A Receding Coast

Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Essay and photographs by Virginia Hanusik

 

Founded on the deltaic plain of the Mississippi River, New Orleans has been described as the impossible, yet inevitable city because of its complex geography that tests the boundaries of human engineering. Hurricanes, floods, and sinking land have forced structural innovation and adaptation in the city and its surrounding coastal communities. As a result, a distinct sense of place has been perpetuated through the built environment.

Louisiana is experiencing a land loss crisis more severe than any environmental disaster in the state’s history. Aerial photographs of the coast and national media coverage of the “first climate refugees” have told a piece of the story of what it means for a physical place to disappear. However, this type of exposure is one small part of a larger picture. A long-term Slidell resident whose home, newly rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina, now floods with every hard rain; a fisherman in Plaquemines Parish whose livelihood is being threatened by river diversions; the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi Chitimacha Choctaw whose ancestral home is dissolving into the marsh: these powerful stories, when paired with in-depth research, serve to educate the public around the relationship between nature and architecture in this vulnerable region.

Particularly given the fraught political moment we all find ourselves in, this project seeks to convey a collective vision of place through architectural portraits that describe the history of building practices in Louisiana. Ultimately, this knowledge can be used to inform future design in the age of climate change. I believe the best way to do this is to combine the accessibility of visual art with academic research in climate adaptation. In doing so, the opportunity to connect Louisiana’s environmental challenges and architectural history to other communities around the world may assist in the fight against climate change.

The time to act has never been more urgent. The Louisiana Office of Community Development is currently outlining the state’s resettlement plan that dictates which communities are able to be saved from encroaching water and which are not. Those who are unable to remain on the land that has been passed down through generations must re-create their lives elsewhere. The built environment, both architecture and infrastructure, are the tangible symbols of this change and deserve to be looked at in depth as a means of understanding the future of human settlement.

With funding from the Graham Foundation, I was able to research throughout South Louisiana by visiting the architectural archives of Tulane University and conduct interviews with residents in coastal communities. The portfolio presented here seeks to capture the complexity and precariousness of the built environment at this moment in time and engage the viewer with daily life on the frontlines of climate change. Rather than photographing scenes of disaster or aerial footage—which allow the audience to dissociate—these images present the everyday landscape.

This project seeks to position itself as a means for connectivity, awareness, and empathy across communities with the aim of thereby strengthening our collective environmental stewardship.
 

Delacroix, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Pierre Part, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Ruddock, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Flood wall in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Lafitte, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Lake Verret, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Attakapas Landing, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

New development in Holy Cross, New Orleans © Virginia Hanusik

 

Hopedale, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Lake Maurepas, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Chalmette Refinery, Chalmette, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Holy Cross, New Orleans © Virginia Hanusik

 

Orleans Avenue Canal, New Orleans © Virginia Hanusik

 

House on Lake Verret, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Our Lady of Blind River, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Lake Verret, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Venice, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Fort Proctor, Lake Borgne, Louisiana © Virginia Hanusik

 

Virginia Hanusik is an artist and architectural researcher whose work explores the relationship between culture and the built environment. Her photographs have been exhibited internationally and featured in publications such as Domus, Places Journal, NPR, Fast Company, Newsweek, and The Atlantic, among others. She received her B.A. from Bard College and is currently working on a project about the architecture of climate change in South Louisiana with support from the Graham Foundation. She is a member of the Climate Working Group at New York University and was ranked as one of Planetizen‘s Most Influential Urbanists in 2017. She lives in New York City.
www.virginiahanusik.com | @virginiahanusik

Almost Perfect

Gallery © Brian Scott Peterson

 

In October 2018, art director and illustrator Luis Mendo and owner of ethical fashion brand INHEELS Yuka Martín Mendo opened Almost Perfect. In a former rice shop located in an almost 100-year old building in Taito-ku, they have established their house, studio, a temporary living space for creative people, an artistic gathering space, and ultimately a hub for the community to come together around events. It is a hybrid space that aims to shape the work of its residents, their guests, and the community they want to embrace. A personal investment in establishing a space where creative people have time to think, focus, make, and share.

