A Year in New York

A Year in New York from Andrew Clancy on Vimeo.

Goddamnit, this one's good. Also: clearly made by a Queenser. +1


Liveblogging the Tactical Urbanism Salon: Evening Presentations

Evening Presentations

Introduction - Mike Lydon (The Street Plans Collaborative)
  • Early example of  tactical urbanism: Paris book boxes along the Siene; interesting parallel between historic book box tension w/bookstore owners and contemporary arguments between foot trucks and restauranteurs
  • What we call tactical urbanism has been going on for hundreds of years
  • There has been an acceleration of TU in recent years; of 56 Open Streets initiatives in the US, more than 40 started within the past three years
  • Tactical Urbanism guide volume 2 will be available for d/l within the next few weeks!

Introduction - Aurash Khawarzad (DoTank:BrooklynProject for Public Spaces)
  • "Do Tanks" are more appropriate right now than "Think Thanks"
  • Do:Tank Brooklyn is intended to provide a platform for people to come together and work collaboratively on projects
  • Individual Do:Tank projects are less important than the conversation happening here tonight
  • We've done the smaller projects, now it's time to come together. Tactical Urbanism is not a trend, it's a movement. Let's be more organized about it and put forth a full-throated argument for why this is important in the field.
  • People are tired of the "talk-itecture." They're doing something about it.

Liveblogging the Tactical Urbanism Salon: Pecha Kucha Presentations

Pecha Kucha

  •  BroLab used Q32 bus line between Flux Factory & Momenta Art to stage "Bench Press"; created a template & built benches along bus lines.
  • Project allowed people to see benches building built, get a sense of the work that went into them.
  • Did 12-15 live-build installations of benches at bus stops over the course of one day.

Vertical Theory, Karen Mackay
  • Wanted to find solutions for large-scale sustainability issues on a local level; looked at urban farms as a solution
  • Cities = limited horizontal outdoor space; how do we grow food here? Farmscrapers need lots of time & $, but VT looks at how do non-horizontal farming in a more DIY way
  • Looked @ hydroponics, wooly pockets, not nobody was doing these two things together; started doing prototypes to use piping in pockets to distribute water
  •  Also working on creating prototypes in glass; harder to be DIY, but can still have an impact and get people thinking

TreeKIT, Sophie Plitt
  • Urban trees have many benefits: "Trees really make cities; although they're extremely ubiquitous, we don't always see them for how valuable they are."
  • NYC is relying on individuals, developing a stewardship model. Not really working yet.
  • TreeKIT hias developed a "Track, See, Collect" mapping model to increase stewardship. Currently collecting the data to allow people to track their stewardship.
  • Draw people [general public] into the data-collection process - "Participatory action research"

Liveblogging the Tactical Urbanism Salon: Intro & Panel Discussion: Tactical vs. DIY Urbanism


Mike Lydon - The Street Plans Collaborative
Aurash Khawarzad - DoTank:Brooklyn / Project for Public Spaces
  • ML: Idea for the TUS was to look at short-term actions driving long-term change
  • AK: Old process of building communities is not working anymore; new more collaborative ways of doing things
  • AK: We want everything about today to be different; everything we do should be action-focused. 
Panel Discussion: Tactical vs. DIY Urbanism

Tony Garcia - The Street Plans Collaborative
Chiara Camponeschi - Enabling City
Quillian Riano - DSGN AGNC
June Williamson - The City College of New York, CUNY

A Modest Proposal...

A few years ago I made a series of hackmaps, using Google Earth to cobble together a few visualizations of alternate urban realities. I'd always planned to post some of the better ones to Where, and never got around to it. Recent events, however, made me think that there was one  in particular that was worth sharing.

The image above was created in the fall of 2008, right as the financial meltdown was getting white-hot. The idea that the wizards of Wall Street should share their posh financial district with a Rio-style favela seemed fitting, given the number of people who were suddenly finding themselves homeless. Luckily, there was a huge hole in the ground right next door.

The site may have been overly ambitious, but it's good to see that some people have been feeling the same way.


