Friday, May 19

Friday Photography | 100 x 100

Michael Wolf does it again: 100 x100. (Thanks for the heads up Chris.)

100 rooms, each room at 100 sqaure feet.
"Photographs of residents in their flats in hong kong's oldest public housing estate."

Exterior pictures of Hong Kong's public housing estates (from the Hong Kong Housing Authority):

Previously on BLYGAD: Michael Wolf - Architecture of Density

Tuesday, May 16

John Dwyer's Clean Hub

Beating us to the punch, Bryan Finoki recently profiled the Clean Hub on Subtopia. The Clean Hub, designed by AFH|MN member John Dwyer, is a self-contained and self-reliant system designed to bring clean water and sanitation to remote locations, disaster relief efforts, refugee camps, and slums.

Tsunami Recovery in Thailand | Part 8: THE RESILIENCE OF SURVIVORS

(Part 8 of a 12 part series)

Five weeks after the Tsunami hit, Sishir Chang went to Thailand to see how the people there were recovering and to see how those concerned could help. The following is the eighth installment of his experiences in the aftermath of one of the world'’s most devastating natural disasters. Originally published in the Southasian, the article is being republished here, with previously unpublished photographs, with the author's permission.


The resilience of those who have survived the tsunami is often astounding. Many of the foreigners who have survived and remain in Phuket are elderly and have chosen to stay because of their love of the place. Marius Poatalle a 75-year-old survivor from Monaco said that he had been washed out of the second floor of his hotel. “I pray to God, Allah, Buddha, anyone!” he said. Even after that experience he still hung out on the beach at Patong showing off the scars he got from the tsunami and haranguing people about French colonial policies in broken English. Another elderly survivor from Australian I met in a Patong nightclub had broken his hip in the tsunami yet in his words the worst thing that happened was that he “couldn’t enjoy all of the lovely Thai ladies.”

The Thais are more circumspect about surviving tsunami. Many of them feel privileged that they’ve survived. According to Maem, a cabana vendor in Patong, “My customers die but I live.” Outwardly its difficult to see if they are suffering from depression or post traumatic stress but I did hear from aid workers and a monk that there are many who are suffering but don’t show it. Aid workers say that in the refugee camps many children have nightmares about being swallowed up by waves. Duane Reid a volunteer paramedic from Australia, said that he’d seen Thais staring fixedly at the sea. Even so he stated that the Thais have dealt with the aftermath far better than he expected, “In Australia after a major disaster people are depressed but here the Thais still seem friendly and upbeat.” He added, “These people have been to hell and back its just amazing what they’ve done.”

Saturday, May 6

The Flophouse: Making an Old Idea New Again

[image: Harvey Wang]

Last Sunday the New York Times put out an article by Janny Scott titled Making a Flophouse a Home, And a Decent One at That. The article is all about the Andrews House, one of the last remaining Flophouses in New York City. In 1997, Common Ground interviewed aproximately 100 homeless people, all of whom shared a disinterest in the type of housing (with built in social services and support programs) that CG was currently offering.

"Many said they wanted something small, private, safe, cheap; they wanted just enough space for themselves and their belongings. They had a little money, though not enough for an apartment. They could pay. And they wanted anonymity."

CG realized that they didn't need a new housing type, the results of the survey described a housing type that already existed in the form of the Flophouse. As usual, Wikipedia offers us a great definition of the word:

Flophouse: ... A place that offers very cheap lodging, generally by providing only minimal services. Occupants of flophouses generally share bathroom facilities and reside in very cramped quarters. The people who make use of these places are often transients, although some people will stay in flophouses for long periods of time, —years or decades. Some people who live in flophouses may be just a step above homelessness. In the late 20th century, typical cost might be about US$6 per night. A typical flophouse might advertise its services with a sign such as "Hotel for Men; Transients Welcome".

Quarters in flophouses are very small, and may resemble office cubicles more than a regular room in a hotel or apartment building. A cubicle might only have wire mesh for a ceiling.

The last sentence there is of particular interest. CG was faced with the challenge of redesigning the Andrews House, a double loaded corridor style building only 17 feet wide, into something that provided viable spaces to live.

