In past years, I've always done top ten lists for my favorite books of the year. Here and here are 2007's and here are the 2006 ones.

Every year I've gotten a little more eclectic in my reading, so the lists have gotten a little shorter. I haven't had time to put together a full list for this year, for obvious reasons, but I thought I'd at least put up my favorite fiction and non-fiction from this year.

Insurgent Citizenship by James Holston
This was a great book on land tenure and the law in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Part ethnography, part history and part planning (much like myself).

In fiction, I think my favorite that was actually published this year is Roberto Bolaño's 2666, which I'm reading right now. His literacy and use of vocabulary remind me of Michel Houellebecq, but without hating the world and everything in it. Really, it's just about assuming that your readers aren't stupid.

Once I've gone through what I read this year and figured out what is actually recent, I may add to the list.



Addendum: First Impressions that I Forgot to Write About Last Time

1. About one in three defeños seems to be a police officer. As I figure it, there are roughly 2 million street corners in Mexico City. Each one has, on average, three cops. That makes 6 million police officers. I think the math works. The last place I remember seeing so many police was in Thailand a few weeks before the 2006 coup.

2. The little walk guys on the stoplight move like they are sprinting. Which you pretty much have to be to cross a street.

3. They read like crazy here. Finding books is like finding handbags in New York. And they don't all suck. The dude on my corner selling photocopies has Habermas and Foucault.

Also, discovered the secret behind the streetscape question. Every building owns their sidewalk up to the street, so it doesn't have to match the stuff around it (in texture, material, height, plantings, ect). It makes for kind of interesting streets, but also messes with the public realm.

ps. still can't upload photos. kinda bummed about that.



Day One: Ciclovia and First Impressions

Every time I fly, it seems to get a little worse. Last summer after our experimentation with long distance Amtrak we decided that we were going to use the train from then on for every possible trip… and if I absolutely had to fly, I resolved to create within myself a zen-like state of inner calm.

Last night almost broke me.

It began with a delayed flight, followed with one of those times when they get you all on the plane and then you sit there for hour before they even move from the gate and moved from there to seating me next to a young marine who went from bragging about his weapon to puking on my shoes. Awesome. Once we finally made it to JFK, Delta gave me the wrong terminal info for my transfer, so I literally had to run through the airport with no shoes on to be the last person on the Mexicana Flight 3… which then proceeded to show Beverley Hills Chihuahua as the in flight entertainment…

Wow. The saving grace was reading the first two books of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, which I highly recommend.

Anyways, I finally made it and am adjusting to life in the DF. My friend Pablo had suggested several walks through neighborhoods to get a feel for the context of Mexico City, so I spent most of my day just walking, though I did take a break to sit through part of a service at the Cathedral this morning. It says something about my christian-high-school Spanish that I can understand 90% of a sermon but ordering food is challenging.

The newest mayor here, Marcelo Ebrard, is something of a bike enthusiast and he’s imported Ciclovia from Bogotá (if you don’t know what that is, watch this video on Columbia’s). I had a really good time participating in that today. I didn’t find the place where they had the free bikes until all they had left were kids bikes, but I walked a couple miles of the route. I’ll try to get there earlier next week to get a bike.

And I made my first visit to one of my sites: Av. Presidente Masaryk. When I do site visits, I like to do my first one without taking any notes or pictures, but rather just walking to get a sense of the place. I’m going to continue to reserve judgment for now until I’ve seen the second site and the properties that the foundation controls (I’m getting a tour tomorrow).

I took a lot of pictures from Ciclovia today, but unfortunately, Flickr is being buggy, so I don’t think I’m going to get them up tonight.

Overall first impressions:

The city has a lot of really interesting streetscapes. I started doing a bunch of sections in my journal to play around with when I get back. All of the streets are very individual in their layout and there are some fantastic boulevards. Oh! And I have to mention the amazing street furniture… not so much benches as sculptures to sit on. I have many unuploadable pictures of those as well.

It doesn’t feel like a city of 19 million. It’s relatively low rise (though I think some of the outer neighborhoods have a little higher densities) and there are a lot of nice, popular open spaces. Overall, I’d say it handles its size well (other then in its transportation systems, but that’s a post for later). It’s certainly not like going to Hong Kong or even Manhattan for the first time.

There is a ton of variety in the neighborhoods. I walked through places that made me think of Rome, Berlin, Phnom Penh, ect. all within a few blocks of each other.

The Metro is awesome. Unless I’m mistaken they are the same trains as Paris and Montréal, with the rubber tires. They also do this cool thing here where each station has it’s own logo. So you don’t have to remember names like Coyocán and Tacubaya… you can just remember that you get on at the pen, transfer at the grenade (or maybe it’s a water bucket) and get off at the fountain. Also, wicked cheep. I think I got 5 ride tickets for 10 Pesos (75 cents).

And of course the food and weather are great. But I won’t brag…

Sorry again for the lack of pictures... hopefully I'll have more luck later in the week.



One Day to Go

Fantasmas en CU, originally uploaded by Eneas.

I'm just finishing up all of my prep for the trip tomorrow. I've gotten to spend a good part of the last few days collecting materials and reading. By coincidence, J got me the book The Endless City for x-mas, which has Mexico as one of the 6 cities that it focuses on (along with Berlin, New York, London, Shanghai and Johannesburg). And it's been pretty interesting reading. In fact, it's really challenged my perceptions of some of how cities in the developing world are shaped.

Endless City Mx Page
the mexico city info page from endless city

For a long time, I've been influenced by Manual Castells, who has said that we are moving farther and farther away from actually having developed and developing countries. Rather, throughout the world, we can see a greater tendency towards what might be called "first world" cities surrounded by "third world" peripheries and rural areas. Even in the US, which is often seen as being the "opposite" of the rest of the world in spatial terms (poor cities/rich suburbs rather then rich cities/poor suburbs), I feel that we can see the beginnings of this orientation asserting itself in NY, Boston, and even in LA. I still hold that in general, this is probably true. What I've been realizing, however, is that this has led me to think of peripheral urbanization as the only part of cities in the global south that needs "community development."

In the case of Mexico City, there seems to be two different population trends that are both putting a lot of pressure on the city. The first, as I've commented, is the poorer (and largely informal) development at the edges of the metro area. The second (and one that I'll be coming into more direct contact with on this trip) is the loss of population at the center, in what would still be considered upper middle class areas of the city. So instead of this two tiered system of rich at the center, poor on the outside, Mexico is become more of a three tiered city: poor on the outside, rich in the middle and a hollow center.

From a community development standpoint, I think this leads to a lot of interesting questions. Is an empty center part of the solution for the pressures of urbanization at the outside? is it recolonization by the rich who have been leaving? worker housing? and, of course, what is a politically palatable solution in a city that is simultaneously the eighth richest in the world, but still has more then 30% of it's residents living well below the poverty line?

Anyway, that's some of what I've been thinking about over the last few days. I will be getting into MX late tomorrow night, and on Sunday, my friend from the foundation gave me a bunch of walks that he said would be good to get a feel for the city. I'll probably try to blog again on Sunday night.

Finally, here's a little of the most interesting reading I've seen so far:

First, check out Alex's comment on the last post.

After that, the most directly related book has been Keith Pezzoli's
Human Settlements and Planning for Ecological Sustainability. Keith happens to be a Planners Network guy as well has having been my friend's-girlfriend Melissa's advisor at USC. I've also found a bunch of his articles in Progressive Planning magazine that i'd be willing to spread around.

Some other ones I've liked on Latin American urbanism are:
Mike Davis' Magical Urbanism and Joseph Scarpaci's Plazas and Barrios.

If you are into Anthro, Claudio Lomnitz' Death and the Idea of Mexico is really good.

I'll probably add some links to more articles as time goes on. The next post will be from Mexico City.



What I Did Will Be Doing For My Winter Vacation

For those who haven’t heard, I was lucky enough to receive a GSD International Community Service Fellowship Grant to do research / work on a project in Mexico over the holiday break. The grant has a couple of stipulations that go along with it. Most significantly, I’ll be giving a talk in the GSD’s student lecture series next semester (which I’ll expect you all to be at), but along with that, I have to blog about the project while it’s going on.

For the project itself I’m working with a community development foundation (the Fundación Horizonte) in Mexico City to develop a “green street” project. I know the founder of FH from my time at BU. He used to work with the Fundación Centrohistórico, which is the CDC that has been working to revitalize the Centro Histórico, the oldest part of the city.

