Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When animals become an urban problem

Reuters. Feral cat in Beijing. From

I´ve been writing about animals in the city, specially about our pigeons´ plague in Buenos Aires, a nightmare because of the diseases they carry with them. And they are really lovely....
Seven years ago, I was reading at L.A. Times on the squirrels in California mountains, one of the journalists was declaring himself a killer of squirrels, given they ate his subterranean cables, ate the trash, ate everything they could find at his home. They are beautiful, but they are a kind of rat, right?
At the same time, I was reading about ravens in southern CA. I see them everywhere here, being friends with seagulls. Main reason for all these animals reproduction: food, in the alleys, lots of food.
Another animal in SoCal which wasn´t urban but now is ¨friendly¨ with humans: the coyote. ¨Friendly¨ at a certain point, because they eat pets. People call the Sanitary department, whichever, City Hall, Health Department, Pest control, Animal control, ....and the answer is always the same: if the animal is not dangerous for humans, what can they do? Of course, you´d never leave your baby or kid outdoor, alone, in danger of meeting a coyote.
Today, I was reading about feral cats in Beijing. And please, note the difference. Feral is not a synonymous of ¨stray¨. A stray one could be an abandoned or lost domestic cat. Feral means ¨wild¨ with all the implications of the word.

A popular and brazen coyote that was frequently seen cavorting and hunting in close proximity to people at Huntington Beach's Central Park was euthanized on June 21. This photo was taken by Dawn Macheca of Huntington Beach about two weeks before the animal was darted and then put down by O.C. Animal Control.

Can people live with so many animals around? It was a problem of consideration in Medieval Times: ¨In the twelfth century, half the householders of Paris kept pigs which roamed the streets in search of provender. As unofficial refuse collectors, they were invaluable, tut they tended to trip up pedestrians and tangle up traffic. After the heir to the throne had fractured his skull when a pig ran between his horse´s legs, an edict was issued that there should be no more pig-rearing in towns.¨
Believe it or not, we still have this animal issue, let´s see what happens in Beijing with (thousands, millions???) feral cats:

Beijing has never been overly sympathetic to the plight of stray cats, famously rounding up thousands of the creatures – both feral and abandoned – in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics (it also shut down factories, shipped homeless people away, and limited the number of cars driving into the city). It’s still not clear whether those cats were euthanized or simply died from disease in shelters, but they were gone.
Four years later, the cats are back. The Chinese are deep into a love affair with domestic animals, creatures that they are reluctant to spay or neuter, says Mary Peng, co-founder of the International Center for Veterinary Services in Beijing. Perhaps it’s a small act of resistance in a country that limits the reproductive rights of its human population, but China does not have the tradition of neutering pets that pet owners in the United States take for granted. And just one female cat can have as many as three or four litters a year, ultimately adding another 100 cats to the feral population in its lifetime.
Peng, a Chinese-American native New Yorker who has lived in Beijing for the last 20 years, has taken on the mission of convincing Beijing’s residents that the best solution to the feral cat population is a program called “trap, neuter, release,” or TNR. The philosophy behind the program is that trapping the animals, fixing them so that they can’t reproduce, and then returning them to their established colony is a better solution than exterminating cats or trying to find them domestic homes.
But the program is controversial. Some ecologists argue that feral cats are so terrible for urban ecosystems, capable of killing off whole species of native wildlife, that they really ought to be euthanized. And groups like the Audubon Society claim that TNR has not proven to be effective in eliminating the population of feral cats anywhere.

Read the article in full:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Grants Open Spaces Sacred Places: The Healing Power of Nature

The TKF Foundation announces the final phase of the Open Spaces Sacred Places (OSSP) National Awards Program. The program was enacted in 2 phases, a Planning Grant Phase, now closed, and an open call for proposals. Final Awards will fund development of significant new sacred public green spaces in urban settings that demonstrate a combination of high quality design-build and rigorous research about user impacts. The total remaining funding pool is $4 million. Funding will be provided to cross-disciplinary teams that are able to 1) conceptualize, plan, design and implement an open and sacred green space, 2) conduct associated research study(ies), and 3) communicate scientific findings. TKF seeks to identify projects replicable in their intent. Projects should also be generalizable in the challenges they address to serve as potential archetypes for urban areas across the U.S.
Read more:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cubans hit on real estate market

