11.26.2010

FOOD (re) CREATIONS: The Ultimate Thanksgiving Turkey

I can't take credit for the brilliance of this year's turkey recipe, that goes to FEAST a great St. Louis food and wine publication. But the execution was spot on if I do say so myself. The turkey was brined overnight and then rubbed with a breadcrumb, herb butter mixture that took things to another level. A trusty meat thermometer from Dierbergs helped finish things off. 

 

11.23.2010

Time Travel in Kansas City

Jokes.com
Dave Attell - Drinking
comedians.comedycentral.com
Funny JokesFunny VideosDaniel Tosh Stand-Up

So if you have ever heard Dave Attell, you know what I'm talking about. And if you've ever hung out with Neil Marx you know good ol time travel on a Saturday night is an inevitable outcome. To put it in perspective, the last 5 times I've blacked out have all been nights Neil and I hit the town.

I decided to make one last trip to KC to hang with Uncle Neilski and experience midwest debauchery at its finest. Kansas City by the way is a great town and after this weekend, I'm convinced it's up there with Chicago as my favorite fly-over state destination. Hot girls, casinos, tons of sporting events, great bars and neighborhoods and a population that gets after it like Charlie Sheen hopped up on blow in a New York hotel.

In any case, before the main event on Sunday, me, Neilski and his Sis Emily hit the Plaza to get loaded. This night had all the makings: A&M was playing Nebraska, degenerate Husker fans were everywhere, I was celebrating a new job offer, Em's apartment within earshot of all the haunts was the predetermined crash-pad, Uncle Neil had all his credit cards in tote and the only thing we had to do the next day was show up hungover to some tailgating at Arrowhead. Perfect. Sometime after our second set of shots with an A&M alum who had a healthy per diem as an advertising exec and was feeling generous, I stopped remembering. Ala Attell, what followed was me falling in and out of consciousness ending up at a different spot with different peeps somewhere in the Plaza each time. It went something like this. . . .

ESPN zone, beers, A&M / Nebraska game, shots, Bo Pellini screaming, shots, angry passive aggressive 55 year old Husker fan yelling at Neil, beers, "Taylor Martinez has no penis" taunt, Onion Rings, shots, Neil getting bounced for talking trash, stumbling, beers, next bar, A&M wins, shots, shots, shots, new friends, beers, drunk, Ooops didn't mean to get that on my shoes, next bar, shots, 3rd floor vestibule of some random building with no way out, 6 missed calls from a worried Emily using Uncle Neil's phone, stumbling, black out, pass out, wake up, morning.

I think this facebook status update the next day from one of our new friends I have no recollection meeting about sums it up. . . 

Tammy, vick, butt naked, my cousin mika, stephanie,simone just what the doctor ordered!! Give em something to talk about as always!! My new Fb friends Andy and Neil thanks for the free nite TEXAS A and M baby !! Had a blast tonite, love ya love ya im sure you already know!!!*tears*!!

Coincidentally, the last time I got stuck in a vestibule for an unknown amount of time happened on a flaming dr. pepper night with Neil and Jav in Keystone, CO. Similar to this time, I simply decided at some point to leave. The only evidence then was a grainy camera-phone picture of some stairs and dirty carpeting. This time Emily claims I just answered the phone, she told me where she and Neil were and I left. But I was there for at least a couple hours. Nice. Time travel, love it. 

Arrowhead was sick and the Patriots West dominated a weak Cardinals team that wishes Kurt Warner didn't do so well in Dancing with the Stars. When your team could desperately use Matt Leinart again, you know you're in trouble. One of the highlights from the Arrowheard parking lot was the "Priorities in Life" Flag totem pole pictured above. In order it goes America, Chiefs, Beer, Nebraska, Jets. While I disagree with the last two, the top three are pretty solid, particularly if you happen to be a Chiefs fan. 


To put a cherry on top of the weekend, the Patriots won on an epic Peyton Manning fail, prompting the latest Peyton Manning Face. Seriously, people still think he is a superior quarterback to Brady? Not only does Brady hold the head to head edge 8-4 but he hasn't killed his team in their two biggest matchups in their last 11 games. Note the Peyton face at the 17 sec. mark. Great weekend, great great weekend. Thanks to the Marx clan. You illed it.





11.18.2010

FOOD CREATIONS: Doggy's Spice-Rubbed Loin

So I've been in denial about the onset of winter and continued to grill and ill and grill. I just can't get enough. So last night, despite a raw 40 degrees and rain, I had to fire up the grill. The question, what to throw on there?
In the freezer, a pork loin from Costco was begging to be thawed and grilled to a tender, juicy conclusion. So I obliged, but had to spice things up a bit. Enter a new creation - the sweet, spicy, savory Diggy Dogg Spice Rub. 



























