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gr端n a collection of essays written by allie harold brice tuttle laura howell

table of contents


green architecture: the passive house written by allie harold

13 – 23

radiohead: the future of music as we know it written by brice tuttle

25 – 37

shift to modern urbani sm written by laura howell

green architecture: the passive house written by allie harold


These buildings are airtight and oriented to maximize sunlight, which cuts down energy use by almost 90 percent. The “Passive House” is a strict standard of architecture for homes and buildings that has recently emerged from Germany and Scandinavia starting in 1996 and is slowly beginning to appear in the United States. The Passive House concept evolved from the Low Energy House, which lowered energy consumption by improving the insulation and air tightness of a home. The difference between the Passive House and the Low Energy House is the mechanical ventilation and heat recovery systems that were added to reach the Passive House standards.1 The buildings are airtight and oriented to maximize sunlight in order to result in little to no energy needed for heating. Although they are not exactly net-zero, they are very efficient in energy storage and use. Poorly sealed buildings are common and cause air to leak, which can make it difficult to nearly impossible for climate control in an affordable manner. Non-airtight buildings can waste large amounts of energy as well as money. Europe holds up to having the most effective criteria for energy efficient construction, known as the “Passivehaus” standard. The United States, on the other hand, is working towards improving standards in green building.

an example of a modern Passive House

Three simple requirements are what separate a Passive House from all the rest of green building standards that are used today. Air infiltration, energy usage and Btu consumption are the main focus in this high standard, which even surpass the restrictions of Energy Star. The key, which is a tightly air-sealed house, requires mechanical ventilation. These three requirements for certification in more exact measurements are as follows: • Space

heating demand cannot exceed 1.4 kWh /sq. ft year

• Air-tightness

pressurization (blower door test) can not exceed 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 pascal pressure

• Total

source energy including domestic electricity can not exceed 11 kW /sq. ft. /year 2



“The Passive House has a spaceship-like uniformity of air and temperature.” WHAT MAKES A PASSIVE HOUSE

He clarifies,

“The myth before was that to be warm you had The main strategy and idea behind the Passive to have heating. Our goal is to create a warm House is to reuse “free” heat in order to heat the house without energy demand. This is not about home and keep it at a constant comfortable level. wearing thick pullovers, turning the thermostat Ultrathick insulation and doors and windows with a down and putting up with drafts. It’s about complex design make it possible for a home to be being comfortable with less energy input, and fully airtight. This means that little to no heat will we do this by recycling heating.”4 escape and barely any cold air will seep in. The heat of the sun, as well as all electrical and gas appliances The building envelope of a Passive House must be such ovens, refrigerators, computers and light bulbs, extremely airtight and well insulated. This ensures that the free heat cannot escape out of the building and the occupants’ body heat, keep the house at a comfortable temperature without the need for heat. unintentionally. A building envelope is the separation between the interior and exterior environments This is where the free heat comes from. In fact, there is no adjustment needed to keep a house at a com- of a building. In other words, it is the outer shell that surrounds and protects the controlled climate within fortable temperature, thanks to the central ventilation the indoor environment. Additionally, the envelope’s system, “the warm air going out passes side by side objectives include moisture control, structural integwith clean, cold air coming in, exchanging heat with rity, temperature control and control of air pressure. 90 percent efficiency.” 3 However, occupants are given the option of “vacation” mode as well “party” The mechanical ventilation system simultaneously mode with more circulation. Opening the windows brings in fresh air from outside while removing the is always an easy solution as well. Previous designs same amount of stale air. This is also known as the incorporating sealed solar-heated homes did not “air to air heat recovery component.”5 As the stale air succeed due to stagnant air and mold, a result of a is leaving the ventilation system, it transfers the heat lack of air circulation. The main goal in this design is to the incoming fresh air within the recovery ventilator. comfort. Wolfgang Hasper, an engineer at the In turn, the fresh air entering the building will pick up Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt. the free heat and continue through into the home.6 There is no furnace in a Passive House; this trait

really distinguishes its building standards compared to that of a common home or building.7 As architect Milos Jovanovi explains, “Passive House focuses on reducing the need for heating power in the first place. A building designed to this standard uses 90 percent less energy, at which point you can heat an entire house with a hair dryer.” 8

$60,000 and spending $3,000 each year spends eight hours a month working just to pay their energy bills. We work hard for our homes when, in fact, they should be working for us if at all possible, providing comfort free of of charge.”10

