Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reflections on Pruitt Igoe

I´ve been reading an article by Dante A. Ciampaglia, for Architectural Record, about the documentary film on Pruitt Igoe, that was released last January 20th- He is right, nobody remembers the feelings of the displaced people who had been living there. It seems the film is a kind of demythification of implosion´s reasons. The first building was imploded in 1972.

¨Accepted wisdom will have us believe St. Louis' infamous Pruitt-Igoe public housing development was destined for failure. Designed by George Hellmuth and World Trade Center architect Minoru Yamasaki (of Leinweber, Yamasaki & Hellmuth), the 33-building complex opened in 1954, its Modernist towers touted as a remedy to overcrowding in the city’s tenements. Rising crime, neglected facilities, and fleeing tenants led to its demolition—in a spectacular series of implosions—less than two decades later. In the popular narrative, bad public policy, bad architecture, and bad people doomed Pruitt-Igoe, and it became an emblem of failed social welfare projects across the country. But director Chad Freidrichs challenges that convenient and oversimplified assessment in his documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, opening in limited release January 20.
He makes a compelling case. Drawing heavily on archival footage, raw data, and historical reanalysis, the film reorients Pruitt-Igoe as the victim of institutional racism and post-war population changes in industrial cities, among other issues far more complex than poor people not appreciating nice things. But while Freidrichs opens a new vein for discussing Pruitt-Igoe, he doesn't totally dispel the titular myth about it. There's a passing mention of the project’s failure being one of Modernist planning, that such developments "created a breeding ground for isolation, vandalism, and crime." And of course there's an invocation of Charles Jencks' famous declaration that the death of Pruitt-Igoe was "the death of Modernism." But Freidrichs never adequately addresses Pruitt-Igoe's place in the history of urban design.
But even if The Pruitt-Igoe Myth falls short of its stated goal, it's nevertheless exceptional. In an important act of preservation, Freidrichs captures the voices and memories of five former Pruitt-Igoe residents. They tell stories of jubilation when they're assigned an 11th floor apartment (their "poorman's penthouse") and when they see rows upon rows of windows bejeweled with Christmas lights. They share horrific tales of siblings murdered and living in constant fear of who lurks in the shadows. They remember how the welfare office told them they couldn't have a phone or a television, and how their husbands and fathers weren’t allowed to live with them.¨
All pictures were downloaded from

Monday, January 30, 2012

Active relations with the environment in Sunset Beach

Amos Rapoport, architect and anthropologist, taught us about the human interventions in the environment. Buildings would conform the fixed environment, furniture, objects, etc are the non fixed elements of the environment. When inhabitants interact with their environment, they leave clues about the way they live or feel.
Sunset beach is a quiet small neighborhood that was annexed to the city of Huntington Beach, Southern California. Here, some examples of the town character of some houses, the marine decoration, the nice garden in a public boulevard, full of stones with the ¨designer´s¨ memories. I´m not sure if everybody in town is allowed to add plants and objects to the garden, but I think there wouldn´t be any problem to share memories.
All pictures by Myriam B. Mahiques, personal archives.

And that´s me, with some beach houses, in Sunset Beach. A bad picture taken by  my husband.

¨The ¨will to live,¨ often said to be the great inclusive motive of all living creatures, is in human beings not simply the will to stay alive but rather the will to live in active relations with the environment. Being equipped with sense organs and motor organs and a well developed brain, the human individual has a fundamental inclination to deal with environment. This motive is not primarily directed toward serving the organic needs and meeting the emergencies of life, but toward knowing objects and persons, doing things to them, and participating in what is going on in the environment. Just because this objective tendency is so all persuasive it is often overlooked and omitted from a list of fundamental motives, where it certainly belongs. It shows itself in the general tendencies to explore and manipulate the environment, and in a great variety of more specific interests.¨
Robert Woodworth and Donald Marquis, Psychology, 5th edition, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., New York, 1947, p. 323.

Footprints of the seaside´s visitors in a beautiful winter day. The track of the interaction with the environment

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The artistic landscapes of Zander Olsen

Since 2004, architecture and landscape photographer and artist Zander Olsen has been working on Tree, Line, a series of “constructed” photographs that play with our notion of foreground and background in a forest (

These works, carried out in Surrey, Hampshire and Wales,involve site specific interventions in the landscape, ‘wrapping’ trees with white material to construct a visual relationship between tree, not-tree and the line of horizon according to the camera’s viewpoint.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reflexiones sobre la fractalidad aplicada al estudio de la morfología urbana 2

Fractal generado como simulación por el asentamient. Baila en Africa. Por Myriam B. Mahiques. Archivos personales
Imagen aérea de un mercado mexicano, archivo binario. Foto bajada de Google y pasado a binario por Myriam B. Mahiques. Ver referencia del autor en la foto

