New Digs

[Image: A “Lunar Rendezvous Simulator” (1962), courtesy NASA].

After much ado, including multiple near-moves and abandoned attempts, I have finally gone over to WordPress, with BLDGBLOG now residing here at Please update any bookmarks or links you might have to the site—but please also be sure to update your RSS feed:

You can also find individual tags and categories that you might like and subscribe specifically to them, as well—for example:


Meanwhile, the new site offers a bunch of cool tools, such as a “Headlines” category that publishes only in the right-hand column—think of it as a kind of expanded Twitter feed for news items and quick links—as well as the ability to use marginal H6 tags for secondary asides and commentary.

Undoubtedly, there will be many details that still need fixing—that is, posts with no tags, missing links, or strange formatting—but I’ll get to those over the next few weeks.

Finally, I owe huge, huge thanks to Jim Webb for his help with CSS and coding; Jim absolutely knows his stuff and makes a fantastic teacher. Consider hiring him for any site needs of your own.

And don’t forget to update your RSS!

Studio-X NYC

I am thrilled to say that I have moved east to New York City, leaving California after five unforgettable and productive years, to take on a new role as co-director, with Nicola Twilley, of Studio-X NYC at Columbia University. We both think this is an amazing opportunity to reengineer what it means to discuss cities today, and Nicola and I are committed to pursuing this goal in as wide-ranging and open a way as possible.

[Images: Spatial formats for events at Studio-X NYC, from Studio-X Guide to Liberating New Forms of Conversation].

Speaking for both Nicola and myself, one of the most invigorating aspects of all this is the ability to work with people in radically different fields and professions—from policing to public health, archaeology to architecture, literature to film, international finance to amateur sports, subway engineers to sidewalk eccentrics, mayoral candidates to venture capitalists—all of whom have a perspective on, and vested interests in, how cities function. Nicola and I thus anticipate a surge of new collaborations, friends, and, of course, critics—and we hope to see many of you in person, at any number of our forthcoming meetings, events, exhibitions, tours, film fests, book launches, panel discussions, and more.

In the very near term, we have a few things scheduled. Kicking off a new series of conversations that we call Live Interviews @ Studio-X—or LI@SX—we will be hosting a public conversation with Deborah Estrin at 12:30pm on Thursday, September 1st.

Deborah is director of the Center for Embedded Network Sensing at UCLA. She will be discussing her work with self-monitoring applications, participatory sensing campaigns for community data projects, and citizen science, as well as larger issues of surveillance, privacy, and information filtering in the digital city.

The live interview format will take the form of an informal, one-on-one conversation—moderated in this case by Nicola Twilley—which the public is invited both to attend and to join. For those of you unable to be there in person, the LI@SX series will be recorded for posterity, webcast whenever possible, and eventually transcribed and published online.

[Images: Liam Young installs “Specimens of Unnatural History” at the Nevada Museum of Art; photos by Jamie Kingman].

Later that same evening—at 6pm, Thursday, September 1st—we will be hosting a Landscape Futures Night School with London-based architect Liam Young. This is an experiment with a different format: the Night School is a more interactive exploration of ideas, by definition hosted in the evenings, taking the form of everything from lectures and slideshows to design challenges and debates. The Night School series will be flexibly themed and very different each time it’s run.

Liam Young is co-founder (with Darryl Chen) of the design collective and futures think tank Tomorrows Thoughts Today, as well as leader (with Kate Davies) of the Unknown Fields Division, a nomadic design studio based at the Architectural Association (newly returned from a summer expedition to Chernobyl and Baikonur). Liam will be joining us to introduce some of his Specimens of Unnatural History, recently installed as part of the Landscape Futures exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno.

Following Liam’s presentation of his work, I’ll be engaging with him in a public conversation, whiteboard brainstorm, and armchair journey around the world, exploring fieldwork as a form of research, the role of the sketchbook, the importance of narrative in architectural design, and the architect as investigative traveler. Expect to hear about everything from Australian kangaroo culls and the control of invasive species to conflict metals, the open-pit gold mine as designed landscape, and the difficulties of piloting a boat up the Congo.

The Landscape Futures Night School kicks off at 6:00pm; however, you must RSVP if you would like to attend: studioxnyc AT gmail DOT com.

[Images: Spreads from Geologic City by Smudge Studio].

Next week, meanwhile, we will be hosting a launch party for Smudge Studio‘s new pamphlet, Geologic City, a look at the rocky underpinnings of New York, both temporary & abstract (gold reserves, fiber optics, magnetic strips on subway cards) and massively real (bedrock, landslides, urban mineralogy). Jamie Kruse and Elizabeth Ellsworth of Smudge Studio—co-authors of the blog Friends of the Pleistocene—will guide attendees through the pamphlet, as well as through the deep time of the city, utilizing Studio-X NYC’s 16th-floor windows overlooking southwestern Manhattan and the Hudson River to point out specific sites of geological influence on New York itself.

Jamie and Liz will be joined by Meg Studer, a designer and cartographer with a sustained interest in ecological systems, who has recently mapped the road-salt industry. The installations will remain in Studio-X NYC for two weeks, open to the public.

[Images: Salt maps by Meg Studer].

