Wednesday, January 23

Visualizing Change: Upcoming Workshops Blend Design & Civic Engagement

February is always a big month for BLYGAD. With two annual design charrettes that focus on important aspects of our Twin Cities built environment (homelessness and sustainability), it's also a great time for Twin Cities designers to really get involved with the community.

First up is the 3RD ANNUAL GREENLIGHT DESIGN WORKSHOP on February 1st and 2nd. Sponsored by the University of Minnesota's College of Design, Covanta Energy Recovery Center, and Hennepin County, the workshop will take a look the waste-to-energy facility located directly next to the new Twins Ballpark site. Once built, the ballpark will bring thousands of people to the area, so there are many opportunities to design a more sustainable and hopefully inviting public interface. Additionally, necessary roof replacement and site work will allow us to provide options for new sustainable interventions.

All are welcome to participate in this intense day of design: college faculty, community members and of course students and professionals with backgrounds in graphics, design, and sustainability are encouraged to participate. The workshop will be held at Rapson Hall on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. Things get kicked off on Friday night from 5:30 to 7pm. The doors will open at 8am on Saturday for a full day of design, followed by presentations.

TO REGISTER | Please RSVP by January 29th to grnlight[at] with your contact information, experience level, and any dietary preferences (vegan, vegetarian, or allergies). See this CDES MEMO post for more information.

Two weeks later is the 21ST ANNUAL SEARCH FOR SHELTER, sponsored as always, by AIA Minnesota's Housing Advocacy Committee. The Boston Marathon of design charrettes, Search for Shelter kicks off the night of Friday, February 15th, lasts throughout the day Saturday, and doesn't usually wrap up until 2 or 3 on Sunday. But I can say from experience that the time you put into it is well spent. Students, professionals and community members work together to benefit local non-profit organizations that focus on affordable housing and homelessness, and by the end of the weekend, produce a semesters worth of design in less then 3 days.

Search for Shelter also takes place at Rapson Hall at the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. The weekend will kick off with an Opening Program on Friday night from 5:30 - 8 p.m., with Kate Swenson from the Enterprise Foundation will present information on the Rose Architectural Fellowship. Saturday is a working day for the teams, including site visits, brainstorming, and design. The weekend concludes with a final presentation at noon on Sunday when designs are shared with clients. Ample substinance (and caffeine) is provided throughout the weekend.

TO REGISTER | For more information and to register for the charrette, visit the Housing Advocacy Committee's website.

If either of these have piqued your interest, please don't hesitate to sign up. And if you have any questions, I'd be happy to hunt down answers for you. 'Design like you give a damn' isn't just a catchy phrase around here, and these two charrettes are great opportunities to show the rest of the nation that Twin Cities designers walk the talk better then anyone.

Thursday, January 17

The Museum of Nature & Possible Zoological Futures

[Museum I, 2004]

Ilkka Halso is a Finnish artist whose work examines the tensions between our natural and built environments and ultimately, how we act to save and/or destroy both. GOOD Magazine featured his Museum of Nature series in this month's issue and wrote this:

If there's a small upside to global warming, it's surely this: After centuries of neglect and skepticism, we've finally come to appreciate just how real—and personal—our connection to the environment is. The Finnish artist Ilkka Halso imagines a time, perhaps in the less-than-distant future, when that relationship will be even more precious. Nature, or what's left of it, has become nothing more than an attraction.
I'm drawn to his work not only because the subject matter is immediate and the execution superb, but because his fantastic near-future landscapes often involve beautifully realized architectural invasions.

[Theatre I, 2003]

[Kitka River, 2004]

[Cube - inside]

The photograph above, though thematically similar to the three images featured before it, is different in that the human intervention (scaffolding) was actually built. Similar to artist Florentijn Hofman (previously on BLYGAD), I find myself equally drawn to the construction of the work of art as I am to the the work itself.

[stills from Cube, 2004 - a 15 min video]

On a very related note, I just listened to a podcast on the topic of zoos and more specifically what zoos might look like in the near future. WNYC's Radio Lab co-host Robert Krulwich interviews former zoo director David Hancocks about his dream for the zoo of the future. Incidentally, it looks allot more like a Haslo's Museum of Nature then our conception of the modern zoo; it's much more of a natural landscape preserved plus windows into it (real or virtual) for humans, then a faux landscape recreated for humans plus animals.

For a look into this future zoo today, you can find all manner of 'animal cams' online (Animal Cameras Blog is a great resource). For example, check out the award winning MusselCam based out of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Tuesday, January 15

Mapping Shanghai with Sim City 2000

[click the image to see at full size]

Well, it's not really Sim City 2000 - but the map's axonometric vantage point and beautiful pixel art graphics are certainly reminiscent of the game I spent far too much time playing as a kid.

Our good friends at Worrell, Inc linked to this interactive map of Shanghai via their new office there. Here's what Pete had to say:

Someone told me there are 4,000 buildings over 25 stories tall here with 1,000 more scheduled to be built in the next few years. To put that in perspective, New York has 2,000.
4,000 buildings over 25 stories tall... here's what that actually looks like: [See Update below.]

[image by pmorgan]

The map takes on a whole new life once you realize that buildings are really quite accurately modeled. For example, here's a stunning shot of the landmark Oriental Pearl Tower in the Pudong district of Shanghai:

[image by Franck]

And it's pixel art representation in the map:

Pretty cool!

Finally, it was a real treat to find examples of the traditional Shikumen style of building I've previously covered at BLYGAD. You can really get a sense for how out of scale they are with the rest of the city when seen in context like this. Like a cartological Where's Waldo, can you find Shanghai's Shikumen?

