The High Line: Free Urban Spa in Manhattan

December 12th, 2010

If you want an example of how an imaginative repurposing of a public space can change people’s perspectives of their own city, the best example in recent years is The High Line in New York. We “walked it” last month for the first time. It is perhaps the most provocative, creative, optimistic piece of modern… Read more »

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The High Line: Free Urban Spa in ManhattanThe High Line: Free Urban Spa in ManhattanThe High Line: Free Urban Spa in ManhattanThe High Line: Free Urban Spa in ManhattanThe High Line: Free Urban Spa in ManhattanThe High Line: Free Urban Spa in Manhattan

If you want an example of how an imaginative repurposing of a public space can change people’s perspectives of their own city, the best example in recent years is The High Line in New York. We “walked it” last month for the first time. It is perhaps the most provocative, creative, optimistic piece of modern design of this decade – as visually and culturally relevant, and as original, as Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao last decade.

In the 1930s The High Line elevated rail was constructed as part of the West Side Improvement project to serve the meatpacking and garment district of Manhattan without disrupting pedestrian traffic. By 1980 the rail was abandoned and in threat of being torn down as a result of the nationwide increase in interstate trucking. It was an irrelevant anachronism, and many felt the logical thing to do was tear it down – it served no rational urban purpose. Instead, community forces worked together to convert the structure into a mile and a half long public park and walkway. It now gives anyone and everyone a place to hang out, snooze, read a paper, people watch, jog, learn about the indigenous plants and view the city and its architecture from an elevated perspective.

Quiet. Reflective. Clever. Friendly. Inclusive. Pretty. These are not the adjectives we normally assign to most new urban developments. The fact that the private and public sectors even tried to pull this off is reason for giddy optimism; their success (and the final product) borders on the miraculous.

Architects Diller Scoffidio + Renfro and landscape architects James Corner Field Operations are responsible for the rehabilitation of The High Line. They blended historic and new materials and languages – leaving old chunky iron rails and hardware exposed and incorporating newly poured concrete creatively. Instead of denying the past, they incorporated and transformed it. The High Line has the feel of an outdoor museum – charming kids, foreign visitors, and locals alike. It combines indigenous flora and many designer details like the elegant modern outdoor benches. The neighborhood has been truly refreshed, and visitors are treated to forgotten vistas of the city.

We have examples of intelligently repurposed public spaces in San Francisco: Crissy Field, Fort Mason, and the Ferry Building, for example. But the High Line has a unique drama and character derived from its elevated structural nature and connection to the past. Like Chicago’s celebrated River Architecture Tour, it is equal parts education and entertainment, and perhaps destined to be as popular. (The River Tour is Chicago’s premiere tourist attraction).

Having given San Francisco and Chicago their due, it must be said that The High Line is another example of New York’s leadership in creatively reshaping public spaces to make the city more livable.
Check out more of our photos of The High Line on Flickr.

 

Knog Gekko Taillight

Knog TaillightBicycling around at dusk or at night without a highly visible blinking rear taillight is unsafe. When we turn our clocks back on November 7th we need to be extra cautious of bicycle safety. There are many bike taillights on the market, but very few that pass our test for being easy to install, easy to remove, elegant, and highly visible. Our Knog Gekko Taillight is a house favorite for its size and functionality. Made from flexible silicone, it wraps around almost any seat post or frame tube easily, and comes in several colors. Its three bright red LED lights keep you visible up to 1,800 feet. Ride on with safety.

 

M3’s: Back in Stock

Orange M3The first deliveries of our PUBLIC M3 sold out in many sizes and colors early this summer. It turned out to be our most popular model. Our next delivery comes in this week. We will be filling backorders – thanks for waiting – and taking new orders for immediate shipment. This easy shifting 3 speed is especially suited for those who wear skirts or those who prefer not to swing a leg way up and over a typical crossbar, i.e. it’s good for guys too.

