Beautiful Old Building on 86th Street

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Scattered throughout Manhattan (and presumably other boroughs that I don’t go to often) there are older buildings mixed in with new construction. I love these older buildings. They have more character than some of the monstrosities that people are building today, like the hideous Preschool of the Arts @ Cooper Square building, for example:

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Who came up with this? What were they thinking?

I’m reminded of a city ordinance in Jerusalem that requires all new buildings to be faced in Jerusalem stone to maintain the character and traditional look of the city. Some might say that stifles creativity and artistic expression, but I’d rather see a traditional, beautiful Jerusalem than one filled with buildings that look like the one above.

Places have a certain look and feel to them that should be preserved. But, that’s just my opinion. I love history in general so it’s not really surprising to me that I would prefer historic buildings. I’m not sure how an ordinance like Jerusalem’s could be implemented here though. How does one build a skyscraper that looks like a 19th century townhouse?

Chabad Succah in Union Square for Sukkot

My wife and I were downtown last Thursday to get some supplies from Petco. After shopping, we were cutting across Union Square to get to a subway entrance that’s closer to the L train when we saw a booth set up. My first thought was that it was the beginnings of the Christmas market. I mean, it’s early, but why not? The month ends in a -ber, right? And it seems like stores start selling Christmas stuff earlier and earlier each year. But, when we got closer, I realized it was a booth for Sukkot. I thought the evergreen branches hanging off the roof were Christmas decorations, but nope. That’s part of the temporary structure. The roof is supposed to not be completely covered. The entire construction is supposed to be non-permanent, because it symbolizes the temporary dwellings of the Hebrews in the desert during the Mosaic diaspora period (between Egypt and Canaan / Israel).

Chabad Succot Booth 2013

Chabad Succot Booth 2013

Another view of the Chabad Succot booth for 2013.

Another view of the Chabad Succot booth for 2013.

Some guy painting over the decorations

Not sure who this guy is. Looked Japanese with a beard. He was painting over the words “Shabbat Shalom” on the door.

The decorations on the outside of the structure were nice. I didn’t realize how extravagant people can get with these things. If you’re wondering, “succah” is the name of the temporary dwelling. It’s just the Hebrew word for it, and during Sukkot Jewish people usually eat in their succah, unless it’s raining. For more info on Sukkot, click here.

A Simple Solution To Avoid Having To Repeat Yourself

A solution to avoid having to repeat yourself.

My mother’s apartment building has a security desk at the door, which is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, rain or shine, etc., etc.  Since there’s always a guard sitting there, rather than taking the time to check their mail by finding their key and opening the box, people constantly asked if the mailman had come by yet.  This building houses (rough guess) at least 300 people.  Now imagine if, say, 50 of those people asked you every day if the mailman had come by yet.  Irritating, right?

So, one of the guards came up with this simple solution.  She wrote the question on a piece of paper, tacked it on the wall, and then created a reversible Yes/No sign to hang on the wall.

The only thing that reduces the effectiveness of this solution is that this building houses a group of people who are blind, and I don’t see any braille on that paper.

Singapore To Start Utilizing Underground Space For Future Development

THE Government is studying how to use underground space for future development.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu said on Monday the Government should invest in the creation of new land and space.

‘Just as Singapore has reclaimed land in advance to support economic growth in the past, our subcommittee recommends that the government acts early to catalyse the development of underground space,’ she said at a press conference at which the Economic Strategies Committee released its report.

via The Straits Times

Somehow, this really brings out the dork in me. It reminds me of so many post-apocalyptic novels I’ve read where people have resorted to living in tunnels under the earth.  Dorkiness aside, I can see this proving to be a very worthwhile step for Singapore in terms of development since the country has such a limited amount of horizontal space to work with.

Singapore could, in fact, use Montreal’s Underground City as an inspiration:

With over 32 km (20 mi) of tunnels spread over more than 12 km2 (4.6 sq mi), connected areas include shopping malls, apartment buildings, hotels, condominiums, banks, offices, museums, universities, seven metro stations, two commuter train stations, a regional bus terminal and the Bell Centre amphitheatre and arena. There are more than 120 exterior access points to the underground city. Each access point is an entry point to one of 60 residential or commercial complexes comprising 3.6 km2 (1.4 sq mi) of floor space, including 80% of all office space and 35% of all commercial space in downtown Montreal. In winter, some 500,000 people use the underground city every day. Because of its Underground City, Montreal is often referred to as the “Double-Decker City” or “Two Cities in One”.

via Wikipedia

Singapore already has quite a few underground tunnels that connect shopping centers together in the Orchard area as well as malls that descend for multiple stories below ground. These are both heavily used and readily accepted by the public. Having more structures underground that are used publicly like businesses, retail outlets and perhaps eating establishments, would integrate easily into Singapore’s landscape, especially since it offers a ‘cool’ factor. It could be called the Singapore Underground, and it could really be an extensive underground business and retail area.  It could really play out well with the right architect at the wheel and could even prove to be a tourist attraction.

So, what will Singapore actually use these underground areas for?  The government is just now starting talks about how to properly use the underground space but I think there are at least a few obvious answers, like storage and further transit links. Placing that sort of thing underground could free up Singapore’s limited surface area for more businesses or residences.

Hopefully Singapore sticks to just putting businesses underground. While I have a feeling that sometime in the future people might not mind living below ground, possibly with fake windows that project an image of sunny skies and green meadows (like in the offices at the beginning of the original Resident Evil movie), now is not that time. I think people still cherish the idea of living above ground, with cool breezes coming through their windows.