Philly Monuments

I added my voice to Philadelphia’s monument conversation in PlanPhilly‘s Eyes on the Street segment:

Mural Arts’ Monument Lab wants to know, “What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?”

It’s a great question, but I want to suggest a few more to guide the city as it conducts this research phase of what could one day become a great public design project, and to help us understand the challenges of erecting a truly meaningful monument in Philadelphia.

What if… 

Read the full article here: As Philadelphia reflects on its monuments, some more questions to ask

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Disaster Capitalism and Gentrification

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose will forever change the trajectory of Houston, Key West, and other coastal towns. Disaster paves the way for radical capitalist economic policy, from development to war to charter schools. Don’t you know what happened in New Orleans after Katrina?

As you think about the cost of recovery, policy implementation, and government subsidies, remember that the Department of Defense 2017 budget is $582.7 BILLION. That is $582,700,000,000. Houston’s $50 billion recovery effort is 8% of the DoD’s 2017 budget. 

There is no such thing as a “natural” disaster, because who’s in harm’s way, and the kind of harm they face, is a product of human choices. – Andy Horowitz

Here are a few articles + highlights to get you up to speed

Bleakonomics, New York Times – book review of “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein.

  • 100,000 less black people live in New Orleans in 2015 than in 2000
  • most of the city’s public schools have been replaced by privately run charter schools

 

Katrina’s Silver Lining by David Brooks – a primer on how NOT to think after major disasters. This is a dog whistle for the “ambitious and organized” to remove anyone who can’t “culturally integrate”… what Brooks fails to discuss is the underlying systems that created racial inequality in the first place and allowed Katrina to wreck so much destruction on impoverished neighborhoods–racism and the new jim crow.

 

How to Stop Gentrification by Colin Kinniburgh – a look at disaster, the citizens, the developers, and the government’s role in gentrification across the US

  • New Orleans has “become the second-least affordable city to live in nationwide”
  • “In 1976 alone, the city of New York shut down thirty-four fire stations in poor, largely black and Latino neighborhoods; by the end of the decade, seven Bronx census tracts had lost virtually all of their buildings, and another forty-four tracts had lost more than half.”
  • “Economic isolation and the fraying of the social safety net contributed to record levels of crime in inner cities, with public housing complexes hit particularly hard. Policy elites’ response was to blame the buildings themselves….”
  • “black wealth was decimated in the 2008 housing market crash…In 2007, the average black family had a net worth of one-tenth the average white-family’s; by 2011, that number had dropped to one-sixteenth”
  • and keep learning…”it is important not to lose sight of the ways that personal attitudes and actions daily aggravate the crisis of gentrification”

 

Get Ready for Trump’s Diaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein – how the government, Trump, and contractors can exploit diaster for personal and political gain

  • after Katrina, Pence (as chairman of Republican Study Committee) suspended wage labor laws, regulation, and zoning, and made “the entire affected area a flat-tax free-enterprise zone”, repealed environmental regulations, and gave permission for new oil refineries (duh, global warming) –> will be used by Trump to court the labor movement
  • top contractors from Iraq were hired by the government to provide mobile homes to evacuees just 10 days after the levees broke. Their contracts ended up totaling $3.4 billion, no open bidding required.
  • Emergency workers and local volunteer morticians were forbidden to help clear bodies because it impinged on a contractor’s “commercial territory” –> bodies rotted in the streets for days
  • a religious group was paid $5.2 million to build an emergency worker base camp, which was never built – the group had only organized religious youth camps

 

North Carolina denied 99 percent of federal recovery funds for Hurricane Matthew by Michael Rios – here’s what happens when everything is destroyed but you’re not a big “brand” like New Orleans or Houston.

  • in 2016, Hurricane Matthew ripped through Eastern North Carolina, leaving the state with $1.5 billion in damage and 80,000 households to register for FEMA. FEMA is only allocating $100 million.

 

The Transformative Vision of Community Land Trusts by Aaron Tanak – we need to rethink the concept of land

  • we should recognize that land is not just the square feet that we live on but the source of the natural resources that we depend on
  • land in a CLT is owned by the nonprofit and leased to home and building owners at an affordable price.

 

2 ways to fight gentrification by Adam Hengels – the forces behind gentrification aren’t what we think they are

  • The mechanism of gentrification is not development. It is zoning.
  • The battlefield is in the more wealthy neighborhoods where empowered residents fight to keep new people out.
  • The enemy is the rich people who use their influence to thwart development in their neighborhoods.

PARK(ing) Day in Philadelphia, Roots in San Diego

I love PARK(ing) Day because it showcases how quick, cheap, and mobile solutions can vastly improve our quality of life. By reducing vehicle speeds and reclaiming streets as people spaces, these temporary parklets build community and prove that a tiny respites from city life is welcome.

Philadelphia’s PARK(ing) Day includes 52 businesses, designers, and organizations co-opting asphalt for tiny parks. You can see their google map here or download their printable guide: Park(ing) Day Philadelphia 2015_Map.

