15 May 2013

Meet Henry

Henry is a rescue dog, a proud ambassador for Project Blue Collar, and my most constant companion.

Read more here: http://architectstasy.tumblr.com/tagged/henry

04 March 2013

I have to admit: I am firmly situated in the school of thought that, in religious architecture, more decoration is better.  Not so much for the contemplation of divinity or the exaltation of spirit, but because it's so incredibly beautiful.  I recently had the great pleasure of visiting the Sri Venkateswara Swami Temple, an active (active) Hindu temple in Chicago's West Suburbs.  Photography on the interior was prohibited, but here is a glimpse of the richness of both the space and the faith.  The only thing better would have been if I'd been able to capture some of the constant stream of devotees entering and exiting; the traditional dress of nearly every worshipper easily put the building in their shadows.

13 January 2013

Slightly-Less-New Year News

The popular mode of journalism seems to be to use facts to plunge readers into a sort of gleeful self-flagellation. I have a different proposal: what if we take facts as cautionary tales, or even better, optimistic proposals for future action? For example, what if each reader picked up one or two new attitudes - more considered BOGO spending, less insistence on non-local (therefore always in season - therefore not needing to be grown for aesthetics) foods? What if we took the data presented, not as a reason to castigate those that have gone before us, but as a guidepost to the road ahead? 
Up to 50% of all food produced is thrown away”  The Guardian

McDonald’s is fun to hate. Encouraging children to read is fun to get behind. Is that why this announcement feels so weird?
The U.K.’s biggest distributor of children’s books is about to be…McDonald’s”  The Atlantic

Detroit, in all of its beautiful fractured multiplicity, has produced a magnum opus. With good data, input from those on the frontlines, and committed funding for the next five years, these vital and valuable projects finally have a fighting chance instead of being relegated to just a crying shame.
Detroit initiative unveils recommendations for city’s renewal”  Architectural Record

From devastation to devastatingly romantic: I may not be a fan of the Big Apple, but it sure does do Valentine’s Day right.
Time Square’s heart-shaped Valentine’s Day boardwalk will be made from Hurricane Sandy debris”  Inhabitat

I’m having a visceral reaction to this particular piece by my all-time favorite food writer. I’d like to think it’s more than that it’s essentially a love letter to potatoes, my favorite food.
Culinary ennui: Garlic and parmesan bread”  Vanilla Garlic

The leap from concept to creation is rarely as elegantly executed as this exhibition. This elevates the already-exquisite tradition of Japanese textile exhibits.
Akio Hirata’s exhibition of hats by Nendo”   Design Daily 

Forget the product: I lust after the tome-saturated space.
Selecta by LEMA”  Architonic

02 January 2013

The New Year So Far

There's really no bad time to find new ways to call architecture promiscuous.

Maybe we could seek out more market drivers to convert the prison experience into more of an opportunity and not just a holding cell.

I like Avis and think this is a positive move, but I hope they keep the name Zipcar.

Good things come out of Michigan (and we desperately need the money coming back into it)!

A requiem and implicit plea for the never-out-of-date intelligent curation of ideas.

I am going through the job application process right now, and I have no idea why it's so difficult not to sound like this.

It's not like I need an excuse to buy wine, but when storing them is as delicious as tasting them...
"Toast the new year with 8 designer wine racks"  Design Bureau

