"The city is being swept away by the metropolis. This action does not just replace one noun with another, but radically turns one state of affairs into a state of perpetual motion. As a collective action -- a verb more than a noun -- the metropolis destabilizes our concepts of time and place. With the dissolution of the city into the forever- emerging metropolis, our existence slides into permanent mobility." - L. Lerup, in After the City


59. some houston

beware falling through:
Lerup's 'holey plain', perceived at a certain scale, is the result of outward-expanding leapfrog development, a sense of distance reliant on the car, non-existent zoning, and stick-frame building.


in an afternoon, shot from the driver's seat, T to B:
refinery + storage tanks off 225 E
donuts + oil: this chain was visible elsewhere in the refinery area
birds + oil: ?
on the way to oil, bearing S towards the ship channel bridge
vinegar factory in the 5th ward, and the distant mirage of downtown rising up from flat


the roads here careen and are temples to speed, revealing beneath a forest of columns in diminutive proportion (coming from the Bay Area's herculean seismic-minded structures). the ubiquitous presence of slowly running, barely carving bayou water (this is the Buffalo) violates the otherwise straight-shot city, a squiggly reminder of weather's force which replenishes, decays, clouds, and bungles the attempt to tidy and erase.


58. to japan and back again...

for a mostly family-oriented visit, but with a few notables:

1. Uguisudani, Tokyo (above)
this is one of Tokyo's 'Love Hotel' hotspots, one stop north of the Ueno hub on the Yamanote line. this thicket of neon signs circumscribes the western edge of the area, which is squeezed between the railway and the major avenue of Showa Dori 2 blocks away and running parallel to the west. rather than feeling like a seedy railside sex nexus, the two massive infrastructures of rail and road provide the neighborhood with an almost cozy, village-like atmosphere and scale. here, couples of all ages (young urban hipsters, burnt-out business-men with mistress, the occasional prostitute picking up dilapidated soul and vice-versa) stroll afternoon and evening, darting in and out of these hotels which, on average, boast only a dozen rooms or so. on a Sunday morning at 10am (typical check-out hour), there was a mass-exodus of over-nighters heading back towards the train station, hand-in-hand, smiling.

2. Arata Isozaki's Art Tower, Mito
built in 1990, this twisting triangulated tower is near my uncle's home in Mito and thus, has been part of my visual radar for several years. Mito, capital of Ibaraki-ken, and even Hitachi, my mother's hometown, are increasingly becoming part of the Tokyo conurbation (ex. both are included in urban railmaps of Tokyo). as this happens, their characters evolve, the streetscapes increasingly closed up and shut down as chainmalls spread their made-elsewhere efficiency.

having moved so frequently, my sister and i realized that Hitachi is the only place in the world that we continue to visit where we have childhood memories, which doesn't quite make it home but makes it...something, a place where we can register the change of a sandy beach now covered in concrete. still, it's a 10+ hour flight for both of us from our respective abodes, which once again highlights that intimacy and distance, memory and proximity, need not be connected.

i snapped the triptych of the tower from the car, stopped at a red-light and beginning to move.



57. view from the icon.

this was the half-way point of an 8-mile Sunday walk -- my first time visiting (vs. driving over) the city's most beloved icon which belongs, i realize, not only to the city but to this entire portion of the East Bay. i have grown so accustomed to seeing the bridge as the city's most imageable symbol, glimpsed on a clear day from wurster's 9th floor, i never fully realized how much the Bay Area is iconicized when the gaze is inverted. here, the ridges of Berkeley become the backdrop for SF's ivory + emerald hills, all miniaturized in relation to the breadth of the landscape and the seemingly infinite volume of deep-green sea. although the view is totalizing, the self is obliterated from this vantage point, distracted by competing stimuli. the water below becomes indescribably mis-scaled, appearing much closer and much more harmless in the absence of proximate human-sized objects. what has always been a flawless demarcation of the Bay's protected interior before the Pacific's frothy no-man's-land uncannily became a precipice, whose immediacy of affect rendered the urban toyland into a simulacra. from this vantage, the banal feels banal, and the extraordinary, seductive.


