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San Francisco; or, How to Destroy a City | Public Books
"As New York City and Greater Washington, DC, prepared for the arrival of Amazon’s new secondary headquarters, Torontonians opened a section of their waterfront to Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, which plans to prototype a new neighborhood “from the internet up.” Fervent resistance arose in all three locations, particularly as citizens and even some elected officials discovered that many of the terms of these public-private partnerships were hashed out in closed-door deals, secreted by nondisclosure agreements. Critics raised questions about the generous tax incentives and other subsidies granted to these multibillion-dollar corporations, their plans for data privacy and digital governance, what kind of jobs they’d create and housing they’d provide, and how their arrival could impact local infrastructures, economies, and cultures. While such questioning led Amazon to cancel their plans for Long Island City in mid-February, other initiatives press forward. What does it mean when Silicon Valley—a geographic region that’s become shorthand for an integrated ideology and management style usually equated with libertarian techno-utopianism—serves as landlord, utility provider, urban developer, (unelected) city official, and employer, all rolled into one?1

We can look to Alphabet’s and Amazon’s home cities for clues. Both the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle have been dramatically remade by their local tech powerhouses: Amazon and Microsoft in Seattle; and Google, Facebook, and Apple (along with countless other firms) around the Bay. As Jennifer Light, Louise Mozingo, Margaret O’Mara, and Fred Turner have demonstrated, technology companies have been reprogramming urban and suburban landscapes for decades.2 And “company towns” have long sprung up around mills, mines, and factories.3 But over the past few years, as development has boomed and income inequality has dramatically increased in the Bay Area, we’ve witnessed the arrival of several new books reflecting on the region’s transformation.

These titles, while focusing on the Bay, offer lessons to New York, DC, Toronto, and the countless other cities around the globe hoping to spur growth and economic development by hosting and ingesting tech—by fostering the growth of technology companies, boosting STEM education, and integrating new sensors and screens into their streetscapes and city halls. For years, other municipalities, fashioning themselves as “the Silicon Valley of [elsewhere],” have sought to reverse-engineer the Bay’s blueprint for success. As we’ll see, that blueprint, drafted to optimize the habits and habitats of a privileged few, commonly elides the material needs of marginalized populations and fragile ecosystems. It prioritizes efficiency and growth over the maintenance of community and the messiness of public life. Yet perhaps we can still redraw those plans, modeling cities that aren’t only made by powerbrokers, and that thrive when they prioritize the stewardship of civic resources over the relentless pursuit of innovation and growth."



"We must also recognize the ferment and diversity inherent in Bay Area urban historiography, even in the chronicles of its large-scale development projects. Isenberg reminds us that even within the institutions and companies responsible for redevelopment, which are often vilified for exacerbating urban ills, we find pockets of heterogeneity and progressivism. Isenberg seeks to supplement the dominant East Coast narratives, which tend to frame urban renewal as a battle between development and preservation.

In surveying a variety of Bay Area projects, from Ghirardelli Square to The Sea Ranch to the Transamerica Pyramid, Isenberg shifts our attention from star architects and planners to less prominent, but no less important, contributors in allied design fields: architectural illustration, model-making, publicity, journalism, property management, retail planning, the arts, and activism. “People who are elsewhere peripheral and invisible in the history of urban design are,” in her book, “networked through the center”; they play critical roles in shaping not only the urban landscape, but also the discourses and processes through which that landscape takes shape.

For instance, debates over public art in Ghirardelli Square—particularly Ruth Asawa’s mermaid sculpture, which featured breastfeeding lesbian mermaids—“provoked debates about gender, sexuality, and the role of urban open space in San Francisco.” Property manager Caree Rose, who worked alongside her husband, Stuart, coordinated with designers to master-plan the Square, acknowledging that retail, restaurants, and parking are also vital ingredients of successful public space. Publicist Marion Conrad and graphic designer Bobbie Stauffacher were key members of many San Francisco design teams, including that for The Sea Ranch community, in Sonoma County. Illustrators and model-makers, many of them women, created objects that mediated design concepts for clients and typically sat at the center of public debates.

These creative collaborators “had the capacity to swing urban design decisions, structure competition for land, and generally set in motion the fate of neighborhoods.” We see the rhetorical power of diverse visualization strategies reflected across these four books, too: Solnit’s offers dozens of photographs, by Susan Schwartzenberg—of renovations, construction sites, protests, dot-com workplaces, SRO hotels, artists’ studios—while Walker’s dense text is supplemented with charts, graphs, and clinical maps. McClelland’s book, with its relatively large typeface and extra-wide leading, makes space for his interviewees’ words to resonate, while Isenberg generously illustrates her pages with archival photos, plans, and design renderings, many reproduced in evocative technicolor.

