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Why Are America’s Most Innovative Companies Still Stuck in 1950s Suburbia? | Collectors Weekly
"When Apple finishes its new $5 billion headquarters in Cupertino, California, the technorati will ooh and ahh over its otherworldly architecture, patting themselves on the back for yet another example of “innovation.” Countless employees, tech bloggers, and design fanatics are already lauding the “futuristic” building and its many “groundbreaking” features. But few are aware that Apple’s monumental project is already outdated, mimicking a half-century of stagnant suburban corporate campuses that isolated themselves—by design—from the communities their products were supposed to impact.

In the 1940s and ’50s, when American corporations first flirted with a move to the ‘burbs, CEOs realized that horizontal architecture immersed in a park-like buffer lent big business a sheen of wholesome goodness. The exodus was triggered, in part, by inroads the labor movement was making among blue-collar employees in cities. At the same time, the increasing diversity of urban populations meant it was getting harder and harder to maintain an all-white workforce. One by one, major companies headed out of town for greener pastures, luring desired employees into their gilded cages with the types of office perks familiar to any Googler.

Though these sprawling developments were initially hailed as innovative, America’s experiment with suburban, car-centric lifestyles eventually proved problematic, both for its exclusiveness and environmental drawbacks: Such communities intentionally prevented certain ethnic groups and lower-income people from moving there, while enforcing zoning rules that maximized driving. Today’s tech campuses, which the New York Times describes as “the triumph of privatized commons, of a verdant natural world sheltered for the few,” are no better, having done nothing to disrupt the isolated, anti-urban landscape favored by mid-century corporations.

Louise Mozingo, the Chair of UC Berkeley’s Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department, detailed the origins of these corporate environments in her 2011 book, Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Landscapes. From the 1930s designs for AT&T Bell Laboratories in New Jersey to Google’s Silicon Valley campus today, Mozingo traced the evolution of suburbia’s “separatist geography.” In contrast with the city, Mozingo writes, “the suburbs were predictable, spacious, segregated, specialized, quiet, new, and easily traversed—a much more promising state of affairs to corporations bent on expansion.” It also didn’t hurt that many top executives often already lived in the affluent, low-density areas near where they wanted their offices built.

Like the expansive headquarters of many companies who fled dense downtowns, Apple’s new office falls into the architectural vein Mozingo dubs “pastoral capitalism,” after a landscaping trend made popular more than a century ago. In the mid-19th century, prominent figures like Frederick Law Olmsted promoted a specific vision of the natural environment adapted to modern life, beginning with urban parks and university campuses and eventually encompassing suburban residential neighborhoods.

“There was this whole academic discussion around what defined the picturesque, the beautiful, and the sublime,” Mozingo told me when we spoke recently. “Landscape gardener Andrew Jackson Downing had written extensively about it in American publications, but Olmsted went beyond that, and called his ideal park landscape ‘pastoral.’ He was well-read enough to understand that this combined elements of wild nature with agricultural nature.”"



"But perhaps even more damaging was the way this architectural trend turned residents away from one another and reduced their engagement in the public sphere. From the 1950s onward, the vast majority of suburban office projects relied on a model Mozingo refers to as “separatist geography,” where people were isolated from their larger communities for the benefit of a single business entity.

Mozingo’s concept of a separatist landscape builds off the ideas of geographer Allan Pred, who describes how our daily path through the built environment is a major influence on our culture and values. “If you live in a typical suburban place,” Mozingo explains, “you get in your car and drive to work by yourself, then stay in your office for the entire day seeing only other colleagues, and then drive back home alone. You’re basically only interested in improving highways and your office building.” Even as big tech touts its green credentials, the offices for Apple, Facebook, Google, and their ilk are inundated with parking, discreetly hidden below ground like their savvy mid-century forebears, encouraging employees to continue their solo commutes.

Today, this segregation isn’t only aided by architecture—it’s also a function of the tech-enabled lifestyle, with its endless array of on-demand services and delivery apps that limit interactions with people of differing views and backgrounds (exposure that would likely serve to increase tolerance). A protective bubble of affluence also reduces the need for civic engagement: If you always rely on ride-hailing apps, why would you care if the sidewalk gets cleaned or repaired?"



"“There are a handful of companies who are finally doing interesting things in the suburbs,” she continues. “For instance, there’s a developer in Silicon Valley, Kilroy Realty, building a development called the Crossing/900, which is the new Box headquarters, and it’s going to be high-density and mixed-use near Caltrain, so everybody’s excited about that one.” Mozingo also sees potential in a future Facebook project, since they’ve purchased a large plot of land near a disused rail line. “It’s supposed to be mixed-use with explicit public space, and a farmer’s market, and there’s the potential to actually service this area with rail,” she says. “I’m skeptical but hopeful.”

Clearly these modern suburban offices can’t resolve all of a community’s planning issues on a single, isolated site. But even companies that do try to affect change on a larger municipal level are often turned off by the required public process, which Mozingo calls “long, arduous, boring, and annoying.” Despite these misgivings, Mozingo’s understanding of urban history gives her faith that suburban corporate architecture could remedy the problems it has wrought.