Additionally, heating and cooling takes a large toll on our environment. About one-fifth of our nation’s fossil fuel energy production is used for just that reason alone.11 It may seem that a building with such a Many common green building strategies today strict airtight standard would be suffocating; however, attempt to solve the energy problem by finding more there are more windows in a Passive House than in efficient ways to heat the spaces within a home or most standard homes. In order to meet standard, a building. One very important aspect is the way the building must pass a “blow test,” which shows that house faces in relation to the sun. To maximize the it loses minimal air under pressure, due to the airstorage and absorption, “Trombe” walls face the tight construction.12 One interesting aspect is the south.9 These walls are constructed of concrete and “spaceship-like uniformity of air and temperature,” covered by glass on the outside. As the sun penethe cement basement floors are warm and the walls trates through the glass, the concrete is heated and are the same temperature as the air that surrounds disperses heat into the home by conduction. The them.13 To some, this may be heaven, while to others idea of free heating is not only revolutionary but it might not be what they are looking for. For example, also life enhancing; not only are you gaining a more those who like to be cozy under a blanket, sipping comfortable living space, you are also saving a great hot chocolate, this could be too radical. On the other deal of money. As Daniel D. Chiras, author of The hand, Georg Zielke, a German Passive House dweller, Solar House explains, describes his opinion differently: “I grew up in a great “Americans spend about 54 billion dollars each old house that was always 10 degrees too cold, so I year to heat and cool their homes. A good porknew I wanted to make something different.” He built tion of our lives is spent working to pay this cost. his first Passive House for his family, in 2003 and has According to my calculations, a couple earning never turned back to the old style.



A helpful technology used in the design success of Passive Houses is the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP). This design tool is helpful in assisting the architect with the heat gains versus heat losses to determine the balancing of the energy consumption of a building. This program is almost necessary for a house or building to reach the Passive House requirements, which are strict in the sense of annual energy usage. The PHPP program has been tested and proved to be accurate as long as the construction is executed appropriately to fit the design.

EXAMPLES OF PASSIVE HOUSES / BUILDINGS It is estimated that about 15,000 Passive Houses dwell around the world, with the vast majority built within the regions surrounding Germany and Scandinavia. Darmstadt, Germany is the pioneering home to the concept of the Passive House. This city houses the first Passive House ever built. It was designed by Wolfgang Feist in 1991. Since then, the industry in this style of buildings has thrived immensely. However, due to the fact that Passive House was developed in Germany, it grew strong roots there from the start. German was the primary language used for the initial documentation as well as the instruction. This kept the style from immediately expanding throughout the world right away.

Many commissions for passive buildings, especially for government use, have emerged. For example, The European Commission and European Parliament have proposed that all new buildings and homes should meet the Passive House standards by the year 2011. Although ambitious, it can easily be done, especially since education is becoming so readily available for architects. Central Europe is home to many Passive Houses and buildings today. To test the efficiency in order to further gain support for the standard of building to take a greater hold, the European Commission funded a demonstration project called the CEPHEUS (Cost Efficient Passive Houses as European Standard). About 250 houses were constructed from 1998 to 2001 within five European countries. The buildings have been monitored as well as the building and design operations measured and evaluated.14 An example of a Passive House in California is located in Berkeley and is one of the first passive houses in the United States. Nabih Tahna is a Californian architect who worked in Austria for 11 years, where he mastered the Passive House. Tahna also heads a Bay Area group of 70 architects and engineers who are workings to encourage a broader acceptance and understanding of the Passive House standards. walls of windows: a key factor of a Passive House



“While saving the environment and natural resources, the Passive House standard of building also saves a homeowner thousands of dollars each year.” Root Design Build is Jovanovi’s Portland–based architecture firm that has designed the Shift House. This is one among a few other homes within the United States that follow the strict guidelines of the Passive House standard.15 The name of the house comes from “shifted” alignment of the front and back portions of the house. There is an impressive reason behind the placement; it eliminates hallways within the house while also maximizing room space. The firm was commissioned to design a house in Hood River, Oregon and should be completed within the spring of 2010. Jovanovi has worked with various ranges of green building standards; however, he has found the Passive House system to be fairly simple with some breathing room. He explains, “The standard permits a large degree of freedom in building techniques and materials, as long as you can achieve the very strict energy and envelope requirements.” In other words, a well-practiced architect can create a home or building within Passive House codes fairly easily, it just takes more attention to detail and a longer designing process. One obstacle the firm came to was to find building materials within the high performance standard which the Passive House calls for. In the United States, green building standards are only just beginning to catch on in the large sense. This

leads to the issue of a lack of materials available and reasonably attainable. In Europe, this is not an issue because of the government support for the enhancement of building technologies.16 However, the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS), which started in Urbana, Illinois, has become a great resource for information related to the design and construction of a Passive House. As a research and consulting firm, PHIUS is working to spread the standards and techniques of Passive House nationwide. The firm creates design guidelines for Passive Houses within all climate zones, provides energy calculation and consulting services, helps to further develop minimized mechanical systems for heating, cooling and dehumidification, as well as constructing, measuring, and verifying performance of all Passive Houses built within the United States.17 Additionally, the PHIUS is a large participant in any form of Passive House presentation, meeting, or conference. The goal is to inform people of the benefits in hopes more and more people will turn towards the ways of a Passive House. Because the standards for Passive House are complex and must be followed strictly, an architect must be educated in order for a house to be considered a true Passive House. Katrin Klingenber, PHIUS director, studied Passive House design at

the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. She was instructed by the Institut’s founder and director, Dr. Wolfgang Feist. Klingeber’s passion for Passive House and its benefits has turned her into a tireless teacher of Passive House techniques as well as being involved in the design and construction of Passive Houses throughout the United States beginning in 2003. A program through the PHIUS is available to train architects and building system designers to successfully implement Passive House design principles for commercial, residential, and remodeling scenarios. It takes about three, three-day sessions as well as passing a Final Exam in order to qualify as Certified Passive House Consultants. This program is the only one of its kind within the United States; however, popularity of Passive House has not suffered as a result. Cutting-edge environmental design has recently received a great amount of attention. People are beginning to realize that conserving resources in as many ways possible is mandatory for our future.