A house in Cuba. Picture by Jose Goitia. NYTimes

A few years ago, I asked a Cuban lady (friend of a friend) how was the real estate market in Cuba and which was the process to sell a house. And she said, you don´t sell a house, there is a system of interchange, you live in a house and then you agree with another person to trade his house for yours, of course the value has to match, but there are another ways, something else you can offer as a bonus, maybe it becomes an interesting deal. Nevertheless, private investments for tourists were increasing.
Today, I´ve read about the new possibilities of buying, selling and remodeling properties, it sounds as good news for me.
From the New York Times on line:
¨All over the capital and in many provincial towns, Cubans are beginning to inject money into the island’s ragged real estate, spurred by government measures to stimulate construction and a new law that allows them to trade property for the first time in 50 years.
The measures are President Raúl Castro’s biggest maneuver yet as he strives to get capital flowing on the island, encourage private enterprise and take pressure off the economically crippled state.
For decades, the government banned real estate sales and kept a jealous grip on construction. Materials were scarce, red tape endless and inspectors meddlesome. Black marketeers would deliver cinder blocks by cover of darkness, and purchasing a bag of sand was a furtive process akin to buying drugs.
But during the past two months the state has reduced paperwork, stocked construction stores, legalized private contractors and begun offering homeowners subsidies and credits.
On many streets, the chip of hammers and gritty slosh of cement mixing rises above the sparse traffic as Cubans paint facades, build extensions or gut old houses. Still, it is generally small-scale stuff (....) Behind scruffy porticos and walls of bougainvillea, the wheels of the property trade are turning. Unofficial brokers — who are still outlawed in Cuba — say they have never been so busy, trawling the streets and the Internet for leads and fielding calls from prospective buyers.
Cubisima, an online classified service, said the number of hits on its real estate page tripled to an average of 900 per day after the new property law took effect on Nov. 10. The law allows Cubans to buy and sell their houses, and even own a second home outside the cities, though it still bars most foreigners from buying.
It is a crude market, where househunters rely on word of mouth and prices are based as much on excitement as on any clear sense of property values, according to interviews with homeowners, brokers and experts.¨

Read the article in full:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Looking at the ribbed vault of a Gothic Cathedral. Mirando la bóveda de nervaduras de una catedral gótica

It´s an artistic representation, of course this is not structurally exactly like a ribbed vault. 
¨The intersection of two or three barrel vaults produces a rib vault or ribbed vault when they are edged with an armature of piped masonry often carved in decorative patterns; compare groin vault, an older form of vault construction. While the mechanics of the weight of a groin vault and its transmission outwards to the supporting pillars remained as it had been, the new use of rib vaults demonstrates the skill of the masons and the grandeur of the new ideas circulating at the introduction of Gothic architecture in the end of the eleventh century.¨

Creative Commons License
Looking at the ribbed vault of a Gothic Cathedral by Myriam B. Mahiques is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

" Culture, mind and brain.Emerging Concepts, Methods, Applications" Interdisciplinary conference

Katherine Sherwood, Vesalius' Pump, 2006.

UCLA Los Angeles. October 19-20 2012
Highlights emerging concepts, methods, and applications in the study of culture, mind, brain, with attention to cutting-edge research, the context in which methods are used, and the collaborations that advance interdisciplinary training.
Organized by: The Foundation for Psychocultural Research
Read more:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fractal urban tissue. A simulation

Order and chaos in a digital simulation. Woods and parks mixed in the fractal urban tissue.
Creative Commons License
Fractal urban tissue. A simulation by Myriam B. Mahiques is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Metabolism, the City of the Future. The exhibition at the Mori Art Museum

Kenzo Tange´s Yamanashi Culture Hall
From NYTimes magazine on line:

“Metabolism, the City of the Future: Dreams and Visions of Reconstruction in Postwar and Present-Day Japan” (September 17, 2011 – January 15, 2012) was a sprawling introduction to the Metabolism architecture movement of the 1960s and ’70s. It was the first exhibition organized at the Mori Art Museum (one of Tokyo’s two most prominent contemporary art institutions) since the March 2011 disaster, and as such illustrated an avant-garde yet pervasive facet of the country’s long history of building and rebuilding. The Metabolism Group was founded in 1960 (some of its members are still at work today) on the belief that architecture should emulate organic life and allow for continual growth and change. Sustainability and scale were paramount and they channeled these values not through a lens of austerity but of sci-fi dreams.
The projects chronicled in the exhibition attempted to express harmony with much more rhetorical purity. Many of the most fantastic plans were drafted in the 1960s and never realized. Kenzo Tange’s “A Plan for Tokyo” (1960) proposed an entire city be erected over Tokyo Bay. Another project suggested building contiguously between Tokyo and Osaka so that the two cities would become an uninterrupted megalopolis: the island of Japan imagined as a body and the new mega-city as its essential hub. Arata Isozaki’s “Shinjuku Project: City in the Air” (1961) and “Shibuya Project: City in the Air” (1962) used the Metabolist trope of vertical, cylindrical, central “cores” to access a complex of units built high in the air. It’s likely that many of the projects that were indeed built during this time, like Kiyonori Kikutake’s Hotel Tokoen (1965) and Miyakonojo Civic Center (1966), were funded because they somewhat inverted outsize Metabolist ambitions by collapsing the logic of an entire city into the design of a single building. Metabolism reached a fever pitch around the Expo ’70 in Osaka, where Tange masterminded a model city showcasing all the movement’s most colorful dynamics for a worldwide audience that extended far beyond connoisseurs of architecture.¨

Installation of a kitchen at the Mori Art Museum.
Arata Isozaki´s city in the air (Shibuya Project)

Read the review in full:
All pictures downloaded from the article at the NYTimes magazine.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A grid analysis by Fanis Grammenos

The turning radius of a team of four oxen pulling a four-wheel cart determined the width of the streets in Salt Lake City. (Image source: Wikipedia)

I´ve been reading the article by Fanis Grammenos at, which I´ve found highly interesting, specially for me that have been living in Buenos Aires´ grid for so many years.
He writes about the pros and cons of the grid, first of all, he shows two charts of developable land compared to right of way (ROW) and size of block for some cities in USA.
Then, he gives us examples of critics from urbanists, beginning from those who defend urban fractal morphology. At this point, I should make a separate note. As an example ¨in between¨, Buenos Aires is a strict grid but seen in 3D or seen by a pedestrian, it is highly fractal; I wrote many articles about it. So, articulations and scaling are not lost.

A sampling of 3 simple grids and their corresponding percentage of land used for ROWs.

¨Olmstead in the 1800s abandoned orthogonal planning and introduced curvilinear streets that were to become the model for innumerable subdivisions. Camillo Sitte portrays the grid as unimaginative and unworthy of consideration for new towns. Raymond Unwin in his writings and works rejects the simple, open grid, succeeds in ushering the cul-de-sac through the British parliament and lays out plans free of the rigidity and repetitiveness of the simple grid.
As contemporary theory embraces the city as an organism that obeys fractal laws (seen in the works of Alexander, Salingaros, Mehaffy, Mashall and Salat), more fundamental weaknesses of the uniform grid emerged. For example we read that: “Making a line straight, or regularizing a street, as 19th century urbanism has often done, eliminated intermediary scales and hence the possibility of geometric interaction and coupling of smaller scales. In other words it killed life. For thousands of years, historical cities avoided straight lines, creating multiply connected rich structures by way of slight discontinuities in relation to straight lines.”(Salat)¨

Then, Grammenos explains that some blocks length are the product of the need for a team of four oxen pulling a cart to turn around within the street; and of course, a modern adaptation is needed.
We cannot copy good examples from another countries, to prioritize pedestrians; what is good for Middle East, is not good for fast avenues in California, right?
Finally, he proposes a middle-term solution, which I like very much, it´s a block with partitions as needed for vehicles and pedestrians.

Savannah´s composite


Breaking the convenient, but outdated, uniformity of the 18th and 19th Century American grids would be a first step in recovering the land efficiency mandated by current ecological and economic imperatives. Pointing in that direction, Savannah’s composite, cellular grid includes variable size streets and blocks for private, civic and religious functions. A second step would be to include block sizes that can accommodate building types and sizes unknown in the 1800s, again defying block uniformity. A third step would be to adapt its streets for the now universal motorized mobility, of cars, buses, trucks, trams and motorcycles, that is radically different from when oxen, equine and legs shared the transport of goods and people.

