Saturday, November 29, 2008

Form or Function?

Form or Function? Does one trump the other when designing a new Museum? Should one? This is what I was pondering as I visited the new Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY - the first completely new museum building built in Buffalo in over a hundred years. My expectations were low, despite the fact that Gwathmey Siegel Architects from New York designed the building. Quite frankly it's probably been a decade since I've seen a design of theirs that interested or impressed me - probably since the last building they designed for Buffalo at the SUNY Buffalo Amherst Campus. My expectations were also low because there was a complicated story regarding the land the new museum sits on - belonging to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. There was great concern in the preservation community that the Psych Center, by turning that land over, was continuing to whittle away at the historic acreage originally planned and designed by H. H. Richardson, Olmsted & Vaux. Then personally my expectations were low because I hadn't really paid attention to what was going on with the design or construction of the building, despite being on the Richardson Architecture Center Board - too many buildings in too many states to worry about. But I had wondered over the past year as I'd drive by - what is that lousy concrete block structure going up on the northern end of the Psych Center's parking lots? I thought it was a parking structure. I woke up and started to pay attention about a year ago at one of our board meetings when I heard discussion about the new museum building.

So, now it's finished, and the past week has been the grand opening (free to everyone for 10 days). And no, I was not surprised by a beautiful and inspiring exterior. The exterior is banal and mediocre at best. But that doesn't mean it's a bad museum. Quite the contrary. And here is where my question regarding form vs. function comes into play. I'd like to believe that a museum can be both a piece of iconic, amazing architecture and function well to display art. In the past few years both architects, museum boards and architecture critics would like us to believe otherwise, and that is a disservice to all of us. Certainly, there are many pieces of starchitecture I've visited in the past couple years which focused on the building design to the detriment of the purpose of the building - Libeskind's Denver Art Museum, Gehry's Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis (see photo above), and Jean Nouvel's Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis (it also has gallery space). But then there are some brilliant pieces of architecture I've visited that prove that icons can also function - Renzo Piano's addition (and completion) of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Santiago Calatrava's addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum, Herzog & de Meuron's San Francisco de Young Museum (adjacent photo) and their Minneapolis Walker Art Center, and Richard Meier's Getty of course, to name a few. Unfortunately, I've also seen a great many uninspiring buildings that exhibit art beautifully and that's a shame. In addition to the Burchfield Penney, there is the Seattle Art Museum and the Museum of Arts & Design in NYC both by Allied Works, and the addition and re-working of the Morgan Library by Piano in NYC.

One paragraph in the museum brochure particularly disturbed me and my artistic sensibilities:

"Not long after the architectural firm was engaged to design a new home for the Burchfield Penney Art Center, a debate began about whether the building itself should be conceived as a work of art or designed primarily as a container to hold and exhibit the museum's collections. The fear was expressed by some, quite openly, that if the architecture was too compelling, the art would have to compete for attention."

What Makes the Burchfield Penney Art Center a Good Museum?

Unfortunately it's not its exterior architecture. Let me get that criticism out of the way. Its use of gray brick and stone are monotone and monotonous and other than the curved solid wall and ridiculously large letters on the street facade of the building, it does not distinguish itself as the cultural icon it should be. It's barely better than a suburban office park building or a college administration building, really, and that makes me sad.

It completes and balances the cultural core of Buffalo. Were it not for the overly-trafficked Elmwood Avenue and exits to the Scajaquada Expressway directly adjacent to the Albright-Knox, this would really be Buffalo's cultural Acropolis. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Photo above) on the west side of the street is one of my favorite pieces of museum architecture anywhere - the 1905 Classically-inspired Green & Wicks marble building with its 1962 Gordon Bunshaft-designed glass box addition masterpiece, represents the layers and memories of Buffalo and the hope for its future. (Gordon Bunshaft, that towering designer of SOM midcentury modern architecture was a Buffalonian.) Now with Rockwell Hall flanking the southern half of the Albright-Knox and the Burchfield Penney flanking the northern half, this intersection has become the undeniable center of Buffalo's very rich art heritage.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is one of the earliest museums in the country to have collecting modern art as its mission. Rockwell Hall at Buffalo State College, was the original main building (1931) of the college and the home of the initial Burchfield Penney Art Center for many years until it moved to the new building this year. It now houses the College's Performing Arts Center and Conservation School.

