children · play

Sidewalk murals to installed to encourage play

More great sidewalk art inspiring play:

Sidewalk murals to encourage creativity in York - The York Daily Record

York County School of Technology student Lisa Nguyen, 15, painted this colorful artscape, “Step Across the Rainbow,” along North Beaver Street in front of Central Market.

The piece is part of the Bring on Play program as part of the Eat Play Breathe York initiative to add interactive play opportunities for children along regular walking routes downtown.

“The goal is to have playful sidewalk artscapes throughout the city, especially in neighborhoods, so we can reach children who might not have the opportunity to go to a park or play on school playground equipment,” Eat Play Breathe York chairwoman Cori Strathmeyer said. “We want to really encourage creativity and socialization as well as the physical aspect.”

The plan is to complete 20 permanent sidewalk murals downtown by the end of summer.

more via Sidewalk murals to encourage creativity in York – The York Daily Record.

architecture · behavior · community · creativity · culture · environment · family · happiness · health · play · Social

Cities’ Message to Young Families: Play and Stay – WSJ

City planners are finally starting to grok that in order to keep residents, they will need to offer the whole package, including playful spaces for everyone, kids and grown-ups alike.

About a decade ago, the so-called creative class of 20somethings fueled the revival of urban centers by settling in downtown areas mixing condos and coffee shops. Now, as millennials and other urbanites have children, their needs are changing. Cities want to hold on to them by becoming more “playable,” for both children and adults.

For decades, cities “relegated kids to the playground and said, ‘We’ve done something for you,’ ” says Darell Hammond, chief executive of Washington, D.C. nonprofit KaBOOM!, which consults with city officials on promoting and preserving play. “The whole city should be a playground, and play should happen everywhere.”

That means not only building more parks and bike paths but also incorporating the ideas of “fun” and “play” throughout a city, whether it is musical swings downtown Montreal, a hopscotch crosswalk in an arts district Baltimore or camp sites on a city lake front Chicago.

more via Cities’ Message to Young Families: Play and Stay – WSJ.

I hope that this attitude shift from city planners and designers makes it more acceptable for grown-ups to go out and play, and I mean actually physically play, not just go to bars and concerts that were traditionally classified as the only acceptable adult “play.” Seattle and Portland, and  are definitely accepting and encouraging of grown-ups playing bike polo in city parks or just going for a run. Creating an environment that welcomes play also helps change the attitude of others

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:

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.

anthropology · architecture · community

Vancouver BC improving urban living for its older residents

Crosswalk button ne.
Making cities safe for residents of all ages is a major step to creating a more lively, sustainable community. Image via Wikipedia

Great article in the Vancouver Sun about the city working to make urban living more conducive to older folks:

City planners, engineers, seniors and health researchers came together to discuss things such as pedestrian crosswalks, which often don’t allow enough time for a safe crossing, given that at many lights the halting hand starts to flash after just seven seconds.

“It takes all hands on deck,” said Heather McKay, director of the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, referring to the necessity of collaboration when making infrastructure changes to the so-called “built environment.” That’s why the Vancouver Coastal Health centre helped organize the second annual research and community partnership symposium, called “If we build it, will they walk?”

Using a $1.5-million grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, McKay and her colleagues are examining factors that help make cities good places to grow older. Their goal is to identify the things that can prolong active and independent living, which will also help improve physical and emotional health, plus reduce dependency on the health care system.

Living in an urban environment makes a lot of sense for retired folks – easy access to public transportation, food, activities – as long as those resources are made accessible to their needs.

What other cities are making their spaces and infrastructure better for residents of all ages?

community · environment · health

Healing Honey And The Beekeeping Craze : NPR

I’m far from home right now, and feeling it. I could use a touch of home…and for some reason honey seems very homey to me. Especially when it’s made at home! Don’t laugh, urban bee-keeping is becoming a big thing, as part of the local-vore, grow-your-own-food movement.

Beekeeping classes from Medina, Ohio, to the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and New York are seeing an unexpected shift in enrollment. Numbers are way up as thousands of novices take up the hobby. And who are these new beekeepers? Increasingly, they’re women.

“The surge has really been with younger, urban women,” explains longtime instructor Kim Flottum, who teaches beekeeping in Medina.

Flottum estimates that there are about 100,000 backyard beekeepers across the United States. Exact numbers are hard to pin down. But subscriptions to the publication Bee Culture are on the rise. And when Flottum published a how-to book — An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden — 60,000 people snapped up copies. The book is aimed at making the hobby easier and using more lightweight equipment.

more via Healing Honey And The Beekeeping Craze : NPR.

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

The Most Colorful Cities In The World

Living in the Pacific Northwest I can definitely appreciate the idea of adding more color to one’s life! Interestingly, it tends to be warmer climates that have the more colorful buildings, although Denmark and Finland has some of the most colorful interiors (and now exteriors) I’ve seen. Color has an amazing effect on human mental health and mood. People often talk about getting back into nature to see all the colors. Now, the colors can come to you (unless you live in a community with a rule against bright colors).

Urban life doesn’t have to be bleak and gray — in fact, many of the world’s cities pride themselves upon the bright palettes used to liven up their architecture. From the garish blue-walled buildings of Jodhpur, India, to the gentler pastels of Charleston, S.C., these cities are far from monotonous.

Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC
Nyhavn, Denmark
Buenos Aires, Argentina

More of The Most Colorful Cities In The World: Pics, Videos, Links, News.

architecture · technology

Funny Shaped Buildings

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…and a young woman who lived in a basket.
People enjoy oddly-shaped structures, especially if they are functional. But what is the point? What do they do for us? They make us laugh, inspire creativity and "out of the box" thinking, and make us think of things in new ways. Oh yeah, and provide shelter.

And, in some cases, provide free advertising (free other than the cost of the building).

Mental Floss put together a fun gallery of 10 buildings shaped like the products they offer. Above, the Kansas City Library garage with its facade of 22 giant book spines, including Catch-22, Invisible Man, and The Lord of the Rings. To the left, the headquarters of Newark, Ohio’s Longaberger Company makers of, you guessed it, maple baskets. "10 Buildings Shaped Like What They Sell"

Courtesy also of Boing Boing

Mental · Nature · Social – Urban kids view the world in human terms

urban kids and how they see the world

The way children develop reasoning about the natural world is largely influenced by how and where they are raised, a new study finds.

For decades, the consensus was that as young children begin reasoning about the biological world, they adopt an “anthropocentric” stance, favoring humans over non-human animals when it comes to learning about properties of animals. But it appears human-centered reasoning among children is not universal after all.

more via – Urban kids view the world in human terms.