New York is known for a lot of things—taxis, bagels, Central Park, the subway—but it is not known for privacy. Privacy, in fact, can be pretty hard to come by. Last month, BMW Guggenheim Lab launched “Public/Private,” a new interactive project that explores our individual and collective experiences of privacy in cities around the world. In order to participate, you must first enter your information: gender, age and city. Next, you evaluate the level of privacy you seek in various locations in your city: workplace, home, school, parks, streets, etc. Finally, you rate your level of satisfaction with your city. Once your results are calculated, you can compare them to those of other users living in your city, and discover how your city’s collective data matches up to other cities around the world. (more…)
Some of the most exciting cities are those that have their own unique aesthetic, adopting a feel at odds with the rest of their country. Barcelona for us is such a place, wildly individual and almost visually overwhelming. Famously inspired by Antoni Gaudí’s creations as well as influenced by its Catalan history, it walks its own pioneering path.
This is a round-up of our favorite links this week curated by the Untapped Cities’ staff includes a behind-the-scenes look at how street signs in NYC are made and a video game depiction of walking to work through the crowds in New York.
There are more than 2 million street signs in all of New York City. This video documents how each sign is carefully created. [Gizmodo]
Walking to work in New York City – the game. [Gawker]
The Culture-ist caught up with our fellow Untapped Cities’ partner, A Girl’s Guide to Paris, for an au courant guide to Paris. [The Culture-ist]
In Tokyo, companies are growing gardens in the walls, ceilings and hallways of office buildings. [Culture-ist]
Boston is best known for sports colonial history, and a laidback vibe – but spend some time here, and it become clear that this is also a city that loves fine art, green spaces, and neighborliness. But even though Boston is known as a beautiful city, it is sadly a place where you can forget you’re on the water. If you don’t happen to be seeking out Boston Harbor, you’d be lucky to even glimpse the waterfront from most parts of downtown. But Mayor Mumbles, our reigning boy wonder (19 years as mayor and counting-and actually named Tom Menino), has taken it upon himself to change this, and it’s working. The waterfront is attached to the rest of Boston with a few short, pedestrian-friendly bridges, and yet you’d be forgiven for thinking it was miles out of the way.
Previously, the strip down by the World Trade Center or the Convention Center was, well”¦ dead. But with the birth of the Silver Line in 2002, extending public transit across the bridges (and confusing the hell out of everyone in the process-is it a bus? A train? It has its own lanes and runs underground! But it’s so clearly a bus!), this area has had a chance to grow into its own.
The Institute of Contemporary Art moved to Fan Pier on the waterfront at the end of 2006, and it was one of the biggest indicators that this neighborhood was on the rise. The ICA has brought in a rich program of both visual artists and performers. It has hosted everything from outdoor concerts on their dock to a diving competition in their watery front yard, and is currently hosting Os Gemeos, a Brazilian street art duo, in their first U.S. showing. More proof that the ICA is bringing a fun art culture to Boston? Os Gemeos has been putting murals up all over town, from painting an alleged Occupier on the Kennedy Greenway to a self-portrait on the side of the new Revere Hotel.
The waterfront is also a long-time artists’ neighborhood for other reasons. The old warehouses that populate this neighborhood-mainly holdovers from the days of the ship-based wool trade-have been largely turned into artists’ lofts and studios. A lively culture has surrounded the art walks and open studio events hosted in the neighborhood, and for artists and art-lovers the waterfront (and its neighboring micro-community of Fort Point) is the place to be seen.
Like the rest of America, Boston has seen food culture boom in the last fifteen or so years. While a visitor looking for classic New England fare will be spoiled for choice anywhere in the city, there are new restaurants popping up all the time, and the waterfront district has been the locus for larger spaces and vintage architecture, lending the scene down here a character of its own.
In 2011, Legal Seafoods-a Boston institution for fresh seafood-opened Legal’s Harborside, a multistory behemoth of a restaurant, right on the water near the World Trade Center. Near it is Del Frisco’s, home of the 32-ounce Wagyu steak (and Patriots players hungry enough for it), and a host of lounge spaces and eateries. There are also the old standby joints, like the mom-and-pop J. Pace and Sons, and plenty of booze at the Whiskey Priest, with a gorgeous patio hovering on stilts above the water.
Walk back a few blocks into Fort Point, and you’ll see the handiwork of Barbara Lynch, who has no fewer than three eateries on one block of Congress Street, all of them exuding style and providing amazing food-from the small plates and craft cocktails at Drink (where there’s no menu, just REALLY knowledgeable bartenders), to the glossy sheen of Sportello and the fine dining of Menton, Lynch has put her seal of approval on the district.
And after all that, if you still want chowda, head to the Barking Crab, the little run-down clam shack on Northern Avenue that is staunchly refusing to become anything classier than fried food and loud music.
