O:ORIGINS :: The Vasari Corridor

The Vasari Corridor in Florence is a direct ancestor of Chicago's Pedway. Built in 1565, the corridor was the first elevated walkway of its kind. It functioned as an extension of the Palazzo Vecchio and winds for nearly a kilometer above houses, through a church, around a tower, and over a bridge. It allowed the Medicis to attend church, conduct business, and go for strolls all without leaving the comfort of their home. Unfortunately, unlike the Pedway, the Vasari Corridor is rarely opened to visitors.

Top left: A view inside the Vasari Corridor in Florence. Top right: The Vasari Corridor is visible on top of the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge crossing the River Arno in Florence.

At left: The Pedway's Point-of-Interest #4: The First Overpass. in Chicago.

U:UTOPIA :: Space Colonies

In 1977, NASA's Ames Research Center summer program focused on Space Settlement. They devised a number of prototype communities for how space settlement was feasible. Below are excerpts from their findings. For more images and the entire article, click here.

Each colony houses around 10,000 people. Click on images above to enlarge.

These orbital space colonies could be wonderful places to live; about the size of a California beach town and endowed with weightless recreation, fantastic views, freedom, elbow-room in spades, and great wealth. In time, we may see hundreds of thousands of orbital space settlements in our solar system alone.

Who? You. Or at least people a lot like you. Space settlements will be a place for ordinary people.

Why? Why build space settlements? Why do weeds grow through cracks in sidewalks? Why did life crawl out of the oceans and colonize land? Because living things want to grow and expand. We have the ability to live in space, therefore we will. The key advantage of space settlements is the ability to build new land, rather than take it from someone else.

What? A space settlement is a home in orbit. Typical space settlement designs are roughly one half to a few kilometers across. A few designs are much larger. Settlements must be air tight to hold a breathable atmosphere, and must rotate to provide psuedo-gravity. Thus, people stand on the inide of the hull.

Enormous amounts of matter, probably lunar soil at first, must cover the settlements to protect inhabitants from radiation. On Earth our atmosphere does this job, but space settlements need about five tons of matter covering every square meter of a colony's hull to protect space settlers from cosmic rays and solar flares. Each settlement must be an independent biosphere. All oxygen, water, wastes, and other materials must be recycled endlessly.

A few features of orbital real estate are worth mentioning:
• Great Views
• Low-g recreation
• Environmental Independence
• The ultimate gated community
• Custom living

Survival Someday the Earth will become uninhabitable. Before then humanity must move off the planet or become extinct.


THE “Land of the Rising Sun” (Japan) is subject to earthquakes of distressing violence at times; and the concentration into small areas of increasing city populations invites great destruction, such as that of the Tokio earthquake of 1923, unprecedented in magnitude of property loss, as well as life.

It was natural, then, that the best engineering brains of Japan should be devoted to the solution of the problem of building earthquake-proof structures; and a clue was given them by the interesting fact that tunnels and subterranean structures suffer less in seismic tremors than edifices on the surface of the ground, where the vibration is unchecked.

The result of research, into the phenomenon explained above, has been the design of the enormous structure illustrated, in cross-section, at the left—the proposed “Depthscraper,” whose frame resembles that of a 35-story skyscraper of the type familiar in American large cities; but which is built in a mammoth excavation beneath the ground. Only a single story protrudes above the surface; furnishing access to the numerous elevators; housing the ventilating shafts, etc.; and carrying the lighting arrangements which will be explained later. The Depthscraper is cylindrical; its massive wall of armored concrete being strongest in this shape, as well as most economical of material. The whole structure, therefore, in case of an earthquake, will vibrate together, resisting any crushing strain. As in standard skyscraper practice, the frame is of steel, supporting the floors and inner walls.

Fresh air, pumped from the surface and properly conditioned, will maintain a regular circulation throughout the building, in which each suite will have its own ventilators. The building will be lighted, during daylight hours, from its great central shaft, or well, which is to be 75 feet in diameter. Prismatic glass in the windows, opening on the shaft, will distribute the light evenly throughout each suite, regardless of the hour.

