September 30, 2005

Asylum Seekers via Scotland

These folks are embarassing... (regardless of which side you find yourself on).

September 29, 2005

Thursday Travesty or Triumph II

Well, we had only five votes on last weeks Travesty (three for travesty, one for triumph, and one avoiding bifurcation, which makes it a travesty). I'm sure Ms. Schwartz will be crushed to see her design trampled on like that. I do have to say that the vote count was a bit... disappointing... a lot of folk are coming by and not commenting, which is not surprising, but it is a tad disappointing, I don't know if you readers realize this but the interweb is only as exciting as you make it! If you don't interact with the interweb it can't interact with you!

Um, so on to the piece I have selected for today.

The Parc Diagonal Mar (Barcelona, Spain):

If the Parc Diagonal Mar were any more contemporary, it would pop. Or possibly explode. At any rate, it was just completed. It has received a mixed reaction from the design community. For example, the ASLA has given it a General Design Award of Honor, which is pretty decent (though not top prize -- that would be the Award of Excellence). They also wrote an article defending it against its critics back in 2004, partially viewable here (for whatever reason, the ASLA hates to have people read its magazine -- pretty much the only way to get your hands on a copy is to become a landscape architect or at least a student; I've been trying for months to find issues in bookstores and have been totally foiled).

On the other hand, its critics have been pretty harsh, as well. The Project for Public Spaces has derided it for the typical reasons they deride things: inaccessibility, emphasis on aesthetic design over functional design, sterility, and so forth (I should note that its defenders hold that these charges are inaccurate, not unimportant as modernists (or "Design Bunnies" as I like to refer to them) tend to hold in their worst moments).

On to the design of the site. The park apparently has six main features (in terms of use; this would be distinct from features as they might be approached from a purely aesthetic standpoint): "fountains, a sports and amphitheater area, a bar, "magic mountain" for young children, a play area for infants and toddlers, and a dog area. All these uses are grouped around the generous water area that cuts through the site like the Avenue Diagonal cuts through Barcelona." (Quotation from A Weekly Dose of Architecture) One of the charges leveled at it by its critics is that children tend to lose interest quickly in the areas intended for them (the designated "playground" areas) and instead spend their time on areas not necessarily intended for play. (this is probably a characteristic of children, not the park, though, if you ask me)

If you have flash, you can go navigate a confusing presentation about the design at on of the design firm's websites. (the other design firm is American giant EDAW)

Click on the picture for more pictures at the ASLA's website (picture is from ASLA website and is a plan as developed by EDAW)

The park is intended to create a connection between pedestrian circulation along the main avenues of Barcelona a portion of the waterfront, so perhaps its success or failure should be determined primarily by a judgment about its fulfillment of that intention, but, unfortunately, you and I are forced to judge it mostly from static images, so that will not be possible.

Vote! Travesty or Triumph!

September 28, 2005

Avoid the hippodrome

Japanese scientists have photographed a live giant squid. I think this is probably the high point of my existence so far. You can watch some of it at CNN.

Its just fantastic. Now we just need someone to make like Jacques and film it
beautifully with a trippy soundtrack.

September 26, 2005

Ocean Rain

Am planning on making a basic "Intro to Indie Rock" CD for someone. Taking suggestions. I do not intend to diverge from the mainline of indie rock, though. Big guns only: Pavement, Archers of Loaf, Built to Spill, JSBX, Modest Mouse, Sebadoh will prop up the nineties, I'm thinking I'll need some basic precursors (Velvet Underground, Ramones, Pixies, maybe Cure or Echo and the Bunnymen), possibly a band or two to represent the current stuff (I dunno, Wilco or Interpol or something). But I want it to be basic. None of that Caustic Resin or anything. And definitely no sub-genres, insofar as that's possible (alt-country, psych-folk, none of that). Definitely a focus on lo-fi as I consider that the "mainline" of indie rock. So let me know if you have ideas.

And if you've failed to vote in the Thursday Travesty or Tragedy from last week, its not to late! I won't tally the votes until Thursday, so please opine, and you may also present suggestions for the coming Thursday, though I have lots of things I plan to discuss.

September 22, 2005

Thursday Travesty or Triumph I

Martha Schwartz: HUD Plaza Improvements, Washington, DC

Planters and Lifesavers

In 1990, the Department of Housing and Urban Development hired Martha Schwartz to redesign the 6-acre plaza at the front of its Washington, DC offices. Schwartz's redesign introduced two primary new elements: first, grass-filled concrete planters that serve both as seating and green intrusions and, second, white vinyl "lifesaver" lighting rings to provide shade in the day and lighting at night. Secondary design elements include a backlit mural (it is essentially invisible during daylight) and lighting elements in the concrete planters. It received a 2000 Merit award from the ASLA in the category of design.

View from across the Street

The plaza's original (1960's) modernist design was extremely sparse and intended to showcase the building's design, which left it essentially incapable of performing traditional plaza functions such as providing a comfortable public meeting space and insterting green organisms into the concrete environment. HUD felt that these characteristics were contrary to its stated mission of providing livable space.

So, do you think Schwartz has been successful? Is this still a travesty of inaccessible and unattractive design, or is it a triumph of po-mo over simple mo? As explained in the rules in the previous post, please leave a comment giving this either a "Triumph" or a "Travesty", even if you think your opinion is not valid (and it may very well not be!) I report, you decide.

