Posts tagged with "Poverty":

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University of Chicago releases details on Obama Library proposal

While speculation around the Barack Obama Presidential Library continues to swirl, plans for one of the project's four potential sites just became a bit clearer. The University of Chicago, where the President taught law, made public this week new renderings and details of their bid for the nation's 14th such library, trotting out sunny images that show the economic development potential of investment in the South Side areas surrounding Washington Park. The University of Chicago is among four finalists selected to vie for the library, whose governing nonprofit is expected to deliver a decision later this year. (Hawaii, New York City, and the University of Illinois Chicago also submitted proposals in December.) They proposed two sites, according to the Chicago Tribune: one in western Jackson Park, bounded by South Stony Island Avenue to the west, South Cornell Avenue to the east, East 60th Street to the north and East 63rd Street to the south; the other in western Washington Park and 11 acres outside of it, stretching as far west as South Prairie Avenue, and encompassing the Garfield Green Line stop. Both areas include land not owned by the University, which an anonymous source close to the deliberations previously told the Tribune could make the committee “hesitant to commit” to the plans. The sites each measure in excess of 20 acres, but only a fraction of that is slated for the library itself and accompanying structures. Nonetheless some open space advocates have accused the proposal of cannibalizing park land. Charles A. Birnbaum, president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, penned an op-ed in the Huffington Post lamenting, “we still have to deal with retrograde thinking that views parks as dumping grounds and places to put 'stuff.'” Washington Park, which borders the University of Chicago's Hyde Park campus, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner, Calvert Vaux, the designers of New York City's Central Park. But Susan Sher, who is leading the the University of Chicago's library bid, told the Tribune's Melissa Harris it's common for such projects to include existing park space. “When you look at the possibilities and the criteria of having enough space for the legacy of a major historical figure, you can't just plop it in the middle of a shopping center,” she said. The University's hometown competitor, UIC, proposed a park that would bridge the Eisenhower Expressway, as well as economic development and community resources for underserved West Side areas. While UIC's proposal is more straightforward in its ownership, it also faces obstacles. Illinois' new governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, is expected to appoint a new chancellor of the public university system, which could sow uncertainty about the institution's library plans. Despite the new images and site boundaries, plans for the hotly anticipated library project remain unclear. In addition to selecting a host institution, the library foundation committee will also need to hire an architect, who will ultimately decide on the library's form and exact location. The plans newly made public by the University of Chicago are scant on details for that reason, although they do allude to an "education corridor" along 63rd Street, and a "cultural ribbon" that would connect Washington Park with a "renewed Jackson Park."
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OMA designs a Food Hub for a Louisville food desert

Kentucky ranks 17th in the nation for household food insecurity, according to Feeding America Kentucky's Heartland, a local charity. In West Louisville, where nearly half of residents live in poverty, a nonprofit developer is hoping to change that with the help of some high-profile architects. Seed Capital Kentucky's plan is an OMA-designed “Food Hub” on an abandoned plot of land once used to cut and dry tobacco. Mayor Greg Fischer last year gave them a 24-acre vacant parcel of land in the West End worth $1.2 million for the project, which he called "a green job-generating machine for west Louisville." The project could create about 250 permanent jobs and 270 construction jobs, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. WDRB first reported last week that the hub's designers include OMA and local firm GBBN Architects. The Fox affiliate reported Seed Capital Kentucky is $1 million into their $20 million fundraising goal, seeking $46 million in total, including future fundraising phases. That money would go to several programs, including a food bank, retailers, and a biodigester that turns organic waste into heat and energy. So far four organizations are formally on board: KHI Foods, Jefferson County Cooperative Extension, Star Distributed Energy, and the Weekly Juicery. The site, at South 30th Street between Muhammad Ali Boulevard and Market Street, is in a USDA-certified food desert. Seed Capital Kentucky founder Stephen Reily hopes the Food Hub will help alleviate hunger and stoke investment in the neighborhood. "Our vision for this project is one that collapses a lot of those middle men and transactions into one place where they can all work together to help create more fresh, regional food and help our region feed itself more sustainably," he told WDRB.
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Obama Library proposal calls for an enormous park over Chicago’s Eisenhower Expressway

