All posts tagged: informal economies

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.  …

2011 taught us to learn in public.

When I wrote this post back in October about living in public, I had no idea how apt it would be!  In the following weeks, the #Occupy movement made living in public a national issue and a powerful strategy for protest.  Urbanists like the folks at #whOWNSpace made the public space itself an issue, shedding light on the politics of ownership and use.  Saskia Sassen’s summer op-ed on open-source urbanism turned out to be prophetic, using the metaphor of technological open-source practices, where users and creators share, collaborate, and experiment in creating knowledge, to describe how our cities of the future will work.  Occupy looked like a complete manifestation of this practice. And pop-up democracy even started to enter the broader vocabulary, as Occupy gave thinkers the platform to start talking more broadly about the importance of citizen-generated political action and civic discourse in public space.  And with all this civic action, people started teaching and learning in public, too, in all kinds of exciting ways. First, we saw the rise of Occupy libraries, giving …

knock for neighbors: food happenings in the home

I talk a lot on this blog about food happenings, informal economies, and cultural tourism.  So when my friend Molly invited me to attend one of the pilot dinners for her Knock for Neighbors project, I jumped at the chance. Knock for Neighbors combines off-the-beaten-path tourism experiences with convivial community practices by sponsoring a network of residents who host visitors in their homes for dinner and conversation.  This project is similar to Denmark’s Dine with the Danes (which has itself inspired a number of spinoffs), and has rural precedents in the practices of agritourism and farmhouse dinners, but what is really unique about KfN is the way it imagines not just a tourist experience, but also a neighborhood one.  Knock on a door, meet a neighbor — this is a way for people to get to know each other and see their world through different eyes, whether they are from another country or right next door. The dinner I attended was convivial and surprisingly un-awkward given its entirely uncurated collection of guests.  Molly’s food was …

Experiments in pop-up democracy

You’re probably wondering what I’m up to these days, since it’s certainly not writing on this blog.  Well, a lot actually!  I’m working on a lot of projects for school that build on the topics I write about here, like historic preservation and economic development, informal food economies, public art happenings, and, of course, politics.  Speaking of which, I have started working on a project on experiments in “pop-up democracy,” which takes the artist interventions I admire and imagines how they could be transformed to serve a more direct political purpose such as encouraging voter turnout and educated community input into planning decisions.   You can see my proposal for a pop-up democracy framework on Participedia (which is awesome and you should check out). Next step: making something pop up!  

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 …

the best urban happenings have to do with food.

Tonight I went to Cuisine en Locale’s second Meat Meet.  Basically, there was a woman from Stillman’s Farm selling frozen meats out of coolers loaded into a truck flatbed.  Parked in a public parking lot.  There was a line about thirty people deep, with people even picking up their Thanksgiving turkeys.  JJ Gonson, the dame de Cuisine en Locale, flitted about the parking lot handing out homemade candied local ginger and welcoming old friends.  Her adorable daughter Ruby similarly worked the crowd, carrying around a little purse-like bag.  When asked what she was carrying, she exclaimed “Profiteroles!”  If there’s one thing I love, it’s little foodies, and there’s something wonderful about an event that has kids running around…so I was totally charmed. Not to mention that I walked away with a big ol’ chicken, tons of lamb chops, and osso bucco. But it wasn’t just the convivial atmosphere in line that made me such a fan of the Meat Meet.  I’ve already talked about how much I like informal economies (and I’m sure I will …

my city. expect the unexpected.

I thought this photo would be the perfect introduction to this blog.  Here is a man selling colorful Sunday hats in a public space at Central Square, Cambridge, MA.  There are so many reasons why I had to snap this photo.  First, I am fascinated by informal economies and enjoyed seeing this unique example.  Second, this small plaza on Central Square is always host to interesting happenings: last week some folks were dishing out free food and giving away organic veggies, and often people congregate in this area to chat and pass the time.  But what I love most is the visual juxtaposition of the bright hats and the drab brick plaza, which is often dirty and littered.  To me, a city is about all three of these aspects of the photo: it is a place of informal economies and casual relationships that cannot be quantified; it is a place of unexpected gathering and a constantly changing fabric of uses and happenings; it is a colorful, surprising, world of opposites.  In a word, what I …