In summary, examining the simple grids in this set serves as an introduction to optimizing land use, people circulation and the movement of goods. The resulting challenge is to use these insights to develop patterns that accommodate contemporary urban land economics, transportation, environmental priorities and citizen aspirations as these patterns may have done in their time.

Read the article in full:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

More from tactical urbanism!

I´ve been looking at some pictures from of urban guerrillas (in the good sense of the word), organized groups of people trying to make the cities more livable for everybody; that is called ¨Tactical Urbanism.¨ The examples are really interesting, some of them a little shocking, it´s impossible for the authorities not to pay attention to the inhabitants´ necessities.

¨In mid-January, a group calling themselves Walk Raleigh posted 27 such signs at three intersections around the city, and we hear (by reading their Facebook page), that the stunt has actually caught the eye of city officials who may look to make the signs permanent. This is tactical urbanism at its best: a fly-by-night citizen-led escapade whose whimsy could ultimately prompt real improvements to city amenities.(....)This got us thinking about some of our other favorite tactical urbanism capers: yarn bombing, chair bombing – and guerrilla gardening, of course.¨

Read the full article:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Memorias de la Piedra

Un libro que me gustaría tener. Comparto algunos párrafos del artículo de Cecilia Macón para La Nación:

Los doce artículos reunidos en Memorias de la piedra por Béatrice Fleury y Jacques Walter -ambos a cargo del centro especializado en la Universidad de Metz- no sólo refieren a debates teóricos y disputas sobre casos específicos de manera inspiradora, sino que son capaces de ampliar la cuestión más allá de sus consecuencias más evidentes. A esto ayuda el prólogo de la argentina Claudia Feld dedicado a exponer los procesos de calificación -es decir, de la institución de un sentido- y descalificación -la condena al olvido- de espacios como los campos de exterminio en términos más que sutiles.(...)
La actualidad del enfoque elegido enriquece muy especialmente trabajos que son el resultado de coloquios realizados entre 2007 y 2010. La cuestión de la mundialización de la memoria, que obliga a reconstruir el pasado para que sea foco de interés a escala mundial, se abre a la tensión entre lo global y lo local, a la constitución de un espacio público transnacional y a la dificultad de establecer relatos definitivos en un mundo incierto. El recorrido por los distintos casos lleva a también a una pregunta inevitable: ¿en qué medida el turismo memorialista ya instituido colabora con los procesos de memoria y hasta qué punto los desnaturaliza? Es ante estas preguntas que Philippe Mesnard y Joanna Teklik argumentan sobre el peligro del turismo cultural que escinde el presente de los individuos y neutraliza su sentido crítico. Los análisis de los pabellones nacionales en el Museo de Auschwitz -muy especialmente las disputas alrededor del belga- y del memorial al genocidio armenio en Montreal sacan a la luz la naturaleza política de la memoria pública y su tensión con la lógica empresarial del turismo.
Es esa inevitabilidad de lo político la que surge con virulencia del recorrido por las disputas recientes sobre dos sitios de memoria dedicados en Francia a la Guerra de Argelia. ¿A quiénes corresponde conmemorar?, ¿cómo establecer la dicotomía víctimas/victimarios? Las respuestas a estas preguntas tienden a ser formuladas haciendo a un lado cualquier intento de heroificación.

Lea el prólogo:

Monday, February 13, 2012

The rooms in Poe´s The Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Alan Poe is one of my favorites, specially the part that describe the rooms in different colors. It has always been intriguing for me, the way they were arranged. I can understand they were connected by side hallways, arranged like a labyrinth, considering nobody could access from one room to the other in a straight direction.
I use the plural for hallways, because he says the Gothic windows are on the right and left, facing the corridors. And, if there is no possibility to see two rooms completely at one time, it means that they are intertwined and most probably without doors, I imagine them like alternating chambers.
Maybe I have to make a sketch to solve this spatial problem, re read the following paragraphs from the story and figure out the layout.
Anyway, nothing could be so misinterpreted as the scenography of the 1964 British movie, with horror star Vincent Price.
Here, one room is directly next to the other, suppose the doors are open, you would have the one point of view perspective that Poe said was not for the Prince´s bizarre preference.
There are candelabra everywhere, and the phantasmagorical effect due to the fire light entering through the windows is nonexistent.
I took this shots from the movie and was astonished to see that specially the yellow and the white rooms are so terribly domestic, I think Poe would be very disappointed....  ABSOLUTE WHITE???.

