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22 minutes | Feb 6, 2018
Winslow Food Forest: Growing food in the city
What exactly is a food forest? I wanted to find out more so I visited the Winslow Food Forest located on the border of Milwaukie and Portland, Ore. I visited in the fall, and even then, the place was thriving with herbs, the last of the summer crops, and other late fall crops. After the tour, I sat down with Melissa Cullen, co-owner of the farm with her husband, Teague, and chatted about how they got the farm, what the challenges are, and how others can start their own food forests. For more info on Winslow, visit their website.
23 minutes | Sep 23, 2017
Episode 14: For the love of beer (and community): Hops On Lots Pittsburgh
Hops on Lots Pittsburgh, a Pittsburgh organization grows hops on vacant lots across the city and gives back to the community.
15 minutes | Aug 30, 2017
Episode 13: 168 LAT
The podcast about cities, architecture, nature, and the built environment.
22 minutes | Jun 29, 2017
Episode 12: Building communities through breweries: An interview with SUM Design
The first time I visited Ex Novo, a brewery in Portland, Oregon, I was struck by its design. It felt…designed. It wasn’t a cold space with some chairs and stuff thrown together. There was some thought put into it. From where we sat, we could see the brew tanks, bar action, interesting lighting, the space flowed so…design. The next day I hopped online and did a search to see if it was the IPA talking or if there was a design firm behind it. Sure enough. That’s where I found the website for Sum Design Studio. I emailed them and started a conversation with principal Matthew Loosemore. His firm is not only behind the design of Ex Novo, but also Cascade Brewery and Commons Brewery (he’s also part owner). Over beers, naturally, we talked brewery design, how and why he got into designing breweries, how beer builds communities, and…Spokane, Washington’s downtown. I like to think this episode is a replicate of that conversation, a bit more sober, but hopefully still interesting. From there, Loosemore’s firm has designed everything from residential to commercial to mixed-use projects. And of course, breweries. Loosemore explains how they got started on that path and the niche he’s filling. Are certain kinds of buildings more suited for a brewery? The first time Loosemore stepped into what is now Ex Novo, he knew right away. If you’ve listened to Built Blocks for the last year, you’ll get my obsession with adaptive reuse. Older buildings with new lives. Nowhere is that more evident than with breweries and taprooms. Beer, community, and creating great neighborhoods. The two go hand in hand. Why is that? How is beer a community builder? Growing up in Spokane Switching gears – to downtown Spokane, Washington. Home of the 74 Expo. Burned to the ground in the late 1800s. I had the chance to visit a couple years back and was struck with a solid downtown core and interesting architecture stock. Lots of 2-4 story brick, turn of the century stuff. As a Spokane native, I wanted Loosemore’s take on its potential. Music courtesy of Sounds like an Earful from Creative Commons Vol. 1 (Check them out – they have a slew of great, free music.)
11 minutes | Jun 1, 2017
Episode 11: We can make our cities better with placemaking, incrementally
So, how is the DNA of a place defined? Is it the architecture? Is it the cool, hip shops? Park benches? It’s some of that – but it’s way more. What exactly is placemaking? This episode we’re speaking with Daniel Hintz, Founder and Chief Experience Architect for The Velocity Group. His company helps towns, cities, developers, and Main streets discover their own DNA of Place™. (That’s trademarked by the way so don’t use it.) Hintz explains how he works with towns to discover what their own DNA is. It's more than data. It's exploring. It's asking questions. It's being authentic. And, it doesn't take gobs of money to transform.
19 minutes | May 8, 2017
Episode 10: Bourbon and buildings: An interview with John Patrick Winberry, UP studio
What do design, branding, good bourbon, and a Norwegian architect firm have in common? It’s the thread to this episode’s interview with John Patrick Winberry, founding partner, chief wrangler, and architect at the UP studio. UP is a small, nimble boutique Architecture, Interior, and Brand Design firm that believes all disciplines can live together within a given project. If you’re a client, you get the design, but maybe you need signage, a new brand, or marketing to go with that new building. That’s where UP comes in. That belief of a turnkey solution makes for an interesting conversation. At 38, Winberry, on the young side of the profession, starts us out with the path he took to start UP – a path that might involve sneaking into a Richard Meier house along the way. Enjoy the episode. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Music courtesy of Sounds like an Earful from Creative Commons Vol. 1 (Check them out – they have a slew of great, free music.)
