Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Earth as Vault

Journalists and dignitaries fight a blast of Arctic wind to enter the Svalbard International Seed Vault for the first time. Photograph by Larsen Hakon

Yesterday marked the opening of the Svalbard International Seed Vault, also known as the Doomsday Vault. Carved into the Arctic permafrost of Norway, the vault will house and protect 3 million seed samples from around the globe in the event of a major catastrophic event. More than 100 countries supported the effort and yesterday's inauguration drew dignitaries from around the globe. Norway's Agriculture Minister Terje Riis-Johansen told the BBC that the vault is a "Noah's Ark on Svalbard."

So how does one go about building what amounts to an agricultural refrigerator in the Earth?

First, you need a constant source of cold, one that won't shut down should someone or something unplug the global energy infrastructure. The rendering above shows the design: The vault is tunneled into a frozen mountainside on the island of Svalbard, about 620 miles from the North Pole.

Then you need an airtight inner chamber that will protect the seeds from outside elements. They will be wrapped in tin foil.

Then you need security to keep the seeds from being compromised. In addition to being fenced in and guarded and equipped with motion detectors, the facility management is also counting on the resident polar bears to keep saboteurs at bay...

On the opposite extreme... A desert climate became the home to Dr. Evil's imaginary underground lair in Austin Powers. A real desert installation (minus the sharks with lasers on their heads) happened in 2005, when Cabinet magazine aquired a piece of land in New Mexico and named it Cabinetlandia. A reader of the magazine later installed an archive for the publication into the earth, creating a kind of earthworks-meets-vault:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


In honor of my friend Susan McCallum-Smith, who just launched a fantastic literary blog called Belles-Lettres, I thought I would highlight a few of the architecture and design books that have caught my eye recently.

This month, Manhattan design firm AvroKO released a book of their work titled Best Ugly. AvroKO creates fantastic interior environments through a comprehensive language of architecture, typography, and interior design. Some of the strongest examples are in their New York restaurants, like Public, Schiller's, and Quality Meats. Public takes its cue from public library design. The architects used a series of old card catalogue files as a launching point:

The typography for the restaurant's printed materials resembles a typewriter font from an old Dewey Decimal classification card, and even their graphic presentation of interior images carries the theme:

The designers have a knack for creating intimate vignettes within larger spaces, like the use of keys on a wall:

Or, in the case of the Quality Meats restaurant, using butcher hooks with weight scales as decor:

Here's a sample page layout from inside Best Ugly:

On a recent trip to Los Angeles I had the chance to sit down with architect Stephen Kanner in his Santa Monica office. His firm, Kanner Architects, put out a book last year called 11 Projects.

It features Kanner's own home, which was a 2002 Architectural Record House of the Month:

Some of my other favorite projects highlighted in the book include a private residence/office in California and a new gas station in Los Angeles:

Finally, someone with a young child just mentioned how much they love Ellen Lupton's DIY book and her blog DIY for kids. Ellen and her twin sister Julia have published DIY Kids through the Princeton Architectural Press. If this book can make your own progeny half as creative as theirs, it's well worth the $14.95 cover price.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Flight Patterns

From Airfields, a new show at Curator's Office.

A new exhibit titled Airfields opened yesterday at Curator's Office in Washington D.C. Curator Andrea Pollan put together a show of prints and lithographs from Oahu-based artist Charles Cohan. Cohan's black and white images of air terminal floorplans from all over the world are juxtaposed against his images of runways, creating a dialogue about topography and the experience of the modern traveler.

Art historian Jaimey Hamilton wrote a monograph on Cohan and Pollan references the text n describing the work in this show:

In these most recent series, Cohan has further meditated on how our relationship with nature has generated a proliferation of non-places. Airports, fast-food chains, and internationally branded wholesale stores are such non-places, reproducible structures not specific to any locale, which distort our sense of scale and understanding of how we impact a global environment. Living on Oahu, about 3,000 miles from the nearest large landmass, has made this condition readily apparent to Cohan. As a result, he has started a number of series about our travel trajectories, and the airports that serve as points of origin and departure. His diagrams show them as emblems of mass-produced architecture and monotonous asphalt constructions. Even though each has its own unique floor plan, they are anonymous enough so that you never get a sense of where exactly you have landed. And unless you study the back of in-flight magazines, the structures do not have obvious unique identities.

