Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Soil, Henry James, fashion, and urban design

A blessing of living in New York City, among others, is the great variety and richness of events and forums focused on the land/cityscape.

Last Wednesday night, June 9, The New York Botanical Garden offered at their midtown location a class/public lecture by Eric Fleisher -- the (my characterization) soil guru for a panoply of major, successful projects ranging from Battery Park City to the Harvard campus. Fleisher's deeply knowledgeable and good-natured (pun-intended) presentation helps us really understand the imperative (and not so often charismatic) concern for the health of soil that has been the focus and concern of a few stalwart, committed organizations such as the Rodale Institute and the British The Soil Association. An example of Fleisher's work can been seen at this Harvard site.

Next evening, last Thurs, June 10, the Horticultural Society of New York hosted a really fascinating lecture by Katie Campbell who has published a compelling history, Paradise of Exiles: The Anglo-American Gardens of Florence, (super-rich and semi-rich) property and garden owners and designers in Florence and environs in the late 19th century/early 20th century. The Real People that Henry James and Edith Wharton wrote about. If you missed the event, I'm sorry you did. Great fun and information for anyone who 1) loves Tuscany/Florence, 2) is fascinated by Wharton and James, 3) is concentrated in understanding the intense (and rewarding) ways in which the values of symmetry, Classical values, etc. (human-made) are balanced with the rough/wild geography of Tuscany (the natural landscape).

Fast forward to this week: Tues, June 15th, the Design Trust for Public Space, in cooperation with the Municipal Arts Society, presented a public panel discussion on the future policy and values in play in the future of the Garment District. A really fascinating/important set of issues. Both for that zoning area of Manhattan, but also more broadly. What, exactly, should be "preserved / conserved"? Physical buildings/architecture? Fashion industry infrastructure of human-trade-level skilled work? Manufacturing? Cultural-creative community economic factors (a la Richard Florida)? And -- what's not worth preserving/conserving? Let it go. A Lots to chew on.

Tomorrow night, June 16, the Institute for Classical Architecture and Classical America is sponsoring a lecture by Lynden Miller on how good design improves urban quality of life. Kind of preaching to the choir, but Miller's influence and example can't be underestimated. (In case you don't know Lyndon, check out this WSJ article and/or google her.)

A footnote to all of the above: in the other part of my day job, the TEXT-part of textscape, we worked with the market/public opinion firm Vision Critical on an event today. It was first public release/discussion of their new product, ReputationPlus. The launch event was held at the Bryant Park Grill, behind The New York Public Library overlooking Bryant Park. A perfect early summer day. Vision Critical made a great presentation of their product and capabiloities, but they also benefited from an amazingly wonderful textscape of Bryant Park and Bryant Park Grill in the summer. Attendance was great -- and everyone attending had the extra benefit/aura of "talking about the weather" -- and that wasn't awkward small-talk. It was an authentic recognition that the "-scape" matters. And, finally, a great testament to the success of the design and programming of Bryant Park.