Modern Transit

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Inspiration Monday: The High Line


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Ah, The High Line. After years of following this project, from the fight to save it to the competition to the completion of part one, I FINALLY got to set foot on it! I’m so happy. This design is so genius, it might just be my favorite landscape architecture project of all time. In fact, at the moment, I can’t even remember what my old favorite was, isn’t that terrible?

What’s so great about The High Line? Where to begin? I loved looking down on it from the 16th floor of The Standard. I loved seeing it from the street and thinking “I have GOT to get up there pronto!” I loved experiencing the city from that level, at eye-level with billboards, elevated cars, seeing building facades from a different height. I loved that at first glance one might be fooled into thinking the plantings were wild, but then upon seeing them seeing that they were carefully curated and that unseen maintenance was occurring. I loved all the different options for seating – some amphitheater style, some bistro tables, some lovely benches, some in the middle of a small grove.
I loved the mix of materials and the overall railroad industrial aesthetic, and I especially loved the metal tracks that remained and reminded visitors what the history of this place was all about – better yet, I loved where the tracks veered off on little side exits into brick walls, which reminded me of the entire industrial system that used to exist – the rail cargo having a direct entrance into the factory buildings. When we all try to be greener, we should think of this true door-to-door delivery where a product could go from the source to the destination in one trip.
Another thing that’s so interesting is that at one point in urban planning, skywalks were installed everywhere. This move was later blamed for the demise of street life in these areas. Conversely, the elevated public space of The High Line has made the neighborhood even more desirable and drawn even more business down at the street level on up. I’m nuts for this project. If you are too, you should become a friend of The High Line.






Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

A New Favorite Bridge


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I spent last weekend visiting Charleston for the first time and totally fell in love with it. Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know I have an almost unhealthy fascination with bridges, and I have fallen for the one over the Cooper River big time. Not enough to do the 10K Bridge Run that was going on that weekend, but almost*!

This striking bridge is a diamond tower design. From the restaurant atop the Holiday Inn, it looked like two big paperclips; the cool kind you get somewhere like MoMA. It is such an interesting contrast to look down and see cobblestone streets, then look up and see such a modern feat of engineering in the same place. For me, it really works. You can learn more about the Ravenal Bridge here.

*By the way, my friend who ran the 10K did not anticipate any hilly terrain in Low Country (it was her first one). Somehow she didn’t realize a bridge that is 186′ over the water would have quite an incline! New runners, consider yourself warned!


Monday, March 2nd, 2009

You, Me and the Bus


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Athens GA has always been a cool town – not only the birthplace of great bands, but also a place where visual arts and architecture are celebrated. For example, right now they are in the middle of You, Me, and the Bus phase II. After phase one, four artist-designed bus shelters were constructed around town. The competition for the eight additional shelters is wrapping up as I write this. This is a perfect combination of public art form applied to an everyday function. Such shelters are usually banal and uninspired.

Has your town had its version of the Cincinnati pigs, the Chicago cows, the Outer Banks dolphins, what have you? I’m hard-pressed to find a city that hasn’t had some version of that project. Isn’t this shelter project a much better and original use of public art funds? What types of public art do you have in your neck of the woods? Would these shelters make you a little more likely to want to take the bus?

photo one by Trevor Frey for Athens Online

photo two by John W. English for the AJC


Monday, February 9th, 2009

Modern Hacking


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I find this really funny, unless there really were fast-moving zombies like the ones in 28 Days Later. That movie was really gross and scary.

Apparently, the D.O.T. is not finding these pranks funny. As long as they are not causing any accidents, they seem rather harmless. Other signs said “The End Is Near” and “Run For Cold Climates.” If you had access to these signs, what would you write? This seems like art to me. Would you classify it as art?

photo by Chris Nakashima-Brown for the Associated Press


Friday, November 7th, 2008

Modern Transit? The Erie Canal


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I got a mule, her name is Sal…

Something about this article by Christopher Maag made me smile. I had no idea that the Erie Canal was still in use. I love that our old system of canals is being used again. Well, not the system, most of them are no longer navigable, but apparently, the Erie Canal still is, and it is regaining popularity in these days of high fuel prices. Once a route that made New York City the major port it is today, it was replaced by railroads which were later largely replaced by trucking years later. Now the canal seems like it’s ready to make a major comeback:

The canal still remains the most fuel-efficient way to ship goods between the East Coast and the upper Midwest. One gallon of diesel pulls one ton of cargo 59 miles by truck, 202 miles by train and 514 miles by canal barge, Ms. Mantello* said. A single barge can carry 3,000 tons, enough to replace 100 trucks.

I don’t know why this is so appealing to me. Maybe it’s my awe at the manpower, engineering and hyper-ambitious vision that made the canals possible back in 1825. Maybe it was working on a site in Valley Forge that had only remnants and hints of the canal, towpath and lovely crumbling old walls left. Maybe I’ve always wanted to take a really slow ride on a barge, or that tugboats are cute. Perhaps it was checking off “Modern Transit” as one of the tags for this post and grinning! Whatever it is, I love it!

*Carmella R. Mantello is director of the New York State Canal Corporation, a subsidiary of the New York State Thruway Authority that operates the Erie and three other canals.

images by Sung Park for The New York Times