Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘cities’

08 JUNE, 2011

The Perfect City: What Does “Community” Mean to You?

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What borrowing sugar has to do with robust public life.

Last year, the wonderful Fifty People One Question offered a poetic glimpse of the soul of four communities, and last month the city of Grand Rapids demonstrated the goosebumps-inducing power of community. I’m relentlessly fascinated by cities and what it is that transforms them from shared urban space into thriving, lively communities full of shared humanity, vision and aspiration, so I was happy to take part in a think-tank event by nonprofit CEOs for Cities last fall, which assembled some of the country’s brightest minds in urban planning, design, policy, information technology and other facets of culture to dissect the elements of “robust public life” and how to best foster them in building successful, happy communities that attract and retain talent.

That’s exactly what this beautifully filmed short video explores, by asking people one simple but profound question: “What does ‘community’ mean to you?”

I’d love to be able to walk out and know everybody in my community.”

Something that kind of has a little bit of everything and access to everything, but still is quiet, so it’s not so quite so hustle-and-bustle.”

I like to pass other people who are walking their dogs early in the morning or late at night.”

A few universal needs seem to emerge: Walkability, a combination of private space and readily available entertainment, face-to-face interaction with neighbors and, more than anything, a sense of belonging.

What’s your ideal community?

via The Atlantic

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23 MAY, 2011

Cement Eclipses: Tiny Street Art Sculptures by Isaac Cordal

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What tiny people have to do with the sleepwalking hypnotism of urban routine.

I love the work of London-based street artist Isaac Cordal, whose makes big social commentary by way of street art sculptures with tiny human figurines. Since 2006, Cordal has been placing minuscule cement pieces on streets, sidewalks, walls and other corners of the city across Europe, exploring “the voluntary isolation of human beings” from nature. Cement Eclipses is a beautiful new 256-page anthology of images from the project, many never-before-seen, offering a thoughtful look at his tiny-big gifts to the public and inviting an exploration of their meaning in a sociocultural context.

Cement eclipses is a research project of urban space that runs between the fields of sculpture and photography. The sculpture is used as a starting point and photography as a witness to the execution of installations for later viewing or exhibition.” ~ Isaac Cordal

My favorite has to be this piece titled Sleepwalker, which adds to the come-hither allure of the tiny scale the ephemeral mystery of playing on shadow:

Vulnerable and expressive, the vignettes in Cement Eclipses are as much a conversation about solitude as they are an invitation to examine our role as citizens and fellow human beings in a shared urban reality.

via Colossal

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28 APRIL, 2011

HyperCities: Every Past is a Place

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What 17th-century Manhattan has to do with Peru’s grid and the Renaissance in Berlin.

We love cities, maps and urban storytelling. So we’re all over HyperCities — a digital research and educational platform for exploring the layered histories of cities and public spaces, based on the idea that “every past is a place.”

The fundamental idea behind HyperCities is that all stories take place somewhere and sometime; they become meaningful when they interact and intersect with other stories.”

From a digital recreation of Manahatta in 1609 to an archival print of Berlin’s 1772 geometric grid, the project is absolutely fascinating and a treasure trove of urban time travel.

Most recently, HyperCities mapped real-time voices from Cairo using social media, offering an entirely different way to experience the news, not by digesting static newswires and frontpage headlines but by actively hearing the reality of the people on the ground — something last week’s Tweets from Tahrir tried to capture in a different medium.

The project, which received a Google Digital Humanities Award last year, is the brainchild of Todd Presner, Yoh Kawano, and David Shepard and is a collaboration between UCLA and USC.

HyperCities is currently available for 19 cities, including London, Shanghai, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City. You can contribute to the project by adding your own georeferenced map — here’s how.

via @kirstinbutler

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