GREGORY SAVILLE · MATEJA MIHINJAC
GREGORY SAVILLE · MATEJA MIHINJAC
REIMAGINING ANTI-GRAFFITIRead Now
by Mateja Mihinjac
This blog was inspired by a recent trip to my home village of 6,000 residents. Ever since I can remember, every few months the graffiti in the railway underpass near my house is painted over and the broken lights fixed. Shortly after fixing, the signs of vandalism reappear and a few months later the graffiti reappears. This has been occurring for the last 30 years.
GRAFFITI MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS
At the start of my criminology career, I learned that rapid graffiti removal programs were the most efficient way to address the problem because they deny graffiti offenders or “artists” the reward of having their work seen by others. In the 1980s, the famous Broken Windows Theory began with one such program in the New York City subway system’s Clean Car Program – graffiti was removed and vandalism repaired.
Through subsequent research and practical work I learned this approach might not be very effective and cost-beneficial as it is costly, may lead to displacement, fails to account for various motivations in the offenders, and generally fails to permanently eliminate the problem.
Since then other approaches appeared for addressing graffiti. One approach focuses on anti-graffiti materials and surfaces, increased penalties for “offenders”, and community clean-ups. Another approach designates graffiti walls and education or mural programs for offenders, such as the successful program for talented graffiti artists described in on this blog site by our team member Anna Brassard.
While some cities successfully integrate both approaches, other cities are more polarized in their graffiti management approaches. For example in Ottawa, city leaders maintain a strict no-graffiti policy apart from designated legal graffiti walls and murals under the City’s mural program.
Conversely, the mayor of the Colombian capital of Bogota has decriminalized graffiti after a tragic event in 2011 when a young artist was fatally shot. Apart from designated off-limit surfaces, graffiti artists in Bogota are free to express their creativity across the city. Graffiti is now integrated into city life and, interestingly, has become a major attraction for visitors.
I don’t argue for one approach over another since different contexts require different solutions. However, if an approach remains unsuccessful over a number of decades, such as in the railway underpass in my home village, it is time to consider alternative strategies. One missing link, however, is the limited voice of local community members.
NEGOTIATED CONSENT OR ZERO TOLERANCE?
In her reflection on developing a graffiti strategy for the city of Melbourne, criminologist Alison Young recommended against the city’s zero-tolerance approach with increased criminalization of graffiti artists, the approach which local government had adopted at the time.
She argued for self-regulation where property owners and local public would have a say in the image and identity of their local part of public space by either retaining it or by requesting the local government to remove the newly emerged graffiti. The thinking was that if local communities were given an opportunity for such self-governance, they might develop a greater sense of ownership and care for the local environment.
The Melbourne strategy has worked - today the city has a successful street graffiti program receiving world-wide acclaim. That success has turned into a major tourist attraction and economic success story for Melbourne including the popular Melbourne Street Art Tours by local tour companies and the annual Melbourne Stencil Festival.
Since 2010 the city has applied a hybrid approach where they now include the voice of business owners in deciding whether graffiti should be retained.
Melbourne provides an innovative answer to the question of whether we should eliminate graffiti, accept it, or channel freedom of expression in a positive direction for the artists and local communities. Despite a plethora of graffiti management practices, one thing is certain: graffiti is here to stay.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
We have written a number of blogs about activating public space with public art. From music festivals to large murals, neighbourhoods around the world bring people together to observe and interact around art. However, in Brisbane this year, art was mixed with science.
Last month, the city of Brisbane was celebrating all things science in the public sphere. Brisbane had a massive science festival. This included exhibits at the Queensland science museum, an outdoor festival, and perhaps the most engaging: technology-inspired art exhibits around the city. These exhibits, called Curiocity, married together art and science into an interactive and beautiful combination for local residents and tourists alike. The exhibits were placed along the Brisbane river and free for everyone, making them easily accessible and activating these spaces 24 hours day.
Artists, scientists and technicians combine experience in robotics, music, art and technology to create these interactive experiences. The exhibits included “Sky Brisbane” an air-jet activated grid of colourful fabric plumes that move based on the movement of the observer and “Scatter” solar-powered spinning loud speakers that scatter sound as the listener moves throughout the exhibit. These exhibits could be further engaged with through a phone app that was accessed through a scannable bar code at each installation.
These kinds of exhibits are not new but definitely are growing in popularity and size. For example, in North Vancouver Canada, Capilano suspension bridge puts on a beautiful holiday light show at the end of each year. Last year they included an interactive light display that turned on and changed colour based on the noise made. Passers-by engaged in clapping, stomping and cheering to see what kinds of colour combinations they could make.
