Selected Writings

7000-Series Railcars Are an Upgrade, But Next Time, the CTA Needs to Aim Higher

On April 21st, the Chicago Transit Authority put the first of several hundred new 7000-series railcars into passenger service, prompting reactions from transit advocates, railfans, and the rest of the general public. The new rolling stock includes a number of welcome innovations for passenger comfort and accessibility, including a self-leveling system to automatically match the floor height …

Hey, Sound Transit: Escalators Are Critical and You Should Take Them More Seriously

The light rail stations at Capitol Hill and UW have had a transformative impact on mobility in Seattle. Sound Transit, the agency that runs them, has done an admirable job keeping them clean and well kept. Older stations in New York and Chicago feel like medieval dungeons by comparison. The UW station even won a …

“Which School Did You Go To?” The Covington Catholic Incident Hits Close to Home

What school did you go to? When people in New York or Boston ask that question, they want to know where you went for college. When people from Cincinnati ask it, they’re asking where you went to high school. Its ubiquitousness as an icebreaker in the region is practically an inside joke. And your answer …

Seattle Would Never Elect Trump As Mayor, but the City’s Power Brokers Have a Trump Lite in City Hall

When I’m not writing occasional angry screeds for The Stranger in exchange for beer money, I work as a project architect for a mid-size architecture firm located in the Pioneer Square area. More specifically, our office is located smack in between two of the city’s biggest infrastructure projects: The Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, and the Center City …

Yes, We Should Preserve Our Historic Landmarks. But the Showbox Isn’t One of Them.

Now that I’ve been living in the Pacific Northwest for a bit over two years, I sometimes reflect on the things I miss and don’t miss about living back east. Things I most certainly don’t miss include the stifling humidity, the allergies (I’m literally allergic to the air in my own hometown), and the bleakness of winter …

The Miller Hull Partnership Proposes Turning a Defunct Seattle Tunnel Into a Landscaped Canyon

During the 20th century, it wasn’t uncommon for prominent architects to put forth bold visions for the future of cities. Frank Lloyd Wright presented his initial ideas for Broadacre City in 1932 and continued refining them until his death in 1959. During the postwar era, Buckminster Fuller proposed enclosing part of Manhattan under a geodesic …

Mayor Durkan Is Hell-Bent on Killing the Center City Connector

This past spring I compared Mayor Durkan’s decision to “pause” the Center City Connector with a similar idiotic decision by Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley in 2013. Upon due reflection, I owe the mayor an apology—Mayor Cranley, that is. Jenny Durkan has proven herself to be far more dishonest and conniving than John Cranley could ever hope to …

Let Them Eat Takes: On Housing, the Seattle Times Editorial Board is as Oblivious to Reality as Marie Antoinette

I wasn’t lucky enough to be born into money, and as such, I’ve worked my share of shitty jobs over the years in order to pay the bills. I was once fired from a Subway franchise because I called in sick one day, foolishly assuming that customers didn’t want their sandwiches infected with whatever contagion …

When it Comes to Housing, it’s Time to Bring a Bit of the Chicago Way to the Seattle Process

Back in the mid-1990s, I was an undergrad architecture student at the University of Illinois at Chicago while working part-time as an intern at a large architecture firm in downtown Chicago. My family had moved to the Chicago area after I graduated high school in Florida, and after spending most of my childhood as a …

We Can Have Nicer Things: How Seattle Can Still Get Transit Right

In my previous column I explained how American expectations for public transit have been on a decades-long downward spiral from the Great Society rapid transit systems of BART, MARTA, and the Washington, DC Metro system to the milquetoast light rail, streetcar, and “rapid” bus systems we struggle to build today. In short, we’re now paying far more …

We Can’t Have Nice Things: Our Expectations for Public Transit Have Been on a Decades-Long Downward Spiral

“You really shouldn’t have done that,” the youth pastor scolded me after several minutes of awkward silence. Coming from a mild-mannered Presbyterian minister, it may as well have been a temper tantrum worthy of an American Chopper meme. I was a high school junior in Florida at the time, and my church youth group was visiting Atlanta …

With Friends Like Mayor Durkan, The Seattle Streetcar Needs No Enemies

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: After years of ballot measures, public hearings, and studies confirming both public support for a major streetcar project and its viability, a newly-elected mayor abruptly shuts down the project just as preliminary construction is getting underway. In this case, the setting was my hometown of Cincinnati. Mark …

