29 June 2012

Three Books on Modern Architecture in Florida

On modern architecture in Florida, there are three interesting books I would like to share with you:

3 Books on Modern South Florida Architecture - posted by Tobias Kaiser, modern home specialist
100 Florida Architects and Interior Designers
by Damir Sinovcic and Beth Dunlop (2010). Hardcover, $45.00

100 Florida Architects and Interior Designers presents the work of creative design professionals whose diverse backgrounds and design philosophies are shaping the built environment of the southernmost state in the continental US. The book showcases a vibrant cross-section of work that ranges from single-family homes and museums to luxury resorts and civic buildings. 100 Florida Architects and Interior Designers highlights well established designers alongside emerging professionals. (Source: amazon.com)

Florida Modern: Residential Architecture 1945 - 1970
by Jan Hochstim and Steven Brooke (2005). Hardcover, $26.95

A lovely book with truckloads of information, but in my opinion, the design is maddening. If not for the wealth of information, you will want to throw it through the window. Even a closed louvered one.

Agrees Robin Benson on amazon.com: Jan Hochstim has clearly done a lot of research for this book and it will probably be regarded as the definitive study of the Modern house in Florida. As with many historical architectural studies, it is obviously very visual but unfortunately the presentation of the copy and photos are pretty hopeless. Many of the pages give the impression that amateurs designed them.

Miami Architecture: An AIA Guide featuring Downtown, The Beaches, and Coconut Grove
by Allan T. Shulman, Randall C. Robinson Jr. and James F. Donnelly (2010). Paperback, $25.70

The collaborative work of Allan T. Shulman, Randall C. Robinson Jr., and James F. Donnelly, "Miami Architecture" is a 352-page illustrated guide to the impressive diversity of architecture and landscape design. Covering the distinctive architectural elements and examples, "Miami Architecture" is a superbly organized, deftly presented, and thoroughly 'user friendly' guidebook covering the cities of Miami and Miami Beach with each specific, succinctly descriptive entry cited with its address. A core addition to academic library American Architectural History reference collections, "Miami Architecture" is also specifically recommended as a supplementary tour guide for the non-specialist general reader with an interest in Miami's regional architectural history. (Source: Midwest Book Review)

All three books available through amazon.com

22 June 2012

The South Florida Housing Market in May

May is like April, just more of the same? Looks like it, but that's not quite all.

While inventory keeps shrinking – all single family houses as well as modern homes – median selling prices are rising, and not so slow anymore. Year-over-year, median selling prices, overall and per square foot under air, the Tri-County area is now back at a typical pre-boom/pre-bust six percent:

South Florida Single Family Home Sales May 2012. Source: SEFMLS

In y-o-y increases, Broward is the winner with a hefty 13 percent jump in median selling prices, while Palm Beach actually lost two percent points (asking prices are pretty irrelevant – any fool can ask whatever he wants, what counts is what the market is willing to pay).

South Florida Single Family Home Sales May 2011-May 2012. Source: SEFMLS

As the Miami Herald reported earlier this week, sellers – crying after the boom market? – are still reluctant to sell if they don't have to. Tight inventory results for all home types and especially modern homes, with some properties going at or even above asking price, especially in prime locations.

Sellers trying to push the price limits however can expect their listings to sit and wither. Some Realtors share the blame: accepting any overpriced listing just to bolster their portfolio does not help matters.

On top of that, bankers haven't gotten the message: mortgages remain a challenge at every price level, making cash buyers the stars of the market.

Summary of the Miami Herald: bring your checkbook.

15 June 2012

Public Awareness: Monday is Ride to Work Day

If you're on the road coming Monday, June 18 – driving, horseback riding, walking, bicycling, scooting or motorcycling like I plan to – an important news item typically bypasses those who do not ride a scooter or a motorcycle:

This Monday is Ride to Work Day.

Big Deal – what's the purpose, you wonder:

On Ride to Work Day, – now in its 21st year – motorcycle and scooter commuters seek improved recognition and support for this form of transportation and increased public and government awareness of the positive value of riding.

Because commuting with motorcycles and scooters makes urban parking easier and traffic flow better, according to Ride-to-Work, a non-profit advocacy organization. Look at major cities worldwide and count the businessmen and -women commuting to work on a scooter or moto – Zürich, Paris, Munich, Rome... Riding saves gas, time and emissions:

Studies have shown that across the same distances, riders reach their destinations faster than those using automobiles. Most motorcycles and scooters also consume less resources per mile than automobiles.

"Riding to work on this day is fun and highlights the positive value of motorcycling. For many people, riding is a socially responsible form of mobility that saves energy, helps the environment and provides a broad range of other public benefits," stated Andy Goldfine, this year's event organizer.