MAS Context Issue 11: SPEED

The new issue of MAS Context is out today, and you can read the whole thing online here, or buy a printed copy here. I've got an article on the effect of mobile, digital tech on the future of historic preservation, entitled On the Quickening of History. An excerpt:

These applications will eventually be used not just to find a good place for Thai food or to see where a bus route leads, but to interpret and alter the physical realm, as well. As augmented reality applications become increasingly ubiquitous, it will become impossible to separate the city from its digital self. This means that, in the not too distant future, digital layers will need to be thought of by preservationists in much the same way that buildings are today. And while it’s true that digital preservation is already a subject of discussion, that discussion is currently focused on the use of digital tools to preserve the physical world, or to preserve artistic or cultural projects that were created on digital platforms. The preservation of the platforms themselves is largely uncharted territory, regardless of the outsized impact that they have had on our lives.

Other great stuff from Candy Chang, Jesus Maria Ezquiaga, Andrew Clark, Antón García-Abril, and a slew of other great urbanists. Read on!


What Color is Your Favorite Architect?

Oh joy, thecolorof works for architects, too! There are some fascinating results--so many, in fact, that you'll have to travel beyond the jump, as I don't want them mobbing the Where homepage, heh.


What Color is your City?

I found thecolorof.com this evening (via Curiosity Counts), which layers recent images from Flickr sharing a common tag over each other to create swatches that resemble abstract impressionist paintings. Naturally, I spent a bit of time trying out various cities. Many wind up very similar--red/gold on the bottom, bluish on the top--which I'm guessing has something to do with the preponderance of skyline photos. But the results for some are spot-on, and even downright gorgeous. A few favorites:

What color is your city?


The Upside of Shrinking

Photo Credit
Last month, Newsweek produced a list of "dying" cities in the US with "bleak" futures based solely on population loss over the past few decades. For the Love of Cities author Peter Kageyama made quick work of the dismantling of this rather lazy list over at The Infrastructurist: "As human beings," he notes, astutely, "we stop 'growing' in our early 20s, yet we hardly think of a 25-year-old as dying — still, at a cellular level, they are dying in the same way that these cities are dying. Losing population is not the same as losing hope, losing purpose, or losing life."

The loss of population does not guarantee a continued slide toward obsolescence. Conversely, an influx of educated creative types does not necessarily result in an economic boom. Everyone has the potential to be creative, but not everyone is cut out to start (and successfully run) a business. The entrepreneurial spirit is something that needs to be sparked, and then cultivated. On the list of things that can serve as that spark: watching an exodus from a place that you love. In the above-linked Burgh Diaspora post, Jim Russell shares a story about Doug Dwyer, a former First Data employee who chose to stay in Boulder when his employer moved to Atlanta. The decision to stay required Dwyer to "think like an immigrant," and he has since founded a company, Mocapay, that employs 20 people.

When it's possible for the upwardly mobile to leave, those who stay behind by choice are bound to be more invested in their cities. These passionate people are some of the greatest assets that a city can have, and the fact that there are fewer other people around inherently makes it more likely that these passionate residents will bump into each other, share ideas, and perhaps start something exciting--as long as shrinkage is managed through smart urban planning to maintain some level of density, and to preserve downtown areas as places of economic and intellectual exchange. Especially when large areas begin to empty out, it's important to think about how to encourage interaction.

In a recent promo video for the new book Living in the Endless City, Saskia Sassen was asked what makes a city successful. She answered that "It’s their incompleteness that gifts them their longevity. A city does not become obsolete." Population loss does not equal death: it's just part of the process of rebirth.


When Street Art Is More Than Street Art

Photo credit
Some clever artist has plastered a series of stylized yellow protractors (or are they bridges?) around Pittsburgh, each with a (presumably) sequential number from one up into the hundreds. Apparently it's the talk of the town--so much so that, in a move truly worthy of the adjective "Keystone," the city's cops are trying to track the mastermind down so that they can charge him with a felony for property damage. In an awesome act of digital defiance, a blogger who was writing about and mapping the bridges has deleted the posts, refusing to allow his blog to be used by the authorities to bring down this gem of a project.

