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The Fascinating Relics of the Old Superior Viaduct in Downtown Cleveland

15 Jan

Walking along the Superior Avenue across the Cuyahoga River, I discovered this mysterious Roman-antiquity-style-looking arched bridges running through the urban fabric. The great span of the giant arches and the sheer size of the bridge are simply engineering wonder. And looking at how this bridge interacts with the roads and building elements surrounding it is a feast to the eyes.

It turns out that this bridge is actually the former viaduct that carries automobiles to the other side of the river. I am so glad that part of it survived after the old bridge was replaced by the Detroit-Superior Bridge that was much higher for boats to pass through.

Old Superior Viaduct – Superior Viaduct “Street”, Cleveland

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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

SF “City” Target – A Failed Attempt to Capitalize on the Idea of a “Downtown Store”

16 Dec

city target's lobby

The story of the City Target began with the failure of the Metreon. The ill-conceived development of the Metreon and its surrounding complex had never attained any commercial success or success in any way. After many attempts to vitalize the Metreon, they came up with this idea of having a Target Store so-called “City Target”. Well, the local newspaper San Francisco Chronicle praised the brilliant concept of having this “downtown-styled” mini Target and how it would be the savoir to finally revitalize the Metreon. Skeptical as I was, I decided to swing by and checked it out. Well, it turned out it was just another Target Store.

Yes, the fact that Target is in a downtown is already a “milestone” for, I don’t know for who, but probably only for Target stores for the sake of being in downtown. The store has an attractive lobby that it kind of shares with Starbucks located down the escalators. Other than that, it is really just a smaller version of a typical Target store. The idea of “a downtown store” has not been expressed in anywhere once you are in the store. I thought maybe they would have elaborated the grocery section to make it more “neighborhood-friendly”. Maybe they would sell some special funky items or goods that made them “cool” and “urban”. Or they would have done some “different” interior design to brand itself a “city” store. No they don’t have any of those. Well, at least I am not disappointed after my visit. In the end, it’s a Target store and yes, it’s good to have one in downtown.

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789 mission st, san Francisco – 7:15pm, dec 16, 2012

A Nicely Landscaped Target’s Parking Lot in Daly City

14 Nov

This big-box Target store has one of the best landscaped parking lot I have ever seen in a strip mall. I am not sure if any of the trees in the lot were originally there since they look kind of new and small. But it is nice that they made an effort to green the lot. Interestingly the many trees in front of the store actually helps the mall blend into the trees-scape in the background.

target store in daly city, california – 12:35pm, 28th oct, 2012

Has a Battle On Negative Diversity in San Francisco Just Started at Harvey Milk Plaza?

6 Nov

Just a couple days ago, the official in charge of the Harvey Milk plaza at the Castro MUNI Station removed all the benches along the wall so that the homeless can no longer sleep or congregate there. I am not sure what most people think of that but aesthetically the plaza looks much better with only the plain curving wall and it doesn’t smell as bad anymore. To be honest, it is weird that the homeless is actually gone at the moment because they can easily sleep on the ground too and there is nothing the official can do about it.

Is removing the homeless going to happen along all the MUNI lines? And is the next round against beggars and pigeons happening soon? I start to wonder what if this crusade against the homeless is just the beginning of a larger war on the undesired groups or so-called the negative diversity in San Francisco…

harvey milk plaza @ castro muni station – market st and castro st, san francisco

When American Cities Look like European Cities

24 Sep

I was particularly fascinated by this photo I took in San Francisco. Somehow it looks very European. Maybe it was because of the European-like golden cupolas on top of the church’s towers. Or it was because of the congregation of people on the closed-off street for the Folsom festival. The more I think about it, the deeper I believe that it is the disappearance of the roads (streets for cars) in front of the church that makes the photo look European.

Architecture in America and Europe share a lot of similarities. But European cities don’t have as many wide and well-defined concrete roads, or grids of straight roads dividing their old cities. I proved my observation by zooming in my other photos until the roads disappeared. Guess what, they did look kind of European. You can try that too.

around 10th street and folsom street, san francisco

“Basketball Lot” In Birmingham, An Affluent Old Suburb Of Detroit

18 Sep

When was the last time you saw something intriguing in a suburb? Just when I thought “that was it” for anything new to write about suburbia, I saw the first “basketball lot” in suburb in my life in Birmingham!

I was simply speechless when I first encountered this half basketball lot occupying an individual lot. I did take a few classes in grad school about suburbia – Streetcar Suburb, Suburbia Utopia etc. But there was just no historic reference of any kind about “basketball lot”, “recreational lot” or anything like that. Suburb is supposed to be all about houses. You buy a lot or two, build a house or even a basketball court or pool in the back. People don’t usually buy the adjacent lot, tear down a house and basement, fill in the hole and put up a basketball court.

Some people may wonder why the city would let people do that. I guess when the people who wrote the covenant didn’t expect people to be building their own “park” on a separate lot. Just imagine what Birmingham would look like if everyone starts buying up their adjacent lot and putting up dog park, sauna, ice-skating rink and vegetable garden as a separate piece on each lot. This would totally transform, if not “ghettoize”, the landscape of Birmingham. This one “basketball lot” has just started a new page in the history of suburbia. That’s why I told the owner “this is awesome!”

suffield st, birmingham, oakland county, michigan