Designers think a lot about how wide sidewalks should be, what they should be made of, and how they should be decorated with wastebaskets and benches. Should they also think about what happens on a sidewalk?
A book from the MIT Press, Sidewalks: Conflict and Navigation Over Public Space, (reviewed here) explores the role of sidewalks; more than a transportation route, they are our most prevalent public space. We know sidewalks are promenades for “the consuming public” but should they also be available to the homeless, to panhandlers, and to protesters?
What makes sidewalks so challenging and interesting is the interaction between public and private—the storefront enticing a passerby, a sidewalk café creating a public stage. In America we … Continue reading
Frank Lloyd Wright is supposed once to have said that “A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.” Our new CR zone provides bonus density for doing the same thing (not burying mistakes…nevermind). But all irony aside, Green Walls, Living Walls, Vertical Gardens, etc. are gaining currency and are being installed with greater frequency in a variety of locations.
The leader in the field seems to be Frenchman Patrick Blanc, with many installations to his credit including Jean Nouvel‘s Musee du Quai Branly in Paris.
Other Parisian examples include the Fondation Cartier and the BHV Homme Department Store.
(photo: urban greenery)
Another cool garden spot faces Herzog & … Continue reading
Apparently, Park and Planning is keeping pace with Google, PepsiCo, and Best Buy. As this New York Times article recounts, corporate vegetable gardens are the thing. Whether they are a way to break down corporate hierarchies, provide an employee benefit, or build green credibility, velvety sod is giving way to staked tomatoes.
Our garden is also linked to another news story. Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity task force released its report yesterday and among its recommendations: access to healthy affordable food. If the sun cooperates, our vegetables will be right outside our front door, just a few steps past the vending machine.
We planted yesterday and will post pictures soon.
Last weekend we visited the Glover-Archbald Community Garden, near DC’s National Cathedral (and 2Amys Pizza!), to drop off some straw for a friend’s patch (Image above lifted from Prince of Petworth). Nearly three acres, the community garden is one of several associated with the District’s Field to Fork Initiative. Our Montgomery County Parks Department Community Gardens Program is a similar effort. For folks without the proper room or aspect for gardens in their yards, community garden plots are an excellent opportunity to bring nature into more urbanized areas, connect people back to the soil, and produce some mighty fine fruit and veg in the process.
In addition to the programs mentioned above, urban agriculture is on the minds of … Continue reading
At the second event of the Rethink speaker’s series, Casey Anderson of WABA and Richard Layman of Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space talked about making (or trying to make) the suburbs more bike friendly for cyclists, both commuters and recreational riders.
Anderson has interviewed 10,000 federal employees about their attitudes and experiences and found some not surprising stats—potential riders are afraid of car traffic, and some surprising ones—even those who would never consider riding a bike think it’s worthwhile to invest in bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
Anderson says the take-away for policy-makers and politicians is that this is not flaky, the community will support this investment.
Layman is seeking to make cycling “irresistible,” and emphasized that a bike-friendly … Continue reading
Tina Schneider, who works in Park and Planning’s Environmental Division, was talking with Planning Director Rollin Stanley about ways to “green” our site. They came up with a number of ideas, which will become our sustainable landscape plan, that include a few bee hives on the roof (starting in mid-May) and turning our flower beds into a vegetable garden rather than planting and replanting them with annuals through the season. About a dozen employees (from neophytes to experts) have volunteered to help design, plant, maintain, and harvest the garden.
Today, Mohammed Turay’s crew of the Parks Department generously got us started by removing the mulch, tilling the soil, and adding some amendments. We’ll have the soil tested this week … Continue reading
Brooklyn continues to reclaim its waterfront for public use. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade, perched atop the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, offers a delightfully open place to…promenade…and has great views of Manhattan (even in the rain).
The newest piece of this collection of public spaces will be Brooklyn Bridge Park, an extensive redevelopment of the Brooklyn waterfront south of the Brooklyn Bridge. Pier 1, the only completed section, opened while we were there. Our lads, while not tots, gave it a thorough going over.
Portions of the riverwalk had also been completed and were open. With the rain that bedeviled our time in the borough, however, only park maintenance staff and people whose kids had been cooped up and needed exertion were about.
Over the first rainy weekend of Spring Break 2010, lads in tow we trundled up on the Amtrak to spend a few sodden days in Brooklyn. Having only really been to Brooklyn in a couple of three-hour sittings, we looked forward to digging the scene, as it were. Our “Nu”Hotel, situated directly across Smith Street from the famous Brooklyn House of D (at left), is on the northern end of the Boerum Hill neighborhood south of downtown Brooklyn.
The streets were lined mainly with older 3-4-story brick walk-up apartment buildings and rowhouses, with ground-floor retail on the north-south Smith Street and Court Street (with the latter moving into the adjacent Cobble Hill).
As you would expect, the shops featured a … Continue reading
Where do you park your car? Of course, in front of your house. What would your neighbors say if you parked in front of their house?
How quickly do you shovel your sidewalk after it snows? Do you shovel your steps and the elderly lady’s next door?
If there is garbage on your street, do you pick it up, even if it’s not yours, even if it’s not in front of your house?
Remember why the big fat Greek wedding family was embarrassing? Not because they cooked a lamb on a spit (though that’s a little weird), but because they cooked it in the front yard. They broke the unwritten rule of suburbia, cookouts happen in the backyard!
The … Continue reading
While stumbling around the Northern Liberties neighborhood looking at all of the new development, I spied down a narrow street an apartment building with a Corbusier-meets-Mondrian facade. As I moved in for a closer look, I was confronted with the block-sized project that is The Piazza at Schmidts. Developed by Tower Investments, Inc., and designed (in whole or in part) by Erdy McHenry (who did Liberties Walk), the site features an “80,000 square foot open-air plaza with free events year-round, surrounded by three new buildings including 35 artist’s studios and boutiques, four new restaurants, 500 apartments and 50,000 square feet of office space” (according to their website; see also the New York Times Article).
As you move down the street, an open-air passage leads … Continue reading