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- July 23, 2010BY EMILY EHLERS
5.5 Designers' wallpaper maze [Photo Credit: Switched on Set]
Like the word itself, the exhibit offers projects that blur any distinction there may still be between technology and art, designer and user or subject and object. Drawing from household goods, video games and prison-inmate implements, TechnoCRAFT displays frameworks, which the user then mods, tweaks and hacks to fit his or her needs. It is the perfect symbiosis.
It's great to see the role of the designer chopped and screwed back together. Among the many striking objects in this exhibit are the bike seat fastened to the legs of a toddler's high chair; build-your-own shoes, soda label and videogame hero; the malleable titanium cube waiting to be crushed into a form-fitting chair; and modular product development open platforms, called bugs.
As delightful as the exhibit is, it's difficult to step midstride into a participatory art project without being able to participate. The 40' by 15' wallpaper maze upon which the artist traced a dozen dead-end paths in magic marker practically begged me to pick up a marker and give it a go. But do-not-touch decorum and omnipresent gallery attendant foiled all hope of that.
Even if a museum isn't the best place to experience art as an interactive process, TechnoCRAFT is inspiring and loads of fun.
In the same do-it-yourself spirit, SPUR's DIY Urbanism exhibition opening Tuesday, September 7, will showcase innovative urban projects defined by their bottom-up approach to urban intervention.Tags: Exhibits
- July 22, 2010BY FABIANA MEACHAM
The Dogpatch may already be on everyone's radar as a neighborhood on the rise (see last year's New York Times "Surfacing" feature), but touring the area's artisan manufacturers lends a much more tangible element to all the hype. This former shipbuilding center has attracted a new wave of craftsmen, producing everything from messenger bags to chocolates to modern backyard cabanas. SFMade's Kate Sofis led us through the Dogpatch's flourishing manufacturing community, providing expertise on all things locally made.
Rickshaw Bags' Dogpatch headquarters [Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh]
Designed and made onsite in the Dogpatch, Rickshaw Bags' customizable products have a fast production turnover, moving from design phase to market in a matter of weeks — just one of the benefits of manufacturing locally.
Nick Damner showcases his Modern Cabana [Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh]
Modern Cabana's backyard cabins represent the fruitful partnership of an architect and general contractor: sleek, efficient structures designed to help San Franciscans maximize their limited space. Starting at 100 square feet (the largest accessory structure permitted by the building code without a permit in San Francisco), these structures can be built and installed within one week.
The Recchiuti chocolate factory [Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh]
Opening one of many dull grey doors in a vast hallway of the American Industrial Center, Michael Recchiuti led us into his chocolate factory, Recchiuti Confections. I don't know if it was the chocolate waterfall, cookie cooling tunnel or all the talk of "copulating" flavors, but I found myself wanting to pull an Augustus Gloop and jump right in there. Fortunately for everyone else, chocolate cravings were satiated before any serious contamination occurred.
Michael Recchiuti knows how to treat his customers [Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh]
- July 21, 2010BY COLLEEN MCHUGH
Colleen McHugh, native San Franciscan and resident SPUR photographer, will blog about a different walk through San Francisco each week of the summer, reflecting on what it means to live as a pedestrian in this city and some of the ways we can improve upon that experience. There are so many things a walk in San Francisco can be — from a protest to an errand to an active use of public space. This walk will serve as a kind of memory in motion. Find a map of Colleen's walk here.
Above: Stairs descending to the Sutro Baths
I've arrived at my old favorite spot in San Francisco — a graffiti-covered concrete relic of the coast's military past, at the very edge of the city and the continent, with a view of the Pacific to the left and the Golden Gate to the right. Land's End. When I was in high school, this particular spot was hidden behind a foreboding "Warning: Dangerous Cliffs!" sign and a maze of bushes. Now the bushes have been cleared, replaced by a newly-paved lookout, and my old favorite view in this city is fully exposed — to the coin operated binoculars in the parking lot above and to the eroding cliffs below.
Above: Views to the left and to the right of my former favorite spot in San Francisco
Top: Paved lookout. Bottom: Coin-operated Binoculars from the parking lot.
