Cornerstones Blog

Detatching From the Single-Family Home

drawing_loganpost_300x190.jpgI taught a class on the American Dream while student teaching last year. I gave students markers and giant pieces of paper and asked them to draw whatever popped into their minds when they thought of the “American Dream”.

Nearly every student’s paper included a simple drawing of a house—a square with a triangle roof attached, four little windows and a front door. This should not have surprised me; my drawing also had a house. But this caused me to wonder: is single-family home ownership the ultimate expression of the American Dream?


Down With Plannerisms

Mega-Mouth-Hand-Puppet_cc_300x200.jpgSeveral weeks ago while checking out the latest discussions at Wayne Senville’s Planning Commissioners Journal, my eye was drawn to the headline: “Plannerisms we can do without!”

Why is it, I’ve wondered, that planners and a myriad of other professionals rely on their own ingrown jargon to communicate with the rest of the world?

And, professional jargon aside, have you ever noticed that the more formal or professional the situation, the less direct the language? It’s almost that simple.


A Town Heralds Art as Its Catalyst for Change

turner_elder_ganley_300x230.jpgIn a room filled with artwork, news clippings and photos, interested citizens spent the evening of November 15th celebrating Starksboro’s Art & Soul Civic Engagement project, which used art and storytelling to identify and enhance the community’s shared values.

The event, hosted in Bristol, Vermont’s Town Hall, aimed to share the stories and successes of the project, thank the key movers-and-shakers, acknowledge valuable partnerships, and inspire other communities to start their own creative community explorations.


The Good of Getting on the Ground

Photo: Workshop participants take advantage of Belfast’s public art chairs while doing fieldwork.
Heart & Soul Community Planning
is rooted in the idea that people share common values when it comes to what makes their cities and towns unique. Although the language people use may be similar across communities, the specifics of what people mean by that language can be quite different from place to place.

So how do you get beyond nebulous conversations about “sense of community” to a shared understanding of the specifics of your town? You get on the ground and figure it out.


The Power of the Temporary

pincurbia_poweroftemp_brownpost_350x205.jpgPhoto: 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.


“If You Don’t Have It, You Don’t Need It”

WaldenPond_cc_400x267.jpgPhoto: Walden Pond, Creative Commons

I saw a girl today wearing a t-shirt bearing the slogan, “If you don’t have it, you don’t need it.”

My first thoght was, Probably true. My second thought was, Only in this country would a shirt like that read like a poignant insight. My third thought: If that’s the case, so much for capitalism and the market economy. And then with a smidgen of sarcasm, What are we all so worried about?!


Not Letting “The Moment” Get Away

hand-reaching-soap-bubble_300x182.jpgWhile I would love to see the economy bounce back to what it was, I believe any further thinking along these lines is tantamount to the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.

I don’t mean to suggest we should just give up; what I do mean is that if we expect things to return to the “old normal,” we’ll miss key opportunities to proactively prepare for the “new normal.”

With our life, culture and society transforming in fundamental ways, it behooves us to embrace this paradigm shift and challenge our old assumptions.


Midd’s “Self Reliance” on the National Stage

Much More than an Eco-Bachelor Pad

selfreliance_exterior_360x240.jpgAfter 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.