New New York: Post 9/11 Skyscraper Resilience

Stemming from my last post about the Telefonplan in Stockholm as a factor in urban identity, I take aim at home, New York City. In the next four years New York City's skyline will be brand new. With six major skyscrapers jotting up on this tiny island, look at each one, and think what kind of impact will this have or does it have on our current urban ID, the design of the famous skyline, and presence in work, play, and life of a New Yorker. Urban planning and development as crucial elements in the cogs of urban living; these buildings all to some degree are a reflection of an architectural, artistic, design, financial, pop, and lifestyle capital of the world, and so should foreshadow and resonate the collective ideals of its community.

Residential Real Estate:
-- The Solaire. One of the first green residential buildings, The Solaire in battery park signaled the onset of a change in development. By marketing itself as an innovative solution to growing environmental concerns, not only does the building make convention for new buildings to be constructed, but also acknowledges the a demand for this kind of living.
-- The Helena. The Helena came shortly there after, also on the west side, in the 60's. The Helena followed pattern with The Solaire and is helping to reconstruct the skyline from a New Jersey angle.

Media Publications:
-- The Hearst Tower. The home to numerous magainzes in the Hearst Empire, this columbus circle building, also leaning towards the west side, achieved "gold" LEED status. Hmmm. Well, the architectural use of the original building's base saved something like 30,000 tons of building material. The design? I am not quite so fond of the design, considering that it is of no cultural influence or relevance to its community. Although the design does give to saving materials. (see above).
-- The New York Times Building. This building is really amazing. Another contribution to the reconstruction of the west side skyline, Renzo Piano has taken great care in building an iconic and strong presence in New York. It features a technologically advanced innovation in glass facades, allowing for optimum conditions for heating, cooling, productivity, and aesthetics. This building, in humble opinion, also contributes importantly to the design of the landscape. The simple, elegant, and sharp structure carefully plays respect to its skyline neighbors, yet forms the independent and striking character so defined by residents of the city, and the nature of the newspaper.

-- The Bank of America Tower. 6th avenue, just off of bryant park is the Cook+Fox creation of the Bank of America tower. When complete, claims to be the most environmentally conscious building in New York, it's organic and curvaceous design is indicative of a green-building that would overlook a famous park. They are trying to get platinum rating, but moreover, I think that the way the tower has been publicized is a full indication of how important it is that Cook+FOX recognizes their position as a voice for the architectural voice of NYC, because of their leadership here.
-- The Freedom Tower. To be built on the World Trade Center site, this buildings appears to father the buildings around it, in a skyline shot. It rises above with the support of the buildings that surround it, I see how the design integrates well with the lower manhattan landmark site. It's sustainability, while not as great as those that are above, is significant, with its own natural fuel cells to generate power. The building's design is the culmination of hot debate over how and what should fill this spot, the ultimate example of how architecture in an urban environment plays the ever-important cultural and social catalyst position.

We are seeing a total reconstruction of Manhattan's west side skyline. Second, all the buildings show that such large members of the community play a leadership and exemplary role in reflecting the desires of the community in which it is joining. New York is on a green trend, sustainability and concern for the welfare of our community is more important than ever, and we can see how each architect has taken great care to respect the wishes of those people that will organically integrate their lives with their urban environment. My problem is, I wish there was a modicum of pace involved so that we can learn from the mistakes of each tower as they are built, and iterate our sustainable thinking more suited for actual results over USGBC certification.

Listening to: Miles Davis with the great Gil Evans.

Stockholm's Telefonplan Tower: Identity and Design

What do we think of when we identify ourselves with the towns, cities, and suburbs in which we live? Personal possession of the prevailing design of the landscape is essential to engendering urban identity. Especially the world cities in which we live. We feel a need to personally identify with and contribute to the beautification and continuation of the the design of the urban landscape in which we live. We seek to preempt attempts by others to otherwise change that landscape, for fear that it will alter the identity that we possess of that city as a resident. We also seek to recapture lost battles that altered the design of our city.