56. traveling SF + beyond...

on Sunday we went to a design charette in the historic downtown of Pittsburg, CA. (the northeast terminus of the Pittsburg/Bay Point line). the BART ride takes a near-hour and reveals BART's ex-urban reach; en route, the smoothe golden hills of livestock agriculture and cookie-cutter developer housing take over to the south, while to the north the flat land and proximity to Suisun Bay historically made it a prime area for heavy industry + rail, which remain semi-salient local economies. we walked 2+ miles from the current BART terminus to the town-center, and along the way had access to the wide, flat right-of-way of the Union + Southern Pacific railroads. in this area the wall is king, and separates rail from house, house from power-line forest, everything beyond the wall of the rail-bed apparently endless until the horizon of smoke-stacks and windmill fields takes over, fading into briny haze near the water. it's an orderly, quiet, and melancholy landscape.

on the way home, i snapped the above blurry last minute photo of the Lafayette Mock War Memorial on a hillside adjacent to Hwy 24 and the Lafayette BART station: http://zombietime.com/lafayette_mock_war_memorial/. not knowing what it was i was struck by its dense, helter-skelter informality. its placement at a BART station along the highway makes it extremely visible, and the reaction to the memorial when it was first erected a year ago was immediate. it has since been controversial, as ownership over how to memorialize the war's victims is ambiguous.


like a good relationship, a blog is difficult to 'end' without feeling as if one is killing something that has been worthwhile, and to which one has grown inadvertently attached. i have decided to continue to use it as a forum for further speculation back here in the U.S., where collation of Branner material and thesis preparations begin to meld into an exciting panoply which considers the nature of urban documentation, the generic global city, and the existence of the minute particular, all tied together and navigated, of course, by the linescape. it's not readership i am hoping for so much as an actualization of a ghost-reflection of my own thoughts which might, in the process of creation, spit something back out at me (or convince someone else to).

last night during thesis discussion there was much talk of Architecture's debatable relevance to the contemporary human body, and it's role in articulating 'space' vs. 'place,' two terms which both de Certeau and Team 10 utilized. de Certeau conceived of 'place' as the geometric bookmark, as on a map, while 'space' is the nuanced, volumetric, ever-shifting actualization of a 'place' in use by multiple players, under variable conditions. (in parallel: grammar is to place as spoken language is to space). Team 10, however (and as i understand it), criticized the universalizing 'space' of Modernism's technophilia and called for a re-discovery of 'place' as particular locale. the use of the terms is not contradictory -- a place holder certainly signifies a particular locality, and Modernist space is not necessarily unoccupied or unpracticed (one could even argue that Modernism placed practice/occupation above particularity). one could also argue that Team 10 is re-asserting geography over humanity, a humanity which the Modernists used as a justification for their universalizing style (i.e. human needs became fulfilled by technological standardization). in both arguments, the concepts are inseparable, and the contemporary question might be what is the nature of practiced space WITHOUT its demarcation in place, and vice-versa?

Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset's project in Marfa, TX was mentioned in our discussion as alluding to this debate: http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasArt/Prada-Marfa-Update.htm. what does a locked Prada store (never to be used) in the middle of the Texas desert (hardly to be seen) signify? is there architecture without humanity? and when does the intent of the creator give way to the work's own momentum? ostensibly the store was supposed to be left untouched -- to be scoured by the elements, marked by passers by. unfortunately, it seems that the maintenance has been conscientiously pursued.

a blog, or at least, this one, is not art or architecture, but i have similar questions about when its work is complete, and thereafter, what becomes of it. a concluded discussion turns into a memoir, which suggests...death? without further ado i shall add to the mess.

photo: aquatic park freighter on its way to Oakland.


fifty-four. landing.

RdJ night (view from Sugarloaf) into Midwest morning and SF afternoon . . . for now words fail, but the trip continues.