AIRSPACE: infrastructure above

Posted in CARTOGRAPHY, INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSIT by urbanmi on March 17, 2013


Visual Flight Rule (VFR) maps allow pilots to fly with visual reference to the ground; as described by Wikipedia: “VFR are a set of regulations under which a pilot operates an aircraft in weather conditions generally clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going.” 1 Above is a Hybrid VFR map overlaid with a map of Michigan showing a combination of World Aeronautical (WAC) charts, sectional raster chars, and VFR Terminal Area Raster Charts.

I’m fascinated by the foreign language and accrued knowledge of another profession/hobby taking a familiar geographical context and imbuing the map with new symbols, iconography, and terms, giving it an alien understanding.


(Above Left: Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo VFRs. Above Right: Detroit VFR)

The new information alters the area of influence of each city and metropolitan region. The scale of the city grows, and the conception of what is Detroit, Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo evolves similarly. Separations shrink, time shortens and the map with this new information translates these new relationships. The radius of Detroit and DTW overlaps and consumes the smaller neighboring airports and cities deafening the voices and significance of these smaller cities.

The density of information is captivating, revealing the governance of the airspace above each urban, suburban and rural landscape and the regulations of another industry placed upon it by the FAA.



(Above: Grand Rapids comparison of Hybrid VFR and IFR)

These maps reveal how much thicker the sectional experience of a place is in reality. The Instrument Flight Rules map diagrams the flight paths and approaches to each airport. They are maps of auditory sensations and the intermittent visual ephemera. The flight paths unveil trajectories where the sensation of planes and jets above are greatest. These maps can allow designers and architects to anticipate the implications of plane travel in a tangible way through sound-proof planning. Cities can strategize locations to improve or take advantage of plane-watching with parks and public spaces.

Currently, in Grand Rapids, there is one location to sit and watch the planes land; it is a hidden treasure. The experience, however, could be greatly improved it is currently just a parking lot and a chain link fence, it is uncomfortable, and staying there for any prolonged period of time feels unwelcome.


(Above:These VFR maps also contain data on every airport in addition to the charts and maps.)

Airports can be grand, and they can be part of the urban experience, not just an after thought or an unpleasant consequence of the utilitarian need for rapid travel over long distances. In San Diego, due to the airport’s proximity to the urban center of the city, planes are ever-present. Throughout the city planes can be heard and felt (for better or for worse), but there are many parks where you can lay and watch the planes fly over and allow yourself to enjoy their existence.


via: Iamtheweather


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Posted in DETROIT, INFRASTRUCTURE by urbanmi on January 10, 2013

The Daily Show has found the Ambassador Bridge issue. Hopefully this issue reaching a wider audience helps embarrass Matty Moroun into ending his campaign against this necessary bridge.

The video, however, is terrifying. The reality that a number of citizens in our great state have been manipulated by a crotchety, old billionaire signals bad signs for us as a society. When we live in a world where money and media can manipulate people from understanding and believing facts we live in a world where the rich few can take advantage of the mass population.

This bridge is supported by governments, Michigan and US business, Canada and Canadian business and it is opposed by one man and his family. If Michigan and Detroit hope to rebuild this bridge is necessary. When we live in a state that is struggling to the extent Michigan is, the solution is not to fear change. The status quo will continue to lead Michigan to irrelevancy and a reduced population; strategies that exist to change that course should be considered and understood by every citizen.


Posted in POLITICAL by urbanmi on December 11, 2012


Nominally this site strives to be about urban issues, architecture and the urban condition. What is happening right now in Lansing is a disaster

In order for cities to grow, develop and thrive there must be communication and coordination between the citizens, businesses, and the government. Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids demonstrate when these relationships are at there most functional.

