Archive for the ‘Random’ Category

My letter to the editor in response to the Architecture Issue of the NY Times Magazine was published. In it, I had expressed disappointment at the lack of perspectives from landscape architects, and the recognition of the influence of landscape architecture among our favorite “starchitects” whom were prominently featured in several articles. Maybe they’ll come out with a Landscape Architecture Issue!

Letter to the Editor, NY Times Magazine:

The architecture-themed issue, “The Next City” (June 8), was a wonderful exploration of how today’s cutting-edge architectural firms, like OMA and MVRDV, are exploding the boundaries of conventional architecture. However, I would have liked to have seen perspectives from landscape architects, or what some refer to as “landscape urbanism.” Even architects like Rem Koolhaas, Bernard Tschumi and Stan Allen are turning toward landscape architecture to infuse and renew their own architectural-design strategies. Planning cities by single buildings was, and continues to be, a shortsighted strategy. To truly design our urban centers, we must now think of the city as a landscape of infrastructure (transportation, utilities) and systems (ecological, social, institutional).

I received this interesting study on food expenditures of different families around the world in my inbox today:

Japan : The Ukita family of Kodaira City
Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11

Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide
Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina
Food expenditure for one week: $341.98

Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca
Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09

Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna
Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27

Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo
Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53

Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo
Food expenditure for one week: $31.55

Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village
Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

I’m not sure which agency conducted the study, but it is interesting to broadly compare these statistics across countries/communities/families.  Assuming that the study has sampled families of the same size, I wonder how various factors, such as food production and distribution, determine the into the final expenditures that each family must spend. Do these families live in communities that have large agricultural economies? Do they grow their own food? What kinds of foods are they purchasing? Are the foods processed? Do the expenditures include eating out at places like restaurants or fast food chains? Are any of the families living in communities that have high obesity rates?

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I haven’t had much time in the past several months to post as much as I’d like. Two weeks ago, I started my landscape architecture program, and it’s really been a whirlwind of drawing, design, model-making, computers, graphics, more drawing, more design, more model-making, etc.  And still trying to find time in between to unpack and settle into my new apartment in West Philly.   Still feeling overwhelmed with re-entering student life, living off loans, meeting new people, all the while maintaining a sense of self.  Trying not to sound like a broken record, but I do have several unfinished posts and will hopefully be able to crank them out in due time.

I have a small confession; I like to watch CBS Sunday Morning. If you have ever seen this news show, you’ll know that it is catered to a much older (than me) audience, mostly because it doesn’t use a lot of flashly graphics, and I don’t know of very many mid-twenty year olds that wake up before 9 am on Sunday to watch the news. But I’ll save why I like CBS Sunday Morning for a separate post. Anyway, I learned about Alice Smith from CBS Sunday Morning (pretty lame, I’m sure), and I’ve been hooked ever since I listened to her entire album. She came to NYC to perform at Joe’s Pub. Here’s a video clip I took from my digital camera. Hopefully you’ll be able to see what a talented singer she is from the short clip. And yes, that’s Me’Shell NdegéOcello playing bass in the back!

The writing is punchy and imaginative, and I imagine that if read aloud, the short chapters would sound like spoken word. I’m really digging how the author captures the experience of waiting for a train:

This is the fabled journey underground, folks, and it’s going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. On the opposite track it’s a field of greener grass, you gotta beat trains off with a stick…The postures on the platform sag of stiffen appropriately. With a dial controlling the amount of static. What are their rooms like, the men at the microphones…Look down the tunnel one more time and your behavior will describe a psychiatric disorder. It’s infectious. They take turns looking down into darkness and the platform is a clock: the more people standing dumb, the more time has passed since the last train. The people fall from above into hourglass dunes. Collect like seconds.

