Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Economy

I'm left wondering if a good old-fashioned economy, based on local production and consumption, is exactly what we need?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wise Buildings

No, not Smart Buildings, though the concept is very important, but wise buildings. Many would not consider the Convention Center that special, other than the fact that it's big, spans the highway, managed to expand amidst the WTO protests, and has public restrooms and exceptional recycling bins. But take an escalator up to the second level -- where it opens to freeway park -- to find a dizzying display of aphoristic wisdom.

A few gems I recorded today:

Automation is deadly
Humanism is obsolete
Private property created crime
Expiring for love is beautiful but stupid
Abuse of power comes as no surprise

I think of this as anti-advertising; like HAL or a benevolent Big Brother hidden away in the back corner of one of our public spaces. I'm not sure who the artist is or where the quotes come from, but I feel like they are getting away with something, sort of like Fred Seidel's poems that found their way into the Wall Street Journal (see Phillip Connor's article in n+1 number four).

I'd like to see a more visible public installation of art like this and I would love to document people's reactions to it. Think of the tourists riding the escalator in the library, only to be disturbed by the voices of Braincast saying, "I want more...more...more." That could be all of us, shaken awake by an actual message in lieu of an advertisement.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thanks (8th and Seneca)

In the spirit of the old-fashioned alcohol-fueled diatribe of Hugeasscity (just kidding, Dan), I'd like to like to stand at the corner of 8th and Seneca and yell at the developer Levin Manzies, for leaving the Alfaretta Apartments partially demolished, when they owe us (though I'm not sure we want) the Seneca Towers.

In all fairness, I don't have the inside scoop as to what is happening at this site but it looks like it has been abandoned. Does anyone know what's going on?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fifth Ave. Recycling

While I recognize that we in Seattle are ahead of the most big cities in the public recycling race, I have a few concerns, mainly concerning what can be recycled in these receptacles. To start it off, we are all likely familiar with the standard container for cans and bottles (plastic and glass). Often these are overflowing with newspapers and paper coffee cups, the latter of which, to my knowledge, are not recyclable anyway and are specifically forbidden by the sign. I believe I've seen one of these that welcomes paper but I can't be sure (see below for the final verdict).

Across the street and a block south, one can find a newer incarnation of the mixed recycling container. The signage is not very descriptive but I presume cans and bottles are permissible. But what about newspaper or office paper?

But wait, another block south and one will find two new discriminating containers in front of the IBM building, a full block apart.

So, now I'm receiving mixed messages. It seems that a block ago I could dispose of aluminum and plastic bottles in the same bin but now I must separate them out? What about glass?

Turning to the internet for answers, as I often do, I find that only aluminum and tin cans, plastic and glass bottles can be recycled in all containers, regardless of what the sign says or doesn't say. All paper coffee cups (Tully's has compost bins for these in their stores), newspaper, and food waste goes in the garbage can. Okay, I can work with this but what about those walking the streets who haven't looked this up? Or the tourists?

And then there is the issue of how well we office workers understand the recycling programs in our own domain.

I share with you a photo of the newest issue of Arcade, which is chock full of articles about recycling, reuse, composting, etc., perched precariously on a garbage can in my office. I returned it to a more visible locale so that it could hopefully be read before being recycled but its true fate may have been the landfill.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Disaster Precedes Development

Evidently the site where United Flight 93 crashed is becoming a tourist destination. The story is familiar: the local economy was once dependent on production (mining, the steel industry) and is currently pursuing an economic boost through consumption (tourism). Though the visitors will likely be from a different economic group than those coming to Seattle to patronize The Four Seasons and Seattle Art Museum, the same idea of tourism-produced development is in full effect. It will supposedly be classy affair, the antithesis of the tacky Old Faithful gift shop model, but only time will tell. I find this gruesome but maybe I'm just no fun; feel free to disagree.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Livable Cities

I present to you as evidence of Seattle striving to become more livable: The Crocodile Cafe is reopening in early 2009.

Scroll down for less exciting but more relevant posts.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cultural Problem

Following is my attempt at responding to a comment/question by Spencer (who also comments here) on Hugeasscity, regarding the new, public/private stairway that graces the back/front of the new Four Season, as well as my trying to sort out some of my own thoughts.

His comment reads:

"so, if this is a cultural problem, who is responsible if the developers and owners are not willing to give appropriately back to the public?"

Architecture, urban planning and city building are cultural problems precisely because they are expressions of our culture, just like movies or novels. Some, like Charles Mudede, think of this building, or buildings grouped together in a city, in the same vein as these other forms of expression; that is, as art. After reading Jane Jacobs, I'm comfortable saying this is reductionism at its finest because art is an interpretation and/or representation of life, that is controlled by the artist, while a building is a piece of a city, which is complex and functional and, as Jacobs says, is the actual life that art represents (or, more broadly, it is space that serves as the setting for all our interactions and commerce, as well as the output of interactions and commerce -- see Henri Lefebvre). She goes on to assert that trying to convert a city into art is "attempting to substitute art for life." That said, I think it's clear that cities and art are indeed closely related, as forms of cultural expression, but the former is more democratically complex (it affects more people than, say, this Friday's production of Shrek, The Musical).

I think most everyone would agree that the dominant contemporary American culture is consumption, and this portion of the city is the epicenter of an incredibly lucrative form of consumption: tourism. Like Dan wrote, the improvements to this part of town -- read as the Seattle Art Museum expansion -- have made it even more valuable and were undertaken to provide nice, clean, upscale venues for expensive tastes (i.e. revenue). I was reading part of gentleman's dissertation about public art in Philadelphia and, among many other things I've mentioned here, he was discussing the special packages available to tourists that included fancy accommodations, dinners, and tickets to a Cezanne exhibit: I'd bet that as soon as the hotel opens, there are packages available that include a room at the Four Seasons, dinners at The Brooklyn or Capital Grill, and unlimited access to SAM. Oh, and the Lusty Lady surely remains as a token of a less dignified, more working-class and production-oriented past.

I bring this up to point out that the developers and city really aren't that interested in giving anything palpable or experiential back to the public: we just live here. We always contribute to the economic well-being of the region. I'm not sure who that makes the responsible party but I suppose it's all of us, for letting increased levels of consumption be the gauge by which we measure success.

The argument about consumption and capitalism and emulation is nothing new but I think this is a perfect example of where it leads. I'm not calling for a township rebellion either -- though that might not be the worst thing to happen -- I'm just trying to figure things out.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Greenbuild 2008 – Seattle Delegation

A quick reminder that the USGBC Greenbuild Expo is coming up from November 19-21 in Boston. If you’re planning on attending, note that the early registration deadline is this coming Monday, September 8th. After this date, it will cost you another $100 to attend (it already costs $600 if you’re a member of USGBC).

As of last night, the hotel rooms in the reserved block were all taken. There are reasonably priced accommodations still available via hotels.com but they will likely be going quickly too.

The creators of Konstructr are organizing a “Seattle Delegation” that will meet before the conference, at the conference and after we return to Seattle. With myriad educational sessions offered, it is impossible to attend every one that interests you so this will be a great chance to share information and ideas with others, as well to partake in some good old-fashioned social networking. I also hear they might be making t-shirts…As an attendee last year, who returned to Seattle excited and full of ideas only to find that I was the only person I knew in attendance, I can say this will be a great opportunity for both social and intellectual exchange. Visit (and join!) Konstructr or send me an email and I’ll pass your contact information along.