Tagged: cities Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • feedwordpress 08:01:47 on 2018/10/19 Permalink
    Tags: cities, , , , , precision, , ,   

    “Technology is making gestures precise and brutal, and with them men”*… 

     

    NIST_Precision_engineering_research

     

    Scientists and engineers recognize an elusive but profound difference between precision and accuracy. The two qualities often go hand in hand, of course, but precision involves an ideal of meticulousness and consistency, while accuracy implies real-world truth. When a sharpshooter fires at a target, if the bullets strike close together—clustered, rather than spread out—that is precise shooting. But the shots are only accurate if they hit the bull’s eye. A clock is precise when it marks the seconds exactly and unvaryingly but may still be inaccurate if it shows the wrong time. Perversely, we sometimes value precision at the expense of accuracy…

    What makes precision a feature of the modern world is the transition from craftsmanship to mass production. The genius of machine tools—as opposed to mere machines—lies in their repeatability. Artisans of shoes or tables or even clocks can make things exquisite and precise, “but their precision was very much for the few… It was only when precision was created for the many that precision as a concept began to have the profound impact on society as a whole that it does today.” That was John Wilkinson’s achievement in 1776: “the first construction possessed of a degree of real and reproducible mechanical precision—precision that was measurable, recordable, repeatable.”…

    Replication and standardization are so hard-wired into our world that we forget how the unstandardized world functioned. A Massachusetts inventor named Thomas Blanchard in 1817 created a lathe that made wooden lasts for shoes. Cobblers still made the shoes, but now the sizes could be systematized. “Prior to that,… shoes were offered up in barrels, at random. A customer shuffled through the barrel until finding a shoe that fit, more or less comfortably.”…

    James Gleick reviews– and responds to– Simon Winchester‘s The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World:  “Masters of Tolerance.”

    [Image above: precision engineering research at the National Institute for Standards and Technology]

    * Theodor Adorno

    ###

    As we contemplate craft, we might send insightful birthday greetings to Lewis Mumford; he was born on this date in 1895.  A historian, sociologist, philosopher of technology, and cultural critic, Mumford is probably best remembered for his writings on cities, perhaps especially for his award-winning book The City in History.  (See also The City— the extraordinary film that Mumford made with Ralph Steiner and Wiilard Van Dyne, from an outline by the renowned documentarian Pare Lorentz, with a score by Aaron Copland.) 

    Mumford’s approaches to technology, its history, and its roles in society were acknowledged influences on writers like Jacques Ellul, Witold Rybczynski, Amory Lovins, E. F. Schumacher, Herbert Marcuse, Thomas Merton, and Marshall McLuhan.  In a similar way, he was an inspiration for the organicist and environmentalist movements of today.

    Unfortunately, once an economy is geared to expansion, the means rapidly turn into an end and “the going becomes the goal.” Even more unfortunately, the industries that are favored by such expansion must, to maintain their output, be devoted to goods that are readily consumable either by their nature, or because they are so shoddily fabricated that they must soon be replaced. By fashion and build-in obsolescence the economies of machine production, instead of producing leisure and durable wealth, are duly cancelled out by the mandatory consumption on an even larger scale.

    – Lewis Mumford, The City in History

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:59 on 2018/08/12 Permalink
    Tags: , Berlage, cities, De Stijl, , , , , utopian design   

    “Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears”*… 

     

    city of the future

    Concept for Babel IID. The line drawing to the left shows the Empire State building for scale. Arcology, Paolo Soleri, 1969.

     

    For centuries, architects and urban planners have mixed the mundane with the fantastical as they imagined the cities of the future. While some ideas toyed with the building blocks, others reflected a desire to fundamentally reshape urban life — and to solve some of society’s most pressing problems. Their plans were a mix of ambition, realism, fantasy, and folly — but were the resulting ideas visionary, or just dreams of worlds that could never feasibly be built?…

    From Christopher Wren and his plan for London after the Great Fire of 1666 to Buckminster Fuller and Paolo Soleri, a consideration of visionary urban planning: could fantastical plans for the cities of tomorrow solve the real problems of urban life? Consider the case at “Architects of the Future.”

    For a treatment of urban history from a different perspective, see “The cities and mansions that people dream of are those in which they finally live.”

    Then, for an alternative to the top-down, utopian approach to urban planning, read Jane Jacobs.

    * Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

    ###

    As we contemplate community, we might spare a thought for Hendrik Petrus Berlage; he died on this date in 1934. The “Father of Modern architecture” in the Netherlands, Berage was deeply influenced by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.  But he was probably most impactful in his influence on most Dutch architectural groups of the 1920s, including the Traditionaliststhe Amsterdam SchoolDe Stijl and the New Objectivists.

