Tag Archives: usa

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.



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


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R3: The Noisiest Little House in California



In property, it is said, location is everything. This was put to the test in San Diego when architect Lloyd Russell and his artist wife Ame Parsley managed to buy a vacant block in San Diego’s Little Italy neighbourhood for a bargain $50,000 – not surprising considering the property is an oddly shaped wedge of land sitting between the i-5 freeway and the busiest single-runway airport in the USA, San Diego International Airport (with 600 departures and arrivals per day).

This site couldn’t be noisier – check out the Google Earth satellite photo below for proof – there is even an aeroplane on approach passing almost directly overhead (see if you can pick the site, the triangular building just north of the jumbo)

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Russell set to work designing his new home – the R3 building, a triangular gallery-cum-residence complete with triple glazing, commercial air filtration system, and walls that are stuccoed to help bounce sound waves back onto the freeway.  There is also a killer integrated sound system in case any pesky noise still sneak through.

In designing R3, Lloyd Russell has proven that the most exciting architecture is often, if not always borne from the most difficult challenges.







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Posted by on July 28, 2009 in architecture, building


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Brad Moore Photography


Brad Moore takes wonderful photos of urban wastelands and isolation.  The images were taken around Southern California – the real SoCal, not the glamorised version that the state likes to portray.

Thanks to wrongdistance for the link.








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Posted by on July 26, 2009 in looking, photography


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Traffic! by Benny Chan


Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a small obsession with traffic, maps and urban design, so it’s no surprise that I love Los Angeles: the ultimate car city.

I just spent half an hour reading a brilliant, if somewhat old, post on urbanist blog cityofsound discussing a recent (and, it must be said, outrageous) article in The Economist about how electric cars should simulate the noise of a conventional fuel combustion engine for safety and aesthetic reasons.  The article really makes you wonder what a world without cars might be like.  To emphasise his point about how preposterous personal transportation has really become, he links to some amazing photos by photographer Benny Chan.  GOOD has a picture show with more, but I’ve posted some of my faves here, depicting rivers of concrete snaking through the LA suburbs.








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Relive Your Youth With Shedbuilt

Garage Studio

For many teenagers, living in the garage is a necessary and welcome rite-of-passage.  It’s the ultimate step to independence, without having to take the daunting (and expensive) step of moving out of home. It allows teens to have their friends over, eat microwave popcorn for dinner, pop tarts for breakfast, and sneak their lover in the window without disturbing mum and dad.

This remarkable garage renovation by US renovators Shedbuilt is perfect for even the most discerning teenager, or perhaps the adult who wants to relive their youth, albeit in more refined surroundings.

Despite being only 30 square metres, this garage has everything you would need.  Study nook? Check.  Book storage? Check.  Space for obligatory guitar?  Check.

And, unlike most teenage hideouts, this one replaces microwave popcorn and pop tarts with an espresso machine and two-burner stove. Very nice.

Via Remodelista.

Garage Studio

Garage Studio

Garage Studio

Garage Studio

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Posted by on July 10, 2009 in architecture, building


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Sarah Wilson: Blind Prom


An interesting exhibition is currently on at New York’s Foley Gallery where Sarah Wilson combines photojournalism and portraiture to document prom night for the students of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

The press release for the exhibition is true in that it is certainly inspiring to see a group of marginalised teenagers enjoy an American rite-of-passage.  Wilson has worked with the blind community for many years and understands that this is an important ritual in which they have a right to participate.  Yet I can’t get my mind off a darker narrative that underpins these full-colour images.

This narrative gives rise to many questions that I would probably not externalise outside the safe confines of the internet: namely, what’s the point of a blind prom?  Why do they dress up if they can’t even see each other.  Is the photographer exploiting these children simply for the sake of interesting subject matter?  Are they dressing up for themselves or their parents?  And am I a bad person for daring to ask these questions?





Posted by on June 14, 2009 in looking, photography


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Urban Design Hall of Shame


So I’m in a bitchin kinda mood. And nothing makes me bitch more than lost opportunities and badly designed public spaces.  So I was pleased to come across the Project for Public Spaces, an international consortium dedicated to improving people’s lives through good urban design.

My favourite section of their website is the Hall of Shame, where PPS nominates the world’s most poorly designed spaces.  Some are obvious (Hong Kong Cultural Centre, NYC’s Astor Place – shown above – and Boeddeker Park in San Fran).  Others are controversial (Guggenheim Bilbao as an example of poor design, anyone?).

It doesn’t seem that PPS have visited Australia, save for some consulting work they are currently doing in Melbourne and Perth.  So here are my 10 most loathed public spaces in Sydney:

1. Circular Quay – for obvious reasons. A thundering expressway and railway line covering up one of Sydney’s most spectacular views.  Also for its excess of seagulls and faux-Aboriginal buskers.

2. Darling Harbour – a vast, kitsch wasteland, especially towards the southern end around the Entertainment Centre.  Isolated at night, and all those bricks are stiflingly hot during the day, even in the middle of winter.

3. Centennial Plaza – Sydney’s worst example of 80s office design – and there are a few contenders, believe me. A salmon-coloured, windswept monument to mediocrity that could have been so much more.

4. Railway Square – a glass-and-concrete island surrounded by a sea of bitumen and belching buses.  Especially fun in the rain, when the architecturally-designed shelters reveal how incredibly useless they really are.

5. Victoria Cross, North Sydney – so many cars, so few people, which probably has something to do with North Sydney’s obsession of burying buildings, including the Greenwood Plaza shopping centre.  Sydney has the best climate in the world, so why office workers would want to spend their lunchtimes in an underground food court is baffling.

6. Woolloomooloo Wharf – a temple to conspicuous consumption with overpriced restaurants frequented by over-botoxed and over-tanned patrons – sooo 2008;

7. Springfield Mall, Kings Cross – a needlessly blank space with a very dicey feel. And no, those neon pinwheels you erected a few years ago do not make me feel more safe.

8. Bondi Junction Mall – just dull. Really, really dull.  Suffocatingly dull.

9. Taylor Square, Darlinghurst – pissy fountains and – you’ve got it – more traffic. Especially vile on a Saturday and Sunday morning where locals congregate to ‘recover’;

10. Town Hall – One of Sydney’s finest buildings has been surrounded by the most frightful building material known to man – pebblecrete.


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Posted by on June 9, 2009 in building, urban design


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