Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Architect In The Bend

The straight line is simple; it sets a limit, normalizes the extraordinary and registers a purpose. But to Oscar Niemeyer, one of the greatest architects of the 20th century who passed away last week, the straight line was the enemy.
To Niemeyer, the straight line was a man-made invention, utterly rigid and full of constraints. While movements such as the Bauhaus based their design dialogue on right angles and straight lines, Niemayer held them in disregard, saying, "The rule is the worst thing. You just want to break it."
This was despite the fact that Niemeyer was a modernist himself, deeply inspired by peers such as Le Co busier with whom he worked on the remarkably rectangular headquarters of the UN in New York. He was, however, averse to devote himself to a particular style and when asked if form followed function, he would reply, "Form follows beauty."
Niemeyer believed in curves, which he said reminded him of the sensuality of the feminine form on the sun-kissed beaches of his native Brazil. They allowed his designs to break away from the monotony that was dictating modernism and reflect a more optimistic and liberating nature of architecture, often culminating in surprise, as at the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in Sao Paolo, and delight, as at the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro.
Niemeyer's legacy is preserved in Brasilia, Brazil's federal capital, which he was commissioned to build in the 1950s. The largest city that didn't exist before the 20th century, Brasilia is as sensuous as any capital could be, with the great halls of Congress resembling giant demos and cauldrons and low-roofed administrative. buildings revealing subtler bends. There, the Cathedral of Brasilia is considered one of Niemeyer's greatest achievements. Using 16 parabolas to connect a high circular roof in the center with shades of tinted glass, the Cathedral boasts an audacious design and is a reminder of an architect who is one quoted to have said "Of curves is made all the universe".

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ranking Real Estate: Block Avenue

According to microeconomics, the discrepancy between the information available to people who own property and those who wish to buy is a big reason why property values are inefficiently calculated. That information is power is a well known fact but now, thanks to the internet, such information (like power) can be acquired democratically.
The main driver behind this movement in real estate is a website called Block Avenue, which documents and then compares property values across different city neighborhoods. The comparisons are based on feedback (graded A through to F) of how a street or community is doing according to set criteria, including amenities and healthcare facilities available in the neighborhood.
An accurate estimate of the "livability" of a property is easily gathered, as owners (the people with the most information about where they live) are asked to rate their neighborhood.
However, as a critic pointed out, "Why would owners rate their property and location poorly?"
To counter this, Block Avenue allows anyone familiar with a neighborhood to contribute to the rating. It also uses objective data sources such as census reports on crime rates, as well as yellow book listings of businesses and recreational options to grade.
With the help of Google Maps and Street View, Block Avenue makes hunting for real estate incredibly convenient and potential investors can virtually eliminate the need to visit a property before buying it,
Launched earlier this year, Block Avenue touts itself as a service made by the people for the people. Apart from property owners and buyers, Block Avenue is generating interest among researchers working on determining how amenities and other variables impact property prices in a given neighborhood. Currently, the services provided by Block Avenue are available only in the US, but with the amount of interest it is generating, the company expects to expand worldwide in the near future.