I will be talking about the work of Lithuanian-born artist Aleksandra Kasuba at the University of Limerick School of Architecture on Wednesday, 24 February at 5pm. You can see her work at Kasubaworks.
Time to paint this morning’s picture of just how dark it is out there. Let’s start with the Irish situation. I haven’t remarked much on it lately, because, I suppose, it seemed so obvious. Mistaking a peripheral position in the economy for a core position is always bad, especially if it’s your government and finance industries doing it. That’s just what happened in Ireland. The Celtic Tiger is not so much in free fall as in fast reverse now. It’s important to look back in history and remember that the Great Depression, bad as it was in the United States, was worse elsewhere. Hitchcock and Johnson originally intended the International Style exhibit as an intervention in Germany and only turned to MoMA when it became clear to them that the conditions in Germany would prevent future building.
Speaking of that show, think about the fact that in 1932 it was still possible to be somewhat optimistic about the economy, to think about building. We may not have fallen much yet. Obama’s latest plan, to digitize health care records, suggests that he may not have much idea what to do. This may help save money in health care, but it’s hardly much of a boost to the GDP. It makes nothing, it allows us to export nothing, and the investment is for a one time project that serves only one industry, albeit a big one. In other words, it’s rearranging desk chairs on the Titanic.
Meanwhile, at the Atlantic Michael Hirschorn plays out a scenario in which the New York Times shuts down its presses, perhaps as early as this May. The other day I was telling someone how the AT&T building is the last great corporate skyscraper and how the annihilation of AT&T after its completion meant that there would never be such iconic architecture again. Then I was sobered by the thought of the New York Times building as a new icon, but immediately realized that the exception confirmed the rule.
Finally, if you think we aren’t producing anything, we are! Lots of nice carbon dioxide emissions are being created by all those Google searches. Two searches produce as much CO2 as boiling a tea kettle does. See Slashdot for more. At least we’ll stay warm in the winter when fossil fuels run out.
I was at the University of Limerick School of Architecture this weekend. Browsing in the airport bookstore on the way back, I found a copy of Chaos at the Crossroads by Frank McDonald and James Nix and picked it up. Having read about half of it thus far, my first impression is that not only is this an excellent analysis of the exurban sprawl that is taking over the Irish landscape, it would be a remarkable work for any country. McDonald and Nix marshall a huge amount of statistics in their effort—did you know the Irish drive their cars more than Americans do? or that 30% of the housing stock in Ireland has been built since 1990?—and paint an apocalyptic vision of Dublin growing to the size of Los Angeles with 1/3 the population. Unlike anti-modern luddites in the US like James Howard Kunstler, McDonald and Nix aren’t afraid of contemporary architecture and instead see it as playing a crucial role in building a network of dense modern cities to counteract the drive to the one-off freestanding McMansion. Also worth noting are the copious photographs of both villains and heroes in the struggle over the Irish landscape today. You may find the book at amazon.co.uk