¨To the superficial observer scientific truth is unassailable, the logic of science is infallible; and if scientific men sometimes make mistakes, it is because they have not understood the rules of the game. Mathematical truths are derived from a few self-evident propositions, by a chain of flawless reasonings; they are imposed not only on us, but on Nature itself. By them the Creator is fettered, as it were, and His choice is limited to a relatively small number of solutions. A few experiments, therefore, will be sufficient to enable us to determine what choice He has made. From each experiment a number of consequences will follow by a series of mathematical deductions, and in this way each of them will reveal to us a corner of the universe. This, to the minds of most people, and to students who are getting their first ideas of physics, is the origin of certainty in science. This is what they take to be the role of experiment and mathematics. And thus, too, it was understood a hundred years ago by many men of science who dreamed of constructing the world with the
aid of the smallest possible amount of material borrowed from experiment. But upon more mature reflection the position held by hypothesis was seen; it was recognised that it is as necessary to the experimenter as it is to the mathematician. And then the doubt arose if all these constructions are built on solid foundations. The conclusion was drawn that a breath would bring them to the ground. This sceptical attitude does not escape the charge of superficiality. To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.¨
From Science and Hyphotesis. By Henri Poincaré. Author´s preface to the edition of New York, 1905

Estas palabras de Poincaré me llevan a la reflexión. Dios está presente en la naturaleza, está ¨encadenado¨ a ella por las mismas leyes con las que la ha regido, leyes que se pueden descubrir mediante el análisis matemático, y según las soluciones descubrimos qué elecciones hizo Dios. Para ello, es necesario experimentar, y podemos dudar o creer, cualquiera de las dos determinaciones surgen de la reflexión.
La fractalidad, es la geometría de la naturaleza, y con respecto a la pregunta, toda morfología urbana es fractal? le transmití mis dudas al profesor Ron Eglash, por email, a principios del 2000. Y me contestó que para verificarlo, debía analizar el producto cultural de la gente que habitaba en esas formas urbanas. ¨Hablando¨ de su libro African Fractals, él había descubierto que las formas fractales africanas se daban en los peinados, en los juegos, en simbolismos, en asentamientos.... No lo dijo directamente pero dejó implícito lo que luego mi directora, dra. Vera de Spinadel me preguntó: Has probado la autosimilitud? La invariancia de los resultados a través de la escala?
Entonces, ya una vez establecida en Estados Unidos, me dispuse a verificar si las formas urbanas de los barrios mexicanos – chicanos respondían a la invariante escalar.
Y sí, las mediciones de la ropa típica, los grupos de viviendas con sus particiones (declaradas y no declaradas), las decoraciones, todo arrojaba un valor de D con tendencia o igual a 0.80, -el ansia por la ocupación total del espacio-.
2º POSTULADO: Para probar si una forma urbana es fractal, debemos verificar que su valor D (dimensión fractal) sea igual o de tendencia a un valor determinado a través de las distintas escalas.
Nota: hablo de tendencias porque por supuesto no son fractales deterministas.

Lea Reflexiones sobre la fractalidad aplicada al estudio de la morfología urbana 1:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Concepts: analogy in fractal urban morphology

Analogía fractal de un campo romano. Generado por Myriam B. Mahiques. Archivos personales. Fractal analogy of a Roman field. Generated by Myriam B. Mahiques. Personal archives.
Analogy in a fractal urban morphology. Generated by Myriam B. Mahiques. Personal archives

Mathematicians therefore proceed “by construction,” they “construct” more complicated combinations. When they analyse these combinations, these aggregates, so to speak, into their primitive elements, they see the relations of the elements and deduce the relations of the aggregates themselves. The process is purely analytical, but it is not a passing from the general to the particular, for the aggregates obviously cannot be regarded as more particular than their elements. Great importance has been rightly attached to this process of “construction,” and some claim to see in it the necessary and sufficient condition of the progress of the exact sciences. Necessary, no doubt, but not sufficient!
For a construction to be useful and not mere waste of mental effort, for it to serve as a stepping-stone to higher things, it must first of all possess a kind of unity enabling us to see something more than the juxtaposition of its elements. Or more accurately, there must be some advantage in considering the construction rather than the elements themselves. What can this advantage be? Why reason on a polygon, for instance, which is always decomposable into triangles, and not on elementary triangles?
It is because there are properties of polygons of any number of sides, and they can be immediately applied to any particular kind of polygon. In most cases it is only after
long efforts that those properties can be discovered, by directly studying the relations of elementary triangles. If the quadrilateral is anything more than the juxtaposition of two triangles, it is because it is of the polygon type.
A construction only becomes interesting when it can be placed side by side with other analogous constructions for forming species of the same genus. To do this we must necessarily go back from the particular to the general, ascending one or more steps. The analytical process “by construction” does not compel us to descend, but it leaves us at the same level. We can only ascend by mathematical induction, for from it alone can we learn something new. Without the aid of this induction, which in certain
respects differs from, but is as fruitful as, physical induction, construction would be powerless to create science.
Let me observe, in conclusion, that this induction is only possible if the same operation can be repeated indefinitely. That is why the theory of chess can never become a science, for the different moves of the same piece are limited and do not resemble each other.

