WEEKEND READING: November 16-November 30, 2007 (Guest Post by Colin Kloecker)

Fair warning: this installation of Weekend Reading is kind of one huge shameless plug for a project I'm involved with called Solutions Twin Cities.

The project was born out of what I think is a very common frustration in our hyper connected online world: we have so much access to great work being done all around the world that it is easy to loose sight of the great work happening right in our own backyards. Being junkies of great websites like WorldChanging, TED Talks, Inhabitat, and others – we were constantly inundated with inspiring projects, but living smack in the middle portion of the United States, we hardly ever had a personal connection to them. This made us sad.

So after one too many alcohol induced pity fests, we decided to do something about that. We set out to find our very own world-changing neighbors and figure out how to celebrate their work while connecting them to other people yearning for a more personal connection to their sources of inspiration. The event we created takes inspiration itself from the Pecha Kucha model: short presentations (each under 7 minutes) comprised of both visual and spoken input. We put together each show with an eye towards conveying the full spectrum of projects happening in the Twin Cities and as you'll see below, it's all about diversity. We throw in live music, good food, and cheap drinks and… well, people show up, over 300 at our last event.

So this is the meat and potatoes of this weeks WR. I'd like to introduce you to some of my neighbors:

ITEM ONE: Ramy Selim just opened Minneapolis' first one stop eco-shop, Sunny Day Earth Solutions. More then just selling eco-friendly home products, Ramy is the guy to go to if you want the dirt on photovoltaic panels, solar water heaters, straw-bale construction, and bio-diesel auto conversions. See video here.

ITEM TWO: Chuck Olson and The Uptake are enabling citizen journalists nation-wide to better cover the stories that are meaningful to them. Their next project? Putting 100 citizen journalists with video cameras on the streets of downtown St. Paul for 2008's RNC Convention.

ITEM THREE: Chris Wegscheid and Corrie Zoll started RoofBloom with the simple goal of bringing green roofs to the Twin Cities en mass. Rather then encouraging consumption of any particular commercial green roof system, they empower individuals with the knowledge and materials needed to install green roofs themselves. See their presentation here.

ITEM FOUR: Stephanie and Kelly Kinnunen sold all of their possessions and invested their lives in the creation of NEED Magazine. With smart design and beautiful photography, NEED Magazine showcases the work of humanitarian organizations around the world and provides readers with the information needed to get involved and make a difference. They also just got hugged by Bill Clinton. See their presentation here.

ITEM FIVE: Jennifer and Jessica own the Smitten Kitten, a feminist sex toy boutique in Minneapolis. They also started the Coalition Against Toxic Toys (click to find out why they heart Arnold Schwarzenegger), because if we really care about what we put into our bodies, why should sex toys, a notoriously dirty industry, be any different?

ITEM SIX: Arlene Birt is a young graphic designer whose Background Stories project might just revolutionize the way socially and environmentally conscious companies package and market their products.

ITEM SEVEN: Christian Trifilio & Jacqui Belleau work for the industrial design firm Worrell, Inc. A connection made through NEED Magazaine led them to FilmAid International and a very cool collaborative project designing a mobile movie theater for refugees. This project was a 100% volunteer effort. See their presentation here.

ITEM EIGHT: Cathy Ten Broeke is the Coordinator to End Homelessness in Hennepin County and the city of Minneapolis. She is spearheading a fresh, solutions based movement to end homelessness in the county within the next 10 years. See her presentation here.

So who are your neighbors? When was the last time you were inspired by somebody face to face, did you get to meet them? Solutions Twin Cities is looking for partners to help spread the event to other cities around the world. Please don’t hesitate to email us if you’re interested. And please check out our website for more on Solutions Twin Cites and to watch more videos from our first event last May.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Friday!


Treasure Island: A Regenerative Urban Ecology

(Click the image for a larger version).

