Monday, March 16, 2009


In Bangkok's Chinatown, I routinely looked upon a storefront window display that included packages of birds' nests - with staggering price tags attached to them. In search of program for BKK's abandoned towers, I set out to assess the potential for profitable high-rise bird houses. I didn't have to look far.

This terrific blog entry tells of another Bangkoker's story of discovery on a trip to his father's hometown of Pak Phanang, in the far south of Thailand.

To summarize, one abandoned building became the home of nesting cave swifts, whose nests are the most highly valued animal product in the world. The owner became rich, spawning a slew of copycats. Now the small town is littered with 'bird condos'. And due to the highly-speculative nature, only 10% are inhabited by swifts! How quickly serendipitous re-use begets a new round of speculation!

So my fiction in this case is a slow cousin to fact. I'll be rereading that post...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


The CCA in Montreal has a great site for their current Actions show.

The site shows 99 actions to 'instigate positive change in contemporary cities around the world.' my guess is there are some that pertain to using the unused.

Monday, March 9, 2009


A recent Guardian article talks about The Architecture of Recession.

While saying nothing new really, it did remind me of the Form Follows Finance neo-maxim. And the notion of a new modesty in architecture:
A new modesty, then? Yes, for a while. But, when the wheel of fortune turns up again, expect a reaction to the New Modesty. Expect, at the very least, a Modesty Blaze, and then new forms of architecture that those being made redundant from their jobs, and those about to leave architecture school, are only beginning to formulate.

I guess he mean me. Onward ho!

Friday, March 6, 2009


Reading just now about David Foster Wallace's unfinished novel, which centers around workers at an IRS office in Illinois. "Properly handled, boredom can be an antidote to our national dependence on entertainment..."

Which gets me thinking on tediousness. And repetition. And all of those empty, identical bays, bounded by bare, identical reinforced concrete columns. At my old job I would think alot about the meditative aspect of repetitive work, though mostly worrying that it was dulling my psyche, muting some joy center in me.

But I can't escape its draw. Watch any capable AutoCad user (I am not one), and you know what I mean.

So am I getting at what Milan Kundera calls the 'third infinity' - that of variations within a pattern. (the first infinity expands outward to the universe, the second looks inward to the atom)

Is modernity most marked by industrial process, optimizing the use of industrial materials? Is then the area of operation only within the realm of variation?

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Read about an artist, whom I had never heard of before, in the NYTimes Magazine today. This particular description of his work struck me in the part of my brain that is left open for stimuli relating to my thesis:
’To Storr, the provisional, shifting shape of Anatsui’s art is one of the keys to its originality. In the catalog to the coming Museum for African Art retrospective, Storr argues that Anatsui’s work ‘‘is fundamentally anti-monumental: it does not stand its ground. . . . Rather it takes the shape of circumstances and so epitomizes contingency.’(my italics)

Fabric, network, mesh. Thoughts of Ito's bundled columns in the Sendai Mediateque. Woke this morning, with vague worry of time running out here in BKK, but with the image of bundled sticks. Phrase something like 'a thousand imperfect dreams are stronger..' provided the voice-over. What if the image of the city becomes the vision of too few? (monument) Is what can only be interesting to be found in what emerges in the leftovers? (contingency) The work of many hands:

Old Roman symbol, the Fasces, clasped in portraits by emperors - (including the farmer/general Cincinnatus) - a bundle of sticks.

An agrarian metaphor in the age of the city, which alone marks it. Weaving the waste of the industrial process, making them whole and new.


Or its romanized acronym, TAMC, short for Thai Asset Management Corporation, is the 'bad bank' that was created after the 1997 crisis. The TAMC's website states its mission as follows (and it is a mouthful):
the objectives in managing impaired assets of financial institutions and of asset management companies, debt restructuring, and business reorganization by taking transfer of impaired assets of financial institutions and of asset management companies as well as any other rights over the property being held as collateral for debt repayments with respect to such impaired assets, or by applying any other measures for the purpose of reviving the economy or restoring national stability.

The impaired assets are also called NPL's - non-performing loans - and the website states that in 1999, two years into the crisis, 47.7% of loans from Thai banking institutions were in the NPL category.

What if the building projects that have now been abandoned 12 years after 1997 were thrown into the category of RNPL (R=really), and the goals of an alternate TAMC were to allow everyday Bangkokers to map their desires into and onto the buildings?

Relieved of 'return-on-investment' in a strictly financial sense, these shells are brought back into the social fold of the community, filling a void of services, creating a place for homegrown innovation, etc... Now looking for those who can invest time and energy, if not necessarily a pot of money.


Muang Thong Thani is a 90's satellite city that seems to have drifted out of orbit. Is this what happens when urban planners change direction - the abandoned condo towers here echo the Hopewell Projects 13km of solemn, abandoned arches.

It seems like this was more than speculators getting too highly leveraged before the credit crunch. This area seems the work of developers who bet the wrong horse.

MORE SOON .... .... ....