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


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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


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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. 

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

Extreme Travel: Would You Visit the International Space Station? #letsblogoff

Today’s #letsblogoff asks: Where’s your slice of heaven? A group of design, architecture, and construction related folks are sharing ideas about heavenly travel spots. Here’s alist of brilliant people  that posted.  ok… four, three, two, one…

Space-station

Why Do We Travel?

While my home is a small slice of heaven, it is just that, a slice. To see the world, I have to leave these aggregated comforts, conveniences, and familiarities. Why do it? Travel to different places opens my mind and feeds my spirit. I love architecture, cities, nature, visiting people, and new experiences. I come home with fresh insights, renewed purpose, and a greater sense of the world. Travel changes me.

To boil it down, I want to experience places that are shaping the world. Moreover, I want to see ideas most likely to change the world dramatically.

In other words, I want to see the future.

You might say that’s two dimensions of travel – space and time. We do it all the time in our travels backward – ancient Egypt, Rome, China. Boom, we see, touch, walk on the same stones and shapes someone built several millennia back. A drive through town is a bit of time travel, if you think about it. Time is jam-packed in cities.

I travel to see forward too.

The Extreme Future City

Given this brave thought experiment of “travel heaven,” I imagine: What is the ultimate future city built today? Hands down, it’s theInternational Space Station .

Here’s why.

  1. It is the ultimate act of optimism. Sixteen countries collaborated to design a place and explore new territories. When does that happen?
  2. It is the ultimate act of fear. Why would anyone leave Planet Earth for cold, cruel outer-space? Is it fair to say that we will only leave permanently if we have to?
  3. It’s the first and only place that people live off of the Earth. The first. Imagine that. How long will we say that?
  4. It’s travel on a new scale. An outpost. A place to go to the next place, other solar systems, and perhaps at some point, to find a sweet alien planet.
  5. You meet some really smart people, the ultimate brainiacs camp. In one week, I bet the bonding matches an entire lifetime of ordinary encounters. High risk survivals and overcoming fear does that.
  6. You get to float. And maybe even space walk. Enough said.

    Space_station_inside
  7. The journey itself is truly an adventure, an extreme blast off from earth. Remember your first plane flight? Surely a flight to space will be life altering.
  8. You get to see earth as a whole. The blue marble. Whew.
  9. We are creating a new way to live. Every small act is an invention.
  10. The space station is the most pure expression of a high tech tomorrow. Tell me, do you think we would ever build a space station the shape of a house?
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Will we populate the nightscape with more space stations? I bet we will. Private corporations see profit reasons to explore and inhabit outer space. Our lives revolve around space travel inventions, like satellites and microwaves. Space engineering is the last mega-physical frontier. That challenge alone will attract the Richard Bransons of the world.

Bottom line, I want to know what we do at the ISS. What do space station visitors believe? How does living on a space station change your perspective? Upon my return, assuming that I do return, how would I see Earth differently? What would I think of people and our place in the universe?

Because I think that if you see life in perspective, that’s the ultimate travel experience.

Behind Curtain Number One

If you were given ticket to the International Space Station, would you take it? Or trade it for a week in more earthly places? 

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Extreme Travel: reposted #letsblogoff

http://urbanverse.posterous.com/extreme-travel-would-you-visit-the-internatio-0

This post was wonky, please go to corrected post here. thank you for your patience!  

Earth Shoes Vs. Flip Flops: Are College Grads Ever Ready? #letsblogoff

For the third #letsblogoff (my second entry in this group effort to cure the world of ills via blogging on a single topic), my twitter buds chose a meaty question: Are college grads ready for the real world? Warning: things don’t end where they start off.   

Earthshoes

What’s Wrong With Kids — Yesterday?

We all heard that knock right out of school – What’s wrong with kids these days? My gen heard: cut your hair, turn down that music, can’t you do something useful with your life? It’s the perennial generation gap.

Boomers, such as me, rejected the uptight establishment world of our parents. We fought their lousy Vietnam War (we typically whine about that first), made love, not war, waged sit-ins and love-ins to ban the bomb, experimented in communes, pot, psychedelics, and outdoor music bashes, and generally knew better than our elders. heh. Our rallying cry , “Never trust anyone over 30.”

Now there’s a plan with a short time horizon! So what happened to Boomers post-30? We became the establishment. Natch. Eventually, we had to take the reins and assume responsibility. That’s inevitable.

