Archives for posts with tag: DIY

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!

cross posted from Spacing Atlantic

This summer across the country, the idea that vegetables can and should be grown in the city continues to gain momentum. Urban agriculture is a lot of things, but as a formal movement promotes local, sustainable food systems, renewed inner-city social and physical health, and a shift toward people-oriented urbanism. Inner city food production has obvious impacts on the urban landscape, creating pleasant productive spaces in otherwise unproductive, sterile land.

Halifax has many lovely gardens, many of which can be found on the Halifax Garden Network’s user-generated map. You can, of course, engage in urban gardening in a variety of ways, ranging from formalized municipal allotments, to semi-private community gardens, to straight up guerilla gardens.

The nexus of do-it-yourself city planning and urban agriculture, guerilla gardening is a reminder of the possibility and importance of informal urban design. With the eye of a guerilla gardener, a quick scan of any street in Halifax presents many plots of public and private land that have the potential to be reclaimed and transformed from barren, asphalt spaces into beautiful urban places.

On my regular bike trips to the Far North End, I have noticed the slow cultivation of an otherwise barren lot at Agricola and Bilby. Though I haven’t met them, it seems that an individual or a group of people have taken it upon themselves to transform what was (as some quick Google Street View investigative work revealed) an extremely desolate corner, into a lovely urban space.

 Many vegetables and flowers have been planted, and thoughtfully labelled to educate curious onlookers about the varieties of species grown there. Though the changes are few, the introduction of a variety of vegetation and DIY landscape architecture imbues a formerly neglected, barren corner into a space that is obviously cared for, and as a result, has become a beautiful place to be.

It’s not news that official urban planning in Halifax often leaves much to be desired. A history of decisions that have favoured developers and promoted car culture, Halifax has a notorious knack for destroying communities in the name of potential economic development and urban renewal. With the potential widening of Bayers road on the horizon, it’s obvious that official planning in Halifax, for now, will continue along its historically misguided footsteps, while the rest of the world experiments in progressive, community-oriented urban design.

Guerilla gardens, like the one at Agricola and Bilby, are one of the many ways that we can take shaping-the-city into our own hands. As the summer roars on and the gardening season reaches its peak, let us celebrate these fantastic guerilla gardens, reminders that we do not have to be the passive recipients of top-down city plans, but that we can be, and are, active agents in our cityscape.