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Archive for January, 2009

 

 

Could U of O lose one of its most historic structures?

The Oregon Daily Emerald ran a story today about the possibility of  a new indoor track at the University of Oregon.

The idea came after athletic director Pat Kilkenny and track coach Vin Lananna visited Texas A&M’s fancy new indoor digs.  They came back jealous.  The track could replace historic Hayward Field, one of the hallowed sites in track & field, and home track to Steve Prefontaine.

 

I can understand the desire for an indoor field ( it is Oregon after all) but I found the story startling.  The new Knight Arena will  push the venerable McArthur Court into disuse and surplus; could a new indoor track facility do the same to the “Carnegie Hall of Track & Field?”  The prospect especially frustrating considering Hayward Field just underwent an $8-million renovation ahead of the U.S. Olympic Trials.

 

Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

 

 

The article says the plans are “hypothetical at best” so at least there is time for ample discussion.   It would certainly be sad for both of Oregon’s historic venues to be pushed to the margins of campus life.

What do you think:


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Somethin’ for the hometown…

Preservation Magazine has an interesting brief on the Irvington Historic District in Portland.

The article discusses the tensions between Irvington’s status as a “historic” neighborhood and the regional Metro government’s desire for more dense, urban neighborhoods.

Predictably, the article laments the blooming of large, dense, in-fill projects in historic neighborhoods.  I do not fault them.  It is after all, Preservation Magazine.  But, the article’s focus on a specific story of a condo project going in across from a historic Queen-Anne home glances past the deeper issues at play.

Preservation and Density are both worthy causes that are often in direct contradiction to one another.  So… which is more important? The imposition of large condo projects in Irvington will, almost definitely, alter the character of the neighborhood.  Is that OK?

Minimization, that is creating smaller, more discrete and respectful projects seems like an obvious compromise.    Irvington, with is city sized lots, is perfect for this approach. Figuring out exactly what makes a new project “respectful” of its surroundings can, of course, be difficult. It is described in the article as one of the “perennial conundrums of preservation” but I think the solution is clear: ample community involvement and a lengthy design review process.

Really, Irvington is easy. What about Cedar Mill?

493820638_a8ad851899_mAs the ethic of “density at all costs” takes over, will Portland’s suburbs go the way of Lost Oregon? With time, early suburban neighborhoods will offer as much historic (and I would argue aesthetic) value as old, historic Irvington.  The future tension between density and preservation in suburban neighborhoods is apt to be amplified.  How do you create dense housing that is respectful to its  complete antithesis? I really don’t think you can.  Does that mean the burbs and all of the historical and cultural information they carry are doomed?

What do you think?

COMMENT

Preservation Magazine:  Trouble in Green City: Zoning Trumps Design Guidelines in Historic Portland, Oregon

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Mathieu Helie’s blog Emergent Urbanism has an absolutely excellent post pertaining to the use of emergence theory in Urban Planning and Architecture.

Emergence is a systems theory that explains complex-systems as the product of simpler smaller interactions and rules. To you help visualize think of a giant flock of birds all flying in unison:

Pretty amazing, no?  How do they do it?

To put it simply, rules. Each bird has an innate set of rules (or comfort zones) that tell it how far it should be from the other birds on each of its sides. When you put all of these birds, carrying all of these rules together you get a display like in the video above. It looks complicated and even random but it is the product of a set of simple rules.

Helie uses the research of Professor Bemin S. Hakim to explain the formation of the complex-seeming, clustered, urban communities of the Mediterranean. He describes the bustling communities as the result of loose, proscriptive rules and not contrived design.

Helie seems interested in how this understanding can be used to help us build better, more interesting, modern cities.  He provides an excellent crtique of New Urbanism’s uber-contrived rules and the historical pastiche of the Postmodern mileu. I was fascinated by how emergence and complexity can be used by preservationists to help understand and protect historic districts and guide their growth in a culturally respectful manner.

In all, the post is a brilliant, cogent, assertion about the organization of the urban world and is well worth a read!

Mathieu Helie: Decoding paradise – the emergent form of Mediterranean towns.

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doanepaperDoane paper is the greatest product humanity has conceived.

It may seem a bit premature for TimberPalace to be giving endorsements but the Internet allows for my hastily timed advice.  In the old days, if I decided to start a newsletter or some-such, the words of my testament to the wonders of Doane Paper would have one chance to make an impact on my readers.  To really impress upon the masses how excellent Doane Paper is, I would have to wait until that point where I had millions of eyes following me.

Nowadays I have a blog.   Anyone who searches for “Doane Paper” or maybe “tools for architects”, or “the greatest product humanity has ever conceived”, will eventually reach my words here.  Then, they will be educated to the wonders of Doane Paper.  The timing doesn’t matter.

Just what is Doane Paper?

It is good-quality, white, lined-paper with a graph-paper background. It is a simple but fantastic idea.  If you’re having trouble visualizing what I am describing you can download a sample and experience  the awesomeness.

I am a Historic Preservation student. It is a course of study that is part: history, law, philosophy, art and architecture.  This mixture makes Preservation a fascinating course of study but also makes note-taking quite difficult.  I often find myself taking regular notes on the history of a structure one moment and then, soon after, drawing sketches of its facade and site plan.  Doane paper is absolutely indispensable to my studies.  Using it for the first time was revelation.  I am not sure how I ever lived without Doane paper but now that I have used it I hope never to be without it again.

