Archives for posts with tag: design

This post originally appeared on the Pop-Up City

This year, we’re marking five years of blogging on The Pop-Up City. To celebrate, we’ll be hosting The Pop-Up City Live on May 21st. The event is a great opportunity to celebrate the best of what blogging can do to shape the cities of the future. We’ll be reveling in what we’ve learnt from five years of pop-up, DIY, and bottom-up solutions for the cities of the future with exciting performances, guests, discussions, visuals and drinks.

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City blogging is a great tool to share ideas around the world toward better urban futures, but it’s also a potent tool for hyper-local community development. In the Netherlands, many community blogs have popped up and we’re excited to be inviting the founders of three Amsterdam community blogs, IlovenoordBoloBoost, and Nice Nieuw West, on stage to discuss the importance and potential of local blogging efforts.

Taking a look these examples from Amsterdam, we can see that community bloggers play a very important role in the city making process. They are the promoters, ambassadors and defenders of the neighbourhoods they represent, acting as the social sensors of their communities. With many of them representing gentrifying neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, these community blogs are also addressing an urban and social need for participation and inclusivity in formal planning initatives for all residents of these areas.



Amsterdam Noord, a short ferry trip across the IJ from the city-centre, is the frontier of gentrification in Amsterdam, home to a mix of hipster artists and immigrant communities. Ilovenoord features daily news and events about all the happenings in the neighbourhood. It could be said that the blog has been a catalyst for gentrification in the area, but it also has established an important forum for all locals to express their experiences/concerns regarding the development of the neighbourhood. The high visibility of the blog has meant that the opinions expressed on the site have reached the ears of the formal policy makers and have actually affected the decision-making process. For now, gentrification in Noord has become more inclusive, with greater initiatives in participatory planning.



Based in Bos en Lommer, or Bolo as its residents affectionately refer to it, BoloBoost is the ambassador of this neighbourhood in Amsterdam West. Peacefully tucked away from central Amsterdam, Bolo is home to 127 of the 189 nationalities that live in the city. Cheaper rents also attract many students and artists. BoloBoost has emerged as a central platform for residents of Bolo, highlighting events in the neighbourhood and places to live, work, shop and play. Established in 2011, BoloBoost arose from a feeling that the people who live in ’Bolo’ are living in a great neighbourhood, but it could be better and it “should avoid getting worse”. BoloBoost is also involved in community-event planning, such as the Bolobooze (a neighbourhood pub crawl).

Nice Nieuw-West

Nice Nieuw West

Nieuw-West is a large residential area comprised of many neighbourhoods with a centrally located park. Like the other Amsterdam blogs, Nice Nieuw West is a platform for the community, with events, markets and business listings highlighting hotspots in the neighbourhood. It is exhaustive in its coverage of the happenings in this relatively large part of the city. Nice Nieuw West actively seeks neighbourhood ambassadors  to contribute to its blog, another way it is actively ‘making community’ in this part of the city.

Join us on May 21st for The Pop-Up City Live to hear from the founders of these three community blogs in Amsterdam about their initiatives, their vision for community blogging, and their exciting future projects!

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Cross-posted from the Pop-Up City

Inspiration: Contemporary Design Methods in Architecture

Today, the link between architecture and digital software is so strong, it’s easy to forget that it hasn’t always been this way. Architecture’s reliance on digital design programs has lead to the spread of a homogenous ‘global-style’ architecture — buildings made from the same material, designed by the same methods, using the same software, all over the world.

Inspiration: Contemporary Design Methods in Architecture is a compilation of practices in contemporary architecture that invites designers to reconsider the digital in their design process. While digital programs are empowering, Inspiration establishes that they shouldn’t be relied on. Using brilliant examples from contemporary global architecture, Inspiration maintains that the best ideas are established in analogue settings, followed by digital experimentation and development. Inspiration is an excellent book with two sides: It is an extensive catalogue of contemporary approaches to design, focusing on digital techniques that are emerging in the field of architecture and illustrated by spectacular examples from all over the world. Inspiration is also an essential guide to design, and its broad themes will appeal to anyone in the creative sector.

