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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fantastical Streetscape

A miniature palisade suddenly rises. Natural wooden hues thrust upward from the sidewalk, warmly reflecting the summer sun. A few days later, it will be gone. This will once again be a regular stretch of sidewalk; the concrete will just be a little lighter gray.

Infrastructure projects often give rise to temporary streetscapes that can be as fantastical as they are disruptive. Consider this excavation site to repair an old pipe.

The design is entirely utilitarian. At the same time, it is coherent and creates a level of visual interest. The vertical lines of the rough-cut planks with irregular heights catch the eye and draw it down. 

The orange and white construction barriers, of various sorts, step out at a lower level, creating a layered space. It is reminiscent of a base or outer rampart. Constraining the sidewalk width accentuates the height of the planks.

On the intersection side, there is a plywood sheet that is slipped in and out to gain access to the pit. The taller passersby who are curious can get a view of the hole that has been dug out on the other side.

Within is a fleeting glimpse of a large, time-encrusted pipe. This is just one of innumerable pieces of infrastructure that have been invisibly running below our feet since long before we were born. All the busy activities we see in our daily lives share the street with these massive public works below. It makes you wonder about the possibilities of adding a little design effort to these temporary sites.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Concrete Marks

The urban ecosystem leaves concrete marks on our built environment. In some cases, the imprints of natural materials brought into the city are a deliberate design feature, like the exposed wood grain textures left by formwork on brutalist architecture. Other times, the flora and fauna that share the streets with us force themselves onto our constructions to leave their marks. These frozen traces of the fleeting nature we often overlook in our bustling lives can make spaces richer, more interesting places. They can make you stop and take notice, if only for a moment.