University of Southern California (Emily)



Aug '08 - Jul '09

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    3.19 :: This is awesome. Fight on.

    Emily Kemper
    Dec 3, '08 4:33 PM EST

    This is not your average day at the University of Southern California...campus is abuzz, and not just because it is the last full week of classes before Winter Break. My final thesis presentation for the semester is on Friday and I think I am in good shape for it. I would tell you more about it but it's too hard to explain, so I will just try to get it up and running over break, and I'll let you know when I do. In the meantime, let me take you on a tour around campus this morning.

    Today we had final presentations in my urbanism class, which meant that people wrote papers and then we tacked them to the wall. (Strange, yes, but I'll get to that in a minute.) Each student in the class was to select one of three topics to study: 1) a traditional city, 2) some portion of Los Angeles, or 3) a city that has urbanized rapidly in the last century or so. Never one to conform, I decided to pursue a topic I have been obsessing over lately - the topic of sustainable cities, or "ecocities". This topic suggestion was well-received, so I was up until the wee hours of the morning carefully crafting my paper into a format that might be presentable on a wall amongst a sea of 96 other papers (mine is the second column of papers from the left). Essentially with such a large class, it was impossible to do individual presentations, so we all stuck our papers on the wall and spoke about them for about a minute each. In the end, it was unconventional, but it worked:

    I discussed ecocities from Arcosanti to Portland, from the probably defunct Dongtan to the tiny town of Huangbaiyu. You should really read up on that last one, it's an eye-opener.

    Anyway, after class I took a walk around campus for an errand and passed by our statue of Tommy Trojan, which is being diligently guarded all week by an army of undergrads in anticipation of Saturday's football game with UCLA. Every year they wrap Tommy up in a big duct tape "condom", as it were, and they watch over him 24-7. Note the dude sleeping on the loveseat in front.

    After having a chuckle over Tommy's Trojan I meandered past the construction site of the new student center (the formal name of which escapes me) next to the existing bookstore, where I discovered that they have the final beam of the structure on display and available for EVERYONE to sign. What a great idea!!! Here's a photo of someone signing the beam in the foreground with the construction and bookstore behind...

    ...and here's a photo of my signature, which is really less a signature and more an opportunity to show off my architectural handwriting to the university community.

    You know, USC seems to catch a lot of flack from outsiders and people who regard it as the "University of Spoiled Children". I can assure you that I'm not spoiled, and when I see stuff like that beam, I'm reminded of how great a community the Trojan family is. (Now if someone could hook me up with a post-graduation job so I can pay off my ample Trojan loans, that would be great, thanks!)


    • Emily,
      Huangbaiyu was as i recall close to a disaster and was in fact one the basis for some of the criticisms leveled against McDonough in that Fast Company "hit piece" from a few months ago.
      PBS actually did a Frontline show on it..

      Just goes to show what can go wrong even with the best of intentions.
      Hopefully Dongtan works out better, of only because of the involvement of Arup.

      Dec 3, 08 10:52 pm  · 

      nam, in my research I discovered that Huangbaiyu is more or less a disaster, unless things have changed since the Frontline piece. Did you watch it? It was enlightening. Basically the houses that were built were not appropriate for the lifestyles of the farmers they served, and how culpable McDonough was for that is unclear.

      As for Dongtan, it's stalled indefinitely. Read that one too. China's a tough country to get things done in....

      Dec 4, 08 2:40 am  · 

      I think the biggest problem facing Huangbaiyu and its residents was the same one that faces many residents in developing countries when rehousing, rehabilitation or big infrastructure projects lead to these people being restteled into new housing/land. Generally there is little thought given to the externalities that make a place livable. Simply building a family a new modern style house or giving them some new land does not deal with the issues of social and family cohesion or the need for jobs/farming (a ways of earning an income supportign themselves) or the other non physical needs (but very real economic or social needs) of a successful community.

      As for the Dongtan news, that sucks.. Besides the fallout from the corruption trial of Mr. Chen I wonder how much the global credit/financial crisis played a role? If so, i wonder how other cities like Masdar et al will survive. It seems as if those oil rich city states like Abu Dhabi etc if recent news is any indicator aren't faring much better than us in the West. Although, it seems parodoxical because seems like the best time to invest in those kind of cities/green infrastructure.

      Also, i loved this quote from the article on Dongtan,

      But he couldn't put his finger on what the "eco" credentials of his new home were. It is not powered by renewable energy, nor is it built to any particular standards. "For us, ecological means living in an area which is a bit more green than normal," he said eventually. "Somewhere where there are trees".

      Dec 4, 08 8:22 am  · 

      emK- got your email and look forward to reading your paper. super thanks!

      Dec 4, 08 11:51 am  · 

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