architecture · community · creativity · culture · environment · Social

We Asked 10 of Our Favorite Artists to Create Love Letters to Their Cities. Here’s What They Came Up With | GOOD Magazine 

Good Magazine Asked 10 of Their Favorite Artists to Create Love Letters to Their Cities. Here’s What They Came Up With… (click either the link below or the picture to see them all.)

via GOOD Magazine Cities Project .

anthropology · architecture · environment

As you digest your turkey and reflect on a hopefully happy Thanksgiving, I am offering this summary of a recent conference session that talked about how to integrate biophilia into urban spaces and cities. As the human population increases, more people move away from the country and into the city, yet as humans we still crave nature and natural environments. Three researchers suggest how to go about addressing that.

THE DIRT


In a session on a new planning and design theory called “biophilic urbanism” at the 2012 Greenbuild conference in San Francisco, Judith Heerwagen, a professor at the University of Washington; Timothy Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities at the University of Virginia; and Bert Gregory, head of Mithun Architects + Designers + Planners argued that cities can be in tune with nature, actually embody nature in physical design, and foster deeper connections with natural systems.

For Professor Heerwagen, biophilia is best defined by the amazing biologist E.O. Wilson, who came up with the actual concept. It relates to the “innate emotional connection of humans to all living things.” In cities, for example, this means that people are attracted to trees and will pay more to live in areas with them. People will pay more for hotel rooms with views of nature. “These are things we intuitively know. We chose places that are…

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anthropology · community · environment · happiness · health · mental health · Social

Can cities promote happiness?

Ann Arbor as seen from the University of Michi...
Can humans be happy in cities? Ann Arbor as seen from the University of Michigan Stadium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A nice article from The Atlantic about how urban designers can do things to make living in the city a truly happier place to live:

I’ve been looking at some research reports, and confirming that some of the qualities associated with great urbanism – good public transit; easy access to cultural activities, recreation and shops; connectedness – are associated positively with human happiness. I first reported on a study reaching just those conclusions back in early February. Others found the study as well, concluding that residents of “beautiful, well-designed cities” are happier than those living in suburbs.

I’ve been following this topic for some time, because I believe that factors we generally think of as “subjective” can be every bit as important to fostering great, sustainable places as those that we can measure objectively. Of course, researchers being researchers, we try to measure them anyway (Seattle’s city council president on that city’s Happiness Initiative: “Measuring the subjective happiness or well-being levels of Seattle residents is an important tool”), and I suppose it was just a matter of time before someone came up with a ranking. Indeed, earlier this year The Daily Beast measured a number of factors they believed make people happy, concluding in a widely-publicized story that residents of Washington, D.C., were the happiest in America, followed by residents of Boulder, San Francisco, San Jose, and Ann Arbor.

[Some research] points out, however, that other research contradicts those conclusions, or at least muddies them significantly.

Still another study – this one involving a bit of self-selection, since its data were generated by use of an iPhone app – finds that none of the above is true, since nature is what really produces a good mood.

There are definitely positive elements to living the city: more social contact with others, social and cultural events, potential access to a variety of fresh fruits and veggies, and more. There is also the flip side to all of those positives.

Read the entire article, and write back with your own opinion: do you believe that people can be happier in the city?

anthropology · architecture · community · creativity · culture · design · environment · happiness · Social

How legalizing street art made Rio de Janeiro a prettier, happier place

A recent article in the Huffington Post explored Rio de Janeiro’s acceptance of street art and how it has enriched the various neighborhoods:

Brazilian graffiti art is considered among the most significant strand[s] of a global urban art movement, and its diversity defies the increasing homogeneity of world graffiti.” – Design Week

In March 2009, the Brazilian government passed law 706/07 making street art and graffiti legal if done with the consent of building owners. As progressive of a policy as this may sound, the legislation is actually a reflection of the evolving landscape in Brazilian street art, an emerging and divergent movement in the global street art landscape.