COMPARATIVE COSTS Finding adequate materials up to the standards of the Passive House has proved to be a challenge. Architects have no choice but to search high and low in order to find the correct products in North America that yield the signature airtight seal. Sophisticated windows and heat-exchange ventilation systems are not readily available yet in the United States. As a result, Passive House construction requires a much higher cost than a standard home would. In Germany, passive houses only cost about 5 to 7 percent more to build than standard houses because the technology is already developed and easily accessible. Although it may take a few more years for the United States to catch up the Passive House standard trend, it is well worth the wait. While saving the environment and natural resources, the Passive House standard of building also saves a homeowner thousands of dollars each year. With that in mind, it seems imperative that new construction follows the Passive House standards. We will then be able to help our environment and ourselves simultaneously.




1 Rosenthal A1. 2 Gordon 22. 3 Rosenthal A1. 4 Gordon 22. 5 Tahan, web. 6 ibid. 7 Gordon 23. 8 ibid. 22. 9 Chiras 2. 10 ibid. 4. 11 ibid. 2. 12 Rosenthal A1. 13 ibid. 14 Chiras 4. 15 Gordon 23. 16 ibid. 24. 17 “Passive House Institute U.S.,” web.

works cited

Chiras, Daniel D. The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green. Pub., 2002. Gordon, Jacob. “Passive Acceptance.” Dwell Nov. 2009: 22-25. “Passive House Institute U.S.” Passive House Standard in the United States. Passivhaus Institut. Web. 6 Apr. 2010. <>. Rosenthal, Elisabeth. “No Furnaces but Heat Aplenty in Innovative ‘Passive Houses.’” The New York Times 27 Dec. 2008, A1. Tahan, Nabih. “What Is a Passive House?” Bau Technologies: European Technology in Designing and Building Efficient Homes. Web. 6 Apr. 2010. <>.

radiohead: the future of music as we know it written by brice tuttle



In case you hadn’t noticed, the music industry ain’t what it used to be. Ever since the late ‘90s, a transformation has been afoot. Slowly but surely, the experience of music as we know it continues to metamorphose before our eyes, spurred on by advances in technology and the progressive artists who dare to work with it. First came the switch from physical to virtual, as digital downloading swept up any remainder of our CD collections. Pop singles became the focus of attention, as full albums fell to the wayside. iPod playlists took over the job of the radio. Today, social networking replaces advertising, and people can produce work on par with a professional recording studio while sitting on the couch in their underwear. This transformation can generally be seen as shift of power, as what was once in the hands of record executives is now in the hands of the public. Music has gone open-source. Radiohead— one of the most widely popular bands of our time— perfectly exemplifies this transformation within the music industry. A progressive band from the start, they continually push the boundaries of what is possible in music, using their popularity to lead by example.

In Rainbows album cover

BANDMATES Before we discuss how Radiohead has provoked radical changes in a centuries-old, worldwide industry, we must first get to know its members a little better. Oxfordshire (England) native Thom Yorke leads Radiohead, both idealistically and creatively. Often portrayed as the classic “disturbed prodigy,” he has many traits that separate him from the other pop icons of today. For example, he’s convinced he’s slowly losing his mind. On the other hand, he’s a competent father of two. Thom also holds strong environmental and political beliefs. He shapes his career and music around them, though he often becomes anxious when speaking on those subjects in public. Unfortunately for him, this is how most of his interviews turn out anyway. Recently, the band collectively read Naomi Klein’s book, No Logo, and took it to heart, acting with a strong anti-globalism sentiment. Anti-globalism seems like a strange cause for one of the most popular bands worldwide to embrace; at the same time, it is inspiring that they are so self aware, conscious of their position as celebrities, and the responsibility that position brings. Thom is a rare breed of celebrity; he is the anti-celebrity.1 Band member Jonny Greenwood plays guitar and keyboards, and is the younger brother of Colin Greenwood, who plays bass and synthesizers while



“Thom may lead the pack, but each member of the band is an independent multi-instrumental musical genius.” being the “peacekeeper” of the band. Ed O’Brien plays guitar and sings backing vocals. Phil Selway plays drums. Each member is an irreplaceable element of Radiohead; Thom may lead the pack, but each member of the band is an independent multiinstrumental musical genius. Chuck Klosterman, a well-known and well-versed music journalist, even described them as the smartest collection of musicians he’d ever interviewed, in a “smart on purpose” kind of way, as opposed to the shallow sentiments expressed by many other pop artists. RISE TO FAME The musicians met in 1985 while attending school in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Originally called “On a Friday,” they achieved modest local success even after most of the members departed to attend university, meeting for practice only on school holidays and the occasional long weekend. In 1991, they signed with EMI and changed their name to Radiohead. From 1992 to 2004, Radiohead achieved international stardom through a series of 6 full-length albums, including Pablo Honey (1993), The Bends (1995), Ok Computer (1997), Kid A (2000), Amnesiac (2001), and Hail To The Thief (2003). The first three albums cemented their place