The idea of airports as a non-place is intriguing. Perhaps first popularized by Marc Auge's book Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, one of my favorite recent essays on the topic was written by Baltimore-based art historian Kerr Houston when I was the editor at Urbanite magazine. His article, from the May 2007 issue, examined the recently completed addition to the Baltimore-Washington Airport and talked about how airports function as places of transition:

For the majority of visitors to BWI, the airport is merely a transitional space, instead of a destination. Thus James Kaplan’s conclusion, in his fascinating study of JFK, that “what is specifically absent from major airports is any sense of place: An airport is a no-place on the way to someplace.” No one goes to the airport without a larger itinerary in mind; at least, that’s why the gangster Omar, in an episode of The Wire, told his grandma that he worked a job at the airport—no chance that she’d simply drop by at some point, out of curiosity. The airport is a means to an end, not an end.

$1.6 billion was spent to make BWI a non-place of shiny and impervious surfaces. The airport design is largely ignored by the travelers who are numbed and frazzled, and focused solely on getting though security and making it to the gate.

It's interesting to juxtapose Cohan's prints against actual terminal design renderings. Here is one from the design firm Gensler:

Rendering for the new JetBlue Terminal for JFK by Gensler Architects.

Gensler also recently completed a $5 million VIP lounge for LAX. On the inside, the lounge is supposed to offer traveler's a respite from the mind-numbing activity of the airport and it introduces materials not normally seen in an airport, like grass-embedded resins.

The entrance to the lounge, though, belies the space inside. The bar is encased with and hidden by a very non-space kind of aesthetic, one that is very efficient and sterile:

In his essay, Houston recognizes this non-space reality at BWI, but challenges the traveler to reclaim the space:

For a traveler, the airport simply presents a series of necessary steps, but try sitting back, and watching the action at BWI, from a spectator’s point of view: The patterns of travelers can quickly seem foreign, and ritualistic. And the pleasure of the vast window that opens toward the southeast and faces approaching planes is mysteriously deep. When we don’t hope to be somewhere else, the airport becomes a collection of slow, meditative pleasures—and the very act of enjoying those pleasures, without keeping an eye on a departures screen, is almost transgressive. It’s the basic personal pleasure, ultimately, of making a non-place into a place.

Airfields runs through April 5 at Curator's Office. There's a gallery reception on March 15th from 6-8.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Coming Attractions

Movie theaters are going luxe to entice us away from our flat screens and iPods. Valet parking, wine bars, and—yes—high-end architectural design may soon join popcorn as cinema staples.

At the Landmark Theatre in Baltimore you can get a crab pretzel and take your cocktail into the theater with you...

My article on the evolution of cinema design is out in the February issue of Architect. Check it out online.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Road Trip

The map above, taken from March issue of The Atlantic Monthly, shows an estimate of road congestion in 2010. Click on it to see a larger version.

Perhaps it's a hangover from my recent trip to Los Angeles, but traffic and transit have been on my mind . There's lots of urban discourse in The Atlantic Monthly of late, perhaps because of the magazine's proximity to think tanks like The Brookings Institution and The Urban Land Institute.

This month, an opinion piece by Bruce Katz and Robert Puentes analyzes America's crumbling infrastructure and assesses the money lost due to congestion around major metropolitan areas. Katz and Puentes point to why infrastructure is such a valuable commodity in a global economy:

The most highly skilled financial not choose between New York and Phoenix. They choose between New York and London—or Shanghai. While many factors affect that choice, over time, the accretion of delays and travel hassles can sap cities of their vigor and appeal. Arriving at Shanghai’s modern Pudong airport, you can hop aboard a maglev train that gets you downtown in eight minutes, at speeds approaching 300 miles an hour. When you land at JFK, on the other hand, you’ll have to take a train to Queens, walk over an indoor bridge, and then transfer to the antiquated Long Island Rail Road; from there, downtown Manhattan is another 35 minutes away.
What is the cost of this sapping of energy to Americans in general? This summer, I edited a magazine based in Philadelphia and commuted to their office on Amtrak. There is no regional rail rate between Baltimore and Philly, which means a round trip ticket costs an average of $80. There are folks who actually make this commute, which at an hour and half, is less than the drive from here to DC through rush hour traffic. But the expense...And why, on earth, should it cost $300 to get a train ticket from Baltimore to New York? It makes taking the train prohibitive and encourages everyone to hop in their car.

