Friday, June 18th, 2010


“It took many decades for neighborhoods and commercial districts to decline, so we have to recognize that it will take a long time for these places to be improved. It takes even longer when we don’t know what we are doing, and we fail to learn from previous practice, not to mention best practice, and we put in minimal amounts of money so that it makes improvement very hard to come about, and we don’t direct money in ways where it can have great impact so that money gets wasted.” – Richard Layman

Top Stories

Next American City: Who Says What’s Livable? – Vincent Valk explores the issue of livability in transportation planning.

NYT Magazine: The Freegan Establishment – A very interesting look at squatters in Buffalo trying to live without using money by choice. There is definitely some creative ferment going on in that area.

WSJ: Rivals Secretly Finance Opposition to Wal-Mart – As it turns out, a lot of the “grass roots” opposition to Wal-Marts is really astroturf.

James Sanders/Design Observer: Adventure Playground: John V. Lindsay and the Transformation of Modern New York – Long, but very interesting take on the transformation of New York from gritty workshop to glamorous playground.

Locals vs. Tourists

Eric Fischer, using the geocoding information on Flickr, created maps of photographs loaded by locals vs. those loaded by out of towners, presumably tourists. Here’s the San Francisco one:

There are many, many more cities, so check out the complete set if you are interested. (h/t The Map Room)

World and National Roundup

NYT: India’s Clogged Rail Lines Stall Economic Progress

Egypt Today: Downtown Cairo’s Extreme Makeover

Jim Russell: The best talent escapes gravity

Ryan Streeter: City State

Politico: Pols turn on labor unions

NYT Economix: Saving money by slashing prison spending

The Atlantic: Gentrification and Its Discontents

True Economics: Organizational systems and uncertainty

Michael Hicks: An education-related economic model

Terry Teachout: The Pasadena Symphony and the Zero Option – Do regional orchestras still make artistic sense?

Brain Pickings: A (Type)Face for Every City in the World – some very cool typographic logo designs.

NYT: Licensed and Illegal Vans Fight It Out in New York – sometimes literally!

Incredible pension craziness from New York state: State wants to borrow from pension fund, to pay the pension fund

Technology and the City: Minneapolis about to surpass Detroit as the Midwest #2 metro economy

A UIC study shows that intersections with red light cameras in Chicago have more crashes than those without.

Detroit News: Suburbs struggle with industrial blight

Joshua Jamerson: Who controls Detroit’s image?

Lastly, here’s a trio on demographic change in our cities: Atlanta: Minority populations make strides in metro Atlanta demographics; Dallas: ‘Black Flight’ Changing the Makeup of Dallas Schools; Detroit: Black flight is the new worry for Detroit

More City to River

Daron over at St. Louis/Elsewhere takes a look at the idea of removing I-70 through downtown St. Louis to reconnect downtown with the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River. To show the absurdity of having I-70 in that location, he asks us to imagine Chicago cut off from its lakefront parks by an interstate viaduct on Michigan Ave. It’s ain’t pretty.

Of course Chicago does have Lake Shore Drive…

Gorgeous Chicago Travel Video

Signal vs. Noise linked to two phenomenal videos about Chicago. Dating from 1948 and shot in gorgeous Technicolor, these were part of an MGM series of shorts called Traveltalks. Here’s one of them. (Click the previous link if it does not display for you).

Detroit 187

Apparently ABC is going to be running a new series in the fall called Detroit 187. Time’s Detroit blog posted the trailer for this thoroughly embarrassing concept. (If the video doesn’t display click here).

Julio the Sewer Guy

BLDGBLOG pointed me at this very interesting interview with a Mexico city sewer diver. Apparently, Mexico City has a group of these guys who dive into the sewers to clean them out and do repairs. Yes, there are photos:

Post Script

I was recently privileged to take part in a VIP architecture tour of Columbus, Indiana, which I’ll note in the interest of full disclosure was partially sponsored. For those who don’t know, Columbus has one of the most important collections of modern architecture in the world, including six National Historic Landmarks. While there I got to see a preview of one of them, the Miller House and Garden. It was acquired by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and will open to public tours next year.

Alas, photography is still not allowed at the Miller House yet, but I can share in the next few Urbanoscopes a few interior and other photos of spaces not generally open to the public. Here is one of the First Baptist Church, designed by Harry Weese, also a National Historic Landmark:

Topics: Architecture and Design, Sustainability, Transportation
Cities: Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, St. Louis

11 Responses to “Urbanoscope”

  1. John Morris says:

    Great roundup. thanks for the Freegan story which I think blows through alot of the risks of purely judging people by degrees or normal economic criteria.

    For better or worse (and I think it’s mostly better) this type of very offbeat creative who is chosing low cost and the freedom to experiment over almost everything else is the kind of person the former rust belt is attracting.

    In Pittsburgh/Braddock we have lots of this kind of thing like the merry gang of street art activists lead by the famous artist Swoon.

    Is this that bad, in the context of the many semi abandoned cities we are talking about? You might not like them, but they at least have shown they want to be in these places and are willing to take them as they are aand improve them gradually.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    I love those locals/tourists maps.

  3. aim says:

    I’m not sure it’s accurate to “scare quote” the grass root opposition to Wal-Mart. Most of the stories highlighted the role that other chains played in financing opposition to Wal-Mart. But in most cases, that role was backing community opposition to the store. Phony “grass roots” and astroturf outfits are those that create opposition where none exists or where the opposition is coming from those outside the community. This doesn’t seem to be the case in most Wal-Mart communities.

  4. I remember when the WSJ was a respectable publication… :(

  5. Daron says:

    Those renderings are not mine, and City to River should get credit. Or Alternately, VanishingSTL, who recently posted similar renderings for 5th avenue in NYC.

    Still, thank you for the blurb. :)

  6. Daron says:

    It’s true that St. Louis doesn’t have Lake Shore Drive, but it also doesn’t have Chicago’s population. Chicago is also kind of concave around the lake and St. Louis is convex bulging into the river. We don’t have Lakeshore drive, but we have Tucker, Jefferson, and Grand. If people are just going through, then they don’t have to go through downtown.

  7. Paul Hohmann says:

    Here is City to River’s blog post about Chicago:

    Also here is my NYC post Daron mentions above:

  8. John Morris says:

    Just to underline the emerging trendiness of the Freegan type crowd. Stay tuned for the new Levy’s campaign feturing the mayor and deputy mayor of Braddock.

    Much more likely to run into NY times reporters and connected artists there than in Pittsburgh.

  9. AF says:

    That Chicago video is great, but how many of the featured landmarks, worth mention in a short video highlighting the city, have since been torn down? Edgewater Beach Hotel, Morrison Hotel, Palmer Mansion… Yikes.

  10. david vartanoff says:

    in re astroturf campaigns against WalMart
    Gotta say, couldn’t happen to a nicer victim. Is it fair? No, Saint or anyone else should be outed as hired guns, but remember, despite the fantasy of “business ethics” this is naked capitalism at its low down best. WalMart behaves like a bully whether it is defining how suppliers should behave or fighting unionization at stores. As to the morality of the competitors using “astroturf” methods, look at PG&E’s recent attempt to derail sustainable energy efforts in California. Happily, they lost, but the arrogance of their attempt is iconic. Personally, I have never spent a dollar at WalMart and doubt I ever will.

  11. SB says:

    Eric Fischer is from Indianapolis. Very nice maps.

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