Sunday, January 11, 2009

Glacierization: Concepts Pt. 1

That BIG EAR is coming back to life this semester under the auspices of the Jackson Community Design Center based out of the 5th year MSU architecture school.  By the end of this term, the JCDC will be publishing a book of 4-6 conceptual suggestions about the current conditions of State Street.  

Our theories are conceived in the larger frame work of the relationship of I-55 and State Street.  The basic supposition that unites our work is that the interstate is one of the most important variables in the evolution of Jackson and many other similar cities.  This relationship is what we will call the effects of a superpath on a path.

This post is the first in a series of initial concepts.


gla·cier: a large body of ice moving slowly down a slope or valley or spreading outward on a land surface

Annexation Map of North State Street – annexation of the final territory happens around the time of the completion of the interstate

The speed of growth of State Street slowed to a crawl in the 1970’s as the interstate began to dominate.  Zoning annexation finished up the north end to the edge of Ridgeland , but the area was already marked with the stench of death. 

Development has continued in Ridgeland, just across the interstate—just across the divide between the suburban and urban.  At the divide, a suburban phenomena, Target turns its back to State Street and opens onto the interstate.  Just north of Meadowbrook Drive traffic drops on State Street and increases on I-55.  There are very few reason to come to State Street along this stretch, and, additionally, there are also very few reasons to use this stretch as a path from one destination to another.

Why does glacierization occur and why at the north end of State Street?  We may initially respond that it is simply a result of economic pressures, the interstate drove State Street out of business, but this answer misses the larger question, a question of ideology.  The north end of State Street acts as defensible space—distance that is used to separate the safety of the suburban from the terror of the urban.  This distance is a physical and psychological barrier—a constructed empty space made possible by the technology of the interstate and the state of mind of a fearful demographic.  Is this not the reason so many residents in Ridgeland put up a fight over the height of an office building at The Renaissance?  They moved to Ridgeland to get away from the city.  Tall buildings, vertical growth, is equated with the city, a truly unruly place.  Suburbanism is a politics of fear.

How could urbanism, a doctrine of compactness, over come the distance?  How could Jackson possibly reach out to its suburban neighbors?  The north end of State Street will forever be a glacier, a silent limping body.  In fact, the glacier seems to be spreading as development continues to move north and county line road begins to die.  The only hope is global warming...


Two Dogs said...

Brian, there is a reason that architects did not do as much work as engineers at the end of the 1800s. My thought is because architects got to the point of worshiping the collective and not concentrating on the individual, their client. It is a philosophical thing, that is supposedly why we are taught philosophy, albeit in fifth year, where the discovery is too late in your education.

The one thing that people do not tell you is the refusal of people to live in Jackson was NOT initially because of fear, it was because of lack of services and the high price for those bad services. The schools are terrible, a car tag costs twice as much, property taxes are skyrocketing because of bad decisions from the council and Hinds County supes. The reasons are myriad and have very little to do with architecture as a profession. It has to do with TOO much government and no value for the price.

Anyhoo, it is always good NOT to make up your mind WHY something is the way it is, and DISCOVER why it is the way it is. It's not being "open-minded," it's being "active-minded." Thinking instead of blindly following someone is a good thing. You might come to the conclusion to abandon the city of Jackson or you may come to a better idea for rejuvenating downtown. Housing downtown is certainly NOT an issue because there is a tremendous glut facilitated by architects selling the idea of high end apartments and townhouses, that mainly sit empty. By the way, where's the grocery store?

Who do you think could best answer why Jackson is a burnt out shell of what it was in the early 1970s? Someone who got out. Ask the people in Madison why they don't live downtown, not someone walking down Farish.

They are all hard questions to answer, but the solutions are out there if you don't shoehorn yourself into thinking there is only one solution.

Jobs, schools, churches. People live near those.

And, here is another opinion on why people bailed Jackson.

Bryan said...

Thanks for the thoughts. Glacierization is not a concept about why people left Jackson, it is about why certain areas freeze in development. I'm not arguing that people left Jackson because of fear, but it is one the generating factors of defensible space.

Two Dogs said...

I'm sorry, fear as a mitigating factor was the only thesis that I found in the post. You actually used the word "terror."

I simply suggested that maybe Newman didn't know what he was talking about.

Bryan said...

Fear is the thesis, but it is not a thesis for the reason people left. It is a possible thesis for the reason space glacierizes into a defensible territory.

Who is this Newman you mention? Is it something we should take a look at?


Two Dogs said...