The idea behind the project is essentially to use the concept of a green street to stimulate sustainable development in Mexico and test out the idea of green development as a community development strategy. The street will be a showcase of sustainable technologies, but beyond that, the foundation will work towards getting organizations, community groups, businesses and artists that work on environmental issues to move into the space as well so that it becomes an incubator district for green thinking in the DF.

Green Street Project Site Map

My place in the project is to evaluate a couple of sites for their suitability. I’ve been asked to generally ignore the technical aspects of “greening” the streets and to think about the project more from a social, community development, perspective. I’ll be looking at traffic, social structures, the physical form of the areas, possibilities for urban agriculture, ect.

I leave on Dec 27th and I’ll be in MX for 10 days. My goal is to blog every day if possible while I’m there. Between then and now, I’m going to be doing research on the city and developing a better framework for evaluating the areas, so I’ll probably be posting a few times between then and now as well.

I look forward to hearing your comments (on the project, restaurant and museum suggestions, whatever else).


Studiowork: Final Project

We finished up the final review of our first semester last week. The project itself should look familiar from the last set of boards I posted. Essentially we took our work from the last project, added implementation stuff and reworked the things that weren't working well in the last presentation.

SBW District Plan and Research

SBW Implementation One

SBW Land Use and Stakeholders

SBW Implementation 2

SBW Site Plan



Studiowork: Project 3

This is the main project that we've been working on in studio this semester. We present these on Monday, and then add two more boards on implementation after the thanksgiving break.

SBW District Plan

SBW Sub-District Plan

SBW Site Plan



Planners Network Boston Chapter

Planners Network, originally uploaded by siqi.zhu.

This semester, a group of MUPs at Harvard have been working on founding a Boston Chapter of the Planners Network. The Planners network "is an association of professionals, activists, academics, and students involved in physical, social, economic, and environmental planning in urban and rural areas, who promote fundamental change in our political and economic systems."

We will be having an INITIAL MEETING on OCT 25th at Ravneet Grewal's house, 47 Meacham Rd, Somerville (right near the Davis Square T stop) from 3 TO 5 PM to found the Boston chapter and to talk about the sort of events and community involvement that we'd like to have.

Some major beliefs of the Planners Network: "We believe that planning should be a tool for allocating resources and developing the environment to eliminate the great inequalities of wealth and power in our society, rather than to maintain and justify the status quo. We are committed to opposing racial, economic, and environmental injustice and discrimination by gender and sexual orientation. We believe that planning should be used to assure adequate food, clothing, housing, medical care, jobs, safe working conditions, and a healthful environment. We advocate public responsibility for meeting these needs, because the private market has proven incapable of doing so."

Or, in summary, we're a group of people who believe that planning can be a primary tool in defending human rights.

We've been in touch with a lot of people around Boston who are interested in joining with us: students and professors from MIT, Harvard, BU, Tufts and UMass, as well as activists and practitioners, so this will be a great chance to meet and work with other planners from around Boston.

Check out the website and and the "disorientation guide" and please think about coming to the meeting and being involved.

Zakcq Lockrem
MUP Candidate | Harvard Graduate School of Design
Teachers Assistant | Boston University Department of Applied Social Science



A few samples of work from our second assignment, which we just finished up:





And, as is featured here in my friend Siqi's iPod photo, due to a last minute room mixup, we ended up presenting in Piper Auditorium, which is the main hall at the GSD. Fancy Harvard lectern and all.

More Southie, originally uploaded by siqi.zhu.

My Flickr site has the rest of the presentation and Siqi's has more photos from the presentation as well as his team's boards (he's an amazing graphic designer).



I’ve finally got some time for an update, so I think I’ll spend it explaining life at Harvard, so that I can just jump into what I’m working on in the future. I’d say I’ve settled in pretty well to life at the GSD. I’m spending about 50-60 hours a week there, but compared to my previous life of working 40 hours a week at Borders and then being at BU for 9 hours a week with all the travel time in between, it doesn’t seem all that bad.

