November 15, 2022


The Morning Meeting with Al Tompkins is a daily Poynter briefing of story ideas worth considering and other timely context for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

My dear friend Demetria Kalodimos, a legendary journalist in Nashville, started a nonprofit journalism venture that goes by the name of the city’s former evening newspaper, The Nashville Banner. One of her premiere pieces of work is an exploration of how the city is building tall buildings, one after another with all glass skins. The theme of the glassification of our cities is playing itself out everywhere you look. Builders say occupants want a “view” but there are serious problems with how much energy the glass buildings require to cool and heat.

Then there is the question of how long these buildings will last, certainly not as long as hardened materials. And Demetria has heard from critics who called them soulless and cold.

Archinect.com recently reported:

Courtney Humphries of Boston Globe argues that the current trend for extensive use of glass in buildings contradicts today’s strive for sustainability and “green building.” When New York started tracking energy use by skyscrapers, the gleaming 7 World Trade Center — one of that city’s more efficient glass towers — scored worse than the 1930s-era Empire State Building.”

Taking a lot of energy to heat and cool, glass buildings do not fit well with most climates. 

“Unlike opaque walls, glass allows heat to pass in and out easily. A 2014 report from the Urban Green Council in New York found that glass buildings have insulation values equivalent to medieval half-timber houses.” 

Globally, cities have threatened to ban construction of new all-glass buildings. Environmentalists say even glass buildings that are considered to be “green” are not very efficient.  Listen to a TED Talk from architecture critic Justin Davidson who said glass buildings are making cities faceless and generic. He calls it a “creep transformation” of glass rather than buildings that have architectural character. 

The Globe found:
The debate over glass buildings is one example of a larger fault line in architecture, a profession where the dreams of social and environmental visionaries collide with the harsh realities of getting building projects financed.

Sustainability-minded architects are trying to wean colleagues and clients from all-glass buildings, which they see as a relic of the past rather than a vision of the future. “Our goal is not to demonize glass as a material,” says Blake Jackson, an architect at Tsoi/Kobus & Associates in Cambridge. But he says glass can be used judiciously in a way that’s responsive to the environment.

Architectural Digest spoke with top architects about how glass buildings don’t have to be environmental disasters if governments enforce energy standards. 

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune notes the end of small blocky glass buildings and adds a hopeful forecast for more appealing stone and classic styles.

In my job teaching for Poynter, I travel a lot, prepandemic it was more than a city per week. I am saddened by great cities that, like Nashville, relinquish their architectural heritage to glass towers. Recently I was on the campuses of Penn State and the University of Minnesota and the schools reminded me of the value of preserving design heritage over flash and shine.  

Let me introduce you to a movement that is gaining some attention. It is called Architectural façadism, which metal casting company Reliance Foundry explains, “is the practice of preserving a structure’s façade, or face, while constructing a new building behind it. It is a method that compromises between complete building renovation and restoration. Façadism is also a technique frequently used in adaptive reuse.” 

The price of farmland is pricing out farmers 

This is an especially interesting story for all of you who have rural America in your audience. We focus a lot on the price of housing but let’s look now at the price of land. The New York Times reports that average farmland prices nationwide have risen to $3,800 an acre, “the highest on record since 1970, with cropland at $5,050 an acre and pastureland at $1,650 an acre.

(USDA)

(USDA)

(USDA)

(USDA)

A survey by the National Young Farmers Coalition found that land affordability is a top challenge to their work:

(Young Farmer Coalition)

The survey also shows that young farmers are deeply concerned about climate change’s effect on their farms.

(Young Farmer Coalition)

If Trump announces tonight does that provide him legal protection?

My colleagues at PolitiFact dive into this question and come up with a big “no” for the headline question. 

“Being a candidate gives Trump no legal protection from criminal prosecution for crimes committed during or after his presidency,” said Mark Osler, a University of St. Thomas law professor. “Were he running as an incumbent, that might be different, but right now his status is ‘Florida resident,’ not ‘president.’”

The National Review said if Trump’s endorsed candidates had performed better in the midterm elections it might have provided him more political if not legal cover. 

The 2024 election has begun

And just as you are enjoying not being barraged by political ads, the 2024 race for President is on. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, launched a series of digital ads signaling he may be a Republican presidential candidate. 

Both Pompeo and former Vice President Pence are hawking books, which are timed to holiday book-buying season and they are a sure sign that the authors are fueling up for some “next thing,” which often is a run for office.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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