Five Chinatown Gates in eleven days

Here are photographs taken of Chinatown Friendship Gates in Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Victoria, Canada; as well as Seattle Washington during our recent train trip across Canada and the Pacific Northwest. In Winnipeg, there is an especially lovely Chinese Garden situated next to the gate (see photo below)

I hope you enjoy these beautiful works of art and architecture as much as we did.

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto, Ontario

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Chinese Garden in Winnipeg

Chinese Garden in Winnipeg

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver, British Columbia

Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria, British Columbia

Seattle, Washington, USA

Seattle, Washington, USA

If every city looks alike, then we are failing as a profession

Source: andysinger.com

Source: andysinger.com

In response to a cartoon I posted yesterday on panethos.wordpress.com, (see above) a comment was made that planners are one of the reasons why so many cities look-alike. That was a very thought-provoking and rather disconcerting response.

With reflection, I would have to partially agree with the respondent. In too many instances, we as planners fail to fight the good fight and stand up for sound planning practices. Sure, we can be overruled by boards and commissions, but when one scans multitudes of master plans, long-range plans, comprehensive plans, and zoning codes from across the land, there are numerous similarities. What happened to context? What happened to most appropriate? What happened to all the criteria we should be (and were taught to be) using in our daily responsibilities as planners?

Certainly, some similarities between cities are to be expected. But if Boston looks like Birmingham, if you think you are in Scranton when you are really in Peoria, or if Tucson overly resembles Boise, then that is not a good thing. Variety is the spice of life and our communities should be as diverse, unique, and vibrant as each of us. Otherwise, what’s the point of having individually tailored plans and codes? We might as well have a national set of regulations that are applied uniformly across the nation to every village, town, township, city, or county.

Perhaps this is all simple case of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” or of, “if the ordinance survived a challenge elsewhere, it should be good to use here.” Needless to say, these are both somewhat lackadaisical approaches, but they could go a long way towards explaining the conundrum of sameness.

As professional planners, it is our job, no, it is our duty, to develop plans and codes that are best suited to the locality. Planners are not supposed to become one-size fits all land-use fashion designers. Some of you may recall the humorous (and perhaps a tad politically incorrect) Wendy’s commercial from the 1980s mocking a Soviet fashion show. In the advertisement, a model wears the exact same outfit for every purpose. Hopefully, as planners we are not mimicking that commercial in the application of our profession. To do so would be a great disservice to ourselves, our communities, and our profession.

 

 

 

Manchester United vs. Real Madrid in Ann Arbor

Source: espn.com

Source: espn.com

We had a grand old time Saturday afternoon with more than 109,300 of our closest friends watching the friendly match between Manchester United and Real Madrid in the Big House (Michigan Stadium) in Ann Arbor.

Source: freep.com

Source: freep.com

It was the largest crowd for a soccer match in United States history and the teams did not disappoint – a picture perfect bicycle kick shot on goal by Real Madrid, superb crosses and passes by Man U, dazzling footwork by Renaldo, and a halftime performance by The Fray. In the end, it was Man U who stole the show with a 3-1 victory, as their fans happily sang Glory, Glory Man United.

Source: freep.com

Source: freep.com

Cheers and thank you to both teams for bringing the beauty and excitement of Champions League soccer to Michigan!

Source: freep.com

Source: freep.com

 

 

 

Temples enshrine the psychedelic era…and more

Temples_-_Sun_Structures - wiki

“Sun Structures” – Source: en.wikipedia.org

I discovered Temples listening to Impact 89fm – Michigan State University’s student radio station when they played the richly 1960’esque “Shelter Song.” As the first track on their debut full-length album, Sun Structures, the song aptly introduces Temples and a whole new generation to the amazing guitar riffs and rhythms of great bands like The Byrds, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, early Led Zeppelin, the Moody Blues, and even in one song reminiscent of Heart. While this may sound like sincere flattery and a case of imitation, Sun Structures is also refreshing in its own right – for one it’s a hell of a lot better than most music being released today. It also exudes mesmerizing guitars.  Some may claim guitar rock is dying and/or dead – it sure isn’t when you listen to this album!

The great classic psychedelic rock sounds emanating from Sun Structures evoke memories of songs we Baby Boomers cut our teeth on and is far more enjoyable to listen to than the bass-thumping headaches of rap, the bubble gum schlock of modern pop, or the overtly corporatize and partisan blather of most modern country music.

For a band that formed just two years ago, Temples are a polished, poised, and immensely talented foursome from Kettering, England. So much so, that in 2014 they have already played SXSW, Coachella, and Glastonbury, with Lollapalooza next on their plate.

Sun Structures is my favorite new album to date in 2014 (Beck a close second). It contains 12 songs spread over 53 minutes – a welcome length compared to so many recorded sprint sessions. Of the dozen formidable tracks, my favorites include:

  • “Shelter Song”
  • “Keep in the Dark”
  • “Sun Structures”
  • “Mesmerise”
  • “A Question Isn’t Answered”
  • “Move with the Season” – a guitar riff eerily similar to “Love Alive” by Heart
  • “The Golden Throne”
  • “Sand Dance” – reminds me of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin
Who's Next - Source: en.wkipedia.org

“Who’s next” – Source: en.wkipedia.org

Lastly, I have got to say something about the album cover. Not only is it an uncanny reminder of Who’s next, but it is one of the coolest covers I have ever seen from an architectural and historical standpoint. According to the band’s interview on KEXP radio, Rushton’s Triangular Lodge, shown on the cover, is an historic structure built in 1593. Wow! – the building alone is worth a visit for architectural and historical junkies. Given its placement on this debut album, its place in British history has been secured for many centuries to come.

Utility infrastructure does not have to be ugly

This electrical substation in suburban Chicago (Elk Grove Village) is an excellent example of how, with a little effort, utility infrastructure can be designed to be aesthetically pleasing and blend well with its surroundings. Well done!

a3aef32a-d48a-11e3-ba92-22000a9ab58d-medium

 

DC’s stunning Chinatown friendship gate

0601140956One of my favorite activities while traveling is to make an effort to see the Chinatown friendship gates in cities that I visit. Among those I have personally observed are the friendship gates in Boston, Chicago, Sacramento, and San Francisco. From a human scale, Boston’s is hard to beat and San Francisco’s is certainly iconic, but the gate in Washington, DC’s Chinatown (just east of the intersection of H & 7th Streets) is simply stunning for its overall beauty, size, and artistic intricacy.

0601140958 (2)

Walking out of the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro Station, the friendship gate immediately captures your attention and holds it tight. It is quite an impressive visual treat. Next time you happen to be visiting our Nation’s capital, hop on the Metro and stop to take a look at the city’s Chinatown friendship gate – it’s worth the trip! Cheers!

0601140954 (2)

 

Going sky-high and energy wise in Jakarta

Source: asce.org

Source: asce.org

The impressive 99 story Pertamina Tower in Jakarta, Indonesia will not only be super tall at 530 meters (or 1,744 feet) when it is completed in 2020, but it is designed to be a net-zero energy user. Wind turbines in the V-shaped pistachio-shaped void between the building facades at the top quarter of the tower will supply energy to the skyscraper.