ENCOURAGING CURIOSITY IN SCIENCE
While we often talk about how public art can bring people out and activate space, this combination of technology and art could offer not only further public engagement, but also celebrate and expand science in the public forum. Science festivals that include these kinds of exhibits can encourage curiosity and celebrate the advancement of knowledge, while remaining accessible and enjoyable.
In a time when science and evidence is being replaced by personal opinion and fake news, perhaps the celebration of science in the public realm will not only bring folks out and activate public space but will also encourage thoughtful conversation and curiosity about knowledge and inquiry.
by Mateja Mihinjac
Never did the reality of rapidly changing and technologically advanced cities become more apparent than during my recent visit to Singapore. Coming from a small European town with narrow medieval streets, city squares and few high rises in its city core, arriving in Singapore felt like time travel. Modern architecture, multi-level pathways and an interplay between city design and nature was, in my eyes, a very different and futuristic image of modern cities.
SINGAPORE – A SMART CITY?
This city of 5.5 million inhabitants was designated a 2015 UNESCO Creative City of Design. It puts great emphasis on its innovation and aesthetic design, and is one of the leading smart cities in the world. Singapore is also one of the safest Asian cities that boasts the highest quality of life in the region.
The Singapore Design Masterplan Committee developed a 2025 design masterplan envisioning a technologically advanced and environmentally sustainable innovative city with opportunities for enjoying all the ample activities that the city has to offer.
However, despite referring to people-centered design, much of Singapore’s infrastructure culminated from top-down planning. The 2025 plan describes how they “actively engaged industry and public sector stakeholders through interviews and focus group discussions”, but ultimately it fails to consider a deeper level of community involvement and how citizens will develop a stronger sense of community, pride, and neighborliness from design innovations.
As we know in SafeGrowth, in many cities this top-down process often results in citizens becoming disconnected from the plans and decisions made by city agencies. That, in turn, affects ownership and sustainability over the long term as we attempt to enhance social cohesion in neighborhoods.
Smart City strategist Boyd Cohen emphasizes this people-centered point in a recent article when he claims: “Cities must move from treating citizens as recipients of services, or even customers, to participants in the co-creation of improved quality of life.”
This people-centered message is well established in neighborhood-based planning. In our SafeGrowth book, my chapter describes neighborhood engagement as an essential part of SafeGrowth planning. The message of the chapter is fundamental; citizens need to become co-creators of their cities.
Fortunately, this is the latest trend in Smart Cities – a shift from a technological and corporate/government planning system toward citizen-driven planning where citizens become co-creators of decisions, solutions and design.
Unfortunately, despite institutional collaboration, Singapore still appears to be driven top-down by the city government and it lacks a coherent citizen component. By comparison, cities such as Vienna, Austria, and Medellin, Columbia are examples showing how equity and social inclusion can play a part in future smart cities.
At the core of citizen-driven smart cities are empowered, smart citizens who collaborate in the development of the city. It is an approach called collective intelligence, and it arises from two ingredients: technology that supports the social and everyday activities of average people; and planning that involves citizens establishing the activities they want in the city they call home.
by Greg Saville
Walking downtown a few days ago I came across a large telecommunications center that dominated an entire city block with blank walls. It is a sight that appears with increasing regularity in cities everywhere. The telecoms want to keep their innards secure, but they choose to locate downtown.
When meeting someone new we generally say hello, shake hands, and exchange pleasantries. The pleasantries are often meaningless. “Nice to meet you”! Perhaps. Perhaps, not.
But it is polite to greet someone well. It sets a tone for a civil relationship. There are consequences if you present an obnoxious face in public, or worse if you ignore them. It makes you look like a rube. You may think laws keep chaos at bay, but that is a legal conceit. In fact, sociologists, anthropologists, and well-trained criminologists will tell you it is everyday civil behavior - norms - that keep us civil and safe.
HOW TO ADDRESS THE STREET
It is no different for architecture in public places, especially downtown streets. Walking to downtown shops, waiting at bus stops, or simply enjoying a stroll are activities that make places hospitable and civil and mitigate uncivil behavior. We are embraced, or assailed, by how buildings address the street with their architecture. If they ignore the street with blank walls, they assault us. If they address the street in a civil way, they welcome us.
This is called streetscaping. Architects have many tools to do this well; building massing, permeable designs, paying attention to the pedestrian experience. Some call it placemaking. New York blogger Andrew Manshell has a great blog on this topic.
Streetscaping does not mean addressing the street with blank walls, walls that ignore the street and the people on it. Blank walls on public streets are obnoxious, like the obnoxious rube. They tell us we don’t matter. Blank wall owners might benefit from our public utilities, public streets, and our fire, police and other services, but they could not care less how they address us on our streets. So their massive blank walls make our streets inhospitable... so what!
Sound familiar? That is the behavior of the sociopath. No consequence!
Blank walls are the architectual version of design sociopathy.