It showcases Western New York Art and Artists. Buffalo has produced some of the greatest artists, architects and designers - either as people who were born here or came here to design or create a project. There's just something in the water here that encourages and inspires creativity . The Museum's purview is interesting - not just artists who are from Buffalo, or are living in Buffalo. If you were born here and then moved elsewhere. If you went to school here and then moved on etc. I think it's quite appropriate that the rotunda tower actually frames the glass box addition of the Albright-Knox Gallery across the street which was designed by Gordon Bunshaft, a Buffalonian by birth (I believe). (See adjacent photo.) And then of course the museum is the largest repository for Charles Burchfield's art - a transplant 20th century artist known for his visual commentaries on the effects of Industrialism on small town America (primarily watercolors), a friend and peer of Edward Hopper.

The Interior of the Art Center is actually quite well done. What does every museum that showcases modern/contemporary art really want? Just lots of white walls and wood floors. And the Burchfield Penney has that. The spaces flow really nicely. It's not a large museum, but it is filled with various types of spaces, niches, windows that frame different views, private spaces to reflect and view the art or just reflect. The light is quite wonderful throughout the museum. I sort of wanted the Burchfield Rotunda to be larger or to be more focused (on the first floor). Its accompanying space above on the second floor has no art but benches with a window that frames views of the Albright-Knox. And treating the view of that as a piece of art is quite brilliant - probably the best gesture of the building.

So, as an architect I was very disappointed by the building presented to the street and its contribution or lack thereof to the neighborhood. But as a museum-goer, I enjoyed my visit. And as a native Buffalonian, I think it's an important contribution to the community and the community is really proud to have this new addition - and raising $36 million in Buffalo is no easy feat. It was exciting that we had trouble finding a parking spot and that the galleries and shop were full of people. Granted it was free the first week, but still that bodes well I hope. I hope that despite its lack of stellar design, it will become an important component of the city's art world and its story. (See my Facebook page for a photo album of my visit to the Burchfield Penney.)

After all , the name of my blog is "Cities and Memory" because I love cities, their architecture, people, places, layers and what they say about us, remembering our past and creating our future.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Leaving Logan: Trash the Bach, Bring on The Verve

I spent the past week in Boston at the monstrous and inspiring Greenbuild conference. It's the second one I've attended. Last year I really only got to attend one day because the APT conference in San Juan overlapped its beginning. The conference is the hottest thing on the planet in the design field right now - from 0 to 30,000 attendees in less than a decade. I've been thinking alot about the market forces, the interest, the people who attend and are true believers and why this movement is literally changing the world, when the preservation "movement" has been around for 60 years and while, yes, it's changed the world too, not with such exhilaration. And looking around the conference, the way it was managed, the excitement that is exuding from almost everyone, I've made some very opinionated observations.

1. Youth and hipness. Doesn't get any simpler. Greenbuild and green buildings are hip. There are no fuddy-duddies. And I don't mean just "youth" in terms of age, youth in terms of frame of mind, world approach. These guys are rarely wearing ties. And the women are all stylish and gorgeous. Malcolm Gladwell's new book, "Outliers", pronounces that a lot of innovation seems to be just being in the right place in the right time. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and their Silicon Valley clan were all born in 1955 and were 21 when they started changing the world. "21" seems to be the age that the geniuses are formalizing their world view. Hmmmm, gotta read that book and see what that's all about...

2. Diversity. It's not all white. We have to struggle to get diversity at preservation events and preservation organizations. Why don't we just attract all people? We have to give out diversity scholarships to get people of color or gender differences at our conferences and then we pat ourselves on the back - oh aren't we being inclusive?

3. Perception. I'm starting to think more and more that "Historic preservation" - the label - is too past-looking. While people get that buildings are the biggest contributor to green house gas emissions in the US - it's still hard for most people to grasp that "preservationists" are doing more than saving Mt. Vernon. We just have to work harder with our PR, with our outreach. Preservation Nation is a great start but we have to be even more hip. We need some leaders who are younger, have business savvy, and twitter as much as communicate on facebook. We need freshness. I think we need a new name, something that doesn't end with "ist". It's not a mistake that all of the plenaries and keynotes at Greenbuild had Coldplay and Radiohead in the background, leading in the speakers. We have to trash the Bach and bring on The Verve.

