Need a Laugh?

and Benign Violations 

Everything changed when the screen eye brought the horror of the world to you. To get over it, begin your day with a critical listen to Bill Hicks’ “Sane Man” on absurdities of American culture via Netflix and as you realize much of it shouldn’t be funny anymore, or go to YouTube for little of Samantha Bee’s political satire and then to the radar brilliance of W. Kamau Bell for a rush of the ridiculous truth on CNN.  Finish the mental easing exercise with the “release” offered by John Oliver and then go see Hasan Minhaj if you can find him.

If you are encouraged to add humor to your interest in social change take a look at the benign violation theory presented by Peter McGraw on TED


When you ask architects for a joke, or something funny, they say, “Sorry, I’m still working on it.” Urban planners, on the other hand, like acronyms. Here are a few examples: AICP: any idiot can plan, SLAP: for space leftover after planning: MCIP: my career is painful (Member, Canadian Institute of Planners) BANANA: build absolutely nothing anytime near anything and to more favorites, DUDE: developer under delusions of entitlement and BOHICA – bend over here it comes again. As far as urban design is concerned, I remember being told not to hurry around an old plotter because they can smell fear.


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  1. Harlem Piers: W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Spring 2007
  2. Columbia Manhattanville: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Marilyn Taylor/SOM, 2016
  3. Apollo Theater: Beyer Blinder Belle with Davis Brody Bond, under renovation (wiki)
  4. Loews-Victoria Theater: RFP issued, no completion date (wiki)
  5. Harlem Park: TEN Arquitectos, no completion date
  6. Kalahari Apartments: Frederick Schwartz and GF55 and Studio JTA, September 2007
  7. Uptown New York Reissuing: RFP, 2006
  8. Latino Entertainment Corridor: Architect TBA, no completion date
  9. East River Plaza: Greenberg Farrow Architects, spring 2008

Comments, images, pictures, stories, site plans are welcome on these locations. Additions are welcome (posted 2010)

Infinity & Change


lemniscate is a beautiful shape, easily recognized as a figure eight or an infinity symbol. The formula that runs this animated GIF is infinite as long as there is electric power. How energy is produced is how infinity challenges entropy.


Architecture Plus!BronxNY
ASSISTSalt Lake CityUT
Ball State UniversityMuncieIN
Ball State UniversityIndianapolisIN
Brooklyn Chamber of CommerceBrooklynNY
Brooklyn Children’s MuseumBrooklynNY
Brooklyn Economic Development CorporationBrooklynNY
Butler + AssociatesBrooklynNY
Center for ArchitectureNew YorkNY
Chilton Realty InternationalDouglastonNY
City College Architectural CenterNew YorkNY
Community Board 12MNew YorkNY
Dorgan Architecture & PlanningStorrsCT
East Williamsburg (EWVIDCO)BrooklynNY
Enterprise Community Parters, Inc.New YorkNY
FxFowle Architects, PCNew YorkNY
Goodwill IndustriesAstoriaNY
Granite Partners, LLCNew YorkNY
Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement (HCCI)New YorkNY
Institute for Urban DesignNew YorkNY
Kitchen for Hire, Inc.BrooklynNY
Medgar Evers CollegeBrooklynNY
Michael King ArchitectBrooklynNY
New York City Department of City PlanningNew YorkNY
New York City Housing Authority Resident ServicesBrooklynNY
New York Community Trust, TheNew YorkNY
NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation & DevelopmentNew YorkNY
Open Society InstituteNew YorkNY
Pratt Area Community CouncilBrooklynNY
Princeton University School of ArchitectureNew HavenCT
Pyatok AssociatesOaklandCA
Regional Planning AssociationNew YorkNY
Rochester Regional Community Design CenterRochesterNY
Society for the Preservation of WeeksvilleBrooklynNY
St. Nicholas Housing & Preservation CorporationBrooklynNY
Sustainable South BronxBronxNY
The Urban Homesteading Assistance BoardNew YorkNY
University of Detroit/Mercy (DCDC)DetroitMI
University of ManitobaWinnipegManitoba
University of MinnesotaMinneapolisMN
West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT)New YorkNY

Vote Early

Like any clear-headed voter, I was in shock following the “what happened” 2016 election. I turned to Jane Jacobs for help and went straight for Dark Days Ahead” in my library and came to this in the first chapter:

“…the death or the stagnated moribundity of formerly unassailable and vigorous cultures is caused not by an assault from outside but by an assault from within, that is, by internal rot in the form of fatal cultural turnings not recognized as wrong turnings when they occur or soon enough afterward to be correctable. The time during which corrections can be made runs out because of cultural forgetfulness.”

Jane Jocobs

There is still time. In this election, will we forget the assault on the dignity of women carried out by a candidate for the Presidency of the United States? Will we forget the self-serving lies? As a candidate, he is that unrecognized “rot” in the cultural turning of a national election. Take hope in knowing it is not “fatal.” There is a time to correct. Vote early. To find where your early site is located go here. If you want to go the absentee route get the application here.