Next Monday, once my NaNoWriMo adventure is over, regular posting will resume at Where. I'm excited to offer a little preview, today, of what's coming. I recently had the opportunity to interview Craig W. Hartmann, FAIA, Design Partner at Skidmore Owings and Merill's San Francisco office, about the firm's plan for the redevelopment of Treasure Island (which Where covered this past summer). Today's post is a preface to that interview...a teaser, if you will. The image above was created by Mr. Hartmann and three of his colleagues, Sa Hoon Kim, Angela Wu and Eric Keune working with the renderer, Allan Silverman, for the recent exhibit
Street Cred. According to Craig, this image "is not an 'officially sanctioned' piece for the development, but rather a speculation on my part about the potentially powerful relationship between the physical and cultural landscape - architecture, the street and the natural environment." The following text was written by Julie Kim, a curator for the exhibit.


Treasure Island: A Regenerative Urban Ecology

Rendering, plans and model of Neighborhood Connector Street

Located two miles off the northeastern shore of the San Francisco peninsula, Treasure Island is the site of one of the largest and most ambitious redevelopment plans in the city’s history. A collaborative effort led by the local office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and which proposes the development of a “holistic urban ecology,” it also seeks to set new benchmarks for the city’s environmental and social sustainability. By 2022, the former 400-acre Navy base will be “recycled” into a residential and commercial district that will house an estimated 13,500 people.

More than a utilitarian transportation network, the island’s streets are designed to respond to its microclimate while encouraging social interaction among its residents. The street grid is aligned due north-south—a 32-degree shift from its current orientation—to maximize the amount of sunlight entering buildings, and to protect parks from strong westerly winds. Residential areas will be centered on lively “social corridors,” or neighborhood streets which prioritize “human-powered” modes of transport, including pedestrians, bicycles, skateboards, and scooters, over vehicular use. Electric shuttle buses and cars will share the streetscape, but will be limited by mass.
A wetlands park will clean stormwater before it re-enters the Bay, and solar technology will send unneeded energy back to the grid. Overall, the plan is fiercely optimistic. Its designers have envisioned the site’s continued regeneration—the gradual improvement of a physical, natural, and social landscape over time—rather than presuming the dreadful impact of humans on the environment.

Street Design Concept: Craig W Hartman, FAIA, SOM with Tom Leader, ASLA, Tom Leader Studio

Renderer: AJ Silverman in conjunction with Eric Kuene, Angela Wu, and Sa Hoon Kim

Date & Status: 2006 | Ongoing

Client: Treasure Island Community Development, LLC

Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP

Design Team: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP with SMWM and CMG (Master Planning and Urban Design); Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP (Overall Conceptual Architectural Design); SMWM, BCV, Hornberger Worstell (Associated Architects); CMG with Tom Leader (Landscape Architecture); ARUP (Sustainable Design); Korve, ARUP and Concept Marine Associates (Civil Engineering and Transportation); Treadwell & Rollo and Engeo (Geotechnical Design); Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (Structural Engineering).


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My internet access was pretty limited over the past week, so Urbanffffinds had to wait. Better late than never, right?


Connectivity Wherewithal (Guest Post by Jim Russell)

Where is Pittsburgh? Capturing the essence of a place is not easy. Manufacturing a place may be impossible. But the location of a place is relatively straightforward, yes? I'm here to tell you that where Pittsburgh is might surprise you.

Where is Real Pittsburgh? Answering that question will bring out the connoisseurs of place as well as Pittsburgh aficionados. I suspect most of those experts would dig up an authentic Pittsburgh rooted in nostalgia and steeped in local lore, "You know you are in Pittsburgh when..."

I'm skeptical of place mythology. When I lived in Vermont, a friend visiting asked to see the "true" part of the state, not the countryside overrun with New York City refugees seeking utopia. I brought him to a trailer park in Bolton and told him that the state tree should be the satellite dish, not the sugar maple. My decidedly unromantic view of Vermont did not sit well with my visitor.

If you want to see where a place in the United States is today, then eat at a national chain restaurant at an interstate interchange in some suburb of the central city. Multinational corporations would love to homogenize your experience, but they will ultimately fail. A local McDonalds is as good an indicator as any as to where you are.

However, McDonalds is globally a place unto itself. There is an identifiable McDonalds experience and a strong sense of place, regardless of context. The places that exist in more than one location serve as my muse for the Burgh Diaspora blog. My posts are about Pittsburghs (and other "places"), wherever they may be.

The geography that gets me up in the morning is the landscape between places, how connected locations form a unique experience that has all the characteristics of place. I have argued that Authentic Pittsburgh is found in the parking lot tailgate of a Steelers away game or at a Steelers bar in a city far from Heinz Field. In these places, Pittsburgh is preserved.

Globalization, often mischaracterized as the destruction of geography, redefines a place in terms of connectivity. You can map these relationships and easily comprehend how each city has its own profile. A city's global network is how I would define a place and the essence of Pittsburgh is found in the locations of the region's expatriates.


Big thanks to today's guest blogger, Jim Russell, the blogger behind The Burgh Diaspora. Check out Jim's blog for a more in depth exploration of the process of "realizing a new geographic understanding of Pittsburgh."


National Geographic's Maps: Tools for Adventure @ the Museum of Science and Industry

If you typed the word "maps" into Google and then visited the first ten sites on the results page, you might get a good idea of what it feels like to walk through the Museum of Science and Industry's exhibit National Geographic's Maps: Tools for Adventure, which is part of the citywide Festival of Maps. That is to say: a nuanced overview of mapping technology, this is not. While the exhibit is kid-friendly, it tries a bit too hard to go after the attention deficit demographic. Thematically, the "tools for adventure" theme is the loose string that sort of ties things somewhat together, almost. In fact, between this, the City of the Future exhibit earlier this year, and the Christmas Around the World disaster that we'll discuss in a minute, I'm beginning to wonder if, perhaps, this legendary museum is just coasting on its historical reputation these days.

But, before a tangent begins, let's get back to NGM. The exhibit is, in plain terms, an awkward hybrid of a video arcade, a preschool classroom, and a museum installation. There are kiosks set up throughout several rooms, as well as a block table (a kid-friendly trick MS&I tried with City of the Future that still feels misplaced) and a large foam-block pyramid puzzle. Add to that a moon rover used for mapping Mars, a fake stargazing setup, and an airplane cockpit with plenty of buttons and levers, and you have an intellectual seizure that can even make the grown-ups a bit dizzy.

If the organization of the content is less than stellar, it should be noted that there are some interesting items on display. A portion of an old scroll map of the Mississippi River makes an early appearance, as does an early map of Disneyland (which is cooler than it sounds). But the overall effect of the topical schizophrenia is that, unfortunately, individual pieces get lost in the muddle. Even for someone used to clicking through a few hundred articles and websites a day, the wide variety of topics covered here was so overwhelming that it got downright boring halfway through. When the brain is presented with too much information, it shuts down. I shudder to think that this is the way the curators at one of the nation's most prestigious museums think that children should be taught (to be fair, the exhibit was organized by the Children's Museum of Indianapolis and the National Geographic Society, but MS&I agreed to host it).

But the real jaw-dropper of the day was not the FoM exhibit, but something tangentially related. Apparently, it is customary for the MS&I to put together a Christmas Around the World exhibit. I haven't been to the museum to see past iterations, but this year the exhibit involves Christmas trees decorated to represent "customs" from countries around the world. This provides the museum with a fabulous opportunity to combat Americans' infamously low geographic knowledge, which it squanders on an embarrassingly simplified version of global cultures.

To wit: Mexico's tree is decorated with dozens of felt-cutout Mexicans complete with sombreros and ponchos, Ireland's is dripping with kitschy shamrocks and jigging leprechauns, and there is a very purple Native American Christmas tree that's decked out in a gazillion of those hexagonal things you make out of yarn in kindergarten. Japan's and China's trees, meanwhile, are both covered in oragami (but the China tree uses fluorescent paper, so it's totally different), and (tellingly) the United States' tree is wrapped in red, white, and blue crepe paper and cardboard cutouts of the 50 states and the US outlying territories. It's as strange as it sounds. In fact, it's worse in person. The entire exhibit has the icky, sticky feeling that comes from seeing or hearing something that you don't quite want to call racist, but can't help admitting is kind of leaning in a generally gross direction. The museum's website claims that the trees are decorated by Chicago's ethnic groups to represent their cultures. And to that I say: whaaaa? If that's the case with most of these, it makes me kind of sad.

So if you are looking to learn about the world and how it was and is shaped and explored, skip the MS&I and check out the Field Museum instead. Or the Newberry Library. Or, you know...Google Maps.

