Posts Tagged ‘urban planning


Big News, Everybody!

My blog detailing my grad-school project to study post-disaster tent cities in Port-au-Prince, Haiti is now online. Visit it right here at

As part of the whole project I’m selling a limited run of prints to raise funds to pay off the costs of the trip and additional supplies/travel vaccinations. More info can be found on the blog. or you can check out the Etsy link right here. Only 40 will be sold, so get ’em while you can and help fund what will be a great initiative.

The print, which is totally awesome, looks like this:

And a closeup of the linework looks like this:


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.”


Cirque Turcot

It’s forty-two years old, and no one really seems to know what to do with the Turcot Interchange.

When it was first unveiled in time for Expo ’67 (a time period which was marked by a flurry of megaprojects under the stead of Mayor Jean Drapeau that also included the Montreal subway and Ville-Marie Expressway) it was a towering marvel of modernist efficiency. It still is the largest highway interchange in Quebec. It handles more than 30 per cent of Quebec’s total truck traffic.

Now it’s crumbling, and the city, province and community groups are fighting over what to do next. The City of Montreal proposed a 10-year, 5-billion dollar plan which, in typical Montreal megaproject form, envisions a three-level Colosseum-like concrete megastructure taking its place.

The Quebec Transport Authority promptly rejected this plan and came up with a proposal to bring the expressway down onto embankments, a development which will require the expropriation and demolition of some 130 homes and which will create a new barrier cutting through the neighbourhood of St. Henri. This plan will also increase the highway’s carrying capacity by more than 10 per cent. This move has been resoundingly panned by environmental groups arguing that we should be trying to have less, not more, cars on the road.

A coalition of environmental and community groups, engineers and planners has put forth a third proposal, which calls for the preservation and maintenance of the beleaguered interchange and the gradual reduction of its carrying capacity. Public transit services are proposed as a means of taking up the excess slack. As it stands, the recession has placed a damper on this hot-button issue, and City politicians seem to be doing as much as they can to keep the issue under wraps. To make things more interesting, the head of Projet Montreal might be involved in keeping Turcot deliberations a secret.

This is an issue that needs to be brought back into the public eye.
That’s why I came up with a series of Turcot-themed posters. I give you the first in a list of alternate proposals. The magnificent “Cirque Turcot”, which promises to pay for itself in popcorn sales by 2044…

And to my readers…please make use of the fundraising widget on the right side of the page. It’s free to use and raises money for To Write Love On Her Arms, which is a great cause.


The Ideal City, Etsy and prints to come…

I’ve been thinking about the ways in which streetart and urban planning/design can be merged, and so why not invite people to write their thoughts on their ideal Montreal? Why not play around a little with the public consultation or charrette process a little?

In other news, my Etsy shop is back up and running again, and now updated with brand spanking new stuff! If you’d like to get your hands on an Elmaks original piece, my dear readers, then now’s the time…

More to come on the Etsy shop and the prints that I’m working on…

UPDATE: Had a little time to take a look at how the “Ideal City” book is progressing. Thought I’d scan in a couple images of what’s been written so far. I’m pretty enthused at the fact that people have written in their opinions of how they see the city… of course, since the book is open to the public, crudely drawn penises do show up.



On Urban Planning

It’s been a long two semesters here at grad school, and I feel like I’ve aged a half-dozen years in the span of eight months. I’ve had a horde of information thrown at me that I’m still trying to understand and relate to the things that interest me, and it’s been a fight to stay interested in the subject matter (a fight that I’ve lost for a while and am trying to get going again). Unfortunately, grad school (at least in this field) seems to work on the principle of throwing huge heaps of information at us with little direction or advice given of how to understand the information or even how the municipal networks that operate the planning process work and letting the most ambitious among us or those with preexisting knowledge of planning pull ahead of the rest. Hell, finding profs who share my outlook and who can point me in the direction of interesting resources has also been extremely difficult. But what do I expect? I’m a frickin’ street artist.

It’s a poor means of education, and particularly so when it’s training future decision-makers.

Then again, we’re not just learning a trade as much as we’re learning to decipher a specialized language which we will eventually become masters and guardians of. Planners, just like lawyers, economists, doctors and a number of highly specialized professions, are members of what one could call an interpreter class.

I’m still trying to think about how approaches to public space design and city layouts can be changed and how to get ordinary people engaged and involved in civic decision-making. But it’s a complicated process compounded by a large volume of often confusing information. If it’s hard enough for me, an urban planning student, to understand the material I can only imagine how confusing it must be for layfolks.

Well, I am looking at examples of what other cities have done in terms of improved civic democracy (ie: participatory budgeting), how planning power was brought down from higher levels and how other cities have dealt with public space issues. I’m also trying to get myself a position with the UN as a planning intern in Haiti, where there is undoubtedly a need for urgent urban planning work.

The saga continues. I knwo this isn;t much of a streetarty update, but there’ll be more to come soon.


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.


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