Building the World

January 21, 2021
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CITIES: WASHINGTON, D.C.

“Presidential Inauguration 1905.” Library of Congress, image.

Washington, D.C., setting of two distinctly disparate 2021 events on 6 January and 20 January, was designed for public gatherings in wide open spaces. Major Pierre L’Enfant, born in France but an ardent supporter of the American Revolutionary War who volunteered to serve in the Corps of Engineerings of the Continental Army, met George Washington and proposed himself as the designer of the country’s new capital. In L’Enfant’s vision, wide avenues would radiate from the house of Congress and the house of the President. L’Enfant sketched 15 open spaces for gatherings and monuments: L’Enfant stated that open spaces were as important as buildings.

Washington Mall, site of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech of 1963, and of 200,000 flags heralding the Biden-Harris Inauguration of 2021. Image: “National Mall, Washington, D.C.” wikimedia.

L’Enfant may have been influenced by the design of a renovated Paris, France, by George-Eugène Haussmann, who enlarged the boulevards for two reasons: better air circulation to lessen the spread of viral disease, and large public gathering spaces. Paris still benefits from these two reasons, as does Washington.

“L’Enfant’s Plan of Washington, D.C., 1887.” National Register of Historic Places: 97000332. Image: Library of Congress.

L’Enfant ‘s grand vision was almost lost. Apparently there was a dispute, and L’Enfant fled the city with the detailed plans. Enter Benjamin Banneker. Bannekar, who had attended a one-room school while studying independently with this grandmother, was known for mathematical brilliance when he came to work with Major Andrew Ellicott as a surveyor to establish the District of Columbia’s official capital borders.

Benjamin Banneker, from Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum. Wikimedia.

Among Banneker’s considerable talents was a photo-perfect memory. L’Enfant’s design was imprinted on the surveyor’s mind and, according to some reports, soon reproduced for completion by Benjamin Banneker.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture site, in Washington, D.C., is within an area now named Benjamin Banneker Park. Banneker also wrote an almanac, with an inaugural publication entitled: Benjamin Banneker’s Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanack and Ephemeris, for the Year of Our Lord 1792. Banneker corresponded with Thomas Jefferson, and published abolitionist material advocating a vision in part realized, in the capital he helped design, with the inauguration of Barack Obama on 20 January 2009, and 20 January 2021, the inauguration day of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Washington, D.C., joins a small group of designed cities in history. Baghdad was created from a drawing of three concentric circles etched by sword in the sand. Abuja, Nigeria’s new capital, was influenced by Haussman’s Paris, as well as Washington, D.C., and Brasília was the first city designed to be seen from the air, and shaped like an airplane when seen from that vantage point. Capital cities are an iconic kind of urban center, embodying ideals of government and national values. In The New Science of Cities (2013), Michael Batty proposed that we see cities as systems of networks and flows. Arnold Toynbee, in Cities of Destiny, stated that cities, led with vision, may become incubators of art, culture, and science.

As Washington, D.C., takes on a new character in 2021, encouraged by inaugural address values of respect and unity, and led by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, how might L’Enfant’s and Banneker’s design give what Lawrence Durrell called the “spirit of place” to a new spirit of nation?

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala D. Harris. inaugurated in Washington, D.C., on 20 January 2021. 

Batty, Michael. The New Science of Cities. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780262019521

Bedini, Silvio A. The Life of Benjamin Banneker. Rancho Cordova, CA: Landmark Enterprises, 1984.

Durrell, Lawrence. Spirit of Place: Letters and Essays on Travel. edited by Alan G. Thomas. Open Road: Integrated Media.

Keene, Louis. “Benjamin Banneker: The Black Tobacco Farmer Who Presidents Couldn’t Ignore.” White House Historical Association.

National Museum of African American History & Culture. “The NMAAHC Museum Site,” https://nmaahc.si.edu/nmaahc-museum-site.