But, just in case you want to see this stuff for yourself...

National Geographic's Maps: Tools for Adventure is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry until January 6, 2008. The museum is open Monday – Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the admission fee is $11 for adults, $9.50 for seniors, and $7 for children under 11. There is no student discount. Christmas Around the World also runs through January 6. While you're in the Hyde Park area, check out The Virtual Tourist in Renaissance Rome: The Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, the University of Chicago's contribution to the Festival of Maps.

National Geographic's Maps: Tools for Adventure (MS&I)

Christmas Around the World (MS&I)

The Virtual Tourist in Renaissance Rome: The Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae (U of C)

Festival of Maps


Airoots Gets Lost in Deep Urbanmess (Guest Post by Matias Sendoa Echanove and Rahul Srivastava)

We arrive at a narrow commercial street lost somewhere between Bombay and Tokyo. It is crowded with pedestrians, bicycles, street vendors, food stalls, and wandering cows and dogs that don’t allow cars to pass through. Most of the buildings lining the street are two to three stories high, covered either with faded, dusty shop-signs painted in art-deco fonts, or snazzy neon lights. Billboards with smiling Manga faces and Bollywood movie stars eye each other warily.

An intricate web of wires, pipes, pathways, and cables connect the buildings, huts, cottages and shop-fronts to each other. They hang overhead or lie snugly underground. They are like masses of snakes intertwined into each other – alive and organic. They buzz with whispering voices, crackle with coded e-mails and crisp exchange of smses, gurgle with water or sewage and are swollen with pornographic images looking for immediate release, along with religious icons that appear on screens of high-tech devotees who bow to them in tiny studios.

The air is abuzz with invisible energy fields. Wireless networks that feed on cables and transmit the cyber-world into this dense neighbourhood. They compete for airspace with the smells of food, fish, gutters, and incense and the crowded sounds of the city.

Walking through the gulleys and streets one sees second-hand electronic shops selling tiny bits of chips and wires. We bump into a bull, resting in front of a poster selling Chinese medicine. Withdrawing, we stumble over a robot-dog who yelps angrily, snapping mechanically and uselessly at our ankles.

Going deeper one sees nimble hands stripping off circuit-board wires. They magically transform the pieces into copper jewelry that is marketed as tribal art. On one side otakus and geeks wait to devour cheap electronic left-overs – on the other, hippies and high-fashion lovers wait to decorate themselves with re-designed electronic waste.

An entrance to one street looks particularly crowded. It is lined with Japanese tea-shops, Iranian Samovar-houses and Chai-stalls served by kids. Old men and women sip tea, keeping an eye on children playing dangerously close to railway tracks. The street shudders as two trains zoom pass each other – one a yellow and brown old-fashioned rusty local train with open doors and another a sleek silver, futuristic machine made of steel, its windows covered with dark tinted glass.

The sound of new stalls being put up and old ones being pulled down rent the air. A bearded man with wild eyes sells mangas in a makeshift stall right next to an old sadhu with dirty, matted hair, who tells your fortune. The mangaman reads out stories to a group of teenaged girls who giggle crazily as he shows them explicit pictures. The palmist-cum-astrologer catches a hapless European tourist and predicts that he will hook up with one of the teenaged girls, who is already smiling at him.

The two connect and vanish around the corner hand in hand. To be continued...

(All of the images above are photoshop collages of Bombay and Tokyo.)


Big thanks to today's guest bloggers! Matias Sendoa Echanove and Rahul Srivastava are the bloggers behind Airoots/Eirut. Check out their blog for more ruminations on "adventitious roots, urban forests & villages, natural cities, lost tribes, new nomads, and everything in between."


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Lots of really great transportation-related images this week. Here are some of the best...


WEEKEND READING: November 10-November 16, 2007 (Guest Post by Colin Kloecker)

Hi, I'm Colin and I usually cover the intersection of humanitarian issues, sustainability, and the built environment over at Blog Like You Give A Damn. But this month you'll find me here, curating Where's Weekend Reading segment. Five Items of interest for you this week.

