Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A freeway over a traditional Bukit Brown cemetery in Singapore


I´m sharing some paragraphs from the article by Mimi Kirk, this incredible story of unrespectful developments:

 Bukit Brown, the largest Chinese burial ground outside of China with an estimated 100,000 graves, became a municipal cemetery in 1922. It serves as the resting place for some of Singapore’s most illustrious families as well as thousands of long-forgotten middle and lower-class citizens. Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s first and longtime prime minister, has a grandfather buried here (next to a descendant of Confucius, no less), as does Tony Tan, Singapore’s current president. Baked goods magnate Chew Boon Lay (1852-1933) also lies here.
 Despite this Singaporean ethos, Bukit Brown is a distinctly un-Singaporean space. Abandoned since 1973, overgrown tombs and large swathes of lush and unkempt land play host to groups of macaque monkeys, colorful African tulip trees, close to 100 bird species (some endangered), and other mammals, including the Large Flying Fox, a rare and enormous bat that was likely the inspiration for vampire movies. Nearby residents use Bukit Brown for jogging and dog walking, and others from all over the island still come to give offerings and perform rituals to honor their ancestors. A far cry from the tidy roads, malls, and condos of Singapore proper, Bukit Brown is touted as one of the country’s last wild spaces.



Last September, the Singaporean government announced plans to build an eight-lane highway through Bukit Brown, with housing developments (mostly public and subsidized) to follow in the next 15 to 20 years. Concerned citizens formed groups to protest the project, asking for at least more time to document all the graves and ascertain the historical as well as environmental value of the land. They had little success in swaying the government. Late last month, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced that the highway project will begin in early 2013, though as a concession a section of the road will consist of a bridge allowing wildlife access to creeks below. Regardless, seven groups issued a joint statement conveying their “dismay and disappointment” at not only the outcome, but that the government was “inadequate…at genuine engagement and discussing alternatives.” 
 The fight has come as a surprise to some. Heritage has generally not been a front burner issue in the globalized and ultra-modern city-state, and protesting government policies has never been a hallmark of Singaporean culture. “Singaporeans have trusted the government to do the right thing,” says Jennifer Teo, a founder of the group SOS Bukit Brown. “But at the same time they are resigned to the fact that the government takes a ‘we know best’ attitude and does what it deems fit, regardless of their opinions.” Teo says she and her group felt that it was important to make a stand. “We believe the cemetery is an integral part of our country.” On a steamy Sunday afternoon, Teo leads a two-hour tour through the cemetery. Insects and birds drone and chirp, and a pair of corgi dogs rush back and forth between two enormous acacia trees, barking excitedly at several irritated monkeys. The smell of rotting fruit from grave offerings occasionally wafts by. Teo stops the group in front of a tomb to explain the shape of traditional Chinese graves. A circular mound fans out behind the gravestone, symbolizing the womb from which we come and to which we return. Ideally, a grave is set up on a hill so that rainwater flows down around it in concrete gutters. Such a spot helps ensure the good fortune of the deceased’s descendants. Teo points out one grave that has already been disinterred; the stone ledge in front of the mound has been broken. "This tells the spirit not to return," she explains. 
 Cemeteries like Bukit Brown are no longer active in Singapore. Chinese Singaporeans are on the whole cremated now, the ashes placed in urns and stored in columbariums. The approximately 3,700 graves that will be affected by the highway (not to mention the thousands more if housing development plans ultimately go through) will go this route. The LTA has begun to publish the names of affected graves so that descendants can claim the remains, with a deadline of December 31, 2012. Those remains not claimed by the deadline will be cremated and the ashes held for three years, at which time they will be scattered at sea. The government has empowered Dr. Hui, the anthropologist, to head up extensive documentation of the affected graves. Hui has done this kind of work before at now-defunct cemeteries, but notes that he was previously an unpaid volunteer.

Read the article in full:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Urban memories of Budapest

Picture by Merge Invisible

Stirred by the recent series of demolitions and reconstructions in the eighth district in Budapest, Hungarian art collective Merge Invisible have sought to commemorate the beautiful old buildings that were razed to make way for cheap new construction. In their Nefelejcs Projekt, the group has painted a mural of what appears to be a black and white X-ray of what once was. After collecting data from the Budapest City Archives and asking neighbors to reconstruct their memory of the area, the group turned to a local gallery to help recruit sponsors and volunteers to paint a life-sized portal to the past.

READ THE ARTICLE IN FULL:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Del artículo ¨Difícil legado del Siglo XX¨



El artículo que reproduzco abajo pertenece a Graciela Speranza y fue publicado en La Nación on line. Está relacionado con el post La ciudad como espacio de combate.
Ambos tienen una visión apocalíptica de las ciudades. Y no necesariamente del futuro.
La introducción de Speranza, mencionando la película rusa Stalker de 1979, atrajo mi atención y la ví este último fin de semana. Es una hermosa película, larga y densa, eso sí, con imágenes que manifiestan la estética de las ruinas y un final con moraleja que me dejó meditando. Lo que más me llamó la atención, veo la Zona como un presagio de la catástrofe de Chernobyl de 1986. Recordemos la creación de la zona de exclusión y las ruinas que allí han quedado. Para más información de su estado actual , les recomiendo lean un post anterior Dark tourism in Ukraine: the decay of Pripyat.

