Category Archives: Retail

Are plant wall/living walls sustainable or Green Wash?

With this post of the”largest living wall in North America being made”  on Contemporist it rekindles my old dilemma about their resilience in interns of water use and maintenance costs:  Aer they really just a type of expensive green wall paper, would conventional clinging views or creepers do the same thing a at lower cost albeit a bit slower? To their credit, the installation / maintanance   track and cage is a good design solution.

Living Wall Timelapse by Green Over Grey

Vancouver-based company Green Over Grey, designed and installed a huge living wall named ‘Mountains & Trees, Waves & Pebbles’, for the Guildford Town Centre mall in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.

Often we just see the finished design, which is fully planted, so we thought we would share a time-lapse video of the creation of the wall.

The wall system is made from 100% synthetic recycled materials. It incorporates waterproof eco-panels that are made of recycled water bottles and plastic bags, and this project kept over 20 metric tons of plastic out of landfills.

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Local pop-up shop for the homeless goes global

How to get the “haves” and “have-nots” together to share from Biz-community.com

 

From China to Cape Town, Brussels to Bangladesh, Florida to France, Mexico to Melbourne, the concept of The Street Store – the world’s first pop-up clothing store for the homeless – has gone viral both online and in the real world as it’s captured the imagination of people worldwide.
To date more than 263 people from around the globe have signed up to host the street store in their community, and the open source material has so far been translated into nine languages.
A Street Store which was set up for the homeless in Spain

As the Street Store concept rolls out globally, picking up momentum, kudos has not gone unnoticed at the 2014 Cannes Lions Festival. The agency behind the concept – M&C Saatchi Abel – was awarded a prestigious Gold Lion in the design category, a bronze in the media category, with six other shortlists, including the Grand Prix for Good Award.

Conceptualised and piloted in the Mother City

The idea was conceptualised and piloted in Cape Town by Kayli Levitan and Maximilian Pazak from M&C Saatchi Abel. The young copywriter and art director team brainstormed for months to find a way to bring the giver and the receiver together on the streets they share on behalf of The Haven Night Shelter.
The Street Store was created for The Haven Night Shelter, Cape Town’s largest network of centres for the homeless. Their vision is that no-one should have to sleep on the streets if the appropriate supportive structures are put into place by communities, government and organisations. Their mission is ‘to get the homeless home’ by empowering them to return to a sustainable life. Without presentable clothing there is little chance of them getting employment and The Haven relies heavily on donations. As with many charities, the supply and need don’t often match, which is where the creative team’s challenge came in.

Together, agency and client identified that the shelter really needed a powerful series of call to action projects that simplifies donation, while offering the receiver a dignified experience. “More importantly, we wanted both sides of society to own the process and see it through. This meant merging two totally disparate worlds in a positive and empowering way,” says Levitan.

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We’re Only Beginning to Understand How Our Brains Make Maps

All our instincts as “place” designers are well founded  it seems –  all of the fine details, ambiences and local differences we cherish are really important to how we navigate space and understand where we are and wether it is safe, dangerous or cool to be here – the latest neuroscience, albeit with rats,  is giving us new ammo in a our tangle with both virtual and the banal retail worlds. By Emily Badger at Atlantic Cities

The more scientists learn about how our brains construct cognitive maps of space, the more we may learn about how to design those spaces.

About 40 years ago, researchers first began to suspect that we have neurons in our brains called “place cells.” They’re responsible for helping us (rats and humans alike) find our way in the world, navigating the environment with some internal sense of where we are, how far we’ve come, and how to find our way back home. All of this sounds like the work of maps. But our brains do impressively sophisticated mapping work, too, and in ways we never actively notice.

Every time you walk out your front door and past the mailbox, for instance, a neuron in your hippocampus fires as you move through that exact location – next to the mailbox – with a real-world precision down to as little as 30 centimeters. When you come home from work and pass the same spot at night, the neuron fires again, just as it will the next morning. “Each neuron cares for one place,” saysMayank Mehta, a neurophysicist at UCLA. “And it doesn’t care for any other place in the world.”

