Observations from Wandering Cities

In 2015, I attended the Growing in Place conference in Raleigh, NC to address how children can learn and play in urban environments:

“How can urban design expose and restore urban nature so children and youth engage with compelling, equitable places for creative play and learning? How can nonformal education in nature enrich playful learning in the arts and sciences in the city?”

Jay Walljasper was one of the speakers. He used to be journalist and described himself as a “hunter-gatherer”. He wrote The Great Neighborhood Book chronicles his observations from wandering cities.

Here are my notes from his talk:

  1. Give people a place to hang out. It doesn’t have to be beautiful or expensive. This is where people make connections and get to know each other.
  2. Give people something to see like street buskers, public art, etc. Public art doesn’t have to be great, it has to be a tool for community building.
  3. Give people something to do. Toronto has public bread oven in park (big Portuguese community).
  4. Give people a safe pleasant place to walk. It promotes health and creates a strong sense of community. Many cultures have a ritual of post dinner walk, like USA promenade.
  5. Give people a place to sit.
  6. Give people a safe and comfortable place to bike. Protected bike freeways spur development.
  7. Give people reliable and comfortable public transit. There is stigma involved. Bad bus stops reinforce the stigma.
  8. Make the streets safe. The safest communities have the most people on the street. Organize walking groups to eliminate crime. Put people on the streets.
  9. Make streets safe from traffic. The streets belong to all of us. “If you widen the streets, my world will shrink.”
  10. Don’t forget about older folks. When we plan, non-drivers don’t exist. To lose driving almost makes you a non person.
  11. Don’t forget about kids. Kids live under house arrest because they can’t walk anywhere. Less than 10% of kids walk to school. We need safer routes to school programs, like a walking school bus.
  12. Let your community go to the dogs. Dogs want what we need- indicator spieces.
  13. Reclaim your front yard.
  14. Make a village no matter where you are. A city is a bunch of villages stitched together.
  15. Keep in mind that people like people. Are we building the slums of the future right now?
  16. Don’t give up hope.
  17. Build on what works to make things better. Have a vision.
  18. Remember the people of the people. Social capital.
  19. Never underestimate the power of a meal.
  20. Plant flowers.
  21. Take time to enjoy your community.

There’s a lot that ordinary citizens can do to engage their neighbors and make their block a better place to live. The Tactical Urbanism guides can help you “implement short-term, low-cost, and scalable interventions to catalyze long term change.”Short term projects are great because they change perspective, leading to new policy and physical change.

Think street furniture made out of discarded pallets, intersection repair with leftover paint, and reclaimed setbacks with benches and libraries. These can end up as new plazas and parks, complete streets, and community gathering spots.

The only thing I can add is: How can we do all this and keep it affordable and equitable for everyone?

No More Amazon.

My 2018 Resolution is NO AMAZON.


To all the “urbanists” who think an Amazon HQ2 would be awesome for their city — you’re wrong. The richest man in the world is treats his employees like garbage, manipulates cities into giving away a much-needed tax base, and is waging a scorched price war. It’s terrible for people, for local businesses, for cities, for employees.

Unless your city is a leader in affordable housing, sustainable zoning, alternative and public transportation, and enforces a living wage, Amazon HQ2 and the new businesses and people it would attract to your city would drive up housing costs, overload your terrible road infrastructure and create car wars, and deepen income inequality. I don’t think any city in the US has the social, political, and policy structures in place to fully accommodate HQ2 in a sustainable and equitable way.

Do you want to be the next Seattle? or San Francisco? Nah.

Furthermore, Amazon is already proving they care more about the bottom line by shopping this opportunity around for the biggest public subsidies (tax breaks, zoning breaks, and sweetheart deals) every region in the US can muster. And that’s public money that will only benefit the upper end of socioeconomic ladder, arguably the people that need it the least.

I want my dollars to stay in the local ecosystem. I want to buy products made in America, with American jobs. I want less cars and trucks on the street (on-demand home delivery is so unnecessary!). I want to support businesses that support women and minorities. Amazon does none of this. 

How can I buy Amazon and also claim to be an advocate for VisionZero, climate change, and American manufacturing? How can I buy Amazon and also claim to be concerned about the influence of corporations in public policy and space?

My spending has to align with my principles, and Amazon doesn’t fit.   

