May 2009 Archive

Compressed Timelapse of the City

May 26th, 2009

Check out these images by artist Peter Funch who creates a picture of the homogeneous city by amalgamating photos taken from the same point over an extended period.

In my opinion, the images are more powerful as a form of communication than as a tool for analysis.  Perhaps, similar images could be used to help brand a street, district or city.  It would be a brand based on (at least a subset of) the actual users.  Of course, I take exception with the idea (actually my idea) of “selecting” which users define the brand.

Anyways, be sure to check out the rest of the images at his site.

Interesting article on ‘mathematics of cities’ in NY Times

May 20th, 2009

“After being stuck for a long time, the mathematics of cities has suddenly begun to take off again. Around 2006, scientists started discovering new mathematical laws about cities that are nearly as stunning as Zipf’s. But instead of focusing on the sizes of cities themselves, the new questions have to do with how city size affects other things we care about, like the amount of infrastructure needed to keep a city going.

For instance, if one city is 10 times as populous as another one, does it need 10 times as many gas stations? No. Bigger cities have more gas stations than smaller ones (of course), but not nearly in direct proportion to their size. The number of gas stations grows only in proportion to the 0.77 power of population. The crucial thing is that 0.77 is less than 1. This implies that the bigger a city is, the fewer gas stations it has per person. Put simply, bigger cities enjoy economies of scale. In this sense, bigger is greener.

The same pattern holds for other measures of infrastructure. Whether you measure miles of roadway or length of electrical cables, you find that all of these also decrease, per person, as city size increases. And all show an exponent between 0.7 and 0.9.

Now comes the spooky part. The same law is true for living things. That is, if you mentally replace cities by organisms and city size by body weight, the mathematical pattern remains the same.”

Read complete article

Forbes ranks OKC #16 on list of ‘Top College Towns for Jobs’

May 20th, 2009

Things are really looking up for Oklahoma City!  The city has repeatedly been the recipient of good press, nice accolades, and high list rankings over the past few years.  You have to be proud of the momentum the city has built.

Go here to read the full story.

Focus on the real MAPS 3 issue: a downtown streetcar system!

May 19th, 2009

The reactions I am seeing have me worried that my previous post did not communicate what was intended. The post was not meant to be depressing, but rather to serve as a wake-up call to everyone. To let the people of OKC know that transit is not a sure thing and encourage people to get involved and make it happen.

I don’t think the addition of the River Plan is a bad thing, I simply think that it should not be at the expense of transit. For me, I am actually quite intrigued by the River Plan and excited to see what Mike Knopp has put together. Like others, I think the river is one of our greatest untapped resources.

On the convention center, I am not convinced either way. I don’t appreciate the process and/or the lack of objectivity used to push the convention center forward, but the city leadership appears squarely behind it, so okay, I can get on board with that. But again, it does not have to be at the expense of a meaningful investment in transit.

Finally, I would like to point out that transit can mean many different things. I believe that a downtown streetcar system is what it should mean for MAPS 3. This system would serve as the foundation for future expansions. It never was a real possibility that MAPS3 could provide a regional light-rail network engaging municipalities across the metro. A regional system takes years – if not decades – of cooperation between municipalities, along with state and federal governments. This process has started, but it is nowhere near complete. Plus, the cost of a regional light-rail system makes it inappropriate for a MAPS project. It was never a real option. So please don’t believe that MAPS 3 transit is being held-up by a lack of commitment from surrounding municipalities.

Oklahoma City, by itself, could take a great first step towards meaningful public transit by establishing a downtown streetcar system as part of MAPS 3. Shifting the focus towards a regional system that relies on suburban communities is just a way of confusing the issue and passing the buck!

Why public-transit is falling off the MAPS 3 track

May 18th, 2009

Just four months ago, Mayor Mick Cornett laid out the priorities for MAPS 3 in his State of the City address.

The Mayor said:

“From a quality of life perspective, there are two high profile shortcomings, two areas that, if addressed, would dramatically further our ascension as a city where people want to live.

The first is public transportation.

The second is a centrally located, large public park.”

The third project mentioned in the speech was for a non-quality of life element: a new convention center.