And when we did, it turns out we were better at organizing protests than truly changing the world. The generation that thought we put the R in Rebellion became (mostly) authoritative, ideological, Wall Street money makers and Big Business CEO’s.

Why in the world is that? I have an idea but first back to those new college grads,Gen Ys.

What’s Wrong With Kids – Today?

Gen Y’s, do you have a better plan? Apparently you study less, live with your parents longer, get married later, maybe have kids first, fight for gay rights, assume women’s and racial rights, rather be on American Idol than fly to the moon, and (get this!!) you can’t even support yourself.

How can you change the world when you’re still a dependent? What happened to the rebellious youth? Have you no spunk? (please hang with me on this ….)

While the Boomers and Gen Xs flattened the globe into a monster-sized playground, Gen Ys played high-speed digital games, built powerful social networks, and saw friends become stars via YouTube and reality TV. They are Digital Natives, fully connected 24/7, and seeking an Epic Win.

In fact, rather than rebelling (which in the hegemonic world actually reinforces the existing system) Gen Y’s are creating a new and potentially more powerful, more vibrant, less resource-intensive world. They might actually be building a real world – ok, a hybrid real/digital world — that can be effectively balanced.

Flipflops

Are We Ready for the Age of Flip Flops?

Earth shoes were made for walking. On the earth. They were earthy and so were the Boomer hippies who favored them. Earthy things take earthy resources, energy, and machines. Our Boomer world is Big Physics.

Flip flops on the other hand, are fragile, flimsy, and made for long days at the beach or sitting on your tush rocking to tunes while you game the day away.

Thing is, in the next real world, we might game for a living. That’s right. Millennials are finding a way to turn fun into profit. Their world is Mega Pixels.

We will likely travel, shop, learn, connect, produce, and get health care primarily via computers. And according to game guru, Jane McGonigle, Institute for the Future, computer gaming is good for us. It builds community, intense concentration, and most of all, confidence that we can achieve an Epic Win.

Unlike the real world where our largest life lessons arrive in the form of defeats and exhausting resources, digital games have no limits. Plus at any given moment as a reward for exceptional performance, you can experience a monumental win. What’s more, everyone else can too. There are absolutely no shortages of possible wins. That in itself frames an entirely positive experience.

Imagine if the game world IS the real world.

While Millennials have teethed on joy sticks and cell phones, Boomers and Gen X’s are mere immigrants to digital reality. We learn these skills like a second language; they live and breathe them. Even while we create the toys, it is Gen Y’s that hyper-extend the power of the media.

Welcome, President Flip-Flop; Move Over, Boomers 

Boomers, how did we let this happen? How did the generation that supposedly was the largest, most powerful cohort ever to walk the earth allow these upstarts a way to shove us into obsolescence prematurely?

Social change experts Strauss and Howe call it the Fourth Turning. Four types of eras, or Turnings, last for 15-20 years each and cycle continuously.

  • 1st Turning, Outer-Driven Era: a new sense of community arrives.
  • 2nd Turning, Awakening Era: inner life blooms with spiritual renewal, artistic innovation.
  • 3rd Turning, Inner-Driven Era: cultural and social life fragments.
  • 4th Turning, Crisis Era: conflict reins supreme and spiritual curiosity declines.
Strausshowe_fourthturning

We entered a Crisis Era, the so-called Fourth Turning, around 2005 and it’s estimated to last until 2020 or 2025. These eras frame our worldviews and create generations with unique characteristics.

  1. Boomers, born during 1st Turning/Superpower America are idealists/prophets.
  2. Gen X’s, born during the 2nd Turning/Boom Awakening are reactive/nomads.
  3. Gen Y’s, born during the 3rd Turning/Millennium changeover are civic/heroes.
  4. The next generation, along with the Silent Generation, will experience the current 4th Turning/Crisis era during their youth, imprinting them as adaptive/artists.

In other words, when Boomers took the reins, we became moralistic (see graphic), which works for protests, but is hardly a formula for revolutionary leadership.

On the other hand, Gen Y/Millennials are truly transformative. As these civic/heroes emerge, their interest is power and they are instinctive team players. They become builders and doers.