Life at the GSD revolves around our studios. We take 8 credits of studio per semester and 12-16 credits of coursework, but studio definitely takes up more then half of our workload. For the first two semesters, we (by which I mean all the first year planners) are in the same studio, and then in the second year we get to select our studios based on the kind of project that they are doing. Second years this year, for example, are doing things in Newark, the Netherlands, Las Vegas, Mumbai, ect. This semester, my studio is working on the South Boston Waterfront, which is a mostly undeveloped ex-industrial site just east of downtown Boston. It the moment we’re just doing preliminary work, and I’m excited to get started on the actual stuff, however so far I have gotten to use a lot of new skills, especially in mapmaking as well as getting much better with Illustrator and Photoshop.

South Boston Waterfront

My courses this semester are mostly pretty basic: Market Theory and Methods of Planning. On top of that I have one research seminar titled “Balkanization: From Metaphor of War to Shaping of Cities” with an architect named Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss (one of his projects is below). I’m just beginning my research, but I think I’m going to be looking at Balkanization as a metaphor in Canadian media discourse and how that relates to territorial differentiation at national and urban scales. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it as I start getting into it more.


Outside of school (outside being relative, everything in my life seems to be interrelated at this point) I’m also teaching a module of an Urban Design class at BU, which is going well. Right now we’re considering what design interventions would go into making a streetscape more “livable.” I’ve also beginning working on a project with a friend of mine from BU dealing with a prototype design for a sustainable (environmentally, economically, socially) street for Mexico City. If things go well, I’m hoping to spend a few weeks down there over the holiday break doing some site visits. Lastly, several others and myself have been working toward founding a Boston chapter of Planners Network, which is a group for planners who are interested in seeing planning activities primarily from a human rights perspective. If anyone out there is from Boston (or for that matter from anywhere else) and would like to be involved, please drop me a message. It seems like a great organization, and a lot of people that I really respect are involved (Peter Marcuse, Robert Beauregard, Keith Pezzoli, Faranak Miraftab, Kanishska Goonewardena, ect). I’m sure I’ll be writing more about that in the near future as well.

ps. I've added links for a Planners Network as well as for my friend Siqi from the GSD, who's a great writer and designer (but unfortunately doesn't post often) and for my friend Ben's girlfriend Mellisa who we met in Chicago this summer and writes both well and often and... added bonus... happens to have studied anthropology of food at University of Chicago, which means her posts are full of yummyness... mmmmm.



GSD Photo Blog

I've been meaning to write a little more for awhile, but have gotten pretty busy. In the meantime, here's a quick photo tour of my new life at the GSD.

We live in Gund Hall, a wonderful brutalist building:

This is our exhibition space. What's up rotates. In the picture it's new projects by architects from Croatia and Slovenia. Around graduation time, we all get to display:

Pun Lovers Rejoice:

The back side of the building is called the trays. This is where we have our studio space (and therefore spend most of our time.


We're seated along with everyone else in our studio, which in our case is all of the first year planners:

And my desk:



With two more days of work this summer and orientation beginning at the GSD on Monday, I think it’s pretty fair to say that I’ve completely failed in my goal of resurrecting my blog this summer. My new thought is that I’m going to try to update a little more often, but in a little more organic (meaning less polished) format focusing on two things: a) life at the GSD b) some of the various topics that have been swirling in my head.

Here goes.

I’ve been thinking through some new research in the last couple of weeks. A flight attendant at work asked me if it was “ok to walk in Boston” and it made me think about the various responses to that question. The easy answer (and the one she was probably looking for) has to do with safety. The less obvious one is about community’s reactions to outsiders in their neighborhoods. This all got me thinking about whether or not Jane Jacobs’ “Eyes on the Street” concept and Michel Foucault’s concept of the “Gaze” are different sides of the same concept. With an understanding of the increased surveillance and militarization of urban space and of the potential for social exclusion (I’m going to call it “othering,” to play with the Foucauldian terminology), should we (we being radical urban designers) rethink concepts of public/private space and, especially, should we be considering the provision of unsurveillable space (like the road underpass by my house where the Latino teenagers make out) a public good.

This all got me reading a lot of pretty interesting stuff, starting with Foucault (who’s about as much fun to read as… I just realized I have no way to end that sentence. Let’s just say it’s dense) and then getting into some pretty interesting writing on the topic of surveillance. The most interesting stuff so far has been in queer theory, where Michael Warner and George Chauncey especially have given me a lot of food for thought. I also just finished a book by an Israeli architect Eyal Weizman about the role of architecture in the occupation of Palestine. I was especially struck by his descriptions of how settlement architecture is purposely constructed to give settlers the ability to survey Palestinian space. And of course the other side of the coin, how “according to rules of engagement issued by the occupying forces at the end of 2003, soldiers may shoot to kill any Palestinian caught observing settlements with binoculars or in any other ‘suspicious manner’.” Somehow I don’t think that’s what Jane Jacobs had in mind…

As for the life at the GSD, the resources at Harvard overwhelm me. I just spent an hour goofing off on the websites of the Film Archive and the Map Library. Woo. I’ve got a fear that two years is too short to really take advantage of everything that there is on offer. That said, I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent so far with the other incoming people in my program and I’m really looking forward to getting into the meat of what we’re doing there.



The Late, Late Travel Blog

So… not as good about blogging on the trip as I was hoping to be. Usually when we travel, we stay in hostels, which usually have free wireless. On this trip, I had pricelined a few nicer hotels, which all, without exception, make you pay for internet. Lame. Anyway. Here’s the condensed version:

A. Amtrak was amazing. If the train doesn’t go there, neither do I from now on. Considering how crappy the whole experience of flying has become, I’m surprised that everyone hasn’t figured the train out yet. The seats on the long distance trains give you slightly more space then first class on a good Asian airline, meaning with the seat reclined I could put my feet straight out. However, except for sleeping, we usually spent most of our time in the observation car watching movies, playing cards and drinking wine. People watching was also pretty cool. An interesting combination of people take trains. There are the old train nerds, a healthy smattering of the Amish, a few crazies (and by the way, do the old men who like to tell people about Jesus really think that we don’t notice that the only people they want to tell about Jesus are girls in their late teens? Be creepier.) and a lot of people with small kids, which makes a lot of sense to me. Why stuff poor children in a car or a plane for that long when they can be up playing and making friends.

Part of what was so interesting for me, though, was getting a new perspective on the US. Whenever I’ve taken long road trips, I’ve always been struck by how homogenous the US can be. Every interstate and strip mall looks a lot alike. Well, it turns out that the interstate itself must be the homogenizing influence. On the train, you almost never see a car and most of the small towns that you pass through are way off the interstate. So you see a lot of cool stuff, from elk grazing in southeast Colorado to tiny farms in the Appalachians to a small town in southern Iowa where rowhouses seemed to be the dominant building type (rowhouses west of the Mississippi!)

So, yes. We shall be using Amtrak again. In fact we’re floating the idea of Christmas in New Orleans. Plus the Crescent (the train we’d take) passes through every state east of the Mississippi that I haven’t visited before.


B. It’s been almost 5 years since we had been to Chicago, so it was nice to see that we still love it. Chicago was one of the first places where I really began thinking about urban life as a kid and it’ll always have a place in my heart for that.

Ben and John showed us an awesome time, featuring rooftop 4th of July parties with 360 degree fireworks shows and some Southside brunch and White Sox fun.

I also really enjoyed Millennium Park, which had opened since my last trip. I have to admit, I’m a little skeptical about corporate funding for public place and about over programitization of urban space, but I was pretty well convinced that that’s a really successful place. I could go on, but I think I may write more on the topic later, so I’ll save it.

Santa Fe

C. New Mexico was a very interesting place, and very much not what I expected. Despite the fact that about half the population of the state is Latino/a (more in the cities) and the food and architecture was very Mexican influenced, you really didn’t get the feeling you were in a Latin American place. In fact, if anything Santa Fe was the largest colony of pretentious-middle-aged-art-collecting white women that I’ve ever seen. Albuquerque was a little better, but I still felt like I hear and speak Spanish more often in Boston then there. The main annoyance to me was how much Indian and Spanish history was white washed and the conquest treated like it was mere act of transfer. Kind of an “oh well, they just had to send their taxes to DC instead of the DF, no one really cared,” which I just don’t buy.