Para ilustrar el post, he bajado escenas de la película Stalker de Google images, pido disculpas por no tener los autores, pero no he visto referencias de derechos.




En una secuencia memorable de Stalker , uno de los grandes momentos de la historia del cine, tres viajeros clandestinos avanzan en un motorriel hacia la Zona, un paraje fantástico que promete cumplir los sueños de los desconsolados. Tarkovski se demora en el recorrido, deja que el tiempo pase al ritmo acompasado del traqueteo y atiende a la expectativa de los tres hombres de espaldas que miran a un lado y al otro, a la espera de que el paisaje devastado que van dejando atrás se abra a otro, desconocido y fabuloso. Los viajeros descubrirán muy pronto que el panorama de la Zona no es mucho menos sombrío, sólo que, cuando el motorriel se detiene y el stalker -guía anuncia que han llegado a destino, el blanco y negro de la imagen vira de pronto al color, el verde y la quietud del lugar inundan el plano, y las ruinas desoladas que recorrerán de ahí en más refulgen en todo su esplendor. Como en la larga secuencia del viaje, las imágenes a la vez sórdidas y sublimes del futuro que Tarkovski compuso en Stalker no difieren demasiado del paisaje real de las ciudades y anticipan sin saberlo el tono posapocalíptico del arte del mañana; el único resto arcádico de la Zona es el silencio y la majestad de las ruinas deshabitadas. No hay más allá de las ciudades, parece decir Tarkovski. El desarrollo de la civilización se ha clausurado en un cerco mental urbano.
Treinta años más tarde, la mitad de la población del mundo vive en las ciudades y la cifra alcanzará los dos tercios al promediar el siglo, con megaciudades de ocho millones de habitantes e hiperciudades de veinte, aunque nadie sabe si semejantes concentraciones humanas son biológica o ecológicamente sustentables. Esa supremacía podría ser motivo de celebración e incluso de orgullo ciudadano. El pensamiento, la cultura y el arte florecieron en las ciudades, y la historia de los grandes cambios sociales y las vanguardias se escribió con reinvenciones de los recorridos urbanos. Basta pensar en los pasajes parisinos que iluminaron a Baudelaire y a Benjamin, los encuentros insólitos de las caminatas surrealistas, o las derivas y los desvíos con que Debord y los situacionistas llamaban a vagar sin rumbo prestando oídos a la ciudad como quien escucha un lenguaje, para recuperar la comunicación interrumpida por la sociedad del espectáculo.


Pero ¿qué, precisamente, deberíamos celebrar hoy en las ciudades? ¿Qué se ha hecho de las grandes ilusiones que movilizaban la marcha esperanzada a las capitales? "Claustrópolis", "ciudad de cuarzo", "ciudad pánico" son las fórmulas que hoy describen la vida urbana y ni siquiera hacen falta las metáforas frente la resonancia trágica de nombres como Ciudad Juárez, Kabul, Ciudad de Dios, Villa 31, Dharavi. Un tercio de la población de las ciudades vive hoy en villas, favelas, colonias populares, pueblos jóvenes, cantegriles o, dicho con uno de los tantos eufemismos de las ciencias sociales, "asentamientos informales". La cifra por sí sola alcanza para aguar los festejos de la hegemonía metropolitana; la nueva fisonomía del globo ("Planeta de villas miseria", lo llamó el sociólogo Mike Davis con elocuencia tajante) aniquila los últimos resabios de fervor whitmaniano. "Urbanización" ha pasado a ser sinónimo de ranchos, casillas, barracas, tinglados, chozas, tugurios, asentados en las orillas de las grandes capitales, un margen del margen alejado de los lazos solidarios de la comunidad rural y también de las bondades políticas y culturales del ágora. El aumento paralelo de la riqueza, entretanto, ha transformado la geografía de las zonas prósperas con patrones cada vez más desembozados de segregación, materializados en espacios fortificados, islas cercadas, barrios y hasta ciudades privadas, rejas y muros con los que la arquitectura del miedo se anticipa a los enfrentamientos o los incita. En las metrópolis de todo el mundo las diferencias sociales desalientan el contacto, más amenaza que estímulo de la vida comunitaria.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Agora: una versión muy interesante de la destrucción de la Biblioteca de Alexandría.

Escena de la película Agora en la Biblioteca de Alexandria. Imagen de agora-movie-trailer.blogspot.com

