Tuesday, February 03, 2015
Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Freed Man in Paris
The buzz about Modern Man began in earnest over the weekend. On Sunday, my story In the Footsteps of Le Corbusier appeared in The Boston Sunday Globe Travel section. I was delighted to recall the destinations in France and Switzerland that were dutifully required to research the book, from the Swiss Riveria and Lake Geneva to the South of France, Marseille, Lyon, Ronchamp, and of course Paris. Also on Sunday, my interview with Rachel Martin aired on NPR's Weekend Edition. The headline was "Like it or Not, Architect Le Corbusier's Urban Designs are Everywhere" -- giving me a taste of how this controversial figure is likely to be greeted, that is, with some considerable skepticism. Rachel Martin did tell me at the beginning that she had no idea who Le Corbusier was, and was not particularly interested in the subject -- but really enjoyed reading the book. She asked some challenging questions. I'll be very happy if readers find this story compelling, and relate it to our present built environment and the landscape all around, and the future of cities in the 21st century.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
The tumult and the joy of writing Modern Man, my forthcoming biography of Le Corbusier
Thursday, January 09, 2014
Jane Jacobs strikes again
Sunday, November 03, 2013
Staying up late in Bellagio
I'm a tiny bit sheepish about my latest contribution to The Boston Globe Travel section. The Lido nightclub splashed on the scene in Bellagio, and seemed to be changing the nature of the place as a day-tripper destination. The untold story is that it has also been driving the locals a bit loco. The thumpa-thumpa of the music rattles around the peninsula on Lake Como, particularly at The Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center at Villa Serbelloni. I was honored to be a fellow there this summer, working on my book on Le Corbusier. I only spent one indulgent night on the town. So here it is, appearing in today's editions of The Boston Globe in the Travel section: BELLAGIO, Italy — The latest addition to the scene here is a feisty, flashy, and thumping one: The Lido (www.lidodibellagio.com/index_eng.html), a beach club by day and a fabulous and groovy Euro-trash convening place into the wee hours. The parade of impossibly stylish Italians starts marching over from the ferry dock on Lake Como at 1 a.m., when the party is just getting started. A typical cover is about $26, a justifiable splurge to watch the class of people stepping off the big power boats tied up just a few steps from the dance floor. Midweek nights feature delightfully cheesy cover bands of Pink Floyd and the like. If you have the stamina, bracket a visit with a stroll through the Villa Melzi gardens (www.giardinidivillamelzi.it/html/menu_-_eng.html) to the adjacent hamlet of Loppia for dinner at Ristorante Alle d’Arsenne (www.ristorantedarsenediloppia.com/en/home.html), a favorite of nearby resident George Clooney ( no, really). Then crash at the exquisitely restored Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni (www.villaserbelloni.com), where a dive in the lakeside pool is just the thing for the morning after.
Monday, January 28, 2013
Quiet and chaos
The Atlantic Cities. I had been to India before, in the 1990s, traveling to Delhi and trekking in Ladakh. This time, overall, India kicked my butt. I was overwhelmed by traffic-clogged, sprawling Mumbai, and couldn't help thinking, if this is the way things are with 20 million people, how in the world is this place not going to implode with 20 million more people by 2050? I also found Chandigarh less than inspiring -- it was doubtless a big deal at the time, but today resembles nothing so much as a bad 70s Maryland suburb. The grid requires a car dependence that seems out of step with a post-carbon future. The informal settlement was not outrageous -- Darahvi was full of industry and a thriving local economy. Even the kids seemed relatively happy. But it all seemed so tenuous, or untenable, like it couldn't possibly last. At the Lincoln Institute we try to assess efforts of regularization and slum upgrading. Yet the conditions on the ground are so overwhelming -- it's like helping Haiti or trying to mitigate climate change. One can make the effort but it's so obviously just a drop in the bucket. Similarly, it's hard to know how to be useful in advising India how to plan her cities going forward. The coda was I got gravely ill, hitting me on the way back, and all that free booze on British Airways went to waste. Sobering all around.
Friday, July 27, 2012
When it comes to sprawl, it's meet the new boss
here. So what's changed in 10 years? From a brief look around, very little. The air is filled with the sounds of leafblowers and carpenter's hammers, and the same old subdivisions are sprouting up once again. The 2008 financial and housing crisis surely slowed things down, but instead of a major redirection and moment of soul-searching, around here it was just a pause. This is a key question I raise in the revised introduction to the softcover edition of This Land, being published this fall by Johns Hopkins University Press. Surely with all those zombie subdivisions dotting the country, the reasoning goes, towns and builders and planning boards might rethink the 3,000-square-foot single-family-home, solo-driver-commute, must-drive-to-everything layout. Not around here. The homes may be crowded in together with a little more net density, with a little more "conservation land," typically in the form of a retention pond surrounded by chemically treated lawn, reserved for nature. Out from the cul-de-sacs and down the secondary roads, there are more freshly minted could-be-anywhere strip malls, where I currently reside. Foreclosures, energy costs, climate change -- whatever. The last time state government did anything to guide towns like Acton towards smarter, more sustainable growth, a guy named Mitt Romney was governor. Acton, rock on.