 

 

Luis Mendo is not a stranger to MAS Context, having contributed the essay “Tokyoites” to our Communication issue and having curated the Tokyo issue that featured the work of thirteen illustrators who drew Tokyo in different ways.

Iker Gil talked to Luis and Yuka to know more about their plans for the new space, the history behind the building, and the activities they aim to host.

 

Luis and Yuka © Iris Humm

 

Why did you decide to open Almost Perfect?

Luis: We didn’t really decide it, it just happened in a very organic way. We were living in a small apartment in Shinjuku and I was coming to this area once a month because there is a shop where you can make your own sketchbooks. Every time you buy the custom-made sketchbook, you have to wait 20-30 minutes until it is made. I would take that time to walk around the neighborhood and I really liked the area. I asked Yuka to come with me to explore it and when we came, we bumped into friends who happened to live in the neighborhood. They mentioned that there was a building near their house that was empty and that it used to be a rice shop. We inquired about it but the space was a little too big for us. We just wanted a house and maybe a small studio, but we never had getting a larger place in mind. Because this building was bigger than what we needed, we started to think different ways how we could maximize the use of it.

Yuka: Indeed, it all started with the size and qualities of the building. But we were also constantly meeting visitors from all over the world, mostly friends and friends of friends of Luis that were designers, photographers, and illustrators. We always enjoy welcoming people to Tokyo. We thought about ways of combining this building and hosting creative visitors. If people come to Tokyo for a couple of weeks, they have to book a hotel or Airbnb and we thought it was a bit of a waste. Also, they never got to see what “real” Tokyo life is like. If we had a place, they could enjoy their stay in Tokyo and we could connect them to other creators in the city. They could also study and work on their different interests, from illustration to ceramics and photography. So all those ideas came together thanks to the space.

 

Neighborhood © Almost Perfect

 

Did you have any model for this type of space while defining Almost Perfect?

Luis: We did not. What happened was: we got married in May and we got the place around June, at which point we could start the renovations. But we were going on our honeymoon, so we had to quickly brief the renovation team, which are friends of ours. We gave them the keys and briefed them with a simple: “make it nice modern Japanese and stay on budget” and then left to Majorca. While we were in Majorca, we kept thinking about how we were going to live, how we were going to decorate the space, and make something interesting out of it. It all grew in a very organic way.

 

Gallery © Brian Scott Peterson

 

Can you explain the story behind the name?

Yuka: I have a fashion brand called INHEELS. It is a sustainable and ethical fashion brand, so I focus on the environment, how it is produced, and the wellbeing of the workers. Recently I was very concerned about waste in the clothing industry. I have a tiny brand but I still produce waste once in a while. Imagine how that affects a large brand. My idea originally was to create a brand called Almost Perfect that would buy this excess of stock or something that was slightly faulty, like the stitches are not perfect. Nothing major so, if you wear it, nobody would notice. Not perfect, but almost perfect. As we were talking about this over lunch in a restaurant, Luis saw that the domain was available and bought it. My business idea didn’t really take off so we just used the available domain for the building.

Luis: But we thought that the name really suited the building. We did a limited renovation to the building so it is still a little cold in the winter, it might be a little hot during the summer, and nothing is really straight so it made sense to call it Almost Perfect.

Yuka: Luis always says that perfection is overrated.

 

Studio © Brian Scott Peterson

 

Can you describe the history of the building?

Yuka: It is almost 100 years old, which is an old building for Japan. In general, buildings here are quite new because of the earthquakes and the destruction of WWII. It was built right after the 1923 Kanto earthquake that destroyed pretty much everything in Tokyo and killed over 140,000 people. The building was built around 1924 using timber beams that the United States had donated as part of an international relief effort to help rebuild the city. Twenty years later, during WWII, the US bombed the city and this area was badly damaged. This house was one of the few that survived. We like that the house has this history of construction, destruction, and survival.