¨It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade. But first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held. There were seven -- an imperial suite. In many palaces, however, such suites form a long and straight vista, while the folding doors slide back nearly to the walls on either hand, so that the view of the whole extent is scarcely impeded. Here the case was very different; as might have been expected from the duke's love of the bizarre. The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect. To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose color varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example, in blue -- and vividly blue were its windows. The second chamber was purple in its ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. The third was green throughout, and so were the casements. The fourth was furnished and lighted with orange -- the fifth with white -- the sixth with violet. The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue. But in this chamber only, the color of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet -- a deep blood color. Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers. But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite to each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire that protected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly illumined the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances. But in the western or black chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all.¨

Enjoy the story in full:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Representations of Heorot. Hrothgar´s Meadhall

Bill Mather's BeoWulf ConceptArt. From

To Hrothgar was given such glory of war,
such honor of combat, that all his kin
obeyed him gladly till great grew his band
of youthful comrades. It came in his mind
to bid his henchmen a hall uprear,
a master mead-house, mightier far
than ever was seen by the sons of earth,
and within it, then, to old and young
he would all allot that the Lord had sent him,
save only the land and the lives of his men.
Wide, I heard, was the work commanded,
for many a tribe this mid-earth round,
to fashion the folkstead. It fell, as he ordered,
in rapid achievement that ready it stood there,
of halls the noblest: Heorot  he named it
whose message had might in many a land.
Not reckless of promise, the rings he dealt,
treasure at banquet: there towered the hall,
high, gabled wide, the hot surge waiting
of furious flame.  Nor far was that day
when father and son-in-law stood in feud
for warfare and hatred that woke again.

From Beowulf. Author anonymous. This translation is by Gummere.

Bill Mather's BeoWulf ConceptArt. From
Reconstruction of ca. 1000 Viking hall at Trelleborg, Denmark. From
Mead hall from the movie Beowulf and Grendel. From

In ancient Scandinavia and Germanic Europe a mead hall or feasting hall was initially simply a large building with a single room. From the fifth century to early medieval times such a building was the residence of a lord and his retainers. The mead hall was generally the great hall of the king. As such, it was likely to be the safest place in the kingdom.
Mead, also called honey wine, is an alcoholic beverage that is produced by fermenting a solution of honey and water.It may also be produced by fermenting a solution of water and honey with grain mash, which is strained after fermentation.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pros and cons of landmark preservation

Boston landmarked Back Bay neighborhood. Photo by Jorge Salcedo

I´m not a preservationist myself, but I respect historic buildings while it´s worthwhile. I took a couple of courses on preservationism being a young architect, and I can say that sometimes, there´s too much exaggeration in the subject. If old buildings with no important historicity are kept, some urban areas could be affected by the lack of economical impulse. Another issue, some new projects have to be ¨disguised¨ to match the existing, losing their modern character, becoming scenography. Let us read some paragraphs from the article by Ben Adler for Architectural Record:

East Village Block and Williamsburg Bank Landmarked. From
Metropolitan church, Chicago. From

This past year, Harvard economist Ed Glaeser, in his book Triumph of the City, attacked landmarking, along with such restrictions as zoning that limits density or requires parking lots. Glaeser points to the case of a proposed 30-story addition, designed by Norman Foster, at 980 Madison Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, that was rejected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission even though it would have kept the original 1950 limestone gallery building as well. “The cost of restricted development is that protected areas become more expensive and exclusive,” writes Glaeser. Legions of urban policy bloggers around the country agree.
The aesthetic critique of landmarking is also gaining currency. Rem Koolhaas mounted an exhibition at New York’s New Museum last spring that was a broadside against landmarking. “[Koolhaas] paints a picture of an army of well-meaning but clueless preservationists who, in their zeal to protect the world’s architectural legacies, end up debasing them by creating tasteful scenery for docile consumers while airbrushing out the most difficult chapters of history,” reported the New York Times.
These issues may be most extreme in New York, where the razing of McKim, Mead & White’s Pennsylvania Station in 1963 still stings. But similar controversies have erupted in older cities across the country. What the Washington City Paper calls “the weaponization of preservation” includes the efforts of the Tenleytown Historical Society to prevent American University from expanding its campus by pushing landmark status for an entire block to protect the fairly banal 1904 Immaculata Seminary.
In Boston, tradition often trumps the new. “The South End is very restrictive about what you can do to your buildings, in many cases with very good reason,” says architect and preservation expert David Fixler. Yet people can be prevented from making changes just “to keep things the way they are.” Sometimes officials require new construction be designed in an architecturally contextual manner, even when the building is an inherently modern structure. In San Francisco, on the other hand, the Historic Preservation Commission has responded to criticism that Modernism is underappreciated by seeking protection of such undistinguished modern buildings as the 1959 North Beach Branch Library.