Back in the 1980s, William Whyte wrote about the poisonous effect that large blank walls had on city life. Boring convention centers, government buildings, megastructures, and parking garages with large blank walls on public streets all fell under his wrath. But in City: Rediscovering the Center it was telephone companies that offended most, especially a 55-storey blank wall in New York. Since then it seems the telecoms have not changed.
Sociopathic blank walls kill sidewalks and suck the energy out of urban life.
If there is anything contemporary planners (and CPTED practitioners) must do it is to kill blank walls in downtown architecture. There are many ways that can be done creatively - green walls, murals, tasteful windows placement.
We need to purge the scourge of architecture’s sociopath.
STREET ART COMES OF AGERead Now
by Greg Saville
In the early years of CPTED, the skateboarder was the defiler of the public order and vandal of the public realm. Still today uncontrolled skateboarding causes damage to places. CPTED training taught how to target harden benches and use sand to disrupt wheel bearings. New anti-skateboarding laws and enforcement emerged.
Today the skateboard movement has gone legit. It's worth 4 billion dollars and has over 11 million participants. In 2020 it will be an Olympic sport. Skateboard parks populate every major city.
Skateboarding has come of age.
The same evolution is underway with graffiti and street art, the former defined as illegal, the latter not (both distinctions now fading into the Realpolitik).
We have written about murals and graffiti for years. SafeGrowth Advocate Anna Brassard wrote a few years ago about the graffiti/street artist world in her blog The Writing on the Wall. I wrote about a Graff War in Melbourne.
Today, as with skateboarding, change is underway. There are lists of World's Top Cities for murals. Penang in Malaysia is the leader. No surprise Berlin, Germany and Sydney, Australia are also leaders. Philadelphia and Melbourne aren’t (but should be). Krakow, Poland, Reykjavik, Iceland and Quebec City, Canada make the top ten.
I captured some street art and mural images in Toronto and Denver the past few weeks. I’m told by graff artists that the illegal practicing they do helps them refine their skills and produce these amazing legal works.
Perhaps if we can find a public practice place for street artists and legitimate display walls for their better work, we could minimize the illegal graffiti vandalism. Working with street artists, as these images show, can produce remarkable results.
by Mateja Mihinjac
Towards the end of the past Century, a gruesome downtown rape shocked Brisbane, Australia. The incident occurred at 9 am in a laneway surrounded by the pedestrian corridor of the busiest spot in Brisbane, the outdoor Queen Street Mall.
This horrific incident went unnoticed by the city workers rushing to their offices. The victim, a young woman, remained helpless in the shadows of the bland gray facades of the surrounding buildings.
FAST FORWARD 20 YEARS
Today numerous Brisbane laneways have undergone a remarkable visual transformation aiming to imitate similar successes in Melbourne and Sydney.
Burnett Lane is Brisbane’s oldest laneway with a dark history of a prison exercise yard during the early penal colony days.
It was the first to undergo rejuvenation. The 600-foot laneway now boasts creative lighting and artwork that characterize its cultural and historical identity. It has a few small restaurants, cafes and bars, the largest vinyl record store in the Southern Hemisphere and a wine bar with late evening hours.
Winn Lane and Baker Lane, situated in the middle of the night entertainment district, also offer a mix of diverse opportunities in one place. They host day and night cafes, eateries, service shops and small retail shops that attract Brisbane’s artisan community.
Once a forgotten place surrounded by tall buildings, Eagle Lane now offers a bar and a café, street parties, artistic installations and live music with pop-up gigs in the evening hours. It has become a popular post-work venue for city workers in the financial district.
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WON’T COME?
More than a dozen other laneways across Brisbane’s CBD have sprouted since the City’s Vibrant Laneways program was introduced in 2006, and more are pending. However, according to critics the program leaves much to be desired since laneway culture in the city has yet to truly flourish.
They suggest that the City’s domination of the Vibrant Laneways program resulted in mechanically built laneways that failed to evolve over time. Instead, as predicted by SafeGrowth theory, they recommend the laneways should grow organically as a product of the creative and entrepreneurial activities of locals whereby the city assumes a cooperative rather than the leading role.
Confirming this idea is that fact the laneways attracting most people in Brisbane are those able to capitalize on their creative and economic potential to develop imaginative places. Elements that promote their vitality include permeability, accessibility, the absence of vehicular traffic and a positive image.
Truly vibrant laneways convince people to stop and linger, which in turn activates the area and reduces the potential for undesirable activities like serious crime.
For laneways to be safe, they need to move away from what Woodhouse describes as “forgotten space within cities, trapped in the dark and quiet spaces” offering nothing more than pedestrian thoroughfare and service delivery access.