He quedado encantada con la película Agora, dirigida por Alejandro Amenábar. En ella, se muestran los años de transición del paganismo romano al cristianismo, la lucha por el poder, el antagonismo con los grupos judíos, y entre todo ello, la destrucción de la Biblioteca de Alexandría, una de las tantas versiones.
Dicen los críticos que la película tiene sus desviaciones históricas, pero sólo ver la grandiosa escenografía, emociona. El personaje principal de la historia es la matemática y filósofa Hypatia, conocida también como la primera astrónoma mujer de la historia.
¨La Biblioteca Real de Alejandría o Antigua Biblioteca de Alejandría, fue en su época la más grande del mundo. Situada en la ciudad egipcia de Alejandría, se estima que fue fundada a comienzos del siglo III a. C. por Ptolomeo I Sóter, y ampliada por su hijo Ptolomeo II Filadelfo, llegando a albergar hasta 900.000 manuscritos. Una nueva Biblioteca Alejandrina, rememorando la original y promovida por la Unesco, fue inaugurada el 16 de octubre de 20021 en la misma ciudad.
La destrucción de la Biblioteca de Alejandría es uno de los temas polémicos de la civilización occidental, asignándose a romanos, egipcios cristianos o musulmanes, dependiendo de la fuente consultada. Se carece de testimonios precisos sobre sus aspectos más esenciales, y no se han encontrado las ruinas del Museo, siendo las del Serapeo muy escasas. Para algunos escritores latinos, la Gran Biblioteca fundada por los Ptolomeos apenas resultó afectada en el incendio provocado por las tropas de Julio César en 48 a. C. Probablemente, ya había desaparecido en el momento de la dominación árabe, aunque algunos escritores comentan que el califa Umar ibn al-Jattab ordenó la destrucción de millares de manuscritos. Independientemente de las culpas de cristianos y musulmanes, el fin de la biblioteca debe situarse en un momento indeterminado del siglo III o del IV, quizá en 273, cuando el emperador Aureliano tomó y saqueó la ciudad, o cuando Diocleciano hizo lo propio en 297.¨ (De http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblioteca_de_Alejandr%C3%ADa)


Recreación de la Biblioteca de Alexandria en la escenografía de la película Agora.
Otra toma del set de Agora con la Biblioteca de Alexandria
Alejandro Amenabar en el set con la actriz británica Rachel Weisz. Observen la maravilla de la decoración
Hypatia of Alexandria. De apod.nasa.gov
Una pintura de Hypatia enseñando, según el pintor Masolino en el cuadro ¨Los filósofos de Alexandria¨. Google images.

Para conocer más sobre Hypatia, les dejo el link al artículo de José María Blázquez Martínez para Antigua. Historia y Arqueología de las Civilizaciones, 2004:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

From " Reconstructing Beirut by Demolishing its Identity"


The following excerpt is from Linda Pappagallo's article Reconstructing Beirut by Demolishing its Identity:

The Lebanese housing market is a bit of a strange phenomenon. A largely unregulated construction market coupled with grandiose projects from ambitious rich gulf state developers and Lebanese expatriates has created a surplus of largely unaffordable houses. The result is that Lebanon is becoming a haphazard dumping site for cement buildings with little regard of the preceding cultural, historic and environmental resources. Similarly, many believe Beirut has also turned into a mismanaged affair. 
 Following the Lebanese Civil War in 1994, then-Prime Minister Rafic Hariri aspired to create a new image of Beirut. The idea was to live up to its expectation as being “the Paris of the Middle East” and attract foreign investment. Hariri established a private development company, Solidere: Société libanaise pour le développement et la reconstruction de Beyrouth, with the expressed mandate to alter consumer sentiments of Beirut from an instable, bullet torn city into a hip , profit making national capital and port city. 
 Solidere decided to assign a new identity to downtown Beirut by, on the one hand, invoking the historical roots of the Phoenician and Ottoman civilizations while using the urban layout and architecture introduced during the French Mandate years, and on the other hand, bulldozing down historical edifices to make way for large glass offices. According to Robert Saliba, professor of architecture at the American Unversity of Beirut, this has been a mistake. Solidere seem to have misjudged consumer preferences and in an attempt to revise the ‘architectural language’ of the city center, Beirut now looks and feels like a place where the heritage and history of the old city have been commodified. In its rebranding expedition, Saliba believes Solidere neglected to consider how residents might experience the new city, where many original buildings were destroyed, suffocated or replaced by kitsch reinterpretations of Phoenician and Ottoman architecture or ultra-modern structures. There are estimates that more buildings were destroyed to make space for the reconstructed center than during the war itself. In 1995, Elias Khoury, a novelist and journalist, wrote that “Beirut attempts to regenerate itself by recycling garbage and destroying its own memories.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Some of Neil Spiller´s drawings on Visionary Architecture

Analysis of Beauty. Part two

I came across with these great drawings by Neil Spiller, who is the head of the School of Architecture and Construction at the University of Greenwich, UK. I´m sharing some of them from the article by Lebbeus Woods, ¨Spiller´s World
Spiller is the author of Digital Architecture Now: A Global Survey of Emerging Talent, 2009. And the drawings are part of his theory on ¨Visionary Architecture.¨

Analysis of Beauty. Part 1

Com ves site plan

Crowning vista stage 1

Ga-twistedchrist

Aughtman´s square 1

Cenetic Gazebo

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Alabama aerial picture after the tornadoes of April 2011


This time I was blinded by my habit of watching urban morphologies. I didn´t see at first the path of the tornadoes in Alabama, 2011, I was just trying to understand the city´s shape. Until I read the following, from National Geographic: 

Photograph by Digitalglobe 
ALABAMA On April 27, 2011, the U.S. was hit by 199 tornadoes, a single-day record—but there's no clear evidence, scientists say, of a long-term rise in tornado frequency. The 190-mile-an-hour twister that carved a sharp path across Tuscaloosa missed the University of Alabama football stadium (upper left) by a mile, then threaded between a large mall (X-shaped building at center) and the main hospital, which was soon treating victims. The tornado killed 44, then roared northeast to the Birmingham area, where it killed 20 more.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

La ciudad como espacio de combate

Contraste entre la villa La cava y el barrio vecino en San Isidro, 2003. La Nación.com

Estuve leyendo el artículo de Raquel San Martín para La Nación, donde explica la posición teórica de la socióloga holandesa Saskia Sassen con respecto a la ciudad de hoy, vista como un espacio de enfrentamiento de grupos. Muy interesante;  compartiré una parte del mismo, ya que a los que conocemos bien cómo son las formas de convivencia en las grandes ciudades, y el miedo que a veces nos trastorna, nos toca de cerca.