Casa de Musica, Porto

Inspiration is a beautifully designed book that contains over 800 images and illustrations. Its glossy pages and striking photography invite deep consideration of digital processes’ impact on architecture. Written by architects Mark Mückenheim and Juliane Demel, and published by BIS PublishersInspiration is a product of the authors’ commitment to a diverse field of contemporary architecture. They acknowledge that cultural relevance is easily lost in contemporary architecture’s mass produced design and construction. The authors invite you to look past the homogenous appearance of global architecture and focus on the best examples: buildings with high architectural value that respond to their local context. Inspiration makes the case that good design can use digital software to achieve just that.

De Young Museum, San Francisco

One way the authors show how digital processes achieve good quality, highly localized design is the ability to make communication between designers and production-facilities easy. Architects can now directly communicate with manufacturers, and can customize highly specialized building parts, enabling the reemergence of local style. Digital design also means that ornamentation is back in contemporary architecture. Gone are the days of Modernism’s rejection of decoration as frivolous and unnecessary. Now, with digital software, ornamentation can be an essential part of a structure’s design. Architects’ ability to focus on ornamentation can help define a places’ unique identity.

Danish Pavillion, Shanghai World Expo 2010

Readers of The Pop-Up City will be interested in Inspiration’s examination of local identity within a globalized world. Inspiration argues that today, the search for uniqueness is a central theme of architecture, and can be employed to establish a city’s identity. The principles of design are firmly rooted as the pillars of city marketing and corporate identity. Digital design methods, used properly, are an effective approach to creating unique, identity-defining and highly localized architecture.

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

In conclusion we can state that Inspiration is a compellingly structured book that provides an excellent overview of digital design methods, and best practices within contemporary architecture. Appealing to both students and veterans in all fields of design, we know that you will definitely be inspired after reading this book!

Inspiration: Contemporary Design Methods in Architecture
By Mark Mückenheim and Juliane Demel
With guest authors Moritz Fleischmann and Tobias Klein
BIS Publishers
29.5 x 23.5 cm, hardcover
274 pages
ISBN: 978-90-6369-267-4
Language: English
EUR 45.00

Cross-posted from the Pop-Up City

Last year the Pop-Up City met We Heart’s James Davidson in Helsinki during the city’s fantastic series of World Design Capital events. A few weeks ago he sent his recently published book Create GB Volume 1: Celebrating Great British Creativity. Looking back on the celebration of UK culture during London’s 2012 Olympic games, the book highlights the best of British creativity, exploring the country’s cutting edge design, and the significance of being in the UK to the creative process.

We Heart is a UK-based online magazine that features content on lifestyle and design, updated daily. It is an influential and internationally read source for the latest in all things global design: restaurants, travel, architecture, fashion, photography, technology and more. For their first publication, We Heart decided to focus on design matters closest to home.

Create GB Volume 1: Celebrating Great British Creativity

Designed by SB StudioCreate GB is extensive and wide ranging in its coverage of British art and design. Everything is included, as long as it’s exciting, and as long as it’s from the UK. The book is divided into two parts: a glossy catalogue of introductions to a number of UK-based creative firms, artists and designers, accompanied by visually stunning photographs and samples of their work.

The next section has a more in-depth Q&A section, featuring interviews with each firm/artist highlighted, exploring their practice, future projects, personal questions (“what makes you smile?”) and some quirkier inquiries such as “If we could replace the Ruler on the bank notes with one iconic British design, what would you choose?” — answers range from a “a bulldog” (Cat Patterson, fashion designer), “Alfred Hitchcock” (Dominic Davies, photographer) to “a fish and chips supper” (Lick Me I’m Delicious, pop-up ice cream makers).

Create GB Volume 1: Celebrating Great British Creativity

The rest of the questions focus on the importance of the UK to the artists’ and designers’ creative practice. Essentially, Create GB is an exploration into an important concern in this age of globalization, and a topic The Pop-Up City often highlights: does place matter? Questions such as “Do you think location effects creativity?” and “Is Britain’s creative industry too London-centric?” emphasize how British culture effects art practice, and the importance of being in London and the UK to creativity.

