Posts tagged "Urban Revitalization"
The Guardian:
“Gentrification doesn’t trickle down to help everyone
Regeneration boosters praise cities that ‘bounce back’ from poverty. The reality is poverty just gets bounced elsewhere
David Madden. 10 Oct 2013
It’s no secret that today’s big cities are massively unequal, and gentrification is now the predominant form of neighborhood development. In countless urban districts across the world, affordable housing is on the decline and displacement is on the rise. This is especially true in New York and London, where observers are straining to find sufficient prefixes (mega, hyper and super have all been aptly applied) to describe the pace at which gentrification is changing the city.But most of the discussion about gentrification doesn’t do justice to everything at stake.Here’s how gentrification talk typically goes: poor neighborhoods are said to need “regeneration" or "revitalization", as if lifelessness and torpor – as opposed to impoverishment and disempowerment – were the problem. Exclusion is rebranded as creative "renewal". The liberal mission to "increase diversity" is perversely used as an excuse to turn residents out of their homes in places like Harlem or Brixton – areas famous for their long histories of independent political and cultural scenes.After gentrification takes hold, neighborhoods are commended for having “bounced back” from poverty, ignoring the fact that poverty has usually only been bounced elsewhere.”
Photo: Bill Cooper

The Guardian:

Gentrification doesn’t trickle down to help everyone

Regeneration boosters praise cities that ‘bounce back’ from poverty. The reality is poverty just gets bounced elsewhere

David Madden. 10 Oct 2013

It’s no secret that today’s big cities are massively unequal, and gentrification is now the predominant form of neighborhood development. In countless urban districts across the world, affordable housing is on the decline and displacement is on the rise. This is especially true in New York and London, where observers are straining to find sufficient prefixes (megahyper and super have all been aptly applied) to describe the pace at which gentrification is changing the city.

But most of the discussion about gentrification doesn’t do justice to everything at stake.

Here’s how gentrification talk typically goes: poor neighborhoods are said to need “regeneration" or "revitalization", as if lifelessness and torpor – as opposed to impoverishment and disempowerment – were the problem. Exclusion is rebranded as creative "renewal". The liberal mission to "increase diversity" is perversely used as an excuse to turn residents out of their homes in places like Harlem or Brixton – areas famous for their long histories of independent political and cultural scenes.

After gentrification takes hold, neighborhoods are commended for having “bounced back” from poverty, ignoring the fact that poverty has usually only been bounced elsewhere.”

Photo: Bill Cooper

The Architect’s Newspaper:
“FEATURE> THE BUFFALO BOOM
After decades of stagnation and decline, this Rust Belt city is finally on the upswing.
Jenna McKnight. Aug 6, 2013
The Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, designed by H.H. Richardson with a landscape by Frederick Law Olmsted, has been a mighty but ghostly presence since it was largely abandoned in the 1970s. Preservationists have long fought to save the monolithic complex that stretches across roughly 90 acres. Now, their efforts are paying off, with work under way to transform a portion of the late-19 -century structure into a boutique hotel, conference venue, and an architecture center.
“We’ve been lucky,” said architect Barbara Campagna, while giving a hard-hat tour of the facility on a steamy summer afternoon. “It’s such a sound building—it’s still in decent shape.”
Campagna sits on the board of the Richardson Center Corporation, which is tasked with overseeing the site’s redevelopment. While the group has engaged a lengthy roster of consultants over the years, the current design team comprises Flynn Battaglia Architects, Deborah Berke Partners, and Goody Clancy. Public and private money is funding the estimated $56 million project.”
Photo: BUFFALO CANALSIDE BY PERKINS EASTMAN.
COURTESY PERKINS EASTMAN

The Architect’s Newspaper:

FEATURE> THE BUFFALO BOOM

After decades of stagnation and decline, this Rust Belt city is finally on the upswing.

Jenna McKnight. Aug 6, 2013

The Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, designed by H.H. Richardson with a landscape by Frederick Law Olmsted, has been a mighty but ghostly presence since it was largely abandoned in the 1970s. Preservationists have long fought to save the monolithic complex that stretches across roughly 90 acres. Now, their efforts are paying off, with work under way to transform a portion of the late-19 -century structure into a boutique hotel, conference venue, and an architecture center.

