The Housing Chronicles Blog: I'm baaack!

Monday, September 15, 2008

I'm baaack!

Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac. Lehman Bros. Merrill Lynch. Hurricane Ike. It sure looks like I chose a terrible time for a vacation-enabled news blackout! Actually, it wasn't so much a blackout as it was an impossibility for me to blog, so many thanks to guest blogger Heidi Gothard to cover the major stories in my absence.

I'm back from a very interesting trip to mostly Spain and Portugal, where I saw dozens of cranes in nearly every city we visited (Spain has also had their own version of a real estate bubble & bust).

But the more interesting stories for me were how a city like Bilbao, Spain, could take an idea like the Guggenheim Museum and not only incorporate its architecture into its immediate space, but at the same time invigorate a gritty part of the city, jump-start a long-term redevelopment plan and again put an old city on the tourist and economic map. Or in Barcelona, where the city council had enough foresight to offer free space in prime areas to showcase the works of homegrown artists like Picasso or Dali, and in the process helped create the busiest cruise ship terminal in Europe and one of the largest Spanish economic engines for a city that was once a Roman stronghold (where you can visit one of the best Roman excavations I've ever seen underneath the city's history museum).

Instead of taking expensive excursions offered by a cruise ship line, we walked -- a lot -- to discover great examples of large, mixed-use cities, and in the process stumbled upon some great cultural treasures in cities both large and small, practiced some very bad Spanish with the locals (try that in Portugal!) and even lost some weight (not an easy task with 24-hour food service).

I'm thinking of pitching a story idea to a magazine such as Urban Land on how the appropriate use of art & architecture can help redevelop a city, but once I get my photos uploaded I'm sure I'll also post many thoughts here.

For now, however, there are domestic economic calamities to cover, not to mention what the Governor of Alaska might do to fix the housing bust if it were up to her?

No comments: