WEEKEND READING: August 25-31, 2007

Even though blog posts in the urbanism 'osphere have been down recently (blame last minute summer vacations and the start of the fall semester) the quality of articles and posts has been pretty high. This week was another good one.

ITEM ONE: A large, thorough, and eye-opening account of life in the hypercity of São Paulo.

ITEM TWO: Some interesting musings on the shallow nature of the shockingly new city of Shenzhen and the loss of culture in China.

ITEM THREE: anArchitecture discusses the emerging problem of shrinking cities -- in Second Life.

ITEM FOUR: The difference between Tokyo and Little Rock? Broadband access. (Well, that's one difference, anyway).

ITEM FIVE: Spacing Wire marvels at the way design and art seem to be woven through every aspect of life in Barcelona -- right down to the (gorgeous) lightposts.

ITEM SIX: Police crack down on Geneva's squats, and airoots fears for the future of the city's underground culture.

ITEM SEVEN: Miami is in a bit of a pickle. 23,000 condos for sale, with another 25,000 under construction. Talk about market oversaturation...

Have a great weekend!

(Photo from Flickr user mariana_dias.)



Aaron Naparstek is one of the people behind the popular NYC transit media site called Streetsblog. He's also the author of a book called Honku that updates that ancient Japanese poetry form, the haiku, by using the very contemporary theme of automobiles; or, more specifically, how f*@#$ing irritating they are.

From the publicity site for the book: "Honku is a road rage anger management technique. The next time some jerk cuts you off or steals your parking spot, rather than succumbing to the rage, take a step back. Separate yourself from the moment and try to observe it with clarity and perspective. Then boil it all down into crisp and pithy 5-7-5 gem. That's a honku."

So simple, and so brilliant. On a personal note, I took a few poetry classes in college. As a result, I now find reading poetry as enjoyable as rubbing sandpaper over my corneas. Still, a quick, pithy haiku always puts me in good spirits. There are a few "favorite" honkus published directly on Naparstek's site, so I decided to pull a few of my own favorites -- the best of the best of the best, if you will -- and re-post them here for your enjoyment. Take a read through, and if you like what you see check out the site for more.

Gruesome hit and run
fatalities up ahead
how awful - I'm late.

Drove six hours to
the Mall of America
got some McNuggets.

Atlanta traffic
easy to see why Sherman
burned this city down.

There's a great little story on the Honku site about the inspiration for the book. As it turns out, these literary zingers started off as a a community art project. Enraged by inconsiderate, horn-honking drivers disturbing the peace in his Brooklyn neighborhood, Naparstek started writing the honkus and taping them to lightposts in the area. Soon, honkus written by other residents started popping up. The city council rep took notice, as did the police, and the local media. Of course, in New York, the "local media" is the New Yorker and the New York Times. That was probably somewhat helpful in getting this project to really take off. Heh. At any rate, all of the attention fixed the problem: the cops started ticketing honkers and the noise dropped dramatically.

So the next time you're confronted by a problem in your neighborhood, remember that the annoyances we assume to be unavoidable can be remedied through unconventional solutions. You can't fix everything with a haiku, but if someone had told you this story before it had actually happened, you'd probably have laughed at them. We big city folk have a tendancy to mistake cynicism for common sense. We need to stop that.

One more for the road, from yours truly:

Leaning out windows
drivers scream for green. A train
rumbles overhead.

Honku.org (Photo Credit)



Conscious Urbanism: The Heidelberg Project

As the city that has fallen on the hardest times (in America, at least), Detroit has the most potential as a proving ground for new solutions. The city is a massive laboratory for urban theorists, developers, and boosters alike. How, many wonder, can Detroit be saved? Or can it be saved at all? Certainly one of the more interesting answers to these questions has come from Tyree Guyton, the man behind the Heidelberg Project, which has appropriated several blocks of the city's near east side into a spectacularly off-the-wall community art project/revitalization effort.

