Sunday, May 18, 2008

Media Good & Bad = Rant

Ok, perhaps the last post on Integrating Habitats. Oh, probably not. Anyway, the best part of competitions is the joy of having freedom to explore ideas outside of the confines of either client or constraint (wherever these may come from). The second best thing is working to create a winning entry, and then sitting back and watching the press come in. Oh what... yeah, it turns out PR, much like anything else, requires a lot of work. But it is starting pay off:

First Integrating Habitats:

1. The May 2008 Issue of Metropolis Magazine has a short article by editor Susan Szenasy regarding competitions - which mentioned the Integrating Habitats competition and a little snippet of imagery from the winning team entries. Not online yet, it's out in print - so run get your copy today... I'll post a bit more when it makes it online.


:: not the May '08 cover, but a good read - image via Rolling Rains

2. A fantastic source of all things competition is the blog Death By Architecture, which had a writeup of all of the Integrating Habitats winners last week. Thanks Mario for the response and posting... and everyone, check out the site, competitions are great.

3. Local blog Portland Architecture by has a nice blurb about the competition, along with some good quotes about the competition. Always a good blog, part because it's local, part because it's topical... plus writer Brian Libby is covering more Landscape Architecture... now how about those 2008 Oregon ASLA Awards...?

This brought up a question? We counted/found no fewer than 20 sites/blogs/etc. that covered the announcement of the competition, and at latest count maybe 3 that actually covered the winners. Is this a defacto snub at the quality of entries, or just overload...? As I mentioned, any press is welcome and appreciated - but I was struck by how little attention the event garnered, even specifically in Portland. I think that people are definitely in media-saturation mode - and both viewers/readers/etc. are so selective that bloggers/editors/etc. have to keep raising the bar to the spot where ideas become parody. In essence, sex sells. I repeat, sex sells...

A recent example is Bill Thompson's call for ideas on the L-ARCH listserv related to the landscape architecture connection to parkours. ??? While Alexander Trevi at Pruned made a valiant attempt to find some meaning in this, it still falls hollow, with the rings of who cares? Don't get me wrong, people care... it's extreme, exciting, dangerous... it's very f'in cool. But how is it relevant to LA? I guess we wait to find out for the next issue?


:: Parkours - Design This!... - image via Pruned

On the flip side, another example is a comment stream from Portland Architecture. A recent post about Brad Cloepfil garners no comments the competition gets 3 comments, and a rant about power mowers and leaf blowers gets 42 comments. While I'm sure the sustainability of landscape maintenance would be a conversation worth having - it's this push-button issue focus that is pretty much destroying Western Civilization :).

If we don't get asked to care about anything - how can we be asked to care about anything important. Look at Television, music, most writing, magazines, newspaper. Rubbish.






:: Popularity contest? Allied Works; Integrating Habitats; Pushmower - images via Portland Architecture

Wow, too much time in the sun has made me addled and restless... but I must confess I tire easily of the information and focus out there in the world. I just got done with a week of skimming blog postings and a weekend of lovely sitting by a rushing river - only to find myself mostly frustrated by what I found packing my RSS reader upon my return. While I sat mesmerized by the information floating around in the blogosphere a few short months ago - today, and recently, I often wonder, did I just catch it a good time in Late 2007, or have I reached the loading point? Or are there merely some worthwhile gems occasionally floating in the online pool of crap.

Sustainable fashion, lifestyle, tips, tricks, and trends are all well and good... some of my favorite sites waver from great ecological issues to eco-fluff. All fine, but where is the real discussion about these issues? Oh that's right, I am willingly reading these - and commenting, and driving content. But I don't want to read the chaff just to get to the good stuff. Anyone have ideas on focus amidst the noise? I'm curious to hear what else people are reading - and maybe I can shift my input a bit to focus on what get's me. Or maybe I will stop from reading blogs altogether and get back to more books?

On that note, for a different take on competitions in general, and a way to cool down from this (a compromise, if you will) - a blog snipped via Archidose from a book, Verb Crisis, edited by Mario Ballesteros, Albert Ferre & Irene Hwang in "Technology, Ecology, and Ordinary Language; a Conversation with John May":

"Verb > You argue in your essay [on Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, in this issue of Verb] that architects have had little to say about Fresh Kills. Why do you think this has been the case?

May > ...little of substance to say, likely because the more you unpack a place like Fresh Kills, the more difficult it becomes to later repackage it in glossy optimism. No matter how sexy and natural it may appear in the various digital renderings, or how compelling its supposed rebirth may sound in the official statements, it is an absolutely horrible place, and it reveals horrible realities about our Modern American Lifestyles -- realities that are only growing more pronounced.

The fact of the matter is that these realities are not easily overlooked. It takes effort to ignore them. Unfortunately, all too often architects play a central role in this effort. Why do you think architectural competitions are held? Glance beneath nearly every major architectural competition and you will find a desire to recast the image of a particular place in the collective memory of a population. This is not to suggest that there is some sort of larger conspiracy at work, but rather that events such as the Fresh Kills competition are ultimately instruments for the extension of dominant moralities. Winning entries [PDF link] are always in total compliance with that morality. They ensure that the most powerful interests have the final say on the history of a particular location, and what lessons we may learn from those places."

Ahhhhhh. That hit the spot. '...extension of dominant moralities...' I Swoon, just by pure language. Well it is bullshit, and I disagree - but pure, tasty, engaging bullshit and more provocative than the latest eco-style show...

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