Thursday, April 22, 2010

Obligatory "Happy Earth Day" post

Hello, readers! I hope you are celebrating Earth Day in your own respective ways. Living green is not about this one day of the year, of course. I like to think of Earth Day as a time to reflect on how we carry on from day-to-day, as our habits impact the environment. Many holidays are about giving gifts or giving thanks. Today, I encourage you to look at how we all individually impact the lives of others--other humans, all living creatures, and the Earth's composition as it was intended.

We all succumb to consumer culture, our own busy lives, and the incessant temptation to just do nothing. But it is vitally important to remind ourselves that we can always do more. As a community of any scale, a global village or a neighborhood, we have an abundance of untapped potential. We can absolutely enhance the lives of others through community, while impacting our own lives positively.

I ask you all to find time to become more involved in your communities, this year and every year beyond. As we empower our own communities, we increase the breadth of knowledge and experience--fuel or "people power"--that can be used to affect policy, create and recreate livable spaces, and build more lasting relationships.

I hope to see some of you, this weekend. Great American Cleanup activities will be happening throughout America, particularly in Cincinnati, local readers. Check Keep Cincinnati Beautiful to find a cleanup or landscaping project in your area. Carry your positive energy beyond today and this weekend.

Always thankful,
Christian Huelsman
Clifton Town Meeting, board member
CTM Green Clifton Committee, founder + co-chair
greeneyedcity, founder + proprietor

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Nature as an attraction": Have we gone too far?

Blog Like You Give a Damn is the official blog of Architecture for Humanity in Minnesota, a local chapter of the volunteer non-profit organization that promotes architecture and design in social and global crisis intervention. The blog features interesting vignettes from other online publications exhibiting innovation, communication, and alternative interpretation of architecture and design through culture. Several posts provide a glimpse into the architecture and media community in the Twin Cities, but BLYGAD taps both design and alternative culture stimuli. As blogger Colin Kloecker states in the first of three posts on December 14th, while describing the supplemental use of tumblr, BLYGAD is about, “predicting the present to better design the future.”

The January 17th entry particularly caught my eye, which highlights the recent work of Finnish artist Ilkka Halso. His work "examines the tensions between our natural and built environments and ultimately, how we act to save and/or destroy both.” Included are several manipulated photographs that feature natural environments within scaffolding or enclosed altogether with structural elements. His work reminds me of how we treat priceless architectural works, which are now monetarily or environmentally cost prohibitive. The historic preservation movement and discipline arose when we began—especially in the United States—to treat our built environments as highly disposable and replaceable. Although we are no longer faced with the apathy we experienced with the height of 1960s urban renewal, multiple generations of sturdily built structures (with exceptional craftsmanship) continue to be sacrificed for supposed greater efficiency.

Just how efficient is it: to bulldoze a site every thirty years, to use cheaper materials that degrade or fall apart faster, or to shift so drastically to composite construction materials that cannot be reused or recycled (nor can many of them degrade under natural conditions, after they are disassembled from a building)?

Ilkka Halso shows our current brand of nature romanticism through a lens that exemplifies nature as a museum attraction. Today we sacrifice our natural environments in the name of growth, prosperity, and economic development. Globalization allows small communities to “have what she's having,” resulting in a homogenous built environment from one populace to the next. Much like past generations of architecture, nature often cannot be replaced once it has been degraded or eliminated. No matter how exhilarating it would be to visit a preserved section of the Kitka River (shown above) in a controlled environment, what would the surrounding areas of the museum look like?

Nature is an infinitely complex, non-linear network of systems. Urban theory has been formulated for centuries on subjects such as “central place theory,” grids systems, view sheds, and public space. The latter certainly applied to a much smaller time span, but both nature and architecture have become subjects of case-by-case fascination. We must think of our environments as highly contextual, or quality of life will go the way of the do-do.

(Both photos shown above were taken from BLYGAD's January 17th for context.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Clifton Plaza is now open!

After more than a year in the making, the site of the former, nondescript, one-story building Bender Optical is now Clifton Plaza. Temporary fencing was removed from the public space and opened at approximately 12:45pm today. The plaza features scattered granite bench seating, circular table seating, two bar-style standing tables, and a solar-powered trash compactor. A can for recyclable plastics, glass, and metal containers will be installed at a later date. The finished product is perfect, attractive and modern public space for visitors and Clifton residents alike. The new plaza provides a more pleasant and accessible connection between the businesses on Ludlow Avenue and the merchant parking lot on Howell.

You will find additional details about the project in the coming days. Thank you to everyone involved with the project--workers and CTM Plaza Committee members alike!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

DANCE_MOTHERNATURE and neighborhood bar recycling

By now, many young and hip Cincinnatians know what the first Saturday of each month brings. Since 2008, local art, film, and event collective PROJECTMILL has been running the monthly DANCE_MF event at Northside Tavern to a healthy crowd. To keep things fresh and interesting, each month's event comes with a theme. The April 2010 edition of DANCE_MF is all about green. From the associated facebook invite description:


Spring has sprung so come celebrate your chosen sun and rock and twig gods with a sweaty raindance this Saturday at NST, where we bring you... DANCE_MOTHERNATURE!

Green is the new black, so wear it! Also bring your old cell phones to drop in a box and be recycled by the zoo... something about chemicals in the SIM card or something... we're not sure but we support it!!

Only recycled dance moves acceptable this time, mf-ers.

See you there! Save the world!

Reduce, Reuse, Re-Running Man,

Well, greeneyedcity felt the need to get with the program, so to speak. There is always a need to improve recycling options and participation among bars and restaurants. However, the response from power wielders has left much to be desired.

Speaking to Northside Tavern owner Ed Rush, the Tavern was once part of a city pilot to augment recycling among bars. However, a changing of guards left a handful of public officials unwilling to support the project (which can be added to the mound of other useful projects that have been scoffed at by various elected officials). Rush, however, felt that Rumpke Recycling had reasonable rates. So the recycling of tons of beer bottle empties continued.

At the DANCE_MOTHERNATURE event, attendees are expected to wear green, bring in their old mobile phones for recycling (thanks to the Cincinnati Zoo's Cell Phone Recycling Program), and recycle those dance moves that only come out on special occasions. Perhaps some classics and mashups can be expected from the DJ.

In addition, greeneyedcity--with the help of HCDOES--will have installed several "clear-tainers" in the front and back bar areas. The tavern already recycles but many may not be aware of their longstanding commitment. The installation is symbolic of the unified support of waste reduction by the folks of Northside Tavern, PROJECTMILL, and greeneyedcity. Picture a multilayered array of back patting through progressive community brainstorming, and you're there.

Hope to see you out there on the dance floor.