While Boomers went looking for meaning, Millennials are meaning-makers. They share, publish, curate their own works and connect with the works of others. During emerging adulthood, “Civics develop activity oriented peer relationships, and a strong sense of generational community” (Strauss & Howe). That is exactly what this generation is doing right – collectively creating a way out of Crisis. Don’t worry, we will all play parts especially during the next decade but Gen Ys eventually will run the show.

A Powerful Coupling

Boomers and Gen Xs were stuck with a modern industrial world that needed our attention for another generation. Millennials don’t have those same interests. They have the tools and technology, and most importantly, the zeitgeist and worldviews to think and act in a brave new digital world. They will be heroes that show us a new way to trim our physical uses into a just-right fit. Plus they will enhance the real world with digital realities of unlimited potential.

The question isn’t:”Are college grads ready for the new world?” Or even, “Is the world ready for them?” We have to ask ourselves: Are we ready for the world they bring to us?

 

The young do not know to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation. Margaret Mead

 

Admittedly, there’s many ways to slice this pizza, as my brilliant twitter friends prove.

  1. Amy Good (splintergirl) Amy’s Blog
  2. Nick Lovelady @cupboards    Cupboards
  3. Becky Shankle @ecomod EcoModernism
  4. Tamara Dalton DesignStudios
  5. RufusDogg @DogWalkBlog DogWalkBlog
  6. Sean Lintow  SLS Construction
  7. Bonnie Harris @WaxGirl333  Wax Marketing
  8. Richard Holschuh @concretedetail ConcreteDetail

Images: Strauss & Howe chartEarth Shoes; Flip Flops

 

Michelle Kaufmann Studio’s New Line of Net-Zero Prefab Designs #LEED #architecture

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For forty years, architects have predicted prefab would become a major housing option. So far, it’s always sidelined by the flexibility and quality of stick-built. This month, Residential Architect features architect Michelle Kaufmann’s three new net-zero models.

Katy Tomasulo, Deputy Editor for EcoHome, writes in RA:

The Zero Series homes—Vista0, Ridge0, and Contours0—are designed to produce as much energy as they use, along with being healthy, efficient, and comfortable through the integration of efficient design and healthy, durable, and resource-conscious products. At the same time, the units, which range in size from 422 square feet to 2,643 square feet and start at $66,500, fill a need in the industry for more affordable options for architect-designed green homes.

“They make it more accessible to have thoughtful, green homes,” Kaufmann explains, adding that widespread acceptance of green modular housing means they can’t take more time to build, cost more than regular green homes, or be difficult to buy.

After permitting, the units can be built and installed in about four months. Building permit barriers have long been the fly in the ointment because city inspectors want access into wall and ceiling cavities. Once the drywall is installed at the factory, inspections of wiring and plumbing is impossible. Now factory certification programs are accepted in many jurisdictions, paving the way to prefab.

The houses are said to be less expensive than site built and offer some flexibility in configuration, size, and product selections. The basic models meet LEED certification, with upgrades such as solar panels in order to qualify for higher levels.

After seven years in business, Kaufmann’s prior Oakland CA venture fell victim to the recession last year. An established industry frontrunner in green prefab, Michelle Kaufmann Designs is now a subsidiary of Blu Homes, an east coast prefab home manufacturer.

Will prefab ever go mainstream? If so, is that time now? If not, what holds it back?

Living Large and Small: Trading Hummers for PUMAs Ain’t the Whole Story #blogoff

Some of my friends on twitter have this cool idea called a blog off. We each post on the same idea, which today is about living large by being small. We include a list of each others’ blogs at the end. Fantastic Idea!

The Problem of Big

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It’s possible we began thinking bigger was better when we decided bigger meant richer, more powerful, successful, cool.

Size meant status. (Please save me from becoming too graphic, ok?) Bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger tv’s, even bigger meals. And bigger bodies, and bigger med bills.

This problem of size is a modern living problem, I think. Pioneers didn’t build too big; they were naturally frugal. Who wants to chop extra logs to build or heat a cabin? And the windows were mercilessly tiny – good for security, no doubt, but who can live without BIG glass? And the Great Depression, World War II – they saved gum wrappers and built Victory Gardens. No wasters among them.

Then came the hippy generation, free love and rock n roll. Wearing blue jeans and peasant blouses, car-pooling in VW vans to Woodstock, the long hair generation knew all about earth living. You might say they were wasted, rarely wasteful. Every little seed pod was treated like a royal gem.

