Architect, Landscape Architect, Urban Designer, Land Use Planner, Environmental Observer

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Palmanova is a city in Italy constructed during the Renaissance and it is the only city built following the ideals of a utopia. It is a concentric city with the form of a star, with three nine-sided ring roads intersecting in the main military radiating streets.

It was built at the end of the 16th century by the Venetian Republic, which was at the time, a major center of trade. It is actually considered to be a fort, because the military architect Giulio Savorgnano designed to be a Venetian military station to the eastern frontier, to protect against the Ottoman Empire.

During the Renaissance, many ideas of a utopia, both as a society and as a city, surfaced: a place where there was perfection in the entire society. These ideas started by Sir Thomas Moore, when he wrote the book Utopia, describing a city and also the life of the people who lived there. His book sparked a flame in this subject and many other books were written. They all followed a major theme: equality. Everyone had the same amount of wealth, respect, and life experiences. The society had a calculated elimination of variety and a monotonous environment.

The city where they lived was always geometric in shape and was surrounded by a wall. These walls provided military strength and also protected the city by preserving and passing on man’s knowledge. The knowledge, learning and science gave form to the daily life of the people living inside the walls. The knowledge of each person was shared by the entire society, and there was no way to let any information either in or out. As Thomas More said in his book, “He that knows one, knows them all, they are so alike one another”

Alberti, and then followed by Filarete, were the first ones to develop the ideas of a Utopia into the plan of a city. Filarete designed a concentric city, with peaks and radiating streets, which he called Sforzinda. His geometry was the imitation of a schema representing the world, and it is believed to have derived from two overlaying squares.5 Sforzinda later became the most influential plan in the design of Palmanova. Since Palmanova was built during the Renaissance, it imposed geometrical harmony and followed the idea that beauty reinforces the wellness of a society. Each road and move was carefully calibrated and each part of the plan had a reason for being. Each person would have the same amount of responsibility and land, and each person had to serve a specific purpose. The concentric shape was the most prominent design move and had many reasons for being.

The circular shape of Palmanova was greatly influenced by the fact that it needed to be a fort. At the time of its construction, many other urban theoreticians found the checkerboard was more useful, but it did not provide the protection that military architects looked for. The walls were broken so that soldiers couldn’t approach it easily and because the angles created were difficult to attack.

The shape also comes from cosmological ideas, and reflects on the religion of the time. It is believed to be the most perfect of all geometries, because the radii are equidistant at all points, and it is a mirror of a harmonious cosmic order. In the Catholic religion, the circle is the basis of everything created, and it represents the repeat of the original sin. What this means is that the circular shape also works to imitate nature, and to appear to blend in instead of being very harshly different from the landscape, so the city would be seen as ‘natural’ and therefore be divine.

Monday, April 10, 2017

New Yawk Diners...

I graduated from high school in 1962 and was accepted at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. My father was a truck driver and worked out of Queens. I was still living at home in Wantagh, Nassau County and so my father would drive me into the city with him. We left the house at 5:30 am and drove in. My dad would stop at a diner and get breakfast. I remember the smells... fresh baked corn and bran muffins, a heap of home fries on the grill. It seemed to me that the owners were named Nick and Gus (Greek, of course). 

Here's a little history of the diner from Wikipedia...

The first diner was created in 1872 by Walter Scott, who sold food out of a horse-pulled wagon to employees of the Providence Journal, in Providence, Rhode Island. Scott's diner can be considered the first diner with “walk up” service, as it had windows on each side of the wagon. Commercial production of lunch wagons began in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1887, by Thomas Buckley. Buckley was successful and became known for his "White House Cafe" wagons. Charles Palmer received the first patent (1893) for the diner, which he billed as a "Night-Lunch Wagon." He built his "fancy night cafes" and "night lunch wagons" in the Worcester area until 1901.


Sterling Streamliner diners

Inspired by the streamlined trains, and especially the Burlington Zephyr, Roland Stickney designed a diner in the shape of a streamlined train called the Sterling Streamliner in 1939. Built by the J.B. Judkins coach company, who had built custom car bodies, the Sterling and other diner production ceased in 1942 at the beginning of American involvement in World War II. Two Sterling Streamliners remain in operation: the Salem Diner at its original location in Salem, Massachusetts and the Modern Diner in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Prefabricated diners

As the number of seats increased, wagons gave way to pre-fabricated buildings made by many of the same manufacturers who had made the wagons. Like the lunch wagon, a stationary diner allowed one to set up a food service business quickly using pre-assembled constructs and equipment.