Reston, Maeve. “Biden: ‘Democracy has prevailed.'” 20 January 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/20/politics/joe-biden-presidential-inauguration/index.html

Tan, Shelly, Youjin Shin, and Danielle Rinder. “How one of American’s ugliest days unraveled inside and outside the Capitol.” 9 January 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/interactive/2021/capitol-insurrection-visual-timeline/

Toynbee, Arnold. editor. Cities of Destiny. London: Thames & Hudson, 1967.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

 

November 30, 2020
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WATER: Art and Environment

“Coral Reef” by photographer Jim Maragos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Image: wikimedia.

As coral reefs around the world suffer effects of climate change, BlueLab Preservation Society has responded to “combine art and science to address issues of sustainability,” according to art director Ximena Caminos. The result: an ‘art-ificial’ reef, designed by artists, for Miami Beach, to stretch seven miles along the coast. Some compare ReefLine to the High Line in Manhattan, but instead of walking shoes, one traverses the area with fins – both piscatorial and human. While the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has lost 50% of its coral, and reefs worldwide are similarly damaged, Florida hopes to re-establish marine life with the underwater art installation. Some have noted that Pantone’s color of the year in 2019 was “Living Coral.” It quickly became a hair color of choice. Can fashion and art play a role in raising environmental awareness?

“The Silent Evolution” in Cancún’s MUSA. Image: wikimedia.

“Ocean Siren,” an underwater sculpture for the Great Barrier Reef by conservationist artist Jason deCaires Taylor, was the first art to be included in Australia’s Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA). “Ocean Siren,” modeled after 12-year old Takoda Johnson, member of the Wulgurukaba People, changes color in response to varying ocean temperatures. Jason deCaires Taylor was also the architect for Mexico’s Museo Subacuático de Arte or Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA), with 500 statues between Cancún and Isla Mujeres, with the goal of protecting the Mesoamerican Reef, largest in the Western Hemisphere. The sculptures are made with a neutral PH cement surface to promote coral tissue growth. Florida’s ReefLine will feature works by artists Shigematsu, Ernesto Neto, and Agustina Woodgate.

Coral reefs: locations. Image: wikimedia.

While some environmentalists may question the practice of drawing more tourists to visit delicate coral reefs, others may find ways of raising awareness of the importance of marine life helpful. Perhaps the movement towards biodegradable beach flip-flops and other products replacing plastic endangering our oceans will accompany Florida’s initiative. What do you think about underwater art and artificial coral reefs?

Blue Lab Preservation Society. https://www.instagram.com/bluelab_preservation_society/?hl=en

DeCaires Taylor, Jason. “An underwater art museum, teeming with life.” TED Talk. VIDEO: https://www.ted.com/talks/jason_decaires_taylor_an_underwater_art_museum_teeming_with_life

Hutchinson, Carrie. “An underwater museum is opening inside the world’s most famous reef.” 29 April 2020. cnbc.com. Includes VIDEO. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/29/museum-of-underwater-art-to-open-inside-australia-great-barrier-reef.html

Palumbo, Jacqui. “An otherworldly underwater sculpture park will open in Miami.” 26 November 2020. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/reef-line-miami-underwter-sculpture-park/index.html

November 9, 2019
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CITIES: Welcome to the Club

“DJs at the club.” Photographer: Malagalabombonera, 2015. Image: wikimedia commons.

The wall fell down and so did a lot of other things on November 9, 1989. “No photos on the dance floor!” is an exhibition documenting Berlin’s club scene since the fall of the Wall. According to Felix Hoffmann, curator, “After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, clubs, bars, galleries, and studios began popping up everywhere, filing empty buildings, factories; the club scene became the driving force behind the city’s rejuvenation.” Hoffman believes that Germany was first reunited on the dance floor. The city was not officially re-united administratively until October 1990; meanwhile, there were yet no rules. Pop-up parties met in forests, drawing together thousands of people who were formerly kept apart. Many believe clubs like Metropol and Tresor fostered a dance and music culture that all people, despite their former differences, discovered together.