TimberPalace officially endorses Doane Paper and suggests you purchase some of your own today!

Link:   DOANE PAPER

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The National Mall 1/20/09

The National Mall 1/20/09

We have a new president.  As a person of mixed-race today quite special for me, as it was for most Americans, regardless of their ethnic-identity. There is not a lot for me to to add to the chatter about our new Commander-in-Chief.  I am hardly qualified to be a political pundit so I won’t even try. As I watched the oath and parade I was taken, of course, by the architecture. Everything was designed to be grand and looked so beautiful on TV. I have never been impressed with Washington in person. Though, there are exceptions.

The National Building Museum is appropriately, exquisite. Its exterior is playful and pretty. Its interior is a marvel of light and air. It was initially designed as the pension office for Civil War veterans and, as such, originally had short ramp-like steps. This feature made it , perhaps the first building designed for this disabled in the country. That is something beautiful in its own right. It is not the rule unfortunately.

Most of the city and its monuments, although grand, are unexpectedly dingy in person and downright gaudy in design.  But, they photograph majestically and that is how we know them. Washington, like Los Angles, the other city we all know from pictures, is a giant stage. Its buildings are the set-pieces of our republic and we know them by the individual moments in history with which they cooresepond.  Perhaps that is why they look so dull in-person. The knock-off classical temple that houses Lincoln could never compete with the lyrical beauty of the great speech delivered in front of it.

The true architectural grandeur of the city comes when it is taken on as a whole. The image to the right is from the inauguration this morning. It is with photos like these, with the entire mall and a sea of citizens within, that we understand that the city truly lives up to L’Enfant’s design “for aggrandizement and embellishment . . . at any period however remote.”

 

 

Click to Zoom

Click to Zoom

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There is a new world order looming.

The days where we turn to institutions, particularly profit-motivated entities, for our information are numbered. In the future we will turn to each other and the internet. The changes are coming quickly. Ten years ago, if you needed to know something, say who designed Freeway Park in Seattle, you might poke around on the internet, but your’d probably fail.  Your best bet would have come from a purchased encyclopedia or correspondence with an institutionally-sponsored expert (think: university professor).  Now a quick search on Wikipedia reveals the designer is Lawrence Halprin. The information would go from an interested expert, to you, with minimal go-between.  The change doesn’t stop there. When we all have better access to the web and our own wikis, this sharing of knowledge will happen with no intermediaries.

People like Joseph Kenyon are fomenting this revolution.

Kenyon runs a website that offers small, economical, house plans to anyone, free of charge.  Though plans are endlessly reproducible units of information, they often cost thousands of dollars. This significantly increases the cost of building one’s own, even small, home. People like Joseph Kenyon aims to change that. By offering the plans for free he hopes to assist those who want there own small place to live but maybe can’t afford it. After the purchase of materials any person with time and effort can have their own shelter.

Joseph Kenyon

Credit: Joseph Kenyon

According to Kenyon, he hopes his site can help even just one person avoid becoming homeless. The changing dynamics of information sharing mean it could do so much more. I can imagine a whole village of Kenyon’s homes replacing the shanties of Juarez or Lagos, cities where some have literally made their homes out of garbage. If the could find the materials Joseph Kenyon could provide the building know-how and help to house thousands.

In the future there may be a million Joseph Kenyon’s and a million plans online, helping to house the worlds poor. Until then I encourage you to visit Kenyon’s site, help spread the word about it and please:

 DONATE TO HIS PROJECT.

You can bring about the new world order as a safer, warmer, better place for everyone.

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wtcmodel

The American Architectural Foundation is donating a giant architectural model of the World Trade Center to the museum that now resides at ground zero.

The massive 7-foot, gleaming towers were used to pitch architect Minoru Yamasaki’s design for the site. The foundation brought in a restoration team to spiff-up the model which was, of course, built to be temporary. For more details please check out the National Trust’s Preservation Nation blog. You should be reading it anyway.

I’m happy the model will be included in the September 11 Museum’s collection. The model is a work of art unto itself. I think it presents as good memorial to the tragedy as anything else I’ve seen. This model, built before the building, represents all the hope, community and team-work that go into a major architectural project. It is a symbol of the enterprising nature of humankind.

I can remember people discussing the design for the memorial immediately after the attacks. Given all that thought I have to say I am a little disappointed with the memorial competition entries and what the committee eventually decided to build. None of what was proposed has the simple clarity of the Staten Island September 11th Memorial.

The two, bent, wing-like forms of the Staten Island memorial easily suggest the towers and their absence from the view. The the fact that they are undelivered”postcards”, simply but profoundly expresses the sense of longing the loss of so many Staten Islanders brought to their community. It is one of my favorite memorials.

 

Memorials are built conscious of their place in history. This makes them interesting in the study of architectural history but can also stifle their artistic integrity. I feel like this may have happened at ground zero.

What are some of your favorite memorials? why? Do you prefer the simple, suggestive forms of modern memorials or the more triumphant early modes? Comment, I would love to hear from you.

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