This is why these neurons are called “place cells.” And, in constantly shuffling patterns, they generate our cognitive maps of the world. Exactly how they do this, though, has remained a bit of an enigma. The latest research from Mehta and his colleagues, published this month in the online edition of the journal Science, provides more clues. It now appears as if all of the sensory cues around us – the smell of a pizzeria, the feel of a sidewalk, the sound of a passing bus – are much more integral to how our brains map our movement through space than scientists previously believed.

And the more scientists learn about how our brains construct cognitive maps of space, the more we may learn about how to design those spaces – streets, neighborhoods, cities – in the first place. Or, rather, we may learn more about the consequences of how we’ve built them so far. How could any urban planner, for starters, not love the idea that “place” is embedded in the brain?

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Ravi Naidoo on Design Indaba Cape Town & African Renewal

From dezeen

Our first Dezeen and MINI World Tour despatch, Ravi Naidoo takes us on a tour of his home city and explains why he founded the Design Indaba conference that is taking place in Cape Town this week.

Founded 18 years ago, Design Indaba has grown to be the world’s biggest design conference, drawing speakers from around the world and spawning an Expo showcasing South African creativity, a music festival and a film festival.

Africa today is a place of renewal, regeneration and growth

During the trip, in which we explore Table Mountain, Signal Hill and downtown Cape Town, Naidoo explains that he started Design Indaba in 1994 as an attempt to shift the economic discussion in post-Apartheid South Africa away from mining and tourism and instead promote the economic value of “ideas and intellectual capital”.

“We wanted to create a platform that would help to inspire [design in South Africa]”, he says. “This was an opportunity for us to bring the global creative community to South Africa to share their experiences.”

Africa today is a place of renewal, regeneration and growth

“Some people laughed at us at the time” he recollects. “I remember talking to a very senior politician who said: ‘our country has got vexing problems; it’s about water, it’s about housing, it’s about sanitation.’ But those are design problems.”

Buoyed by an improving economy, Naidoo believes that the design industries in Africa today are starting to flourish. “By the year 2015, of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world, seven will be African,” he says. “Of course, this has a concomitant effect on the creative industries. The story is really one of renewal, regeneration and growth. And there aren’t too many places in the world that are growing right now.”

Africa today is a place of renewal, regeneration and growth

This movie features a MINI Cooper S Countryman.

The music featured is by a young South African DJ and producer calledKimon, who performed on Thursday as part of the Design Indaba Music Circuit. You can listen to the full track on Dezeen music Project.

The Emergence of Container Urbanism

A timely essay by  MITCHELL SCHWARZER in Places  on the history of container architecture and urbanism – In South Africa various uses have been made using the ubiquitous shipping container – emblem of the consumer society to shape something different – however they still cost more the what eh local populations of the South can afford so shack-land is unlikely to give way to container-land – but heir use as Spaza shops etc is common in South African shanty towns


Top: Envelope A+D, Proxy, San Francisco. [Photo by Envelope A+D] Bottom four: Proxy tenants facing Linden Alley. [Photo by Trevor Dykstra] Smitten Ice Cream. [Photo by Christopher Bowns] Ritual Coffee. [Photo by Trevor Dykstra] “Off the Grid” food carts. [Photo by Niall Kennedy]
In San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood, the traffic on Octavia Boulevard almost smacks into a small park before being routed west onto Fell Street. In 2005, the tree-lined, four-block-long boulevard opened as a replacement for the double-decker Central Freeway, mortally wounded by the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake; the freeway was a remnant of the San Francisco Trafficways Plan (1948, 1951, 1955), a proposal by transportation planners to ram numerous limited-access highways through the dense 49-square-mile city. Although a citizen-led protest — the Freeway Revolt, begun in 1959 — halted most of the offending expressways, the Central Freeway had just blasted its way a mile or so through this section of the city, in the Western Addition neighborhood, leading to the mass demolition of older buildings. [1] But nowadays, instead of gusting above the neighborhood, vehicles inch along the surface, and contend with narrowed lanes, traffic lights and forced turns. And, since 2010, they may spy a curious new development. On two short blocks north of Fell Street, land where the freeway once ran, an architectural counterpart to the boulevard’s recalibration of transportation infrastructure has risen.
Proxy, designed and developed by Douglas Burnham’s firm, Envelope A+D, repurposes about a dozen shipping containers to house a smaller number of outdoor businesses. With openings selectively punched into their sides, canopies sprouting from the furrows and ridges of their corrugated steel surfaces, and ornaments organically growing as handles, latches and locking bars, the eight-by-twenty-foot containers host a clothing boutique, beer garden, espresso café, ice-cream parlor and bicycle rental business, as well as cooking, cleaning and storage facilities and set of restrooms. Facing each other or juxtaposed at right angles, the boxes carve intimate outdoor spaces that appear as handcrafted as the products sold by Proxy’s businesses. Painted battleship gray, they also evoke the warships that once followed the sea-lanes of the Pacific from their harbor in San Francisco. That’s ironic, because the very idea of container urbanism would seem to be counterposed against monuments of any sort, whether military-industrial or architectural. In Burnham’s words, Proxy has aimed at a “volumetric ghosting of what a real building would be.” [2]

