"I invite you to invest in the ninth wonder of the world."




The New WalkScore

The popular Gmaps mashup, which made a big splash in urbanism circles last year when it debuted, has a fantastic new color-coded map of Seattle up on their site. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. I'll be waiting anxiously for the Chicago map.


Exploring the Favelas of São Paulo


From the look of things, the zero carbon high tech eco-city of 2030 might not really look that different from the boring old present of 2008. Innovative minds are coming up with new ways of harvesting power from just about everything, reducing the need for crazy-looking turbine towers or solar-paneled skylines. What happens if everything becomes its own source of energy? Obviously, this seems like a Green pipe dream, but speculate for a moment. What might humanity do with a global surplus of power?

In the meantime, we can marvel at the creative thinking below and wonder if, one day soon, our curtains might be powering our laptops and televisions.

So where might we be getting our electricity from in the near future?

Our toilets? (Architecture.mnp)

Our walls? (Jetson Green)

Our clothes? (MIT News)

Our curtains? (Electricpig)

Our sidewalks? (core77)

What are some common, overlooked aspects of the urban environment that might be able to generate usable energy if harnessed in a new way? With suburbs densifying and evolving and becoming more self-sufficient nodes in polycentric megacities, the potential seems endless. So many people, so many opportunities for a volt or two.

(Photo from Flickr user Tobers. The original full-sized color version can be viewed by clicking the photo.)

Chicago El Stories

So here's an interesting art project: Chicago El Stories is an installation at the Armitage Brown Line stop in Lincoln Park that pairs photos of seemingly unimportant sites around the city with audio files of peoples' memories and stories about the places. It's an interesting way of showing how the urban environment is littered with personal experiences, and how the city can be so many different things to so many people.


The Secret City

What if you woke up tomorrow to learn that your country's political leaders had built a 2,702 square mile (7,000 sq km) city -- a lavish new capital, constructed in secret? If it sounds too fantastical or even conspiratorial, consider Myanmar, where the ruling junta has managed just such an architectural coup.


Wisdom of the Buck

In honor of the Buckminster Fuller Institute's week of events honoring their namesake (take note, New Yorkers), a quote from the architectural luminary:

"Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we've been ignorant of their value."
-- B. Fuller

More @ core77.

The Urban President

What I find most impressive about Barack Obama is his ability to speak about the Bush administration's bungling over the past eight years that so clearly outlines the need for a different approach. As I listened to his speech to the US Conference of Mayors, I found myself shocked -- dumbfounded, even -- to hear a presidential candidate speaking about urban issues in such plain and ambitious terms. That a presidential candidate would talk the talk about metropolitan- and regional-scale economics, mass transit and high-speed rail, and the specific ways that the war in Iraq hurts individual cities and neighborhoods, is almost hard to believe after eight years of secrecy, corporate carte blanche, and a complete lack of focus on anything that actually matters to peoples' day-to-day lives.

"Neglect," Obama quips, "is not a policy for America's metropolitan areas." Word.

If you like the clip above, check out the full video on the US Conference of Mayors website.


Chicago mourns the loss of a prominent street artist...

(More from Wooster)

(Photo from Flickr user BigPictureProject. The original full-color version can be viewed by clicking the photo.)


Three Short Urban Navigation Blogedankens

No prizes this time, but I do encourage you to leave comments if these exercises lead to any interesting answers...or more interesting questions. Click the links to see the inspiration for each thought experiment.

Blogedanken #1: Imagine that your city were like Venice; where would the Grand Canal be located? What streets would remain streets, and what ones would be sunken to form the city's canal network? Create a corresponding map. Does this map tell you anything about transportation and infrastructure networks in your city? How could such a map be used to plan transit lines, or a park system?

Blogedanken #2: If someone asked you to write a guide to your city for visitors that didn't want the tourist experience, where would you send them? Determine 5-10 places and/or experiences that you consider essential for the un-tourist in your city. Now create a walking-tour route that connects these spots in a way that creates a meaningful way -- a way that can direct the visitor's interpretation of your city. Compare your route to a map in a typical tourist guide. How do the two differ? What does this tell you about the way that you have experienced the city, yourself? What has your city taught you?

Blogedanken #3: Cities are very much about paths. Numerous networks of people, information, and physical infrastructure create a massive web often referred to as the urban fabric. Almost every city has one or two once-crucial cords in this web that have faded from prominence, or even disappeared completely. Imagine that you are creating a virtual guide, using GPS and voice recordings, to one of these defunct lines in your city. How have the areas around this forgotten path adapted since its decline? If they have not adapted particularly well, speculate as to why that might be. Based on what need the path and its surrounding infrastructure originally served, what currently vibrant paths through your city could become deserted or forgotten in the future? How might this be averted?