A landmarked shelter. From the City of Boulder´s web page.

To illustrate the post, let us read now, how tempting it could be to have one´s house landmarked, this is for the City of Boulder, Colorado:

Benefits of Landmarking
The city offers several incentives to property owners, as a way to encourage landmark designation of the city's eligible historic resources.

Tax Advantages
Federal Investment Tax Credits are available for approved rehabilitations that are used for commercial purposes, including rental housing to properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places or contributing to a National Register of Historic Districts.
State Income Tax Credits are available for approved rehabilitations to local landmarks and contributing buildings in local historic districts.
A waiver of city sales tax on construction materials is available when applying for a building permit, if at least 30 percent of the value of materials is for the building's exterior.

Possible Exemptions or Variances from Select Building Code and Zoning Standards
including floodplain, height, solar and residential growth management requirements.

Dedication of a bronze plaque commemorating the establishment of an individual landmark status at a public ceremony.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Murales de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. Argentina

De la nota de Leonardo Tarifeño para la Nación:

¨La mejor prueba de que la ciudad tiene vida propia es que sus muros cambian todo el tiempo. Durante la crisis de 2001, cuando el centro porteño amanecía con la leyenda "que se vayan todos" en cada rincón, un grupo de artistas callejeros se propuso intervenir el espacio público con imágenes y mensajes ajenos al escepticismo que imponía el desastre. Ante la violencia y la agresión del latigazo político, Tec, Tester, Defi y otros graf iteros respondieron con trazos y dibujos que abrían una puerta de alegría incipiente a través de los ladrillos. Desde entonces, Buenos Aires se ha convertido en una de las grandes capitales mundiales del street art , un auténtico museo al aire libre donde las obras aparecen, deslumbran y se borran en absoluta sintonía con el vertiginoso ritmo de lo que no siempre se alcanza a ver.
Las "salas" más atractivas de ese museo son Colegiales, Palermo y Villa Crespo, no en vano los barrios por donde transcurre el tour organizado por Graffitimundo ( ), que muestra y cuenta la historia detrás de los principales trabajos que brillan en esa zona de la ciudad. Mientras tanto, en Buenos Aires como en el resto del mundo, el street art parece haber alcanzado su mayoría de edad.¨

Las fotos fueron bajadas del mismo artículo y sus autores están mencionados en él.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Two curious houses

From I´ve selected two curious houses to share with my readers. I´m leaving the link for the gallery and pictures´ references:

1) This egg-shaped, fully solar-powered home in Beijing has close proximity to parking and is ideal for any frugal individual who stands under 6 feet tall.

2) For those who never felt at home on this planet but still love earthly amenities, this sci-fi home has a fireplace to keep cozy in every “room.” Use its Texas location or move it to your back yard.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

On the recyclable materials collected in California

This article is not so specific of architecture but it´s related to urbanism. I´m not the kind of people who has huge waste bags at home with recyclable materials, I don´t earn money with it, but I´m very strict at recycling, and everyday separate the trash and this is what I taught to my children. Last week, the contents of my recycling bin was ¨stolen¨ and I thought, well here is somebody who´ll get some extra money in California.
Now, I couldn´t even imagine that great part of the recyclable materials in CA goes overseas, strictly speaking, China, generating jobs outside the country.
From Green Technology Magazine, an excerpt from Blain Bibb´s article:

