Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The destruction of Aleppo, Syria. A Unesco world heritage site

A fire rages at a medieval souk in Aleppo, Syria, in an image taken from Shaam News Network video. Photograph: Anonymous/AP
Picture downloaded from

A huge fire has destroyed parts of the medieval souks in Aleppo, Syria, following raging battles between rebels and government troops.
The city is a Unesco world heritage site and the labyrinth of narrow alleys and shops was once a major tourist attraction and is one of Syria's largest commercial hubs.
Over the past two months, the city, home to 2.5 million people, has become a focus of the insurgency against Bashar al-Assad's regime, with near daily fighting and shelling.
Activists posted online videos which showed the fire around wooden doors and shops and a pall of smoke hanging over the city on Saturday.
Ahmad al-Halabi, an activist based in Aleppo, said residents were struggling to control the blaze with a limited number of fire extinguishers and low water supply: "It's a disaster. The fire is threatening to spread to remaining shops," he said. "It is a very difficult and tragic situation there."
The souks of Aleppo, a maze of vaulted passageways with shops that sell everything from foods to fabrics, perfumes, spices and artisan souvenirs, are a tactical prize for the combatants. They lie beneath the city's towering citadel where activists say regime troops and snipers have taken up positions.
Many of the shops have wooden doors, and clothes, fabrics and leather wares inside helped spread the fire, activists said.
Rebels and government troops have roughly controlled half of the city each since the offensive began in August.
Old town Syria. Aleppo. From
Destroyed Aleppo. From

Friday, September 28, 2012

Picture of the day: Golden Pavilion, Japan

Golden Pavilion ( Nick Aura ) The Golden Pavilion temple and its grounds are stunning in Kyoto, Japan. Buddhist temple gardens are among the many admirable things that make Japan a singular destination.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

World Peace City. Illustrations by Edgar Gonzalez

From the article by Anna Bates:
World Peace City is Guatemalan artist Edgar Gonzalez’s Utopian vision of a city. The piece is made up of 300 individual drawings to date, each completed on Gonzalez’s commute from Brooklyn, where he now lives, to Manhattan, where he works as a bartender.
“When I started the project I had no idea what it was going to be,” says Gonzalez, who was unaware of his talent when he started drawing, and just wanted to kill time on the train. Each section of the piece fuses buildings from around the world into one jumbled up landscape, and the sections link up to form a vast panorama. “It’s two worlds,” he says. “The one we recognise and the one we want it to become.”
Drawing on the train has its problems; the piece is full of buildings that exist just to cover up wobbly lines. But the commute is also very much part of the piece. “I got talking to someone on the train one day and he told me about a landmark in a town in his country for me to include. It’s like my biography,” says Gonzalez, who has spent four years working on the piece. “I can tell you exactly what happened and what I had in my mind when I look at every one of them.”
Gonzalez doesn’t yet know what the final piece will look like, but he “think[s] it will be round,” and estimates that there are another 100-200 sections to go before it is completed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Interesting designs of maps

I love to see beautiful maps designs, but I´ve never imagined a colorful map of the moon, like the one above. And there´s more that I´m sharing from Click on the link to read an explanation of each one:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

COUNTER TOURISM: An interview with Phil Smith

Phil Smith

Phil Smith is an academic, writer and performer, who lives in South Devon, UK. For twenty years he worked predominantly as a playwright in experimental, physical, community and music theatres, during which time over one hundred of his plays received professional productions. In 1997 his work took a sharp turn towards working in non-theatre sites and this led to his interest in walking as both an art in itself and as a means to making art and performance and everyday political interventions in public spaces.  

I have the pleasure to interview Phil Smith again, this time advancing on from his theory and practice of Mythogeography – the art of ‘walking sideways’ – as an opportunity to  learn about Counter Tourism, the subject of Phil’s new project that includes micro-movies, online presence, and two new publications: a pocketbook and a handbook for everyday tourists.

MM Which are the basic differences between Mythogeography’s walks and the ones for Counter Tourism?

PS They are inspired by the same ideas – those that come from the ‘drift’ or dérive – but where Mythogeography’s walks (or at least their intentions) are unbounded, Counter Tourism takes the boundings and prescriptions of heritage tourism as its object. Where Counter Tourism’s visits step to the side or go off at tangents, they do so in order to later loop back to the discourse of heritage tourism, in order to destabilize or re-frame or vivify that discourse.

MM If we don’t feel nostalgia is that a problem? How does Counter Tourism work in a country which we don’t know anything about?