It's certainly not what you'd traditionally refer to as "revitalization," but that's kind of the point. On its website, the Heidelberg Project explains its vision thusly: "The Heidelberg Project envisions neighborhood residents using art to come together to rebuild the structure and fabric of under-resourced communities and to create a way of living that is economically viable, enriches lives, and welcomes all people." What this translates to in the physical environment of Heidelberg Street is a collection of abandoned houses -- and their surroundings -- covered in murals, knick-knacks, mannequins, coins, pie tins, pieces of repurposed trash, stuffed animals, and (literally) just about anything else you could think up. It's like the Watts Towers, but even more organic.

The Heidelberg Project teaches people who live and have grown up in desolate surroundings how they can change the public spaces that make up their neighborhood and how this change can affect them. It serves as an inspiration and a source of hope. So, of course, the city government has tried to kill the project several times. It has demolished a number of homes that were a part of the project on several different occasions, even though Heidelberg Street is an internationally-recognized project that attracts 275,000 visitors each year. As the project's Executive Director, Jenenne Whitman, observes, the fact that the city tried so hard to “squash the project … shows how powerful art can be." Indeed.

In contemporary society, public places themselves are not often thought of as art; actually, they are more often viewed as containers for art. The design of high-end contemporary places is sometimes considered artistically merited, it's true. But the more interesting and subtle artistic expression in the public realm is community usage. The creation of great places, after all, absolutely requires heavy human interaction. This is usually considered a confirmation of the artistic integrity of the place's design, but is it not an art form in and of itself? After all, don't communities transform unplanned spaces into vibrant public places as frequently if not moreso than they do planned places?

The bustle of urban streets and other public spaces in the city is sometimes refered to, quite poetically, as a great pedestrian ballet. And if this is true, it can be logically assumed that, while policy and planning choreograph parts of this ballet, each individual person moving through the city takes part in its choreography by making their own independent choices. People go to parks and plazas and promenades for so many reasons: to eat, to play, to run, to chat, to meet, to dance, to stroll. And by doing so, each person becomes an artist, taking part in the endless urban ballet. Simply to use the city, to exist within it, is a work of art. It's a lovely idea, no?

The Heidelberg Project is a very concrete visual manifestation of this ballet. It teaches the disenfranchised and the isolated how to shape the world around them into something beautiful. In a way, it is the most public kind of public place: the kind where the planned social infrastructure failed, and the people moved in, did what they do, and created something really useful.

The Heidelberg Project

Heidelberg Turns 21 (Model D) (Photo credit)


WEEKEND READING: August 18-24, 2007

It seems like things are really hit-or-miss on the online urbanism media circuit. Some weeks are golden, and others about as interesting as watching paint dry. Luckily, this week was definitely the former.

ITEM ONE: Airoots has a great story on a pretty unconventional "artist village" development in Mumbai. (Photo at right)

ITEM TWO: Some great observations from The Economist on the past and present of one of the world's most fascinating cities, Beijing.

ITEM THREE: Want a unique way to tell your neighborhood's story? Life Without Buildings has found a fun example of how to do so...

ITEM FOUR: Want some geopolitics and developing world perspective with your architecture and urbanism? Check out Candyland, a blog from a former resident of Mexico City now living in Barcelona.

ITEM FIVE: Over at Plasticbag, one of the most interesting posts I've read on place branding.

ITEM SIX: Bill Fulton of the CPDR has no patience for Joel Kotkin. (Right on!)

ITEM SEVEN: New -- and pretty jarring -- info on the relationship between homeownership and economic success via CEOs for Cities.

ITEM EIGHT: Spacing Wire's post about psychadelic radio programs, urban soundtracks, and aimless Sunday strolls. (Conversation starter: What's the soundtrack to your city?)

So in a week overflowing with good stuff, this blogger would strongly recommend all of the above. But if you just have time to read one, make it either Item One or Item Five. And have a great weekend!


