Friday, June 24, 2011

Koolhaas or Kunstler?

This brief vid illustrates the sort of perspective on historic preservation as an engine of economic development, neighborhood and community revitalization that I intend when I urge that the modern architects, such as Rem Koolhaas "...should get out of their cloud and take this argument to the heart of Brooklyn and tell us what they see."

This is an approach of value in revival of many historic urban communities including restoration of Holy Cross in post-Katrina New Orleans. It may not be glamorous or monumental but it is the built environment serving the needs of life lived human to human.

Background on Koolhaas
An Architect’s Fear That Preservation Distorts
Inga Saffron: Is Historical Preservation Strangling Cities?
NY Landmarks Conservancy weighs in -- “Cronocaos” or “Crockocaos?” Rem Koolhaas vs. Preservation

Other Views
Death by Nostalgia
Historic Preservation and Our Cities

And for a considerably different view, James H Kunstler is someone that I have been paying attention to for more than a decade now. My having spent 12 years at 5 hours per day commuting, driving alone on the Long Island Expressway, usually in the darkness of early morning or early night, it really bugs me that we do not have a world built where we can afford to live near where we work.

LinkedIn Discussions related to the Rem Koolhaas exhibition at the Group: Means, Methods & Materials for Restoration of the Built Environment
Discussion thread started by Steve Stokowski
Discussion thread started by Jana Gross


Monday, June 6, 2011

Networking: Fishing from CT takes me Back Home

International Concrete Restoration Institute - CT chapter (ICRI-CT) 2nd annual fishing trip, June 3, 2011.

Though based on Long Island this year we have been doing a good bit of work in Connecticut and Rhode Island. I'm not quite sure why we are doing this but I am very happy to do so as the commute involves taking a ferry across the Long Island Sound. 

I characterize the ferry as 'the poor man's yatch'. I never regret the experience, even on dark rough night crossings in fog -- the bagpipes in the hold were fantastic. Though the ferry trips, either of the two available across the sound, take about an hour and a half they both cut off at least 3 hours of additional driving (with traffic), one way, which in a round trip can quickly add up to 6 hours on the road. 

So, on a day that I was working in CT I was invited as a guest to a monthly meeting of the ICRI-CT. 

There was a presentation on the use of Cintec anchors on a church steeple, a technology that I am quite interested and involved with in a number of different directions. Least of which being our work with our friend Witold Karwowski to help him build up his masonry drilling and anchor installation resources. I was invited to go on the ICRI-CT fishing trip.

Even though I live on Long Island, within a half mile of the Atlantic on the south shore halfway between Manhattan and Montauk the fact that the majority of my work career has been in NYC, and with way too much commuting time in my life, the career has not given me much opportunity to get to know neighbors -- with whom, the water people, I may on occasion go fishing -- but since I do not really know them very well I never do. So, as I enjoy the water, networking, spending time with friends, doing business, and fishing I immediately accepted Bill McGloin's (friend and ICRI-CT chapter president) invite. It had been a long time since I was out to fish on a party boat. (My last time being with the Extech staff out of the Great South Bay.)

The Friday morning, clear, no threat of rain or tornados, started out with a drive to Orient Point to catch the ferry to New London. This is about an hour and a half drive out to Riverhead then out on the upper road across the wine country of the North Fork. I always enjoy this relaxed trip... then again I tend to make the drive in off hours when the weekenders are not in force. Once on the ferry we moved out past Plum Island. I was wearing my Plum Island t-shirt. I made sure to check out that the light house is still intact on the island. Enjoyed the sun, read a book, then as one waits in a relaxed atmosphere, we arrived in New London. 

The trip on the ferry was a bit windy and colder than I expected so I ended up at Kohls to buy a pair of long pants. I then wandered my way w/ the GPS to Waterford, CT and just as I got real close and was convinvced that I was lost to find the Mijoy 747 at dock then Pat Morrissey called me on the cell. A jig and a jag in the road and under the bridge and I arrived, in time.

Introductions and the formality of making sure everyone was on board then we were off. 

The boat immediately churned off across the sound and headed south. We spent the next four hours or so floating around in Plum Gut, between Plum Island and Orient Point. I told Bill and Pat that next time they can meet me at the dock in Orient.

I caught a blue fish. 

Of some thirty or so people on the trip I believe that five (5) fish were caught and one person caught two. It seemed a bit surreal to me. I honestly did not expect to catch a fish. The last week I had been fighting a cold, and the pain that I get in my shoulder from time to time was killking me... so when I caught the fish my comment was, "This will make my wife happy." The boat hand, working at removing the hook and shad quipped, "It should make you happy!" 

But, going on a fishing trip is not about fishing (and my experience of the ICRI is not all about concrete, a whole lot else interesting goes on at the meetings). It is about the time spent doing something, or trying to do something, with friends and to meet and get to know new people. Much was gained from how we all learned to work together to untangle our lines. 

It is an experience that will come in handy when we face the next inevitable and unexpected but always anticipated problem on a project.

The way it works is that everyone stands on one side of the boat and when the boat stops moving then the Captain signals with a horn and everyone drops their line down to the bottom. Keep in mind the boat is probably rocking and as we stand there we dip down close to the water then rush up higher into the air. Hopefully everyone drops their line in unison but more often than not we are all out of sequence. 

As the boat drifts the lines tend to come together in pairs, or triplets, or quadruplets or worse. We all stand shoulder to shoulder. On occasion it is politic to stop and go grab a drink, a sandwich or some potatoe salad. The cell phones ring... I kept wondering if anyone would overboard their cell phone. On occasion someone catches a fish and everyone gets cheery. A crew member comes over and gafs the fish, throws it up on deck, then puts it into a burlap bag. Wham, bam. Then in a bit of time the boat drifts over near to Plum Island and the Captain blows the signal and everyone pulls their lines back up. There is more untangle that goes on here. 

Repeat, repeat, repeat. While all that drop and untangle is going on we have conversations about life, business, and how to get our clients to pay their invoices... stuff like that. Oh, yes, and I got to take video of a bit of the event.

Eventually the boat headed north back to the CT dock. I could have hung around and chatted more but I had to rush to catch the ferry back to Orient Point. A few weeks back I had worked a long day at Fort Adams in Newport, RI and made it away too late to catch the ferry and ended up overnight in a hotel in Mystic, CT. It was not such a bad outcome as the next morning I got to visit Fort Griswold, in Groton, CT. Where I took the pictures of the cannon ball furnace.

When you come into the port in New London there is a tall stone obelisk up on the eastern hill. Over the last year it has had pipe scaffold up around it, down now, but I had been curious about the project. But this night after fishing I wanted to get home.

On the ferry back I spent most of my time on the upper deck in the air and enjoyed the weather, the sunset, and as darkness came along the crescent moon.

One thing about landing at Orient at night is on the North Fork everything shuts down... and there is not a whole lot of everything. It is 'country' of sorts, very agrarian with a mix of weekenders and the full time residents. It was not until I reached to Riverhead that I found a McDonald's to catch a meal. Another thing about getting off the ferry in Orient is that, unless you hang back, you get stuck in a mess of vehicles that all try to get down a small road at once.

My wife was impressed with the bluefish. I cut off and buried the head beneath an heirloom tomato plant. The chickens enjoyed eating the guts. Yesterday I cooked the fillets up on the barbecue with tomatoes and white wine and it made for a real fine meal. 

On Friday it was a really long day but I had a hell of a good time of it.