Category: Village

When Good Design Meets Design for Good – How to Build with the Users in Mind

good design

When it comes to architecture and urban design we often hear about the designer’s intentions but we hear less often about the impact the design has upon users. But according to John Cary good design must be considered within the web of impacts on users, stakeholders, and community.

At every level, design is a matrix of relationships—from clients who make decisions about projects to designers who bring life to those clients’ visions. In between, in a health-care setting, for example, are users who range from doctors and nurses to patients and family visitors, among many others. Then there are those who give physical form to the structures: construction workers, artisans, craftspeople, and scores of others.

Consider the picture above – a corridor built of natural materials that incorporates sunlight as a design element to create a pleasing, calming and wholesome environment. This is part of the St. Jerome’s Centre, a home for disadvantaged children in Kenya. One of the requirements of the center was security, meaning that the building had to be constructed like a fortress with no outside windows. To compensate for this the designers built courtyards with screens to filter sunlight. The materials were produced with sustainable methods, using discarded materials from local manufacturing.

The effect of St. Jerome’s Centre is to give street children not just a place to be, but a place to be whole and thrive.

Read more of John Cary’s thoughts on design as a public good at City Lab.

Time Lapse Gingerbread House You Could Live In

best gingerbread house

If you happen to be four inches tall and be named “Hansel” or “Gretel” then this might be the time to start applying for a mortgage. This clever video by Susan Aitken shows every step of making a move-in-ready gingerbread house from initial sketch to final sugar sprinkles.

This gingerbread house is based on Marie Antoinette’s mill at Versailles.

For more of Susan Aitken’s fanciful gingerbread creations see her slideshow here.

[Via Digg]

15 Ways to Use Public Space to Make a City More Liveable

Hosier Lane, Melbourne Australia by Dale Bowerman via Business Insider

Hosier Lane, Melbourne Australia by Dale Bowerman via Business Insider

Business Insider’s title for their urban round-up is a little off – 15 of the most beautiful public spaces in the world, according to urban designers makes you think you’ll be seeing a dozen parks or outdoor malls. In fact what you’re getting is an overview of how insightful urban planning can transform a city center by considering the greatest public good.

Some of these include:

Millenium Park, Chicago Illinois – 25 acres of prime downtown real estate that makes the surrounding area more valuable because it brings joy to the public.

Borehamwood, England – A quaint but not spectacular town became more vibrant – and walkable – when automobile traffic was restricted.

Hosier Lane, Melbourne, Australia – This nondescript alley became a technicolor art experience when city planners allowed street artists to take over.

Here it Comes – The Death of the Boomers

Death isn’t something we like to think about much. But in 2016 it feels like death has been all up in our faces.

This shouldn’t be surprising. The Baby Boomers are coming of age. As a society we’ve held death at bay for a long while now, but here it is, death is catching up with us.

The Baby Boomers have changed the world, for better or for worse, in everything from the way we celebrate Christmas to the music we listen to in elevators.

In the same way that the Boomers have dominated culture, the pig-in-the-python generation is destined to shape the way we look at death. They say life comes at you fast, but starting now death comes at you faster. The Boomers, who statistically should be living longer, are dying younger than earlier generations.

So as we remember the lives of Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Alan Rickman, Prince, Gary Shandling and quite a few others, be prepared for the next wave coming in 2017.

Fight the Power – How to Start

Photo by Jordan Whitt

Photo by Jordan Whitt

Consider the picture above – several children running along a meadow path. It may not be the obvious image to illustrate organized resistance to the power structures of the world. But it illustrates clearly the reasons you might want to “fight the power.”

From all appearances the next four years of politics in the United States will be hard on the environment, hard on the working class, and especially hard on young, poor, marginalized and disenfranchised people. All of us are going to have to work together in order to protect the powerless from the rich and powerful.

