March 23rd, 2011

Natural affinities between architecture and cycling

I am enjoying one last flurry of blog posts before, my dears, I must knuckle down to some serious writing. Yes, a wonderful book on the bike/building nexus I promise unto you all—although architecture books, I must apologize, typically cost many squllions of bucks. As much as Brooks saddles. If they could be attached to seat poles, you might see the value.

However, before I go quiet on you all for a while, it is time I addressed the natural affinity I see, between architecture and bicycles. Architects don't make much money, and what little they do make they spend on overpriced books; so there is one obvious reason why so many cycle. They is poor my loves. Thus, when they design bicycles, they do so with the aim of getting them into stores for under $35. Case in point: architect Andrew Maynard's OLC Bike. Only an architect would think of designing a bike to sell in flat packs at Aldi.

Architects too, tend to be zealots. They will design houses for themselves with no curtains, even if that forces their family to get dressed in cupboards. It is hardly surprising then, that their utopian dreaming about a better world, to be rammed down everyone's necks, sees them personally walking the walk—or should I say "riding the ride".

Architects watch the horizon for trends. Oh they see a wave coming, cycling rates on the rise in trend setting cities like New York and London. And like me, many are gearing up, getting the right clothes, right bikes, ensuring they are seen as trend setters, not followers.

While on the topic, I must mention the rise of architecture-by-bicycle tours cropping up in cities all over the world—with buildings woth seeing, of course. Google them. These tours are everywhere. A few that stand out to my mind, are those ran in conjunction with the annual London Festival of Architecture. Leading architects get on their bikes to lead tours, via the quickest means to reach, stop at, and admire that city's buildings. As an admirer of architecture myself, and of real estate too, I can identify. I found my present house cruising nice streets on my way home from a bike race ten years ago. The quiet streets one finds nauseating to tour in a car, are perfect for cycling.   

Architects also love Holland, because Dutch society actively sponsors avant-garde art and architecture. Do you know, that after the artists Komar and Melamid phone polled Americans regarding their taste in art, they came up with the twee painting on the left, and later came up with the non-representational, expressionistic work on the right, when they repeated the experiment by phone polling the Dutch? Oh yeah baby, Holland is cool, and the Dutch cycle. You can't hide that little fact from us architects.

Selling cyclespace

Proximity to cyclespace boosts property prices. We know that as cyclists—heck, I found my own house while riding my bike—but architects and developers may need to be told. Below are some paid-for advertisements in a free to download eMagazine, powered by ISSUU. Yes, they're selling land based on how close they are to good mountain bike trails.
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Real estate agents in Portland know it as well. I've written to the agent discussed in this this clip, with the aim of monetarily quantifying the value of cyclespace. I hope she can tell me. I've read studies though, saying people have moved to Portland because it's bike friendly, something Richard Florida backs up in his latest book too.

I Love New York

In August 2009, The New York City Council passed this law, requiring all parking stations provide secure bicycle parking proportionate to its number of car parking spaces. I love New York. I had the great pleasure of living there in 2006, and look forward to going back shortly. When I first went there in 1998, the buzz on the street was Mayor Giuliani. He'd just made the city safe. I was next there in 2002, thankfully not for too long, as the place was in the post 9/11 doldrums. 2006 was far more upbeat. I put my eldest in school on W104th street, and dealt first hand with their equivalent of the "my schools" website, Australia was on the brink of emulating. While my son was at school, and really thriving, I was doing the same up at Columbia. Oh, and I wrote a novel over my morning coffees at Starbucks. I had become part of a city where nobody waits for anyone's go ahead. You're already in charge of the universe, because you're in New York. Of course it's a mind game. But being there, you submit to that, and it works. 

So while the rest of the world waits to see ideas trialled elsewhere, people in New York know they'll be waiting forever for anyone to make the first move (I'm exaggerating; there are massive exceptions; but I'm right all the same). Who cares if they deserve to or not. We let them, so they set the trends.