VIDEO: James Howard Kunstler Trashes America’s Vast Suburbs in TED Talk

While this TED Talk was first delivered by James Howard Kunstler in 2004, virtually all of it still holds true today more than a decade later.

In the speech Kunstler, an outspoken critic of suburban sprawl, discussed the idea that designers and officials have seemed to largely forget how to properly design public spaces, which he contends should be thought about more carefully as spaces created and framed by buildings.

Instead, he says, that America’s suburban sprawl has been the “greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.” He goes on to say that suburbia is largely not worth caring about by anyone, and is the reason why those areas of the United States continue to fail to deliver on any of the promises they originally touted following the end of World War II.

The nearly 20-minute talk includes a variety of colorful comparisons and striking examples of how poorly designed America’s suburbs are. The ongoing argument throughout the course of the speech, is that these places are not places worth fighting for; and that our armed men and women fighting for American freedoms deserve better.

“We have about, you know, 38,000 places that are not worth caring about in the United States today. When we have enough of them, we’re going to have a nation that’s not worth defending. And I want you to think about that when you think about those young men and women who are over in places like Iraq, spilling their blood in the sand, and ask yourself, “What is their last thought of home?” I hope it’s not the curb cut between the Chuck E. Cheese and the Target store because that’s not good enough for Americans to be spilling their blood for. We need better places in this country.”

As planners throughout North America continue to spend exhaustive amounts of time reviewing said curb cuts, total signage area and other rather trivial details, Kunstler argues that the bigger picture of building proud communities is being missed.

While the New York native does not discuss Cincinnati in his talk, he very well could have. While most region’s have their fair share of poorly designed suburbs, Cincinnati has become infamous for having some of the worst in the United States. Suburbs that are so bad, in fact, that even The Enquirer editorial board recently published an opinion urging the move away from such badly designed communities.

Latest Excavation Work at Smale Riverfront Park Creates Beach Along Ohio River

Great weather seems to always bring great news for construction projects, and this is the case in the latest project update for Cincinnati’s $120 million Smale Riverfront Park.

In the video, project manager Dave Prather points out that the structure enclosing Carol Ann’s Carousel now has its roof decking and framing in place, with the glass wall panels being readied for installation soon. Prather further showed where the elevator shaft has been completed and the large skylight that will form the roof of the building, thus allowing for a flood of natural light inside.

“Keep an eye on this side, it’s really gonna have a transformation” Prather noted. “But right now you can get a sense of how open the structure is.”

Since the last project update, the cascade water features and light fixtures are now in place at the Vine Street Fountain & Steps, which mirror the setup at the already complete Main Street Fountain & Steps. The area is now just awaiting the installation of its granite surface.

One of the more interesting elements of this project update is the excavation work at the river’s edge to make way for the Great Lawn. Now virtually complete, the excavation work as created a beach of sorts going directly into the Ohio River. The completion of this work has also opened up a variety of new views of the Roebling Suspension Bridge that were not previously visible.

Prather then discussed a wall that is now in place along the river bank where the riverwalk will continue from already completed portions of the sprawling park.

“We are now able to connect with the river in a way never had before,” Prather noted proudly.

All components of the current phase of construction work are still anticipated to be completed in late spring or early summer ahead of the 2015 MLB All-Star Game to be held at Great American Ball Park.

Chattanooga Cappella Group Puts Together Parody Song Celebrating Bus Ridership

Inspired by Meghan Trainor’s hit single entitled ‘All About That Bass’, a cappella group at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has put together a parody of that same song entitled ‘All About That Bus’.

While Trainor’s song focused on a message about embracing your own body shape and size, the UTC Mockingbirds version focused on embracing the university’s shuttle bus system.

Back to the song where this inspiration came from, Trainor’s single was one of the biggest summertime hits in the United States this year, and top the charts in roughly a dozen countries around the world. While the odds are low that the UTC Mockingbirds will see their version rise to such popularity, it is a hit in our eyes due to its transit-loving nature. Go on now, ride that bus.

Stunning timelapse views of New York and Chicago

Aside from public policy in general, if there are two topics that define UrbanCincy they are transportation and urban design. So often these two elements are beautifully captured in photographs, and, in special occasions, through wonderful videography as well. Such is the case with Geoff Tompkinson‘s timelapse video of New York City.

The European-based photographer has been known for his global travel and breathtaking imagery. One of his more recent videos is New York Noir, which is an alternative to his originally produced Moving Through New York.

The roughly three-minute video takes viewers through some of New York’s most impressive transportation structures, while also taking a general tour of some of the city’s most well-known urban spaces.

Tompkinson’s video of New York is just one in a series of timelapse videos he has put together in a series that has also included Istanbul, Hermitage, Venice, St. Petersburg and Chicago, which is also embedded below for your viewing enjoyment.

Tiny Living Space Concept Intrigues Capacity Crowd at Niehoff Studio

Last month UrbanCincy worked with the Niehoff Urban Studio to host our annual fall event. This year the partnership focused on the idea of tiny living, or living in a space that is less than 400 square feet.

According to the information presented at the event, the average tiny home is, on average, about 243 square feet. They can be either completely mobile, as in mounted on a truck, or somewhat permanent such as constructed out of shipping containers. They can also, but rarely are not in the United States, constructed as normal practice with standard materials.

The event saw a larger than expected turnout with well over 100 attendees. Food truck Bistro de Mohr was on hand to serve hungry patrons. The main room hosted a display of different tiny living arrangements.

Presentations were given by a local design firm named Department 7, and Dan Elkin who is developing a tiny home project in Detroit. Following the formal presentations, a panel discussion was held that was moderated by UrbanCincy.

The panel included Vince Sansalone with SAID-DAAP, tiny home owner Natalie Hendricks, artist and designer Joe Hedges, architect and UrbanCincy contributor Bradley Cooper, and University of Cincinnati professor Leah Hollstein. The panel’s discussion was very engaging and ranged from the reasons for developing tiny houses, which includes demographic shifts in the way Millennials view housing, to how tiny houses can fit into the urban fabric of cities. The group also discussed the various challenges for developing ways to make tiny houses legal in cities.

Overall the event was informative and engaging. Participants came away asking for more information about tiny homes and the audience generated good discussions with the panel conversation.

Cooper also distributed a survey about living preferences on tiny houses to those in attendance. Cooper is assembling the information as part of his application to develop a tiny living project through the Haile Foundation’s People’s Liberty Fellowship grant. If you were not able to complete that survey in person, you can do so now online.

UrbanCincy, as a public outreach partner for Cooper’s project, will provide regular updates on his efforts.