¨Probablemente en la Biblia esté la mejor síntesis de las ideas que rondan la experiencia urbana desde hace siglos: allí están Sodoma y Gomorra, narradas en el Génesis como símbolos de corrupción y decadencia, pero también la Ciudad Santa, esa Jerusalén que en el Apocalipsis es la representación utópica del paraíso recobrado. El prolífico imaginario filosófico y literario sobre la ciudad descansa, en efecto, en una contradicción. La ciudad pensada y narrada es a la vez el lugar del progreso, la modernización, la aventura, donde los destinos se tuercen y los sueños se alcanzan, pero también el espacio del pecado, el miedo, el esnobismo y las apariencias, la soledad del individuo anónimo frente a la multitud, el escenario de la pobreza y la decadencia social.
 ¿En qué lugar ubicar la "imaginación sociológica" de Saskia Sassen, una de las intelectuales más influyentes de las últimas décadas para pensar la ciudad en la globalización, que se define como "contraintuitiva", más cómoda analizando las fronteras y los márgenes que los centros transitados por las teorías mainstream ? Para Sassen, la ciudad no es, parece claro, ese "libro de piedra" que Victor Hugo se proponía leer; ni está en la poesía de las multitudes anónimas que describía Charles Baudelaire; ni en la geografía personal proyectada en la Dublín de James Joyce. La ciudad que mira se parece a la que vio Georg Simmel, tan alarmado por la desconfianza, el "espíritu calculador" y la indiferencia que motivaba la vida urbana como satisfecho por la libertad que ese ambiente prometía, y también a la que estudió la Escuela de Chicago, que vio en la ciudad el laboratorio social donde observar y resolver la integración de una sociedad que se volvía más y más compleja y desigual.
 Un siglo más tarde, como a Simmel y a los sociólogos de Chicago, a Saskia Sassen le preocupa el alma de las grandes ciudades, a las que ve crecientemente "desurbanizadas". Aunque crezcan en densidad poblacional y alumbren nuevos barrios y construcciones cada vez más vanguardistas, aunque elaboren "marcas" que las posicionan en el mercado de los festivales y la industria de la cultura y el turismo, las ciudades, piensa Sassen, están perdiendo su urbanidad, su carácter de espacio para la vida en común.
"La ciudad es un sistema complejo pero incompleto", define en diálogo con adn cultura, y describe cómo, a fuerza de guerras que ahora se combaten en las ciudades, de enfrentamientos que grupos armados del narcotráfico escenifican en terreno urbano, de la violencia del delito generada por décadas de injusticias sociales y económicas, de las fronteras invisibles que instalan las desigualdades, la ciudad está perdiendo la flexibilidad que le aseguró sobrevivir a siglos, gobiernos, organizaciones políticas y cambios sociales sin perder su identidad como espacio para la convivencia urbana.
"La ciudad es hoy un espacio de combate abierto", continúa. Al cerrarse a fuerza de impersonales distritos de oficinas de vanguardia, al completarse trazando espacios privados hiperseguros y zonas empobrecidas donde sus habitantes viven igualmente encerrados, al perder, en fin, parte de su alma común, la ciudad deja de ser capaz de integrar la novedad y la diferencia.
 Sassen pasó cinco días en Buenos Aires, a comienzos de este mes, junto con su marido, el sociólogo Richard Sennett, invitados por la Universidad Nacional de San Martín (Unsam), con la agenda de dos rockstars pero la humildad de quienes no han cambiado la curiosidad intelectual por la impostura. En menos de una semana, pronunciaron dos conferencias cada uno y una en conjunto -todas a sala llena y casi todas con transmisión simultánea por Internet-, dieron entrevistas y se reunieron con distintos grupos de investigadores locales.
La ciudad, plantea Sassen, no es indiferente a su desurbanización. "¿La ciudad tiene un discurso, un poder de habla? Yo digo que sí. La ciudad lo tiene, pero hemos olvidado ese lenguaje, no lo vemos más, no lo entendemos. Hay muchas tendencias que van eliminando la capacidad de la ciudad de tener su voz. Pero hoy, todavía, la ciudad habla. Lo hace, por ejemplo, cuando los desarrolladores inmobiliarios construyen una plaza pública para compensar un edificio más alto, y ese espacio nunca funciona como plaza, está muerto. O cuando el tránsito de la hora pico en el centro paraliza un auto potente, hecho para grandes velocidades, y no le permite usar ninguna de esas capacidades. O en las maneras que hemos aprendido para saber cómo transitar caminando por el centro de la ciudad en esas horas pico. Eso es discurso. Cuando la ciudad no permite cosas, es la ciudad la que habla. En lo urbano hay una capacidad que le permite actuar."

SIGA LEYENDO:

Friday, August 17, 2012

City solutions and two examples from Seoul, South Korea


Photograph by Leon Chew Affluent City Seoul, South Korea Seoul's electrifying growth, from impoverished war-torn capital in the 1950s to economic powerhouse, has turned its cityscape into a dense grid of housing and office towers. Its transformation proves that rapid growth can bring rapid wealth.