Doggy Spice-Rubbed Grilled Pork Loin - The inspiration for this comes from a great dive in St. Louis called , Iron Barley . Their signature dish, the oak roast pork, has been featured on shows like Man Vs, Food  and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives . It's delicious although when I had it this time it was a bit dry. So I wanted to go for something with great flavor cooked to a juicy level of doneness. Since I have never created a rub for pork before I was winging it. I didn't go out and buy ingredients, I just used what limited stuff we had in the kitchen. Here are the results. . .

Pork
2 pork loins (1 - 1.25 lb each)

Rub 
Brown Sugar - 1/2 cup
Granulated Sugar - 1/4 cup
Salt - 1 1/2 tablespoon
Pepper - 1 1/2 tablespoon
Herbs de Provence - 5 dashes
Ground Ginger - 1 tablespoon
Ground Sage - 3 dashes
Red Pepper Flake - 2 dashes
Paprika - 1 dash


Lightly coat pork loins in olive oil. Combine rub ingredients in bowl and mix thoroughly. Scoop a little less than 1/2 cup of rub and sprinkle it over the pork loins. Rub mixture into meat. Flip pork loins and repeat. Preheat grill on high getting it nice and hot. Put pork loins directly over heat and sear each side for about 2 minutes a side. Turn down grill to medium and place loins either on the upper rack above grill surface or to the side, not under direct heat. Grill for about 35-40 minutes turning loins every 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes before cutting. Enjoy. 


The result is a deliciously flavored perfectly done piece of meat. The sugars in the rub will caramelize while the pepper flake and paprika will add a little heat to balance things out.

11.17.2010

Desperate Housewife?!

ESPN/AP - LOS ANGELES -- Eva Longoria filed court papers Wednesday to divorce Tony Parker, citing irreconcilable differences.
Longoria, a star of TV's "Desperate Housewives," and Parker, an All-Star with the San Antonio Spurs, were married July 7, 2007. They have no children together.
In the filing, Longoria requested that her name be restored to Eva Jacqueline Longoria. She had taken Parker's name when they married.
The filing also stated the couple had a prenuptial agreement but no details were provided.
Longoria asked the court to require each side pay its own attorney fees. She also wants to receive spousal support from Parker but not pay any to him.
Longoria's spokeswoman, Liza Anderson, said the actress had no comment. Parker wasn't immediately available for comment.
Longoria, 35, did not indicate in the court filings when the couple broke up.
Parker, 28, signed a multiyear extension with the Spurs two weeks ago. At the time, the point guard from France insisted he and Longoria wanted to remain in San Antonio.
The former couple each posted a statement on their Twitter accounts addressing the divorce.
"We love each other deeply and pray for each other's happiness," the posting said.











The filing also stated the couple had a prenuptial agreement but no details were provided.
Longoria asked the court to require each side pay its own attorney fees. She also wants to receive spousal support from Parker but not pay any to him.

Wait what?! So let me get this straight. . . You sign a prenup, you make more than your husband and you are going to be remarried to some billionaire within a year and Eva Longoria wants to fleece Tony Parker for spousal support? Am I the only one who thinks that is ridiculous. Isn't the whole point of a prenup to avoid a mess like this?
Look I hate Tony Parker as much as any red-blooded American male but I kinda feel bad for the guy. Eva has been playing a desperate, blood-sucking housewife for too long. Clearly her life is imitating her art here. Is she aware she can stop playing Gabrielle Solis  for a minute?

I'm ok with a woman getting a little spousal support if she is popping out kids and putting the family ahead of her career but that clearly is not the case here. Eva needs to get flagged for piling on. You don't go girl!


11.08.2010

The Vermont Landscape - Part 1 Introduction

The following is my senior thesis completed in 2003 for my Environmental Studies degree at Middlebury. I rediscovered in on a recent trip home to Boston and dusted off the cover realizing how much I love Vermont and the place it represents. In the coming weeks I will publish each part of the the story starting with the Introduction today.


