Category Archives: community

Short Story Vending

Image Credit: Olivier Alexandre/Short Edition via NYTimes

In an era of byte-sized information rapidly and widely dispersed at the touch of a screen comes a vending machine for short stories. French publisher Short Edition offers The Short Story Dispenser, a kiosk that spits out stories on paper that resembles a store receipt. There is no cost for this literary service, all you do is choose the length of time you’d like to spend reading. Stories are sourced from an online collection hosted by Short Edition, which holds competitions to amass the content for their catalog. Libraries and schools are some obvious locations where these dispensers have been seen popping up in the United States, but the potential is there for them to be any place where one finds themselves waiting and might otherwise reach for their smartphone.

Source: NYTimes

The Narrative of New York’s Police Architecture

Image Credit: Kris Graves.

Photographer Kris Graves has documented all of New York City’s 77 police precinct buildings. The architectural styles used evolved over the years, reflecting trends in architectural design as well as the police force’s evolving needs. During the 19th century, most precincts were built in the Romanesque or Classical Revival styles, By the 1960s, the buildings were largely un-ornamented.

Now, New York City’s police force is considering how their precinct buildings’ architecture impacts their relation to the community. While Brutalism may have its merits in the history of design and architecture, there is little doubt that a monolithic concrete building may fail to appear like anything other than a fortress. In a time when the tension between police and the communities they aim to serve has perhaps never been higher, precincts hope to convey an openness through the design of their buildings. The most recent proposals feature interior public spaces to allow community meetings and engagement.

This documentation was undertaken as part of an ongoing examination by Urban Omnibus and the Architectural League of New York entitled The Location of Justice. The project seeks to examine “the pervasive and often overlooked infrastructure of criminal justice in New York and the spaces that could serve a more just city.”

Source: Urban Omnibus

Vacant Lots to Garden Plots: Restoring Urban Biodiversity

Many homes in Baltimore are being demolished due to high vacancy rates. Ecologist Chris Swann uses the empty lots to plant wildflowers. Photo Credit: Patrick Semansky, Associated Press.

As urbanism pervades the world, open spaces and the biodiversity they provide are beginning to dwindle. Curtailing sprawl is often touted as an answer to protecting biodiversity outside the city, but Chris Swann wants to also protect the biodiversity within the existing urban context.

Swann—an ecologist and professor from the University of Maryland—studies what plant species work best for ecosystems in urban spaces and, in a recent experiment, he sprinkled wildflower seeds across vacant lots. He is specifically looking for plants that can survive in the soil of recently demolished homes in Baltimore, where vacancies are on the rise. Though the lots are only “temporary prairies” because they will likely be redeveloped soon, Swann hopes the boost in plant life will reduce runoff and attract other organisms. Swann’s project is uniquely scientific; not many have studied what works to restore balance to a city’s ecosystem. Other cities have begun utilizing small plots of land for gardens or mini parks, despite the lack of research surrounding what they should be planting.

Yet, all green spaces are not created equal. Providing more green space in an urban landscape can not only pose an ecological challenge but also economic and equity challenges. Property values increase near parks and open spaces, oftentimes inducing a development surge that brings a risk of gentrification. Laying the groundwork for a fully furnished park is a costly endeavor for the city; the City of Minneapolis cited the cost of a park as $481,333. In contrast, one of the cheapest types of wildflower seeds costs just $231 per acre.

Swann’s experiment to seed wildflowers in vacant lots will not only help answer the question, “what do we plant” but also “can we afford it?” If wildflowers grow well in infertile soil, they could become a means for urban biodiversity that is more economical and thus, more equitable. Creating prairies in vacant lots could prove a small step towards creating a better habitat for all creatures residing in urban contexts.

Sources: CityLab, City of Minneapolis, Holland Wildflower Farm, University of California at Berkeley

Building Inter-generational Communities: The Tiny House for Older Adults

Keeping up with the needs of a large home can be difficult for seniors. In fact, providing smaller, more manageable spaces for older adults could be the difference between entering a care facility or maintaining independence. Bill Thomas, a renowned geriatrician, created a tiny home for older adults that he says prolongs independence and counters ageism.

The first Minka-style tiny home for older adults stands on the University of Southern Indiana’s campus in Evansville, IN, where 67 percent of the population are under 50 years old. Although the house was built for older people, the structure appears very modern. The modular design provides residents with both affordability and accessibility; because of the compact and interchangeable parts, the home can adapt to people with different needs or disabilities. The home costs just $75,000 to build.

No one lives in the first tiny home currently; it serves as a prototype. Thomas hopes that the homes inspired by the prototype will one day will serve to keep elders integrated in society, instead of segregating them in nursing homes. It’s no secret that Baby Boomers and Millennials have wildly different worldviews, and both can be quick to blame the other for social problems. In a time of increasing political polarization, mixing of different generations may be exactly what our cities need; a tiny home village for older adults on a college campus could be a great start to humanizing the people often seen as the other’s enemy.

Sources: American Fact Finder, NPR, Changing Aging, Minka

Copenhagen Park Designed to Promote Inclusiveness

Photo Credit: Next City

Home to both young families and criminal gang members, Nørrebro is a diverse neighborhood. Its park—Folkets Park—has been contested for decades. As a response, Danish artist Kenneth Balfelt organized a project with architects and landscape architects to improve the park, prioritizing community engagement.

Nørrebro is a densely populated neighborhood with a longstanding mistrust of local officials. When a fire destroyed a building in the neighborhood resulting in an open lot adjacent to a factory, people moved into the the factory and Folkets Park and Folkets Hus were established. Folkets Hus quickly became a community house hosting theater groups, parties, music events, and political debates. The city repeatedly attempted to demolish Folkets Hus, but in the 1990s the building finally receive official approval.

Balfelt worked with all members of the community, asking them, “What their analysis of the park and the situation was, and what they needed from the space.” While most specialists argue that well lit pathways are more safe, Balfelt listened to community members who found dark areas of the park to feel more private and secure. Balfelt argued with the city to include zone lighting to accommodate well lit areas of the park and dark zones in the park. Balfelt enlisted young members of the community to help build and paint the playground equipment for the children. Tensions with gangs in the area have increased over the years, and a shooting occurred in the park last year, pushing officials to temporarily close Folkets Hus. Given the current climate, the park has prospered since the renovation.

Source: Next City

Study Shows Architecture Majors Work the Hardest in College

Image Credit: Beraldo Leal

Image Credit: Beraldo Leal

A new study conducted by Indiana University’s National Study of Student Engagement claims that architecture majors spend more time out of the classroom studying or working on projects than any other major. Coming in at a whopping 22.2 hours of additional work a week compared to a communications major’s 12.18 hours a week or an engineering student’s 19.66 hours a week, architecture majors seem to live in their studios more than they live in their dorms. How many hours a week do you spend in the studio?

Source: Archinect

Tiny Transitional Housing for Seattle’s Homeless

Image Credit: Inhabitat

Image Credit: Inhabitat

Inhabitat reports that a group of teenagers from Seattle have partnered with various organizations to design, build, and distribute tiny houses for the city’s homeless. These houses will serve as inexpensive, transitional solutions for those in need until affordable housing is secured for them. Sawhorse Revolution, the organization in charge of this effort, claims that this process has helped these teens develop the empathy required to work with any client, which promises to serve them well in their futures.

Source: Inhabitat

Photos Portray the Hidden Life of the Amish

Image Credit: Michael Hanson

Image Credit: Michael Hanson

Photojournalist Michael Hanson’s images of Amish communities give insight to the rural, low-tech life of the religious order. Hanson’s work focuses primarily on people who produce food, which led to his interest in photographing Amish farmers and homemakers. The images show the everyday life of the Amish, from mornings harvesting tomatoes to an afternoon at a livestock market. The images reveal the contrast between the Amish and the rest of the country; although the images invoke a sense of community, they also portray the isolation experienced by some people who chose to leave the religion.

Source: The Washington Post

Guerrilla Tactics Lead to Sanctioned Bike Lane

Image Credit: San Francisco Municipal Transformation Authority via City Lab

Image Credit: San Francisco Municipal Transformation Authority via City Lab

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has retroactively approved a bike lane. This statement may not seem strange until you learn that The San Francisco Municipal Transformation Authority (SFMTrA) painted the bounds and installed the white soft hit posts. SFMTrA is an organization that has been using guerrilla tactics to improve the safety of Bay Area bicyclists without official permission—refusing to wait for an official response to conditions that contribute to cyclists being put in harm’s way.

Source: City Lab

Protesters Rally Behind Sydney’s Sirius Building

The 1970s Sirius building, designed by architect Tao Gofers, is in danger of being sold to developers. Currently, the brutalist building is home to 79 low-income social housing tenants. The building’s sale is being protested by the group Save Our Sirius, a nonprofit that aims to prevent the redevelopment of the site. Australia’s largest construction union, CFMEU, has called upon its members to not participate in the demolition of the building.

Read more about Save Our Sirius here.

Source: The Guardian


The Creative Chaos of Architecture Workspaces

ArchDaily recently asked its readers to submit sketches of their offices to illustrate and celebrate the differences in work cultures across the field of architecture. They have compiled 42 of their favorite drawings here. Ranging from ornate libraries to disheveled dorm rooms, the stunning sketches and diagrams reveal the different ways architects around the world create and relax among organized chaos.

Source: ArchDaily




“Vessel” Brings Interactive Art to the Heart of New York

Image Credit: Dezeen

Image Credit: Dezeen

An intricate, winding honeycomb structure called Vessel will be the new centerpiece of the Hudson Yards development, situated on Manhattan’s West Side. Aiming to create art that “…everybody could use, touch, [and] relate to,” designer Thomas Heatherwick connected a network of stairs and landings to create an interactive public gathering space. The finished structure will be vase-shaped and 150 feet across at its widest point. The finished landmark will include a landscaped area with gardens, groves of trees, and a river fountain.

Source: Dezeen