Photograph by Greg Girard Seoul, South Korea Older housing, meaning anything built before 1980, is slated to be demolished in Seoul's Geumho neighborhood, making room for more apartment towers.

I'm posting this pictures from
to let us think about the beauty of the first photograph but the reality of urban life that it suggests.
Here, I'm sharing an excerpt from the article by Robert Kunzig, " The City Solution":

The tide of urbanization must be stopped,*Ebenezer) Howard argued, by drawing people away from the cancerous metropolises into new, self-contained "garden cities." The residents of these happy little islands would feel the "joyous union" of town and country. They'd live in nice houses and gardens at the center, walk to work in factories at the rim, and be fed by farms in an outer greenbelt—which would also stop the town from expanding into the country. When one town filled to its greenbelt—32,000 people was the right number, Howard thought—it would be time to build the next one. In 1907, welcoming 500 Esperantists to Letchworth, the first garden city, Howard boldly predicted (in Esperanto) that both the new language and his new utopias would soon spread around the world. He was right about the human desire for more living space but wrong about the future of cities: It's the tide of urbanization that has spread around the world. In the developed countries and Latin America it has nearly crested; more than 70 percent of people there live in urban areas. In much of Asia and Africa people are still surging into cities, in numbers swollen by the population boom. Most urbanites live in cities of less than half a million, but big cities have gotten bigger and more common. In the 19th century London was the only city of more than five million; now there are 54, most of them in Asia. 
 And here's one more change since then: Urbanization is now good news. Expert opinion has shifted profoundly in the past decade or two. Though slums as appalling as Victorian London's are now widespread, and the Victorian fear of cities lives on, cancer no longer seems the right metaphor. On the contrary: With Earth's population headed toward nine or ten billion, dense cities are looking more like a cure—the best hope for lifting people out of poverty without wrecking the planet. One evening last March, Harvard economist Edward Glaeser appeared at the London School of Economics to promote this point of view, along with his new book, Triumph of the City. Glaeser, who grew up in New York City and talks extremely fast, came heavily armed with anecdotes and data. "There's no such thing as a poor urbanized country; there's no such thing as a rich rural country," he said. 
A cloud of country names, each plotted by GDP and urbanization rate, flashed on the screen behind him. Mahatma Gandhi was wrong, Glaeser declared—India's future is not in its villages, it's in Bangalore. Images of Dharavi, Mumbai's large slum, and of Rio de Janeiro's favelas flashed by; to Glaeser, they were examples of urban vitality, not blight. Poor people flock to cities because that's where the money is, he said, and cities produce more because "the absence of space between people" reduces the cost of transporting goods, people, and ideas. Historically, cities were built on rivers or natural harbors to ease the flow of goods. But these days, since shipping costs have declined and service industries have risen, what counts most is the flow of ideas.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Introduction to controlled vocabularies. Terminology for Art, Architecture and other Cultural Works


FOREWORD.
The Getty Vocabulary Program has devoted almost three decades to building thesauri that can be used as knowledge bases, cataloging and documentation tools, and online search assistants. In addition to building tools for use by art and cultural heritage professionals and the general public, we also provide training opportunities and educational materials on how to build and implement controlled vocabularies. Part of our mission as an institution devoted to research and education is to share our knowledge and expertise with the international art and cultural heritage communities in their broadest sense. Elisa Lanzi's Introduction to Vocabularies, which appeared in print in 1998 and was updated in an online version in 2000, offers a general overview of vocabularies for art and material culture.Introduction to Controlled Vocabularies is a much more detailed "how-to" guide to building controlled vocabulary tools, cataloging and indexing cultural materials with terms and names from controlled vocabularies, and using vocabularies in search engines and databases to enhance discovery and retrieval in the online environment. "How forceful are right words!" is written in Job 6:25. The King James Version of the Bible uses the word forcible, meaning "forceful" or "powerful," instead. In the online environment, words have the power to lead users to the information resources that they seek. But we should not force users to know what we consider to be the "right" word or name in order for them to be able to obtain the best search results. We recognize that a single concept can be expressed by more than one word, and that a single word can express more than one concept. Words can change over time and take a variety of forms, and they can be translated into many languages. A carefully constructed controlled vocabulary provides catalogers and others who create descriptive metadata with the "right" or "preferred" name or term to use in describing collections and other resources, but it also clusters together all of the synonyms, orthographic and grammatical variations, historical forms, and even in some cases "wrong" names or terms in order to enhance access for a broad range of users without constraining them to the use of the "right" term. With millions of searches being conducted by millions of users each day via Web search engines and in proprietary databases, the power of words is a crucial factor in providing access to the wealth of information resources now available in electronic form. We hope that this book will provide organizations and individuals who wish to enhance access to their collections and other online resources with a practical tool for creating and implementing vocabularies as reference tools, sources of documentation, and powerful enhancements for online searching.
 Murtha Baca, Getty Research Institute

 Electronic edition, read the book in full:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Selection of pictures from Guardian.co.UK


January's theme: the future. Photographer Andrew Kerr: 'Already Birmingham's most iconic building, the Selfridges building at Birmingham's Bullring is a photographer's dream.'