Does Vermont’s Open, Agricultural Landscape Have a Future?
Ideas, Thoughts and Solutions for a Threatened Common Vision


INTRODUCTION

Vermont’s indelible character grows from its landscape and extends outward. Once jagged, rocky peaks that formed the backbone of the state, the Green Mountains now are crumpled folds of lush green satin pulled up from the valley floors demarcating east from west. Vermont has its own “kingdom” tucked away in its sleepy northeast corner and fittingly named so. Valleys running north to south through the Greens are so tightly situated, their residents can expect sunset an hour earlier each day – if the clouds aren’t out, that is. And to the western end of this landlocked state lies water, Lake Champlain, with what passes as a verdant basin leading down to it. The towns sit on top of clay and rock, as do the barns and houses. And on that land almost anywhere in the state, you’ll find men working, hands dirty, eking out a living.
Vermont farms. Since people have settled here, farming has always been a prime attraction. For many the exhaustion of farmland in southern New England meant new hope in Vermont and its northern New England neighbors. In the 1940’s, the state had over 24,000 farms. In a state that is roughly 9,500 square miles, 9,100 of which is devoted to land, that translated to between two and three farms per square mile. If we were to exclude mountainous areas that are non-arable, of which there are many, then the concentration of farms per square mile would likely skyrocket. In so many words – farms were everywhere.
            Such a picturesque place also attracts people for reasons other than farming. In my youth, the monotony of suburban Boston was broken by vacations, often split between Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Each of these states brings its own distinct character, which was lost on me until my later years. Yet my father understood what made Vermont distinct, and would often tell us – or better yet, tell anyone who would listen. “What I love about Vermont,” he would say, “is the rolling hills with open fields and pastures. Ahhh, it’s so beautiful.” He would later add that uninterrupted forest covering mountains just didn’t do it for him.
            Of course, that dynamic of forest to field has changed too in Vermont along with a great many other things. Just over 100 years ago, at the height of farming in Vermont, the state was 25 percent forest and 75 percent open space. That ratio has nearly reversed itself today, yet farming had persevered. The common view of a working landscape became entrenched in the Vermont psyche – and, if my father is any evidence, in the New England psyche as well. The “commons”, as it were, was a paradigm for Vermonters’ land values. Each town kept a pastoral emerald center that, in theory, was open to the townspeople’s animals for grazing. Such a need no longer exists; however, each municipality in some form or another has kept such a space, and kept it open. Just as there has been the bedrock expectation that the land in Vermont remain a working landscape, so to has there been the expectation that the center of town stay open. And so there is a marriage of concepts – “working” and “open” – which has been articulated to apply in town and country alike. “Despite the growth of the town, the field should still remain,” the saying would go. Trees and weeds are not allowed to take over the commons and neither are buildings and houses.
            But with time comes pressure, as any geologist would tell you. The commons now is subjected to countless pressures, many of them sociological. What is to become of Vermont’s shared expectation that the land stay open and be worked and that farmer’s hands be “dirtied”? It seems there is a threat, a modern day one – but from whom and from where?
           This April, the Vermont legislature passed a farm relief plan devised by newly elected Governor Jim Douglas, putting much needed money in farmers’ hands. In theory it allows farmers in dire financial straits, hope for another growing season along with enough money to plant their crops. Douglas, the husband of a farmer’s daughter, had little trouble gaining the support and empathy of the legislature. Senator Sara Kittell of Franklin said to the Burlington Free Press, “It wasn't hard to get people together because we know the importance of farms to the Vermont economy.”
            In fact, over 70 percent of all receipts paid to farmers in Vermont are milk checks, underscoring the importance of dairying in Vermont (Mitchell, 1999). That revenue comes from “production units” – or, in simpler terms, cows. Joe Sherman points out in his book Fast Lane on a Dirt Road, that successful dairying in Vermont came to require more cows and to revolve around the axiom, “you could only have as many cows as you could feed” (20). To feed cows you need land, and so we have come full circle. Vermont’s character grows from the land and extends outward.
Since 1946 the amount of milk produced by Vermont dairy cows has more than doubled. And yet incredibly, in that same span the number of cows dotting the fields has been halved. Yes, that means more milk per cow - roughly by a factor of four. Mathematics aside for a second, there are trends galore to be found revolving around the Vermont dairy industry, which, as we have seen, is the state’s largest agricultural enterprise. Perhaps one of the most interesting trends, however, is one that has been shared with the rest of the country in general: there are fewer farmers today than there were 50 years ago, by a long shot. This falls in line with the globalization and consolidation found in all sectors of modern society. Yet Vermont’s pill of disappearing farms is a hard one to swallow, given that dairying and the Green Mountain State have gone hand in hand for so long. In 1945 roughly 11,000 dairy farms speckled the state. Now just after the turn of the century, there are only about 1,400 (Don Mitchell, personal communication, April, 18, 2003).
Even areas of the state that are best suited for farming have seen a decline. Addison County, one of the state’s most fertile due to its proximity to Lake Champlain, has lost 80 percent of its farms since the end of World War II. So, with all these numbers concerning dairy farming in Vermont, is there cause for alarm? That all depends on whom you ask.

11.03.2010

FOOD CREATIONS: Milk and Cereal. . .