    220px-Berlage source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:10:10 on 2018/06/15 Permalink
    Tags: , cities, , , , , , ,   

    “The city’s full of people who you just see around”*… 

     

    An archaeologist’s reconstruction of Dvin, one of the most ancient settlements of the Armenian Highland and an ancient capital of Armenia [source], and modern day New York City [source]

    Much of the history of the city—its built forms and its politics, the urban experience, and the characteristic moral ambivalence that cities arouse—can be written as a tension between the visible and the invisible. What and who gets seen? By whom? Who interprets the city’s meaning? What should remain unseen?

    Rulers of cities have always had an interest in visibility, both in representing their power and in controlling people by seeing them. The earliest cities emerged out of the symbiosis of religion and political power, and the temple and the citadel gave early urbanism its most visible elements…

    Warren Breckman‘s  fascinating history of the city as a place to see and be seen: “A Matter of Optics.”

    * Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

    ###

    As we wonder, with Juvenal (and Alan Moore), who watches the watchmen, we might recall that it was on this date in 1752 that Benjamin Franklin and his son tested the relationship between electricity and lightning by flying a kite in a thunder storm.  Franklin was attempting a (safer) variation on a set of French investigations about which he’d read.  The French had connected lightning rods to a Leyden jar, but one of their experiments electrocuted the investigator.  Franklin– who may have been a wastrel, but was no fool– used a kite; the increased height/distance from the strike reduces the risk of electrocution.  (But it doesn’t eliminate it: Franklin’s experiment is now illegal in many states.)

    In fact, (other) French experiments had successfully demonstrated the electrical properties of lightning a month before; but word had not yet reached Philadelphia.

    The Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing created this vignette (c. 1860), which was used on the $10 National Bank Note from the 1860s to 1890s

     source

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:55 on 2018/05/06 Permalink
    Tags: Ash Center, , cities, , GIS, , , , , ,   

    “I am told there are people who do not care for maps, and I find it hard to believe”*… 

     

    The confluence of different GPS technologies have led to more and more stunning map and data visualizations. Added bonus: casual map lovers have something to explore during periods of procrastination.

    Last week, to the joy of data nerds everywhere, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government launched a database of interactive maps that use public sector data to visualize various city and community services, histories, and statistics. It sounds dry until you check out the selection of 200 mapping projects. Particularly interesting, deep dive-worthy ones include a map of immigrant communities across the U.S., a map of public art in Philadelphia, a visualization of the variety of trees in New York City, a map detailing the history of redlining and other forms of housing discrimination in Louisville, Kentucky [above]. and a map of access to high-speed internet in Kansas City, Missouri

    … and 195 others, including this  visualization that answers the question “is the American dream still affordable?” and where:

    More background at The Outline and at the Ash Center’s announcement page.  Browse at their Data-Smart City Solutions Database search page.

    * Robert Louis Stevenson

    ###

    As we celebrate charts, we might send analytic birthday greetings to a man who drew epoch-making maps of a very different sort, Sigismund Schlomo Freud; he was born on this date in 1856.  The father of psychoanalysis, he revolutionized the field of psychotherapy– so much so that later practitioners have often failed to recognize Freud’s scientific predecessors.  Throughout his work (in such books as Interpretation of Dreams and the New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis) he emphasized the role of unconscious and non-rational functioning, going against most contemporary thought by suggesting that dreams and “mistakes” may have affirmative meaning.

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:18 on 2017/10/14 Permalink
    Tags: , cities, Fodor, guide book, , OSS, , , ,   

    “With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed”*… 

     

    The Transect

    In 2012, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. an exhibition, “Grand Reductions: Ten diagrams that changed urban planning.”

    The exhibition’s title – Grand Reductions – suggests the simple illustration’s power to encapsulate complex ideas. And for that reason the medium has always been suited to the city, an intricate organism that has been re-imagined (with satellite towns! in rural grids! in megaregions!) by generations of architects, planners and idealists. In the urban context, diagrams can be powerful precisely because they make weighty questions of land use and design digestible in a single sweep of the eye. But… they can also seductively oversimplify the problems of cities…

    “The diagram can cut both ways: It can either be a distillation in the best sense of really taking a very complex set of issues and providing us with a very elegant communication of the solution,” [curator Benjamin] Grant says. “Or it can artificially simplify something that actually needs to be complex.”…

    The high concepts that have informed the design of cities over the last century: “The Evolution of Urban Planning in 10 Diagrams.”

    See also: “The cities and mansions that people dream of are those in which they finally live”*… and of course, Jane Jacob’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Christopher Alexander’s A New Theory of Urban Design.