Commuting on a train is a great thing, when it works. Sadly, Amtrak does not work well. The trains break down quite a bit in the summer heat. One evening, we had to be evacuated from a crowded commuter train with a blown engine. We exited through a single door one by one, crossed the train tracks at night, and entered a new train via one door. It took six hours to get home.

Regional connectivity is something that Robert E. Lang, founding director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech in Alexandria, and an associate professor at Virginia Tech’s School of Planning and International Affairs, has studied for some time now. Demographics are shifting, both nationally and internationally. According to Lang, the United States is expecting one hundred million new residents by 2040. Populations are clustering into a series of regional areas that are economically linked. Lang and his research team have described these new areas as megapolitans, which are defined as “super regions that combine at least two, and often several, metropolitan areas.” Think Raleigh-Durham. Lang calls the megapolitan where I live (Baltimore), the Chesapeake Megalopolis (it was also dubbed the Chesapeake Primary by political pundits recently).

Lang says the Chesapeake megapolitan will soon span as far south as Richmond. “Washington is spilling into Richmond,” Lang says. “The people from Baltimore, D.C., and Richmond will be sitting down and chitchatting very soon” about things like transportation, economic development, and environmental impact.

Let's hope so. The irony is that our economy is speeding up via technology, but the very things taking us to that efficient and fast network of computers are decrepit and antiquated.

"We have reached the epoch of the nanosecond. This is the heyday of speed," writes James Gleick in his book Faster: Acceleration of Just About Everything. Yet as our concept of time is accelerated, the reality of our efficacy in day-to-day activity is frustrating. "Gridlocked and tarmacked are metonyms of our era," he writes. "To be gridlocked or tarmacked is to be stuck in place, our fastest engines idling all around, as time passes and blood pressures rise."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Climate Change?

Screen shot of weather report at 2:30 PM

It's been a long, strange winter here in Baltimore. Above is a screen shot of the weather dashboard on my MacBook. Compare Monday and Saturday.

I'm researching an interesting article about the psychological impact of climate change and the discourse of environmentalism on our anxiety levels. More on that soon...

And an update: Screen shot at 4:30 PM

Oooooooh. It's getting scary now. Check out the lighting bolts.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

Seattle Streetcar

OK, trolleys, actually. But fans of the Simpsons will understand the subject head and the reference to zealous urban infrastructure plans.

Trolleys are back. Baltimore is in hot debate over a system on its main thoroughfare, Charles Street, and it's not alone. Cities are financing trolleys again. Seattle opened its Seattle Streetcar two months ago. The $52.1 million, 2.6-mile (round trip) system is the first new rail project there in 25 years. Proponents say it mitigates rush hour traffic and serves to connect other forms of mass transit. Critics say it's got a thinly-veiled developer-driven motive aimed to give more traffic to an emerging South Lake Union district project owned by Microsoft gagillionaire Paul Allen. I'll be curious to hear from the readers out there what they think about it...?

Seattle Streetcar Route Map

Another interesting aspect of any mass transit project is the graphic design and typography used to brand it. The Seattle Streetcar has an orange color pallet and they've added images to distinguish various forms of transit in the city:

The top image represents the streetcar. The second image is the ferry. The third is a taxi. The fourth is other forms of rail (monorail, light rail, and Amtrak). You can download and print your own Seattle Streetcar Wallpaper from their website by clicking here, clicking on the "newsroom tab" and then scrolling down to the bottom of the webpage.

Will the Seattle Streetcar typography and design become iconic?

The sans serif typeface of the now famous London Underground logo was designed by Edward Johnston in 1916.

The Art Nouveau entrances of the Paris Metro were designed at the turn of the last century by architect Hector Guimard.

German designer Otl Aicher created the Rotis font in 1988 and it has been used in transit systems from Singapore to Spain. He designed the branding package for Lufthansa Airlines, pictured above. He is also well known for his pictograms, which he designed for the Munich Olympics, as well as for transit hubs like metros and airports. Aicher developed hundreds of pictograms during his career. If this kind of thing interests you, definitely pick up Markus Rathgreb's monograph on Aicher.

Otl Aicher pictogram

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I (heart) Buildings

In case you missed it, last year was the 150th birthday of the American Institute of Architects. It's ok -- you can still send a card. They'll understand.