From Science and Hyphotesis. By Henri Poincaré. Edition of New York, 1905 (Bolt letters in this blog)

Analogy of a fractal and an  urban shape. Generated by Myriam B. Mahiques. Personal archives.

Poincaré became the first person to discover a chaotic deterministic system which laid the foundations of modern chaos theory. He is also considered to be one of the founders of the field of topology.

Poincaré was an influential French philosopher of science and mathematics, as well as a distinguished scientist and mathematician. In the foundations of mathematics he argued for conventionalism, against formalism, against logicism, and against Cantor’s treating his new infinite sets as being independent of human thinking. Poincaré stressed the essential role of intuition in a proper constructive foundation for mathematics. He believed that logic was a system of analytic truths, whereas arithmetic was synthetic and a priori, in Kant‘s sense of these terms. Mathematicians can use the methods of logic to check a proof, but they must use intuition to create a proof, he believed.
He maintained that non-Euclidean geometries are just as legitimate as Euclidean geometry, because all geometries are conventions or “disguised” definitions. Although all geometries are about physical space, a choice of one geometry over others is a matter of economy and simplicity, not a matter of finding the true one among the false ones.
For Poincaré, the aim of science is prediction rather than, say, explanation. Although every scientific theory has its own language or syntax, which is chosen by convention, it is not a matter of convention whether scientific predictions agree with the facts. For example, it is a matter of convention whether to define gravitation as following Newton’s theory of gravitation, but it is not a matter of convention as to whether gravitation is a force that acts on celestial bodies, or is the only force that does so. So, Poincaré believed that scientific laws are conventions but not arbitrary conventions.
From Mauro Murzi´s article at Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Monday, January 23, 2012

Año Nuevo Chino en Argentina

Foto Rodrigo Néspolo para La Nación

Ya han pasado más de dos años de la inauguración del arco chino en el barrio de Belgrano, Buenos Aires, y las discusiones y enfados de los vecinos ante su construcción sin su consentimiento, parece haber quedado atrás, bajo el empuje diplomático y por supuesto, las agencias de turismo.
Estaba viendo que el barrio chino de Buenos Aires, tiene su página web, sus restaurantes, sus eventos, sólo recuerdo algunos negocios incipientes del año 2000, con carteles de letras incomprensibles, y ahora estoy pensando si no será más lindo Chinatown Buenos Aires que en Los Angeles. Doy por seguro, que dada la historia de la ciudad, Chinatown San Francisco no podrá ser superado.
Entiendo que nuestra cultura latina-europea está netamente aceptando a la asiática, y me sorprende gratamente que los shows hayan tenido shows de música oriental, folklore y tango!
De la nota de Julieta Molina y Julieta Paci:

Un dragón colorido correteaba por las calles y veredas del barrio de Belgrano, mientras cientos de personas trataban de alcanzarlo para darle palmaditas y asegurarse buenos augurios. Ayer, cerca de las 15, la música oriental entretenía en una agobiante tarde de calor, a la vez que el aroma a comida china invitaba a quedarse y disfrutar de los festejos.
Ceremonias budistas, desfiles, las tradicionales Danzas del Dragón y del León, exhibiciones de artes marciales, de ensamble de tambores Taiko, de la ceremonia del té y de caligrafía china fueron sólo algunas de las decenas de demostraciones del talento oriental que se desarrollaron durante toda la tarde para darle la bienvenida al año lunar 4710, año del dragón, que comienza el 23 de enero y se extiende hasta el 9 de febrero de 2013.
En esta ocasión y debido a la gran expansión de su cultura en nuestro país, la celebración se llevó a cabo en las calles del Barrio Chino y se extendió a las Barrancas de Belgrano. Los organizadores calculan que unas 65.000 personas participaron (muchas más que el año pasado) y esperan que en los festejos de hoy, que serán desde las 15 hasta las 22, se multiplique esa cantidad de gente.
La inauguración oficial del "despertar del dragón" estuvo a cargo del embajador de China en la Argentina, Ying Heng Ming, en el escenario de Barrancas de Belgrano, que destacó la integración entre ambos pueblos y agradeció "a los amigos argentinos por acompañar la alegría y el ambiente" de la fiesta. Varias fueron las demostraciones de integración cultural entre ambos países, como las exhibiciones de tango y los shows de folklore y malambo que se intercalaron con las actividades orientales.

