The cutest forklift in South Beach.
No Name Pub
The No Name Pub on No Name Key is an establishment simultaneously ripe for unmet expectations and underestimation. From the outside, it’s all tourist schmaltz and curly Q’s. The oldest bar in the Keys! Built in 1936. One couldn’t be faulted for failing to believe either claim. This venerable institution is housed in a ramshackle cottage layered thick with coats of yellow paint. Like the other buildings on this sparsely populated island, it could have been built anywhere, at anytime. Only its pastel hue suggests South Florida, and only its laissez-faire attitude toward maintenance suggests The Keys.
Out of sheer stubbornness, I was prepared for the No Name Pub to suck—possibly in a good way, but in spite of itself. The menu didn’t immediately suggest a diamond-in-the-rough. It offered the full spectrum of domestic beers and its own amber ale. The house amber was fine, but like most house ambers, there’s a good chance it’s somebody else’s house amber. Generic and without charm, it gets you from Point A to Point B. Also, the bar specializes in pizza. Bars do not specialize in pizza.
My skepticism was turned back just inside the door. The Pub’s walls and ceilings are lined with cash—a quarter million I was told—creating a dining ambience of fishing wharf chic spun through an upturned strip club. You needn’t linger on the artistic merits of this style (Too PoMo? A hyper-gauche critique of contemporary capitalism?) Just order the grouper sandwich. A half hour later your vision will be hazy and your stomach content. Since you’re not from South Florida, you’ll also wonder what, exactly, a grouper is. It doesn’t matter. It’s damn good.
The haze is infectious. Perhaps it’s the secret ingredient in every dish they serve. Through it, you notice that your friends are acting weird. Is Danny taking a call in a loud bar, or is that a ruse to swipe a few bills to cover tip? Both options are equally plausible. The night rolls on. Eventually, the haze fades. And when it’s all done, it turns out the pizza was pretty damn good.
A recent trip to Key West found and a group of high school friends backtracking to Big Pine Key. We were in search of midget deer. No, it’s not nice to say, but I doubt those pint-sized Bambies will mind. Being island dwellers, its doubtful they’ve ever seen their full-sized brethren. Loud whisper voice: They don’t actually know that they’re really small! Also, because the key deer are so tintsy-intsy, they run that island. They cross the street without looking and ain’t scarred of nada. It’s as if nobody has told them that they’re endangered. (They are.)
At the Blue Hole, the freshwater lake that occupies a former rock quarry, we scoped a four-point stag. This little creature was surprisingly friendly and unintimidated by our cabal of bloodthirsty hunters. (Only one amongst us was an actual hunter.) Though he spoke in extended soliloquies about mounting the deer’s small head on his wall, the deer was unfazed. He was so disarmed, and disarming that I forgot to snap a photo of him. The key deer are trixy. Left in search of consolation, all I got were these shots of vegetation and brush. There were signs about the various plants. I read them—poisonwood stands out, for obvious reasons. But I retained exactly none of the knowledge that loitered in my head before my thoughts returned to small deer. Fucking small deer always win.
Amid the mostly underwhelming collection of furniture and textiles at Design Miami, the student-designed entry pavilion, Unbuilt, was particularly noteworthy for, yes, being somewhat outstanding, but also for the overtly cynical approach that its designers took to the project. One might’ve assumed that the youth of the commission recipients, Harvard graduate students all, would produce an earnest gesture rooted in the students’ architectural nascency. In other words, quaint, but refreshing. On this count, they batted five-hundred. Displaying upturned massing models made of pink foam—a practice typical of the early phases of conceptual design, minus the upturning—they make few inroads into fresh architectural territory.
Instead, Unbuilt reads as gasps of exhaustion from young designers ground down by a fruitless search for architectural novelty. Foam modeling, and contextless formal studies have long served as a means of architectural exploration. In the last quarter-century, particularly with the ascendence of Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), displaying foam models has been used a savvy form of exhibition. The models provide a window into the architectural process that is simultaneously messy, yet monolithic and stylized enough in its uniform pinkness to be gallery appropriate. Today architectural firms produce dozens, even hundreds of little pink models as part of an iterative design-by-attrition process. The factory approach to architectural discovery churns through countless ideas until the best rise to the top. Decades into this practice, one could easily wonder what ideas, and certainly what forms, remain to be unearthed.
Unbuilt‘s designers seem to hold few insights into this question. Though the designs are claimed as their own—the exhibition literature states that the pavilion “champion[s] unrealized designs that would otherwise never see the light of day”—one can easily point to look-a-likes of Marina City designed by Bertrand Goldberg in the early ’60s or Toyo Ito’s Tama Art University Library. There’s a simplified version of Koolhaas’ mobius-strip shaped CCTV, as well (surprise!)
In lieu of novel forms, Design Miami‘s entry pavilion hints that the profession may have reached a saturation point—the likely outcome of the architecture’s documentary obsession, particularly online. The profession’s infatuation with the dissemination of plans and photographic material for publication can, at times, give the impression of being almost as important as designing itself. A healthy blogging ecosystem serves as an enabler to this impulse, making almost every building of significance designed in the last decade readily available. Buildings are as thoroughly consumed from a distance as meals from restaurants that you will never eat at. Through multiple outlets and trade magazines, contemporary tastes are curated and normalized in their fleeting and infinite variations. Nowhere did this mediated fatigue appear more visible than in the recent Guggenheim Helsinki competition, where 1,715 entries displayed architecture form-making ad nauseum and to the point of repetition.
