It’s the most wonderful time of the year… if you’re a fan of tiny, community-generated parks. PARKing day, which allows citizens to transform parking spots into activated spaces, is this Friday, September 15.
This year, the day features 47 installations throughout the city. Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) says different installations include “everything from arts and crafts to bike repair and snacks,” plus the perennial favorite—spots to sit and relax.
Seattle Department of Transportation has put together a map of all 47 locations, from Lake City to South Park. Unsurprisingly, there’s a dense belt around the center of the city in the downtown, Capitol Hill, First Hill, and Central Area region—including at least two bike repair stations.
A screenshot of the interactive Park(ing) Map for Seattle:
I have been fascinated with the incredible popularity of Pokemon Go. Some people are seeing it as an “annoying” new game, but I see it as an amazingly powerful tool to trick people into exercising and getting outside, and as author Mark Wilson observes, discovering your city.
In our collective hunt for silly cartoon monsters, Pokémon Go players are discovering history and architecture left and right. Users described their discoveries over the weekend, from Korean pagodas, to a Donner Party memorial in California, to the urban landscape of Perth at night, all documented on Twitter.
Lumiere London 2016 is in full swing, bringing with it various light installations to enhance the city’s most famous locations. 30 artworks will be aglow this weekend at places like Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Carnaby Street, Oxford Circus, King’s Cross, and many others. At the latter, digital studio FIELD—founded by Marcus Wendt and Vera-Maria Glahn—present their stunning sculpture, Spectra-3. The piece is the latest instalment of their ongoing Spectra series, a merging of physical and virtual sculptures that take inspiration from space, technology, and our relationships to them, to provide elegant and sensory experiences using sound, light, and reflection.Spectra-3’s design and movement is inspired by the radio telescopes of the Very Large Array (VLA) located on the Plains of San Agustin in New Mexico. The piece combines computer-aided design with real-time input from the public’s movements, to inform its physical actions as it rotates on motors, augmenting the space with the enchanting hues and patterns of reflected light and spatialized sound.It’s the biggest self-commissioned artwork the studio have ever done. Built from bespoke steel and surrounded by sensors, at nearly 10′ tall, it’s controlled by custom software which commands the motors, lights, haze, and multi-channel sound.
A really fascinating read about improving air quality through design by architect Blaine Brownell:
During a study-abroad tour of China that I led in May and June through the University of Minnesota’s School of Architecture (read more about the trip here and here), one topic, aside from architecture, that my students and I discussed regularly was air pollution. Although we were in southern and central China, which are less affected than Beijing and other northern cities, we often found ourselves in a murky atmosphere. For three weeks, we rarely saw blue sky even on sunny days, and the air imparted a palpable thickness.
We checked the country’s Air Quality Index (AQI) daily via mobile app for the local forecast—especially after a bout of intense allergies sent me to a local pharmacist. This led us to question how we as architects and designers can counter such an ever-present problem.
Air pollution influences not only our physical health but also our experience of the built environment. Buildings and landscapes become soft and gritty, losing their clarity, sharpness, and color behind a veil of smog. The azure backdrop that is beloved in architectural representations is rarely witnessed. Rather, gray predominates, at times accompanied by brown. Despite this reality, blue sky persists in renderings of projects in China.
A million times yes! This article focuses on one of my biggest pet peeves and challenges as a play advocate; play not being taken seriously.
The author, Hilary O’Shaughnessy, and also the producer of the Playable City Award, discusses her play competition and the usual rub of people asking whether this is really all “worth it.” I’m quoting over half of her article, but she very eloquently covers an entire blog post I was planning on writing (I will still write it, I promise):
Amongst the usual squeals of anticipation [around the competition], there are questions about the value of these ideas to the “real” world. Fun is all well and good – but surely fun is the stuff we get to when the grown up work of building hospitals and roads is done with? When we’ve fixed the economy, let’s play. Cities are full of problems, why are we not fixing them first?
Herein lies the real issue. When we see play simply as fun, a whimsy for those of us lucky enough to have the time to engage in it, we underestimate the transformative power of play and it’s role in our lives.
Fixing problems, making our living and working spaces more livable and resilient, designing better cities, starts at every level with the people that Iive in those cities. Increasingly we are realising that our cities are designed for exclusivity, so it makes sense that we don’t feel part of shaping the future. This is revealed in the language we use to describe our relationships to the services and organisations that our cites are made of. We want them to fix it, they don’t want us to have a say, they give money to them to exclude us: the language is divisive and separating, and that’s the problem. Even the descriptions of the projects fail to deliver what they promise, because a playable city is experienced, not described.
The idea of what our cities should mean, how public money is spent, what we imagine as good for us and who is involved in designing them, is only ever addressed when we have a complaint or we feel excluded. We talk to the city council when the road is road is torn up or the lights won’t come on. We complain that our voices are unheard, but we never seize opportunities to speak, fearing that if we do we will be ignored or shouted down by the loudest ones.