Source: Amazon https://www.amazon.com/b/ref=tb_surl_diversity/?node=10080092011&tag=w050b-20



Philly Monuments

I added my voice to Philadelphia’s monument conversation in PlanPhilly’s “Eyes on the Street” segment, which is discussing “What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?”

My essay here:

Mural Arts’ Monument Lab wants to know, “What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?”

It’s a great question, but I want to suggest a few more to guide the city as it conducts this research phase of what could one day become a great public design project, and to help us understand the challenges of erecting a truly meaningful monument in Philadelphia.

A monument is a lasting evidence, reminder, or example of someone or something notable or great. But I like the Latin root better: moneo means “to remind”, “to advise” or “to warn”. So, this beginning raises the question: Are these monuments intended for us, the current citizens of Philadelphia, or are we building them as a warning to (or guide for) our future citizens?


Rizzo aside, what else is going on in the Philadelphia Monument Ecosystem? Should we take more care when accepting and displaying monuments gifted by private groups? Should we wait ten years after a person’s death or an event’s occurrence before they can be immortalized as a monument? Should we actively uncover people and events that have been ignored until this point?

Our current monuments are monotonous. Around ten percent of monuments depict women, and only ten of those monuments are of actual women, not religious or mythical figures. The remaining twenty-two are mythological or biblical figures, and fifteen of those are of Mary. Sharon Hayes’ participatory Monument Lab sculpture, If They Should Ask, collected the names of women who should be recognized. I urge everyone to dive into this list and explore the possibilities, like Carolina LeCount, a civil rights leader and Octavius Catto’s’ finance. And let’s be sure to remember Winnie Harris in ten years.

Art commissions and boards tend to be positions reserved for members of the community holding “respected” positions, access to capital through fundraising or connections, and the ability to influence public opinion. While many of these boards are diverse in gender and race, they often still fail across the class spectrum.

And who are the artists? Are we giving women and people of color the creative and financial opportunity to create their representation of a person, event, or abstract concept? By my rough count, women make up less than 20 percent of the artists listed on Philart.net, poet Christopher William Purdom’s index of the city’s public art. It’s safe to say that the number of artists of color similarly falls short of reflecting Philadelphia’s population.


This is a great time to step aside and see what others have to say. I’d love to hear who my longtime black neighbors view as local heroes, the events that defined their generation, and the chain of events that brought Philadelphia to this particular crossroads as  a majority-minority city, the poorest of all big U.S. cities, and undoubtedly the most historic.

We need monuments that reflect the diverse backgrounds of our citizens, such as our growing Middle Eastern population, our large Jewish communities, our West African and West Indian communities here in West Philadelphia, and our Hispanic communities. Let’s explore their histories within the context of Philadelphia and celebrate those stories. Who are the de facto leaders in these communities, and how can we collect and share their stories with the rest of Philadelphia?

As a city that tries to serve as a refuge from nativism, we should ask immigrants like Javier Flores Garcia: What would a monument to sanctuary look like? As a minority-majority city struggling with structural inequity and systemic racism, we should ask activists like the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative: What would a monument to the struggle for racial equality look like?”


How can we co-opt the Mural Arts model of placemaking, expression, and public contribution for our city’s enduring monuments?

Digital tools are great, but they can’t be the only method of data collection. According to a 2013 survey by the Pew Charitable Trusts, both Philadelphians making less than $30,000 per year and residents over the age of 65 are less likely to have internet access than the rest of the population. Additionally, only 16 percent of city residents get their local news from the internet, while almost 40 percent get it from TV.

So, how should we reach out? Not everyone is going to read PlanPhilly, or follow Monument Lab, or pass by workshops in Rittenhouse. There are gathering places around the city can be utilized to reach people: churches, rec centers, schools —  even the local watering hole. It will take time to reach out in an one-on-one manner but the due diligence will pay off, and the citizens will appreciate the effort.