But where to start? Sojourners Magazine suggests starting with the Matthew 25 Pledge – taking a conscious effort to act out Jesus’ manifesto to his followers:

“… I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ … Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

The Sierra Club invites people to Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet (and give money of course). Use their locator to find activities near you.

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich encourages people to help educate and inform people by supporting Inequality Media.

UK publication The Independent shares five things you can do right now to resist the Trump administration.

20 Mongolian Yurts. 2,700 Lbs. of Bison Meat. How to Supply Dakota Pipeline Protesters.

Dakota pipeline protesters confronted by guard dogs. Photo by Getty.

Dakota pipeline protesters confronted by guard dogs. Photo by Getty. Via

Members of the Hunkpapa Lakota tribe and their supporters have been protesting the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline since April of 2016. At times up to 4000 protesters have been occupying land at the Sacred Stone Camp, a remote place with very little habitable shelter.

Recently supporters have been equipping protesters to continue their occupation for a long and bitter winter. Jane Fonda just chipped in with 2700 lbs. of bison meat and 20 Mongolian yurts. Patton Oswalt contributed a laptop, a wind power generator and a drone.

If you’d like to help the protesters make it through the winter you can check out the Sacred Stone supply list here.

W. Ben Hunt – Grandaddy of the Makers

W. Ben Hunt from Indian Crafts and Lore

W. Ben Hunt from Indian Crafts and Lore

Even if you’ve never had the urge to make something with your hands, glancing through one of W. Ben Hunt’s beautifully illustrated tutorials will have you itching to chop down a tree and carve out a dugout canoe, tan a bear hide, make your own “mock” eagle feathers and so much more.

Hunt, born in 1888 was a largely self-taught graphic designer who developed a number of beautiful hand lettered alphabets (what we might call “fonts” today.) His attention soon turned to woodcraft and he parlayed his love for the outdoors into a full-time career writing and illustrating articles for Boy’s Life.

While his graphic style was exquisite and precise, Hunt’s instructional writing cut straight to the bone, highlighting only the most important details. You can instantly grasp how to sew leather, stamp leather or dance an Apache Devil Dance.

There’s more than a little anthropology mixed in with Ben Hunt’s crafts. Along the way you develop a solid appreciation and respect for native American culture. After all, who doesn’t want a grizzly bear claw necklace like the one below?

Most of W. Ben Hunt’s books are out of print but you can still find copies of his best books on Amazon.

How to make a bear claw necklace from Indian Crafts and Lore

How to make a bear claw necklace from Indian Crafts and Lore

Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper – Revitalizing Public Areas on a Shoestring Budget


Lunch for 500 neighbors in Akron Ohio via

Lunch for 500 neighbors in Akron Ohio via

It doesn’t take a lot to create a sense of place and purpose. Think about how children will string a clothesline between two chairs, throw a blanket over it and immediately have a magical “tent-fort” that is somehow better and more purposeful than the room it inhabits.

That’s the idea behind “lighter, quicker, cheaper” placemaking. Architecture, redevelopment and urban renewal take a long time. We’re talking centuries…and a LOT of money.

But what if we want a good, vital place to be right now? That’s where LQC comes in. Check out the Pinterest board for lighter, quicker, cheaper spaces worldwide and you see dozens of ways people have been able to reinvent public spaces semi-permanently (is any architecture permanent?) and created vital, active spaces.

Also of interest: Pop-Up City

Teleport – An App That Helps You Find the Best Place to Live

Results from Teleport

Results from Teleport

Answer a couple of questions about the things that are important to you and the free app Teleport will cough out a ranked list of cities that best fit your needs. It doesn’t end there – Teleport gives you a sidebar with adjustable settings so you can fine-tune the selection.

Once you’ve settled on a couple of top picks Teleport gives you a ready-made to-do list for job hunting, packing and anything else you might need in order to make a leap to a new city.

The list that Teleport gave me was right on the money for the criteria I selected. But it missed the mark entirely for cities that “feel right” for my soul. Only one city, Boulder Colorado, felt like a place I might want to live (as opposed to visit.)