16 minutes | Feb 25, 2017
Episode Nine: Agriculture meets architecture: It's called Agritecture
You’ve heard of agriculture – and urban ag, or growing food in cities. And then there’s architecture. And then, there’s agritecture. Wait, agritecture? Yep. The brains behind the concept is Henry Gordon-Smithlaunched agritcture.com a few years back as a blog to help promote the fact, that yes, you can grow food in the cities, and look cool doing it. The blog then turned into something even bigger. Much bigger. It's expanded into news updates on actual projects, analysis about BIA trends, guest posts, and reporting on emerging technologies. And intense workshops. At these workshops, participants are assigned a real-world task and challenged to come up with real solutions. Agritecture’s workshops are intense and they bring in many different industries under one roof to learn how to integrate growing food into buildings. From these workshops, attendees go back to their own cities and then hopefully get the ball rolling. So, what technology is being used? The technology behind growing food in dense cities falls on hydroponics and not soil. Championed and used by decades by cannabis growers, many cities are turning to the technology to grow food in places where growing food was unheard of just a few years ago. And, how are they being designed? Adaptive reuse plays a role for sure, but new buildings are being driven by design – and by code. In the podcast, Henry explains how those amazing renderings of vertical farm on skyscrapers could actually get built. What cities are making inroads in vertical farming and growing food? Each city is different and each are doing various degrees of food growing. One city leading the charge? Atlanta. Henry has also seen changes in New York city – where he lives – with some challenges. At the end of the day, what can a city farm or vertical farm yield? High tech farms are very productive. They’re not going to feed a whole city but what Henry is seeing across the US – across the world – makes him optimistic. For more on what Agritecture go here. There, you’ll find urban and vertical farming news, business, and design. You’ll also find where upcoming workshops including Los Angeles on March 31 & April 1 and Baltimore on April 21 & 22. Music courtesy of Sounds like an Earful. Tracks: Chill Synth and Videogame-ish Intro from Creative Commons Vol. 1 (Check them out – they have a slew of great, free music.)
27 minutes | Feb 6, 2017
Episode Eight: Defining the suburbs
For many, the suburbs are an easy target. For good reason. Many of the homes are ugly and out of scale. They promote sprawl and auto dependence thereby increasing obesity. They use tons of energy and are a huge drain on a city’s infrastructure. They wipe out farmland. And to many, they’re just boring. I love the back to the city movement. I love that cities are thriving, reemerging and have found new life – coming back from the abandonment following the decades after World War 2 when the burbs were created. However, with urbanists declaring the suburbs as dead, where are many young families living these days? That’s right. The suburbs. One report will say DOA, while other research will say thriving. So, did the suburbs ever really go away? Are they better? Can they be fixed? And what, really is considered a suburb? An article by writer Amanda Kolson Hurley caught my attention, revealing that a famous architect was building a new project in a Northern California suburb. The project? A shopping mall of all things. Amanda has written for Architect magazine, Architectural Record, The Atlantic, Washington City Paper among many others and has written numerous articles on the challenges of living in the suburbs and where the suburbs are headed. In this episode we talk defining the suburbs, how suburbs can reinvent themselves, and city dwellers vs the burb dweller. Enjoy the episode. Helpful links Strong TownsSuburbs Outstrip Cities in Population Growth, Study Finds The American suburbs are the next fertile ground for architectural and urban experimentation James Howard Kunstler: The old American dream is a nightmare (Also read his Geography of Nowhere if you have not yet read it.)
49 minutes | Jan 1, 2017
Episode Seven: The Fair-Haired Dumbbell
I first learned about developer Kevin Cavenaugh’s work years ago when I was managing editor of a building trade magazine that focused on development, building techniques, and exciting topics like cemeticious siding and decking materials. (Kidding aside, I loved every minute of it.) His Box + One project was – at the time – revolutionary here in Portland. With its garage door windows and boxy exteriors– now commonplace – and small footprint of space, the project helped elevate an entire neighborhood. Other projects soon followed, some smaller, some larger all under his company name, Guerrilla Development. Since I’m keenly interested in small-scale, incremental projects that change neighborhoods for the better, whether that’s restoring an existing building – something Kevin says should be and could be done on any building, I was wrong in thinking that he intentionally built smaller projects. He talks about why he builds small – and not huge projects. On the site of a former car lot, The Zipper has four micro-restaurants, a punk rock nail salon, coffee shop and full bar. Photo: Guerrilla Development We also speak at length about his Fair-Haired Dumbbell –a somewhat controversial project in Portland. If you’re listening hop onto builtblocks.com so you can see what we’re talking about. The building is not only striking in its looks, it was also crowd-funded. The interview also takes a turn and explores how a developer in Portland can create cool projects, make a profit and be altruistic about the whole thing – and that’s not the usual developer line. Here are some links related to the show: The New York Times’ piece on the Fair-Haired Dumbbell. Portland Monthly looks at Kevin’s other projects (as well as his own home). The DJC dropped its paywall so we can all read about the new mixed-income multifamily project dubbed the Atomic Orchard Experiment.