At this point on a Monday evening after work, I've walking about ten blocks down the forgotten sidewalks at the end of Geary Blvd. And as I arrive to the pristinely-paved trail around Land's End, I am reminded of one of the many great things a walk in this city can be — a measure of change and a memory of the past. The last time I walked along this path — a favorite of runners and dog walkers — it was a mix of dirt and rocks. And the surrounding foliage was not carefully protected native species as it is now, but invasive ice plant. The linking maze of paths have since been closed off for eroding cliff stabilization. So much has changed. Originally, this trail was carved for train tracks — a reminder of the leisure destination this area was a century ago.
Top: Pristine Land's End trail. Bottom: Untamed wide sidewalk at the end of Geary.
I continue down the hill to Sutro Baths, a marshland/concrete ruin below the Cliff House. As I walk through the grass, watching ducks congregate at sunset in the old baths, my shoes are muddied and my socks become wet. It's difficult to imagine the glory days of the former world's largest indoor swimming facility, and the tales of which my grandfather and father have told me over the years sound like fiction. Now part of the GGNRA, the Sutro Baths and Lands End trail are a destination for much more serene leisure activities, like this solitary walk I find myself on this particular evening.
Up over the hill to the south, Ocean Beach and the Great Highway come into view, as do the unsightly condos on the site of the former Playland at the Beach (one of the few remaining memories of which is the carousel that now operates at Yerba Buena). I turn up Balboa as dusk sets in. A passing 31 bus marks the city's decision in the 1950s to forego the old B-line streetcar (Yes, there used to be streetcar lines A-I.) in favor of buses. In the distance, the familiar Balboa Theatre sign shines, even as many of the city's other old movie houses are shutting down. I pass a lively fencing class in a studio down the street, and finally return to Simple Pleasures — my favorite coffee shop, virtually unchanged over the six years I've been going there.
Top: An unexpected fencing class. Bottom: An unchanged Simple Pleasures CafÃ©.
[Photo Credit: All photos by Colleen McHugh]
- July 20, 2010BY ELIZABETH HOLDEN
Urban farming events are plentiful right now in San Francisco. Here's a summary of this week's line-up:
SPUR Young Urbanists: Conversations on Urban Farming To what extent can we support a community's food and health needs through urban farming? With Shakirah Simley of Slow Jams, Brooke Budner and Caitlyn Galloway of Little City Gardens, and the San JosÃ©-based Village Harvest.
When: Tuesday, July 20, 6-8pm Where: SPUR Urban Center (654 Mission St.)
The Mission Community Market opens for its first farmers market, where people from the community celebrate the Mission district's unique identity, support local emerging businesses, and hold youth and arts programs in a safe and beautiful public space.
When: Thursday, July 22, 4-8pm Where: 22nd and Bartlett St.
FRESH screening The San Francisco Public Library presents an advance screening of FRESH (watch the trailer), which brings together some of the big names in the sustainable food movement like Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin, and Will Allen. The presenters will talk about a series of events and volunteer opportunities that will coincide with the October release of the film in the Bay Area.
When: Thursday, July 22, 6 pm Where: Koret Auditorium, SFPL Main Branch, 100 Larkin (at Grove)
SF Underground Market A market and a live show - all rolled into one. Think a farmers market, but at night, with music and drinks.
When: Saturday, July 24, 11am to midnight Where: SOMArts, 934 Brannan St.
- July 20, 2010BY JULIE KIM
[Image: The New York Times]
Where will I live?
How will I get around if I can no longer walk or drive?
Will I be able to afford health care?
Can I hope for something more than whittling away my golden years in a nursing home?
Whether you face these questions around growing old for yourself, or indirectly through the concerns of your parents, grandparents or other senior relatives and friends, the issues around aging are tough.
And let's face it: no one likes to think about getting old.
The issues are not made any easier by the traditional paradigm of aging and senior housing and care in the U.S.—a narrow field of options defined on one end by living in your home and having frequent or live-in care and on the other, being confined to a different sort of "home" more reminiscent of a hospital than a supportive and stimulating environment in which to live out your golden years.