By decentering the star designer and master planner, Isenberg reframes urban (re)development as a collaborative enterprise involving participants with diverse identities, skills, and values. And in elevating the work of “allied” practitioners, Isenberg also aims to shift the focus from design to land: public awareness of land ownership and commitment to responsible public land stewardship. She introduces us to several mid-century alternative publications—weekly newspapers, Black periodicals, activists’ manuals, and books that never made it to the best-seller list … or never even made it to press—that advocated for a focus on land ownership and politics. Yet the discursive power of Jacobs and Caro, which framed the debate in terms of urban development vs. preservation, pushed these other texts off the shelf—and, along with them, the “moral questions of land stewardship” they highlighted.

These alternative tales and supporting casts serve as reminders that the modern city need not succumb to Haussmannization or Moses-ification or, now, Googlization. Mid-century urban development wasn’t necessarily the monolithic, patriarchal, hegemonic force we imagined it to be—a realization that should steel us to expect more and better of our contemporary city-building projects. Today, New York, Washington, DC, and Toronto—and other cities around the world—are being reshaped not only by architects, planners, and municipal administrators, but also by technologists, programmers, data scientists, “user experience” experts and logistics engineers. These are urbanism’s new “allied” professions, and their work deals not only with land and buildings, but also, increasingly, with data and algorithms.

Some critics have argued that the real reason behind Amazon’s nationwide HQ2 search was to gather data from hundreds of cities—both quantitative and qualitative data that “could guide it in its expansion of the physical footprint, in the kinds of services it rolls out next, and in future negotiations and lobbying with states and municipalities.”5 This “trove of information” could ultimately be much more valuable than all those tax incentives and grants. If this is the future of urban development, our city officials and citizens must attend to the ownership and stewardship not only of their public land, but also of their public data. The mismanagement of either could—to paraphrase our four books’ titles—elongate the dark shadows cast by growing inequality, abet the siege of exploitation and displacement, “hollow out” our already homogenizing neighborhoods, and expedite the departure of an already “gone” city.

As Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti muses in his “Pictures of the Gone World 11,” which inspired Walker’s title: “The world is a beautiful place / to be born into / if you don’t mind some people dying / all the time / or maybe only starving / some of the time / which isn’t half so bad / if it isn’t you.” This is precisely the sort of solipsism and stratification that tech-libertarianism and capitalist development promotes—and that responsible planning, design, and public stewardship must prevent."
cities  shannonmattern  2019  sanfrancisco  siliconvalley  nyc  washingtondc  seattle  amazon  google  apple  facebook  technology  inequality  governance  libertarianism  urban  urbanism  microsoft  jenniferlight  louisemozingo  margareto'mara  fredturner  efficiency  growth  marginalization  publicgood  civics  innovation  rebeccasolnit  gentrification  privatization  homogenization  susanschwartzenberg  carymcclelland  economics  policy  politics  richardwalker  bayarea  lisonisenberg  janejacobs  robertmoses  diversity  society  inclusivity  inclusion  exclusion  counterculture  cybercultue  culture  progressive  progressivism  wealth  corporatism  labor  alexkaufman  imperialism  colonization  californianideology  california  neoliberalism  privacy  technosolutionism  urbanization  socialjustice  environment  history  historiography  redevelopment  urbanplanning  design  activism  landscape  ruthasawa  gender  sexuality  openspace  publicspace  searanch  toronto  larenceferlinghetti  susanschartzenberg  bobbiestauffacher  careerose  stuartrose  ghirardellisqure  marionconrad  illustration  a 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Discrimination by Design - ProPublica
"It’s likely that as long as humans and their institutions hold prejudices and bias, their designs will reflect them. But some progress is possible. Two decades ago architect Ronald Mace imagined a new standard, in which anything humans make — a new piece of technology, a public park, a household product — is usable by everyone. He called this idea “universal design.” Today it’s an enforceable legal standard in Norway. One way to help us get there? Make sure the design process itself is also accessible to all."
design  discrimination  culture  bias  2016  lengroeger  snapchat  robertmoses  katiezhu  racism  urbanplanning  redlining  industrialdesign  homeless  architecture  bathrooms  kathrynanthony  gender  accessibility  universaldesign  norway  prejudice 
september 2016 by robertogreco
How Bad Urban Planning Led To The Birth Of A Billion-Dollar Genre | The FADER
"Architect Mike Ford traces the relationship between structural racism, public housing projects, and hip-hop."