Tokyo Disneyland in Google Maps

So this post has nothing to do with anything, really, but I found the subject matter to be kind of hilarious and felt the pressing need to share my discovery now instead of waiting for Weekend Reading. The Japanese, it appears, are so thoroughly detailed in their online mapmaking that the Google Maps view of Tokyo Disneyland marks all exterior ride tracks with the line used for rails. See the thin, squiggly black lines in the above image? That's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. On Google Maps.


(Click the map to check out the full park -- which has, as you might imagine, an insane level of detail).


Where @ Blog Action Day 2007

The 'osphere seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis, with lots of "Why do we blog?" and "Blogging is dead!" posts popping up recently. Perhaps Blog Action Day will reinvigorate the blogging community. Either way, Where will be one of the many, many blogs joining in on the Enviro-themed fun this October 15th. In addition, that week's Weekend Reading will be decidated to highlighting urbanism/transit/architecture-related posts produced as part of the event. So, if you are a blogger that writes about such things and plan on taking part in Blog Action Day, make sure to let me know and I'll add you to the list. Think of the prestige -- you can call all of your friends and say "I'm Item Four!!" Catchy, hey?

(Thanks to Offbeat Homes for the video link.)


WEEKEND READING: August 11-17, 2007

This edition of Weekend Reading is all sorts of random. It's like urbanism salad!

ITEM ONE: The story of Bummer and Lazarus, San Francisco's most famous pooches.

ITEM TWO: The "informal settlement"-watching blog Squatter City, written by the author of Shadow Cities.

ITEM THREE: Mexico City's mayor tries to push vendors off of the streets, but meets opposition from "a 63-year-old ex-con and great-grandmother."

ITEM FOUR: More radio hijinx from BLDGBLOG and DJ/rupture.

ITEM FIVE: The Washington Post asks "can globalization for for the world's slums?"

ITEM SIX: Will South America's first eco-city be built in rising-star Bogotá? Chances are good.

ITEM SEVEN: More from Colombia, where the previously mentioned HiperBarrio project continues to improve the city. For more on that resurgent city, click here.

See? Urbanism salad. Just like I promised. Check back over the weekend, as more of the Neighbor's Manifesto will be posted.

(Photo from Flickr user Dunstan Orchard.)


The Possibilities of the Post-Retail City

I just had my first exposure to Reverend Billy, the leader of the Church of Stop Shopping. After reading a post (over at Polis) about the Reverend's anti-consumerist group, I thought it was an actual church. To which I said: "Oh, excellent.

Of course, the CoSS is actually an act, with the "Reverend" being the stage persona of NYC performance artist Bill Talen. It's a send-up of streetcorner preachers and televangelists, and it sounds hilarious. Better yet, there's a point! Reverend Billy preaches against corporatist architecture and urbanism, advocating for sustainable, walkable communities with local economies. And while the site does pay lip service to independently owned local businesses, it is the Church of Stop Shopping, and one of their taglines is "Love is a Gift Economy!" Obviously, these people think that there are better ways for us to use all of that street-level retail space.

And that got me thinking: if there were no major retail chains and independents had to hold up the local economy, what would we do with all of that ground-floor space? Indeed -- and my upbringing in a capitalist society may shine through right here -- but where would we walk to? Certainly, there are plenty of places that we walk every day, but a large amount of pedestrian traffic is genereated by shoppers. And while it's not a requirement for these ground-level spaces that make up our streetscape be places of commerce, their presence is utterly vital to functioning neighborhoods. Often (these days) even moreso than upper-level residential windows, storefronts are the Jacobsian "eyes on the street" that act as a natural deterrant to crime.

Shopping is also a huge part of the social life in many (if not most) contemporary cities; in fact, that's just what Reverend Billy and his fake church take issue with. And whether or not you agree with the Church of Stop Shopping (or, as I'm sure many do, find it outright offensive), it's interesting to imagine a world in which shopping took a back seat to other social spaces as the dominant street presence. Imagining Paris without the Champs-Elysées or New York without Park Avenue sparks a giddy, no-holds-barred creative energy akin to imagining those cities in a work of science fiction or postapocalyptic literature.