    * Italo Calvino

    ###

    As we muse on metropoles, we might send exploratory birthday greeting to Eugene Fodor; he was born on this date in 1905.  Noting that travel guides of his time were boring, he wrote a guide to Europe, On the Continent—The Entertaining Travel Annual, which was published in 1936– and became the cornerstone of a travel publishing empire– the Fodor’s Guides.  He was elected to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) World Travel Congress Hall of Fame, the only travel editor ever to be so honored.

    In 1974, it was revealed that Fodor, a Hungarian-American who had joined the U.S. Army during World War II, had transferred to the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the CIA) and served as a spy behind Nazi lines in occupied Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:38 on 2017/09/19 Permalink
    Tags: cities, , , Lagos, , megachurches, , , , ,   

    “I’m completely in favor of the separation of Church and State… These two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death”*… 

     

    The Redeemed Christian Church of God’s international headquarters in Ogun state has been transformed from a mere megachurch to an entire neighbourhood, with departments anticipating its members’ every practical as well as spiritual need.

    A 25-megawatt power plant with gas piped in from the Nigerian capital serves the 5,000 private homes on site, 500 of them built by the church’s construction company. New housing estates are springing up every few months where thick palm forests grew just a few years ago. Education is provided, from creche to university level. The Redemption Camp health centre has an emergency unit and a maternity ward.

    On Holiness Avenue, a branch of Tantaliser’s fast food chain does a brisk trade. There is an on-site post office, a supermarket, a dozen banks, furniture makers and mechanics’ workshops. An aerodrome and a polytechnic are in the works.

    And in case the children get bored, there is a funfair with a ferris wheel…

    In Nigeria, the line between church and city is rapidly vanishing: “Eat, pray, live: the Lagos megachurches building their very own cities.”

    * George Carlin

    ###

    As we re-read Max Weber, we might recall that it was on this date in 1545 that Renaissance writer, physician, humanist, monk, and Greek scholar François Rabelais received the permission of King François I to publish the Gargantua series– Gargantua and Pantagruel as we know it.  In fact, Rabelais’ wild mix of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes, and songs had been circulating pseudonymously for years.  The censors of the Collège de la Sorbonne stigmatized it as obscene; and in a social climate of increasing religious oppression in a lead up to the French Wars of Religion, it had been treated with suspicion.

    Rabelais wrote at a time of great ferment in the French language, and contributed mightily to it– both in coinage and in usage.  But his influence was even broader (Tristram Shandy, e.g., is full of quotes from Rabelais) and continues to this day via writers including Milan Kundera, Robertson Davies, and Kenzaburō Ōe.

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:16 on 2017/06/06 Permalink
    Tags: Castile, cities, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor of England, Henry I, , , , plans, ,   

    “The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand”*… 

     

    Build your own with The Medieval Fantasy City Generator

    * Italo Calvino

    ###

    As we wander within the walls, we might spare a thought for Henry I, King of Castile and Toledo; he died on this date in 1217 when a loose roof tile fell on his head.  He had become the monarch two years earlier, at age 10, when his father (Alfonso VIII of Castile) passed away.  His mother was Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile, the daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:21 on 2017/05/28 Permalink
    Tags: cities, , , , siege, , , Vikings, womens issues   

    “Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears”*… 

     

    “‘A woman’s place is in the home’ has been one of the most important principles in architectural design and urban planning in the United States for the last century,” Dolores Hayden, an urban planning historian, wrote in her 1980s essay What Would a Non-Sexist City Be Like?

    Now we’re at a crucial point in urban planning because some of our age-old systems have been upended by innovation or economics. We have Uber and other ride shares replacing traditional transportation systems and Elon Musk trying to build the high-speed Hyperloop and underground tunnels. And our lifestyles are in flux: More young people are sharing homes before they get married, and they’re living with their parents longer.

    We can’t design away sexism or the creepy dude waiting at the train platform. These are some of our culture’s oldest, most insidious problems and urban planners alone can’t solve them. But urban planners are now looking to new designs and technology that, for the first time, should include the other half of the population…

    Toward a more inclusive city: “Sexism and the City.”

    * Italo Calvino

    ###

    As we muse on metropoli, we might recall that it was on this date in 861 that the Viking burned Paris to the ground (for the third time since the Siege of Paris in 845).   The invaders also torched the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which they pillaged again in 869.  in 870, King Charles the Bald ordered the construction of two bridges, the Grand Pont and the Petit Pont, to block the passage of the Vikings up the Seine.  In 885, Gozlin, the Bishop of Paris, repaired the city wall and reinforced the bridges, enabling the city to resist an attack by the Vikings, who tried again twice (in 887 and 888), but were repelled each time.