4. Brilliance. Greenbuild is filled not only with hip architects, designers and engineers (yep, engineers can be hip too), it's filled with scientists, chemists, energy consultants, inventors. When was the last time you could say inventors were hanging out at a preservation conference?
Green=innovation. I met energy consultants, glass scientists, real estate gurus, biologists. My mind was spinning. And I was thinking non-stop. I had to work really hard to keep up intellectually and I love that. While it's sometimes nice to be the smartest one in the room, it's exciting to be challenged. I am constantly learning.

5. Saving the World. This is saving the world stuff, bigtime. You feel like you're part of a bigger thing. You feel like you are making a difference. And that's what everyone's talking about.
So, what can the preservation world do to open itself up to being taken seriously? Stop being so darn stodgy. I have noticed a lot of the older generation of preservationists are just inflexible. Save the Main Street or do nothing - complain about everyone else. Stop complaining. Start doing. Start collaborating. Green folks have figured out how to criticize and collaborate in many ways better than the old-time preservationists. And they just don't include the "preservationists" because so many of them come with this chip on their shoulder. Now while you rarely see green folks who don't consider themselves preservationists at a National Trust conference, I could count on my hands the number of "preservationists" at Greenbuild. Open up people. Reach out. The Greenbuild conference had 2000 people sign up onsite on Tuesday!! That's more people than came to our entire conference in Tulsa.

Sounds like I'm denigrating preservationists? Maybe a bit. I call myself a "preservationist" less and less. I'm an architect first. Actually I'm a human first. An Architect second. Preservationist somewhere further down the line. I care about saving our species and keeping the world around for our grandchildren. If it came between a wind turbine and a viewshed, guess which one I'm picking. Now, it's rarely ever that black and white, but I'll tell you as I read through "Hot, Flat and Crowded" and all the new research coming out that's saying the biosphere is collapsing, melting, heating, cooling, "weirding", exponentially faster than even the IPCC thought last year, a lot of the fussiness just isn't going to matter any more. Get with the program folks. We need to save the world so that the pretty communities matter, but if the world and our species are gone, then that nice main street around the corner isn't going to matter one bit.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Taking the M79

What I miss most about living (or not living currently) in Manhattan: dry cleaners, delis, nail salons, and shoe repair shops on every corner; a subway that never closes; Central Park; the fact that everyone goes to therapy and talks about it; Central Park; the fact that everyone knows they're the hippest people on the planet; Central Park; the Met, MOMA and the American Museum of Natural History; takeout for anything and everything; Agata & Valentina, Zabars, and Butterfield's Market; my best friends and the M79 crosstown bus. Manhattan has style and soul. Washington DC doesn't have style. It's pleasant, has great restaurants and museums, and lots of space, but it just doesn't have a soul.

These are my ruminations as I spent the past two days roaming around Manhattan and Queens, taking photos, doing my favorite things like taking the M79 bus (don't ask), walking down my favorite streets, and hanging out with my closest girl friends (in between work meetings of course).
Usually these days I run into Manhattan for a day or two filled with meetings, driving quickly by the latest buildings with barely a chance to take closer looks at them and even get some photos. So this time I arranged a day of meetings after a holiday, so I could actually spend some time just enjoying the streets and visiting some of the new buildings that have gone up in the past few years. Good news - spent some time at 4 of those buildings. Bad news - they were all incredibly mediocre.

40 Mercer Street - by French Prizker-winning architect Jean Nouvel, hotel, residences, retail on the corner of Mercer and Broome. Given that this was the first major new building/skyscraper in SoHo and it had to go through years of reviews, it's not surprising that the result is an uninspired building by committee. It's quite jarring to look at Nouvel's Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis and then this building. 40 Mercer is elegantly detailed. But there is just no soul (ah, that word keeps popping up today doesn't it). Nothing really grabs your eye. It's better than a spec office building, but not by much I'm afraid.

AOL/Time Warner Center - by SOM/David Childs. Now I never anticipated that this would be any good. And it's certainly not as horrible as the first concepts for this complex showed it could have been. But like 40 Mercer, there is nothing special about this mammoth. It's livelier than the old Convention Center that used to anchor this part of Columbus Circle, but the "grand lobby" is no better than a Galleria Mall and I have no idea why there are big purple stars hanging in the totally under-designed space. It's dark inside and out. In fact I didn't even bother to take any photos of it - it didn't seem worthwhile to waste pixels on it!