[aproximate floor plan of the Andrews House]

As it existed, The Andrews House was only a “home” in name. What vitality and integrity the structure retained came only from it's residents. The living cubicles, cramped and lacking sunlight, became a place for the men living there to keep and proudly display their worldly possessions. It was a place to take respite from the outside world, even if just by watching TV on the small bed, but as it was, the building was in desperate need of a makeover.

[image: inside the Andrews House, James Estrin]

[image: a corridor splits the 17' wide building]

[image: inside the cubicles, years of possessions]

In admirable fashion, Common Ground opened up this monumental challenge to the design community with a competition. The winning entries all met the challenge to varying degrees of success and the Andrews House is currently under construction, set to open in the spring of 2007. You can see from the images below that many of the winning designs addressed at least two of the major design concerns: how to bring light into the cubicles and how to maximize the space efficiency of the tight quarters.

[image: "Kit of Parts" by LifeForm]

[image: "The Ordering of Things" by Katherine Chang & Aaron Gabriel]

[image: "Soft House" by Forsythe + MacAllen Design]

[image: "Cacoon" by Daniela Fabricius]

Further Information:
NYT video with a more in depth look into Common Ground and The Andrews House.
Flophouse: Life on the Bowery by David Isay & Stacey Abramson, with Photographs by Harvey Wang.

Friday, May 5

Friday Photography | Recreation Vehicle Homesteading

Recreational Vehicle: ... an enclosed piece of equipment dually used as both a vehicle and temporary travel home. (Wikipedia)

Homesteading: ... Currently the term homesteading applies to anyone who is a part of the back to the land movement and who chooses to live a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. (Wikipedia)

[image: Mac Kane]

[image: Mac Kane]

[image: Mac Kane]

For more in the way of Long Term Visitor Areas (i.e., nodal points for the creation of instant cities), off-grid living, nomadic lifestyles, and freedom from property taxes, see Mac Kane's online exhibition Border Camping at Polar Inertia.

Thursday, May 4

Tsunami Recovery in Thailand | Part 7: SEX, DRUGS & TSUNAMI RELIEF

(Part 7 of a 12 part series)

Five weeks after the Tsunami hit, Sishir Chang went to Thailand to see how the people there were recovering and to see how those concerned could help. The following is the seventh installment of his experiences in the aftermath of one of the world'’s most devastating natural disasters. Originally published in the Southasian, the article is being republished here, with previously unpublished photographs, with the author's permission.


Thailand is known for its beauty and culture but the country also has a seamy reputation. For decades it’s been a major stop for sex tours and a place for unabashed hedonism. Even with the tsunami that was still true and judging from the majority of tourists still coming to Patong the pursuit of pleasures of the flesh was alive and well. A ubiquitous site in Patong was fat middle-aged European men with small delicate Thai women. You would see them walking on the beach, shopping in town, eating in restaurants and drinking in bars. Foreign men without women would often be in the process of finding women and scantily clad Thai women would be in the process of finding foreign men. Some of the time the interaction would be a straight up exchange of money for sex which some men were fairly brazen about but in many cases these foreign lonely hearts would get a temporary Thai girlfriend to spend time with. They would take them out at night and to the beach while paying for their meals, buy them gifts and give them money. In turn the women would keep them company both sexually and emotionally for all purposes like any other happy couple on vacation. The Patong scene catered to more than just heterosexual men but there were also many slight Thai men accompanying foreign men along with others who catered to heterosexual women. According to a female visitor from Ireland a Thai women had even offered her services to her.

With tourism down there was an over abundance of Thai women, and men, looking for foreigners. In many of the bars it was common to see several skimpily clad Thai women sitting around looking for men. Anytime an unaccompanied foreign male would enter the bar these women would aggressively pounce on him and vie for his attention. To some this was a boon as Warrick an Englishman in his forties and a frequent visitor to Patong enthusiastically confided in me, “There are so many girls out there you can pick the best.” Also following the law of supply and demand he mentioned that now was a great time to get women because prices were down, “for about $50 you can get a girl for all night.”

Prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand but is tolerated and there seems to be no shame among the Thais about it. Thai culture has historically been accepting of having mistresses. At the same time the appetite for sex and companionship continues to draw many men to Phuket in spite of the tsunami. With tourism down overall it’s very likely that without these men there might not be any tourism at all.