in history, with skyrocketing popular dystopian alternative-rock anthems at the core of their sound. They cite the Smiths, the Pixies, and U2 as their biggest influences, though they draw inspiration from almost everywhere in the musical spectrum.2 At this high point in their career, the band began experiencing some internal issues that brought them to the brink of breaking up, brought on by their relatively quick rise to fame, the stresses of touring, and Thom’s disgust with the celebrity lifestyle.3 As it turns out, this is just what it takes to make a band expand forward into new territory. Kid A and Amnesiac departed toward an experimentalelectronic sound, creating a split between fans who praised the creativity while others felt uncomfortable on this new musical ground. Then, with the release of Hail To The Thief, the band combined musical influences from throughout their career and lifted themselves back into the spotlight with an album full of genre-bending songs.

BREAKING THE RULES WITH IN RAINBOWS It’s at about this point that Radiohead stepped up to begin defining the industry as we know it. It’s not to say the band wasn’t progressive before; they had sat at the cutting edge of music even up until now, although under the control of EMI. But now they had no label. Now they were free. Now they were in a position to wield their power as one of the most popular bands in the world, and to lead huge changes in music; not only in how the music sounded, but how it was sold, marketed, distributed, and experienced by the listeners. It began with their seventh album, In Rainbows (2007). 4 The release of In Rainbows was announced in an incredibly brief post on that read, “Hello everyone. Well, the new album is finished, and it’s coming out in 10 days; We’ve called it In Rainbows. Love from us all. Jonny.” Speculation began on a massive scale, the mystery of the release creating more hype than any advertising campaign ever could have. More mysteries developed. Not only was the album initially released as a digital download, but upon checkout, the customers were faced with a price box that stated, “It’s up to you”. Radiohead would give you the album for free, if you wanted. 5

Radiohead was not the first band to do this type of thing. Even decades ago, it was common to give away demo CDs for self promotion, and more recently most bands have had music available to stream (but not download) on the Internet. However, Radiohead was one of the first major groups to pull off a risky act like that with such finesse, and with so much success. And of course, whatever Radiohead does is accepted as significant; their previous accomplishments as a band lend them tremendous credibility in the music industry.6 How could Radiohead have predicted the success of In Rainbows’ unconventional release? It becomes pretty clear when you look at the state of things today. That album was released at a very special point in the evolution of the Internet. The era of digital downloads had long since established its dominance, demonstrated by the rising popularity of iTunes and the steady decline of conventional record sales. Tower Records had officially gone bankrupt the previous year. Social media and networking were beginning to take off as well. Social media includes any online forum of interaction, including personal blogs, and sites like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They allow information and opinions to spread like wildfire through extremely public venues, and are employed by every conceivable market to gain



visibility. This is why Radiohead didn’t need a record label, an advertising campaign, a grand announcement, or even a set price; the Internet allowed their album to sell itself. Another trend had been brewing in the industry. Not only could the album sell itself, it also sold the band. Radiohead noticed, and cashed in on, the rising popularity of concerts. People would pay plenty of money to attend an exhilarating live event, even as fewer and fewer people chose to pay for their music collections at all. After the release of In Rainbows, they embarked on a sold-out (and carbon neutral!) world tour, helped along by the publicity gained from freely distributed music. Of course their existing fame helped a fair amount. They ended up making money on the album too. A lot of it. You might think that a potentially free album would lead to financial disaster, but in the end the sales of the digital downloads— not even including the future physical sales— made them more money than their previous album had since it was released. Lack of a money-sucking record label helped them on that front as well.7

OPEN SOURCE MUSIC, AND BEYOND Radiohead leads the way with one more interesting innovation: open source music. Soon after releasing In Rainbows, the band created an online remix competition for their songs “Reckoner” and “Nude.” Radiohead released individual audio tracks from the songs to iTunes, allowing fans to download and edit them to create something completely new. Anything was possible: rearranging the tracks, adding new ones, distorting the sounds, changing the time signature, or even starting from scratch. Fans submitted almost 4000 remixes before the contest ended. But things didn’t end there. The next month, they released parts of their music video for “House of Cards” to be reinterpreted as well. This one was a little different though. The video had been filmed using advanced imaging technology; instead of standard images, material for the video came from visualizations of data produced by a special 3D scanning system. This meant fans had to do a little more than fiddle around on their video software. Radiohead cooperated with Google to provide an easy-to-use editing system. After all the submissions came in, voting happened, and again, the fans were in control. Voting took place at for the audio remixes, and within a special Youtube group for the videos.8

