Made it!

Google Earth has accepted a chunck of my buildings... against their own rules even!  Check it out on Google Earth's 3D buildings layer.  Google Earth is a free download.


Why I am voting "no" on the proposed Sioux Falls Event's Center

I make it a point to not get too political on the internet, however, I feel the upcoming vote on a proposed events center for Sioux Falls falls within a safe territory, given its varied support as well as its pertanence to two areas of work/study/interest for me: architecture and performance spaces.



Many months ago, I watched a presentation by Mayor Mike and Sink Combs Dethlefs (SCD) on their analysis of two proposed site locations for the proposed events center.  My initial analysis of it can be found here: http://www.chasekramer.com/journal/2011/3/14/sioux-falls-events-center.html 

At the time, I didn't know where I stood on the issue in general (though as I read through that post now, my language makes that fairly evident), but as I've further analyzed the impacts - both positive in negative - I have come to what I see as an obvious clafication on the issue.


I am someone who loves progress.  More importantly, I am someone who loves visible signs of progress - explaining my past 3 years and my current occupation.  One might think that an architect or anyone in the construction industry would be a strong supporter of the events center.  Or one might think that someone of my generation would like to see more events come to the city I reside in.  However, it those two characteristics (practice/interest in architecture and generational culture) that influence me most in my decision for the upcoming vote.



My main concern is with the chosen site for the event's center.  SCD gave a thorough analysis of the two sites (downtown or arena), but it was pure vanilla.  They were unable to impart any sort of wisdom or insight into what each could mean for the future of Sioux Falls.  It seems that the only concern for most involved was current levels of parking.  And I say "Yes!" - transportation should be a concern, but not in that respect.  With the proposal of siting the events center in amongst the paved sea of parking at the existing arena, one is only begging for a mass migration into (and, more importantly, out of) Sioux Falls on events nights.  How is that supposed to bolster the city's economy?  I don't know where the numbers come from in terms of how much money the events center will put into Sioux Falls each year (definitely not ticket sales!), but I don't see anything else in the area of the arena that is a real draw for people to spend their disposable income.  People are going to drive from Aberdeen, Watertown, Brookings, Huron, Mitchell, even Sioux City, park their car in the sea of parking at the arena, partake in the event, and head back out to their respective towns (after searching for their car for 20 minutes).  The parking is, ironically, too convenient (at least, in the amount offered).  And with the crowds we would like the events center to draw (which, I'd say, are optimistic at best given the lackluster turnout for our local sports franchises), we can't expect that the Sheraton will provide lodging for all those people.  Furthermore, the pedestrian aspect of the site is almost zero.  Are the patrons expected to shop only at the events center?  Eat at Buffalo Wild Wings (which, in itself, is quite a walk)?


Unless a major urban-plan to overhaul the surrounding area were an addendum to the proposal, there is no way I could fathom this site being a viable choice.  And even with a new urban planning scheme for the area, it is hard to imagine it taking any shape in any effective time period, given the halt on the development with Phillips to the Falls and Hazard's Uptown at the Falls.


What I'd Rather See:

Speaking of downtown...

If we were to build an events center, it could only work downtown.

  1. The existing downtown is an already developed infrastructure with shops, restaurants and existing hotels (not to mention those being proposed).
  2. It is a pedestrian environment (especially with the progress of the greenway).  It lends itself to exploration of said shops and restaurants and bars - funneling money into the local economy.
  3. It is limited and can be limited in terms of parking capacity - forcing some visitors to actually have to stay in a hotel.  This also allows them to make a "day of it" where they can partake in other downtown opportunities like the sculpture walk, the Washington Pavilion, etc.
  4. When the day is over, and even the show/event, downtown has the best nightlife in the whole city, with a wide range of locally owned and operated bars and clubs.
  5. The addition of an events center could only bolster the current developments occuring downtown.  Those who are going to be in charge of the future of the city are of a generation that wants to urbanize.  We have a beautiful and urban downtown that we need to continue investing in and show off to visitors.  The arena site is just a bad example of 60s urban planning that is outdated and has no vitality.
  6. Most importantly (at least to my ideals) - urbansim is the key to the future of the world in terms of economy, energy and population.  We cannot keep expanding out:  we must condense and learn to live in smaller constraints - saving the countryside for the valuable farmland that will soon be at a premium as the world's population begins to spiral out of control.  Sioux Falls is so guilty of just expanding outward because land is so cheap and easy to come by.  And as this occurs (as urban areas like Minneapolis have discovered), transportation in every respect becomes a nightmare (this means industrial/commercial as well as commuter trafiic).  Though I wouldn't argue that the arena site is far out from the urban center of the city, building the events center downtown would be a solid and clearer step in the right direction.