 

Old rice machine © David Schalliol

 

Luis: There have been three generations of rice sellers in the building, using the downstairs to sell rice and the upstairs to live. We kept the old rice machines in place to honor its past. The building has this atmosphere of a family place, where you work and live, which is something you find a lot in this neighborhood. Many of the houses here have a small workshop on the ground floor and the residence above. You can see printers, tatami makers, craftsmen working with leather, and makers of bags, buttons, and belt buckles etc. When you walk around, you get to see people actually making things. The Township is very conscious about keeping the makers in the neighborhood and we love that. We are not so much art residents but creatives and makers.

 

Studio © Brian Scott Peterson

 

Guest room © Brian Scott Peterson

 

Guest room © Brian Scott Peterson

 

You have already welcomed a few guests to Almost Perfect. Can you talk about that experience, the work they did, and how they shared it in the space?

Luis: Having the guests is great. We love that they are from different places around the world, from the UK, France, and Italy to Canada and Australia. We get to see very diverse people. But it is also intense because the house is not that big. It has three floors but they are small, so you live with your guests. It is not like a normal art residency where you don’t see the owner. We share the kitchen, the bathroom, the shower…. We make sure to tell the guests from the beginning that they are essentially going to live with us. They are very conscious of it and seem to like it. It is nice to see how they react to the space and the neighborhood. The first guest, Caroline Lavergne from Canada, did an amazing project where she drew the space of the makers around us. We recently had two Italian photographers, Iris Humm and Luca Campri, who also documented the area with their cameras.

 

Drawing © Caroline Lavergne

 

Did they exhibit their work in the space?

Luis: Yes. The idea is that all the guests have to organize an exhibition, a workshop, or some type of public event in the space. We have already had exhibitions and has been very interesting because people can see what the artists do and be part of a community gathering.

Yuka: One of the concepts is to have things for the neighborhood, not only for artists. We are very careful about not being an island. We talk to neighbors as much as possible and invite them to our events. We are doing our part to contribute and belong to the community.

 

Tokyo Illustrators Meet-up organized by Andrew Joyce © Almost Perfect

 

Do you organize events that are not related to the work of your guests?

Luis: Yes. We have done a couple of events already and we plan on doing more. For example, the Finnish Institute in Japan organized a talk by the Finnish-Swedish painter and installation artist Maria Wolfram. It was very cozy as the space can hold around twenty people seated in stools. We want to do more workshops to make things. We also have what we call a permanent collection on one of the walls that includes a series of framed prints and drawings from friends of ours. We ask them to give us one or two prints that we can sell to support their work. We try to create a sense of community as much as possible with artists and neighbors beyond our guests.

The idea is to organize inclusive events, invite the neighbors to come in and enjoy what is going on. We want everybody to feel comfortable coming in, have a drink with the artist, and enjoy the art. Nearby there is an old school that has been turned into the Taito Designers Village, full of creatives who are starting their careers. They get to rent an old classroom as a studio space for three years for a very reasonable price. As they are so close to us, they often drop by our space to see the shows, enquire about having a pop-up shop or meet the guests. We welcome these types of activities and collaborations with other creatives in the area.

 

Congratulations on establishing a great space for creative people and the community nearby.

 

Detail © Brian Scott Peterson

 

Detail © Brian Scott Peterson

 

Detail © Brian Scott Peterson

 

Sketchbook © Brian Scott Peterson

 

Gallery © Brian Scott Peterson

 

Yuka, Luis, and Señor © David Schalliol

 

After working as a graphic designer and creative director for 20 years in Europe, Luis Mendo moved to Japan where he changed his career to drawing. His eclectic approach and versatile style, combined with his art direction skills makes him a relevant addition to creative teams and projects. His work is found on websites, magazines and ad campaigns, but also in art galleries and clothing. You can bump into him in the Tokyo streets where he draws daily on his sketchbook.
www.luismendo.com | www.almostperfect.jp | www.instagram.com/luismendo | www.instagram.com/almostperfecttokyo | @luismendo

Yuka Martín Mendo is the founder of the Tokyo-based award-winning ethical fashion brand INHEELS. INHEELS produces stylish casual wear using environmentally friendly material and fair trade labor in Nepal. She is the co-founder of Almost Perfect, a 100 year-old house renovated into a creative residence/shared studio/cafe/gallery.
www.inheels-ef.com/ | www.almostperfect.jp | www.instagram.com/inheels_ef | www.instagram.com/almostperfecttokyo

Rebel Garages

Rebel Garages © Future Firm

 

Essay and policy proposals by Future Firm included in their upcoming book Rebel Garages published by the Chicago Architecture Center.


