Friday, June 30, 2006

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Chapel Hill inspires Ithaca MLK process

Derek Alderman of ECU, a cultural geographer who paid close attention to our process of changing the name of Airport Road to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, recently visited Ithaca, N.Y., where they have a similar name change on the table. He told them how we retained the "Historic Airport Road" designation in small letters. Apparently they like the idea. It has helped revive a proposal that seemed headed for failure. Says Derek: "I think it has real promise for other communities."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Truth in flag-waving

While we narrowly avoided a constitutional crisis, I want to focus on something more important: Did the state of Texas steal the idea for its flag from North Carolina, as someone close to me has long maintained?

No, no, no. Even though North Carolina is the older state, it didn't have an official flag until it seceded from the Union in 1861. The first one looked like this:


After the war, the red and blue were reversed and the bottom date changed (naturally).


Now, why did they switch the colors? It's hard to avoid the obvious conclusion: to get even closer to Texas. Look: They shrank the star and stuck "NC" on there so people would know it wasn't Texas.


The official flag of the Republic of Texas was approved in 1839. (Luckily this design won out over the two alternatives--both a little busy, don't you think?)

UPDATE: The Senate vote on the flag amendment, by astrological sign.

More on suicide in Jones Park

Back in October, I posted about an apparent suicide of a young woman in Jones Park, giving all the sad facts that I knew at the time. Yesterday Tim Huff, the father of the young woman, left the following comments:

Chelsea Huff, my only child, was the young woman who committed suicide in Jones Park on October 5, 2005.

Chelsea lived on the opposite side of the creek, on Purefoy.

Chelsea was brutally raped by a family friend on July 30, 2004. The man, a Chapel Hill resident, was charged with kidnapping and rape. Inspite of injuries, physical evidence and testimony, charges were dismissed because the Orange County DA did not think he could win the case.

From the night of her rape at a local horse farm to the day of her death in Jones Park, Chelsea lived in fear that the rapist would find her and do it again. He is that kind of man. Chelsea put on a brave face and continued to work at Weaver Street Market and take classes at Durham Tech in preparation for a career in nursing. She was never the same, though.

Chelsea's last act was to inscribe these words with a bottle cap, the only instrument she could find, onto the wooden railing: rape, terror, goodbye, freedom and peace.

Those words should have remained as a testament to the failure of Orange County to protect one of its best-loved and admired citizens. Instead, officials had the words rubbed out as if they were ashamed, as if they were dirty, as if they were a lie.

We believed you, Chelsea. We all did: family, friends, co-workers, teachers, deputies, even the assistant DA who had the case dismissed. The only people who did not cherish you were the rapist and his family, the same people who held you in their arms when you were just a baby.

Mr. Huff included a link to a site in her memory. It includes the program for her memorial service at the Eno River Unitarian-Univeralist Church. She was all of 21 years old.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fayetteville report

From Fayetteville Online: "'I feel great,' [Roger] Stancil said Monday night from his Fayetteville home." And, "'It’s a smaller town than Fayetteville and development is concentrated within the town. The future growth is up,' Stancil said." Plus: Kevin Foy on how Fayetteville's loss is our gain.

Stancil, former city manager in Fayetteville, has accepted the Town of Chapel Hill's offer for the manager job. After a challenging interview process, I'm confident that he will do a great job for us.

Last night was Cal Horton's last meeting as Town Manager, after 16 years. Truly, the end of an era. I'm glad to have gotten to play a small part in it. He's a class act, and a tough act to follow.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A science fiction story, sadly open-ended

About a year ago, at Wired magazine's NextFest on the Navy Pier in Chicago, Paul and I met the late Philip K. Dick, the science fiction writer. He was not a ghost, but he was a high-functioning simulation, which puts him very close to the real thing, at least in the special case of Philip K. Dick. We found him most engaging.

philip k dick

Since then, Mr. Dick has lost his head. Rather, his creator lost his head. He accidentally left it in an overhead compartment as he was changing planes back in December on his way to San Francisco. It was retrieved and sent on to him on the next flight, supposedly, but it never arrived and has not turned up yet.