Rio de Janeiro has been particularly progressive in its policy towards street art, with its 1999 “Não pixe, grafite” (Don’t Tag, Graffiti) project that brought together 35 graffiti artists to showcase diversity in local styles. But more unique is the evolution of a permission hierarchy, blurring the line between formal and informal. The new street art law merely reinforced these unique patterns of street art and legitimized an already flourishing form of artistic expression.

Retaining walls on the steep terrain provide canvases for artists.

In Rio de Janeiro, street art is ubiquitous. It exists in all corners of the city, from the favelasto upper class neighborhoods, from residential to institutional. It is bold in scale and aesthetics and is anything but graffiti. The urban fabric of Rio de Janeiro also figures prominently in the evolving street art scene. The high walls, whether for security or to contain the topography, provide ample surfaces for painting. But rather than location dictating art, the relationship between owner and artist has a direct impact on where street art occurs.

Owners of buildings, both residential and commercial, sometimes invite artists for commissions, which is done to protect from tagging, as an aesthetic choice or as an economic choice — painting a façade with art may be cheaper than another mode of beautification. In another case, street artists ask permission from the owner.

Tudo de cor para você, Santa Marta, Rio de Janeiro (photo source: favelapainting.com)

Thanks to the city’s openness to various forms of artwork, and specifically “street” art, Rio de Janeiro is now known for its colorfulness and art. In informal studies the art has also been found to make citizens more invested in their communities and overall happier.

Hooray for public art.

architecture · community · design · environment · Nature

Roof gardens

I can see this roof garden from my office window.
Even in a city like Seattle where trees and moss are threatening to take over every unclaimed even-slightly-damp area, it is nice to see some greenery mixed in to the rooftops. I’m sorry to see they’ve let the grass go brown, but it is winter so that could be part of it. I notice so many other rooftops surrounding it have not taken advantage of their nice flat roofs, either for gardens or just "green roofs" or even solar panels. There is just so much wasted real estate up there it makes me sad.
Hooray rooftop gardeners, where ever you plant yourself!

anthropology · behavior · community · disease · education · environment · health · mental health · Social

How the places we live could heal us | Grist

This is an interesting follow-up/add-on to the RadioLab “Cities” episode I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. The Healing Cities Working Group of planners and health professionals in Vancouver, BC is working to create healthy environments in urban areas, particularly focusing on food and food sources.

It’s possible to interest public officials in the health impact of the built environment because Canada has nationalized health care.

“When you have a public health care system like we have in Canada, we all collectively pay the end-of-pipe costs,” said Holland. “So anything we have in our society that makes us unhealthy, we end up paying for it.” Of course, that’s true in the United States as well, but there is much less transparency and awareness of those costs because of the way our system is set up.

In Canada, Holland hopes to be able to involve doctors and public health authorities in the fight against sprawl and for more walkable and transit-oriented neighborhoods. Among the Healing Cities Working Group’s many planned initiatives is a partnership with health officials to advocate for more health-enhancing infrastructure and development at the local level.

via How the places we live make us sick, and how they could heal us instead | Grist.

Other studies have found that greener neighborhoods also decrease stress and make people more likely to walk or bike places. Where you live, what have you found works best for you personally to motivate you to get you outside, moving, and buying less insta-food?

anthropology · architecture · behavior · community · Social

Radiolab explores the city!

What makes cities work? How do humans live in such HUGE tribes. More than half of us live in cities.

I’m a new city transplant. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it, but it’s a fascinating topic to explore.

There’s no scientific metric for measuring a city’s personality. But step out on the sidewalk, and you can see and feel it. Two physicists explain one tidy mathematical formula that they believe holds the key to what drives a city. Yet math can’t explain most of the human-scale details that make urban life unique. So we head out in search of what the numbers miss, and meet a reluctant city dweller, a man who’s walked 700 feet below Manhattan, and a once-thriving community that’s slipping away.

Thanks Jad and Robert.

Cities – Radiolab.