What has been happening in Lansing these past several days is terrifying. This is not government, this is not democracy. What the Republicans and Rick Snyder are doing in regards to right to work is Totalitarian. There actions are reprehensible and in violation of everything they were elected to do. There is an assumption we make in elections. That the people we elect hold and protect our interests and will safeguard our livelihood. The Republicans are in direct violation of this pact and are pushing through legislation to destroy unions that, by their design, can not be challenged by the electorate. These actions are a gross overreach of political power. The Republicans are acting in clear violation of the interests of every Michigander, every voter.

This is not an economic argument, this is a political attack. Unions are the strongest supporters of Republican opposition, this is an attack to remove Unions as an electoral factor by castrating Unions.

We elected Rick Snyder over other Democrats and Politicians because he was an outsider. Because he seemed smarter and more responsible than the other candidates. We elected Rick Snyder because he seemed reasonable.

Detroit Free Press Coverage

Jack Lessenberry Coverage


Posted in SPORTS by urbanmi on November 28, 2012

Kyle Singler’s Trick Shot Video with Detroit as subject and setting.


Andre Drummond needs more playing time.*

Lawrence “Vagina” Frank is giving minutes to Charlie Villanueva. I understand the necessity in carefully developing Drummond through rationed minutes. However, the playing time he receives is absurd. Charlie Villanueva should not be receiving any playing time give Villanueva’s minutes to Drummond. The team is struggling, but I believe that the core of Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Tayshaun Prince, Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond is close to being competitive.

His averages and per minute statistics are exciting. With a more consistent offensive game
and a reduction in fouls he could be a monster alongside Monroe.
All he needs is experience and confidence.

The only Argument for continuing to give Drummond reduced minutes is to maintain the status quo of atrociousness and avoid mediocrity in order to maintain favorable draft position. Which I reluctantly endorse.

[*My fantasy team would greatly appreciate this]


Being away from home, the annual Detroit Lions Thanksgiving game
allows me to maintain a connection with tradition and have a holiday that resembles the ones I grew up around. The only disorienting element being the hour I must watch the game. Last year I spent the game in the only business open at 9 am PST, a Mexican restaurant, surrounded by Packers fans attempting to reclaim the same nostalgic experience.I realize the game is an unpopular experience for many with no ties to Michigan and Detroit.

I don’t care.

Thanksgiving is ours.


This NHL season was going to be special for Michigan,
with the annual Winter Classic being held at Michigan Stadium with events held in downtown Detroit. Just as the World Series, All-Star Baseball game, and Super Bowl XXX were great for Detroit, I was expecting and exciting a similar affect for Detroit with the Winter Classic.

Every event that turns and shows Detroit as an exciting setting helps change the narrative of the city.
The events showcase the good.


Many thoughts on the Detroit Tigers. Most are a jumble of disappointed feelings and frustration from the World Series. I am frustrated with the front office’s and Jim Leyland’s distaste for sabermetrics. Advanced statistics work. Smart teams in all sports win games. Smart teams with money win championships.
Old baseball is dead bring in the new.

Despite my position on Sabermetrics I was ecstatic for Miguel Cabrera. Yes his WAR was not as good as Mike Trout, and Yes his season was not as dominant as seasons in the past, and yes RBI’s are a ridiculous and flawed statistic, and yes the Angels won more games than the Tigers. This however does not matter. The MVP award is a semantic argument not a statistical argument. Valuable as a concept and as a label is left up to the voters to determine. I do not mean to argue for Cabrera, but to argue against the concept that advanced statistics can determine what is valuable. They do not measure value.

Despite my position on stats and Cabrera, I was rooting for Justin Verlander. Price had an amazing season. He did not have to carry a team like Verlander. Price did not have the horrendous bullpen of Verlander. Overall Verlander should have won the Cy Young and Trout probably should have won the MVP, yes Cabrera won the triple crown, but no one ever had a year like Mike Trout.