“We’ve been lucky,” said architect Barbara Campagna, while giving a hard-hat tour of the facility on a steamy summer afternoon. “It’s such a sound building—it’s still in decent shape.”

Campagna sits on the board of the Richardson Center Corporation, which is tasked with overseeing the site’s redevelopment. While the group has engaged a lengthy roster of consultants over the years, the current design team comprises Flynn Battaglia Architects, Deborah Berke Partners, and Goody Clancy. Public and private money is funding the estimated $56 million project.”

Photo: BUFFALO CANALSIDE BY PERKINS EASTMAN.

COURTESY PERKINS EASTMAN
Lincoln House:
“Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities
June 25, 2013
Many of America’s legacy cities — older industrial metropolitan areas facing manufacturing decline and population loss — have had a difficult time bouncing back. But the key to revitalization for Baltimore, St. Louis, Camden, N.J., Youngstown, Ohio or Flint, Michigan, is to take stock of the assets right at their doorstep, such as downtowns, parks, transit systems, and academic and cultural institutions. That’s the message of Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities, an analysis of 18 cities by Alan Mallach and Lavea Brachman, who advocate step-by-step “strategic incrementalism” as a path to economic development, rather than the silver-bullet approach of signature architecture, a sports stadium or other megaprojects.
     In preparing the Lincoln Institute’s latest Policy Focus Report, Mallach and Brachman, who are both nonresident fellows at The Brookings Institution, examined cities in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the South, and the Midwest, that had a population of at least 50,000 in 2010, and a loss of at least 20 percent from peak population. They concluded that a renewed competitive advantage, which will enable legacy cities to build new economic engines and draw new populations, can come from leveraging longstanding assets such as downtown employment bases, stable neighborhoods, multimodal transportation networks, colleges and universities, local businesses, historic buildings and areas, and arts, cultural, and entertainment facilities.”

Lincoln House:

Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities

June 25, 2013

Many of America’s legacy cities — older industrial metropolitan areas facing manufacturing decline and population loss — have had a difficult time bouncing back. But the key to revitalization for Baltimore, St. Louis, Camden, N.J., Youngstown, Ohio or Flint, Michigan, is to take stock of the assets right at their doorstep, such as downtowns, parks, transit systems, and academic and cultural institutions. That’s the message of Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities, an analysis of 18 cities by Alan Mallach and Lavea Brachman, who advocate step-by-step “strategic incrementalism” as a path to economic development, rather than the silver-bullet approach of signature architecture, a sports stadium or other megaprojects.


     In preparing the Lincoln Institute’s latest Policy Focus Report, Mallach and Brachman, who are both nonresident fellows at The Brookings Institution, examined cities in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the South, and the Midwest, that had a population of at least 50,000 in 2010, and a loss of at least 20 percent from peak population. They concluded that a renewed competitive advantage, which will enable legacy cities to build new economic engines and draw new populations, can come from leveraging longstanding assets such as downtown employment bases, stable neighborhoods, multimodal transportation networks, colleges and universities, local businesses, historic buildings and areas, and arts, cultural, and entertainment facilities.”

The Atlantic Cities:
Could Detroit Become America’s Design Capital?
Steven Heller. June 7, 2013
Last month I received my first-ever academic degree, an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. I had never heard of the school before it got in touch with me, and my sole knowledge of Detroit was the popular perception of it as a metropolis of modern ruins. But when I visited, I was blown away by this surprisingly little known but inspiring incubator of art and design - the rare collegiate creative enclave that engages with, reflects, and embodies the city it’s in.
That city is, of course, a poster child for urban blight and urban flight. But it’s also the storied home of American manufacturing and industrial innovation, and with the help of CCS, it could well become the design capital of the United States again.
The college began in 1906 as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts “to encourage good and beautiful work as applied to useful service.” That notion of “useful service” soon expanded to include fine arts and what was called the “industrial arts” - the craft that would help power Detroit’s auto industry, which in turn over the years has helped power the college’s endowment and board of directors.”
Photo: Courtesy of the College for Creative Studies

The Atlantic Cities:

Could Detroit Become America’s Design Capital?

Steven Heller. June 7, 2013

Last month I received my first-ever academic degree, an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. I had never heard of the school before it got in touch with me, and my sole knowledge of Detroit was the popular perception of it as a metropolis of modern ruins. But when I visited, I was blown away by this surprisingly little known but inspiring incubator of art and design - the rare collegiate creative enclave that engages with, reflects, and embodies the city it’s in.

That city is, of course, a poster child for urban blight and urban flight. But it’s also the storied home of American manufacturing and industrial innovation, and with the help of CCS, it could well become the design capital of the United States again.

The college began in 1906 as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts “to encourage good and beautiful work as applied to useful service.” That notion of “useful service” soon expanded to include fine arts and what was called the “industrial arts” - the craft that would help power Detroit’s auto industry, which in turn over the years has helped power the college’s endowment and board of directors.”

Photo: Courtesy of the College for Creative Studies

“River of Hope in the Bronx
By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN Published: July 19, 2012 
PERHAPS the most unsung patch of heaven in New York City is a tiny sliver of riverfront parkland tucked between a metal-recycling yard and a giant wholesale produce market, on the far side of a six-lane highway and a pair of active freight train tracks. Hunts Point Riverside Park, a 1.4-acre speck in the South Bronx, opened a few years ago on what had been a filthy, weedy street end.
A garden path now winds from the front gate past rose bushes and flowering butterfly bushes, beyond a sprinkling fountain and shaded benches under a flowered trellis, to a pier on the Bronx River. Save for a couple of brick apartment towers rising over the treetops, the view is green across the river. Herons and egrets silently roam the riverbank. The other afternoon teenagers from Rocking the Boat, a neighborhood organization that teaches boatbuilding, sailing and environmental restoration, were lugging rowboats to the muddy shore and launching themselves into the river. Jason Feldman, in tie and shirt sleeves, having trekked from his office at a heat exchange plant up the block, was on his way out of the park, after eating lunch at one of the wooden picnic tables.
“I come here all the time,” he said. “It’s incredible, no?”
Yes, it is.
For years one of the most blighted, abused waterways in the country, the southern end of the Bronx River has been slowly coming back and with it the shoreline that meanders through the South Bronx. Next year, barring further delays, what looks to be an innovative work of green architecture, by the Brooklyn firm Kiss & Cathcart, is slated to open in Starlight Park, a green stretch upriver from Hunts Point Riverside. This summer at the mouth of the river another street-end pocket park, Hunts Point Landing, is opening between a Sanitation Department depot and a food processing plant.
The New York waterfront is changing perhaps more than any other part of the city. For centuries the interests of big money and industry shaped it. These days, notwithstanding dogged efforts by the Economic Development Corporation to kindle business along the waterfronts of Sunset Park in Brooklyn and on Staten Island, the city’s old industrial waterfront is in many places giving way to parks and luxury apartment towers where money still talks, like along the Hudson.
But compared with headline-making projects in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the unexpected renaissance under way along the south end of the Bronx River flies largely below the radar. Park by park a patchwork of green spaces has been taking shape, the consequence of decades of grinding, grass-roots, community-driven efforts. For the environmentalists, educators, politicians, architects and landscape designers involved, the idea has not just been to revitalize a befouled waterway and create new public spaces. It has been to invest Bronx residents, for generations alienated from the water, in the beauty and upkeep of their local river.”
Via: The New York Times
Photo: Swimmers at the floating pool at Barretto Point Park, in Hunts Point along the East River. Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

River of Hope in the Bronx

By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN Published: July 19, 2012 

PERHAPS the most unsung patch of heaven in New York City is a tiny sliver of riverfront parkland tucked between a metal-recycling yard and a giant wholesale produce market, on the far side of a six-lane highway and a pair of active freight train tracks. Hunts Point Riverside Park, a 1.4-acre speck in the South Bronx, opened a few years ago on what had been a filthy, weedy street end.

A garden path now winds from the front gate past rose bushes and flowering butterfly bushes, beyond a sprinkling fountain and shaded benches under a flowered trellis, to a pier on the Bronx River. Save for a couple of brick apartment towers rising over the treetops, the view is green across the river. Herons and egrets silently roam the riverbank. The other afternoon teenagers from Rocking the Boat, a neighborhood organization that teaches boatbuilding, sailing and environmental restoration, were lugging rowboats to the muddy shore and launching themselves into the river. Jason Feldman, in tie and shirt sleeves, having trekked from his office at a heat exchange plant up the block, was on his way out of the park, after eating lunch at one of the wooden picnic tables.

