“Every town has the same two malls: the one white peo­ple go to and the one white peo­ple used to go to.”
— Chris Rock, quot­ed in The New York Times

“One rea­son for the malls’ prob­lems is that the sub­urbs have changed. When the South­dale shop­ping cen­tre opened on the out­skirts of Min­neapo­lis, the sub­urbs were almost entire­ly white and mid­dle-class. Whites were flee­ing a wave of new arrivals from the South (the black pop­u­la­tion of Min­neapo­lis rose by 155% between 1940 and 1960). Although [shop­ping mall pio­neer Vic­tor] Gru­en could not bear to admit it, his inven­tion appealed to those who want­ed downtown’s shops with­out its pur­port­ed dan­gers. These days, in Min­neapo­lis as in much of Amer­i­ca, the eth­nic drift is in the oppo­site direc­tion. The sub­urbs are becom­ing much more racial­ly mixed while the cities fill up with hip, afflu­ent whites. As a result, sub­ur­ban malls no longer pro­vide a refuge from diver­si­ty.”
The Econ­o­mist, 22 Decem­ber 2007, p. 103

The phrase “refuge from diver­si­ty” sticks with me. Is that real­ly some­thing peo­ple need to feel com­fort­able?

December 29, 2007 December 29, 2007 archives by Scott No Comments

Have a great Christ­mas. Stay tuned for some changes with­in the next cou­ple of weeks…

December 24, 2007 December 24, 2007 archives by Scott No Comments

The griz­zled man crammed into the win­dow seat beside me was leaf­ing through a copy of The Pro­gres­sive Farmer mag­a­zine (“Get More from Your Life on the Land”). Where could he be going?

“Back to my farm in Arkansas. I’m a reg­is­tered cat­tle farmer.”

I learned that reg­is­tered cat­tle are used for things like breeding—not beef. Where was he com­ing from?

“From Delaware. I also run an I.T. con­sult­ing busi­ness, and I have a client there.”

Now that is diver­si­fi­ca­tion.

December 21, 2007 December 21, 2007 archives by Scott No Comments

Weekly Dig pages I still haven’t fin­ished putting my Chi­na pho­tos on the Web—shocking, I know! But you can see my favorite Widelux shot from that trip in tomorrow’s issue of the Week­ly Dig.

December 11, 2007 December 11, 2007 archives by Scott No Comments

A con­cert mini-review

The Tallis Schol­ars (dir. Peter Phillips)
St. Paul Church, Har­vard Square
Decem­ber 7, 2007

I chose this event for my annu­al dose of live clas­si­cal music pri­mar­i­ly for two rea­sons: One, they are named for one of my favorite com­posers, Thomas Tallis. Two, the series (the Boston Ear­ly Music Fes­ti­val) is spon­sored by my bank, the Cam­bridge Trust Com­pa­ny, which has demon­strat­ed excep­tion­al­ly good taste in choos­ing what to spon­sor. It doesn’t hurt that I secret­ly enjoy Renais­sance music, and the New York Times has called the Tallis Schol­ars “the rock stars of Renais­sance vocal music.”

Rock stars for a night, indeed they were. The audi­ence (by my esti­mates 99.5% white and at least 80% over the age of 40) prac­ti­cal­ly gave them a stand­ing ova­tion for walk­ing onto the stage. And it was the first time I’ve ever seen a clas­si­cal group get cajoled into deliv­er­ing an encore. They met our expec­ta­tions though, with a set list by Lher­i­ti­er, Palest­ri­na, Mou­ton, Crec­quil­lon, Josquin Des Prez, and Jacobus Gal­lus. I had nev­er heard of Gal­lus before—perhaps because he died in 1591—but the three pieces of his that they per­formed were my clear favorites of the evening. The encore (an unusu­al ver­sion of In dulce jubi­lo) was awe­some.

The Schol­ars’ blend and tone was so per­fect that, as L. point­ed out dur­ing the inter­mis­sion, it is easy to for­get that one is lis­ten­ing to peo­ple singing. The sound is sort of tran­scen­den­tal. Awe­some.

December 10, 2007 December 10, 2007 archives by Scott No Comments

Doc­tor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong.
Was I unwise
to leave them open for so long?

The Jack­son Browne tune got stuck in my head dur­ing my eye exam. I sang it the whole way home. Now this screen is dri­ving my dilat­ed pupils crazy—adios!

December 8, 2007 December 8, 2007 archives by Scott No Comments

Me with Cummins Engine This year, we cel­e­brat­ed Thanks­giv­ing at my sister’s apart­ment in Indi­anapo­lis. It was a fun change from the usu­al rou­tine. The food came out well and every­one enjoyed them­selves.