Already, I am excited by the Torii Hunter signing.
For the rest of the off season here is my one concern, hope, and recommendation. Do not spend money on a closer. They are the most mercurial players in sports. One years performance has no bearing on the next [see Bell, Heath; Bailey, Andrew; Valverde, Jose; Rodney, Fernando]. Teams such as the Athletics and the Rays understand this. They do not spend money on closers. Smart teams use a closer’s standout performance one season as a means of tricking stupid teams into giving up money and prospects.

Any pitcher can be a closer.

Dombrowski and Leyland please find any pitcher to be the closer.


Posted in SPOTLIGHT by urbanmi on November 8, 2012

This is probably the type of information I should be sharing on this site as I continue to tweek and figure out what exactly it is I’m trying to do here.

Michigan has some extremely underrated musicians and bands. From this point forward I will give shout outs for some of my favorites.

I First learned about Breathe Owl Breathe back in 2007 when my little brother went to a show of theirs at the Elite Restaurant in Grand Rapids and brought back a handmade CD. Very jealous of this possession. Myself, I had the pleasure of seeing them perform in the summer of 2011 in San Diego opening for Yann Tiersen. They were entertaining throughout the set complete with story time, costumes, and dog barking.

The trio, from East Jordan, Michigan is Micah Middaugh, Trevor Hobbs, and Andréa Moreno-Beals. They are a playful band. Their music, for me, engenders many good feelings and thoughts. With their array of sounds, instruments and fun shows complete with costumes, Breathe Owl Breathe is very much apart of the current indie zeitgeist. Their thoughtfulness both lyrically and musically speak to a longevity for the trio.

Partake in Michigan’s music scene and venues. They are an essential part of a rich urban fabric, and Michigan in general has some hidden treasures. Go see Kalamazoo and Detroit’s Jazz, Ann Arbor’s Folk, Grand Rapids Noise. We have great music cities.

Use our cities.

Live in our cities.

They are our most important assets. It’s time to stop speaking enviously of Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and make our cities destinations. Support them.

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Posted in INFRASTRUCTURE by urbanmi on November 6, 2012

[This is an emotionally driven post.]

Go Vote.

Not for Obama or Romney; but vote on proposal 6. Vote No on proposal 6.

Proposal 6 is not about giving Michigan voters more choice and control. Proposal 6 is a subversive attempt to block the construction of a new international bridge between Detroit and Canada by billionaire Matty Moroun who owns and profits from the Ambassador Bridge.

Matty Moroun expects and understands he will be able to block any new bridge through a state vote by buying the airwaves.

The bridge is not an ideological issue, it is not conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. It is a Michigan Issue, an issue that every Michigander needs to understand. The new bridge must be built. 

Everyone in business, politics, and the media understands this. This is an infrastructure issue key to the progress and development of our state. This is an issue about a billionaire striving to keep his monopoly by any means necessary, his success up to this point is reprehensible and speaks to the worst in us and politics. An international border crossing and international trade should not be dictated by one man. The economy of Michigan should not be dictated by Matty Moroun.

The story of the bridge and its constant blocks is a tale of grotesque political corruption. Everyone who has blocked the bridge has accepted money from the Moroun family.

Jack Lessenberry’s coverage on the Ambassador bridge is essential listening and reading. He has covered the issue since the beginning.

Michigan Radio’s coverage, in general, on the bridge is truly informative. Inform yourselves on the issue and go vote if you haven’t yet, if you have tell your friends.

The Ambassador Bridge is an issue that directly affects the progress of Michigan.

LEBBEUS WOODS | 1940-2012

Posted in ARCHITECTURE by urbanmi on November 1, 2012

Lebbeus Woods passed away Tuesday after 72 years. He was born in Lansing, MI.

His work is a major influence and inspiration to any student and academic and to me personally.

As a thinker and as an Architect, we have lost someone who is not as heralded as his work deserves and who practiced in such a way that few imitate and no one replicates.

I encourage you to visit his blog and read his thoughts and words, it was one of the most revealing and engaging blogs produced by a seminal architect. I will miss the opportunity to read his words and gain a glimpse of his mind.

