The Medium Is The Mechanism

Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.

– Tom Goodwin, The Battle Is For The Customer Interface

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“The Placemaking Handbook”

“This book should be mandatory reading for anyone entrusted with the design of outdoor public space.”

Download the Review (PDF)
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Live from New York


Live from New York photos

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The Good Kind—The New York Municipal Building

McKim, Mead & White, New York Municipal Building, 1 Centre Street, Manhattan, 1907-1914.

ONE-HUNDRED YEARS AGO, when the New York Municipal Building was one year old, McKim, Mead & White were known across the country as the best architects in America (Carrère & Hastings were number two*). They were known as the best, even though McKim and White, the design partners in the firm, were both dead. Continue reading

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Everywhere In Manhattan I’ve Ever Lived

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Honestly, isn’t this building giving New Yorkers the finger?

UPDATE: When I first published this quick post in September 2014, for some reason it attracted comments from young architects who not only wanted to defend the building, but who saw my comments as ridiculous. In retrospect, it’s obvious that most New Yorkers, many non New Yorkers, and many architects agreed with me. Some support for that is listed at the end of the post. This month’s Architectural Record on Architecture & Money: The New Gilded Age produces more agreement, particularly in Michael Sorkin’s Too Rich, Too Skinny.

432 Park Ave

THIS IS Robber Baron 2014 Style: Conspicuous Consumption literally taken to unprecedented heights. You can see it many miles away in Queens, the Bronx, and even Brooklyn, which means millions of New Yorkers have to look at it’s graceless form every day. You get some idea of the problem here (and to a lesser degree here).

And for what? One-hundred and twenty-five apartments on 89 floors (a number that will probably go down as Russian billionaires buy multiple units to combine into large pied-a-terres on the highest floors). Most of the occupants won’t live in the building (What New Yorker would want to live completely surrounded by undistinguished midtown office towers?) and they won’t pay much in the way of local taxes, but their empty nests (called “bullion pots in the sky” in London) will forever disfigure the skyline and steal sunlight as far away as Central Park.
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Swedish Streets

THE EXCELLENT NEW BOOK SWEDISH GRACE has this interesting sidebar:
Swedish Streets
I’m just starting the book, but it looks great. And note that the streets that look like cul-de-sacs actually connect through the buildings to the next street.

Street Design: Buildings That Streets Go Through

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Happy Earth Day — The 21st Century Is The New 1960s?

EARTH DAY reminded me of my old friend Konrad Oberhuber, an art historian at Harvard when I met him, who later became the Curator of the Albertina in Vienna. In 1983 I went on a Fogg Museum trip to Prague with Konrad. Czechoslovakia was the first Communist country I visited,* and I thought the citizens of Prague were the most oppressed people I had seen.

Our group started talking about the mood of the city one day, and Konrad told us about his theory of cycles in history, which enabled him to predict that at the end of 1989 “every Communist government in central Europe” will fall. I had never heard anyone say anything like that: the US Ambassador to the UN, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, was saying almost exactly the opposite, in a theory known as the Kirkpatrick Doctrine which said that it was inherent in the nature of the totalitarian Communist governments in central Europe that they would never voluntarily give up their power unless we forced them to, and that was official US policy under Reagan. But 6 years later, when every central European Communist government but one shut down, Konrad was looking like a genius.

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“There are no unsacred places, there are only sacred places and desecrated places’’ — Wendell Berry

Quote of the Day

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Mystery City No. 2


No. 1: Guess The City (without using Google image search)

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Quote of the Day

“On the screens of my sharpest young students are no longer the parametric pinwheels or blobby billows that were a digitally enhanced memory of the last self-consciously curated consensus style, so-called Deconstructivism. Instead it’s all 1986, all the time: James Stirling, Charles Moore, Raimund Abraham, Oswald Ungers, and Aldo Rossi at his most Giorgio de Chirico.”

After the jump, the quote continues…
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USING CAD for Classical Architecture is both logical and intelligent—but the image that prompted to write this brief post is ugly, so I put it after the jump, Now I won’t have to look at it every time I go to my blog.
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Craft, Beauty, Materials, Local

Craft, beauty, materials, local — these are all words of the moment — but we rarely see them in media stories about architecture, which emphasize shiny glass curtain walls assembled from thousands of identical pieces as mechanically as possible. The walls, by the way, are manufactured in China and shipped to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai, London, New York, and Houston.

That’s what I thought of when I saw these new bicycle stands in Charleston, South Carolina from the craftsman at the American College of Building Arts and the architects Bevan & Liberatos. There’s more information about that here.

BL Bicycle Drawing

After the jump, the opposite approach:

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Posted in Architecture, Beauty, Bicycle, Craft, Current, Global, Good Kind, Local, Materials, New York | 4 Comments

Guess The City (without using Google image search)

Today’s Mystery Street:


At the moment, Google Image Search suggests vanessa hudgens paparazzi, but I imagine that will improve.

PS UPDATE: Sad to say, it’s the same city as the one in the Bike Lane of the Day.

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Bicycle Lane of the Day

Franz-Joseph-Straße @ Kurfürstenstraße. Munich

This One’s Better Than That One
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Yes, Staten Island, my birthplace

107_0714Click on any of the images for a larger view

THE MYSTERY LOCATION is Historic Richmond Town, on Staten Island. I like the house because of it’s simplicity, harmony, proportions, composition, materials, colors—and the beautiful street trees.

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Posted in Architecture, Beauty, Culture, Good Kind, New York, Travels with my iPhone | 1 Comment

Map of the Day

THIS NEW MAP from the NYC DOT shows where pedestrians are killed in Manhattan. The overwhelming majority of the deaths happen to city residents who don’t own cars, to workers in the Manhattan who used public transit for their commute, or to tourists who arrived by plane, bus, or train.

If we had fewer people driving, and all people driving slowly, we could cut those deaths to zero. #VisionZero

Vision Zero

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