So yeah, Sante Fe was small, but we did see some cool art (both high and folk, whatever that means) and J’s friend Megan from Viet Nam, which was great. Los Alamos was the creepiest place ever. ABQ was pretty nice for as small a city as it was, but I think we managed so see pretty much everything of interest in about a day and a half. The Albuquerque Isotopes have one of the nicest minor league stadiums that I’ve ever been too, and we had a great baseball experience, although there are no buses running on Sunday nights and finding cabs wasn’t working out, so we ended up walking about 3 miles in the middle of the night to get home. Visiting Taos Pueblo was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. I’ve wanted to go there for a long time. I was very struck by how much the Pueblo Indians have influenced American architecture. Here’s a few pictures to prove it:

Taos Pueblo:

Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright

Habitat ’67 by Moshie Safdie
Montréal, Québec
I could go on...

So that was our trip in short form. I put some more pictures on Facebook. (I didn’t put up pictures of Taos because I only got a permit for personal use. Ask me if you’d like to see them).



Only 36 hours left until we board Amtrak for our cross-country vacation sojourn, first via the Capital Limited to Chicago for the weekend and then the Southwest Chief to Santa Fe. Although we do get away to the other big cities of the Northeast like New York and Montréal pretty often, we usually only go for a short weekend. This is the first long trip we've taken in several years. I am, accordingly, pretty excited.

Cloud Gate III, originally uploaded by Craig S.

Before we even decided where we were going, we decided to make the trip by train. We are both rail fans, and the idea of making a trip across country seemed like both an interesting experience as well as more in-line with some of our core values relating to transportation. We wanted to see what travel is like in a much slower, but much more sustainable trip. Chicago was a natural jumping off point, as most of the countries rail lines pass through, and both of us like the city and wanted to spend some time there anyways.

My interest in New Mexico comes largely through my interest in general in Stateless Nations. Although, taken as a whole, the settling of the United States was, of course, a colonial act, there are only really a few places in the country where the populations of people living there were great enough for them to remain a force in intervening years; Hawai'i, Alaska and Nuevo México being the most apparent three (and not accidentally, the last three states admitted to the US). Even today, the state is roughly 45% Spanish-speaking, 45% Anglo and 10% Indian. I find this intersection of varying populations extremely interesting, especially as, like Québec, the state can be said to function both as a sort of internal colony, but also enjoying all of the powers and freedoms that any other state would have. Of course, my main interest is to see how this is inscribed in physical space.

I hope to blog relatively frequently and (though to be honest I haven't been feeling the photobug lately) to have pictures uploaded as we go.

Now let's just hope that the rain in the midwest stays down long enough for the train to get through Iowa and Missouri.



I've been wrestling for awhile about what to do with this blog now that I'm down to posting about six times per year (I blame Facebook). I finally decided that I'm going to transition this into a sort of online resume-slash-portfolio-slash-manifesto. Step one has already been completed, which was changing the url to www.zakcqlockrem.com. Step two will be a massive redesign, which is in process now. I hope to be done before school starts in the fall.

I do intend to keep blogging (especially since I've got a cross-country train trip coming up next week), but in the future that will only be one part of the available resources here.

So, yeah. Check back every now and then. It'll get better.

In the meantime, here's a good event coming up next week:

"Contested Streets" film screening
Tuesday July 1, 2008 7:00pm
@ LivableStreets office space, 100 Sidney Street, Central Square, Cambridge

"CONTESTED STREETS explores the history and culture of New York City streets from pre-automobile times to the present. This examination allows for an understanding of how the city - though the most well served by mass transit in the United States - has slowly relinquished what was a rich, multi-dimensional conception of the street as public space to a mindset that prioritizes the rapid movement of cars and trucks over all other functions.

Central to the story is a comparison of New York to what is experienced in London, Paris and Copenhagen. Interviews and footage shot in these cities showcase how limiting automobile use in recent years has improved air quality, minimized noise pollution and enriched commercial, recreational and community interaction. London's congestion pricing scheme, Paris' BRT (bus rapid transit) and Copenhagen's bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure are all examined in depth. New York City, though to many the most vibrant and dynamic city on Earth, still has lessons to learn from Old Europe."



Jackson Square 1
Jackson Square 1
Jackson Square 1

I just finished up these three boards for my presentation for the Jackson Square Master Plan that my class has been working on this week. The student presentations are tomorrow (I'll probably upload some pictures). I did my own plan just for fun. It's a little basic (I didn't do a lot of the research that a full plan would have needed) but I think it turned out pretty nice.