29 September 2011

Andhra Pradesh and Special Economic Zones: economy and territory

(1) Territory
  • Capital city: Hyderabad
  • Polulation: 76,000,000
  • Repatriated workers: tens of thousands every year
  • Between 1969 and 2002, about 42,24,000 acres (1.71 million ha) of government lands have been given to 29,23,000 landless poor; but the government has recalled at least 20,000 ha of this land, and possibly more
  • The idea is that the land not be cultivatable farmland, this is not to exceed 10% of the land assigned to SEZs; but this is not enforced
  • The architectural style of HITEC City and of the large office buildings built by IT firms, the vast landscaped campuses, and the remarkable quality of the roads mark a striking contrast with the surrounding environment, which is generally dry and rocky and poorly equipped in basic infrastructure. In this way, HITEC City is actively contributing to the formation of highly differentiated “mixed spaces” midway between urban centres and rural spaces that characterise peri-urbanisation 
(2) SEZs
  • The 2005 SEZ act does not allow any public hearing or consultative process on the issue of land acquisitions
  • Top-down decision-making practices have effectively excluded many local actors from the policy process, and the creation of special purpose enclaves in suburban areas has weakened prospects for the development of governance institutions at the metropolitan scale 
  • Private sector actors have emerged on the scene, for instance as builders and managers of infrastructure complexes, mainly through public–private partnerships. 
  • In contrast, locally elected representatives have been largely excluded from the policy process, as have civil society groups, learning about major decisions only after the fact
  • The act of 2005 deregulated many aspects of production and trade and was intended to facilitate private investment, including foreign direct investment
  • Economic reforms and political change are redefining relations between the federal government and the states, and have effectively contributed to a form of political decentralisation. From the point of view of the states, one of the trade-offs of decentralisation is that they are required to take on greater responsibilities in resource generation and sound fiscal management. States have reacted differently to these opportunities and constraints and have adopted various approaches with regard to empowering local governments including their largest cities. Most states, including Andhra Pradesh, have been reluctant to cede significant powers to elected municipal councillors, or indeed to include them in decisions that directly affect their constituencies. Economic policies in particular are considered to fall outside the purview of local governments
  • Numerous incentives were designed to attract investment to the IT sector, many granted automatically, such as: exemption from purview of statutory power cuts, exemption from inspections under most labour laws, and permission for three-shift operation.  Incentives for which corporations may apply (and which affect land development in Hyderabad/Andhra Pradesh): a 25% rebate in power tariff, exemption from zoning regulations, and a rebate on the cost of land
  • Approvals are given by a single body
  • A company can set up an STP unit anywhere in India
  • 100% foreign equity is permitted
  • All imports of software and hardware are duty-free
  • Import of second-hand capital goods is permitted
  • Sales within the area are permissible, up to 50% of exports
  • STP units are exempt from corporate income taxes for entire fiscal years
  • Capital invested by foreign entrepreneurs, know-how fees, royalty, dividends, etc., can be freely repatriated after payment of income taxes due on them, if any
  • Repatriation of foreign currency can be done freely

27 September 2011

HITEC City: An overview of Hyderabad's Software Technology Park

(1) Hyderabad Today
  • Capital city of Andhra Pradesh
  • Pop. 6.2 million people
  • 6th most populous metropolis in India
  • Known as the City of Pearls
  • 16 sub-districts, or mandals: Amberpet, Ameerpet, Asifnagar, Bahadurpura, Bandlaguda, Charminar, Golconda, Himayathnayar, Khairtabad, Marredpally, Musheerabad, Nampally, Saidabad, Secunderabad, Shaikput, and Trimulgherry
  • Home of 23 SEZs, more than any other single city/mandal in the country, and Andhra Pradesh has more than any other province
The Government of Andhra Pradesh constituted the Quli Qutub Shah Urban Development Authority to provide better civic amenities including water supply; drainage; communication; electricity; housing; hospitals; schools; banks; hotels; and education, recreation, and marketing facilities.

The various handicrafts of the district are ornaments made with Rice Pearls, lacquer bangles studded with stones, silverware, Jewellery, saris, nirmal and kalamkari paintings and artifacts, bidri handcrafted items, silk-ware, and handloom-based clothing.

The IT industry of Hyderabad is one of the main sources of revenue for the district and the state. At present more than 150 companies are registered with Hyderabad's Software Technology Park (STP) including Oracle, Microsoft, Dell, Motorola, Verizon, Accenture, Convergys, and Google. The district of Hyderabad is known for its IT and IT Enabled Services, Pharmaceuticals and Entertainment industries, call centers, BPO (business process outsourcing) firms, and other technological services.

 (2) Hyderabad Historically
Golconda Fort, 13th century
Qutb Shahi Tombs, 1543-1672
Monuments to the kings of Golconda
Charminar, 1591
Four minarets built on four grand arches commemorating the end of the plague
Mecca Masjid, 1694
Based on the design of the mosque at Mecca
One of the largest mosques in India, it can accommodate 10,000 people at a time
Faluknama Palace, 1893
Name means "mirror in the sky".  Designed by an Italian architect.