. . . Cereal and Milk. Actually there is no way this Food Creation could be confused with that awful song by G Love. I saw it performed once at a horse track in Cali and literally schmucks from the crowd were brought up and performed it better than G Love. Awful either way. But I digress. 

So this is the first in a series I'm calling Food Creations. Some of them might not be original but I don't care. In each case no recipe was used and a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach was employed. I'll include ingredients and instructions as well.


Breakfast in a Bowl - Screw what BK is doing with microwaved eggs and tots accompanied by flute solos. My version is much better. Instant oatmeal brought to life by freshly brewed coffee. A can't miss. The coffee is hot, instant oats love hot liquid, why not combine the two? Follow me? Anyways here is how to get it done. 

1 package instant oatmeal
1/2 cup brewed coffee
dash of milk or cream
pinch brown sugar


Pour oatmeal in your favorite bowl. Pour hot coffee in and stir until desired consistency is reached. Add milk if desired and finished with some brown sugar. Enjoy. 

10.20.2010

A Root Canal Would be Preferable. . . .

Stop the MADNESS!
You guys probably could guess what I'm talking about pretty easily. There has to be some advertising conspiracy or Train literally has the best agent in the history of scumbag agents. Either way, I wanna jam an icepick up my nose every time I hear it. 


Hey Soul Sister, hey-ey-ey-ey-ey-ey. . . . . Shut the fuck up!

I'm not the only one thinking that getting a lobotomy would be a better way to spend an afternoon than listening to this garbage one more time. Check this site out. Freaking great, except for the fact that every damn clip has that song in it. At least people agree its worse than communism. Only play the clip below if you want to feel the urge to shoot yourself.


Lame Duck Benisch Review. . . .

This might be the most pointless blog entry I write but for the sake of being thorough here is my long overdue assessment of the Benisch led competition entry for the arch ground competition. 






































This entry falls into the "we're probably not gonna win so let's just go out guns blazing" approach. Always interesting, never prudent. But really, why not dare to dream?! Every competition needs an entry like this. Something to spark imagination, bring about hope, something built on outlandish ambition. This is the crazy chick you know you could never marry but while you're with her, you just smile and enjoy the ride. 

1) The moment you start proposing gondolas and floating performing arts stages you are sending a message - we don't think we're gonna win but at least let's be interesting. Nothing wrong with this. Conservative jury panels, skittish election cycle-thinking politicians and a meat and potatoes middle American public see those elements and run the other way as fast as possible. I would question Benisch for this strategic approach but I think I get it. Be the outlier. Dare to dream. Got it. In the end St. Louis isn't in the Alps (gondola) and not near a serene lake (floating stage). And that was that. Didn't matter what else Benisch did, they weren't winning with those two things front and center. 
 2) Give the Benisch boys some credit. They knew they weren't winning but they busted their ass to have the best looking boards and renderings of any team in the final. The folks there must love the torture of long sleepless nights photoshopping plans and tweaking renderings. I know a couple Wash U folks involved with this team and they are the labor-of-love types who expect nothing less than the best. The renderings. . . sick. Clearly they are on another level than PWP and MVVA. Good stuff. 
 3) I'll admit I haven't looked through every team's narrative but Benisch's seems to be the best. The conceptual framework plus the inspiring visuals and sensible long term strategy show how much thought the team put into the project. Kuddos. This is one of those schemes that as a design professional, I can get excited about. 

That said - the entry lacked the grounding and restraint needed to win, especially in one of the worst economic downturns of the last century. Ultimately that is what doomed Das Benisch team. Unlike their German brethren who have a reputation for building cars that are both visceral and well engineered, Benisch's entry lacked engineering. Which is to say, it seemed to lack the precision needed to deliver on it's lofty promises. But nonetheless I appreciate the imagination behind those promises and can't help but think of what could have been. . . . 1.

9.22.2010

UPDATE: MVVA Does Play to Win the Game

So a day after writing this, the jury announced that MVVA does in fact play to win the game, so much so that they won the Arch Ground Competition. Great, here come bird watching museums and aquatic research centers. I forgot for a second I was in the conservative, middle ground of America. The SOM or Benisch schemes would fly on the coasts. PWP would fly nowhere but I thought Weiss Manfredi might edge MVVA. I guess not. It's not the worst scheme, but its not the best. I guess that's the point. Well St. Louis, I can say I am as excited for this as I am for a dental cleaning. A bit of a wet blanket. 



I'll follow with my final lame duck review of the Benisch scheme in the morning. 