Philadelphia is so historic that it’s easy to overlook the history. I rarely stop to reflect upon the statues all over City Center, and I’ll give the 2,500 blue and gold historical markers a cursory glance. So, my final questions is: What could a monument be?  As benchmarks, the historical markers cost about $1,400 each, while  newly-built monument to Octavius Catto at City Hall cost $2,000,000 . With that range in mind, let’s reimagine what a monument could be:

  • What if the monument could travel so that all sections of the city could experience it, host it, make it their own?
  • What if the monument was participatory?
  • What if the monument was sensory?
  • What if the monument was a trust to fund a scholarship or job creation program?
  • What if the monument was digital?
  • What if the pedestals of all existing monuments to men who owned slaves were converted to a supporting foundation created by sculptures of the all the black men, women, and children they enslaved?
  • What if the monument used all the discarded tires in Philadelphia? What if the monument pushed us to consider the people and resources used to get us here?
  • What if…

I don’t know what the next monument should be, but I know it should celebrate people we don’t want to see forgotten and a collective history we don’t want to see erased. What stories are hiding in plain sight, and what advice do they hold for future generations of Philadelphians? If we want to move forward as a city, and to develop equitably and sustainably, our monuments must guide us toward those progressive goals.


Disaster Capitalism and Gentrification

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose will forever change the trajectory of Houston, Key West, and other coastal towns. Disaster paves the way for radical capitalist economic policy, from development to war to charter schools. Don’t you know what happened in New Orleans after Katrina?

As you think about the cost of recovery, policy implementation, and government subsidies, remember that the Department of Defense 2017 budget is $582.7 BILLION. That is $582,700,000,000. Houston’s $50 billion recovery effort is 8% of the DoD’s 2017 budget. 

There is no such thing as a “natural” disaster, because who’s in harm’s way, and the kind of harm they face, is a product of human choices. – Andy Horowitz

Here are a few articles + highlights to get you up to speed

Bleakonomics, New York Times – book review of “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein.

  • 100,000 less black people live in New Orleans in 2015 than in 2000
  • most of the city’s public schools have been replaced by privately run charter schools


Katrina’s Silver Lining by David Brooks – a primer on how NOT to think after major disasters. This is a dog whistle for the “ambitious and organized” to remove anyone who can’t “culturally integrate”… what Brooks fails to discuss is the underlying systems that created racial inequality in the first place and allowed Katrina to wreck so much destruction on impoverished neighborhoods–racism and the new jim crow.


How to Stop Gentrification by Colin Kinniburgh – a look at disaster, the citizens, the developers, and the government’s role in gentrification across the US

  • New Orleans has “become the second-least affordable city to live in nationwide”
  • “In 1976 alone, the city of New York shut down thirty-four fire stations in poor, largely black and Latino neighborhoods; by the end of the decade, seven Bronx census tracts had lost virtually all of their buildings, and another forty-four tracts had lost more than half.”
  • “Economic isolation and the fraying of the social safety net contributed to record levels of crime in inner cities, with public housing complexes hit particularly hard. Policy elites’ response was to blame the buildings themselves….”
  • “black wealth was decimated in the 2008 housing market crash…In 2007, the average black family had a net worth of one-tenth the average white-family’s; by 2011, that number had dropped to one-sixteenth”
  • and keep learning…”it is important not to lose sight of the ways that personal attitudes and actions daily aggravate the crisis of gentrification”


Get Ready for Trump’s Diaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein – how the government, Trump, and contractors can exploit diaster for personal and political gain

  • after Katrina, Pence (as chairman of Republican Study Committee) suspended wage labor laws, regulation, and zoning, and made “the entire affected area a flat-tax free-enterprise zone”, repealed environmental regulations, and gave permission for new oil refineries (duh, global warming) –> will be used by Trump to court the labor movement
  • top contractors from Iraq were hired by the government to provide mobile homes to evacuees just 10 days after the levees broke. Their contracts ended up totaling $3.4 billion, no open bidding required.
  • Emergency workers and local volunteer morticians were forbidden to help clear bodies because it impinged on a contractor’s “commercial territory” –> bodies rotted in the streets for days
  • a religious group was paid $5.2 million to build an emergency worker base camp, which was never built – the group had only organized religious youth camps


North Carolina denied 99 percent of federal recovery funds for Hurricane Matthew by Michael Rios – here’s what happens when everything is destroyed but you’re not a big “brand” like New Orleans or Houston.

  • in 2016, Hurricane Matthew ripped through Eastern North Carolina, leaving the state with $1.5 billion in damage and 80,000 households to register for FEMA. FEMA is only allocating $100 million.


The Transformative Vision of Community Land Trusts by Aaron Tanak – we need to rethink the concept of land

  • we should recognize that land is not just the square feet that we live on but the source of the natural resources that we depend on
  • land in a CLT is owned by the nonprofit and leased to home and building owners at an affordable price.


