Monday, May 28, 2012

The Life and Death of Buildings

A few insights from an interesting book/exhibit:

“A building concentrates history in one spot; a photograph carries history around the world."
"Buildings embody durational time. Time in a photograph is punctual."

The image is above is by Danny Lyons. It is called Dropping a Wall from 1967. Joel Smith quotes Lyons' text: "a description of workers 'risking their lives fro $5.50 an hour, pulling apart brick by brick and beam by beam the work of other American workers who once stood on the same walls and held the same bricks, then new, so long ago.'" (p38)

I've had the experience of tearing down structures I have built over my 30 year career in the industry. Money, taste, a shift in ownership but no structural necessity were the reasons for the demolition project. Then I built new on the same spot. This is a concentrated experience of the 'nothing lasts forever' variety.

The UPI image shown below certainly demonstrates the 'point in time' nature of photography.

I have written elsewhere in this blog about photography and urban ruins (often called 'ruin porn') and so much depends on the context and reasons for documenting the building(s).

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Where We Live

Rebuild Revisited

I worked on Mallinckrodt in St. Louis' Hyde Park yesterday taping drywall. There is still a ways to go for finishing touches, but at the same time it is ready for action with HVAC, bathroom, open space and more. There were many people on site yesterday, in spite of the heat. Check out for more info.

The 1st image is of the drywall I was working on and a few snaps of my notebook from last July when the project was taking off in new ways. Special thanks to Charlie, Dayna & Tim for encouragement and more...

Revisiting the process while watching the project turn into a functional community arts center puts the hard work of many, many people into a useful perspective. Things takes time. Incremental steps add up. Here are a few more pix from my notebook. Look for programming and other announcements in a few short months.

and finally, after a decent day's work the ladder can rest...

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Social Conquest of the Earth

From E. O. Wilson's latest: "In colonies of authentically cooperating individuals, as in human societies, and not just robotic extensions of the mother's genome, as in eusocial insects, selection among genetically diverse individual members promotes selfish behavior. On the other hand, selection between groups of humans typically promotes altruism among members of the colony. Cheaters may win within the colony, variously acquiring a larger share of resources, avoiding dangerous tasks, or breaking rules; but colonies of cheaters lose to colonies of cooperators." (p 162-163)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Preview of Coming Attractions

Monday, May 21, 2012

Marin County, CA & the Near South Side & Larry Rice links to a piece in the Times in which a land use plan that was rejected is turning into something that scares a lot of the people that rejected the original proposal. Affordable housing/workforce housing.

Last week the articles in our own Post-Dispatch chronicled Larry Rice's attempt to turn some empty lots near the Missouri Botanical Garden into a camp for the homeless. The land owner's previous proposals to develop the land have been rejected by the neighborhood and reader comments speculate that this is his revenge. It does not seem like the city will allow a campsite to rise and the homeless are being treated as pawns.

Well, at least we have something in common with our friends in Marin.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rebuild Foundation Update

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Battle for the Homeless in St. Louis

The top link is to a piece in today's Post and the bottom one is from this blog in December 2009. The picture below is from this morning:

This is a difficult issue and one that reminds us the the 'built environment' is not about buildings but people. Do we value all people or just some? How does it effect one's actions? To some degree folks on both sides of the issue seem to be using the homeless as a means to an end - a way to score political points. The placing of this sign is as staged as anything I've ever seen...there is  something to be said about the difficulty of serving two masters.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Andrew Raimist/Meramec CC

Thanks to Meramec Community College and Andrew Raimist for having me out last night to do some design review work with his class. The all did a nice job re-conceiving the building and space of the old McDonnell's Market on Big Bend. I really enjoyed the presentations and the camaraderie of an interesting group.

Here are a few pix from the site. It has a large cell phone tower/flag pole and it was interesting to see the peripheral infrastructure associated with it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Langston Hughes/Let America Be America Again

Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Big Moon

This dome, now known as the St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center, was built in +/-1869 and is considered an example of Italianate architecture. When it opened it was known as  The St. Louis County Lunatic Asylum. Here is a post card from back in the day: has more info and so does Built St. Louis.

Map My Ride

This ap and website is a nice tool for training - as I'm using it to prep for the MS150. It occurs to me it is an interesting way to record explorations around town as well. I can imagine a 'map my tour' kind of thing for architectural history as well. Here is a map from my ride today.

In an interesting series of coincidences I was in Baltimore last month for a conference and then I came across a guy using map my ride to turn his city into an etch-a-sketch and this drawing of Cerberus is right of Dante:

Those of you who've been here before know that Dante is my favorite urban planner - a place for everyone and everyone in their place according to their merits!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Project Living Proof in Kansas City

I spent a few days this week in Kansas City at the Missouri Peer Exchange and while walking the streets downtown I learned that they have something built into their infrastructure that we seem to be missing, from time to time, on the eastern side of the state.

My favorite part of the trip was a tour of the Metropolitan Energy Center's Project Living Proof - a demonstration home for energy efficiency and sustainability. Here is an image of this century old, arts and crafts home just a few blocks from Country Club Plaza.

Bob Housh, the MEC Executive Director, Jenson Adams and Brian Rotert have done a great job of putting together teams of sponsors, volunteers, staff and pros to give their region a demonstration home of best practices including salvaged and locally sourced materials, geothermal hvac, low VOC paints and finishes and much, much more. Check out their website carefully to learn more.

They rehabbed the historic windows and hinged one of the trim pieces so visitors can see how they were able to seal up an abandoned window weight cavity - evidence of the attention to detail we can all bring to our existing housing stock.

The exterior and landscape feature permeable paving, kitchen gardens, native plants while maintaining features of the historic neighborhood.

The next time your in Kansas City make a point to check out Project Living Proof.