Saturday, July 26, 2008

The City Building Industry: Just Like Teapots

This article in the Wall Street Journal discusses the recent emergence of cities being designed by starchitects. This trend seems to be resulting in developments that are more of a brand image than actual cities. While the designers tend to at least pay lip service to ideas of street life and community, I'm not entirely convinced. Of course, even in places like Dubai, such large projects take decades to completely build out, so the jury will be out for some time. As a result it will be many years before we'll be able to determine whether these new cities are a panacea or a disaster. My fear is that we are returning to the Corbusian idea where one visionary designer shapes the entire city. By definition, in my opinion at least, good cities must be developed and evolve over time. It's the mix of things being built over time that makes cities rich. Dennis Frenchman, director of the city design and development program at MIT, believes that we are seeing the emergence of a new industry. "It's not real-estate development; it's not architecture; it's not city planning. All I can do is name it 'the city-building industry." And this new industry seeks out the services of name brand architects because they make the product more sellable. As Frenchman says, "It's just like teapots."

Is it possible for one person to design an entire city? Can the built results ever live up to the glossy images? Are the results going to be lively neighborhoods or vacant gated enclaves? What happens when cities are conceived as products?

Projects mentioned in the article:
Kartal, Istanbul, Turkey - Zaha Hadid (pictured above - photo from
Waterfront City, Dubai, UAD - Rem Koolhaas/OMA
Riga Port City, Latvia - Rem Koolhaas/OMA
Downtown Orestad, Copenhagen, Denmark - Daniel Libeskind
Fiera Milano, Milan, Italy - Daniel Libeskind
Segovia, Spain - David Chipperfield
Zorrozaurre, Bilbao, Spain - Zaha Hadid
Lille, France - Rem Koolhaas/OMA
One-North, Singapore - Zaha Hadid

Also, the WSJ includes two pages on the history of City planning. 1 and 2.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Welcome to the DUAL:workshop Blog!

So, I'm about to make a major life change and I've decided to document it via a blog. Right now, I'm sitting at T-minus 18 days before we pack up our stuff and move from St. Petersburg, FL to Philadelphia, PA. Then, I'll have about 2 weeks before school begins and I officially start working toward my PhD in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania (PennDesign). It has been a little more than 5 years since I graduated from Georgia Tech with my M.Arch. and I'm definitely looking forward to returning to the academic life. The semester starts on September 3rd and my schedule is currently shaping up to include the following classes:

Writing on Architecture (Prof. Witold Rybcynski)
Architectural Research (Prof. David Leatherbarrow)
Proseminar in Urban Studies (Prof. Michael Katz)
Concepts and Theories in Contemporary Landscape Architecture (Prof. Anita Berrizbeitia)

At this point, I'm pretty sure that this will be my final schedule, but it is still subject to change. It looks like in addition to pursuing the PhD, I will also be working towards the Graduate Certificate in Urban Studies. This program is geared toward PhD students that are doing urban research, so it is pretty much in line with what I'm planning on doing over the next few years.

Anyways, other than maybe this post, this blog is not really intended to be a record of my personal life. If anything, I would say that the mission of the blog is to help me think out loud and develop my ideas about architecture and the city. Of course, given how deeply intertwined my life is with my thoughts about and practice of architecture and urban design, there is bound to be some blurring of the lines every now and then.

I've never really done this sort of thing, so hopefully it will be both interesting and educational.

The couple of posts that are below this one are ones that I have migrated over from the Emerging Tampa Bay Architects blog, where I have been a contributing editor (for lack of a better term) for the past year or so. I thought that they were at least somewhat relevant to the topic of this blog and they gave me some content to help with editing the layout of things before going public.