But fast forward four months later and you might be wondering what has happened. The campaign for a new convention center has been ratcheted up with the “release” of a pro-convention Chamber study and a coordinated media blitz, all topped off by a carefully orchestrated Mayor’s Development Roundtable that featured multiple “experts” (i.e. industry insiders that are unapologetically bias) brought in to propagate the pro-convention message. Meanwhile, public transit has received less, and less attention.


A NEW PRIORITY LIST?

On April 16-17, members of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce gathered in Stillwater for their annual Chamber Board Retreat. At the retreat, members of the Chamber’s board and board of advisors, along with top city hall officials, were presented a range of projects to be included in MAPS 3. It doesn’t appear that regular members of the media were invited to attend, but Leland Gourley, owner of the Friday newspaper, is a member of the Chamber board and offered this overview of the retreat in a April 24 editorial entitled, “Time to act on Maps 3.”

The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber has heard presentations on a number of projects that could be included in MAPS 3.

Five of them are [numbering and bold-type added for legibility - bh]:

1. Development of the South Side of the Oklahoma River;
2. Building a new, large Convention Center;
3. Create a huge, several block downtown park;
4. Add some needed buildings at the State Fair Park; and
5. Build a new research building in the Health Sciences Center.

1. The River Plan would cost $100 million and would be for development of the South Side. The North Side already is booming with private investors building boat houses and vendor shops. It already has built a national reputation. It has become, in the view of many rowing competitors, the best rowing facility in the nation. Ivy league colleges love it. It is a mecca for boaters with more boat houses.

But we need to develop the South Side of the River with emphasis on spectators. We can build a stadium to accommodate huge crowds to watch the races. Improvements could include family-type facilities. The plan calls for a foot bridge across the river, and within a proposed $100 million budget there would be $20 million to complete the American Indian museum on a hill by the river.

2. The New Convention Center proposal would cost $400 million and would put Oklahoma City up to the next tier of convention cities. We could keep the Cox Convention Center for mid-sized conventions, and draw on a whole other growing group of major size conventions. Lots of them.

Scores of professional convention locators have visited Oklahoma City and have been overwhelmed with the wonderful attractions we have here. They WANT to come to Oklahoma City but we are way down the list in size of accommodations, meeting space and exhibit space. So they just can’t come here. Millions of dollars are lost to our OKC economy because of this. Thousands and thousands of new jobs would be created by a new, large convention center. This is a top priority need for Oklahoma City’s future growth benefitting all.

3. A new downtown park is a vital need for Oklahoma City. We do not have a huge downtown park like most progressive big cities already have. A giant park, with underground parking the same size under it would be a great draw and an A-plus for our city. Initial studies say it could be accomplished for $100 million.

4. State Fair Buildings. To stay at the top in the type of competition in which our State Fair Ground is engaged, some new, enlarged buildings, estimated to cost around $76 mil would keep us in the running for year-around events.

5. Health Center Research Building. For $24 million, we could have a facility that could attract millions of research dollars from outside.

Other projects. After the above suggested projects, $300 million would be left for others.

Wait, why isn’t public transit on this list? And where the heck did the river plan come from?

It is not a coincidence that Mr. Gourley failed to put public-transit on the list. Rick Caine, Director of the Central Oklahoma Transit and Parking Authority (COTPA), gave a presentation of COTPA’s MAPS 3 proposal at the meeting. A presentation that apparently failed to inspire the business leaders in attendance. In contrast, Mike Knopp, the “driving force behind the development of rowing” on the Oklahoma River, dazzled the audience with a presentation of ideas for redeveloping the river.

So river plan in, public-transit out.


THIS ISN’T HINDSIGHT

Of course, we could have seen this coming. Knowing that public-transit was a top priority for MAPS 3, perhaps we shouldn’t have relied on the planning, leadership, and vision for the system to come from COTPA, a transit authority that specializes in parking, and has a long, long record of poor performance.

I have long suspected that COTPA would not be up to the task of overseeing the implementation public-transit for MAPS 3. On February 3, I commented at OKC Central the following:

Any idea how many of the more successful urban transportation departments are also charged with providing downtown parking? Or leasing bad retail space?

COTPA is broken – period. I can only hope that we won’t let this organization influence the planning and management of the new transit improvements that are to be included in Maps3. We need to take a step back and think about what it is going to take to have an effective transit system, focused on moving people, and doing so with excellence.

