Holiday Roundup – Sensory overload, memorable moments, solving the city, train of thought and an Omnibus pause

Dyker Heights, Brooklyn | Christmas 2008 | Photo by Wally Gobetz

One of the City’s most well known displays of extreme festivity is a block of homes in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn where you can find dazzling lights and oversized holiday decor, inflatable, animatronic, or otherwise. Check out Gothamist for a slideshow of some of this year’s highlights. Another NYC holiday classic: the midtown shops’ storefront installations. Every year, the likes of Bergdorfs, Saks, Barneys and more try to outdo one another with their eye-catching window dressing. PSFK has 180+ photos of this year’s New York City holiday window displays, and you can watch a video of Saks’ projection snowfall below.


Looking back at the year that was, both the New York Times and the Boston Globe‘s “Big Picture” remember some of the extraordinary moments of the past 12 months through photographs. Tugging at heartstrings through memories of both tragedy and celebration, 2010: The Year in Pictures and a 3-part series of “2010 in photos” encapsulate a year of memorable events around the globe. Locally, Lost City takes a moment to acknowledge NYC’s “lost landmarks,” a number of beloved institutions that have closed their doors, or are about to, and a handful that are still fighting to stay open. Also, check out the time lapse below of this year’s latest memorable event, missed by anyone who had a full night’s sleep Tuesday night:


Two nonconformist physicists, “study[ing] cities as if they had never been studied before,” discover that a wide variety of urban conditions and variables can be predicted by relatively simple equations. There are patterns, there are laws, based on the size and population of an urban area – any urban area. In the New York Times Magazine, Jonah Lehrer profiles physicist Geoffrey West and his effort to understand cities, working with research partner Luis Bettencourt, described in the article as “another theoretical physicist who had abandoned conventional physics.” Their analysis led them to identify the urban system as an organism unlike any other in nature, one that accelerates as it grows. (Think of speed compared to size for an elephant vs. a mouse for an idea of biology’s usual patterns.) But that growth and acceleration are part of a cycle of consumption that is rapidly outpacing our resources. So, according to their equations, what will happen? Well… total system collapse. How can we avoid it? Constant innovation. “West describes cities as the only solution to the problem of cities. Although urbanization has generated a seemingly impossible amount of economic growth, it has also inspired the innovations that allow for growth to continue.” The article is worth reading in its entirety for more explanation of West and Bettencourt’s research, how the project relates to the work of Jane Jacobs (we’re “forever trapped…”), some talk with theorists who consider their findings obsolete, and a look at what subject matter West and Bettencourt are taking on next: corporations.


Most straphangers have probably noticed the MTA’s latest attempts at brandishing its public image through advertising its service improvements in subways. Among the improvements cited are its embrace of open data, which many will remember was not always a priority for the embattled transit agency. But the cost of communicating such changes to public transit is the loss of Train of Thought, a program that “placed literary quotations from the likes of Kafka and Schopenhauer in the unlikely locale of a packed New York City subway car.” Train of Thought, which was sponsored by the television game show Jeopardy!, replaced Poetry in Motion, a similar program of literary quotes on a subway car’s internal placards, which ran from 1992 to 2008.

There won’t be much activity on Urban Omnibus over the next ten days. The team is using the week between holidays to reflect on 2010 and gear up for 2011. But we’ll be back in January, ready to talk about more of the ideas, people and choices that make this city great. And remember, since this is a season of generosity and all, that Urban Omnibus relies on the support of readers like you. So, if you like what you’re reading, please consider making a donation or becoming a member of the Architectural League today. From all of us to all of you, have a great holiday and a happy new year!

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.