(3) HITEC (Hyderabad Information Technology Engineering Consultancy) City
  • 20-minute drive from downtown Hyderabad
  • Comprised of built-to-suit as well as multi-tenanted corporate campuses
  • Phase I-II: Two towers, Cyber Gateway and Cyber Pearl
  • Cyber Pearl (phase I): 5 million square feet; intended to house 5,000 IT professionals and support staff
  • Cyber Gateway (phase II): almost 900,000 s.f. of office space; much of it tenanted by Indian companies
  • Hyderabad International Convention Center: 15 acres; 291,000 square feet; designed to accommodate 5,000-6,500 visitors at a time; combined with Novotel, a business hotel; India's most technologically advanced assembly space
  • HITEX (Hyderabad International Trade Expositions) Center: 100 acres; opened in 2003
  • L&T Infocity is the first layout that attracted major international corporations.  It's spread over 151 acres, 5 million built square feet, and houses 45,000 employees

Cyber Pearl, HITEC City, 2003
Cyber Gateway, HITEC City, 2003
L&T Infocity, 2010
Hyderabad International Convention Center (date?)
HITEX, 2003

21 September 2011

Michel Foucault's "Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias" (an excerpt from "Poststructuralism"): a response

Utopias: unachievable.  "Unreal".  From the Greek 'ou' + 'topos' = no place.

Heterotopias: "real and effective spaces which are outlined in the very institution of society, but which constitute a sort of counter-arrangement, of effectively realized utopia, in which all the real arrangements, all the other real arrangements that can be found within society, are at one and the same time represented, challenged and overturned: a sort of place that lies outside all places and yet is actually localizable." (352)

Two kinds: heterotopia of crisis and heterotopia of deviance.  The former is disappearing; stated uncritically.  Perhaps because more behaviors are embraced as inevitable?  And the latter provides an invisible real place, a shunt for the things we do not want to see, or the things we want to see when we do not want to see anything else.

Second principle: "over the course of its history, a society may take an existing heterotopia, which has never vanished, and make it function in a very different way." (353)  For example, cemeteries: is death assumed a part of life (central to the city) or stigmatized with disease and trauma and removed to the outskirts?  It exists, but we choose to make places of death invisible, visitable and visible only by special intention.

Third principle: "The heterotopia has the power of juxtaposing in a single real place different spaces and locations that are incompatible with each other." (354)  For example, the garden: the smallest indivisible unit of the entire earth, and also a microcosm of it; the simultaneous reflection of human temperance and unstoppable nature.

Fourth principle: "Heterotopias are linked for the most part to bits and pieces of time, i.e. they open up through what we might define as a pure symmetry of heterochronisms."  (354)  For example, a library, which intends to serve as an au courant resource for as comprehensive a collection reaching back into the ages as possible: ancience and nowness not only cannot escape each other, they need each other.  What about county fairs?  Renaissance festivals?  Holiday markets?

Fifth principle: "Heterotopias always presuppose a system of opening and closing that isolates them and makes them impenetrable at one and the same time."  (355)  Think of a nursing home or a prison, where even if you are there, you may not actually be present according to the specified function of the building.  Sometimes rigorous rituals ("hygiene", "security") are required for any kind of entry.  Think also of South American farmhouses, where entry does not entitle casual passersby admittance to the private areas of the residence.

Sixth principle: Heterotopias "have, in relation to the rest of space, a function that takes place between two opposite poles.  On the one hand they perform the task of creating a space of illusion that reveals how all of real space is more illusory, all the locations within which life is fragmented.  On the other, they have the function of forming another space, another real space, as perfect, meticulous and well-arranged as ours is disordered, ill-conceived and in a sketchy state."  (356)  Think of a brothel: a place you go to to fill your needs, where the customer selects which needs are to be filled and the institution provides the illusion of a closed circle, a perfect world where only those needs matter, where they are met perfectly, and where outside considerations are utterly irrelevant.  Or of Jesuit colonies, who impose perfectly unnatural conditions on a space in order to achieve social and spiritual perfection.