PS In a way, such a visit, knowing nothing, is already Counter Touristic. For heritage sites are very often presented on the basis of invisible, unspoken but mutually understood narratives. For example, in English country houses the lives of the uniformed staff are often remembered and re-presented, but the non-uniformed staff  (labourers, gardeners) are not. The recognition of uniformed servants is regarded as a democratic innovation, but it contains its own discrimination. So, actually preserving one’s lack of knowledge or feeling might be a good tactic – you will very quickly begin to feel the meaning-making machines get to work on you and that sensation might illuminate the nature of the site and the nature of ideological production in it.

MM Considering the attendance of British people to the trips of Counter Tourism, what do you propose for a different culture, in other words is there a pattern to follow or you’d change the strategy in another country?

PS When as a member of Wrights & Sites I was part of publishing ‘An Exeter Mis-Guide’ we assumed that the book would be mostly used in the city it as written about, yet it has been used in many different countries – France, USA, India, Australia, and so on – as a tool for exploration. Rather than me trying to anticipate how Counter Tourism might be adapted for different countries I would rather leave that to people to discover in their own improvised visits. At one point I write “if the guards are armed” – there are no armed guards at UK heritage sites, so I am signaling my awareness that conditions for visits will vary from country to country and region to region.

MM Your research panel members come from a wide range of working backgrounds. What’s your experience working with both professional artists and also people with a background not related to arts and architecture?

PS Well, the whole basis of Mythogeography is the idea of multiplicity so it was a joy to have so many insights and perspectives. What the panel members brought were insights and attitudes that disrupted many of my assumptions. Sometimes they de-composed what I was thinking and doing, at other times their ideas and mine were synthesized or fell into mutual orbits. It worked differently with different people, but almost always adding to the multiplicity. 

MM Why do you include popular songs and some informal disguises, like hats? Is it a kind of postdramatic theatre?

PS There is an inspiration for Counter Tourism in postdramatic theatre – yes, definitely. The performance walks from which Counter Tourism developed might be characterized in the way that that Hans-Thies Lehmann characterizes the postdramatic: ‘disintegration, dismantling and deconstruction’ , ‘de-hierarchization of theatrical means’ , and an ‘experience of simultaneity’  sited on a plane of synchronicity and myth: ‘not a story read from... beginning to end, but a thing held full in-view the whole time... a landscape’. Songs and disguises are for using sparingly – there is a danger that Counter Touristic visits can flip over into showing off and exhibitionism. But in one of the films - – I do sing, but I think I’m probably trying everybody’s patience with this moment of self-indulgence! So hats and songs maybe, but very sparingly!

MM Does everybody participate in the performances or maybe you found reluctant ones among professionals?

PS When a visit is explicitly a performance – like a mis-guided tour – then almost everyone will be prepared, if asked, to take some active role or part – modeling ghosts or holding a rope for me to ‘dangle’ from. I never set out to make people feel uncomfortable or self-conscious, I always aim to make people feel comfortable and secure and then challenge them to step a little way out of their comfort zone for the purposes of the collective event. Using the Counter Tourism tactics people can choose how performance-like or how discreet they want to be.

MM I was surprised to see that in GeoQuest video old people are participating, also kids and adults. Is there any different approach for the eldest?

PS Well, these were older people in ‘sheltered housing’ so the visit of the GeoQuest there had to be to them in their homes rather than taking them to the site – so we took rocks and sand to them rather than them visiting the cliffs and beaches. But no, apart from being sensitive to our impact – the arrival of three men in strange costumes could be disturbing for very elderly people if too noisy and boisterous – we treated older people in the same way and with the same intentions as everyone else.

MM You say there are variations and re assemblages of what tourists see based on their own experiences of life. Is it valid to manipulate them to find the multiplicity of points of view?

PS I hope that Counter Tourism is an offer rather than a manipulation. It requires the tourist to make a leap that only they can make – one can offer the different viewpoints, but if a visitor wants to stick to a homogenized narrative of the site then they will be able to ‘pull the shutters down’.

MM In GeoQuest video, people are making sound with stones, while the leader is playing a song related to geology, also in another scene, people are using pink glasses. Is it part of the exorcism of familiar forms of heritage?