Take a look at the picture to the right, this is a live feed of the Telefonplan tower in Stockholm. This 50 year old tower is a sign of the corporate-ization of Stockholm. Since its construction, and through its functional use for cell phone research by Ericsson, the residents have felt like this austere tower is an imposition on their landscape, a symbol of corporate influence. Ericsson has now left this tower behind, so three men, an architect, an interactive designer, and a local artist created this open piece of art. In an ironic twist to the growing privatization of Stockholm, they have taken the tower and fitted every floor with 36 lights. The lights are, ironically, connected to a cell phone. Anybody can call the cell phone, and by using a specific code outlined on their website, they can control what lights are shown on every floor of the tower.

People controlling the things that controlled them, ironic justice through urban art and design. Stockholm pride! Virginia is for lovers!

Talk about recapture of identity, residents to controlling their landscape. An artistic expression of public response to the privatization of the city. It is a show of identity and the public aversion to this iconic and landmark tower in Stockholm. Think about 9/11 when the towers fell, and NYC's response. While there was grief over those lost, there was also a prevailing feeling of grief over the marring effect to identity of the city, in parallel to the design of the landscape. What this installation does is express that need for communal identification with residing and being a member of a thriving city. There is pride and personalization involved when one aesthetically seeks identification with where they live. San Francisco has affluent and quaint homes, LA, well, LA has a concrete maze of roads, NYC has surprisingly intricate designs on the tightly packed island, Stockholm has this tower and what it symbolizes to the residents.

Call +46 (0)70 57 57 807 right now, follow the instructions, and watch the live feed.

Listening to Appleseed Cast.

Shin-Yatsushiro Monument: Conceptual Design Was Bad?

Conceptual design is far from as simple and easy as it looks. From it's fundamental expression of concept, to its ability to intelligently capture people through simplicity. From far away, this monument appears to be a child-like house, maybe something that Tim Burton would have in one his movies. Inside is the waiting area, where people can see that the whole structure is punctured with holes, and the flat walls sum up to a 3-dimensional structure. The waiting area for a high speed train in Japan, a conceptual design presented in its simplicity, like the Vuitton building (below), an optical illusion.

It does not follow any form of instructional guide, and artistic freedom is left to the designer. There needs to be an underlying objective of the design, something that the designer is seeking to accomplish. After the concept is defined and established, carefully paying attention to the context of the social and physical environment in which it will be employed, you can begin to understand user rules and requirements. After this, you mitigate the constraints with the objectives, and you have a plan.

The ability to express complicated ideas through the most simple and functional form is essential to a conceptual designer. Even in fine art, all innovations of post-modern and modern art are of conceptual creation. We can look to cubism as a developed concept, presented in its simplicity, yet able to express a complicated thought process. Add to this dadaism, expressionism, and even well-done modern industrial design processes, like the IPOD. Others argue that good, intelligent design is visually complicated, whose synchronization and implementation is only brought upon by the best designers. I refute this claim, because while these "visually complex" designs may or may not have a concept behind them, the designer plays the luck of the draw in finding out if some concept can be luckily found through making things complicated. A conceptual designer begins with the complicated concept and then seeks to simplify it to the extent of reaching all people.

The beauty of conceptual designs are that they are simple and intense, exactly what good design should be, in my eyes. While others see good design in intricate patterns (see Li Xi), and the ability to interweave complicated rhythms, conceptual design expresses an artistic right that the designer has. It is because of the fact that the concept usually predicates the user requirements, and because of the bold nature of this idea, that conceptual design opportunities are usually only given to those accomplished designers.

Listening to John Coltrane.

Adobe Headquarters: Platinum Coated Certification!