It is not all COTPA’s fault that they perform poorly. The duties they are given, along with a severe lack of funding, have set them up to fail. But fail they have and it is time to move on.

I say all of this with the full knowledge that there are
great people there, some of whom are working hard and doing a great job. Still, moving forward, we need something better than what COTPA has to offer.

Unfortunately, COTPA was chosen to oversee the MAPS 3 transportation pitch and has failed to deliver. If things continue at the current pace, then the people of Oklahoma City – who overwhelmingly supported transit in the MAPS 3 online survey – will be left with nothing more than a token gesture and unfulfilled transit dreams reminiscent of the original MAPS.


WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

In my opinion, the focus of a MAPS 3 transit system should be to create a transit-connected downtown. The immediate need is for an streetcar network that connects to existing assets (e.g. Bricktown, CBD, hotels, ford center, etc) and emerging assets (housing, Devon, Automobile Alley, new convention center, new Central Park, etc). This downtown streetcar system would represent a first step towards a more comprehensive metro-wide system with light-rail/commuter-rail to Norman and Edmond, and an enhanced BRT bus-network servicing a broader area of the city.

Plus, in the meantime, the system would benefit people living and working in downtown, as well as visitors, by providing a “park-once” environment. Basically, the idea is that once people park their car, they are able to experience everything downtown has to offer without getting back into their car between stops.

Jeff Bezdek and Mark Gibbs have stepped up the campaign for public-transit with Modern Transit Project. Transit proponents still have some work to do. The route recommendation that came out of the fixed guideway study is insufficient. The single meandering line proposed attempts to do too much, resulting in a system that: is overally costly, hinders future expansion, and fails to activate areas of potential. Regardless, there is still time to refine the plans. The first thing we need to do is ensure that transit is a meaningful part of MAPS 3, so people need to get behind the efforts of Jeff and Mark, and ask City Hall not to do a repeat performance of the original MAPS, delivering all that was promised except for public-transit.


TIME FOR A COMMITMENT

I think it is time for city leaders to make some commitments on MAPS 3. So here are a few questions that I would like to see answered sooner, rather than later.

Convention Center
It is clear that a convention center is a major priority. I am not campaigning against it and I am really not against the idea; I have reservations about the process and location, but let’s save that for another post. Here are my questions for now:

- How much will be spent? (if you haven’t noticed the cost of a convention center has dropped $150 million over the last few weeks from $400mil down to $250milI guess we found a coupon)

- How much public money will be spent on the planned convention center hotel?

- How much of the $100 million planned for the MAPS 3 downtown park, will be used for the parking structure which will serve the needs of both the downtown park and convention center.

The River Plan

I think the river is a tremendous asset and excited to hear there are good ideas flowing, but it is time for all of this to be made public.

- What will it include?

- Why haven’t we seen or heard anything about it?

Public Transit

- If public-transit is really a major priority, as the Mayor earlier claimed it is, then doesn’t it deserve the effort and funding being put forth for other projects set to be included in MAPS 3?

Say what you want about the old Cox Convention Center, but its level of insufficiency pales in comparison to the sorry state of public-transit in Oklahoma City. If the request of city leaders is going to be granted in the form of a MAPS3 convention center, then the request of the people should be granted in the form of a MAPS3 public-transit system.

It is time for a commitment. It is time for a plan. It is time for public-transit in Oklahoma City. Anything short of a complete downtown streetcar network, is simply not good enough.

Julius Shulman exhibit still going at OKC MOA

May 15th, 2009

Julius Shulman, Founders Bank. © J. Paul Getty Trust.

Months back I told Lynne Rostochil that I would spread the good word about the Julius Shulman photography exhibit currently on display at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.  Lynne, who helped organize the exhibit, is the incredible photographer behind Lynne’s Lens, one of the best photoblogs in Oklahoma.  The exhibit has been going for two weeks, but there is still plenty of time to see it.  So check out Lynne’s blog for some great photos to wet your appetite and then head downtown to see the amazing collection by Shulman.

