Thursday, May 13, 2010

Break me off a piece...

While I contemplate this blog's evolution into an urban design-based news aggregator, take a look at this brilliant Kit Kat "ad" that recently launched in NZ:

a couple of more that i meant to post earlier, while i am at it..."oldies" but still goodies:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Key to the City

Saw this bit in the Times and after reading more on the Creative Time site, I got goosebumps and want to cry (tears of delight!) all at the same is just a wonderful idea and I can't wait to participate:

‘Key to the City’ Kiosk

You no longer have be someone important to get a key to the city, at least not this summer. The New York artist Paul Ramírez Jonas likes engaging the public in his interventions. Together with Creative Time, a nonprofit organization that presents art around the city, and the office of the mayor, he has come up with “Key to the City.”

From June 3 to June 27, a kiosk in Times Square will give out 35,000 free keys that recipients can then bestow on friends and family. The keys will unlock a host of mysterious events including small exhibitions or provide access to little-known, otherwise off-limits spaces in New York. It is a scavenger hunt involving 20 sites in all five boroughs, like a boxing gym in Brooklyn, a community garden in Staten Island and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Manhattan.

The keys will unlock steel gates and padlocks, security booths and secret doors, and what will be hidden behind them is yet to be revealed. Each participant will receive a map to the sites.

This isn’t the first time Mr. Ramírez Jonas has used keys in his work. Five years ago he distributed 1,000 that opened the gates to a tiny park in Cambridge, Mass. He also mailed 5,000 artist-designed keys to Cambridge households, stamped with phrases like “Copy Me,” encouraging people to make duplicates to increase access to the park. And in 2008 as part of the São Paulo Biennale, Mr. Ramírez Jonas arranged for members of the public to receive keys to the front door of the exhibition’s pavilion. Each recipient was required to leave behind a copy of one of their own keys.

The New York project was like “creating a portrait of the city,” Mr. Ramírez Jonas said in a telephone interview. To pick the sites, he explained, he sat down with a map and made a list of different kinds of experiences that make up a city. “It was like being an urban planner,” he added.

Nato Thompson, chief curator of Creative Time, said the custom-made keys themselves were little sculptures. “I don’t think people will ever get rid of them,” he said.

Creative Time has more info on program + how to volunteer!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

ok - i am back. LOVE the billboard:

so much fun...see post below...everyone must try it: just send an email to or go to

Beautiful Day for a Chair Seeding

DoTank:Brooklyn is a recently-formed group of industrial designers, planners, architects and urbanists with a passion for urban betterment. It stages guerrilla-style design interventions for the public good. Look out!

Currently the team is hard at work turning used wooden shipping palettes into Adirondack-style chairs and will be seeding them around Williamsburg today, near N5th + Berry. I could really see this evolving and I'd love to see them develop location-specific chairs....what would a Williamsburg-style chair be versus a Brooklyn Heights-style chair?

DoTank:Brooklyn obviously has a lot more in its toolbox than just a hammer and nails (do you love that line?). Another standout project they have spearheaded is The Brooklyn Wall: an interactive billboard/live graffiti wall that leverages technology as a means of building community in Brooklyn. The screen projects an on-going stream of user-generated images. Anyone can participate in the experience by sending their own images to The billboard went public for a test run earlier in the month in Williamsburg and I hope we see it up again real soon. In the meantime, you can still send your images to the Wesee.Us site. I am going to try it myself right now...

Friday, April 23, 2010

More on the birdhouses

Including the tiniest pictures ever, from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Saw this "Book Forest" - a street-based public book exchange in Berlin - in the DIY Culture article in the Times this weekend. Brilliant.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Chair Graffiti

Some people check out cars, I check out standpipes. A couple of months ago I saw a real beauty on Henry street near Montague. Look at it - clean, shiny and just perfect for sitting. In the way of street structures, it is really something to see.

My initial thought was that there should be more of them. If the whole side of the building was lined with standpipe-style seating, it would give people a built-in place to sit back and watch the world go by.

When I mocked it up I realized that more of a good thing is not better. Plus, installing multiple standpipes onto a building is a bit impractical.

I must have had standpipes in the back of my brain since then and the other day an idea came to me. Now, I am not a graffiti artist and I don't plan on blazing that path, but in the vein of functional street art, what about chair graffiti? The graphics wouldn't have to be permanent (think chalk, or decals, ala the Droog subway cars) but they would provide a nod to the potential dual function of the street structures around us.

This one is simple and based on a Thonet-style chair but the designs could vary by standpipe. Some could be really ornate and over the top, others could live in a more modernist vein. It is a really fun idea, and useful. It isn't about creating more things but about creating awareness.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A busker who passes muster

Artistic performances pop up unexpectedly in NYC. Sometimes they can be really in your face, like when a Mariachi band suddenly steps into your crowded subway car or when an 8-year old break dancer with a boom box starts doing backflips in the aisle.