carbon neutral LED lightshow, Radiohead’s In Rainbows Tour



“Radiohead’s cutting edge sounds, distribution methods, and open source interaction broke new ground, while their future plans for album formatting appear to be just as promising.” Going “open source” is significant for any artist. The content they released were the result of years of careful work by the band, and they were intentionally sending them out to the world to be deconstructed, or dare I say, even hacked up. Artists are able to do this with some amount of security by using a Creative Commons license. The license releases creative material to the public to be built upon and shared, but still reserves some rights to the artist.9 This whole open source process really shows the power of the Internet and social networking in the digital age. Literally millions of online entities cooperated to bring these things about, including the websites involved, the fans creating and voting on material, and of course the band and their representatives. It is interesting to see the limited amount of control Radiohead really had over the whole process. After making a permanent mark music distribution, Thom Yorke has plans to change the very experience of music in the future. For a long time, music was released only in album format, allowing musicians to release many songs at once in a single bundle, often with a central unifying theme, or at the very least a nice price tag to make the effort worth their while. In recent times, the importance of “singles” took center stage. Popular music of today focuses on the

success of single songs rather than an album as a whole. This is caused mainly by the ubiquitous use of digital playback technology, where users can easily pick and choose individual songs to listen to, organize custom playlists, and so on.10 Nobody can sit through an entire album as an “experience” anymore; Tom saw this and decided that the experience must change. He plans to begin releasing music in a series of EPs— shortened albums, usually 4-5 songs each— or even one song at a time. This will allow him to explore vast ranges of musical material without the commitment of filling an entire album. All of this will be released online of course, with several digital downloads of his solo work already available.11

OH MY RADIOHEAD Now that we can see how Radiohead led the way for change in the music industry at large, there is still the matter of leading the way for change in my personal musical tastes. I’m a part of the music industry, right? At least a very small part. Anyhow, I had been vaguely aware of Radiohead’s existence for most of my musically conscious life. I knew I liked them, or at least liked the songs I heard on the radio. I even had The Bends hidden away somewhere on my hard drive. Then one of my friends introduced me to In Rainbows right after the online release occurred, during my freshman year of college. I remember thinking, “Gee, what a strange thing for a band to do.” I even considered downloading it, but was a little skeptical of the whole deal entirely so I waited to copy it. Incidentally, that friend remains my band mate over two years later; we play in a “spacepunk” band called Lion Eyes that draws plenty of influence from Radiohead’s atmospheric vibes and Thom’s mumbly singing. I’ve even adapted a drumbeat or two for use in our own songs. Being introduced to the genre mixing experience of that album opened my musical horizons even further. I was already aware of bands outside the mainstream who were able to create music free of any classification, but Radiohead’s pure musical genius prompted

me to explore what else was out there. I soon became a musical treasure-hunter, constantly on the lookout for new (or old) musical sub-genres and offshoots. I became dissatisfied with anything conventional. Eventually this became a bit tiresome; I filled my computer with so much weird music, and spent so much effort analyzing it, that it became difficult to just sit there and enjoy the sounds. I’ve since lightened up on the musical exploration a little. Anyhow, you can see how Radiohead really changed my musical experiences, and even how I seemed to have mirrored a few of Thom’s neurotic tendencies. Radiohead remains one of my favorite bands of all time. In fact, I listened to every single song in my own exhaustive Radiohead collection (and then some) while writing this thing. Hopefully you can now see what an influence Thom and the guys continue to be on the music industry worldwide. Their cutting edge sounds, distribution methods, and open source interaction broke new ground, while their future plans for album formatting appear to be just as promising. Who knows what they will think of next!




1 Klosterman 131. 2 Dodson, web. 3 Klosterman 133. 4 ibid. 138. 5 Tyrangiel, web. 6 Klosterman 136. 7 Skope Staff, web. 8 Dodson, web. 9 “About Radiohead,” web. 10 Hajdu, web. 11 “Radiohead’s Thom Yorke,” web.

works cited

“About Radiohead.” Green Plastic. Web. 6 Apr. 2010. <>. Dodson, Sean. “Is Radiohead the Latest Band to Go Open Source?” The Guardian, (2008): 2. Web. 6 Apr. 2010. < technology/2008/jul/17/>. Hajdu, David. “The iPod Blues.” New Republic, 230.11 (2004): 25-27. Academic Search Elite. Web. 7 Apr. 2010. < login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=12591311& site=ehost-live>. Klosterman, Chuck. A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas. New York: Scribner, 2007. Klosterman, Chuck. “Thom Yorke.” Esquire Magazine, 150.4, (2008): 120. Academic Search Elite. Web. 7 Apr. 2010. <http://search.ebscohost. com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=34298 125&site=ehost-live>.

“Radiohead’s Thom Yorke: ‘We Need To Get Away From Releasing Albums.’” NME Online. Aug. 2009. Web. 8 Apr. 2010. < nme/46596>. Skope Staff. “Radiohead: In Rainbows Sales Data Revealed.” Skope Magazine. Oct. 2008. Web. 8 Apr. 2010. < radiohead-in-rainbows-sales-data-revealed>. Tyrangiel, Josh. “Radiohead Says: Pay What You Want.” Time Magazine, October 2007. Web. 7 Apr. 2010. < 0,8599,1666973,00.html>.