Here's hoping for a happy ending to this true-life science fiction thriller.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Friday, June 23, 2006

The roots of tradition

The Raleigh Christian group Called2Action, which last year packed Town Hall to urge us to open our "hearts and minds . . . to hearing the Truth" about gay rights, is lobbying the General Assembly to require the daily recital of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. Ed Cone has noticed the interesting discussion started by "Anglico" at BlueNC.

Anglico uses a great cartoon to show that this issue asks us to think about what conservatives mean by "tradition." (Click to enlarge.)

traditional pledge

Justice Scalia is a big one for tradition. He is also an originalist, which would seem to put him in conflict with himself, but in his own mind he has the two ideas knitted together:

If the text is ambiguous, yielding several conflicting interpretations, Scalia turns to the specific legal tradition flowing from that text -- to "what it meant to the society that adopted it." "Text and tradition" is a phrase that fills Justice Scalia's opinions. Judges are to be governed only by the "text and tradition of the Constitution," not by their "intellectual, moral, and personal perceptions."

But as Jack Balkin has pointed out recently ("Deconstruction's Legal Career," Cardozo Law Review, November 2005), as interpretive traditions go, "tradition" can be as slippery as anything else.

It turns out that "tradition" comes from the same word as "betrayal." Both involve a handing over. Claiming to speak in the name of tradition can also be a kind of betrayal in several different ways. First, traditions are often contested. Hewing to one particular vision of tradition obliterates other interpretations of the past and other alternatives for the future. Tradition never speaks with one voice, although, to be sure, persons of particular predilections may hear only one. In this way, a tradition can be a kind of extradition, banishing other perspectives and handing them over to their enemies, so to speak. Second, to respect tradition is also to betray, submerge, and extinguish other existing and competing traditions. It can lead us to focus on a falsely unitary or unequivocal story about the meaning of the past when we should recognize the past as a complicated set of perspectives in tension with each other. Finally, to act in the name of a tradition is often to betray the tradition itself, by disregarding the living, changing features of a tradition and substituting a determinate and lifeless simulacrum.

More Balkin here (1990 article on the same theme).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

"Nothing beside remains . . ."

From a great poem:

Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

These pictures from southern Mississippi before and after Katrina will give you pause. They're from a book published by the Sun Herald of Biloxi.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Among (white) men

Virtually all day yesterday and today, plus dinner last night and a public hearing tonight, I've been involved with Town Council interviews of our three finalists for town manager. Since the only other female council member has been unable to attend all but a fraction of the day sessions, and since the candidates are all white men, I've often been the only woman in a crowded room. It's all white men except for my colleague Bill Thorpe. I'm used to working with men, but this was a palpable distinction.

I wasn't on the council subcommittee that recommended our three finalists, and I was disappointed that a woman or minority was not among them, but I trust their judgment when they say that these three were significantly ahead of the pack. I wonder if it isn't self-perpetuating--women not being promoted, and so unable to make their mark and show their wonderful qualifications. But when it comes time to evaluate resumes and references, it's hard to justify taking a chance on someone who doesn't have the experience. It's a dilemma. I don't know the answer.

We did, however, end up with three very qualified candidates. Our decision will not be easy. It's of some interest to note that all three of them come from cities more demographically diverse than Chapel Hill: Elgin, Illinois; Aurora, Colorado; Fayetteville, N.C.

Meanwhile, Portland and Seattle are getting whiter. It feels as if Chapel Hill is too--and for the same reasons.

UPDATE from Mark Kleinschmidt: And they're all straight too.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Downsizing the Dream

Sarah Susanka starts off The Not So Big House with a story about a couple who came up to her after one of her lectures. They'd spent over $500,000 for a house that they hated. "All we've got is square footage with no soul," they said. Of course, the book is a few years old, or maybe they just didn't live in Chapel Hill. Either way, the price seems low for what they are describing.

In my neighborhood, the houses in a new development are priced upwards of $750,000. This one could be yours for $1.4 million.