Museum of Arts & Design - by Allied Works/Brad Cloepfil from Portland, OR. Oh, Brad, Brad, Brad - we had such high hopes for you. If you absolutely insist on deconstructing a quirky landmark because the spineless NYC LPC abstains from making a decision about whether it's worthy of landmarking, then at least have the common decency to make it a better landmark! But no, all we got was another quirky building with no relationship to the street or Columbus Circle. Edward Durell Stone's original lollipop columns at the base (one of the truly memorable elements of the original building) are hidden behind fretted glass. It's just so uninteresting all the way around. The lobby is barely a lobby; it's dark and has no distinction. The terra cotta tile glazing is a little too gray to make it look dirty. The zig-zag lighting strips down the elevations look like big zippers. Poor Columbus Circle. They gussied up the fountain finally, improved the traffic flow but anchored it with two overpriced, under-designed, second-rate, inferior icon-wannabes.

Then there's the Hearst Headquarters - it looks like an overblown TARDIS on steriods dropped out of the void onto the quirky (there's that word again) Hearst building. Now, let's be clear. I LOVE Norman Foster. His British Museum courtyard reinvention and now his Portrait Gallery courtyard are divine. And I have always had a strange fondness for Joseph Urban's stucco deco Hearst building. My first job as an architect in NYC was in the Fiske building across the street from it and I did a semester long paper on it at Columbia. I never thought it was a superb building, but a fun one. Added some whimsy to what for a very long time was a very bleak 8th Avenue. But Norman Foster and Joseph Urban just don't belong together. Like the Museum of Arts & Design which is kitty-corner to Hearst, why couldn't they just have been bolder? If you're going to make a bold gesture, then do it already!! Don't leave us bored. Bold or bored - can't seem to get anything in between.

So, I am not bored to tears by every new building in Manhattan. I LOVE the New Museum on the Bowery designed by Tokyo-based architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA. It's perfectly located at the intersection of Bowery and Prince. I've seen it at night, all lit up, and on an overcast afternoon. And it made me smile both times. It's fresh, unique, bold with a capital "B" but not overwhelming, and says "contemporary design". It has reactivated a very gritty part of the Bowery. It's an understated piece of starchitecture by some young, new stars who took their task very, very seriously. I read an interview with them in which they described being scared of the site actually - the grittiness and the courage needed by the Museum to choose that location. More architects should take their projects as seriously.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Lived-In Modern Icon

A friend of mine who's a writer recently asked us to name and describe our favorite modern building in Washington, DC. That was so easy for me, no need to even compare or consider. Mine is the Ann & Donald Brown House, designed by Richard Neutra overlooking Rock Creek Park in Forest Hills in 1968. I love the way it's perched above the street and park almost like a treehouse. Despite being a glass and steel box (layers of box really) it is very organic and it's hard to tell where the Park ends and the house begins. What I like even more about it is that I ran by it for years (it's in my neighborhood and on my running path) and had no idea it was a Neutra house. It's so clean, crisp and modern; I assumed it was a recent building and kept meaning to find out who had designed it. When I read an article in the Post over the summer about it and realized the house I had been admiring for 2 years was a Neutra, the only Neutra in DC, I was equally tickled and surprised and honored to have it around the block from me. It looks different with the seasons and the hours of the day. Sometimes it's opaque and reminds me of the flatness of a Mondrian painting, other times it looks like a piece of sculpture. The red steel is unexpected.

Heather Cass, a DC architect, designed an addition to the front of the house in the 1990s and it continues the floating perpendiculars that comprise the design parti. A stunning, brilliant house that the orginal owners still live in 40 years later - a testament to its design and functional success. When people come to visit me now, it's the first place I take them to see, even before the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Cleaning & Dreaming

I'm giving my apartment a thorough cleaning today for the first time in maybe 6 months, but you can see how "thorough" it's going to be since I'm writing my blog. I am completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of my mess and can't focus on finishing one task before starting the next several. Add to that, a need to finalize my dinner menu for tomorrow night (the reason behind all the cleaning), then a trip to Whole Foods and the bank to get quarters so I can do laundry to have something nice to wear tomorrow. Blaring The Verve too is probably not helping either - as much as I love morose Brits, it's probably not helping my energy level!