Instead, as Carmichael claims, with collaboration between business planners, interest groups, and local governments, these precious micro-spaces can facilitate social interaction, promote safety and evolve into assets and anchors for community life in the 21st Century.
by Gregory Saville
Fifteen years ago, I visited Skraplanet in Denmark, one of the world’s first cohousing communities and spent an afternoon with architect and founder, Jan Gudmand-Hoyer. In 1964 Hoyer gathered with friends to figure out how to purchase homes in the pricey Copenhagen real estate market.
Home purchasing then – as today - offered few real choices of importance. Hoyer and friends discovered house architecture was boring and designed by someone else. Land developers already answered (or ignored) the critical questions of neighborhood living before residents even showed up:
Hoyer described this in his 1968 article The missing link between utopia and the dated one-family house. The result was cohousing – a new type of village, a style of intentional community in which residents form their own development company, hire their own builders, and create their own neighborhood. When cohousing migrated worldwide in the 1980s, it offered a unique form of equity housing and village living - usually within or nearby existing cities.
Ultimately, cohousing became a safer and more sustainable housing option. It has appeared here numerous times in An alternative future and Avoiding a wire-esque future.
TOURING WITH THE MASTER
Jan Gudmand-Hoyer taught me the nuances of cohousing planning. He proudly described some of the clever design techniques unique to this housing form. His community, Skraplanet, used modernism, an architectural style popular in the 1960s. At the time of my visit, the community was 20 years old and had found a green niche in the surrounding forest.
Jan died yesterday at 81. He and his cohousing pioneers offered the world a new kind of village for the 21st Century. Thank you, Jan. May we live up to your dream!
Guest Blog: MATEJA MIHINJAC is a criminologist completing a PhD in CPTED at Griffith University, Australia. She is a SafeGrowth Advocate, a member of the International CPTED Association and the American Society of Criminology.
At our New Orleans SafeGrowth Summit four weeks ago we had the pleasure of hosting a National Storytelling Laureate for the United Kingdom and a storyteller of 30 years, Katrice Horsley. Katrice injected us with warmth, energy, and passion for creating social change through what she refers to as “narrative for change”.
We learned how storytelling can serve as a powerful transformational method for achieving social change to promote empowerment and social justice. Several organizations such as Transformative Storytelling for Social Change use storytelling to form meaning and experience through narrative and do so in a fun and non-threatening way. As Katrice also explains:
“Storytelling is the main way that we make sense of ourselves and of the world around us, both through the stories we choose to hear and the stories we choose to tell. New findings in neuroscience now show us how important narrative is in creating an identity for ourselves and also in experiencing and understanding how others make sense of their worlds.”
Katrice challenged some of our narratives that become beliefs, not only about us as individuals, but also about our neighborhoods. We learned how to express our own stories, and our neighborhood stories, in creative ways that included props like textiles, cards, and threads.
These are powerful methods for creating change through narrative and they equipped us with new skills for neighborhood development. Katrice showed how storytelling can deliver outcomes such as:
Katrice’s powerful performances during the Summit echoed the SafeGrowth message that, just as we can envision multiple futures for change, there are many narratives for our neighborhoods. Narrative induces particular emotions and attitudes and, if we confront those honestly in stories, we can challenge ingrained beliefs that block progress. That allows us to better tap into new ideas towards some desired future. In Katrice’s words: “If you want to effect a change then narrative is the way forward”.
Katrice helped us see the great potential that transformational storytelling has within SafeGrowth programs for planning vibrant and safe 21st Century neighborhoods.
GUEST BLOG – Mateja Mihinjac is a criminologist at Griffith University, Australia completing her doctoral research on CPTED implementation. She is a member of the International CPTED Association. She recently attended the Asia-Pacific ICA CPTED Forum and kindly submitted this blog.
In mid-October, the ICA hosted a 2014 regional Asia-Pacific CPTED forum themed Better CPTED - Multidisciplinary Design for Safer Places.
The participants came from many different backgrounds thus bringing to the table a rainbow of strategies. Despite the differences we all agreed better and safer places emerge from the special features that make places more attractive and the people who use those places. I found great examples on the streets of Adelaide.
The nicely maintained Victoria Square offers numerous opportunities for social activities, meeting spots and sheltered seating areas. Walking down the pedestrian Rundle Mall I found The Mall’s Balls - a common meeting point for people in the mall.
Looking for examples of people being users and co-creators of such special places I discovered some yarn bombing - dressed-up Rundle Mall Pigs and a statue of Dame Roma Mitchell on the North Terrace. They instantly attracted my attention and reminded me of the yarn bombed road barrier from Melbourne in a blog from a few months ago.
Turns out that the pigs and the statue were not isolated cases and that yarn bombing is popular throughout Adelaide, especially since 2012 when even the statue of Queen Victoria received a makeover. Yarn bombing is now part of Adelaide’s community events and it all started from local people aiming to create better places for and by themselves.
