Links to read 10/03/2008 (p.m.)

October 3, 2008 at 5:30 am | In links | Comments Off on Links to read 10/03/2008 (p.m.)
  • Andrew Blum’s article describes Cellophane House, a 5-storey prefab going up in Manhattan at the corner of 53rd and Sixth.

    tags: prefab, wired_magazine, andrew_blum, architecture, nyc

    • Cellophane House is five stories tall, with floor-to-ceiling windows, translucent polycarbonate steps embedded with LEDs, and exterior walls made of NextGen SmartWrap, an experimental plastic laminated with photovoltaic cells. Its aluminum frame was cut from off-the-shelf components in Europe, assembled in New Jersey, then snapped together in 16 days on a vacant lot next to the Museum of Modern Art — joining four other full-size houses onsite through October as part of the exhibit Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. It looks as if a suburban cul-de-sac took a wrong turn at the Holland Tunnel.
    • Prefab is “modernism’s oldest dream,” curator Barry Bergdoll says. Since the industrial revolution, architects have been in thrall of the idea that houses could be built in factories, like any kind of widget. But reality hasn’t been extremely cooperative. Whether because of conservative public tastes, unachievable economies of scale, or designers’ less-than-stellar business acumen, their utopian visions have mostly remained fantasies.
    • But the strange subdivision next door to the museum suggests that prefab’s time has finally come. The difference now is bits, not bolts. “Digital fabrication has become one of the key flash points for architects thinking about the way things are made,” Bergdoll says as we tour the houses. On an upper floor of Cellophane, two riggers saw a crossbeam amid a flurry of sparks. (It was fabricated too long.) Nearby, a team of MIT students hammer at a cottage made of computer-cut plywood with grooves and joints ready to be fit together like puzzle pieces.
  • Critique of Harper’s Conservative party for being contemptuous of cities and for trying to start a “culture war” of sorts between the salt-of-the-earth rurals vs those decadent urbanites. Sigh.

    tags: thestar, toronto, canada, cities, election, stephen_harper, infrastructure_funding, municipal_funding

    • Cities must be an issue in the federal election and are being ignored to everybody’s detriment, a panel of urban experts said yesterday at the University of Toronto.
    • Canadians risk a damaging polarization between conservative rural voters and liberal urban voters similar to the divide between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S., argued Eric Miller, director of the university’s Cities Centre.
    • Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at U of T’s Rotman School of Management, spoke about dismantling the divisions between urban and rural issues, local and national issues.

      “We need to move across the divide,” Florida said, bemoaning the state of U.S. affairs. He said cities shouldn’t be isolated from other concerns. “It has to be our obligation in urban areas to lead and help … to benefit everyone.”

    • During questions, one member of the audience raised the spectre of the Canadian Constitution, which delineates the provinces’ authority over municipalities.

      “The Constitution is an excuse not to do something,” Miller said later, pointing to overlap in areas such as immigration, which is a federal responsibility, yet is an issue for cities, where most immigrants settle.

    • Most of the panel, which included environmental philosopher Ingrid Stefanovic, argued that urban issues were inseparable from national issues – from climate change, transportation strategy and the country’s economic health, to immigration and concerns about urban sprawl and the environment.

      Stefanovic, who argued cities and the environment should be viewed as one issue, said: “I think all political parties have to recognize cities are going to be playing an important role – should be playing an important role – in this election.”

  • Page for WATT, Rotterdam’s Sustainable Dance Club. Includes a really cool video (one guy, quoting verbatim, talks about how we’re “leaving the tree hugger age” and moving into a whole new era that embraces innovation etc.). Found via Inhabitat (see…), which includes more images.

    tags: dance_club, sustainability, innovation, rotterdam, environment

  • Portal page for “Creative Providence,” billed as “a cultural plan for the City” by Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline. Good looking site, friendly UI, easy to navigate. Could/ should be a model for other cities (wish we’d build something like this for Cultural Capital Victoria…).

    Note: somewhat mind-blowing – the City of Providence has its own Department of Art, Culture + Tourism… Wow, I guess they take this stuff seriously!

    tags: providence, creative_cities, reference

    • The cultural plan will explore the current strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities for the City’s arts, creative, and cultural sector. The focus will be on stimulating economic development, strengthening the creative economy, education, civic engagement, and enhancing the quality of life in the City of Providence. It will better position the City to realize its full potential as a creative center and to deliver on its promise of innovation and change.
    • Providence‘s cultural planning process and the creation of the plan will be a collaborative effort led by two consulting firms: Craig Dreeszen, a nationally recognized cultural planner, and the staff from Providence-based think tank, New Commons. Dr. Dreeszen will guide the steering committee and produce the formal cultural plan. Robert Leaver, of New Commons, will design and facilitate the public forums – including a conference, online website, and an operating network to guide the development of the plan.
    • These consultants will help steer the process but it will take significant community participation to produce a locally responsive cultural plan and create a sustainable and integrated creative community. The City of Providence’s Department of Art, Culture + Tourism wants to cultivate a collective creative community of artists and arts administrators who will lead the future development of our City.
  • UC Riverside scientists have a breakthrough that would allow genetic engineering to enable plants to become tolerant of aluminum toxicity. Apparently, much of the world’s potentially arable land has that aluminum toxicity, and therefore can’t be used for food production. Ths would circumvent that problem, and possibly signal a breakthrough into the second wave of a Green Revolution. (The first one has kind of reached its limits.)

    tags: wired_magazine, agriculture, bioneering, genetic_engineering, food, crops, paul_larsen

    • “Aluminum toxicity is a very limiting factor, especially in developing
      countries, in South America and Africa and Indonesia,” said biochemist Paul Larsen. “It’s not like these
      areas are devoid of plant life, but they’re not crop plants. Among
      agriculturally important plants, there aren’t mechanisms for aluminum
    • There’s no more room for farms in the developed world; demand for cropland is fueling deforestation in the rain forests of Latin America and Africa; and the limits of the Green Revolution, which increased global food production through the use of pesticides and industrial farming techniques, have been reached. Another revolution, say agronomists, is needed.
    • There’s no guarantee that the tweak will prove successful and safe — but if it does, it could provide food for millions.
    • “I don’t expect to make any money off it,” he said. “I’d like it to trickle down to the people who need it.

      He does worry that the technique could be used as an excuse to clear
      rain forests from currently aluminum-toxic soil. Instead of this, said
      Larsen, already-cut land could be made more productive.

      “If we can make use of the land that’s available now, maybe we can make
      it so we don’t have to cut forests down in the future,” he said.

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