35 minutes | Dec 7, 2016
Episode Six: Walking in the city
There are three questions on Max Grinnell’s website that ask: How do cities work? Why are people both fascinated and repelled by cities? How can we improve cities? (Hint: It's not through ye olde fudge shoppes or super-precious cupcake stores.) However, Grinnell, this episode's guest, has some answers. As an urbanologist, geographer, historian, and professor, Grinnell is an expert on urban design, planning, public art, the creative economy, and the history of cities. He’s written books about cities, designed and taught courses on urban studies, community development, geography, planning and sociology, and leads city of tours of Chicago and Boston. That’s why I wanted to interview him – especially when it comes to walking and seeing cities up close. Why are pedestrians treated as an afterthought in many cities? Why are cities so fascinating to walk around in? How can cities and their planners make walking easier? In this episode we talk about walking. Taking trains. Technology’s effect on walking. And how the new president-elect could impact the great inroads we’ve made the last decade to make cities more livable.
19 minutes | Nov 5, 2016
Episode Five: Growing food in the city
Urban farms, or, farming in the city, on rooftops, vacant lots, front yards. I've alway been intrigued with farming in the city and the potential there to feed its people. A couple years ago I read Jennifer Cockrall King's book "Food and The City: Urban Agriculture and The New Food Revolution," and that's when ideas and the light bulb went off. In her book, Jennifer (and the guest in this episode) offers real-world examples of cities (well, it's people) growing food on a large-scale. And, I learned of Paris in the 19th Century, leading the way in urban ag (before it was called urban ag - back then it was just called "surviving," or being frugal as our grandparents called it). True, urban gardening might get lumped in with other hipster, foodie trends (cough artisanal mustard cough), but I think it goes beyond that. It has the potential to feed us. And it looks cool. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, urban farms supply food to about 700 million city dwellers. And nearly all of the world’s population growth between now and 2030 will be concentrated in urban areas in developing countries. By then almost 60% of people in developing countries will live in cities. Farming in and around urban areas is going to play a huge role in feeding city populations.
35 minutes | Oct 12, 2016
Episode Four: Randy Simes, Urban Cincy
For more than a year I’ve been obsessed with Cincinnati, Ohio. While doing research on old churches being retrofitted as brewpubs, I stumbled across Taft’s Ale House in Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine neighborhood. From there, I went deep. The architecture. The flight to the suburbs. The abandonment. The subway that was built in the 20s but was never used. Then, new life. The comeback. To find out more about Cincinnati, I spoke with Randy Simes, an award-winning urban planner who founded a site called UrbanCincy back in 2007. Simes grew up on Cincinnati’s west side, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning. He’s put together a team of writers and reporters that have elevated the conversation about urban planning, placemaking, and what’s making Cincinnati move on up. My obsession grows. Enjoy the show!
45 minutes | Sep 17, 2016
Episode three: Architecture, blogging and old buildings
This episode I’m speaking with Brian Libby, a journalist and critic living in Portland, Oregon. Among the magazines and newspapers he has contributed to include The New York Times, The Atlantic, Dwell, CityLab, Metropolis, and Architectural Record. Brian is also a book author, filmmaker, and runs the popular Portland Architecture blog. Though episode three admittedly tends to be a bit Portland-centric, it's still interesting for anyone listening. Brian talks about the current housing crisis in Portland, some of his favorite, current projects on the books, efforts behind the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, and what it’s like to write for the New York Times.
32 minutes | Aug 22, 2016
Episode two: Modular architecture meets music
This show I speak with Aaron Holm. He’s the CEO of Blokable. The company manufactures “high-performance modular building assemblies that are easily customizable, with technology and energy efficiency built in.” You might think that a 30-minute interview talking about modular homes might be kind of snoozy. But not so. Aaron’s a cool guy, he’s thoughtful, he’s got some great ideas for his company, he’s got some insight on how cities might grow…and he’s a musician. What intrigued me about Blokable’s technology is that it’s perfect for building small communities – including single-family housing, instant offices, pop-up retail space, and multi-unit smart communities.
40 minutes | Aug 10, 2016
Episode one: Downtown LA and its unwritten history
Episode one: Downtown LA and its unwritten history: Our guest is Kim Cooper. Kim edited Scram magazine in the early 90s up to the mid 2000s and co-edited the anthologies Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth and Lost in the Grooves. Nowadays, Kim leads tours of Los Angeles, along with her husband, Richard, with Esotouric – described as bus adventures into the secret heart of Los Angeles. We’ll talk about everything from downtown Los Angeles, preservation, The Omega Man, movies shot in LA, and the infamous Skid Row Slasher.
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