As Chair of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce’s Green Team San Joaquin program, I have the pleasure of helping businesses reduce their costs of doing business through environmental stewardship. Through energy efficiencies, green cleaning, water conservation and recycling, businesses can actually profit and help the environment at the same time.
At a recent Green Team meeting, we had a presentation on the proposed Mandatory Commercial Recycling (MCR) Regulation that was in front of the California Air Resources Board and then rolled into Assembly Bill 341 and signed into law by Governor Brown on October 6, 2011. The law would divert millions of tons of material from the landfill, thus reducing Green House Gas emissions. That sounds like a positive initiative until one asks: “divert to where?”
Currently, the majority of the recyclable materials collected in California are shipped to other parts of the United States or to global markets; only about 5-20 percent remain in the State for remanufacturing. In other words, 80-95 percent of our recyclable materials are leaving California, specifically to overseas markets. So too, are our jobs, tax revenue and commerce.
Pondering these statistics leads to quite a rude awakening: eight out of ten pieces of recyclables we place on our curb are being shipped to China or other offshore markets for product remanufacturing powered primarily by coal, which is a huge Green House Gas (GHG) emitter.
Is the Chamber the only one to find it very ironic that the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) has commissioned a study to verify that much of that pollution is finding its way back to the shores of California in the prevailing winds of the jet stream? Meanwhile, many of our neighbors are losing their jobs and foreclosing on their homes.
In light of these important underlying facts, the State’s initiative to “divert” 3 million additional tons of recyclables to reduce GHGs sounds like a classic “do as I say, not as I do” scenario, or out of sight, out of mind, or “kick the PET bottle across the ocean.” What are we really going to accomplish? A new approach is needed.

Friday, February 3, 2012

10 Green Megatrends for 2012

Green hollow structure. Fractal generated by Myriam B. Mahiques

We´ve been applying the Green Code this year, and clients are not happy, it makes the construction more expensive but, at least the benefit will be seen in the future. Of course, it´s difficult to explain a benefit that seems to be abstract today.
From these are the green megatrends for this year: (By Claire Easley)

1. Green Building Growth to Rebound

LEED project growth was slow in 2011, only gaining 3% for the year. But while LEED certification on new projects may take longer to gain much steam, the program’s retrofitting arm, LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EBOM), is quickly gaining traction. EBOM project registrations were up 18% last year, and the EBOM project area exceeded the cumulative LEED-NC (New Construction) area for the first time, with 675 million square feet of EBOM versus 649 million square feet of NC. "That trend will continue this year," Yudelson says, as more property owners realize that retrofitting to LEED standards is fairly painless when starting with a building that is already Energy Star–rated.

2. Federal Momentum Has Slowed

The Department of Defense recently stipulated that projects can’t spend any extra money on energy program certification, and while "that’s not necessarily a killer," Yudelson says, "it is an indication that there is some backlash for spending extra money on anything." Getting federal funding for green projects will be harder going forward, he says, especially given the recent Solandra scandal and the federal budget crunch. But while state and local governments aren’t faring much better, that’s where the action will be, he says, as existing buildings will need to be upgraded, projects in the pipeline will move forward, and schools—which are funded by bonds—will need to be built.

3. LEED-EBOM Will Gain Momentum

"We’re going to see this move to other sectors," he says, particularly among hotels with strong convention and meeting businesses who want to be able to market their eco-friendliness. Grocery stores, hospitals, and retail centers are moving in the same direction, with features such as solar panels on top of Walmarts or department stores. "Last month, President Obama and former President Clinton announced the Better Buildings Initiative. It’s only $4 billion, so it’s not huge. But still, this is stuff that moves markets. When you have two presidents pushing something, it does get people’s attention. More and more building owners are realizing that they don’t want to be late to the party."

4. Water Issues Grow in Importance

"Even the water-wet areas have water problems brought on by infrastructure problems and population growth," Yudelson says. "Florida doesn’t have a place for a reservoir in the entire state, so even if you have a slight drought, you have big problems." He predicts rainwater capture systems as well as graywater and blackwater on-site treatment capabilities will become more pervasive. "Instead of toilet to tap, we’re going toilet to toilet."

5. Zero-Net-Energy to Gain Traction

"Zero-net-energy needs to be in your future," Yudelson says, adding that it works best on two- to four-story buildings that only use between 30 and 35 kBTU per square foot per year. "If you do a good job with integrated design, you can reach that [30 to 35 kBTU] goal," he says, adding that getting to net-zero should only add between 3% and 5% to building costs.

Global Trends

6. Green Building Movement Will Continue to Grow

There are currently more than 90 national Green Building Councils throughout the world, and LEED projects have been registered in 161 countries, Yudelson says. Last year, 44% of total LEED registrations were outside the U.S. "This is a movement that you have to pay attention to," he says, adding that the "Big Three" energy rating systems—LEED, BREEAM, and Green Star—are already converging toward common carbon metrics and common rating concerns.

