Category Archives: Photos

Statehouses Project: Arizona

While this may not officially be a cornerstone, it’s as close as I was going to find.

The State Seal.

9 of 50.

Rear of the Capitol Complex.

It may have been a Saturday morning, but downtown Phoenix’s parking surplus was a tad over the top.

Very on brand, Arizona. 

Previous Statehouse visit: Washington


Open House Chicago and career wayfinding for our young neighbors 

Block 37 viewed from the Joffrey Ballet

I had the good fortune to be in Chicago with a free day last week at the same time as the Chicago Architecture Foundation‘s largest event of the year: Open House Chicago. My original plan was to take an architecture pilgrimage of a sort, to the IIT campus (more about that later). 

But with this opportunity I gladly went off in another direction. What better day to see some of the buildings that are usually off limits to the public? Here are photos of a few of the highlights, and I only made it to 20 or so of the 100+ featured sites.

Lobby of the Oriental Theater

An original stairwell in the Carson Pirie Scott Building. The third floor is now home to Gensler, which graciously hosted visitors but did not permit photography. I can verify their revamped offices are lovely.

23rd floor courtyard at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill. A second architecture firm that welcomed us into their space.

I particularly enjoyed that a number of parents had brought their teenage kids to see architecture firms and talk to practitioners face-to-face about this career path. What better opportunity than this event to see the profession up close? And should you have a Chicagoland youth interested in a B.Arch., they can earn one right in the city at IIT!

13th floor of the Inland Steel Building. Available for rent should you be in the market for Loop office space.

Column free since 1956!

It has a pretty decent view of our friends at the MacArthur Foundation in 140 South Dearborn.

I also enjoyed the CAF wrapup blog post on the weekend, and am glad I missed the rain entirely. They were not wrong that the crowds ranged from casual tourists to the intense architecture and urbanism pilgrims. See y’all next year, I hope!

Statehouses Project: Michigan

5 of 50. 

I don’t have a ton to say about this visit except that Lansing was a very friendly place to spend a few hours, and that this building was one of the most impressive I’ve visited to date. With that comment I will let the photos do the talking. 

The Rotunda.

View from the Rotunda to the Governor’s Office (he wasn’t in).

The Gerald Ford portrait.

The Senate.

The House.

Amazing attention to detail everywhere. All 49 of the other states’ seals appear in the ceiling of the House Chamber.

Previous statehouse visit: Nevada

Next visit: Georgia

Why We Convene: Closing Thoughts from APA 2012

3.5 days of closely focused conference time are coming to a close here in Los Angeles. Since Saturday morning, several thousand urban and regional planners and our colleagues in allied fields have convened to share our work and advance our collective vision of better communities.

Livening up unprogrammed space

In an age of nearly ubiquitous web and social media access, much of this could be done online. Indeed, the continuing education credits that our credentialed planners need to remain so can be attained from webinars, or from local events rather than from the annual conference. And most of our communities are facing shoestring budgets for yet another year; sending the staff to the West Coast may not be the highest priority.

Attaching the all-important speaker badge

Why, then, did we all come here? Why not expand the use of virtual education and save a great deal of money and time? For starters, every host city is vibrant and ever-changing and should be explored. Even for those places we have visited before (this is my 5th or 6th trip to Los Angeles), there is always something new. For example, CicLAvia is a biannual event celebrating cycling and walking as safe and healthy transportation modes by closing roads to auto traffic for the day. Borrowed from Colombia, it has spread to a number of countries; the Los Angeles version closed ten miles of roads in a transit-accessible corridor to get Angelenos and visitors out of their cars and into the community. The Spring 2012 CicLAvia happily coincided with APA, allowing many to experience it for the first time.

Reunited at the University of Michigan reception

But more importantly, there is no substitute for in-person interaction. I’ve met planners from Long Beach and Berkeley and Wilmington, Ohio, as well as folks that work for General Motors and MindMixer.  Are these people online? Probably, but I’d be unlikely to run into them serendipitously on Facebook and ask for their take on the profession. The collective conversation shows the reach and the importance of planning, with recognition of our best plans and professionals thrown in the mix. I also rekindled connections with acquaintances and friends from years past while here, more meaningfully than LinkedIn messages could ever be. It may be ironic that I say this on a blog entry that you may have accessed from a Twitter link, but social media still leaves just a bit to be desired. And your phone battery might die, or your internet connection may blink. The synchronous, face-to-face interactions were the major benefit of the last four days.

We get similar “work” done at the chapter level, and more informally wherever we convene. But APA 2012 was scaled up and hugely diverse, a major opportunity that I’m glad I got to see. If they are reading, I want to thank host committee members, APA staff, and volunteers for showing us a great time.

