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: