30 June 2009

Coffee Mug Monument


Individual vs Societal Green

Another study finds urbanites more green. Its always interesting to see the suburban greenies write in their outraged objections when they read such articles. (After all they did add insulation to their attic and change to energy efficient bulbs). This kind of thinking reminds me of a guy I heard on Smart City podcast a few weeks ago. Alex Steffen was saying that it is wrong to think people can save the planet by making these small tweaks in their personal life. We really need bigger and more transformational societal changes:
...I think we have made a pretty profound mistake in assuming that the only way that people are willing to engage with big problems and try to bring forth big solutions is as individual consumers. Not only is this something that just simply won't work, we can't shop our way to a better planet, but it also something that profoundly insults the dignity and capacities of everyday people. Democracy is founded on the idea that groups of people coming together have the capacity to choose well and act boldly. We have poorly served our larger community by insisting that sustainability is something that happens at home. It isn't. Sustainability is something that happens in the ordering of your city and nation...

29 June 2009

I Told You Architects Don't Care About Beauty

At least the most respected ones don't. Come to think of it, does anyone seriously discuss or make beauty today? Painters? Urban designers?: Interview with Rem Koolhaas:

SPIEGEL: ...Shouldn't architects be the prophets of beauty?
Koolhaas: Beauty isn't what I'm primarily interested in. I think appropriateness is more important.
SPIEGEL: What do you think is the world's most beautiful building?
Koolhaas: Very conventionally, the Pantheon in Rome, for example. Isn't it remarkable? Talk about beauty and you get boring answers, but talk about ugliness and things get interesting.
SPIEGEL: Some people say that if architects had to live in their own buildings, cities would be more attractive today.
Koolhaas: Oh, come on now, that's really trivial.
SPIEGEL: Where do you live?
Koolhaas: That's unimportant. It's less a question of architecture than of finances.
SPIEGEL: You're avoiding the question. Where do you live?
Koolhaas: OK, I live in a Victorian apartment building in London.
SPIEGEL: ... What will cities look like in the future? Do we even need such downtown areas?
Koolhaas: The old contrast between downtown and suburban areas is outdated.
SPIEGEL: Wait a minute, isn't the current trend moving away from suburbia and back to the city?
Koolhaas: Yes, for now. And do you know what's so ironic about that? The people from the suburbs are bringing along their suburban values: cleanliness, orderliness, safety -- dullness, in other words. As a result, urban areas are being hollowed out. Just look at Times Square in New York. No more sex shops, no drugs, no homeless people. The area is clinically clean and incredibly dull.
Thus if an urban area does not have drugs, prostitution and poverty then it is not interesting to Mr Koolhaas. And while designing painful buildings for others, he chooses to live in Victorian comfort and beauty.

I've been reading some other stuff recently about Delirious New York, in which Koolhaas heaps praise upon leftover spaces in American cities; places like highway entrance ramps, and drainage swales. Think about it. This guy is a leading academic with rabid followers in all the architecture schools. This kind of thinking has permeated our culture.

The Most Beautiful Toilet

Built in 1772, documented here.

28 June 2009

Retro Play Equipment

Seen at a park in District of Columbia last week. Simple, yet kids seemed attracted to it:

26 June 2009

To Hot to Blog

Summer in Cincy is a great sweaty mess, but is heaven if you have a pool to visit everyday. For the next month, my objective is to get to work early and get a lot done so that I can get to the pool mid-afternoon and spend as many hours there as possible and going to sleep early so I can start the process all over again. I also have lots of construction / home improvement to do. Thus posts from me will be less frequent for the rest of the summer. The others will still post, and in all likelyhood, so will I, but the way I see it the more I post here the less time I am doing the things I really want to do. Step away from the screen and get outside!

Neighborly Hyde Parkers

Click any pic for a larger view.

Everybody needs a neighbor who has a chainsaw; and the go-getter attitude to go with it. Special thanks to Shawn next door for getting the neighborhood off to work today. And to the many others who stepped in to follow Shawn's lead.

Last night's storm split a roadside tree, dropping it onto two cars. Minimal damage, but the street was completely blocked. Help appeared from everywhere, and the street became passable in less than a half hour. "Many hands make for light work." Thanks neighbors.

