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Monday, September 17, 2012

Computer vs Pencil

The days of hand-drafting/drawing/writing seem to be coming to an end soon. What could be the negative impacts of a (possible)100% digital and computerized era on the future generation's understanding of space and human scale? Interesting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Controversy of Paul Rudolph and the "Ugly Building"

It's one thing to critic a piece of architecture or art based on personal opinions/feelings but it's another to simply call it "ugly" and stop caring for it.

Paul Rudolph's Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York has become an "ugly" controversy these days. To an extend that next month -May 2012, might just be the most important month in the building's 45 year long lifetime, as it's fate might sadly (and in my opinion, unreasonably) come to an end. Even though it was approved for demolition about 6years ago, the recession bought the building more time. Today, Orange County executive, Edward Diana, is highly in favor in demolishing it, which may please many residents of the area. But, to what cost?

Photo © Chris Mottalini

A collective group of architectural structures create the city's built environment, which as a result, contribute to building the city's history. Is it truly fair to criticize the work of artists (Architects in my perspective are also artists) so harshly that it ultimately supports the decision of demolishing their work and pretending that it never existed? Architects and artists that have contributed their skills and resources to the development of our living environment, with an intention of making a lasting positive impact. 

Brutalist concrete structures was Paul Rudolph's style, just as Deconstructivism (or post-structuralist) is the nature of Frank Gehry's style. New Yorkers often have mixed feelings about the recently built Beekman Tower (aka the New York by Gehry) in lower Manhattan, as it could perhaps be considered as a misfit to the skyline, or probably a step towards a fresh facade for NYC. Regardless of our judgement of the tower's height, complex curves vs. contrasting simple west side, etc., it's there and it will become an iconic element of NYC's skyline in the near future; Just as the Twin Towers and the Empire State when they were born (though, not as high-profile as the latter two). 

Shreve and Lamb's distinctive Art Deco style for the Empire State quickly became one the most famous symbols of NYC. Is it a success? Yes. Does everyone like it? Probably not 'everyone'. But, after 81 years it still stands as an icon in NYC's history. On the contrary, even though Vanity Fair refers to Gehry's IAC building in Chelsea as one of the most attractive office buildings in world, after 5 years, it still has failed to find a place in many New Yorkers heart. But, has it impacted the built environment in Chelsea? Yes. Is is a success? Maybe. Does everyone like it? Not 'everyone'. 

What is the socioeconomic cost of preserving our city's history vs. losing it? What can we consider as a strong/reasonable rationale in order to justify turning a city's history in to a constantly changing target? Leigh Benton, a resident of Goshen, NY in regards to Rudolph's Government building says: "I just don’t think it fits with the character of the county seat and the village of Goshen... I just thought it was a big ugly building." 

"Ugly". What is an "ugly building"? Is it truly an architecture/art failure, or more of personal analysis of the facade and exterior? 
Merely because the Empire State became such a successful tourist [and local] attraction and the IAC building hasn't, is it fair enough to label the IAC as an "ugly" building? Or is it rather sad and disrespectful to (hypothetically) support the demolition of it (IAC) because it somehow does not meet the "beautiful building" criteria? Should we just simply disregard all the time and skills that an architect put into her/his creation, with the intention of making it a noble addition to the city's history? 

“Preservation is not simply about saving the most beautiful things... It’s about saving those objects that are an important part of our history and whose value is always going to be a subject of debate.” -Mark Wigley, dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Think about it. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The “Unintended Consequence” of Edison's Creation.

 One hundred and thirty years ago, September of 1882, the lives of 59 New Yorkers in lower Manhattan had drastically changed after operations of the Pearl Street power-generating station officially began. At the age of 35, Thomas Alva Edison, an American inventor, scientist, and businessman, quickly became one of the world’s top prolific inventors after his Pearl Street generating station's electrical power distribution system was switched on. Since then, the world as we know it has become awash in electric light, which officially marked the beginning of the modern era of lighting.

Today, New York City streets, parking lots, billboards, sport fields etc. are all flooded with light creating a bright orange colored layer glowing over the city that is visible from tens of miles away. While business and office building windows remain lit, New York City’s commercial sectors continue to glow throughout the night by powerful lamps. This orange glow floating over the city is visible from an airplane thousands of miles away from the city, not only above New York but also most of the world’s large urban centers. Since the advent of street lighting, electrical technology, and rising global population, this sky glow has been increasing every year. And as a result, the sky has slowly become more polluted by light pollution over time. As discussed in previous chapters, light pollution refers to excessive or disruptive use of artificial light mostly caused by inefficient lighting design and inappropriate fixture installations. People most commonly associate the negative impacts of artificial lighting at night with how it interferes with birds, sea turtles, and insects. However, the effects of light pollution are far more common, widespread, costly, and serious than generally realized. It is often quite difficult to perceive excessive artificial light as a form of pollution, since other than being unnecessary at times, light as a pollutant seems no different from useful light. Considering the many negative externalities of light pollution, useful artificial lighting is distinct from the pollutant, as light pollution generates significant costs including negative impacts on human health, wildlife, astronomy, and wasted energy.

In the past century, the benefits of light at night have been explicit as it has been utilized to address our safety and productivity needs. Very few would argue that the advent of artificial light has not made our lives easier and more pleasant, enabling us to do and enjoy a multitude of tasks and activities that would otherwise be impossible. Streetlights, porch lights, shopping malls, security lighting, night-time work lights, parking lot lights, traffic lights, billboards, store fronts, neon signs etc. have all been either created or modernized using Edison’s brilliant invention as a fundamental basis of development. Since then, artificial light has become a pivot point for evolving human civilization and allowing arts, architecture, and city design to progress around the world. However, while lighting up the Manhattan Island over a century ago, had Thomas Edison expected such great enhancement to the lives of millions of dwellers around the world? Indeed. Had he envisioned today’s magnificent skyline to become one of the most significant symbols of New York City? Possibly. Did he foresee the adverse impacts of such a revolutionary invention on human life, wildlife, and their living environment? Probably not. Could it be considered as an “Unintended Consequence”? Indeed.

Times Square, NYC

...to be continued.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Life with community vs. life without lights

Fascinating that lack of artificial light in a small village in Ghana after all these years has not affected the sense of community and sense of place for it's inhabitants. Granted they are burdened with immense inconvenience, but they still say "we are happy [in life]"
Click on the title of this post to watch a short video: "Life Without Lights" by Green.tv Technologies Podcast.