Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In Place Pillowfights and Putridity

Last weekend's Pillow Fight in Overton Park's Greensward:

Next month's Memphis Zombie Walk on Beale Street.

They're placemaking showmanship meets participatory culture.

Memphis and its places could use more of their fun, goofy, golden touch.

Many Moods of Zombie

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Return of Main @ Jefferson

I went to the Lowenstein Building opening on Wednesday and was happy to see this great project completed.

Lowenstein Building

Lowenstein Building

Lowenstein Building

Lowenstein Building

Lincoln American Tower

Also cool to see its across the street neighbor, the Courtyard Marriott ascending at Main @ Jefferson. This is the visualization.

And this is the actualization, still in progress.

Courtyard Marriott

Hugely exciting to see the rebuilding of that corner.

I hope the local buildings can collaboratively use the new space and energy on the street.

By the way and along the way, this is what happens when you treat the street as incidental:

Empty Smoking Plaza

Don't waste the opportunity!

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Our Future's Got a Hole In It

I heard Chicago's Conservation Design Forum speak at the Brooks Museum in December 2007. They had come to Memphis at the invitation of the Mississippi River Corridor - Tennessee to speak about sustainable development. Until that talk, I had never really thought much (ever?) about stormwater runoff as an environmental problem.

And it's only with the recently publicized threat to the Greensward that I began to think about the talk's hyperlocal importance -- the importance lying just 100 yards away.

The Greensward, Overton Park

The core of CDF's message for me was this (and I paraphrase from memory):

we must use natural techniques to decrease environmentally destructive stormwater runoff, rather than engineer increasingly invasive stormwater runoff mechanisms.

While there isn't a recording of their talk in Memphis, they have amply outlined their strategies, including plans for the city of Chicago and for the Nature Conservancy. The techniques they recommend include:
  • Green Roofs
  • Bioswales and Rain Gardens
  • Native Landscaping
  • Permeable Paving
  • Filter Strips and Level Spreaders
  • Naturalized Detention Basins
These techniques seem to be of the 21st century kind that VECA resident Mary Wilder and Sierra Club representative James Baker called for in the VECA neighborhood meeting last week.

But they're also the kind of ideas that City Engineer Wain Gaskins politely dismissed as "long-term."

I think Memphians are increasingly sick of having the future deferred by a long term that is never begun. They're sick of regressive anti-imagination disguised as short term prudence. They're sick of a mediocre present digging a bigass mudpit that a good future has to climb out of.

And even if they're not, I am. The future is here.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Master Plans and Public Participation

I want to clarify my attitude towards plans and participation.

I'm for 'em!

  • we have to have everyday, always-on principles and visions of our natural and built environments. For instance, Sustainable Shelby's top recommendations and Jeff Speck's first six suggestions for Memphis. We can't use master plans to outsource, offload, avoid, postpone, ignore or forget these principles and visions, or their defense.

  • Public participation and input happens all the time, and has always happened all the time. We now have the collaborative, visual, ubiquitous, sometimes place-based, sometimes asynchronous, usually inexpensive tools to capture the ideas, moods, uses, input of citizens. Discrete meetings in discrete places should always be one of the tools, but exclusively it deludes rulers leaders that the public is something you give 2 minutes to stand up and speak, and 5 seconds to sit down and shut up.

Summer Walk 2008

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

10 Things I Love About Memphis

To add to the meme over at Smart City,

  1. The Great and Holy Seal of the City of Memphis

  2. Idlewild Elementary School

  3. Artist's Yard, Cooper-Young

  4. Memphis Greenline: Crossing the Wolf River on the Greenline

  5. Memphis Bungalows: Memphis Bungalow near East High by gatesofmemphis, on Flickr
    Memphis Bungalows: Bungalow and Art in Binghamton by gatesofmemphis, on Flickr

    Memphis Bungalows: Underground Art

  6. Expected and Unexpected Public Art:  Angel of the Cottage
    Expected and Unexpected Public Art:  Public Art on South Main
    Expected and Unexpected Public Art:  Tucker-Jefferson Neighborhood Sign
    Expected and Unexpected Public Art:  Bathroom Graffiti

  7. The Old Forest:  World Champion Shumard, R.I.P.
    The Old Forest:  PawPaws in the Old Forest
    The Old Forest:  Overton Park grapevines in snow

  8. Details:  South Main Frieze
    Details:  Summer Walk 2008

  9. Memphis Coffee Houses: : Cafe Eclectic
    Memphis Coffee Houses: Java Cabana
    Memphis Coffee Houses: : Trompe l'Oeil at Otherlands

  10. Coletta's Pizza on South Parkway

Mouse over if you'd like to know what I'm visioning.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Great Skatepark of the World

The Web Urbanist has a nice photographic compilation of great skateparks around the world.

All cool but I think a skatepark designed and built for the tip of Mud Island, jutting into and surrounded on 3 sides by the great Mississippi River, would hold its own, and probably more with any of them.

Skatelife Memphis
has proposed just such an incredible public use for a piece of land that has been unused since it formed over 100 years ago.

The red line below shows the approximate location of the skatepark.

Nothing but grass, and rough at that.

Yet the Riverfront Development Corp has put Skatelife off since April 2008 so the RDC can do a master plan on Mud Island.

Another master plan.

Another plan.

Another master plan that will cost approximately $800 thousand dollars*, when the highest end skate park is only $3 million. Another plan that won't even start gathering input from the public until late March because it's already taken a year to plan the plan.

In the meantime, greatness flows past Memphis.

So maybe that's just water under the bridge. Skatelife Memphis asks that you attend the public input sessions and let the RDC know your support for the skatepark on Mud Island. Let the RDC see the dynamism and vitality that they put off for at least two years, but can still have.

There will be 4 sessions.

* figure ciphered from the $400,000 matching grant they received from Corps of Engineers to do the study.

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