25 June 2009

WP Playground Design

WP playground preliminary design from 3CDC website:

My wishlist for this yet undefined playground:
1. Climbing Hill with slide down
2. Rope or tire swing
3. Visual connection to street and rest of park
4. No generic standardized play structures (except maybe a toddler area)
5. Sandbox or dirt play area
6. Climbing tree or treehouse type platform
7. Shaded parent seating near foot traffic
8. Traditional game area: 4 square, tetherball, hopscotch

24 June 2009

City Repair PDX

City Repair/ Sounds interesting:

The City Repair Project is group of citizen activists creating public gathering places and helping others to creatively transform the places where they live.

... the idea that localization - of culture, of economy, of decision-making - is a necessary foundation of sustainability. By reclaiming urban spaces to create community-oriented places, we plant the seeds for greater neighborhood communication, empower our communities and nurture our local culture.

... engage in intersection repair, natural building, and other forms of placemaking. We also host Earth Day, the Village Planting Convergence (also known as City Riparian), and operate a mobile tea house called the T-Horse.

Throughout the year we educate the community with workshops on all forms of sustainability and offer the invaluable placemaking guidebook and one-on-one consulting for those who want to repair their own neighborhood. If you are interested in helping our efforts please visit our volunteer page.

23 June 2009

Thanks Mainstream Media... for nothing.

You know it is one thing to have to deal with misperceptions from folks outside of the area, but I would love to see our local news sources dig deeper into stories before passing out distorted information. The latest instance? Walletpop.com ranked a "neighborhood" in Cincinnati as the most dangerous in the nation. This was picked up by local news sources as:
All of these headlines are terrible. The area in question is a piece of OTR and the West End. It is bounded in the south by Liberty Street, goes a couple blocks west of Central Parkway and then bounded my W. McMicken in the north and Vine street in the east. I don't think there are a lot of residents in this area (feel free to comment on that). If I work back the statistics the 457 incidents working out to 266.94 per 1,000 yields 1,712 residents. One article I read (see below) pointed out that OTR is home to over 7,000 people. I would love to see an analysis of those crimes. The area seems to attract dealers and buyers from outside the area. How many of those crimes affected residents? How many were caused by the increased attention law enforcement gave to the area? Attention that made things better, but may have caused a spike in recorded incidents. But no, instead we have inflammatory headlines.

I don't blame the web site. It uses an automated data analysis. They have no idea what constitutes a neighborhood. I am just frustrated by the lack of depth in local reporting. Cincinnati.com and WLWT at least gave passing mention that it was just a part of OTR, but the headlines don't say that.

Thankfully there are quite a few local bloggers that ARE willing to look behind the numbers.

Teens at the Pool

Teenage boys at the pool diving in the deep end and racing across the pool and playing Sharks and Minnows. Somehow I cannot imagine these boys having much fun at a spray fountain:

22 June 2009

Public Sidewalk No Smoking

I understand the intention here, that Kroger's doesn't want employees going just outside the office doors to catch a smoke. But, really, they cannot stop someone from smoking on a public sidewalk, right?:

Adding Roads Can Slow Traffic

I was watching a video about the uncovering of the Cheonggyecheon river in Seoul. In the 1960's it was completely covered with a 12-lane double-decker highway. Here it is today:

The video is very inspiring and I encourage you to watch it. Could we similarly re-connect to some of our industrial waterways?

Anyway, in the video they interview some professorial type engineers who study traffic flow. And they figured that even though they removed a very busy highway, the traffic still moved quickly. In the end, it even sped up a bit.

And this is a concept that is hard for people to get there heads around. I've talked about it with people, and they think I am flat out wrong. But it is proven to be true that widening roads and adding lanes does not solve congestion, but often increases it. One person in the video says a good analogy is that people think traffic is like liquid in a tube, and that if one part is squeezed, then the other arteries clog or fatten. But the analogy is false. Traffic is better thought of as a gas in that it can compress and expand to fill whatever is built.

Below are a few links I found that try to partially explain this phenomenon:

The Road Paradox:
Did you know that adding a road to a road network can actually slow traffic? We've all had our suspicions that new roads don't always help, but it can actually be shown mathematically.

Induced Demand:
Motorways and bypasses generate traffic, that is, produce extra traffic, partly by inducing people to travel who would not otherwise have done so by making the new route more convenient than the old, partly by people who go out of their direct route to enjoy the greater convenience of the new road, and partly by people who use the towns bypassed because they are more convenient for shopping and visits when through traffic has been removed.