To get an idea of what might fill the void, it might be interesting to see how social space is structured in places where gift economies (or at least barter systems) often already exist and retail strips are few and far between, at least in the traditional sense: slums.

An article from Forbes, mentioned briefly in a previous post at Where, described the socioeconomic situation of many older, established slums in Asia and South America thusly: "Many slum dwellers are in fact entrepreneurs, albeit writ very small. They recycle trash, sell vegetables, do laundry. Some even run tiny restaurants and bars for their neighbors." So while there are no Ginza Districts in the favelas of Rio, there is a social commerce to such places. Restaurants and bars remain important components of the neighborhood, which makes good sense; people have always come together over food and drink, and will continue to do so regardless of any freak evaporations of the retail sector.

Another thing that brings people together is knowledge -- or, more specifically, the exchange thereof. Another recent post covered McGill University's Edible Cities project in Kampala; the site for the students' project "includes a low-lying wetland area...where a youth cooperative practices brick-makings, providing work for otherwise unemployed youth...and a sloping dryland area where farming is [practiced]." While this is a very rural area being discussed (albeit in the context of a larger city), the Kampala site illustrates two more possible uses for a retail-less streetscapes: public workshops (which could cover a variety of topics in addition to brickmaking) and storefront hydroponic community gardens.


If the second option seems somewhat far-fetched, the first is hardly at all; in fact, in the face of looming irrelevance in the digital age, libraries around the world are starting to take on a more social role in their respective cities, staging various events and programs to encourage public discourse and teach skills that cannot be learned with a mouse and keyboard. One of the most innovative library programs that I've heard of recently is in Medellín, the second city of Colombia.

Once the so-called Kidnappping Capital of the World, Medellín has made more news recently for building five spectacular modernist libraries (like the one in Santo Domingo Savio, pictured above) in its most impoverished barrios. One of the programs to utilize these new libraries -- which are equipped with computer labs full of brand spankin' new computers -- is HiperBarrio, which teaches teens in the barrios how to use blogging and other social media tools as a creative outlet for self-expression. Juliana Rincon, one of the founders of HiperBarrio, spoke of the program's inspirataion in a recent interview with Global Voices Online, saying, "It was amazing...telling these kids about blogs and finding out that they had no idea that there was something like a blog, that they existed. [Or even] that you could write online and have a virtual space to keep your writing, the videos you like, and pictures." Libraries, in this case, serve not just as containers for information, but as catalysts for the creation of new information and new ideas. Certainly, this kind of social space, the place of public learning, will play an increasingly important role in cities as we continue through the Information Age.

Whatever we come up with to fill storefronts and social spaces, shopping districts and neighborhood retail strips are unlikely to disappear within the lifetime of anyone reading this blog post. Still, imagining a world without retail can tell us a lot about how we use cities, why we do things the way that we do, and how we can improve urban places without courting Starbucks and Barnes & Noble for civic salvation. In fact, picturing your neighborhood without any shops selling anything other than necessities might be a great way to fall in love with the place all over again. That is, of course, assuming that you love your neighborhood -- and that you don't live off Rodeo Drive.

(Photo from Flickr user galitagreeneyes.)

Rev. Billy Ready for Close-up (Polis)

The Church of Stop Shopping

Two Billion Slum Dwellers (Forbes)

Kampala Project Information (McGill School of Architecture)

Red de Bibliotecas (en español)

HiperBarrio: Local Stories, Global Audience (Global Voices Online)


WEEKEND READING: August 4-10, 2007

It's been humid here like you wouldn't believe this past week, but the weekend is supposed to get a bit cooler. (Note to self: stop starting every Weekend Reading post by commenting on the weather...)