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Posted in INFRASTRUCTURE by urbanmi on October 23, 2012

Amtrak is important.

Illinois has been aggressively pursuing high speed trains between Chicago and St Louis. This is a very important development and will be significant for Michigan.

The concept of high speed trains has been oft criticized. This past week the radio program Marketplace  had a piece on the issue claiming they will compete with planes and containing the criticism of Ray Mundy, Director of Transportation Studies at the University of Missouri St Louis.

The main point of the critique is anyone traveling by plane between Chicago and St Louis are likely transferring and high speed trains will do nothing to compete with planes for a form of travel between the cities. This point is generally true, but only because the premise is incorrect.

High speed trains will not compete with planes. They will compete with cars.

No one takes planes short distances, (except for high income earners or business flyers) it is not affordable. I regularly travel between Grand Rapids and Chicago, I regularly travel between Detroit and Grand Rapids. I have never made these inter-city trips by plane; I have made them via Amtrak. It is cheap, stress free, and enjoyable. The only criticism I have is one of convenience. With only two trips per day between Grand Rapids and Chicago, I have to plan my days around the train. Given increased frequency and time of the train I would use the Amtrak regularly, and make the trip far more often than I already do.

To suggest high speed trains will do nothing for commerce is a mistake. High speed trains will merely not compete with the plane, but only because the plane is not a practical transportation option for short distances. However, with increased convenience high speed trains would be fantastic for Michigan providing a practical and affordable solution. High Speed Trains shrink the map, they increase the interconnectedness of the region.

If you agree with the premises of Richard Florida and others and his description of the importance of mega-regions and the new geographies that are defining the progress of the country. Tapping into the network of cities we live in is the key to Michigan’s future. High Speed Trains is the way Michigan can become united with Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin…

Without investing in this infrastructure Michigan and its cities will likely be bypassed.

The only key part to the High Speed Trains discussion is the importance of a strong and vibrant public transportation system in your destination city. It is wonderful taking the Amtrak to Chicago and hopping on a bus or the subway, but it is not a pleasant experience to arrive in Grand Rapids or Detroit and be stuck in a concrete wasteland fighting for a cab.


Posted in GRAND RAPIDS by urbanmi on October 23, 2012


I used to substitute teach in Grand Rapids Public Schools.

One day while reviewing a book on the history of Grand Rapids I stumbled upon the map below. Documenting the racial pockets of the city in 1927.

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Posted in FOOD, GRAND RAPIDS by urbanmi on October 22, 2012

I just found out. I had not heard the bad news.

I was back in Grand Rapids for a friend’s wedding. During any return I must go to a few places Robinette’s, Yesterdog, Monarch’s Club, and the Kopper Top.

The Kopper Top made the best sandwiches in the city and most affordable sites for sandwiches in Grand Rapids. This was the only place to find a Muffaleta, and the only place worth going to for a Cuban.

It was an experience, a strange venue of kitsch and comfort. For my first visit, I knew nothing about it, I stumbled upon The Kopper Top with friends and we walked in knowing nothing. Then we ate, and came back regularly until life drew us away from Grand Rapids.

It’s failings were weird hours. I never knew when they were open, and several times I would drive to the Kopper Top only to find it closed.

Considered a well-kept secret. I will forever consider it a failing of mine to not assist in spreading the name of the Kopper Top. This is a massive lost to the west side.In the spirit of making sure a beloved Grand Rapids business does not go under (not to suggest it is in any danger) Go to the Monarch’s Club across the street. It’s the best bar in Grand Rapids. A well-kept secret is worthless if it means it shares the same fate as the Kopper Top.

The loss of the Kopper Top is a strike against the West Side. As Grand Rapid’s downtown and surrounding communities continues to grow and develop the West Side is being neglected (aside from GVSU territory).

Below is a sampling of photographs and Instagrams I collected to hopefully give a sense of Kopper Top’s atmosphere.