Other musicians are more low-key and their sounds really help to enhance an ordinary experience, like commuting, by creating a lovely mood that asks for your attention without demanding it. Brother Han lives in that camp. I first heard him a few months ago in the High Street subway station and I was delighted to find him more recently performing right smack in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge, perhaps the bestest New York stage of all.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What do parachuting easter bunnies and solar-powered trash bins have in common?

The answer: Philadelphia. What a fun city. I was there over the weekend and saw many interesting things in and around it, including:

And, if you are still with me, perhaps most relevant to Pop Up Lunch, these "Big Belly" solar-powered, compacting trash cans. Looks like they were installed last year throughout Philadelphia, amongst other cities, to great success.

The benefits? Big Belly says it better than I could: "The unit takes up as much space as the "footprint" of an ordinary receptacle—but its capacity is five times greater. Increased capacity reduces collection trips and can cut fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. BigBelly also provides cost efficiencies from labor savings, fuel cost and maintenance savings, as well as environmental benefits from reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants."

So that's all great - Love it and am wondering why we aren't seeing these popping up around NYC. HMMM....

I was also thinking that there may be room to build on the Big Belly concept. Instead of trying to blend the bins into urban environments with a "sleek design" (again, Big Belly's words, not mine), what if they were designed to stand out? What if you could see from the outside what was happening to the trash inside the belly? That would be totally cool, A, and B, it would be an educational experience, leading to heightened awareness about consumption. C, it would be useful for the trash collectors, as they could take a quick visual read of when a bin needs to be emptied. And D, the garbage bin would shift from industrial structure to living sculpture. Here is a quick sketch to illustrate what I am talking about:

As it is now, you drop your trash and then it is out of sight, out of mind. But if the bins had a soft/flexible but structured middle, you would be able to see the shape of the trash, and the different stages of compaction (with trash getting flatter and more compact from the bottom up). If you could literally see trash being "digested", you would make the link to your own consumption cycle and think about what happens next.

I don't think it is so different from Volkswagon's Fun Theory (they have a garbage bin idea too). It is about rewarding positive behaviors with engaging experiences. Here is a video of their Piano Step project in a Stockholm subway:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

NYC Smells

I feel lucky to have had the chance to attend a very thought-provoking all-day scent symposium at Parson's yesterday ( Headspace: On Scent as Design ). Today in the Post, of all places, there is a recap of research done by one of the most impressive presenters, Dr. Leslie Vosshall. She did a 5-year study on the New York scent experience. I love that there is a universality to smells but that each person's interpretation and experience with them is completely unique. But what really blows me away is the potential for our noses to bring so much more to our everyday experiences if we just paid a little more attention to them.

Pop Up Lunch Does Radio

A month or two ago, I was contacted by a couple of radio guys who do a show called the Dinner Party Download for American Public Media (which is just like NPR but not). They had heard about Pop Up Lunch and wanted to see if I was interested in being interviewed for a pilot segment (purposefully vague here). We shot some footage (well, the camera guy shot it, the rest of us just talked and ate) and then later in the week I did a radio interview with Rico. It was a lot of fun and you can listen to the radio portion if you go to this link: Episode 45: Tig Notaro, Big Brass Bells, & Pop Up Lunch

It is too early for cocktail hour, but maybe then I will be able to listen to it myself!

The Dinner Party Download was conceived by Rico Gagliano + Brendan Francis Newman. In their words: The Dinner Party Download is a fast and funny "booster shot" of unconventional news, cuisine and culture to help you win your next dinner party. It was named one of iTunes' 25 Best Podcasts of 2008.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This is HUGE

Pier One, the first nearly completed piece of Brooklyn Bridge Park, is open! MVVA | Brooklyn Bridge Park

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lunch Lady Land

Hey - Last night I watched what must have been a sneak preview of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Push aside any cynicism - it is pretty riveting stuff, if not a bit sensationalist. Sure, he isn't an American chef and that might rub some of you the wrong way but it shouldn't. He is putting his fame to good use and even if he is building the Jamie Oliver brand along the way, the net effect is absolutely positive. The show premiers this Friday (3/26 at 8/7c). Watch it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

sites and sounds of spring

if only i could import the scent of hyacinths...

Friday, March 19, 2010

a little piece of happy

Spotted, on the Brooklyn Promenade. Love-ly.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A "new" and useful folding lunchbox

came across this idea in a patent search. i just love that we have access to digital info that far back:


Monday, March 15, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

And on the topic of seating

I really wish I had seen this:

It's in the air...

I was just forwarded this very clever stoop-inspired idea and hey look - it is from another Pratt student! I can totally see the city implementing a version in some of the new plazas.

Similar but different from an idea that came out a few months ago..

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

That's going to take a big plotter...