PS Yes, I think “exorcism” is a very good word to use – heritage (in this case a geological one) is often seen as a view through “rosy coloured spectacles” (a nostalgic’ overly sunny view of the past that confirms our own prejudices) and using the glasses forefronts and challenges that tendency and then seeks to bend it to a new kind of impact. The fundamental tactical-principle of counter-tourism is to exorcize or hollow-out existing ways of visiting sites and then re-animate those ways in exorbitant and excessive ways (either as spectral versions or highly coloured, comic or emotional versions of themselves).

MM On the other hand you show the importance of signs on the monuments’ walls - what’s the purpose of it, wouldn’t it reinforce the idea of heritage?

PS I try to encourage people to ‘over-interpret’ the signs – rather than as simple narratives of the heritage we can (half-seriously) read them as esoteric crypto-messages or discover double meanings or you tell ourselves tales about how they unintentionally reveal the secrets of the site.

MM Is it allowed to take pictures, if they are a static representation of reality, not in the spirit of Counter Tourism?

PS O yes, even without a stills camera or a video camera we see through those lenses and frames all the time – just as many urban nineteenth century people might have seen the landscape as if framed like a painting. So I suggest that we use those internal frames knowingly – and photography can help – as well as being a means to disseminate counter-touristic ironies and opportunities to others.

MM Based on the film of ‘Mythogeography’ at the Royal William Victualling Yard, are mythogeography’s walks exclusively for students?

PS Not at all! I wanted to make a film of this walk and I wanted to take my students on the walk as part of their course – so I was ‘killing two birds with one stone’ – my walks are almost always open to the general public and I have no idea who will turn up – often my subject matter is adult but my means are playful, so children can often get involved in those means – for example, in my recent ‘Spaces’ walk in Weymouth I referenced the murders of a local serial killer and dragged around a bath (he drowned his victims) – the children loved the way that the water in the bath bounced around as I dragged it over the cobblestones (something I had drawn everyone’s attention to as a useful means – the break up and reforming of the site’s reflection - to re-interpreting the site).

MM In the overall context of Counter-Tourism, what was the significance of your “water walk?”

PS Water Walk was a mis-guided tour around an area of industrial heritage and former quayside in Exeter during which we tried out some innovative ideas for a tour that came to have a bearing on the devising of Counter Tourism – myself and the other guide began by explaining that we were going to relinquish most of the roles of guides, we told the audience all the history we were not going to tell them about on the tour, we enacted all the pointing we would not be doing and we took off our guides’ jackets – we then led the tour mostly in silence enacting various secular rituals using water (crucial to the former industrial processes of tanning, cloth manufacture, driving the water mills, and so on) – we ‘exorcised’ the tour and then resurrected its tactics in excessive ways. The responses of participants were qualitatively different from other tours – not only did they describe the multiple meanings of the sites appearing, but they became self-consciously aware of how they were constructing a multiplicitous heritage-consciousness while in the act of actually constructing it in their own minds - this quality I came to attribute to this tour’s accessing of ‘chorastic’ qualities in the site - a space somewhere between being and becoming, temporarily resistant to obligations of exchange and commerce, a temporary evasion of identities and hierarchy, a potential space of transformation, a transitory space that a particular kind of performance might be able to provoke and sustain for a while. From this walk I took the idea of the double movement (exorcism and excess) to which Counter Tourism subjects the ordinary tactics of a tourist visit, the idea that the guide should step back and let the participants be the driving force, and that the driving aim should be access to the ‘chora’ of a site rather than the performance intervention in it.

MM Is it helpful for your objectives to see the landscape indirectly, for example through the many reflections on the water, or through lenses, or to imagine the landscape through the sky?

PS Yes – frames and mirrors – I am always using them and advocate them – they allow us to become aware of the internalized frames, mirrors and representations that we use and make.

MM In Counter Tourism, can the human body have a direct approach to Nature? I was just imagining myself laying on the grass, listening to the sounds of Nature and in this way recreate the landscape….

PS Why not? Yes, sometimes there is a moment to drop all the clever tactics and go for a direct sensual immersion – but without any romantic illusions – there will be all the same ideological framings at play even in this sensual act as in, say, an intellectual inquiry.

MM This question was inspired by thinking of the movie directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, “Stalker” ; I suppose you find some relations between Stalker and Counter Tourism?

PS To some extent, yes, because ‘Stalker’ is about a kind of pilgrimage which is partly ordeal – and both those qualities can be introduced into the touristic visit with subversive or disruptive effects. And, of course, pilgrimage and tourism have always been close. I like to use anachronisms knowingly – to disrupt ideas of ‘progress’ and ‘modernity’.   