Moving past this dramatic and still-unfolding plot to the project itself: the simplicity of this project is a total joy. Talk about augmented reality these days focuses on digital applications, and it's so easy to forget that there are some very low-tech ways of re-framing the way that people experience the urban environment. In this project, the instigator has used some simple plastic decals and super glue to turn the entire city of Pittsburgh--already pretty fun to wander around thanks to its undulating topography and erratic street grid--into a game platform. As you chase around looking for all of the protractors, you wind up exploring the city, leaving no nook or cranny un-scanned in your quest for detection dominance.

This Pittsburgh project highlights the fact that you don't need mad app-development skillz to augment your city. While tech allows us the opportunity to tweak the urban experience in new wasy, a bit of ingenuity and some art supplies are all you need to re-engage people with the cityscape. On that note--if anyone else knows of some similarly clever interventions in other cities, please share!


Splashy Times Square Satellite View

Woke up this morning to discover new Google Earth satellite imagery of Manhattan, complete with the fully-pedestrianized & mural'd Times Square. Great light too, Midtown usually looks so dark on G-Earth. Three cheers for Janette.

UPDATE: Just realized you can also get great views of a few other ped plazas. Click the thumbnails for full-sizers:

Union Square (with Greenmarket in full-swing!):

Madison Square Park:

(Also: whoever gets rid of these #$&#% borders that magically insert themselves around images on this blog when I've tried everything I can think of to turn them off wins a prize.)


On Stolen Towns, Cities as Brands, and Public vs. Private Visions

Image by Flickr user philipbouchard
Revisiting a few posts that I wrote for Next American City a couple of years ago via more recent news items:

From Neighborhoods as Brands (March 2008):  
Think about places in American cities that have a special cultural power.  Now export them to a brownfield site one or two thousand miles away...New Orleans’ French Quarter could become one of America’s most popular exports.  There could be one in Shanghai, one in Jakarta, one in Abu Dhabi, one in Zagreb, and another on the outskirts of Khartoum.  These would not be theme parks, but fully-populated, 24-hour neighborhoods selling a lifestyle of jazz, street dancing, and easy living.
More recently, Der Speigel brought us news that Chinese officials have surprised residents of the Austrian town of Hallstatt by deciding to copy the entire town back east, brick for brick. Jokes about China's lasseiz faire attitude toward Western copyrights (particularly those of the intellectual variety) got tired years ago, but this latest news feels like a fresh pain. UNESCO is, hilariously, trying to determine the legality of this--as if they'll have any power at all to stop the copy from being built. What can be done?

In a country where they're building cities faster than they can fill them, it hardly seems surprising that a few would borrow heavily from existing, well-loved places, and Spiegel notes the existence of a scattering of Euro-themed suburbs near Shanghai. But while it's one thing to choose to export a place, seeing developers--from any part of the world--up and jacking a whole town should raise eyebrows. Imagine people on the other side of the world eating in a clone of your favorite restaurant, living in the bizzarro version of the apartment just above yours, listening to the kids playing handball in a counterfeit of the park outside your side window.

Then again, try as they might, Starbucks' store designers can't make a London shop feel that different from one in Chicago. That is to say, the places that we inhabit in globalized cities are already feeling like copies of copies. If the Hallstatt story has anything to teach us perhaps it's that it's better for cities to get out in front of this trend and start marketing their strongest neighborhoods to Chinese developers as blueprints. Within China itself, developers are starting to market entire neighborhood types within the same cities--what Ad Age Global refers to as "Cities in a Box." Better for Boston that those developers specialize in Beacon Hills instead of Bunds...assuming, of course, that Boston can be involved somehow.

All of this raises the issue of whether or not the people who inhabit a place have any inherent right to its built form. Indeed, it raises the issue of whether or not a place has a right to itself, in many ways. So I'll re-pose the question from that original NAC post: In the glocalized world, does any place belong to any one group, or does everywhere belong to everyone?