The DOT has launched a design competition to help refresh the pedestrian plazas at Times Square. They are looking for a big piece of graphic design to breath new life into the "Bowtie" area (between 47th-42nd streets, 7th avenue to Broadway) at ground level. Submission deadline: April 16, 2010

Much more info at:

Lego his Legos

Giving city a 'lego' up

Artist fixes cracks, toy brick by toy brick

More from Jan Vormann:

Don't forget your Lunch Ledges...

Lured by a Hint of Spring, Diners Flock Outdoors

Monday, March 8, 2010

Me to you

I am working on getting one of my ideas made and marketed as a start. Good stuff! In the meantime, I keep posting about things that catch my eye and my brain whenever I leave the apt. In the interest of open dialogue, I'd love to hear from you. What little gifts has NYC left for you lately? What ideas do you have for making the city better, more beautiful, more helpful, more interesting? Send me anything you have (words, sketches, pictures) and I will (most probably) post it. Because you never know...

paint it white

A refreshing take on an urban staple. Armory Show, NYC

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What a Trip

Grand Central Shuttle, made over by Droog.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Lunch Ledge Of A Different Kind

Thought I'd pop in and drop a quick idea...

I went to the MET this weekend to soak in a little culture. I was en route to the American Wing when I saw all these people sitting on these neat bars that ran along the length of each wall in the Egyptian section. I thought it was a very simple, space-saving seating arrangement and so useful as the MET is exhausting (my husband and I spent roughly 25 minutes looking at art and 45 minutes recovering on the benches in the front atrium...the chamber music was lovely.)

1,000s of cafe chairs have been steadily descending upon the pedestrian plazas throughout our great city, but maybe there is room for some diversity. I can totally see a ledge-like seat like this being easily implemented. Throw on some hooks so that we can hang our bags along the bottom and there you have it, an urban street seat. Here is a quick mock up...

I like it because it speaks of a quicker, more impromptu experience vs. a traditional bench. One isn't better than the other but this one feels a little "righter" for the streets. Plus they can serve as food cart parking spots throughout the city. Fun!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lost Hat

Henry Street, near State, Brooklyn NY

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

For the Birds

Since graduating in December, I have been taking time to step back and consider what's next for Pop Up Lunch. In the meantime, you may have noticed that I have been broadening out blog coverage to include related design bits and random acts of awesomeness that people are doing on their own to make the city better.

In honor of the premier of Lost's final season last night, today we go into the wild and look at a great story about a few people who are rolling up their sleeves and getting it done.

This is a very cool project going on at the Gowanus Canal, where a group of scrappy architects and designers who call North Carolina home are building and installing bird houses by hand. The Canal Nest Colony started out as an entry in a 48-hour design competition, sponsored by Urban Omnibus, and has taken on wings from there.

Not only do the houses look great, but each one has been tailor-made with the nesting needs and wants of specific types of birds in mind. According to a friend involved with the project, next steps include a potential partnership with the Audubon Society of NY and additional design development in partnership with the Gowanus Conservancy.

A special call out to the graphic designer, Andrew Nicholas, behind This City i$ Mine. I am really taken by his pictures and oh look, he now has a book out.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


On the topic of fold-up chairs, check out this amazing one by a Dutch designer named Douwe Jacobs:

Bringing it back to food, I think the design must have been at least partially-inspired by french fry packaging. Are you with me?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Street" Seat

There is one more project that I developed as part of my thesis, which I hadn't yet revealed.

In the spirit of empowering New Yorkers to get out of the office at lunchtime, I wanted to create a portable seat that you could pop out whenever you needed a place to sit on the streets of NYC.

My primary point of creative departure was a plain old brown paper bag. Brown bags have so much character, and they are perfect icons of lunch (especially in these "dire economic times"). And it turns out, when you flip a bag upside down, it pretty much looks like a seat.

I did a ton of exploring. I made seat models that could open and close like a bag, seats that could be used as a bag, seats that folded like origami, seats with inner went on and on...I think I started to drive myself a little bit crazy trying to figure out how to make the chair fold up easily, while also making it feel new and different, while also capturing a sense of "bagness".

So here comes the twist in the story:
My furniture class was also involved in a semester-long competition sponsored by Wilsonart laminate. Participating students had to design a sittable chair covered (mostly) in Wilsonart laminate. We also had to incorporate the iconic Wilsonart laminate chip somewhere into the design. Also, the chair had to look really good in a print ad.

I love a good competition, so I decided to try and create a chair that worked for both my thesis, and for the competition. (You see why I haven't mentioned this project got pretty twisted...)

In the end, my seat doesn't fold up, but it does sort of look like a piece of origami meets paper bag. I am happy with it, but I do think it lost its link to the streets. Live and learn, but at least it looks good in my apt :)

After finalizing the design (white foam core images below), I hired Adam Apostolis in the metal shop at Pratt to make it in steel. He did a wonderful job, and it was hard to cover up his beautiful work.

