Tagged: boston

Second Little Pig: Vindicated

Since the googles said it was faster to walk from the Innovation District to South Station than to take the Silver line, that’s what I did. It was hot and humid but I’m glad I did because otherwise I would not have passed by BSAspace and dropped in for some AC. And had I not done that, I would not have seen an enchanting and informative exhibit called Urban Timber: From Seed to City, all about building with wood.

Mesopotamian plywood!

The gob-smacking revelations started right away. Did you know that plywood was invented by the Mesopotamians more than 5,000 years ago? Mind = Blown. It’s not just about plywood, there are many kinds of wood-based building materials, many of which compare favorably with concrete and steel. SOM has a project for a 40 story tower made of wood, unbuilt as of this writing, but not for lack of feasibility.


The show clearly has an axe to grind (so to speak) but makes some really interesting points about the environmental impact of various building materials and the industrial processes that make, mill, mine and harvest them. I especially liked the roll-call of large wooden structures. Unfortunately, in the USA, one of the largest timber-producing nations, the tallest wooden thing is still a giant redwood. In Australia, Scandinavia and beyond, they have some major wooden structures and some are quite marvelous.


In addition to the infographics on the walls, there are four projects by emerging architects featuring some innovative ways to build with wood.


You can’t make this stuff up.


But seriously, gentle reader, you should get over to the Boston Society of Architects space and check this show out. It’s free and open to the public through September 30.

Artificial Scarcity Two Ways

Listening to the radio and drifting in and out of sleep this morning, I thought I heard somebody say that “destroying stockpiles of ivory will dampen demand” for it. Eh?Apparently, Hong Kong is planning to destroy 28 tons of elephant ivory that it has confiscated over the years. Other countries, including the USA, have been doing similar things to reduce demand for ivory. I thought that when you reduced the supply of something, it would tend to increase the price of that thing.

It makes sense to me to destroy weapons or drugs that are seized, those things could be dangerous if somebody got hold of them, and might not be safe enough to general re-use. But with ivory, the damage to the elephant is already done and the criminals have already lost their goods, so what’s the additional benefit of destroying it? Even PETA gives away fur coats to the homeless.

Wouldn’t releasing all this ivory onto the market drop the price of the stuff and make poaching less attractive? Couldn’t the proceeds of those sales also support anti-poaching law enforcement, education and elephant conservation? I understand the desire to make a point and tell the world that it’s not OK to kill endangered elephants for decoration but these high profile destructions just seem like advertisements for ivory – “it’s getting scarcer, so you better buy some now!”

That seemed entirely too loony, so I turned over and went back to sleep for while. The next time I stirred, the story had shifted to the controversy over “micro-apartments” in Boston’s “Innovation District,” formerly known as part of South Boston.

People have got their real estate panties in a knot over whether or not developers should be able to build small apartments, even tiny ones, to chip away at Boston’s 25,000 unit housing shortage. After a great deal of wrangling, it sounds like developers have been approved for 350 such units, and 77 are under construction or already built.

These “innovation units” are apparently super modern and somewhat less than 450 square feet. That doesn’t really seem like some weird new form of housing. I’ve got a 450 square foot condo in Cambridge, and I know there are plenty more. Of course, I’m enjoying the profits from renting out my condo, but if the city would allow the housing it needs to be built, prices for both rentals and sales would most certainly fall. Allowing a few hundred new units of just one kind when thousands of every kind are needed won’t change a thing.

I can’t help thinking that if the tech innovators whom Boston wants to attract were subjected to the same kinds of restrictions that real estate developers are to meet the market need, they’d be trying to develop mobile apps in BASIC.

Maybe allowing a trickle of additional supply to make product more affordable is less crazy than destroying product to reduce demand, but neither path seems quite optimal. Can’t we do better for elephants and Bostonians?

At Gallery Kayafas, it’s about time

If you haven’t been lately, it’s about time you visited Gallery Kayafas. It’s about time that you visited because the current shows on view are closing in a bit more than a week. Also, both of the major shows are about time, even more so than the way every photograph is.

In one gallery, there are a number of Daniel Ranali’s Snail Drawings. Ranali gathers small snails on the beach and arranges them in simple patterns, a line, a circle, a spiral, and takes a photo, the first half of a diptych. Then, some time later, he makes the second half by shooting the scene again, revealing the paths the snails had made in the wet sand as they escaped their imposed order and went about their snaily business.

Snail Drawing by Daniel Ranali Walden, 16th Walk, by Stefan Hagen

On the other side of the gallery is work by Stefan Hagen from several of his projects, mostly his “crossings” series. Hagen walks, drives, and boats around significant sites with the camera shutter open for minutes or hours or maybe longer. The results are more coherent than I would have guessed – mistakable at a distance for a conventional landscape – but still completely dream-like, short on specificity and long on feeling.

Also on view, “Ten Small Prints” including work by Berenice Abbott, Anonymous, Harry Callahan, Susan Derges, Harold Edgerton, Peter Kayafas, Helen Levitt, John Pfahl, Aaron Siskind, and Ralph Steiner. I suggest you bundle up and head on over before the shows come down on January 18.