Oscar Newman was the "architect" that wrote the book on the concept of defensible space. I would assume that is the reason behind the thesis of the State Street project this semester.

This may seem insensitive, but luckily he died in 2004, so no more books are forthcoming.

Bryan said...

Thanks. I have not read Newman's writing yet, but have seen him referenced in some of the very recent literature. We will have to take a look at his work very soon.

Our goal is always to avoid being reductive, so I am certainly not asserting that fear is the only real reason for defensible space, but it seems to have become the ideological reason that perpetuates the situation.

Most of the people you talk to from the 'burbs rank crime as Jackson's worst problem. We will be releasing the results of the survey we did last semester in the next couple of days, which seems to confirm this ideology.

Anonymous said...

I have seen two gas stations built on that stretch in the last year I think. I used to work in Fondren but lived in Ridgeland and I would drive that way to work. I kind of enjoyed the lack of traffic on my way to work. Good coffee, one cigarette, and a talk show and I was there.

Anonymous said...

Be sure and talk with the Belhaven Foundation. Extensive work has been done over the past few years mapping the Belhaven and Baptist Hospital areas and the State Street and Fortification Street corridors in that area. There is a master plan in place.

Whitney said...

Thanks for the tip about the Belhaven Foundation...we haven't spoken with them about that yet, but I'm going to look into it.

Anonymous said...

In response to Two Dogs:

There is housing downtown, and the only issue that I see is that there is no vacany. As a matter of fact, most of the downtown housing units have waiting lists. They may, as you say, "sit empty" during the work hours of weekdays, but for the most part, they are occupied as much, if not more, as your typical suburban home.

As for groceries, McDade's is only a mile away on Fortification St. Which to me, a mile seems much closer than most suburban homes are located to their "local" Wal-Mart. Not to mention, you can actually walk from your downtown apartment to the grocery store using the sidewalks and crosswalks. It's very pleasant during the summer.

Two Dogs said...

Anon, there are currently 150 "families" living downtown. If you cannot find housing, check at the Plaza Building or the Electric Building, both have vacancies to spare. I think that the Ironworks Building is the only one that is full, because of the lower rents. Try the Dickies Building on South President, too. With plenty more developments on the way, just no takers.

I cannot imagine walking the 1.2 miles from the Plaza Building to McDades and then back with groceries during 95 degree weather with 80% humidity. "Pleasant" must be a synonym for torture.

That said, I am for development in downtown, however, if you are looking for an urban success story, why not find one to emulate?

If you want middle class folks to live down there, where do they work? Is there any industry?

Anonymous said...

For the record, "Glacierization" isn't even a real word. Its "Glaciation"...

Two Dogs said...

For the record, Anon, you are incorrect, try THE GOOGLE.

Anyway, architects like making up words like "architectonic," "functionality," and "utilization."

It makes them sound smarter to themselves.

Anonymous said...

Two Dogs, you know not of what you speak. I work in the Electric 308 building, and I can tell you from my own personal experience that there are no units available here. Also, I have lived in the Ironworks building, and it has been fully occupied for the last 7 years. Dickies does not have apartments, currently there is only one there and that tenant has been living there for years.

I know it's hard to use your feet to take you places, but it's healthy for everyone involved. Walking 1.2 miles is nothing... at least not for me. I don't smoke, nor am I obese.

I consider myself middle class, and I found a job downtown... it's not that hard.

Two Dogs said...

Anon, I do not work in the Elec Building, but the first of December, I was offered an apartment there. I am certain that it is not because of who I am either. As far as the Dickies building, no the apartments are not built-out out because NO ONE WANTS THEM. But, at one time, there was a huge banner across the front of the building advertising said apartments.

And like I said, Pat Pigott, the Ironworks Owner has stayed full because of the lower rents. It is mainly tailored for the college, drinking crowd. I like to call them "Goat Children." They certainly do not have the financial stability to entice businesses into downtown to cater to them. Unless it was a local package store.

You must also understand that poor people do not bring prosperity to the area, RICH people do. They bring the jobs and businesses. And I certainly disagree that anyone wants to walk TWO AND A HALF MILES to grocery shop, half of which would be returning with groceries. And I walk two miles every day, rain, sleet, snow, and blistering heat, so I am guessing that I have a little experience with that particular distance.

I am not arguing whether someone does or does not know what they are talking about. I do believe my statements are true, though. If you believe otherwise, that is certainly your prerogative, but oddly, I continue to be proven right on the downtown area. You know, since I have lived here for thirty-five years, thirty as an adult, I kinda have a clue what would help and what would not. I remember when downtown Jackson actually had department stores.