But it has been on the market for over a year--possibly a sign of a trend indicating that more people are thinking like that couple that spoke with Susan Susanka. Says the Wall Street Journal,

The golden age of McMansions may be coming to an end. These oversized homes _ characterized by sprawling layouts on small lots, and built in cookie-cutter style by big developers _ fueled much of the housing boom. But thanks to rising energy and mortgage costs, shrinking families and a growing number of retirement-age baby boomers set on downsizing, there are signs of an emerging glut.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Greene County ramble

I'd never been to Greene County, even though I'd spent a good bit of time a few years ago on two appellate briefs that helped folks there keep a regional landfill at bay. I've kept up with Frank Warren of Snow Hill ever since, and finally it seemed time for a visit.

Paul and I went down yesterday. It was a good time, because we got to attend a quarterly regional meeting of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. The meeting was held in the Greene County Community Center, where the walls are lined with photos of graduating classes of the all-black South Greene High School through 1969.

At least those pictures are still around, said Gary Grant, meeting facilitator. He remembered when his black high school was turned into a different facility in an integrated system, all of the class photos, trophies, everything was hauled into the dumpster. (I can't think of an example where the black high school became the system's high school. Did it ever happen?)

Greene County people recalled what it took to win their battle against the landfill that their county commissioners were determined to bring in. It was what you might expect: patience and persistence. Having the law on their side helped. But ultimately this kind of decision is political. The real change happened when constituents managed to change the mind of just one commissioner. The tide could turn again, though.

We next heard from the Citizens for a Safe and Vibrant Community on their May 16 rally in Sandyfield, Columbus County, in opposition to a landfill proposed to go in between Sandyfield and East Arcadia, two African American communities. Some 250 strong, the protesters had planned to attend the Sandyfield Town Council meeting after the event. But they found a sign at Town Council saying "Closed until further notice."

As I've noted before, landfills are a growth industry in North Carolina. There is some hope of a moratorium out of the current legislative session. Nicole Stewart of the N.C. Conservation Network gave a workshop on how to communicate with local and state officials. Now is the time.

After the meeting, Frank Warren humored us by driving us around the town and county. There's an unusual brick Rosenwald School just down from the Community Center where we were; then the central Snow Hill residential district, which like the school is on the National Register, as is the nearby St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. We rambled out to where the regional landfill is not located (at least not yet) and beyond, even to Maury to see the new maximum-security prison, the county's third, sited under questionable circumstances.

Greene County like all of eastern North Carolina has become a dumping ground (I haven't even mentioned the hog farms). What's it going to take to turn things around?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Council actions: art, peace and justice

See my Chapel Hill Town Council colleague Mark Kleinschmidt's two nice posts about significant actions we took Monday night: becoming perhaps the first community in the nation to create a comprehensive master plan for public art; and giving the name Peace and Justice Plaza to the important civic space in front of the old Post Office on Franklin Street.

With Mark I served on the steering committee to develop the art master plan. Consultant Gail Goodwin served us well, enabling us to imagine all sorts of ways in which art could be worked into the very fabric of the town--and setting us up with a blueprint from which, over time, we can make it happen.

ames streetscape
Ames, Iowa: downtown streetscape with sculptural light fixtures. Ames has had a public art program since 1990--the first community in the country to do so.

On the plaza, I chaired the council naming subcommittee's discussion of recommendations that came out of a request. We were asked to name the space in front of the old Post office, the traditional site for protests and vigils, for Joe and Lucy Straley and Charlotte Adams, three people who spent countless hours over many years there making their voices heard. The issue the Council faced was whether to name the space Straley-Adams Plaza (or some such) or to name it, as we ultimately did, for ideals that their work stood for, while also having them be honored by name at the site with a plaque: a plaque that would allow for honoring other citizens at future times. Good arguments could be made for either, but I believe we made the right decision. I've been thinking in new ways about the very idea of a governmental body naming anything after any individual ever since reading a fascinating article by Ann Bartow of Feminist Law Professors. In "Trademarks of Privilege: Naming Rights and the Physical Public Domain" (forthcoming, UC Davis Law Review), she essentially questions whether the government should ever be in the business of naming:

This paper critiques the branding and labeling of the physical public domain with the names of corporations, commercial products, and individuals. It suggests there are under-recognized public policy conflicts between the naming policies and practices of political subdivisions, trademark law, and right of publicity doctrines. It further argues that naming acts as currently constituted are often undemocratic and unfair, constitute illegitimate private appropriation of public assets, and constitute a limited form of compelled speech. It concludes by considering alternative mechanisms by which the names of public facilities could be chosen.