Along with the park and its revolving art exhibits (many from the Burning Man Festival), along with the gentrified storefronts and renovated and surrogate Victorians, Proxy seems at first glance guided by the pastiche urbanism associated with postmodernity. More than elsewhere in the city, the area around it feels layered with time. The mix of locals and tourists, the foreign languages wafting across the playground and beer garden, reinforce this cosmopolitan dimension. More to the point, a thick sense of urbanity emerges fromProxy’s staging of activities in liminal zones: amid transport boxes initially manufactured to move goods and now reworked to sell them; astride the intimacy of a residential neighborhood and the circuitry of metropolitan transportation. At Proxy, people swill beer and munch pretzels and pickles atop cracked macadam only steps from an anxious stream of cars and trucks. Akin to the parts of old-world cities rebuilt over pre-modern walls or modern bombing campaigns, Proxy builds atop San Francisco’s former traumas; a row of pollarded fruit trees grows up the blank side walls of an apartment exposed half a century ago by the elevated freeway; the shipping containers themselves both recall the city’s illustrious history as a port and alert us to the innovation that led to the cargo port’s demise.

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Vegetable stores in Kenya survive supermarkets’ siege

Fastmoving reported on the impacts of supermarket expansion  on small shops and informal markets in Kenya

Vegetable stores in Kenya survive supermarkets’ siege

Kenya has experienced a boom in supermarkets, with the retail outlets rapidly expanding in suburbs and town across the East African nation as competition stiffens.

The big stores have taken their services closer to the people enabling them to access easily a variety of goods that include household items, electronic equipment, clothes and groceries.

On the flipside, the result of the rapid expansion has been that the retail outlets have ruined business for shopkeepers in areas they have expanded to as they become one-stop shop for many consumers.

However, while shops have become one of the biggest casualties of rapid supermarket expansion, the retail outlets have failed to disrupt business for vegetable stores, mainly run by women.

The businesses, locally known as mama mboga, which means a woman selling vegetables, have fended off the muscles and predatory nature of supermarkets.

The women have remained the preferred choice for consumers, who want to buy different kinds of vegetables, tomatoes, onions, fruits, potatoes and other related food items.

This is despite the fact that the supermarkets have established sections where they sell all manner of groceries to woo shoppers.

“I have not experienced any drop in sales ever since two leading supermarkets were established in this area,” Nancy Kimani, a vegetable seller in Komarock, a suburb on the east of the capital said on Saturday. “People still come to buy here vegetables, onions and tomatoes despite the supermarkets stocking the items.”

One of the supermarkets, Naivas, was established in the area about five years ago while the second one, Setlight, is about two years old. A third retail chain, Nakumatt, is set to set shop in the area soon.

“Naivas is the biggest. When the retail outlet started its operations in this area, it was not selling groceries. At that time, I did not fear for my business but after about two years, they began stocking groceries that included tomatoes and onions,” she said.

