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Posts Tagged ‘architecture’

The creative class is struggling, too. Do you care?

In art, beauty, behavior, books, business, culture, design, film, journalism, life, Media, movies, music, news, photography, television, US, work on April 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm
De artist

De artist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not just lawyers who are hurting  — 7,500 of them surplus in 2009 in New York alone.

Or older men.

Or those who used to work in manufacturing.

The “creative class” is as well.

Those working in photography, architecture and graphic design have seen a 20 to 30 percent drop in employment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Since August 2002, those working in the music field have seen their work opportunities plummet by a staggering 45.3%.

“The story has really not been told,” Scott Timberg, an arts and culture writer in Los Angeles said to host Kurt Andersen on the weekly public radio show Studio 360, which examines all forms of culture. “They don’t always have a tattoo or beret.  They’re like Canadians, among us secretly, silently and invisibly.”

“A life in the arts…means giving up riches, making a trade-off to do something they’re passionate about,” Timberg said. “It’s become forbidding for a much wider group of people…I see some of the best getting knocked out.”

Timberg also wrote about this recently on Salon:

Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen write anthems about the travails of the working man; we line up for the revival of “Death of a Salesman.” John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson hold festivals and fundraisers when farmers suffer. Taxpayers bail out the auto industry and Wall Street and the banks. There’s a sense that manufacturing, or the agrarian economy, is what this country is really about. But culture was, for a while, what America did best: We produce and export creativity around the world. So why aren’t we lamenting the plight of its practitioners? Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm that creative industries have been some of the hardest hit during the Bush years and the Great Recession. But  when someone employed in the world of culture loses a job, he or she feels easier to sneer at than a steel worker or auto worker.

As both a Canadianan, living in New York since 1989, and a member of the creative class, I’ve absolutely felt the sting of this terrible recession. My last staff job, as a reporter for the New York Daily News, the nation’s sixth-largest paper, ended in 2006.

My income the next year fell by 75 percent. Fun! It’s now barely back to 50 percent of that figure. In 2008, 24,000 journalists lost their jobs.

It’s an interesting dilemma because being a creative professional — like those who choose law, medicine, dentistry — demands years of attention to one discipline. You start out with talent. You may invest tens of thousands of dollars in higher education, workshops, coaches and ongoing training. It’s crazily competitive and the criteria of success often utterly quixotic and subjective. A lawyer wins or loses a case. A dentist fills a cavity.

But a creative person, in any field, can languish in poverty/obscurity for years, if not decades, if their work or style isn’t fashionable or they just doesn’t know enough of the right people. To really make it financially, you often need to layer the daily hustle of a used car salesman onto the independence of spirit of the artist.

Many of us just can’t squeeze both personalities into one brain.

Yet we all hope to enjoy the basics of middle-class life: a home, a family, a vehicle, a vacation once in a while.

It’s a dirty secret but those of us who work creatively, whether we paint, sculpt, take photos, design buildings or play in a quartet also want the things that cube-dwellers do. Our groceries cost the same, our gas just as overpriced.

But, unlike many corporate cube-dwellers, we may have to purchase our health insurance in the open (i.e. costly) market; in 2003 (when I went onto my husband’s plan through his staff job) I was paying $700 a month. It’s now normal to pay $1,000+…adding an overhead of $12,000 pre-tax dollars just to avoid a medical bankruptcy.

Especially in the United States where corporate billionaires are lionized, creative folk — typically self-employed and working out of public and the media’s view — are seen as slackers, stoners, half-assed. (Author John Grisham earned $18 million last year — hardly typical.)

Very few creative professionals in any genre or medium will ever earn that in their lifetime — no matter their objective excellence, awards or peer respect.

Yet other nations actually pay their artists to help them quality work; the Canada Council hands out $20,000 grants every year to fortunate writers who have produced two books deemed worthy.

Are you a member of the creative class?

How’s it going for you these days?

The prettiest place is…

In beauty, cities, design, travel on February 1, 2012 at 12:31 am
Typical narrow medieval street

Image via Wikipedia

Where?

Venice? Florence? Rome?

Big Sur?

Paris? The Cinque Terre? Yosemite? Alaska?

I just spent four days in New Orleans, my first visit back there since 2004.