“I come here all the time,” he said. “It’s incredible, no?”

Yes, it is.

For years one of the most blighted, abused waterways in the country, the southern end of the Bronx River has been slowly coming back and with it the shoreline that meanders through the South Bronx. Next year, barring further delays, what looks to be an innovative work of green architecture, by the Brooklyn firm Kiss & Cathcart, is slated to open in Starlight Park, a green stretch upriver from Hunts Point Riverside. This summer at the mouth of the river another street-end pocket park, Hunts Point Landing, is opening between a Sanitation Department depot and a food processing plant.

The New York waterfront is changing perhaps more than any other part of the city. For centuries the interests of big money and industry shaped it. These days, notwithstanding dogged efforts by the Economic Development Corporation to kindle business along the waterfronts of Sunset Park in Brooklyn and on Staten Island, the city’s old industrial waterfront is in many places giving way to parks and luxury apartment towers where money still talks, like along the Hudson.

But compared with headline-making projects in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the unexpected renaissance under way along the south end of the Bronx River flies largely below the radar. Park by park a patchwork of green spaces has been taking shape, the consequence of decades of grinding, grass-roots, community-driven efforts. For the environmentalists, educators, politicians, architects and landscape designers involved, the idea has not just been to revitalize a befouled waterway and create new public spaces. It has been to invest Bronx residents, for generations alienated from the water, in the beauty and upkeep of their local river.”

Via: The New York Times

Photo: Swimmers at the floating pool at Barretto Point Park, in Hunts Point along the East River. Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

“Rust Belt chic: Declining Midwest cities make a comeback
Gritty Rust Belt cities, once left for dead, are on the rise — thanks to young people priced out of cooler locales.
By Will Doig. SATURDAY, MAY 12, 2012 12:00 PM EDT
More than any other city in America, Cleveland is a joke, a whipping boy of Johnny Carson monologues and Hollywood’s official set forfilms about comic mediocrity.
But here’s what else is funny: According to a recent analysis, the population of downtown Cleveland is surging, doubling in the past 20 years. What’s more, the majority of the growth occurred in the 22-to-34-year-old demo, those coveted “knowledge economy” workers for whom every city is competing. Pittsburgh, too, has unexpectedly reversed its out-migration of young people. The number of 18-to-24-year-olds was declining there until 2000, but has since climbed by 16 percent. St. Louis attracted more young people than it lost in each of the past three years. And as a mountain of “Viva Detroit!” news stories have made clear, Motor City is now the official cool-kids destination, adding thousands of young artists, entrepreneurs and urban farmers even as its general population evaporates.
It’s a surprising demographic shift that has some in the Rust Belt wondering if these cities should trumpet their gritty, hardscrabble personas, rather than try to pretend that they’re just like Chicago or Brooklyn, N.Y., but cheaper. Detroit has certainly proven that a city’s hard knocks can be marketed, from “ruin porn” coffee table books to award-winning Chrysler ads to “Detroit Hustles Harder”hoodies. Could other Midwestern cities go all-in on their own up-by-your-bootstraps appeal? “I think there’s a backlash in the American psyche that’s longing for that,” says Cleveland native Richey Piiparinen. “Look at Miami. We’ve learned that all that glitters isn’t gold.”
Piiparinen recently referenced this trend as “Rust Belt chic” in a post on the blog Rust Wire, describing its allure as “the warmth of the faded, and the edge in old iron and steel … part old-world, working culture, like the simple pleasures associated with bagged lunchmeat and beaten boots in the corner. And then there is grit, one of the main genes in the DNA of American coolness.”
Demand for decay could spell a new era for post-industrial cities — or run its course as a faddish blip that attracted more media coverage than actual converts. Piiparinen believes the shift could last, as more and more people find themselves not just priced out, but burnt out by increasingly tidy, boutiquey cities like New York and Seattle. “The country in the 2000s, it became about growth, glamour, living beyond your means,” he says. “It was all aspiration. Now we’re comparing the foreclosed glass condo tower to the old brick building that’s stood for a hundred years.”
But Rust Belt chic is at least partly a romantic fantasy, and that makes it a risky way to try to revitalize. Last year, Guernica magazine ran a withering critique of what it called “Detroitism,” the fetish for crumbling urban landscapes mixed with eccentric utopian delusions, “where bohemians from expensive coastal cities can have the $100 house and community garden of their dreams.” What these dreams seldom include, however, are the almost unimaginable systemic problems many of these cities suffer from: failed schools, violent crime, the threat of municipal bankruptcy. Photographers parachuting in to shoot Michigan Central Station and Anthony Bourdain’s gushing endorsement may be clouding the fact that cities in crisis won’t be lifted by chicness alone.
What struggling cities need are jobs, and not just jobs at coffee roasteries in abandoned railroad terminals that make for great style-section articles. “The only way [a turnaround] will really happen is by reintroducing meaningful, equitably compensated work into these cities,” says Catherine Tumber, author of “Small, Gritty and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World.” “This longing can be expressed aesthetically, but it can only be satisfied by restoring the workforce.”
That kind of pragmatic attitude defines Jim Cossler’s approach. The CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator in Youngstown, Ohio, Cossler wants one distinctly non-gritty thing for his city: software companies. “We don’t want to take any other company,” he says, because software firms are cheap to start up, their location is irrelevant, and they either succeed or fail quickly.”
Via: Salon
Photo:  StonePhotos via Shutterstock/Salon/Benjamin Wheelock

