Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I did on my Summer Vacation...

Summer is a great time to think - specifically in Oregon where August and September are typically the prime season and weather for outdoor activity, as well as conducive to the more cerebral... so what have I been doing? Well primarily watching the Beijing Olympics, working too much and too long, finishing a Fellowship application that (knock on wood) will lead to a good amount of travel related to green walls, preparing for a class that I am co-teaching in the fall at Portland State University - and generally enjoying summer. Thus a little lull in blogging. I have been keeping up with the other blogs entries - which seem to slow as well during summer (with some exceptions) - and will pick up again soon (or in September, post-Labor Day vacation) with some catchup!

:: Early Version of Olympic Forest Park - image via Garden Visit

The end of summer has also offered the opportunity for the less cerebral - going to some perennial favorite late summer activities - namely that of the Portland Adult Soapbox Derby. Half hipster hangout - half excuse to drink PBR in the park - it's one of those anti-corporate Portland events that makes the city so unique and fun (read: the anti-flugtag) Below is not a shot from '08, but a favorite from a few years back below - guess you can never escape the office:

:: Office Cubicle - image via Portland Ground

Another diversion this week was a trip up to Auburn, Washington (in the vicinity of Seattle) to go see the Radiohead show in support of the fabulous album In Rainbows. The verdict: show=amazing; venue=so/so; parking and traffic=hellish. We were back in the lawn and rain and it was still amazing - but the photos were a bit abstract - so I found a nice one of something up front - that showed the band and the eco-friendly LED lighting:

:: image via Flickr - atease

While Radiohead attempts to present tours with a green agenda, the location of the White River Amphitheater was dubious in many regards... namely being pretty much car only access. We parked in the free lot - and upon finishing the show at 11:30ish, didn't actually leave the venue until 1:30 - so imagine if you will conservatively 5000 cars idling and creeping around in a concentrated space for about 2 hours - lets imagine . No wonder people were getting a little testy. Here's the scene in a more serene photo.

:: image via Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce

The experience of collectively Flugtag, Soapbox Derby, and Radiohead made me start to think about the viability of large-events - both from a social and environmental perspective. I'm definitely a fan of live-music, but there is definitely as scale issue regarding what is acceptable to appreciate a concert or venue. A small bar is great - but how many of your favorite (undiscovered) bands will be found there? So in the age of mega-concerts, festivals with 100k people in attendance, or even a large-scale event in downtown (obama visit?, flugtag?) is it realistic within the fabric of our cities and outlying areas to accomodate - in a meaningful way. Throw in security issues - such as those faced in Beijing or upcoming in 2012 in London - in multiple venues in an international spotlight - and the logisitics become mind-boggling.

While the grand-scale issues of traffic can't be solved simply at a venue like the White River Amphitheatre, the small-scale designs of parking, traffic, and overflow parking were abyssmal. This led to gridlock that was totally unnecessary and avoidable. As we inhabit, temporarily, these spaces for events - what role does design play in these processes... definitely something that fits into the transportation dynamics and evolutionary adaptation necessary from a Landscape Urbanist perspective... thoughts?


  1. first off, damn, we should've actually met up. i was at radiohead too. just incredible, as they always are.

    second, stuck in the 2:45 hour trip from seattle to auburn (it should take 40 minutes tops), the same thoughts occurred to me. and again the same old thought of will technology negate this question or will we have to change our patterns? will concert tickets be supremely expensive due to soaring fuel prices? will bands make tours less "mega" and do multiple smaller shows over more days in a particular market? or will audio-visual equipment simply make the concert going experience something that can happen at home.

    i don't think that last one will happen. music, like landscapes, can really only be experienced in person. there is absolutely no substitute. in the face of globalization, the intricacy and subtlety of the specific seems all the more important.

    i feel you about working to much. it's a 14 hour sunday for me.

  2. Yikes! 14 hour Sundays are the mark of either a lot of work or paying penance for too much summer fun... :)

    I totally agree that there's something specific and special about the personal experience of music (as you mention, much like a landscape)... It's strange though - as I sat watching Thom Yorke (or at least it sorta looked like him) from afar, was I getting the best experience - and was it worth the pain?

    The answer, of course, was yes. I think I had one of those epiphanies when I was laying on my back, rain falling on my face, and the wind wavering the tones of the show towards me - that there's nothing digital that could ever substitute.

    I don't see a radical change in venues or touring any time soon - so we must make the best of it, carpool, find joy with the people we are stuck in cars with - and find humor in thousands of people flailing about, their post-concert bliss fading as the realization that they are trapped slowly, sadly, sets in.

    Good luck, and take a break. Definitely let's get together when I am up in Seattle next...

  3. ASLA, probably not... money and time and all those things. I'm on a 5 year rotation it seems - Chicago, Portland, Minneapolis, - aside from getting to present in Minneapolis in 2006 - which was awesome... and free trip! I will still keep sending in those submittals :)

  4. I love that you have a Readiohead post on here! I caught that show as well, totally amazing, but across the pond over here in Germany. That light show was definitely amazing as well, very creative.


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