It instantly reminded me of all the things I most enjoy about the places I most love. These include Corsica, Thailand and Ireland (I actually wept leaving all three. I never cry in public!), Paris, the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Venice, Vermont, Savannah, Ronda, Bath, London, Mdina.

The prettiest places, for me, include a mix of these, with the best having all of them:

History

I  love to wander streets worn smooth for milennia. Even Manhattan, a very young place in global terms, has entire blocks that feel as though you’ve disappeared into an earlier century.

Light

It makes all the difference, whether the brilliant, scouring light of Mexico or the low, soft, slanting shafts of winter sunshine I saw in Stockholm in November. The odd reflected watery light of Venice.

Color

This is my favorite element of all, from the rich, glossy reds and blues of European doors to the coppery-green patina of church steeples and weathervanes to the intense emerald green of backlit leaves and fields. When I tried to replicate the gentle weathered greens of Swedish walls in New York light, it looked awful. In New Orleans, I saw enormous houses painted the icy yellow and rich orange of lemon and mango sorbet, colors that would also look foolish and odd elsewhere.

Scale

Hugely important. How tall are the buildings? How embraced (or rejected) do you feel by the proximity of the houses and commercial spaces? Can you see the sky? How much of it? For how many hours each day? Do the buildings relate well to one another — or are there (as in New Orleans) huge hideous highways slicing right through downtown neighborhoods, utterly out of scale to, and dwarfing, their previous surroundings?

Smells

Might be the delicate perfume of orange blossoms in Seville in springtime or the salty air of the sea. The acrid smell of dusty ancient stone or woodsmoke from a distant fire or diesel fumes from Bangkok traffic or frying meat in a street market. The minute I stepped into Caracas airport, I caught a whiff of mold and rot, the specific smell of a developing nation.

Sounds

Temple bells. Sirens. The clatter of clogs on pavement. That distinctive sound the Paris metro makes before the doors close. The whirr of bicycles flashing by in Amsterdam.

Geography

Some places are ridiculously blessed in this respect — Rio, Hong Kong, Vancouver — ringed by mountains and/or ocean. Venice’s canals. Ronda’s astonishing cliffs.

Timelessness

This is the biggest one for me, that when you sit still at dawn with no one around, or under the stars, it might be 1634 or 1421 or 800 B.C. You expect a Mayan or Roman or Cathar to step out and say hello. No signs, no ads, no telephones or noise or electric lights in your eyes.

I’ve (thankfully) experienced this most strongly (so far!) in The Grand Canyon, Corsica, the Arctic, Machu Picchu and Kenya/Tanzania.

Materials

I love to see how different places use materials — glass, brick, wood, stone, straw, mud, mirror, mosaic, ceramic, gilt, silver, cobblestones, cement, tile, terra cotta, adobe. Montreal has gorgeous three-story apartment houses in white limestone — which in New York, Boston and Washington are rendered in red sandstone. I loved New Orleans’ wooden homes (although I overheard a distraught woman on the bus who had to move out of her rental apartment while the entire building was fumigated for termites.)

Proportions

I’m crazy for tall, mullioned sash windows, preferably with original bubbly glass — 8 panes over 8 or even 12 over 12. Tall shutters. Deep balconies and verandahs. I see this most powerfully in Paris, and other French cities. The relationships between buildings also makes a difference — think of the streetscapes of Paris and Amsterdam where a (relative) uniformity of style makes for a harmonious whole, not a nasty jumble.

Detail

Stained glass, wrought-iron fencing, balloon shades, contrasting brickwork, gingerbread, clerestory windows. Enclosed balconies in Portugal, Malta, Istanbul. The lace ironwork of New Orleans. The hand-shaped doorknockers of Malta. The curved, smoothed edges of an adobe house. One of the most astonishing sights anywhere was the chased silver altar in Arequipa, Peru that I saw in 1980 but never forgot.

Patina

My second favorite, the weathering and wearing of wood and stone by generations, centuries or millennia of use. The stone stairs in Grand Central Station. The smooth shine of an ancient brass doorhandle.

What are your picks?

A Mosque On Permafrost

In cities, culture, design, religion, urban life, world on September 26, 2010 at 5:08 pm
Overlooking Inuvik with the fall colors in the...

Inuvik, in the fall...Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a seriously cool story – a mosque built in Winnipeg and sailed north to its permanent home in Inuvik, making it the world’s most northerly.