2 ways to fight gentrification by Adam Hengels – the forces behind gentrification aren’t what we think they are

  • The mechanism of gentrification is not development. It is zoning.
  • The battlefield is in the more wealthy neighborhoods where empowered residents fight to keep new people out.
  • The enemy is the rich people who use their influence to thwart development in their neighborhoods.

PARK(ing) Day in Philadelphia, Roots in San Diego

I love PARK(ing) Day because it showcases how quick, cheap, and mobile solutions can vastly improve our quality of life. By reducing vehicle speeds and reclaiming streets as people spaces, these temporary parklets build community and prove that a tiny respites from city life is welcome.

Philadelphia’s PARK(ing) Day includes 52 businesses, designers, and organizations co-opting asphalt for tiny parks. You can see their google map here or download their printable guide: Park(ing) Day Philadelphia 2015_Map.

This strong showing is just another notch in Philly’s belt. There is a history of activating underutilized spaces with community initiatives as seen through the work of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, Grounded in Philly, the Mural Arts Program, and the Philadelphia Orchard Project. If you know of any more organizations, please comment below!

Here are a few parklets seen on my morning walk:

IMG_4467 copy
Zipcar has a pumpkin-painting station and real turf

Continue reading “PARK(ing) Day in Philadelphia, Roots in San Diego”

Using Design to Address Homelessness through Transitional Housing

Last spring Activate14–an outreach initiative I co-founded–jumped on the tiny home craze in an effort to address Raleigh’s underserved homelessness community. We wanted to prove our belief that good design is accessible to everyone and can radically change a community.

The transition out of homelessness is more successful when services like job training, medical attention, and other support are provided through temporary housing, rather than providing services alone. The housing community model allows someone to build a steady job and income without worrying about their safety, belongings, and where they will find shelter.

Not surprisingly, a transitional housing community is more cost-effective than letting the homeless stay on the streets. Increased hospitalization, overnights in jail, and emergency shelter cost taxpayers upwards of $40,000 per homeless person per year. Imagine the savings if we could transition people from homelessness to self-supporting lives through $1,500 to $30,000 tiny homes with community space. 


Continue reading “Using Design to Address Homelessness through Transitional Housing”

The Case Against Major-League Sport Stadiums in Urban Areas

Before leaving Raleigh, a conversation emerged around bringing a major-league sports team to the capitol city. Several people–all men–thought a football or basketball stadium near the amphitheater would be THE BEST THING EVER.

Let me tell you why it’s not:

1. Stadiums are dead zones. The NBA plays 41 home games per year, the MLB has 81 home games per year. What happens the other 324/284 days? Not much, maybe some concerts and big college games. And that’s not just an empty stadium, that’s empty parking lots, shuttered retail space, and a lot of dead sidewalk.

Have you been near a stadium during the day? I’ve seen Indianapolis, Charlotte, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis stadiums first hand. It’s terrible. Parking takes up 3x as much space as the stadium itself. Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis covers 6 to 7 city blocks for the stadium, parking, and landscaping. These megablocks have poor walkability scores and rarely, if ever, include ground-floor retail.

Erik Weber has a great post on specific stadiums.

Dodgers Stadium (pink) and parking (orange)
Philly Stadiums (pink) and parking (orange)







Continue reading “The Case Against Major-League Sport Stadiums in Urban Areas”

Ten Principles for Good Design from Dieter Rams


Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer whose design approach is “Less, but better”.
He believes good design:

  1. Is innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
  2. Makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
  3. Is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
  4. Makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
  5. Is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
  6. Is honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
  7. Is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
  8. Is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
  9. Is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
  10. Is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

As designers we have a great responsibility. I believe designers should eliminate the unnecessary. That means eliminating everything that is modish because this kind of thing is only short-lived.
–Dieter Rams – interview with Icon Magazine

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
–Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Quick Ugly Housing = Future Affordable Housing?

Elan City Center Apartments Rendering (Greystar) http://www.liveelancitycenter.com/contact-us
What it really looks like…

Is Raleigh getting ugly, or is it just me?

Raleigh is quickly looking like a second-tier replica city dictated by developer’s profit margins. All of our new housing developments are plywood wrapped in terrible materials; they’re poorly designed, unfriendly to the street, and, frankly, an eyesore.