When car owners use roads, they impose congestion costs on all other users.

Downs Thomson Paradox:
...states that the equilibrium speed of car traffic on the road network is determined by the average door-to-door speed of equivalent journeys by (rail-based or otherwise segregated) public transport.

It follows that increasing road capacity can actually make overall congestion on the road worse. This occurs when the shift from public transport causes a disinvestment in the mode such that the operator either reduces frequency of service or raises fares to cover costs. This shifts additional passengers into cars. Ultimately the system may be eliminated and congestion on the original (expanded) road is worse than before...

The Braess Paradox

21 June 2009

Forced Together Time with Prison Walls

Happy Father's Day

Temporary prison-like walls built around a subdivision for a reality TV show:
e>...the network built 2,000 feet of stark 20-foot tall walls around eight homes in a Kennesaw subdivision, walls that resemble the outside of a maximum-security penitentiary...

...eight families in those homes will be trapped in their own homes for about three weeks, blocked by said wall. If they leave, they relinquish the chance to win an unspecified large cash prize...

...the concept is that suburban families lead such rushed, disparate lives, they don’t spend enough time together. This show will force them to do so. Dad can’t go off and play golf. The kids can’t go to ballet class or karate lessons. Mom can’t hit the mall.

As a footnote, apparently this is in the same community that made gun ownership mandatory for all households and is the same town that elected Newt Gingrich and refused to allow public transit inside.

19 June 2009

Family Days on FS

SATURDAY (Tomorrow):
The fourth bigg’s Family Day on Fountain Square presented by Duke Energy will kick the day off at 1pm. This week’s theme is Sports. The University of Cincinnati’s Bearcat will be hanging out, giving free temporary tattoos and Frisbees.

There will also be some football activities and cornhole games along with the usual Family Day events that include art projects, story time and Junior Jazzercise. At 2pm children’s performer Joanie Whittaker takes the stage to get children singing and dancing.

For more information.

Mousavi Architect

Apparently Mousavi is a practicing architect:

...most of his time was devoted to architecture and painting. His chief influences include the Italian architect Renzo Piano...

“He takes some elements of modern Japanese architecture, and American postmodern, and then puts them in the context of Iranian architecture,”...

18 June 2009

Media Bridges Multimedia Summer Camps

I live right by this place, but never new that Media Bridges was offering a series of summer camps focused on media arts. They also have a (free) youth media club that meets every Tuesday from 4-6pm that is producing a youth TV show.

Contact: Christa Zielke 651-4171 x16, christen at mediabridges dot org

Media Bridges, “Cincinnati’s Community Media Center,” will host a series of summer Youth Media Camps beginning in June, 2009. Various programs will teach skills such as video production, digital photography and photo editing, television studio production, radio production, web design and comic book design. The camps are intended for ages 8-18.

Each camp is taught by professional, adult instructors with a background in the topic offered. Camps will be held at Media Bridges, 1100 Race Street, downtown Cincinnati. Fees are $75 per student, per camp, and include snacks and access to equipment and learning tools. Limited scholarships are available; applications are available online at www.mediabridges.org, or by calling 513-651-4171. Transportation is not provided, though the media center is located on several bus routes.

Week-long camps begin in mid-June. A complete schedule is available by contacting Media Bridges.

WHO: Media Bridges, “Cincinnati’s Community Media Center”
WHAT: Youth media camps, including video production, radio, digital photography, web and graphic design.
WHERE: Media Bridges, 1100 Race Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
WHEN: various week-long camps held June-August, 2009
COST: $75 per student, per camp. Some scholarships are available; see website or call for application.
AGES: Children 8-18 (see camp descriptions for age appropriateness advisories)
GRAPHICS: photos available on request
WEB: www.mediabridges.org
PHONE: 513-651-4171

The Nano Home

Matheran Realty is one of several firms that think they have a solution: ultra-low-cost housing. In Karjat, 90km east of Mumbai, Matheran Realty is in the process of building 15,000 flats with prices starting at just 210,000 rupees ($4,500) for (200 square feet). Tata, the firm that makes the $2,500 “Nano” car, is building 1,300 basic units at Boisar, about 100km north of the city, and may add more. Priced at 390,000-670,000 rupees each, they are already oversubscribed. Other firms are planning similar developments elsewhere in India.