Rust Belt chic: Declining Midwest cities make a comeback

Gritty Rust Belt cities, once left for dead, are on the rise — thanks to young people priced out of cooler locales.

By Will Doig. SATURDAY, MAY 12, 2012 12:00 PM EDT

More than any other city in America, Cleveland is a joke, a whipping boy of Johnny Carson monologues and Hollywood’s official set forfilms about comic mediocrity.

But here’s what else is funny: According to a recent analysis, the population of downtown Cleveland is surging, doubling in the past 20 years. What’s more, the majority of the growth occurred in the 22-to-34-year-old demo, those coveted “knowledge economy” workers for whom every city is competing. Pittsburgh, too, has unexpectedly reversed its out-migration of young people. The number of 18-to-24-year-olds was declining there until 2000, but has since climbed by 16 percent. St. Louis attracted more young people than it lost in each of the past three years. And as a mountain of “Viva Detroit!” news stories have made clear, Motor City is now the official cool-kids destination, adding thousands of young artists, entrepreneurs and urban farmers even as its general population evaporates.

It’s a surprising demographic shift that has some in the Rust Belt wondering if these cities should trumpet their gritty, hardscrabble personas, rather than try to pretend that they’re just like Chicago or Brooklyn, N.Y., but cheaper. Detroit has certainly proven that a city’s hard knocks can be marketed, from “ruin porn” coffee table books to award-winning Chrysler ads to “Detroit Hustles Harder”hoodies. Could other Midwestern cities go all-in on their own up-by-your-bootstraps appeal? “I think there’s a backlash in the American psyche that’s longing for that,” says Cleveland native Richey Piiparinen. “Look at Miami. We’ve learned that all that glitters isn’t gold.”

Piiparinen recently referenced this trend as “Rust Belt chic” in a post on the blog Rust Wire, describing its allure as “the warmth of the faded, and the edge in old iron and steel … part old-world, working culture, like the simple pleasures associated with bagged lunchmeat and beaten boots in the corner. And then there is grit, one of the main genes in the DNA of American coolness.”

Demand for decay could spell a new era for post-industrial cities — or run its course as a faddish blip that attracted more media coverage than actual converts. Piiparinen believes the shift could last, as more and more people find themselves not just priced out, but burnt out by increasingly tidy, boutiquey cities like New York and Seattle. “The country in the 2000s, it became about growth, glamour, living beyond your means,” he says. “It was all aspiration. Now we’re comparing the foreclosed glass condo tower to the old brick building that’s stood for a hundred years.”

But Rust Belt chic is at least partly a romantic fantasy, and that makes it a risky way to try to revitalize. Last year, Guernica magazine ran a withering critique of what it called “Detroitism,” the fetish for crumbling urban landscapes mixed with eccentric utopian delusions, “where bohemians from expensive coastal cities can have the $100 house and community garden of their dreams.” What these dreams seldom include, however, are the almost unimaginable systemic problems many of these cities suffer from: failed schools, violent crime, the threat of municipal bankruptcy. Photographers parachuting in to shoot Michigan Central Station and Anthony Bourdain’s gushing endorsement may be clouding the fact that cities in crisis won’t be lifted by chicness alone.

