19 April 2010


A first meeting with a larger group of potential contributors to Trace, a San Francisco-focused blog that will pick up where LINE left off, discussing design, culture, and urbanity in the city and region, but without the luggage of institutional affiliation. Some interesting comments and suggestions. This is a good moment for it, one person said - there's an hunger for real (and critical) coverage, which no one is providing.

11 April 2010

Autobiography with time

I'm not sure why I think this phrase, which came to me late this afternoon, is any different from "the life and times," but - thinking about memoirs and the like - I wondered how to avoid the solipsism of that genre, and also how to give the dimension of time within life its due. We react to people and places, but it's time that tempers our reaction, not least by showing us different aspects of them. We are variables, too, of course, but our central illusion has us otherwise.

10 April 2010

The AIA's taint

At lunch on Wednesday, I asserted that the AIA's involvement with whichever national magazine it sponsors inevitably results in its vulgarization. I was assured that the AIA has no real influence on its affiliated magazine, but I don't think it's as direct as that. It's more of a taint than an influence, something to live down rather than live up to. (I don't think this phenomenon is limited to the AIA, but is the norm for institutions, which, despite the presumed high hopes of their founders, fall rapidly to a level of relative mediocrity. Yet they live on, subscribed to even by those who dismiss them, since they issue badges of belonging and honor.)

555 Wash Update (3)

It now proves that the 555 Washington developer owes money to SF's planning department, and they want to be paid immediately, since he's threatening to pull the plug if the Supervisors turn back the project's EIR. In consequence, the item is off the Board's 20 April agenda. The bigger issue - the absence of a viable development framework for downtown SF and vicinity - is still before us. Now's the time.

06 April 2010

555 Wash Update (2)

Aaron Peskin sent a blog post by John Cote on SFGate noting that the big 555 Washington showdown is now at the SF Board of Supervisors meeting on 20 April. Supervisor Peskin explained in a follow-up note that if an issue - in this case, appeal of the EIR's approval - is being heard by the Supervisors, the Planning Commission hearing is postponed.

04 April 2010

Mountain Lakes

For the next issue of Common Place, I'm thinking of writing a memoir of the New Jersey town - 28 miles west of Manhattan - where I grew up. I was last there in 1966. Sometime in the 1990s, a new owner tore down the midcentury-modern house my parents built at 47 Powerville Road. Recently, I bought a copy of a 1951 book on modern houses published by McCall's. My parents chose the design from this book and had the architect modify it slightly: a bigger garage and an enclosed den rather than a semi-open porch. News of its destruction made me decide to rely on my mind's version of the town, so this will be an account of that semi-fictional place.

02 April 2010

555 Wash op-ed revised

Architect's Newspaper has linked the revised version of my op-ed on 555 Washington. The next hurdle is really on 20 April, when it goes before SF's Board of Supervisors, but of course it would fabulous if that fourth vote materialized and the tower died on 15 April at the Planning Commission. (Thanks to Sam Lubell for the link.)