Adobe has been working on remodeling their San Jose headquarters and were just recently awarded Platinum LEED certification. Adobe's retrofits are the result of an upfront investment of $650,000 by the corporation, saving them over $728,000 since implementation. As an example, this shows the 99.99% other developers in this country that sustainable = $$$

So they are platinum? Americans say WOW! The rest of the world, they say, OK, that's it? In fact, the entire LEED certification system is skewed to American standards of sustainability. The US system is built around US views on environmental protection in general, where we are slow to adapt, because it will disrupt our system of success that is in place right now. This is borne through autonomy, through independence, while the Europeans have long gotten the system right, feeling that success is through a communal spirit. This is why we use most the resources of the world and overflowing wealth, but have a fraction of the population.

The LEED system follows the line of logic, where the standards are at a much lower level than those of Europe. Evidence of this can be found in the car market, where American standards for emissions and manufacturing are so much more behind than that of the rest of the world. Why do you think, with recent gas scares and increased environmental awareness of consumers, Toyota has outsold Ford for the first time in history. Here it is about the economic advancements of individuals, which is marked by monetary value. The new US LEED system addresses these notions with the qualifications for American certification. There is a reluctance to set the bar too high for fear that all will fail.

The LEED system is great for us, for its creating some sort of guiding path to be able to think sustainable. It opens doors for opportunities for building to be organic members of society, and with companies like Adobe, there are precedents set, not only for our environment but also for the bottom line. The problem is that we are so far behind than the rest of the world in our environmental standards, that these successes, like Adobe, look good to us but to the rest of the world we have only hit the tip of the iceberg in sustainable building and standards. As the economic and resource-using superpower of the world don't you think we should have our hands deeper in the concern for our community? Nonetheless, good job Adobe.

I feel that the pursuit of certification should be secondary to overall saving of environmental capital. Sustainability for sustainability not for show... there must be a full shift not just a PR campaign.

Listening to Academik Podcast.

The Flybook: iMac Duplicate? no no.. Ergonomic Laptop

Wow! Look at this laptop, I wish I had one this very minute, as my neck starts to hurt from bending my head down to look at my miniscule MacBook Pro screen. This idea is great for those who do a lot of work on their laptops, and as a student I do end up working through my computer screen quite often.

This laptop, a Japanese creation, has an embedded telescoping arm in the back of the screen, so when you open the device, you can physically pull the screen out and forward to meet your eye level. This is great for those of us that are so tall, and the level of the desk is at our stern, so we must bow our heads to use the computer.

What my problem is, is that I enjoy my Apple laptop. It has so many features that help me be 1000 times more efficient in my work. I want one of these devices, but for my Apple. Somebody, maybe this company, should design such a device, that can be installed on any laptop. That would sell, because I don't know the quality of this Japanese "FlyBook" and I really don't want to spend all the money just to find out it is made of B-List chips.

What this company needs is an external perspective. Because of the reasons in the next paragraph, and because recognition of a simple advancement of an existing innovation, brought to portable computers, can result in amazing sales. All they have to see is that their computer is unsellable, but their contribution to laptop computers is sellable, and they are money.

What is even more interesting is, if you go to the website of the manufacturer, the website seems like it is in English. All the navigation is in English, but I tried clicking on links to find out more information, and everything is in Japanese, the text that is. My recommendation, if you want to attract that wider audience (I found this object for sale on an American website), then you really have to be able to explain your concepts in a language that they will understand. I can see how the website would work for Japanese people, who probably are bilingual, but how many British, American, Belizean, etc people do you know that speak Japanese as well? They need to memo their marketing department, and R&D too.

Listening to Quantic.

Li Xi Envelopes: Asian Tradition with Western Flair





In the interest of christmas, which is right around the corner, I offer this bit of traditional familiarity (I have subcontinent asian in me), and I introduce to you a design team from the US. These cards are reminiscent of when I was a child, and instead of getting presents at all events, I would get money. I think it's more an Asian trend than an American trend, but I'm not sure. Anyway, these cards remind me of the delicate rice paper envelopes and enclosures that the money would come in. In fact the curly di-cuts and "handy" work somehow trigger memories of old indian ladies writing, in Hindi, the amount outside of the envelope. This can lead me to entirely other blog posting, the design of languages as form not content. Maybe tomorrow.

