Category Archives: community

No One’s “Fault”

Image Credit: Rong-Gong Lin II, via Los Angeles Times

Image Credit: Rong-Gong Lin II, via Los Angeles Times

This summer, as was reported by the Los Angeles Times, a Bay Area curb with a famous kink was “fixed.” This particular curb junction has been observed and monitored by geologists for many decades as a marker that represents the activity of the Hayward fault line. While the fault has created visible cracks in Hayward City Hall and other area sidewalks, this particular curb had been documented since the 1970s, as can be seen in the images from produced from scanned slides here.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Promoting a Healthy Building Culture

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Economic Innovation Group (EIG) is a Washington, D.C. based collaborative institution working to advance solutions that empower entrepreneurs and investors in forging a more dynamic and entrepreneurial economy throughout the United States. The group recently released their findings on issues of blight in U.S. cities outlined in the Distressed Communities Index. Using a seven metric system the group created a customized data set that gives a ranking to more than 25,000 zipcodes. The seven metrics the group utilized ranged from percent of unoccupied housing that is habitable, median home income, and change in number of businesses in a three-year period. The group created interactive maps, infographics, and a findings report using the compiled data.

“It is intended to facilitate a better understanding of the pervasive pessimism many Americans feel about their own communities and personal economic prospects in spite of years of steady U.S. economic expansion. Looking forward, it aims to identify the communities most at risk of being left behind by the country’s continued growth and development in the years to come.”

Source: Cleveland Scene Magazine

Under Water


Carbon Story, a social enterprise fighting global climate change, created a website called World Underwater to create a visualization of your city under water. The disconnect between catastrophic climatic events seen in the news and the immense reality of a potential situation is closed with the personalized, life-like scenes. Harnessing digital animation and creativity to spread awareness is a powerful tool to capture the attention of a visually-oriented society.

Source: World Underwater

Storied Stones


Artist Nizar Ali Badr creates powerful images depicting the refugee crisis using only stones and pebbles collected from the Syrian coast. Nizar has created over 10,000 works in the last five years as civil war has waged on in his homeland, depicting stories of every day life and the emotions carried with them.

Source: Nizar Ali Badr

Smog Free Tower: Art Installation and Civic Engagement Tool

Artist Daan Roosegaarde of Rotterdam is known for his spatial explorations of the interactions between people and technology. His studio’s latest project—the Smog Free Tower—is powerful as both an air purification system (the largest in the world) and as a tool for building awareness of the polluted air we create and breath every day. Using innovative technology and an elegant design, Roosegaarde hopes to create an iconic gathering place to facilitate engagement related to this pressing environmental issue. The entire project was crowd-funded, and aims to be supported in perpetuity by the sale of jewelry made in part with carbon particles extracted from the air by the Tower.

smog free tower

Source: GOOD

Visualizing the Racial Divide

Jim Vallandingham uses his background in software development and data visualization to create maps of the most segregated cities in the United States. His project, titled Visualizing the Racial Divide, illustrates the fracturing of cities along these deeply entrenched racial boundaries. Through animation, Census tract data is unpacked in a very visceral way—cities appear to shatter apart with increasing force at points of the most drastic racial divisions. Below is a still from Vallandingham’s Chicago map animation.

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The Association of (Gay) Suburban People


Dr. Tim Retzloff‘s essay The Association of (Gay) Suburban People published by Places’ online journal builds off Retzloff’s previous research and publications on how the city and suburbia shaped gay and lesbian life and politics during post WWII metropolitan Detroit. The Association of (Gay) Suburban People chronicles the existence of  the Association of Suburban People (ASP) founded in the mid-1970s in suburban Detroit, during an era when it was assumed that gay culture and space only existed in urban areas.

