All posts filed under: neighborhoods

Neighborhood Explorers

For the past month or two I’ve been working on curating a shelf for the Uni Project‘s launch in Boston.  The Uni is a mobile reading   room – think of it as a learning institution for public space – that was started by Leslie and Sam Davol in New York in 2012.  The way Leslie explained it to me when they first began was that she hoped to bring the Uni to places where there was a story already unfolding; that bringing books and learning to public spaces would help communities to see their neighborhoods — and themselves — in a new way.  So the Uni popped up in Corona Plaza with the Queens Museum of Art, which has community engagement at the heart of its mission.  The Uni went to Play Streets all over the city, where community groups had invited them to bring books and learning to street level.  In Brooklyn, the Uni partnered with the public library to bring lending books outside the library walls, so that kids and families could make …

What is the story of a place? Thoughts on field research.

A lecture I gave to the Qualitative Research for Urban Planners course at Harvard’s GSD.  The talk was based on my Master’s thesis, which I have just now (finally) published online. * I came across this headline in the Onion yesterday – about a planner who got through his whole urban design before all of a sudden he realized, oh my god, he was recreating a city that already exists, in a totally different place.  This is funny of course because this is what people imagine planners kinda actually do.  So today, I want to talk about how not to be that guy.  How to ensure with your research process that you are intervening in a place on its own terms, based on a good understanding of what is already there,­ and not imagining that DesMoines is Philadelphia. Here’s the guiding question of what I’m going to be talking about: “What is a place’s story?” Questions are important because they’re the basis for entering a research problem with an open mind, and also to focus …

2013 in review

It’s Twelfth Night: the ending of the Yuletide season, the last day before we return to work as usual after a season of celebration. I’m ready to go back.  You’ll be hearing more from me.  Some of the themes I’ll be following in 2014 emerged, it turns out, from what I found last year.  Here’s a collection of the paths I followed, the portals I discovered, and the familar friends who joined me on my journey.  Click on the portal below.

Neighborday

This spring I did some thinking and writing for GOOD.is, as they launched their first new holiday, Neighborday.  It was a day for celebrating neighbors, and neighboring, for getting to know where you live and the folks that you live around just a little better.  I was part of a team led by Kyla Fullenwider, of Imperative, a social design firm doing really interesting work around engagement, evaluation, and impact. We’ve shared some of our initial findings about how Neighborday here.

what turkeys can tell us (about social capital)

I’ve been wanting to write for a long time about the turkeys in my neighborhood. Turkeys? In Cambridge, you say? Yes. Here they are, in the front yard of a neighboring apartment building, the first morning I saw them.  In the late morning, on my way to a meeting, about a week before Thanksgiving. Yes, a week before Thanksgiving. Temporal coincidences aside, the first time I noticed them, I snapped this photo, sent it to my husband (who was at work) via iPhone, and continued along my way, chuckling.  I noticed some hours later that the Cambridge Chronicle had shared a tweet with its followers about a resident who had also seen turkeys.  I wasn’t crazy, I now knew, wasn’t fostering some kind of weird pre-holiday illusion about festive charismatic fauna in my neighborhood. I tweeted back. So the next morning, when I saw a couple of people gathered around the front yard of a different neighbor’s house, I knew it had to be the turkeys.  They were talking animatedly to each other, curious about …

living in public.

Today I want to talk about something that I’ve been thinking about since I was in Rome last spring. It’s about the idea of “living in public.”  This is an important concept, one’s that distinct from “using public spaces” and “attending public events.”  Living in public implies that the quotidian happenings and activities of your life happen not within the home, but outside the home.  Like Indian communities where laundry is washed and dried communally, or Italian neighborhoods where much of the socializing occurs in the public sphere, or Latin American communities where Sunday socializing after church occurs at lakes and riverbanks, instead of the family dining table.  What does it mean for a culture when the public square, or riverfront, is as important a site of communal identity as the hearth, or the kitchen?  What conditions make this possible, and why do I value it? This idea crystallized for me this summer, as I walked past the Charles River everyday and saw dozens of people sunbathing, reading, working, and socializing.  This is living in …

local food traditions

Today I want to talk about food.  Okay, I always want to talk about food, but today I have a specific topic. I write a lot on this blog about cultural resources and recognizing community assets, and this past summer I got to thinking a lot about everyone’s favorite asset, food.  And more specifically, local food traditions that are profoundly seasonal and place-based, that make a big part of understanding life wherever we are.  We talk a lot these days about obesity, packaged food, industrial food system contamination, and the problems of factory animal farming, and I think it’s important to keep in mind all of the incredible local, cultural food traditions that we all do still enjoy and engage in our daily lives.  So, I want to share a little bit about my experience with New England’s food traditions, which I spent a lot of time thinking about (and enjoying) this past summer. Please share in comments food traditions in your own area that you love! Ok, well you can’t talk about New England …