In Cities of Destiny, Arnold Toynbee explored the idea that some cities, at moments in history, generate a climate of exceptional capabilities; example, Athens in the age of Pericles or Cyrene. New capital cities, from Baghdad to Brasilia, are built-visions of a nation, offering both governance and culture. In the future, climate change may cause some coastal capitals to move inland; as Indonesia moves the capital from Jakarta, due to sea-rise, what might exemplify the new vision? Dance clubs could be a factor, for another reason:

Floors that give light (and sometimes delight). “Break Dance” by Kalka, 2008. Image: wikimedia commons.

If dance brings us together, Pavegen’s idea does double step: floors that generate electricity when people dance, or walk, over special tiles. Pavegen demonstrated the innovation at the London Olympics when the West Ham Tube station lit itself from electricity generated by 2012 Olympic Games attendees as they arrived at the tube step nearest the stadium. It may not be surprising that Pavegen got their early start in dance clubs.

Be it dance clubs, or floors in schools, or even sidewalks in cities, why not build floors of the future that give light? Perhaps moving because of rising seas, there could be cities with streets paved in a new kind of gold, like the legendary El Dorado. Streets, walkways, sportsways, buildings, and dance clubs generating renewable just-in-time clean electricity may become the foundation for cities of the future.

Building the World. “Jakarta: first capital to move due to sea rise.” 1 May 2019. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2019/o5/01/jakarta-first-capital-to-move-due-to-sea-rise

Building the World. “Dancing (and Walking) in the Light. 23 October 2015. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2015/10/23/dancing-and-walking-in-the-light/

Glynn, Paul. “Berlin Wall: ‘Germany was first re-united on the dance floor.'” 9 November 2019. BBC.com

Hoffmann, Felix, curator, C/O Berlin, “No Photos on the Dance Floor! Berlin 1989” 13/09/19 to 30/11/19. https://www.co-berlin/en/no-photos-dance-floor/

“No Photos on the Dance Floor!” YouTube. https://youtu.be/iKAvU9jyl/

Toynbee, Arnold J. editor. Cities of Destiny. Thames & Hudson, 1967. ISBN: 9780500250198.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

April 22, 2019
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Earth (Day) Song

“Earth.” Image: NASA.gov.

Lil Dicky didn’t set out to make history, or even a song about the earth. At first, it was just an idea about animals with creatures voiced by a friends. But with friends like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Wiz Khalifa, and Leonardo DiCaprio, a song for Earth Day was born. Honoring an occasion with music is not a new idea: the Suez Canal’s opening was celebrated with Verdi’s Aida. Philip Glass composed Itaipú to honor the hydroelectric facility that brings power to Brazil and Paraguay. Glass was inspired for the commission by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to write a work based on the original Guaraní name for the river’s sound: “Singing Stone.” Paul Winter attended a lecture by Roger Payne at Rockefeller University, hearing recorded songs of whales; with then-governor of California Jerry Brown, Winter helped found “Whale Day” and began making music with the troubadours of the deep. Carl Sagan included cetic songs in the compendium of music sent into space. On this Earth Day, what will you do to honor, celebrate, and save the Earth? Give a listen: Earth.

Burd, David Andrew, aka Lil Dicky or LD, and friends. “Earth” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvuN_WvF1to

Glass, Philip. “Itaipú.” Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with thanks to William Keene. https://philipglass.com/compositions/itaipu/

Verdi, Giuseppe. “Aïda.” Hear the rendition by Luciano Pavarotti with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8rsOzPzYr8

Sagan, Carl. Murmurs of Earth. NY: Random House, 1978. https://books.google.com/books/about/Murmurs_of_Earth.html?id=oD90-PBNyr8C and, for your listening pleasure and inspiration: “Sounds of the Earth”: https://soundcloud.com/user-482195982/voyager-golden-record-sampler-1

Winter, Paul. http://www.paulwinter.com/paul-winter/musical-vision/, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdv9QJPVPIY.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

March 20, 2019
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Welcome, Spring

“Barsana Holi Festival” by photographer Narender9. Image: wikimedia.

