- Who We Are
- Projects & Places
Photo: Pincurbia, the Pop-up Park
The Atlantic Magazine recently printed an article titled “Temporary is the New Permanent.” It explains that in our current economic climate, with cities low on cash and an abundance of empty lots and abandoned buildings, temporary projects are taking off. Why?
Because land owners and bureaucracies are often more willing to sign off on non-permanent creative projects that can be easily adapted or scrapped than long-term, infrastructure-heavy projects, which tend to be more expensive and less easily altered. It’s a matter of practicality. Another huge plus is that grassroots organizations, architects, designers and volunteers who want to impact their communities can take a much more active role in such projects.More
After spending ten days competing in the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition in Washington D.C. with the Middlebury College team, I’m convinced that the family unit remains the strongest force in our communities today.
Nineteen international collegiate teams participated in the competition, designing, building, and operating houses completely powered by the sun. These houses were displayed for ten days in a public exhibit at the West Potomac Park, educating people about solar energy, while exhibiting that highly efficient, livable homes are sensible and affordable in the domestic realm.More
There is no shortage of artists using the tools of their trade to create social change. But each time I run across a story about Lily Yeh, acclaimed visual artist and founder of Barefoot Artists, I am humbled and inspired by her work, using the power of art to revitalize impoverished communities.
As Lily describes in a recent interview with David Kupfer, “Making art in destitute situations is like making fire in the darkness of a winter’s night. It gives out warmth and light; it beckons and rekindles hope. It does not directly solve problems but it creates a fresh, nurturing environment in which new possibilities and methodology can emerge.”
“My work engages people, whose participation ensures its sustainability. This is why I call my art living social sculpture. It usually begins with making art with people; it then expands to include other activities such as storytelling, education, construction and economic initiatives. The living fabrics of communities become the canvas of my work, creativity its fuel, people’s talent and imagination its palette and tools. In the poor communities where I have worked, this process often leads to an improved environment, a better quality life, and a sense of joy and hope for the future.”More
Photo: Matt Kiedaisch
Many Vermonters haven’t had the time or space to fully process the destruction caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
They’re either still completely cut off from the world without services of any kind, they’re struggling to get access to critical supplies and services, or they’re in the throes of a massive cleanup effort—one likely to last for weeks, even months to come.
I’m one of the lucky ones, able to watch from the safety of a community not badly affected by the storm. My home is dry, my family safe—sadly, not the case for so many of my fellow Vermonters.
It’s not every day this small northeastern state lands a top story in The New York Times, and I wish it didn’t have to happen as a result of such severe devastation. (There are countless positive Vermont stories that merit national headlines and the attention of people across the country.) But, as is often the case, out of the seemingly impenetrable layer of bad news have sprouted some uplifting shoots of goodwill and true grit: the stories of regular citizens going out of their way—and in some cases, putting themselves in serious danger—to help each other.More
Photo: Michael Dorausch
I recently tuned in to our local KBCO (World Class Rock) radio station and heard Death Cab for Cutie’s new song “You Are a Tourist”. These lyrics grabbed my ear:
And if you feel just like a tourist
In the city you were born
Then it’s time to go
And define your destination
There’s so many different places to call home
Music has the power to touch people, wherever they are in their lives. Given the right moment with the right mix of experiences, lyrics can be powerful “shifts in the context of community.”
In Community – The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block writes about shifting the context of community and creating an alternative future through transformation. He claims that all “transformation is linguistic, meaning we can think of community as a conversation” (p 31).More
Image: A boundary of the Living Bend site, transformed into a “linear greenstreet” with urban agriculture, native landscapes and an “integrated greenshade” featuring water catchment, solar PV and UV protection.
Fifteen years ago, Flagstaff, AZ, a small city perched on the edge of the Colorado Plateau, launched a community visioning project: Flagstaff 2020. It was the largest public dialogue ever conducted in Flagstaff, and the hot topics at the time were rapid growth and urban sprawl.
The result was a sweeping 25-year vision for the city, leading the way to some notable accomplishments:
completion of an Open Space and Greenways plan; institution of new logging practices in surrounding national forests; and a new downtown public square.
I work with people more than natural resources in our land use planning work here at the Foundation, so I sometimes miss the “purer” discussions around preservation or enhancement of a balanced, sustainable natural environment. That’s why I always eagerly await the next issue of Orion Magazine.
While the field of conservation has moved significantly towards the inclusion of humans in the discussion of and decisions about natural resources, the ethereal yet powerful spiritual elements of nature still find a constant thread in the articles, poetry and photography found throughout Orion.
Orion’s July/August was a different delight for me, however, as it looked at issues closer to home. It examines the interplay of climate change and peak oil and the responsibility of communities to plan accordingly and in a principled way.
The editors exhort the reader by asking, “When we take to the streets of our communities...shouldn’t we feel a sense of home that encompasses the past, the present and especially the future—a sense that our places are being made and remade to reflect the best of who we are and who we aim to become?” I’ve recently read two competing visions of how to answer these questions.More
On airplanes I prefer window seats because of the view. Most of the time I have the clouds and distant landscape to myself, but when we start coming in for a landing, the other passengers join me in gazing down at the sights below. Everyone, it seems, has something to look for.
For me it’s the settlement patterns: open fields and agriculture here; houses there; industrial areas over there; stores and malls and football stadiums; and then finally the sprouting rectangles of downtown.
From that vantage point you feel so powerful, so influential. It’s as if you could reach down and move things around like pieces on a game board. You could tend the place like a garden, carefully planting new seeds of houses in neat rows, or transplanting sprouted stores to a new location next to the flowering apartments. What kind of garden would that make? What would it be like to live there?
Now you can actually find out.More