Making the Most of Sunlight
In order to intensify the degree of daylight received, a large reflecting mirror will be mounted above the open court, and direct the sunlight directly into its depths. This mirror travels on a circular track; so that it will rotate, following the course of the sun and at the same time change its angle of elevation to agree with his apparent movements. During normal daylight conditions therefore, the Depthscraper will be sufficiently illuminated without artificial lighting. When rain descends, the shaft will be quickly roofed over by a diaphragm, operating like the iris shutter of a vast camera (see the smaller detail at the lower right), which will keep the central well dry, though the rainfall would cause no detriment, other than the necessity of pumping out the water. At such times, no doubt, electric light will be resorted to, just as on dark days in buildings above the surface.

To the objection that living underground is unwholesome, the proponents of the Depthscraper reply that the sanitary conditions in a building of the type described will be identical with (when not superior to) those found in large buildings above the ground, where apartments and offices are lighted from interior courts. The conditioned air supply will be uniform and superior to that obtained by natural ventilation, and the inmate of such a building would not be able to detect any difference in conditions from those found in a skyscraper of similar construction, but built up instead of down.

The logic of the Depthscraper is convincing and, although such construction appears too costly for most residences in a district where land values are not excessive, for business buildings it offers a degree of safety against earthquakes (as well as hurricanes) not to be disregarded in a country which is subject to them in-cessantly. We understand, upon good authority, that this principle of construe-tion is therefore to be put shortly to the practical test for construction.

U:UTOPIA :: The Human Drift

Plan for an ideal city by King Camp Gillette.

"Under a perfect economical system of production and distribution, and a system combining the greatest elements of progress, there can be only one city on a continent, and possibly only one in the world. "

In Gillette's plan, all of North America's inhabitants would live in one huge city, Metropolis, in upstate New York.  The entire continent's population would be concentrated in thirty to forty thousand buildings rising twenty-five stories into the air and powered by the energy from Niagara Falls.  

Left, exterior view of a building of Metropolis.  Below left, a cross section of the building.  As King Camp Gillette describes it:

"In this view, also, the three underlying chambers of the city are shown. A, being the lower or ground chamber, is utilized for sewage, water, hot and cold air, and electric systems; B, the middle chamber, is utilized for the transportation system; and C, the upper chamber, fifty feet in height, is for the purpose of giving additional room and facilities for the people in moving about, and would be especially desirable in inclement weather.

"In the plate the location of dining room in central part of court is shown. Food would find its way to these dining rooms from the building where it was prepared, by an electric transfer system, something on the same principle as now employed in the transfer of money in our large emporiums. This system need take up but little room, and could be laid close to the ceiling of middle chamber. The time of transit of food carrier from the building where food would be prepared to the dining rooms, a distance of about one thousand feet, would probably be less than ten seconds.

"Galleries ten feet wide surround the court at each story, from which access is had to the different apartments.

"Imagine for a moment the possibilities in light and color when these immense courts were brilliant with thousands of electric lights and the interior of the large domes decorated with exquisite paintings that would be the result of inspiration. Of all the thirty to forty thousand buildings in the city, no two need be alike in artistic treatment."

King Camp Gillette's text and illustration here.

R:REVOLVING DOOR :: Abbie Thompson and the Revolving Door (conclusion)

The Saint Paul Globe, June 20, 1896
Abbie Thompson Case.

Jude Brill put in all yesterday listening to the testimony in the fight being waged by her uncle William for the possession of Abbie Thompson.  Abbie is a tall, slender girl of seventeen, a brunette, whose face indicates a rather strong will.  She still wears her glossy black hair in ringlets down her back, and, sitting opposite her white-haired uncle and his young-looking wife, she hobnobbed frequently with two lady friends and wrote notes to her attorney concerning the testimony.  The case will be finished this morning.

The Saint Paul Globe, July 25, 1896
No Longer Her Guardian.   Abby Thompson is Not Now a Ward of William.

Judge Brill filed a decision yesterday that finally settles the Abby Thompson guardianship case.  The decision affirms the order of the probate court of Dakota county removing William Thompson as the guardian of his niece, 17.