shift to modern urbani sm written by laura howell


The modern era marks a decisive transition of the population away from the suburbs and back to the cities. The post-war period of the 1950s and subsequent baby boom instigated the American ideal of owning a single-family home in the suburbs to place a nuclear family unit. This interpretation of the American dream has pervaded culture and values and spread around the globe up until the present time. Now we see that this mindset has begun to evolve to reflect our modern lifestyles. A combination of popular culture and changes in core values reflecting environmental concerns and responsibility has caused a massive departure from the suburbs and a return to the cities in the United States. Environmentally conscious building practices have evolved alongside this urban shift, and subsequently, modern urbanism has gained in popularity. A thoughtful examination of city life is required as we look to the future and imagine a world with exponential population growth, a taxing reliance on natural resources and continuous advancements in all that was once considered commonplace. We must find a way to cohabit dense metropolitan centers as a global community. The benefits of cities should be exploited and utilized to their full capacity. The fact that cities are being built without this proactive consideration is a detrimental waste and places future generations at a disadvantage. The High Line: Manhattan green space an inclined public space allowing pedestrians to pause and take in the “theatre” of Times Square

BENEFITS OF MODERN URBANISM = FACT, NOT FICTION It is a little known fact that large metropolitan cities are actually hotbeds of environmental and eco-friendly practices. Most city dwellers rely on public transportation, live in large densely populated apartment structures, and have fewer children, but the examination stops there without following to its natural conclusion— cities are more environmentally friendly than disparate homes in less dense communities.1 Take New York City, for example: “Manhattan seems to be a supremely unnatural place because of all the concrete and glass and steel, but the paradox is that it’s actually more harmonious and more benign, in terms of nature, than ostensibly greener human environments, which depend on huge energy inputs, mainly in the form of fossil fuels.”2 David Owen, author of Green Metropolis, uses New York City as a prime example to juxtapose the benefits of urban versus suburban living; “the key to New York’s relative environmental benignity is its extreme compactness,” which is the proverbial key to environmental frugality. 3 Living compactly condenses and reduces the damage that we will unavoidably inflict on our environment through the lifestyle that condensed living requires.



“The benefits of city-like building, vertically as opposed to horizontally, would reduce the impact and disruption by humans interfering with natural environments.” Owen showcases the misconceptions held about large cities by disproving them: “placing one and a half million people on a twenty-three-square-mile island sharply reduces their opportunities to be wasteful, enables most of them to get by without owning cars, encourages them to keep their families small, and forces the majority to live in some of the most inherently energy-efficient residential structures in the world: apartment buildings.”4 Apartment buildings reign supreme as energy efficient dwellings for masses of urbanites. Not only do they provide layers of opportunity in occupiable space for commercial purposes, they decrease energy consumption that would be used for heating, as the heat created for the space below will rise to all the spaces above. Urban centers focus on maximizing space, whereas suburbia focuses on sprawl. The capacity for all cities to be logically and thoughtfully planned, as are urban centers, is more than a possibility, in fact, it should be a requirement. The benefits of city-like building, vertically as opposed to horizontally, would reduce the impact and disruption by humans interfering with natural environments,

“environmentalists have long embraced the idea of urban redevelopment, which conserves untouched land while reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. So, too, have they supported the dense, transit-oriented housing typically built in urban centers.”5 If urban planners scrutinize areas of cities that contain empty lots or unused and wasted space and replenish them with solid infrastructure and dense building, instead of upsetting new land, there could be considerable benefits to the natural ecosystem. The irony of modern pastoral idealism, which was first romanticized by Henry David Thoreau and transcendentalists, is that it cannot be sustained— in order to be in the middle of nowhere, you have to have the means to get there and support yourself, which undeniably requires transportation and expending resources. As author Daniel Lazare summarizes, “in order to surround ourselves with nature, we get in cars and drive long distances, and then build silly pseudo-green houses in the middle of the woods— which are actually extremely disruptive, and very, very wasteful.’”6 Although people desire to find an intimate connection with nature, a compromise must be made, perhaps by including more green spaces inside of cities where people can access them with ease.

Although the identity of a city has been misconstrued as being the antithesis of environmentally conscious living, the role of a city can be very different and ultimately a city can play a very positive role in the spectrum of practical and progressive development on a global scale.

women living a lavish lifestyle contextualized in New York City. The lives and livelihoods of all four women are full of encounters and bustle, the city seems to offer anything but a dull moment. This appeal and perhaps subliminal marketing of city life has helped form a certain level of desirability for the same values and lifestyle that is portrayed in popular media.


From professionals in the field, this is not far from the truth, “there’s been a pent-up demand for urban living, and that demand is evident in housing prices.” 9 It’s almost as if in the advancement of the digital age, the American dream has been revised. Instead of a white picket fence, contemporary culture suggests a loft with a breathtaking view of the city below as the reward for hard work;

Many facets of modern American culture embrace the urban lifestyle. Urbanity is clearly portrayed as hip, progressive and desirable. Marketing and advertising can target several generations at once by relishing the appeal of an urban lifestyle, “much of the shift appears to be demographic… Aging baby boomers and young people today are drawn to urban areas.”7 Fashion and style originate in cities; large cities are the hub of creation and innovation because they are filled with inspiration and high levels of sensory stimulation. Some relate this to the idea that people who are increasingly disconnected from human interaction crave the mixture and blurred boundaries of private and public space that abounds in urban areas.8 Popular stores, such as Urban Outfitters feed from this urban lifestyle that their customers hope to attain by wearing their hip clothing. “Sex and the City”, first a television series, depicted the lives of four

“this acceleration of residential construction in urban neighborhoods reflects a fundamental shift in the real estate market… The increased demand for homes within walkable communities close to high-paying jobs also has been documented.”10 The undeniable conclusion to be made is that there will be an increasing number of city-dwellers in the near future, and the focus should be on how to better prepare, provide, and accommodate for this modern urban shift.




