Cornerstones Blog

Invisible Cities

Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities published in 1972 got me thinking about how we imagine the places in which we live, how the imagined places differ from the actual places, and the ways in which the physical structure of a place reflects the minds and desires of the people living there—and vice versa. Cities, in Calvino’s dreamlike tale, are like living, breathing organisms. They are built as much of the emotions and thoughts inspired when walking through them as they are of bricks and mortar. Here’s a passage from a chapter entitled “Continuous Cities”:

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Growing Up Hard

GrowingUpHard_400x130.jpg”Out on the big dry we had to kill to live.”

So leads off Joe Wilkins’ new essay in Orion this month, “Out West,” subtitled ”Growing Up Hard.” And this is a story about growing up hard, about growing up and growing old in the barbed-wired, bare-knuckled, blood-stained West with a capital W. That's the one that we hold up to be authentic and special and worth protecting, but Wilkins’ words are a sharp reminder that for the people and the small towns struggling to hold onto their ranches and get by, the West is just where they live hard and die hard and sometimes have to kill hard.

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Opening Up Architecture

Victor’s Teton Valley Central School is now $50,000 richer, thanks to an innovative architecture and design competition called the Open Architecture Challenge, sponsored by the non-profit Architecture for Humanity. More than 1000 teams from 65 countries participated in the competition, which paired students and teachers with architecture firms to imagine and design the classroom of the future. Victor’s winning design would transform TVCS from an overcrowded school crammed into a couple of rental houses into a custom-designed, energy-efficient, unique space designed to fuel creativity and cutting-edge education. Read more about it at Alison Arieff’s blog and watch a video on the design process:

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Link Between Good Health and Good Planning

BendActiveDesign_300x570.jpgA compelling article published in The Bulletin out of Bend, Oregon links better health (less obesity) to good planning (less sprawl, less driving and greater density for more walking and biking). According to author Markian Hawryluk, “there’s a growing body of evidence, including both rigorous studies and anecdotal support, that the way cities have grown over the past 50 to 60 years is contributing to unhealthy lifestyles. It’s a pattern of growth known as urban sprawl, in which people live on large tracts of land, located far from workplaces, recreation and schools, requiring them to drive pretty much everywhere they need to go.”

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Lappe Sets the Record Straight on Alinsky

Francis Moore Lappe published a pointed piece in The Huffington Post defending the community organizing principles of Saul Alinsky, also considered “the godfather of community organizing.” She clarifies the core principle of Alinsky’s legacy: “building the power of regular citizens to gain a seat at the negotiating table.” Why the need to clarify? The subtitle of the article is “Don’t Let the Far Right Malign ‘Community Organizing’.”

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