Siga leyendo:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Concept of a landscape structure

This is a concept of a landscape structure or a digital painting that I see as landscape. The terraces of greens, a structure of rows of blue flowers and on top of this hill, the landscape is covered by yellow flowers, as those who  I can see on the 5 freeway, to San Francisco, in summer. And lakes as oasis among the yellow flowers.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Acerca de la preservación del patrimonio arquitectónico argentino

Detalle del frontispicio confitería El Molino. Buenos Aires. Foto La Nación

Hace varios años ya que no vivo en Argentina, y sigo los avatares de sus reciclajes y demoliciones edilicias gracias a las noticias del diario y lo que me cuentan mis amigos arquitectos, con versiones más objetivas de los hechos. Por ejemplo, me decían ¨si volvés a Urquiza, no la conocés más. Te acordás esas casas antiguas, en medio de incipientes edificios? Pues ya no están.¨.
Esto para empezar. No estoy segura de la impresión que tendría de la Buenos Aires de hoy, refiriéndome a los edificios, ni hablar de los manteros y casas tomadas, aberrante desde mi punto de vista.
He leído el artículo del arquitecto Fabio Grementieri  para La Nación, del cual reproduzco una parte, y coincido con él que en la materia historia de la FADU, la menos estudiada es la arquitectura primitiva o de las primeras épocas históricas, seguida por la arquitectura argentina. La prioridad absoluta es Europa.
Y no es que no apreciemos nuestra arquitectura (Fabio, disiento contigo, creo que los argentinos estamos orgullosos de nuestro entorno físico), sino que algunos grupos no la respetan. Y los demás, sienten la impotencia. Así como yo me siento impotente ante la foto de la estatua del pensador con graffiti.
También es cierto que no todo debe ser preservado, y le corresponde a los arquitectos especialistas MÁS las comisiones barriales decidir qué edificios deben quedar, cuáles no. Porque al arquitecto no ha mencionado la fuerza preservacionista de los grupos barriales, al menos los del Norte.
Del artículo de Grementieri:

Contaminación visual del colegio de San José. Foto La Nación
Fachada del edificio Operai Italiani, en Sarmiento al 1300. Foto de Andrea Knight. (¿No es vergonzoso?)

¨Parece que los argentinos, y en especial los porteños, tuvieran un crónico y estructural desdén por su pasado, su herencia y su memoria. Y se muestran especialmente indolentes y resignados cuando se trata de la arquitectura, que es justamente "historia congelada en el espacio". Las razones de este fenómeno son diversas y complejas.
Muchas veces se ensayaron explicaciones pero casi nunca se encontraron soluciones para revertir la disfunción cultural que nos aqueja. Por muchos motivos, las diversas acciones que conducen a la preservación del patrimonio construido quedan en manos de arquitectos. Y es un hecho que en la formación de estos profesionales argentinos la apreciación de la arquitectura nacional es aún materia pendiente, particularmente en lo que se refiere al acervo de la B elle époque, acechado por prejuicios estéticos y éticos. O se los considera frívolas copias de estilos europeos o productos desarraigados de la verdadera identidad nacional.
Los edificios de fines del siglo XIX y comienzos del siglo XX han sido los más vapuleados y destruidos en el país entero: de Córdoba a Tucumán, de Paraná a Mendoza y de La Plata a Bariloche. Y en Buenos Aires la destrucción ya se acerca al genocidio. Caen como fichas de dominó las decisivas piezas menores que arman el carácter de los barrios: casas chorizo, petits hôtels, chalets.
Desaparecen también casas de departamentos refinadas, garages de estilo, edificios industriales elegantes, todo ello para dar lugar a negocios inmobiliarios e inversiones desesperadas que prefieren los ladrillos huecos a los billetes frágiles. Pero también sucumben los edificios monumentales por abandono, degradación o depredación, como en los patéticos casos de la Confitería del Molino -excepcional palacio Art Nouveau-, de la sede de Unione Operai Italiani -magistral templo del Risorgimento Italiano en Sarmiento al 1300- o el sector del Colegio San José transformado en shopping en el barrio del Once.
Y ni que hablar de las estructuras que hacen al patrimonio intangible de la ciudad: lugares de escritores, músicos, artistas donde pareciera que se pretende exterminar a todos: ángeles, fantasmas y espectros. El panorama se completa con el maltrato al patrimonio paisajístico de parques y plazas, la amputación del arbolado urbano en vías de deforestación y la escultura pública graffiteada por pintura anarquista o por iluminación "led"? Pero también cuesta mucho acercarse con respeto y creatividad a la preservación del patrimonio edilicio desde el ámbito público o privado. Allí, en general, se aplican recetas que potencian reciclajes abusivos y casi nunca acciones de conservación efectiva y duradera y prima el mal manejo, cuando no el despilfarro de los recursos.
Parece no comprenderse o no interesar que ese patrimonio arquitectónico es imponente reflejo de la inmigración, hace a la esencia física de la capital del país y se ha convertido en verdaderamente universal. Esa arquitectura completa, de alguna manera, la trilogía cultural excepcional que la ciudad y el país dieron al mundo con la literatura encabezada por Borges y la música encarnada en el tango, dos de los aspectos de la civilización nacional que se consagraron internacionalmente en las últimas dos décadas.
Ante este panorama de orfandad en materia de valoración y tutela del patrimonio arquitectónico, los diversos actores sociales encuentran las claves para revertir la situación y salvarlo. En este tema los políticos parecen sordos y casi siempre ciegos; los artistas y los intelectuales, indiferentes o no, parecen movilizados por un legado único; los burócratas y los técnicos oscilan entre el cinismo operativo o la resignación culposa. Y la ciudadanía involucrada, que incluye a voraces desarrolladores, románticos preservacionistas y curiosa opinión pública, se mueve entre confusiones y malentendidos.
No todo es patrimonio, no todo es preservable. Pero tampoco todo es demolible o reciclable. Una de las claves de la solución de estos dilemas está en una adecuada valoración comparativa de todo el conjunto edilicio de una ciudad. La confección de un catálogo, de una suerte de "Inventario General Constituyente" con la jerarquización de cada inmueble, inclusive de cada sector del mismo, es una herramienta fundamental para el desenvolvimiento de proyectos e inversiones con eficiencia y provecho. Asimismo se necesita establecer claros y eficientes mecanismos de gestión que tutelen planes sobre propiedades privadas pero también públicas. El estado no puede imponer las necesarias restricciones al dominio que implica la preservación del patrimonio a los particulares sin controlar al mismo tiempo las acciones de sus propios organismos sobre los edificios oficiales.¨

