University of Pennsylvania (Phillip)

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    A conference, a paper and a research proposal

    Phillip Crosby
    Nov 5, '08 2:14 PM EST

    Things have been busy since my last post.

    On October 16th, I flew down to Miami for the AIA Florida Emerging Professional’s Conference. I actually helped organize this conference for the past two years. I’m still good friends with this year’s organizers and they invited me down to sit on a panel discussion. It was sorta the last gasp of my professional life before returning to school since I was not talking about any of my research but rather about marketing yourself and building a resume/CV for the career that you want. Originally I was supposed to be on a panel with Meg Brown, the national director of human resources for Perkins + Will. Unfortunately, Meg had to cancel at the last minute, so a good friend, Andy Hayes of Hayes Cumming Architects filled in. Andy and I have a pretty interesting history in that we first met through the AIA, then I was his client when I worked for the City of St. Petersburg, and then I worked for him as an independent contractor for about 9 months before coming back to school. We tried to emphasize the importance of building and maintaining relationships and the impact that those sustained relationships can have on your career path.

    In addition, the conference featured keynote speaker David Montalba of Montalba Architects in Los Angeles. He’s doing some pretty cool work and seems like a really nice guy. It was also great to get to spend some time with some of my good friends that I left behind in Florida. (Hi Kim!)

    I’ve also had a paper due in Anita Berrizbeitia’s landscape architecture theory class. I wrote on the work of West 8 and Adriaan Geuze. Specifically, I compared the ideas behind some of the earlier projects (Schouwburgplein, Borneo-Sporenburg, and others) with some more recent projects (Governor’s Island and Jubilee Gardens). My critique was that the earlier projects seem much more conceptually rigorous than the recent projects. I talked about my perceived shift from Geuze’s concept of the “void” as a primary concept to the idea of a “surreal” landscape. I posited that the “void” was inherently tied to Geuze’s dutchness and that the surreal was a trope used to internationalize his work.

    Finally, I’ve decided on the topic that I’m going to explore in the second semester of my Urban Studies Proseminar. The end result of the research in this class will be an 8,000-10,000 word paper. Here’s a brief blurb from my proposal:

    Between 1935 and 1950 a conglomerate of the automobile lobby consisting of General Motors, Standard Oil of California, Firestone Tires, and Phillips Petroleum set up a subsidiary corporation called National City Lines (NCL) through which they systematically dismantled the electric streetcar lines in 45 cities around the country. This research paper will examine the activities of NCL during this period as well as the ensuing conspiracy lawsuit United States v. National City Lines. In addition, I will examine the effect of the shift from streetcar based transit to bus based transit on transit ridership, car registration rates, and the physical structure of the city. The study will include an overview of the circumstances leading to and resulting from NCL’s takeover of transit systems as well as case studies of three cities.

    That’s all for now. I’m starting to narrow down my class selections for next Spring, so I’ll post something soon about the classes that I’m thinking about taking.

    One more thing...

    Re-Imagining Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil starts here at Penn tomorrow. If you're in the Philadelphia area, be sure to check it out.


    • treekiller

      phil, that paper is more like a dissertation. good luck finding the ridership data and other info. If you succeed, you can sell the screen rights to the story. just don't bite off more then you can chew.

      Nov 5, 08 3:06 pm  · 

      That's funny, that's exactly the same thing that the professor said. I know that the ridership and car registration data is out there somewhere because I've seen that stuff quoted in some secondary sources. It's just a matter of trying to locate the primary sources. I might limit myself to looking at the physical changes (if any... I assume that I'll find some) which will primarily be identified through the use of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.

      We also just had a research source presentation in class last night on Social Explorer which makes it really easy to map census data. I think that I may be able to tease some information out of that too. Unfortunately, Social Explorer is a subscription service, but I can access it for free through the Penn Library System.

      Nov 5, 08 3:41 pm  · 

      sounds cool.

      this is not related exactly, but you might find "The new Suburban History", edited by kevin kruse and thomas sugrue, an interesting example of how to tackle this kind of research. It is a good read regardless, especially for researchers of this generation who are maybe (like me) distrustful of the conventional wisdom that has accrued around current understanding of how cities were formed, etc.

      Nov 5, 08 7:05 pm  · 
      vado retro

      gas has dipped below what is was in 2004. the hummer will be back, only this time it will have an obama bumper sticker!

      Nov 5, 08 7:11 pm  · 

      thanks jump... we actually read the new suburban history earlier this semester... sugrue is actually on the faculty here at penn (although i think that he's teaching at harvard this semester)... and i agree, it is an excellent book... that class (which is in the urban studies department rather than architecture) has truly been enlightening... most of the texts that we're reading take a completely different approach toward investigating the city than the texts that we typically read in architecture classes...

      Nov 5, 08 8:18 pm  · 

      ah, well i guess i should have known that. you are lucky to be exposed to such stuff in the course of reglar school. i am forced to find such things by accident. their work was not directly related to my own studies, but as an example of how to approach the city was really an eye-opener. no one in my university has read it of course, even in urban planning. japan is so far behind it is kind of scary ;-)

      Nov 6, 08 12:33 am  · 

      I believe you should cast Leo Cap in the role of the young lawyer who uncovers it all.... sounds great archiphil, like jump this is an area I knew little about. I suspect the dismantling of the lines had a spin off effect as well as the electric tram ceased to run in the early 50s in the Jamaica, and the last of the lines were completely covered in 2000

      Nov 6, 08 12:52 am  · 

      i think louisville was among those 45 cities. i've got maps of the old streetcar line network from my masters project research. it was a pretty sophisticated and far-reaching system - all gone. i had heard of ncl, but without much detail. 'dismantling' may be too powerful a word, really. it was easy for them: they left the tracks and just paved over. they get revealed around town with some of the repavings going on. i guess the removal of the power runs took a little work...

      Nov 6, 08 7:58 am  · 

      steven, maybe you're right, dismantling might not be the right word... what i mean is that NCL bought up all of the streetcar lines, shut down the electric trolleys, and converted them to buses (usually greyhound, which they owned)...

      anyways, i've been surprised at how little has been written about this... it is usually just a paragraph or two in books about suburbanization (like kenneth jackson's crabgrass frontier or maybe a chapter in books about mass transit history...

      here's a few links if anyone's interested...

      The Great American Streetcar Scandal
      National City Lines
      GM & the Red Cars
      The Third Rail

      Nov 6, 08 9:13 am  · 

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