This strong showing is just another notch in Philly’s belt. There is a history of activating underutilized spaces with community initiatives as seen through the work of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, Grounded in Philly, the Mural Arts Program, and the Philadelphia Orchard Project. If you know of any more organizations, please comment below!

Here are a few parklets seen on my morning walk:

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Zipcar has a pumpkin-painting station and real turf

Continue reading “PARK(ing) Day in Philadelphia, Roots in San Diego”

Using Design to Address Homelessness through Transitional Housing

Last spring Activate14–an outreach initiative I co-founded–jumped on the tiny home craze in an effort to address Raleigh’s underserved homelessness community. We wanted to prove our belief that good design is accessible to everyone and can radically change a community.

The transition out of homelessness is more successful when services like job training, medical attention, and other support are provided through temporary housing, rather than providing services alone. The housing community model allows someone to build a steady job and income without worrying about their safety, belongings, and where they will find shelter.

Not surprisingly, a transitional housing community is more cost-effective than letting the homeless stay on the streets. Increased hospitalization, overnights in jail, and emergency shelter cost taxpayers upwards of $40,000 per homeless person per year. Imagine the savings if we could transition people from homelessness to self-supporting lives through $1,500 to $30,000 tiny homes with community space. 

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Continue reading “Using Design to Address Homelessness through Transitional Housing”

The Case Against Major-League Sport Stadiums in Urban Areas

Before leaving Raleigh, a conversation emerged around bringing a major-league sports team to the capitol city. Several people–all men–thought a football or basketball stadium near the amphitheater would be THE BEST THING EVER.

Let me tell you why it’s not:

1. Stadiums are dead zones. The NBA plays 41 home games per year, the MLB has 81 home games per year. What happens the other 324/284 days? Not much, maybe some concerts and big college games. And that’s not just an empty stadium, that’s empty parking lots, shuttered retail space, and a lot of dead sidewalk.

Have you been near a stadium during the day? I’ve seen Indianapolis, Charlotte, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis stadiums first hand. It’s terrible. Parking takes up 3x as much space as the stadium itself. Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis covers 6 to 7 city blocks for the stadium, parking, and landscaping. These megablocks have poor walkability scores and rarely, if ever, include ground-floor retail.

Erik Weber has a great post on specific stadiums.

Dogers
Dodgers Stadium (pink) and parking (orange)
Philly
Philly Stadiums (pink) and parking (orange)



 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “The Case Against Major-League Sport Stadiums in Urban Areas”

Ten Principles for Good Design from Dieter Rams

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Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer whose design approach is “Less, but better”.
He believes good design:

  1. Is innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
  2. Makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
  3. Is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
  4. Makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
  5. Is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
  6. Is honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
  7. Is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
  8. Is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
  9. Is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
  10. Is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

As designers we have a great responsibility. I believe designers should eliminate the unnecessary. That means eliminating everything that is modish because this kind of thing is only short-lived.
–Dieter Rams – interview with Icon Magazine

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
–Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Quick Ugly Housing = Future Affordable Housing?

Elan City Center Apartments Rendering (Greystar) http://www.liveelancitycenter.com/contact-us
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What it really looks like…

Is Raleigh getting ugly, or is it just me?

Raleigh is quickly looking like a second-tier replica city dictated by developer’s profit margins. All of our new housing developments are plywood wrapped in terrible materials; they’re poorly designed, unfriendly to the street, and, frankly, an eyesore.

Elan City Center could be one of those at Clark+Oberlin, on N Boylan, S Wilmington or N Person, by Trader Joe’s, or anywhere else in the country. It looks familiar because Greystar, a developer from Charleston, owns 44 complexes in Raleigh, Durham and the RTP alone, and they’re not the only developer in town. There are currently over 2,500 unit under construction in Downtown and Glenwood South.

The real problem is that none of these complexes offer affordable housing. With studios starting at $1,050, they have priced out singles making under $50,000 and couples making under $25,200 each (given a 25% income allowance for rent). How can the City of Raleigh champion itself as friendly and diverse at these prices?

My hope is that in 10 years–when the facades are tattered, plywood floors bowed, and amenities dingy–there will be so many units empty that the prices will drop. Finally, Raleigh will have affordable housing downtown–unless the developer razes the building for bigger profit margins.

This is the only reason why I am glad we are not building like the Capitol Apartments anymore.

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Capitol Apartments. Photo by http://rhdc.org/

If the City of Raleigh wants downtown Raleigh and the surrounding neighborhoods to be a hub of creativity, diversity, and innovation, then it needs to start acting more like a benevolent developer + leader and less like a doormat. I suggest that they give the Appearance Commission real authority and require all new developments offer a percentage of their housing available to low-income families, similar to the Town of Chapel Hill.

“The Town shall encourage developers of residential developments of 5 or more units to (a) provide 15 percent of their units at prices affordable to low and moderate income households, (b) contribute in-lieu-fees, or (c) propose alternative measures so that the equivalent of 15 percent of their units will be available and affordable to low and moderate income households;”

Until then, we can only wait until poor design and quality works in favor of lower socio-economic groups.

P.S. lol at the stock images on the websites for these developments.

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http://thedevonapts.com/seven12/
927westmorgan.com
927westmorgan.com