Sunday, November 19, 2006

Volkswagen Dresden Factory

Volkswagen's Transparent Factory (Die Glaserne Manufaktur)

For all you Diecast / Matchbox car collectors
, check out this Volkswagen automobile factory in Dresden, Germany. The VW management team and marketing department made the right call when they chose the architectural firm who designed thi
s showcase. The glass display tower where the newly fabricated cars are stored recalls Matchbox hobby display imagery in no uncertain terms. The factory was opened a few years ago and tours are open to the public. Volkswagen's luxury car, the Phaeton, is manufactured at this plant.

With VW's sagging US sales, and high US VW price tags, it's easy to see why VW's overhead might be a bit bloated (as compared to Japanese manufacturers.) I don't know what the Detroit Ford and GM plants look like, but I am guessing they are nothing like the VW plant in Dresden.

But style does count for something (in my book). And the design for this factory is quite impressive on first glance (for those who admire good industrial design).

Although the plant has been open a few years, I thought I'd post the photos here because like my beloved Mac[intosh], I know VW enthusiasts are a (relatively) small group here in the States. (I sure do miss my VW...)

The VW enthusiast forum has posted several high quality photos of the plant and has more information on the plant's design, the manufacturing process, tours, etc. (Be forewarned, there are several photos, so it
may take awhile for the VW Forum page to load.) The Dresden plant even has its own website where you can learn more about the factory and see more pics.

Check out both websites. It's a lot of fun -- even if you don't drive a VW.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Open Source - Freedom to Innovate

Now that the "World Rock, Paper Scissors" competition is settled for the next 12 months, there's no better time than now to use the RPS metaphor in proclaiming that Apple [Computers] cover, smashes and cuts Windows [OS]. My friends and family members know I'm a Macintosh user (23 years and counting), and that I avoid all things Windows-related when possible. With the intention of providing a public service, I am taking this opportunity to tell the handful of tightwad internet surfers who have never heard of Open Office software ( that they would do well to sign on to the Open Source movement and ditch the crappy Windows Office Suite of mediocre programs in favor of OpenOffice.

Open Office software has gone through several incarnations the over the years (and has been published under other names). Only more recently has it gained a reputation as a feature packed, stable, comprehensive alternative to Microsoft Office software.

Oh, and did I mention Open Office software is FREE?

Open Office is a suite of Business and Productivity software apps that include: a word processor, presentation, vector drawing, spreadsheet and database programs (replacing MS Word, Excel, Power Point, etc..) No need to worry about compatibility. Open Office can open existing MS Suite documents, and works on various platforms and operating systems, including Windows XP, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, Sun Solaris. I've created documents in OO and then opened them in MS Word or Excel without problems. The programs are available as a free download. If your internet connection is slow, you can buy a copy on CD or DVD for about $4.95 (plus shipping) from one of the official OO distributors. That beats paying $265-325+ (USD) for a program that often crashes.

For more on the "Open Source movement", check out the GNU / Free Software Foundation (FSF) website.

If I've got to work on a windoze machine (from time to time), at least I don't have to use the equally crummy MS software.

Topic: Technology, Macs

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Green Machine: Tesla Motors Electric Car

Not Your Daddy's Electric Car

From the Green Files: Tesla Motors has rolled out its first 100 all-Electric vehicles and is quickly approaching the 200th. Thank goodness someone with engineering know-how is taking a stab at the archaic petroleum based automotive business model. Treehuggers have known for years that electric cars have been a viable reality in spite of sabotaging efforts from Detroit and petroleum companies worldwide. (Google the 2006 Documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?")

Enter California based Tesla Motors' ( all-electric sports car that goes from 0-to-60 in 4 seconds with a top speed of around 130 MPH. (That 0-60 stat beats a Lamborghini..) It's a 2-seat, open-top, rear drive roadster. It puts those aardvark looking Priuses to shame. The car is designed & engineered in the USA, but built by Lotus Motors (under a contract agreement w/ Tesla) in the UK.

Quoting from the website,
"Because it has no clutch and a very wide, flat torque curve, the acceleration of the Tesla Roadster is much more available to enjoy: just step on the accelerator and go - no matter what speed you are driving, no matter what gear you are in, the acceleration is instantaneous."

Other Tesla highlights include:
- 248 HP; 13,500 RPM
- Zero Foreign oil requirements; Zero Emissions
- Goes 250 miles on a charge
- 2 Speed Transmission; 4-wheel Disk Brakes w/ ABS
- Has a Solar Panel option (for charging), Neat !
- Soft or hardtop option
- Has a port for your iPod (it better at that price !)
- available in 12 colors
- the car can't be hot-wired (so they say..)
- Lots of standard features like Heated Seats & AC, Alloy wheels; Air Bags, Cruise Control, etc.
- Meets Federal DOT requirements for Insurance & Registration

Tesla Motors Service Centers/Showrooms include:
San Carlos, CA (corporate headquarters), New York, Chicago, Miami. If anyone sees one around Chicago, email me !

The Downside: These cars go for about $100,000 USD (or about 1-7/8 Hummers). Hey, but remember when the basic calulator back in the 1970s set you back about $250 and only added, subtracted, divided and multiplied?

Time to go get a lottery ticket..

Topic keywords: Green Issues; Design; Electric Cars.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


As a grad student, I had a chance to study a fair amount of vernacular & iconic architecture. But I have to admit that this particular nod to the "built-environment" slipped by me. While surfing some of my favorite design websites (and I'll be posting those links here soon too), I came across the site It's the brainchild of a guy named Roger D. Beck who has built, lived-in and researched the topic for the last few decades. He's amassed hundreds of photos of these mobile domiciles dating back to the early 1970s and has self-published a book with almost 400 photographs of various mobile bus and truck homes. This gives new meaning to the term "Mobile Home "-- don't it?

I found myself unable to look away, not unlike gawking at a roadside accident. It speaks less to architectural design, imo, than it does to the need for some among us to have the ability to move about freely. It's interesting stuff (from that viewpoint), just the same.

I'm including a link here not so much to encourage like projects, but for the mere spectacle of it all, and as a way to consider how sense of place [home] reconciles with human wanderlust. My Beautiful Shanty, indeed.

There is so much to post.. Hang in there with me people... I've got some interesting stuff coming.