ITEM ONE: The US Affordable Housing Institute's blog is both informative and hilarious. Quite a feat, hey?

ITEM TWO: Milwaukee Magazine has a great article up about the unsinkable Whitney Gould, the architecture critic who has played quite a large role in the development in Milwaukee's attitude (and thus, my own) toward design and architecture.

ITEM THREE: The headline takes care of this one - Asia's biggest slum set to turn into India's Madison Avenue .

ITEM FOUR: One Porteño's commentary on (and photos of) Buenos Aires' new $46 million, 16 block tram. Oy. (Found via the excellent Global Voices Online)

ITEM FIVE: Some good news out of New Orleans -- the city's population has reached 60% of the pre-Katrina level.

ITEM SIX: Great post this week on brain drain at the Burgh Diaspora blog.

ITEM SEVEN: In case you missed it, proposals for San Francisco's Transbay Tower from Richard Rogers (ouch), Cesar Pelli (double ouch), and SOM (actually quite good) were unveiled this week. Life Without Buildings points us to some gorgeous animations of SOM's tower and station buildings on YouTube.

That's all for now, folks. Enjoy your weekend!

(Photo from Flickr user fddi1.)

Detroit Rising?

If someone asked you to come up with the least likely place for a major urban development project in the US, what might you come up with? I'll take a wild guess and say that, a few quips about East Saint Louis and Newark notwithstanding, most people would suggest good 'ole Detroit.

That assumption being made, here's some pretty interesting news: a consortium of developers is redeveloping a 1,200 acre (1.85 square mile) neighborhood on the east side of Detroit by building 3,000 new homes and rehabbing the 230 still left from the area's glory days. The developers will be using a number of smaller local builders to achieve this goal over the next decade, and what's even better: from the images released thus far, it looks like the neighborhood won't be an embarassing suburban bubble inside the city limits for the blatant purpose of increasing tax revenue. The architecture is modest, but respectable. Stately, almost.

Better yet, it would appear that the density for the new neighborhood could be relatively high. Some basic math: if you add the 230 existing homes to the 3,000 home total and divide the number of housing units (3230) by the number of acres (1200) you get 2.69 houses per acre. This is fairly low, but according to the New Far Eastside Detroit website, "[the neighborhood's] non-housing needs have been identified as schools, recreation, green space, parks, police, fire, retail, commercial, infrastructure etc. Discussions have begun to influence positive changes in these areas." The citywide average for Detroit is 4 housing units per acre (by compairison, Chicago's is 7.9). Being that the development area is bounded by four commercial streets, this sets aside a good deal of land for non-residential development. With the potential addition of parks and other public spaces, schools, and public facilities, the housing density is likely to increase.

The US Census Bureau puts the average American household at 2.59 people, so the population of the neighborhood -- which is larger than Detroit's CBD -- will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 8400 people. Even if only 20% of the total land in the overall development were non-residential, the density of residential land would be about 5675 people per square mile. But if you look at the first phase of development, dubbed "Fox Creek" -- which, with more than 650 new homes, will nearly quardruple the number of housing units in the entire 1200 acre neighborhood upon completion -- you'll find a housing density of around 4.7 units per acre. If all of the residential development in t he neighborhood is built at this density, the residential components of the New Far Eastside will hold about 7790 people per square mile. The citywide average from the 2000 Census is 6853.5 ppsm (which is, sadly, pretty good for an American city).

That's not too shabby for one of the nation's largest urban prairies (click the pic at right to see a Google Maps satellite view of the neighborhood in its current state).

Speaking with the friend who sent me the link to the Detroit Free Press article about this project -- he being the biggest Motown booster you'll ever meet -- I was told that "the only reason this is even happening is that the neighborhood borders Grosse Pointe," a wealthy suburb across Alter, which serves as the city's easternmost border. And isn't that a novel concept? While most American cities' revitalization efforts work from the center out, Detroit -- after decades of sluggish downtown renewal efforts that are just now starting to make headway -- is starting at the edges, using the affluence of neighboring suburbs as a promotional tool to push development inward. (A quote from the developer in the Free Press article: "You're going to still think you're in Grosse Pointe...This project is going to be what the city definitely needs.")

