series. Other posts focus on my opinion laced with some facts, such as last week’s outrage about the US pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai. From my blog, it looks like opinion posts get more comments, while informative pieces get more views. Maybe when my voice is more front stage, so is yours? It’s one thought.

Gutenberg-bible-468x351

I wonder why we still ask about the value of blogging? Then I imagine, the Cistercian monks probably argued against the Gutenberg press for years too, maybe centuries! “Who will read all those Bibles?” doh! Eventually blogs will be accepted as a central part of the communication media chain, the part that gives each of us a megaphone.

Surely every blog post changes the world, some far more than others.

You can find more of my blogging colleagues responses to “Are blogs important?” here.

And for your amusement, Jon Stewart skewers blogging, or rather, eviscerates it.

 

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Blogs Must Be Crazy
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

 

Note to America: #Architecture and the Future Matter #design #worldexpo


Us_pavilion_montreal_on_bing

The Biosphere: A powerful statement of the future

Recently Bing featured a stunning image of Buckminster Fuller ’s design for the US Pavilion at the 1967 World’s Exposition in Montreal. When I opened it, I literally gasped; the still futuristic image seemed to float above normal terrain. The Biosphere put a new stamp on the future and epitomized the Space Age.

Fuller joined the forces of architecture, engineering, and technology to express a new way of living. And through his genius, he inspired a generation of Americans; in fact, of the world. Bravo, Mr. Fuller!

USA Pavilion for the 2010 World Expo


Us_pavilion_expo_-_china_2010

Fast forward to today, the

US Pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai featured two wings in the shape of leaves, joined by a cone. What is that? The makers call it an eagle. Huh? A logo made into a building? No strong statement of design, environmentalism, or humanitarianism comes to mind.

What does it stand for? a design-numb Corporate America. (yes, some US corps understand good design; MIA here.)

This structure looks like a poor stand-in for what should have been an image of the American Dream, an architecture of the future. Where is the hope, the vision, the statement of who we are as a people or where we are going?

No one had any doubt that America led the world in innovation in 1967. If anyone is looking to us for vision or inspiration based on the 2010 American pavilion in Shanghai, they would be severely disappointed.

Has that day of 1967 passed?

If you think that the age of inspiring world expo pavilions has fizzled into the history pages, just examine the UK Seed Cathedral pavilion or the Swiss and Spanish pavilions.


2010_world_expo_switz_spain

Yes, it’s true; I have a nearly delirious case of pavilion envy. Those buildings are remarkable! They not only sing the praises of the architects and the countries; they offer a glimpse of what we might experience down the road.

In other words, the reason we build these outlandish structures like the Eiffel Tower and the Space Needle is to influence and shape things yet to come. That’s the whole purpose. To shine a bright light on the path to the future. And to inspire through the power of that vision.

Come On, America

Hey Americans, if we think that this average architectural statement offers the best of the best, we should be very worried. Because boxes shaped like leaves and cones never moved anybody to dream, much less to act. That disappoints me; no, it really makes me mad. The people that built this pavilion are saying – nothing’s new, nothing special’s going to happen, it’s just more of the same. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

We are living in one of the most enthralling, mind-numbing, exuberant times in history, a virtual windfall of daily discoveries. Yet without an urgency to design the future, to visualize the world ahead, to roll the dice on a seemingly impossible idea, we are already dead. We lose our capacity to aspire, transcend ordinary life, and stretch our imagination.


2010_expo_gang_aqua_new_yorker

We can do better. Look at Jeanne Gang’s

Aqua Tower, Holl’s Nelson-Atkins Museum Addition, Bohlin Cywinski’s Apple Pavilion – all capture the spirit of our future selves. While there’s no such thing as one true American architecture, these buildings clearly express visionary futures designed by exceptional American architects for forward thinking clients.

Maybe the burden of “American Pavilion” confused some literal minded deciders. “We’ll make a building like an eagle. That’s American.” Pshaw. Our standards for excellence, our design aspirations, must surely seek a higher standard.


070430_goldberger07_p646

Architecture Futures

We need a pavilion that dares to venture beyond sure thing; explores crevices of materials and shapes never seen; surprises, no, it bamboozles us with its energy. It’s a revelation. From that moment on, our lives are changed immeasurably; we see the world through new eyes.

Next expo, let’s build architecture that matters, that transports us to the future, stretches us beyond the ordinary, and willingly risks everything to do it. In fact, that capacity to dream – unforgettable, life-changing dreams – proves we have a future. 