Monday, January 14

Video from inside Kowloon Walled City

A quick post today following up on my previous effort to make sense of Kowloon Walled City. The first video surfaced on YouTube about 6 months ago. It was apparently filmed in 1990, what would have been 2 years before the city's demolition. This is truly amazing footage, I don't think anything else like it exists. You'll find a quick guide below the video.

0.00 - 0.50 | Kowloon Walled City at a block or two away
0.50 - 6.04 | Street life on the shell of the city
6.04 - 7:49 | Cutting a straight path beneath the city
7.49 - 9.04 | Re-emergence and more from the street

The next clip comes, surprisingly enough, from the Jean-Claude Van Damme fighter flick Bloodsport (1988). It's a 2 minute 20 second clip, of which the last 1 minute 40 seconds are are shot on location within the Walled City. It's kind of an airbrushed version of the clip above.

If anybody has any other resources on Kowloon Walled City that I haven't previously covered on BLYGAD before, do share!

Friday Photography | Kowloon Walled City

Kowloon City is featured in Ron Fricke's Baraka (1992), see stills here. Thanks Fred!

Saturday, January 12

Archo-Urbo-Blogo-Mania | January '08

I'm consistently amazed by what my archo & urbo blogging colleagues are coming up with and 2007 only confirmed this amazement. Over the New Year I gave BLYGAD's "Like-Minded Links" blogroll a much needed update and I just wanted feature some of the recent additions that I've really been enjoying lately. Happy reading! | Airoots is, to me, one of the stand out blogs of 2007. Keywords here are "adventituous roots, urban forests and villages, natural cities, lost tribes, new nomads, and everything inbetween." Infinitely fascinating, Airoots brings a unique perspective and critical eye to some of the fundamental urban issues of our time, but never without a playful sense of unreality. RECENT HIGHLIGHT | A recent post entitled "Tokyo-Mumbai Remix" accurately captures the two author's own urban roots with some fantastically mashed up scenes of urban life from both cities coexisting side-by-side as if one - challenging some deeply seated assumptions about class and urbanism.

Building Minnesota | Building Minnesota is a radio series, podcast and blog by Twin Cities reporter and radio journalist Todd Melby. Todd's work offers a behind-the-scenes and often in-depth look into the Twin Cities built environs. Highly recommended if you're a TC local or simply interested in the architectural process. RECENT HIGHLIGHT | Some of Todd's recent posts reflect an age old debate in our fair city: To skyway or not to skyway. For the record, Todd is an advocate of the skyway system. I tend to fall on the other side of the fence and agree with Jay Walljasper, who recently visited the city and offered this critique: "When you glass in the city, you eliminate the 'bad' days but also all the 'good' days. That is too much of a price to pay. You miss the fresh air, the street life. You may have 20 bad days a year when you want to stay indoors, but 200 good ones you miss. I say you make the city as good as possible for the good days, and that will carry it through on the bad days." BONUS | Todd's podcast covered a great AFHMN project back in 2006.

Civic Nature | The Where Blog recently turned me on to this blog by Peter Sigrist, a Master’s student in the University of Cambridge Department of Geography. Peter is most interested where the areas of "interrelationships between environmental conservation, urban & regional planning, and international development" converge. RECENT HIGHLIGHT | Peter's latest post unearths a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, IRIN, on the effects of post-election violence in Kenya has had on regional slum dwellers.

Critical Spatial Practice | Nicholas Senn writes this blog with a wonderfully critical eye towards our built environment as a reflection (successfully or not) of how we see ourselves - individually and as larger networks of ever shifting communities. RECENT HIGHLIGHT | Nicholas' most recent offering highlights the Lesbian National Parks and Services, of which he writes: "In full uniform as Lesbian Rangers, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan patrol parklands, challenging the general public's ideas of tourism, recreation, and the "natural" environment. Equipped with informative brochures and well-researched knowledge, they are a visible homosexual presence in spaces where concepts of history and biology exclude all but a very few."

The Mobile City Blog | The Mobile City Blog is the companion blog/ homepage to the upcoming Mobile City Conference in Rotterdam. The conference will aim at answering the following question: what happens to urban culture when physical and digital spaces merge? RECENT HIGHLIGHT | In a recent post linking Jane Jacobs, the mobile phone, and urban street life, the author highlights two articles that "can be easily associated with the work of Jane Jacobs, in which the experience of the sidewalk is central to the formation of local communities. As she stated: “word does not move around where public characters and sidewalk life are lacking.” The conclusion of both pieces is very different: One is rather positive and optimist, the other somehwat grumpy, in the ‘how technology killed the authentic experience’-category."

Also new to the blogroll...

And finally, some BLYGAD highlights from 2007 to wrap up one year and bring us into the next.

+ BLYGAD topped out 20,000 hits just in time for 2008. What a nice way to ring in the New Year!
+ East Coast Architectural Review (eCar) recently named BLYGAD in their Top Ten Urbanism Blogs. Thanks Bradley.
+ International Listings, um... listed their Top 100 Architecture Blogs and BLYGAD made number 28. When they aren't listing things like blogs they are "the premier listing service for luxury homes worldwide". Go figure.
+ Live Modern Blogs is now syndicating BLYGAD. Thanks Marshall.
+ BLYGAD has always been ad-free, but thanks to, we finally have the button to prove it.
+ Finally, don't forget to check out my latest experiment in online "writing": BLYGAD 2.0, it's built environs & culture streaming at it's finest!

Here's to a great "Archo-Urbo-Blogo" 2008!