Color is associated with spring, perhaps nowhere more brilliantly than in India. In the land of the Taj Mahal, the iconic edifice famously inlaid with jewels like lapis lazuli and rubies, spring’s celebration of Holi invites people to bedeck each other with color and sometimes scented water. Dating to a 4th century poem, and featured in a 7th century play written by emperor Harsha, Holi is celebrated on the last full moon day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar month of Phalguna; in 2019, the holiday is 21-22 March. The holiday has spiritual roots: some relate it to the love of Krishna and Radha; others, to the story of Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada, and Holika, whence the holiday takes its name. Are you feeling spring in the air?  Wear, or exchange, a bit of color to welcome spring. The vernal equinox 2019 occurs in Boston on 20 March at 17:58:00.

Suri, Manveena. “Why India celebrates Holi: The legends behind the festival of color.” 19 March 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/travel/articlel/holi-festival-india/index.html.

India Times. “Consent is important; even on Holi.” https://www.facebook.com/indiatimes/videos/622357941510873?sfns=vmo.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

September 4, 2018
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Preserving World Heritage: Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel, World Heritage Site. Image: wikimedia

Abu Simbel, site of the great temple built by Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, in 13th century bce, crowned the Nubian valley bordering Egypt and Sudan. Nearby, the Nile River flows through Aswan to Cairo. It was just a few decades ago that engineers and archeologists saved Abu Simbel from a watery grave, somewhere at the bottom of Lake Nasser, reservoir formed by the 1960 construction of the High Dam at Aswan. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) rushed to save Abu Simbel: the temple was taken apart piece by piece, and moved to a site where it was reassembled like a giant Lego construction. February 22 (day Ramses took the throne) and 22 October (Ramses’ birthday) were highlighted by the alignment of the temple so that dawn’s light would illuminate Ramses’ statue, enshrined within. In September 1968, fifty years ago, the project stood completed as one of the premier World Heritage Sites. Success bred success: World Heritage sites followed including Cyrene, Angkor Wat, Lake Baikal, Stonehenge, the Taj Mahal, and the Statue of Liberty.

Kiniry, Laura. “Egypt’s exquisite temples that had to be moved.” 10 April 2018. BBC. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180409-egypts-exquisite-temples-that-had-t0-be-moved.

UNESCO. World Heritage Centre. https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

August 27, 2018
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Art of Change

Times Square, New York City. Image: wikimedia

Climate change can be difficult to picture. That may be why, in part, politicians and citizens alike find it hard to grasp, and even more challenging to take action. But what if Mel Chin‘s “Unmoored” caught your eye? Displayed in Times Square, New York City, the artist’s work addresses the prediction that by the year 2100, six feet of water may slosh the great white way. Urban denizens, and tourists, can download the app, pointing a phone camera at various structures to see which ones will be afloat, and where boats may replace taxis and other vehicles. Will lessons from the Netherlands be part of the solution?

Will Miami soon be underwater? Image: wikimedia

Or maybe you prefer winters in Florida. This December, Xavier Cortada‘s “Underwater HOA” campaign invites residents of Pinecrest to place signs on their lawns showing how many feet of water will need to rise before inundating their property. Watercolor paintings that serve as background on the signs will be made with the very melted glacier water that the campaign hopes to stop. The installation opens in December. One month later, January 9, 2019, the signs will come down but the work will start: a citizens’ organization will meet at Cortada’s house to address climate change in the area of Miami. Can the invisible be made visible? What is the art of change?

For more: “12 Artists On Climate Change: A dozen artistic responses to one of the greatest threats of our time.” By Zoë Lescaze. 22 August 2018.  T AGITPROP The New York Times.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

June 22, 2018
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Migrants and the Renewal of Culture

“Detail of Cyrene bronze head, circa 300 bce.” Image: British Museum and wikimedia.