Also, from A Vision For Detroit (April 2010):
If there is the political will and the financial might in Detroit to privately fund a light rail line (which would take a miracle in almost any American city, much less one with Motown’s reputation), there should certainly be enough energy to create a broad, forward-thinking vision for the region to tie various initiatives together into a narrative that the whole city can rally behind.  Detroit has everyone’s attention; now it’s time for the city to decide what story it’s going to tell.
Now, just over a year later, the WSJ is reporting that all is not well in the Motor City, as the Bing administration wrestles with the Kresge Foundation to determine whose job it is to plot that storyline. The city says that it appreciates Kresge's cash, but can do just fine developing the vision to guide its own revitalization, thank you. Kresge begs to differ, with its suburb-based president Rip Rapson arguing that new ideas from outside the entrenched political system are desperately needed.

No matter which camp you fall into, it's certainly a fascinating read. With Kresge pulling out of critical projects like Detroit Works and the M1 light rail line, it may behoove Bing to acknowledge that Detroit's record, when it comes to city-led revitalization projects, leaves something to be desired; ceding a bit of control might not be the worst thing to ever happen to the city. You could call Kresge's new-found reticence fickle, or even extortive, but if the foundation doesn't believe that the city's long-term plans will allow their investments to have a lasting impact, they have every right to withhold.

That's not to say that citizens shouldn't have a say in what happens to their city, and Kresge would do well to be as clear as is humanly possible about what it is they'd like to see happen in order to build public support. Being a private foundation does not absolve you of responsibility to communicate with the public whose lives you'd like to improve. 2¢ from an outsider.


Thinking Before You Market Can Have Beautiful Results

Natalia from Polis has already nerded out on the potential for apps to collect use-pattern data to aid urban planners as illustrated by the recent Nike+ 1000 Runs mapping project. Personally, though, I’m more excited about this as a social ad campaign than as an urban planning tool. It’s a pretty ingenious way of encouraging participation: it taps into Nike’s passionate base and invites their participation, using the individual pieces collected to create something new and pretty cool (and quite lovely) which, in turn, encourages more people to use the product in question. Thoughtful marketing is always fun to see, especially when it’s social (which begs the question: is it even possible to be thoughtful without being social in 2011?)

Oh, and let’s not forget the mega-bonus that it’s rooted in the pedestrian experience of the urban environment, which is always nice to see from suburb- and auto-centric Madison Ave. Round of applause.


WEEKEND READING: June 4-10, 2011

Sylvan Terrace, one of my favorite sites of "urban delight" in Manhattan
This week was like a big traffic jam of awesome in the urban-o-sphere. No time for dithering introductions, on to the good stuff.

ITEM ONE: David Roberts wraps up his five-part series on great places at Grist with a post on urban delight, taking time to note both the suburbs' relative inadequacy in this realm and Bjarke Ingels' unstoppable charge toward architectural legend.

ITEM TWO: The tenth issue of MAS Context takes on the meaty subject of Conflict in urban environments.

ITEM THREE: Speaking of conflict, Maisonneuve looks at the violence in many video games and wonders whether urban AR gaming might make for more dangerous cities (thanks to an Anonymous commenter for sharing this link on Wednesday's post!)

ITEM FOUR: Meanwhile, SimCity creator Will Wright shares his insights about the relationship between playing and learning, and how about people actually engage with video games (nutshell: the violence a'int so bad, folks).

ITEM FIVE: Nicolas Nova suggests a design studio for locative media that would be centered on visualizing the bizarrely partitioned city at the heart of China Miéville's novel The City and The City. Now that, I've gotta see.

ITEM SIX: Springwise writes of an innovative new app that crowdsources geodata to predict when the next train or bus will arrive. (WANT)

ITEM SEVEN: Urban Omnibus interviews David Giles, lead author of the Center for an Urban Future's new report on the prominence and related power of the design sector in New York City.

Enjoy the reading, and stay cool this weekend!


Treasure Island, Approved & Revisited

Just read this evening that SOM's plan for the game-changing redevelopment of the bay's manmade Treasure Island has been approved. I interviewed the lead architect, Craig Hartman, about the project two years ago, and thought it might be fun to repost. Here it is, parts One and Two.