As a part of the celebration, they created a list of the 150 Buildings that Americans love most. And in honor of Feb 14th, I thought you might want to visit this list and see the rankings. You can vote for your favorite, and suggest ones that they missed.

I'm not exactly clear on how they ranked these. The fact that the Bellagio (22) beats out Falling Water (29) just doesn't make sense. Still, the fun part is all of the buildings you've never seen (or have forgotten about). I was surprised to find myself drawn to several churches. I never knew about this chapel in Arkansas:

Thorncrown Chapel

Or this Philip Johnson designed Cathedral in California:

The Crystal Cathedral

So Happy Valentine's Day. Enjoy the architecture eye candy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


From Bomb magazine. Fernando and Humberto Campana, Transplastic Exhibition, 2007. Albion Gallery, London. Installation view. Photo: Ed Reeve.

In the winter issue of Bomb magazine, writer Vik Muniz profiles the art of two Brazilian brothers, Fernando and Humberto Campana. To explain the style of their work, Muniz (who is also Brazilian) describes a form of ad hoc problem solving used in their country:

In Brazil, the term gambiarra applies to a spontaneous and makeshift style of problem-solving that is very present in our tool-depleted yet resourceful tradition. Gambiarra refers to an unlikely mend, an unthinkable coupling, a solution so raw and transparent that it illustrates the problem at hand instead of eliminating it. Brazilians pride themselves on repairing airplanes with paperclips, catching fish with prescription drugs as bait, or using saliva as a building material. Consequently, cities, the government, and belief systems have become gambiarras themselves: the survivalist ingenuity of a people who live for the present alone compensates for the lack of material and psychological security.

When it comes to architecture, design, and creative endeavors in general, a surplus of supplies, money, and options frequently stunts innovative solution. What so often stymies invention is a belief that we know the answer. We self-edit. We believe there is "a way." Which is why I often hear architects and designers talk about how freeing client limitations can be. You know where you can't go, you know that you have to proceed within a confined construct. The most successful creative (and productive) people I have met and profiled over the years are the ones who remain open to any answer. They start by clearly naming their goal—they understand the needed or desired outcome. But then they strip away pre-conceived ideas, start from scratch each time, and allow for a multitude of possible solutions. As one architect/artist I very much admire once said to me, "It's about finding a new path each time to that house in the woods."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Biology and the City

Photo from the My City=My Body exhibition website.

A few years back, I got into a conversation with a woman who does research in public health. We were making small chat at a party when the topic turned to her area of study. Her research began with a question: Why are American girls hitting puberty at such a young age? I wondered if it was the hormones in meat and milk. She told me something more stunning: it was probably our drinking water. Her research explores whether the increased use of prescription drugs, especially birth control, is finding its way into our drinking water. You know how Vitamin C just flushes through your system when you take too much? Well, apparently, that's the case with most drugs. I don't think Britta filters for estrogen.

Photo from the My City=My Body exhibition website.

There is a new exhibition at the Royal College of Art in London called My City=My Body. The artist wanted to test the effect of Thames water on the citizens in the city and create a map of their urine samples. From the artist's statement:

My City = My Body is part of ongoing research into future biological interactions with the city. The increasing understanding of our DNA and the rise of bio-technologies will fundamentally change the way we interact with each other and our environment. Today, DNA is a tool for identification, you can have your DNA analysed over the internet and we are creating new types of bacteria by reprogramming its DNA. But what does this mean for tomorrow? Will we have DNA-surveillance and discrimination? Bio-identities and communities? And what will our new interactions look and feel like?

In search for these new biological interactions with the city, I started looking into Thames Water, London's largest "drinking water and wastewater service company." Making use of the Design Interactions work-in-progress-show, I staged an intervention, creating a map of London which contains biological information. Offering tapwater (kindly provided by Thames Water) I have asked visitors to donate a urine sample and give me their postcode, extending my biological map of London. Collaboration or not, it was often in the questions or laughs afterwards that interesting reactions came up.

Gives the saying, "we all live downstream" new meaning.

You can read an interview with the artist on We Make Money Not Art.

Monday, February 11, 2008

McMansion Tenements

The Remington Private Estates on Wilshire Blvd in L.A.

