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École Spéciale d'Architecture (Travis)

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    Teddy Cruz Lecture

    TK. B Apr 17 '09 0
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    Last week, Teddy Cruz came, ostensibly to lead a week-long workshop/charette that the school hosts every semester (last semester it was Paul Virillio). Though in fact, from what I could tell the workshop didn't yield a who lot. However his lecture that he gave before the workshop was excellent.

    I had never seen him speak and knew his work vaguely but to see him speak is great. Before I really get into it though, I have to say I think what makes him so successful is that he comes from this really bizarre situation in relation to the area of his work in San Diego-Tijuana. I mean, though he teaches and works based in San Diego, he is neither from San Diego nor Tijuana, neither American nor Mexican, but at the same time not really an outsider. Somehow he has found a way to be a local of both cities but not entrenched in either one to create an us/them mentality.

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    For this reason I was really interested in all that he had to say about informal development in the cross-border metropolis. This opposed to the rather colonial-gawking (post-colonial, I guess) that you see in studies of places like Lagos, Luanda.

    His approach is a really good balance of human and technical. It would have been too easy for him to fall into a truly emotional/political sapfest over the current border situation. Instead I found he approached the subject in a very anthropological way, just "here it is", how do we work with it? I think his diagrams and methods of presentation were great to enhance this approach. They're very loud, fun, colorful, and often very dumb (a good thing). Similar to a lot of things you might see in Koolhaas' Content (in their lowness), but I think without Content's underlying pretension. Also, he had TONS of these images. He didn't use powerpoint, I'm sure because the file would have been enormours, he just used the image viewer of presenting images. Instead of puzzling over an overly complicated diagram behind him for 20 minutes each, each slide would get between .5 seconds to maybe 8 seconds. It kept it quick, engaging and step-by-step. It was magazine on screen.

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    What I found most interesting was this concept I had never heard of called 'paper streets', which is a term to refer to streets, designed on paper by developers, but never built by the builder due to constraints of the site not taken into account by the developers. This is the case especially in exurban communities with their generic winding culs-de-sac. I think back to the suburb I grew up in and I realize this is why there are seemingly 2 or 3 different streets by the same name that don't connect (but on a map you can see them line up). Anyway, the point is that these places exist in a bizarre world where they were designed for public space but end up being pocketed by the developer as extra private land to sell. So he had various proposals about how to make these places work as communal infrastructure for the community.

    Also I realized this is probably why Tyler Durden lived on Paper Street in Fight Club.

    For me, I think I never really realized how bizarre the situation was in San Diego-Tijuana compared to any other border city relationship along the US-Mexico border. I knew the border cities along the Texas-MX border pretty well and none of them have as much issue as in California, and there's certainly no wall! What happened to supposed California liberalism and supposed Texas convervativism there? I mean, as obviously crazy as Ciudad Juarez is, you can still pass back and forth with El Paso way easier than in CA. But Cruz explained (and I didn't realize this, but it's obvious on aerial photographs) that SD-TJ developed as two completely separate cities which is not the case on the Texas-Mexico border where all of those cities function as one city with their corresponding border city.
     

     
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