Yarn bombing and its “softer” version known as yarn storming (in the UK) manifests community pride and provides a personal touch in public places. It is widely considered a feminine form of graffiti or artistic vandalism.
Creative approaches such as knitting are one channel for the public to express and partake in public life. What I find neat about this approach is that it empowers those who traditionally wouldn’t participate in public activism and allows them to have a say in their own communities.
Placemaking surely comes in many forms.
Discovering the city at nightRead Now
A few months ago I met award-winning industrial designer Ian Dryden from the city of Melbourne, Australia. He taught me about Melbourne's street lighting program. Given the links between fear and street (in)activity, this is a very big deal.
Most cities get poor grades for night lighting. Melbourne gets an A.
Melbourne has an incredibly active downtown night life. It wasn't always. One long-term resident told me it was once a waste-land with few people daring to walk dark downtown streets. When the city changed direction and chose to attract an evening crowd to socialize in a safe, positive way, designers and planners stepped up.
Ian and his colleagues were among them. Melbourne's public lighting program is sophisticated. It creates both a luminous and carbon neutral city, no small feat with current energy costs.
They light parks, tram stops, news stands, benches, and sidewalks. They string interesting blue (and energy efficient) LEDs above intersections. Where most cities inadvertently obstruct street lights with tree canopies, Melbourne embellishes them with tinted uplighting.
This week the 2014 Australian Smart Lighting Summit is in Melbourne and they get to celebrate among lighting peers. They should. Congratulations!
...this is a bedRead Now
My blog on London's design out crime spikes to deter homeless haunted my thoughts until I read a recent story from Vancouver.
RainCity Housing is one of those hard-working non-profits we don't hear enough about. They provide social housing, help those with mental illness and addictions and work to get the homeless into housing. Spring Advertising is a creative advertising firm who worked with RainCity to design an innovative bench cover that morphs into a temporary shelter at night.
It's a far cry from homeless spikes. Of course an ad stunt is obviously no solution to homelessness. Then again, neither are the spikes that cruelly dot London's landscape.
We might not have the answer to the problem of homelessness but as the RainCity/Spring collaboration suggests, we can still be humane.
The visual language of security
Thinking about my Design Out Crime colleagues, I came across Matthais Megyeri a brilliant German artist and designer based in London and Stuttgart. He has exhibited his work around the world including New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Among other fascinating projects with Matthias' company Sweet Dream Security, he redesigns security fences and cameras and shows how to change the visual language of public security devices. This is a much needed gift as security creeps into our lives.
I first heard of Matthais last year from Lorraine Gamman at the Design Against Crime Centre in London. She mentioned his work and so I contacted him last year and was impressed by his off-beat and comical art with security devices.
Describing his own work on one blog he says:
"I was never really interested in security products as objects. And I certainly don’t design them because I like them. But I was struck by their visual presence in everyday London life…I decided to use my skills to change the visual language of security products from depressing to seriously humorous."
Check him out.
A few months ago we completed SafeGrowth training in Rochester. Many of those projects are still underway.
During our training we describe the importance of community art, what planners call place-making, as one step for creating positive neighborhood culture. We highlight Portland's famous Intersection Repair project that I blogged about a few years ago.
One of the exceptional SafeGrowther's in Rochester, Rachel Pickering, just sent me this fascinating link to the BoulveArt project now happening across Rochester.
Painting an intersection is so simple, colorful, and remarkably fun, it's a wonder it doesn't happen everywhere. I'm told it is a daunting process to organize it and sell it to the city. That's not the case in Rochester, who actually host this site.
Good ideas, apparently, can spread.
ROCHESTER - ART MATTERSRead Now
Rochester, NY, is one of those places you think vanished from economic prominence when manufacturing moved to low income southern states, or to zero income automated robots. Truth is in the late 19th and early 20th Century, Rochester was one of America's first boomtowns.
Today it still sports some excellent university and medical centers but sadly, like many northern cities around the rust belt, it has struggled with a high crime rate and declining economy.
Rochester's metro population is over a million and it is the second largest urban economy in New York State. Like other places, some neighborhoods are troubled with disorder and drugs.
Look a bit closer, though, and Rochester surprises. Some neighborhoods are emerging as cultural landmarks and quality of life stars. One of those is the Neighborhood of the Arts along University Avenue. Our Rochester SafeGrowth class recently walked a night-time audit here.
Streetscaping and outdoor art is the dominant feature. Sure, along with demographics and prosperity, it is only one ingredient in the crime mix. Still...murals, sculptures, flower planters, and other art plays a significant role. For example, though street lighting wasn't particularly good, it didn't matter. There was a palpable comfort walking here at night. Lone women jogged by us quite relaxed as nearby bar patrons celebrated something or other.