Bartow's suspicions are aligned with those Sanford Levinson, who argues that, through their authority to name facilities and narrate events, government bodies slip from hosting a "marketplace of ideas" into engaging in direct (but not necessarily democratic) political discourse. Although I believe our Council is as responsive as we can be to the requests of our constituents, and that we can and do work within processes that are democratic, I see what the danger is. Accordingly, I think we need to treat naming requests carefully.

I'm very happy that we will honor Joe and Lucy Straley and Charlotte Adams by commemorating their contributions to the community--at Peace and Justice Plaza.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

This view will soon be history.


If you recognize this scene, probably you've spent enough time in your car here (no left arrow; light cycle delay) to meditate upon the way the ivy overflows the stone walls, the way the walls themselves are bending toward you under the slow pressure of the ivy and the earth and the roots of the tall old trees, which too are bending lovingly toward each other and, imperceptibly more and more with the passage of time, toward your car.

What UNC officials have come to see here is an occasion for an "emergency repair." By way of courtesy review with the Historic District Commission last week, historic preservation manager Paul Kapp and landscape architect Jill Coleman outlined the scope of the upcoming project.

On June 19, it will begin: the road will be closed, and for a number of weeks. (Find an alternate route.) The stone walls will be dismantled. Four trees, identified as diseased, will go. The banks will be aligned vertically. "Soil nails" will be used to train the earth to stay put. Concrete ("shotcrete") will be applied. The old stones will be put back in place, but hereafter the walls will be stone veneer, no longer shouldering the old responsibility.

The tall dying trees will be replaced, and as more tall old trees die, they too will be replaced: with smaller trees, most likely flowering fruit. It is contemplated that farther back from the bank, on both sides, additional tall-growing trees will be planted--so that someday travelers here will observe a "layered" effect. It will, we are told, be quite lovely in the spring.

It makes so much sense, but let us mark a loss. This familiar corridor will never be quite the beautiful happenstance, the touchstone of layers of university history, that it is now. Go take a look. You have less than a week.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Saturday in Saxapahaw

As Paul reports, we spent a delightful Saturday evening in Saxapahaw listening to Django Haskins


and picking a flower


and bringing it home.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Chapel Hill Modern

Photo: Roland Giduz for Chapel Hill News Leader, 1954; North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill

Photo: Barbara Wishy for Preservation North Carolina, 2003

A follow-up tour of mid-century modern structures in Chapel Hill wouldn't be hard to get up. Terry Waugh designed this house for Dr. William and Bea Fleming. There are four other Waugh houses in the same block and numerous others in town. A West Coast influence was brought to Chapel Hill by architect/planner Jim Webb, whose practice included Don Stewart and others. Stewart designed the old Chapel Hill Library building, for which the town is in the process of negotiating a historic preservation easement with Preservation North Carolina. Harwell Hamilton Harris did some residential design here. There are a few of Carl Koch's Techbuilt modular homes. There's a Lustron. Lots of possibilities.

Raleigh Modern 5

With the Uyanick-Eichenberger/Anderson house we come to see how tightly knit the NCSU School of Design community was--and remains. Architect Edward W. "Terry" Waugh, a South African native who studied at Cranbrook under Eliel Saarinen, joined a practice in Kansas City with fellow Cranbrook graduate George Matsumoto. Together in 1948 they followed Henry Kamphoefner to Raleigh. Nick Uyanick, an engineering professor at NCSU, taught structural principles to design school students. He also worked on the building that became known as the Dorton Arena, designed by School of Design professor Matthew Nowicki (who died in a plane crash before construction got under way).

The house is owned by Kurt Eichenberger and Donna Anderson. Eichenberger is an NCSU architecture graduate; his father, Fred Eichenberger, taught at the School of Design and knew the Uyanicks.