This Just In: Far Rockaway Ironically Proves Itself to be Dull and Humorless

Image from the NY Daily News
I try to keep Where fairly upbeat, but this one's got me too annoyed not to write about: apparently Far Rockaway's city councilman, James Sanders, threw such a spectacular snit fit about a McDonald's subway ad that he got the corp. to pull the campaign, which could not have been cheap. About the ad, Sanders whinnied (with stereotype-reinforcingly tone-deaf politician 'humor') that "clowning around at the expense of a community is not funny," and went so far as to demand an apology (which, sadly, he also got).

Here's the kicker: the ad does not actually poke fun at Far Rockaway at all. It features an image of a McDo's iced coffee being held up, cheers-style, by a disembodied hand, and reads "To not falling asleep and ending up in Far Rockaway. (Unless of course you live there)." Even in issuing their apology, the company rep explained what anyone with two brain cells to rub together could plainly see: "Our intention was to add humor to the situation of falling asleep on the subway, missing a local home stop and waking up at the end of the line." Because Far Rockaway? Is waaaay at the end of the line, in case you're not familiar. The punchline here is the hour-long ride back home, not the condition of the neighborhood that the last stop happens to be in.

In fact, the only disrespect I see here toward Far Rockaway is from this Councilman Sanders yahoo, whose own insecurity about his district is pretty blatant. If the person representing my district thought that their job was to run around looking so hard for opportunities to defend the 'nabe from people calling it boring that they'd go so far as to pull slights out of thin air, you can bet your ass I'd be on the phone letting them know that I'd much prefer they be looking for money to fund the subway rather than worrying about the ads inside the trains--much less getting them yanked! "What's your position on the recent fare hike, Councilman? What about reduced service? Oh, no, sorry -- you go ahead and finish your rant about that ad for coffee, first." Give me a freaking break.

The sad thing is, this guy's grandstanding cost all of the city's subway riders a clever ad that dealt with a shared urban experience (the fear of falling asleep and waking up at the end of the line). Even in a city like New York, one often encounters ads that reference the (imagined) national shared experience: back yards, apple pie, and cul-de-sacs. While I'm no great fan of McDonald's, I do appreciate it when major corporations tailor their ads to acknowledge the fact that, yes, we are in fact in a city. If we have to be bombarded with advertisements, at the very least they should reference a shared experience that we actually share.

But fear not, New York: Councilman Sanders will make sure that that doesn't happen.


Where's the Discussion on Urban AR Gaming?

Image from Fast Company
Especially interesting in light of Monday's post: Fast Company reports today on Nintendo's new Wii U controller, proclaiming that "living room entertainment just got one step closer to having a true three-dimensional virtual environment." It seems implicit in this statement that the author believes video games to be the provenance of the virtual world; that to have an immersive game environment, one needs to be completely transported by interacting with a screen, rather than the screen modifying the true, four-dimensional environment that the player already exists in.

I've long found it perplexing that, while there is plenty of discussion and debate about video games, and plenty of hype around augmented reality, I very, very rarely come across any account (written, spoken, or otherwise) about augmented reality games that are simply layered over the world that we inhabit. Often, when I do, they're presented in broad strokes, as a far-off possibility: "we'll deal with that when we get there."

There have been a few notable exceptions (see: Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, Dan Hill's The Street As Platform) but on the whole, there doesn't seem to be much discourse around this subject and its enormous potential to change the way that we interact with our cities. Perhaps the technology just really seems too far off to people, though I've personally seen at least one AR application that could easily be retrofitted for geo-locative video games tomorrow in action. Or perhaps I just haven't looked hard enough; if that's the case, and you know of some great resources for reading about/discussing AR gaming (especially in urban environments), please share!


