A vision for NYC waterfront

I just fell in love with this image from imjustsayin, via curbed. It makes me so hopeful to think that the city's waterfront could look like this, that we reinstate ourselves as a waterfront city. From the entry aptly called, I've seen the future.

A new take on convention centers

The Fiera Milano, aka the Milan Trade Fair, does a new take on the traditional convention center. The new is actually the old - designing the convention center around traditional public space schemes, but in a contemporary way. Paul Goldberger reports in the New Yorker. It's still a huge enormous convention center, but certainly not as grim as they come.

Many more pictures courtesy of Mocoloco. (Obviously, the contemporary design world caught early on...speaking for myself, urbanism folks are laggards.)



Photograph by Bridget Regan

It's been one heckuva week - drama to be clarified shortly. In the middle, we had a staff retreat with a really talented facilitator...guess what we learned? People who work with outside communities have a hard time talking about their own community.

I find that when I'm thus preoccupied, I stop reading the usual urban ___(living, development, real estate) blogs altogether. I realized last week that we had stopped buying a household staple, the NYTimes, for a month now.

Instead, I've been paddling around a sub-segment of the sustainability world, the world of sustainable style. So while my nucleus looks at sustainability from the lense of the built environment, there are many people out there who look at it from the lense of a stylish, downtown consumer. So fascinating. This trend certainly isn't isolated in NYC, but the exacting stylishness in which it is executed is very new york. My favorite is fiftyRX3 (I know nothing of its origins).

Then to compensate for not reading my roll, I read the blogs of people I've just had the good fortune to see, here and here.

Onward to more connected days...


McDonald's place- and people-oriented facelift

Chicago's two-story McDonald's, from Unfinished Journeys blog

Blair Kamin writing for the Chicago Tribune spent some time analyzing McDonald's latest attempt to dig its way out of a financial slump: by re-branding its outlets in a way that caters to the actual ways people like to use the golden arch's space.

There will be three zones: the fast zone, the social zone, and the hangout zone. Come to think of it, the McDonald's in Greenpoint Brooklyn was filled with seniors catching up with one another every week day. On the weekends, they might take their grandchildren there for some play time and a treat. This is in addition to the straightforward fast food customers, of course. Kids hang out in London's McDonald's and in Taiwan, kids study at McDonald's.

Good for McDonald's for making iconic outlets in sprawl a bit more palatable - on the inside, anyway. But what's happening around the McDonald's - how are the drive-ins and exits impacting the streets? How about how far people have to drive to get there? I say McDonald's should tie its rebranding to a town's rebranding effort, and coordinate the people- and place-orientation from the outside in.

Late edit: Check out the agency perspective on McDonald's upgrade.


The records stores of yore...

This NYTimes lament over the dying once edgy record stores was in the Style section...another type of third place lost, it seems. I don't necessarily mourn the good old days, but I wonder, where do young people hang out now, when they want to get away from their parents and it's too hot or cold to stay in the park all day? I guess malls, but around here (downtown NYC), there aren't any malls.


This week's linked in...

My summer has been busier than I expected, so I'm just catching up now with some reading.

I've had a long fascination with Detroit, so this caught my eye. Dejan Sudjic writes about Detroit for the BBC, taking stock of the city's attempt to refill the hole in the donut that has been the city morphology since the 1960s. The missing component? How is the city providing for those baby boomers and young professionals when they move into the post-industrial lofts? The public space plans should be bolstered with an injection of small business/entrepreurship initiatives, so that the local downtown economy becomes stimulated to fulfill the needs and desires of those new downtown residents. Spur on businesses that include everything from dining, shopping to dry-cleaning and food shopping. Tie that in with the public space plan.

About twice a year we go down to Virginia's Eastern Shore (a little peninsula dangling from Maryland and going to Virginia that embraces the Chesapeake Bay), going through this Maryland area that was highlighted by the Baltimore Sun. The sleepy little towns are starting to get a rude awakening with all the development going on.


from oil to sustainability to campuses now!

Photo from 1973, the first global oil crisis...from U.S. News and World Report

As it turns out, college progressive activists come across as surprisingly articulate and not surprisingly, good at sniffing out the snow jobs anyone might give to win over their collective power and influence. Check out the very well written Campus Progress magazine. The group as a whole loved the sincere and earnest speech given by Barack Obama, who laid out some simple guidelines for remaining to true to oneself and making a difference in a world, the master that he is at stating most elegantly oft-overlooked fundamentals.

Speaking of truth, our panel was called "Making Truth Convenient," which tried to cover the oil crisis's connection to sustainable communities and still come out on the positive side. It was lots of fun; John Holtzclaw turned out to be a darling and Aaron Naparstek was his usual keen, droll self (his description of sitting on one particular community meeting - "I feel like a bear in a trap in the middle of the woods, when gnawing on my arm is a better alternative than being there.")

Both had very compelling stories - John was armed to the teeth with data that showed irrevocably how sprawl was abusing us, and Aaron had lots of inspiring examples of how getting involved in the community and working towards sustainability, no matter how small the delta might be, were worth the fight. And of course, there's all that stuff that PPS does, but you know that already. John and Aaron were awesome spokespeople for PPS. I think we ended up a bit negatively (to the tune of, there's so much work to do and we're only getting started!) but we were a kind of support group, the three of us recognizing that we couldn't make an impact without the other. I hope people were inspired enough to get involved in projects happening around them.


Campus Progress in D.C.

Tomorrow I'm going to be on a panel called, "Making Truth Convenient," at a conference for progressive college students in Washingon DC. My co-panelists are Aaron Naparstek, of Naparstek.com and streetsblog.org, and John Holtzclaw, Chair of the Transportation Committee for the Sierra Club. I'm really excited about seeing Barack Obama who is the keynote.

All the political activism training offered at the conference is a throwback (flashback) to my days in college, though I'm unaware of whether or not this group was in existence back then. From the looks of the feature articles, issues reflect complexity and interdiscipline that are much-needed updates.


Atlantic Yards run-down

Image from Atlantic Yards web site

MUG put together a great outline of the ins and outs of the Atlantic Yards project. It linked to a video which illustrated all the proposals for the area, made by one of my favorite organizations, the Center for Urban Pedagogy.


Modernization of a company town

I liked this NYT story of one of the last outposts of a company town, Scotia, California, where Pacific Lumber has been the town mayor, caretaker and landlord for more than 150 years, is going to relinquish management control of the town though it will remain one of the main employers. The town across the river might annex Scotia, though it has a host of modern problems, like crime and homelessness, though still at a relatively minimal level. Sounds like a made-for-movie story.


Graffiti - up on the wall

Kwame Monroe, aka Bear (American, 20th century, deceased). Sunday Afternoon, 1984. Spray paint on canvas.

We went to Brooklyn Museum's First Saturdays (a good use of corporate sponsorship, this event by Target) this past weekend and caught the Graffiti exhibit which has been vaunted by most NYC media. Frankly, it disappointed. A very literal exhibit, and most pieces on canvas...hmmm. I heard multiple murmurs of, "the Times is wrong" (nb: article for purchase, don'cha know?) But my spirits were lifted by the funk music that was being DJed out back on the parking lot and the hundreds that were boogying in the humid summer night.

Bad image from cameraphone, but I couldn't resist!