A lush green park reaching over the Eisenhower Expressway. Bus rapid transit connections. Economic invigoration for the North Lawndale neighborhood. Those are some of the visions outlined in the University of Illinois Chicago's proposal for the Barack Obama Presidential Library, made public Monday. AECOM, Isaiah International and Morphosis consulted on the proposal, which splits its ambitious plans for the nation's 14th presidential library across two sites: a vacant 23-acre city-owned site in North Lawndale and an institute on UIC's Near West Side campus. The Lawndale plot is bound by Roosevelt Road and Kostner, Kildare, and Fifth avenues. Among the benefits the authors say their proposal will bring to the community—predominantly Black, with nearly half of residents below the poverty line—are a linear park and bikeway, as well as commercial development in the surrounding area. UIC's 85-page proposal invokes a history of progressive politics and urban planning in Chicago, from Daniel Burnham and Jane Addams to Walter Netsch and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The plan calls for establishing a social service center named the O-4 Institute (the O's stand for “one world, opportunity, optimism and outreach) on UIC's existing campus, which would serve as a hub for academic research, fellowships and activities for university students and community members alike. In a video outlining the proposal, UIC positions its plan as a continuation of Obama's social service, which began when he worked as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side. “UIC offers an expansive plan that prioritizes social and economic equity. This is a rare and extraordinary opportunity: a presidential library and museum reimagined, to not only celebrate history but to make it; to preserve Barack Obama’s legacy and expand it,” reads text accompanying the proposal video. UIC's proposal is up against plans from Columbia University and Hawaii University. Closer to home it's competing with the University of Chicago. UIC's hometown rival, where Obama taught law, submitted plans for three possible sites in and around South Side parks. You can download the full proposal here.
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Designer’s visualizations make economic inequality clear

Aerial of New York City Economic inequality is not hard to see — in Chicago, drive south on Halsted Street from Lakeview to Englewood, or bounce between Oak Park and Austin, or Evanston and Rogers Park — but sometimes it takes a visualization to put it into perspective. Designer Nickolay Lamm exposed the vast inequities of major U.S. cities by massing their local net worth with 3D green bars of varying heights. If one area had a net worth of $500,000, it was represented by a shape 5 centimeters tall. If one was $250,000, it would be 2.5 cm tall. In Chicago you can see the North Shore and West suburbs dwarfing west and near south side city neighborhoods. Lay that over this map of racial demographics and it’s not entirely surprising to learn economic segregation often lines up with racial divides. Chicago Chicago-Aerial-After-1024x449 Pittsburgh-based Lamm did this for several cities, but said New York carries a special symbolism:

I chose to do Manhattan instead of Pittsburgh because I know that, for many people, moving to New York City is the start of their journey to achieve the American Dream. The American Dream suggests that if you work hard enough, you can achieve it. However, it’s clear that the landscape in order to achieve that dream is not as even and equal as it appears on the surface.

 Central Park Central Park [H/T Bill Moyers]
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How Successful is Philanthropy-Based Urban Redevelopment?

Chicago Magazine’s Elly Fishman has an interesting story on Lands' End founder Gary Comer's efforts to save his old neighborhood. Pocket Town, a portion of Greater Grand Crossing on the Far South Side, suffered a 25 percent unemployment rate and longstanding poverty when septuagenarian Gary Comer popped into his alma mater Paul Revere Elementary School. Shortly after he began writing checks to the principal for improvements to the aging red brick building. That philanthropy snowballed into millions of dollars each year for Revere and the neighborhood. In 2010, Gary Comer College Prep moved into a John Ronan-designed school that has garnered praise from the design community. To combat high turnover and low attendance at Revere, Comer invested in affordable housing. Improvements to the neighborhood so far include the haven from violence that the youth center provides, and an uptick in healthcare availability — the health clinic bearing his name vaccinates hundreds of children each year. But it has proven difficult to turn around the neighborhood’s ailing housing and schools. In 2012 Revere landed back on probation. Less than 25 percent of its students met the national student performance average. Comer Prep, however, is among the highest-achieving public schools in Chicago. Housing results have been similarly mixed. New homes have cleared out blight, but few have been purchased by actual residents of Pocket Town. “It’s really hard to change people and communities,” Harvard sociologist Robert  Sampson says in Fishman’s piece. “We need to be realistic…The social forces that permeate the South Side don’t stop at the Pocket Town boundaries.”
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Venice 2010> Has the Biennale Outlived its Usefulness?