On Video Games, Urbanism, and the Future of Creativity

Image from Wikimedia Commons
Last summer, Newsweek reported that researchers had identified an unnerving trend: American childrens' scores on creativity tests (a la the Torrance Test) were, for the first time since they started being administered in the late 1950s, starting to drop. The article's authors, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, identified two likely factors in creating this downward turn, one being the increasing standardization of school curricula and the lack of deliberate creativity development in classrooms. Calling for a revival of such development, Bronson and Merryman wrote:
What’s common about successful programs is they alternate maximum divergent thinking with bouts of intense convergent thinking, through several stages. Real improvement doesn’t happen in a weekend workshop. But when applied to the everyday process of work or school, brain function improves.
I was struck the other day by a distinct echo of this statement in a post by LiftLAB collaborator Nicolas Nova about recent video games with which he'd been impressed. Writing about the game Superbrothers, Nova explains:
This combination of players’ interactions with “sound, music & audiovisual style” underpinned by a basic narrative and very low-key dialogues made me tick. More specifically, I am impressed by the rhythm of the game, which is sometimes super slow/contemplative and sometimes very quick/nervous in combat.
Bronson and Merryman's second major cause of the creativity slump in American kids was the increase in time spent plopped in front of the TV playing video games, but Nova's description of the rhythm and structure of Superbrothers highlights an interesting alternative: video games are uniquely positioned to serve as vehicles for creativity development. Players engage in a video games with long-format storylines over extended periods of time. Many games have immersive environments that are fun to explore outside of plot-focused action (I'm thinking, here, of classic games from my youth like Chrono Trigger and Earthbound, though there are no doubt newer examples). This means that players alternate between different modes of thinking: slower, self-paced exploration (divergent) and goal-oriented tasks (convergent).

The digital worlds in which video games take place also require the suspension of disbelief, and we have all been pretty well-trained to oblige. Real people don't double in size when eating mushrooms, but while playing Super Mario Bros., few question that occurrence. In the aforementioned Earthbound, players battle everything from zombies and sea monsters to a possessed circus tent and Dali's clock (no joke). When we're in gameplay mode, none of this seems out of the ordinary. We are ready to except non-traditional ways of thinking and, I'd argue, are primed to develop our own.

The good news for cities is that video games are increasingly being played on smaller and smaller screens. More recently, we've seen games that have begun to incorporate real-world geography, with episodic content that is tied to the exploration of actual places, as well as current events. Smartphones and handheld game consoles that make the original Gameboy look as technologically advanced a platform as a pencil and paper are increasingly ubiquitous, and they can be used to change the way that we see the world around us. The myriad public places that make up a neighborhood--parks, squares, streets, shops, libraries--could easily become 'levels' with various tasks assigned to them.

Using a Nintendo DS or a Droid phone, we could walk on a street we'd been down a thousand times and be prompted by a game to stop for the very first to look around and explore our surroundings. Designer Michael Wolff describes the creative process as requiring three muscles that must be exercised regularly: curiosity and appreciation, which together enable imagination. Video games already exercise the first two of these muscles; locating games within the context of a world that we recognize and understand allows them to encourage imagination that could actually improve the places in which those games are set.

As video games become tied to physical places (which has the added benefit, by the way, of getting players off the couch) the complexity of dense urban environments offers a distinct advantage: New York's Union Square or Shanghai's Bund are the Xbox 360s to the suburbs' Atari. According to one collective in Zagreb, "Augmented Reality promises to transform all points on the map into unlimited spaces that can be exploited for self-expression by anyone." In today's socially-oriented mashup culture, the rise of games that enable players not only to explore, but to impact their environment and share their interventions, as well as build on the creativity of players who came before them, seems inevitable.

Charles Landry wrote that “A creative city is a place where people feel they can fulfill themselves, there are opportunities. Things get done.” Video games offer plenty of opportunities to get things done and obtain a sense of fulfillment; location-based games that are designed to develop players' creative faculties present an opportunity to create a truly symbiotic relationship, developing inventive populations while simultaneously enriching the gaming experience. Leisure is important in any urban environment--and there's no reason that it can't be used to build a city up.


Mindrelic's Manhattan: The Urban Timelapse Video to End All Urban Timelapse Videos

Mindrelic - Manhattan in motion from Mindrelic on Vimeo.

