Archives for posts with tag: new york city

Exciting news, dear readers!

Your Urban Geographer is taking flight, and traveling to the biggest city in Carolinia — New York City, that is.

Though I defined the southern limits of Carolinia’s borders as a small portion of upstate New York, a broader definition of the Carolinian bioregion includes New York City — the same forest as Toronto. The Carolinian forest is known as the Eastern Deciduous forest in the US due to slightly different approaches to ecology north and south of the border. In any case, I am excited to explore New York City with this bioregional lens.

Though there are no ravines in New York City, to my knowledge, I will explicitly find my way to forested urban areas, to feel the forest. Will it feel familiar? Will I recognize the species? Will I find parallels between New York and Torontonian culture, since they have the same ecology?

My hypothesis for Toronto is that the Carolinian ecoregion is dynamic, small scale and dense. The dynamacy certainly holds true for New York, but does the small scale, dense beauty remain the same there? Since Toronto is at the northern edge of Carolinia, perhaps the growth gets larger further south, explaining New York’s propensity for grandeur. We will have to wait and see.

For now, one clue is the New York Parks and Recreation logo: a maple leaf — an important species for Carolinia, up here.

tumblr_inline_mlxejycn0t1qz4rgp NYC_Parks_before_signage_02_sm


This post originally appeared on the Pop Up City

Urbanism and sustainability undeniably go hand in hand. What first comes to mind is the prototypical ‘Green City’ — a cityscape rich with parks, trees and productive vertical farms draped over high rises.

As cities are incredibly complex, so must be any sort of urban sustainability, which can come in many more forms than a ‘Green City’. With so much going on in an urban environment, there’s bound to be some excess energy flows. So why waste that energy, if you can turn it into something that’s better, fun, and productive? That’s what we call Parasite Urbanism — strategies and urban interventions that creatively make use of spaces or energies that otherwise would be neglected or would go to waste, contributing to a wider concept of urban sustainability. Let’s take a look at three of the best examples of urban parasites that we’ve highlighted on the Pop Up City. They all make use of a variety of otherwise neglected spaces or energy, launching them into places that are more useful, more productive and more fun!

Softwalks, New York CitySoftwalks, New York City

1. New York City’s Softwalks

In New York City, over 6000 ‘scaffolding sheds’ cover the city’s sidewalks at any given point in time. Taking advantage of the shelter they provide, Softwalks is an initiative dedicated to improving the pedestrian experience in New York City, transforming these sheds from passing through spaces to pleasant places to relax, sit, and eat. Softwalks are a DIY urban parasite: packaged in a convenient kit to let people turn local scaffolding into their own temporary hangout spaces. Have a seat, hang around a counter table or enjoy the planters that’ve been attached to metal beams. All Softwalk elements are easily attached and removed when you want to continue your walk. Now that’s what we call pop-up!

Stairway Cinema, Auckland

2. Auckland’s Parasite Cinema

In Auckland, New Zealand, a small movie theater was constructed over an exterior stairwell as an extension to the rest of the building. This small parasite cinema was made by the architects of OH.NO.SUMO and uses the steps of a staircase as seats. Right on the side of a busy street, the theater has place for approximately seven people. This clever construction is made out of a timber frame covered with three layers of fabric that provide a waterproof exterior, and a real cinema-like experience. OH.NO.SUMO designed the cinema in response to the lack of social interaction happening at bus stops and launderettes on the corner, with people increasingly absorbed in their own world within their mobile phones. The program of the Stairway Cinema is curated online by the audience itself, making the project embedded in both the physical and digital worlds. The great thing about this parasite is that it sheds a different light on a common urban space, transforming an everyday spot into a place that can be used completely differently.

Pay-phone library, New York City

3. New York City’s Pay-Phone Libraries

Making use New York City’s ever present pay phones — a dying breed in the streets of of cities around the world, the Department of Urban Betterment took the parasite strategy to transform this a ‘problem’ into an opportunity. New York City has 13,659 pay phones spread throughout its streets — most of them are hardly used. This parasitic urban intervention is repurposing phone booths into communal libraries or book drops. Although we’ve seen several efforts to transform old phone booths into book shops, this project is interesting as it is a parasite that uses the existing construction while leaving the phone itself untouched and fully operable. Furthermore, the installation is easy to remove. The meaning of a pay phone might be lost to the new generation of smart phone users. Pay phones can be considered relics of a time in which shared public facilities were characterizing public spaces. With this miniature library, The Department of Urban Betterment uses a parasite strategy effectively to imagine a new public use for these intriguing artifacts.