Many fam­i­lies have tra­di­tions for what to do with the fol­low­ing Fri­day. We don’t. Clear­ly some kind of road trip was in order, but there was lit­tle con­sen­sus on where to go. I cam­paigned relent­less­ly for a tour of Colum­bus, Indiana—a qui­et town of 39,000 about 40 miles south of the cap­i­tal. Even­tu­al­ly every­body gave in and that’s where we went.

Colum­bus is home to the Cum­mins Engine Com­pa­ny, and seem­ing­ly lit­tle else. But Colum­bus is per­haps most wide­ly known among archi­tec­ture cir­cles as one of America’s pre­mier show­cas­es of mod­ern archi­tec­ture. Cum­mins Engine co-founder J. Irwin Miller was an archi­tec­ture lover who in the 1950s set up a foun­da­tion to cov­er the costs of hir­ing cut­ting-edge archi­tects to design any new pub­lic build­ings in town: gov­ern­ment build­ings, banks, schools, and church­es. So it hap­pens that Columbus’s streets are a Who’s Who of archi­tec­ture. But as the vis­i­tor center’s video is quick to point out, these are not a col­lec­tion of osten­ta­tious show­pieces. Some­how they man­age to fit togeth­er organically—visually and func­tion­al­ly inte­grat­ed with the com­mu­ni­ty. It’s an achieve­ment that has not been par­al­leled else­where, and it’s love­ly to behold.

Among the high­lights:

  • First Chris­t­ian Church (1942, Eliel and Eero Saari­nen). The first mod­ern church in the Unit­ed States, every­thing about this build­ing is slight­ly off-cen­ter and way ahead of its time.
  • Irwin Union Bank and Trust (1954, Eero Saari­nen). Eero Saari­nen is my favorite archi­tect. You have undoubed­ly encoun­tered his works already: the one-of-a-kind St. Louis Arch, the wide­ly-copied Dulles Air­port main ter­mi­nal, and MIT’s Kres­ge Audi­to­ri­um and Chapel. This sin­gle-sto­ry bank is a gor­geous throw­back to the 1950s. The built-in file cab­i­nets and cus­tom fur­ni­ture are still being used today.
  • North Chris­t­ian Church (1964, Eero Saari­nen). This church is a mas­ter­piece. The roof lines and sky­lights are breath­tak­ing. The sanc­tu­ary is spa­cious yet inti­mate, and the bap­tismal font is gor­geous. The land­scap­ing is so well exe­cut­ed that, some­how, even approach­ing the build­ing by car is excit­ing. I also like the way that the park­ing lot is almost com­plete­ly hid­den, despite being right in front of the church.
  • Cleo Rogers Memo­r­i­al Library (1969, I.M. Pei). This is how libraries were meant to be built: red brick, warm wood, and some con­crete thrown in for good mea­sure.
  • Colum­bus Post Office (1970, Roche Dinkeloo). Ugly and insti­tu­tion­al on the inside, but notable for its use of self-rust­ing Cor-Ten steel on the facade, which gives the build­ing a love­ly tex­ture.
  • Large Arch (1971, Hen­ry Moore). Many of us have sat on his Three Piece Reclin­ing Fig­ure Draped in Kil­lian Court at MIT. This is a fine arch, and it is large.
  • The Com­mons (1973, Cesar Pel­li). This mall has decayed to an unfor­tu­nate lev­el of dis­re­pair, but you can appre­ci­ate the unusu­al­ly broad ges­tures it makes toward com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice as well as shop­ping. Indeed, with most of the stores gone or going out of busi­ness, the place is still abuzz. It pro­vides a stage for per­for­mances, sev­er­al large com­mon rooms, a food court, an indoor play­ground, and a sun­ny home for Jean Tingue­ly‘s kinet­ic sculp­ture Chaos I (1971).
  • Cum­mins Cor­po­rate Office Build­ing (1983, Roche Dinkeloo). Big, and look­ing a lit­tle for­lorn with all the vines with­ered for the win­ter. The lob­by was closed for the hol­i­day, but through the win­dows one could see all kinds of entic­ing gems: antique cars, engines, and an incred­i­ble sculp­ture of explod­ed engine parts. Julia took the above pic­ture of me with the engine out­side their front door.

Com­ing soon: some pho­tos of Colum­bus, and some live­ly dis­cus­sion of my trip to Kentucky’s Cre­ation Muse­um.

December 2, 2007 December 2, 2007 archives by Scott No Comments

“Cuter Scoot­er defined by elec­tric­i­ty, porta­bil­i­ty”

November 28, 2007 November 28, 2007 archives by Scott No Comments