ITEM ONE: I've been saying it for years: Skyways suck the vitality out of our city streets, "we should tear them all down". Living in Minneapolis/St. Paul I often get blank or bewildered stares when I tell people this (which I probably do far too often), but I feel my argument has been bolstered now that top urban designers Jan Gehl and Gil Penalosa have come out and expressed a similar sentiment.

ITEM TWO: Time-travel ALL the way back to September 29th, 2007 when nearly 100 teams from 70 different cities around the world participated in "Snap-Shot-City" and photographed a day in the life of their urban environs. Billed as an "urban photographic treasure hunt", the resulting photos are a wonderful celebration of city life. The CityDwellers team from London gets credit for the photo this week.

ITEM THREE: Is Jean Nouvel designing the most exciting Skyscraper to hit New York City since the early 20th century? This blogger thinks so. Straight out of a Hugh Ferris painting, 53W53rd is a thing of beauty. NYT article here.

ITEM FOUR: The Dharavi district (an urban mega-slum with over 1 million inhabitants) of Mumbai, India is getting "rehabilitated". So how much space will current inhabitants get out of the deal? Each of the 57,000 families are allotted a meager 225 square feet, no more and no less. Social Design Practice Blog has more, including an interesting memo from Matias Echanove suggesting that the city use Tokyo's revitalization after WWII as an alternative development model - see airoots for more on that. (Thanks Matias!)

ITEM FIVE: 250 Million Urban Planners! Planetizen reports that the $200 XO-1 laptop (the first model designed for the One Laptop Per Child program) will come packaged with Will Wright's 1989 classic planning game Sim City. OLPC plans on getting the laptop into the hands of 250 million poor children around the world by 2012. Want one too? You only have 11 more days.

Until next week, Happy Friday!


Drifting Through the City, Literally: Soldiers in the Living Room (Guest Post by Mirabai Auer)

He said: 'this space that you look at, this room that you look at, is nothing but your interpretation of it. […] The question is how do you interpret the alley? […] We interpreted the alley as a place forbidden to walk through and the door as a place forbidden to pass through, and the window as a place forbidden to look through, because a weapon awaits us in the alley, and a booby trap awaits us behind the doors. This is because the enemy interprets space in a traditional, classical manner, and I do not want to obey this interpretation and fall into his traps. […] I want to surprise him! This is the essence of war. I need to win […] This is why that we opted for the methodology of moving through walls. . . . Like a worm that eats its way forward, emerging at points and then disappearing. […] I said to my troops, "Friends! […] If until now you were used to move along roads and sidewalks, forget it! From now on we all walk through walls!"
–Commander Kokhavi of the Paratrooper Brigade, Israeli Defense Forces

A number of architectural and urbanist theories, dealing with geo-psychology and the conceptualization of city space, are being taught in an unlikely place -- military academies. Their strangely adapted applications serve as a reminder that ideas do not flow narrowly from the "conceiver" to "intended-user", but are rather commodities in the world marketplace, available for mass consumption and arguably, manipulation.

Eyal Wiezman details this phenomenon in his piece, "The Art of War", in which he outlines the emergence of a new guerilla strategy utilized by the Israeli Defense Forces, referred to as infestation.  In an attack on the city of Nebulus in 2002, Israeli soldiers moved through the city, via a series of holes and tunnels.  More simply, their game of war was not fought visibly on the street; the effort was conducted almost entirely indoors.  The soldiers avoided alleys, streets, courtyards, and the like.  Indeed, the soldiers were 'walking through walls,' fighting from within the urban fabric, climbing through homes, abandoned warehouses, and shops.

All of the aforementioned places have historically been considered, to varying degrees, private. After all, most homeowners don't envision their living rooms as fertile grounds for battle, nor do they anticipate soldiers 'worming their way inside (their homes)' emerging from freshly drilled holes in their drywall. Yet, increasingly, military education is proposing that the city is in fact a borderless place, in which the boundaries and intended uses of space (both public and private) are fluid and dynamic, i.e. the living room is both a strategic location and a place for television-watching and snacking.  One woman recounts her personal experience in the attack: "Imagine it – you're sitting in your living-room, which you know so well; this is the room where the family watches television together after the evening meal, and suddenly that wall disappears with a deafening roar, the room fills with dust and debris, and through the wall pours one soldier after the other, screaming orders. You have no idea if they're after you, if they've come to take over your home, or if your house just lies on their route to somewhere else."