What struggling cities need are jobs, and not just jobs at coffee roasteries in abandoned railroad terminals that make for great style-section articles. “The only way [a turnaround] will really happen is by reintroducing meaningful, equitably compensated work into these cities,” says Catherine Tumber, author of “Small, Gritty and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World.” “This longing can be expressed aesthetically, but it can only be satisfied by restoring the workforce.”

That kind of pragmatic attitude defines Jim Cossler’s approach. The CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator in Youngstown, Ohio, Cossler wants one distinctly non-gritty thing for his city: software companies. “We don’t want to take any other company,” he says, because software firms are cheap to start up, their location is irrelevant, and they either succeed or fail quickly.”

Via: Salon

Photo:  StonePhotos via Shutterstock/Salon/Benjamin Wheelock



“At Edge of Paris, a Housing Project Becomes a Beacon
by Michael Kimmelman. March 27, 2012
PARIS — Hard by the noisy highway, overlooking a cemetery and a former garbage dump, La Tour Bois-le-Prêtre glimmers on a spring morning. Sheathed in a fresh cloak of glass balconies and corrugated aluminum panels, it rises on the edge of this city amid a landscape of decaying cement-and-brick housing blocks.
This half-century-old tower used to be one of those blocks. Its makeover, by a creative team of local architects — Frédéric Druot, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal — is a case study in architectural ingenuity and civic rejuvenation. It’s a challenge to urban innovators, too. Instead of replacing the old tower with an entirely new building, the designers saw what was worthwhile about the existing architecture and added to it.
Retrofitting, it’s called. Preservationists in America have argued for a long time about the benefits of reusing obsolete structures. Since some 80 percent of what’s been built in the United States has been constructed during the last 50 years, reuse seems like the inevitable wave of the future. The practice is not common when it comes to large public housing projects. But there have been a few successful attempts. This one is the latest.
Poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of Paris and in the city’s inner-ring suburbs are, as in many cities, dominated by these much-maligned projects from the 1960s and ’70s.  Not long ago I visited Sevran, one of the poorest Paris suburbs, where the rioting that spread across France in 2005 started. Unemployment now hovers around 40 percent among the young there. Violence has gone up in the last couple of years. There was a shooting not long ago in a kindergarten.
 Sevran is full of housing towers. French policy, similar to the American approach that has reshaped the inner cities of Chicago, Pittsburgh, Louisville and elsewhere, favors demolishing these projects and moving out tenants. Several towers have come down in Sevran, replaced by community gardens, sports fields, some new housing and a new school. More towers stand empty, awaiting destruction.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed a vast extension of the Paris subway system that would link the city center with dozens of alienated suburbs like Sevran, along with new exurban commercial districts. Employment and growth depend on improved access to public transit.
Stéphane Gatignon, Sevran’s mayor, told me: “Urban renovation alone can’t solve our problems of unemployment and drugs. But it at least gives us the opportunity to live with more dignity.” Architecture has its natural and obvious limits, in other words. But it is powerful as well.
So it is with La Tour Bois-le-Prêtre, which sits on the farthest edge of the 17th arrondissement, a mixed district with persistent pockets of poverty, where a Métro extension would also go. The tower was a natural candidate for the French wrecking ball after decades of neglect and decay, but tenants didn’t want to lose their homes. So an unusual question arose: might the building become a candidate for a different approach?
A competition was organized by Paris Habitat, the Paris Office for Public Housing, in 2005 to renovate the building. The challenge: to repair the tower’s crumbling infrastructure, upgrade its common spaces and its exterior, and — this was the most radical part — add more light and square footage to dark, cramped apartments, without changing the footprint of the building, which couldn’t be extended.
Oh, yes, and to spend less money for all this than the cost of tearing the building down and then rebuilding.”
Via: The New York Times
Photo: La Tour Bois-le-Prêtre A public housing project in Paris has been upgraded from a standard tower into a pleasing landmark, above, with sunny balconies. Frédéric Druot

At Edge of Paris, a Housing Project Becomes a Beacon

by Michael Kimmelman. March 27, 2012

PARIS — Hard by the noisy highway, overlooking a cemetery and a former garbage dump, La Tour Bois-le-Prêtre glimmers on a spring morning. Sheathed in a fresh cloak of glass balconies and corrugated aluminum panels, it rises on the edge of this city amid a landscape of decaying cement-and-brick housing blocks.