The house Waugh designed for the Uyanick family is tucked away in the woods, still with a tranquil feel even though the Raleigh Beltline is not far away. From the PNC materials:

The modest facade belies a warm and expansive interior. Large glass panels create a horizontal plane that softens the distinction between exterior and interior, and strong orange horizontal beams extend from interior to exterior to reinforce the sense of fluid space.


The house was designed in three zones: the first zone for guests and entertaining, the middle zone for family socializing, and the third, more private zone for bedrooms and baths.

Living/dining area

Family room

More photos.

For Waugh, both the siting and the orientation of the house were very important. The son of an engineer himself, he made conscious use of topography and solar patterns in order to achieve maximum privacy and natural climate control. "Without a doubt," we read in The South Builds (1960), co-authored by Waugh and his wife Elizabeth Waugh, "houses in the South ideally should have all rooms oriented in a southern direction with adequate overhang to cut out the summer sun. Similarly, the house--and bedrooms in particular--should open when possible to the prevailing breezes." Today--without a doubt--Waugh would be a strong advocate of solar energy. "The so-called solar house is a modern term," he observes, "but not a new idea. Vitruvius, writing centuries ago, spoke convincingly of the need to accommodate building design to the characteristics of the sun."

In the Uyanick-Eichenberger/Anderson house as well as the others on the PNC tour, many of the design principles Waugh champions are evident: the homes are modern with a distinctly "humanist" southern accent. "While the modern architect of the humanist group is in the minority, he has the greater freedom and the greater capacity for making the physical forces of nature work in his favor." In contrast, "[t]he sculptural formalist is defeated at the start if, in his effort to preserve the inherent beauty of the form, he disregards the need for such things as air spaces to cool the roof and ceiling-height partitions to secure acoustical privacy."

To close this mini-series on modern architecture in Raleigh, a word about the period in which these architects worked: the late 1940s into the 1960s. Economically, the South, like the rest of postwar America, was booming. Home construction, fueled by the GI Bill, was up. Suburban sprawl is the unfortunate legacy of this period of automobile-dependent expansion. Today we know that story all too well, but let us not forget that there were those like Waugh who saw it coming and hoped to head it off.

The modern architect cannot avoid a war that is now underway as a result of the spreading of the city over the countryside. A part of this war is the battle between the downtown merchants and the merchants of the outer shopping centers. A tremendous amount of money has been invested by leading banks and insurance companies in downtown buildings, as it has in town factories, which are also showing a tendency to migrate outside of city limits. The money-controlling institutions are obviously not going to abandon their heavy capital investment, and the fight to save the original downtown is coming more and more into the open. . . .

It is quite clear that there is going to be a long struggle between the desire of the average city dweller and shopper to escape from the concrete wilderness of the downtown metropolis and the desire of the investor to protect his enormous investment. If the Southern architect, either one in practice or the fledgling about to leave the architectural school, does not assume the responsibility and the social obligation imposed upon an ancient and respected profesison to join in this fight and help to bring it to a proper conclusion, then American cities in the New South will be left to the arbitrary control of the speculator, the highway engineer, the layman boards, the planner who is not an architect. In this respect the architects are already shamefully tardy. To state it simply, modern architects have no great significance unless they accept responsibility for over-all city and regional planning.

Waugh did not live to see it, but the architects lost the battle: in planning they are marginalized, and much of what he feared has come to pass. Still, the legacy of good design that he and these other "humanist" modernists left us can inspire us to keep trying to get it right.

Previously: Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Fadum house, Kamphoefner house, Rothstein house.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Raleigh Modern 4

The house built for Philip and Mae Rothstein in 1959 is "[o]ne of Raleigh's purest and best preserved embodiments of the clean, geometric International style," according to the PNC tour brochure; "the beautifully sited house exemplifies the high quality of work given to Raleigh by modernist architect G. Milton Small, Jr." Small, who became particularly well known for commercial and instutional buildings, had studied under Mies van der Rohe and came much under his influence.


According to the PNC materials:

Mae Rothstein . . . "requested a clean, crisp house, a black and white house, including the white vinyl floors used throughout." Described as a perfectionist, Mae worked with the architect and builder in selection of materials and to assure excellence of craftsmanship. Builder Frank Walser was one of the few contractors in Raleigh whose work met the exacting standards of Small and other leading modernist architects. Until their deaths in 1976, the couple maintained their beloved house meticulously. After two subsequent owners, the present owner has renewed the house with equal care for its special qualities.

