All posts tagged: entropy

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 …

putting the land in place.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that it started — four years ago! — as a space for me to write and think about the issues I was exploring in cities.  Specifically, how we learn about a city: its history, its people, and its traditions.  I’ve been interested in pop-up urbanism (or as i’ve called it, entropy) since my first post, and other issues like historic preservation, manufacturing and economic development came later, as I got to know neighborhoods and reflect on the stories that they tell about themselves.  I’ve always been thinking not just about cities but about the institutions in them, those third and fourth places where people share and learn memories, ideas, and information.  I got my start in those kinds of places, and think they’re an important part of our cities, whether they’re surrounded by granite and columns to tell us that learning is important, or they pop up in a public square to make it fun and surprising.  The themes have been learning, …

Adventures in neighborhood podcasting

This week I’ve been participating in MIT CoLab’s Storytelling for Planners course. I must admit that it’s felt since the first moment like it was where I’ve always belonged.  As you know, I’m committed to helping planners, neighbors, kids and grownups learn and get excited about the world in their own backyards, whether it’s history, personal relationships, architecture, or…local wildlife.  So when I started thinking about what the perfect story would be to embody that sense of noticing, of wonder, of finding mystery in the everyday, I naturally thought about my neighborhood turkeys. I’ve written before about these charismatic urbanfauna and how they can be understood by planners as an example of how surprising interventions can facilitate building social capital.  But here, I was thinking about them differently, as local “characters of interest,” subjects of community mythmaking. That’s all I’ll say.  Except: this is my first podcast.  And, I hope, it’s a preview of coming attractions.  Since so much of this blog is about walking, and pretty much all I do as I’m walking around …

scenes from haymarket.

this is a slightly edited version of a talk I gave at the Harvard GSD last week as part of a seminar with Richard Sennett, on the subject of the Architecture of Cooperation.  This is Haymarket, Boston’s historic wholesale produce market.  It dates to the early 19th century as part of a market district that comprised Quincy Market and the fishing docks in the North End. The market has existed in its current location since 1952, when the state relocated the market from Haymarket Square (nearby) in order to erect perhaps the most important — and impermeable — border in Boston’s history, the Central Artery.  The market’s current condition continues to be bound up in the story of the Artery. Today, the Central Artery has been undergrounded through the Big Dig, and the boundary has been reimagined as a “seam”, the Rose Kennedy Greenway park.  The development of the Greenway has followed Downtown Boston’s overall redevelopment, which began with the Harbor cleanup and the development of the Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market festival marketplace in the 1970s.  …

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 …

the entropic city.

This evening I went to a conference session about Mumbai/Bombay, at the Grad School of Design at Harvard.  It was part of a conference called “In the Life of Cities,” and it was stuffed with fascinating observations about the this “kinetic city,” whose very dynamism generates a kind of paralysis.  The breakdown of government structure and infrastcuture to provide everything from housing, sanitation, not to mention the rule of law, has generated a kind of urbanism of necessity that empowers slumlords and thugs, real estate developers and a cloistered industrial elite, but also turns out an inspringly high proportion of the urban poor for elections and, as I have experienced it, generated a disarmingly complex and exciting city. Okay, this may have occurred to you already, but I was surprised to realize as I listened to and reflected upon these talks that this kind of city, characterized by a profound and uncontrollable (by definition) entropy, is exactly what I think is the key to revitalizing communities.  In the kinds of cities and neighborhoods that I …