This year's Biennale reveals that neither modernism nor contemporary architectural practice is as it seems. The best architecture today may not be revolutionary, but then today more than ever the desirability of revolutions are in doubt. Situated modernism has for many years been and continues to dominate architectural practice with the opposite of flattening results.
Weizman has also made a name for himself as the chief proponent of “forensic architecture”, by which he analyses the impacts of urban warfare for clues about the crimes that were perpetrated there. To Weizman, buildings are weapons. When he looks out across the landscape of the occupied Palestinian West Bank [...] he sees a battlefield. “The weapons and ammunitions are very simple elements: they are trees, they are terraces, they are houses. They are barriers.”
Since the beginning of America’s suburban experiment, it has only been recently that effort and interest has welled behind the ideas of walkability and alternatives to a car-centric life outside of cities. While movements like New Urbanism that promote re-investigating the suburban model have swelled with support over the past decade, these projects still represent a minority in development outside of urban centers. Even when aspects like tenets of New Urbanism are employed, the goal of increasing walkability in American suburbia faces an uphill battle until more substantial steps can be taken to alter the parameters for both construction and mobility. Re-orienting the suburbia we know for the pedestrian is inherently fighting against its own DNA.
Our suburbs realize the goal of spreading things farther apart because their creators were presented with a new option for traveling longer distances in a shorter amount of time. The world of sub-divisions constructed on tracts of greenfield acreage was built upon an idea of mobility, even if that idea meant that residents would have to spend more time being mobile. The propagation of the detached, single-family home was designed for communities of private space, even if that separation came at the expense of community interaction.
In many ways, the heart of the problem revolves around density; how to achieve the proximity of people and services necessary to make a walkable landscape function when starting with a town built for the purpose of spreading out. Short of mowing down communities and starting with a clean slate (which some architects like Paolo Soleri believed is the only solution for suburban America) the process can start by changes to local zoning to incentivize a migration to more walkable development patterns.
Come on Over, Neighbor
In order to increase density where it is wanted (near a town center) and discourage expansion through sprawl (at the periphery) a municipality could create a market for density where one doesn’t exist with a trade. By creating new peripheral areas dedicated for conservation paired with zoning changes in the town center, the market forces of development could change to promote a more walkable outcome.
The plan would start with the identification of conservation area, presumably on the outer edge of a municipality and anchored with existing natural features like forests, wetlands or bodies of water. In addition to land untouched by development, the town would include private property currently owned by residents, creating the option for the land beneath them to be added to the preserve at any point in the future. While there is nothing limiting any homeowner from adding restrictive covenants to a property for conservation purposes, these plots would have the capacity to transfer a portion of their square footage back into property in the center of town to allow the owner to build beyond normal zoning restrictions.
With the correct calibration, it should be possible to create financial incentive for all parties involved. The peripheral homeowner could still have a healthy sale price for their home given that there is no depreciation to the land and they are under no pressure to sell. A potential buyer (who would theoretically also own land in the town center) would be buying less expensive acreage for the opportunity to build bigger or taller more expensive acreage. To sweeten the deal a bit more, the donation of the conservation land could most likely earn the buyer a tax credit of some sort as well (with the requirement that the existing home be sustainably demolished and returned to native land). The town should get a net increase of tax base while local business gets an influx of nearby customers.
The particulars of the final formula would be location specific, depending a great deal on things like the availability of land, the current levels of infrastructure, housing demand and financial market forces. But the feasibility lies only in a town taking a proactive role in deciding its own future.
Simple Moves with Many Benefits
As part of a larger initiative for walkable communities, coordinating a density transfer could help bolster a migration towards a pedestrian culture. As density rises in close proximity, local businesses that count on sidewalk frontage rather than parking spaces become more viable. A reality of ground floor retail is contingent on a healthy flow of pedestrian traffic. Be it a restaurant, grocery story or dry cleaner, every trip taken by foot is a trip that isn’t taken by car.
Charles Marohn, author of Strong Towns, points to the inability of some suburban municipalities to finance their own existence in the absence of consistent growth. Marohn argues that the lack of density in our popular suburban model inherently robs municipal systems of their financial solvency, requiring new generations of growth to pay for the infrastructure of the ones before. On the flip side, localized density lends itself to a more reliable infrastructure grid that costs less per capita and is easier to maintain.
