James S. Russell's blog

Island Urbanism: Teasing Out the Unique

Whether kissed by trade winds in Hawaii, home to dozens of unique cultures in the Caribbean, or scoured by Nor’easter’s off the coast of Maine, islands are magnetic to burnt-out urbanites but tend to be tough places for natives.

I was a guest not long ago of Fernando Menis, an architect who has built an international reputation from Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. It’s not easy to be true to a unique place – as he aspires to be – when what works locally doesn’t always “translate” in the globalized and image-driven world of architecture.

Madrid’s Alternate Suburban Universe

Houston or Holland? The rapidly growing suburbs of Madrid uncomfortably (and instructively) amalgamate some of both. I was lucky to receive a recent tour from David Cohn, a long-time colleague and 20-year resident of Madrid; Sylvia Perea, a post-doctoral student and, until recently, an editor at the journal Arquitectura Viva, and Emilio Ontiveros, a young architect of the local Research Group on Social Housing.

Who Pays for the Subprime Lender Meltdown?

Scrambling to grab that elusive “American Dream” of homeownership, millions plunged into the subprime mortgage market to build wealth through appreciation (if not speculation). Pundits cheered as the ownership rate crept up, lauding the pluck of aspirational minority and immigrant families.

There’s a reason it is called subprime, though. Lenders offered a smorgasborg of loan “products,” but the bottom line was that they are all very costly for the borrower – often entailing adjustable-rate surprises in the 30 percent or higher range.