September 30, 2006

Parc de stationnement ( = parking lot)

downtown San Jose, CA In French, "parking lot" is partially composed of the word "parc" that translates to public garden or park. Strange, non? Paul Groth has suggested that perhaps our parking lots are gardens while Randy Hester (1989) has developed the idea of the parking garden for a community design project along the Skagit River in Washington. Hester describes the idea as "an unusual juxtaposition of people and cars. A pedestrian promenade, water sculpture, and flowers are intermixed with traditional working class uses, such as viewing from and repairing automobiles." Rebar, PARK(ing) Day 2005 Rebar, a self-described "creative collective," located in San Francisco, has been funded by the Trust for Public Land to develop a project called PARK(ing) Day. The action involves converting metered parking spaces into park spaces. This is a temporary intervention, lasting until the meter expires. The concept is based on "reclaiming the street for people," but parking also happens in enclosed spaces like parking garages. What are to be done about these spaces? Watch the PARK(ing) Day video.

September 29, 2006

Recreation in the city

Adventure playground, NYC, c. 1967 Photo in Cranz (1983) The Politics of Park Design Playground, playing field, tot lot are a few of the outdoor recreative spaces in a city. The street, over time, has served as a play space. In fact, structured play activities and spaces, like playgrounds, were instituted in the 19e century to keep children out of the streets! Urban wilds also serve as recreative spaces. J. B. Jackson has written about the use of undeveloped areas, at the edges of the 19e century American cities, used for recreation, in particular, riverbanks. We still have access to wild spaces, now within city limits, as cities expanded and annexed former countryside and suburb. Other spaces for recreation include the adventure playground and the mobile recreation unit. Parnell and Ketterson (1980) describe the use of the adventure playground as follows:

Children are encouraged to construct, to tear down, to rebuild, and to interact freely with the materials…. Adventure playgrounds require the supervision of an adult play leader, whose role is not only to monitor the safety of playground activities, but also to act as a resource person in promoting interesting and challenging play ideas.

Catherine Hannah Behrand (1981 in Taylor's Urban Open Spaces) lists the types of mobile recreation units sponsored by the city of New York in the 1970s: Arts & Crafts, Boxingmobile, Cinemobile, Playmobile, Puppet & Marionette, Sportsmobile, (which led to the) Tennismobile, Skatemobile, Zoomobile, and the Swimmobile (filled by a nearby fire hydrant). New York still provides mobile units, but only eight. In addition to bringing recreation into neighborhoods and to community events, the mobile recreation unit enables the co-presence of neighbors which might lead to various intensities of neighboring. This is true of City Repair's T-Horse, or mobile tea house. City Repair works with neighborhood residents to create community gathering places. The T-Horse was one of the organization's first projects. It is a truck bed with 20-foot wings, pillows, and rugs, and travels to parks and other open spaces to serve tea. Listen to NPR's Adventure Playgrounds a Dying Breed (aired March 2006).

September 22, 2006

Restoration : Oakland's Cleveland Cascade

( The Cleveland Cascade is located in Lake Merritt Park in Oakland, CA. The water feature was designed and built in 1923 by landscape architect Howard Gilkey. In the post World War II period, the cascade was filled in and planted with rosemary, though the irrigation feature was maintained. Two years ago, in a move described as a "guerilla act," neighbors began restoring the water feature to its original design. The early work consisted of locating documentation of the original design (see above) and removing plant materials. The Oakland City Council has allocated Measure DD funding to completely restore the cascade to its "original flowing-water gurgling vitality." (See Oakland's Cleveland Cascade.) ( Measure DD (The Oakland Trust for Clean Water and Safe Parks) is an approximately $198,000,000 bond to finance the purchase, construction, restoration, and improvement of recreation facilities, creeks, waterways, Lake Merritt, and the Oakland Estuary. The Cleveland Cascade is one Lake Merritt Park project. Other park projects are 12th Street (restoration of the original scenic boulevard), Lakeside Drive (restoration of the municipal boathouse), and Lakeshore Avenue (daylighting the channel by removing the 14th Street/12th Street interchange). (See Oakland Public Works.) addition The Lake Merritt Park improvement projects have been criticized, especially in regards to tree removals. Officials cite poor physiological and structural and various communities of interest claim that the exisiting trees have social, historical, and ecological value. Here are a few articles reporting on the tree controversy: Group sues to stop removal of Lake Merritt trees Lake Merritt face-lift gathering supporters Lake Merritt tree supporters unmoved by public works tour There are numerous Lake Merritt advocacy organizations including the North Lake Merritt Neighborhood Group, Waterfront Action, and the Lake Merritt Institute.