Among the incredible number of creatives in the fields of visual arts, fashion & graphic design, Create GB highlights a few urban design and art practices that will interest readers of The Pop-Up City.

Create GB Volume 1: Celebrating Great British Creativity

Create GB Volume 1: Celebrating Great British Creativity

Create GB Volume 1: Celebrating Great British Creativity

An interesting sample of UK architecture and urban design is Studio Weave, a London-based firm that combines contemporary style with concepts of sustainability and community-driven design. Their award winning designs are authentic and specific to their local contexts: location matters to Studio Weave. We especially like their Longest Bench installation in Little Hampton –  a playful urban design intervention that is built from reclaimed wood. Its modular design makes it easy to extend – and it can already seat 300 people!

Another artist we really like is Fraser Gray. Hir large scale murals combine photo realism with surrealist narrative, and are a graceful convergence of fine art and graffiti. Ze cites the political nature of hir work, and the general politicization of the art world as an inevitable reaction to the global economic crisis. Ze holds firmly that location effects creativity. Location provides significance and familiarity, and access to social networks that provide opportunity for collaboration. Ze also situates hir work within of a very British tradition of enormous murals of working life in Scottish cities: place matters to Fraser Gray!

Create GB Volume 1: Celebrating Great British CreativityCreate GB Volume 1: Celebrating Great British Creativity

With questions about possible collaborations with other UK artists, and the situation of work within quintessential British traditions, Create GB is a rallying cry for the significance of place and local-networks to creativity. Though it focuses on Britain, the book offers a good model to national creative industries worldwide. It encourages connections, place-based inspiration, and collaboration as essential to a thriving and dynamic creative industry.

Reading the interviews, the reader understands that the defiant answer to the question of the importance of location within a globalized world is that place indeed matters. Globalization has not lead to homogeneity, but rather a nuanced and energized British culture defined by its roots in tradition, and contemporary multicultural outlook, “carefully balanced on the edge of tradition and aggression” according to Fraser Gray. Most importantly, place offers a unique social network embedded within a locationally specific history of art and design — the perfect situation for creativity.

Create GB Volume 1: Celebrating Great British Creativity

In conclusion Create GB is a great book if you want an in depth insight into the UK’s art and design scene. The book’s extensive catalogue of British artists and designers offers a fantastic introduction to a variety of UK-based creative practices, while the Q&A is light, humorous and insightful. This insight into British creativity and lessons of the significance of location to creativity makes Create GB a worthwhile read. We hope that there will be a Volume 2 in the near future!

Create GB Volume 1: Celebrating Great British Creativity
Published by We Heart
Written by James Davidson and Alicja McCarthy
Edited by Dave Waddell
Designed by SB Studio
196 pages, 39 artists and designers featured
Language: English
GBP 15.00

Our HRM Alliance is hosting an All-Candidates Mayoral debate on Wednesday September 19 at the Lord Nelson Hotel in anticipation of the October 20 Municipal election.

It’s true that Halifax-the-City has a lot of untapped potential. It has unfortunately been the victim of corruption, political scandal and secrecy, and policies that continue to favour auto-oriented suburban development and generally developer-first policies.

Is voting in the hopeless state-of-our-contemporary-Canadian-democracy futile? Well, maybe… but you can’t deny the immediate nature of a Municipal election — the visceral voting process that has you as part of the conversation of Officially shaping-your-city. Provincial, Federal, these are abstract regional concepts… municipal politicians are the people that most closely effect issues that directly shape your life — things like public transportation! and liquor licenses! and development! and, other stuff directly experienced day to day!

Be even more part of the conversation, and participate in the Our HRM Alliance Mayoral Debate  — as the poster points out, questions will be taken from the audience, and, if you can’t make it, go ahead and tweet a question (#HRMAllianceDebate), or post one on Facebook and cross-your-fingers that it will be asked.

