Introducing the EOS M

As reported by David Pierce of The Verge, Canon has announced its first foray into the world of small, interchangeable lens cameras known as mirror less cameras.

Broadly speaking, the EOS M is just a repackaged Rebel T4i — it shares nearly all its specs with Canon’s entry-level DSLR. It has an 18-megapixel APS-C sensor, the same as the T4i. It’s powered by Canon’s latest DIGIC 5 processor, can shoot 4.3 frames per second (but only in a single mode), and offers ISO range up to ISO 12,800 and expandable to ISO 25,600. All that comes in a small magnesium body, which in our time with the camera is both impressively light and quite sturdy — though it’s not exactly eye-catching.

Being a Canon shooter, I have been looking forward to this development for some time. I have been very interested in what Fuji is doing in this space starting with the X100 and then continuing with the X-Pro System but I have been hesitant to start investing in a completely new system when I already have so much invested into my Canon gear. However, the EOS M just doesn’t look that exciting to me.

EOS HD has some good points about this lackluster entry. Here’s the crux of the problem though:

Canon’s leadership in digital cameras came about because they took brave creative decisions.

Since 3 years ago I have been looking for another flash of creativity but haven’t seen it. This worries me greatly.

First to introduce an affordable DSLR for consumers, the Rebel – it became Canon’s driver of huge mass market success. First to do video on a full frame DSLR, this creativity has served Canon’s business extremely well and if it was not for the 5D Mark II’s video mode Canon would not be present in the cinema and broadcast market with Cinema EOS.

All this happened before 2009.

All that being said, I am still a Canon shooter and so I still might buy this camera as a way to extend my kit with a smaller carry-everywhere option. If I were starting from scratch, I would probably lean towards the Fuji X-Pro but I do like the idea of having a small format camera that is compatible with my dSLR. I haven’t made my decision yet, but preorders are available.


Adventure Playgrounds

Brendan Crain, writing for the Project for Public Spaces, advocates for dynamic and flexible “adventure playgrounds”:

But research and support have been mounting for years to back up what many of us feel on a gut level: these sanitized playscapes are junk…

Cities are where us “grown-ups” play at leading meaningful and enjoyable lives, so it may be helpful (if anecdotal) to think of playgrounds as the staging areas for the cities of tomorrow. If we want to live in siloed cities, with offices here, houses there, and all quarters safely demarcated by wide arterial roads, we should probably go right on ahead building playgrounds where the slides and plastic tic-tac-toes cower away from each other. But if we want bustling, creative cities full of the surprise and serendipity that makes urban life so enjoyable, we might want to start thinking about playgrounds as microcosmic multi-use destinations…

Shouldn’t our playgrounds be great places, too?

I believe that unstructured, imaginative play is important for kids. Unfortunately our litigious and zealously over protective culture has produced many playgrounds that aren’t very great. The kids deserve better.


Building Meaning

Michael Imber, writing for Period Homes, has an only slightly overly nostalgic post contemplating the meaning of what we build. I particularly liked this bit:

It is the cultural memory of our past that informs us, and it is what forms the genetic code of our built environment. Buildings and homes should say to us: “This is our history and our aspirations. This is our landscape and environment, our resources, our craft. This is how we build.” By these principles, buildings and places become authentic to their nature and to their place – they become “local.” This is what makes them cherished and valued by the people that populate them and gives us pride in who we are as communities. Buildings should not arbitrarily reflect style, but should reflect the architectural language that expresses a community or culture – it is this that makes our buildings and cities meaningful and sustainable, for it is the building that can be loved by generations that will last for generations.

This ties in nicely with my previous post, Of Time and Place. Architecture should respond naturally to the local conditions. This includes environment, climate, culture, and tradition. This doesn’t mean there can’t be outside influences. It just means that outside influences must be calibrated to the local conditions to achieve a basic harmony and common language and meaning in our places.


The Copenhagen Bike Express

Sally McGrane, reporting for the New York Times:

COPENHAGEN — Picture 11 miles of smoothly paved bike path meandering through the countryside. Largely uninterrupted by roads or intersections, it passes fields, backyards, chirping birds, a lake, some ducks and, at every mile, an air pump.

An 11-mile-long path called a bicycle superhighway has opened between Copenhagen and Albertslund, a western suburb.

