Wednesday, September 19, 2007

fun with color

When I was in school the only real lessons we got in color theory were "there are no bad color combinations," and then a big "have at it!"

This doesn't even begin to touch on the ways that colors interact. Ever wonder why there is a light purple but no dark yellow? Ever wonder what the real difference between whiteness and brightness is? Well trip on down to LivelyGrey, play some games, and learn some lessons. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"tremendous symbiosis of Progress and Nature"

This is what archibase calls the Stockholm Metro. I would have to agree:

"The Stockholm Metro, or Stockholms tunnelbana, is the metro system in Stockholm, Sweden. The system has three main lines and one hundred stations, 47 of which are subterranean and 53 are aboveground (surface and elevated) stations."

"Stockholm's metro is well known for its decoration of the stations; it has been called the longest art exhibit in the world. Several of the stations (especially on the Blue line) are left with the bedrock exposed, crude and unfinished, or as part of the decorations."

Tremendous, indeed. I have never, in my years of mass transit, seen anything approximating this. Say what you will about the scale of D.C.'s tunnels and the baroque chandeliers of Moscow. I'll take the caves of Stockholm, thank you very much. Why on earth have the Swedes not let everyone know about this? Those cheeky Swedes.

(Thanks to things magazine for the heads up)

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Mr. Manaugh of BLDGBLOG posted a few days ago on a joint performance by Michael McDonough and Michelle Kaufmann at this weekend's Dwell on Design conference. The "big idea" of this presentation was apparently that "conductive" materials, such as metal, should be avoided in new housing in favor of "insulative" materials. I might be slightly biased in all of this, but this seems like a crazily reductive and somewhat specious argument to be making in front of thousands of paying customers. Not only is McDonaugh simplifying the idea of sustainability to a single variable (energy performance), but he seems to be ignoring holistic strategies and even the existence of more than one climate on this earth! In addition, heat conductance is a relative value, and roof, wall, and floor construction is almost always, by necessity, an assembly, so where do you draw the line, and with which material?

My other beef seems to be that Ms. Kaufmann is supporting this argument to differentiate her (wood framed) modular construction from similar (steel framed) modular construction, on the basis of sustainability. Never mind that the first Leed Platinum home in the country is entirely steel framed.

I think that Mr. McDonaugh and Ms Kaufmann are both very intelligent, gifted architects that have contributed greatly to the idea of a sustainable, well designed environment. And I'm definitely not going to claim that recycled steel is a perfect building technology. But this presentation seems to me to be a warning shot-- the first in a series of "sustainability wars" where hype and proprietary technologies overcome the need for shared information and measured individual solutions. If we've learned anything from previous modern mistakes, it's that a single and homogeneous treatment of any problem is going to be seriously lacking in resilience and vitality. So I am making an open request to Michele and Michael-- next time you use your considerable clout to fight for sustainability, please try to acknowledge the need for a comprehensive, heterogeneous, multivalent solution to the problem. Simply saying "metal is bad" does no one any good.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

weak ties and strong language

The new Key Magazine in the NYT has this article of interest, a combination anthropological study of SoCal condo life and general expose on the marketing of "lifestyle" urban living centers. The jury's still out on whether the findings are reassuring or frightening. The (somewhat geriatric) gist is that the young folks don't want to leave their college dorms, which reminds me of this BLDGBLOG post that posits that our wish for pedestrian urbanism is, for most, really a nostalgia for campus life.

One problem I do have with the article is that it casts contemporary social networking as a kind of mass solipsism-- all of the examples cited are chiefly recreational groups. No mention is really made of groups that produce-- other than a sideways mention of Burning Man, which is somewhat equated in the article with flash mobs. Actually, come to think of it, the while article is sprinkled with condescension of this type, which seems to spring from the unspoken assumption that a mortgage and family is the de facto "normal" way of life in our country. So maybe I don't like this article after all. But I like the slide show. Look at that.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

gentlemen, there is no fighting in the war room

I promise I'll start posting more regularly, but for the time being here's some filler. has this lovely, detailed article on the true state of international nuclear relations. The gist is that the cold war has not ended, it's just on hiatus. But there are also some great bits on an impervious quartz mountain-cave bunker headquarters.