So, as I dream about finishing the much needed cleaning, I am also dreaming about what our world might look like in 5 years. It is pretty astonishing how everyone now thinks Barack Obama is going to save the world. I certainly do. And it's not based on anything concrete other than someone my age who can break all barriers, raise himself up from a confusing background and complete an amazing Ivy education, and accomplish all he determines to do at the age of 47 MUST be meant for great things, for the greatest things. I would throw myself in front of a train for him. It makes absolutely no sense. I have never felt this strongly for any public persona, not even Hillary. I want to make changes to help him save our world. And that's it isn't it, everyone, around the world, thinks that this huge uprising of change in America means the best for the entire world. Maybe he is our messiah, no offense intended to previous messiahs...


Cleaning continues, hazelnut torte baking, laundry done, vegetables chopped, Doctor Who on the television. Whole Foods was pretty insane today although the parking lot was only half full. I noticed that all the loft apartment buildings on P seem to be open now; maybe that's where all the shoppers were coming from. It is intriguing to think about living in a loft apartment within walking distance of both Whole Foods, the office and the yoga studio. Like being back in NY... But I like being near the Park and the beltway.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pondering Climate Change

Today, it hit 72 degrees in the District of Columbia, several degrees higher than average. It was a welcome surprise - a group of us ran out at lunch to Dupont Circle eating our sandwiches while we enjoyed the warm sun and pontificated about the new administration. Some of my colleagues joked about enjoying global warming. Of course, who knows if it's really climate change that gave us such beautiful weather today or just an anomaly. But it prepared me for my afternoon of pondering how to measure the actual impact of climate change on our historic sites so that I can speak in more scientific manners and not so anecdotally. ICOMOS is developing a Climate Change tool kit to do just that, and the National Trust in the UK is about a decade ahead of us in measuring this as well. (Note the flooding at Farnsworth House above this September, one of the historic sites in my purview, which had a second one hundred year flood in as many years.)

I was reading Nicholas Kristof's blog today presenting his ideas for Obama's Cabinet choices. There is a lot of debating in the comments, with some really innovative ideas I never would have thought of. But I did notice three common themes - people have specific thoughts on Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury and a new Climate Change Cabinet position. Certainly those are the three topics I think about most - improving our world engagement and involvement, saving the world economy from armageddon and just plain saving the planet. It's been so heartening to see the world response to our election. It made me cry to hear of people pouring into the streets in Paris in jubilation. I feel like we're coming out of this dark abyss of 8 years and we've shown the rest of the world that we can take control of our actions and our politicians. Now maybe we'll remind everyone that we can play nice in the world sandbox.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Traipsing Across the Piedmont (North Carolina, that is)

I have a real love/hate relationship with my job. Love: because I get to work on some of the most iconic and important architecture in the country and travel all over the continent, meeting new, inspiring and exciting people. Hate: for the same reasons, well not working on the iconic architecture of course, but certainly the travel. I've lived in DC for almost 3 years but my social life tends to be dinners, events, sports, parties in other cities since I'm so rarely at home. Of course I realize I plan my own travel schedule so it's really my own fault where I spend my weekends. I am hoping that the influx of Democrats and hope with Obama to DC will encourage me to put down more roots here. Although it may just not be in my make-up. One friend recently called me a gypsy, and others have called me a professional fidgeter. That may be closer. Enough whining for one posting (oh, isn't it sad, she gets to travel all over the country, see some of the best buildings in the world, stay at the coolest hotels, visit friends, boo hoo)...

Last week I was off to Winston-Salem to give my "save the world" speech to the University of North Carolina/Greensboro Department of Interior Architecture. A friend and colleague, John Larson, invited me. John is the Vice President of Restoration at Old Salem Museums & Gardens in Winston-Salem, and teaches at UNC. We have been serving together on the Montpelier Restoration Advisory Committee and he's been wanting me to come visit Old Salem since I met him. Now being the modernist I am, colonial architecture doesn't usually get me too excited, but I can respect and admire the beauty of any good design - be it a building or a community. The weather was beautiful during my 3 days there, so the red brick and lush foliage were welcoming, calming and inspiring. And surprisingly I discovered that there was more to Winston-Salem than Moravian heritage (which turns out to be far more interesting than I had thought it would be).

