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Friday, August 8, 2008

REACTIVATE!! Exhibit in Valencia

posted by on August 8 at 15:35 PM

Forget about local politics. Right now I’m incredibly intrigued by this exhibit of temporary and modular architecture in Spain, in which architects and artists adapt spaces and buildings and put them to entirely new uses.

For example, in this project, FNP Architects took a 1768 pigsty and converted it, Russian doll-style, into a functioning house, adding a roof on the top.

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In this one, architects Ali Ganjavian, Key and Maki Portilla-Kawamuram and artist Tadanori Yamaguchi created a free call center to Latin America in the center of the Plaza de Colon in Madrid—a nod to the fact that the plaza commemorates Columbus’s journey to the Americas (Colon translates as Columbus).

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An LA-based firm called Electroland created the Urban Nomad Shelter pictured below. According to their web site, the shelters were conceived as both art project and “humanitarian act,” providing “a highly portable and inexpensive shelter to protect from cold, rain, and hard sidewalks.” Pretty, isn’t it?

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But it probably won’t surprise anyone to learn that my absolute favorite is this one, called Real Landscape/Real Mistake. By a German firm called Heri und Salli, it’s a four-kilometer-long crosswalk that zigzags through the urban areas of Salzburg and adjoining forest of Salzburg.

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In Seattle, the closest we’ve come to an event that repurposes car-oriented urban spaces for people is Park(ing) Day, a worldwide, one-day event in which people turn parking spaces into temporary installations. Although the original event in San Francisco turned a single parking space into a park to protest the city’s relative lack of public spaces (see below), Park(ing) exhibits now include sidewalk cafes, banks of massage tables, croquet lawns, and lending libraries. I’ll be out of town, which is a bummer, because I was really looking forward to setting up the People’s Republic of 4329 Rainier Ave. South. If you’re interested in participating, this handy guide will show you how.

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RSS icon Comments

1

I'm in love with the pigsty.

I was in SF for the last parking day, it was a pleasant surprise and I'm glad to hear they are working it in Seattle, too.

Posted by boxofbirds | August 8, 2008 3:58 PM
2

Interesting about the crosswalk in Salzburg. I was there last year and I found it -- at least, the parts I was in, which were the Altstadt and Linzer Gasse areas -- to be amazingly walkable and lovely.

That area is restricted to foot traffic; the only cars allowed are delivery vehicles and the occasional cab bringing someone to a hotel. The streets in the Altstadt are narrow and full of tons of shops. There was a market in a cathedral square with some of the best pastry imaginable, and the streets were crowded with walkers, from American tourists (lots of 'em) to school children and Catholic monks, and hardly ever any cars to dodge. I ached for Seattle to be just a bit more like that. (Of course, I didn't really get to see much of the rest of the town. Maybe the rest isn't as nice.)

But I ached even more for Seattle to be more like Munich, where we were a few days earlier. Bike paths everywhere (and I do mean everywhere -- half of most of the sidewalks is a bike path, and god forbid a clueless American should walk in it), and an amazing train system.

Posted by litlnemo | August 8, 2008 4:10 PM
3

Let not the world doubt ever the talent and sluething prowess of the Stranger crew to help line in and out the critics of art and love affairs with ourselves......

Here in Art News Summer 2008 from
Spirits Direct Painter July 11, 1908 and the 100 year plan of Dr. Issac K. Funk to the Barry Berdolls in inaugural shows Making Prefab Fab,
I should and can create visceral ho hum drum prognostications as to why we are shadowed by politics and money straight into bed.

"It is not the bitterness that is distastfull, it is the use of the names of others to hide the reception that sours the sweetness of Liz Phair and Kurt Cobain in this months Architectural Suppliment to September Fashion with Justin Timberlake on the cover".

Posted by danielbennettkieneker | August 8, 2008 4:26 PM
4

Pedestrian-only precincts in the US, created by setting aside streets in the standard grid, were a colossal failure everywhere they were tried in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and have a terrible reputation in the urban planning world. Ancient European cities which were not laid out around the automobile in the first place are different. Putting a Salzburg-style zone in Seattle would be a soul-killing travesty unless someone is willing to take out many dozens of blocks and reconstruct the area as a warren of little streets. But that's got some problems too, since every attempt at building a pedestrian precinct of this type from scratch has also failed horribly.

I do think that New Orleans after Katrina was a tragic missed opportunity, not just a natural disaster, when they decided to go for a hopelessly corrupt and inadequate trailer program rather than trying a variety of experimental modular housing ideas from young architects. They could have saved a bundle and possibly done a tremendous amount of good quickly -- but then, probably not, because the Bush-connected greedheads would still have been there siphoning off all the dough.

Posted by Fnarf | August 8, 2008 4:31 PM
5

Fnarf @ 4: Are you joking? The 16th Street pedestrian mall in Denver? The NYC Plaza program, in the works now? Fire Island, NY? The K Street Mall in Sacramento? Davis, CA? State Street in Madison, WI? The River Walk in San Antonio?The Main Street Mall in Buffalo? I could give many more examples. Saying carfree areas were a "colossal failure" and have a "terrible reputation" is just dead wrong.

Posted by ECB | August 8, 2008 5:05 PM
6

The nice thing about the 16th St Mall is that they didn't just ban cars. There's no goddamn bicyclists to worry about either. You can walk in peace there, if nowhere else.

Posted by elenchos | August 8, 2008 5:09 PM
7

Me too, loving the pigsty. My apartment is often a pigsty, but somehow is not nearly as aesthetically pleasing.