"No" is "Yes"

I believe a vote "No" on the events center is a vote "Yes" for the future of Sioux Falls.  If the city's leaders are going to adhere to outdated parking and planning schemes in choosing the site for events center, then I know we are definitely not ready for an events center of this scale.  Voting "no" in November does not mean that the idea will come to an end, it just means that more careful considerations of the planning need to occur before proposing a design for the events center.  Truly, I believe the city wasted it's money in hiring Sink Combs Dethlefs for this phase of the project.  I'm sure any number of planning firms could've delivered much more insightful analyses - firms that actually have an investment in the future of the city - not some out of state vanilla sports architect.  I think the investment already made in SCD is analagous to the lack of concern for the local economy that the current site proposal offers.  I will definitely be voting no in November.  


My Current Obsession

I figured this was a fitting snapshot and title for my current home project (aside from ARE studying).  The 3D building content for Google Earth is severly poor quality, so I thought I would try my hand at it.  Probably should get some pics in better (afternoon) light, but this was a quick shot today before my camera died.  The second level is where I work.  Stay tuned for the complete block.  Kaladi's is currently in progress.


Who says that age is over?






As I stared at this image today, I couldn't help but think of a similar ancient "master plan."  The prototypes, too, were built as "memorials" to those who have passed on (though perhaps in not such a tragic way).









I heard someone making a speech today about terrorists awakening a sleeping giant.  Arch Record has a good issue this month, showing just how New York has risen, like a phoenix, from the ashes, into a design renaissance.  While the new WTC is nothing very exciting in terms of pure design (except for maybe the Snøhetta museum pavilion), it will be nice to see this gash disappear from the fabric of the city.


My shared memory:  I visited New York with my high school choir the year after the attacks happened.  Our tour guide stopped just before we were rounding the corner to ground zero, and all he could say was "I've taken so many groups here before, but this is the first one sinc..." and then he couldn't continue.  We walked in silence. The sadness and grief was still so palpable.  

God bless all those families who lost loved ones on this day 10 years ago.  And God bless America.


E-mail, Architecture, and Identity

As my last post made clear, I recently attended a family reunion out in CT.  As expected, people passed from table to table taking pictures and saying their good-byes.  Marking the era we live in, one of the other essential tasks of this evening was to send around a list for everyone to write their e-mail addresses on.  My older brother, the go to computer guy, took the list and not only sent out a mass e-mail so everyone would have everyone else's e-mail, he also invited everyone to an online genealogy database (perfect idea for a family reunion).  However, for some reason, I was one of the last to receive these correspondences, as my own brother mistakenly put down my wrong e-mail address several times.

Anyway, this led me to thinking about the several e-mail addresses I am the owner of.  Currently I have 2 gmail accounts, 2 former education accounts, and 2 work accounts, summing to a total of 6 different e-mail addresses. As I run them through my mind, I attach a certain "identity" to each of them.  My work e-mails obviously have their own attached identities - customer service Chase and architect Chase, and then their are my education accounts, which are just directed toward my personal accounts, and then, most recently, I established a new g-mail account that sounds more professional to use in non-work related yet still more professional or grown up circumstances.  Thinking individually about each e-mail, I fancy myself almost as an actor, switching from one role to the next merely by donning a new costume or, in this case an e-mail.  Each e-mail address somehow informs who I am.  Similarly, I intend to represent a certain aspect of my identity via this website, which is slightly different than the identity I portray on my LinkedIn page which is vastly different than the identity on my Facebook page.

Such a notion can be applied to spatial considerations as well.  How often do you find yourself re-arranging your furniture?  Or thinking how you would redo your kitchen?  Or maybe what color you would rather see your bedroom, or perhaps how you would landscape the yard (all these, of course, dependent on time and money)?  Why these choices, why these changes?  Perhaps this doesn't apply to you, and this is just the designer in me thinking that everyone else is the same.  Anyway... I argue that the space we occupy has an even stronger effect on our identity than the digital examples I offered previously.  Each choice made in design is a reflection or indicator of some aspect of our identity.  Is our family room stuffy, or is it mildly relaxed?  The decor indicates a certain identity you are to assume, it alludes to a certain behavior.  Why do architects yearn for an Eames chair or Barcelona stool?  Not only are they cool pieces of furniture to own, but they are symbols that portray their identity to the public (and as a reminder to themselves of who they are). Why do so many people want a McMansion as opposed to a cool California Contemporary?  It is a symbol and illustrator.  Just ask Venturi ;)

This identity-informing social psychological aspect of space is what I have discovered is my favorite research branch in architecture - why people make the choices they do (in design).  Of course, all of this has to do with culture expectations and norms.  And sometimes it gets down to the nitty gritty - why does a solid wall of red paint resonate with one person more than wainscoting and off-white paint?   And why might the opposite occur.  It's not just the psychology of the choice, it is the social psychology of our choices in a never-ending feedback loop that tell us who we are and tell others who we want to think they think we are... portraying ourselves as being... to others....

Think twice about that next gallon of paint you buy.  Why are you choosing that color, for that room?  Why are you painting (instead of... gasp... wallpaper!)

Peace out.