February's theme: budget travel. Photographer David Meredith: 'This is of the Grand Hotel Scarborough. We got a coach trip from Leamington Spa to York, where we visited the minster and railway museum. We then stayed overnight at the hotel with evening meal and breakfast. The next day we had a few hours to explore Scarborough, then on to Whitby and back home, all for the princely sum of £39.95 each. Great value and great fun.'



June's theme: city life. Photographer Martin Higgs: 'A peaceful summer's evening reflected in the fountains of Le Louvre. After a hectic Parisian day, couples chat and relax by the famous pyramids.'



September's theme: the four elements Photographer Alek Lindus: 'Samos, Greece. It was the colour of the aftermath of fire I was after here. There has been so much destruction of the island by it and yet it has a type of beauty, too.'



October's theme: I am a travel photographer. Photographer Barrington Russell: Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. 'An Indian wife departs for the bazaar through the decaying labyrinth of Jodhpur, India; taking care to avoid the puddles and streams of rubbish and effluence. Working men can be seen behind sacks of clay and sand, resting from their efforts to renovate the streets.'



Theme: summer. 'Having a quiet snooze in Southwold, Suffolk.' Dan Chung's first choice: 'This is my favourite photograph because David Meredith has captured a very British moment perfectly. I love the way you can tell just how relaxed the suited man is, even though he is actually quite small in the frame. The picture has a timeless air about it; to me it looks like it could just as easily have been taken in the 1950s. David has cpatured the vivid colours and got the composition spot on - he makes me want to go and rent a chalet in Southwold.'

Enjoy more pictures:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Flooding and devastation because of informal urban settlements in Manila


I'm sharing today this picture and some paragraphs from the article by Nate Berg, it's very important to know the consequences of informal urban sprawl, it's not just a matter  of urban morphology. And let us not forget what happened with the settlement of hillside houses in Haiti's earthquake.

Unchecked development and rapidly growing informal settlements in metropolitan Manila have exacerbated the devastation of the recent flooding in the Philippines, according to a UN official. 
 Speaking with The Philippine Star, Margareta Wahlström, chief of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, notes that the growing numbers of people living on unsuitable land in Manila put them directly in the path of the massive but not unexpected flooding that happens during the summer monsoon season. "As the urban sprawl of rapid urbanization expands outwards and upwards, it provides ready opportunities for hazards such as floods, storms and earthquakes to wreak havoc," Wahlström said. "Urban floods will represent the lion's share of total flood impact because of infrastructure, institutions and processes that are not yet up to the task ahead." This report from CNN says that 60 people have died, 3,100 homes have been damaged, and more than 2.4 million people in 144 municipalities have been impacted by the heavy rains falling over the past five days. 
The UN says that millions of slum dwellers were among those in metro Manila forced to evacuate their homes, though no clear numbers are available. Floodplains and vulnerable lands are commonly used as informal settlements. It's unclear how many slum dwellers currently live in metro Manila, but this 2003 report from UN-Habitat estimated the population at 2.5 million. That's about 20 percent of the metro area's roughly 12 million people – a figure that has more than doubled [PDF] since 1980.

Keep on reading:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Immaterial materialities: materiality and interactivity in art and architecture. CALL FOR PAPERS


Immaterial materialities March 7, 2012 Call for Papers
 The University of Technology Sydney, Schools of Architecture and Design, 28–30 November 2012 keynote speakers: Professor Jonathan Hill, The Bartlett – University College London Professor
Philip Ursprung, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

Materiality has recently claimed centre stage in architectural discourse and practice, yet its critical meaning is ever receding. Tropes like material honesty, digital materiality, material responsiveness and dematerialisation mark out an interdisciplinary field where scientific fact and artistic experimentation interact, and where what in fact constitutes materiality and immateriality is constantly re-imagined. As a reaction to developments in science, materiality came under scrutiny with the emergence of nineteenth century German aesthetics (Vischer, Schmarsow) and the early avant-garde projects (Lissitzky, van Doesburg). Initiating an epistemic shift in art and architecture, these works pointed to the connection between the material properties of objects and spaces and their interaction with the inhabitant through psycho-perceptual effects. These ideas re-emerged transformed in the work of the Neo-avant-garde of the 1960s and 70s. More recent approaches deploy materials as mediators or activating agents that probe the relationship between audience/user and physical environment: Spatial investigations with phenomena-producing materials such as water, light, colour and temperature experiment with the viewer’s experience (Eliasson); responsive high-tech materials interact with audiences (Spuybroek); weather architectures (Hill), or atmo architectures (Sloterdijk) technologically re-create nature as spatial experience (Diller and Scofidio).

Keep on reading:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

War against edible gardens

The edible garden of the White House. Picture from http://inhabitat.com/michelle-obama-to-plant-edible-garden/
Michelle Obama´s book on edible gardens. Google images.

