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The “Upcycle Parts Shop” in St. Clair Superior Neighbourhood in Cleveland

14 Jan

This amazing little shop actually is a great example of local creative recycling plus artist studio workshop. You could bring in your excess materials of all kinds for re-sale or adaptive reuse for other artworks. Or you can simply drop in and work on your own projects on the community design table with this very nice cool local artist called David. The friendly atmosphere here welcomes anyone who has something to offer.

I have learned so much about local recycling but have not seen any real example of it that has a bit of creativity involved until I have been to this shop/studio. Thank you David!!

Upcycle Parts Shop – 6419 St Clair Ave, Cleveland

O.M.G, I Found A Professional Skatepark Right In My neighbourhood!

27 Jul

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Well, the title said it all. I am still shocked that I never noticed this skateboard park right by where I live. The reason is that the park is enclosed by tall walls and it is right behind a big warehouse-type building. And they never advertise about the park. I discovered it when I saw skateboarder “flying” in the sky when I was on my way to visit the old walled villages.

I have always found the “concrete bowls” in skateboard parks simply fascinating. The curving concrete forms all kinds shapes and voids like someone is scooping the wet concrete with an ice-cream scoop. This monolithic and perfectly smooth surface with the long metal trims has presented a very star-war-like futurisitc landscape. Too bad I didn’t get a chance to walk inside the bowls! But I enjoyed watching the skateboarders making all kinds of circles and jumps along the walls of the bowl. Architecturally, It is amazing how the bowls totally respond to the needs of the skateboarders, and vice versa. Not many arenas actually derive their forms from the “actions” they serve.

I know I have been very critical of Hong Kong. But this time I have to say I am pleased. I don’t live in the “postcard Hong Kong” and still there is a skatepark that the guys there actually told me they consider it the best one in Hong Kong, and their friends would take the bus here to use it. Interestingly, these guys actually opened a skateboard shop in the nearby building a few months after the park opened. It is called H.K.S.B.C. and it’s pretty cool.

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inside the H.K.S.B.C. store

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fanling skatepark, on lok mun st. playground, fanling,north district, hong kong – jul. 27, 2013

A Very Creative and Green Urinal Room

17 May

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Today I came across the coolest private “pee-only” room I have ever seen. In this little room, this whole system is installed on the back wall. It was shocking to me that the “sink” sits right on top of the “metal urinal”. After you finish your business down in the urinal, when you wash your hands, the water from hand-washing would run directly down to the urinal underneath to “flush” it. Amazing! This is a good design that recycles greywater immediately. I learned something really smart today.

organic tofu desert place and factory at ho sheung heng, sheung shui, hong kong – may 17, 2013

Berkley’s Main Street, Block Party and Parade

15 Apr

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Last summer I went to this really cool main street parade in Berkley, a suburb of Detroit. They basically closed off the whole downtown portion of the main street for the Berkley Parade. Although it wasn’t my first time going to a main street festival, when I was watching how these old cars moving from one end to the other, I started to think about how amazing these main streets are for these gridded cities like Berkley.

Unlike cities with piazza or squares, most gridded cities in Michigan have no one single point of focus. Instead they have a long line of main street that joins things together. When compared with a public square, the disadvantage of a main street is that you cannot quite have a big event or festival easily because the main street accommodates both foot and car traffic. I kind of believe that that’s how Americans invented this thing called “block party”. A block party is basically a street getting closed off on its two opposite ends so no car traffic can go through. As a result you can occupy the whole street and use it as a linear piazza temporarily. This is actually very smart because the grid system of the American cities allows you to block off as long a street as you want, depending on your party’s size and need.

If a square or a circular piazza is prefect for a center-focused event like a circus or a music show, a main street would be more suited for a linear type of event that can incorporate the notions of time and movement like a music score. What’s better than a parade for that purpose? Using buildings on main street as a backdrop, parade proudly showcases the community’s achievement all the way from one end of the street to the other other end. Maybe that;s why parades have become so popular in Michigan at least.