The 2010 Venice architecture biennale closed on Saturday—at least for media representatives, as journalists were required for the first time to turn in their press passes and enter as public citizens (tickets, $25). I hated giving up that pass as it allowed me access to the exhibitions both at the Arsenale and in the giardini, home of the national pavilions. Though Venice is hardly a major military installation there are canals in the area that are off-limits to civilians; a water taxi driver informed my group that only a special permit would get us into the canal so I produced my press pass and he said “va bene” and he drove us up the canal. The power of the press! I walked the exhibition again but this time trying to imagine the message it was communicating to the public rather than to professionals. It was now no longer possible to speak with the designers of the installations who were made available for the press to help explain their projects. In one bay of the Arsenale, for example, an elaborate recording studio space had been created in which Hans Ulrich Obrist dramatically interviewed biennale participants live during the vernissage but there was now only silent faces of interviewees on isolated flat screens with voices accessible by head phones. The fantastically elegant installation Architecture as Air: Study for Chateau la Coste by the Japanese architect Junya Ishigami was still there, that highlight of jury day that was later, as we reported, knocked down by a rampaging cat the night before the opening. Now as you walk by the piece, its a huge bare room with monofilament fragments scattered across the floor, a mere memory of the installation that won the Golden Lion for the best project in the exhibition. Small groups of workers are trying to figure out how to reconnect the piece, while at a computer, some five techies try to figure out how to put it back together again before the end of the biennale. Visitors still wonder by, not sure what to make of the mess. In fact, the Venice biennale, like any architecture exhibition, communicates with two audiences between which its curators and directors must always mediate: the professional and academic architecture community, including the design press, and the public, particularly young students from Italy and Europe. This problem of how to display architecture to different audiences is of course an issue with any architecture exhibit, but in Venice it takes on added meaning because architects have looked to the biennale as the most experimental and trend-setting event in the architecture world. Yet its curators—from the first by Vittorio Gregotti (“On the Subject of the Stucky Mill”) to this year’s Kazuyo Sejima (People Meet in Architecture)—always claim they are thinking of the public first when they create their biennales. Which always leads them to being slammed by the design press for elitism and lack of concern for the public. The question of how to display architecture in an exhibition is not an easy one to answer but criticism most often focuses on each biennale’s emphasis on art-like installations rather than on attempts to grapple seriously with the important architecture and urban issues of the day. Gregotti, for example claimed that when it comes to presenting architecture “communicating with the public is practically impossible” but then he did the first biennale in which he claimed: “I wanted to make a clear and certain declaration that the biennale was open to the public, to Venice and to non-specialists.” Even the curator of the famous 1980 Strada Novissima exhibition in the Arsenale, Paolo Portoghesi, asserted at the time that architecture had lost its ability to “speak to the common people.” But this lack of communicating was behind the creation of his cinematic facades lining both sides of the Arsenale. The best exhibitions of architecture, according to biennale president Paolo Baratta, are the ones that are the most cinematic and entertaining. Yet it is equally true that the best ones are those that inspire without preaching. How well did the 2010 biennale do in this regard? This is the fourth Venice biennale that I have attended and this year there seemed to be even more displays of art-like installations than before. Mostly, they focused on the nature of design as a way of inspiring people to recognize the power of architecture. But then the question is, whether design in the absence of urbanism is architecture or just design? The great thing about the biennale is that there is always something for everyone to love (or to hate) regardless of their position. The Kingdom of Bahrain’s national pavilion consisting of actual hand-hewn shacks imported for display and judged the best by the biennale team of jurors, proved that architectural ideas and concerns can be displayed in an exhibition setting. Throughout the biennale many exhibition spaces were, in fact, examples of architectural ideas on display that didn’t need to resort to strategies of artistic practice. It should be noted that in the biannual complaining— for which opportunities abounded at such venues as Raumlabor Berlin’s inflatable bubble space, Volume journal’s Dutch pavilion, and Robert White’s Dark Side club soireés—concerns about cost and exclusivity of its message are now getting more serious. There were many people speculating that the biennale format may have outlived its usefulness and should be abandoned. Some of this is a reflection of the ubiquity of communications and image-making on the web, but it is also a feeling that money would be better spent on solving more demanding issues, like poverty and affordable housing. I know from experience that staging a biennale in a national pavilion cost in excess of $400,000, and there are rumors that this year the Austrian pavilion cost in excess of $800,000, while the Germans at their pavilion showed only drawings and it still cost $650,000. If you add up all the pavilions, the Arsenale, the giardini, not to mention the parties and airfare, this is a $20 million to $30 million affair, an increasingly flashy two-month party. How much longer can, or should, we carry on? Look for a final blog post on the Golden Lions, the national pavilions, and the events surrounding the biennale.