30 Sep

I enjoyed the movie Drive recently. Part of it took place in the often filmed Los Angeles river culverts, also featured in Grease, Terminator II, and Repo Man, among others.

After an exciting drive, the Driver, Irene, and Benicio find an intersection between the stark paving and a lush river. I didn’t believe this could actually exist so did some research and found this location on Google Maps in Reseda, a suburb of LA. Evidently, the channels are naturalized at a few points along the rivers path.

As is often the case, community members have insight into their surroundings:

Where the ugly old cement ends, there is still a hint of the wild river that the L.A. River used to be. Anal-retentive city planners, decades ago, decided a cement channel was the way to tame it. Pity.

– via Jerry Garrett

Now, the Ad Hoc River Committee and Friends of the Los Angeles River are part of a master plan to restore the naturalize much of the river, creating green space, supporting wildlife, and changing how stormwater is managed. This process will have significant environmental, economic, and social benefits for the surrounding communities.

It’s intriguing that the concrete channels have become a part of movie history and popular culture. Perhaps due to the moon-like quality and people’s ability to add life to unprogrammed spaces. Would people fight to keep this place?

Although there is no organized movement to preserve the channels, there are fans. But preserving these channels for their austerity is an inadequate reason. For now, allowing public access is building relationships with the natural and recreational potential of the river.

As interesting the barren channels are, the juxtaposition between wild in an urban setting is much more complex, rewarding, and valuable. The LA river restoration progress would become a part of cinema as well.


Digital Landscape

23 Sep

This New York Times series reveals the unfurling of fall by using technology to zoom in on and slow down the process. Projects that bring the outdoors indoors, such as the eagle cam, and on the cuter side, the panda cam, keep us in touch with the wonders and rhythms of the natural world in the midst of urban life. Like a movie preview, hopefully these glimpses of nature will inspire viewers to get out there and see it for themselves, in 3D,


Best Coast(er)

30 Jun

Bringing new meaning to neighborhood drinking, these coasters by industrial designer Anders Hansen are formed from the street grids of parts of Oslo. I would love one for my neighborhood!


Bring it in

20 May

Going to combat nature deficit disorder by bringing nature inside!

Added to my to-do list. Or plan B.


Human Geography

21 Feb

Mapping is a powerful tool for visualizing and understanding connections and context. I have shared maps that imitate life and life imitated my maps.

Beyond the apparent geography and proximity, maps expose a range of subterranean information. For example, creative uses of mapping to investigate social inclusion. 

Adding a beauty to the complexity of maps, Matthew Cusick uses maps as source material for collages. Inspired by topography, he likes to “catalog, archive, and arrange information and then dismantle, manipulate, and reconfigure it.”

The textured and intricate assemblages highlight the intangible aspects of maps. Seeing freeway maps take on their three-dimensional form brings to the forefront the influence infrastructure has on our cities and our lives. For me, Geronimo, is the most thought-provoking of the works, directly addressing issues that are still raw and unresolved. 

via Jason Hilgefort via oddity central


Landscape is the Solution

24 Jan

The Bean – Millennium Park (trucknroll)

Walking the High Line (walhalla)

High Line Amphitheatre (walhalla)

Olympic Village sparrows (ppix)

Do you know what a landscape architect is? That landscape architecture touches your life everyday? Despite the broad scope of the profession, encompassing the design of anything that is not a building, knowledge and discussion of landscape architecture is noticably absent.

According to Brad McKee, editor-in-chief of Landscape Architecture magazine, the designed landscape “is the most public and shared form of design.” Yet design critique in the media focuses on objects such as technology, household items and buildings. Landscape architecture is a different mindset, dealing with “voids, space, and systems…and bringing spaces together,”  according to Mark Rios, a licensed landscape architect and architect.  

Discussion of landscape architecture tends to focus on what plants are in bloom.
For instance, this article looks at the success of Chicago’s Millennium Park and New York’s High Line and concludes that Vancouver also needs a park created by a brand name designer.  Fernando Caruncho is selected for his planting design, specifically his “boxes of light.” However, the success of the aforementioned parks is the interactions with nature, people and the city that the innovative designs both create and reinvent.

Tonight Jan Gehl, renowned for his work on public spaces, is lecturing on Cities For People. The timing for this talk is excellent. The Olympics increased the quantity and standard of Vancouver’s public realm with projects such as the Vancouver Convention Centre and Olympic Village plazas. I have developed a fondness for the giant sparrows.

“It is no longer optional to not think about this anymore — you have to. People are looking for ways to come together and landscape is the solution.” – Brad McKee

More recognition of such spaces in the city, especially off the water, should accompany Greenest City goals and ever increasing density. The dialogue surrounding Robson Street closure and the Vancouver Art Gallery relocation in particular present opportunities to create a public gathering space in the downtown core. This is a conversation that needs to be in the mainstream media, both for education and to generate public input.

Images courtesy of trucknroll, walhalla + ppix


Pop-up Restaurant

11 Jan

An enterprising restauranteur has turned the impending demolishing of a building into an opportunity. John Fraser is taking advantage of reduced rent to create an unconventional pop-up restaurant. The temporary nature of the project necessitates frugality and creativity so the operation has been stripped down to the essentials and focuses on the purpose of a restaurant – getting food on the table. Some uncommon solutions include having diners reset tables for the next party, a monthly menu and decor overhaul and backing through Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects. It will be interesting to see What Happens When.

This convergence of creativity, collective investment and entrepreneurship may be the hallmarks of current economic reality. This model can be applied to other businesses as well. While starting an officeless business is one approach, temporary sites also present unique opportunities, especially to test ideas. As stated by Frank Bruni

Obligatory resourcefulness has given way to revolutionary thoughts.

What Happens When is located at 25 Cleveland Place (Kenmare Street), NYC.