At this point, the United States can hardly be looked One of the most important things that people agree upon as a leader in employing environmentally on is the need to totally eliminate or obliterate our reliresponsible practices. The U.S. government is sure- ance on cars. A city is a perfect environment for this ly making efforts to reduce its costly damage to the transformation to take place because of all the opporplanet, but these values must also shift on an indi- tunities for mass public transportation. In most cities, vidual and personal level among Americans. The U.S. possessing a car is not a benefit, but a hindrance. preaches and worries about how third world countries Modern cities should be built with the infrastructure are damaging the dwindling resources and expending to permit strong forms of mass public transportation the Earth’s limited resilience to man’s destruction, but and to support a growing population, “we need to put when it comes down to what Americans partake in, a more efficient, less sprawling, less car-dependent there leaves much to be desired. If the entire world’s infrastructure on the table.”13 The concept behind population conducted themselves as a majority of dense cities allows people to find most of what they Americans do, we would be in devastatingly serious need close to where they live. Commuting does not trouble.11 This brings up an upsetting double-stan- need to be done alone in a car on a freeway, but dard held by many Americans: the average citizen of rather on a bus, metro or subway line that can take the United States is allowed to drive a miniature tank you to where you need to go. By analyzing the locaand commute in and out of the suburbs, expending tions where improvements need to be made, we can on average 24.5 metric tons of greenhouse gases find an outline for what should be done in the future: each year, but when reports of third world countries “looking at the infrastructure of Los Angeles, a car congested in traffic and living in polluted slums arise, city if there ever was one, means understanding that we wonder what irreparable damage they are doing highway-driven sprawl is no longer feasible... New to the environment around them.12 How very ironic. Urbanist literature recognizes the need to redevelop When examining the worst factors in the United urban cores, replacing them with walkable streets States for pollution and resource reliance, experts and transit hubs.”14 Mass transit enables more bang repeatedly point their accusing finger towards an for your resource buck; it takes a fraction of the enerobject of American convenience and inseparable gy to transport a subway car of people as it would devotion: cars.

Belgium’s high-speed-railway station



“The ideal would be for public transit to web across the metropolis allowing access indiscriminately throughout.” take for each individual to drive himself in their own car. The challenge, as one author points out, “is to redesign communities, making public transportation the center-piece of urban transport and making streets pedestrian and bicycle friendly.”15 The ideal would be for public transit to web across the metropolis allowing access indiscriminately throughout the city so that it wouldn’t be far to walk or bike to the closest port, and it wouldn’t be incredibly time consuming to reach a final destination. These outlines for smart growth strategies “advocate for more transit-oriented developments and ‘new urbanist’ neighborhood patterns where people can walk to goods and services or commute via public transit.”16 Within cities, small communities will come to exist providing for the needs of local residents and with a complete network of public transportation, cars would be considered not worth the hassle.

ANATOMY OF A MODERN CITY The innate beauty of a city is that there exists a mixture of everything, “what is a city, if not a mix of people and activities?”17 The most integral part of a city is commerce and industry, because this is what draws people in and supports them to stay. The so-called “soft infrastructure” equates to “the social spots where we live and work: parks, downtowns, public spaces. ‘These places are vital to our public health and to the success of cities… it’s what makes them sustainable and what makes them better…’”18 In order to prepare for the modern city populace, there are certain preparations that need to be made; how will schools be built in a vertical skyscraper, is an example of a question that will need to be considered. As the twenty-something generation that aims to live in a high-rise loft grows to be in his thirties or forties, affordable housing that accommodates a family will need to be invested in. The green spaces that generate serenity and act as a place of peacefulness will grow to be even more important in large cities and need to be mapped out in advance. A city can be a thriving model of efficiency if it is allowed to be. A successful city is an example of a tightly interdependent human ecosystem that must be planned and prepared for in order to function properly.19

PHILOSOPHY EVOLVED In order to establish this ideal city structure, adjustments will have to be made to individual philosophies and practices; superficial “green” living will have to be traded in for the real thing. It will start with “the builder … [to] set out to create a healthier, cost- and energy-efficient residence and to dispel the belief that building “green” is only for the rich,” as one author suggests it is the responsibility of builders and contractors to ignite the progressive trend.20 This market is a burgeoning one, “for those looking to find a competitive edge, green provides a way to brand and promote their buildings to buyers and tenants who now have increased consumer savvy about what their purchasing choices are and why choosing greener buildings will make a difference to their health and their budget.” 21

if we continue to deplete our resources at such a ghastly rate. Until people are actually suffering from the choices they make, they will resist change. In the near future, likely before 2050, the global population will surpass 9 billion individuals.23 This fact should be enough to promote a global awareness of urban benefits and unavoidable growth.