Though it reflects "a certain chiseled orderliness," according to Elizabeth Waugh in her 1967 book Raleigh: North Carolina's Capital, the total effect of the Rothstein house is inviting and warm.


The sloping site is dealt with by placing the house on short columns, achieving a floating effect. The perimeter of the house, the space under the generous eaves, is filled with washed white gravel, for reasons practical and aesthetic. The house and landscape have matured beautifully together.


In 2005, the Rothstein house joined the Kamphoefner house, the Fadum house, and Small's own house on the National Register.

More pictures.

Next: Uyanick-Eichenberger/Anderson house.

Previously: Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Fadum house, Kamphoefner house.

On old books and libraries

Another nice column from Jacob Stein:

Cyril Connolly, the British critic and essayist, in his essay titled “Tapering Off” deals with his book-buying obsession. He resolves he will buy no more books. He will decide on the books he will keep and the books he will give away.

Book collectors do not try to sell their books. That would be sinful. Either give them away or leave them up to the executor and the auctioneer to get the best price. . . .

By the end of the column, Stein waxes lyrical about libraries he has enjoyed, including the MLK Library in downtown Washington and the law library at the D.C. Bar Association. The latter, as he sadly notes, no longer exists. What he doesn't mention is that building housing the MLK Library, designed by Mies van der Rohe, widely praised at the time it went up in 1972 and built so that it could be reconfigured and expanded, is seriously endangered.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Another blow for plant diversity

A few years ago I bought three Hinoki cypress plants from Heronswood Nursery. Two of them died, but that's not the point (my fault, not enough sun). The point is that Heronswood--a small nursery, not even twenty years old, which grew, according to the Times, to "into a collection that would change the face of American gardening"--has just become the victim of its own success. It was bought up by Burpee & Co., which, just the other day, abruptly shut it down.

It is an increasingly familiar story, in this industry and others: a small specialty nursery known for unique plants is bought by a larger company hoping to take advantage of its cutting-edge appeal and to get new plants for mass marketing. What ensues is invariably a loss of diversity — as the new owner narrows the selection of plants, choosing mainly those it thinks will have mass appeal — and, often, a loss of the vision that made the nursery attractive to begin with.

I fear for Plant Delights.

Raleigh Modern 3

The Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church is a study in contrasts. A modern building with a traditional spire, the rough texture of the exterior brick is answered by clean smoothness on the inside. Architect Horace Taylor, a graduate of the School of Design and a Holy Trinity church member, took on this project with his classmate/partner Stan Fishel.

From the air, the roof creates a cross. From the ground, more of a space-age effect.

An appropriate concern for acoustics drove many of the interior design decisions: terrzao floors, exposed brick walls, a brick reredos curved inward to reflect the clergy's voices. In later years, succumbing to the inevitable tension between the value of acoustics and a wish for "warmth," the floors were carpeted and the pews cushioned. But a recent renovation project reconsidered those dubious improvements and has returned the hard surfaces to the space.


During the renovation, the shaft of the rooftop cross was opened up to create a skylight, to dramatic effect.


More from the PNC tour materials:

Taylor made the interior purposely simple to focus the congregation's attention. He sought out a striking white marble with gold streaks for the altar to draw all eyes to the central area of worship. The stained glass windows, designed by Crosby Willett of Willett Stained Glass Studios of Philadelphia, represent major events in the church calendar. They present a color gradation rising from dark to lighter colors. The striking window behind the altar represents the Holy Spirit symbolized by a dove traveling to the heart of man which is just above the level of the altar. The window rises the full height of the building, with the physicality and earthly reality of man at the lower level.


A few more photos.

Previously: Fadum house, Kamphoefner house.