There's a saying in most cities that goes something like this: "Only in (insert city here)!" But in Detroit, probably one of the most fascinating (if downtrodden) cities in the world, that saying tends to be especially true. As my booster friend once said, half-jokingly, the Motor City has been ahead of the curve of every negative trend in American urban areas since the early 20th century. Hopefully, by working against the grain, Detroit will be able to break its streak.

At any rate, this project is a start.

New Far East Side Detroit Community Page

From Vacant to Vital (Detroit Free Press) (first photo credit)


A Beautiful Day in the Eco-Hood

There has been a good deal of babble recently on Where about eco-cities: Dongtan on Chongming Island outside of Shanghai; Foster's and Koolhaas' dueling megaprojects in the UAE; Treasure Island in San Francisco. These are great, high-profile examples of the beginning of this new fad. Mayor Livingstone has also recently proposed an eco-hood for London, to be built in the Thames Gateway. This project was brought to my attention by a recent article at Globe-Net that asserts the importance of eco-cities in the fight against climate change. The author beats the dead horse about how more than half of humanity is living in cities for the first time, but highlights the important point about most of the urban growth occuring in the slums of metropoli in developing nations.

While the UAE proposals are out in the desert, Treasure Island and the Thames Gateway project will both be built within the existing urban fabric of their cities (albeit at relatively remote locations). While it's too early to say what the number will be in London, San Francisco's eco-hood will designate a full 30% of its housing units as below market rate. Granted, "below market rate" is a warped term in the Bay Area, but this gesture sets an important precedent. Eco-cities like those listed above have the potential to start a movement, but if they are to gain any real legitimacy as a way of fighting climate change, they must consider more than just the natural environment. If slums represent the largest growth sector in urban areas, eco-cities must address the socioeconomic environment of the cities in which they are built.

It would be lovely if developers all over the world took a stand and developed eco-cities for their own moral or ethical reasons. That, of course, is not going to happen. The plans in the works right now exist because there is a growing demand for such developments. The onus for mandating economic diversity in these new developments falls on those creating that demand. The desire to move to such a place may, for some, be rooted in self-inflating or trendhopping impulses. But for most, I'd be willing to bet, there is a real desire to do their part to "save the world."

Eventually, eco-city dwellers have to ask themselves: what kind of world are we trying to save? If the answer is that it's just their own tiny bubble world, eco-cities are doomed to be obnoxiously superfulous tokens of an upper class so completely self-absorbed that it literally managed to forget the existence of the world around it. "So what?" you might ask. And rightfully so; reinvestment in central cities by the upper and middle classes was supposed to save our cities. What happened, instead, was gentrification. The poor were pushed out as the rich moved back in, and now the GAP, Citibank, and Starbucks alternate street corners in Manhattan while the city's homeless shelters overflow. "Big deal, life sucks, that's how it goes."

But that is not a world-changing attitude.

It's hopelessly idealistic to think that we can provide safe and affordable housing and create livable urban areas for people across the economic spectrum in the First World, much less the Third. Back in 2005, UN-HABITAT warned that "governments will have to take the lead in building some 96,150 housing units per day if the world hopes to avert a massive urban crisis in the near future" (emphasis added). But is it any less idealistic to think that, through our own ingenuity and some hefty innovation, we can change the course of the natural process of climate change? One could argue that we know that we can change the climate since the problem exists because we created it. To that I say: we created the slums, too.