MM What do you suggest for those tourists in the shopping malls who are missing the “counter tourism” or even the conventional tourism?

PS I would say – do the counter tourism in the malls. One of my tactics  is to walk a mall or supermarket as a zombie, treating the mall as the museum of a post-apocalyptic society. In the Handbook I move on to discuss how all spaces are heritage spaces – but some have a gate and a ticket office and some do not.

MM Where is Counter Tourism going?

PS I hope that it will be seized upon as a pleasure by as many everyday tourists as possible – firstly as a means for enjoyment, but one that will change the nature of heritage from a looking backwards (whether serious and analytical or nostalgic and chauvinistic) to what others have called ‘anticipatory history’ – a use of the past for making the best futures.

MM Thank you so much Phil!

Above, three shots from the video Mythogeography at the Royal William Victualling Yard

and For more about Counter Tourism check out and for 31 micro films on counter-touristic tactics click on the links at 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

House in 5D

Hong Kong, China: An actor dressed as a ghost walks past a '5D haunted house' at the Hong Kong Ocean Park (5D haunted house!!!) From

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

3rd Annual International Conference on Architecture, 10-13 June 2013, Athens, Greece . CALL FOR PAPERS

Athens Institute for Education and Research-ATINER ( <> ) 
Call for Papers and Participation
3rd Annual International Conference on Architecture, 10-13 June 2013, Athens, Greece

The Architecture & Engineering Research Unit <>  of the Athens Institute for Education and Research <>  (ATINER) will hold its 3rd Annual International Conference on Architecture, 10-13 June 2013, Athens, Greece. For further details, please go to the conference website:<> . The registration fee is €300 (euro), covering access to all sessions, two lunches, coffee breaks and conference material. Special arrangements will be made with a local luxury hotel for a limited number of rooms at a special conference rate. In addition, a number of special events will be organized: A Greek night of entertainment with dinner, a special one-day cruise in the Greek islands, an archaeological tour of Athens and a one-day visit to Delphi.
The aim of the conference is to bring together scholars, researchers and students from all areas of Architecture. Areas of interest include (but are not confined to): 

• Individual buildings and building types
• History of architecture and the built environment
• Architectural theory
• Developments in construction
• Town planning
• Allied arts such as painting and sculpture
• Social Research examines the people who inhabit and use the spaces of architecture
• Technological Research studies the physical materials, methods, elements, systems, and science of architecture and the design and construction processes
• Environmental Research investigates the physical context of architecture, opening timely questions about the influence of society on environment
• Cultural Research studies place-making and the norms of the inhabitants of natural and built places past, present, and future
• Organizational Research examines the ways in which individuals and teams collaborate in the practice of architecture and in the client organizations
• Design Research considers the processes of shaping and making of places
• Educational Research examines the pedagogies of architecture and related fields
Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words (using email only to: <> ) by 12 November 2012 addresses to: Dr. Nicholas Patricios, Head, Architecture & Engineering Research Unit <> , ATINER & Professor of Architecture, University of Miami, USA. Abstracts should include: Title of Paper, Full Name (s), Affiliation, Current Position, an email address and at least 3 keywords that best describe the subject of your submission. Please use the abstract submitting form available at <> . Decisions are reached within 4 weeks.
If you want to participate without presenting a paper, i.e. chair a session, review papers to be included in the conference proceedings or books, contribute to the editing of a book, or any other contribution, please send an email to Dr. Gregory T. Papanikos, ( <> ), President, ATINER.

The Athens Institute for Education and Research (ATINER) was established in 1995 as an independent academic association with the mission to become a forum, where academics and researchers - from all over the world - could meet in Athens and exchange ideas on their research and discuss the future developments of their discipline. Since 1995, ATINER has organized about 200 international conferences and events. It has also published about 150 books <> . Academically, the Institute consists of four research divisions <>  and twenty research units. Each research unit organizes at least an annual conference and undertakes various small and large research projects. Academics and researchers are more than welcome to become members and contribute to ATINER's objectives. Members can undertake a number of academic activities <> .