This is a cool area and a great asset. For humanizing the public realm Rochester proves, art matters.
THE RED LIGHT PLAYERRead Now
Every detail in the city should show respect for human dignity and reflect that everything human is sacred - Enrique Penalosa
Streets are not all there is to the crime story. But they are a barometer for deeper threads in the urban fabric. The poorly designed or ill-managed street is the hostile, uninviting territory of no-man's land. Over and over that's where crime opportunities show up.
How do we make engaging our experience in such menial landscapes? Like waiting at a pedestrian crossing.
Charles Landry believes the creative city takes many forms. I've shown examples such as street pianos and intersection painting.
Here is another.
Steven Woolrich is an Alberta CPTED consultant and board member of the International CPTED Association. He is a frequent contributor to SafeGrowth. He currently authors the Target Crime blog linked on LIKEMINDED. This is an excerpt from his upcoming 2012 article for the ICA newsletter CPTED Perspective.
Activity support helps generate more buzz on our streets and can create more interaction between all types of people. Music is certainly a way of generating interest on the street and for me the piano is the ultimate instrument for delivering a great melody. After hearing about street pianos being placed around New York City, I figured why not Red Deer, Alberta.
After speaking with serveral business owners in the area it was decided. The piano would rest in a small alcove outside a local restaurant on Ross Street, the main drag through downtown Red Deer. It was named the Ross Street piano.
Interest in the project grew quickly with several carpenters offering to build a new deck for the piano with building materials being provided by the local Co-op at no cost. The piano was installed on July 28th, 2010 and remained in place until the first part of October. Several City officials played a tune or two, including the Mayor.
In the weeks that followed many local people dropped by to tickle the ivory keys and sing along with others. The piano was there for anyone to use, day or night. Business owners and those playing the instrument would cover it up at night before going home.
The Ross Street Piano will be available again this summer from June through August and will now highlight some local artwork as well. The piano will allow artists to showcase their talents with a new theme each year.
BIKE CORRALS FOR SAFER STREETSRead Now
A few years ago, when Richard Florida suggested whole new urban forms will grow out of the Recession, it seemed far away. A half century ago, when Jane Jacobs suggested active and diverse streets can cut crime, who knew it would take so long to catch on.
Bike corrals are among the first bits of evidence suggesting both are well underway.
Bike corrals are on-street parking strips with parking for up to 20 bikes in parking spaces normally used for one or two cars. They bring more customers to their street than car parking provides. They pollute less and cut gas costs. For CPTED, corrals provide better natural surveillance and less opportunity for theft.
Brooklyn, NY has just opened its first bike corral (sometimes called parking swaps). Portland Oregon has over 70.
My urban design friend Megan Carr has just put me on to Streetfilms. It's a fantastic organization with over 400 free educational films about inspired transportation like bike corrals. Check them out HERE.
MAGIC CARPETS?Read Now
Sometimes things come along that are...well, just plain cool.
I've written before about the design against crime movement in the UK. They have shown us how to use inventive ergonomic design to curb bad behavior, reduce loitering on public benches and cut crime at bike racks.
My friend and colleague, UK professor Lorraine Gamman, recently sent photos of her talented colleagues work at the Design Against Crime Research Centre in London. They have come up with a method to cut ID theft (shoulder surfing) and ATM crime through a privacy mat.
It's simple enough. Stick a 3M mat to demarcate territory around ATM machines. Says one article, the mats can "be laid directly onto pavements or the floors of shopping centers. They take just 20 minutes to lay and no planning permission if they unbranded." People are "controlled" through subtle messaging to keep far enough away to protect your PIN and far enough to make it difficult to snatch and run with your cash.
It won't stop everyone, but I'm told it seems to work. Why?
The first thing you learn in CPTED is something called proxemics - how people use their own sense of personal space to ensure their privacy. That subtle messaging is precisely what privacy mats accomplish, albeit in a subtle and inexpensive fashion.
I've said before territoriality doesn't happen without social capital.
When it comes to small scale design, it seems I'm wrong.
According to one European ATM security survey, over 85% of respondents indicate privacy spaces help reduce crime at ATMs. Loraine tells me more rigorous evaluation research is underway.
Like I said - simple, cheap and effective.
Oz Graff and BanksyRead Now
This week I'm at the University of Sydney, Australia for a Crime and SafeGrowth workshop.
It gives me a chance to wander the streets of this beautiful city and compare it to my experience last year and a decade ago. In 1998 Sydney was a city of graffiti. Last year, not so much. Much has happened in Sydney, and in the world of graffiti, in the past year.
Some of the trends appeared in blogs I've written on train graffiti,murals, and the ICA Graffiti Guidebook.
Graffiti is called graff by practitioners of this underground über-chic, street artists, wanna-be street artists, and just plain sweaty vandals. Graff is pandemic in both virtual and real space all over the world.