For some Danes, this is the morning commute…

In Denmark, thanks to measures like the superhighway, commuters choose bicycles because they are the fastest and most convenient transportation option.

It’s amazing what can happen when a community makes transportation options a priority. Copenhagen made a deliberate decision to support multiple forms of transportation and that choice is now paying off.


Junk Food Places

Sarah Goodyear, writing for the Atlantic Cities:

I’ve been thinking about the strip malls and freeways of South Florida as a kind of junk food. These are the empty calories of place and space, filling us up, crowding out the more “nutritious” places where we can interact pleasantly with other humans, enjoy the shade of a tree, or walk along a street. We consume these places without thinking, like potato chips in front of the television, and it is no coincidence that they help to make us fat.

I think it’s a good analogy. These kinds of places satisfy a craving but don’t provide lasting value.


Historical Mapping Data from the USGS

The United States Geological Survey has made hundreds of thousands of historical maps available online. It’s an interesting look at the history of our places.


A New Face for an Old Broad

Memphis experienced a great grassroots effort to revitalize an aging street with life, love, and a needed makeover. This is the story of the event that was the culmination of a community deciding to take action to better their neighborhood. I found it inspiring and I hope you do as well.

A New Face for an Old Broad from American Grapefruit Media on Vimeo.

via Mike Lydon


These are Not the Homes of the Future

Forbes has a collection of futuristic house designs that Bethany Lyttle of picked up for Yahoo. Here are some choice excerpts from the Yahoo article:

But fast forward a few hundred years and the traditional four walls and a roof won’t be standard housing fare, according to urban experts. Climate change, population growth and geo-political shifts are already redefining the way we look at residential spaces of the future…

Architects and urban planners can’t pinpoint exactly when these concepts will become necessary–it all depends on how economic and geographic factors play out–but they’re confident the most effective ideas will rise to the top.

What a pointless exercise in futility! This collection, with the exception of the interesting, yet flawed, concept of putting homes over the street, should have been titled “Not the Homes of the Future”. This kind of distorted “cult of the future” actually offends me because it cheapens the value that architects can bring to real humans solving real problems. Nobody wants to live in the future these architects have envisioned. These fantasies lack any grounding in reality or the essential humanity that ties us to place and time.

We have seen this sort of thing before and the future that is predicted does not come to pass. Take one visit to the Epcot Center and you’ll see how accurate predictions of the future are. I prefer to focus on the real issues that face us now and not waste time contemplating a strange and alien future that will not arrive.


Sustainable by Design - Why Aesthetics Matter in Stewardship

In my earlier post, Of Time and Place, I proposed that creating buildings rooted in place is more important than creating buildings that are “of our time” partly because the phrase “of our time” is meaningless. In his comment on that post, Steve Mouzon had an interesting point:

…it’s actually worse than meaningless because insisting that design be “of our time” means that we must continually throw things away. As you’ve noted, that which is most intensely “of our time” is most quickly “outtadate” tomorrow. That has meaning… serious meaning. Also, to expand on points you’ve raised in this post, I’d say that building things that are “of us” and “of here” trends toward timeless design because the essence of being human changes very slowly, as do regional climate and conditions.

This is why aesthetics are an integral part of good stewardship. The greenest building that shows off it’s sustainable features with a “techie-green” appearance will quickly go out of style as fads change. An out of style building, regardless of how many sustainable features it boasts, will be unloved, uncared for, and eventually demolished. For ugly green buildings, being demolished before their useful lifespan is finished is a serious blemish on their sustainable pedigree.

Stewardship holds that a building must not just be “less bad” but also should contribute towards a greater good. There is always a cost associated with development. Stewardship maintains that the benefit must outweigh the cost. This is a very holistic analysis that goes beyond general sustainability or LEED and I believe that aesthetics play a vital role in accommodating this goal. Timeless buildings age more gracefully and enjoy longer useful lives. Timeless buildings are loved and cared for. Timeless buildings, when coupled with the best sustainable strategies, are the greenest buildings because they last.


The Delightfully Tiny Tumbleweed Houses

I stumbled upon Jay Shafer’s Tumbleweed Houses, a site devoted to delightful tiny houses.

Look to buy or just for the fun of considering how much stuff you would have to get rid of to fit your life into one of these cottages! While it would be difficult for most people, especially families, to fit into one of these houses, they could make a wonderful garden guest cottage/home office or a nice little vacation cottage.