The shift in tactical thinking reflects the military's adoption of several key canons of architecture and philosophy, among them Situationism.  In the 1960's, Situationists advocated for the creative and critical re-examination of the urban landscape through such practices as dérive and détournement, which involves the adaptation of obsolete spaces for new, unintended uses.  These practices encourage the re-envisioning of how spaces are used and by whom.  

For example, a dérive, or drifting walk, is propelled by emotion and spontaneity; typologically, it is rather different from the often mechanical and repetitive walk to work (or store, school, etc.)  Situationists suggested that curiously and attentively traversing new pathways could be a catalytic exercise in the process imaging the built environment afresh, and set the stage for new social contexts.  These practices grew out of an increasing dissatisfaction with landscape of the capitalist city, which Situationists believed was designed in an overly prescriptive and dogmatic fashion, and was ultimately an expression of class relationships.  Arguably, if the capitalist city had strictly-defined rules of engagement, then the practices of dérive and détournement were intended to de-contextualize the overly-ordered city and enable citizens to think outside of the systematic box.

These concepts, through the traditional lenses of planning and urban studies, are oft presented as visionary, progressive, or artistic (after all, isn't the idea of détournement partially responsible for adaptive reuse of industrial space into lofts and studios?).  In fact, yesterday's Where post, Traversing Newark Avenue, is a rather classic example of dérive in which the author documents the physical and social nuances of a Jersey City street in photos, text, and sound.  
Ironically, the military's co-optation of the same ideas has been used to bolster already (arguably) bloated military power and to justify the rather undemocratic invasion of private space.  Yet, after all, aren't they simply envisioning a new use for the home?  And a new relationship between the dwellers and visitors (troops, in this case)?  The author Eyal notes: "In no uncertain terms, education in the humanities – often believed to be the most powerful weapon against imperialism – is being appropriated as a powerful vehicle for imperialism."

The manipulation of philosophy and theory does in fact occur religiously.  Yet, somehow in the academic world, ideas seem to grow in their own Petri dishes, undisturbed by realities.  These little glass plates of ideas are assumed to be tended by the few and carefully trained.  And yet, ideas like dérive exist in the muddied, multi-layered context of the city; "The Art of War" reinforces the common-sense notion that places are birthed from context and a multiplicity of vantage points and that urban theory is never purely applied -- it is always a working model.


Big thanks to Mirabai Auer, an urban planning Masters' candidate at the University of Illinois-Chicago who works part-time as a GIS map maker.


A Quick Burst of Humor

Found on Metafilter -- the best unused name for an urban planning-related blog: Where Should We Put All This Shit?

Quick; someone go start that blog. I want to read it.

Medellín: a City Planned for the Other 90% (Guest Post by Juliana Rincon)

Medellín, Colombia, is a city that I've fallen in love with, and it loves me back. Whenever I walk its streets, ride the metro, or take a bus, I feel that the city was planned with me, and with all the thousands of others who, like me, don't own a car and depend on public transportation to move around, in mind.

An example: Carabobo used to be a chaotic avenue full of seedy joints and the constant rumble of old buses expelling diesel fumes. The beautiful art deco buildings along the avenue were left unnoticed as people rushed to their destinations enclosed in the safety of a vehicle. At the far end of the street was a no-man's land where you could see homeless people warming their hands with bonfires made in steel drums, and where everything and everyone had a price. Beautiful buildings were abandoned, scavenged and then abused as crack houses, businesses where struggling to maintain customers, and something had to be done.

Nowadays, no buses run through this main avenue; only people are allowed here. Instead of the sky being overcast by clouds of combusted fuels, it is shaded by trees and palms. The former crack house is a cultural and educational center, and the architectural jewels along the way are lit up to showcase their details, while thriving businesses inhabit their spaces. It is a complete pleasure to travel up and down this public space, designed to be fully accessible for every type of citizen.

Walking down the paved walkway, you can see people sitting on park benches and resting their tired feet, bags and bags of purchases from a variety of stores sitting beside them. Textured bricks mark pathways for the blind to follow with their canes, traffic lights with sound and vibrations assist the pedestrians who might not be able to hear or see the lights change color. You don't need to step off the curbs and onto the street -- they are both at the same level, making it easy for people in wheelchairs to enjoy this space as well. No bicycles are allowed, but riders are welcome to dismount and walk their bikes through this area if they wish to.