There are no fingers to point now -- poverty has been around as long as human society. But if efforts to fight climate change have reached the level where we are preparing to change the way that we build (architecture is the slowest of the arts, after all), we have to take a good, hard look at our motivation. At it's heart, the green movement isn't really about trees, floods, or solar rays. It's about people recognizing the fact that they are part of a larger ecosystem (in a very natural, non-kumbaya way) and learning how to stop working against that system -- and working against themselves. Cities are the greatest achievements of mankind, so there is great potential for them to be the solution to the environmental challenges that face us today. We just have to remember that everyone around us is part of that environment.

(Photo from Foster + Partners.)

Eco-Cities – Building Better Cities for the 21st Century (Globe-Net)

Two Billion Slum Dwellers (Forbes)

World Faces Prospect of Teeming Mega-Slums (Common Dreams)


WEEKEND READING: July 28-August 3, 2007

Ok, so...I have, like, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 articles in my Google Reader that are basically doomsday predictions for American infrastructure. None of them will be linked to in Weekend Reading. Short list, though...

ITEM ONE: A great piece on Xanadu in the Middle East and the American dust bowl. How are they connected? Oh, just follow the link and you'll see...

ITEM TWO: Planetizen Interchange features a great post from Ali Modarres about the severe abuse of the word "community" in contemporary planning and architecture.

ITEM THREE: The world is shrinking, y'all. Or it's going to soon, anyway.

ITEM FOUR: There are two great articles on superurbanist Charles Landry in the news this week.

ITEM FOUR AND A HALF: Here's the other one.

ITEM FIVE: Mexico City joins the list of Latin American cities (Curitiba, Bogotá, Medellin) aiming to re-define the image of urbanism in that region. (via CEOs for Cities)

ITEM SIX: Newsweek's feature story says everything I've ever thought about Dubai. Only it's about Abu Dhabi. Go figure.

ITEM SEVEN: Finally -- and this isn't really related to urbanism -- the FCC has proven, once again, that it's clueless. Or well-bribed. Either way, it's disgusting and disappointing.

That is all. Have a great weekend!

(Photo from Flickr user James_Ting.)


The Festival of Maps is Coming

"All maps are good, but they are all different."

Tonight's opening quote comes from Vladimiro Valerio, a Venitian historian, and was pulled from a fantastic little article over at the International Herald-Tribune on the politics of globe- and map-making. It serves, I think, as an excellent introduction to the first of a series of posts that will cover the upcoming Festival of Maps in Chicago.

The FoM is described on its website as "a citywide celebration of humanity's greatest discoveries and the maps that record our boldest explorations." Dozens of museums, galleries, universities, and other cultural institutions across the Chicagoland area will host special exhibits of maps from and of all periods and places. And Where is going to blog it all. Well...most of it, anyway.

Keep your eyes peeled in the coming months for the image at the top of this post, as it will mark all FoM-related posts. Things will get especially interesting in early November when the event officially kicks off, but a handfull of exhibits are jumping the gun and starting early. The earliest opened this past Tuesday at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The first of a two-part series (the second will begin near the end of September), the AI's exhibit is entitled "The Capital of the 19th Century: Paris in Maps." It's a small, no-frills collection of maps of the French capital at the height of its prominence (aka "the long nineteenth century") housed in eight glass cases in the museum's Ryerson Library. It's a simple, quiet start to what looks to be a very grand Festival...and that's about all there is to say.

If you go, don't miss the small exhibit on LA-based digital architecture troupe Xefirotarch, which runs through October 28th (all of the dates in this post are, of course, for 2007). Their daring, sinuous, and quite frankly frightening designs are some of the most innovative I've seen in years. Even if you don't like the architecture, you'll marvel at the fact that the models don't collapse.

That's all for now. Remember, keep an eye out for the Where/FoM logo in the future, and make your travel plans now...this is going to be the cartogeek party of the century.

In Mapmaking, Disputes Over Geography (via The Map Room)

Festival of Maps

The Capital of the 19th Century: Paris in Maps (Art Institute of Chicago)


"A World of Refugees"

Video found via NewsTrust