Overnight with Frank Lloyd Wright

0302-tra-webculturedtravelermap.jpgHaving a FLW house certainly lends cred to your good city status. And having it accessible publicly lends even more.

The NYTimes today published an article on the phenomenon of FLW houses being turned into, essentially, bread and breakfasts. A quote from the article:

A Frank Lloyd Wright house is like a Japanese garden. No matter where inside it you stand, or which way you turn, the view before your eyes has been planned — and planned to be harmonious and beautiful. To absorb it and try to understand how it was done, you need to move and pause and double back and look around again, stand and sit and maybe lie on the couch. But the usual way to see a Wright house is on a 45-minute or hour-and-a-half guided tour. As a result, Wright admirers have learned to live with frustration.

Staying over, with time and privacy, we chipped away at ours. Over two days and nights, we dined in the glow of concealed overhead lights, read in a cozy nook under triangular windows, lay in bed in the morning watching gray treetops sway. We padded over concrete floors heated by hot water pipes below. Looking at details and structure, we tried to tease out the mechanics behind the overall effect of effortless serenity.

It might be a little pricey, but if you have the chance, take advantage of a local opportunity to increase your knowledge and appreciation for great residential architecture.

Granite City dinner experience

A while ago, I posted about inauthenticity in restaurant design. My partner in crime responded quite well. Well… once again I ventured into the world of chain restaurants with my family, and once again, I wasn’t happy.

This time, the culprit was Granite City. While the food was good (if not too much), and the service was impeccable, the whole dining experience was almost entirely ruined by the presence of three large flat-screen TVs in the main dining room. Not the bar, mind you. But the dining room! The place where I want to enjoy a special night out with the wife and four kids, talking about our day and learning from the surroundings. You know, typical – historical! – restaurant experiences. But no! This dining experience was characterized by all four children – even the one-year-old! – being transfixed on the TV screens. If there was any conversation, it consisted of a question and answer about the NFL All-Star game, and it’s related skills competition and ESPN commentary!

Here’s the question: why are there TVs in the dining room??? I realize TVs have been in bars for some time. But why have they migrated to dining rooms? Is it good for business? Do more families come because they know they’ll be able to spend an hour eating and not talking with each other? Have we come so far that not only can we not eat a meal at home without the TV on, but now we can’t even eat a meal out without three of them on (different channels, don’t forget!)!

Now, in the interest of self-disclosure, I own stock in Granite City. (My financial adviser said it was a good company with great growth potential.) Overall, it seems like a great company and restaurant. But why would they put TVs in the dining room? Why do they feel the need to distract us during dinner? Why would they work against quality family time? Why the compromise? What’s the gain?

I must admit, though GC has many things going for it, I’m reluctant to return and try to compete with three TVs for my kid’s attention.

The new slum?

Are suburbs the new slum?

Great article at theatlantic.com. Especially page three, where the author predicts the future.

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.


Despite this glum forecast for many swaths of suburbia, we should not lose sight of the bigger picture—the shift that’s under way toward walkable urban living is a healthy development. In the most literal sense, it may lead to better personal health and a slimmer population. The environment, of course, will also benefit: if New York City were its own state, it would be the most energy-efficient state in the union; most Manhattanites not only walk or take public transit to get around, they unintentionally share heat with their upstairs neighbors.

 photo by evetsggod on flickr 

Clotheslines in a Good City?

So on the heels of the Grassroots Green event, I was reading through the Green Living Guide (which everybody should buy!) and noticed a small article promoting the drying of clothes on a clothesline instead of an electric (or gas) drier. I didn’t even realize, though I shouldn’t have been shocked, that many HOA’s, landlords, etc. have banned clothesline-drying on primarily aesthetic and property value grounds. But apparently, the resulting controversy is big enough as to make national news.

So the question is: should a good city — and her residents — encourage the unsightly but environmentally-friendly practice of clothesline-drying? Or promote a more “beautiful” city by mandating the more sightly, but less environmentally-friendly use of electric dryers?