The terms of office in the U.S. Constitution assure the observance of character sufficient to support or deny renewal. Terms are kernels of political time, and like seeds, they carry stories of leadership. Some champion the highest of human ideals and guide us with the opportunity for growth with every kind of crucial nutrient. The message of the seed is not to grieve, but to find the nutrients to grow. The rot we have now will provide if left to decay.

I cannot think of a better time to build a massive effort to vote as JFK said, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. The cities are skeptical and easily angered, but on balance, unafraid of change because they are diverse and highly skilled in the experience of it. Today, it may seem difficult to get to the truth and I can tell you exactly where you will find it.

Walk to a street outside your home and accept this idea. Out there the worried search for nutrients and fear of change is strong. Many will be tempted to choose the false promises of a liar. Know that justice can be ripped from our hearts, but not without cost. To succeed in this task, one dark force in the world requires exposure and the “vote” is not all we have, but it is all we need to renew and begin again.

Vote early. To find where your early site is located go here. If you want to go the absentee route get the application here.

Vote damn it!

Form-Base Miami

Density is a central factor in creating the experience of urban intensity, but it is not the element that makes it pleasurable. Density offers access to many choices, but the ease of use is what makes it enjoyable. Many factors may point to a place of interest. Still, numeric measures are written alone to regulate height and mass with the floor area, and open space ratios are without the elements needed. To describe or judge success or failure is established in part by Mami21. Given the change in global conditions, this is a place to watch.

Jobs and population per acre are common measures of density. Simultaneously, design components such as the ratio of building mass to open space only frame the possibility of a quality experience.  Places from low- to high-density tie to individual place finding or marketing algorithms that provide a sense of position that reflects a personal value within a community such as Miami.

The images in patchwork nation will illustrate the U.S. in 12 community types by using demographic, political, and socioeconomic data.  What is not shown is how a census block group of any major urban center will easily replicate the nation’s image by county.  That the nation has these social densities as similarly as a city is encouraging. What the nation is missing is the intensity of the city as an intentionally diverse place.

Density and community land use formulas tend to see a house always being a house or an office complex limited to business. In an intensely used urban environment, these initial functions yield many new, often unexpected uses.  Density provides the opportunity for a critical mass of interaction. Still, it works best when combined with an open-ended set of form elements to produce the desire for development intensity that, in turn, leads to a sense of confidence about dynamically changing sets of land uses.

A region with 100 jobs and 200 residents per acre may identify a comparatively dense area and signify a transit-oriented mixed-use center. Using this measure, the development intensity tier includes the number of time intervals that link to other transit-oriented centers. These areas might have lower residential/job densities jobs per acre or higher.  Each signifies an edge where the intensity accelerates or declines.  The density itself remains significant as an intensifying agent within a traditional street grid, height, and scale ratios. Areas operating without this constraint tend to yield grey zones, lost landscapes, and forgotten trends. Growth without constraint is what kills them.  The death is rapid, and it shames the residential community into which it was injected.

Form-Based Growth

Before heading off to the University of Utah, Arthur “Chris” Nelson was in the Urban Affairs and Planning program at Virginia Tech’s Washington-Alexandria Center.  His research indicated a doubling of the Greater Washington, D.C. region’s entire built environment could occur by 2030.  The concept of exponential growth is intoxicating in mega-regions such as the northeast. Still, the Greenfield development rate is by all accounts unsustainable, and that policy measures to focus (if not force) this energy into the existing built environment require implementation.  Without new restraints, most job growth will occur outside of the urban core areas, resulting in nothing more than a vast enlargement of the current inner-city design process over a much larger section of the metropolitan region.  Conclusions from this analysis demand a new regime of land use and building controls authored on a regional basis and of necessity across state lines. One mega-region is contained with Florida, whose development concerns turned to a form basis.

The purpose of a “form-based code” is to yield to human creative purposes with a greater trust in performance measures and regulations affecting access to natural light, clean air, lack of noise, and other events or qualities that affect the quality of life.  When Miami 21 was passed by the city in October 2009, introducing the “transect” idea may change everything in land use management.  It is a boundary line around a land area for ecological measurements.  Injecting this idea into land use and development decisions is protective of life and contributes to contextual development events and conversion.  Although NYC used the code was involved in the transition of the West Side Highway in Manhattan into a street near waterfront parkland speaks to this purpose.  Today it is not exactly the Camps-Elysee, but there are aspirations. This potential is now far greater than that offered by former existence as limited access, elevated super-highway.

The principles of form-based code limit building heights based on the street grids.  Yet as a constraint, it recognizes and supports traditional neighborhood resilience.  These communities offer a vibrant series of mixed-use centers that accommodate growth and increased urban intensity. With multiple forms of public mass transit, this intensity also contributes to the growth of other mixed-use urban centers or edge cities and employment centers throughout the region.

Interested in comments from Raleigh, Cabarrus County, Charlotte and Denver

Link for exploration fun: Flamingo Park, Miami Beach, FL  Towers on a barrier beach – what could go wrong or be better? I’m looking to cite a study of falling RE and condo prices.