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54 articles

Takeover ad space on construction barriers: bringing wolves back to the henhouse?

Take a look at the eyesore there in the center-left of the photo, there with the “FOR LEASE” sign draped across the third floor.  Such a humble, ugly little building…and what a contrast to everything else around it!  I first explored this derelict structure over five years ago, in the terminally transitional Columbia Heights neighborhood

Clandestine kitchens: restaurants that showcase their greatness by being obscure.

“Don’t be so humble.  You’re not that great.” ~Golda Meir Ever come across a business that seemed to go out of its way to hide its presence?  One that didn’t announce itself prominently from its front entrance, but instead seemed to downplay its own name, its logo, its fundamental identity?  It’s hard to understand why

Classical music and crime prevention: 7-Eleven is just the start.

Several weeks ago I noted what I believe is a misbegotten campaign loosely branded “hostile design”, which seeks to galvanize criticism toward the now-ubiquitous effort of preventing people from getting too comfortable in shared public spaces—so comfortable it constitutes (in some people’s option) outright abuse of that shared civic trust.  We’ve all seen examples: carefully

Directional arrows in excess: the squires’ turf wars cause serfs’ confusion.

“Too many cooks…”  It was an aphorism decades before it became a cult short film–maybe even centuries.  We all know how it ends.  And we can all think of examples.  After thirteen years at the helm of this blog (American Dirt is finally a teenager!), I had to use my website’s own search function to

Sign regulations: gotta be something to protect us from spam on two legs.

By far the most common keyword I’ve used in this blog is “signage”.  At the time of this post, I have written 205 articles that feature the topic.  This should come as no surprise.  After all, it’s a blog on the built environment, and signs are ubiquitous anywhere humans have a presence; additionally the fundamental

When catastrophe wipes out a family of small businesses, the second generation must rise from the ashes.

Every industry has its own mini-lexicon.  Why shouldn’t it?  These neologisms might originate from journalism, where they achieve enough prevalence to become mainstream: e.g., the press’s notably unecological use of the word “ecosystem”, the cringe-inducing phrase that begins “help me unpack…”, or the use of “ask” as a noun.  The US Department of Defense has

A view from the bridge: not Brooklyn but Woodrow Wilson.

There’s not a whole lot of substance to this article, but it’s hard for me to resist a photo with an evening sky this vivid. There’s obviously a lot going on here: a fiery sunset vying with menacing nimbostratus clouds; the reflection of it all on an expansive river; the evenly spaced lighting that enhances

Front yards in the Federal City: even the close-knit rowhomes feature green plots for garden gnomes. Or (since it’s Capitol Hill) political signs.

In these polarizing and emotionally fraught times, it has ostensibly become far more common for people to announce their political loyalties from the front yards of their homes—not just by promoting the campaigns of preferred candidates, but (at least in recent years) to overtly declare one’s stance on a certain issue, or even to declare