I've gotten kind of bored with urban timelapse videos since they've become A Thing, but this is head and shoulders above the rest. Really epic stuff. (Thanks Alex!)


WEEKEND READING: May 28-June 3, 2011

That's a Wordle of the top ten words from the 50 items that were in my starred folder on Google Reader when I started putting together this post. The order is totally random...and vaguely poetic, no? In other news: how is it time for Weekend Reading again?? Where did this week go? Anyway...

ITEM ONE: Over at the IfUD, we've launched the By the City / For the City design competition, inviting designers, artists, and architects around the world to respond to one (or more!) of the 500+ ideas New Yorkers shared for improving their city. Check out the site at the former link, then register here!

ITEM TWO: Loved Marcus Westbury's article on crowdfunding in The Age. In fact, love everything I've read by this guy. Renew Newcastle is truly amazing. (via @unsungsongs)

ITEM THREE: The Urbanophile features a guest post by Where alum Drew Austin on digitally-tracked taxi cabs as "spandrels," providing data that, as a happy accident, can improve the flow of our cities.

ITEM FOUR: Urbanscale takes an eye-opening swipe at Augmented Reality (and makes promises about some very exciting-sounding upcoming posts). Especially salient point: at least for the foreseeable future, AR actually diminishes the urban environment rather than...well, augmenting it by providing incorrect, incomplete, and commercially-skewed versions of the city.

ITEM FIVE: Matias and Rahul re-post an article that casts a wary eye toward the flavor of the week in silver bullet slum saviors, the $300 House, over at Airoots.

ITEM SIX: The Pop-Up City catalogs some great urban games. Apparently there is one called "Farmville for Real," which is especially interesting given this

ITEM SEVEN: Rhizome points us to New Scientist's May issue on digital archiving and legacy. Your expiration date is now: infinity.

It was my birthday on Wednesday. Drink an extra one for me this weekend. I won't know that you did it, but I'll appreciate it nonetheless.


WEEKEND READING: May 21-27, 2011

Photo credit: saracino
Heading into a much-needed long weekend. Memorial Day means extra reading time!

ITEM ONE: Anyone who's familiar with the unique joy of finding an easter egg in a video game will love this week's leader--check out Repudo, a new app that turns the city into one giant easter egg hunt.

ITEM TWO: Humans are just so darned clever.

ITEM THREE: The Space Liberation Manifesto is a call to arms for anyone who wants to see digital public space protected from the kind of every-flat-surface-gets-a-sign mentality that has turned public space in the physical city into one long commercial break. (via @bruces)

ITEM FOUR: Nicolai reviews Rem's Cronocaos show, which is on the Bowery until next Sunday. Choice quote: "In the realm of preservation, as in so much else, we seem to have become a world terrified of too much direct contact with reality."

ITEM FIVE: Michael Maltzan actually makes Los Angeles sound palatable in an essay excerpted from his new book No More Play over at Design Observer. (The Iwan Baan pics don't hurt.)

ITEM SIX: Caleb Smith, aka the man who walked every street in Manhattan, shares one of the most meaningful (and under the radar) historical sites for him on the island he knows so well.

Weekend Reading is very multi-media this week, I'm just realizing. So enjoy the reading...and watching, and listening! Back next week with more urban-y goodness.


Cartographic Diversion: An Illustration of Density

With 166 people per square mile, Honduras is in the middle of the pack as far as national population densities are concerned. But what would it look like if you packed every single Honduran into one city? As it turns out, it might look a lot like New York: both contain approximately 8.2 million people. Below are images of the administrative borders of the five largest cities in the US mapped onto the nations that most closely mirror their populations, all at the same scale. No big point to be made...just an interesting distraction for a Wednesday afternoon. Enjoy...

New York City: 8,175,133 -/- Honduras: 8,249,574

Los Angeles: 3,833,995 -/- Congo: 3,686,000
Philadelphia: 1,526,006 -/- Gabon: 1,475,000

Chicago: 2,695,598 -/- Oman: 2,845,000

Houston: 2,099,451 -/- Lesotho: 2,067,000