On February 19, 2019, Future Firm and the Chicago Architecture Center will release the book Rebel Garages. Speakers include Ann Lui, Andrew Moddrell, Craig Reschke, Norman Teague, and Fo Wilson. The event will be moderated by Katherine Darnstadt. For more information, please visit: www.architecture.org/programs-events/detail/reimagining-chicagos-alleys-and-garages

 

GARAGES: EACH TO OUR OWN HETEROTOPIA

The ethos of the rebel garage is more than a secondary use: it reflects and produces a completely different and unique way of seeing architecture in Chicago, one that depends on both the physical parameters of a building but also the specifics of time, use, and engagement with its surroundings. In his 1967 lecture, “Of Other Spaces,” Michel Foucault defines the idea of heterotopia as sites defined by their otherness: spaces of crisis, juxtapositions of incongruous uses, and territories that are temporally rather than spatially delineated. [1] A boat, separated from the world, running under its own rules that circumnavigate land-bound realities, or a motel room where two lovers meet, temporarily constructing an alternate life—these are Foucault’s heterotopias par excellence.

We understand the rebel garage as Chicago’s own ubiquitous and quintessential heterotopia: an architectural condition not defined by the lines and materials notated on an architectural drawing, a Department of Buildings permit, a zoning ordinance, or an owner’s use on any given day but rather a combination of all these parameters, including the myriad uses that transpire every day and every night. The rebel garage allows what Foucault describes as “deviant” uses, broadly understood. It is a space where the activities that cannot take place in the house, the office, or the street, but require certain conditions of both privacy and publicness, begin to flourish. It’s a space which allows those activities—a side business, a private hobby, or a dream of an alternate lifestyle—to grow. It is a space whose openings and closings are precisely orchestrated by the closing of the garage door and the illumination of a single overhead light. The garage can be completely transformed by these simple operations: think, for example, of the complete otherworldliness of a punk garage band playing live at full volume. [2]

Unlike, however, Foucault’s heterotopic cruise ships, psychiatric hospitals, or prisons, which are singular spaces, constructed as communities isolated from the rest of the world, the rebel garage is both individualized and distributed. Chicago’s mundane garage, when considered as an ecology of interiors, can be read as a system (rather than singular example) of heterotopic otherness that is, in fact, often legally required to be delivered along with your place of residence. The way that the garage becomes a potent site for heterotopic conditions, simultaneously personalized and yet also ubiquitous, reveals our collective need for secondary spaces—“other” spaces for both private and public pursuits.

The idea of a heterotopia that is both personalized and distributed occurs everywhere, in different forms. In Tokyo, Japan: consider photographer Noritaka Minami’s work, documented in his book 1972, on the Nagakin Capsule Tower. [3] The apartment tower, designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa, was intended to be a prototype for a new, customizable, and mobile form of modern life. Today, these early dreams have calcified: yet in their wake, each living unit has become increasingly eccentric, unique, and architecturally transformed by its inhabitants. [4] In Barcelona: consider architect Andres Jaque’s project, IKEA Disobedients, which critiqued IKEA’s marketing campaign describing one’s home as a personal “kingdom.” [5] Jaque visited, photographed, and interviewed Barcelona residents who use their houses and apartments as businesses, LGBT support group headquarters, farms, video studios, and more. Or, lastly, in New York: consider the provocative series of Manhattan Mini Storage ads, one of which featured an image of a man in drag surrounded by a wardrobe of clothing in a storage unit, titled: “I like my wife and kids, but I love my storage room.” This ad featured in a series of others in which the storage unit might be used to grow hobbies (“I like film festivals, but I love…”); avoid pet hair (“I like pet adoption, but I love…”); or nerd out (“I like special issue no. 364, but…”). All over the world, contemporary urban life produces, in parallel to more generic architectural building types, these odd personalized spaces of eccentric pursuits: a storage locker or garage where one can engage in and imagine alternative presents and futures.

What do you do in your garage other than park your car? What rules and status quos—architectural, economic, social, or cultural—do you break or slip around in your garage? Who do you break those rules with? Understanding the ethos of the rebel garage is to understand it not just through the physical characteristics of its size, or materials, but also as a condition situated in the gray areas of both time and culture. Temporally, it opens when the door closes and the light turns on, and closes when you pack up your hobby or side business for the night. Culturally, it holds space in gray zones: in territories of behavior, business, and desires which cannot exist in the main home or in the street.

Imagine lights on in a network of garages in the city at night: the tens of thousands of seemingly mundane architectures, each with its own unique yeasty interior of otherness, incubating the B-side cultures that are inevitably produced by the exhaustively routine conditions of everyday life outside.

 

Endnotes

1. Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces.” Spaces of Visual Culture, 2006.

2. For more on garages and garage bands, see: Fischer, Marc, and Public Collectors. Hardcore Architecture. Chicago, IL: Half Letter Press, 2015.

3. Minami, Noritaka, Julian Rose, and Ken Yoshida. 1972 – Nakagin Capsule Tower. Heidelberg: Kehrer Verlag, 2015.

4. For more, see: Koolhaas, Rem, and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Project Japan: Metabolism Talks… Edited by Kayoko Ota and James Westcott. Köln; London: Taschen, 2011.

5. For more on this, see: Andres Jaque, “Politics Do Not Happen in Squares,” in Urbonas, Gediminas, Ann Lui, and Lucas Freeman, eds. Public Space? Lost and Found. Cambridge, MA: SA+P Press, 2017.

 

NINE POLICY PROPOSALS


What is a “garage” in the eyes of the law? Today, a variety of intersecting regulations in Chicago’s Municipal Code, Building Code, and Zoning Ordinance regulate the architecture, location, and use of garages in the city. Here are nine policy proposals which aim to provoke conversations about the rights and restrictions which govern our garages today, and the ways that these frameworks might evolve in the future to accommodate or inspire change.

 

#1: REBEL BLOCKS
ORGANIZE AND LIMIT “REBEL BLOCKS” AT THE CITY SCALE

The Chicago zoning ordinance currently has a regulatory mechanism called an “overlay district.” The ordinance describes this regulation as a tool for “special situations or to accomplish specific city goals that cannot be easily or efficiently addressed through the use of base districts.” Currently in the city, thirteen zoning overlays exist which add either additional rights or restrictions to a certain area. This proposal introduces a “Rebel Block district overlay,” which would allow more creative uses of garages, while also opening the opportunity to set new limits on heights, areas, and signage. These “Rebel Blocks” could allow the rebel garage ethos to be limited to areas where an entire block of Chicagoans have decided together to allow the following transformations in their alleys. The overlay district would also allow the city overall to regulate the locations of rebel garage alley blocks—for example, in consideration of existing base districts, nearby other incentive programs such as transit-oriented development, or in partnership with city programs, such as the Dollar Lot Program which is already often used by Chicagoans to create suburban-style garages and driveways. This overlay district would allow for an urban-scale calibration of the following proposed changes, as well as a time-based approach which might introduce prototype or pilot-versions of these code revisions over a longer period of time.

 

An example of the way the “Rebel Block” code changes could be applied to limited areas in the city, based on location, need, or consensus. © Future Firm

“Rebel Blocks” could also be designated through collaborative decision making at the scale of a neighborhood, such as if all block residents agree. © Future Firm

 

#2: DIVERSIFY BUSINESSES
STARTUP DIVERSE BUSINESSES IN YOUR GARAGE

Imagine an alley where you can buy fresh eggs, have your fortune told, and get your oil changed—all by your neighbors. Currently, Chicago businesses that operate out of residents’ homes are regulated by the Municipal Code. This code limits what kinds of businesses can be located in a domestic space. However, the landscape of small businesses is transforming in the context of the sharing and “gig” economies, freelance labor, and the increasing number of individuals pursuing self-employment outside of 9-to-5 jobs for economic or personal reasons. Additionally, commercial space in Chicago can often be difficult to secure for new businesses, especially women and minority-owned businesses with less access to initial investment capital, as they are often restricted to longer-term leases in the 3- to 5-year range. Recent trends in “micro-retail,” such as small commercial spaces and pop-up shops, have started to address these issues through new building types. In contrast, this proposal takes advantage of existing small buildings by expanding the range of businesses that can be operated out of one’s own home—including the garage—to construct an infrastructure for small-scale entrepreneurship.

