Tag Archives: urban renewal

Detroit: Hantz Meanz Farmz


Once a city of innovation, by all accounts, Detroit is today a city in ruin: the Pompeii of our times.  The statistics are frightening: unemployment amongst the highest in the nation, population decreases surpassing even east-Berlin after the wall came down; and not a single supermarket within city limits.

Hantz Farm in inner-Detroit is set to change this.  John Hantz and Matt Allen have created this innovative approach to save the local community.  They realise that much of Detroit is simply “too broken to fix”, so aim to reinvigorate it by creating 100 acres of urban farms – former residential or commercial plots of land which they will clear and transform into a thriving agricultural area, for a relatively low cost. They cannot reinvigorate the fledgling car industry which has devastated the local – and national – economy, but they can create jobs, stimulate the local economy, and give residents a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

It’s an inspiring idea that will create jobs, increase the health of its denizens, aid in smart energy use, lower crime rates and free up emergency services to look after the inhabited areas of the city.

Natty little logo, too.



Leave a comment

Posted by on August 1, 2009 in building, urban design


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

High Line: diller scofidio + renfro

b+w high line

Everyone in New York is talking about the High Line.  And for once they’re not referring to that chopped-up white powder on the bedside table.  Thanks to the great work of grassroots organisation Friends of the High Line, the first stage of this exciting project is due to open in just a few weeks.

Designed by diller scofidio + renfro (who have the best website ever), this  massive project sees the restoration of a historical 1.5 mile railway line snaking its way through New York’s Meatpacking district.  Hotel god Andre Balazs has opened a branch of The Standard above the tracks (below)

Never mind that the French did it over 10 years ago – this is a real asset in a space-starved city.

the standard exterior

under standard

original high line


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Revitalising: Braddock, Pennsylvania

The Mayor, originally uploaded by Hryck..

All the talk of the global financial crisis has meant it’s been easy to feel a bit down of late. But when you do, spare a thought for Braddock, Pennsylvania.

Once somewhat of a boom town – the capital of America’s steel industry – it’s now a very different place. So what to do if your house price has dropped by 80 percent, your population has dropped by 90 percent and the town is overrun with crime and poverty? Well you could try doing what Mayor John Fetterman has done, and just think outside the proverbial square.

Since 2005, Fetterman has been working almost singlehandedly to change the fortunes of this ailing town. For starters, he made a pact to tattoo the date of every murder in the town on his forearm. He’s also working at attracting people from creative industries, and has appeared in national media such as Yahoo News and The Colbert Report to garner support.

It’s still too early to tell whether his initiatives are working, but his commitment is admirable to say the least.

More info at

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 2, 2009 in urban design


Tags: , , , , ,

Looking: Centquatre

Space Mother at the Centquatre, Paris (France)

When visiting Paris a few years ago I was jaded by the theme-park existence of the central areas. Rather than being the land of Sartre, Picasso and Matisse that I imagined, I found it more sanitised than a wet one. So, armed with my carte orange, I began many days by looking at the metro map and choosing a station as far away from the centre as possible, in attempt to find the real Paris, whatever that means.

Balard station revealed the marvelous Parc Andre Citroen, a green oasis surrounded by fantastic modernist architecture by Le Corbusier and others. Boulogne-Pont du Saint-Cloud felt like the very definition of suburban bourgeois. And the ominously-named Stalingrad station put me in the middle of the gritty 19ème Arrondissement.

As I walked the dirty streets amidst the rumble of overhead trains and the roar of trucks on their way to the banlieues, I saw things I hadn’t seen in three weeks staying on the left bank. Graffiti. Children. Immigrants. Beggars. All foreign sights in central Paris, but more a reality of this cosmopolitan city than baguettes and bronze souveniers. The region had such raw honesty and life. I knew I had found what I was looking for.

104, or centquatre, is a new contemporary art venue in the 19ème. Housed in a former funeral parlour – a building so huge it must have handled every death Paris, if not all of France – it has been transformed to house studio spaces, offices, cafes and creative services. The centre aims to provide affordable, accessible space for artists, and to transform this lesser-known area of Paris into a centre of innovation.

When I’m next in Paris I’ll definitely be jumping back on the rails to Stalingrad, just to see what all the fuss is about. Once again I’ll experience Paris at its most spectacular. I know it will be better than ever.

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 1, 2009 in art, contemporary, looking


Tags: , , ,

Looking: Renew Newcastle

Since posting the other day about Torrestrasse166 in Berlin and whether a similar concept would work in Sydney, I’ve been contacted by the guys at Renew Newcastle who have started a similar project in the steel city.

Unfortunately I missed yesterday’s launch but judging from their website they’ve already made great progress, with six properties renovated and ready to house budding artists, photographers, designers and architects. They’ve been very smart about getting attention by using a Facebook Group and have attracted the attention of local media including the Newcastle Star and The Sydney Morning Herald. I’ll be following their progress with great interest and hope to get up north at some stage soon to check it out in person.

1 Comment

Posted by on February 22, 2009 in looking, urban design


Tags: , , , , , , ,