Posts Tagged ‘urban

18
Dec
10

Things of Interest…

Things that make me say “This is awesome!” these days:

The first is the work of Windsor’s Broken City Lab, an artist-led group that’s hard at work imagining new possibilities for run-down and neglected stretches of Windsor, Ontario. Windsor has been particularly hard-hit by the loss of good-paying industrial manufacuring jobs even before the latest recession came about and its close ties and proximity to the recession’s greatest urban victim, Detroit, make it an interesting bellweather for evaluating the recession’s economic and spatial impact on Canadian cities.

Broken City Lab also is involved in a number of urban installation projects aimed at getting Windsor residents to think more deeply about the urban spaces they interact with and consider how they might be improved.


They’re also involved in developing ‘micro-intervention’ pieces for use in improving small areas and helping educate residents about the potential for DIY-style urban improvement projects. Check out their Removable Garden Project.
As an urban planning student, I believe that any urban renewal or regeneration project must be driven in part by area residents and that the technologies, vocabulary and tools of the profession need to be made available and accessible to citizens. As a street artist, I believe that streetart can be used to temporarily improve an urban area in a manner that goes beyond just painting a pretty picture on a wall. It’s something that I’ve been trying to do with Swap Boxes for years now…

As well, two guys have created a rolling graffiti printer, which you can check out at Looptaggr . The idea of a dotted-and-dashed line stencil that could be spray-painted on sidewalks to create somewhat of an ‘urban treasure-hunt’ or a follow-the-line type of experience has interested me for quite some time.

A new and exciting update to McGill to Haiti is coming up soon. I’ve been derailed into a world of studio projects, deadlines, mayhem and confusing GIS maps which I’m only now starting to make some sense of…

21
Sep
10

McGill Cyclist and Pedestrian Forum this week

McGill Reporter Article
“A McGill forum to discuss issues arising from these changes, co-sponsored by SSMU and University Services, will be held Thursday, Sept. 23, from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Ballroom of the Student Centre on McTavish St. The event will give participants a chance to air their views on where McGill’s mobility priorities should be focused in the weeks and months ahead and how different members of the community can reconcile what are sometimes competing needs.

It happens that Sept. 23 is “Bicycle Day” in Montreal – part of a week-long series of events aimed at encouraging public transit use and other alternatives to the automobile – a happenstance forum organizers thought was ideal as the backdrop for their event.”

18
May
10

Trying to grab hold of a few good ideas…

Well, it’s been a rough couple of weeks here at the Werkshop, and I’ve been fighting to get my motivation back while at the same time realizing that my creative drive is sporadic, somewhat unfocused and has the unfortunate habit of derailing other elements of my life when allowed to run full-tilt. Maybe it’s an artist thing to be subject to a manic creativity (and sometimes, like when I was putting together the layout and written sections of “The Art of Swap”, it has proven a blessing as a motivator) but I’ve finally recognized that I’ve got to get more focused and find a way to make it work for me. Sometimes I make street art and other times it manifests itself by making me its creator…

I’ve given some thought to learning a couple more craftmanship and art skills, like cabinetmaking, ABS plastic-working and boning up on my knowledge of screenprint making. I’ve also been considering a couple of potential large interventions to pull off this summer, since I’ve got the basic knowhow to be able to work with wood and metal. Trying to think up new and interesting uses of public spaces has always been a favorite theme of mine…

There are a lot of vacant, under-construction and poorly used areas in the vicinity of downtown Montreal which could be converted to some more interesting uses, and picnic areas and sports facilities are two themes I keep coming back to. I’ve been thinking about what I would have to buy, find and make in order to create basketball hoops out of scrap wood and metal. One of the examples I’ve been considering is Brusse’s Streetlove Project , which I absolutely love.

