Public Space

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

J. Max Bond Jr., Architect, Groundbreaker


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky

I was sad to read that J. Max Bond Jr. died on Wednesday. Mr. Bond had an illustrious career as an architect and educator, in spite of being told by one of his Harvard professors that he should forget about it because he was African-American. At the time of his death, Bond was working on the National September 11 Museum at the WTC. One of his many projects was the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change here in Atlanta. I did not realize that he was related to Julian Bond until I read his obituary on Thursday (in 2004, Julian Bond was inducted into the Civil Rights Walk of Fame, part of the same property as the MLK Center). To learn more about J. Max Bond Jr., his remarkable career and family, there is a concise but informative summary with links here, and you can read the obituary in full over at I have to share the last two paragraphs, which really got to me:

Despite these insider’s credentials, Mr. Bond never lost an outsider’s perspective, applying it critically in 2003 to early plans that called for public spaces high up in the new skyscrapers at the World Trade Center site.

“It’s always been difficult for young blacks, for young Hispanics, for anyone who looks aberrant to get access to the upper realms of Wall Street towers,” Mr. Bond said. “For a city of immigrants, the public realm is more than ever now the street.”

photo swiped from University of Michigan Visiting Faculty page


Friday, December 12th, 2008

Flickr Faves: Architecture & Landscape Architecture Photos by Ken McCown


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WARNING: If you do not want to lose hours of your life that you need to use for work right now, do not follow any of the links in this post!

I feel like I could blog just about Ken McCown’s flickr pictures and have enough material to last me for the next ten years. Ken is a professor of architecture and landscape architecture, and his photographs capture everything from the smallest detail or a shadow to a mixed-media rendering or a landscape. No matter the scale, his photographs mesmerize me.

The deck of Frank Gehry’s Millenium Bridge in Chicago:

A shadow on the floor of The Getty:

Andy Goldsworthy’s Storm King Wall:

I’m so drawn to this mixed-media rendering Ken shared of a view of the City of San Buenaventura in 2050 by Cal Poly Pomona, Joan Woodward, Ken McCown, Matt Deines, Henry Fleishmann, Sonya Reed, Isby Swick, Yarnie Chen with Doug Delgado and Phil Pregill:

The aerial context rendering for a re-use of the airport in Quito, Ecuador. This was a competition where Ken and his team received an honorable mention. He collaborated with Gabriel Diaz-Montemayor,
Kevin Hinders, Andy Wilcox (he calls him “the guy with the magic hands”), Milagros Zingoni, Tyler Stradling, and Samantha Sears:

Please click on the images to hop over to flickr and find out more information about the shots and the projects. If you want even more flickr inspiration, check out his collaborator aowilcox’s photostream.

all photos courtesy of Ken McCown, under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License, via flickr.


Friday, September 12th, 2008

Walkable Neighborhoods / Atlanta’s Beltline


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
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So last night I attended a meeting about The Beltline and found out about a fun website called You simply type in a zipcode and the site shows you the most walkable neighborhoods. I put in my own address and it showed me all the walkable amenities close to me:

While the site isn’t perfect, it’s fun to see, and is very useful if you are researching a move.

By the way, the meeting I attended was about The Beltline:

OK, if you aren’t from Atlanta, you might not care about this. However, The Beltline is a huge urban planning project (thought up by a grad student for his thesis) that involves new development, land use, transportation,re-configuring roads and traffic patterns, historic preservation, new park space and greenspace, hopefully cleansing runoff, daylighting creeks, public art, et alia, and involves planning development at a very large scale for the next 30-50 years. Last night I attended a meeting about The Beltline and its effect on my neighborhood, which borders Olmsted’s Piedmont Park. Like most cities that did most of their growing after the invention of the car, Atlanta is a very car-dependent, pedestrian and bicycle-unfriendly city, and the Beltline is a loop that will connect MARTA to a new transit loop connecting many of the intown neighborhoods. Along with the development will be new connecting streets to alleviate traffic and potentially some traffic circles. I shudder at the thought of Atlanta drivers trying to navigate a rotary, as this city is truly full of the worst drivers I’ve ever seen this side of the D.C. Beltway.

The following image is from a pre-first draft conceptual plan they (EDAW) are calling “Concept A”:

One thing I’d forgotten about from my grad school days and planning board job is that urban planners talk in a bunch of acronyms. I’d also forgotten about the fugly magic-marker images they come up with, and in spite of the simplicity of their designs, no one could tell the difference between the shades of purple on this thing, which was the difference between 9 story buildings and mile-high buildings, which caused quite a ruckus. One really scary thing about The Beltline, which is supposed to be surrounded by parkland and bike paths, is that one legal option at the moment is to sell off the land for single-family homes (the red line and yellow line along The Beltline represent a new road and single family homes along Piedmont Park). Considering some of the vultures that have been trying to profit from this project already, a lot of the possiblities are scary and I can see what a tough job the color-challenged planners have in front of them.

In a city with such severe water problems, one can only hope all of this development, which has a goal of creating at least 15 dwelling units per acre (supposedly, this is the ideal transit-friendly figure), will provide some solutions instead of making the problem worse. I haven’t heard this issue addressed much in regards to the potential of The Beltline land. Kathy Poole was a huge influence on me, and I would feel much better if she had a voice in this project.


Friday, August 29th, 2008

Green the Ghetto


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Have you heard of Majora Carter? She rocks. In 2001 she founded Sustainable Bronx, an organization that “aims to alleviate poverty and remediate the environment through green-collar jobs.” She says “we believe that don’t you need to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one. We believe we need to create opportunities for people who are living here already so they can stay.”

She wrote a $1.25 million dollar grant for The South Bronx Greenway:

She’s big into  green roofs as well.  There’s a Smart Roof Demonstration Project video here. To make a contribution towards the Greening the Ghetto effort, click here.

quotes and first two images via

before and after renderings by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects


Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Peace Brought on by Architecture


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“The library is earthy and spare, planting Modernism’s clean confidence in the blood-soaked dirt.”

O.K., that line is a bit heavy-handed, but this article is more interesting than anything I can come up with today. I keep looking over my shoulder at this page I marked in the June issue of Metropolis. It’s just such a cool story (by William Bostwick) that has it all, like solving problems of bloody civil war and kidnapping right-wing guerrillas with architecture and public spaces. It mentions Medellin, a  word I’ve only heard on Entourage.  It has  bright-eyed architects fresh out of school who win the commission before they even have an office set up.  There is striking vernacular style made from local materials and constructed by the community. I can’t come up with anything half as interesting as this article, so I’m sharing it with you. Go read it in full over here. Maybe you already did. It is the June issue, after all. I tend to let my Metropolis issues stack up like most people let The New Yorker stack up.

photos by Nicolas Cabrera Andrade via