Then we blew it. About forty years ago, houses, cars, cities, meals, waistlines, you name it, everything just grew. And grew. And grew. Why? Only answer I got is: Because we could. Pretty damn lame in hindsight. It’s sort of the Wal-Mart philosophy, right? Save more by buying more. Actually might mean you spend more because everything is supersized. But those unit prices dropped to the basement. Wow, look what I got for xyz dollars. Smart, right?

Now it seems the bill is coming due. And the thing about size as a yardstick for life – someone always has something bigger!!

Why Small?

Here’s my theory.

  1. We got too big. Doh!
  2. We saw environmental limits – generally, smaller is greener.
  3. Our keenest inventions are shrinking. 20th century – skyscrapers, highways, dams. 21st century  – gaming, Iphones, nano-tech and bio-tech.
  4. And then there’s this pesky never-ending down-for-the-third-count Recession that has put a strain on most everyone’s bank account. We must conserve.

In other words, small is cool. Big is ugly. Out with hummers, McMansions, and sprawl.

Now we want to be small. But… what’s small?

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Small people? Really, I am very small human – five feet and under 100 pounds. In that big rocking chair, Lily Tomlin outdoes me. In other words, small is relative. Alice in Wonderland figured that out with those magic cookies. First that room fit; then it didn’t. Next to Shaq, everyone is small.

In other words, if we can play with size so readily, does small or big really matter?

Yes, it does. It matters because we got too big, consumed too much, and now we have to craft a strategy, an image of small that means beautiful. Small that we love, small that we identify with, small that ignites our dreams.

Is it possible to dream small and believe it’s big?

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Here’s some cool small:

small cars, small apartments, small houses, small towns (I love that vid). Part of American spirit is Small Town USA. Now we are making an entirely new era of small streets, smaller houses, and certainly smaller yards with New Urbanism.

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So what is wrong with small?

There is such a thing as too small, for example those coffin hotels in Tokyo.

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There is small without purpose – this

chair’s too small; these shorts don’t fit.

Small can mean efficient. Or it can be another word for scrimping, miserly, and small mindedness.

And it can mean dying, as in a town that used to be 150 people and became two. Except the husband died; now it’s just one. And one person running a town can be a bit sad. The Town of Me.

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Too small is a lot like too big. Someone’s always going to dream something even more mini, micro, nano, quark-sized. You cannot win at this game; it’s a loser. Because the idea of “how much” is a function of deficit thinking. One pie with a missing piece; you just can never fill it up.

Welcome to Quality. Yup, it’s a value. When you say something’s better, you’re talking values. Values are one thing to you and maybe different for me; it’s what you care about, what matters to you. So you can’t say how much until you know what’s better, what you value.

If all you care about is size or quantity, then stick with bigger or smaller, how many, how few. Otherwise, let’s think about a boundless variety of delicious pies.

A lived-in fit

Now I think we have to scrap the whole idea of size. It’s not about small or big; it’s about fit. We need the best fit. And fit is more than size, it’s also of the right kind, the characteristics that suit your needs, your particular ideas of your life.

We have to think about the kind of place. Ok, we have to know how much as well, but I really want to know how well it fits, and then I can say how big or small it needs to be. Imagine a builder’s model kitchen and a boat galley do the same thing, one perhaps clumsily and the other with optimum craft. Better design creates efficiencies. How much comes after how well it suits its purpose.

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In fact, it’s not the fit on day one; it’s the lived-in fit. The fit for all seasons and uses, my good moods and bads, my favorite moments and my security gaps. The place that enlivens me and protects me from the cold cruel world. Where I have my finest and my worst moments; where I am more of myself, relaxed and inspired, a safe haven for soaring ideas. For me, a home is my outer skin that holds me and my family into one larger embrace. My lived-in place supports intimacy and freedom.

Before figuring fit, we start with our wants and needs for today and the future. Then we build to that. Rather than specifications of monster sizes or teeny tiny efficiencies, think in terms of elegance and quality, richness in purpose, what matters most.

Because I’d rather have the most elegant, sustainable home that fits my aspirations and habits and those of my family. A house of my dreams is not too small, or too big. It’s just so, a lived-in fit.

Here’s my friends who also wrote about living smaller.