Not only did I see those things first hand, but I also worked on the Heritage Building renovation, The Emporium Building renovation, the Woolfolk renovation, the Supreme Court building, the Sillers renovation, the Hinds County Courthouse renovation, numerous studies for the Ridge project, which has now become the Capitol Green project, preliminary stuff for the Telcom Building, and I worked in the Plaza building for six years.

While I certainly believe that architecture can help make downtown into what it used to be, it is not the first thing that must happen to facilitate that revamping.

Anonymous said...

Look, I'm not here to get into a piss match with you, but when you state generalizations that are false, I have to call you out on it.

I know of 3 tenants that currently live in the Ironworks apartments (they're called the Foundry Lofts now) that own their own separate businesses. None of them are in college. Go here:

Take a look at the pics in that apartment. Does it look like "goat children" live there? I guess all "goat children" have Eames chairs, right?

Look, I'm glad you're old and wise and I'm sure there's lots to learn from you, but it's not going get passed down through your egocentric attitude. Stick to your points that are supported by "truths" and maybe we all can benefit from the discussion.

Two Dogs said...

Anon, I currently have the Eames lounge and ottoman in my hunting camp. My grandfather bought it back in 1960 or so. Your point? It is a cheaply built plywood chair. The Herman Miller reproduction lounge and ottoman is expensive.

But, no, the model does not look like the apartments did when Pat built them.

Also, anon, seriously, to call someone out for, as you call it, "being egocentric," for not immediately agreeing with you is patently unhelpful and passive minded.

Anonymous said...

I'm not asking you to agree with me. You just need to keep to the facts when you're trying to make your point. So far, there is a local grocery store for downtown, most of the downtown apartments are filled, and the foundry loft residents are successful professionals and not "goat children".

Two Dogs said...

Anon, just a couple of points. You are most definitely trying to make me agree. McDade's on Fortification is NOT downtown, it is in Belhaven. If you want that standard, from one call this morning, I found 30 apartments available within a quarter mile of McDades. Availability exists in Belhaven for certain.

From the C-L about two months ago, they stated 150 families living in downtown, and the owners of residential rentals lamented the fact that no one was renting. The Plaza Building is NOT filled according to the ID on the project, and I was offered an apt in the Electric Building in December.

From another phone call this morning, the majority of the tenants in the Ironworks building are "bar folks."

"Facts?" Sure, choose yours. That attitude is why architects are notoriously bad businessmen. I am sure that you have heard from professors in college that it is the architect's duty to tell the client what they need. That might be true to a certain extent, but I find it much more important to find out what the clients WANT. And judging by the fact that there are few people living downtown, most folks don't want to live there or they would live there. I pointed out why they don't and was told that I was wrong. I'm cool with that.

Anonymous said...

Bar folks... ha ha. Not that there us anything wrong with going to a bar from time to time.

You obviously didn't talk to Pat then. He is even in business with one of his tenants, or at least he was when I lived there. The secretary didn't know anything about my personal life when I lived there, and I imagine the same goes for most of the tenants there.

Anonymous said...

Look, I've already wasted too much of my time on you and your blanket rhetoric. You are trying to portray things the way you want them read rather than the way they actually exist. McDade's is closer to downtown than most suburban homes are to their local grocery store. The people that live in downtown are working people, some owning businesses and some just working like me. You paint a scene of irresponsible madness and emptiness, but you obviously have no clue. This will be my last post on the topic, as I have foolishly played your game and the conversation is nowhere near its origin. I know you will have the last word, and you can have it. It will be selfjustifying and it will make you feel good inside. Congratulations.

Two Dogs said...

Anon, I certainly wouldn't describe Pat as a professional. I guess our definitions are different. A metal fabricator is not professional, a doctor or attorney is. A landlord is not a professional, an architect or engineer is.

As far as the landlord not knowing about your personal life, that is unimportant, but the landlord should certainly know what you do for a living. Someone who owns, operates, or works in a bar, can certainly be referred to as "bar folk." It doesn't imply that they are someone that sits at a bar and gets drunk for a living and I never stated that at all.

McDades being closer to downtown than a suburban grocery is to neighborhoods is useless comparison. One is suburban, one is supposedly urban. Define your terms and understand the implications of them. A dictionary would be a good tool for you to possess.

Also, what you do or do not do is your business. I simply stated the particulars of the situation, you deny they exist. That is fine, I guess, but it is stupid. What I feel about this debate with you is the same as I feel as every time that I debate my intellectual inferiors, pity.

Anonymous said...

Is Two Dogs off his meds again?