new grands projets?

Paris is a constantly evolving canvas for urban planning & architectural innovation. just as Mitterand had his Grands Projets (and a century before that, Napoleon III brought on Haussmann’s rather brilliant redesign), President Sarkozy has stepped up with his own “post-Kyoto” project.

Grand Paris proposal, Antoine Grumbach

The proposals unveiled this month have some interesting & some appalling ideas. in the latter category, Christian de Portzamparc’s proposed elimination of the Gare du Nord & Gare de l’Est, pushing all connections out to the suburbs. ach! on the other hand, while i don’t always agree with Jean Nouvel’s designs, his proposals for the Grand Paris project hit all the right notes (more here, on his ideas)

But it’s not only ‘starchitects’ weighing in…there are some lesser-known names in the bunch, including Djamel Klouche. a nice summary of the projects, here, by NYTimes’ writer Nicolai Ouroussoff.


bike warrior

i’m looking forward to spring, but dreading the inevitable onslaught of bikes on Toronto sidewalks. i’ve never lived in a city with such impatient bikers (i ride a bike in Paris, but even notoriously rude Parisians are gems of patience & civility compared to Toronto bikers)

so how to resolve the cyclists vs pedestrians dilema–and both groups vs cars?  a beautifully-articulated NYTimes article by Robert Sullivan examines how we might all benefit from living more politely together.


(my local Velib station in Paris…waiting patiently for spring)

moss as art

graffiti moss is everywhere in blogs, but not so visible in the real world. i’m waiting for spring to give it a try. here’s a link about London-based artist Helen Nodding’s recipe & concept.some canadian moss

i spent a while living in B.C., which is really a fantastic place for moss…probably could have grown the stuff inside the apartment, let alone in the garden. same can be said for Paris. Toronto seems a bit cold & not damp enough, but it might be worth a try out on the terrass wall, just the same.

Cited: Don Blanding

Toronto Island Houseboat

When I have a house… / as I sometime may…/

I’ll suit my fancy in every way. / I’ll fill it with things that have caught my eye /

In drifting from Iceland to Molokai.

Don Blanding

Recycled expressway: the Big Dig House

Boston’s Big Dig highway project (the 10-year process of burying the I-93 expressway) created masses of construction debris; this “Big Dig House”, built by Single Speed Design, incorporates more than 600,000 pounds of steel and concrete salvaged from the waste.

Big Dig House by Single Speed Design

the original owner & engineer of the house is a civil engineer who worked on the Big Dig; his wife is a water resources engineer who designed a rainwater collection system that waters the two roof gardens. a few details that intrigue me: the radiant heat flooring is actually reused concrete roadway; a 27-inch girder from the expressway now braces the roof; and the basic framing of the house took only two days. more photos & more story, click on the photo above for the architect’s point of view or visit Apartment Therapy Boston for the current owners’ decorating choices.

so…a new way to look at the Gardiner in Toronto: a potential massive source of recycled building material?

Cited:Joan Didion

You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.

Joan Didion

Place Dalida in Paris

Dream house: Florida

Martie Lieberman is a passionately advocate for the modern buildings of Florida, especially in the Sarasota area. and every now and then, she sends me word that a 1950s home is on the market. she knows i’m not planning to move to Sarasota…but i love dreaming about the buildings.

Gene Leedy Florida House

this week, i’m in love with a 1956 home by Gene Leedy that’s for sale on Dexter Street in Winter Haven (where Leedy built a slew of houses in the 1950s). i like houses that take the environment into consideration–and this low-lying  stripped-down design really works wonderfully with the incredible plants of Central Florida.

walkway around house

i like the way the house opens itself to the outside world, with practical louvered windows & shade-creating overhangs, so there’s no need to live in a sealed air conditioned box.


this link is Martie talking about meeting Gene Leedy, and the challenge of preserving modern buildings when they’re on the market. more photos of the house, here. meanwhile, i’m going to imagine how wonderful this room would be as a home office…complete with that beautiful daybed for day-dreaming…

Dream home office by Gene Leedy