The ASP was founded when informal spaces for gay men to gather in suburban Detroit became dangerous as the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department staged sting operations. Throughout ASP’s existence, ASP successfully queered suburban homes and co-opted dozens of public places for its own ends. APD had a mission “to recast the relationship of gays with suburbia.” Retzloff explains the mission and culture of ASP by quoting Michel de Certeau, ‘they escaped it without leaving it.’”

Source: Places

AARP Launches Neighborhood Livability Index


AARP has launched an online tool called Livability Index that is free and easy to navigate.  The tool scores the livability of neighborhoods based on seven categories: transportation, environment, health, civic and social engagement, and educational and employment opportunities. The weight of the categories can be adjusted to reflect one’s personal values and preference.

Although AARP is an NGO and interest group that primarily focus on the affairs of senior citizens, this tool is applicable  for people of all ages. Popular planning theory advocates that making a city that is livable for seniors and children benefits  all residents.

Source: Next City

Co-op Businesses Offer Local Opportunity to Post-Disaster New Orleans


Next City profiles the cooperative business economy that has sprouted from disaster in New Orleans. New Orleans East has a large Vietnamese-American population that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina as well as the BP oil spill. Vietnamese-Americans’ homes and businesses were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill disproportionately hurt the Vietnamese-American community, since they make up a third of all shrimpers in New Orleans.

As the Vietnamese community was in crisis, the idea of VEGGI Farmer’s Cooperative was introduced as a way to revitalize their economy from within—to ensure existing residents directly benefit. The article details more cooperative movements in New Orleans and the most successful U.S. cooperatives that specifically aim to support distressed communities.

Source: Next City

Not All American Adults Know How to Ride A Bike


Planners constantly recommend biking as a solution to a myriad of community issues, from  addressing public health concerns related to rising rates of obesity to decreasing traffic congestion by getting folks out of their cars and on bikes. These plans and recommendations rarely take into account the number of adults that don’t know how to ride a bike. DataLab has collected data on American adults who do not know how to ride bikes and how that population breaks down demographically.  The most revelatory statistic is that there are a greater number of adults in the United States do not know how to ride a bike than the number of adults that bike on a daily basis.

Source: FiveThirtyEight

All Things Giant Considered


In 1952, Edna Ferber published, Giant, an extremely controversial novel depicting life in southwest Texas. Ferber was chastised all across the south for her portrayal of rural Texans in the satire. The novel was a runaway hit nationally and was rapidly sold for production into a screenplay. The subsequent film—starring James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor and filmed on location in Marfa, TX—brought the story greater acclaim and even more rancor in Texas.

In keeping with the theme “All Things Giant,” a recent NPR All Things Considered segment highlights a new documentary that tells the story of the families of Marfa, TX who were recruited to play the extras in the film.  Children of Giant explores the racial divide between Anglos and Mexican Americans in the Southwest and the specific experiences of the Marfa families during that period of filming.

Source: NPR All Things Considered

Predatory Buildings


CITYLAB’s article on avian causalities resulting from the built environment largely focuses on Lights Out DC, a Washington DC based citizen group that aspires to protect migratory birds. Lights Out DC members go to the streets during the spring and autumn migratory bird seasons to collect, tag, and bag deceased birds. The high fatality rate among migrating birds is due to the fact their ancient flight routes used in search of fertile feeding and nesting grounds now include heavily urban areas. Nocturnal birds are most vulnerable to the urban landscape as they rely on stars for navigation and are disoriented by the light pollution that obscures constellations and makes smooth, transparent surfaces difficult to see.

The article also chronicles the most dangerous buildings in DC and new buildings that are designed with birds’ livelihoods in mind. Also discussed are simple steps to reduce avian fatalities such as encouraging businesses to turn off or dim lights overnight. This intervention in DC is believed to have reduced bird fatalities by two-thirds. The deaths in DC are not an isolated event. The organization Fatel Light Awareness Program (FLAP) in Toronto—often seen as a pioneer in the movement—claims to have collected over 65,000 birds representing 116 species since its inception in 1993.