Spontaneous Interventions

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Spontaneous Interventions“, the official U.S. presentation at the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale, represents a spirited movement for improving cities through DIY innovation and playful direct action. Walking through Venice’s tree-shaded Giardini during the preview, the first thing I saw as I approached the American pavilion was a huge projection of my face framed by the Palladian building’s central entry way. I couldn’t help but laugh – how did my work as a radically pedestrian, New Public Sites tour guide end up here, in Venice, as one of many incredible projects representing of the United States?  The dérive will always take us to unexpected places…

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Names vs The Nothing

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99% Invisible premieres episode on New Public Sites

A “tiny” radio show about design and architecture
explores the Neverending Story of naming
invisible sites in everyday public space.

Click here to listen to, “Names vs The Nothing”, 99% Invisible‘s latest story by
producer Sam Greenspan featuring Graham Coreil-Allen on New Public Sites.

Just beyond east Baltimore’s resounding I-95 – O’Donnell Street overpass lies a sprawling estate of weathered travel centers, including an unexpectedly beautiful grassy hill turned Elightened Elevation that serves as an unglamorous gateway for Baltimore’s Chinatown bus travelers. 99% Invisible radio show producer Sam Greenspan and I recently rode our bikes to this marginal zone and explored some of its invisbile sites and overlooked features. Created with help from the show’s host Roman Mars, “Names vs The Nothing” uses the storyline from 1984 epic fantasty film, The Neverending Story as a metaphor for the New Public Sites investigation. Go to to listen to the episode online, download the mp3 and subscribe to the podcast with iTunes.

If you like 99% Invisible and want to hear more independently produced public radio, please considering donating the the 99% Invisible Kickstarter. The campaign only has three days left to reach its goal of 5000 supporters!

99% Invisible Karaoke Jam & Listening Party

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99% Invisible Karaoke Jam & New Public Sites Listening Party

Metro Gallery / 1700 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201
Saturday, July 28. Doors: 8pm. Show: 9pm followed by karaoke

99% Invisible, an award-winning radio show about architecture and design, wants you to sing along with the launch their third season. Hear the world premiere of a new episode, “Names vs. the Nothing,” featuring a New Public Sites tour of the Baltimore Travel Plaza, chat with San Francisco-based host Roman Mars (via Skype), and belt out your favorite karaoke tunes into the wee hours. Curated by 99% Invisible producer Sam Greenspan. Karaoke Jockeyed by Graham Coreil-Allen.

This event is FREE and open to the public. Donations to the 99% Invisible Kickstarter campaign are suggested. Facebook event page here. View the full event poster here.

NPS in the Venice Architecture Biennale

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Situated within disparate zones of overlap, contradiction, ambiguity and interstice, the ongoing New Public Sites project consists of playful walking tours, radical maps and poetic typology that investigate the ways in which invisible sites and overlooked features exist within our everyday environment. The New Public Sites walking tours will be included in Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good, the official U.S. presentation at the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale. Organized by commissioner and curator Cathy Lang Ho of the Institute for Urban Design, with Ned Cramer and David van der Leer, the exhibition features an array of direct action strategies for improving the urban public realm, represented through a system of interactive hanging banners and pedestrian installations. More details to follow on New Public Sites walking tours in Venice later this summer. Official press release below:

U.S. Pavilion at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition of the
Venice Biennale Announces Exhibition Designers and Participants

(New York, NY – May 2012) — The U.S. Pavilion at the 13th International
Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, organized by the Institute for
Urban Design on behalf of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational
and Cultural Affairs, will be devoted to the theme Spontaneous Interventions:
Design Actions for the Common Good. The exhibit will feature 124 urban
interventions realized in U.S. cities in recent years. The selection was narrowed
down after a search process that included an open call for projects, which
yielded over 450 submissions.

“The selection was difficult because there are so many projects that deserve
attention,” said Cathy Lang Ho, commissioner and lead curator of the U.S.
Pavilion. “It’s evident that there is a growing desire among people everywhere—
not just in the U.S.—to play an active, hands-on role in shaping the cities they
live in.”

Spontaneous Interventions focuses on projects initiated by architects,
designers, planners, and everyday citizens, aimed at bringing positive change
to the urban realm. It captures one of the most compelling contemporary urban
trends, wherein individuals are taking it upon themselves to create projects
that expand the amenities, comfort, functionality, inclusiveness, safety, and
sustainability of cities. From parklets to community farms, guerrilla bike lanes to
urban repair squads, outdoor living rooms to pop-up markets, sharing networks,
and temporary architecture, Spontaneous Interventions highlights viable citizen-
led alternatives to traditional top-down urban revitalization tactics.
Spontaneous Interventions resonates on many levels with the overall Common
Ground theme of the Biennale conceived by director David Chipperfield. The
projects featured in Spontaneous Interventions are characterized by their
interest in collaboration, in serving the collective needs of a community, and in
improving the literal common ground – public space.

Download full press release here.

Holly Whyte Way is 6½ Avenue

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Image courtesy of NYC DOT via The New York Observer.

Only six months after the Arcade Parade, Holly Whyte Way is officially becoming a reality! This week the New York City DOT announced its proposal to connect the privately-owned public plazas and arcades that run from 51st to 57th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. Since then, Community Board 5′ Transportation Committee has approved the plans for crosswalks, stop signs and warning markers that will alert motorists to yield to pedestrians moving along what will be soon be officially known as 6½ Avenue. Needless to say, Friends of Privately Owned Public Space is celebrating. Special thanks to Matt Chaban for his wall-to wall coverage of the development. More details below…

Meet Me on 6½th Avenue: DOT Planning Public Promenade Through Middle of Midtown Towers / Matt Chaban, NY Observer, 3.26.12
Paving the Way for 6½th Avenue: Midtown Community Board Committee Gives Pedestrian Plan Unanimous Support / Matt Chaban, NY Observer, 3.26.12
For Walkers, a Sixth-and-a-Half Ave. May Take Shape / Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times, 3.29.12
Plans Unveiled for a Secret Boulevard in Midtown Manhattan / Kelly Chan, Achitizer Blog, 3.29.12