I once visited a town in northern Quebec, Salluit, which was built on permafrost. It’s a whole other world north of the tree line!

From The Globe and Mail:

Over 23 days and 4,000 kilometres, the mosque avoided several such calamities as it meandered toward the Arctic, capturing records and the national imagination along the way.

That’s what made its final arrival on Thursday evening all the more sweet for the 40-odd Muslims who greeted it, as crews hauled the 1,500-square-foot structure off a barge to a site where it will start welcoming worshippers by the end of October.

“We didn’t clue into the symbolic meaning of this mosque at first,” said Abdalla Mohamed, a local businessman who helped co-ordinate the move of what’s now considered the world’s most northerly mosque. “When the community realized that it was history in the making, it became a huge point of pride. I mean, this is the world’s only mosque on permafrost!”

The World’s Ten Best Airports

In business, cities, design, travel on August 27, 2010 at 12:53 pm
Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris
Charles de Gaulle airport. Image via Wikipedia

Pack, rush, stand, wait, take off shoes. Flying, so much fun.

Do you notice the airports you travel through? Here’s a recent list of the world’s top 10, which includes Paris Charles de Gaulle (which, built in 1974, looks like a cartoon idea of the future with all its tubes) and Rio’s domestic airport and Dulles, in D.C.

Here’s my top 10:

1) Santa Barbara, California. Tiny, red-tile-roofed. There are pool houses larger. Charming, cute, feels like vacation.

2) Mae Hong Son, Thailand. The only sound you hear is that of temple bells from the Buddhist temple across the street. The only airport I’ve ever flown into where you can walk right into town.

3) Vancouver. The architecture is spectacular — lots of glass, waterfalls, totem poles inside and out. One of the very few airports that actually makes specific reference to where you’ve just landed. The approach is also fantastic — the Rockies, the ocean, not to mention all the huge log booms on the water. I also love their use of YVR as its name — every Canadian airport code starts with Y. (YUL is Montreal, YYZ is Toronto. Go figure.)

4) Seattle. Think about it — when do you ever notice, in a good way, what’s at your feet? I’ve flown through this airport a few times and marveled at what lovely materials they chose for the flooring. Not to mention the inlaid bronze salmon inserted randomly. One of whom carries a briefcase.

5) Toronto Island Airport. You can wing into this one if you fly Porter Air from Newark. It’s set on a small island from which you take a ferry for about 1 minute, then a ten-minute taxi ride to downtown. The best way to see Toronto’s dramatic skyline.

6) Cuzco, Peru. OK. I admit it. I remember nothing of the airport but my immense, weeping gratitude that I saw it at all, after a hairy, scary descent on Faucett Air. (now defunct.) Think of a sewing machine needle threading up and down through cloth. That was us, trying to find a clear bit of air between many large mountains.

7) Shannon, Ireland. I love any airport that immediately gives me a strong sense of place. Landing in the west of Ireland, you look down over an impossibly beautiful patchwork of green, hundreds of small fields ringed by low stone walls.

8) Bastia, Corsica. Like Galway and Mae Hong Son, the landscape is at the edge of the airport. I remember seeing sheep within a few hundred yards of the runways.

9) Charles de Gaulle, Paris. Although many hate it, it is saturated with happy memories for me from my year living in Paris on a fellowship. From there, I flew out, or back, from Montserrat, England, Istanbul. I loved that CDG became “my” airport. Easy access to central Paris on the RER.

10) Westchester, New York. My home airport. It’s impossibly crowded but small and easy to get in and out of. I love that we walk across tarmac into the planes. You can sit in the restaurant and watch planes taking off and landing. I love being able to get to an airport in 20 minutes.

What are your favorites and why?

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The World's Ten Ugliest Buildings. Is One In Your City?

In art, design on November 29, 2009 at 9:26 pm
ROM Crystal - Daniel Libeskind, architect

Image by Randy OHC via Flickr

Where are the world’s ugliest buildings? One of them’s in my hometown, Toronto, according to the second annual list from virtualtourist.com

The Royal Ontario Museum added the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, opening in June 2007, a totally incongruous Daniel Liebeskind designed addition to one of the city’s loveliest buildings, built in 1914 of sandstone. Now its aluminum and glass shards protrude from the north end of the ROM, North America’s fifth largest museum.

Which monstrosity gets your vote?

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