(Photo from Flickr user Damiel. The original full-color version can be viewed by clicking the photo.)


Chicago: Creative Capital?

Fast Company's Fast Cities 2008 list (which is about a thousand times more coherent than last year's) came with a delightful cherry on top for this blogger, as it named Chicago the "Creative Capital of the Universe." Being from Milwaukee (Chicago's little brother to the north) and currently residing in the Windy City, I found this exciting news; Chicago has long suffered from what you might call Second City Syndrome, always trying to get out from under New York's shadow. (For the record: we don't really think of Los Angeles as a real place, so we're still #2).

All About Cities' Wendy Waters wrote a post tonight questioning whether or not the title was quite accurate; indeed, her assessment of the title's pithy, attention-grabbing nature is right on: it would be boring to read another article about New York or San Francisco being the most creative. But there's more merit to the title than you might think if yer not from 'round these parts.

I'll turn to Paul Graham's recent essay, "Cities and Ambition," for my defense. In his highly enjoyable piece, Graham asserts that cities that act as hubs of ambition have a way of communicating with people; New York says to its residents, "You should make more money;" Silicon Valley says "You should be more powerful;" Cambridge says "You should read all of those books you've been meaning to read." Chicago is most certainly an ambitions place -- it's the Emerald City of the Midwest, the Mount Olympus of Flyover Country. All (rail)roads lead here, so to speak. But after reading Graham's essay, I had trouble picking out exactly what Chicago was saying through its citizens' ambition.

"Creative Capital of the Universe" hit me like a brick in the face. Of course! Chicago says to its citizens, "You should be more interesting." The city is a domestic melting pot, pooling people from a region that is typically overlooked and underappreciated. We of the rust belt and great plains cities flock to Chicago to prove ourselves. Chicago's Second City Syndrome is a great asset; a city that is constantly trying to prove itself, after all, demands that its citizens do the same. And because of the slight sense of inferiority, Chicago is less pretentious than other global hubs like New York, London, or San Francisco. That lack of pretention has the power to erode fear of the unknown; Chicago has always understood that, to make big headlines, you need to take big risks.

In a world as spiky and competitive as the one that we live in today, it's pretty much impossible to claim that one city can claim to be the creative capital. But in terms of big headlines, Chicago seems to have inspired exactly what it was hoping: controversy. Screw being rational. Be more interesting.

(Photo from Flickr user kellyhafermann. The original full-color version can be viewed by clicking the photo.)

US City of the Year: Chicago (Fast Company)

Chicago: Creative Capital of the Universe? (All About Cities)

Cities and Ambition

Information Overload

Hyperlinks, RSS feeds, Google News, Wikipedia, Technorati...

The amount of information that flows through a web savvy person's brain these days is staggering when you take a step back and observe. Eventually, one can get to a point -- a sort of "information overload," if you will. It gets to be too much to take in. There are too many interesting tidbits, too many convenient coincidences, too many inputs, period. Blogging, as a form of writing that takes that constant stream of information and tries to somehow decipher or make sense of it (albeit a tiny bit at a time, while, ironically, adding to the tsunami) can literally become overwhelming.

Scratch that. This is not a hypothetical. Blogging has become overwhelming. I hope you'll bear with me through this rather indulgent post; perhaps I'm just as narcissistic as the general populace seems to believe bloggers to be, but I feel a strange urge to explain why this blog has, despite several promises to the contrary, remained mostly dormant for the past two months.

In short, the constant flow of media got to be too much. At some point, sifting through hundreds of news items and blog posts and articles and videos every day stopped being enjoyable and started to feel like a heavy weight on the shoulders. Blogging, when not for profit, should at least be fun, and Where became more of a responsibility than an exciting project, for a while.

Excuses aside, I do intend to get things up and running again, but every time I try, the thought of putting together a long post with multiple sources gets a little...exhausting. No joke. Perhaps I started to take this all too seriously. That's always a surefire way to make yourself miserable, isn't it?

So I ask Where's little community of regular readers to bear with me over the next few weeks as I try to sort things out and get back on the blogging horse. I'm taking a cue from BLDGBLOG, Pruned, and Landscape Urbanism, and Where will be featuring more short, informal posts (though they will be titled and archived in the sidebar) while I work back up to 1000+ word entries.

Where's coming back. It's just taking longer than anticipated...