7. Performance Disclosure

Already popular in the European Union and Australia, requirements for buildings to disclose their energy use are gaining traction in the U.S. Beginning April 1 of this year, Seattle will require buildings of more than 10,000 square feet to disclose energy usage, and California will begin requiring disclosures starting next year, which Yudelson says will have a market impact, since prospective tenants will be able to compare what their energy costs will be between buildings. "This is going to happen everywhere, particularly in big cities, because it’s the easiest move to take politically. It doesn’t say you have to retrofit the building. It just says you have to disclose."

8. Global Carbon Ratings

Carbon ratings that remain standard across countries are of particular interest to global property management companies. "If your company is committed to sustainability, you’re going to have to report this," he says. It’s also an issue for property investments tied to pension funds. "Anyone that has sustainable interests and wants access to capital will have to deal with this," he says.

9. Solar Power Stalls

"Solar power is kind of slowing down," mostly due to the costs involved, Yudelson says, adding that focus is shifting instead to energy efficiency. "Solar is still happening. Lots of people like solar … because it’s visible and people want to see something for their money." However, for those building new construction today, he suggests that the most responsible move would be to make it "PV ready," so that as solar becomes more cost effective, it will be cheap and easy to install.

10. Building Management Goes Into the Cloud

As buildings get more complex, Yudelson says, "we’re seeing the need for software that allows us to manage buildings out of the cloud." Thanks to wireless sensors and controls, it’s getting increasingly easier to better direct building managers and maintenance people to locate and fix problems, and to do so remotely.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

A ¨ghost sign¨ revealed after a demolition

Picture by Nicole Bengiveno. New York Times

From Dan Barry´s article at NYTimes, a ghost sign revealed for the city´s memory:

Here, along a seamless stretch of small-city blight, a deserted storefront had held its own. With 9 of its 10 front windows broken, it fit in among the two boarded-up bank buildings, last used as houses of worship, and the abandoned Jimmy’s Custom Cleaners, whose claim to being open remained true, since you could stroll right into the emptiness.
Finally, a year or two ago, demolition workers knocked down this Highland Avenue building in a municipal act filed somewhere between reclamation and surrender. But in doing so, they uncovered a rare portal to the faraway past, when boys wore knickers and Highland Park was the vibrant home of the Ford Motor Company’s first moving assembly line.
The demolition revealed two colorful, well-preserved advertisements that had adorned the brick side of the adjacent building for nearly a century.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Carnaval y shopping

Bajo la cúpula del Westfield shopping mall, San Francisco.

¨El carnaval era la misma ciudad transformada; más exactamente, un intervalo de tiempo durante el cual la ciudad se transformaba, y volvía después a su rutina cotidiana. Durante un lapso estrictamente definido, que se repetía cíclicamente, el carnaval revelaba ¨la otra cara¨de la realidad cotidiana, una cara que estaba siempre presente pero que normalmente era invisible e intocable. El recuerdo del acontecimiento y la anticipación de otros acontecimientos futuros no permitían que desapareciera la conciencia de esa ¨otra cara¨.
Una excursión al templo del consumo es algo muy diferente. Su realización implica la sensación de ser transportado a otro mundo, y no, como en el caso del carnaval, la sensación de estar presenciando una transustanciación maravillosa del mundo conocido. El templo del consumo (a diferencia del ¨almacén de la esquina¨ de antaño) puede estar en la ciudad (si es que no se lo construye, simbólicamente, fuera de los límites de la ciudad, al costado de una autopista), pero no forma parte de ella; no es el mundo habitual temporariamente transmutado, sino un mundo ¨completamente otro¨. Lo que convierte en ¨otro¨ no es la inversión, el rechazo ni la suspensión de las reglas que gobiernan la cotidianidad, como en el caso del carnaval, sino el despliegue de un modo de ser que la cotidianidad excluye o que trata vanamente de lograr –y que casi nadie puede experimentar en los lugares de residencia habitual-.¨
REFERENCIAS. Zygmunt Bauman. Modernidad Líquida. Cap. Espacio/Tiempo, pág. 106 y 107.
Fotos de Myriam B. Mahiques, archivos personales.

Una de las vidrieras de Macy´s, San Francisco


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