The cost is being kept low chiefly because the flats are being built outside big cities, where land is much cheaper. Owners are expected to commute.

The units are also very small and spartan. The simplest consist of a single room with a sink in the corner and a toilet behind a partition. They are in buildings of no more than three storeys, so there is no need for expensive structural works. Instead of bricks, lightweight moulded concrete blocks are used for the walls. The concrete is often made with foam, fly-ash or other waste materials to make it lighter as well as cheaper. There are no lifts and just one staircase per block. All this means that the homes can be built very quickly and with unskilled labour
-The Economist

Super cheap cars plus super cheap housing will likely equal a pretty miserable life commuting to keep you head above water. Heck, you can buy a vacant house in Cincinnati sometimes for $4,500. In Detroit, friends have found the fabled $100 house. Hmmm, maybe some of those Indians looking for cheap housing chould immigrate to the rust belt.

17 June 2009

Corpus Christi

Last Friday there was a wake at the corner of Race and Liberty.

I didn't want to take a photo of a dead man in a coffin, but a few days later, there was this religious procession a block east. I really really like it when people bring these ceremonies that are usually hidden in a church, out to the street:

16 June 2009

Free Cloth Diapers


used cloth diapers and velcro type covers. The covers are Vimse Bumpy and Bummis of various sizes.

Mt Adam's Summer Movies


Quiet Night Sounds

I'm surprised how cool the evening breezes are even this far into summer. I don't remember it being this cool in June last year. Did you know that we fall asleep to the sounds of crickets downtown? Where I was little, there was a pond not too far from my bedroom window. The sound of the frogs on summer nights was constant and loud. The sounds after midnight downtown are: the cottonwood leaves rustling, midnight church bells, a guy calling to his friend, bike brakes squeaking and the chain rattling as it changes gears, moths fluttering around the sashes, car tires on cobblestones, a ticking engine that needs a valve job, aluminum cans being collected, bats echolocating, and of course the squeal of steel on steel at the rail yards a mile away. Sometimes I can hear the highway, but not tonight. Not sure if it is the vegetation, the humidity or what.

And BTW, there used to be this overwhelming sweet sour yeasty smell that coated the Millcreek valley most days. It was the FL Emmert Company, on Dunlap Street. They take all the spent grains from the breweries and air dry it and sell it as cattle feed. They either stopped processing in OTR or they figured out a way to trap the smell, because our air has been odor free for several years.

Later, past 12:30, I hear a crash. It sounded like a storefront window maybe. I look out and all I see is a cat ambling down the sidewalk. Then two scraggly guys come running down the street with full sacks. They split in different directions. Less than a minute later police come, but find no one. I think they smashed the window at the corner bar and grabbed some bottles. I'll see the damage in the morning.

15 June 2009

City Home

City Home is a mix of new townhouses and condos in existing buildings. This is a unique parnership between several parties, notably OTR Community Housing and 3CDC. The development encompasses much of the 1400 block of Pleasant Street. If you don't know, Pleasant Street runs parallel/between Elm and Race from 14th to Findlay Market. The main selling point is proximity to Music Hall and off-street parking. For the new buildings, it is a rare chance to own a townhouse instead of a condo in OTR. Personally, I prefer the larger historic buildings, but having these 2-3 story townhouses adds to the mix of choices to potential homebuyers.

View from the northern end of Pleasant Street looking south and east. The new garden area is to the immediate left:

Looking down on Pleasant Street from the rehabbed building on the west side of the street:

View from balcony of rehabbed building on west side of street:

Interior of new townhouse, living room:


This laundry area is at the top of the stairs. The areawell lets light in and separates the front of the house from the garage:


Bedroom in new townhouse:

Inside of bay window:

Each townhouse has inset area with patio below:

This is the area where a new community garden will be planted. Underneath is storm detention tanks required by MSD:

The rest are photos from a month ago, when I was looking at how they installed the electric underground and re-used the granite curbing:

See here, the granite curb was re-laid with a gentle curve to widen the sidewalk enough for a (future) tree:

Electric being installed under sidewalk:

14 June 2009

Green Revolution in Iran

I've been seeing some great photos of protests in Iran. Very moving stuff. It is believed by many including the crowd in this video (Mousavi supporters, often wearing green) that the election was stolen:

There can be no question that the June 12, 2009 Iranian presidential election was stolen. Dissident employees of the Interior Ministry, which is under the control of President Ahmadinejad and is responsible for the mechanics of the polling and counting of votes, have reportedly issued an open letter saying as much. Government polls (one conducted by the Revolutionary Guards, the other by the state broadcasting company) that were leaked to the campaigns allegedly showed ten- to twenty-point leads for Mousavi a week before the election; earlier polls had them neck and neck, with Mousavi leading by one per cent, and Karroubi just behind.