On a more positive note, the present political agenda has encouraged responsibility and positive action to prevent further damage, “For the first time in a long time, these thinkers might be taken seriously… It’s the time where there is the political wherewithal to make changes.” 24 Specifically, the Obama administration’s forward thinking and proactive demeanor have earned praise from Lucia Athens, author of Building an Emerald City, who applauds the Obama administration’s encouragement of green policies and looks for further incentive to continue practicSome speculate that as the time gets closer to an ing smart, eco-friendly design. Athens cites the actual crisis, people will start to see the bigger pic- inception of the Obama administration as a recent ture and adapt accordingly. Although a dire thought, event that “will positively drive the future of green “a crisis situation can also open up welcome buildings in the United States.” 25 The era of change opportunities for change. If the status quo is that was emphatically embraced during Obama’s upset as the result of a human-made crisis, it campaign and election were crucial in instating the will cause many to question the norms and White House Office of Urban Affairs, an agency that ‘standard’ practices that may have set up the fall,” “will serve as a bridge between federal dollars and the programs that affect metropolitan America.” 26 one author dramatically hypothesizes.22 We have The values that are presented by the president are begun to really realize the dire outlook of our future


crucial to changing appeal on a national level; “the new administration’s emphasis on urbanism, combined with unprecedented infrastructure spending and the appointment of a “green dream team” to tackle climate change issues, has raised hopes for architects and urban designers” will undoubtedly have an affect on what becomes mainstream. 27 Furthermore, the all the motivation garnered from the White House will encourage builders and designers to incorporate energy saving and green building techniques into the structures they design. The benefits of green building are ideal, listed among them are such examples as “extend nonrenewable energy resources, protect air quality, reduce transportation impact, maintain potable water supply, and improve the health of society related to air, land, water quality and toxic releases.” 28 The agencies begun by the Obama administration will help to administer new programs and encourage individual responsibility to achieve a better and more sustainable way of life.

green space: The High an Line: essential Manhattan part of green urban space living

ULTIMATELY In the next forty years, we will likely see a numerical explosion in our population. A main concern will be to prepare our cities for an influx of people by modifying the systems and infrastructure that already exists as well as thoughtfully planning new cities and revising the old. We must change our preference for individual cars and instead think about the benefits of public transportation. We will have to extend the resources of the planet in order to provide a desirable existence for our children and their children, and in order to do that we must not only talk about a green way of life, but also put it into practice. The inspiring energy that exists in large urban centers will continue to pull people out of the suburbs far into the future. It is the present generation’s responsibility to begin preparing for the modern urban shift.




works cited

1 Owen 283.

15 Revkin, web.

2 ibid. 20.

16 Athens 20.

3 ibid. 3.

17 Zeiger, web.

4 ibid. 4.

18 ibid.

5 Nelson, web.

19 Owen 280.

6 Owen 20.

20 Steele, web.

7 Nelson, web.

21 Athens 18.

8 ibid.

22 ibid. 143.

9 ibid.

23 Revkin, web.

10 Thomas, D’Angelo, Bertaina, and Friedman 5.

24 ibid.

11 Revkin, web.

25 Athens 143.

12 Owen 4.

26 Zeiger, web.

13 Zeiger, web.

27 ibid.

14 ibid.

28 Athens 15.

Athens, Lucia. Building an Emerald City: a Guide to Creating Green Building Policies and Programs. Washington, DC: Island, 2010. Johnson, Jennifer A. “New City Domesticity and the Tenacious Second Shift.” Journal of Family Issues, 29.4 (2008): 487-515. Academic Search Elite. Web. 5 Apr. 2010. <>. Nelson, Gabriel. “Smart Growth Taking Hold in U.S. Cities, Study Says.” The New York Times, 24 Mar. 2010. Owen, David. Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability. New York: Riverhead, 2009. Revkin, Andrew C. “Saved by Cities, If We Make Them Livable.” Web log post. Dot Earth. The New York Times, 30 Jan. 2008. Web. 5 Apr. 2010. < the-population-cluster-bomb>.

Revkin, Andrew C. “The Population Cluster Bomb?” Web log post. Dot Earth. The New York Times, 27 Oct. 2007. Web. 5 Apr. 2010. <http://dotearth.>. Steele, Margaret F. “Environment; Building ‘Green’ a Luxury? Not at All, Habitat Shows.” The New York Times, 28 Jan. 2007. Thomas, John, Mara D’Angelo, Stephanie Bertaina, and Rachel Friedman. Residential Construction Trends in America’s Metropolitan Regions. Rep. Environmental Protection Agency, 2010. Print. Zeiger, Mimi. “Urban Renewal.” Architect Magazine. 2 June 2009. Web. 5 Apr. 2010. <>.


* grün is the German word for green. The inspiration for the title of this book came from the Passive House— or Passivhaus— which originated in Germany. Green is another term for environmentally friendly or eco-friendly. All three essays within this book coincide with the environmentally friendly and progressive state of mind, presently and into the future. This book is set in various sizes and weights of the Trade Gothic and Bodoni familes. It is printed on Neenah Environment Natural White 80 lb. text paper. Neenah Environment Desert Storm 80 lb. cover paper is also used throughout this book.

Designed by Allie Harold California Polytechnic State University // Spring 2010

Grün: A Collection of Essays