I'm back from a week in Los Angeles, where the news is how much construction is happening throughout the city, especially in downtown. New condo towers have been going up at a fast pace, with other amenities slowly following (there is now a supermarket downtown). The mortgage fallout has many concerned, of course, that this boom of residential development will grind to a halt, leaving half-completed towers or ghostly buildings with empty units. An article in the new March issue of The Atlantic suggests that cities aren't the ones who need to worry: it's the suburbs.

In his piece titled The Next Slum? Christopher Leinberger—a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor of urban planning at the University of Michigan—suggests that McMansions and cul de sacs are going to be tomorrow's tenements. He writes:

For 60 years, Americans have pushed steadily into the suburbs, transforming the landscape and (until recently) leaving cities behind. But today the pendulum is swinging back toward urban living, and there are many reasons to believe this swing will continue. As it does, many low-density suburbs and McMansion subdivisions, including some that are lovely and affluent today, may become what inner cities became in the 1960s and '70s—slums characterized by poverty, crime, and decay.

We've been hearing for years now that cities across the country are on the rise again, but that recovery has been slow outside the mega-cities like Manhattan (though a recent cover of New York magazine pictures an exploding champagne bottle and feature articles on the pending bust caused in part by a decline of international investment in Big Apple luxury housing). Leinberger sites studies done by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech as well his own research to back up this assertion.

One of the more interesting developments noted in this article is that police are now mapping foreclosures in suburban communities to predict crime. In one housing subsection in North Carolina, 81 of the 132 homes were foreclosed upon as of December and the empty homes have been vandalized and stripped of their copper wire and appliances. Drug dealers and the homeless have taken up residence in the community, and one resident decided to move when a stray bullet came through the window. In another community in California, 10,000 homes were built in less than four years and many are empty or occupied by renters of "dubious character." There is grafitti, broken windows, and gang activity.

"A structural change is under way in the housing market—a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work. It has shaped the current downturn , steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes," Leinberger writes. "It's ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound."

Ahhh. Suburbia.

Leinberger says we should have hope, though, because this research points to the notion that Americans are increasingly choosing walkable, urban living. He doubts the swing will be as significant as the original exodus to the suburbs, but that it will impact cities. In an interview that he did with me last year, Leinberger noted, "the market reality is that there is far more demand for what I call walkable urbanism than there is supply. And that’s going to bear out over the next ten years. Where there’s a lot of demand and little supply, prices go up.”

Which raises the usual questions of displacement. Manhattan has now become a sanitized version of a city. Some are actually hoping for a bust. In that same issue of New York magazine referenced above, writer Joe Lovell wrote a piece titled The Upside of the Downside. "Here’s to bad times—may they restore the city that many of us moved here for."

Let's hope that whatever the pendulum swing means, a return to city living can be one that balances rich and poor and that it won't simply represent a running away from the crime and chaos of the cul de sac community.

What Lienberger doesn't address in the piece is the fact that this foreclosure reality is hitting cities as much, if not more, than suburbia. The Wall Street Journal reports on the devastating impact of low-residency neighborhoods and how foreclosures are adding to the problem. Cities are suing mortgage companies to help offset the fiscal damage in residential neighborhoods. Others argue that cities, for the most part, are actually shrinking internationally. As we urbanize in general, we sprawl in new ways. The Shrinking Cities project contends that cities around the globe are seeing less density and, as a result, will need to rethink the way they build in the first place. Maybe, we've simply built too much of the wrong thing.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Walking in LA

Look ahead as we pass, try and focus on it

I won't be fooled by a cheap cinematic trick
It must have been just a cardboard cut out of a man...

These are the lyrics from "Walkin' in LA," a song by the band Missing Persons. I remember it well, partly because of Dale Bozzio, the lead singer, who had this quirky, high-pitched voice and that gaudy fluorescent '80’s makeup. She ranked up there with Bananrama and the Bangles in my adolescent mind for her new wave style. The lyrics are about driving the streets of Los Angeles and seeing someone walking. The singer thinks it’s a mirage. The chorus goes:

Walkin' in L.A.
Nobody walks in L.A.
Walkin' in L.A.
Only a nobody walks in L.A.

Today I walked in LA. Downtown LA to be exact. I left an early morning meeting and went in search of more coffee and WiFi. I was told to go to a Starbucks across the LA Freeway, which meant crossing over this tiny sliver of a sidewalk on a bridge. The woman who directed me said, "I know it seems extreme. I get nervous walking over it, but I don't know of anyone who's been hit."