 

Landscaping, salon, and auto shop—a few of the many types of businesses which are currently prohibited from being licensed for home (or garage) occupation. What would it be like to share your alley with neighbors and their clients running these businesses? © Future Firm

 

#3: BIGGER HOME BUSINESSES
TAKE OVER THE GARAGE WITH YOUR HOME BUSINESS

Steve Jobs famously started Apple in his garage. How many other significant businesses may have started in the unique space of the garage: out of the traffic, bustle, and quotidian burdens of the main house? Can we describe the Chicago garage as a possible space of dreams? Currently, the Municipal Code regulates how garages can be used by home occupation businesses. The code dictates that a garage cannot be the primary site of your work: according to the code, the garage can only be used to store extra papers and documents for business. This proposal allows the main work of home businesses to expand into garages and also removes the overall square footage restriction that limits the size of home offices to 300 square feet. This change, which has also been proposed by Chicago’s Small Business Advocacy Council, reflects how many Chicagoans already see the garage as an architectural type which can incubate, foster, and provide the unique necessary conditions for starting something new.

 

This section of a building shows the way a business might be expanded from the home into the yard and garage, creating a bigger and more diverse space for work. © Future Firm

 

#4: HANG YOUR SHINGLE
DESIGN GARAGES TO REFLECT HOW THEY’RE USED

Two vanguards of architecture’s post-modern movement, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown, famously described two ways that buildings can be designed to convey (or “signify”) their uses to the public: “the duck” or the “decorated shed.” “The duck” uses its shape or figure to convey an idea, such as the basket-shaped headquarters of a basket manufacturer. The “decorated shed,” in comparison, is a simple, utilitarian building with a large exterior sign; in this case, Venturi and Scott Brown were inspired by Las Vegas roadside motels and convenience stores. In Chicago, the Municipal Code currently restricts home occupation businesses from displaying signs, having dedicated entrances, or using shelves to display wares. This proposal argues that the “decorated shed” is an economically efficient and symbolically powerful way to transform simple garages into vibrant spaces open to the public. While preserving the residential character of a main street has a certain value, this proposal speculates that the alley sides of Chicago homes can become a little more flexible.

 

This image shows a garage outfitted with three currently prohibited components: an exterior sign, a dedicated entrance, and shelves to display wares. How would these components support a growing business or change the character of an alley? © Future Firm

 

#5: EVERYONE’S INVITED
WELCOME OTHERS: MORE CLIENTS, EMPLOYEES, AND DELIVERIES

Any small businesses owner will tell you their business is a network of connected people, not individuals: they comprise communities of clients, employees, supporters, investors, friends, and colleagues. Currently, the Municipal Code restricts the amount of people who can visit, be employed in, or make a delivery to a home business. Building on the goals of Proposal #3—which allows more areas of accessory building to be dedicated to businesses—this change suggests increasing the limits on daily visitors to a home business. Garages and alleys in Chicago are already bustling quasi-public spaces. In our interviews, we learned that alleys are often transformed into social areas for different groups: from kids playing between a block’s backyards, to residents fixing cars with the garage door open, to teenagers playing an alley-long game of street hockey, to a space of exchange driven by the daily passage of scrappers, trash pick-up, and Craigslist swaps. By extending the limits on the number of visiting clients, non-resident employees, and daily deliveries that can visit a home business, this change reflects the existing productive bustle and opens alleys to further commercial traffic.