I´ve seen Michelle Obama´s book on edible gardens, though interesting, it is not for architects.
The first lady is promoting to grow edible gardens in our own houses, the problem arises that some people think it is not aesthetic, and there must be a percentage of traditional lawn in combination with vegetables or not vegetables at all.
I know that a vegetable garden can be beautifully arranged, by the way, lettuces are pretty decorative plants.
Let us read some paragraphs about the ¨war¨ against edible gardens from an article by Sarah Laskow  at  Grist.org:

Illegal edible garden. Picture from Laskow´s article

Across the country and even in Canada, cities’ thinking about front lawns is more than a little bit antiquated. It comes down to this simple formulation: Grass good! Vegetables bad. We’ve heard one too many stories in which people decide to use their yards to grow some fresh vegetables, only to have city officials come down hard on them, forcing them to tear out their food or bulldozing the gardens themselves. If building a few bike lanes counts as a war on cars, this is definitely a war on gardens. The latest skirmish took place in Drummondville, Quebec, where Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamp built what supporters describe as “a gorgeous and meticulously-maintained edible landscape full of healthy fruits and vegetables.” (You can judge for yourself: It’s the garden in the picture above.) Under the town’s new code, a garden like that would be illegal. It covers too much of the yard. Under the new rules, only 30 percent of a yard’s area can go towards growing vegetables, and the town’s given the couple only two weeks to pull out their carefully planted veggies. 
 At least Drummondville hasn’t pulled a Tulsa and bulldozed the entire thing. If you start looking for stories like these, you’ll turn them up in droves. In 2010, Clarkston, Ga., fined a gardener named Steve Miller for planting too many vegetables. In 2011, Oak Park, Mich., told Julie Bass she couldn’t grow any vegetables in her front yard because vegetables weren’t “suitable” yard plants.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sobre las ruinas subacuáticas del lago Titicaca

Ciudad de Copacabana, Bolivia. A orillas del lago Titicaca

He leído un artículo muy interesante de Federico Abuaf para La Nación, ¨Lago Titicaca: las aguas mágicas,¨ y de él reproduzco la sección que trata de las ruinas subacuáticas del lago más las dos fotos.

Restos arqueológicos de la zona.


¨Si bien desde tiempos inmemoriales se construyeron mitos sobre posibles metrópolis en los alrededores del lago, a partir de 1956, luego de la primera exploración arqueológica subacuática, se encontraron restos que sugerían la existencia de construcciones sepultadas por las aguas del Titicaca por razones que aún se desconocen.
El profesor Rubén Vela, del Instituto Arqueológico de Tiahuanaco, elabora una hipótesis para entender el origen de los vestigios encontrados: "Estas ruinas tienen un carácter sagrado. Su construcción hace pensar en un templo lacustre que habría constituido el punto de reunión de una peregrinación religiosa muy importante". Otros investigadores complementan esta teoría al sostener que las ruinas sumergidas son una prolongación de los muros del Templo del Sol que se encuentra en el sector norte de la isla y que existían previamente al Titicaca. Para los yatiris (sabios chamanes), en las profundidades del lago se encuentra el Taypi Qallta, el origen del universo aymara.
Según una investigación realizada por un grupo de buzos argentinos en 1966, se hallaron muros y recintos en forma de U con la parte abierta señalando hacia el centro del lago. También se encontró un camino empedrado de unos 30 metros de longitud en perfectas condiciones, similar a los caminos del inca que pueden encontrarse en distintas zonas de Perú. Y no faltan las versiones que hacen referencia a una Atlántida o ciudad perdida en las profundidades del Titicaca, y a la existencia de un grupo de laberintos sagrados (conocidos como chinkanas) de varios kilómetros, que en su tiempo podrían haber servido como conexión con Cuzco y Machu Picchu.
Si bien los pobladores de la Isla del Sol se muestran reacios a prestar información sobre las ruinas, diversas exploraciones como las de Cousteau y otros investigadores, en las que se hallaron oro, vasijas y construcciones pertenecientes a períodos muy arcaicos, han fomentado la creencia en la existencia de una ciudad perdida.
En 1848, las ruinas tiwanakotas que se hallan próximas a La Paz fueron visitadas por Bartolomé Mitre, quien apuntó en sus notas de viaje las siguientes palabras: "Se extendía a mis pies una llanura inmensa y árida y teníamos sobre nuestras cabezas el cielo más espléndido y transparente del universo. Casi en el centro de este llano andino yacen las famosas ruinas de Tiahuanaco, que por su antigüedad y sus misterios, así como por la originalidad de su arquitectura, ha sido llamada la Babel americana".

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sharing “THE TYRANNY OF ARTISTIC MODERNISM”


A scene from the movie Dreams, by Akira Kurosawa. Google Images

I've been reading the article by Dr. Nikos Salingaros and Mark Anthony Signorelli, The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism, that is a strong critique of the validity of the modern movement in the present, and I would like to share it, also expressing some reflections that emerged from this controversial reading. 

The first thing that came to my mind was an anecdote of students at the university. We had to analyze a house, we chose one of my girlfriends’, old colonial style. The resulting drawings infuriated her, because she would not accept to openly show the antiquity of the doors, the windows, the tiles.
In his article Architecture, Patterns, and Mathematics, Dr Salingaros quotes Loos and Le Corbusier and here I reproduce some of its paragraphs as an illustration of my anecdote:

The Austrian architect Adolf Loos banned ornament from architecture in 1908 with these preposterous, unsupported statements:
The evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornament from utilitarian objects. ... not only is ornament produced by criminals but also a crime is committed through the fact that ornament inflicts serious injury on people's health, on the national budget and hence on cultural evolution. ...Freedom from ornament is a sign of spiritual strength. 
This hostile, racist sentiment was shared by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier:
Decoration is of a sensorial and elementary order, as is color, and is suited to simple races, peasants and savages.... The peasant loves ornament and decorates his walls.