'Hip-hop lyrics are [filled] with first-hand accounts of living conditions in the projects. The hip-hop MC used lyrics to create a dialogue, to give commentary and counterpoints to the modernist vision [that birthed towers like 1520 Sedgwick Ave]. The MCs served as a voice for disenfranchised communities and often un-consulted end users of public housing. Think about Streetlife’s contribution to Wu Tang Clan’s [1998 song] “S.O.S”: Street chronicle, wise words by the abdominal/ High honorable, rap quotable phenomenal/ Seniority kid, I speak for the minority/ Ghetto poverty fuck the housing authority. Or Snoop Dogg’s song “Life in the Projects,” [from the soundtrack of the animated TV show The PJs]: Ain't no trees, the grass ain't green/And when I say it's all bad, you know what I mean. They provided realistic accounts of what life in the projects was like, of the failed urban planning and deplorable conditions of high-rise, low-income housing developments in contrast to the utopia imagined by Le Corbusier.

Corbusier’s plan [did receive] its fair share of criticisms. A critique of the plan was published in the French architectural magazine L’Architecte, and spoke to the uncertainty of the social impact of high density living and Corbusier’s machine-like architecture: “Is the next generation really destined to pass its existence in these immense geometrical barracks, living in standardized mass production houses with mass production furniture…Their games, and by that I mean their recreations, are all based on the same model…Poor Creatures! What will they become in the midst of all this dreadful speed, this organization, this terrible uniformity?” I argue that this 1925 criticism is a prediction of hip-hop culture.

It’s crazy because every architecture school around the country celebrates people like Corbusier and Moses as being great. I’m changing up the story and saying that these people and their ideas were flawed, you know? They created these awful conditions that birthed hip-hop. This is something that’s left out of architectural studies. It hides the hands of those that damaged communities and blames the existence of the “hood” on African-American culture.

As long as people from the outside are telling the story, that narrative will continue. We need to continue to get people of color involved in architecture, as urban planners, as professors, as authors. It’s important for minorities to enter architecture because, throughout the United States, our communities have been designed, uprooted, and pretty much destroyed by architects and urban planners who do not look like us and unfortunately have little to desire to communicate with us during the planning of those events.

So what can happen if we get more minorities involved in architecture and architecture fields such as urban planning? You’re gonna have people at the table who are sensitive to the fabrics of [their] communities and understand what it means to not uproot them. Having a voice at that table to be an advocate for those underrepresented communities is essential. Architecture can destroy and inhibit people from becoming their best, but it also has the power to uplift and empower them. If we’re going to achieve the latter, it’s got to be a collaborative effort."
mikeford  architects  architecture  design  urbanplanning  music  history  hiphop  bronx  nyc  robertmoses  lecorbusier  housing  housingprojects  urbandesign  urbnism  racism  race  us  wutangclan  snoppydogg 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Small, Moving, Intelligent Parts – Words in Space
"Abstract: The great expositions and World’s Fairs of the 19th and 20th centuries were known for celebrating new technological developments. The world of index cards, fiches, and data management hardly seems germane to the avant-garde, one of the central concerns of this special issue – yet the fairs made clear that information management systems were themselves designed, and were critical components of more obviously revolutionary design practices and political movements. Cards and files became familiar attractions at expos throughout the long-20th century. But those standardized supplies came to embody different ideologies, different fantasies, as the cultural and political contexts surrounding them evolved – from the Unispheric “global village” modeled in 1964; to 1939’s scientifically managed World of Tomorrow; and, finally, to the age of internationalist aspirations that led up to World War I. We examine how the small, moving parts of information have indexed not only data, but also their own historical and cultural milieux."

[See also this thread,
https://twitter.com/shannonmattern/status/748180579426930688

that points to
https://twitter.com/npseaver/status/735140727806648320
http://savageminds.org/2014/05/21/structuralism-thinking-with-computers/
https://takingnotenow.blogspot.com/2007/12/luhmanns-zettelkasten.html ]
shannonmattern  2016  information  history  postits  hypercard  indexcards  cards  paperslips  1964  1939  data  archives  fiches  microfiche  datamanagement  officesupplies  ottoneurath  patrickgeddes  jamerhunt  evenote  writersduet  scrivener  notecards  obliquestrategycards  brianeno  peterschmidt  marshallmcluhan  julesverne  milydickinson  walterbenjamin  wittgenstein  claudelévi-strauss  rolandbarthes  niklasluhmann  georgesperec  raymondcarver  stanleybrouwn  marklombardi  corneliavismann  eames  fragments  flow  streams  johnwilkins  knoradgessner  williamcroswellcharlescoffinjewett  vannevarbush  timberners-lee  remingtonrand  melvildewey  deweydecimalsystem  srg  paulotlet  henrilafontaine  sperrycorporation  burroughscorporation  technology  kardexsystems  sperryrand  hermanhollerith  frederickwinslotaylor  worldoftomorrow  charleseames  ibm  orithlpern  johnharwood  thomasfarrell  wallaceharrison  gordonbunschaft  edwarddurrellstone  henrydreyfuss  emilpraeger  robertmoses  janejacobs  post-its 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Robert Moses vs. Jane Jacobs - WNYC
On not focusing on differences: "I think this focus on their clash does both of them something of a disservice ... We can fall into a trap thinking that 50 years later what we need to be doing is choosing sides in a battle." --Owen Gutfruend

