Monthly Archives: July 2008

Domesticating Public Space

As long as there have been cities, their residents have spread out, outside, when the temperature rises. New Yorkers have long been in the habit of bringing out lawn chairs, card tables and mattresses — even sofas and televisions — turning sidewalks and fire escapes into living rooms, dining areas and sleeping porches. But there are those, like Mr. Tsao, for whom the usual stoop picnic is not enough, expansionist entertainers who are putting a new spin on an old practice, and domesticating public space in ever more elaborate ways.

From the nytimes



Filed under Elsewheres, public space

Homelessness Down

A NY Times article says that the U.S. rate of homelessness is down by a staggering 30%.

HUD collects the statistics as part of its Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress and while some say the methods have improved the large decrease raises some concern. Critics say it fails to count the number of people who have lost their homes, but have found temporary shelter in campgrounds, rural areas and with friends and family.

Given the state of housing and the larger economy the decrease certainly seems counter intuitive. The article mentions the Housing First approach where find housing is the top priority. Services are provided once people are housed and with the intent of enabling them to uphold a standard lease agreement.

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Street Vending as a Socially Sustainable Practice

Sidewalk by Mitchell Duneier is an ethnographic study of streetvendors in New Yorks City’s Greenwich Village. The observations and contextual descriptions are fascinating. This book is a must read for anyone directly or indirectly concerned with the public spaces and the quality of urban life.

Off and on over the course of four years Duneier worked alongside a variety of vendors, researched policy and interviewed officials to form a better understanding of what role streetvending serves in contemporary urban space.

Greenwhich Village is also the context for another book examining public life; The death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. Duneier uses Jacobs ideas as a starting point but acknowledges that things have changed since she was observing the dynamics of the sidewalk. Spatial, social and economic polarization and fragmentation have made the Village a much different place, but Duneier quickly finds out that there are still what Jacobs termed “public characters.”

With this as a starting point the book considers a wide range of issues pertaining to public space and its formal and informal controls. Ultimately the book reveals that streetvending can be a very important informal social control that allows people who choose not to, or are unable to, participate in the formal economy a means for ordering and structuring their relationship to society through public spaces.

In explaining his observations Duneier confronts the “broken windows theory” head on. What the “broken windows theory” has come to view as disorderly is exposed as having its own order. Duneier argues that while there is value in the broken windows theory we cannot equate social disorder with physical disorder. In other words we shouldn’t treat people as broken windows.

This leads Duneier to propose a complementary “fixed windows theory.” You’ll have to read the book to find out more about that. Get it at your local library.

Here is a professional review of the book via the nytimes.

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Filed under planning, public space

Music Hall and Rainbow

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Tour de Signagé

Here is a gallery of images from a super long signage scavenger hunt that took me through Walnut Hills, Evanston, St. Bernard, Spring Grove, Northside, Camp Washington, and the West End.

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Filed under folk art, ghost signs

Demolition Party!!!

Does anyone else find this strange? I don’t know the specifics of the buildings but while they don’t seem especially significant they do seem to contribute to the district.

I guess the CIC didn’t care. Somehow they turned something that could have been controversial into a party. Everyone love a party right?

And they didn’t even demolish it, they just ripped a hole through it. Now it just looks blighted.


Filed under Historic Preservation, planning

Newsmakers Segment

Saw this interesting segment on Newsmakers a few weeks ago and remembered to post it today. It is an interview with Jayne Merkel, a architectural historian and writer.

I especially like the comments about the power of planning as it relates to Cincinnati.

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Filed under planning