As the amount of residents per unit of area rises, the cost to provide basic services to them drops and options that last longer (like underground electrical instead of poles and power lines) become better investments for both utilities and consumers alike. The process could be bolstered further by instituting utility prices based on a density-driven grid where homes farther from central distribution points need to pay more to help finance utilities stretching out to reach them. If the outermost reaches of local development are shuttered for conservation in favor for a tighter town center, roadways that used to need paving and plowing can be abandoned or even removed to reduce impervious surfaces.
The integration of modes of alternative transit have always faced stiff headwinds in suburban America where the sprinkling of homes over large distances make it impossible to justify the costs of installation and operation of transit systems-even municipal buses. As development patterns change, the equation for alternative transit could begin to change in an environment where it has consistently been ruled unfeasible. With enough businesses in close proximity and enough potential users close enough to make a car trip unnecessary, the criteria for bike lanes or bus routes could be more plausible.
Every town having a stock of land that is off-limits to development isn’t bad either. These areas where nature is allowed to define its own destiny serve as permanent carbon sinks and natural filters for air and water. Proactive steps to identify more outdoor spaces worth saving will help ensure that people have native landscapes to utilize for recreation (a reason that many suburban dwellers give for living outside of the city in the first place). On top of that, more local habitats and natural ecologies will remain intact.
Don’t Wait for a Game Changer, Just Change the Game
It is one thing to challenge the model when starting from scratch, but changing the existing suburban fabric is more challenging. Context is an amazing source of inertia for the status quo. Building a bridge over a river is often less difficult than replacing the bridge. When you start all there is a river to cross. It can take as long as it needs to and the result will be access where none previously existed. Replacing the bridge means either stopping people from crossing the bridge they’re already using, or building a temporary bridge to divert the current traffic, removing the existing bridge, building a new one and removing the temporary one. In the same way, working with the suburbia we have makes for a difficult problem when it comes to an option other than vehicular travel, which in turn influences the size and type of use groups that will follow.
The design community has already spent some time talking about the obstacles for altering the trend of suburban development. In many cases, efforts of designers and planners try to tweak individual buildings, streets or intersections within a broken regulatory system–effectively trying to make a better widget. The maturity of the evolutionary development of suburban America puts us past the point where tweaks and nudges will provide the re-calibration necessary for walkable communities. Eventually we need to change the rules of the game if we want to alter the outcome.
Image Credit: economicsofplace.com
Filed under: Cultural Norms, Urban Planning Tagged: architecture, new, sprawl, suburban, sustainability
September 1 marks the official start of the annual Taiji dolphin and small whale hunt in Japan, made infamous by the 2009 documentary The Cove. A quota of nearly 2,000 animals has been approved for this season, and Taiji hunters insist that the killing is done in a humane fashion – but the method used involves tethering the animals’ tails then severing the spinal cord of each animal in turn using a metal spike. The metal spike is meant to cause immediate brain death, followed by ‘bleed out,’ but video footage captured over recent years shows animals clearly in severe distress and struggling for their lives. (A 2011 veterinary observation noted one death took four minutes.) Cetaceans are intelligent and closely bonded creatures with complex communication systems – which means the process is anything but humane for the animals still struggling to free themselves as the water fills with the blood of their already slain fellow pod members.
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From CoreLogic: CoreLogic Reports Home Prices Rose by 7.4 Percent Year Over Year in July
Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased 7.4 percent in July 2014 compared to July 2013. This change represents 29 months of consecutive year-over-year increases in home prices nationally. On a month-over-month basis, home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased 1.2 percent in July 2014 compared to June 2014.Click on graph for larger image.
Excluding distressed sales, home prices nationally increased 6.8 percent in July 2014 compared to July 2013 and 1.1 percent month over month compared to June 2014. ...
“While home prices have clearly moderated nationwide since the spring, the geographic drivers of price increases are shifting,” said Sam Khater, deputy chief economist for CoreLogic. “Entering this year, price increases were led by western and southern states, but over the last few months northeastern and midwestern states are migrating to the forefront of home price rankings.”
This graph shows the national CoreLogic HPI data since 1976. January 2000 = 100.
The index was up 1.2 in July, and is up 7.4% over the last year.
This index is not seasonally adjusted, so a solid month-to-month gain was expected for July.
The second graph is from CoreLogic. The year-over-year comparison has been positive for twenty nine consecutive months suggesting house prices bottomed early in 2012 on a national basis (the bump in 2010 was related to the tax credit).
The YoY increase was slightly higher in July than in June (revised), however I expect the year-over-year increases to continue to slow.