Next: Rothstein house, Uyanick-Eichenberger house.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Focusing on homelessness

Last week, the steering committee of the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness made an important decision. Up until then, it had not been determined whether the goal was to end all homelessness in the county in 10 years, or only to end chronic homelessness. Martha Are, North Carolina's homelessness czarina, gave a presentation similar to the one she gave to the Town Council earlier, citing, among other things, Malcolm Gladwell's article on the "power law" dynamics of homelessness. After a healthy discussion, we decided to emphasize the chronically homeless in our planning (but not at the expense of current efforts to help all the homeless).

The 10-year planning processes come out of a federal initiative that is really aimed at chronic homelessness, using a definition issued by HUD: "an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years."

This definition is less than comprehensive. It leaves out families; it leaves out children. Also it says nothing about the transitionally homeless, those who will experience homelessness for less than a year. And as it happens, all of that is most of the homeless population. Because it seems kind of stingy, there is considerable resistance to the HUD definition.

All over the place--not just in Orange County--there's a noticeable slippage between the goal to "end chronic homelessness," which seems as if it might just be possible, and that of "ending homelessness," which can only be what judges and law professors call aspirational. Of course, it would be great to end homelessness. At the same time, there's much to be said for a goal that is realistic.

I think the committee made the right decision to focus on chronic homelessness. We may not like the HUD definition, but it is what it is, and to an extent, we are following the money. Further, as Martha Are and others are bringing real-world evidence to demonstrate, programs that start by getting the chronically homeless off the street are having better success in attracting funding to respond to all levels of homelessness.

Representing Mayor Kevin Foy, last month Adam Schaefer attended a National Summit for Jurisdictional Leaders on ten-year plans to end chronic homelessness held in Denver. More on that conference from the front page of today's Times.

Raleigh Modern 2

Next to the Kamphoefner house, and built shortly after, is the Fadum house, created for Ralph and Nancy Fadum. He was chair of the civil engineering department at NCSU; she was one of the first female attorneys to practice in the area as well as a student of modern design. According to the PNC tour's material, it was she who looked around for an architect, and upon consulting Henry Kamphoefner, settled on James W. Fitzgibbon, a design school faculty member who had come with Kamphoefner from the University of Oklahoma but remained in Raleigh only five years. (He is known in Raleigh also for the Paschal house.)

Photo: Raleigh Historic Districts Commission

From the tour material:

In Raleigh, the Fadum house "led the hit parade for months as it was going up," reported the News and Observer. A few "sidewalk superintendents" compared its form to a chicken coop, but it was generally admired as "A House of Light by Day and By Night," and for its sophisticated melding of natural materials and house to site.

As noted by Linda Edmisten [who wrote the National Register nomination], the building was the first in Wake County to use load-bearing wood columns to carry a cantilevered roof truss grid--thus sheltering spaces within non-load bearing brick and glass curtain walls. In 1951 Architectural Record praised the "light, suspended quality" created by the handling of the angle of the columns. The house, set on a concrete slab, rises from one story tall on the street side to a full two stories overlooking the Carolina Country Club gold course, with a marvelous expanse of glass opening up the interior space to nature. This arrangement was also planned to enhance energy efficiency, with the glass walls facing southeast and a deeply overhanging roof.

The house is a striking embodiment of Wright's Usonian principles. As [Raleigh architect] David Black explains, these included the modest size and cost; efficient use of space through open planning; zoning of spaces by use; innovation in structure and materials; and responsiveness to site and climate. In formal terms, the Usonian house typically features such materials as brick, plywood, and wood; flat or single-slope roofs, and expanses of glass to emphasize the indoor-outdoor relationship. Both the Kamphoefner and Fadum Houses display these features, but the Fadum House is "more explicitly Usonian and daring," To keep costs down, architect Fitzgibbon planned the house to use standard materials of steel, brick, wood, and plywood. He enhanced the economy of space with built-in cabinetry and other storage features. Another strong Wrightian influence is seen in the brick fireplace with sunken hearth and built-in settee, a cozy spot that complements the dramatic prospect of the glass curtain wall.

The Fadum house is undergoing an expansion on the scale of that of the Kamphoefner house. The architect is Brian Shawcroft (scroll down), a British native who was associated with the School of Design from 1960 to 1968 before striking out on his own. Much of his work is for institutions: it includes Davie Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill, soon to be demolished. (Davie's fate was sad though not unexpected news to Shawcroft, who was on hand for the tour.) It was obviously quite a design challenge to figure out how to "expand" this house: Shawcroft accomplishes it by "gently linking" (quoting the tour materials) the original structure to a brand new one.