Posted by leek | August 8, 2008 5:30 PM
8

I'll ask you the same question: are you joking? Have you BEEN to Sacramento? Is that really a model for something you'd like to see duplicated elsewhere? And Buffalo? BUFFALO, really? Let's emulate cities that have lost two-thirds of their population? Fire Island is a twee village, irrelevant to urbanism. San Antonio's River Walk was specially built that way, and is, shockingly, along a river, not a former street. NYC is an especially hilarious example, since it offers as many well-planned (i.e., not planned) counterexamples as the rest of the country combined. Greenwich Village is not frigging pedestrianized.

Pedestrianized downtown streets are USUALLY even more deadening than one-way streets. There's a reason why something like 90% of the ones that were tried in the 70s have been reverted to car traffic.

In a typical American city, like Seattle, the streets are far too wide to maintain the connection between blocks necessary to create the continuity, and the businesses are far too dependent on car traffic. Seattle's most effective walkable neighborhoods are not car free; they conform to the completely well-understood principles of urbanism: two way streets, parallel parking on both sides, many places to cross, small storefronts.

What you are describing always ends up looking like U Village -- or more often U Village only with mostly shuttered storefronts.

Posted by Fnarf | August 8, 2008 5:34 PM
9

Read this http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9401E6D71238F936A35752C1A960958260

and see what made Kalamazoo rip their converted pedestrian mall (the first in the US) up, as did Milwaukee, Poughkeepsie, Raleigh, Eugene (partially), and -- remember? -- Seattle. Pedestrian malls are popular in college towns and tourist traps. And even the successful ones, like Denver's, are far from universally admired.

Posted by Fnarf | August 8, 2008 5:45 PM
10

Irony: Buffalo has for several years been considering reopening the Main Street Mall to car traffic, due to the poor performance of the street, expecially in comparison to nearby streets with cars like Chippewa:
http://www.buffalo.edu/reporter/vol38/vol38n2/articles/MainStreet.html

Posted by Fnarf | August 8, 2008 5:59 PM
11

Well, I'm not sure Westlake Mall was any good example of a pedestrian mall.

I wasn't suggesting Seattle create pedestrian malls, necessarily, though there are, perhaps, a few places where it might work (Old Ballard, maybe Pioneer Square or the International District. And then there's the Market, which really has no excuse to have the thoroughfare that it does. Note that these are all older neighborhoods). Old European cities already have the walkable structure necessary. It's not that they are trying to make them walkable -- it's that they already existed as car-unfriendly zones.

Seattle is young enough that it just was developed a little bigger, a little wider, a little more car-friendly than older US cities. (New Orleans' French Quarter, much older, seems much more European and very walkable, despite the tourists.) So it is difficult to make Seattle into Salzburg's Altstadt without completely gutting the place. Our structure isn't well suited for it.

But I still wish it was different here. I love Seattle, but I want to live somewhere that is more people-sized. And I am not talking about the height of the buildings, but the width of the streets, and the storefronts, and the ease of getting around.

Posted by litlnemo | August 8, 2008 7:11 PM
12

This reminds me of something I was thinking about the other day. I was waiting at the corner of Rainier and McClellan, which is about half a block away from the Mt. Baker light rail station, and yet, what do we have at that corner?

One corner: a parking lot for Rite-Aid and QFC. (I believe it was once parking for Sicks Stadium there.)

Another corner: a parking lot for a horrendous Schucks.

Another corner: gas station

And lastly, on the old Sicks Stadium site, a Lowe's (former Eagle Hardware), with its blank white walls facing out on both the Rainier and the McClellan side, and a sad-looking historical marker.

I mean, seriously, is there any less-friendly intersection in town? When you stand there you feel lost in a sea of concrete. And this within sight of a light rail station. I could take the train down from Beacon Hill to shop there, but who wants to *walk* around there? It's not "people-sized". It's car-sized, and crappy even for that. I guess we can only hope that the new station will spur some more interesting development. And I don't mean a new Subway or Tully's.

Posted by litlnemo | August 8, 2008 7:20 PM
13

I must say, as a Denver ex-resident, the 16th Street Mall sucks. I don't think I ever went there by my own desire, except maybe to see a movie, and even then I preferred to go to other theaters. Maybe I was just a 16-year-old snob who didn't want to go to mall stores, but it's still dull.

Posted by Abby | August 8, 2008 7:23 PM
14

Fnarf is right. American cities were designed for the automobile, and for better or worse, they are going to have to deal with cars if they want to generate foot traffic.

Posted by raisedbywolves | August 9, 2008 3:41 AM
15

Which is not to say that cars should have free reign. I'm quite happy to see car traffic "calmed", or rather AGGRAVATED, by making the car lanes part of the regular wall-to-wall fabric of the street. The biggest problem Seattle faces in most areas is insanely wide streets -- much wider than the successful streets in Portland and San Francisco. This has two negatives: it allows the cars to drive too fast, and it separates the two sides for pedestrians. Pedestrians walking down one side need to feel that connection to the other side, feel that it's part of their possible journey, in order to make the street come alive. They could do this by taking away lanes and widening the sidewalks, but that has its own set of problems. Probably the worst solution is the recent Seattle preference, removing a lane and then widening the remaining one, calling it a "sharrow", or adding a bike lane that's not segregated from the car lane by anything more than paint. That just serves to widen the driver's psychological zone and increases his speed.

Posted by Fnarf | August 9, 2008 11:19 AM
16

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