 

This image shows an active garage hosting visiting clients, non-resident employees, and multiple daily deliveries, producing a vibrant and collaborative atmosphere. © Future Firm

 

#6: LEGALIZE COACH HOUSES
BUILD NEW COACH HOUSES

Would it be convenient to have a guest house or a roommate’s unit in the backyard? How about extra rental space which would generate extra monthly income? Or a space for in-laws upon the arrival of a new baby? When Chicago’s alleys were planned at the turn of the century, they functioned as access lanes for horse-drawn carriages. The small buildings flanking these alleys were used to store coaches after returning home. Since the car replaced the horse-drawn coach as a primary means of transportation for Chicagoans, new small buildings along the city’s alleys are designed for the size of the automobile. However, coach houses that remained have been transformed for new uses by their owners—many of them into dwelling units with a bathroom and kitchen. Looking into the future, with ride sharing and autonomous vehicles on the horizon reducing the need for private cars—and increased concerns about combustion engines’ negative effects on public health and the climate—this proposal anticipates that alleys will transform once again. Currently, Chicago’s zoning ordinance only allows certain structures in the rear setback (the area between a house and an alley) of a building’s lot. Allowances today currently include: garage, shed, and shading structures like pergolas. This proposal suggests bringing back the “coach house,” with limits at three stories and up to 1,200 square feet.

 

How can the historical categorization of the “coach house”—a larger building with infrastructure like gas or water—inspire new, unexpected, and diverse accessory buildings in the future such as those shown here? © Future Firm

 

#7: GARAGE FIRST, HOUSE SECOND
DEVELOP GARAGES AS INVESTMENT STRATEGIES

In the current zoning ordinance, garages are categorized as “accessory buildings,” which is defined as a structure that is secondary to a main house. By defining garages in this way, the code also restricts owners from constructing them before the main building. This change proposes that garages should be allowed to be built first. In this way, garages might function as early investments, fiscal collateral, or the first step in phased construction. The Cook County Land Bank (cclba) currently holds 4,000+ lots, all of which have been cleared for back taxes and are made available to the buyer at sub-market prices. However, in order to purchase a lot from cclba, one is required to show the financial means to develop the site. If accessory buildings were built first, this may allow a broader populace to begin to invest in vacant lots. An auto-mechanic, for example, might build a small garage and relocate his business there—over time, he may eventually build the main structure. A new family might build a coach house structure to live in, while saving the funds to build a main house, eventually transforming that accessory structure into a rental unit for extra income. With this change, the city’s numerous vacant lots, currently untended or being tended at a cost to the city or county government, could be re-distributed to residents more quickly by re-defining the “accessory structure” as a cautious, but hopeful, architectural investment.

 

Garages constructed before primary residences could serve as investment strategies, neighborhood resources, or support other individual or community needs. © Future Firm

 

#8: NO PARKING
REDUCE PARKING REQUIREMENTS

In Chicago and other U.S. cities, there are currently stringent parking requirements for dwelling units. These requirements emerge from a post-war ideal of nuclear families organized around an automobile-focused life. This proposal reflects the way in which the landscape of 21st century domestic space and transportation is more complex, diverse in its forms, messy, and nuanced than the post-war ideal. While some Chicagoans may continue to need space to park a car, many others prefer to use that space for secondary uses such as the ones described in the Rebel Garage Archive. Additionally, we argue that the conditions of contemporary transportation are moving away from privately owned cars—just as it moved away from the horse-drawn coach a century ago. For example, major cities such as Oslo are banning cars from their downtowns and others, such as Paris, are banning combustion engines entirely in the coming decades. Additionally, in recent years, Chicago’s Department of Transportation has been investing in urban streetscape upgrades for bikes and pedestrians; in parallel, private corporations are leading research toward shared autonomous vehicles. By reducing parking requirements and providing the option to use accessory buildings for creative secondary uses, this proposal argues for a change in regulation to both reflect and incentivize these broader changes in transportation.