September 21, 2006

Qualities of domestic life

In 1999, Margaret Crawford co-edited a volume of essays titled Everyday Urbanism. In an essay in the volume, Crawford advances an argument about the blurred distinctions between public and private space as a result of actions associated with "everyday life." In particular, she describes the effects of two spaces, the garage sale and street vending. The garage sale and the space of street vending are more than physical spaces. According to Crawford, they are thirdspace, or "a space of representation, a space bearing the possibility of new meanings, a space activated through social action and the social imagination." (Read Eating, drinking, WiFiing at my local third places for another perspective on the idea of in-between space.) Yesterday, I came across a collection of four items: a chair, a broken table, an empty bicycle box, and a high-heeled shoe. I was immediately reminded of Crawford's photographs of garage sales and street vending in Los Angeles. The location of this collection is at the gate of the parcel on which my (rented) duplex sits. While I don't think this display falls within Crawford's classification, I do think it's a bit uncanny. Maria Kaika, writing in 2004, argues that the uncanny (out of the ordinary behavior or "the surfacing of things that oought to remain hidden") alerts us to the material and social connections between the seemingly separate public and private spheres of life. Not that discarded household items are uncommon on city sidewalks but the careful placement of the shoe...that threw me for a loop! (Read This is not eclectic seating. It is an abandoned couch.)

September 14, 2006

Flat top: beyond the 80s hair-style

Note: This post was edited on Jan. 20, 2007. Hotlinked image(s) were removed. Follow the link(s) to the image location(s). Acomo Pueblo, New Mexico Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on the construction of houses with flat-top roofs, instead of sloping roofs, to maximize square footage without violating local height restrictions. Locations with flat-top controversies: Bethany Beach, Delaware; Kirkland, Washington; St. Augustine, Florida. The article also pointed out that some builders "lift an entire house up on hydraulic jacks and put in a partially exposed first floor underneath" (Munoz, 9/14/2006). But, flat-top roofs are not always controversial. The indigenous pueblo house is traditionally designed with a flat-top roof. Like the Prairie School style house, most Federal and Adam-style buildings have roofs with a shallow pitch, but a few were constructed with flat roofs. Taos Pueblo, New Mexico Philosophical Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Mayer May House, Grand Rapids, Michigan

September 11, 2006

A city of neighborhoods

Note: This post was edited on Jan. 20, 2007. Hotlinked image(s) were removed. Follow the link(s) to the image location(s). Paris map Lewis Mumford (1954) describes Paris as a city of neighborhoods. The Parisian neighborhood is not just a postal district or a political unit, but an historic growth; and the sense of belonging to a particular arrondissement or quartier is just as strong in the shopkeeper, the bistro customer, or the petty craftsman as the sense of being a Parisian. Mumford also describes Venice and Florence as cities of neighborhoods. Venice's neighborhoods are based on medieval church parishes or squares as are Florence's quarters: Santa Maria Novella, Il Duomo, Santa Croce, San Lorenzo, and Santo Spirito and San Frediano in the Oltrarno (see Frommer's). Boston is also a city of neighborhoods. Four panelists in the upcoming Massachusetts Historical Commission conference (September 20) will discuss "the municipal programs that help protect Boston's neighborhoods: neighborhood design overlay districts, the Main Streets Initiative, Boston HomeWorks, and the National Register program." (More details at Serving Neighborhoods through Preservation.) Despite disparaging remarks about its community life, Los Angeles is also a city of neighborhoods (with lots of neighboring and activism). Read Neighborhoods of Los Angeles by Alan Loomis. Added 9/17/2006.

September 2, 2006

Urban gardening terms, in French

I have been reading several articles on the city (la ville), public space (l'espace public), and gardening (jardinage). I was not able to find a French-English dictionary of landscape or gardening terms, but as I worked on my translations I jotted down some interesting words and terms, which I have included below. General terms Jardinage urbaine : urban gardening L'agriculture urbaine : urban agriculture L'agriculture biologique : organic agriculture La pratique du jardinage : garden practices Types of gardens Jardins communautaires : community gardens (leisure) Les jardins collectifs : collective gardens (self-help) Les anciens jardins ouvriers : old workers' gardens Jardins familiaux : "family gardens" Jardin potager urbain : urban vegetable garden Les potagers : kitchen gardens Things in the garden Un petit jardinet pour produire des legumes : a small vegetable plot Parcelles individuelles : plots La pioche : pick-axe Table a pique-nique : picnic table Allees : paths Des plants d'herbes : herbs Des piments : peppers Tomates : tomatoes Concombres : cucumbers Des graines : seeds Concepts Un espace ouvert : "open" space L'espace public : public space Un espace de loisir : a space of leisure Le quotidien : everyday Les gens alentours : neighborhood people Le tissue social local : local social fabric Liens sociaux : social bonds Des preoccupations environnementales : environmental needs Note: Accents are missing.