In many areas, diners were superseded in the 1970s by fast food restaurants, but in parts of New Jersey, New York, the New England states, Delaware and Pennsylvania the independently-owned diner remains relatively common. During this period, newly constructed diners lost their narrow, stainless steel, streamlined appearance, and grew into much bigger buildings, though often still made of several pre-fabricated modules and assembled on site and still manufactured by the old line diner builders. A wide variety of architectural styles were now used for these later diners, including Cape Cod and Colonial. 

The old-style single module diners featuring a long counter and a few small booths sometimes now grew additional dining rooms, lavish wallpaper, fountains, crystal chandeliers and Greek statuary. The definition of the term diner began to blur as older, pre-fab diners received more conventional frame additions, sometimes leaving the original structure nearly unrecognizable as it was surrounded by new construction or a renovated facade. Businesses that called themselves diners but which were built onsite and not prefabricated began to appear. These larger establishments were sometimes known as diner-restaurants.Until the Great Depression, most diner manufacturers and their customers were located in the Northeast. 

Diner manufacturing suffered with other industries in the Depression, though not as much as others, and the diner offered a less expensive way of getting into the restaurant business as well as less expensive food than more formal establishments. After World War II, as the economy returned to civilian production and the suburbs boomed, diners were an attractive small business opportunity. During this period, diners spread beyond their original urban and small town market to highway strips in the suburbs, even reaching the Midwest, with manufacturers such as Valentine.


Like a mobile home, the original style diner is narrow and elongated and allows roadway or railway transportation to the restaurant's site. In the traditional diner floorplan, a service counter dominates the interior, with a preparation area against the back wall and floor-mounted stools for the customers in front

Larger models may have a row of booths against the front wall and at the ends. The decor varied over time. Diners of the 1920s–1940s feature Art Deco or Streamline Moderne elements or copy the appearance of rail dining cars (though very few are, in fact, refurbished rail cars). They featured porcelain enamel exteriors, some with the name written on the front, others with bands of enamel, others in flutes. Many had a "barrel vault" roofline. Tile floors were common. 

Diners of the 1950s tended to use stainless steel panels, porcelain enamel, glass blocks, terrazzo floors, Formica and neon sign trim. Diners built in the 2000s generally have a different type of architecture; they are laid out more like restaurants, retaining some aspects of traditional diner architecture (stainless steel and Art Deco elements, usually) while discarding others (the small size, and emphasis on the counter).

Cultural significance

Diners attract a wide spectrum of the local populations, and are generally small businesses. From the mid-twentieth century onwards, they have been seen as quintessentially American, reflecting the perceived cultural diversity and egalitarian nature of the country at large. Throughout much of the 20th century, diners, particularly in the Northeast, were often owned and operated by Greek-American immigrant families. The presence of Greek casual food, like gyros and souvlaki, on several diners' menus, testifies to this cultural link.

Diners frequently stay open 24 hours a day, especially in cities, and were once America's most widespread 24-hour public establishments, making them an essential part of urban culture, alongside bars and nightclubs; these two segments of nighttime urban culture often find themselves intertwined, as many diners get a good deal of late-night business from persons departing drinking establishments. Many diners were also historically placed near factories which operated 24 hours a day, with night shift workers providing a key part of the customer base. All this meant diners could serve as symbols of loneliness and isolation. 

Edward Hopper's iconic 1942 painting Nighthawks depicts a diner and its occupants, late at night. The diner in the painting is based on a real location in Greenwich Village, but was chosen in part because diners were anonymous slices of Americana, meaning that the scene could have been taken from any city in the country-and also because a diner was a place to which isolated individuals, awake long after bedtime, would naturally be drawn. The spread of the diner meant that by 1942 it was possible for Hopper to cast this institution in a role for which, fifteen years earlier, he had used an Automat all-night restaurant.

original painting by Hopper

The painting has become a symbol of America and has been lampooned and re-imagined in many ways...

But as a rule, diners were always symbols of American optimism. Norman Rockwell made his 1958 painting, The Runaway, generically American by placing his subjects, a young boy and a protective highway patrolman, at the counter of an anonymous diner. 

original painting by Norman Rockwell

It too, has had it's spoofs and reworking...

In television and cinema, diners and soda fountains have come to symbolize the period of prosperity and optimism in America in the 1950s. They are shown as the place where teenagers meet after school and as an essential part of a date. The television show Alice used a diner as the setting for the program, and one is often a regular feature in sitcoms such as Seinfeld. The diner's cultural influence continues today. Many non-prefab restaurants (including franchises like Denny's) have copied the look of 1950s diners for nostalgic appeal, while Waffle House uses an interior layout derived from the diner.

