March 27th, 2011

Sad to see empty bike racks

Regular followers of the world's leading blog about architecture and bicycles—oh, and occasionally dumb looking helmets—will know I have been writing a book on the topic as well. A few of the general ideas discussed in that book, are developments of ideas I first bit off here. Most, I'm afraid, I have had to deny you, lest you not see cause to part with the $500 or so, that architecture books usually cost. 
The book will also include original photos, that I have just commenced work on, with a rather smart new SLR camerwa. Above are three photos I snapped on my way to photograph the building below, an architects' office, where bike racks out the front are used to advertise the firm's long standing interest in green design. 
Unfortunately, on the day I visited, there was only one bike in the rack, a knock about thing I saw fit to hide behind my bike, for the photos. My guess is that staff with nice bikes, keep them inside at their desks. I would. There is nothing wrong with the rack placement; they are off the street, and in view of reception. The problem, is that in fledgling bike-transit cities, the pioneers (people like me, and many young architects) are viewed as so exotic for riding to work, that we flaunt our rare air with bikes, we believe at least, are attractive to thieves. I would not leave mine parked there every day. Cycling is so demeaning here, that many of us overcompensate with lovely bikes. God damn it, Mikael Colville Andersen might actually right about one thing! Where everyone cycles, no one sees cycling an expression of their individuality, and the desire fades to ride bikes that others might covet.   

I'm treading dangerously close to causing myself grief with this line of thinking. Next, I will be wanting to go live in Denmark (what, and learn to speak French!). I already have plans to go there in May, and photograph everything. Then I think of all the short trips I don't use my bike for, especially at night time, because sometimes I'm just not in the mood to fight for my life among cars. The vigilance required is mentally taxing. At those times, memories of confrontations with threatening drivers, that I normally try to forget, rise from my subconscious, and I grab the keys to my car. Maybe I'm kidding myself. Maybe I should just defect, go live in Copenhagen or some place. Or maybe learn to love some aspects of driving?

I've learned this much as least, that providing bike racks ahead of demand, can draw attention to deficiencies in a city's cycleway network. That's not the case with these racks outside my friend's office. But it could be with a demonstrative bike parking station.  

How architects brand themselves with their bikes

Conscious as we are now, of the environment, our health and the frightful impact of cars, many architects are looking to the bicycle, as an emblem of the late machine age. They have for some time: Marcel Breuer modeled his Wassily Chair on his Adler bicycle's handlebars; Reyner Banham wrote essays about his Moulton F-frame; Norman Foster's space frame Moulton looks unnervingly like many of his own buildings; and man of the moment Bjarke Ingels, of BIG, has gone into partnership with the designer of his own Biomega. (A dense run of links there for those with an interest).
So Breuer rode a German bike, to remind him of his formative years at the Bauhaus. Banham and Foster chose bicycles representative of British engineering. Ingels rides an icon of Danish design. Each is branding himself with his nation's prowess.

By the way, these are screen shots from the SBS television documentary "Designer People [episode 8]", in which presenter Lee Lin talks to Jens Martin Skibsted, Bjarke Ingels and others, about Biomega bicycles, architecture, and maybe a few other topics... I just noticed the bikes and the buildings.
Thanks Roberto for calling me to let me know it was on. A huge thanks to any reader who can give me any more verifiable leads regarding famous architects and what bikes they ride—I'm compiling a list.