I just added a link to my friends Michelle and Luke's travel blog (Hillestad Nomads). Check out their amazing stories and beautiful photography as they experience Thailand and Norway this year.



After much consideration, I finally decided on the Graduate School of Design at Harvard. It was a difficult decision, but I'm confident that it's the right one. I LOVE the studio aspect of the program and the physical studio space (the trays) are awesome as well. I also love the faculty, and there are several that I'm looking forward to working with more closely. One of them was the head planner in Barcelona for many years, so I'm pondering the idea of doing my thesis comparing the Olympics in Catalunya and Quebec and their role in building identity. So anyway, it's two more years in Boston. Now I'm just wishing it were September.

We're also expecting a new member of the family... a macBook pro. My old iBook served us well, but it's time for an upgrade. I remember when I thought it'd be impossible to fill up a 30 gig harddrive, now I need 175 plus a 250 gig external drive for school. Crazy. (oh, bonus... the GSD has sooo much free software. That's the perks of being a Harvard student I guess... that and the polo shirts with little crocodiles).



Admissions Update:

Harvard: Yes
Penn: Yes
Toronto: Yes
Berkeley: No
UBC and MIT: Still Waiting



I finally had some time to sit down and type a longer post after what has been a pretty crazy week.

When I started applying for master's programs, my professors advised my that I should shoot for the top tier, so basically I took the top ten schools for Planning in North America and, given my elementary French and Spanish, said "non, merci" to UQAM and "no, gracias" to UNAM and ITESM, and then dropped UCLA based our agreement that two years in LA just wasn't something we were ready to do now. Then I applied to the rest.

So about two weeks ago, one of my professors e-mailed me and a friend of mine who is also applying to schools this year to see if we had heard anything yet. Neither of us had. The professor also told us that he had heard that applications to planning school were way up this year. Unlike my friend, who had also applied to a couple of the better second tier schools, I hadn't done a back up at all, so I've kind of (ok, a little more then kind of) been freaking out the last couple weeks.

But anyway, long story short, I heard from Penn this week (two weeks before they are supposed to be sending out responses) and I'm feeling pretty good about it. I visited the department a few months ago and liked it. The studio space used to be Louis Kahn's studio, so it's got a lot of good energy. Of course I'm also still hopeful that I'll have some choices.

Beyond that, I've been working at finding an internship for the summer so I can quit my job a little sooner, and I've had a lot of good responses. The one I've been having the most back and forth with is an organization that does housing policy stuff in Washington (DC not State). There is also one I'd really like in San Francisco doing sidewalk design.

So yeah. Lot of stuff in the works. More later.

*** I heard from the School of Design at Harvard today. Got in there too. yeah!



I got accepted to the School of Design at UPenn...

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

in Philadelphia...

the city of brotherly love...

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

...more later.



WalkBoston Event

Boston, Massachusetts

Thursday, March 6

Downtown Development Walk - WalkBoston Annual Meeting Walk
Meet: South Station Summer St. entrance under the eagle.

Walk to the Annual Meeting led by John Palmierei, new BRA Director and Kairos Shen, BRA Director of Planning. Learn how proposed projects will benefit and impact pedestrians and shape the downtown streetscape. Please RSVP to info@walkboston.org or 617-367-9255


WalkBoston Annual Meeting/Celebration
60 State Street, 26th floor, offices of WilmerHale

Eat-Drink-Schmooze with WalkBoston Golden Shoe Awards and Speaker Jon Orcutt, New York City DOT Senior Policy Advisor. Jon was recently named the recipient of the 2008 Civic Leadership in Transportation Award by the NYU Wagner Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management. During his long and impactful tenures at Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Jon won many improvements for bicycling, walking, and transit, including the restoration of bike access to the Queensboro Bridge and fairer funding for bike and pedestrian safety. Last year he joined the NYC DOT's "dream team" with Bruce Schaller, Dani Simons and other stalwarts of livable streets.



Little Boxes on the Hillside...

Suburbs, originally uploaded by corremadrid.

Every now and then a read an article that reminds me just how much American concepts of the urban/suburban divide are deeply ingrained in our collective understanding. This week's Economist has an article about "Black Flight". Now, I don't want to go off on the Economist too much. Although it's center-right, it's one of the better sources of world news out there, certainly better then Time or Newsweek. All of that aside though, the ridiculous misinterpretation of demographic changes in Southern California in this article really bother me.