It's no surprise that many who are dealing with aging issues are anxious they'll be presented with an either/or option, neither of which is exactly right for their situation.
But thanks to the work of leaders in the field of aging, that paradigm is starting to shift, the field widening to include a more diverse array of options. I was glad to hear some of them discussed last week at a roundtable hosted by Kuth Ranieri Architects, in preparation for SPUR's upcoming "Cities for Aging" program series, which kicks off next Tuesday evening at the Urban Center.
These options fall loosely under the umbrella of "aging in place," which we framed in broader terms—as a way to foster more choice and independence—than the more common definition allows.
Joyce Polhamus, director of Smith Group's Senior Living Practice, touched on the importance of variety in designing, planning and building communities for seniors, a population of 60-85 year-olds that will comprise an estimated 20 percent of San Francisco's population by 2020 (a nearly 30 percent rise from 2004.)
Polhamus noted that some elders will want to remain fully independent, renting or owning homes in major cities where daily life can be carried out without a car. (Although, as reported by today's New York Times, there's a lot more we can do—lengthening crosswalk signals, for instance—to make cities more "age-friendly.") "¨"¨Others may find that prospect daunting, and opt instead to buy into a self-sustaining development in the suburbs, a city unto itself with a roster of amenities (think yoga classes, gardening clubs and nutrition workshops) and a supportive, community-oriented feel.
Nader Shabahangi of AgeSong, a developer of senior communities in San Francisco and the East Bay, believes we need to offer more diverse housing options (low-income rentals as well as high-end condos), and more innovative models for care (specialized transitional, emotional and behavioral therapy). And Byron Kuth wondered how senior communities of the future might be designed to support emerging principles of aging, health and community.
Kuth, Polhamus and Shabahangi are all panelists for Tuesday's program. They'll describe where and how we need to push the envelope when it comes to urban planning, architecture and policy. Here are some questions I hope will be addressed by Tuesday's panel:
How might we retrofit outdated nursing homes and build new communities to reflect this expanded paradigm?
In the realm of public policy, could (or should?) California go as far as Oregon did and create a State Unit on Aging to implement a statewide plan to support our rising population of seniors?
What options are out there for those who don't (or won't) have the luxury of good physical, mental and financial health?What are the differences between assisted, independent and fully supportive living?"¨"¨
For Tuesday's program, we're lucky to have Kenny Caldwell of Caldwell Communications + Marketing on board as our able inquisitor and discussion facilitator.
COMMUNITIES FOR AGING
A three-part program series "¨
July 27, August 4 & 5, 2010
Communities for Aging "¨
Tuesday, July 27, 6 p.m."¨
Featuring Byron Kuth, Joyce Polhamus and Nader Shabahangi"¨
Moderated by Kenneth Caldwell "¨
Free for SPUR members; $5 for non-members "¨Reception to follow
Community programs for urban seniors "¨
Wednesday, August 4, 12:30 p.m.
Featuring Seth Kilbourn of Openhouse, Steve Nakajo of Kimochi, Inc. and Christina Olague of the Senior Action Network"¨
Free for SPUR members; $5 for non-members"¨"¨
Institute on Aging campus tour
Thursday, August 5, 12:30 p.m."¨
With Don Lusty of BRIDGE Housing and Ken Donnelly of the Institute on Aging "¨
$10; SPUR members only; Register here"¨
- July 19, 2010BY ELIZABETH HOLDEN
Fritz Haeg's Animal Estates Snag Tower [Photo Credit: Monique Deschaines/FOR-SITE Foundation]
How does public art play with the space of an urban area? In San Francisco, public art is important to people, but open space is scarce. Open spaces dedicated to slices of visual quality, such as the POPOS or Pavement to Parks projects, engage the public in a conversation about art without the confinements of a museum. The recently opened Presidio Habitats redefines this conversation of art and place by exhibiting art in an urban national park.