Tsunami relief also came from indulgences besides sex. A few bars advertised reduced priced or special drinks because of the tsunami and even drug dealers chipped in to help. While I was there a local drug dealer of a type of mephamphetamine called “Ya-Ba” was arrested. His angle for getting customers was that he pledged to donate a third of his profits to tsunami relief. This proved so successful that he quit his regular job to deal full time. He also stuck to his pledge and by the time of his arrest he had donated about 13,000 Baht ($325) to the Army’s tsunami relief fund.

Tuesday, May 2

Tsunami Recovery in Thailand | Part 6: COME TO PHUKET

(Part 6 of a 12 part series)

Five weeks after the Tsunami hit, Sishir Chang went to Thailand to see how the people there were recovering and to see how those concerned could help. The following is the sixth installment of his experiences in the aftermath of one of the world'’s most devastating natural disasters. Originally published in the Southasian, the article is being republished here, with previously unpublished photographs, with the author's permission.



Even with the scale of the tsunami Phuket still remains beautiful. Unfortunately for the Thais the place is far below its tourist capacity and I had heard that many tourists are staying away out of fear, uncertainty and even guilt. In Patong I was told by everyone that I talked to that the number of visitors was very down. November to May is supposed to be their high season when many businesses earn enough money to make it through the rest of the year. The beach at Patong was only about half full while some other beaches, even those untouched by the tsunami, had even less. At night many of the bars and restaurants were nearly empty, often to the consternation of the Thai women who worked them as hostesses or to troll for lonely foreigners.

Tourism is the backbone of Phuket’s economy and without it recovery will be very difficult, if not impossible. In the town of Kamala I spoke to Tan, a shopkeeper who had lost three of his stores and was in the process of rebuilding one of them. The store he said was being paid for from his own savings and a bank loan and whether he could rebuild his other stores would depend on how well the next few seasons went. The Thais and frequent visitors all wanted to let people know that tourists should return to Phuket. Some visitors who had been to Phuket before and enjoyed it were upset by what they felt was overblown and sometimes wrong coverage by the media regarding the extent of damage.


Marty Testa, a visitor from Ohio, even tried to call a radio station back home to tell them that they were exaggerating the extent of damage to Phuket. Debbie Cliff and Celia Frodham frequent visitors to Phuket from England said that Phuket had gotten a lot of bad publicity and that its time it got some good publicity. At first many of their friends had told them not to go to Phuket but they went ahead anyway and have not regretted their decision. Even though I was speaking to them on the ruins of a seawall where once a seafood restaurant that they frequented stood they said, “you can still do everything as before.”

Monday, May 1

The Evolution of Eco-Tourism?


Western Minnesota is a wind power hotspot and in the past 6 years wind farms have begun to pop up all over the landscape to take advantage. In an encouraging sign of the marketability of alternative forms of energy, the town of Hendricks has begun to promote the high concentration of windmills in the area as one incentive for green-minded families to move from the city to a more rural location, as in this excerpt from the city's home page:

"The residents of Hendricks have focused on creating a town which is a perfect place for children. Our school district is one of the best in the nation. Our weather is temperate and provides for four seasons of fun. We are well grounded in our past, as we continue to worship in a prairie church which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. We look to better our tomorrow through efforts such as our wind farms and organic farming. We believe you will find the Hendricks Minnesota quality of life second to none."


If you like the steps Hendricks is taking towards a more sustainable planet, but still aren't sold on the whole package, you might want to consider a nigh
t or two "atop a bluff within the world's largest wind farm" at the Midwest Center for Wind Energy. 75 to 100 dollars will get you a night of lodging on the cutting edge of alternative power in the US, not to mention a continental breakfast. Fellow guests to this wind power epicenter include some of the world's top aeronautical scientists and technicians.

With the ever-unstable cost of crude oil consistently rising, it is more important then ever to show support for alternative means of power. Even if you can't make it to Hendricks, MN there is at least one simple way you can show your support: The 3.3 million Xcel Energy customers in the US now have the option to buy blocks of wind power that will supplement the traditional forms of energy they usually consume. After signing up, a portion of your energy (proportional to how many blocks you buy) will come from local wind generation. (Thanks to Jess at Greenlight for the tip.)


This is a great way to single handedly increase the use of a clean & renewable energy source and make a strong statement in support of a new type of sustainable fuel economy.