automobile

Full scale paper Mustang

Full scale paper Mustang

Photo by Laura DeSantis-Olsson
Hosfelt Gallery in New York recently hosted Jonathan Brand’s exhibition “One Piece at a Time.” The undeniable star of the show was the Brooklyn-based artist’s full scale replica of a 1969 Ford Mustang constructed entirely from paper. As the exhibit’s title suggests (it was inspired by the Johnny Cash song of the same name), Brand recreated everything about the iconic American muscle car by hand, “right down to the nuts and bolts, displaying it as the individual collected parts, rather than as a single object.” The papercraft nature gives the installation an almost Americana-kitsch quality that appeals broadly, which is fitting, considering the role of the Ford Mustang in the construction of the modern American myth of muscle and might. However this was also a deeply personal project…

Frank Lloyd Wright's gas station in Minnesota

Frank Lloyd Wright's gas station in Minnesota

I have a feeling that many residents in the small city of Cloquet, Minnesota routinely drive by the R.W. Lindholm gas station, which opened in 1958, without having any idea that it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It wasn’t just any old gas station, but a one-of-a-kind structure that the great American architect envisioned would be central to his vision of the hypothetical Broadacre City, “a decentralized urban landscape that many have interpreted as a sort of super-suburbia,” with the gas station expanding beyond its traditional utility and taking on a larger social role in the city. While this vision thankfully never came to pass, certain elements of the design were adopted: “…it helped popularize the now ubiquitous overhang, and other elements (including an angled plan that afforded sight lines, and generous, slanted windows) were appropriated for Phillips 66 stations across the country.” Okay, class is over, but before you go someone needs to update Cloquet’s Wikipedia page to highlight this piece of architectural and design history. It’s worth bragging and boasting about!

Car-free in the Sunbelt: is it possible?

Car-free in the Sunbelt: is it possible?

If you live in New York City, San Francisco, Boston, or Portland, the idea of car-free living may not strike you as particularly unusual. Sure, plenty of people have and use cars, but urban density, public transportation options, and, in some cases, well-developed bicycling infrastructure may not make an automobile seem like a necessity.

But what about in Houston? Atlanta? Phoenix? Las Vegas? These cities developed around car culture. As someone who went without a car in one of them for a year (Vegas in ’95-96), I can attest to the challenges present. An article in today’s Dallas Morning News about car-free blogger Patrick Kennedy got me thinking again about these challenges… and looking to see who’s overcoming them by foregoing automobile ownership in these car-centric locations.

THE LAZY ENVIRONMENTALIST : Lazy Driver

THE LAZY ENVIRONMENTALIST : Lazy Driver

THE LAZY ENVIRONMENTALIST, hosted by Josh Dorfman, screens Tuesdays at 9PM on Sundance Channel.

From a Lazy Environmentalist perspective, I have to admit that I’m not altogether unhappy to see gas prices rising again. For better or worse, the most effective way I’ve encountered to convince people to make environmentally sound choices is to appeal directly to their wallets. So when gas prices rise, fuel-efficient alternatives start to look much more appealing. In “Lazy Driver” I’m working with a really busy courier service – delivering on the order of several hundred packages around Los Angeles per day – to figure out how to boost the fuel economy of their cars (to reduce greenhouse gas emissions), reduce fuel costs and still enable deliveries to be made in time.

Summer road trip, 1909 style

Summer road trip, 1909 style

More than a decade before women had the right to vote in this country, Alice Ramsey became the first one to drive across it. The car was a 1909 Maxwell Model DA, given to her by Maxwell as a kind of advertising stunt with the idea that women would like the DA when they saw a woman driving it and encourage their husbands to buy one. It’s easy to misconstrue her journey as a statement about women’s rights, but Ramsey, 22 at the time and fresh out of Vassar, wasn’t exactly a suffragette. In fact she only accepted the challenge because it had already been done by a man.