The article is basically about the move of the black population from central LA to suburban (or, more correctly) exurban locations. OK. That's true. And given numerous reasons, both demographic and economic, that is to be expected. Where the article looses me is it's general theme that the suburbanization of blacks is good, either for society or for the suburbanized blacks themselves. It buys into the simplistic binary of suburb/good-city/bad (and J's been reading Judith Butler lately, so don't even get me started on binaries).

Here's Zakcq's general theory of the world: for a long time now, American cities have been generally opposite of the cities in the rest of the world, that is to say, poor in the middle, rich on the outside. I'd say, for about five to ten years now, we've been in the process of inverting that spatial arrangement. New York, Boston and San Francisco are already completing that change, and many other cities are well into the process. There are a lot of reasons that this is happening. Quality of Life is one, but so are housing prices, access to services, costs of transportation and many other things. What this means, in my opinion, is that blacks moving to the exurbs are not following the American Dream. Instead, they are being relegated to the most marginal land, farthest from job opportunities and, since, make no mistake, most of the low paid jobs will remain in the center city, many of these exurban dwellers will be stuck with insanely long and expensive commutes. blech.

Given these stupid notions of suburban superiority it's of little surprise that our housing is in such a crisis.

And as a afterthought this article is really funny.



Update your maps...

One more shot from Pristina, originally uploaded by jungle/arctic.



happy birthday crosswalk, originally uploaded by greynotgrey.

Rock on crosswalk guy.



Another Top Ten List

Planetizen has posted their yearly top ten list here. Like I said earlier, I think it was actually a pretty slow year as far as planning books go. There was no High Price of Free Parking that everyone was talking about this year (and yes. I hang out with people who talk excitedly about parking. and it's awesome.) Out of the books on the list, I've honestly only even seen three of them before, and I haven't yet read any, compared with most years where I've read at least a couple and paged through most of the rest. There are a couple of interesting things to note in the list though.

The first is that there seems to be much more emphasis on design in the books that are coming out. Four of the books on the main list and two of the runners up are essentially design books. Compared to the all time top 20 list, where only two books are really design books (plus maybe 2 others that are nominally so), that seems like a major jump. Perhaps that means that there is a general trend towards planners taking a more important roll in design. Or maybe I just hope that's what it means. Either way it's interesting. From the list I think Sustainable Urbanism by Farr will be the first one I pick up.

Second, why in the world is there an anti-planning tirade from the Cato Institute on the list? I mean, come on. I realize there is some value to understanding your enemies, but, like Ann Coulter or Jean Le Pen, some things are so ridiculous that it's better to just ignore them. Sometimes listening just gives strength to a stupid argument. Boo, Planetizen.
Boston, Massachusetts
Finally, it's nice to see a book about Immigration and the US's aging population. I was starting to think that I was the only one who realized that if you don't have enough workers to pay into social security you'd better start importing some new ones or legalizing the ones that are here.



Graduation, Urban Revitalization, Design Compitition and Congradulations...

Boston University: BU Central, originally uploaded by wallyg.

So, as of tomorrow, I've officially got a BS in Urban Affairs from BU. yeah!!! Which means that I'm going to try and blog a little more often to keep up on my writing skills.

I finished up all of my grad apps, so (fingers crossed) I should be hearing back starting towards the beginning of February, stretching through April. Once I start hearing about schools, I may make a quick trip to the west coast to talk to some faculty, so if anyone's in the Bay Area or around Vancouver/Seattle and wants to get together let me know.

In the mean time, I'm working on editing my thesis down to make it a publishable length and auditing/t.a.ing a design studio. We're working on a redevelopment project for the BRA in Jackson Square in JP, which should be both really fun and educational. It's great to be doing something that has a chance of being built. I think we've got a pretty good team put together for it from a lot of different backgrounds (planners and architects... and even a media guy), so it has a good chance of being a quality project.

Jackson Square

I've also been kind of amused by this and I've been thinking about putting together a submission. If there is anyone out there in blogland who'd be interested in teaming up on this, please let me know. I think it's an interesting design challenge and could be kind of fun.

Also, congrats to R and B on the birth of Olivier. I can't wait to see you guys.


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