Category: about this blog
Its been a busy month here in Los Angeles and your blogger has gotten somewhat behind on postings. As you may know, I am a couple years out of architecture school and work as a designer here on the west coast. To become a licensed architect, one must pass a multi-division exam called the Architect Registration Examination. There are nine divisions in all, and I’ve taken two in the last month. But now I’m back.
I’ll update soon with a feature on spring doings in Detroit, surely a lovely time of year in any city. Stay tuned! I’m also eager to see some comments and ideas from readers (I know you’re out there, I see your page hits!)
Dorothy H. Turkel House, Detroit (Frank Lloyd Wright)
Regrettably, there’s another sad piece today about metals theft from historic homes, penned by the recent director of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History. The gravity of this problem, and especially its potential to undo the progress of the last generation, cannot be overestimated. The local media focus on political scandal is going to make it that much harder for illegal scrapping to get the priority attention it deserves.
I’d also like to mention Ruth Adler Schnee’s talk at Wayne State’s Local History Conference, taking place this Saturday the 5th at 1pm. You’ll find it a good opportunity to learn more about the architects of the past who have created so many beautiful Detroit buildings and neighborhoods.
The many pleasures and unexpected delights of urban living are a recurring theme for this blog. Unfortunately, today we must examine one of the rare downsides of city life, the risk of fire in dense urban districts.
John J. Harvey in New York Harbor, 2004.
There was news yesterday from Lawrence, Massachusetts, that 14 historic downtown buildings were destroyed in an overnight fire. Lawrence was the setting for the historic 1912 ‘Bread and Roses’ strike, a signature event during the labor turmoil of the progressive era. Lawrence is additionally home to the Downtown Lawrence Historic District, composed of 26 buildings and listed on the National Register since 1979. The historic district is north of the burned block, across the Merrimack River, and was not affected by the blaze.
Last week here in Los Angeles, we watched from the ninth floor of our office building as a nearby two-story apartment building burned for nearly two hours. In New York City, where multi-family living is the rule, an apartment fire nearby is a dreaded event.
Ladder Company 108 in Brooklyn, 2003.
With its preponderance of detached single-family dwellings, Detroit is actually less subject to the ravages of firestorms spreading from one residence to the next. Of course, Detroit has its share of tragedy due to fire. While the plague of arson has largely dissipated in recent years, the bitter cold of winter and resultant use of dangerous heating devices continue to cause loss and heartbreak.
As the city reinvents itself in coming decades, updated building codes, and especially the use of automatic sprinkler systems, will help limit fire damage. However, as curators and keepers of historic buildings, we must make every effort to guard against the sudden and irreversible consequences of fire.
Alright, lets get down to talking about buildings. A lot of what drives the content of this blog will be current events, and our first few topics have been more oriented to urbanism and the texture of the city. But this blog will operate at all scales, from regional analyses to the missing kitchen door in my rental apartment (more on that later…).
So let’s dial down to a bit of a finer grain.
Originally a Manning’s Cafeteria, the Seattle building is a fair example of L.A. inspired googie (not google!) architecture. They are not hard to find along most main arteries. As just one example, here’s a bowling alley in Santa Monica that I photographed this morning on my way to get bagels:
There are of course lots of these types of buildings in Detroit and especially in the older suburbs just north of 8 Mile. We are so used to many of them that we don’t really notice them until they’re gone.
Another aim of this blog will be to give Detroit-area residents a better idea of how the city is seen nationally, or internationally.
Today's article on selling Detroit's parks is our first example.
There is certainly a great deal of open space in the city in the form of vacant lots, but surely there is value to keeping these municipal parcels intact. Los Angeles, for one, is a city that is famously short of public space; and at this juncture it is far too late to do anything about it. New York, on the other hand, has for more than a century built up its collection of parks and playgrounds both great and small.
And a concluding thought from our erstwhile arch-rival: "Parks are the outward visible symbol of democracy" --NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, 1956.
Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus.
This blog, launched today, will examine the American urban condition. Specifically, we will concentrate on the city of Detroit; its architecture, history, planning, preservation, and future.
Enriching this discussion will be our experiences visiting and living in other cities like New York, Los Angeles, and many others. We will discuss what we like, what might work in Detroit, and what probably won't. We will highlight the potential of urban life yet not shrink from its current pathologies.
You are invited to visit regularly and contribute to our pages.
We hope for better things; it shall rise from the ashes.