Thursday, September 20, 2007

Livin' la Vida Loca*

*translates as "living the crazy life" in English.
NVDL: Beautiful buildings - architecturally speaking - are about as difficult to spot in urban centres as supermodels in the mall. Sure, there are a few candy stripes that tickle, but most structures out there have been designed under pain of death by lifeterm prisoners. Haven't they? And have these same PRISONERS returned the favour by designing jails for us, and burial chambers for our chariots?

It's easy to recognise a well designed building. It represents a combination of subtlety and elegance, and the result isn't a tickle, but a thrill. You feel excited. Often the walls are nuanced with layers of ivy. Lush forest and lawns wrap their way in and in between the building, creating a connectivity between inside and outside. If the architect is particularly charismatic, he will have designed an openness, a spartan simplicity which also allows people to connect. He designs space, he gives you cosy corners and sunken, intimate chambers sunk into the floors.


Beyond the internal and features of a single abode is the incredibly challenging question of how to build homes into a village system; yes how to connect home to the community and vice versa. Lounges should be free of multimedia. Libraries or entertainment rooms (soundproofed) should separate the zombies from the rest of humanity. Streams should be encouraged through gardens if possible. Houses should help forests to take root. And the entire setting should be walkable. It's possible to bring about if we only take the time to imagine, to conceive, to try.


This may be a self-indulgent example, but here it is anyway. My father built the second ever townhouse complex in a city, and chose to differentiate each complex, and took time and effort to allow old tall trees to flourish on the property. The road snakes luxuriously through the foilable instead of making a beeline to one cardboard cutout front door after another. Today it remains one of the most sought after townhouse complexes in the city? Why? Because it resembles more a garden - with various houses scattered about in it - than a neat piles of bricks for human beings to fit their lives into.

Yet there is very little effort to develop like this. Eyesores outnumber pleasant and beautiful places to live. To see just how hideous and crazy architecture can be, click here. New Urbanism addresses this cancer of human idealism. Click here to find out about New Urbanism.

Location, Location, Location: A Key to Good Health, Too

ROLL out of bed and swallow your customized vitamins, then decide: the gym, the Olympic-size pool or the track?

Workout left you sore? The personal trainer can stop by later with the massage therapist, and the nutritionist can help fine-tune your diet.

What’s that suspicious mole on your arm? Walk to the clinic and have the dermatologist take a look. Don’t worry about cooking dinner; the healthy food service will drop off broiled salmon.

That, anyway, is the vision of Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, the cardiovascular fitness expert whose 1968 best seller, “Aerobics,” put the word into the wellness lexicon.

Over the course of almost 40 years, Dr. Cooper, 76, one of President Bush’s personal physicians, has become something of a chief spokesman for preventive medicine, inspiring legislation for mandatory physical education for Texas schoolchildren, crusading to ban trans fats from prepared foods, and running his flagship clinic in Dallas, the Cooper Aerobics Center, which has published 600 papers.

So you could say he made his bed. Now he wants you to sleep in it.

To that end, Dr. Cooper is developing a $2 billion residential wellness community here called Cooper Life at Craig Ranch that is going up on the first 51 of an eventual 151 acres on the Texas plains, north of Dallas.

Taking the concept of spa real estate into the medical realm, Dr. Cooper’s community promises home buyers a life that sounds equal parts Norman Rockwell and Olympic village: a small town where doctors will make house calls and where every resident has a bevy of experts close at hand for keeping in tiptop shape.

It appears to be the first of its kind. “There’s nothing out there like Cooper Life,” said Susie Ellis, president of Spa Finder Inc., a media marketing company that tracks the spa industry.

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