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T e d i u m: dead malls morph to artistic frontiers.

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I just learned something I wouldn’t have expected even a week ago: that someone has asked permission to feature an American Dirt photo in a vaporwave video. Not something I would have ever expected, but here it is. At first blush, it might not seem like much: nothing more than a lingering, static view of …Read more…

Contemporary design and its discontents.

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The clarion call for architectural conformity may prove to be urban redevelopment’s greatest hurdle. Small business owners and residents in formerly blighted districts who invested in the neighborhood first—the “pioneers” so to speak—often assert themselves powerfully into any proposals to alter the neighborhood that come from that second generation of investors—i.e., the ones jumping the …Read more…

Power centers: where beauty is in the eye of the consumer.

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Particularly in the last few months, this blog has honed in on retail trends that usually point to the slow demise of the conventional, enclosed, middle-class shopping mall. I just can’t get enough of the topic. And most evidence suggests that, with the possible exception of the high-end ones, the mall is typically failing to …Read more…

A traveler’s guide to the penitentiary.

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Along any stretch of highway, it’s easy to imagine feeling at least a little unsettled if you drive past this sign:This is exactly what one encounters heading northward along I-75 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, about 20 miles south of Sioux Sainte Marie and the Canadian border. In most respects, it’s a notice we all can …Read more…

Daylighting.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve had a meta-post (blogging about my own blogging), but I’m due for one this time around. Back in May, I blogged about the Brass Mill Center, a very suburban-styled mall in the heart of Waterbury, Connecticut’s inner city.  I’m generally happy with how the article turned out, but most of …Read more…

Hustling all the antiques under one roof.  

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Even metros with the most resilient of economies couldn’t salvage many of their historic buildings downtown during the 1970s, the virtually undisputed nadir of urban America. The imbroglio facing most cities wasn’t just a lack of investment—there simply wasn’t even any psychological interest. (Not surprisingly, “interest” and “investment” go hand in hand…in more ways than …Read more…

Historic substance or hardware store?

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“Heritage tourism” has slowly—in some respects, glacially slowly—crept into the mainstream as a viable part of the economic development lexicon. It can serve as a legitimate lure to outside visitors seeking something that they perceive as old, historically significant, authentic or distinctive. As a definition of heritage tourism, the previous sentence contains several key adjectives …Read more…

Putting runoff in the crosshairs.

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While it may seem self-evident that unusual, off-kilter, visually distinctive environments are the most fertile grounds for experimentation, this isn’t always the case. Take this one: In most respects, it’s a pretty run-of-the-mill shopping center—a “Power Center”, to use the correct retail brokerage lingo—called Fairlane Green, in the western suburb of Detroit known as Allen …Read more…

Because public art can tow the party line.

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In many American cities, the most prominent murals emerge on the blank sidewalls of old buildings, often through months (if not years) of well-calibrated civic collaboration. Philadelphia, the national—and perhaps the global—leader in this art form has its own long-established Mural Arts Program, a well-staffed organization that not only vets the content and creators of …Read more…