April 4th, 2011

Site Architects, bicycles and digs at car culture

Idiosyncratic architects are often overlooked. Their work defies the shared values of camps, so is hard to write about, or appreciate. Add the fact that James Wines himself starts life as King of kitsch, and next publishes a book that would have us believe he's the Gandhi of green, and you could be forgiven for ignoring Site (now "Site Envirodesign"), as so many do.
But there are some sly digs at car-culture in Site's work, plus some lionizing of bikes, worthy of brief mention here, in the world's leading blog about buildings and bikes. "Highway '86 Processional" was an architectural art fixture, that kids could treat as a playground while their parents were caught in queues at the 1986 Canadian World Exposition. Every mode of human transport, from lunar pods to running shoes, was included in this life size, petrified highway scene. And there are so many bikes! Maybe because secondhand bikes were cheap to get hold of.
Petrified bikes featured in one Site's famous BEST stores. They did a chain of these, another playing with the idea of a supermarket being re tarred in a hurry (by retards with retarring equipment). Kinda funny, if you hate car parks and cars, as I guess most bicycle advocates do.

Bike parking fundamental, and fundamentally forgotten

Rem Koolhaas's Educatorium, Utrecht University, Holland.

Rem Koolhaas, perhaps because he is Dutch, designs a campus building as a bike parking station, with some classrooms on top. In so doing, he makes himself look young, down with the youngins, and oh so very cool. MVDRV see how cool Rem looks, and figure an entrance that makes everyone filter through bikes in the foyer of their proposed House of Culture and Movement, in Frederiksberg Denmark, will make them look even cooler. And as the race to adorn their buildings with bikes gets underway, poor Renzo Piano misses the gun. "They ran this way Renzo, not that way."  Having failed to provide the 20 bike spaces he promised employees moving into his New York Times office, he has come off looking very last century. The most poignant insult came when cyclists starting looping their u-bolts through Renzo's mullions. Full story here

From left: MVDRV's House of Culture and Movement, in Frederiksberg Denmark; Renzo Piano's New York Times office. 

P.J. O'Rourke does have a point!

I've always enjoyed this guy's straight shooting, so read his attack on New York's bike paths with an open mind. He is delightful to read actually. He mocks himself as a boomer, makes points that are so outlandish we know, deep down, he is joking, then pokes fun at cyclists and bike lanes, in ways we should stand up and take note of. The "fibrosis" of bike lanes choking Manhattan, if it is anything like Sydney's, must be an annoyance, because so many fair weather cyclists "use" them, as though cycling were the mini-tennis of transit. And this third network—especially when it comprises 2-way tracks down one side of the road—turns an already complex dual system made up of footpaths and roadways, into a three way spaghetti of networks, taking the complexity from 2x2=4 (pedestrians+cars  multiplied by cars+pedestrians), to 3x3=9. I wonder if 1 road for all modes—cars, pedestrians and cyclists—should not be considered as a blanket solution for cities. We could all slow down to about 10mph, and in the end all get there nearly as fast. 
I'm not sure what these kinds if photos actually prove. Some cyclists' lack of grace maybe?

Thanks for that P.J., you got me thinking. One big lane! That's my new mantra. We'll have to abolish on-street parking. And I think it would be best to plant trees in a random fashion, rather than in rows, lest anyone think any one "lane", as suggested by straight rows of trees, is for their mode alone and develop that sense of entitlement that makes people so f...ing dangerous! Rather than failing forever in our attempts to drag order from chaos, we will drag goodwill from chaos instead. Car lanes, and bike lanes, and walking lanes, and marked places to park... all that was fine, as an experiment. But then people started taking those painted lines on the road to mean they had the right to career down certain strips with no regard for who they might kill. I'm talking about drivers and cyclists alike.

Pedestrianised high density residential areas, with ground level commercial, and one vast 15km p/h zone.

A bit of a stream of consciousness flow has taken over my writing tonight, and it has me thinking drivers and cyclists are both in the wrong! Since when did anything go faster than about 4mph in the city? Only since cars and bikes were invented. Anyone wanting to gallop, should do as gallopers did in the past, and take it out of the town. So P.J., you can shut up, and me and my lot can shut up as well. It will be walking pace only in cities, from this day on. Tonight I would seem to be sharing Jan Gehl's point of view.