As well, downtown Montreal is severely lacking in bike parking. I wonder how easy it would be to Macgyver up a nifty-looking bike parking fixture. Or perhaps a smaller one, for tricycles…

I’m going to head over to the library and try to borrow a couple of books on innovative slum architecture and built solutions to urban problems. I’ve always had an incredible admiration for some of the creative genius-work which one can find in urban slums, and in a way I as a street artist am aping their work. I’m trying to build things out of discarded materials, using whatever I can find and trying to give our discards a new and productive life…

Here’s a question for my dear Montreal readers…what do you think needs fixing in our city (besides potholes, of course)??

02
May
10

Street charettes and crumbling concrete

Where to go from here? That’s a question which I’ve been asking myself for a good couple of months.

As you already know, I’ve written a fair bit over the past few months about the potential for a merger of street art and urban design or planning. I’m currently an urban planning student working towards a graduate degree in the field, and I’ve been dwelling on the topic of how to merge my hobby with my future profession for almost two years now. The field of planning is unfortunately too much of a formal and stilted one, and it needs to have some life breathed into it…

I’ve also featured a number of awesome streetart projects (like the Urban Repair Squad) that draw attention to urban problems and others that take a DIY-style approach to fixing some of them in a creative and interesting way.
(I’ve recently discovered the photography and urban installations of Claudia Ficca and David Luciano, in which creative uses are made of some of Montreal’s many potholes. Check it out)

(photo by rllayman on Flickr, from Ficca and Luciano’s “Pothole” exhibition.)

One issue which I’m interested in exploring this summer is the potential for street pieces to gather public input and ideas on future civic plans, expansions and repairs. I’ve got a couple ideas for streetart charettes buzzing around in the far corners of my mind, and I’ll see what comes of them as the next couple of days or weeks go by. As well, Montreal is a city in a constant state of disrepair, with some parts (like the crumbling Turcot Interchange) in a more advanced and unpleasant state than others. Crumbling infrastructure almost seems to scream out for a cheeky Banksyesque stencil or wheatpaste intervention or two. More to come…

03
Apr
10

How does your garden grow?

Well, it is springtime… which means that gardening season is among us.

For some of you, this means that a whole wealth of guerilla gardening opportunities have just opened up. Chek out Eric Cheung and Sean Martindale’s awesome advertising poster conversion for some inspiration.

And Mario Bros.-inspired planter boxes by Posterchild, whose website is definitely worth a visit..

And keep making use of the To Write Love On Her Arms widget on the righthand side of the page, folks. It’s for a damn good cause.

15
Mar
10

Street Art meets transportation planning

You’d think that something so formal as the urban planning process and something so simple, decentralized and informal as streetart wouldn’t mesh too well together, right? Well, one way in which streetart can integrate itself into the planning process is as a means of raising awareness of important societal issues. The long tradition of pranksterism lends itself well to social pressure, as the Yes Men and their many media stunts show.

Have you heard of the Urban Renewal Squad? They’re a Toronto-based group which uses streetart as a means of raising awareness of cycling issues and problems, and they’ve pulled off some impressive work in the last couple of months… such as a modifying of a City of Toronto logo to include a cyclist and pedestrian and a strategic pothole stencilling campaign.

Very interesting stuff that reminds me of the work of Roadsworth and creates a whole lot of potential for new street art campaigns. What do you think, my dear readers? Streetart and graf’s prankster roots offer a great position for social commentary without getting into the territory of excruciatingly in-your-face annoying political commentary that many of us, including me, hate. Writing a political slogan on a wall is so much easier than pulling off a clever, well-thought-out piece of graf or street art. And it’s a lot easier to call the general public a bunch of sheeple for not appreciating the truth of your ‘SMASH THE STATE” which you’ve scrawled on the side of a bank building than it is to actually get involved in existing community initiatives or give people something to think about and enjoy.

And don’t forget to use the widget located on the righthand side of the page. Using it raises money for To Write Love On Her Arms, which is a damn good nonprofit which could use a lot more donated time and money.

And as for a book update, the manuscript is almost complete. All which remains to do is to put together the front and back covers and scan/integrate the two blueprints which I’m about halfway finished drawing. Then it gets sent off to my editors and shipped off to a publisher. Once I hear from a publisher I can can have an idea of when it’ll be ready for purchase and start setting up the sale infrastructure.

