Thursday, June 08, 2006

lone holdout in dc

on our most recent weekend in dc, we stayed with brother in his new condo on the frontier of gentrified 'chinatown'. there were two giant pits on either side of his building where new condo high rises were going in. along the perimeter of one pit, though, was a single townhouse, its length jutting into the abyss. it was held up on three sides by metal supports to keep the place from tumbling to the bottom of the 100-foot deep pit. the guy was offered a generous payment to vacate, but declined. his plan is to open a pizza place. a good idea, considering the lack of street-level retail in the area. on sunday morning, after a long drunken night at a friend's wedding, i could not find coffee for 5 blocks. i eventually stumbled into the red roof inn in chinatown, which had an irish pub serving breakfast. i ordered coffee and croissants to go and the guy looked at me like i was nuts.

Monday, May 29, 2006


now that i've finally beat the jet lag and had some time to reflect, i can say that shanghai is a truly amazing city. the rate of new building eclipses the rate of building in any american city by perhaps a ten-fold. new, post-modern high rises are everywhere, as are uber-lux malls and office buildings.

of course, before the newest, cleanest, most hi-tech mall can be built, the older housing complexes must be demolished. the architectural value of these complexes (c. 1920's-1930's), as well as the inconvenience to the inhabitants, seem less important to the government than Progress. luckily, many older structures have been left alone in midst of the demolition, construction, and towers, as in parts of the old city pictured above.

already boasting a population of over 16 million, shanghai is still absorbing masses of new residents coming from the countryside looking for work. and they may find work, perhaps as one of a crew of blue-jumpsuited street sweepers, who rise at dawn to keep the sidewalks spotless with old fiber brooms. or maybe as a constructon worker, toiling inside the netting and bamboo scaffolding 65 stories above the people's square. the feeling in shanghai is like new york capitalism on steroids, with everybody feeling the excitement of new found opportunity coursing through the clogged streets.

of course, the air is filthy. one can't walk five blocks without feeling flecks in the eyes, mouth, and lungs. bikers wear surgical masks and visors, and tourists take cabs. the water is not drinkable, even for locals. but unlike new york in its industrial revolution, shanghai has the benefit of advanced pollution control technologies, and is making what seem like strides toward increasing fuel economy, generating energy from cleaner processes, and treating wastewater and drinking water.

shanghai will host the 2010 world expo, for which even more massive building projects are planned, including the tallest tower in the world, a massive rail station, two new high-speed magnetic levitation trains (in addition to the current one running from the airport, the only one of its kind in the world), a stadium, and tons of housing.

it began to sink in on the cab ride home from the airport, looking at the manhattan skyline from the kosciuko bridge, that new york may be the biggest, most hectic city in the u.s., but it looks to me now like a quaint, 19th- or mid-20th century villiage, with a rotting subway and infrastructure, a glut of modernist high-rise boxes, a lazy over-unionized workforce, and a lengthy, acrimonious and complex building process that makes for distant hopes of the next new major public space. still, it was nice to breathe clean(er) air, drink clean(er) water, and walk the streets without the faintest feeling of being crowded.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

mystery solved?

this bizarre gowanus canal silo, on the commercial market for $4k per month, has been the subject of my own befuddlement, as well as the befuddlement of curbed and a brooklyn life. but as i was picking up my grandparents' mail in sheepshead bay the other day, i happened to browse the spring issue of bklyn magazine. according to bklyn, the silo is the home of issue project room, a former-east villiage music / theatre / performance art group, which in october 2005, hosted a performance starring local actors aida turturro and steve buscemi, who calls the space 'a godsend'. we hope to go to a performance there soon.

Friday, February 24, 2006

the o.c. report, feb 06

so the o.c. is growing up. every time i go home, there's new stuff. this time i was plesantly surprised to see some nice glass & stucco high rise residential in irvine, and was heartened at the news that the great park proposed for the defunct el toro airbase is a go. it will provide a wilderness corridor between the pacific, laguna canyon, and cleveland national forest in riverside county. definitely going to push property values up. i heard the owners of the pictured cabana on cotton's point in san clemente already are asking $3.7M. can't beat the ocean views, but its kinda breezy in the winter.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

dual skylines in seattle

so we just spent a week out in the emerald city and i was thoroughly impressed. there are so many hills and water bodies, with islands and mountains in the distance that almost anywhere you go, you have a great view. the park system is designed by olmstead, but greenery is everywhere, even growing on the sidewalk. this photo is from gas works park, looking across lake union towards the downtown. the centerpiece is an old rusted out gasworks, which stands like a post-industrial statue. although seatlle definitely has that clean, west coast feeling of not being mired in layers of history, it was refreshing to see that the remnants of the past have been reclaimed from decrepitude. perhaps new york should take note when (if?) the post-industrial waterfront is developed here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

so-brook casket co.

apparently, not only do other people care about the weird little old corner building on 3rd & 3rd (where whole foods is having entirely foreseeable brownfield probs [nod to]), but -- according to a recent ny times article -- there is some ominous aesthetic appeal about the south brooklyn casket company. the place is a low brick warehouse with a (possibly imagined) sinister air, located in gowanus. the appeal may be that we neo-yuppies grew up in residential zones away from such straight-forward, morbid industry, so it's a novelty. i think there is definitely something that is unique about the place, but wifey -- who has lived near a casket company in mexico -- thinks that its a function of location (smack in the middle of hipper-by-the-day park slope and carroll gardens) and we sheltered suburban kids just need to get out more and see the rest of oddball brooklyn.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

a hint to curbed building spotters: the han & the pumpkin

the han & the pumpkin
Originally uploaded by the golden bear.
a tip o' the hat to curbed for posting my red door photo as today's 'building spotter'. as a hint to those of you trying to guess what brooklyn street the red door is on, this wonderful front yard statue is on the same block. happy guessing!