A study for New York City confirms details:

Data from a new traffic model released today demonstrates that the nation’s largest city could significantly reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a key factor in the global warming debate, and reduce fuel consumption while saving a great deal of time lost to congestion by simply incorporating more motor scooters into the commuting vehicle mix... [Ideally, results could be:]
  • A total decrease in delay of more than 4.6 million hours per year — which translates to time savings of nearly 100 working hours per person
  • A reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by over 26,000 tons (52,000,000-pounds) per year
  • A decrease in fuel consumption by over 2.5 million gallons per year
  • A total savings for New York City of more than $122 million per year in fuel and labor productivity 

No wonder that participation in the yearly Ride-to-Work-Day is estimated to triple the number of riders on the road. Besides the US, countries taking part include Canada, Germany, Philippines, England, France, Israel, Turkey, Ecuador and several others.

I know this post is off-topic, but I felt introducing you to a subject you may not be aware of and may otherwise have little or no connection with.

So, if you see me and other riders on the road on Monday – or any other day – think of the lesser impact on traffic a bike makes and be kind to us please. Thank you!

More event info here. More on the NYC study here. Photo: topspeed.com

08 June 2012

3 Tips to Make Your Move Easier

3 tips to make your move easier, by Tobias Kaiser, modern architecture specialist

Over the Memorial Day weekend, my wife and I moved. Not once but twice – first dissolving a storage unit and then two days later our house.

When we explained to the movers how we planned to organise our move, they rolled their eyes, sort of. OCD?

But: the move from a filled two-bedroom house into a two story three-bedroom house, with all boxes distributed into the appropriate rooms, took a mere 5h 30m for a three-man-crew, excluding drive time.Did I mention all boxes were in the destination rooms?

Three tips that should make your move easier:

1. Inventory in detail as you pack.

Create a very simple spreadsheet, with one column each: for consecutive box numbers, date packed, destination room and content. Why not a handwritten list? Because a spreadsheet is sortable and, even more important, searchable.

Sounds like a pain and a waste of time to you? It only sounds like it at first glance. Because the more detailed you inventory, the easier it is to find that elusive coffee mill you so urgently need the first morning in your new abode to get your lil' peepers opening up. So type away: per box, immediately after each one is closed.

2. Create box piles by destination room.

You're in moving mode anyway, right?

Forget the illusion of maintaining a civilised place as long as possible by hiding packed boxes out of sight. Better create stacks of boxes according to the future room they go into. You don't need to have the kitchen boxes in the old kitchen, but do keep them together, by all means.

3. Colour-code by destination room.

A brilliant tip from one of my favourite websites, lifehacker.com: colour-code each box.

Since even small places with few rooms exceed the few colour choices available in electrical or masking tape, my very smart wife suggested using colour sample cards, the kind you find at Lowe's or Home Depot in the paint department.

The paint manufacturer may frown a bit on this, but I bet you spend enough money in the store on paint to compensate for a loss of $1.88 in what amounts to marketing material. Needless to say, don't just swipe the samples, please ask first. If they still say no, I'd rethink my shopping habits in that store.

3 Tips to Make Your Move Easier, by Tobias Kaiser
Photos ©tckaiser                                                                                           
Moving is never pure unadulterated joy, but these three tips will make it a tad easier.

Happy packing – and please share your tips for easier moving!

01 June 2012

Chance Encounters with Modern Architecture (3)

"Chance Encounters with Modern Architecture" is meant as a postcard of sorts, of unexpected finds of modern architecture – or perhaps art – which caught my eye.

Today: Townhouse Development in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

What is it: A 14-unit townhouse complex, arranged in two blocks of seven units, with an alleyway on the longitudinal axis for garage access. Built in 2007, architect unknown.

Each townhouse is three stories, has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, approx. 2,300 sf (205 sm) under air and comes with a garage as well as small front yard.

The rectangular site of approx. 205 x 147 feet is located just south of downtown Fort Lauderdale, two lots off Federal Highway, a major north-south road, and a short distance from the Fort Lauderdale harbour and airport.

Last recorded selling prices for the townhomes hover around $70/sf, a substantial drop from their peak asking prices of ca. $240/sf.

Why did it catch my eye: The façade has an interesting, slightly nautical motif and clearly defines the individual units, with a glass-enclosed entryway between two units. Unfortunately, on closer inspection not all details seem really thought through, even for a layperson, and the exterior at least has suffered visibly in the five years since construction.

I came across this development by leaving the parking lot of an adjacent McDonalds through the side exit, otherwise I would driven by it again as I did hundreds of times before. 

Where is it: 701-729 SE 16 Court, Fort Lauderdale, FL. Location map

Photos ©tckaiser