I especially liked the Berkley Parade because I was with my best friend, but also I enjoyed seeing the few blocks of Berkley’s Main Street through the sun set. It was an amazing experience particularly at the end when people along the blocks gathered outside the Berkley Theatre for a little music time. The “line” becomes a “dot”.
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berkley parade along twelve mile road by robina ave., berkley, michigan – 7:10pm, aug 18, 2012

The Mysterious Twin Gymnasiums by Golden Gate Park

6 Feb

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looking west at the two gymnasiums on federick st. with kezar stadium on the right

When you walk down Frederick St. by the Kezar Stadium near the Golden Gate Park, you will see a row of Victorian houses and in between them there are two enormous masonry buildings topped with an arch. These two almost identical art deco-styled buildings that seem so un-related to the current streetscape are indeed the remains of the former San Francisco Polytechnic High School. The narrower one on the east was the Girls’ Gymnasium and the one of the west was the Boys’ Gymnasium. When the city tore down the school to build residential housing, the neighborhood managed to rescue the two gyms which have become the current homes for the Circus Center and the ArcoSports Center.

I really admire the effort put into saving the gyms by the people of San Francisco. Most of time whether these buildings would be saved has nothing to do with the physical context such as the buildings themselves or the design of the new projects. The buildings are only saved when the people who care about them do something about it. And of course, the concerned authority would only have respond to its voters’ want in a democratic society. If it were in mainland China or even in Hong Kong, protests would mean nothing to the government and every bit of the old buildings and infrastructure including streets and landscape would be demolished in no time.

Keeping these old monuments have contributed positively to the diversity of built environment of San Francisco. The grand scale of these monuments, the engravings on buildings and the lavish ornaments simply cannot be done in the modern day budget-oriented buildings. These artifacts of the past really make the city more charming, rich in history and memory. And they give you something to discover during each walk or ride. Isn’t that what we like about taking walks in San Francisco?

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looking eastat the two gymnasiums with buena vista park at the end of federick st.

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new housing development in between the two gymnasiums

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current look of the west gymnasium (home of the circus center)

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circus center trains student to perform circus arts

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the lavishly ornate entrance to the circus center

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the large practice hall inside the circus center

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classes and events at the circuit center

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wall painting at the circus center

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the relationship of the two gymnasiums to the kezar stadium, too bad the trees have over grownn to block the view of the west gymnasium

federick st. by kezar stadium, san francisco – 11:30am, feb 5, 2013

A Library as an Individual Building – Instead of being “Stir-fried” into a Complex

4 Feb

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Every time I walk by a library in San Francisco, I can’t help but stop and look at them for a long second. Perhaps I was admiring some of the classical facades, coffered huge ceiling and other design features. But the more I think about it, I realize I am actually fascinated by the fact the each library is an individual “library building” sitting on the street.

As a person growing up in Hong Kong, it is not common seeing a single “library building”. Most libraries are put inside a city hall complex or some of the so-called municipal buildings. These complexes also house offices for city workers, a wet market for fresh food, a dry goods market and a food court. The library is usually placed on the top floor of the building. I always have to take the elevator to get to it. As a result, I was not used to seeing a library building on the street and of course most Hong Kong people don’t have an idea of how a library building looks like.

Personally, I prefer having libraries as individual buildings. It is very strange that you need to go through a wet market and food court to get a “house of knowledge”. That is why I used associate libraries with the smell of dried seafood. The Confucius has this old saying that “halls for study should be placed as far away from the kitchens and slaughter houses where killing of animals take place”. I totally agree with that.

As a strong advocate for great and inspiring civic works, I believe that these nicely done libraries in San Francisco beautify and define each neighborhood. They create dignified and memorable places both inside and outside the libraries for every neighbor. It is a simpler world when you don’t stir-fry buildings together.

1833 page st., san francisco – 3:25pm, jan 10, 2013

Castro Theatre – Where the Big Show is Always Happening on the Outside

2 Feb

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Any person who has seen the Castro neighborhood knows about the Castro Theatre. It is probably not because they have been to a show or a movie inside. But they have seen what happened on the outside – the numerous civil right protests, gay parades, street fairs, celebrations and memorials. The façade of the Castro Theatre building has always been a backdrop for the important events and dramas happening in Castro. In a way, it is like the city hall of Castro. Things just seem to matter more if they are photographed happening in front of the theatre. And of course, the theatre was featured in the movie Milk many times. I wonder if the architect Timothy Pflueger had foreseen the significance of the theatre when he was drawing the magical art deco façade.

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celebration for obama’s winning in re-election – nov 6, 2012

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castro street fair – oct 7, 2012

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castro street on a regular day

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castro street on a regular night

429 castro street, san francisco