On Moses' character: "He became an unchecked power that was counterproductive in many ways. He was meanspirited, he was megalomaniacal." --Owen Gutfruend

On changing how we talk about transportation: "Look at the nomenclature ... People still talk about, and journalists write about, investing in highways and subsidizing transit. Now, it seems to me we could do it the other way around. We could invest in transit because we've been subsidizing highways since the 1950s." --Roberta Brandes Gratz
nyc  janejacobs  robertmoses  via:tealtan  2010  cities  urban  urbanism  transportation  infrastructure  owengutfruend  cars  freeways  robertabrandesgratz  anthonyflint 
may 2013 by robertogreco
BLDGBLOG: Spacesuit: An Interview with Nicholas de Monchaux
"I was looking for a way to discuss the essential lessons of complexity and emergence—which, even in 2003, were pretty unfamiliar words in the context of design—and I hit upon this research on the spacesuit as the one thing I’d done that could encapsulate the potential lessons of those ideas, both for scientists and for designers. The book really was a melding of these two things."

"But then the actual spacesuit—this 21-layered messy assemblage made by a bra company, using hand-stitched couture techniques—is kind of an anti-hero. It’s much more embarrassing, of course—it’s made by people who make women’s underwear—but, then, it’s also much more urbane. It’s a complex, multilayered assemblage that actually recapitulates the messy logic of our own bodies, rather than present us with the singular ideal of a cyborg or the hard, one-piece, military-industrial suits against which the Playtex suit was always competing.

The spacesuit, in the end, is an object that crystallizes a lot of ideas about who we are and what the nature of the human body may be—but, then, crucially, it’s also an object in which many centuries of ideas about the relationship of our bodies to technology are reflected."

"The same individuals and organizations who were presuming to engineer the internal climate of the body and create the figure of the cyborg were the same institutions who, in the same context of the 1960s, were proposing major efforts in climate-modification.

Embedded in both of those ideas is the notion that we can reduce a complex, emergent system—whether it’s the body or the planet or something closer to the scale of the city—to a series of cybernetically inflected inputs, outputs, and controls. As Edward Teller remarked in the context of his own climate-engineering proposals, “to give the earth a thermostat.”"

"most attempts to cybernetically optimize urban systems were spectacular failures, from which very few lessons seem to have been learned"

"architecture can be informed by technology and, at the same time, avoid what I view as the dead-end of an algorithmically inflected formalism from which many of the, to my mind, less convincing examples of contemporary practice have emerged"

"connections…between the early writing of Jane Jacobs…and the early research done in the 1950s and 60s on complexity and emergence under the aegis of the Rockefeller Foundation"

"Geoffrey West and Luis Bettencourt—who have gone a long way in showing that, not only should cities be viewed through the analogical lens of complex natural systems, but, in fact, some of the mathematics—in particular, to do with scaling laws, the consumption of resources, and the production of innovation by cities—proves itself far more susceptible to analyses that have come out of biology than, say, conventional economics."
militaryindustrialcomplex  tools  cad  gis  luisbettencourt  janejacobs  meatropolis  manhattan  meat  property  fakestates  alancolquhoun  lizdiller  cyberneticurbanism  glenswanson  parametricarchitecture  parametricurbanism  interstitialspaces  urbanism  urban  bernardshriever  simonramo  neilsheehan  jayforrester  housing  hud  huberthumphrey  vitruvius  naca  smartcities  nyc  joeflood  husseinchalayan  cushicle  michaelwebb  spacerace  buildings  scuba  diving  1960s  fantasticvoyage  adromedastrain  quarantine  systemsthinking  matta-clark  edwardteller  climatecontrol  earth  exploration  spacetravel  terraforming  humanbody  bodies  cyborgs  travel  mongolfier  wileypost  management  planning  robertmoses  cybernetics  materials  fabric  2003  stewartbrand  jamescrick  apollo  complexitytheory  complexity  studioone  geoffreywest  cities  research  clothing  glvo  wearables  christiandior  playtex  interviews  technology  history  design  science  fashion  nasa  books  spacesuits  architecture  space  bldgblog  geoffmanaugh  2012  nicholasdemonchaux  wearable  elizabethdiller  interstitial  bod 
november 2012 by robertogreco
climate urbanism: Why a climate urbanism?
"Kimmelman becomes nostalgic for the meat axe approach of infamous planner Robert Moses…