This installation is unique because it is built for native animals. Architect Fritz Haeg embraces the idea of building for the animal client through his Animal Estates project, which he has installed throughout the United States and built according to the natural space of the specific area. One of these installations is Snag Tower in Presidio Habitats.
Haeg's work does not focus on promoting himself as an artist, but rather blends into the environment, like another tree, through its minimalist design. Snag Tower stands alone, but like a tree becomes a unique part in a collective whole. The FOR-SITE Foundation, which aims to promote "art about place," describes Snag Tower as "a prototype for a collective model home designed to accommodate six animal clients that would otherwise live in a snag, or standing dead tree, in the park." Haeg's desire to share the overlooked beauty of a dead tree, by recreating it with the Snag Tower installation, presents the public with a new definition of natural beauty.
In this initial phase, Presidio Habitats embodies art about place because it represents and interacts with the environment of the Presidio. Perhaps over time this unique example of public art will come to define the park. Haeg's piece in particular represents a subtle piece of architecture that defines and responds to its surroundings. Presidio Habitats stands apart from other public art installations because it changes the interaction of art and place in urban areas by graying the relationship between them.Tags: public art
- July 16, 2010BY FABIANA MEACHAM
Last week's Parks and Parklets tour led a group of enthusiastic urbanists to three of the city's parklets — miniature parks built on roadway and parking spaces reclaimed for the pedestrian realm.
Divisadero: We kicked off our tour at the Divisadero Street parklet in front of Mojo Bicycle CafÃ©. CafÃ© patrons sipped coffee and admired their gleaming two-wheelers as Great Streets Project's Liza Pratt filled us in on the parklet's history: installed in March of this year, this newborn parklet has been a boon to business, inspiring Mojo to apply for a license to serve liquor outdoors.
En route to the Castro Parklet, SPUR members and staff traded stories, shared laughs and tried not to notice the obscenities scrawled on the battered wood veneer of the 24 bus, (among the most offensive: "I â™¥ STEELY DAN").
Castro: Seth Boor of Boor Bridges Architecture joined us in the Castro, where he told us about the collaborative design process. Boor led the project, but worked with landscape architect Flora Grubb and local sculptor Paul Cesewski on the garden design and rolling gate, respectively. The custom-built gate, created from salvaged steel obtained at no cost, rolls open to allow streetcars to pass through, but remains closed most of the time, creating a lovely barrier against traffic for parklet users. Due to a limited budget (around $50,000), parklet construction can't interfere with any below-street infrastructure, so instead of hooking up to sewer and water lines, passive, ground-level drainage channels were added to the concrete planters.
Mission: A long walk to 22nd and Bartlett Street ended with at the Rebar-designed Walket, which Rebar describes as "a modular, flexible sidewalk extension system designed to create new public spaces for people by extending the pedestrian realm into the parking lane." A diverse crowd in various states of repose was found on, under, and next to the structure.
Thirsting for more parklet adventures, one intrepid tour-goer led a solo expedition to the Guerrero Street parklet after the tour ended. Most of us, however, returned to our respective workplaces, enlightened by an afternoon of small, economical and successful public spaces.
[Photo Credit: All photos by Colleen McHugh]
- July 16, 2010BY ANIKA JESI
[Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh]
SFMOMA architects meet the public: The project of designing the $250 million SFMOMA extension to house the incoming Fisher Collection has been narrowed down to four eclectic finalists. In a short film, each architect discusses their individual hopes for the future of MOMA and their theories on what a museum should be.
Science city stores warm air from summer to heat buildings in winter: A Swiss University has found a way to heat its campus with virtually no carbon emissions. Their innovative method, which could have significant implications for city-scaled sustainability solutions, stores warm air from the summer, and uses it as a heat source during winter.
Will California achieve its anti-sprawl targets? California's anti-sprawl bill promises to bring about much needed change by requiring metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to invest in projects that promote sustainable land use, but will MPOs shift their investments away from destructive development in order for these changes to be realized?
Subway on the street: The Bx12 in NYC offers a glimpse into the bright future of bus transit, if buses are given a dramatic makeover. In this utopian, but not altogether unattainable future, passengers board in mere seconds, and buses glide through rush hour traffic with ease.
