anthropology · behavior · community · culture · environment · happiness · health

Los Angeles has Cancer — Stephen Corwin on Medium

This is a scathing opinion piece looking at the negative influences of space and place, specifically cars and car culture. Corwin argues passionately against the takeover of cars in to the city space and how it is anything BUT enriching. It is full of examples of what NOT to do, and therefore offers suggestions on how to solve it.

Our experiences driving cars in this city are, for the most part, fleeting. We drive somewhere, we get out of the car, we close the door, and we walk away. But to think that we can escape the world that cars have created as easily as we escape the car itself is foolish. In fact, when we leave our cars, we walk into that world. We have to live in that putrid mess.

Let’s talk about how Los Angeles is a city where construction projects can fence off whole blocks, including the sidewalks, without offering people on foot an alternative. Let’s talk about how when that happens, no one even considers converting one of the two car lanes into a temporary sidewalk, because dear god, that might cause slight inconvenience to people in cars. And let’s talk about how ironic it is that inconveniencing people in cars is the end of the world, but doing the same to people on foot is a non-issue. Then let’s talk about how when frustrated walkers decide to use the car lane rather than take the ridiculous detour, the city’s totally acceptable solution to that problem is not to concede space to those people, but rather to bolt permanent, metal signs into the middle of the sidewalk to keep them from doing so. That is cancer.

read the whole thing via Los Angeles has Cancer — Medium.

It is worth a read.

architecture · community · creativity

Public art makes people invested in the land: an OpenIDEO idea

OpenIDEO asked “How might we inspire and enable communities to take more initiative in making their local environments better?”

One of my responses:


Install public art to create community, sense of place

Install public murals and other public art to create a sense of place and add beauty to urban spaces, which leads to more interest in and conservation of the environment as a whole, including the natural environment.

Public art creates a sense of place and space, and makes people more aware of their environments, more invested in the space, and more interested in preserving other things in their environment.
From a Grist article: “dozens of painted plazas, dubbed Intersection Repairs, pepper the map not just of Portland but also of Los Angeles, New York, St. Paul, and Seattle.
“In Seattle, a City Repair chapter formed and facilitated several intersection painting projects, including a ladybug in the Wallingford neighborhood. Residents meet annually to repaint the mural and hold a block party. “Our goal is to cut down traffic and bring the community together and create a sense of neighborhood,” Eric Higbee, who led the ladybug painting, told the Seattle Times.
“It’s not about the paint,” says professor Jan Semenza, a professor of public health at Portland State University who lives near the Sunnyside Piazza and has researched intersection repairs. “It’s about neighbors creating something bigger than themselves.” As an everyday intersection becomes someplace special, residents begin to experience the value of community.”
There are other examples of public art and murals being installed that have created a renaissance in a neighborhood, from New York to Brazil.
Guerilla street art has also started to appear over the last couple of years, creating awareness and interest in preserving the community. In Seattle, when a woman knit a sweater for a tree, it created interest in the tree and a desire to preserve it. Even something as simple as “repairing” walls and buildings with colorful Legos, such as the work that Jan Vormann has been doing for the last couple of years, has made people more invested in repairing and preserving their community.
While it is not a direct impact on the natural environment, it is a positive impact on the built environment, and does create a sense of place and overall higher investment in the neighborhood and local environment.

Read about their next challenge too.


Paper Geodes

I’m on a role with these public art installations, although this one is technically a little older, but I’m still happy to share. I also like that it’s somewhat guerrilla artwork, and done in places that might not otherwise get noticed:

Paige Smith prefers to express her point of view through 3D paper sculptures instead of traditional paint. Her finished works represent mineral formations like crystals, quartz, and especially geodes. But instead of finding these gems in nature, she creates them in some of the oldest neighborhoods in L.A.

“Design is a means to an end,” Smith says. “An effective design creates a bridge between an idea and a recipient. The key term is effective. The creative challenge lies in finding a design solution that doesn’t just hang there but is an active conduit for communication.”

Nowadays people’s attention spans are short, and therein lies the point of her art. Like geodes and other mineral formations that may be found on a hike in the mountains, her paper sculptures are meant to be unexpected treasures. Smith says she understands that many people will not notice her art when they walk along the crowded streets of Echo Park, the Arts District or Abbot Kinney Boulevard. In fact, several of these paper geodes have already been dismantled or thrown away, and one fell victim to the rain. Their fate is not that different from the objects we see in nature as we walk along a hiking trail – but the memory and photographs live on. Smith maintains an online map for those who wish to hunt for the existing ones.

Geode #5 once touched an Echo Park sidewalk. Smith says she understands that many people will not notice her art when they walk along the neighborhood’s crowded streets. This one has disappeared. [credit Inhabitat and Paige Smith]
Geode #10 sits plunked in a wall on the facade of an old brick building in the Arts District. [credit Inhabitat and Paige Smith]

Read more: Paige Smith’s Paper Geodes Add Sparkle to Nondescript Los Angeles Buildings | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

Know of any good yarn-bombings or other public art meant to improve or enhance public space? Share your findings with me via email or in the comments below.