Our HRM Alliance is a fantastic organization comprised of over 40 urban, suburban and rural organization from across HRM, united in fighting for a more liveable, sustainable city.

Their efforts are valiant, and hope-inspiring: taking the enormous and somewhat ridiculous political entity known as the Halifax Regional Municipality, and transforming it instead into an opportunity for high quality, efficient, connected and sustainable regional governance with such issues as their incredibly succinct and no-doubt effective Greenbelt plan.

Plus, your Urban Geographer designed the poster for the event !

Inspired by one of the Our HRM Alliance’s Seven Solutions, and one especially pertinent to the location of the debate, Invest in Downtown and Growth Centresthe poster’s accompanying graphic and tag line “HOW DO YOU WANT YOUR CITY TO GROW” was designed to evoke reflection on the direction the city is heading, or could be heading. The green arrow is open to interpretation: after the election, and the new configuration of mayor and council, what will be this city’s official priorities? Social and ecological sustainability… or same-old same-old, i.e. money ?

UPDATE — Downtown Halifax didn’t like the original image… thought folks would confuse things and think the debate was exclusively about building height… sigh..I guess. Here’s the new design, complete with new illustration! A fractured HRM, unified by a strong core? Sure!


One more edit later, the final poster:

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!

When I passed University Avenue on the Dundas 505 streetcar west yesterday evening, I looked north, and for the first time appreciated Queen’s Park’s night-time illumination.

The building is lit subtly, four points of light highlighting the edges of its geometric roof. It accentuates Queen’s Park’s architectural features, and quietly announces its commanding presence over the street.

The lighting of Queen’s Park solidifies University Avenue’s status as Toronto’s grand boulevard, a street deserved of such a beautiful anchor point. It brings a cohesiveness to the night time street scene, as University Avenue’s traffic islands, adorned with dignified  statues and grand parades, lead gracefully toward the nobly lit structure.

A city needs symbolic design features such as these. As a complex and dissonant place, there needs to be grand, simple landscapes that all Torontonians can identify with (read Kevin Lynch’s Image of the City for more on this). University Avenue is a rare moment of Canadian confidence and exuberance expressed in its urban design. It reminds me of the grand boulevards of South American cities, like Buenos Aires’ 9 de Julio Avenue, which, with its remarkable 16 lanes, is similarly anchored by grand structures, in Buenos Aires’ case, obelisks.

Back in Toronto, the Dundas streetcar passed University Avenue and continued west, past the AGO, and through Chinatown, crossing Spadina Avenue.

Spadina, like University Avenue, is a grand boulevard. The street’s width is enormous, and its traffic boulevards, this time supporting the transit right-of-ways adorn Spadina with an impressive prestige.

But as the streetcar crossed Spadina, I looked north, and noticed that the beautiful University of Toronto building at 1 Spadina Crescent was left unlit, invisible in the darkness of the night.

It would be so simple to light it like Queen’s Park. If the University of Toronto were to light 1 Spadina Crescent to showcase its beauty at night, it would transform the feel of Spadina; it would make the street feel regal, and raise its status as the city’s other grand boulevard.

A simple urban design move would catapult Spadina Avenue into Toronto’s collective mind, establishing it as a strong anchor point of orientation and an undeniable image of our city.

Montreal versus Toronto comparisons are a common conversation I have with people who have been to both cities. It’s also something I have a lot on my mind, as I grew up in Toronto and spent some formative years living in Montreal (and am now back in Toronto — for a bit).

The cities are incredibly different — fundamentally so, especially considering that they are only five hours away from each other (which is considered very close in Canada, for all you European readers). Yes, they are both North American cities, former colonial economic outposts of European countries, and are based on a grid, but the cities that have grown around these shared circumstances are completely different.

I could write an extensive list outlining the differences from my own musings and the many conversations I’ve had with families, friends and strangers (this is a hot topic for those taking rideshares between the two cities), from the most nuanced to the most banal, from the most material to the most philosophical, but these will be topics for other posts.