Veronica Miller at Modenus, A Small Life is Good, but Slow Down to enjoy it! 
Paul Anatar at Kitchen and Residential Design
 Is Living Smaller the New Living Large?  

Richard Holdschuh at Concrete Detail, Small is Beautiful but Relativity Rules
Nick Lovelady at Cupboards Kitchen and Bath,
Is Small Really Realistic?

Rufus the dog at Dog Walk Blog,How Much Does it Cost You To Exist for One Hour? Size Matters
Becky Shankle from Eco Modernism,
Is Living Smaller the New Living Large?
Saxon Henry’s Chair Chick,
Living Small (and Getting Shagged!)

Sean Lintow’s The Homeowner’s Resource Center,Building Smaller, Is it the Next Big Thing?

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Tree-eagle-_romerostudios

 

More Summer Reads: Internet, Storytelling, Brains, Future Planet #books #trends

Last week I got a box of books and posted the first half in a video. Those books covered architecture, cities, and sustainability.

Here’s the second half of the box. These books are about the world of ideas. How the internet is changing our perspective, even changing our brains. How to turn an idea into reality, overcome hurdles, and stop wasting time on planning and capital raising. Creating a story of your life, and using that story to make your life more what you want. Building passion into a business.

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Happy reading, and thanks for watching my newest video.

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Summer Reading: A Box of #Architecture, #Cities, and #Sustainability

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Are you always looking for good books? I sure am. Today I got a whole box of new titles, to which I usually do a celebratory dance –new books days bring a flood of ideas and inspiration right to my doorstep. Whoowee! What’s inside??  the best gift to myself. We are in a golden age of books, a time when a brilliant meme can burn through the global brain in days if not hours.

 

In this video, I share the half that deals with architecture, cities, and sustainability – 9 titles in all. The other half of the box is filled with books on big ideas, media, and social change – it’s an even dozen. Look for those in another video. Plus I have a few stragglers (I ordered 30)… so if this works, you’ll be seeing more of these book box vids – it’s a quick way to share a small mountain of useful information, I hope. And I might not share these books otherwise; they go straight into my research or get shelved for future reference.

 

Don’t look for fiction here. I rarely buy novels or short stories in print form because I love to read on the kindle. But I hate to research on it. You can only look at one book at a time and you can’t view as quickly, accessing multiple tabs simultaneously. My desk is covered in books while I write. So you won’t see any big boxes of novels arriving at my door. And I savor them more slowly too, not urgently - maybe one/week or 10 days, I’d say 30-40/year, versus devouring say 150 to 200 non-fiction books.

 

You will also find me on Goodreads – drop me a note b/c I only follow a few people there. I add more fiction on goodreads b/c fiction friends got me started; 25 bks posted, 3-4,000 to go. but you can convince me otherwise, esp if you’ll post your reads too. I’d love to have more architecture, urban, sustainable design, futurist friends there.

 

Do any of the books intrigue you? if so, I’ll share my impressions, post-reading. Or have you read them? What did you think?

 

And…what are you reading? The next box is filling up – I love good book tips.

Architectural Photographer’s Mantra: Andy Marshall’s (@fotofacade) Beautiful Book (and My First Vlog)

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Welcome to my first attempt at a video-blog. It’s a trial and I hope the beginning of many more. 

I want to thank Andy Marshall for sending me his elegant book, “Andy Marshall: The Architectural Photographer’s Mantra.” (That link sends you to an online flipbook version.) It’s filled with his stunning work, embellished by pithy phrases describing his philosophy. Through reading, you gain appreciation for architecture and see cities in a new light. It’s a real prize.

 

I won this book in a fun little contest sponsored by Masco Salvage and Andy, broadcast on twitter. In celebration of their work on the Walcot Arts Trail, they posted an image of a heavily worn wooden sled-like contraption, which I correctly identified as a threshing board. Thank you both for the contest, well done.     

 

Andy (@fotofacade) is one of my favorite people on twitter. I am most appreciative of both the book and kind note, which arrived safely in Kansas City. Thank you, Andy!

 

I have been contemplating videos for a bit (truth be told, I bought a flip cam a year ago). While I am not yet comfortable in front of the camera, I hope to make more videos because they are easily accessed. It opens up a whole new world for architecture and urban ideas. 

  1. Walk-throughs of places or buildings under construction or completed.
  2. Conversations with people who create cities including architects, owners, futurists, community advocates, and so on.
  3. Comments on significant ideas that get my ire up or inspire me. 
  4. Book reviews – I read several every week, and I find my reviews just don’t get written. 