9.20.2010

America, F*CK YEAH

So I recently went on a road trip, helping my good friends Jamie and Jason Buchensky move all their worldly possessions down to Austin, Texas. 850 miles and 14 hours of road tripping to be exact. Enough time for me to ponder a few things and to get brazenly sentimental about the good old US of A. America, Fuck Yeah. Thanks Trey Parker you uncle sam-loving- mothafucka. So here are a few things I came up with. What'chu got?

1) Football - Last week was opening week in the NFL. Pure heaven. Greedy investment bankers, electrical union workers and butt-crack exposing construction workers finally have something to look forward to all week. I gotta say, I look forward to Sundays more than ever. A true religion. Yeah those hooligans across the pond have soccer every weekend but I'm betting our football tradition trumps theirs just like everything else we do. Jamie, Jason and I went to The Tavern in Austin. The beer was cold, the HD was crisp and the waitresses were straight out of a UT sorority. Dun-dun-dun duhhhhhh.


























2) Roadtrips - I've driven all over this fine country of ours many times, north, south, east and west. The open road is an American institution owing to our love of cars and the vast expanse we stole from the Native Americans and the French. Really, we could build a high speed rail network like Europe, but what fun is that? Packing up the car, flipping on the shades and hitting the road for a full day of driving just feels good. For Booch and Jason, every mile we gobbled up was one mile closer to their new life and one mile farther away from their old one. Ahh roadtrips. 

3) Extremes - Jogging around Lake Austin I was thinking, "Man, look at these people. They're nuts." It was mid-day, hot Texas sun beating down, 93 humid degrees and tons of freaky folks were out essentially committing voluntary torture, yours truly included. Clearly Europeans and other developed countries aren't this fanatical about fitness. But they also don't have the fatties we do. Believe me, I saw a few of those in Texas. But I honestly think America's fattest 5% are the fattest in the world and America's fittest 5% are the fittest in the world. Fergie knows what I'm talking about. 
And the very next day my theory was confirmed as America's B team (minus Durant - dude is a top 5 stud balla in the world) whooped Turkey in the FIBA finals to breeze to a gold medal. In the most athletic sport we sent our farm squad and embarrassed people. Nuff said. 

4) BBQ - French, Italian, Chinese, blah blah blah. So they are fine cuisines and rightfully play a role in what Americans eat but give me a slab of meat cooked over an open flame any day of the week. I don't care that Zagat's didn't rate it in one of their snooty books. Its damn good and as far as I can tell, all American. Geez, you thought people in the south see football as a religion? Try bar-b-que! It gets downright nasty with each region claiming theirs is the best. But you know who the winner in all this is? Me and You. These crackpot chefs slave away for hours to achieve the best tastes around. In the end, my oversized appetite benefits. I had some brisket down in Austin and man was it good. I'll take that over a escargot any day. 


 What do you like about our country that everyone claims is going down the shitter?

Hey MVVA, "You play to win the game"!

So after a prolonged hiatus, I'm back to make sense of the final two entries. This Friday the real winner is announced. On to MVVA .



The monumentality of the Gateway Arch makes it impossible to transform the Memorial and its grounds with one bold stroke. Instead, the MVVA team proposes a network of finer-grained interventions incorporating natural science, engineering, and design into a holistic philosophy of ecological urbanism.
So when I saw the MVVA quote above issued in their project statement I immediately thought of this (Yes, it is Sunday and I have football on the brain). HELLO MVVA, you play to win the game! Not just to play, but to win. Long live Herm Edwards. We talked about how it seemed like PWP was just happy to make the finals based on shoddy renderings and an amateurish flyover. In MVVA's case it seems like winning was never part of the ingrained strategy. I know little things can add up to a lot, but when they are Avian and Aquatic research centers I wonder if we aren't subtracting instead of adding. Some thoughts. . . 

1) Part of the exercise of holding a competition with this high of a profile is to generate excitement that can be sustained over the next five years. If you move the meter as they say, you'll start moving the money too. Undoubtedly, the winning scheme will have to excite the public and the private sectors to the tune of $milllions$ in investment. With that said, MVVA gives us an Avian Research Center. I just wet my pants with excitement. No really! No disrespect to you bird watchers out there but you make Bill Belichick look excitable. MVVA's game plan for the Illinois side: "Let's flood it and make a research center that appeals to .02% of the population our centerpiece". 
2) Just so I don't look like a hypocrite, you'll recall that I lauded the Weiss/Manfredi team for using a ferry loop to link both sides of the river. MVVA does that as well and makes a compelling case as to how to engineer it. In my opinion it's the most engaging way to allow pedestrians to cross the river. But unlike W/M, MVVA doesn't conceive of transportation as holistically or as elegantly. Which leads me to. . . 