Elan City Center could be one of those at Clark+Oberlin, on N Boylan, S Wilmington or N Person, by Trader Joe’s, or anywhere else in the country. It looks familiar because Greystar, a developer from Charleston, owns 44 complexes in Raleigh, Durham and the RTP alone, and they’re not the only developer in town. There are currently over 2,500 unit under construction in Downtown and Glenwood South.

The real problem is that none of these complexes offer affordable housing. With studios starting at $1,050, they have priced out singles making under $50,000 and couples making under $25,200 each (given a 25% income allowance for rent). How can the City of Raleigh champion itself as friendly and diverse at these prices?

My hope is that in 10 years–when the facades are tattered, plywood floors bowed, and amenities dingy–there will be so many units empty that the prices will drop. Finally, Raleigh will have affordable housing downtown–unless the developer razes the building for bigger profit margins.

This is the only reason why I am glad we are not building like the Capitol Apartments anymore.

Capital Apts_web
Capitol Apartments. Photo by http://rhdc.org/

If the City of Raleigh wants downtown Raleigh and the surrounding neighborhoods to be a hub of creativity, diversity, and innovation, then it needs to start acting more like a benevolent developer + leader and less like a doormat. I suggest that they give the Appearance Commission real authority and require all new developments offer a percentage of their housing available to low-income families, similar to the Town of Chapel Hill.

“The Town shall encourage developers of residential developments of 5 or more units to (a) provide 15 percent of their units at prices affordable to low and moderate income households, (b) contribute in-lieu-fees, or (c) propose alternative measures so that the equivalent of 15 percent of their units will be available and affordable to low and moderate income households;”

Until then, we can only wait until poor design and quality works in favor of lower socio-economic groups.

P.S. lol at the stock images on the websites for these developments.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 3.58.48 PM


Activate14: Architecture + Design Event Series

What started as intra-office conversation on hosting architecture and design events quickly turned to reality when Frank Harmon Architect decided to sponsor the inaugural summer event series at the AIANC Center for Architecture and Design (CfAD) in Raleigh, NC. Planning quickly commenced with the AIANC Program Committee. We decided to bridge the events by focusing on issues facing North Carolina cities: sustainable foodways, alternative transportation, and urban housing.

Within 2 months we had started the framework for Activate 14 (a play on the address of the CfAD), released a Design + Build Competition Call for Entry open to North Carolina architects, architecture students, and artists, and started planning for 4 summer events.

Activate 14 is an annual event series that instigates conversations with the public about current architecture and design issues shaping our communities. It is free, public event series in downtown Raleigh, utilizing the entire grounds of the CfAD with cascading events to feature educational components, food, drink, music, children’s activities, and art.

This has been my primary focus for the past 2 months and I’d love for you to check out the website and give me some feedback, especially if you live in North Carolina!


Why I wanted to be a RDU Baton holder

I am the RDU Baton holder on instagram today (@rdubaton) and I plan to use it as a soapbox for multimodal transportation, sustainability, utilizing urban space better, the need for public art, and so on.

The mission of the RDU Baton is to showcase Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the surrounding communities. We’re supposed to “show off our beautiful and lively corner of the world,” which many other baton holders have done. These people are pumped to be living here, in a growing area grounded by great universities, a burgeoning tech center, good food, and craft beer. I like all those things too but there is a lot more to Raleigh regarding transportation, social equity, and sustainability.

The relationship between the homeless, Moore Square, public transportation, and the city is strained; the train tracks are privately owned and serve as a thoroughfare for the transient; new cookie-cutter housing is built in large blocks next to residential neighbors with no input; bike riders fear for their lives because there are not dedicated bike lanes, even on brand-new streets; a small group of citizens dictate how public land and resources are used, citing safety and money to scare people; a lot of time, money, and space downtown is focused on alcohol and the more frequent “special event”; light rail was struck down, again, while Citrix is building a giant parking deck on Morgan Street.

I live between NCSU and downtown in a relatively low-income area cut off by Hillsborough Street, Pullen Park, and the railroad tracks. I see a lot and ride my bike to work often, rolling past the jail, a methadone clinic, new housing developments and several great local businesses.

I’m hoping to bring awareness to some of these issues. Raleigh is great, but it could be better.