“One of the reasons cities function really well,” Mozingo says, “is that in the first few decades of the 20th century, after industry had its way, there was a coalition of progressives who said, ‘We want good lighting, good transportation, and clean water in our cities. We’re going to have sidewalks and streets with orderly traffic, and we’re going to do some zoning so you don’t have a tannery right next to an orphanage.’ They put in big public institutions like museums and theaters and squares with fancy fountains. It cost everybody money, but was agreed on by both the public and private sectors. This is the reason why we still love San Francisco and New York City. Even if we don’t live there, we like going there.

“Believe me, in 1890, cities in the United States were just dreadful–but by 1920, they were much better, and everybody could turn on the tap and drink some water. This was not a small victory,” Mozingo emphasizes. “Suburban corporations have to realize that they’re in the same situation: They have to build alliances with municipalities, counties, state agencies, and each other to come together and spend the next three decades figuring it out—and it is going to take decades.”"
suberbs  suburbia  apple  google  ibm  belllabs  isolation  2016  cities  urbanism  us  corporatecampuses  janejacobs  allanpred  publicspace  urbanplanning  segegation  whiteflight  history  class  race  racism  1970s  1980s  housing  jobs  economics  work  generalmotors  transportation  publictransit  normanfoster  architecture  louisemozingo 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Matt Jones: Jumping to the End -- Practical Design Fiction on Vimeo
[Matt says (http://magicalnihilism.com/2015/03/06/my-ixd15-conference-talk-jumping-to-the-end/ ):

"This talk summarizes a lot of the approaches that we used in the studio at BERG, and some of those that have carried on in my work with the gang at Google Creative Lab in NYC.

Unfortunately, I can’t show a lot of that work in public, so many of the examples are from BERG days…

Many thanks to Catherine Nygaard and Ben Fullerton for inviting me (and especially to Catherine for putting up with me clowning around behind here while she was introducing me…)"]

[At ~35:00:
“[(Copy)Writers] are the fastest designers in the world. They are amazing… They are just amazing at that kind of boiling down of incredibly abstract concepts into tiny packages of cognition, language. Working with writers has been my favorite thing of the last two years.”
mattjones  berg  berglondon  google  googlecreativelab  interactiondesign  scifi  sciencefiction  designfiction  futurism  speculativefiction  julianbleecker  howwework  1970s  comics  marvel  marvelcomics  2001aspaceodyssey  fiction  speculation  technology  history  umbertoeco  design  wernerherzog  dansaffer  storytelling  stories  microinteractions  signaturemoments  worldbuilding  stanleykubrick  details  grain  grammars  computervision  ai  artificialintelligence  ui  personofinterest  culture  popculture  surveillance  networks  productdesign  canon  communication  johnthackara  macroscopes  howethink  thinking  context  patternsensing  systemsthinking  systems  mattrolandson  objects  buckminsterfuller  normanfoster  brianarthur  advertising  experiencedesign  ux  copywriting  writing  film  filmmaking  prototyping  posters  video  howwewrite  cognition  language  ara  openstudioproject  transdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  interdisciplinary  sketching  time  change  seams  seamlessness 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Avery Review | Air Nationalism: Norman Foster and Fernando Romero’s Mexico City Airport
"As air travel increasingly compresses our muscles and nerves—cue threats of thrombosis and incidents of passenger rage—airports expand their programs, taking up increasingly larger swaths of land. These programs, inflated by extensive security protocols and ambitious retail spaces, are usually arranged under sculptural canopies, like extra weight tucked under additional layers of clothing. Anthropologist Marc Augé famously described airports as “non-places,” generic spaces of transience that resist the rootedness of memory.1 However, the increase in border security has turned Augé’s description upside down. As the architecture that often constitutes a country’s first point of entry, airports are borders, and as such have become loaded with cultural and patriotic tropes. This nationalist anxiety hides the real politics of the expanded airport program.

A few weeks ago, the Mexican state unveiled the plans for a new airport to serve Mexico City, in the form of a digital video that was equal parts promotional rendering and documentary homage to the leader of the design team, Lord Norman Foster. The competition (which Alejandro Hernández has rightly criticized for its lack of transparency) paired famed international architects with local designers—the rationale, one has to assume, being that the Mexicans alone didn’t have sufficient experience in airport design. Foster’s Mexican complement is the young architect Fernando Romero—communication magnate Carlos Slim’s son-in-law. The need to include both a “local” representative and a big name from the world of architecture stardom has the further effect of directing attention away from the third but equally vital component of the team—the airport consultancy. In the winning team, this firm is Netherlands Airport Consultants (NACO), a Dutch firm with a long history of designing and supervising airports in Saudi Arabia. They describe their role as involved in “every aspect of airport design and development.” The delightful coincidence of their acronym “NACO”—a distinctively pejorative term for “unculturedness” in Mexican Spanish—doesn’t fully explain their almost occult presence in the project. The presence of their technical expertise runs counter to the video’s portrayal of Foster’s extensive experience with the airport typology (“the most highly qualified airport architect in the world”), and it reveals Foster’s participation as something other than that of the “outside expert.” The design team instead triangulates between global stardom, increasingly specialized technical expertise, and a questionably “local” avatar of Mexican identity. These multiple readings—purposefully sought by the Mexican state and enthusiastically illustrated in Foster’s competition submission—mark the building as yet another attempt to overcome the irreconcilable binary of local and global through a kind of architectural ambivalence."



