Life Without Media

Posts might be a little slow here on Life Without Buildings but there’s good reason – there’s a helluva lot going on! There seems to be an approaching sea change in news media. Newspapers closing or laying-off staff, new news websites are starting-up, and a general sense of panic is spreading among the nebbish wordsmiths dedicated to finishing the daily crossword in their local paper. It’s a strange and exciting time to be in publishing of any sort and I feel lucky to be a small part of this media evolution. So for your browsing pleasure, a few new publications:


  • Dwell recently relaunched their website and it looks great. The clean interface and large pictures make it easy to find the content you want or just browse through their gorgeous collection of residential architecture. It’s exactly what it should be. I’ve recently started contributing to their new blog as well. Check it out!

  • This week also saw the launch of The SF Appeal, San Francisco’s newest online newspaper. Hoping to bring together the best of newspaper and blogs, The Appeal’s timely launch coincides with a lot of talk about the potential death of The City’s main newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle. I’ll be doing some architecture / urbanism / cultural miscellanea writing for the Appeal, so if you’re in the Bay Area or if you just love San Francisco, please check the site daily for new content! We’ve got some great writers with strong voices.

  • In the spirit of the Death of Newspapers, comes another site: The San Francisco Post Chronicle. “The Post-Chronicle is a wiki that’s building a model for the daily news organization of the future.” It’s also my new favorite web distraction. New media is quickly catching up to architecture on my subconscious list of things to think about. And the Post Chron is where I’m documenting those thoughts. If you have even a remote interest in the future of news media, please check it out! Just a quick browse through the site yields insight into crowd-sourcing photography, the evolution of editorial cartoons, and speculation on the future of content distribution.

  • Everyone’s favorite manifesto rag, Pamphlet Architecture is now seeking submissions for issue 30, Investigations in Infrastructure. “At a time of new government leadership committed to investing in the United States’ infrastructure, architects, engineers, and artists should propose new directions for transportation, energy, and agriculture at a continental scale. In this spirit, no visionary dimension is too large, no inventive proposal too ambitious to consider.” The deadline is 1 July.

  • The Utopian is a web magazine dedicated to politics, art, and culture. Through articles, photography, and video, The Utopian presents original and challenging ideas things Their Third issue, “Making History,” includes pieces on Hermann Kahn & Cold War nuclear systems analysis, jazz, and the place of religion in the public sphere.

  • Art in America also relaunched their website this month with another fantastic new design featuring video profiles and exclusive online content.

Arup’s Audio Renderings

[images via Arup]

While writing a previous post on the audio perception of space, I was reminded of an article in the June 2008 issue of Dwell aptly title Audio Architecture, describing the Arup Soundlab. The SoundLab is a room where Arup engineers can create what is essentially a rendering of a building’s acoustics, allowing clients, engineers, and consultants to listen to the sounds of a simulated building environment. In the same way that an architectural rendering is a preview of how the building looks and how it will impact its context, the Soundlab is a rendering of how the building sounds. And in much the same way that a rendering can be quickly altered to study different spatial options, the SoundLab makes it possible for engineers to “tune” a building to the client’s taste. It creates a purely audio understanding of the spaces within an existing or proposed structure and can even recreate the acoustical conditions of buildings that no longer exist. Ever wanted to here Led Zeppelin in the original Beauvais cathedral? Done. Bizet in Yankee Stadium? No problem. At last — the world is one step closer to a fully-immersive holodeck…or at least some sort of postmodern shift-house. (We can figure out what exactly that means later.)

Dwell on Design – A Visit from the Mayor

That’s right, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom came by the Dwell on Design conference to end the day with a surprise speech. He lead off by saying that he’s proud of his city and of the fact that when visitor’s leave here, they’re thinking “why can’t it be like that everywhere else?” He’s proud that it’s the greenest city in America, but interrupts his applause to tell us that’s not enough. We can be better. We NEED to be better.To hear it from the Mayor, the future really looks bright for San Francisco. By 2010, they entire fleet of taxis will converted into green vehicles. The city has instituted new policies, such as faster, cheaper permitting, to make it easier for people to integrate green design features into their homes and buildings. 69% of our waste is recyclable, but, he says, want zero waste by 2020. He lists off other new policies, geared towards a green San Franicsco: No plastic bags. No bottled water in city hall. Harvesting power from the tides below the Golden Gate Bridge. Greening street mediums, new lighting, new benches, new sidewalks.Then the mayor starts name-dropping architects who are building in the area, an impressive list to say the least – Libeskind, Pelli, Piano, Calatrava, Herzog & deMeuron, and yes, even Gehry. He follows this with a warning to all builders: starting in 2008, the city will have incredibly aggressive green building regulations, requiring at least silver certification for all new construction – even residential remodels. “You want to do business in San Francisco, that’s fine. Here are the rules.”He closes by telling everyone that he (honestly) is a subscriber to Dwell and, he says, “I hope you have fun and I hope you learn something.”

Dwell on Design – Dan Maginn

This morning’s most entertaining presentation was given by from Dan Maginn, principle of the Kansas City-based architecture firm el dorado inc.Speaking as a representative of the Counterintuitive Comparison Institute of America (“like you – only more so”), Maginn’s presentation, “The Big Chart: Recent Developments in Counter-Intuitive Comparison” was a hilarious look at a unique design classification system. (Is it just me or is Borges’ The Analytical Language of John Wilkins an incredibly popular reference right now?) Described in the schedule as “A highly idiosyncratic ratings systems for all things designed,” The Big Chart is a near-infinite NCAA-like bracket. By utilizing highly scientific factors such as the astonishment index and fascination coefficients, it is able to determine important truisms – like the fact that Justin Timberlake and Maria Sharapova reading Encyclopedia Brown paperbacks in their underwear is a good thing. Clearly, this is incredibly valuable research.More of Maginn’s writings can be seen @ the el dorado website, as well as Dwell Magazine

Dwell on Design: San Francisco

This morning didn’t start well. I woke up to find that someone had knocked over my scooter. A potential disaster, but thankfully it only suffered minor damage and a flooded engine.  After a short wait a quick fix, I was sputtering and chainsawing my way to Dwell on Design.  Alas, another problem. I got lost in the shuffle and somehow didn’t get registered as an attendee. A great start to this Friday, to be sure.Soon enough, I had my credentials and the minute the conference started, things dramatically improved. Anyway,  I thought I’d type up a brief summary in the break before the next session starts. Link updates and more detailed posts will follow.Mark Lakeman, Co-Founder, CityRepair Project and Design Principal Communitecture, was the morning’s first speaker, and spoke about city repair, specifically in relation to his home town, Portland Oregon.  Using monopoly as metaphor, Lakeman spoke of the american attitude towards construction and community. Gentrification as a game where the goal is to build houses, only to raze them and replace them with hotels, and the only shared space is a parking lot and a jail.  Most of his presentation focused on Street intersection in Portland where the communities are beginning to reclaim space and (re)create true interstions – places where people come together.whoops, out of time! more to come!