 

PARK(ing) Day on Sept. 17

September 13th, 2010

One of our favorite days in the city is the annual Rebar, who are some of the most creative urban designers and planners we’ve come across. We’re teaming up with our friends from Nomad’s Kitchen to convert a few parking spots near our office as temporary picnic areas. We’ll have tables and chairs – and… Read more »

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One of our favorite days in the city is the annual PARK(ing) Day. This year’s PARK(ing) Day is on Friday, Sept. 17.

PARK(ing) Day started in 2005 by our friends at Rebar, who are some of the most creative urban designers and planners we’ve come across.

We’re teaming up with our friends from Bike Basket Pies and Nomad’s Kitchen to convert a few parking spots near our office as temporary picnic areas. We’ll have tables and chairs – and a bookshelf with reading materials to inspire visitors to read about our world of design and bicycles. We’ll have a few other surprises too.

We’re lucky to work in South Park where there’s already some green space and picnic benches – but on a beautiful day there’s more people looking for spots to sit on than there are seats in the park. So we hope to provide some additional seating areas where our neighbors and visitors can relax on.

Here’s a short history of PARK(ing) Day:

    “PARK(ing) Day is a annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. The project began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco. Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has evolved into a global movement, with organizations and individuals (operating independently of Rebar but following an established set of guidelines) creating new forms of temporary public space in urban contexts around the world.”

You can learn about other PARK(ing) Day spots around the world here. Or check out the growing map of San Francisco locations.

We hope to see you and your friends at 123 South Park. And maybe we’ll run into you on our PUBLIC bikes when we visit the other PARK(ing) Day locations around the city.

PARK(ing) Day: User-Generated Urbanism from Brandon Bloch on Vimeo.

Danish Modern on the Streets

July 22nd, 2010

When was the last time you saw a carpenter carrying a ladder on a bike while drinking coffee, or woman carrying two purses on handlebars, or a newspaper chain guard, or a pink bike-parking facility on the street? Danes are known for pragmatic design and keep efficiency at the core of their bicycle culture. Riding… Read more »

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Danish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the Streets

When was the last time you saw a carpenter carrying a ladder on a bike while drinking coffee, or woman carrying two purses on handlebars, or a newspaper chain guard, or a pink bike-parking facility on the street? Danes are known for pragmatic design and keep efficiency at the core of their bicycle culture. Riding bikes is good fun in Denmark, so no surprise that one third of Danes use a bike on a daily basis.

The Danes have a longstanding reputation for design based on principles of practicality and simplicity. The 20th century Danish Modern movement advanced these ideals. They pioneered sustainable woods (teak), enduring metal (stainless steel), and they turned recycled wood scraps into plywood, which led to some of the most iconic pieces of modern design. Legendary designer Nana Dietzel told me once that there was a reason for their pragmatism: Danish designers mostly came from backgrounds in cabinetry, not architecture. They are makers, not theorists.

While Danish Modern faded as a movement in the latter part of the 20th century, the Danes have resurfaced as international leaders in design of the contemporary “livable” cities movement—Copenhagen is the poster child. Danish city planner/designer Jan Gehl is as widely respected for his city design as Arne Jacobsen for chair design. We witnessed this Danish practicality and attention to detail in design examples seen on the streets:

  • Separated and protected lanes for bicycles and pedestrians
  • Ubiquitous bike carts to haul kids and instruments
  • Covered bike-parking areas to protect from weather
  • Train cars earmarked for bikes
  • Bikes with racks for carrying almost anything: children, ladders, plants, etc
  • Public bike racks done artfully and efficiently for storage
  • On street storage for large bike carts
  • Street signals that solve basic safety issues
  • Tile wedges to lessen curb bouncing

As pragmatic as they may seem with their common sense design approach, it is their resourcefulness, humor and style and that make them especially relevant. And filmmakers like Mikael Colville-Andersen and Copenhagen Cycle Chic are making biking more than a practical option.

 
Danish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the StreetsDanish Modern on the Streets