THE INFO

Date: till June 7th
Location: Oklahoma Museum of Art | 415 Couch Drive | Downtown Oklahoma City
Price: Adults $12 | Students, Seniors & Military $10 | Children under 5 are free

For more information about tickets, schedule, and upcoming events, check okcmoa.com


MORE ON THE EXHIBIT FROM OKC MOA

Organized by the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Julius Shulman: Oklahoma Modernism Rediscovered is the first-ever retrospective of photographs taken in Oklahoma by legendary architectural photographer Julius Shulman. The exhibit runs from April 30 through June 7 and will feature over 65 images – many unseen by the public for decades – of buildings designed by such world-renowned architects as Bruce Goff, Herb Greene, William Caudill, Truett Coston, Robert Roloff, and Paul Harris. Twenty-one architectural projects from six Oklahoma cities and towns will be represented in the exhibition, including homes, banks, churches, museums and hospitals.

“When several of Julius Shulman’s Oklahoma photographs began appearing in the recently published books of his work, a handful of passionate local collectors reached out to him about the possibility of exhibiting this virtually unseen work. Mr. Shulman was very enthusiastic about his work in Oklahoma and agreed to work with our Museum to develop this special exhibition in collaboration with the Getty Research Institute. We believe these extraordinary images stand alone as photographic works of art while celebrating Oklahoma’s unique architectural heritage,” stated curator Brian Hearn.

Perhaps best known for his iconic photographs of Los Angeles’ Case Study houses and of Palm Springs architecture, Shulman’s incredible body of work includes more than 70,000 images. Now archived at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, Shulman’s photographs encompass a 70-year-and-counting career that includes thousands of images of buildings that would have been likely overlooked by the architectural world had he not photographed them.

Throughout his long career, Shulman often ventured inland from his base in California to explore the modernist movement in other regions of the United States. During these trips, which spanned over 30 years, he frequently stopped in Oklahoma and photographed some of the state’s most innovative modern architecture. The long, low lines and bold forms of mid-century architecture were an especially good fit when placed against the backdrop of Oklahoma’s flat plains and vast, often mercurial skies. Shulman’s lens dramatically captured this symbiotic relationship in images of Greene’s “Prairie Chicken” House, Goff’s Bavinger House, and Roloff’s State Capitol Bank, among others.

Last September, with support from the University of Oklahoma’s Bruce Goff Chair of Creative Architecture, Mr. Shulman returned to Oklahoma for the first time in many years to lecture at the University of Oklahoma School of Architecture and ArtSpace at Untitled. During his lecture, he observed that “Some of the great memories of my life in photography I did in Oklahoma City and all throughout the state. Oklahoma had, and still has I’m sure, many geniuses who were able to create remarkable buildings. Look at the wealth of architecture in Oklahoma. There is a richness to the architecture of Oklahoma that the public hasn’t seen for years.”

Indeed, Shulman’s stunning Oklahoma photographs – and his tenacity in getting them published in national magazines – brought much-deserved attention to the Sooner State and helped launch the careers of Greene, Robert Alan Bowlby, Conner & Pojezny, Murray-Jones-Murray, and other area architects and firms. “I am blessed. I can see architecture in a way that even the architects themselves don’t recognize their own buildings,” remarked Mr. Shulman. “Our mission in this world is to convey information about architecture to the public, to make our lives better for our children.”

As he approaches the century mark, Julius Shulman has himself become an icon in the architectural world, and this exhibit celebrates his incredible life and career. In addition, it pays tribute to the visionary architects whose designs continue to be appreciated and admired today.

“Organized by the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Julius Shulman: Oklahoma Modernism Rediscovered is the first-ever retrospective of photographs taken in Oklahoma by legendary architectural photographer Julius Shulman. The exhibit runs from April 30 through June 7 and will feature over 65 images – many unseen by the public for decades – of buildings designed by such world-renowned architects as Bruce Goff, Herb Greene, William Caudill, Truett Coston, Robert Roloff, and PaulHarris. Twenty-one architectural projects from six Oklahoma cities and towns [are] represented in the exhibition including homes, banks, churches, museums and hospitals. “

Thesis. Is this gonna last forever?

May 15th, 2009

The end of the semester has been taking its toll on me and the good ‘ole blog. But today I find myself only one week away from my last day of grad school. For now though, I still feel a bit like David after the dentist…sans drugs and maniacal screaming.

“Kind of felt good didn’t it?” Interesting parenting style that dad has going.

Anyway, I hope to get a legit post up sometime over the weekend. Hope to see you soon.