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Picking up murals in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is also famous for its murals. Here, I took pictures from an interesting corner at Melrose ave.
All pictures by Myriam B. Mahiques

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reflexiones sobre la fractalidad aplicada al estudio de la morfología urbana 1

Un círculo que es parte de un fractal.
El círculo como parte del fractal en un zoom
Nos alejamos y el círculo (Euclidiano??? a verificar) se integra en un borde rugoso, tal vez una costa.

Este artículo informal que publicaré en partes, lo hago recordando el comentario de un colega amigo, allá por el 2002, cuando le mostraba los avances incipientes de mi investigación: ¨¿Myriam, vos ves fractales en todas partes?¨ Por supuesto la respuesta fue NO pero esta cuestión requiere una larga explicación.
La primera y más importante: en ese momento, no disponía de softwares de medición fractal. El programa Mandelbrot, costaba mínimo 300 U$S, dinero que no podía invertir en softwares, más con mi próxima emigración a EEUU. De ahí, los precios saltaban a $500 U$S y así elevándose. Busqué apoyo en la FADU, hice un curso de GIS (Geographical Information System) y me enteré que las computadoras no debían ser usadas fuera del horario del curso. Me dispuse a buscar on line, y encontré algunos programas a prueba, un mes, tal vez más, y, en algún momento dí con Arthur y Olga Sirotinsky que son los profesores rusos creadores de Fractal Explorer. Les escribí, contándoles mis inquietudes, y les comenté dónde su programa fallaba (en los filtros) para mis estudios de formas urbanas. Por supuesto, Arthur me dijo que su software no había sido pensado para ¨morfología urbana¨, pero verían de mejorar la aplicación. Así fue, y les estoy agradecida.
No obstante, Fractal Explorer no es para mediciones fractales. En el 2002 y un par de años más, hube de hacer las mediciones dibujando arriba de una fotografía aérea grillas en AutoCad. Y haciendo las cuentas con ayuda de una calculadora y la tabla de logaritmos.
Un proceso engorroso que causa grandes demoras.....
En cada cálculo de D (Dimensión Fractal) la pregunta de mi amigo resonaba en mi mente. Y con razón. Porque algunos colegas ven la forma urbana como un juego donde se agregan, quitan partes, se logra una imagen –fascinante por cierto- y se arriba a un resultado de llenos y vacíos donde la dimensión fractal es similar o igual a la anterior, antes de la intervención urbana. Desde mi punto de vista, esto no es más que un juego de sistemas visuales que no reconoce la cultura de los habitantes, ni las características del lugar donde se ha aplicado. Se ve la fractalidad porque cualquier imagen que es irregular es plausible de ser medida según el Box Counting Method.