As many other women in the trade, Kimani recounted she knew her business may collapse.

“I visited the supermarket soon after they established the groceries’ section and believed my business will not survive. Various kinds of vegetables, including traditional ones, tomatoes, garlic, hot pepper and onions were neatly arranged on the shelves, ” she said.

Her fears were informed by the fact that many people were turning the supermarkets into their preferred shopping stores.

“Besides that, I had seen a friend close her shop because of the two supermarkets. People were no longer buying things like sugar, bread and milk from shops yet these were the shopkeepers’ mainstay,” she said.

Kimani continued with her business as she prayed the worst does not happen. About two years down the line, time has proved her right.

Her business has not only survived, but it has also flourished despite the presence of the supermarkets.

She has been able to expand it, enabling her customers to buy different kinds of vegetables, including traditional ones, which have become popular among Kenyans.

“I have seen the effect of supermarket on shops but for us, we have been lucky since our businesses have defied the retail outlets. My sales have increased and I am hoping to open another grocery in a different part of the estate,” she said.

Bodega 2.0: A Business for Healthy, Walkable Cities?

What is the future of active streets when business is being funneled off to the internet retail to wholesale? 

Jennifer Pahlka  on Linkedin  muses that what is needed are more food stores that sell “real” food and are connected to the neighborhood.

Here are two things I do a fair amount (other than working and parenting): I think about how cities work, and I walk around my neighborhood in Oakland. Lately, I’ve been noticing how much of the retail space in my neighborhood is either empty or clearly doomed. Ford’s Fine Furniture on Grand Avenue is the latest to surprise no one by putting up CLOSING SALE signs in their window, but how much further behind can Silver Screen Video be? How long will a video rental with lots of square footage of retail space last in the face of Netflix and Amazon? What about that wedding dress store? And there are so many storefronts already empty.

I won’t miss Ford’s or either of the other stores (I would miss Walden Pond Books, and so we try to shop there a lot), but the thing I’ve been asking myself is this: If there are so many whole categories of stores that really just don’t make sense in an Internet economy, what does? What SHOULD move in when Silver Screen Video moves out?

In answering that question, my first thought was, okay, what seems to be doing well in my neighborhood these day? Well, nail salons and dry cleaners are clearly holding their own, and I see a lot of martial arts studios and places like Gymboree, where you take your toddler for an hour of inside play with other kids. The former are services and the latter are where you buy activities, not goods, and that makes a lot of sense. But the biggest category that’s thriving in the Grand Lake neighborhood is restaurants. Half a dozen appear to be thriving on Grand Avenue, several of them relatively new, and another half dozen just few blocks away on Lakeshore. They are taking over spaces that formerly held furniture stores (Camino) and shoe repair places (Boot and Shoe Service), but mostly they’re replacing really bad restaurants or fast food places with healthier, tastier options (Flipside, Chipotle, Kwik Way.)

So I’ll draw the unscientific conclusion that people seem to like the experience of good food near their homes. You can’t order a night out at Boot and Shoe Service from Amazon, and you’ll never be able to. But we can’t eat out all the time, and the options for good groceries in my neighborhood, and in most neighborhoods, fall pretty far behind the options for dining.

This has gotten me thinking about a business someone should start, or at least explore. I grew up in car-unfriendly New York City and back then you bought your groceries on the way home from the subway to the house. Sometimes that meant going to the A&P on Broadway for bigger items, sometimes you just stopped at the bodega on the corner if all you needed was milk and eggs. The bodega visit took about 60 seconds, so it was preferable. Now the closest store to our house is a Safeway, and while I suppose we’re lucky to have it there, overall it’s not what I want. The quality of the food is pretty low, it takes a long time to get in and out, and the experience does little to strengthen the feeling of being part of the neighborhood. We can walk to Safeway (with a large parking lot, it’s a driving destination for most people), but we tend to drive instead to get better quality food at Piedmont Grocery, Berkeley Bowl, or even Whole Paycheck — I mean Whole Foods. What we really need, though, are good bodegas, built in areas where people walk or would walk, but bodegas that carry more than milk and eggs, that devote more of their space to broccoli and less to beer.

I’m not exactly the first person to observe this, and I’m sure many people have much more insight into why our local corner stores tend to be so pathetic as purveyors of food items other than chips and wine coolers. But I did start thinking about some ideas of how to approach this problem from an entrepreneurial perspective, and I keep thinking I wish I had more time to explore this idea. So here, for what it’s worth, is my someone-else-should-try-this plan:

Reinvent the local corner storeBi-Rite has done this. My very first apartment in San Francisco was steps from a traditional corner store (not on the corner in this case, but whatever) that sold liquor, chips, and a scattering of actual food items. Thatf place has since become famous by reinventing itself as a source for local, organic, healthy prepared food and groceries (and making some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted). Sure, it’s in an area where people have money, and where most people really value these options and are willing to pay for them. But more and more people do, and are.

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Design Research: A Methodology for Creating User Identified Services

 Tricia Wang’s explanation of what Design Research might be about intersects and why it matters with my current thinking on how the need for direct involvement with actual people who are affected and need a help with articulating their needs to designers, planners and authorities and to take part in how to evolve this experiential knowledge and process. A type of Ethnomethodology is evolving. First  seen on  Scoop.it! actions de concertation citoyenne 

For a long time, I’ve wanted to understand how ethnographically driven research is different from market research.  While I intuitively understood the differences between the two, I didn’t take the time to fully sort it out.

I finally found someone who not only clearly explains the differences, but provides greater clarity and depth to my understanding of design research.

I love the way Panthea Lee of reBoot  contrasts market research and design research in, Design Research: What Is It and Why Do It? Panthea explains that the primary difference is that market research treats people as consumers – wage earners with an income to dispose on a product or service, while design research treats people as users  – humans who are trying to fulfill everyday needs through what means they see as possible.

“Market research identifies and acts upon optimal market and consumer leverage points to achieve success. Its definition of success is not absolute, though metrics are often financial. Design research, on the other hand, is founded in the belief that we already know the optimal market and consumer leverage points: human needs. Unearthing and satisfying those needs is thus the surest measure of success. Through this process, we earn people’s respect and loyalty.”

Panthea’s essay doesn’t put a value judgement on market research, rather it makes the boundaries between both types of research more explicit. This clarity allows researchers the space to be explicit about when they are wearing the market research or the design research hat. Sometimes a project needs to be considered from a market and a design perspective. So this is when this chart below becomes super useful!

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IOU Project Revindicates the Real Madras Weavers

I believe that giving exposure to efforts to include traditional and sustainable jobs and authentic hand made materials in our synthetic and transient world. Cotton is one of the most durable and eco-friendly materials when processed in traditional ways and the women that weave this cloth are in  need of our support. When I was recently in a small market in Kigali, Rwanda amongst all the locally produced foods and spices, I was taken aback that all the “traditional’ fabrics that the women make their clothes from on old treadle sowing machines has all been produced in China by “traditional” processes.

This report by Kate Black on URBANTIMES

In the struggle for independence, Ghandi encouraged people to take to their looms to stop the practice of Indian cotton being sent to Britain for milling and re-sold back to India. This sparked a cottage industry, that today includes over 20 million families who depend on hand loom weaving. They can weave as much as 50 million meters of cloth a day, 250 million meters a week, 1 billion meters of cloth a month. All while using minimal energy and locally grown, natural cotton; making them the world’s most environmentally friendly textile manufacturers.

The IOU Project, the brainchild of designer Kavita Parma, combines this fabric with European tailors to create a modern, hip, easy-to-wear sportswear line that’s traceable, transparent, authentic and unique.

Parma, a designer, entrepreneur and global citizen, born in India but has also lived in the U.K., Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, the U.S. and Spain, wanted to be involved in product development using traditional artisan skills.

“I started IOU out of sheer frustration,” Parma tells us, “with the current fashion system which was a race to the bottom about producing cheaper and faster, where quality and authenticity were the first victims of keeping up with the latest short lived trend in this voracious cycle of consumption we were feeding into.”