That said, I think Teleport is worth trying – and worth watching for future development.

Also of interest –

Lifehacker: Top 10 Ways to Find a Best Place to Live

The Art of Manliness: How to Decide Where to Live



501s: John Wayne, Henry Rollins, Marilyn Monroe and the “Australopithecus of Cool Jeans”

Somewhere around 1972 the Los Angeles Times’ California Magazine ran an article about Levis 501s and the people who wore them – prospectors, cowboys and Bing Crosby who had a tuxedo custom made by Levi Straus so that he could wear jeans at his favorite high-end watering holes.

I was hooked. And even though I thought “shrink to fit” meant that you had to wear your jeans wet until they fit you, I’ve been a Levi’s fan most of my life.

This video simply makes me want to go back for more.


What Does It Take to Make a City More Livable? Not as Much as You’d Think


Market St, Philadelphia via Urb-i

A collective of urban designers and an economist based in Brazil have assembled an amazing collection of before and after photos showing  improvements to urban landscapes.  

One thing that is immediately clear when you start browsing the gallery is that it doesn’t take massive construction – or demolition – to make a city more appealing, walkable and vital.
Urb-i via CityLab

You’re a F*cking Genius…Why the F-Bomb is a Sign of Intelligence


So it seems that people tend to believe that foul language is a signal that a person may be intellectually challenged. But that’s not what research shows. In fact, if a person can deftly wield the f-bomb (yes, I’m looking at you, Adrian McKinty) it probably means that they have generally superior verbal skills overall.

You see it’s not the f-word itself, but how you use it.

And as a Public Service Announcement, if you must insult somebody do it with class.

[Via Uproxx]


Why Your Christmas Lights Might Bring Down an Airliner

Laser Light Show

I was talking with a friend yesterday who said that he was impressed by the Christmas lights he saw flying into Burbank Bob Hope Airport. But on some of the houses the displays weren’t just bright, they were blinding.

Turns out that laser Christmas lights, all the rage this season, may be creating a public nuisance. Pilots across the country are reporting “laser strikes” that can be traced back to Christmas displays like the $39.99 Star Shower system.

The lights are legal, for the time being, but unless you’re certain that you are nowhere near a flight path you’re probably better off sticking with traditional Christmas decorations that merely cause fires, falls, asphyxiation, lead poisoning, choking and neurotoxicity.

Merry Christmas.

Improve Your Situational Awareness: the Secret Art of Sideview Mirrors

Image courtesy of Guodong Guo

Image courtesy of Guodong Guo

If you spend any time on the 101 freeway through Los Angeles you know that “situational awareness” is your key to survival. And your sideview mirrors are the key to knowing what is going on around you at all times as you drive.

But most people don’t have their sideview mirrors adjusted correctly. The technique I learned in Driver’s Ed back in the day is precisely the wrong way to adjust your sideview mirrors – with a little slice of your rear fender visible in the mirror. If you can see any part of your own car then you are leaving a blind spot to your right or left.

Here’s a better way to adjust your rearview mirrors (it seems almost too obvious to mention and yet…):

  1. Make sure the rearview mirror inside the car pointed straight back, giving you a full view of the road.
  2. Starting with the left sideview mirror, adjust the mirror so that you can see a bit of your rear fender. Then adjust it out slightly so that you can see any car moving up on you in the lane to your left. As a car moves out of view in your rearview mirror it should enter the view of your sideview mirror.
  3. Let the car fully overtake you in the left lane. It should be visible in your sideview mirror from the time it starts moving out of your rearview field of vision and until you can see it out of the corner of your eye. In other words you should always 360 degree view without moving your head.
  4. Repeat with the right sideview mirror.
  5. It’s probably not safe to do this while you’re driving so  try the head-leaning tip from the Automobile Association of America.

Now go forth and enjoy your new situational awareness.

Image and a good explanation of sideview mirror adjustment by Guodong Guo.