Volviendo a la pregunta de mi amigo arquitecto, existen los llamados ¨fractal rabbits¨ o ¨conejos fractales¨ que indican fractales ficticios que surgen de escalas en baja definición, incluso cuando la figura analizada es euclidiana. El término lo aplica Brian H. Kaye en su libro ¨A Random Walk Through Fractal Dimensions¨ (pág 24), que si bien es muy específico de fractalidad de partículas finas, la teoría puede ser aplicable en todas las escalas.
El inconveniente de los ¨fractal rabbits¨ se da en extrapolaciones, ya que la figura a estudiar debe ser transformada en pixels (celdas) para utilizar el método de medición de celdas.

Un fractal de partículas que puede ser asociado a morfología urbana basada en densidades
Al acercarnos, las partículas muestran una alineación  que no era posible ver a simple vista
Patterns de alineación de partículas. Asimilable a densidades cerca de ríos, carreteras, etc.

Nota: las imágenes fractales fueron generadas por Myriam B. Mahiques a los fines de citar ejemplos. El software utilizado es Fractal Explorer 2.02

Creative Commons License
Reflexiones sobre la fractalidad aplicada al estudio de la morfología urbana 1 by Myriam B. Mahiques is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Beauty definition x 2

Santa Maria Novella. Facade by Leon B. Alberti. From

¨We cannot reflectively think of beauty as an intrinsic quality in physical objects or even in human actions or dispositions, but only as a relation of them to the sensibilities of this or that person.¨
Edgar Carritt aprox. 1914

¨I shall define Beauty to be a harmony of all the parts, in whatsoever subject it appears, fitted together with such proportion and connection, that nothing could be added, diminished or altered, but for the worse.¨
Leon Battista Alberty, SXV

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What is a reasonable accommodation?

Richard Pimentel. From

Yesterday I´ve been watching Music Within, the story of how Richard Pimentel became involved with ADA applications, resumed in an urban-architectural code for handicap people that can be downloaded on line.
Richard Pimentel is a disability rights activist who developed significant training materials aimed to help employers integrate persons with disabilities into the workplace, and was a strong advocate for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.(
Pimentel is a partner of Milt Wright & Associates, Inc., and from their papers, I´ve selected this question and answer (below), because, as the movie shows, some retails´ tenants or owners do not want to upgrade their facilities under the ADA Code, and some of them want to, but the upgrade has to be a reasonable one.
If the facilities have been approved years ago, without ADA implications, they are still fine, but, once the retail is rented again under a change of use, all the rigor of the current Codes falls upon them. But, the City official would understand if any issue of the upgrade couldn´t be done for a hardship reason, as explained below.
I had a case that was pretty weird for us. A tuxedo rental with two stories, where the factory (the sewing machines) had to be on the second floor, the exhibition room was all the first floor. Incredibly, the plan checker asked for handicap facilities in the second floor, even when per Building and Safety Code no elevator was needed.
And the owner said, how could I hire a blind person, or anybody in a wheelchair with these machines? The very nature of the job made it impossible for a handicap to apply to work with the sewing machines. Maybe you´d like to remember another movie, Dancer in the Dark, the lady was becoming blind and it was too dangerous for her to keep on working with the machines.

Question: What is a reasonable accommodation?
Basically it is some change in the job or the interview/evaluation process that takes into consideration your disability job-related limitations and enables you to still do the job or be properly and fairly evaluated.
In the interview these accommodations could be providing a sign language interpreter for someone who was deaf or hearing impaired and needed that assistance. It could be giving more time for someone to complete a test if they have a learning disability, or assisting someone to fill out an application if they have cerebral palsy and cannot fill it out on their own.
On the job, an accommodation could be many things. Changing the work schedule for someone who needs medical treatments, buying or changing equipment such as a blinking telephone or TDD for someone who is deaf or hearing impaired, changing the way that work is traditionally done as long as it still gets done. You should study what the ADA says about reasonable accommodation. One important thing to remember is that an employer may be obligated to provide an accommodation only if it is not an undue hardship on the business to do so, and reducing performance standards below that of other employees is not a reasonable accommodation. If an accommodation will not allow you to perform the essential functions of a job, then you are not qualified for the position.

Read the article in full:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Space perception of the ¨once blind¨ person

The Graeae´s eye. El ojo de las brujas grises. Pintura digital de Myriam B. Mahiques

I´ve begun reading a very interesting book, ¨The Visual Dialogue. An Introduction to the Appreciation of Art¨, by Nathan Knobler. In page 14, he quotes professor J. Z. Young, an English physiologist who experimented with individuals born blind who, in their later years, were enabled to see.
I´d like to reproduce some paragraphs, as we, architects, tend to think that spatial perception is the same for everybody. At least we recognize cultural differences in our way to comprehend the space (let´s say the architectural space) but this is related to knowledge and brain training. Let´s read:

¨The once-blind person, now physiologically normal, does not ¨see¨ the world immediately.
The patient on opening his eyes for the first time gets little or no enjoyment; indeed, he finds the experience painful. He reports only a spinning by sight, to recognize what they are, or to name them. He has no conception of a space with objects in it, although he knows all about objects and their names by touch. ¨Of course,¨ you will say, ¨he must take a little time to learn to recognize them by sight.¨Not a little time, but a very, very long time, in fact, years. His brain has not been trained in the rules of seeing. We are not conscious that there are any such rules; we think that we see, as we say, ¨naturally.¨ But we have in fact learned a whole set of rules during childhood. (*)
Young goes on to say that the once-blind man can learn to ¨see¨ only by  training his brain. By expending a considerable amount of effort, he can gradually understand the visual experiences of color, form, space, and textures.
These experiments suggest that the sensations we receive have no meaning for us until we know how to order them into a coherent perception. Sensation is only one part of perception. Also included in the construction of a percept is the past experience of the observer and his ability to combine sensations into a meaningful form. To perceive something requires that the observer make a selection of the numerous sensations which are significant for the construction of a particular experience and disregard those which are irrelevant. As Young points out, this requires training. The untrained observer cannot make sense out of what he sees before him.¨

(*) J. Z. Young. Doubt and Certainty in Science. Oxford University Press, London, 1951, p. 62

Friday, January 13, 2012

Inhabitants of caves

Sea caves. Grutas marinas. Digital painting by Myriam B. Mahiques

¨the old potentate determined on reform and, setting vigorously to work, ejected whole nests of vagabonds out of the fortress and the gypsy caves with which the surrounding hills are honey combed.¨
W. Irving. Tales of the Alhambra. Governor Manco and the soldier. P. 249. Granada, edition of 1994

W. Irving´s words made me think. In an urban morphology analysis, should we consider the inhabited caves surrounding the city?
What´s the geographical extents of the analysis? 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The urban grid that shaped Manhattan

The view south from Park Avenue and 94th Street around 1882. Museum of the City of New York

The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011,” now at the Museum of the City of New York, unearths that 1879 picture of the Brennan Farm among other historic gems. The show celebrates the anniversary of what remains not just a landmark in urban history but in many ways the defining feature of the city.
After all, before it could rise into the sky, Manhattan had to create the streets, avenues and blocks that support the skyscrapers. The grid was big government in action, a commercially minded boon to private development and, almost despite itself, a creative template. With 21st-century problems — environmental, technological, economic and social — now demanding aggressive and socially responsible leadership, the exhibition is a kind of object lesson.
Simeon De Witt, Gouverneur Morris and John Rutherfurd were entrusted with planning the city back in 1811. New York huddled mostly south of Canal Street, but it was booming, its population having tripled to 96,373 since 1790 thanks to the growing port. Civic boosters predicted that 400,000 people would live in the city by 1860. They turned out to be half-right. New York topped 800,000 before the Civil War.
The planners proposed a grid for this future city stretching northward from roughly Houston Street to 155th Street in the faraway heights of Harlem. It was in many respects a heartless plan. There were virtually no parks or plazas. The presumption was that people would gravitate east and west along the numbered streets to the rivers when they wanted open space and fresh air, and not spend lots of time moving north or south. That partly explains why there were only a dozen avenues.

Excerpt from:
Last two pictures from:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lost London: the revival of psychogeography in a game

Emilie Giles is an interaction designer who launched Lost London, a pervasive game that focuses on the forgotten places and networks that exist within the city of London. Based on the principles of psychogeography (“the study of the specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals”), Lost London makes use of Foursquare and Twitter to set the pace of the game. Giles chose to use disused Tube stations as starting points, since the participant is already having to open their eyes a bit more, and notice that which is normally not obvious.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 International Human Science Research Conference. Montreal, Canada. CALL FOR PAPERS

Renewing the Encounter between Human Sciences, the Arts, and the Humanities
The 2012 International Human Science Research Conference will take place on the 25th to the 29th of June, on the campus of the University of Quebec at Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
In our preparations for the International Human Science Research Conference of Montreal, 2012, we are guided by the hope that the conference may lead us all to a deeper questionning of the inherent, ancient and interdependent relationship between the human sciences, the arts and the humanities. We therefore warmly invite presentations inspired by that theme, but with the understanding that we do not mean to discourage others from addressing different topics of interest to our community.
Both Husserl and Gadamer –and many others– have extensively commented on the perverse effects of narrow scientism, materialism and objectivism on our culture in general and on the practice of the human sciences in particular. Their criticism remains as relevant today as when it was first formulated by Husserl more than three quarters of a century ago.
The conference at Montreal wants to be an occasion to reflect on the distorting effects of narrowly conceived methods, theories and practices that forever send the human sciences on new paths that do not connect with the older, nor set the stage for future ones.

