The city’s streets provide — that’s for sure.

In a big enough city, there are so many objects floating around that claim no owner. These objects are there for you when you need them: they present themselves when you are oriented to reality in such a way that you can become aware of their presence.

For example, as we speak, there are thousands of wood boards circulating Toronto’s streets. You are sure to regularly ignore their existence all over the city. But as soon as you need a wood board, for whatever purpose, these wayward objects present themselves to you, offering their availability for your intents and projects.

Yes, the street provides — that’s for sure.

Which leads me to the title of this post, and a recent motto I’ve adopted: “design with the street in mind”.

It’s an approach to DIY design that I’ve been refining, and am excited to share to my readers.

When you have an at-home project in mind, let’s say, building a compost system for your backyard garden, put pen to paper and make a plan. In the DNA of that plan, include the unexpected dimensions and characteristics of the materials you will find on the street to build your project. You’ll find it fuels the creative process, and offers unexpected innovations and refinements to your original plan.

Recently, building a backyard composter for my garden, I had a vague idea of what I needed to realize the plan successfully. I made a list of objects I would need: a container with holes, a couple of scoops, a tall container to keep woodchips, a lipped, flat piece of material to contain the mess of the compost.

I made a diagram of the plan that included rough ideas of these objects, objects I intended to find on the street but hadn’t encountered yet.

And with this flexible, open ended plan, I hit the streets, and after two or three days, the objects I needed presented themselves to me, roughly meeting the characteristics I had initially defined. But the materials I found indeed exceeded my expectations, and contributed to refining and innovating the original plan, creating a much better composter than I initially had in mind.

So my friend, understand that the street provides, and

Design with the Street in mind !

Happy scavenging, fellow urban geographers!