For the past three months I’ve been living in Brooklyn, in a very slowly gentrifying area between Crown Heights and Prospect Heights. Historically, I understand it to have been a largely West Indian neighborhood, though I’m not sure who was there before that. Presently there are more whites and young professionals slowly moving in, myself included though only passing through (gentrification in process). For me, it’s a blessing to live here — beautiful brownstones lining the streets and enough amenities within walking distance where I don’t feel like I have to break an arm and leg to find groceries, coffee shops, boutiques, and ethnic restaurants. Not to mention easy access to the Brooklyn Museum, Main Library, Botanical Garden and Prospect Park.

One of the coolest neighborhood spots I learned about is Tom’s Diner, located at the corner of Washington Ave and Sterling Place (it even has its own blog!). They serve excellent food, and you get to dine within an atmosphere of a traditional and authentic feel of a diner. The owners knew nearly everyone, young and old, walking in and out of the restaurant. You could sense that it was a place people cherished.

Suzanne Vega fans may already know that her song Tom’s Diner references this very diner. The song also appeared on the soundrack of 90’s flick ‘Untamed Heart’.

Tom’s Diner opened in 1936, and it is a testement for this restaurant to have remained a strong neighborhood establishment through all those years. I learned that in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, neighborhood residents and patrons held hands to protect the diner from the riots, looters and violence resulting from King’s death. Tom’s Diner is the kind of place that holds together the fabric of urban neighborhoods. These kind of places require an openess and generosity from the owners, who offer a place where individuals and families can commune. It’s the kind of place that keep communities intact and thriving, even through times of economic hardship or social unrest.

Seredipitously, I was offered a job within three weeks of moving to New York! I’m working at a landscape design-build company, which specializes in rooftop gardens and is expanding its green roof projects. The photo here is an example of a garden we designed and installed.

In many ways I am feeling very “new”. I’m (re)learning a lot and remembering that there are people who are not community organizers and don’t necessarily think like community organizers. The days pass by very quickly, and there is barely time to even think about blogging.

I’m (re)learning how to travel all over again. Walking is wonderful, though I need better shoes. Most notably, I’m enjoying every moment of public transportation, which is so very much needed in Detroit, even when my train breaks down and I have take three extra trains to get to work.

Before going to see the newly opened MOCAD, my friend and I spontaneously decided to enter and explore the Michigan Central Depot. It was surprisingly easy to get in from the tunnels. We were walking in darkness for a minute, before suddenly stepping into the expansive main lobby/waiting area (represented in the photo above courtesy of Forgotten Detroit). A snow storm had come through the city two days ago, so mounds of snow sculpted by the wind were all over the floor and staircases. We only had time to look around the third (some kind of vault/archival room) and fifth (hotel rooms or offices) floors. I still can’t really believe I was inside the building — had there been more time and had I dressed warmer, I could have spent much longer inside, just sitting, soaking and reflecting.

I hope the fate of this building, like other wonderful buildings in Detroit, will not go down the path of demolition. Afterwards, my friend and I had an interesting conversation about sustainability and urban cities. Inside the rooms, we had found many light fixtures and other materials wasted and deteriorating, as though people just left everything behind and didn’t think look back. At the same time, the architecture and building materials used to construct the station seem solid and strong enough to withstand time itself. Aside from the aesthetics, there doesn’t appear to be much structural damage. I don’t think the box-like buildings we find our Wal-marts and Targets today can measure up to the Michigan Central Depot. With the right amount investment, imagine the possibilities of how we can reuse this building.

From Freire:

Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is commitment to
others.

Finally.

Sent off the rest of my grad school applications yesterday!

Working on personal statements, statements of purpose, etc. has sucked a lot of my writing energies away from blogging. Mailing off that last packet was quite a relief. Thank you all for helping me through the process by reading, editing, proofing, encouraging and supporting!

In other news: Lately I’ve been using this neat music service called Pandora, and it’s been an interesting way of coming across new musicians. Pandora allows you to create “radio stations” of a particular artist you enjoy listening to, and it will find and play similar music as that artist.