And so, the love for the parents’ house or the immigrant grandparents’, is overshadowed by the terrible feeling that being “artisanal”, carrying the builder's concern based -- almost only -- on the manipulation of materials, is poor, and so, in pursuit of the evolution of culture and snobism we immerse ourselves in full adoration of modern architecture.

Long years must be spent for the architect to understand this situation and keep in mind that his/her designs are dedicated to users with their own habits and identity.
I must admit, that only a few live in modern houses, and I consider that Salingaros and Signorelli’s statement is very valuable, the article helps us to fight against our own ghosts and fears.

However, I will not deprecate the modern style in its traditional conception. To recognize the architect’s expertise in the lines, even in the smallest detail, fills us with emotion. The encounter between walls, the guardrail and the wall, the perfection of a window, the selected view to the sea, the pure white against the green landscape, does not escape the trained eye and is worthwhile of admiration. As an object that can be walked around while enjoying it. From the outside.
(As an example, I recall the Rolex Center by SANAA, it hardly passed the handicap issues). Sometimes, the esthetic experience replaces beauty and/or functionalism.

Rolex Center. Picture downloaded from designboom.com

I have had the opportunity to feel the nausea when walking in the uneven subtlety of Gehry’s walkways, on the ramp of the Guggenheim… alas!, the experience in these public buildings was fun, in a certain way, my body became part of the building, like a strange reminiscent of the Gothic, when gloomy buildings were transformed into monsters that were hiding the torture chambers in their wombs, which in turn evoke the prisoners’ bodies that were rotting in the dungeons. Body and architecture, they were one in themselves.
Modern architecture lacks this condition, unless we come across with the design of a connoisseur.

Walt Disney Center, by Frank Gehry. Los Angeles. Picture by Myriam B. Mahiques
Yves Klein, IKB 191, 1962. Wikipedia.org

In his book The Visual Dialogue, Nathan Knobler says that in order to understand art (in general terms, including architecture), the observer should have a knowledge of the item. The exhibitions of Duchamp may or may not affect us, but it is important to note that the massive commercial exposure of an image is, in time, accepted by “ordinary people” and results in a form of understanding. Regrettably, investors and politicians, who are not experts in arts (in the full acceptance of the word) are the dictators of fashions and tendencies, in their “lust for financial gain”.
 (“a dominant elite producing and promoting an art of hatred controls the market today”).
A few people would be surprised today at Yves Klein’s blue painting. Whether we like it or not, is another story.

The authors mention literary examples, but I wonder, what do the masses read? Stieg Larsson, Dan Brown, Danielle Steele, among others found at the isles of supermarkets; I’m not sure how many know Geoffrey Hill and John Ashberry. What they refer to as “abuse” is only shared by a few intellectuals, the other half is not aware of the modern tendencies and keep on reading Neruda, which is nice…

I believe that with the cinema, the situation is different, and other spaces are investigated. I have noticed that the movies are increasingly dark (maybe lack of budget?) and the digital tridimensionality leads us to new ways of interpreting space, that introduces us to the amorphous, and the indefinite; on the contrary, we don’t find the rigidity of Modern forms here. Unless, we take an intellectual movie like Dogville, with abstract planes where the emphasis is given in the plot (boring!). On my side, I prefer the poetics of the images in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams.

A scene from Dogville. Written and directed by Lars Von Trier. Google images
A scene from the movie Dreams, by Akira Kurosawa. Google Images

Music. Only the same styles can be evaluated, because we should not generalize, it is impossible to say that one style is better than another, there are compositions better or more complex than others within the same range, regardless of the epoch, since primitive man hit his palms together, up to the current computerized music.

If we speak about stylistic poetics, I’m against the mere copies of historical buildings, and I agree with the authors that the designer must understand that:
“Artistic styles, and the traditions which perpetuate them, do not emerge from an abyss, but rather grow out of the deep philosophical convictions of their practitioners.”

And of course:

“Not that we ought to return to the past, but to use the accumulated wisdom of discovered knowledge to finally move forward.

Beyond our stylistic preferences, what I wish to see rescued is the artists’ intellectual pursuit over the years, traveling different roads, although some products are not pleasant for us.
But where is there a limit? I was reading in Green Prophet that modern batteries will in the future be made with mucus, blood and milk. Disgusting, but after all, they’ll be good for the environment.

Let’s begin reading the article:

We who live in the Western world at the present time continue to suffer under the reign of a great tyranny — the tyranny of artistic modernism. The modernist aesthetic, which dominates our age, takes a variety of forms in the respective arts — in architecture, a lack of scale and ornamentation combined with the overwhelming deployment of materials like glass, steel, and brutalist concrete; in the plastic arts, a rejection of natural forms mixed with an unmistakable tendency towards the repulsive or meretricious; in literature, non-linear narrative, esoteric imagery, and an almost perfect lack of poetic form and diction. Yet common now to the practice of all these arts are certain primal impulses which may be said to form the core of the modernist aesthetic — a hostility and defiance towards all traditional standards of excellence, discovered over millennia of craftsmanship and reflection; a notion of the artist’s freedom as absolute, and entirely divorced from the ends of his art; and, as Roger Scruton has so clearly demonstrated, a refusal to apply the category of beauty to either the creation or the estimation of artwork.

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