It seems that common sense solutions are usually completely ignored by governments in Latin American cities, and it is refreshing to see that this isn´t the case with Medellín. The government is rebuilding its city for the inhabitants: they have discovered that when people have public spaces they can enjoy and where they can relax, breathe in clean air, and stretch their legs, they work harder, better, and are generally happier. The poorer inhabitants of the city don't have time or money to take vacations to the rural areas; they don't have the means to visit beaches and certainly don't have membership to country clubs...so the city decided to give them spaces where they could take their families, where they could lay on the grass, sit on a bench and kick back on a Sunday.

The city has placed trust in the people, with the firm belief that if you make citizens take ownership of these new spaces, they'll take care of them and make sure others respect the spaces as well. Store owners and workers down Carabobo street signed an agreement stating that they would take responsibility in keeping their surroundings clean, reporting uncivilized behaviors and vandalism if, in exchange, the city would do maintenance and have enough policemen in the area to ensure shoppers' safety. These store owners now thank this project for their new situation: they have a lot more clients and shoppers now that people can walk at their leisure and window shop; they have met other store owners in their block; they don't have to deal with car fumes and the noise from honking vehicles and motors; and they have come together as a community, united with one goal: to keep Carabobo looking clean, safe and beautiful for many other generations to enjoy.

However, this didn't happen overnight. The business owners in Carabobo at first were terrified that once no vehicles could come by and park in front of their stores, sales would plummet. They didn't want to deal with the months of construction, not knowing if their businesses would survive this metamorphosis. The government decided to include these concerned entrepreneurs in the discussion and planning process so they could become involved with the project and take ownership of it. On October 27th 2006, an agreement was signed, and they first saw the butterfly emerge from its cocoon.

Last week the Hiperbarrio team headed downtown to record a little bit of our experience walking down Carabobo. We took pictures, shot videos and then sat down on one of the many benches to enjoy the day. It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning, and if you ever come to Medellín and visit, I would definitely recommend for you to do the same.

If you want to learn a bit more about Carabobo, you can see the government's plan for Carabobo Street with pictures of the transformation, before, during and after, or look through the pictures we took that day with the Hiperbarrio team. Below, you can watch a YouTube video where the Carabobo community celebrates one year since the cooperation agreement was signed. (The narration is in Spanish).


Big thanks to Juliana Rincon, one of the organizers of Medellín's HiperBarrio project, for writing this guest post! Photo credits go to her group and the government plan sited in the post, in that order.


Traversing Newark Avenue (Guest Post by Tyson Thorne and Josef Reyes)

On a windy Sunday this past October, we walked the entire length of Newark Avenue in Jersey City, New Jersey, starting from one end of the avenue and finishing at its other end on the other side of the city. This avenue cuts westward through Jersey City from the downtown section in the east, slipping underneath the New Jersey Turnpike, and terminating at the city's outskirts near the Hackensack River. As we walked down this avenue, which takes a little over an hour to fully traverse, we shot photographs of its surroundings and recorded the avenue's sounds and noises.

In documenting Newark Avenue block by block, the resulting photographs and sound recordings reveal the shifting temperament of this city street. From the densely modest dimensions of the downtown area to the barreling vehicular traffic at the leg heading up to Dickinson High School to the richly polychromatic/polyphonic environs of India Square, Newark Avenue continuously mutates in scale, in typology, in demographics and in meaning as it maneuvers its way around Jersey City. These mutations are made perceptible when Newark Avenue is documented in a linear fashion and the visual and aural textures of the street is organized and collated in their real-time order.

The following photographs and sound recording of Newark Avenue, specially edited for Where, is a condensed version of our visual/aural documentation of the avenue. This Newark Avenue document is part of a street recording project that we will be conducting at various streets in different cities and locales.

Click this image to launch the
Newark Avenue photo essay/sound recording:


Big thanks to today's guest bloggers! Tyson Thorne is a graphic designer and photographer based in Jersey City (Website). and Josef Reyes is the editor of Conveyer, a zine about Jersey City.


