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week of May 28th

31 May 2012

Two stories showing ways to give meaning to public places that we usually don't think about, but that are extremely important to the public place: the sidewalk:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

From Tom Stoelker with the Architect's Newspaper

In her artist statement Nagasawa said that by planting native trees and etching the traced shadows onto the New York stone, the project aims to memorialize local history.  As the young trees grow they will become a “fixed marker of change” in the evolving neighborhood and will inspire people “to think about their own presence over time.”

Miniture Memorials in Berlin

From Eric Westervelt at NPR

Guenther Demnig is the artist and sculptor behind the stumbling stones (shown in the photo in the link). Here, he installs new bricks in Berlin. He says formal memorials are too abstract. Not so with the stumbling stones. "Suddenly they are there, right outside your front door, at your feet, in front of you," he says.

29 May 2012

Will Doig in Salon:

From bike lanes in Brooklyn to desperately needed housing in D.C., public micromanagement has become such a problem that several cities are now trying to rein in the Not-In-My-Backyard crowd. “The current process does not work for anyone,” one urban design expert told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We want the Planning Commission to focus on big planning issues, not micro-design issues.”How tiny bands of refuseniks and wealthy obstructionists absorbed so much power provides instructive lessons for how they might be stopped.

As a reaction to Robert Moses Urban Planning type debacles from the 1940s through the 1970s, we have succeeded the power of city building to a class of reactionaries. A pendulum swing to the opposite extreme.

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