A Model for Sustainable & Affordable Housing

Architectural and design magazines and blogs feature more sustainable and green buildings daily and many of these projects come from other countries, in rural areas, for good cause, and very inexpensively.

I came across this Training Center in Sumatra designed by TYIN Tegnestue to bring cinnamon farmers together for more education, to battle unfair business practices, and promote healthcare issues. Local craftsman and an ox built the center using locally produced brick and wood for 30,000€ ($40,000). The large roof floats over the 5 interior buildings to allow a cooling breeze and daylight, exterior brick traps heat from the sun and keeps the interiors cool, and the hinged windows are awesome–some vertical, some horizontal–as are the tiny ventilation holes and arrays of smaller windows.

Affordable, communal housing in temperate climates could look like this…

Cassia-Co-op-Training-Centre-TYIN-Tegnestue-9 Cassia-Co-op-Training-Centre-TYIN-Tegnestue-12 Cassia-Co-op-Training-Centre-TYIN-Tegnestue-3 Cassia-Co-op-Training-Centre-TYIN-Tegnestue-2 Cassia-Co-op-Training-Centre-TYIN-Tegnestue-13

Original Article: Inhabitat.com – Cassia Co-op Training Center

Wilders Grove in the Newspaper

A public art project I’ve been working on for McConnell Studios made it into the newspaper Sunday and you can barely see me in one of the photos…it’s a start! ha!

The project is “Wilders Grove,” a 40 foot long undulating wall composed of recyclable materials to be installed at the first LEED Platinum waste service center in the nation. We estimate that over 600 volunteer hours have gone into the project, not to mention the hundreds of hours it took to develop the kaleidoscope software and build the frame.

Read more about the project on the website or check out the News & Observer article. If you’re in the Raleigh area and want to participate, email wildersgroveproject@gmail.com.

OTYV4.AuSt.156matt McConnell and I are taking the wood panels off the steel frame.


be an enthusiast

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”


Passion makes can make a good idea great.

Coolest Outdoor Bathroom – Austin, TX

Forty-nine 3/4″ thick steel plates curl in on themselves to form a public day-lit bathroom in the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike trail, Austin, TX. Its design eliminated the need for artificial lights or ventilation. The steel was left untreated, rust has already formed on the plates.

Miro RIvera proves that functional, necessary outbuildings can also be beautiful and well designed.

piston design photographs piston design photographs Trail Restroom Trail Restroom

thanks to Jacob B. for pointing this out!

Expansion in Downtown Raleigh


I didn’t like downtown Raleigh when I moved here in 2009–I was working two jobs, the scene was small and close knit, and, being a government center, was dead past 5:30pm. After Raleigh Denim moved downtown in 2010 (I was working there at the time), I noticed that many storefronts were going under renovations and filing with new restaurants and shops.

CAM Raleigh opened next door, Capital Club 16Neptunes and Kings kept the Martin–Salisbury corner busy, the trifecta of Beasley’sChucks and Fox dominated the Martin–S Wilmington corner, Raleigh Times expanded next door to include a rooftop, Bida Manda brought Laotian food to the South, Videri Chocolate and Tasty Beverage brought traffic to the old train station, the warehouses were acquired by Citrix for their new headquarters, the AIA NC built their new headquarters across from Peace College (my office, Frank Harmon Architect, built and rents from the AIA NC), Seaboard Station expanded with Tyler’s Taprooma cafe, and a burger jointC. Grace lit up GloSo, and Dos Taquitos Xoco is almost open, CityFabricCompostNow, and ReDress Raleigh moved into Boylan Heights, Trophy Brewing is coming to the Morgan St. shopping center (next to murder mart), the Fiction Kitchen is setting up, and the Person Street developments of Rapid Fitness, PiebirdRaleigh City FarmMarket’s new location, and an upcoming market, and the various little boutiques that have popped up around downtown… I’m sure I missed someone, sorry.

Being part of the downtown community and watching it expand and thrive has been a great experience. All the bars and restaurants I go to are locally owned, are involved in the community, and have a similar set of values. What’s even better is living so close to downtown and walking or riding everywhere.

I can’t wait to see who is going to start what next… there are so many projects and ideas and floating around downtown, you can feel it.