    Paris then enjoyed 90 years of (relative) peace, until 978, when the city was laid siege by The Holy Roman Emperor Otto II.

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:56 on 2017/02/17 Permalink
    Tags: buidlings, cities, demogrphics, , farce, , Molière, , ,   

    “Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above / Don’t fence me in”*… 

     

    All of humanity could fit in a building the size of this red box, though it wouldn’t be very comfortable…

    The human urge to own land sometimes borders on the absurd… Do we have too many cities with too few people in them? (Answer: Yes!) But there’s an implicit question embedded in that notion of anti-NIMBY place-making, once posed by Leo Tolstoy: “How much land does a man need?”

    Tolstoy’s answer was pretty grim. But leave it to a YouTuber to take that existential literary question literally by asking, “How much land does humanity need?”

    That’s the issue enterprising online video-maker Joseph Pisenti explores on his channel, Real Life Lore.

    Pisenti ups the ante on the density game by examining two more specific questions in three videos: How large would a city need to be to fit all of humanity, and how big would a building need to be fit every human being?…

    More metropolitan musing– and all three of the videos– at “Could the Human Race Fit in a Single City?

    * Lyric from the song “Don’t Fence Me In”; music by Cole Porter, lyrics by Porter, adapted from a poem by Robert Fletcher.  Originally written in 1934 for an unproduced film musical (Adios, Argentina), it was recorded a decade later by Roy Rogers, and (almost simultaneously) Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters; later it was covered by Ella Fitzgerald, and many others.

    ###

    As we speculate about space, we might spare a thought for Jean-Baptiste Poquelin; he died on this date in 1673.  Better known by his stage name, Molière, he was a respected French actor who became one of the great comedic playwrights in Western literature.  His worldy farces– The Misanthrope, The School for Wives, Tartuffe, The Miser, The Imaginary Invalid, and The Bourgeois Gentleman.–  earned him popular adulation… and the scorn of moralists and the Catholic Church.  At the time of his death, French law forbade the burial of actors in the sacred ground of a cemetery. But Molière’s widow, Armande, asked the King if her spouse could be granted a normal funeral at night.  The King– a fan– agreed, and Molière’s body was buried in the section of a cemetery reserved for unbaptized infants.  (Molière’s remains were later transferred to grand Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, and re-laid to rest near those of La Fontaine.)

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:23 on 2016/06/16 Permalink
    Tags: cities, Genseric, , roman, , , , , Vandals   

    “By its nature, the metropolis provides what otherwise could be given only by traveling; namely, the strange”*… 

     

    How did cities emerge? Where were they located? How did they change over the course of human civilization? How did they change their surroundings?

    The answers to these questions are available, but hard to access. The United Nations World Urbanization Prospects, for example, only tracks urban populations and their locations from 1950 on, and so offers only a small, relatively recent snapshot of urbanization. The work of the historian Tertius Chandler and the political scientist George Modelski is much more extensive. The two painstakingly gathered population and archeological records from as far back as 2250 B.C. The problem, however, is that their data exist in the form of tables that are stuffed with hard-to-decipher numbers and notes.

    new paper published in Scientific Data takes a stab at mapping the information Chandler and Modelski gathered. Yale University researcher Meredith Reba and her colleagues digitized, transcribed, and geocoded over 6,000 years of urban data…

    More at “Mapping 6,000 Years of Urban Settlements.”

    * Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

    ###

    As we take it downtown, we might recall that it was on this date in 455 CE that the Vandals completed their sack of Rome.  Three years earlier, the Vandal king Genseric and the Roman Emperor Valentinian III, had betrothed their children, Huneric and Eudocia, to strengthen their then-new peace treaty, but had delayed the wedding, as Eudocia was only 5 at the time. But on the 16th of March in 455, Valentinian was assassinated, and Petronius Maximus rose to the throne.  Petronius, more concerned to consolidate power than to observe the decencies, married Valentinian’s widow, Licinia Eudoxia, and had his son Palladius marry Eudocia. Genseric was not amused; he sailed immediately with his army to Rome.  The Vandals knocked down the city’s aqueducts on their way to the gates– which were opened to the invaders after Genseric agreed to Pope Leo I‘s request that he not raze the city nor murder it’s inhabits wholesale.  The Vandals satisfied themselves with treasure and with a group of “hostages” including Eudocia and her mother.  Petronius Maximus and Palladius had killed by an angry Roman mob before Genseric arrived.

     source

     

     
c
compose new post
j
next post/next comment
k
previous post/previous comment
r
reply
e
edit
o
show/hide comments
t
go to top
l
go to login
h
show/hide help
esc
cancel