This half-century-old tower used to be one of those blocks. Its makeover, by a creative team of local architects — Frédéric Druot, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal — is a case study in architectural ingenuity and civic rejuvenation. It’s a challenge to urban innovators, too. Instead of replacing the old tower with an entirely new building, the designers saw what was worthwhile about the existing architecture and added to it.

Retrofitting, it’s called. Preservationists in America have argued for a long time about the benefits of reusing obsolete structures. Since some 80 percent of what’s been built in the United States has been constructed during the last 50 years, reuse seems like the inevitable wave of the future. The practice is not common when it comes to large public housing projects. But there have been a few successful attempts. This one is the latest.

Poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of Paris and in the city’s inner-ring suburbs are, as in many cities, dominated by these much-maligned projects from the 1960s and ’70s.  Not long ago I visited Sevran, one of the poorest Paris suburbs, where the rioting that spread across France in 2005 started. Unemployment now hovers around 40 percent among the young there. Violence has gone up in the last couple of years. There was a shooting not long ago in a kindergarten.

 Sevran is full of housing towers. French policy, similar to the American approach that has reshaped the inner cities of Chicago, Pittsburgh, Louisville and elsewhere, favors demolishing these projects and moving out tenants. Several towers have come down in Sevran, replaced by community gardens, sports fields, some new housing and a new school. More towers stand empty, awaiting destruction.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed a vast extension of the Paris subway system that would link the city center with dozens of alienated suburbs like Sevran, along with new exurban commercial districts. Employment and growth depend on improved access to public transit.

Stéphane Gatignon, Sevran’s mayor, told me: “Urban renovation alone can’t solve our problems of unemployment and drugs. But it at least gives us the opportunity to live with more dignity.” Architecture has its natural and obvious limits, in other words. But it is powerful as well.

So it is with La Tour Bois-le-Prêtre, which sits on the farthest edge of the 17th arrondissement, a mixed district with persistent pockets of poverty, where a Métro extension would also go. The tower was a natural candidate for the French wrecking ball after decades of neglect and decay, but tenants didn’t want to lose their homes. So an unusual question arose: might the building become a candidate for a different approach?

A competition was organized by Paris Habitat, the Paris Office for Public Housing, in 2005 to renovate the building. The challenge: to repair the tower’s crumbling infrastructure, upgrade its common spaces and its exterior, and — this was the most radical part — add more light and square footage to dark, cramped apartments, without changing the footprint of the building, which couldn’t be extended.

Oh, yes, and to spend less money for all this than the cost of tearing the building down and then rebuilding.”

Via: The New York Times

Photo: La Tour Bois-le-Prêtre A public housing project in Paris has been upgraded from a standard tower into a pleasing landmark, above, with sunny balconies. Frédéric Druot

“The Accidental DIY Developer
David Lepeska. March 26, 2012.
Earlier this month, Chicago artist Theaster Gates invited a couple dozen locals over for a soul food dinner at one of three South Side houses he’s rehabbed with the help of friends and a good deal of recycled materials. Collectively known as theDorchester Projects, the renovated spaces have sparked a minor cultural renaissance in the long-neglected Grand Crossing neighborhood and become Exhibit A in Gates’ mini-empire of urban revitalization.“The larger cultural community has become excited about Dorchester,” Gates says moments before his guests arrive, “and the dinner table becomes a way of not only connecting people socially but creating new opportunities between people where there’s need.”  The 38-year-old Gates is a fast-rising artist, known for re-purposed sculptures and curated events that often reference black history and political engagement. His work appeared in the 2010 Whitney Biennial and, last year, in a 40 Under 40 show at a Smithsonian gallery. This year, he served as the commissioned artist for the Armory Show in New York.He’s also developed, almost by accident, an innovative, arts-focused model of redevelopment that’s expanding across the Midwest.
The story begins in 2006, when Gates bought a derelict former candy store in Grand Crossing, just south of the University of Chicago, where he’d accepted a job to promote arts engagement with the local community. By the time he’d rehabbed the space and moved in a few years later, his career as an artist had taken off and the housing crisis had punched the low-income neighborhood in the nose.Grand Crossing’s population declined by more than 15 percent between 2000 to 2010, according to the latest census. But rather than leave, Gates tripled down, taking advantage of depressed prices to buy the dilapidated house next door, an adjacent lot and a duplex across the street. One house became an archive and library for thousands of architecture and design books as well as an artist residence.Another became a cinema space and a third a music listening venue, with thousands of vinyl records. Gates organized live performances, summer programs for neighborhood youth and, this spring, a series of ritualized Soul Food Dinners, which are part of the Feast exhibition at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum.To manage and maintain the Dorchester Projects, Gates created the Rebuild Foundation in 2010. A team of artists, architects, educators, developers and activists, Rebuild has since taken over and begun redeveloping nine buildings in distressed neighborhoods in Omaha, Detroit and St Louis. The completed spaces will include a soul food restaurant, a pottery studio and several artist and performance spaces, as well as residences.Plenty of hybrid art spaces across the country, such as Machine Project in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood, mix gallery shows with disparate events like cheese tastings and scientific experiments. But the Rebuild Foundation appears to be the only arts-centered, multi-city urban revitalization organization in the country. Gates, who holds a master’s in ceramics, religious studies and urban planning from Iowa State, aims to disprove those who believe artists can’t live and thrive in distressed neighborhoods like Grand Crossing.”
Via: The Atlantic Cities
Image: Landon Bone Baker

