All posts tagged: historic preservation

Where we lay the dead.

Happy Halloween! I love the deep quiet that cemeteries have, even if there are leaves crunching and birds squabbling.  I get the feeling feeling that I’m able to barely brush against something eternal.  As a child I would often be taken on walks at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.  I suspect this gave me the idea that cemeteries are places for peace and rest, whether you are living or dead. Here are some cemetery photos I’ve taken in the past year – you may have seen them on Instagram already.  The oldest of the grave markers are from the Eliot Burying Grounds in Roxbury.  It’s usually locked behind a large wrought iron fence.  For two years I used to stand under the horse chestnut tree outside its gates to wait for the bus, and wonder what it would be like to walk inside.  Happily, on a recent walking tour in the neighborhood I got the chance.  I was told that the adjacent building was recently renovated, and when they tore …

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, …

Love that Dirty Old Boston

A new Facebook page has been blowing up my Newsfeed lately…Dirty Old Boston.  This community page, which features pictures and images of “Boston before the gentrification of the 1980s,” started just weeks ago on September 22 and has almost 4,000 likes and 8,000 comments.  Last week was its most popular week, with photos of the 1970s stripper Princess Cheyenne (who became a bit of a recurring theme for a moment there), the original Boston Garden, a hit list from WRKO, lots of arson and other historic urban fires…you get the idea.  Many of the images aren’t “dirty,” so much as they are retro: women in vintage swim suits, old nightclubs in Cambridge, dudes in bellbottoms, etc.  These images draw a sense of the city’s bohemian roots. Its rise in interest on Facebook has been rapid, and has been primarily among folks between 35 and 44.  Which means, probably not people who remember a lot of the things in the photos, except as kids and teens. Posted 10/18/12: “There was an arson ring that was burning …

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.  …

the nostalgia machine.

I’ve been thinking a lot about nostalgia lately.  Here I’ve written a lot about history, about memory, about temporal multiplicy in the urban fabric and the importance of historical context for civic engagement and cultural identity.  But what happens when we think that in order to remember, we must freeze something in time?  Or, to reconstruct it to how we imagine that it may have been, a la Carcassone?  Even further: when we commodify and articulate that history-myth for economic gain or political power? I’ve raised these issues before.  But what I haven’t seen is a broader discussion of this problematic outside of the realm of historic preservation.  But consider: what are food trucks for?  What is a bike path, or a greenway, or a pedestrianized plaza?  Are they so different from what urbanists have done before, in pursuit of a competitive, attractive city? Consider, for example, Ebenezer Howard’s scheme for the Garden City of To-Morrow (1898). Today we recognize in this plan for a world of “slumless, smokeless cities” a master plan that eventually …

a real renaissance: the arts in western MA.

Earlier this summer, I attended the Creative Communities Exchange in North Adams, MA, home to Mass MoCA.  North Adams has become something of a poster child for the creative economy, as the museum is housed in a former textile mill and the arts community has been a bright spot in the relatively dim economic outlook of the town and the region as a whole. A bit of context: North Adams is located in the Berkshires, home to countless nationally recognized arts organizations, such as Tanglewood and the Jacob’s Pillow dance festival, the Clark Museum and Shakespeare & Co.  There are already lots of arts supporters in the area.  There are already lots of artists in the area.  Essential to this story is the fact that the MoCA’s success is not replicable everywhere, and instead represents a well thought out, place-based strategy for post-industrial redevelopment.  The Berkshires now boasts an incredible creative economy advocacy organization, Berkshire Creative, one of the hosts of the conference.  They recognize that cultural production in their region can be a major …

working landscapes, fantasy landscapes, cultural landscapes.

I just got back from a road trip through the Pyrenees, from the French Riviera to Barcelona.  It was a gorgeous trip, a relaxing trip, a very, very food oriented trip (like you’re surprised).  But you know what was surprising?  How industrial, how work-oriented the landscape that we traveled through was.  From Marseille and its warehouses to the industrial agriculture and viticulture of Languedoc, from large-scale salt production in the Camargue to the incredible manufacturing history and massive port of Barcelona, the places we traveled through were not exactly straight from the fairy tales.  When we passed a nuclear power plant we were reminded that France gets 75% of its energy that way, and as we passed through the Pyrenees and saw the vast fields of air turbines we marveled at their size, the sheer engineering of them, and the marvelous contrast that they made against the romantic misty landscapes and medieval villages that surrounded them.  It was so exciting to see up close the work of making a country run, the kind of thing …