See for yourself the new and the old.

Previously: Kamphoefner house.

Next: Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Rothstein house, Uyanick-Eichenberger/Anderson house.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Raleigh Modern 1


On June 3, Preservation North Carolina hosted an architectural tour of examples of mid-century modernism in Raleigh. Thanks largely to the influence of the N.C. School (now College) of Design under Henry Kamphoefner's leadership beginning in 1948, Raleigh today has quite a nice legacy of modern design--not an overwhelming amount in a city that never did forsake its traditional roots, but a lot to be proud of. In this post, the first of a series, I'll focus on Kamphoefner's house, which he designed with George Matsumoto. Below is how it appears from the golf course to the rear of the house. The life in this house flows out into the back yard.

khoefner back
Photo: Raleigh Historic Districts Commission

The view from the street, in contrast, is unassuming.

khoefner front
Photo: Raleigh Historic Districts Commission

The house, no longer in Kamphoefner hands, has undergone a significant expansion and renovation designed by Robert P. Burns, a distinguished architect and professor at the College of Design. In 2003, the project earned the Gertrude S. Carraway Award of Merit from Preservation North Carolina. In 2006, Burns died in a car wreck (.pdf).

According to the tour materials, the Kamphoefner house reflects Frank Lloyd Wright's "ideal of a home as 'refuge and prospect.'" The "refuge" is the private living quarters, with its back to the street; the "prospect" the view from the sheltered yet open living space in the back. Further in Wright's tradition, the house makes generous use of natural materials, resulting in a feeling of warmth that characterizes, to a greater or lesser degree, all the homes on the Raleigh tour. Rejecting or highly modifying the sleek modular formalism of the International style, the Raleigh modernists came to practice what one in their ranks, Terry Waugh, called "humanist" modernism--with Waugh conceding that among the purer modernists it might be called "romantic." (The South Builds: New Architecture in the Old South, UNC Press, 1960.)

Enter the Kamphoefner house.

Next: Fadum house, Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Rothstein house, Uyanick-Eichenberger/Anderson house.

House of Barbie

What can Barbie tell us about the history of the Jews?

More than you might imagine.

(Via Feminist Law Professors.)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Love in cyberspace

Jason Kottke is the talk of the town.


That would be me. First, out of town; then, a house guest in town. One thing and another and the blog suffers, and the more days I go, the harder it is to get back up to the mark. Contrary to sometime appearances, I am not hooked on blogging. I feel guilty for the lapses to my few regular readers--not good blogger ethics!--but evidently not guilty enough.

If I had been more diligent, I would have certainly blogged by now about the publication of the final report of the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission, which was issued this past Wednesday. The report brings to light much that needed to be known about "this country's only recorded coup d'etat." It is much the same as the draft report that I discussed when it came out in December. The key difference is in the recommendations that it offers:

Within the recommendations that would affect Wilmington particularly, were calls for a new redevelopment authority and economic incentives to encourage minority business and homeownership in the Northside and Brooklyn, which were among the sites of racial violence more than a century ago.

. . .

The report also called for a new permanent exhibit at the Cape Fear Museum, money to make research resources available at the New Hanover County Public Library and new monuments and markers.

Among the recommendations with statewide impact, a unit on the 1898 events would be made a permanent part of the state public school curriculum. Also, the commission recommended that a television documentary be produced and aired nationally.

The commission recommended that several newspapers - including the Star-News - which reported on the event as it happened, to work with the North Carolina black press association to prepare a summary of the commission report, study the effects of 1898 and impact of Jim Crow on the state's black press and endow scholarships for black journalists.

. . .

The recommendations also asked Congress to include New Hanover County in the U.S. Voting Rights Act, a move that would give federal oversight over the drawing of electoral districts.

As Eric Muller (no slacker) has well said, these are concrete and appropriate steps to redress a specific and grievous harm. "Reparations"? Well, yes indeed.