Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A few unconnected things . . . .

Props to re-design cleveland, a local blog that is soliciting design ideas for our fair city . . .

Al Gore's personal inconvenient truth? . . . .

The future seeds of an interactive urbanism?

And . . .

The designers of Steelyard Commons should have considered the roofs of these big boxes more thoroughly. As BOTC heads up and down the Jennings every day, we are confronted with the vast acreage of Big Box roofing, populated with hvac units, exhaust fans, and we think some skylights. Developers, architects, and the city missed an opportunity to make the utilitarian landscape more iconic, relevant, educational, or just aesthetically pleasing.

But then again, as you can see in the renderings, the overall kitschy design and ornamentation effectively demonstrates the shallowness of the architectural + urban intentions.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Futurist in Cleveland

Interesting article about Futurist Andrew Zolli speaking to a local advertising group.

His website is here.

Note the rapid growth of cities, not Cleveland mind you, that do not even exist yet.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

How about we close an interchange?

Another inane column against an interchange in Lorain County. See here.

Come on people! There are a myriad of reasons why some inner ring suburbs falter, and an interchange in Avon is not one of those reasons. High taxes, failing schools, etc. cause exurban sprawl, not the other way around.

Why don't we institute an interchange exchange program, similar to the dopey carbon emissions exchanges that the UN is proposing. If we build one interchange out in Avon, we can close one in Cleveland, Lakewood, Bay, etc. Let's see if the mayors would allow that study.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

When is Sprawl Acceptable?

Continuing on our discussions about the new I-90 interchange in Avon, Ohio, when is an interchange acceptable to anti-sprawl advocates? Meaning, when shopping centers, big boxes, and malls are the stimulus for an interchange, the investment in infrastructure is frowned upon. However, if the interchange is built to give access to medical campuses, research laboratories, a university campus, or cultural institutions, is the investment then correct?

Sprawl hosts not only strip centers and tacky housing. Sprawl also hosts programs, typologies, architectures, and urbanisms that posses collective value, as suggested above.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Avon + Interstate 90 + Sprawl

It seems many are atwitter over the new proposed interchange in Avon, in Lorain County, just over the border from the "County of Choice," Cuyahoga County. More cars! Pollution! Big Boxes! More suburbia! Global Warming!

BOTC sees the usual greens + anti-sprawlers + bureaucratic do-gooders lining up to oppose such an infrastructural addition to the region. BOTC gets rather bored with the complaining and such and is always skeptical of the intentions and pretensions of such activist forces.

We would suggest that anyone involved with the planned interchange, either for or against, pick up Robert Breugmann's Sprawl: A Compact History (see website + list of reviews here). Breugmann's book situates American Sprawl within the greater history of urban decentralization and critical social commentary (Lewis Mumford, William Whyte, Herbert Gans, etc.). Breugmann also presents counterpoints to the many assertions made by anti-sprawlers and provides some of his own statistics.:

1. All of the urbanized area of the United State could fit into the state of Wisconsin
2. More acres of land are designated as parks, preserves, etc each year than are developed, and by a large margin.

And there are many more interesting facts, figures, and histories put forth.

The fact is that "sprawl" is the dominant + most dynamic urban form today. Yet do we try to decipher and analyze its structures, complexities, and potentials? Instead of merely criticizing from a far, can we not manage a way to co-opt sprawl's means and methods in order to create more palatable urbanisms?

BOTC recognizes that sprawl is by the most part "ugly." But that should not prevent us from discovering + deploying the tropes of decentralization for alternative solutions, that yes, can involve new interchanges in Lorain County.

UPDATE: Design Rag's Bradley is skeptical of my suggestions of co-opting tactics of sprawl.

First, please read this Lorain Morning Journal editorial first: The interchange is not using state or federal tax dollars. Note that non-retail development is planned around the area. Eastern Lorain County is growing and will need infrastructures to support its population, like healthcare institutions. Should residents in Lorain County be penalized because leadership elites in Cuyahoga County believe they know best? This is incumbentism and elitism at its worst.

Secondly, BOTC respects NU's progenitors for offering design solutions to "ugly" decentralization and growth. Instead of just throwing stones, NUs build. But BOTC suggests that NU is not co-opting sprawl in its purest form. We would suggest that Wright's Broadacre City schemes or Thomas Jefferson's plans for checkerboard cities in the Midwest should be reconsidered since each scheme excepts the notions of decentralization while still engaging the notions of civic responsibility, individual freedom, and an urbanism of intelligence. Why fight for "density" when historical evidence exhibits the continuing decentralization of American "urbansim"?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cleveland loves MVRDV + FOA + ?

The Cleveland Institute of Art has announced that Winy Maas + MVRDV will be designing the new CIA building. CIA's building will have a contemporary neighbor, FOA's Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art. The carpetbagging firm Burt Hill will work with MVRDV and Cleveland's Westlake Reed Leskosky is currently working with FOA.

The next big announcement will come from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, when they pick their architect for the expansion of the Wade Oval institution.

BOTC applauds these institutions selecting bleeding edge international firms to design their future buildings. However, BOTC also wonders if given the chance, time, budget, and creative licence, could some local architects achieve a high level of design? Some could, many could not.

The lack of confidence in local architects by leading institutions is something that the local chapter of Cleveland AIA and local architects must remedy. This lack of respect for local design is one of the factors that is driving young architects to start design competitions, like the Cleveland Competition, start blogging, and seek to exhibit radical design work. Younger architects, already wary of corrupt local government entities, like Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland, are also wary of older generations of architects who pay to play, self-appoint themselves arbiters of design, and generally produce awful buildings that continued to tarnish local design ability.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Foreshadowing Regret in Cleveland

BOTC has traversed the halls of the architectural elite and knows which "world-reknown" architects are actually worth their salt. Like other walks of life, some got game, some live on the hype, others are self-aggrandizing hacks.

The poster child for self-aggrandizing hacki-ness is the design architect for the Cleveland Museum of Art, Raphael Vinoly. Any architect or architecture student knows that this architect's work is intellectually vacuous, superficially articulate, and shoddily designed + detailed. It was a mistake to the CMA to hire him and the institution should prepare for many troubles ahead, even though they are experiencing cost overruns currently.

Read this article about RVA's latest calamity in Pittsburgh.

It is amazing to think that Cleveland could have been home to a Sir Norman Foster building instead of the mess of a building that we are going to receive. Foster's work is internationally respected, exerts an intellectual thrust, and pushes the profession and art of building forward. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of the architect who wears three pairs of glasses simultaneously.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Slackin' pretty hard . . . .

So much for resolutions, of course.

It has been a month since my last post. And this one will be short until time allows for more illuminating discourse.

But there are few things to take of note in the past month:

1. Jimmy Dimora is a scummy politician who, through campaign shakedowns, ultimately controls the design of much of our important civic and social architecture, as well as infrastructure. Again, where is our Mayor Daley?

2. How does corruption alter our built environment? Indictments against local retired architects, construction managers, and contractors hint at the level of shoddy design and construction that hinders our regional architecture + infrastructure.

3. The Cleveland Competition is launched.

4. AIA Cleveland announces winners of its Storefront competition.

5. Steve Litt seems to favor saving two examples of 1970's Brutalsim--and hacks at KPF's blob + crystal design for the County Administration Building.

More commentary as BOTC finds more time to write.