Take for example the stencil graffiti trend started by Britain's anarchist Robin Hood, Banksy. Stencil graffiti now makes appearances in art galleries and in art books. Graff-folk gather on websites to advertise their wares or simply look for cities to "practice". Says a graff-writer in one post:
I'm from Los Anzgeles and will be out in Sydney next week. Although I'm not traveling for graff I would DEFINITELY like to paint while I'm there (as well as stickers)... If anyone can give any info on ANY cool spots to paint as well as GET paint I would greatly appreciate this...
Police and prevention specialists tinker at the edge of graff, sending in the enforcers, writing new laws and installing CCTV. Police map it along with other crimes. But it seems they simply don't get what is going on.
In Sydney, like elsewhere, traditional enforcement tactics hold back the tide: anti-graffiti teams, resistant sprays, CPTED lighting, and so forth (probably why graffiti has somewhat declined in Sydney).
The truth is, like most large cities, in Sydney resistant pockets flourish - some interesting and inventive, most just blight. Example: Around Sydney's central train station where CCTV watched everywhere, I counted 31 public murals, every one graffitied.
Most public murals are not graffitied. Then again, these were not "community-based" murals painted by local artists. They looked corporate, perhaps designed by city or train station officials.
Banksy's documentary film, Exit Through The Gift Shop premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year. It is well done, glorifies the good, bad and ugly, but more importantly it provides insight; insight we need to better understand the future of the public realm.
It also suggests to some degree, like it or not, the once-maligned is now going mainstream.
Suburbs: The fix?Read Now
Tonight the CBC broadcast a news documentary about the increasing political power of the suburbs.
In every planning or human geography grad program there is a course on urban studies. In that course there is usually a debate about the urban/suburban divide, a divide that runs deep in popular culture. It cuts deep into the environmental wastage from long suburban drives to work in rush hour. It surfaces in a dwindling downtown tax base from out-migration.
Best-selling author Richard Florida recently wrote "the challenge is to remake the suburbs, to turn them into more vibrant, livable, people-friendly communities and, in so doing, to make them engines of innovation and productivity."
For many years growing suburban populations and a dwindling urban tax base resulted in downtown deterioration and high crime rates.
The picture is no longer so clear.
Suburbs not only represent a place of increasing political power, they have also seen increasing crime rates. In places like New York downtown crime rates have declined while Memphis recorded a suburban crime blip after the demolition of a downtown public housing project.
There is now some light at the end of the tunnel.
Toronto's Jane/Finch suburb has long been a hotspot for crime. Last year I published an empirical study on one SafeGrowth project I helped launch there - the San Romanoway apartments.
It was one of the first times the crime trend was halted in a small suburban pocket. There is now a fabulous documentary film about San Romanoway's chief community organizer Stephnie Payne called "The Fix" explaining how it works.
Perhaps this is one future for our suburbs?
Chris Landauer, MIT aerospace scientist, challenges the story of five blind men who touch an elephant in five different places and then describe it in five different ways. It all depends, says Landauer, on our assumption there is an elephant.
There might not be.
Our traditional criminal justice system (CJS) also assumes things, for example we must punish offenders or find guilt in court. Does this kind of thinking limit creative solutions to crime? Maybe there is no elephant?
This week I was in Dallas at the American Society for Industrial Security convention, the largest security trade show of its kind. Security technology isn’t always new, creative, or the best solution. But competitive high tech can be a breeding ground for creative solutions.
Case in point: TecGarde Mobile Solutions, a firm I worked with at the show. They are an innovative, tech start-up and Blackberry alliance partner with the Blackberry folks. I enjoy working with cool outfits like TecGarde. They sport some of the most creative smart-phone devices in the world. Creativity, it seems to me, is the foundation upon which a safer future rests.
It reminds me that truly creative cultures rarely flourish in rigid hierarchies, especially CJS organizations that ooze chain-of-command thinking. Nowhere is this message truer than with Ideo, the industrial design firm featured in the ABC documentary, The Deep Dive. By deep diving, Ideo comes up with fantastically innovative ideas. Deep diving is inherently non-heirarchical. That’s what outfits like TecGarde are all about.
Which brings me back to the elephant. True, creativity can occasionally seep through the CJS chain-of-command. Successful problem-oriented policing projects prove it is possible (check out motel crime in California or homelessness in Colorado). But these are not the rule, they are the exception. It's hard to be creative when trapped in hierarchies. After all, elephant assumptions may not be real.
Where do we find truly innovative strategies? How do successful organizations become creative? I think we need to peek at the technology world more closely, especially how technology firms docreativity.
Postscript: On the final day a number of laptops were stolen from display exhibits. Remember - this was a security tradeshow with CCTV firms operating thousands of security cameras in plain sight at their exhibits. Unsurprisingly, the crooks were apprehended the next day and their loot was recovered quickly.