 3) The Levy. The place where that ferry would land and where you would see the kind of activity rendered above. NOT! It's as if MVVA thinks the only people coming to the memorial are bird-watching triathletes. Hello! (thanks Herm) The midwest is full of beer drinking, sausage eating, overweight tourists. Eliminating Wash Ave. and Leonor K Sullivan
Boulevard (the road along the levy now) would be colossal mistakes. Seriously, this is America, the land of the free and home of the fat and/or elderly tourist. Someone who in 90 degree heat will curse the fact that they have to walk 1/2 a mile to reach the river. A simple resurfacing of the road or traffic calming would make the levy instantly more ped-friendly. It's too bad because I like the obelisk markers quite a bit. What a great way to gauge the level of the river instantly. 


4) Just thought I would mention a little thing we architecture folks call "word diagrams", which translates into regular English as "Bullshit". You'll see below some lovely multi-colored words arranged neatly on a plan. Nice enough. "Cool" you might even say. Actually from a design standpoint I like this well enough. But I just wanted to say "MVVA, I'm on to you." I know from personal experience you throw together some word diagrams at the 11th hour when you are looking to fill some space on your boards. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. I'm just sayin. 























So I'll turn to sports to be my crutch for one more analogy that I think sums up MVVA's competition entry. For you and I and all the 10 + handicappers out there, if we make par it's a good thing. I know for me it is. But when you are playing with the big boys on Sunday and you get to a straightforward par 5, par should be the farthest thing from your mind. A par is an opportunity lost because the rest of the field is getting birdies and Tiger and Phil have make-able puts for eagle. When we tally up our scorecard at the end of the round we might think, "Huh, I got a par on 16. Not bad!" Losing mentality. And really we can't even begin to understand what that missed opportunity will cost us in the long run. Same thing here. There are too many missed chances and content, banal gestures that I can't give anything to this entry but a 0.

9.01.2010

PWP Submits Entry from Cretaceous Period

I'd like to create some suspense with these entries but in this case I can't. Today we bludgeon the PWP, Foster, Civitas team and put them out of their misery. 
Before I get too nasty, there are a couple passable aspects of this design that I can enumerate on all of my pinkie fingers. More on that later. As if the hand-drawn renderings weren't enough, the PWP flyover video, which was posted today with all the rest of the teams, is 4:54 of dead silence. Seriously? My 12 year-old cousin could add music to an animation, you're telling me nobody at Foster knows how to do it? The only plausible explanation is that the PWP team decided to go minimalist on the design and production expenditure so they could use the excess money to bride local officials. Other than that I'm at a loss. 

Some thoughts. . . 

1) This is kind of like complimenting a plus-sized lady on having big boobs but I like the Museum in this scheme. It's about the only thing I like. Foster clearly decided to shoot out one last flare from this sinking ship. The slit skylights are powerful and the worm's eye views of the arch from inside the museum are pretty cool. 

2) An iconic earthwork mound on the other side of the river? I thought we already had one of those? There is no way this one could possibly mean more to the history of the region right? Just another example of the stone age thinking going on in this entry. Going for iconic is OK, but copying a culture we killed and suppressed (Native Americans in general) over centuries and then erecting a monument devoid of meaning that would attempt to upstage theirs in terms of attracting tourists is just funny. Oh and surrounding it with the trendy "urban agriculture" we have been force-fed here in St. Louis for a decade now doesn't help.  
 3) Honestly I really respect and admire the Illustrator for this team, Chris Grubbs. He's a Wash U guy and even was an illustrator for some projects I worked on at ROMA. But come on! Benisch is shopping their rendering out and getting photo-realistic results. SOM and BIG are pushing the envelope as well. For a competition that is about the future of St. Louis, it would be nice to see some 21st century rendering techniques. Chris' drawings are better than some renderings though. And what's that I spot? Sketchup? Yup, apparently PWP used the etch-a-sketch of 3D programs as their primary visualization tool. It makes their flyover video that much more believable. 

4) Finally, it's hard to like this scheme when such things as "Future Cultural Facility" label an amorphous gray blob on your site plan. Or you totally neglect representing the connections from the arch grounds across the river. While SOM and BIG are reinventing cultural building typologies and landscapes and Weiss Manfredi is finding a place for solar panels to power new entertainment complexes, PWP puts a gray blob on the north and south side of the site and calls it good. If anything says, "We're just happy to get this far" it is that. 


This kind of scheme is like a boring married couple who have let themselves go and now don't hesitate to put cheese on their double whopper when they go to Burger King three days a week. Conservative doesn't even begin to describe the lack of risk and creativity here. While I bet it was a deliberate strategy by PWP, St. Louis isn't that sleepy and boring. Thinking the public would gravitate to such a scheme is insulting. But watch the motherfucker win. 