Bohlin_cywinski_apple_store_-_
2010_world_expo_spain

Images: Biosphere on Montreal Attractions, USA Pavilion, Swiss and Spanish Pavilions on ArchDaily, Aqua Tower and Nelson-Atkins on New Yorker, Apple on Galinsky.  

Twitter for Futurists #apf #futrchat #socialmedia

Twitter-network

The Association of Professional Futurists (APF) is planning to host a new apf #futrchat. The inaugural chat is Thursday Oct 14, 2010, 4:00-5:00 pm EST on The Future of Education. Use #futrchat #apf; we’d love for others to join in.

Some members asked for a quick intro for using twitter.Here’s the basics.

  1. Sign up . It’s simple; requires a 160 character bio, avatar image, and eventually a background. All which can be changed later.
  2. Build your community. To find futurists, start with my list . Frank Spencer @frankspencer runs a futurist twibe . Sign up. Follow intriguing accounts, people you know. You are beginning to build a network.
  3. Join the conversation. Please let me know you’ve arrived, just cc: @urbanverse  in the tweet and I will see it. Then I’ll reply/tweet back and others will see you. Re: content, I rarely post what I am doing. Breakfast news? Naw. Giving a presentation? Sure. Peak oil stats, a new vertical farm, those are worthy. Post a link to an article or something meaningful about the day, your work.

Not: What are you doing? It’s: What can you share?

As you converse and follow, your community grows. Twitter is a light, loose tool; you make it what you want. You can see others’ conversations and they can see yours – get used to it. It’s all public. Follow whomever you want, theQueen of Jordan or the local bakery to catch today’s specials. 

Tweetdeck allows you to have multiple columns open simultaneously and group people according to interests. This is the “client” tool I use for most of my tweets because I’m working from a desktop or laptop. Hootsuite enables sharing, managing, and analyzing from a single dashboard. Close to half of all tweets are from mobile devices so people use other applications.

What’s different for futurists?  

What is particularly useful for futurists? In a word: Search. While searching is perhaps intriguing to others, it’s the lifeblood of futures work. On twitter, you see real time stories by witnesses and advocates (recognizing the pitfalls of immediacy), articles posted by authors, links via experts (such as my futurists list), and information through news feeds like @nytimes. It’s a bit like RSS or Google with expert guides, who are the people and organizations that you follow. You shape your experience with those follows and your searches by topic. When you open your twitter homepage, you will see in your feed what we (the people you follow) are searching today.

Twitter-browser

The best way to search on twitter is to build your network and watch for patterns. It’s the most time consuming too. Some tools will help you organize specific searches

  1. For particular topics, try the Twitter.com search box or the advanced search.
  2. Tweetdeck allows you to have multiple search columns open simultaneously.
  3. Addictomatic and Tweetgrid give you a dashboard of multiple searches.
  4. Here’s a comparison of six search services.
  5. This list of 50 ways to search twitter should satisfy your needs.

Initially, you might find primarily today’s news. Many search apps focus on trending topics, which are frequently curious and amusing but rarely useful. I did get a sense that the average twitter age was decreasing based on trends, long before stats came out. But that was more of a casual observation than a research project, a sense because I was in the space daily. To get better hits efficiently, you need to craft your search terms, build a network of trusted sources, and monitor patterns.

The Agora

Twitter is not a stand-alone site. It’s a screen for monitoring and connecting. Darren Rouse @problogger calls it, an outpost. He puts his blog in the center of his web presence; that’s the way to think for monetization purposes. You want to attract people to your site, your storefront.

For accessing the public brain, twitter is the center. It makes sites, ideas, people, events, causes visible. It is the agora, the public square. As a futurist and researcher, I think in terms of open knowledge, (pre)emergent ideas, and a shared community that is accessible on twitter.

If your interest is to influence as a thought leader, then you want to spend far more time on blog content development, follow lists of influencers (different than early signals), engage them on twitter and on their blogs, and track twitter and your blog traffic daily with analytics.

Tweetstats

What’s Your Experience?

I wonder how other futurists use twitter and the other social media sites?

Do non-futurists use it in a similar way? Or do you have a different take?

Ok, new users (or current users), does this help? Make sense? I have internalized a lot of the early steps, so please, if you have questions, just ask.  

images: 17 ways to visualize the twitter universe. on Flowing Data.

Twitter_steampunk