Bird scooters in Santa Monica. Photo by Frances Anderton.
FROM THIS EPISODE
All eyes were on Singapore as President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Denuclearization was at the top of the agenda.
For Korean and Korean-American residents of Los Angeles, however, this meeting was about family.
Eui-Sung Yi, a Korean-born principal at Morphosis Architects, told DnA: “It means everything to to us and to every generation that are Korean... and the incredible thing is the summit can actually crystallize the actual union of families above and beyond geopolitics. That's what everybody hopes for.”
Yi handles Asia-based projects for Morphosis, but he got the opportunity to make a personal statement of hope for the two Koreas when he entered -- and won -- a design competition with Changjo Architects in Seoul, for a Korean embassy in Tokyo.
Their design for a seven story building incorporated two stories were left empty “for the future aspirational hope of a new unified peninsula.”
Korean Embassy in Japan, completed 2012, designed by Chang-jo Architects with Eui-Sung Yi; Yi designed an earlier version with Roland Ritter.
Yi, who also heads up the Now Institute at UCLA’s school of architecture and urban design, talks to DnA about the prospects for change on the peninsula, from alleviating the poverty and ill-health of its people to the possibility of a great leap forward in technology and infrastructure.
He speculates that because North Korea failed to develop in the late 20th century, when change finally comes the country could be ripe for “a complete absorption and integration of the most hyper-contemporary form of of infrastructure, technology, transportation and telecommunication.”
Meanwhile, in today’s North Korea, a building spree is underway in the capital Pyongyang. The Guardian’s architecture critic Oliver Wainwright toured civic buildings and apartments aimed at a growing middle class.
He has published his findings in a new Taschen book, “Inside North Korea,” and tells DnA, “the biggest surprise visiting Pyongyang was the sheer amount of color.”
Instead of Soviet-style gray concrete apartment buildings he found buildings “painted in a baby blue and terra cotta, ochre and yellow.”
They reflect the regime’s commitment to “juche,” the principle of self-reliance developed by Kim Il-Sung, the first Supreme Leader of North Korea from its establishment in 1948 until his death in 1994. Juche, says Wainwright, is intrinsically connected to the country’s architecture.
He points out there is a less benign reason for the saccharine colors: “I think it's an attempt to infantilize the people given that the standard of living is so poor.”
A statue of Kim Il-sung welcomes visitors to the Grand People’s Study House, seated in front of a mosaic of Mount Paektu. Photograph by Oliver Wainwright.
Oliver Wainwright, Architecture Critic for The Guardian; author of “Inside North Korea” (@ollywainwright)
Eui-Sing Yui, Principal, Morphosis Architects; director, Now Institute, UCLA (@thenowinstitute)
Ever since Bird scooters took flight in Santa Monica in the fall of 2017, they have ruffled feathers, won devoted customers and earned huge amounts of VC investment.
Now competing dockless e-scooter companies are entering the space, such as those from Lime, which also makes dockless bikes.
All this has municipalities rushing to figure out what to do with a new technology that offers a popular, clean alternative to the car but has outpaced the city’s transit planning and upended its control of public space.
Some cities, the tech capital of San Francisco included, have nixed e-scooters altogether while they figure out who should get permits. Others have embraced them, no strings attached.
The City of Santa Monica, where the dockless e-scooter took off, is looking for a third way.
Tonight City Council will consider implementing a “Pilot Program for Shared Mobility Devices.”
This would allow three companies to each put a maximum of 500 scooters on the road, and mandate minimum operating requirements for maintenance, education, safety, customer service, and data sharing. So what is the goal exactly?
“Our goal is to find multiple partners to test out different solutions and to see what the differences are,” says Francie Stefan, mobility manager for the city of Santa Monica.
She adds, “there are few times we've seen devices taken up so quickly by so many people. And if it provides a mobility option and a relief for people we would like to support it as long as we can manage some of the safety concerns and make sure that it's good neighbors for even those people who aren't interested in riding.”
Bird, however, objects to the 500 number cap being proposed by the city of Santa Monica, saying this limits the availability of their scooters, and defeats the goal of being a first-mile, last-mile solution. The company has organized a rally later today to protest.
Meanwhile, the newcomer Lime says that while it has some concerns too about this cap, it stands ready to work with the city.
While this pilot program is being considered, Bird and Lime scooters still operate.
So is this pilot program intended to clip Bird’s wings?
Gleam Davis, Santa Monica’s Mayor Pro Tempore, says that is not the goal. Rather, she says, “I think what we need to do is let them spread their wings. But we need to make sure that all dockless mobility devices are operated in a way that is conducive to a shared mobility vision where you have automobiles, dockless mobility, skateboards, all sorts of devices that people are using to move around, and it's all being done in a safe manner.”
The latest version Lime-S dockless electric scooter, designed in collaboration with Segway, has hit the roads in Santa Monica. Photo by Frances Anderton.
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