Archive for September 2011
There are a lot of weird and interesting things out there, one of them being the conductor Alexander Chen’s “interactive string instrument”.
Pabst has made a lot of people happy throughout its existence, and now it’s providing a second round of opportunity for its hometown Milwaukee. As part of its heritage Pabst left its centrally located, massive brewery behind, which for a long time wasn’t much of a boon in that you had a vast site that looked like this within walking distance of downtown:
But a resurgent Milwaukee urbanism (which has been encouraged by leaders such as former Mayor John Norquist) and an increased demand for living in a dense urban setting is thoroughly transforming “The Brewery” into one of America’s greenest and most modern neighborhoods, complete with a platinum LEED-ND rating (see a complete neighborhood sketch here).
This old industrial site is therefore in the process of becoming a truly unique part of town where the developers will make good use of a one-of-a-kind setting while adding a modern eco-friendly touch. You won’t find this in the Sunbelt (for more pictures see here).
China’s Communist Party is good at making things grow, such as the economy and, evidently, cities. As one of its latest feats, the able cadres of Anhui province managed to, with minimal effort, make one city into three. Over night.
What used to be the single urban center of Chaohu is now three other cities, as reported by NPR. Without any consultation the Communist Party made Chaohu disappear from the face of the earth, before the very same officials made it reappear as parts of the nearby cities Hefei, Wuhu and Ma’anshan. This will supposedly be good for growth. Odd. Wouldn’t it be better to save a real city with all its established intricate networks in order to promote the metropolitan area rather than to slice it up and prohibit efficient regional strategizing, was my first thought.
But it is not quite as strange as it first seemed (though disappearing localities is still odd). Because the former city of Chaohu is a municipality that contains both a central city as well as surrounding countryside (much in the same manner that Chongqing can be referred to as the world’s biggest city, disregarding the fact that the municipality of Chongqing takes up an area almost twice the size of Switzerland where large chunks are not very metropolitan at all). Dividing Chaohu therefore means that parts of the municipality’s more rural parts are included into surrounding jurisdictions that are centered around three different central cities. And if these central cities, like the case is with Hefei, are bigger and more productive than Chaohu, it could be beneficial to be a part of Hefei rather than Chaohu.
More growth aside, since it’s not the Party’s style to ask concerned residents if they approve of changes it’s hard to complain about it not doing so this time. But would it have been too much to put up a note?
More than a few people would be surprised to step into this Chicago transit rail car public garden (that I found thanks to Spacing Atlantic), including myself, but I would enjoy it. If it doesn’t run out of money this novel institution will travel around the city for an entire month. Read more about it and see more pictures at Colossal.
British elictricity pylons will no longer be shaped the way they have always been shaped - making something ugly, if not exactly blend in, at least look interesting.
But while buildings like this:
Eventually turned into converted warehouses like this:
What will happen to this:
Extreme examples make things clear. Take amenities and wage-compensation. If an individual move to a city that is rich in amenities, like New York, the benefits from such amenities should show up as a pay-cut (never mind that the pay-cut is offset by agglomeration effects), similarly if an individual moves from a place that is rich in amenities to a much less desirable location, the effect should be a significant pay-increase.
Looking at American cities, this usually amounts to a few percentage points, which lends the theory validity but fails to really hammer the point home. Recently, though, I read about the case of Brasília and the Brazilian federal government’s difficulties with getting their employees to move from the splendid setting of Rio de Janeiro to the man-made fascist concrete utopia on the savannah, something that truly showed how much amenities matter.
In the early 1960s, when Oscar Niemeyer’s creation had been inaugurated and was ready to be settled, federal officials woke up to a grim reality. If they wanted to keep their cushy, well-paid jobs they would have to leave the beaches, restaurants, clubs, theatres, museums, soccer arenas and carnivals in the Marvelous City and move 1000 kilometers inland to a Brasília where they would live in a “scientifically created” capital where zoning was taken to such extremes that they were forced to reside in identical Super Quadras along the x-axis of the airplane-shaped city plan, work along the y-axis, visit their guests in the Southern Hotel Sector before entertaining them in the, yes, Entertainment Sector; shop along thirty identical streets (that all housed a pharmacy, a bakery, a supermarket and a bank) and relax by an artificial lake (in which you could still see the tree-tops below the surface) that was created to increase the humidity in a climate so dry that residents suffer from collective nosebleed in February.
In short, what the f*ck! It was like going from a tropical paradise where rent-seeking federal officials were kings to an expulsion to the moon (Yuri Gagarin himself remarked that it looked more like a different planet when he visited Brasília, as told in Henrik Brandaõ Jönsson’s book “Fantasiön” about the Brazilian capital that will be published in English soon).
A project that symbolized Brazilian modernity, and sounded like samba to futuristically-minded people who did not have to live there (including the top architects who remained in Rio de Janeiro), generated nothing but a tremendous sense of dismay among the bureaucracy’s cadres. A feeling that was captured by federal wages. Thanks to that, it’s possible to gauge about how much more the officials valued living in amenity-rich Rio vs. oklahomian Brasília – the result, more than twice as much.
According to the Brazilian sociologist Brasilmar Nunes, federal officials could be coaxed to give up Copacabana for the desolate interior first when they received doubled wages plus benefits (Fantasiön, p. 29). Without that, Rio’s lower wages but higher quality of life would win out and officials stay put – poorer, but happier.
“Not houses finely roofed
nor the stones of walls well built
nor canals nor dockyards
make the city,
but men able to use their opportunity.”
- Alcaeus, 600 B.C.
I found this quote thanks to the Minneapolis Fed! Though, Douglas Clement gives credit to the urbanists’ urbanist – Jane Jacobs.