Repair Urban Sprawl and Strip Malls

I can’t remember where I found this image but it is a great solution to boring, one-dimensional strip malls. The courtyard could provide greenery and seating for restaurants and function as an open-air market. In theory the rooftop gardens and solar panels will save money in the long run but may be overlooked by the developers.

Strip mall development in 2012 was 5 million square feet, down from 200 million square feet in 2006. However, continuation of development is absurd considering over 11% of strip malls in North America have been abandoned. The concessions we and our cities have made for cars is unbelievable and should not be tolerated. Repurposing existing strip malls to accomodate the wants and needs of local citizens–hopefully with locally-owned businesses–should be at the forefront of our agendas.

Atlantic Cities

Earth & Bamboo School in Bangladesh

Hand-Made School in Rudrapur, Bangladesh

Architects Anna Heringer and Eike Roswag designed and planned the Rudrapur school and students, teachers, and volunteers built it at a cost of $22,835 USD! The foundation is brick, the lower walls are loam and straw, the upper walls are bamboo with a galvanized iron roof. The total area of the school is 3,500 sf and the design allows for natural light and air ventilation.

Heringer was a student volunteer with a Bangladeshi Dipshikha, an education center for rural children, for a year in 1997. She kept in contact with the school and was later asked to help build a new school using local materials, completing the project in 2005.

The local Bangladeshi do not think this project is possible to recreate because of the equipment involved. However, in a developed country, where construction equipment is abound, this type of sustainable construction can easily happen!

It is amazing what basic elements and physical labor can do! In the United States so many great projects do not have the funds to realize completion. These beautiful international projects prove that a large budget is not needed to build beautiful creative spaces in our communities!

The center cutout reminds me of Safe Haven Orphanage’s library

source: AKDN.org

Monstrum’s Awesome Playgrounds

Monstrum, a Danish design firm, builds thoughtful imaginative wooden playgrounds all over the world. They create playgrounds with child development in mind, building to challenge and stimulate the child. Not only are they great for kids, but as an adult, I certainly appreciate the aesthetic and inventiveness.

Sadly, many schools in the United States are cutting recess and playtime with major drawbacks in children’s health and behavior. A study by the Elementary School Journal in 2008 found that almost 25% of schools did not have recess. I find this more perplexing with childhood obesity rates on the rise– 20% of 6-11 year olds were obese in 2008. Plus, many studies have found a strong positive correlation between child’s play and self-esteem.

“I get this feeling in my legs when they want to run and that feeling moves up to my belly and when that feeling moves up to my head I can’t remember what the rules are.”
– Nadav, 7, Pittsburgh


Put Parking Spaces to Better Use

What a great way to bring awareness to our use of space in urban centers. If I created a collapsable version, could it be put in any parking space?What if I transformed a flatbed trailer into a mobile park or common area? If the meters were paid and rules followed, I don’t foresee any problems besides taking alcohol into the street. However, the Pub Trolley allows drinking on a vehicle (?) in the street.

San Francisco


Park(ing) Day at Ritual Coffee Roasters

City of Gold

This model depicts what ancient Rome may have looked according to six etchings done by Giovanni Battista Piranesi in 1762. It also reminds me of a Rube Goldberg contraption I made for a high school physics project. I came home to find the completed Contraption gold and decorated with toy parts, rocks, and feathers. I hated it at first but then saw how baller it was compared to other projects. Thanks Mom!

“Model created by Yale School of Architecture students for 2012 Architecture Biennale, Venice. Model manufactured by Materialise; gold leaf applied by Pasquale Bonfilio. Photo:Materialise.”

Source: ArtDaily.org

Airy Thai Library

Fifteen Norwegian Architecture students went to Thailand to build Safe Haven Orphanage’s first library on a budget of $4,650 in January of 2009.

It is amazing the climate demands only one wall and an overhang. Removing the midsection to play with light was a great idea and it throws in the use for a gangplank!

If only Americans were more willing to embrace nature instead of sticking to the confines of a controlled climate! Really, who needs conditioned air all the time? I only like it at home, work, in my car, while I’m shopping, at the gym…..oh. 

Source: Great Spaces

P.S. I don’t condition that much of my air, only the hottest of nights in the bedroom and the hottest of days when I’m in the office (the rest of the house doesn’t have AC), which was probably only 30 times total this year. Also, I spent the first half of the summer in the house because I broke my right fibula and the second half starting a food truck – which means no work or gym AC.