What are we losing in this product, in this design? What is the western flair? It is, of course, the birth of Henry Ford. Ok, what I mean is, mass production. You see, the most beautiful aspect of the traditional asian envelopes is the fact that you know that it is hand made. It smells of sweat, uniqueness, and authenticity. These envelopes smell of burns from the laser that cut them. There is something great to be said about authenticity and handy craft. The sheer nature of receiving a gift enveloped in something that took such intense concentration, planning, and experience to create provides incentive for the receiver to hold on to the envelope, even display it on their desks and bookshelves for years to come. EVEN, admit to using it to re-gift to another! What about when you can order them online, and have them delivered in less than 24 hours? What about when they are cut with the precision afforded only by the technologies of our creation and not by the creative and skilled minds from the traditional roots from which they come? It looses its uniqueness and its authenticity, it becomes something merely as a vessel for distribution, no more valuable than the toilet tissue that sits in your restrooms.

I add that these are an asian creation (ha!), because the couple who designed them and are marketing them on their website are asian themselves, and you can find out about them by clicking on the title of this blog. I think it is really cute that they are a couple and collaborate on their projects. A harmonious system of production, at least I hope so.

Aesthetically, these envelopes are wonderful for giving to others. The rear of the envelopes have a beautifully crafted intricate pattern that is appeasing through its symmetrical nature. The texture and colors of the envelope hint at a more sophisticated form of presentation, helping lend a sense of intent when used as a gift. The face of the envelope uses the familiar patterns from the rear to draw the environment in which the story of the pig (or dolphin?) kissing the flower takes place.

Listening to Portishead

Facebook: the last safe haven brought down

Facebook, the ubiquitous alternative to Myspace minus any 14 year old girls and 50 year old single men. A safe haven for college students to interact socially on the internet, whose privacy and security was controlled by the ability to view and meet other people solely through networks. In other words, if you dont know someone who knows the person you want to be friends with, or if they are do not go to your university, you pretty much can't find them. It allowed for a more intimate and "gated" social network versus Myspace where any wack job can find you and ogle your pictures and life.

This was until they decided to go public. Now, if you live in any place, you are a part of that network. For example, instead of having to be a university student to join Facebook, verified by your uni-email address, you can join the "New York, NY" network. So there goes the first barrier to entry, allowing any Myspace junky to convert to Facebook. Moreover, Facebook has decided to publish every detail of every member's actions, in a "News Feed" (see above) which is brought up as your login screen. (see picture) Now, if someone breaks up with their girlfriend, every single person that they are friends with is notified immediately upon login. (I had this experience as I joined into a new relationship, and the next day at school I was questioned by 10 of my friends.) I understand that if you wanted a level of privacy, you wouldn't post the information on the internet, but this is beyond just a display of information, this is a broadcast of ANY changes that you make to your profile.

Facebook benefits from this ordeal, by feeding the tabloid curiosities of its members. Speaking of members, it removes the preset limit on who and how many members it has, increasing its hits and popularity. For members, the news feed keeps people interacting, for example, when they see news on someone else or a picture change, or anything, they can have a reason to visit their profile and make a comment. The extended network capabilities allow friends that would otherwise be excluded from their posse to be added.

I think that this redesign is poor planning on the part of Facebook. Where Facebook had an advantage over the uber-trendy and free Myspace through the university trend network and a level of privacy and limited accesability to the general public, this is now lost. The niche market that Facebook took hold of, which made them so popular, they have now betrayed. I recommend that Facebook revert to their simple yet innovative design of social network controls, and so do many of my uni-peers.

Listening to Mos Def

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