Pecha Kucha Rundown: Denser, Part 1


Noelle and I had fun at Pecha Kucha in San Francisco at the SPUR Urban Center on Tuesday.  For those unfamiliar with the Pecha Kucha format, each speaker has 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide. The format makes for a fun but focused look at what a wide range of professionals is working on and thinking about. Presentations are loosely organized around a theme. The theme this time was “Denser.”

Using my notes, I am putting together a set of posts that lists the presenters in order, along with links to their website (if I could find them) and any major thoughts I jotted down. For some presentations, I took a number of notes. Other presentations have fewer notes (maybe I was looking at the images more carefully?). All of the presentations were more interesting and beautiful than revealed by my notes and these posts.

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Grady Gillies – Architect – UCLA, Suprastudio

DENSE city

dense buildings

dense population

dense space

dense community

Looked at 8 cities as part of the studio, including:

Cleveland, OH – transforming access and landscape

Flint, MI – advantage of a shrinking city’s migration is SPACE

New Orleans – blighted property presents an opportunity

Tucson, AZ – relentless expansion of the city edge

Merced, CA – looking at potential impact of high-speed rail

Toledo, OH – city’s solar industry as a new urban identity

More information on the studio and work:

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Craig Scott – Architect – IwamotoScott


environmental / technological performance

spatial / material geometry

urban / architectural experiences

3 focuses of firm’s practice – buildings, installations, and digital fabrications

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Robin Levitt – Detroit

(Anna’s note – his entire introduction was “Robin Levitt, Detroit” but there is a little info on the ever-helpful Wikipedia)

Talking about the de-densification of a city

Birthplace of the automobile

Detroit was the Silicon Valley of its day

1950s saw Detroit’s population peak just under 2 million

[Image of reduction in building density in the downtown district]

Detroit could geographically fit San Francisco, Boston, and Manhattan, but has a much lower population density

Population decline over the years

But actual geographical area of the city was expanding

Ruins now dominate the Detroit landscape

Neighborhoods have been cleared

City looking at a strategy of controlled abandonment

City of Detroit began as farmland, and in many neighborhoods it is returning to farmland

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Parts 2, 3, and maybe 4 coming soon!

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Assorted Links

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed changes to Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (Green Guides) that would make greenwashing more difficult.

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Starbucks has set a goal of making 100% of its cups reusable or recyclable by 2015.

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The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has upgraded its green building standards, requiring LEED Gold certification for all new federal construction and major renovations.

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The editorial page of The Sacramento Bee ran a head-to-head editorial last week discussing whether the proposed high-speed rail project in California is a valuable addition to infrastructure or a boondoggle.

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Assorted Links

Drivers crossing greater downtown San Francisco and the southern border with San Mateo County could be hit with a new toll costing them as much as $1,560 a year.

Republican governors-elect intend to kill plan for new high-speed rail projects.

Levi’s is introducing a new line of jeans called Water<less, reducing water use in the manufacturing process.

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High Speed Rail


News and perspectives from around the web on the status of high speed rail in California…

Daniel Curtin for the SF Examiner:

“Without a hint of irony, critics warn that moving forward with California’s high-speed rail project risks financial disaster for the state.  That train has left the station. There’s no need to predict disaster — we’re already living through one.”

Read the article here.

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From Business Review USA:

“Thinking Ahead: High-Speed Rail in Southern California is a new report released by the Center for Urban Infrastructure that discusses the benefits of a fast, convenient and efficient intercity high-speed rail system on southern California’s economy.”

Read the article here.

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Jonathan Weber for the NY Times:

“The Bay Area has a reputation as a place where it’s hard to get things done, but you’d never know it from all the recent progress on transformative megaprojects.”

Read the article here.

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For a counterpoint, try James Janz’s opinion piece for the San Jose Mercury News:

“When California voters approved Proposition 1A for development of a “safe, convenient, affordable, and reliable” high-speed rail system, I am certain they expected it to be a boon to the state because it would be done right…the High-Speed Rail Authority has done little right and much that is wrong.”

Read the article here.

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