greatest hits

When I resurrected this blog in May of 2005, I turned to Drupal because I wanted to have a content management system that could handle more than just blogging. Even if the learning curve was steep initially, Drupal has proven to be the correct choice. I built sites for Networked Publics, the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, DOCOMOMO-US, AUDC, the Netlab, and even for my espresso maker on Drupal installs. As the CMS has evolved, it’s become possible to handle custom databases and to produce all manner of content that is different from your usual blog. 

Today I’m introducing a new page that simply keeps track of the most popular content on the site. See it here. Not a bad place to start if you’re new to varnelis.net. 

 

 

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on the press catching up

Yesterday, within the space of five minutes two stories from the major media outlets struck me as hilarious.

The first was from Wired. Some five years after the first show I had at CLUI about One Wilshire, they have a gallery of photographs of the place at Wired.com. Seems like little has changed. Seems like they didn’t bother to do anything with the copy of Blue Monday we sent them except get a good idea or two for a somewhat belated photo piece. Seems like they couldn’t get any better shots even with their professional team. Wired’s looking tired. What’s up with that, Chris? I mean really, at least they could have asked Nicholas Carr and me to talk about One Wilshire and the future of such data hotels. THAT would have been interesting. Ah, but you have to love the media. That’s why we academics do believe in searching for prior art on a topic and citing it. Even if it means we have to try harder to be original, it makes what we do write about so more interesting.  

Here’s a standing offer to Chris and other editors of major technology magazines: give me a theme issue to edit and I’ll give you something worth grabbing off the newsstands, not a rehash of five year old work. 

The second was from the New York Times and was entitled "How the Bubble Stayed Under the Radar." In trying to account for the longevity of the bubble, this piece had a bit more content, but its first premise—that nobody saw the bubble coming—was strange. I think I’ve been talking about it since 2003 or so. Has nobody else noticed? I guess this blog’s readership is only in the thousands…

Anyway, this was a classic bubble: only the very deluded believed otherwise (or the very calculating—on a foreign exchange basis, there is no bubble…an American house that has doubled in price since 2002 has seen no gain vs. its value in Euros…but if then that leads you to think of what happened to salaries in the US under GWB). Everyone else (and this means you, real estate agents and bankers) knew it would collapse, they just wanted to cash out first. (financial disclaimer: I got rid of all the REITs in our 401k’s a couple of years ago and put them into global equities).

It’s still rather surprising to me that Manhattan continues its bubbley behavior. Maybe when the Europeans realize just how little their fabulous investment is netting them given the falling dollar, they’ll wise up. Maybe when the most interesting and talented Manhattanites begin to flee in droves to other cities (but where? not many candidates in this country? probably to Europe), it’ll begin to happen. 

Most of all, however, I’m amazed by architects. Due to the time involved in making buildings and the heaviness of the capital needed, architecture is traditionally a slow profession. Still, can it really be that architects haven’t noticed that the boom is over? Sure, China and Dubai have kept the system on life support, but construction in the former is going to cease the moment the Olympics start and the latter is merely another mad boom economy, entirely fueled by debt (see here). When collapse comes it will be grim and sustained. All too well I remember the recession of the 90s (or that of the 80s) when architects had great opportunities to work at the local café.  

But those of us who have been diligently working in the field of the expanded architect will still be here, welcoming your new ideas with open arms. Now more than ever, working on the periphery to expand what architecture is and what architecture can do is critical for the future of the profession.   

 

 

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in the blogs

Two blogs of note mentioned me recently. First, Régine at we-make-money-not-art had a two-part review of the panel that I moderated at the DLD conference.

I wish I had had more time to talk, but that’s the way conferences can be. For those of you who may be wondering what I said, here’s how I contextualized the panel:

Cities are communications systems. Media and urban environments impact each other and develop hand-in hand historically. When we began to live in cities, we deveolped writing to keep tabs of what went on in those cities. In the nineteenth century, the rapidly growing metropolis gave rise to the telephone and the telegraph, which allowed management at a distance, facilitating the business district, with its distinctive form of the skyscraper, the factory district, and the residential district. Could suburbs such as Levittown be conceivable without the substitute for urban culture provided by television? So if during the last two decades we are faced with an intense transition in media, what does that imply for architecture, for urbanism?

Speaking of urbanism, Bradley M. Swarts at East Coast Architecture Review kindly included varnelis.net on his list of top ten blogs on urbanism. It’s a great list and an honor to be included on it.  

On another front, if you haven’t heard the news, Last.fm is now offering full-length albums on its site. This morning I’ve been listening to this one by Popul Vuh, Krautrock band founded by Florian Fricke (father of Johannes Fricke of DLD). It’s the soundtrack to Aguirre: The Wrath of God, one of my favorite movies. In my book, it’s the best soundtrack ever written.

 

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