She shook my hand and wished me luck.

The pedestrian walkway is barely wide enough for two people to pass. On your left is two lanes of traffic speeding down Figueroa Blvd. On your right is a small guardrail protecting you from the LA freeway below:

Coming back across the bridge later, it was particularly thrilling to walk into the speeding traffic. Especially the buses.

It was while driving through LA several years ago and watching a woman try to walk that public health official Richard Jackson started thinking about how our built environment is killing us. He considers it to be one of the most important public health issues of our time, up there with epidemics like AIDS. Jackson co-authored a book titled Urban Sprawl and Public Health, which analyzes the ways in which our design and planning choices are making us obese, sick, depressed and—in the case of pedestrians across the country—bumper targets.

Monday, February 4, 2008

La La Land

I'm in L.A. for a week on assignment for a magazine. Hope to post some West Coast inspired stories if I have the time. In the meantime, a classic California view. The El Royale.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Interview with Ivan Chermayeff

The design firm of Chermayeff & Geismar recently turned 50. I interviewed graphic designer and artist Ivan Chermayeff about his work and you can read it online at Metropolis magazine.

The Wall as Archive

A series of images from Bruce Tomb's (de)Appropriation Project. Photos from his online gallery.

A few nights ago we caught a couple of kids tagging a brick wall near our house. They sped off on bikes, but the damage had been done. I can see it now from my office window on the third floor of my home. The building was one of the few in this stretch of road still free of graffiti and I felt momentarily angry at the injustice of it. Two minutes with a spray can and a lifetime of looking at their handy work. But that's how cities work, right? They are never static and if you attempt to maintain stasis, you will drive yourself nuts. It's part of the "messy vitality" of urban living, to borrow a phrase from Lewis Mumford.

Still, I'm annoyed. And I realize it's more because the quality of their work is flat out terrible. I can't imagine that they put much thought into this mundane, bubble-lettered tag. It reminds me of the girlish lettering on a binder cover, the kind that spells, "Amie Loves Brad." It's not nearly as creative as the truly layered and complex work on the highway overpass a few blocks away. They took no pride in this work, which relegated it to vandalism in my mind.

Graffiti in general is an interesting way to follow the story of the city. If you are ever in San Francisco, stop by and visit the wall at 1240 Valencia Street. The wall fronts the jail cells of the former Mission Police Station and for the last decade it has been an ever-changing art installation. 1240 Valencia is owned by a man named Bruce Tomb, and he allows wheat pasting and graffiti on the surface. Tomb has been documenting the evolution of the space through photographs, which you can view online at his (de)Appropriation Project website.

Then there's Graffiti Archaeology, a project "devoted to the study of graffiti-covered walls as they change over time." The website includes time lapsed photos from sites in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere. You can submit your own photos to the site as well.

A Banksy installation on a security fence in the West Bank.

Some would argue that "allowing" the work to appear, as Tomb does, and my use of "art installation" to describe it is counterintuitive to the very concept of graffiti. The fact that British graffiti artist Banksy earned a feature in The New Yorker in May of last year, and that his work is selling for thousands, caused many to question the line between true street art and, well, just art.

The Splasher strikes. Image from New York magazine's website.

One of the critics is a persona known as The Splasher. In New York over the past few years, street art, including a work done by Banksy in Williamsburg, has been hit with a splash of paint and a wheat-pasted manifesto about the commodification of an inherently anti-establishment form of expression. New York magazine started covering the work of The Splasher last year and they have several links to the Splasher's work on their website. They also pose some good questions:

"Several people who we know in the New York graffiti community urged us not to cover the Splasher at all, saying that it would only encourage him to destroy more work—but his project does raise some interesting questions that seem worth considering. First, to what extent is his basic premise correct—are most street artists spoiled children of the (white) bourgeoisie? Is their work just a leading sign of gentrification? And second, can a project that consists of destroying other people's work itself be considered art? After all, burning down a museum would rightly be called a crime. Is this?"

Another interesting development: Graffiti is no longer just micro-level street stuff. With the advent of Google Earth and satellite imagery, graffiti has gone macro with elaborate works on rooftops that can only be seen in their full context from above. That, too, was quickly commercialized: Target, Maxim magazine and GE have all installed satellite advertising on rooftops and in fields. Maybe that's what the crop circles were...advertisements to alien planets.