America’s urban landscape is changing, but in ways not always predicted or much admired by our media, planners, and pundits. The real trend-setters of the future—judged by both population and job growth—are not in the oft-praised great “legacy” cities like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco, but a crop of newer, more sprawling urban regions primarily located in the Sun Belt and, surprisingly, the resurgent Great Plains.
While Gotham and the Windy City have experienced modest growth and significant net domestic out-migration, burgeoning if often disdained urban regions such as Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Charlotte, and Oklahoma City have expanded rapidly. These low-density, car-dominated, heavily suburbanized areas with small central cores likely represent the next wave of great American cities.
Well over a decade ago, I went to Big Bend, my favorite place on earth, and crossed over to Boquillas, Mexico, to have some tacos and enjoy the international flavor. At that time, you paid a dollar to a guy with a rowboat (with the name “Frijoles” hand-painted on the transom) to get you across the Rio Grande. No passport, customs, or anything like that. It seemed silly, given that the river can be walked when it is low, and there is no real civilization for hundreds of miles in any direction.
After 9/11, of course, this all came to a screeching halt. No more unauthorized border crossing. The village of Boquillas was crippled by the disappearing tourist traffic. What a shame. It was gone forever.
Well, as it turns out, not forever. Now I have to get my passport in order and get ready to make that long drive to West Texas.
Remember to tip your boatman.
13 down, 25 to go.
Three on this list I’ve written about here:
Seattle’s $30 million carbon neutral Bullitt Center, billed as the world’s greenest commercial building, will feature what its owner, the Bullitt Foundation, calls an “irresistible stairway” when it opens at the end of the month. The elegant, light-filled escalier offers panoramic views of downtown and Puget Sound. It’s intended to conserve energy and provide physical exercise for occupants. Will it be a lesson to companies trying to get employees to make healthier choices?
We all know climbing stairs is good for us: It’s a good workout and can even save time. In 2011, researchers at a Canadian hospital found that when they had doctors take the stairs rather than the elevator, the doctors saved an average of 15 minutes per workday—and they were required to walk, not run.
But despite the benefits, few office buildings do anything meaningful to encourage stair climbing. Many workplaces have grim, fluorescent-lit, concrete passages hidden away behind fire doors. Some all but prohibit stair use, in part due to post-9/11 security concerns.
The building where I work has very inviting, entertaining, stairs with nice views. However, it was built a while back and does not meet current fire codes. That’s why stairways are so grim – because of the codes that forbid clear openings between floors (because they encourage the spread of fire). I wonder how the Seattle building gets around that problem.
OK… Well, The internet provides the answer. They had to change the codes to build the building.
“We were shocked to learn that it is flat-out illegal to build this sort of ultra-green building in any city in America,” says Bullitt Foundation President Denis Hayes. “But Seattle changed its building code to allow super-green buildings to meet performance standards as an alternative to prescriptive standards. We wanted the design flexibility to construct a building that used less than one-fourth the energy of a (standard) code building.”
RIP Thomas Kinkade
Although lost to us through a regretful combination of valium, alcohol, and Disney dreams, Kinkade’s abrupt end does not, however, signify the end to his ™. A digital immortal, his empire continues to expand post-mortem. Despite failing gallery schemes, his virtual gallery is growing. The “Kinkadian Master Style”, or official imitators, will continue to create new works through his website. Similarly, his impact remains ever present on visual blogs like tumblr. It is on these sites that iterations of his work are always being created. One current meme is to “Kinkade” an image, by adding his copyrighted cottages, or by filling any background with swaths of his paintings. It is unlikely Kinkade would be flattered by these depictions, but imagining the man, he would prefer being ironicized rather than irrelevant.