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pros and cons of chartered cities

Illustration by Pesky Kid

I've been reading Debika Ray's article "Chartered territory" with high interest, as I've lived in different neighborhoods, in my country and in USA. It's been long years by now since we've decided to stay in a charter city in Southern CA, Orange County, because it's clean, safe, it's pretty much different from Los Angeles, and of course, there are lots of rules. I remember a school kids' fight in a corner was dissolved in minutes with the police's helicopter (one of them).
But everything has been developed as a matter of culture and habits, I don't imagine such rules in Buenos Aires, for example (Sorry, it became Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, former Capital Federal). And it must be very difficult to apply law and order in a huge city.
This happens when the City is originated as a small town, where everybody knows each other, or this is what I feel.
From I reproduce a definition and an example of abuse in a charter city:

charter city is a city in which the governing system is defined by the city's own charter document rather than by state, provincial, regional or national laws. In locations where city charters are allowed by law, a city can adopt or modify its organizing charter by decision of its administration by the way established in the charter. These cities may be administered predominantly by citizens or through a third-party management structure, because a charter gives a city the flexibility to choose novel types of government structure. Charter cities are similar in administrative structure to special administrative regions.
For example, in California, cities which have not adopted a charter are organized by state law. Such a city is called a General Law City, which will be managed by a 5-member city council. A city organized under a charter may choose different systems, including the "strong mayor" or "city manager" forms of government. One example of abuse of the charter system was in Bell, California. The charter was created after a lit­tle-no­ticed spe­cial elec­tion, where few voters understood what becoming a charter city meant. After a charter was approved, state laws limiting city salary no longer applied and City Manager Robert Rizzo gave himself a salary of $1.5 million for managing a city of about 36,000 people. As of June 2008, 112 of California's 478 cities are charter cities. A few examples include Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Irvine.
However, charter cities that are subordinate to the rules of larger institutions (such as provinces or nations) have limited flexibility to adopt new governance structures. Historical examples cover a broad range of charter cities, from virtually independent city-states to smaller municipalities which have limited administrative freedom.

(As a margin note, Bell is a city with a higher rate of poverty, mostly composed by Latino immigrants, it is in Los Angeles County. Irvine is a business city, very prosperous. Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, smaller coastal cities, what we call "white cities" , mostly composed by white-Americans). The last three examples belong to Orange County.

Can we imagine a charter city in Honduras? Which would be the consequences? Who would be the first inhabitants? Well, they would be low skilled workers to be displaced by the new wealthy citizens. 
Debika explains the situation very well, here I'm sharing an excerpt, the link is above:

" Honduran president Porfirio Lobo passed the amendment in February 2011 to allow a special development region to be established within the central American republic. The autonomous zone would be modelled on successful cities in developed countries and run by an appointed governor, with an international panel of individuals keeping him in check until elections are considered appropriate. Lobo’s inspiration was the “charter city”: the brainchild of US economist Paul Romer, who hopes to solve the problems of global poverty, accelerated urbanisation and international migration all at once. The idea is simple. All you need is a piece of land and a list of rules. Those who live in the city built on this land abide by this “charter” of rules, which is enforced by an independent party – perhaps a foreign government – and if they don’t like it, they can leave.(....) 
The “rules” are central to Romer’s theory. He argues that countries like the US are wealthy because they have “good” rules, while poor nations in Africa and Asia have bad ones. Establishing a city guided by the rules of prosperous nations, he believes, would provide aspiring migrants with the option to move to a place that has the same basis for success as western countries, while diverting the flow of incomers away from those that don’t want them. A place like this, he says, could provide all residents with homes, jobs, safety, freedom and opportunity. The charter cities idea reflects an existing – if contested – mainstream “good governance” theory that has dominated the international development agenda since the late 1990s. The argument is that strong institutions differentiate successful states from failing ones. These encompass everything from the rule of law, transparency, accountability, efficient markets and property rights, to social norms and culture. Everything else – planning, design, what the city produces – is secondary.(....) 
While Romer has given little thought to design so far, some aspects of his vision are clear. A charter city should span about 1,000km2 and have a population of up to 10 million. Ideally, it should be on the coast, to allow for a port, and have room for an airport. Masterplanning, he says, would occur however each city sees fit, but Fuller suggests the authorities could provide the basics: “They could design a system of large arterial roads, about a kilometre apart. The space in between could be left to private developers.” Fuller admits that the lifestyles of migrants, many of whom would be low-skilled, may be humble at first. “The types of jobs available will be in factory assembly lines, and apartments will be small and amenity-free,” he says. He adds that formal housing and work are better options than the informal slums in which many urban low-waged families in developing countries live and the precarious work they do – and the city would get richer over time.(....)
 However, as soon as you think about the idea in spatial terms, you encounter difficulties. Romer’s idea is deeply embedded in the language of free-market capitalism. For him, good rules are those that open up markets, enable private competition and make it easier to establish businesses – this usually means low taxes, light regulation, few employment laws and a restrained state. 
Romer’s growth plan relies heavily on attracting private foreign investment. The kind of city he envisages is therefore likely to be shaped by the demands of global capital – especially in the absence of an elected government or a physical and social plan. Dubai is built on these principles – and it’s an unsustainable blend of corporate towers, luxury housing and extravagant leisure facilities; a “cultural ghetto in the desert, with European and American packaging”, in the words of Henning Rasmuss, an architect who is working on the reconstruction of war-torn provincial capitals in Angola. 
“Dubai is connected to nothing but money,” he says. “It is an entirely invented marketing apparition.” A charter city might resemble this. And its infrastructure would probably follow suit. Dubai has little provision for pedestrians outside the downtown area. In many cities that experience a rapid inflow of foreign capital, public transport is neglected in favour of highways and airports. Such a city may even be what US management academic, John Kasarda, describes as an “aerotropolis” – an area designed entirely around an airport, in the way successful cities of the past were around ports.(....) 
And, like Dubai, such a city is likely to be the object of speculation. “If you had this kind of thing in Haiti or Sudan it would attract so much capital that people would start rapidly building apartment blocks, which would then sit empty,” says architectural historian Wouter Vanstiphout. “Property prices would go through the roof, and affordable housing would be pushed outwards to the least attractive areas, defeating its very purpose.” The fact is that such cities rarely provide a better life for the poor. 
Earlier this month, there were mass protests in Hong Kong over inequality and the lack of democracy; Dubai is notorious for its labour camps; Shenzhen, China’s first and most famous special economic zone, has nets around factories to prevent suicides. “The cities that have arisen in China chew up the world’s resources with slave-like labour conditions, to make products that are then dumped on to functioning markets,” Rasmuss says. While Romer emphasises ease of business, he says nothing of minimum wages, unionisation or social protection to safeguard employees. He also envisages that water, electricity and housing will be privately supplied, but this strategy has consistently failed to provide adequate, affordable facilities for the world’s poor. There is no reason residential areas in a charter city would be different from present-day slums: expensive, dark, crowded and filthy. Informal housing exists in developing countries because it is functional. In Mumbai, as property prices have risen, there have been efforts to remove slums by building homes on the outskirts for their residents. “But this always fails,” Cross says. “They rent out their properties and move back to the city where the work is.” 
Informal settlements are, however, unlikely to be allowed in Romer’s city. “I don’t think there will be any real public space in a charter city,” Vanstiphout says, pointing to London as an example where protesters and street performers are increasingly excluded from central areas because of a proliferation of privately managed space. Controlling and restricting access to space like this would be the key to achieving safety – one of the central promises of charter cities. Romer hopes to achieve this by “setting” social norms. But crime is arguably a product of poverty and repression, and exists in spite of such rules. Security in a charter city would, therefore, rely on strict enforcement – perhaps cameras, curfews and networks of informants. Elena Pascolo, a designer at Urban Projects Bureau, worries about the “totalitarian implications” of controlling space in this manner; the expression of political dissent would be near impossible. “Romer’s model implies the management of conflict and dissolution of dissent – the cornerstone of what drives city formation,” she says.(...)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sylvain Meyer's landscape art

Swiss artist Sylvain Meyer, who doesn’t seem to exist on the Web except for a Flickr account, has created a unique set of land art works, somewhere in the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland. He writes that his “landscape art” is about transforming natural places into supernatural ones using found, local materials. Amazingly, he doesn’t use Photoshop to create these otherworldly scenes, just lots of time and sweat, out in nature. Also amazing: he doesn’t seem to spend any time promoting himself either with a web site or blog, just letting design sites serendipitously pick up his work.

A spider made of foam

Sharing from:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The best example of overcrowding and land occupation: Migingo Island

I came across this picture from 
and I couldn't believe my eyes: isn't it the best example of overcrowding and land occupation?
" Half the size of a football pitch, Migingo Island on Lake Victoria is claimed by both Kenya and Uganda. The population of 131 is made up of mostly fishermen and traders. Jesco Denzel" 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Basic characteristics for the health and viability of a town (and city)

This is an excerpt from Howard Blackson´s article The five Cs of neighborhood planning:

The neighborhood is a physical place — varied in intensity from more rural to more urban — that many different communities inhabit. At its essence, whether downtown, midtown or out-of-town, its health and viability (in terms of both resilience and quality of life) is defined by certain basic characteristics. Easily observable in neighborhoods that work, these characteristics have been articulated a variety of ways over the years — most notably for me by Andrés Duany and Mike Stepnor. Combined, they form what I like to call the 5 Cs:

1. Complete
Great neighborhoods host a mix of uses in order to provide for our daily need to live, work, play, worship, dine, shop, and talk to each other. Each neighborhood has a center, a general middle area, and an edge. The reason suburban sprawl sprawls is because it has no defined centers and therefore no defined edge. Civic spaces generally (though not always) define a neighborhood’s center while commerce tends to happen on the edges, on more highly traffic-ed streets and intersections easily accessible by two or more neighborhoods. The more connected a neighborhood is, the more variety of commercial goods and services can be offered, as not every neighborhood needs a tuxedo shop or a class ‘A’ office building.
2. Compact
The 5-minute walk from center to edge, a basic rule-of-thumb for walkability, equates to approximately 80 to 160 Acres, or 9 to 18 city blocks. This general area includes public streets, parks, and natural lands, as well as private blocks, spaces and private buildings. This scale may constrict in the dead of winter and/or heat of summer, and expand during more temperate months. Compactness comes in a range of intensities that are dependent upon local context. Therefore, more urban neighborhoods, such as those found in Brooklyn, are significantly more compact than a new neighborhood located, for example, outside Taos, New Mexico. Remember, the ped-shed is a general guide for identifying the center and edge of a neighborhood. Each neighborhood must be defined by its local context, meaning shapes can, and absolutely do, vary. Edges may be delineated by high speed thoroughfares (such as within Chicago’s vast grid), steep slopes and natural corridors (as found in Los Angeles), or other physical barriers.
3. Connected
Great neighborhoods are walkable, drivable, and bike-able with or without transit access. But, these are just modes of transportation. To be socially connected, neighborhoods should also be linger-able, sit-able, and hang out-able.
4. Complex
Great neighborhoods have a variety of civic spaces, such as plazas, greens, recreational parks, and natural parks. They have civic buildings, such a libraries, post offices, churches, community centers and assembly halls. They should also have a variety of thoroughfare types, such as cross-town boulevards, Main Streets, residential avenues, streets, alleys, bike lanes and paths. Due to their inherent need for a variety of land uses, they provide many different types of private buildings such as residences, offices, commercial buildings and mixed-use buildings. This complexity of having both public and private buildings and places provides the elements that define a neighborhood’s character.
5. Convivial
The livability and social aspect of a neighborhood is driven by the many and varied communities that not only inhabit, but meet, get together, and socialize within a neighborhood. Meaning “friendly, lively and enjoyable,” convivial neighborhoods provide the gathering places — the coffee shops, pubs, ice creme shops, churches, clubhouses, parks, front yards, street fairs, block parties, living rooms, back yards, stoops, dog parks, restaurants and plazas — that connect people. How we’re able to socially connect physically is what defines our ability to endure and thrive culturally. It’s these connections that ultimately build a sense of place, a sense of safety, and opportunities for enjoyment… which is hard to maintain when trying to update a community plan without utilizing the Neighborhood Unit as the key planning tool.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Spazio Urbano Protetto. A competition

About the competition: 
Participate with an idea to become Europe ....... The resource to reverse the trend in Europe to be felt far and not to compete "being happy to be European" can be represented today by the creativity and experience of young people, artists and professionals. L'Atelier PAEMA Urban Protected Area has launched in Rome last May 21 at the 'Representative Office in Italy of the European Parliament, the international ideas competition: "Becoming Europe - architectural ideas, creative and artistic to preserve the future of Europe", sponsored by the European Commission in Italy, which has concluded a series of five meetings for Europe. The competition is a summary of this work and aims to strengthen the dialogue between East and West, North and South, focusing on interculturality as another human face of globalization. E 'initiative open to those who feel the current theme of "becoming Europe" and that they want to promote cultural heritage through its experience of more passive witnesses of the various stages of the European journey. E 'in this perspective that are solicited proposals for architectural design ideas, creative, artistic. The competition is open to all citizens of the world and will be promoted through a series of meetings in different Italian cities, Europe and around the world, including Rome, Florence, Reggio Calabria, Naples, Brussels, Marseille, Berlin, Barcelona, ​​Athens, Bucharest, Jerusalem, Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming, New York, Boston, Buenos Aires. The announcement of the international competition , with its Scientific Committee is published on the site and proposals must be received by the day January 15, 2013 , by email to at.paema @ and offers will be evaluated from an authoritative evaluation commission .