So-Cal seeks High Line West: With the recent success of New York's High Line, it's no surprise that LA is unveiling plans to build the West Coast version of the popular elevated park.Tags: Weekly Snapshot
- July 15, 2010BY TIMOTHEA TWAY
[Photo Credit: flickr user Sam Williams]
Earlier this month, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) unanimously adopted new air quality guidelines related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and particulate matter (PM 2.5) from land use projects. The comprehensive new guidelines, among the most stringent in the nation, address the impacts of air pollutants, as well as recent changes in state and federal air quality. The guidelines also include air quality significance thresholds and mitigation measures local agencies can use when preparing air quality impact analyses under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Some significant changes to the guidelines include:
- Single family housing projects of 56 dwelling units or greater, hotels with more than 83 hotel rooms and general office buildings with more than 53,000 square feet will all be considered to have a significant impact on GHG emissions under CEQA.
- Local governments are encouraged to adopt qualified GHG Reduction Strategies.
- New screening criteria and threshold levels have been set for extremely fine particulate matter emissions and toxic air contaminants. Projects which fall above these new thresholds will be required determine whether the project will result in a significant impact, including evaluation of emissions within a 1,000 foot radius of the proposed project.
Stricter greenhouse gas and particulate matter guidelines are a good thing, right? Not always, say some who argue that the new guidelines may inadvertently lead to more sprawl by making it harder to develop the denser parts of our region. Some worry that the new regulatory obstacles will drive up the costs of future affordable housing, infill, and transit-oriented development (TOD) projects. Developers and cities are concerned that the new guidelines will make compliance with SB 375, the State's law which requires compact development, more difficult.
The guidelines do contain a method for local governments to accelerate the CEQA review process for projects that are infill or transit-oriented. To do this, a city can prepare a GHG Reduction Strategy and have it approved by BAAQMD. Projects or plans consistent with these strategies could then be considered less than significant under CEQA, and therefore exempt from full review. With cities around the region reeling from the budget crisis, and in some cases cutting planning staff, however, resources to develop these strategies are in short supply.
San Francisco has already begun working on a GHG Reduction Strategy, so it is unlikely that the BAAQMD Guidelines will cause significant environmental review process changes for projects in the City; the new air quality standards will likely have more significant impacts on projects and plans in jurisdictions without GHG Reduction Strategies or detailed climate change related policies.
- July 14, 2010BY JON ROGERS
Determined to see changes occur in their neighborhoods despite tight city budgets, many DIY Urbanists are taking matters into their own hands. They are rolling up their sleeves to make improvements to their built environment by planning, designing, and implementing projects. Because DIY Urbanism projects are conceived by individuals and implemented on tight budgets, innovation and creativity are key ingredients in any DIY project. As a result, DIY Urbanism projects are as diverse as the people who implement them. Projects can run the gambit from short to long-term endeavors, and can include anything from greening and beautification of public spaces to temporary improvements to stalled construction projects.
Aside from jumpstarting an otherwise stalled project, DIY Urbanism offers several other benefits, not least of which is empowering individuals to make a positive difference in their communities. In direct contrast to typical "top-down" approaches to planning, DIY Urbanism's "bottom-up" approach requires that individuals actively partake in shaping the city around them. This, in turn, strengthens the connection between individuals and their surroundings, and can even lead to a more engaged citizenry.
Featured Project: Life in the Fast Lane
Not all DIY Urbanism projects have to serve a particular goal such as beautification, public safety, or information sharing. Check out this example (sponsored by Volkswagen) from Berlin, to see what happens when a little piece of the playground is brought to a subway station. This whimsical project is a friendly reminder to have fun and shows us that a small DIY project that re-imagines a conventional environment can add a little joy to our everyday lives.
In preparation for our upcoming exhibit, DIY Urbanism: Testing grounds for social change, the blog will feature urban projects from around the world that embody the "DIY" mentality. Check back for more DIY Urbanism features in the coming weeks.