>Back by popular demand

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Well, I don’t know about popular, but Dr. Jay has been bugging me to post and I finally decided that this was the weekend to come out of shadows I’ve been lurking in for over a month. Was the last time I posted really a month ago? I guess it was. I do apologize, dear readers, but life became very busy in December (there was a blizzard, the holidays, two separate trips to Georgia, a new starter for our vehicle, among other things) and I know that shouldn’t really have kept me from blogging, but they sapped me of time and energy and posting sank lower and lower on the priority list.

It’s a new year and I have new resound for the Babble though. I hope to be making changes to my site soon, which is one thing that has kept me from being overly-enthusiastic about posting. I want my blog-environment to be reflective of me and my design aesthetic. I’ve been super basic here from the start, so it’s time for me to finally figure out how to code something and make some changes. I’ll keep you posted.

On the architecture end, one piece of news I read in December and meant to write about is an interesting little thing that occurred in Switzerland back in November: the Swiss voted to ban the building of minarets. Though not supported by the government, a referendum vote on the issue passed with 57.5 percent of the voters and in 22 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons. Because the ban was backed by a majority of voters and cantons, it will be added to the Swiss Constitution, which could take up to a year. The Swiss Constitution, like that of the United States, guarantees freedom of religion.

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(image of a minaret in Zurich courtesy of the NYTimes)

Do you think that’s ever happened before in a Westernized country: that an entire type of architectural form could be banned? As the article states, of the 150 mosques or prayer rooms in the entire country of Switzerland, only four have minarets, and only two more are planned. I’m not sure if those planned will be affected by this new law or not. The minaret form, tall and striking in the landscape, can be quite dominant, especially in a country where low-lying traditional buildings dot the landscape.

It’s striking to me that the Swiss people have such direct influence on the built form in their communities. When I visited Zurich for a school trip in 2005, the city was in the process of voting on the design of it’s first real skyscraper, which was an exception to its restriction on high-rise buildings. There was an exhibit with models and drawings of the various ideas created by about ten different architects from around the world, and citizens were invited to visit and observe the possibilities and then cast votes to determine the fate of the cityscape. It was amazing to me that something that in the U.S. which would have been decided by private, commercial parties or with the local government, was to be decided by citizens of the community. The Swiss have a completely different way of determining how their cities will be shaped.

Do you agree? Do you think Americans would ever show up for a vote banning a certain type of architecture, or to vote on a new building in their town or city?

Off to watch Herb and Dorothy, finally!

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