Sunday, September 9, 2012

From Religious Expression and Street Art pt 1

Derived from cholo-style tagging, LA artist Retna has made his mark

I've found this great post, keep on reading and enjoying the religious graffiti:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Gardens by the Bay. Singapore

Singapore’s national flower is the orchid. So UK-based team Grant Associates, a landscape architecture firm, and Wilkinson Eyre, an architecture firm, decided to use the structure of this epiphytic plant to model their new $545 million, 54-hectare Gardens by the Bay project in that city-state’s Marina South Gardens, which is just the first piece of a much bigger project (two more gigantic garden parks are coming). (....)
With this massive project, which was built on reclaimed, restored land, wealthy Singapore aims to become the “botanical capital of the world.” There are many elements (almost too many to go through), which include more than 225,000 plants. Just a few are new theme gardens that ”showcase the best of tropical horticulture and garden artistry.” Within these gardens, there are multiple horticultural collections, including the “Heritage Gardens” and “World of Plants.”
Perhaps the iconic element of the new super-park are the 18 “supertrees,” ranging from 25-50 meters high, which Grant Associates describe as a “fusion of nature, art, and technology.” These multifunctional engineered structures act like, well, trees, except they also create power for the park and light up at night. According to the design team, “they are at one level spectacular vertical gardens and landmark features, at another they are the environmental engines for the cooled conservatories, incorporating devices for water harvesting and storage, air intake, cooling and exhaust, photovoltaic arrays, and solar collectors.”

Picture, video and text from

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What´s the oldest building in Los Angeles?

Los Sanchez Adobe. Picture by Robert Greene, 2012

I was convinced that the oldest building in Los Angeles was the brick restaurant at the Plaza Olvera (La Placita) but here´s my mistake: I forgot to include the adobe buildings. As far as I remember, the restaurant at La Placita is the first brick building in L. A.
The Editorial´s article at L.A Times, gives us a couple of possible examples, but the surprise is that the oldest building is this one in the picture above, Los Sanchez Adobe. Let´s read an excerpt:

Olvera st. market. Picture by David Moore, 2005

The answer — the possible answer, anyway — is surprising. The oldest building just may be a somewhat down-at-the-heels, nondescript, asphalt-shrouded place in the Baldwin Hills, until recently the site of raucous late-night parties and complaints from neighbors in adjacent upscale homes and towering condos. It's no secret that this house in "The Dons" — as the area is called because of street names like Don Mariano, Don Luis and Don Tomaso — is old. It was already old when it became a golf course clubhouse in the 1920s, and older still when it became the headquarters of the Consolidated Board of Realtists, an organization of black real estate professionals who helped African American Angelenos buy and finance homes as restrictive covenants were being challenged in court. Los Angeles gave it a nod — but not much notice — in 1990, when the building, known as the Sanchez Adobe at 3725 Don Felipe Drive, was added to the list of Historic-Cultural Monuments as the last remaining piece of Rancho La Cienega o Paso de la Tijera. 
The oldest part of the structure may have been built in the early 1790s, making it older than Avila Adobe, maybe older than Mission San Gabriel, older even, perhaps, than the 1795 Gage Mansion in Bell Gardens, currently considered the oldest structure in Los Angeles County. Like Mission San Fernando, the Sanchez Adobe wasn't previously part of Los Angeles but it's an integral part of it now, and was perhaps great-great-great-grandfathered in as the city's oldest building amid growth and annexation. The Realtists long ago wanted to tear the building down as an eyesore, but in recent years they have learned much about its history and are keen to get it some notice and some love. 
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has upped interest in his district's rich architectural heritage, from the Village Green to the William Andrews Clark Library, from Watts Towers toRandy's Donuts, from Wilshire Boulevard Temple to the Dunbar Hotel; now he's spearheading an effort to study, and ultimately to restore and celebrate, the Sanchez Adobe. As Los Angeles celebrates its 231st, it's useful to remember that walking from Mission San Gabriel to the new El Pueblo and visiting the Avila Adobe, La Placita Church and the other historic buildings is one good way — but only one — to come home. Los Angeles' roots, though sometimes mysterious, run deep, through the San Fernando Valley, through downtown, through Baldwin Hills. The city that so often seems to lose itself somehow has a knack for finding itself again.

Published September 4th, 2012


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