But cover it up I did. Below is the final image of the chair, outfitted in hand-cut Wilsonart laminate pieces. My design will be featured at the ICFF at the Javits Center this May as part of the Wilsonart booth, along with the winning design and those of several other finalists.
I hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Pop Up Lunch is about creating places to eat but more than that, it is a celebration of potential.

On that note - my husband and I went for a stroll this weekend on the High Line. I know, I know - so much has already been said about this magical gem of a strolling ground. But I don't want to talk about its design, I want to talk about the visible shift in human behavior that seems to come out of its design.

If the term "pleasant" could be visualized and brought to life, it would be the High Line. It was as if the space itself had a calming effect and everyone was on their best behavior. It was extremely crowded, but no one was irritated or pushing. No one was in a rush, everyone was there to stroll. Cell phones and other digital devices were put down for the moment. It was like urban catnip.

We were surrounded by people from all ages and walks of life - tourists, natives, romantics, entire families and even teens (when is the last time I saw a teenager in the city??!!!). It offers great people-watching but it also offers more than that. It offers a reminder that it is a great big world out there and it would do all of us well to get out of our little bubbles a little more often.

I had heard about a woman who was suing (Friends of the High Line?, the City?, Field Operations?) because she had tripped while she was on the High Line. I do understand how she tripped. There are indeed gaps and I was so engaged in the views surrounding me that I almost went down a couple of times. But it seemed like a small price to pay for such a rewarding experience. Maybe I'd feel differently if I'd gotten hurt...

But maybe the gaps in the walkway are not a problem to be fixed but a design element to which we need to get better acclimated. Because when you are on the High Line, it feels almost too good to be true. It is as if we aren't used to public spaces this interesting, and we are still a little bit star-struck, a little bit clumsy. We don't usually have to take in so much at once. We don't usually have to watch our step and stay on our toes.

In time, I am sure that the High Line experience will become a little more natural to us, a little more familiar. But I hope that it will always keep us inspired and engaged.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Decorated Dumpsters

Morning! I saw this bit in the Times and fell in love again:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In Related News

A couple of people recently sent me links to street-based explorations that live in the same vein as Pop Up Lunch. In case you haven't seen:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Total Awesome

My sister just got back from Norway, where she took a picture of this neat little bottle stool designed by Studio Helsinki. Oh Finland - so cold, so clever. Wish I had thought of it but still love love love it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Big Buck Hunter

Saw this in a bar in Lake Tahoe and it made me laugh. Same concept as the Cup Hook, only the holders are permanently bolted to the wall.

Lesson learned: whether lunching or shooting electronic deer, it is really nice to have a place to set down your drink.


As part of my thesis project, I wanted to better understand some of the driving principles and precedents behind the planning of public spaces today. I asked around and was directed to the influential urbanist William H. Whyte and his book and video of the same name, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.

As part of his Street Life Project, Whyte studied how ordinary people use the streets and public spaces of New York (more info at He did this for 16 years! While the insights he gained from his research seem so obvious, Whyte was the first one to take the time to uncover them. As a related aside, he was also the man behind the redesign of Bryant Park in the 80s. If it weren't for him, movable chairs might never have taken off in the public spaces of our city.

There is a whole series of YouTube segments from the Street Life Project, each one about 10 minutes long. Hurray for YouTube! While getting away from the computer at lunchtime is always a good thing, coffee break YouTube watching is encouraged. Here's the first one:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hi everybody - Happy New Year!

With the end of the Aughts, I thought I ought to tell you about what's been going on and what's up ahead...

First of all, it has been a great start to 2010. Pop Up Lunch has received over 15,000 visitors in the last 5 days, thanks in large part to some super coverage on My previous benchmark of awesomeness (1,000+ visitors in one day) was set back in November after MidTownLunch bloggage. Totally shattered! Thanks a bunch Lifehacker. Google Analytics, you are truly great as well.

As for next steps - here is what is going on:

Gaining employment is my #1 priority for the new year. After 2.5 years in grad school, I can't wait to get back to work! With that said, I have read through all of your comments, questions and feedback. Your responses have reinvigorated me about the potential for keeping the Pop Up Lunch dream alive.

The well has not run dry and there are a number of new adventures and opportunities that I'd like to explore, ranging from exhibits and pilot tests, to partnerships and full-on production. I will update you with new developments as they happen. In the meantime, I will continue to blog with thoughts, observations, sightings and ideas as they come.

When the weather warms up, I also plan to host another Pop Up Lunch event in NYC. I have some time to plan it out but off the bat, I am thinking there will be a DIY component, for maximum luncher involvement. We'll also see if I can't embrace Twitter by then.

That's all for now. Check back when you have a chance.
- AP