We drove to the top of Pilot Mountain (a wacky quartzite monadnock seemingly transported from the west to the middle of North Carolina) to get a good flavor of the lay of the land, and admire the changing colors. John showed me the rambling remains of the RJ Reynolds tobacco factory - just on the edge of downtown and looking for a new use; a restored Shell gas station that everyone loves including me; the requisite historic mansions now used as conference centers - GrayLyn and Reynolda; one of the oldest Nascar tracks (1920s) in the country built out of early reinforced concrete; the usual 1970s Brutalist government buildings in downtown Winston-Salem and a lovely wood frame Carpenter Gothic church outside of downtown that just finished a restoration. All my photos can be viewed as a photo album on my Facebook page.
Winston-Salem (hyphenated by the Post Office early last century for some crazy reason I didn't quite understand) is actually Salem (and Old Salem) and Winston. Downtown Winston has a cute main street, a few blocks long with the usual condos taking over a former department store, some hip restaurants, a Federal building and some tobacco and banking headquarter skyscrapers. Old Salem is a smaller version of a Colonial Williamsburg - a restored and sometime reconstructed town built by the Moravians who came here en masse in the early 1800s. But unlike CW it does have different layers of history, building styles and types - early timber framed houses, Colonial and federal era brick structures, and some later 19th century buildings including a hotel. There are apparently a lot of gardens also but I never quite had a chance to roam around a bit. I was staying in an 1833 guest house on the main street, but John and his colleagues had me going from dawn to midnight so I didn't ever have a chance to explore on my own. And that wasn't a bad thing! Everywhere I went was a delight. We even made it to the Obama Headquarters downtown where I got a huge sticker for my car!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our New Green World

Today we all awoke to a brand new world. A world filled with hope. A world with an America we can all believe in again. For the first time in probably a decade I woke up free of apathy and cynicism. And I woke up so proud to be an American and proud of my fellow citizens for standing up and declaring that we would no longer stand the status quo, and that in one day we could change the future. Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 the majority of Americans reminded the world why America is so special and why democracy, our democracy, has changed the world and can change it again.

I started crying at 11:08 pm when CNN & MSNBC both declared Obama the winner and I've barely stopped since. The city roared and people poured out onto their balconies, into our courtyard and into the streets. The only other time I've experienced anything like this was 1986 when the Mets won the World Series and all of NYC let out one large gasp. I had no idea that I would react like that. Hope and jubilation makes you do things you never thought your jaded city persona would ever do. Like hug every one of your colleagues all day long. Like smile and say hello to every person you pass on the street. Like start making plans for staying in Washington, DC when all you've done for the past two years is try to find a way to leave. Like keep hugging your kitties and telling them that the world has changed. Unfettered optimism is a new world order for me.

Electing Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States signals the coming of age of our generation - the Baby Boomer Cuspers - those of us born in the early 60s who aren't quite GenXers and not quite Baby Boomers. I like to say that we have the best aspects of each of those generations. And Barack represents the best aspects of the best of us. We have now entered the "Age of Obama". And it's an age that I am honored to be in.
Thomas Friedman ended his op-ed today in the Times by saying "There is just so much work to be done. The Civil War is over. Let reconstruction begin." What was so brilliant about Obama's acceptance speech was the way his strength of purpose, confidence, and elegance embraced and engaged everyone rather than set him apart. He was sober and honest, commanded respect and from me, undying devotion. And I was a diehard Hillary follower. But I don't think anyone could do what needs to be done now to lead the salvation of our world except for him. Do I think he is a messiah? I think he has tapped into what is good in all of us and that he will surround himself with the right people who will ask the right questions. What I have seen in the past 24 hours is that this election is bringing out the best in everyone. I suspect that he will not solve all of our problems himself but he will give us the tools to let us work with each other to solve them together.

In an interview last week, Obama was asked what the top goals of his administration would be. And he responded 1. Stabilize our economy and take control of our finances and 2. Develop our energy independence. For someone who makes her living promoting the greening of our planet, these are words dear to me. Today my dreams of a carbon zero planet filled with plentiful natural resources don't seem that far fetched any more.

For the past year I have been traveling around the country giving my speech on "saving the world through sustainable preservation" and ending my talk with 3 slides that say "If you want to save our planet, and everything in it that we hold dear, then we all must work together to impact the political will." And last night we did that. We have huge mountains to scale to get ourselves out of this political and financial armageddon we find ourselves in, but with Barack Obama at the helm, most of us will be able to say "yes, we can."