31 July 2010

Les Ateliers Jury

I've been invited to be a juror for the 28th Summer Session of the International Workshop of Planning and Urban Design at Cergy-Pontoise, just outside Paris, 20-24 September. The topic is "The rural/urban interface of the great metropolis." Les Ateliers is the successor of the planning office at C-P, a 1960s French new town, one RER stop past La Defense.

New "Common Place"

I posted a new issue of Common Place (no. 4) after a considerable hiatus. Some new things along with reprints, including an essay on "Place and Scale."

19 July 2010


Reviewing a laid-out, early-stage version of a current project, I was reminded of the importance of segues in a multi-page document discussing a variety of topics. Picture a freeway in which the first sign for an off-ramp is set on the ramp itself and you'll get the idea. Without an effective segue, you're a quarter mile down the road before you have a glimmer of an idea where you are. One reason to lay things out early is that it makes the problem obvious enough that you can't ignore it.

10 July 2010


I started yet another blog at the end of June, in an effort to make myself take photos. (I own four digital cameras, two still unused.) Focused on my zip code, it began in a travelogue mode, but has moved into design criticism. My photos are (to me) slowly improving. What's better is the composition - I have yet to figure out the countless features of even my oldest camera. The newest two have such daunting instruction manuals that I put them back in their boxes. Technical descriptions, much like tax forms, make my eyes glaze over. A photographer friend offered to help me out. I'll have to take him up on it.

07 July 2010

The text

"No one actually reads these things," the gods said. Yet these things have a text, and often I'm writing it. There has to be a storyline or people will get lost. The text can feel like blocks that the designers move around, deciding their weight on the page. I often write to fit - one of the easiest ways to write, actually. Sonnets are like that for me, with their 10-syllable lines and their rhyming pattern of ABABCDCDEFEF, GG: 12 lines and a 2-line coda (in one case; the pattern can vary). So I write, although the gods say that no one will read it, "or only a few." Well, then, I guess that I write for them.

02 July 2010

Social Media

A conversation yesterday about HOK's "anything goes" approach to social media. I was impressed by the crowd-sourced nature of what they do (and how they got it going). It's clear that blogging depends on a "big tent" (as the political parties say, although rarely do) of contributors. What can look chaotic - a profusion of blogs on different topics - maps with Rick Klaw's comment that successful blogs home in on a specific topic. I once saw an SOM partner wax poetic on curtain-wall design to an audience of visiting curtain-wall manufacturers from Japan. It was a love-fest, basically, and specialized blogs cater to a like desire. Prospective hires are an important audience for HOK. Presumably, they find their own communities within this chaos and are drawn in.