Migrants have been a source of change, and renewal, throughout history. Cyrene, founded in 630 bce, several miles south of the Mediterranean Sea in Libya, became the first of five flourishing cities called the Pentapolis of Cyrenaica. Cyrene’s migrants brought fertile minds to a new land: it was here that Earth’s circumference was first determined by Eratosthenes. Fresh thinking, fostered in an atmosphere promoting science, technology, and art, produced an early map of the stars, the mechanics of doubling a cube, and research that developed prime numbers. The poet Apollonia was also a resident of Cyrene. What policies and cultural practices fostered such innovation? In today’s world, with migrants on the move and in the news, can we draw inspiration from Cyrene to build a better future?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

June 15, 2018
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Voice of the Future 2018: Stephen Hawking

15 June 2018, Westminster Abbey, message sent: 15 June 5518, 1A 0620-00, message received. As Stephen Hawking’s mortal remains were interred between Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, the visionary physicist’s words were sent, with music composed Vangelis for the occasion, to the black hole closest to earth, 3500 light years away.

Stephen Hawking, Voice of the Future. Image: European Space Agency.

Hawking’s Voice of the Future is “a message of peace and hope, about unity and the need for us to live together in harmony on this planet,” stated Lucy Hawking, the physicist’s daughter.

Black Hole 1A 0620-00 calls home a binary system with an orange dwarf star. According to Günther Hasinger, European Space Agency’s Director of Space, “when Stephen Hawking’s message reaches 1A 0620-00, it will be frozen in the event horizon.”

Ave atque vale is a phrase credited to the Roman poet Catullus, who wrote in elegy numbered 101: Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale, meaning “And for eternity, brother, hail and farewell.” In 2018, the poet’s words rang along with the chimes of Westminster.

Stephen Hawking, who wrote A Brief History of Time, may have changed the definition of the temporal dimension.  For Hawking’s TED Talk, “Questioning the Universe,” click here.

More:

Hawking, Stephen W. A Brief History of Time. 1988. ISBN: 9780553380163.

Stephen William Hawking, 1942-2018. http://www.hawking.org.uk.

Vangelis, Chariots of Fire. The Hawking CD, beamed into space 15 June 2018, was given to those attending services at Westminster Abbey. The public will soon find the album beaming worldwide.

Westminster Abbey. “Ashes of Stephen Hawking buried in the Abbey.” 15 June 2018. https://www.westminster-abbey.org/abbey-news/ashes-of-stephen-hawking-buried-in-the-abbey/

June 1, 2018
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Hello Kitty: making transport fun

“Hello Kitty” image by Iamzette2493, 2016. Wikimedia commons.

Shinkansen, Japan’s high speed bullet trains, made transport fun as well as profitable, both financially and environmentally. When the transport line opened, Japanese National Railways invited the public to name the new trains. Nominations totaled 700,000, making the so-called bullet (referring only to shape) trains instant celebrities and profitable from Day One, Winning train names included Kodama (Echo), Hikari (Light) opened for the Tokyo 1964 Olympics. A sign of the times, Tokyo-Kanazawa line added in 2015 was named Kagayaki (Glitter). Now, a new Shinkansen line will debut: Hello Kitty. Creator Sanrio, branding airplanes as well as every form of apparel, is partnering with West Japan Railway Company to showcase regional attractions and products, also for sale on the trains. Terminals feature Instagram-ready Photo Booths. Book a ride on the Hello Kitty Shinkansen.

Shinkansen “Eva” livery, celebrating Neon Genesis Evangelion. Image: wikimedia.

Shinkansen presented another special livery for anime series Neo Genesis Evangelion that proved so popular it was extended, leading up to the coming Hello Kitty debut. The Beijing Subway introduced bar codes linked to works of Confucius and other philosophers, offering free downloads to read while riding. Attracting greater public use of environmentally beneficial forms of transit may in part be encouraged by making transport fun again. What are your ideas?

Hello Kitty Shinkansen. http://www.jr-hellokittyshinkansen.jp/train/.

Maggie Hiufu Wong. “World’s cutest bullet train? Hello Kitty Shinkansen unveiled in Japan.” 29 May 2018. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/hello-kitty-shinkansen-train-japan/index.html.

Pinker, Joe. “What 50 Years of Bullet Trains Have Done for Japan.” 6 October 2014. The Atlantichttps://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/what-50-years-of-bullet-trains-have-done-for-japan/381143/

Sanrio. Hello Kitty Cafehttps://www.sanrio.com/pages/hellokittycafe

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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