Trained in the practice of merciless iteration, and with every precedent at their fingertips, Unbuilt‘s designers (curators? interns?) are not unveiling fresh ideas so much as they are demonstrating what happens when highly-caffeinated designers flip on autopilot and grind towards a deadline. There may be some excitement in the three-dimensional nature of the products, a testament to architecture’s enduring allure, but there’s not much else to see. Poking study models with a stick is architecture’s equivalent of framing legal briefs, and mounting them to a wall.
The Prentis Building and Deroy Auditorium Complex, Wayne State University, 1962–1964
June 13th, 2015
Thomas Friedman, NY Times Can’t Keep A Bad Idea Down
Though not normally a Friedman fan, I think he gets it right here. It remains a mystery to me why this type of succinct argument wasn’t more prevalent on the Democratic stump:
Let’s have more tax cuts, unlinked to any specific spending cuts and while we’re still fighting two wars — because that worked so well during the Bush years to make our economy strong and our deficit small. Let’s immediately cut government spending, instead of phasing cuts in gradually, while we’re still mired in a recession — because that worked so well in the Great Depression. Let’s roll back financial regulation — because we’ve learned from experience that Wall Street can police itself and average Americans will never have to bail it out.
Planner’s Dream Gone Wrong Storm in a Teacup
Echoes my thoughts on the coming elections, with regards to the libertarian/populists roots of the Tea Party and their Democratic opposition:
When human lives are lost in bridge collapses, when congestion causes countless millions of dollars to be squandered in lost productivity and wasted fuel, and when anybody with half a brain can tell you we need to wean ourselves from fossil fuels for a host of reasons both environmental and strategic, my level of appall at the arrogance of the opposition is matched only by my disgust at the ineffectiveness of our supposed champions.
The Infrastructurist The Survival of High Speed Rail Comes Down to Tomorrow
Governors races will likely determine how the federal appropriation of high-speed rail grants are used—or not used as seems likely. The outlook is bleak in the Midwest, where Democratic candidates in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio trail by sizable margins. Republican candidates in those races have been outspoken opponents of rail projects, presumably given their federal origins. Projects at risk include $150 million for the Dearborn-Kalamazoo (via Ann Arbor) line and $230 million for the Iowa City-Chicago line. Maybe next decade.
Christopher Leinberger, The New Republic Toronto Takes Off to a Great Walkable North
From a moderately tall building in Detroit, you can see the shores of Windsor, Canada. It is close, so close, and looking more and more appealing each day.
CPA Building, Alvin E. Harley, 1920
Next American City Film Industry Takes Root in Detroit
“Detroit. We’re Cheap and Easy.” Honest, perhaps desperately so. The city’s tax credits for film production (42% tax abatement) and infrastructure development and training (25%) have been bringing in major Hollywood blockbusters such as Transformers, Up in the Air, and Gran Torino, resulting in a $350 million into total revenue over the past two years.
Palladium Boots Detroit Lives
… Apparently so does Johnny Knoxville. Who knew? An interesting three-part video series on the selective coverage of Detroit, the realities of urban decay and the opportunities of a blank canvas.
Chicago Tribune Daley, Boss and Builder, Changed the Face of Chicago
During his 21-year reign, Chicago planted more than 600,000 trees, constructed more than 85 miles of landscaped medians and built more than 7 million square feet of planted roofs—more than any other city in America.
Streetsblog Investing in Transit Could Create 180,000 Jobs, for Free
According to a report by University of Missouri-St. Louis researchers, each billion dollars spent on transit creates 36,108 jobs compared with only 30,319 jobs funded by road dollars.
The Atlantic Five Things America’s Strongest Economies Have in Common
Here’s the cliffnotes version:
1. Education and Healthcare Industries
2. Military Bases
3. State Capitals
4. Texas/Great Plains (Really?!)
5. Cheap Labor
Financial Times Suburbs Shape Up to Compete with City
Thirty percent of respondents to a Pew survey preferred to live in a small town while only 25% opted for the traditional suburb. Still, this preference seems to be manifesting itself in the form of re-engineered suburbs that allow residents to maintain their current lifestyle while frequenting superficially urban centers. Baby steps…
NY Times White House Spurns Solar Panel
I can’t think of a single reason why the White House would want to pull out an old relic from the Carter Administration. What exactly was the point of this stunt?
Valencia, ES: Exurban hospitality
September 8th, 2010
Kaid Benfield: NRDC Tax revenue from downtown mixed-use outperforms big-box superstores and malls
With dwindling public budgets, every dollar from property taxes county. In Sarasota, Walmart and Costco produce just slightly more tax revenue than a single-family house on a per acre basis, and the high-end mall produces $22,000/acre annually. Meanwhile, a downtown mixed-use development earns a whopping $800,000/acre each year.
Affordable Housing News Bridging the Gap Between Preservation and Transit
A National Housing Trust study of 20 US cities reveals nearly 70% of the 250,000 subsidized apartments within a half-mile of transit have expiring federal contracts. In an effort to maintain the subsidized housing supply, state and local governments have created local TOD Funds or included transit provisions in state Qualified Application Plan (QAP) for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC).
Washington Post Amid Montgomery cuts, planning agency to go dark for a week to save money, jobs
My former employer is shutting its doors for two weeks in an effort to save energy and maximize savings from furlough days.
Treehugger Tiny Transformer Kitchen Occupies Less Than 10 Square Feet When Closed
Unlike the article’s title, the kitchen is compact, and quite cool.
Wall Street Journal The Transforming City Seen From Above
This a pretty fascinating way to spend an afternoon. City cartographers have added aerial photos from 1951 to NYCityMap, a tool that lets users find city services and information about buildings. Maps are also available from 1924, 1996, 2006, and 2008.