Without warning, hundreds of thousands of dead fish have been floating to the surface of Lake Cajititlan in the Mexican state of Jalisco over the past week. Local authorities claim the deaths are part of a “natural cycle,” but state authorities disagree, saying that the phenomena is due to “poor management” of the lake. This isn’t the first time this has happened either – 10 tons of fish were found dead in the same lake last October. Is this really an annual event, or yet another occurrence caused by the harmful activities of humans?
The U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce announced today that construction spending during July 2014 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $981.3 billion, 1.8 percent above the revised June estimate of $963.7 billion. The July figure is 8.2 percent above the July 2013 estimate of $906.6 billion.Both private and public spending increased in July:
Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $701.7 billion, 1.4 percent above the revised June estimate of $692.2 billion. Residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $358.1 billion in July, 0.7 percent above the revised June estimate of $355.6 billion. Nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $343.6 billion in July, 2.1 percent above the revised June estimate of $336.6 billion. ...Click on graph for larger image.
In July, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $279.6 billion, 3.0 percent above the revised June estimate of $271.5 billion.
This graph shows private residential and nonresidential construction spending, and public spending, since 1993. Note: nominal dollars, not inflation adjusted.
Private residential spending has flattened recently and is 47% below the peak in early 2006 - but up 57% from the post-bubble low.
Non-residential spending is 17% below the peak in January 2008, and up about 52% from the recent low.
Public construction spending is now 14% below the peak in March 2009 and about 7% above the post-recession low.
The second graph shows the year-over-year change in construction spending.
On a year-over-year basis, private residential construction spending is now up 8%. Non-residential spending is up 14% year-over-year. Public spending is up 2% year-over-year.
Looking forward, all categories of construction spending should increase in 2014. Residential spending is still very low, non-residential is starting to pickup, and public spending has probably hit bottom after several years of austerity.
This was a strong report, especially considering the upward revisions to spending in May and June.
I wanted to include 2 hotfix links for Revit 2014 \ 2015 related to multi-category schedules and linked models.
The 2014 hotfix also includes an API MFCDockableFrame improvement. If you have Update Release 3 installed for either product, make sure to install the applicable hotfixes:
Pioneers of the pre-fabricated home HUF HAUS have constructed thousands of energy efficient houses across the globe. Their über-efficient designs have paved the way for a new wave of green modular homes, demonstrating a truly sustainable life cycle, beautiful architecture, and zero-waste build. To watch the construction of a HUF HAUS is like watching someone else flawlessly, and easily, assemble a giant IKEA product – and it’s deeply satisfying. Check out the video above and hit the jump for more details.
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Did you know that printer ink costs up to thousands of dollars per liter? This pricey commodity is said to be one of the most expensive commercially produced liquids in the world and can cost double or more than high-end luxury perfumes like Chanel No. 5. But if you can’t swap your printer for good ol’ pencil and paper, you can still make a difference in your ink usage and the amount of printer paper used by changing your font and your spelling. Click through to learn more in this infographic by pixartprinting.
From the Institute for Supply Management: August 2014 Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®
Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in August for the 15th consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 63rd consecutive month, say the nation's supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.Click on graph for larger image.
The report was issued today by Bradley J. Holcomb, CPSM, CPSD, chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. "The August PMI® registered 59 percent, an increase of 1.9 percentage points from July's reading of 57.1 percent, indicating continued expansion in manufacturing. This month's PMI® reflects the highest reading since March 2011 when the index registered 59.1 percent. The New Orders Index registered 66.7 percent, an increase of 3.3 percentage points from the 63.4 percent reading in July, indicating growth in new orders for the 15th consecutive month. The Production Index registered 64.5 percent, 3.3 percentage points above the July reading of 61.2 percent. The Employment Index grew for the 14th consecutive month, registering 58.1 percent, a slight decrease of 0.1 percentage point below the July reading of 58.2 percent. Inventories of raw materials registered 52 percent, an increase of 3.5 percentage points from the July reading of 48.5 percent, indicating growth in inventories following one month of contraction. The August PMI® is led by the highest recorded New Orders Index since April 2004 when it registered 67.1 percent. At the same time, comments from the panel reflect a positive outlook mixed with caution over global geopolitical unrest.
Here is a long term graph of the ISM manufacturing index.
This was solidly above expectations of 56.8%. The employment index was strong - and the new orders index was at the highest level since April 2004.
Very strong report.
California just scored a major potential win for the environment last Friday, when the State Senate approved the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags. The Senate passed the ban with a 22-15 vote just one day after the controversial bill won approval from the State Assembly. If Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signs the legislation into law by September 30, California’s plastic bag ban would go into effect starting July 1, 2015.
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