Pop-Up Possibilities: Sketches

Tom Provost came by a couple weeks ago with an idea for a new collaboration. We’ve work with Tom before on How to Forget the Border Completely — in particular the proposals for 1,000 Pedestrian Walkways and the Windsor-Detroit Portals.  In short, the new project is to take the form of a triangular sign, something like you might find on an empty lot waiting to be developed. On each of the three sides of the sign would be a proposed development for the particular site on which the sign is located, along with three perspectives on the possibilities of that development ever taking place or not.

The development would be a large-scale proposal — something that could undoubtedly transform a selected site, and would probably verge on the impossible — would attempt to articulate not just a “new use” for a selected site, but a one that might reflect the values and directions that we would like to see the city take on. We’re approaching this with the mindset of impatience and lack of confidence in the powers that be to create a truly interesting place to live. The proposals will aim to engage in imaginative speculation, but also try to draw into a critical discourse the ways in which we seem to disarm ourselves collectively from building truly great community assets. We so often rely and play into the very imaginary game of community consultation on projects long ago set (mostly) in stone, this seems like a great project to assert a different stance, process, and set of ideas for developing various parts of our city.

Also, these stir sticks were less a model, and more of a visualization tool for us to talk through the project. In early stages, I’m always so intrigued with how things shift and circle back around and change entirely.

When I caught up with Tom earlier this week, we spent a lot of time talking form.

Trying to find a balance between efficiency with the materials we’ll buy (how many faces, ideally, will come out of on piece of plywood), and making these things somewhat transportable led to discussions about size, the number of them we might build, and certainly the level of spontaneity in their arrival(s) to the selected site(s). All of these elements in turn vastly change the “weight” (in all senses) of the signs — where’s the line between an authority in structure and an intimidation (and in turn backgrounding effect) of the structures?

We took notes on this really basic paper (almost the feel of a smooth construction paper). In the past, Tom has used this for making the bases of architectural models, which looks incredible. We’ll be using a similar technique to basically grid and create a larger image for each face of the triangular sign.

We’re looking at these signs being somewhere around 2ft x 4ft for each face. The sketch above was looking at other possible shapes.

A visual walk through of our discussion.

We also talked about the possibility of these forming a temporary a wall or partition that could provide more surfaces and the possibility to randomize the form on site, using hinges for each face.

But we ended up revisiting the three-sided structure, coming to a fairly resolved (at this point) direction, moving towards utilizing the three sides of the structure to discuss the limits of approach that various actors take to something like a development. What views, acts of persuasion, money, political tactics, and rhetoric does a developer bring to a new proposed project versus that of a city councillor or that of a community member who lives in the neighbourhood in which a new development is being proposed?

We’ll build later this summer.

Mid-Week Work Period

Yesterday a group of us met at the School of Visual Arts building to work on completing the sub-projects which will appear in our How to Forget the Border Completely publication. It is exciting to see our ideas come to fruition and our publication take shape. We are now at the stage of roughly laying out the publication and seeing how our individual works get along with each other.

Pictured above: Sara and Hiba work on laying out the HFBC publication in InDesign.

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Later Nights, since it’s summer now

Michelle and I spent hours and hours together yesterday. With everyone’s schedules fairly ridiculous at the moment, we’re trying to steal what little time we can to keep working. Lately, the time that we’ve all spent together has been framed exclusively almost exclusively by planning for Save the City or organizing the Storefront Residencies for Social Innovation, and so we’re usually burned out after a couple hours of that. Last night though, we pushed past the moment of getting burned out, and I think we got somewhere because of it.

We started our Friday night with a Skype call to Chris from the Department of Unusual Certainties regarding their project as part of the Storefront Residencies for Social Innovation (they are very enthusiastic, and their projects is going to be really, really great), had some dinner, tried to imagine what will come after SRSI, and then moved on to sorting out the billboards for the last part of Save the City.

We had a lot of bad ideas. Had we stopped earlier on, today and tomorrow would have been filled with some scrambling efforts to find the finish the design, emailing it out to everyone, trying to integrate everyone’s suggestions (and likely failing to do it well), sending it out again, getting more input, etc., etc., etc. Not entirely effective, nor can that process really capture the really great sparking moments of working together in the same room (the reason, I love collaborative work).

We really want these billboards to not just cap off Save the City, not just describe or some how summarize what we’ve learned, but continue with this conversation that we’ve been having. So, we had some terrible ideas for a long while, but we moved through them, we wrote them all down, then crossed them all out eventually, and it was the process of doing that, of really talking about where we were trying to go without knowing where we were going that was entirely worth it. I think we started the billboard brainstorming around 7:30pm were ready to give up around 9pm and we were there until 11pm still finalizing things. And, they’re still not finalized yet, but they’re close.

And we didn’t just brainstorm, we did the preliminary layout(s) together, we critiqued as we went, and it was so completely worth the exhaustion. Danielle called, thankfully, so we could check our work with someone outside of that room to make sure we hadn’t missed anything obvious, and then we were done, and we’re very, very excited to see these go up.

I hope the summer allows more opportunities for this — a lot of time spent together doing things, working through problems together, in the same room, until we get somewhere better than where we started.

The artwork goes out Monday, and I think the billboards launch mid-month.

Broken City Lab: Save the City is generously supported by the Ontario Arts Council.

Drawdio: Audio Made by Drawing

Drawdio is a DIY music project by designer jay silver that let’s users draw the instrument of their choice on a piece of paper and play it with their finger.

While possible to use in a variety of  objects, when used with a pencil, the graphite acts as a circuit on the paper, transmitting the electric signal across the drawing to produce a different sound based on the specific form.


If you can get past the sort of hilarious / awkward editing in the video, it’s a very cool and simple design. It makes me curious about the potential for creating some kind of traceable sound-map, what sounds would Detroit’s streets make versus Windsor’s streets? What would happen if you added new roads or buildings — what sound could that make?

[via Designboom]

Sometimes Planning Means Drawing

While we’re still moving along on our Save the City project in the background, we’re also continuing to look ahead to other projects and deadlines coming up. Tuesday mornings are always a really good productive time, and this week was no exception.

While we wait for our ribbons and postcards to arrive for the upcoming Sites of Apology / Sites of Hope event, we’re looking into CAFKA and the ANTI 2010 festival, both of which could be a lot of fun and give us a chance to go and play in other cities.

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Psychogeographic Map: East Chinatown’s living and dead businesses and their smells

psychogeographic map

This is a small excerpt of a large map made by students in OCAD’s Cities for People summer workshop, depicting the East Chinatown neighbourhood, its businesses and their smells.

You should take a look at the larger map, which helps to demonstrate the potential in mapping outside of the continually pervasive Google Maps.

To take time to note a neighbourhood in this somewhat peculiar detail is an interestingly necessary method for interfacing with a place one might normally walk by, and in turn, of course, makes me eager to do the same somewhere around these parts.

[via Spacing]

Tree Drawing

Tim Knowles Tree Drawing

Attaching pens to branches of trees, Tim Knowler produces tree drawings, or rather, sets up the situation in which a tree can produce drawings. I was pleasantly reminded of his work, having come across it sometime last summer, through an email and Inhabitant.

From his artist statement,

“The exploration of Chance and Process is core to my artistic practice. Akin to scientific experimentation and investigation, the results of my projects [although operating within carefully developed controls and parameters] are unpredictable and outside my control. It is the wind, postmen, the motion of a vehicle, or players of a game that unwittingly determine the outcome.” 

I will be forever interested in the idea of chance within artwork, especially when the elements of chance are coming from nature.