Conversation fuel, Santa Monica

First glimpses of APA 2012 in Los Angeles

We are well into Day 3 of the American Planning Association conference in downtown Los Angeles. If you aren’t here, I will write up a few posts to point out some highlights. And if you are here but missed the Saturday presentation on my master’s project, I’ve published the slides here:

Building a Greener Flint: Education Meets Energy Saving at the Urban Alternatives House

We’ve also had an opportunity to get out and see the city under beautiful mild weather. Sorry to hear that the East Coast is having an April heat wave, but it turned out to be a great time to be on the road.

Some photos:

Billboard in the making

We found this installation on the way to lunch. If you ever watched The Price Is Right, remember the Pathfinder game? It required the contestant to start on a numbered square with the first digit in the price of a car, then move to an adjacent square with the next digit, and so on. This was a mix between that and the light-up sidewalk in Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean video. 


J.W. Marriott, one of the host hotels, dwarfed by the Ritz-Carlton.

Tomorrow I’ll be attending a mobile workshop in West Hollywood. Their planning division will show us how they’ve achieved an extraordinarily high residential density while maintaining a livable city. Expect posts on that and on closing thoughts on the conference in future entries.

Statehouses Project: Nevada

On the way out to the APA 2012 conference in Los Angeles, I stopped for a day in Nevada. Landing in Reno reminded me a bit of New Mexico, with an enormous mountain range just outside the city. And according to my rowmates on the plane, ski season is definitely not over. I soon saw what they meant, as light snow fell on my drive from Reno to Carson City.

Nevada State Capitol. 4 of 50.

Legislative Building down the street. The Capitol picked a bad decade for public architecture to run out of space.

But the interior is quite nice. Assembly Chamber.

Bonus of these visits: vintage photos of legislators. Here’s Harry Reid in 1973.

 Governor’s Mansion

Still good snow up there

Previous statehouse visit: North Carolina

Youth independence and reflecting on your planning strategies: solutions from Raleigh

As I mentioned in my last post, I was a part of two events sponsored by North Carolina State University’s College of Design and Natural Learning Initiative. Day 1 was the Growing in Place Symposium, focused on designing cities for all ages, especially for young children. Day 2 was Urban Reset, the College of Design’s 9th Annual Urban Design Forum.

The key theme I found in Friday’s presentations, fittingly at the Marbles Kids Museum, was youth independence. Increasing the ability of children to navigate urban neighborhoods and open space on their own is a priority of basically every presenter I heard at Growing in Place. This could take the form of allowing youth recreation in traffic circles or triangles, because these tend to be centrally located but underused spaces, and relatively safe because auto traffic is already going slowly around them. This was proposed by Dee Merriam of the CDC. Another possibility is ensuring that walking paths  (many that connect residential subdivisions to schools) are located so their users are visible. Kids are often not allowed by parents to use the trails in typical residential neighborhoods that were formed from the “leftover” (and often heavily wooded) space behind homes, because there is no ability for adults to monitor activity on this type of path without actually being on it. This recommendation was the result of research by Adina Cox of the Natural Learning Initiative. I could list several more, but these were the most illustrative of the youth independence theme.

Downtown Raleigh. On the right is the Convention Center’s “shimmer wall,” reflecting the City of Oaks theme.

Saturday was a tad different, and with a venue change. At the Raleigh Convention Center this time, Mitch Silver (APA president and Raleigh’s planning director) set the tone with his lunch presentation. He asked public sector leaders to stop and reflect on the direction they are leading their communities: pause, rewind, or reset?

Jerome Chou of the Design Trust for Public Space presented perhaps the best case study of how exploring this deeply can impact your city. Among the topics in his presentation, he spoke (and showed the video Made in Midtown, a collaboration with the Council of Fashion Designers of America) about how New York’s Garment District functions as a highly productive industry cluster. Despite pressure from the City to zone out manufacturing uses and repurpose the centrally located buildings here, the industry advocated keeping light manufacturing and other businesses here in place. Why? Among the many fashion designers, executives and artisans interviewed for Made in Midtown, all said that the close proximity of suppliers and experts in apparel has helped numerous designers get their start and create innovative collections, and done it more quickly and for less money than could have even been done overseas. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Thus, the conventional wisdom that there is a higher and better use for land in the middle of Manhattan does not work here. In fact, attempting to transform the Garment District into another neighborhood of residences and run-of-the-mill retail would harm the fashion industry dearly, would in fact be a rewind rather than a step forward. This is part of a major push by the industry to convince the City to rethink the value of the garment industry before taking steps that would harm its productivity and economic impact. As a case study of reflecting on planning strategies, this one is quite instructive and indeed I’m still learning more as I mull over Chou’s remarks two weeks later.

Overall, this was an enriching and exciting two days, and I’m glad I had the  chance to attend. If this interested you, plan to attend next year’s events. NCSU and the City of Raleigh were gracious hosts and I look forward to going again in 2013.