You already know what I'm going with. . . . 0.

8.31.2010

SOM, BIG, Hargreaves: Who's Driving this Bus?

So today we make sense of SOM, BIG, Hargreaves.























OK a couple things here. First, whenever BIG is involved I expect some seriously inspiring but loony shit. Second, the boards are a bit deceiving in that they seem oversimplified and a bit gimmicky. But you really can't judge the entry unless you read the plan narrative, which at 337 pages make Charles Dickens seem concise. 

This scheme is like running into a schizophrenic wild-card broad at a bar. A real firecracker, you never know what you are gonna get. I can just imagine squeaky corporate SOM telling Bjake Engels to keep it in his pants while Hargreaves sips on a mimosa sketching in their moleskin. Sadly, when the personality of this entry is revealed, it isn't the good side or the bad side of that crazy chick, just the slightly boring/apathetic side. Some thoughts. . . . 

1) I do like the economic analysis, done by URS in this case. It was one of the points of emphasis for the team and surely will figure in the decision. You have to make sure people like mayor Slay and his developer buddies have a reason to get excited even if the projections are a bit far fetched. The fatal mistake was putting out renderings below that visualize their unrealistic economic expectations. Good idea, poor execution. 
2) The amphitheater across the river and the cap over the freeway are both decent ideas. I enjoy the restraint here, most likely on SOM's part. The amphitheater doesn't try to swim in the swift currents of the Mississippi like it does for Benisch and the freeway cap takes advantage of the fact that I-70 is already below street grade. No need to rip it out, just cap a few blocks. 
3) The ramped landscapes and green roofs are a tad overdone. Dare I say they are trendy and could look foolish in 2020. BIG's fingerprints are all over this aspect of the plan. It would be fine if it were pushed as a primary concept but it isn't. And I don't think it was executed that well. The connection of the North Pavilion to Eads Bridge is particularly clumsy. The swimming pool on the river is a direct rip off of this and this. If it's possible to rip off your own work. . . or just copy and paste it into the competition. 
4) Whispering Leaves and Magic Carpets. The whimsical themes of children's tales or in this case, gimmicky tags for expensive line items. I did say I liked the cap over the freeway, but do we have to call it a magic carpet? And why are these giant metal leaf-like structures whispering? I'm confused. 

Ultimately this entry suffered from an identity crisis. Like good 'ol two face from the Seinfeld days. There were signs of the fantastical vision of BIG constantly being thwarted by Daddy SOM and favorite son Hargreaves. We were left with the gray afterbirth. Some clumsy adaptations and concessions that lacked cohesion and ultimately lacked the ability to inspire. While some people are ripping the oversimplified boards, I think it was a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. After all Engels likely had 100 unpaid interns cranking out study models like this over in Copenhagen while SOM, URS and Hargreaves greased the developers' wheels. 
Sorry gang I just don't see it, 0.

8.25.2010

Rating the STL Archground Competition on the BINARY Scale

1's and 0's. That's all that matters. When the rubber hits the road and a decision needs to be made - think like a computer and assess the binary scale. Besides, the AP scale, Letter Grading, and the old 1 - 10 can be so arbitrary and controversial. Is it a Go or No Go? Really that's all that matters. As Situation would say, you gonna smoosh that grenade or not?

So when the five finalists for the St. Louis Archgrounds competition were announced last week, it got me thinking. Why can't we apply the same "3am, I'm drunk and they just turned the lights on in the bar" logic? Because really you know there is going to be some "distinguished" panel at Wash U blowing hot air around about how this design is slightly better than that. Blah Blah Blah. In the end let's just ask one question. St. Louis, would you or wouldn't you? This is after all your legacy for the next 50 years. So don't go home with a grenade if there is a 10 lurking in the shadows. This week I'll review one scheme each day and give it a "1" or a "0". By week's end we should have a winner.

Starting in reverse order we have Weiss/Manfredi:






























My first impression: not too shabby. Beside some laughably inadequate aerial renderings, the boards look good and the vision both realistic/believable (they only have 5 years to finish) and exciting. The "Circle" idea is certainly not unique but I believe it a lot more here than I do in other schemes. Here are some quick thoughts:

1) Ferry Loop - A freaking home run. This idea is so much better than Benisch's gondola people mover. After all, we are on the Mississippi right and not in the Alps? I think tourists and locals alike would love to say they've sailed on the Mississippi even if it is only a wimpy loop. The ferry experience is still one that exists today and is a nice homage to the history of the river. 