 

This map shows parcels within residential zoning (possible garage sites) that fall within the range of requirements for Transit Oriented Development, an existing incentive to develop business or commercial lots near public transport. These areas might be good candidates for “Rebel Blocks,” where parking for cars is less necessary in lieu of other modes of transport. © Future Firm

 

#9 GARAGE STARCHITECTURE
LET GARAGE ARCHITECTURE SHINE

Chicago garages are currently uniquely limited in their architectural expression—both by regulation and by cost—in terms of building systems, materials, size, and form. With increasingly diverse uses occurring inside garages, this proposal would allow for garage architecture to begin to reflect the plethora of activities that are going on inside them. This proposal also expands on current limitations in order to open up possibilities for unexpected future activities. Could a garage be used as a drone landing pad, a political organizing space, a kombucha production kitchen, or another activity we have never seen before? Second, Rebel Garages argues that the alley may be a productive space for architectural experimentation off of the main street. While consistent character of residential streets has a certain value, we believe that the small scale and relative affordability of accessory buildings might help cultivate a potent testing ground for new building technologies. A garage or accessory building may be a good site for architects or designers to test new energy-efficient roofing details, or unconventional exterior walls, using experimentation to drive architectural innovation in Chicago. Already, alleys are sometimes known as spaces of vice or quasi-legal activities, this change proposes that the code make allowances for rebel or experimental architecture, as well.

 

These whimsical garage buildings are inspired by familiar shapes in iconic architecture. What other shapes or functions might emerge in the future when we stop assuming garages are only for parking? © Future Firm

 

Future Firm designs spaces, big and small, for people to come together in new ways. Founded by Craig Reschke and Ann Lui in 2015, the Chicago-based architecture practice spans diverse scales: from pop-up exhibition spaces, to residential and commercial buildings, to urban and territorial speculations. Future Firm’s work has been exhibited at Storefront for Art & Architecture, New Museum’s Ideas City, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation and published in MAS Context, The Architect’s Newspaper, Chicago Architect, and Newcity. Future Firm also currently operates The Night Gallery, a nocturnal exhibition space on Chicago’s south side, which features video and film works by artists and architects from sunset to sunrise.
www.future-firm.org | @FutureFirm

Visual explorations of our daily environment

New York City Elevation

 

Visualizations by Scott Reinhard

 

From the ground, the scale of our landscape is slightly too large for us to comprehend its full character. Sometimes the features are too subtle, too substantial, or obscured by fixed elements. It can be difficult to understand the larger systems at play. That valley, the ridge, the shape of the mountains, the walk up the hill. They seem fixed and forever.

Mapmakers use caution when representing the topography of the Earth. There are other pieces of information to convey in a map along with physical geography, and besides, the range of elevation is quite small compared to the radius of the Earth. But unconstrained by formal training in cartography, and empowered by curiosity and the tools to process and review geographic data, I turned everything up to 11. At the graphic extremes, patterns emerge: glaciation, collisions, erosion, deep time. In its elevation lies the story of the land.

Working with geographic data also presents a new graphic medium to play with. These visualizations push representation in many directions—from hyper-detailed and realistic 3D renderings derived from LiDAR data to heavily abstracted and barely legible formal experiments. I don’t have an end goal, one map leads to the next, and there is an endless pool of data and tools to work with.

 

Western North Carolina

 

World elevation, long shadows

 

Great Lakes

 

Southern Lake Michigan Region Elevation

 

3D elevation + 1954 USGS Denali map

 

3D elevation + 1894 USGS Asheville region map

 

3D elevation + 1916 Geological Map of California

 

3D elevation + 1878 USGS Yellowstone Geology Map

 

Central Canada Plains

 

Confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers

 

Mississippi River

 

Great Lakes Bathymetry

 

Coteau des Prairies Geographical Feature, South Dakota

 

Texas Topography

 

Washington State

 

Northern Ohio Topography

 

Central Park

 

Eastburn Farm Lidar visualization, Greenwood, Indiana

 

South Brooklyn Lidar Visualization

 

Processing + elevation data of the conterminous United States

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silver Lake, Wisconsin Bathymetry combined with a 1963 map

 

New York State

 

Ohio State

 

You can purchase a selection of maps by Scott Reinhard at www.scottreinhardmaps.com

 

Scott Reinhard is a Brooklyn-based graphic designer. He works at the New York multi-disciplinary design studio 2 × 4 and was formerly a Senior Designer at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and VSA Partners. Scott has taught in the Graduate Communications Design program at the Pratt Institute and holds a Master of Graphic Design from North Carolina State University.
www.scottreinhard.com | www.scottreinhardmaps.com |@scottreinhard

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