For these brash, Mensa-challenged crooks it seems the security elephant was real. In this case it sat on them.
FLASH MOBS AND URBAN CHAOSRead Now
Over the past few years the Flash Mob has been an odd, chaotic marriage of mobile phones, social networking and Twitter-something kids. I blogged on one that went wrongish on Philadelphia's South Street.
Urban creativity need not be nasty and Flash Mobs are usually fun. If left to the creatives with a sense of civility, they can be downright amusing. As long as they remain unstapled by the self-interested, they represent an urban chaos that makes urban life fascinating.
Example: In April members of the Opera Company of Philadelphia Chorus thought it might be fun to treat the Italian Market Terminal with an impromptu performance of La Trviata.
It's pretty funny. And terrifically creative.
Check it out.
Click here for Market Mob Fun
FUN THEORYRead Now
After some serious blogs of late, I thought I'd lighten up a bit. A thought occurs: How do we make the street fun?
One of my favorite answers is fun theory. It's an interesting program by Volkswagen. I've highlighted some of their innovative urban designs last year such as the piano stairway and the deepest garbage bin in the world. This is a fantastic fun way to get people to engage.
The Bottle Bank Arcade is their latest offering.
Check it out.
Watch the Bottle Bank Arcade
How much is too much?
Planner, developer, and academic types have asked this question for decades. So has Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller The Tipping Point. I asked this question in field research with Paul Wong my business partner years ago. I asked it again in research with my colleague Chuck Genre, a co-faculty member at our university research center.
In the 1960s, Jane Jacobs and William Whyte talked plenty about it too in their writings of diversity on the street. How much diversity is a good thing? How many benches before people use them? How many shops before a street becomes vibrant. How many shops is too many? What kind of shops will tip a neighborhood into or out of crime? How many bars are too many (Paul and I tackled that in the mid 1990s). How many parking lots trigger auto crime (Chuck and I studied that from 2000 - 2002).
I am back this week with my latest SafeGrowth students in Philadelphia. My weekend comprised walks and talks on the eclectic South Street, the Bohemian mecca for street kids, students, shoppers and a fair share of tourists, artists, and hangers-on.
South Street is one of those self-evolving, hipster commercial drives, about 25 blocks and a mile and a half in length. I walked back and forth on it and was surprised by its intense diversity. Unlike many such entertainment venues like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, this one does a much better job catering to local residents. Over a thousand live in pricey digs directly on or near the one way, narrow street. I'm not a fan of one-ways, but the narrowness and eye-catching architectural diversity make this one work pretty well.
It has some community gardens, a grocery store, and similar places where locals can patronize. It also has a region-wide reputation for hipness, a place where, as the song says, "the hippies go".
I also learned there was local organizations and non-profits who kept momentum moving forward by watching zoning issues, providing programs, and working on neighborhood livability. As in SafeGrowth strategies, it is the local organizations and non-profits who sustain positive momentum forward. It sure seemed to work on South Street.
True, South Street has the odd controversy; one example was a recent Twitter Flash Mob of juveniles (both the chronological and emotional types) who rampaged storefronts and generally acted out their immaturity. Some crowded evenings the street gets so packed cops must siphon pedestrians in one direction to keep the street moving. I also found crime stats too, a handful of thefts, a store robbery, a street robbery, and a few burglaries over the past 6 months.
For the most part, with such a high population density and diverse population, it all seems to work pretty well.
I don't know if this is the best combination for the diverse street. I don't know if South Street represents the Golden Rule for what diversity should look like. It feels like a cross between the positive vibe on Vancouver's Commercial Drive and the livability of Dayton's Oregon District. Yet it's much larger than both and Philadelphia faces considerably more crime.
So consider this - In one of the country's largest cities (6 million in the metro area), with a national city ranking in the top ten for too many crime categories, South Street's diversity and cultural energy thrives, it draws shoppers and tourists in droves, and still provides a convenient and interesting place to live.
Jacobs and Whyte, it seems, were right.
Today, a hundred and thirty four years ago, Alexander Graham Bell sent the world’s first long distance telephone call in Brantford, Ontario. It heralded a new age in technology. Could anyone predict how a simple idea might transform our world for the better?
Making fun places of public spaces may be such an idea. I just saw an interesting clip from our European Design Out Crime friends at E-DOCA and SVOB in the Netherlands.
Remember the musical stairway in Sweden from an earlier blog? Remember the fun of creative spaces - and fun theory? I came across yet another example of fun spaces from Sweden. (Those Swedes certainly have fun in urban places).
This is an example of the world's deepest garbage bin.
Check it out here.
SafeGrowth® is a philosophy and theory of neighborhood safety planning for 21st Century.