Lego Pride

It's tough to find LGBT Lego, but this model, entitled "Rainbow Warriors" actually got the colors in the proper order, and shows impressive detail right down to the lavender flight suits.

Even Lego neighborhoods support diversity, flying the flag to support their LGBT brothers and sisters. This scene almost looks like downtown Northside. All of us here at CityKin want to wish Porkopolis' LGBT community a happy and successful festival and parade, "Squealin' with Pride in '09".

Team Lego marches in the San Diego Pride Parade.

13 June 2009

Legos Can't Dance

12 June 2009

Trinity Flats

Trinity Flats is a new building at the southwest corner of 14th and Vine. I have followed this project from the early demolition of the old buildings, and through construction. This is the first new building on Vine Street since "Gateway I" (in the 1100 block).

There are 9 condos, one storefront and a first floor garage parking. Each unit has balcony and 3 of them have roof decks. The total project budget was $2.5 million and I noticed that a couple have sold. A bunch of my photos were blurred, so only a few photos here, and none of the Rookwood tiled elevator and entrance lobby:

[where: 1331-3 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202]

Across the street, the next project is under construction:

UPDATE: See Glaserworks website for floor plans on this project.

11 June 2009

Thursday Night Out

On rare occasions, I will hire a babysitter from Babysitease and take my lovely wife on a night out. Being the uncultured slob I am, instead of going to a nice restaurant or a movie, I treated my wife to a streetcar fundraiser. There were several hundred people there, and lots of positive energy.

But I am not a total dweeb and knew that we had to do something nicer. So we then headed down to Fountain Square. I think it says a lot now that when we are looking for some activity, we naturally gravitate to Fountain Square. Seems like there is always a crowd, and tonight was the biggest yet. It's not even the weekend yet.

It was salsa night, and it was packed with people dancing and having a good time. There were some great dancers and the square was pulsating. I finally met Morris (who is an excellent dancer). I also figured out that I know Diana (the salsa guru) from when we were teenagers. We talked, and she convinced us to take lessons.

The dancing and closeness on the square, the sheer joy, reminded me of an axiom that Roxanne Qualls quoted in her talk Tuesday: public affection is an indicator of a successful public place.

While the dancers were still getting sweaty, wife and I headed over to Jean-Ro's for a single martini each. They were excellent. As we walked home, each block we got further from Fountain Square, the streets got quieter and emptier. When we got to our quiet block and went up to relieve the babysitter, she commented on how loud the neighborhood is. Ironic.

I guess it was loud to her, because we still have the windows open, and haven't closed up yet for air conditioning. But I like hearing everything that is going on outside. Murmurs, drizzle, tires on wet asphalt, a breaking bottle, whatever. It was a bit humid, but the nights have been pleasant with gentle breezes and occasional rain.

Fingers crossed that the sun be out tomorrow, so the kids can return to the pool.


The second building on the tour is called Mottainai. It is at the southeast corner of Republic and 13th. This has been a very rough corner for many years, and the buildings themselves were also in terrible terrible condition. They had been vacant for at least 15 years. They are also almost the only buildings left on the east side of Republic Street in this block. There are vacant lots to the north and the south. Knowing all of this, I was pretty surprised at the very high level of finish in these units. They obviously put a lot of money into these two buildings (the website says 2.84 million, but that sounds way too high for these 8 units with prices starting at $134k). It is a bit shocking to walk off the gritty street right into such a polished first floor space like this:

This is a cork floor:

The sink on the left is painted cast-in place concrete. Not sure about that:

More cork:

More cork:

And even more cork, leading to a rooftop deck:

[where: 1222 and 1224 Republic St., Cincinnati, OH 45202]