Parma wanted to “decommoditize fashion and return the conversation back to value instead of price.”

The IOU project is more than mere fashion, but a social movement meant to promoteresponsible consumption by disrupting and transforming existing supply chains into prosperity chains.

Madras is the perfect fabric to start that chain reaction. “There is over 1 billion or more dollars worth of Madras checks (named as such) sold in the market by major brands and none of it comes from the real madras weavers and most of it is not even made in India,” explains Parma.

To revindicate the Real Madras Weavers, Parma chose a co-operative where over 250,000 families have been weaving the traditional Madras checks, by hand, for  centuries and then layers transparency and traceability, to create an emotional link between consumer and creator.

“The IOU Project was born from the need to empower both the artisan and the consumer,” states Parma.

She then went on to remind us that fashion has always reflected the social issues of the times from the corset-free silhouette of the 20’s flapper dresses to the mini skirt.

And as consumers become more aware of the scarcity of resources and the environmental threats our planet faces, not to mention the social inequalities that exist, we are drawn to “products of not only high quality and long lasting aesthetic but products of lasting value with an authentic story, one that makes them feel good and resonates emotionally with their beliefs.”

The collection of sporty separates for men and women includes unisex scarves, bags and espadrilles.

 

Urban Public Space – An Open Invitation to Contribute

This is an  invite  to readers to contribute to this blog,   any post that has to do with the urban public domain, especially if it can be situated in the actual physical pubic space of the city, any city is welcome.

I have been slack this month but have been thinking how to take the blog from re- posting generalized articles on the urban  to  original posts that deal with  issues of how politics, governance and business, especially retail property development,  impact on public space within the urban environment and  how these are shaped by the different “cultural” groups that make up these ‘publics’.

In the Southern Theory frameworks there is  interest in how the poor are disenfranchised by  manipulations of the public sphere to advantage those with power or money.

The media often play a key role in how these disenfranchised and marginalized people are viewed and treated by the authorities and power groups.

An example in Cape Town is how the City Improvement Districts e.g. Central City Improvement District  (CCID),  which is a partnership between the City of Cape Town and local business interests, in terms of which they are able to provide their own private police force,  which in the interests of public safety and order, clear the streets of ” undesirable elements” or  street people like unauthorized pavement traders, ‘car guards” ,traffic-light hawkers, beggars and homeless street kids, and as a consequence, those who have the least ability to make a living in “normal respectable ways” are denied access to the public spaces that are constitutionally their right where they might eke out a living,

This post  Ode to the Central City Improvement District from The Daddy Long Legs provides  one view.

Rita Abrahamsen wrote about it in her book, Security Beyond the State:

Communities, and particularly today’s urban communities, are often heterogeneous, with limited consensus…

For ‘undesirable elements’, such as street children and vagrants, the CCID has meant increased harassment and more frequent arrest…Securicor officers frequently transport street children to so-called safe houses, in order to get them off the streets, in full knowledge that they will be back the next day…

A combination of pubic by-laws and private enforcement serves to prevent the poor and the homeless from utilizing the city’s public spaces, where they frequently make their livings through various forms of informal trading…The articulation of private-public and global-local that has emerged in Cape Town thus facilitates specific forms of security provision that strengthen aspects of the public and the state, at the same time as it increases power differentials, disempowers already marginalized individuals or groups and renders the security provided by both public and private agents a distinctly variable

The media play a key role in the demonization and criminalisation of these groups – some of them are far from innocent of crimes such as pilfering, pick pocketing, drunkenness and drug peddling etc, which is the justification used to exclude all of them, not just those proven guilty. It is no coincidence that this is in the interests of business owners and property developers as well.

There are certainly benifits for the city and is population  in making the public space safer and the CCID has contributed to these efforts,  see for example this article from the Cape Town Partnerships website: Strategic partnership enhances safety of CBD’s Company’s Garden , but it seems to me that there might be ways of including more people in achieving this and so enabling a  equitable  city for all of its citizens and visitors.

Continue reading Urban Public Space – An Open Invitation to Contribute