It’s a more personal way to share ideas, I think. And can become quite spontaneous – I hope.

 

Do you think it’s a good idea? 

FTF Architects, New Media, and New Brains: #AIA2010 Highlights

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Here’s one paradox of online friends. I know an incredible community of people via social networks. Now, thanks to the generous tweets during AIA2010, I realize I have far more reasons to actually BE at the convention.

I experienced an oddly compelling separation anxiety. Why wasn’t I there, dancing in the street with Tabitha Ponte @designstudio26 and Susan Welker @ladyaia? How did I miss @stevemouzon’s presentation? Or Mike Plotnik @somechum, Ned Cramer @architectmag, and Marc Kushner @architizer’s panel?

In other words, paradoxically, online engagement makes real life ftf meetings more essential. Next year in New Orleans, I’ll be there. A tweet up, anyone?

Best Session 1 – Dan Pink
Two sessions stood out via tweets. These sessions just so happened to begin and end the convention. Some folks weren’t there yet on Thursday at 8 and others were gone by Saturday afternoon. Too bad.

The convention formally opened with Daniel Pink’s keynote Thursday. I own several of Pink’s books so his topic “The Role of Right-Brain Thinking in a Modern Economy” grabbed my attention. “People need to teach children to think like an architect.” Well, what self-righteous architect would argue with that? He suggested the US economy should be concerned about Asia, automation and abundance. By abundance, I think he means watch out for scarcity thinking. There’s not just one pie to divide up; make more pies. To take advantage of our right-brains, we need to think in terms of design, stories, and symphony.

Best Session 2 – New Media 
At the Saturday afternoon New Media panel, the dynamic trio of Mike Plotnik @SomeChum @HOKNetwork, Ned Cramer @Architizer, and Marc Kushner @architectmag covered all the bases– architecture firm, print/online media, and architects’ social network.

  • Ned Cramer @architectmag says that online media tries give the feel of the print experience, its materiality. You can see that’s their goal in Architect Magazine’s page-flip format; it even mimics page flipping. To avoid the sins of pure eye candy (as much as we architects appreciate gorgeous buildings), they balance culture, technology, practice, and design.
  • Marc Kushner @architizer set out to create a new model of information exchange for architects. They want to be what LinkedIn can’t be for architecture – a purely open sourced network. I would say Architizer operates a lot like a wiki; part firm brochure, part resume, part architecture culture, part social. The amount of material is exploding.
  • Mike Plotnik @SomeChum of @HOKNetwork made the statement that stuck most in my mind: social media should be more about sociology than technology. Isn’t that true about architecture and urban design too? Shouldn’t we be considering a human approach?

Mike described HOK’s process of setting up HOKLife in 2008. Because of a dearth of prior architecture models for social blogging, they visited the new media lab at the University of Virginia. HOK’s site now has what he refers to as a “living room AND a family room;” meaning the formal marketing portion and the blogging portion. He sees the two merging in the future. Their social media component has helped “solve a true business challenge,” that is, recruiting new talent.

His final thought: “It’s important not just to be on social media nodes, but to have a point of view.” You bet it is. That’s always been true about architecture. I’m seconding that.

[Mike recently invited me to write the first guest post for HOKLife, an excellent experience for me. including a couple of new friends.]

Architects Social?
With social media, we have to express our philosophy in words AND in buildings. In a social world, people can judge our words better than they can understand our architectural designs. We lose the mystical veil of expertise and have to simply talk with people.

I’m hopeful we can make the shift to the new sociability; are you?

See you in New Orleans May 2011? I’m thinking about a social tech session. Who would you want to hear? What should we cover?

Gratitude and resources:
Photo credit @liraluis posted “one of the more innovative booth designs” http://ping.fm/Ir4PL. Let her explain that one. It confused and amused people all week. Hint: Rhino modeling.
Daniel Pink’s Keynote — thank you Susan Welker @ladyaia and @archaerie!
New Media Panel – thank you @stevemouzon, @GinaRMiller, and @Architizer!
You can see handouts online: http://tinyurl.com/244vj8x (Thank you, Heather West @heatherwestpr).
I was intrigued by WorldViz’s booth on virtual reality, always looking towards next innovations.