MEREDITH Strategy + Design

We design the places and spaces where people come together to do great work

Some of the things we found interesting last week

Coming from the once "Motor City," it feels as if it may be appropriate to begin to think of other modes of transportation now that the "Big 3" are no longer big, no longer here, or no longer even American. It was a delight, therefore to catch some recent articles on beautiful subway stations, and this review of the broad planning, ownership, design and mapping infrastructure of underground transit in Fast Company.

I am getting more than a little upset about the fascination with the concept of "urban agriculture" as (not a feature of, but) the future of Detroit. While Fortune gives attention to the concept in the continuing Detroit story headlined by Time magazine, I think the leadership of the city ought to be beyond squirming about the abandonment of the city and instead aggressively developing plans and programs for repopulation. To make Detroit a sustainable city does not mean turning its lots "green" with crops, but instead fully exploiting the infrastructure everybody says there is too much of.

While "rationing" health care resounds with negative consequences, the concept of rationing cities and infrastructure seems quite okay for discussion. Beyond last year's conversations generated around bulldozing Flint, Michigan, there is now an emerging Richard Florida manifesto proposing that the rich should get richer and the poor poorer. The threat of "regional fatalism" is discussed in "The Ruse of the Creative Class" in American Prospect.

The decade of excess in financial and real estate manipulations that became the decade of economic doom was given a not very fond kiss-off in a number of places. The world's tallest and very empty building was opened with fireworks and fanfare in the midst of all this, quickly becoming the defining symbol of what most expect is now over. I liked the LA Times' reference to "architecture's vacant stare."

The opening of CityCenter in Las Vegas this week had some of the same tone. Something somewhere got me linked back to this 2004 Design Observer piece "Learning from Las Vegas: The Book That (Still) Takes My Heart Away." Drenttel is writing about the book, itself, in this piece, but I wonder if a sense of exuberance with the Venturi/Brown ideas now, at the end of an exuberant decade, still appeals?

The concepts of "networked urbanism"  and "augmented reality" seems to be gaining some significant traction. Related at a very specific infrastructure level, and a sign of the potential in these developments, is the "Intellistreets" concept reported here. I am never a fan of the intrusion of of sound and message where I don't want it, but the idea of security and energy savings is great. I liked the image of a streetlight system that would sense my presence and increase its illumination as I walked down the street.

Back at Design Observer, James Wegener had an interesting trajectory of thought in "Metabolic Dark City" from Kowloon slums to the Japanese Metabolists and on to MVRDV's proposed development of Rodovre. Bjarke Ingels popped into mind, since I had just watched the video of his celebrated talk at TED for projects including "mountain dwellings" here. Check out those plans.

Among so many decade lookbacks, I laughed with Mark Lamster's review of the "The Aughts in Architecture and Design." His critique of the "scourge of twee" was crisp, and I am grabbing "the infantalization of the public realm" – "Surely the most aggravating design trend of the last decade has been the increasing infantilization—Brooklyn-ization? Seattle-ization?—of the public realm...Who has not grown tired of the post-Starbucks coffee-house aesthetic of irritatingly clever t-shirt graphics, mouldering taxidermy, and mewling songsmiths? An espresso costs more than a martini, and comes with a lecture on soil composition in Honduras. Paging Roger Sterling…"

And there was that economy-driven concept of "delayed gratification" and this article in the New York Times that offered the basis to make a New Year resolution to avoid falling into the condition of "Once you start procrastinating pleasure, it can become a self-perpetuating process..."

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