The conference is the perfect occasion to share the product of your researches, your experiences and your reflections with your colleagues from around the world. We invite you to submit your contributions, including academic papers, posters, and other type of scientific report before de January 29th, 2012. Lectures will last 30 minutes, if the number of attendees permits it, and 1.5 hours periods are planned for the symposium. Symposia Organizers will be free to use the 1.5 hours as they wish to accommodate their presentation requirements. Also, they should discuss ahead any particular or unusual proposals with the conference organizers to plan the details of their symposium.
Please submit an abstract of up to 250 words (maximum) if you wish to present a standard talk or poster using the online form below.
For other formats, please attach a brief (up to 500 words) outline of your proposed contribution (including time and space requirements), details of contributors and contact details.

Please take note that the deadline for the submission of abstracts is January, 29th 2012.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Should Delhi go vertical?

Should Delhi go vertical? Town planners believe it is a wrong question to begin with. The question we should ask is how best we can house our people and manage population densities within the city, says author and urban studies expert Gautam Bhan, who is currently pursuing a PhD in urban planning at University of California, Berkeley.
While talk of Delhi going vertical - an idea mooted by urban development minister Kamal Nath - conjures up images of gigantic highrises painted across the Delhi skyline, experts in urban design say the best way to solve Delhi's housing woes lies in high-density low-rises . "When we think of Delhi going vertical, why are we thinking of going from three floors to 45 floors? Why don't we think, instead, of going from three to five floors?'' asks Bhan. He believes that the debate about Delhi going vertical has more to do with the image of the city as a worldclass metro like Manhattan and not about filling the gap in Delhi's housing market.
While Manhattan may have ten times the density that Delhi does, New York, unlike Delhi, has the infrastructure to support high-rises, says AGK Menon, convener, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Delhi Chapter).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Flowers that blow at midnight

Photo: Zarko Vijatovic. Courtesy: Gagosian Gallery. 

Sharing from
As fall cedes to winter, the Jardins des Tuileries in Paris will be enlivened by Yayoi Kusama's vibrantly colored Flowers That Bloom at Midnight, a series of unique large scale sculptures. This is the first time these sculptures will be seen in France.
Read the full article:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bulldozing a 12 million dollars house

I really don´t like this house, even it it´s worth 12 million dollars. But, if somebody tells me to demolish it completely, I´d think it twice, can we rescue something, anything?
But, when you get 100 million dollars for a divorce, you can do it without pain :)

¨There are times when divorce forces people to do strange things. Burn sheets. Throw out clothes. Toss rings into the ocean. But when you get $100 million in your divorce, you can trump just about anything and that's what happened with Tiger Woods' ex-wife when she bought a $12 million home and bulldozed the whole thing.
Yes, according to TMZ, Elin Nordegren bought a $12 million home in North Palm Beach, Fla., but didn't like it, and has plowed the whole thing.
The house, which had six bedrooms and eight bathrooms, is now just rubble, with no word yet on what is going to replace the beautiful building you see above, but I guess when you have nine figures in the bank, it doesn't really matter what you want.¨

From Shane Bacon´s article:

Pictures courtesy of Pacific Coast News and With Leather

Friday, January 6, 2012

El Guggenheim de Frank Lloyd Wright con una muestra colgante en su espacio central

Caballo embalsamado (¿Muerto o vivo? Ud. decide!) colgando de la espiral del Guggenheim, New York. De la obra de Maurizio Cattelan. Foto de

¿Maurizio Cattelan abandona mientras está ganando o antes de quedar demasiado rezagado? La pregunta sobrevuela la muy anticipada retrospectiva de 21 años del Guggenheim donde, como es ampliamente sabido a estas alturas, todo el arte está suspendido en el aire. Esta muestra inusual ha sido descripta por Cattelan como "su canto de cisne". Aunque sólo tiene 51 años, lo que en años artísticos es poco, ha anunciado que se retira del trabajo de hacer arte. Quizá para celebrar, ha convertido su retrospectiva en un estallido, hecho de piezas anteriores -128, para ser precisos-, lo que exige una delicada ingeniería. Toda la producción de Cattelan, salvo dos obras cuyos dueños se negaron a prestarlas, cuelga en una masa gigante distendida de cables conectados a una viga de aluminio cerca del techo de la rotonda del museo. Titulado Todo , llena uno de los vacíos arquitectónicos más grandes del mundo con lo que sin duda figurará como uno de los móviles más complicados y visualmente fallidos de la historia del arte.(....)
Visto desde abajo especialmente, Todo es un catálogo completo razonado, en la forma de una piñata explotada. Al ascender la rampa, el caos continúa: todo parece venirse hacia uno a la vez. Desplegadas aquí y allá, por ejemplo, hay piezas conceptuales de sus primeros años de "estética relacional".

Fragmento de la nota de Roberta Smith (The New York Times). Traducción de Gabriel Zadunaisky.
Las siguientes fotos son del New York Times:


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