Everyday excursions in the urban landscape

Parking matters

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For people who work or have worked in the world of urban planning and development, you learn very quickly that parking and parking requirements are the persona non grata of every meeting about any new project that comes the said city’s way. Parking requirements are often made with little regard to the physical layout of a particular neighborhood, to the amenities within walking distance that neighborhood may have, or to the specific parking needs of the neighborhood. Consequently, many a parking lot and ramp lies mostly empty, while other districts remain underparked but with antiquated parking codes that require inordinate amounts of on-site parking. High on-site parking requirements oftentimes translate into the necessity to tear down older buildings where that amount of parking was not required when they were built. And so degrades the pedestrian environment even further. The requirements need to be fine-tuned to the specific urban design characteristics of the neighborhood.

For those who live in Los Angeles, voice your opinion on the matter at the upcoming Planning Commission meeting on revising parking requirements. For more info, click here.
And here.

Weekend listening to put some spring in your step

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This winter has very much taken a toll on many of us, in many parts of the country. As both a tonic to the endless winter, and an anticipatory listen to the splendor of spring to come, we offer you a new DJ set by PRAIRIEFORM’s dj alter-ego, Johnnycakes. Put a little spring in your step. Enjoy.
Listen here.

PRAIRIEFORM and PlaceIt! at Nuit Blanche

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PRAIRIEFORM’s John Kamp, and James Rojas of PlaceIt! will be constructing an interactive model of the Twin Cities, their buildings, and landscapes, as part of Northern Spark’s Nuit Blanche event. Our installation is called Twin Cities Re-imagined. We’ll be setting up shop at the Science Museum on June 4 and will be there all night til the early morning hours. Mark your calendars, come by, and help us reimagine and reinvent good old MPLS and Saint Paul, their urban forms, and landscapes.

The artificially two-sided debates rage on

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Souther Salazar

It increasingly seems that the US is fast becoming the epicenter of artificially two-sided debates where no grey areas exist. Taxes vs. cuts, native vs. non-native, private vs. public, “productive” landscapes vs. ornamental ones, urban design vs. gentrification, red vs. blue. It is as if we as a nation have become completely and wholly incapable of thinking for ourselves and of drawing our own conclusions about the reality we live in. We decide on an “agenda,” and then we pick and choose what we want to hear so as to reinforce that agenda, grey areas be damned. The latest and greatest is an article in the NYTimes that extolls the virtues of non-native plants and draws comparisons between the native plant movement, and nativism with regards to race and immigration.

What could have been a tonic to the dogma of the native-plant movement instead reads like the same but in reverse, a dogmatic manifesto of the non-native, invasive movement. Instead of writing about, say, ‘blue glow’ agave and how it, while not native to California, is a lovely, drought-tolerant plant that won’t run amuk in the wild, the author picks the most invasive non-natives he can think of, eucalyptus, and ice plant, and writes about how great they are, despite the fact that they choke out all other native vegetation within their reach. As such, the essay reads more as provocation than invitation. It ruffles the feathers of the native plant purists, while making those on the fence ask themselves why they would plant ice plant in their garden if it’s just going to take over. No new converts to a cause, just fodder for each side to further polarize an already artificially two-sided debate.

We need to come up with a a name for these artificial debates: Twinkie debates? Aspartame debates? Vanallin debates? Velour debates? Chime in with suggestions.

Helen Mirren on plants and gardening

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What we love about this clip – aside from the simple fact that it is the lovely and articulate Helen Mirren just being herself – is what she says about the pleasures of being a part of a communal garden and the gardening camaraderie she enjoys there. This is something the American gardening world so often sorely lacks, as it seems we are obsessed with competition and purism and exclusivity, all at the expense of sharing and learning and creating a genuine community of gardeners, and a growing, evolving body of dogma-free knowledge.

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