"It is easy to criticize Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, or any number of “starchitects” for their involvement or lack thereof in the processes and regimes with which they collaborate. But it’s more important, and more difficult, to take on these architects’ professed impotence. As program complexity increases, the figure of the consultant has pushed aside many of the roles that architects previously assumed. If we compare these architects’ secondary roles to that of Pani in Tlatelolco, we get a sense of how the discipline has been split between the form-making of the architect-artist and the programmatic management of the consultant. In this light, the program of the building is a conspicuous absence in Foster’s video. While the architectural membrane becomes loaded with a series of nationalist messages, its operational aspects are omitted. Architecture here is reduced to form on the outside and well-lit void on the inside. The architects are thus recast as form- and image-makers in search of the objective correlative of a globalized Mexican state. Or to say it more simply, they’re three-dimensional publicists.

In order for the global network of airports to function, their programs have become increasingly precise and standardized according to elaborate specifications. For the cosmopolitan traveler, increased security protocols seem to go hand in hand with expanded retail opportunities. This is where the real spatial politics of the airport program lie—in the entrails of corridors that sort us by immigration status, in the machines that scan our bodies and our belongings, in the long lines of human beings surrendering their dignity in exchange for the illusory promise of safety. It is telling that the bulk of airport retail is located between the two poles of security, the security check upon departure, and immigration control upon international arrival. Caught in this limbo, we are left free to wander through the world of duty-free shopping, international retail chains, and overpriced food—fear, assuaged by consumption. These spaces are absent from the architectural brief as described by Foster. The emphasis on nationalist tropes, from eagles to serpents, is a desperate populist appeal covering up the construction of a highly politicized space. This video invites us to join the architects in turning a blind eye to these realities."
anamaríaleón  airports  architecture  borders  border  mexicocity  mexicodf  mexico  design  retail  capitalism  neoliberalism  marcaugé  normanfoster  fernandoromero  arrival  departure  tlatelolco  zahahadid  df 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Fighting Crime With Architecture in Medellín, Colombia - NYTimes.com
"city’s transformation established roots before…Fajardo took office, in thoughtful planning guidelines, amnesties & antiterrorism programs, community-based initiatives by Germany & UN &…Colombian national policy mandating architectural interventions as a means to attack poverty & crime.

…every mayor here has to have enormous architectural & infrastructural plans, or risk coming across as small-minded or an outsider.

…Empresas Públicas de Medellín…constitutionally mandated to provide clean water & electricity even to houses in the city’s illegal slums, so that unlike in Bogotá, where the worst barrios lack basic amenities, in Medellín there’s a safety net.

E.P.M.’s profits…go directly to building new schools, public plazas, the metro & parks.

“We took a view that everything is interconnected — education, culture, libraries, safety, public spaces,”

…goal of government should be providing rich and poor with the same quality education, transportation and public architecture…"
moravia  planb  jprcr  anaelviravélez  lorenzocastro  alejandrobernal  felipemesa  camilorestrepo  rogeliosalmona  conservation  catalinaortiz  normanfoster  slums  giancarlomazzanti  comuna13  epm  aníbalgaviria  chocó  chocano  bogotá  alejandroecheverri  transmobility  equality  transportation  schools  education  libraries  parks  architecture  policty  government  urban  urbanism  crimeprevention  placemaking  2012  sergiofajardo  colombia  medellin  medellín 
august 2012 by robertogreco
FearLess Revolution - FearLess Blog - One Radically New Idea for Apple's New Campus
"But the design should be viewed with a wider view and X-ray goggles. Here we can see what may become California’s largest underground depository of parked automobiles… Just peripheral of the campus are the traffic-clogged 280, 85, and 101 freeways. While Jobs mentioned a growing number of Apple employees commuting by bike and bus, it sounds like the site will offer a parking space to well over 90% of the total number of employees and visitors. While Apple’s new campus looks really modern, this is very much a last century “car-land” design…

It would be challenging to re-vision this new Apple campus to incorporate dwellings, but if anyone could do it, it would be Norman Foster. It’s not Apple’s responsibility to make a model new corporate campus, and they have already gone past so many others. But the companies leaving suburbia for dense downtown office centers are likely doing more to address the need to redefine our world to be low carbon than Apple."
apple  environment  urban  urbanism  2011  applecampus  normanfoster  architecture  design  sustainability  cars  cities  dansturges 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Urban Development: The Battle for the World's Skyline - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News
"A building frenzy is raging in Asia, Russia and on the Persian Gulf. And cities like London and New York don't have the money to compete. Will Western urban landscapes soon look outdated?"
architecture  china  europe  us  nyc  london  cities  growth  future  wealth  infrastructure  planning  construction  classideas  remkoolhaas  normanfoster  herzogdemeuron  russia  stevenholl  qatar  kazakhstan 
june 2008 by robertogreco

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