Manhattan was once known for its diners. The Moondance Diner was shipped to Wyoming to make room for development. Diners provide, in rather the same way that fast food chains do, a nationwide, recognizable, fairly uniform place to eat and assemble. The types of food served are likely to be consistent, especially within a region (exceptions being districts with large immigrant populations, in which diners and coffee shops will often cater their menus to those local cuisines), as are the prices charged. 

At the same time, diners have much more individuality than fast food chains; the structures, menus, and even owners and staff, while having a certain degree of similarity to each other, vary much more widely than the more rigidly standardized chain and franchise restaurants. The Poirier's Diner and Munson Diner, both manufactured by the Kullman Dining Car Company of Lebanon, New Jersey, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

RPG (role-playing games) and City Geomorphs...

I had never heard much about role-playing games (I had heard of Dungeons and Dragons, of course) and I had no idea about game boards and geomorphs.

I have been putting a book together about architectural plans and I saw a Pinterest post about a tower. It was hand drawn, carefully done, and quasi-historically accurate.

The array of work on the website is phenomenal...

I wanted to know more and like Alice in Wonderland, I went through the rabbit hole of RPG worlds. I learned that the plan was the creation of Dyson Logos, and that he has a complete portfolio of buildings, cities and game boards...

Dyson’s Dodecahedron started out (under the title of “A Character For Every Game) when I decided it was worth the time and effort to make two characters (one starting character, one “advanced” character) for every RPG I own. However, when you have a collection of 200+ RPGs, sooner or later you discover that a project of that magnitude is quite the undertaking. Slowly the blog transformed into a general RPG blog, where I talked a lot about the games I’ve played and how I like to play them. Then I started posting the occasional bit of house rules to go along with those posts.
Then I posted a One Page Dungeon that I had written up for the One Page Dungeon Contest in 2009. I wasn’t happy with the map I drew for that dungeon, and started looking at the maps drawn by other members of my various RPG groups. I started to develop a new style for my maps. Not an “original” style overall – it is strongly based in the cartography I enjoyed from old Palladium and Chaosisum products, but significantly less like the style of the traditional D&D map which is very grid-oriented.
Then I started to post maps drawn in this style. As I practiced the style, I challenged myself to draw a geomorph every other day until I had at least 100 geomorphs. The blog got pretty boring during this stretch, but I learned a lot about mapping and dungeon design, and the blog got a reputation as a mapping blog. That reputation is well-earned now. The main content of the blog these days is my fantasy RPG maps, with a minor focus on “OSR” RPG content. I’ve got a few hundred maps on the blog now for you to explore, along with over a dozen adventures.

"I’m Dyson. I’ve been gaming since 1979 in a variety of game systems, but most often playing Dungeons & Dragons (particularly Moldvay Basic). But that’s not to say I haven’t played other games along the way, with dalliances in science fiction, cyberpunk, urban fantasy, and other game settings."

As I got further in, I learned of a gamer who had put together a program that develops city plans. I could not resist and came up with some of the following -

"Even though I’ve never really role-played before, the role-playing community has welcomed me with open arms since I first created the mapper as a branch off of Rob Lang’s mapper. Now I find myself enjoying the art of map-making and working on a variety of gaming resources for everyone to use.

Things I plan to post here include some of my tiles and mapping work (so others can find it easily without scraping the mapper itself), changelogs and whatnot about the mapper, information on other role-playing related projects (e.g. DungeonMorph dice), and anything else I can think of that might be of interest to the role-playing community. If these things appeal to you, by all means bookmark this blog, add it to StumbleUpon, subscribe by RSS, print out pages and tape them to your bedroom walls, or whatever you want to do. I’m just happy to have you as a visitor."

Being an architect, I was particularly struck by these geomorphs by the designer

"I have no formal background in architecture but I've been doing technical illustration for over 30 years for a number of industries from educational publishing to medical device development, and defense systems."

I apologize to the designer whose name I did not write down, but here some other beautiful geomorphs...

.   .   .

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

the art of the Mardi Gras Indians #3

One of the newest Big Chiefs...

"Dowee" Robair 

of the
9th Ward Black Hatchet tribe

(shown here with his Big Queen, Ms. Robair)

Some Big Chiefs start their tribe with a handful of Indians - not so with Dowee. This year he debuted with a large group (truly a testament to his sewing skills, leadership ability and the length of time he has been masking.

Pretty, pretty tribe !!!


Recommended Books

  • - Precedents in Architecture
  • - City Comforts
  • - A Pattern Language
  • - The Architecture of Happiness
  • - Architectural Composition
  • - Design Language
  • - Elements of Garden Design
  • - Chambers for a Memory Palace