Also on our schedule for the near future is an evening with photographer Simon Norfolk, whose work should be familiar to long-term readers of this site; BLDGBLOG’s 2006 interview with Simon is still one of my personal favorites, and is well worth reading in full. Simon will be engaged in a wide-ranging discussion with Noah Shachtman—editor of Wired‘s excellent blog Danger Room—and this will kick off a longer series of events themed around conflict and the city: urban military action, urban violence, urban police technology, urban warfare, divided cities, and much more. (While he’s in town, don’t miss Simon’s lecture at the School of the Visual Arts on Wednesday, September 14).

The rest of the autumn promises a huge array of exhibitions, events, and public meetings—design charrettes, walking tours, all-day interviews, film fests, panel discussions, standalone lectures, slideshows, night schools, and more. To whet your appetite, our schedule is currently shaping up with a distributed film festival, exploring bank heists and prison breaks as architectural phenomena, co-organized with Filmmaker Magazine; a series of literary launches hosted in collaboration with GQ and Farrar, Straus and Giroux; live conversations with Benjamin Bratton, Luis Callejas, Christian Parenti, Janette Kim, Chris Woebken, and Bernard Tschumi, among many others, including ongoing collaborations with GSAPP’s own stellar faculty.


[Image: The Mobile Fabrication Unit by Gramazio & Kohler, soon to be building at Storefront for Art and Architecture].

Some things to read on a Monday afternoon:

—Architect Bjarke Ingels of BIG dominates the stage at TED. I was able to walk around BIG’s recently completed Mountain Dwellings in Copenhagen the other week, as part of an amazing drive around what felt like all of Denmark with Johan Hybschmann and Nicola Twilley. The building’s now-famous parking garage, we suggested only half-jokingly, would make an amazing venue for an architecture conference: its terraced parking decks overlook and focus upon a kind of inadvertent auditorium. Drive-in films, drive-in lectures, drive-in pirate radio concerts – it’s too fantastic a space not to try.

—Lebbeus Woods offers a glimpse of a film he outlined, designed, and later co-wrote with Olive Brown, called Underground Berlin. It involves a disillusioned architect, a missing twin brother, neo-Nazi activities in the divided city, metallic underground tunnels connecting east to west, and “a top-secret underground research station rumored to be somewhere beneath the very center of Berlin.” There are even rogue planetary scientists investigating “the tremendous, limitless geological forces active in the earth.” Woods’s graphic presentation of the idea is incredible, and absolutely worth a very long look.

—Meanwhile, farmers in the UK have been asked “to implement measures which would reverse the UK-wide decline in skylark numbers.” This means shaving small rectangular plots into the midst of productive cropland, because “rectangular uncropped patches in cereal fields allow skylarks to forage when crops become too dense for them.” We will prepare our landscapes for other species.

—Is your iPod maxing out the U.S. electrical grid? Perhaps it doesn’t matter: New Scientist looks at how to short-circuit the grid altogether – and would-be saboteurs the world over are still taking furious notes. Alternatively, just follow the fantastic On The Grid series by Adam Ryder and Brian Rosa to see where the electrical network really goes.

New Scientist also scanned beneath the south polar glaciers to find “Antarctica’s hidden plumbing” – and, as it happens, “the continent’s secret water network is far more dynamic than we thought.”

—Ruairi Glynn’s new book, Digital Architecture: Passages Through Hinterlands is now out; it documents Glynn’s related exhibition.

—Moving online, New York’s Architectural League has redesigned its website – joining the Canadian Centre for Architecture, who also redesigned their own site earlier this summer.

—Back in England, the BBC reports that pigs are being used “to help restore” parts of Worcestershire’s historic Wyre Forest. This comes at the same time that Cairo has realized that its absurd slaughter of every pig in the city last spring in order to guard against swine flu has led to an extraordinary garbage crisis. “The pigs used to eat tons of organic waste,” the New York Times reports. “Now the pigs are gone and the rotting food piles up on the streets of middle-class neighborhoods like Heliopolis and in the poor streets of communities like Imbaba.” Meanwhile, Edible Geography points our attention to the fascinating labyrinth of subsidiary products made from the bodies of dead pigs; welcome to “Pig Futures.”

—On io9 Matt Jones suggests that “the city is a battlesuit for surviving the future,” and he cites Archigram, Kevin Slavin, Dan Hill, Warren Ellis, the architecture of sci-fi, William Gibson, and much more to make his point. Speaking of Warren Ellis, Icon magazine recently published a long conversation between Warren, Francois Roche, and myself; you can check it out on Flickr.

—Were artificial hills, henges, and monumental earthworks a kind of “prehistoric sat nav” installed across the British landscape? And does this same question seem to be asked at least once every few years?

—The 2009 Solar Decathlon approaches.

—Gramazio & Kohler’s Mobile Fabrication Unit will arrive soon at New York’s Storefront for Art and Architecture. Between October 5 and October 27, it will be busy assembling “the first temporary public installation to be built on site by an industrial robot in New York.” Then, however, on Halloween, it will become possessed by incomprehensible forces from the Precambrian depths of the city, and, in a horrifying night of thunderous brickwork, it will wall off the island of Manhattan forever…