The Work Continues at Oroville Dam

If you have not been tracking the progress of the Oroville dam spillway repair project, the scale of the effort has been impressive. Since the collapse of a portion of the main spillway two winters ago. The California Department of Water Resources has been capturing progress through compelling videos. Its inspiring to see projects of this magnitude taking place in the United States today accompanied by a great safety record.

Dwelling On The Future of Mobility and the Workplace

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It was nice to see Dwell inquiring at to possible futures of mobility and the workplace in their recent printed issue. The range of responses include thinking along the lines of what is in IDEO's Slow Becomes Fast flexible interiors concept and Inverse Commute Work on Wheels concept from its Future of Automobility provocation series. Take a closer look at an extract in their online feature.

Farnsworth House

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An earlier bivouac post spoke to the merit of building items with Lego Technic. Depending on the kit, one can gain an real appreciation for certain mechanical relationships within drive trains, limited slip differrentials, pistons and cam shafts and the like. It turns out that a recent encounter with Lego's Architecture series had a similar effect, leading to renewed appreciation for Mies van der Rohe's iconic Farnsworth House.

While not as resilient to the 2008 flooding event as a Lego version would have been, hopefully the master architect's minimalist selection of travertine marble, glass and steel will mean that any further restoration can mainly focus on the more precious interior such as silk curtains and an interior core element clad in primivera paneling.

Farnsworth House stands as a testiment to simplicity and minimalism. As I struggled during my "construction project" to keep each individual Lego tile as perpendicular to one another as I could, the exercise proved to be poignient reminder that sometimes keeping things pure and simple is really hard.


Erosion of Luxury

The skyscraper "Erosion" designed by Herzog & de Meuron would certainly make a striking addition to the New York skyline. The Swiss architects have designed a building that supports individualized floor layouts for occupants, offering more external space for some depending upon tastes and desires. As is pointed out in a recent post on Eikongraphia, one of the more notable features is a floor-to-ceiling height of four meters. The modernist aesthetic, panoramic cityscapes and open plans would be welcome by many urban dwellers. But in these tough economic times, could such a design really see the light of day or will this vision be worn away by the force of current economic winds?

For more discussion of this proposed design, head over to Eikongraphia.

Old and New

Thanks to a nice presentation by colleague Lukas Scherrer who was just returning from a trip to St. Moritz, this work by Daniele Marques has made a lasting impression at the bivouac. In particular, it shows how new design can co-exist with history in beautiful ways.

For more about Daniele Marques' work visit:


Old School in the New Schools: Sim City 2000


During a recent trip to Los Angeles, I was reminded of all the hours I once spent creating and learning with Sim City 2000. These memories are timely given that this month's Wired Magazine special edition entitled "The New World of Games" is Guest Edited by Sim City's creator Will Wright.

There will always be a special place in my heart for the Sim City 2000 release. While the game title has evolved over the years, the particular release with its meticulously detailed, pixel-pushed, dimetric city views gained my respect from the moment that I first launched the game. Although Sim City 2000 may now be considered “old school”, I sometimes wonder about the benefits it could offer to the “new school” students of today.

While we continue to debate the merits and potential negative effects of gaming particularly on our youth, the Sim City series serves as a beacon indicating where we should be focusing more of our “gaming” development efforts. Through using Sim City 2000 in classes, students could learn by building something rather than destroying, which is all too often the focus of too many gaming titles these days. They could explore cause and effect relationships and do so quickly, thereby reducing the repressive effects associated with the fear of failure. By resolving infrastructure tensions that arise as new commercial zones require larger power plants or underground pipe systems need to be modified to accommodate underground subway stations, students build something else. Something which is particularly important in today’s “who shall we blame next” society. That something which they build is empathy for those in civic service.

After recent events like the Katrina disaster and the California power crisis, developing empathy for the scores of government workers who are indeed doing a good job is sorely needed. By allowing students to experience even a small part of what it is like to build and manage a functional city, we are training through play. Bonds must be passed to balance the books. Citizens must be placated through the addition of green belts and amusement parks and other services as cities grow. Weighing decisions like inviting military bases (a potential source of income) to a city must be carefully considered. For those who find it most engaging, perhaps a spark will be ignited drawing them into public service. And there is something magical in that process. Aligning youth with the skills and interest to serve is key to recovering faith in our public institutions. It gets those who are passionate and skilled into positions that can make a difference. And who would have thought this could all begin with a simple game.

As I looked down during the approach to LAX, I smiled inside as I wondered what the city beneath the city really looked like. Knowing it was there and thinking about all the small and large decisions that have gotten the city to where it is today is something I have to thank Will Wright for. It is so easy to question why things are the way they are but reflecting upon the cities I built reminds me that urban planning is tough business, even in the virtual world. I can only hope that Los Angeles Version X.X is on its way to being incrementally better and stronger than the current version…just like each successive Sim City I built turned out to be.



Living Modern is a Breeze

Michelle Kaufman and a new generation of architects are bringing advances to modular home design. Through their work, they are raising the awareness of and providing access to affordable contemporary home designs. Many floor plans draw inspiration from earlier residential architecture found in communities designed by architects commissioned by enlightened developers such as Joseph Eichler. Floor plans like Kaufman's new Breeze House build on the idea of integrating interior and exterior spaces. Glass doors can be folded away, merging interior spaces with the great outdoors. And speaking of the great outdoors, most designs integrate many environmentally friendly green design approaches as well.

For more details visit: