Radiant City

Radiant City by Jim Brown& by Gary Burns, National Film Board of Canada

Shining a light on the inherently dysfunctional structures of North American suburbia, this National Film Board of Canada docudrama Radiant City is named after French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier’s utopian and unrealized Ville Radieuse concept, which envisioned a new, modern way of living and urban organization, featuring clear and almost “totalitarian” demarcations between living, working and leisure. Via ArchDaily:

Today, in the aftermath of Modernism, Le Corbusier’s built cities are hardly ever described as Utopias. Brasilia, for example, has been harshly criticized for ignoring residents’ habits or desires and for not providing public spaces for urban encounters. In addition to this, the Unité-inspired apartment blocks, which lie on the outskirts of nearly every major city today, have become incubators of poverty and crime; most have been thoroughly remodeled or demolished.

It’s certainly worth a watch, and if you’ve ever lived in suburbia, it is eerily familiar; as that is one of the characteristics of suburbia: that it attempts at the familiar yet ultimately feels incredibly alienating. Imagine growing up here; environmental author David Orr pegs our society’s current sense of massive “displacement” squarely on this kind of urban development, resulting in our detached relationship to our environment, allowing for its degradation.

James Howard Kunstler, an outspoken critic of suburban sprawl, says this in the film:

80% of everything that has been built in North America was built in the last fifty years and most of it is brutal, depressing, ugly, unhealthy and spiritually degrading.

The suburbs are a kind of modern purgatory; a result of chasing an empty, modern dream at the expense of true community and connection with nature and our fellow human beings. “Turning our backs on the world,” in a way. A pretty dire situation that we’ve built ourselves into; can we get out of our personal and collective suburb before it eats up everything? I certainly hope so.

50 West Street

50 West Street

This is a tri-fold design competition poster done for a proposed project located at 47-50 West Street in downtown New York City, showing site plan, floor plans, building section, facade rendering, window details and elevations.

(with Fox & Fowle Architects)


Treehouse At Finnriver Farm


In the summer of 2009, I attended a treehouse-building workshop held by Treehouse Workshop, a Seattle-based company that builds gorgeous treehouses, run by Peter Nelson and partners. The workshop was held at Finnriver Farm, where over the course of the weekend participants learned the basics of selecting trees, design and structural considerations, which tools to use, and using ropes, harnesses and other gear to climb up and down trees and to rig components necessary for the building process.

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Permablitz This! Balcony Gardening Workshop


Turning a ho-hum balcony into a little oasis of blooming green (or at least starting to!) one July weekend in 2009. For this one-day workshop / permaculture blitz, we made self-watering containers, transplanted tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, one banana and herbs, made a climbing wall, and started a rainwater collection system, made out of recycled election boards (before we got rained in.)

Check out this video of the rainwater harvester in action.

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Beijing Financial Street Tower

Beijing Financial Street Tower

A design competition entry for a new landmark building on Beijing’s Financial Street. By creating a transparent skin of glazing hung on a dynamic framework, the activities of the building during both day and night take place within the play of these two material elements.

(with Bregman + Hamann Architects)

Drew Lane Residence

Drew Lane Residence

A high-end, high-tech second residence for a family of five, renovated out of an existing cedar shingle house situated in the East Hamptons, New York. Use of salvaged and eco-friendly materials (30% slag concrete foundation, recycled gypsum board, FSC-certified wood, bio-based insulation, energy-efficient glass) and non-toxic finishes. Closed-loop geothermal wells utilize the earth’s stable “heat bank” to heat and cool the house.

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Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum Venice

Situated on the Grand Canal of Venice, Italy, the façade of The Peggy Guggenheim Museum re-conceived as occupiable bridge that visually and spatially connects the water to the museum’s roof and sculpture gardens, and incorporates the urban fabric and view of Venice and its famous Canal as part of the museum’s exhibit.