In a series of six articles we’re exploring new forms of urbanism where bottom-up, DIY and spontaneity are key. Become a new-style city-maker with the Stadsklas (City Class), an action-driven summer course in the Netherlands organized by Stroom, that gets you ready to tackle urban issues in the 21st century.


This post originally appeared on the Pop-Up City

The popular image of New York City today is of a shiny global capital — a sleek and modern, 24-hour city with a booming economy and internationally influential art and design scene.

How quickly the world has forgotten New York’s gritty reputation only 20 years ago. New York’s urban form hasn’t changed much since 1993 – but the culture sure has. In the 80s wealth quickly drained into the leafy suburbs, leaving behind a hollow, dirty and rough cityscape largely inhabited by socially marginalized people and fringe cultures. New York City in the 80s and 90s was a place of crime, rats, sex shows, police, drugs and punks: a place most people didn’t want to be.

Recalling 1993 is a project that pays homage to the City’s relatively recent past. It is an immersive journey into New York in 1993 — its people, streetscapes, and stories. The project looks past the contemporary glitz and intense capital investment of today to a much different city whose tough reputation kept most people away. As you will discover with the project, despite its bad reputation, New York City was home to a tight and vibrant community with its own landmarks, villains, mascots and heroes.

Recalling 1993

Making use of 5000 pay phones across Manhattan, Recalling 1993 invites you to listen to stories from the athletes, journalists, activists, celebrities, club kids, bouncers, historians, hustlers, artists, punks, coaches, hippies and nuns who inhabited the streets 20 years ago. The intimacy of the stories gives access to authentically re-experience the city as it was in 1993, and are broad ranging in subject matter, with topics like art, culture, crime, hop hop, gentrification, nightlife, fashion and real estate.

Recalling 1993

Recalling 1993 is a project by New York City’s New Museum that thoughtfully takes art out of the white-space gallery and into the city’s streets. While making the city into a gallery is not a new concept, Recalling 1993 is notable in its coverage and breadth. The use of pay phones is also interesting as they are “one of the last remaining relics of that time”, a dramatic testament to how much this city has changed in 20 years.

Recalling 1993 also has an online component: all 5000 recordings can be accessed on the project’s website, using an easily navigable, overlaid google map of Manhattan. You can even virtually explore the city with Streetview as you listen, enriching the stories with the experience of the locations they take place in.

Recalling 1993

Another interesting element of this project is its contribution to New York City’s brand. Part of New York’s identity is that it is a tough place. But now, it’s a safe, clean, genteel and heavily invested-in city. Nevertheless, the toughness of New Yorkers remains a globally famous brand. Recalling 1993 appeals to this mythical time, solidifying what it means to be an authentic New Yorker and projecting this identity out into the world.

Recalling 1993

Recalling 1993 is a quality project that will undoubtedly lead to thoughtful reconsiderations of New York’s cityscape. In an era of hyper-mobility, it’s important to allow for appreciations of local urban history. Knowing the city’s history makes us feel more connected to the spaces we inhabit, even if we are new comers. Recalling 1993‘s stories about specific streets people live on and use daily provide a hyper-localized art experience, and are very accessible as a result.

Now the question is, when will Google Street View let us flip between images from today and the past?

Hi fam,
I’m well in New York — staying with a friend, Sasha, in a neighbourhood called Bushwick in Brooklyn. Very cool spot — Mexican/hipster populations — kids playing in fire hydrants to avoid muggy weather — wood sided town-houses a la halifax? — people hanging on the sidewalk with plastic fold out tables and bbqs — nice street art.
Going to Natural History Museum today to sketch elephants. Then to Long Island City (?).
Back in Halifax tomorrow, after a stop at artisan market and brief considerations of whether I should stay in Montreal (prob won’t).