Let’s Not Screw Up Northgate, Too: The Redevelopment of Seattle’s Oldest Mall Is a Chance to Get Things Right

Growing up as a mall rat in 1980s suburbia—long before I had formally studied architecture or explored any major cities—the big regional mall was the closest thing to a grand civic space my friends and I had yet experienced. When the American “inner city” was still perceived as a cesspool of crime and dysfunction by …

Missed Opportunity: We Should Be Building a Lot More Housing On Top of the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station

Two years ago this month I was visiting Seattle for a week of job interviews and apartment tours. My visit happened to coincide with the grand opening of the Capitol Hill and UW Link stations, and I was fortunate to snag a pass for the inaugural train ride from UW to Capitol Hill. It took 30 …

University of Cincinnati Selects Design Team for New Lindner College of Business

On December 18, the University of Cincinnati announced that its new $100-135 million Carl H. Lindner College of Business facility would be designed by the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects in association with Cincinnati-based KZF Design. The final building is expected to be paid for through a combination of private donation and university funds. This continues the university’s Signature Architecture Program, …

“Starchitecture” Is Not The Enemy Of Urbanism

There has been an unfortunate trend in some urbanist circles to blame architects — or at least so-called “starchitects” in particular — for all of the world’s problems, to the point where it has almost become a trope. The latest example is a recent piece by the Project for Public Spaces titled “Let’s Stop Letting Starchitects …

Building Code Changes May Allow Higher-Density Midrise Construction

Changes adopted in the 2015 International Building Code (IBC), combined with advances in wood technology, may soon allow for taller midrise buildings at lower costs than what has previously been possible. The importance of the changes to the IBC should not be overlooked, since it serves as a model building code throughout most of the United States. This …

An Inside Look At The Brand New Nippert Stadium

Since launching the Signature Architecture Program nearly 20 years ago, the University of Cincinnati has become a campus brimming with notable projects by talented firms such as Morphosis, Moore Ruble Yudell, Gwathmey Seigel Kaufman, and STUDIOS Architecture. Rather than merely creating an architectural petting zoo of disparate buildings designed by celebrity architects, though, the university …

Architecture as Experience: The Case for Excellence in Design

During a press conference this past October, superstar architect Frank Gehry responded to criticism of his work by raising his middle finger to a Spanish journalist and saying, “Let me tell you one thing. In the world we live in, 98% of what gets built and designed today is pure shit. There’s no sense of design …

The Clockmaker’s House

People grow up and grow old, and if they have children, those offspring will likely see the day when their grandparents and parents die and are laid to rest. And then those offspring have kids of their own, and the cycle continues. That’s the natural order of things, and if that natural order is somehow …

Panning the Sands

On a dark interstate highway in western Nebraska, I was driving a ten-year-old Jeep Cherokee through a downpour, with the windshield wipers providing a steady tempo, and the headlights of semi tractor-trailer trucks shining in my mirrors. The Jeep’s cruise control had stopped working somewhere around Des Moines earlier that day. My cat, Spong, sat …

Unraveling the Urban Differences Between Cincinnati and Chicago

I am a native of the Greater Cincinnati area, but I have spent the better part of my adult life living and working in Chicago. I left Chicago in 2007 for greener pastures in New York City, and then ultimately found my way back home to Cincinnati earlier this year. However, I still look back …

Streetscape Projects Helping Transform Fort Thomas Business District

The bedroom suburb of Fort Thomas, Kentucky is perhaps best known for its streets of tidy, well-kept houses and its nationally-ranked public schools. Located along a ridge overlooking the Ohio River and downtown Cincinnati, Fort Thomas is an attractive destination for those seeking the relative peace and quiet of a suburban lifestyle, combined with convenient …

Cincinnati’s 3C Dilemma: The Way Forward

One day in 1934, New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia was on a TWA flight back home from Chicago, and his ticket indicated New York as the plane’s final destination. However, the plane landed in Newark, New Jersey, as that was the only airport in the New York region open to commercial aviation at the time. …

Why You Never See a Cat Skeleton in a Tree

The setting: About 1:00 AM on a rainy night in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I was new to the city, having moved to New York from Philadelphia a couple months ago, with my head still spinning with the idea of being a New Yorker. A series of strong thunderstorms had just moved through the region, and it …