This feeling of separation cannot be undone overnight. We need new approaches, new tools, and new ways to talk to one another about how to live together in cities.
Conversations about the future, about how we want to live, have to begin from a level playing field, and crucially that level playing field may not be where we expect. Play is a leveler: when we play, we play as humans, first. Traditional status markers like wealth, celebrity, or qualifications are not really much use when invited to dance with your shadow or conduct lights like a demi-god.
Addressing problems and finding solutions that work for us all begin with inviting everyone into conversation. Play as unexpected interventions in familiar places act as invitations to connect, an offer to begin to talk about those parts of our cities that we feel excluded from. To new eyes and ears, some projects can seem esoteric – but that is because we have become numbed to dull public announcements, badly designed flyers and clunky websites which act as information dumps that no-one reads, let alone takes as an invitation to work together. Yet, this is important stuff: we need to talk about the kind of future we want or it be will be decided for us while we look the other way.
As our climate becomes more unpredictable, finding better ways to manage stormwater is crucial to mitigating flood damage. However, traditional stormwater management strategies can be unforgettable at best and unsightly at worst. In the new book, Artful Rainwater Design: Creative Ways to Manage Stormwater, authors and Pennsylvania State University professors, Stuart Echols, ASLA, and Eliza Pennypacker, ASLA, prove that this doesn’t always have to be the case — it is possible to effectively manage runoff without sacrificing aesthetics.
In this well-organized how-to guide for designers, Echols and Pennypacker highlight the benefits of Artful Rainwater Design (ARD), a term coined by Echols in 2005 to describe rainwater collection systems that are not only functional, but also attractive and engaging. These systems are usually designed to handle small rain events and the initial — and dirtiest — events, rather than major flooding from large storms…
Great article about the evolution of the playground, as well as the next generation of playgrounds emerging in cities:
After World War II, European architects turned out custom playgrounds that challenged kids both physically and intellectually. Inspired by their work, a few American architects, including Philadelphia’s Louis Kahn, tried their hands at the form. But the movement didn’t get very far. Playgrounds were a casualty of the breakdown of American cities in the ’60s and ’70s. As maintenance was deferred, they fell into ruin. By the time cities began to recover in the ’90s, Solomon says, all that local officials wanted was equipment that was indestructible and vetted for safety.
Moore, a professor at North Carolina State University who has been studying children’s play for 50 years, sees a connection between those designs and the increase in such childhood ailments as obesity, anxiety, and attention-deficit disorder. In the simple act of scrambling up the branches of a tree, a kid learns to monitor risk and deal with fear. But on most playgrounds, the climbing frames are lower than ever.
The concern about such controlled environments has sparked any number of popular books advocating less programming: Free Range Kids, 50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do), Last Child in the Woods. All see our culture’s fear of risk as worse than the occasional scraped knee or broken bone.
So what’s the alternative to standard-issue playgrounds? Solomon envisions multipurpose, multigenerational urban parks that incorporate spaces where kids can take charge of their own play. Instead of a fixed bridge in a plastic fort, they would have to use their imagination to decide which objects could be converted to play equipment. Such a challenging play space also would include nooks where kids could temporarily escape the nervous gaze of their caregivers. There would be no fences, plenty of trees and bushes, and good seating.
My favorite playground growing up was made of mostly huge sewer pipe pieces, a monkey cage, and random cement shapes. What was your favorite playground as a kid? Or now? Describe it in the comments below.
Dying is tough stuff. No question. So it is wonderful to see how facilities are making it easier on the dying and their families to feel comfortable via the design, look, and layout of a space, with everything from the hues on the wall to the view from their window. Amy Marquez shared her observations about her mother’s hospice space a couple of years ago on Offbeat Families (now retired, but visit the sistersites for Pete’s Sake before they meet a similar fate!), and it is a wonderful ode to both her mom and people who cared for her and her family during her last days, but also the importance of creating a great, peaceful, and sometimes playful space.
At first I was impressed with how sensitive and involved the staff was. They made sure she was comfortable, asked us how we were doing and offered to help us if we needed anything. And although my mother had lost the ability to communicate verbally by the third day that she was there, they spoke to her as though she was able to answer and talked her through everything they were doing to assist her.
I spent enough days there to really start looking around. This facility was, at first glance, a very nice, tranquil place that was inviting and welcoming to family and friends of loved ones in residence there. Then I really started looking and I was amazed at the amount of thought that had to go in to building this hospice.
“Rigamajig is not about a finished product. It’s the playful process. The collaborating. The tinkering. The soft and hard skills that are learned while kids are engaged in play. This is what learning can look like!” – Cas HolmanInstead of coming with an instruction booklet that outlines how to build specific contraptions, the guide booklet for teachers, parents, and educators gives tips on how to best utilize Rigamajig for their situation, as well as offering “Play Prompts” to spur children’s imagination.