Mapping Manifest Destiny @ The Newberry Library

From a curatorial standpoint, Mapping Manifest Destiny at the Newberry Library (which is in a gorgeous building, in case you were wondering) is an excellent exhibit. The gallery space where the maps are displayed is large and quiet, and the information is carefully organized into four color-coded areas that chart the history of the North American West through cartography. The four sections illustrate the progression of the continent from exotic terra nova at the edge of the world to civilized nation linked by a sophisticated network of railroads by defining the primary focus of mapmaking in four different eras of exploration. You can basically watch the centuries-long process of the formation of the United States (and Canada and Mexico, to lesser extents) take place in under an hour. In addition, scale is provided by the inclusion of maps that detail Chicago's own growth from a swampy outpost into a major transportation hub for the rapidly-growing nation. It's downright artful curation.

Oh, and the content is pretty good, too. ;-)

In fact, the collection is a perfect illustration of the fourth use of maps as explained by the Field Museum's Festival of Maps exhibit: these are maps that "bear witness to and shape history." The first two sections, which explore Maps for Empire and Maps to Serve the New Empire show the evolution of the shape of North America as ever more sophisticated cartographical methods and new knowledge about the continent became available over time. Centuries-old European maps are on hand, as are some of the earliest maps of several modern major American cities, such as San Antonio, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh (the last one being drawn and annotated by none other than the young George Washington).

Halfway through you'll find a real treat: William Clark's (of Lewis & Clark fame) original, hand-drawn map of the Corps of Discovery's exploration of the American West in search of an overland river route to the Pacific. The edges are frayed and the ink slightly faded, but this is history, staring you in the face. It almost glows; it gave me goosebumps.

While the first half of Mapping Manifest Destiny shows how the land manipulated the people that explored it, the second half shows how, once the continent had been properly charted, people then manipulated the land. This half is separated into Maps for Enlightenment and Maps for Business, and details the United States' growth into a commercial juggernaut. The gridded system of land surveying that directed property sales and distribution as the US expanded westward, spurred on by the ideology from which this exhibit takes its name, shows up here. Maps for Enlightenment features see nineteenth-century text books opened to maps (my personal favorite was the one that color-coded the world on a scale from Savage to Enlightened). Maps for Business covers Chicago's rise to dominance of the field of commercial cartography. Several maps and books by Rand McNally (the company largely responsible for the Windy City's cartographical supremacy) are on display. The Business section is rounded out by maps of the expansion of the nation's railroad system and the California gold rush.

Mapping Manifest Destiny is short, sweet, and to the point. It's certainly not the kind of thing you'd bring the kids along for (especially if they're the crying type -- the ceilings are high, and everything echoes) as the material is presented in a very mature way. But anyone interested in US history (or the art of exhibit curation) will find the Newberry Library's contribution to the FoM to be a truly enlightening experience.

Mapping Manifest Destiny is on display at the Newberry Library on Chicago's Near North Side until February 16th, 2008. The library's exhibit galleries are open Monday, Friday, and Saturday from 8:15 am - 5:30 pm, and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday 8:15 am- 7:30 pm; the galleries are free and open to the public. While you're there, check out Ptolemy's Geography and Renaissance Masters in the gallery across the lobby. A short bus ride down LaSalle Street is Encyclopedia Britannica's US headquarters; the building's lobby is host to a variety of maps from the Britannica collection, marking the company's contribution to the FoM.

Mapping Manifest Destiny (Newberry Library)

Ptolemy's Geography and Renaissance Masters (Newberry Library)

Encyclopedia Britannica

Festival of Maps


Urbanffffinds Extra: Lightscapes

There was a great burst of imagery at FFFFOUND! this past week (most of it on Monday and Tuesday) of pretty fantastic light tricks. Some of these were taken in an existing architectural context; some were not. Most of these bursts of light have a very architectural feel; they could be conceptual renderings of a new Hadid or a Ghery, in vivid color. Some are more clever, and less grandiose. But they're all pretty darned fun to stare at. Tomorrow there will be regular urban photo ffffinds for the week, but tonight we shall have an extra Urbanffffinds post: the lightscapes edition.