The court reviews all the facts and proceedings in the case which has been before the public for nearly a year.  After reciting how Thompson had first attempted to secure the commitment of Abby to the state training school for girls, and failing in that, how he had succeeded in placing her in the house of the Good Shepherd where she was assigned to the reformatory department and consequently came into contact with the wayward inmates, the court decides that Mr. Thompson is an unsuitable person to be the guardian of Abby Thompson.  The concluding language of Judge Brill's opinion is:

"The attempt to have her committed to the reform school with the accompanying indignity to which she was subjected, and the placing of her in the reformatory department of the House of the Good Shepard, were entirely unjustifiable and improper, and were gross breaches of her guardian's duty to her.  Before William Thompson made the complaint against her, he consulted the county attorney and was advised by him that he had a right to have her committed to the reform school, but I am satisfied that he did not fully nor fairly state the circumstances, I find William Thompson is an unsuitable person to be the guardian of Abby Thompson."

N:NEWS :: Spatial Cities, An Architecture of Idealism

Three tours are coming up in conjunction with the show at Hyde Park Art Center. Here's the info:
Pedway Tours
Thursday, June 17, 3 pm
Tuesday, July 6, 3pm
Wednesday, July 21, 3 pm
Artist Hui Min Tsen leads a series of tours in Chicago’s underbelly - the pedway system. Traverse the 2 mile path through hotel lobbies and remote passageways guided by the stories told by Tsen. This performance is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP to exhibitions@hydeparkart.org attend.

Spatial Cities: An Architecture in Idealism:
Work by: Lida Abdul, Élisabeth Ballet, Yves Bélorgey, Berdaguer & Péjus, Katinka Bock, Monica Bonvicini, Jeff Carter, Jordi Colomer, François Dallegret, Peter Downsbrough, Philippe Durand, Jimmie Durham, Simon Faithfull, Didier Fuiza Faustino, Cao Fei, Robert Filliou, Elise Florenty, Yona Friedman, Dora Garcia, Ben Hall, Séverine Hubard, Stefan Kern, Bertrand Lamarche, Vincent Lamouroux, Didier Marcel, François Morellet, Sarah Morris, Juan Muñoz, Stéphanie Nava, Philippe Ramette, Sara Schnadt, Kristina Solomoukha, Hui-Min Tsen, Tatiana Trouvé, Marie Voignier, herman de vries, Clemens von Wedemeyer, Stephen Wetzel and Raphaël Zarka.

Spatial City brings together an international, multi-generational array of artists—with an emphasis on artists living in France—whose work contends with idealism, utopian thinking, and, in counterpoint, the cynicism that follows failed revolution and the retreat of optimism in the face of pragmatic reality. The exhibition traces the connection between the vanguard concepts of urban space dominant in the mid-twentieth century and championed by Yona Friedman to the art of the present, bringing together historical and recent examples of artists from the US and abroad. Originating curator Nicholas Frank (Institute of Visual Arts, Milwaukee) worked with participating curators Allison Peters Quinn (HPAC) and Luis Croquer (the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit) to develop the exhibition and tour.

The exhibition Spatial City is inspired by the theoretical architecture of the same name by Yona Friedman (b.1923). In his first manifesto Mobile Architecture (1958), Friedman defined the structures in this ideal city as being transformable, transportable and occupying as little ground area as possible, pushing the structures to hover over the earth rather than occupy the surface directly. Friedman’s ideas, disseminated in the aftermath of World War II, have influenced subsequent generations both indirectly and directly. While Friedman’s concepts informed the framework of the show, the selection of artwork reflects the cycling and recycling of optimism and cynicism in postwar and contemporary culture. Artists in the exhibition are responding to society’s complex problems: the failed utopian social experiments that resulted in the dehumanizing conditions of Brutalist architecture, the rise and fall of totalitarian states, the tensions resulting from post-colonial immigration, and the destruction of the environment in the name of progress.

E:Enclosure :: The Rotating Home

Power companies doubling electricity for new kind of living.

Future homes will be able to face in any direction-turned from hour to hour or season to season by your electricity.  Electrically operated, climate-conditioned extensions will permit "spring or summer terraces" all year round- enjoy swimming, winter fun and gardening all at once, if you wish.

Plenty of electricity can make your home of the future a house of marvels!

In the future, you'll be able to flip switches to raise or lower table and work surfaces to any height.  Electricity will bring beds out of the walls in the evening - then "make" them and fold them into the walls in the morning.  The power that controls your home's climate will even do the dusting.