The Accidental DIY Developer

David Lepeska. March 26, 2012.

Earlier this month, Chicago artist Theaster Gates invited a couple dozen locals over for a soul food dinner at one of three South Side houses he’s rehabbed with the help of friends and a good deal of recycled materials. Collectively known as theDorchester Projects, the renovated spaces have sparked a minor cultural renaissance in the long-neglected Grand Crossing neighborhood and become Exhibit A in Gates’ mini-empire of urban revitalization.

“The larger cultural community has become excited about Dorchester,” Gates says moments before his guests arrive, “and the dinner table becomes a way of not only connecting people socially but creating new opportunities between people where there’s need.”  

The 38-year-old Gates is a fast-rising artist, known for re-purposed sculptures and curated events that often reference black history and political engagement. His work appeared in the 2010 Whitney Biennial and, last year, in a 40 Under 40 show at a Smithsonian gallery. This year, he served as the commissioned artist for the Armory Show in New York.

He’s also developed, almost by accident, an innovative, arts-focused model of redevelopment that’s expanding across the Midwest.

The story begins in 2006, when Gates bought a derelict former candy store in Grand Crossing, just south of the University of Chicago, where he’d accepted a job to promote arts engagement with the local community. By the time he’d rehabbed the space and moved in a few years later, his career as an artist had taken off and the housing crisis had punched the low-income neighborhood in the nose.

Grand Crossing’s population declined by more than 15 percent between 2000 to 2010, according to the latest census. But rather than leave, Gates tripled down, taking advantage of depressed prices to buy the dilapidated house next door, an adjacent lot and a duplex across the street. One house became an archive and library for thousands of architecture and design books as well as an artist residence.

Another became a cinema space and a third a music listening venue, with thousands of vinyl records. Gates organized live performances, summer programs for neighborhood youth and, this spring, a series of ritualized Soul Food Dinners, which are part of the Feast exhibition at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum.

To manage and maintain the Dorchester Projects, Gates created the Rebuild Foundation in 2010. A team of artists, architects, educators, developers and activists, Rebuild has since taken over and begun redeveloping nine buildings in distressed neighborhoods in Omaha, Detroit and St Louis. The completed spaces will include a soul food restaurant, a pottery studio and several artist and performance spaces, as well as residences.

Plenty of hybrid art spaces across the country, such as Machine Project in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood, mix gallery shows with disparate events like cheese tastings and scientific experiments. But the Rebuild Foundation appears to be the only arts-centered, multi-city urban revitalization organization in the country. Gates, who holds a master’s in ceramics, religious studies and urban planning from Iowa State, aims to disprove those who believe artists can’t live and thrive in distressed neighborhoods like Grand Crossing.”

Via: The Atlantic Cities

Image: Landon Bone Baker

Architectural + Urban Research

Mass Urban is a multidisciplinary design-research initiative concerned with contemporary cities and urbanism. Mass Urban was co-founded in April 2011 by David Lee and Cliff Lau.

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