Okay, it has a silly acronym-but the Boston Redevelopment Authority has been pouring its efforts into this neighborhood for years now, and though I am usually skeptical of large-scale development efforts (a post for another time”¦), I have to give credit to everyone at the BRA.
As early as 1999, they had targeted this area for some lovin’. Noting that it lacked public transit connections to the rest of the city, and was one of the last remaining spots with undeveloped waterfront real estate, the BRA set about turning all of this underused space into a usable public space. At this moment, there are still too many parking lots and too few green spaces, but there are at least five more years of intense development efforts ahead.
Businesses new and old are coming to the area, with the opening of a new multistory Asian fusion lounge called Empire, and the re-siting of Louis Boston, a luxury retailer, from over in the shopping mecca of Newbury Street in Back Bay. And there have been plenty of government-driven incentives for entrepreneurs to look here, in the form of tax relief and infrastructure financing.
And a central tenet of the redevelopment project has been to bring jobs into this area, which is especially important as it is closely connected with some of Boston’s less-affluent areas (yes, Ben Affleck, SOUTHIE!). The next step is to encourage people to move here, which is no easy task as the area still lacks basic amenities like pharmacies, supermarkets, or banks. But don’t worry, Mumbles is on the case, making sure that the area is rezoned for mixed commercial and residential use, in keeping with New England’s very neighborhood-friendly culture.
The proof is in the now-lively community spirit in this end of the city. In August, Fan Pier hosted Boston’s first ever Dîner en Blanc, which yours truly attended with Untapped arts editor. There have been wine tastings at the Seaport Hotel, diving competitions off the front of the ICA, and a revived concert schedule at the Bank of America Pavilion. Keeping green space, walkability, and independent business owners at the forefront of the waterfront development has all of us Bostonians hopeful that this district can reconnect us with the water and spur a new neighborhood of fun, artistic hangouts.
La Paz, Bolivia: a city full of juxtapositions. Aymara women with bowler hats and colorful aguayos on their backs cross paths with university students wearing European soccer jerseys. Bolivians selling bootleg DVDs of American movies have set up their booths across from cafes selling empanadas and papaya juice. Cars so old and run down they look like they might fall apart at any minute lumber up the steeply inclined streets and around Plaza Murillo, the main square where President Morales (Bolivia’s first indigenous president) governs. (more…)
Rome, a city known for its Ancient ruins, has undergone some major urban developments in the last few years. Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI Museum opened in 2009. Renzo Piano’s Auditorium Parco della Musica sits on the border of the neighborhoods of Flaminio and Parioli and hosts events ranging from concerts to international film festivals. The Metro Line C, which will connect the center to some of Rome’s underserved neighborhoods, has been under construction for several years. But that’s not all.
Just over a month ago, on April 1, a modest but interesting project was revealed in the heart of Rome’s historic center. Piazza San Silvestro, located on the corner of Via del Corso and Via del Tritone, was transformed from a crowded bus depot to a wide open space with colossal benches. Now instead of standing around waiting for buses, Romans can sit around waiting for nothing in particular. The square is now a pedestrian only zone. It may seem like a small change, but it shows that city officials are interested in making Rome more comfortable for Romans and tourists alike. It harkens back to the idea of a piazza as a public space where people can gather to meet and socialize. The location of Piazza San Silvestro is particularly convenient, as it is just steps away from the major commercial area of Via del Corso and only a bit farther from historic sites like the Pantheon and Piazza del Popolo. Indeed, Romans are taking advantage of the piazza’s new design to sit down and rest for a while, read a newspaper or a book, or just to have a friendly chat.
The original design by city architect Luigi Caruso called for a large red abstract sculpture and regimented rows of benches that the public decried as resembling “coffins for the homeless.” Caruso was replaced by leading Italian architect Paolo Portoghesi, who designed the city’s mosque in Parioli, was president of the architectural section of the Venice Biennial from 1979-92, editor-in-chief of the journal Controspazio, and dean of the Faculty of Architecture at the Politecnico di Milano university, among his other accomplishments.
The space is now an interesting juxtaposition of Baroque architecture, as exemplified by the church of San Silvestro, and contemporary design. The long, sleek benches contrast with the ornate decorations on the buildings around them. This typifies modern Italy, and Rome in particular, where the old and the new coexist, if not in harmony, then at least in interesting ways. Though the State is slow to catch up on this trend, many restaurants and shops have found interesting ways to play with the combination of traditional and modern design. At the unveiling, Mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno said that the piazza will assume a new cultural significance in the historic center, hosting outdoor exhibitions and concerts. Though urban development tends to be slow in Italy, Rome is proving itself at the forefront of innovative architecture and design.
Get in touch with the author @lauraitzkowitz