ARTPRIZE and the McKay Tower

Posted in GRAND RAPIDS, URBANISM by urbanmi on September 28, 2012


Despite all of its many criticisms and failures, ArtPrize is great for Grand Rapids and good for Michigan.

As an urban development strategy, the event highlights the city and activates the streets and businesses, awarding Grand Rapids the feel of a bustling and vibrant city. The rhythm of the city changes.  Downtown Grand Rapids already has a healthy nightlife, but, although it is improving, the life in the day is limited. With ArtPrize, residents get a glimpse of how Grand Rapids would feel if everyone used and lived in their downtown. We get to see and use our city as if it was an urbanized city. We get to see people inhabiting every space in the city simultaneously.

For this reason, I look forward to each ArtPrize.

A brief moment each year, where everyone can understand and experience the importance of cities and what Grand Rapids should strive to be every day.

I criticize ArtPrize not to condemn it, but because I celebrate its potential and want it to live up to its capacity for changing the city and improving its image.

The event, however, has failed to live up to its lofty ambitions. The purpose of the prize was to elevate Grand Rapids in the national and international consciousness and to continue to elevate Grand Rapids as a serious arts center. Unfortunately, the dependence on the community and social media retards this development. ArtPrize feels like a glorified Arts Fair, Ann Arbor on steroids. Only the museums continue to perform a commendable job elevating the quality of the entries.

Ultimately I am less concerned with the level of the “art” or crafts but who we as a public vote as our champion. Either the citizenry must learn to take their roles in the event seriously, or the event will begin to lose its credibility. No one currently views the prize as a serious participant in the culture of Art, but it should be. The ArtPrize needs to be an event each year the nation and the world looks to and is invested. I fear this will never happen with tweets and text votes.

Currently the top 25 this year includes a few deserving entrants such as Kumi Yamashita’s “Origami” but also 2 dragon, a fish, and many other animal sculptures.

Visit ArtPrize Worst for an informative study on the many of the works.

This moleskine was given as a gift to first year entrants.

I wish I had one



Posted in URBANISM by urbanmi on July 30, 2012

We want to live in cities.

The era of suburbs being desirable is dying out. These blighted areas with few amenities, services, people have lost their luster. Most of us see them for what they are: costly, inconvenient, unhealthy, isolated.

Suburbs are an ideal. In reality they do not work. In reality we live in exurbs, areas completely disconnected from a core where every road is either a tributary or a river. Stores, work, friends, family, and schools are all far away. Roads replace sidewalks and cars replace people as the chosen for who this place should be made convenient for. We defer to the automobile. Many suburbs do not even bother constructing a sidewalk, announcing to all who foolishly say they wish to live there, that “you shall not walk. You will have no need for feet.”

Fortunately we are shifting back to the city, returning to urban centers as we realize the convenience, the cost, and the amenities. We are learning the environmental consequences of living on the fringes, and we are feeling the economic strains of the lifestyle.

This transition is being marked by many media organizations realizing and celebrating this return. The Atlantic conducts a series on cities. NPR is gathering content for the NPR Cities project.

These projects excite me, they are optimistic, and informative, and cull the content of the web into the relevant information that I am emotionally and personally invested. This is the avenue that local news organizations should be cultivating but are failing.


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Posted in DETROIT, URBANISM by urbanmi on March 13, 2011

Send an email to woodwardlightrail@detroitmi.gov by March 14th advocating for the light rail to travel down the center of Woodward Ave. Investing in light rail and public transportation will be wasteful if the system isn’t effective. In order for public transportation to be an alternative to the automobile it needs to be rapid, cheap, and reliable.

The desire to increase business and development will be undone with additional stops and inconvenient riding. The People Mover demonstrates the effects of a poorly designed system. Its existence alone will not create business and investment if it is not well-designed and productive.


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GRAND RAPIDS | New Buildings + Current Projects

Posted in ARCHITECTURE, GRAND RAPIDS, URBANISM by urbanmi on July 31, 2010

Recently arrived back in Grand Rapids.  With the little time I have back home, I have tried to travel to as many of the new constructions as I can to have some thoughts.

Betty Van Andel Opera Center:  This is an architectural monstrosity.  No design thought and intent are apparent.  There is no considered entrance.  If the investment in a building was going to occur for this type of purpose, making the effort to make the building notable seems essential otherwise the pre-existing center for the Grand Rapids Opera was adequate, because this building does little to nothing to promote Opera in Grand Rapids and only adds to the increasing portfolio of horrible design and architecture in many newer buildings, such as the Gerald R Ford International Airport and the Convention Center.

Urban Institute of Contemporary Art

UICA:  very excited and interested in this building at this stage the infrastructure for the final building is in place.  The mesh lining the exterior of the building will provide support for the plantings and ivy that have been placed behind the screens, which in the coming months and years will allow for the plantings to cover portions of the exterior of the building.  The building is designed by Chicago’s BuiltForm Architecture.

Medical bridge:  I don’t know what is going on here.  An awkward connection between to buildings whose designs have no relations to their connection.  The bridge itself only highlights this difference with its relatively extreme design.  Otherwise it’s a worthwhile addition; it’s superior to stylistically safer alternatives and adds to Grand Rapids attempts of incorporating more design into the city.

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Posted in DETROIT, URBANISM by urbanmi on April 17, 2010

The Urban Land Institute chose Detroit’s Campus Martius Park for their first-ever Amanda Burden Open Space Award this morning.

“The award for the park, unique in a city more often characterized by hardship than success, was based on a competition to recognize an outstanding example of a public open space that has catalyzed the transformation of the surrounding community.”

Detroit was recognized over Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park, Pittsburgh’s Schenley Plaza, New York’s Harold and Greeley Square Parks, Boston’s Bremen Street Park and Falls Park on the Reedy in Greenville, SC.

Urban Land Institute Press Release

MSU | College of Human Medicine

Posted in GRAND RAPIDS, URBANISM by urbanmi on February 3, 2010

a version of this post originally appeared on the original urbanmi back in May or June of 2009.

Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine is a significant addition to the Grand Rapids skyline.

The building creates a visual anchor when approaching the college north on Division.  It completes one of the major visual arteries downtown, capping this axis and ending what once was open horizon.

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