2) Much will be made of the connection to downtown from the arch and rightfully so but I like the careful attention paid to the connections to Choteau's Landing and LaClede's Landing. Both will obviously be the places were increased land value will spur residential and mixed use development. Both house the sorts of amenities and connections that the new inhabitants of these areas will demand. I buy the "Cultural Canopy" ideal on the north side and I buy the more gritty "Activity Loops" that engage the heavy infrastructure on the South Side. 
3. The plan seems a bit one sided in that there isn't much cultural/entertainment programming on the Illinois side of the river. I hate to say it but even though the amphitheater is as cliched as it gets, I think Benisch had the right idea in putting it on the Illinois side. You really need a compelling reason/catalyst that will draw people across on the ferry and revamped bridges. I don't think a cultural/ecological center alone is going to do it. 

4. The Urban Bluffs, man. A Ballsy idea. In theory it seems to be appealing since it would acknowledge the flood condition of the river and allow access to the river's edge during that condition. The section below is great. It also is the staging point for the ferry experience. But boy would they have to engineer the hell out of it to make it work. Not to mention there would be massive maintenance costs from debris collecting on the bluffs. It could be a great idea or it could be a disaster. 

OK, with all that build up, it's getting late and we gotta decide yay or nay. Honestly, the Weiss Manfredi scheme is no grenade. It's not a landmine either. Just about a "Potato Sack" girl as El Pres would say

For that the verdict is 1.

8.16.2010

"Nice to meet you. I already know you from Facebook!"

So I know it comes as a shock but I am the not the kinda guy who is well known in the real housewives circles. Not that I don't appreciate the older ladies. . . cause I do. I've been a vocal supporter of Urban Cougar for almost a decade now, falling prey a couple of times during my single days. But this weekend was a whole different story.

I was at a wedding in Memphis for my girlfriend's best friend. Lovely ceremony really and an all around good time. Think Bar-B-Que, mixed with punk rock, mixed with an armada of bridesmaids and groomsmen, mixed with southern weather that only a sauna could compare to. Nothing like a heat index of 115 to help the weekend run smoothly.

In any event, Jordan warned me that I would need to be herded around the reception to meet all the people that "knew" of me. "Fine," I said as I saw a leggy blond walk by. Over the course of the next hour I met maybe a half dozen of Jordan's family friends. I'm not even paraphrasing when I say every single conversation went like this. . .
Jordan: Hi so and so, good to see you! This is my boyfriend, And. . "
So and So Housewife: . . Andy! Hi! (shaking hand but most likely awkwardly hugging me) I know you from Facebook. I've seen all the pictures.
Me: (pause) ahh yup. 

So when I've dreamed of my facebook stalker, and trust me I have, I was thinking more this than that. Seriously, who knew I was such a hit among Memphis Housewives? Literally every one I met mentioned me and facebook in the very first sentence they uttered. Which begs the question, if I am such a hit down there, what other middle-aged female demographic is consuming my facebook pictures like a pint of Haagen Daz during a Matthew McConaughey flick?

Oh yeah and if you are over 50 and haven't signed up for facebook, here's how. I promise I'll accept your friend request.

Jordan and I pose for facebook. Can't disappoint those fans.

8.11.2010

The Dumpster Behind Cumbee's















If any of you know me, you've heard me talk about "Gramps". God love him. He just gets shit done. When I was a kid, I'd stay summers down at the beach house in Narragansett. Since it was a seasonal home, "Big Nick" as he is known never bothered to set up trash service. Why would he? It's much more fun to throw smelly trash in the trunk of the Cutlass Supreme station wagon and drive down the road to Cumbee's. They don't care if you throw your shit in their dumpster, right? 

We'd pull up around the side, Gramps would throw it in park, pop the trunk, grab the trash and heave it over the lip of the dumpster as only a 75 year-old could. Meanwhile, I'm nervously strapped in the front seat and the only thing my eyes will look at is the sign on the dumpster that reads something like this: 

"This dumpster is for Cumberland Farms trash only. Don't throw your shit in here. If you do and we catch you, you'll go to jail."

Nice, like I have any shot of bailing ol' Gramps out if say a cop at the Dunkie's next door happens to catch him doing this?! Oh yeah, you know there was a Dunkie's next door. In fact once the trash was gone we pretty much b-lined it straight there for some sick glazed donuts and crullers. Crushed it every time.

I mention this because, here in the Lou, where you can still smoke in bars and let your dog crap on the sidewalk without fear, there happens to be no curbside recycling. That's right. That's basically the equivalent of not setting up trash service ala Gramps, except St. Louis does it for all their recycling minded residents. Needless to say once a week, I throw the recycling bin in the trunk and drive to good old Givens Hall. The sight of which is like seeing this guy if you are James Bond. Pure torture. But what else can you do except throw it in park, pop the trunk and heave ho!

compliments to Dolci for the pic