[NYC] Lost something of its nerve. It is precisely my interest in this blog to speculate and explore how urban alliances, coalitions, and governments muster that so-called nerve, and decide what to do with it. Who carries the burden of transformations to the planet? How; where?

Finally, I hope to find other alternatives—other visions—that are not as limited in their pragmatism of the city that is possible, and that are more radical in their sensibility to the ultimate culprits. What theoretical approaches can be advanced to dissect what climate change even is? What would be a critical and political memory of how we got here, how we constructed vulnerability, and how we imagine a space to facilitate a democratic environmental politics?

This blog is a notepad for now, and any non-spammy and non-trolly comments are welcome."
cities  urbanism  urban  nyc  urbanplanning  socialagency  politicalcapital  hurricanesandy  sandy  michaelkimmelman  democracy  politics  2012  blogs  robertmoses  climatechange  climate  climateurbanism  javierarbona 
november 2012 by robertogreco
The Rockefeller Foundation on “the future of crowdsourced cities” « Adam Greenfield's Speedbird [Great post as Adam shutters Speedbird.]
"These are some easily-foreseeable problems w/ purely bottom-up approaches to urban informatics. None of this is to denigrate legacy of Jane Jacobs…remains personal hero & primary touchstone for my work. & none of it is to argue that there oughn’t be central role for democratic voice in development of policy, management of place & delivery of services. It’s just to signal that things might not be as clearcut as we might wish—especially those of us who have historically been energized by presence of clear (& clearly demonizable) opponent.

If I’ve spent my space here calling attention to pitfalls of bottom-up approaches…because I think the promise is so self-evident…delighted to hear Anthony Townsend’s prognostication of/call for a “planet of civic laboratories,” in which getting to scale immediately is less important than a robust search of possibility space around these new technologies, & how citydwellers around world will use them in their making of place."
cities  technology  bottom-up  crowdsourcing  action  activism  datavisualization  urbancomputing  urban  urbanism  janejacobs  robertmoses  anthonytownsend  urbaninformatics  place  civiclaboratories  lcproject  possibilityspace  systems  government  democracy  policy  servicedesign  transparency  collaboration  scale  consistency  infrastructure  intervention  offloading  responsibilization  municipalities  seeclickfix  entitlement  moderation  laurakurgan  sarahwilliams  spatialinformation  maps  mapping  statistics  benjamindelapeña  carolcolletta  ceosforcities  rockefellerfoundation  greglindsay  lauraforlano  spatial  humanintervention 
december 2010 by robertogreco
A Physicist Turns the City Into an Equation - NYTimes.com ["According to data, when a city doubles in size, every measure of economic activity increases by approximately 15% per capita.]
One quote:

“A human being at rest runs on 90 watts,” he says. “That’s how much power you need just to lie down. And if you’re a hunter-gatherer and you live in the Amazon, you’ll need about 250 watts. That’s how much energy it takes to run about and find food. So how much energy does our lifestyle [in America] require? Well, when you add up all our calories and then you add up the energy needed to run the computer and the air-conditioner, you get an incredibly large number, somewhere around 11,000 watts. Now you can ask yourself: What kind of animal requires 11,000 watts to live? And what you find is that we have created a lifestyle where we need more watts than a blue whale. We require more energy than the biggest animal that has ever existed. That is why our lifestyle is unsustainable. We can’t have seven billion blue whales on this planet. It’s not even clear that we can afford to have 300 million blue whales.” 
urban  urbanism  geoffreywest  cities  corporations  growth  physics  modeling  models  energy  density  efficience  freedom  remkoolhaas  planning  policy  economics  self-control  short-termmemory  memory  architecture  design  urbantheory  urbanscience  theory  science  data  census  walking  transportation  patternrecognition  patterns  math  mathematics  infrastructure  jonahlehrer  organic  organisms  consumption  metabolism  sustainability  interaction  janejacobs  collaboration  crosspollination  robertmoses  efficiency 
december 2010 by robertogreco

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