For now, I’d like to sum up the differences in an elegant analogy that makes use of the cities’ prominent geographic features that my mom used earlier today, an analogy that eloquently describes a lot of my thoughts about these two very-different  yet-similar and thus-irresistibly-comparable places.

Montreal has its mountain, a raised point in the heart of the city; and,

Toronto has its ravines, forested valleys that lie below the street level and are spread throughout the city.

Montreal is easy to read: it is not challenging to find out “where-to-be” to have a good time out with others. Its culture, much like its mountain is centralized, pronounced, prominent and unmistakable.

Toronto is more difficult: one must know where-to-go to find the “good” spots. Much like its ravines, its culture is diffused, sprawling, mysterious and hard-to-find. It’s iconic skyline leads visitors to assuming that this is all Toronto’s got: what’s on the surface, without ever looking below.

So when you visit Toronto: as I say to anyone, “give it a chance”. It is a booming, exciting city, as any city of three million inevitably is. But its articulation, its manifestation of the “good life” is less marked, visible then in Montreal.

So get out there, climb that mountain —
but also explore those ravines.

Yesterday, I used Toronto’s version of the popular Montreal bikeshare, Bixi for the first time.

The experience was fun: riding through the very un-cyclist friendly streets of Toronto on a very progressive, efficient mode of transportation. It was like a puzzle piece not fitting properly into its spot.

The experience of riding a Bixi is not like riding a normal road bike. It has a unique frame, which results in a broad steering capacity They also boast a wide, comfortable seat, and gear shifters of a design distinct to Bixi bikes. The bikes have a certain sound and rhythm distinct to them; the internal chain clicking away, the sound of the gears shifting.

As a result, it was a strange experience of riding a bike in the streets of Toronto, a bike I had grown to know in Montreal and sensually associate with that city’s streets. When I closed my eyes, the feel of the bike, its rhythm, its feel as it meanders through the streets all made me feel as though it was just another breezy day on some Plateau street in early Autumn. But then, suddenly, I hit a street car track and opened my eyes, remembering that I was far away from the Bixis of Montreal, a small biker on the wide streets of Queen and Spadina in the heart of Toronto.

See also same-space different-place

Inspired by Mark Lakeman’s Chronology of City Repair, I have embarked on a continuous project of finding moments where the all encompassing grid has started to dissolve.

The grid is imposed on messy nature-culture. It is a rational, simplistic, controlling structure stemming from power. It is not what a city wants to be and, if it weren’t for constant maintenance, would inevitably dissolve.

So go out, and explore, find the moments where the grid is dissolving! Streets that are closed to traffic permanently. Large planters and outward-jutting sidewalks that break the linear flow of vehicular traffic. Come back and see some examples I’ve found too.

Being here is realizing that fundamental uniqueness of place.

Being here is that very particular weather at this time of year; The voice of Metro Morning on the Radio.

The Sound of Streetcars scraping against their metal tracks. The Sound of the Subway wooshing underground as you bike north, past chirping intersections;  the stale scent of the TTC.

Being here is knowing that Here is always — the constant clockwork of place that is fundamentally tied to some space, somewhere.


Jack Bishop uses an incredibly romantic, thick brush stroke style, evoking quaint rural landscape paintings of the 20th century, to represent the dominant suburban landscapes that define contemporary Canada. By using a style that abstracts reality, he is able to incredibly honestly engage with the state of affairs of the settings of our lives. Whereas the 20th century romantic landscapes that he is evoking evaded the reality of a dreary industrial transformation of the country, his paintings subvert that style and interrogate the landscapes that define our times.

There is a distinct quality to a row of houses that sit directly on a park in a dense urban core. Though they do not differ at-all architecturally from their regular-street counterparts, it’s the very situation of these houses that creates feelings of fleeting breeziness, of opportunity. These houses are concrete openness.

The houses open to Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto

Concrete openness toward Parc Jeanne Mance, in Montreal

Openness in Halifax, at the Windsor Parkette, just west of the Common