17
Jan
10

New Streetart, and a question…

Well, I’ve been doing a bit of painting in what spare time I have these days, and this led me to start painting on cardboard. I ended up making a couple of streetart pieces, which I put up along Rue St. Laurent a few days ago. These three pieces were part of an art-giveaway series that I’m planning on working on, and so I just tacked them up lightly with a couple of thumbtacks.



And I’d like to toss this question your way, my dear readers. What would you say is wrong with the way that North American cities are designed today? I’ve been thinking about this question for a little while, and all I’m realizing is that I’ve gotten too close to the urban planning process to be able to come up with a satisfying answer.

I’ve felt for a while that the profession of urban planning pretty much trains its participants in the interpretation and use of a specialized language which in a way serves to maintain the position and power of a technocratic-interpreter class. However, I’m too entrenched in the specialized language of zoning right now (as per class requirements) and am looking for fresh perspectives. So therefore I toss this question out to you…

26
Dec
09

Swap Box Project in the news!

It looks like the Swap Box Project got some press. In the Montreal Gazette, specifically.

“First, there were random acts of kindness.

Then there was book crossing – the practice of leaving a good book on a park bench or a bus seat for a stranger to discover and enjoy.

The latest concept in the tradition of small acts of humanity in the urban jungle is the swap box – a receptacle for small gifts that invites people to help themselves and pass on the favour by leaving a trinket for someone else to find.”…

The reason this article reads so choppy and disjointed is that I wound up being interviewed via e-mail for something which was being rushed out. There are a couple flubbed or poorly chopped quotes of mine there…for example, while I love the Reflectorman Project I’ve got no intention of copying its robot characters. I have some ideas for using similar materials though…

On the topic of the Champ-de-Mars station redesign, I’ve been giving some thought to the idea of what a public park designed by a street artist would look like. I don’t want to mention too much and give too many ideas away, but I’m looking at interactivity and year-round connections. It has to be engaging, fun to look at and be in and open up a section of space to a wide range of possibilities.

Quebec has policies in place to give design contracts to sculptural and visual artists, and I’m definitely considering the question of what kind of public art to bring in. As I’ve said before, the problem with public art is that most of it is bland, useless and puzzling…

How then can one go from ephemerality to designing something semi-permanent? The former’s my art of choice. And this is the question that’s rattling round in my head.

11
Nov
09

On planning, parasites and projects. And pranksterism

I’ve been pursuing my very own Grand Question for over a year now. That is the question of where the link between street art, architecture and urban design lies. And can one introduce memetics into the mix? I’ve gotten a lot of my ideas through images of others’ work that I’ve seen, and some of my best ones have come about through adapting other projects for the streets (for example, one of my original inspirations for the Swap Box was the Berkeley Free Store)

How then to design someting that is simple, easily replicable and also functional and useful (in that it improves its surroundings by creating new possibilities for public space)? Many projects which fit the first two categories really don’t work too well when the third is considered.

Then there’s the question of how to work my love for street art into urban planning and design (which I’m currently studying). I’ve found that when street art is mentioned in relation to architecture or urban studies in a non-negative way(and here I mean non-graffiti streetart) it’s the aesthetic that is being considered rather than the transformative potential.

One interesting idea which I recently stumbled on is that of Parasitic Architecture
I’m not personally sure where this concept originated- I think it came from Peter Cook’s Archigram Group- but I find it fascinating. Of course, the problem with any kind of design theory is that you’ve gotta sort through heaps of theoretical babble in hopes of finding one or two good inspirational ideas.

Cook, in some interviews, has talked about the need to create an urban environment that is amenable to addings-on. He’s designed a building in Lisbon that creates space for ground-floor kiosks and buskers within its exterior shell…

Would this be an example of something that inevitably breaks down and gets used by homeless people and junkies to the exclusion of all else? Or what could happen if passers-by and users took an interest in it?

Oh, and if you’re interested in some brilliant theoretical writings check out BLDG BLOG. It’s DRB in text form





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