Saturday, November 26, 2005
Mike Lydon That's me!
I finally figured out how to post pictures (I think). Now I can start posting pictures of the places I write about. Sweet. Chicago pictures will becoming once I get back to Ann Arbor and upload them...
The Windy City
It was not long after the train rumbled past the southern Milwaukee suburbs that we entered the northern edge of Chicagolopolis. The feeling was more tangible, as my innate city sense could feel the pull of the loop from 25 miles out. It was almost like being back in the arms of a loved one. The weight of my final papers, projects, and exams lifted. It was a welcomed feeling, it was time to explore.
After deboarding at yet another Union Station (my third Union Station this year) I headed due east towards the lake. The weather was frigid and I was not dressed properly, but I couldn't have cared less. Walking from Union Station through downtown Chicago at 9:30 am on "black Friday" was not all that inspiring... the streets were dead. I conjectured that most people were either already in their offices, or they were taking the day off. However, I soon found out that they were all shopping on Michigan Avenue, the home of the Magnificent Mile, a midwest shopping mecca. It was also the only thing that seperated me from my first destination of interest, Millenium Park.
Since its official opening, I have heard nothing but positive comments about this urban gem. Parks can either be incredible amenities, or be urban voids. Millenium Park is certainly the former. Before I continue to sing its praises, I must admit that I was a little skeptical of the "BP Bridge" and the "Jay Pritzker Pavilion," both designed by Frank Gehry. It's not that I totally disregard Mr. Gehry's work, I just typically feel his blob-itecture is is much more disorientating than inspirational or space defining. However, the Pritzker Pavilion makes me feel that Mr. Gehry should just focus on performance art venues! Forget musuems, forget academic buildings, just music venues! His incredible creativity seemed to flow perfectly with the creative nature of music. Of course, there was no concert being performed in the 10 degree weather, but staring at the stage from the middle of the pavilion field the music in my head was only enriched by my surroundings. Nice one Frank.
Okay, my two year old niece Fiona is asking me to play with her, so I will continue this entry as a photo essay when I return to Ann Arbor tomorrow. Cheers!
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Here in Ann Arbor, I had the pleasure of working alongside Calthorpe and Associates as a facilitator for the third and final downtown redevelopment charette in Ann Arbor. The plan that CA presented was just one of many possibilities that would add housing to the downtown core, increase walkability, and intensify what is already a very successful downtown district. CA will be taking final recommendations and presenting a final plan on December 5th. I hope that the City understands the skill of CA and moves to adopt their ideas as soon as possible.
I also recently took a guided tour of Hamtramck (pronounced Ham-Tram-ick), Michigan. Hamtramck is a small city within the city of Detroit. No, seriously it is its own municipality within the confines of Detroit proper, like Lesotho in the midst of South Africa. Anyways, touring this small, dense, walkable city of 22,000 people was fascinating. First, it is probably the most diverse part of metro Detroit, as it has served as an affordable place for immigrant populations for the last 50 years. As a result, you can experience any number of ethnic restaurants, grocery stores, or bars. Second, it has a great stock of housing that reminds me much of Somerville, MA, both in form and density. However, it is MUCH more affordable. Houses, whole houses, can be bought for 60,000 a piece. Crime is somewhat of an issue, and local politics are a bit insane, but the place seemed highly livable and vibrant, especially compared to the rest of Detroit. I have a feeling this whole place will gentrify in a matter of years. Get in now, and make out like a bandit!
In other news, I am currently co-authoring an article for the PLACES journal with cooltownstudios principal Neil Takemoto. The article will be centered around media/invisible technology and how it is changing the urban form. If our article is selected, it will be published later this winter. I will keep you all updated for sure.
Finally, I have decided to maximize my resources here at the University of Michigan, and apply for a joint degree in urban design, and for a certificate in progressive real estate development. This means that my stay in Ann Arbor could move from 2 years to 3. A thought that is both exciting and depressing, as I like the town but miss the city life. We'll see what happens... stay tuned for a paper on Lewis Mumford and a review of Ann Arbor. Cheers!