Plum Party Stockings

It has been my general experience that when a professor tells you that they will be grading you on "self-expression", despite their profuse protestations to the contrary, they actually have a narrow and regimented set of expectations that they intend for you to fufill. One of them is that there is no room for not liking the work of art that they have assigned for you to present to the class.

In an attempt to validate (in my own eyes) my "self-expression", I am hereby announcing the second series requiring user interaction on this corner of the interhole: "Thursday Travesty or Triumph".

Every Thursday, I will present you with a piece of art and ask you, the readers of this blog to determine whether it is a Travesty or a Triumph. I know you exist, thanks to StatCounter, so don't come here and fail to comment -- it just takes a second and you can leave a useless email address like for all I care. I will tally your opinions and post them later in the week (possibly as late as next Thursday!) Finally, if there is a piece that you would like to see covered, please comment and request it. I will almost certainly do so. However, I suppose I should warn you that I am a burgeoning landscape architect (by burgeoning I mean philosophy grad in his very first quarter of studying landscape), and so I intend to weight the piece selection towards landscape design and urban design, although I also intend to toss in a bit of architecture.

September 20, 2005

Greatest of all time

Determined to lower their readership, the New York Times has decided to make its op-ed columnists available only to those who purchase "Times Select" at the rate of $50/year. In case you find that charge a bit high, I suggest Never Pay Retail, which is devoted to posting links to free copies of the Times articles as they become available. (Some of the sites require registration, but its free -- and anyways, that's what Bug Me Not is for).

If you're not excited about going to the moon, you can get to the back of the bus. (For a highly optimistic view of the possibilites, visit The Space Review. I would have been so excited if I was still six or seven)

If you are interested in my life and you know me, I have some pictures of my daily life that I intend to post later this week. However, I have lots of classes at the beginning of the week (like plant identification) and must study for now. I might also get a flickr account to put them in so I don't use up Josiah's space. Maybe.

September 15, 2005

Hand cannons don't ask about your zodiac, boy

Friend Ryan is conducting an interesting (and clever, I would say) social experiment: having recently vacated Athens (much like me) for the temperate but unfamiliar environment of the west coast, he has made these business cards:

We'll have to see how that goes. But its definitely clever. Though, if you knew Ryan, I think you'd agree that clever is one of the first adjectives that comes to mind as a description, so perhaps you would not be particularly surprised by this act.

September 13, 2005

The Jitters

Whoah I am up way too early today. Before I go sit myself down in that lovely downtown Washington traffic on my way to the Arboretum, perhaps I will share with you a fascinating discovery I made at the Washington Zoo a couple weeks ago:

The Naked Mole-Rat.

These attractive mammals have the remarkable characteristic of (besides being hideously bald and looking like fetal pigs their entire lives) being eusocial. That's right, just like ants, termites, and killer bees, the naked mole-rats, who are neither moles nor rats, but more properly related to chinchillas (who are adorable) live in colonies ruled by a strict social hierarchy that includes one breeding queen, her harem of several breeding males, and bunches of soldier and drone mole-rats. It should also be noted that they have a toilet room in their burrow (which looks like a scaled-up ant colony, except its entirely underground). The queen was particularly disgusting, because, in order to accomodate the large number of births she is responsible for, her backbone has stretched and added more vertabrae or something and she looks like the stretch hummer of mole-rats. Its absolutely sickeningly fascinating. Read more abouth these fascinating little nasties here -- theoretically, there's also a naked mole rat cam, though it wasn't working for me. See also a quicktime movie here.

September 11, 2005

The Bleeding Heart Show

Folks, I have two things for you today (yes, I was reading the Times):

1. Some gorgeous photos from the New York Times. They were taken by Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao, a recent arts graduate, for a student photography contest sponsored by the Times. The interesting thing about them, in my opinion, is the way that he photoshopped multiple pictures of the same local smoothly together to create seemless, photorealistic images despite the fact that they were taken at significantly different times (and thus under widely erratic lighting). That's tricky. But I suppose you get good at it when you go to art school. Here's one of them -- see the rest here.

2. Kristof. I'm lazy. Someone who disagrees with him/his sources point out to me why he is wrong. If anyone cares to disagree.

September 9, 2005

I am a time bomb

Good morning world. Renovations continue, here, I believe that we will be renaming and continuing to update our graphical representation, as its kind of hard to see the dates on the calendar and there's nothing I hate more than a poorly designed interface. Plus I don't think the picture is particularly visually interesting. In the meantime, perhaps you would care to entertain yourself by watching the video for Sigur Ros' latest, Glosoli? I'll admit, its perhaps a bit over the top at the end there, but its probably worth watching for the Icelandic scenery alone. Iceland has to be in my top ten places in the world. Top ten places in the world (which I have not been to)(in no particular order and rather incomplete as there are not ten listed it):
- Iceland
- Lapland
- Nova Scotia
- Scotland
- Isle of Man
- Patagonia
- Angkor Wat
- Zanzibar

My neighbor rides his skateboard to work. That has to be the most rock and roll thing on the planet. I suppose it would be a bit more rock if he wore a suit, but its right up there.

This is extremely rich. An Indian IT firm has outsourced to Northern Ireland. I believe the term is irony. Speaking of Northern Ireland, props on your 1-0 win over England lads. I have to give a bit of love to Scotland, too.