Category Archives: Local Inspiration

Life Inside the Box: Container Cities

Invented more than five decades ago, the modern shipping container is the linchpin in our global distribution network of products. In the containers go toys from China, textiles from India, grain from America and cars from Germany. In go electronics, chocolate and cheese.

While a number of resourceful people have converted shipping containers to makeshift shelters at the margin of society for years, architects and green designers are also increasingly turning to the strong, cheap boxes as source building blocks. Shipping containers can be readily modified with a range of creature comforts, and can be connected and stacked to create modular, efficient spaces for a fraction of the cost, labor and resources of more conventional materials. Continue reading

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Urban Renewal Through Public Art?

Yesterday’s post on the extraordinary rice paddy art of the Japanese village of Inakadate got me thinking about the power and purpose of art, public art in particular. Japan’s well-documented generational flight from the country to the city has gutted many rural communities that will likely become ghost towns once their predominantly elderly inhabitants pass on, and forgotten completely once their buildings rot. Yet here is Inakadate, drawing 150,000+ visitors annually to a village of fewer than 9000 residents 400 miles from Tokyo to stare out a tower window at rice paddies. Such is the power of art.
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Interview: Traditional Home Builder Devin P. Rutkowski

The retention of vernacular architectural practices maintains a place’s connection to its past. It also informs the direction it charts into the future. I’m currently living in a small town in Florida—Sarasota—that has had its share of troubles during a growth process that has seen disparate vernacular styles such as Florida Cracker and the Sarasota School emerge, prosper, decline, and slowly reemerge. A new crop of craftsmen/builders are reviving traditional design, including Devin P. Rutkowski, founder and president of Bungalow Builders, LLC.
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Shapes of Everyday Life

Vernacular architecture is traditional architecture. It gives a visible face and functional core to local patterns, ethnic and regional character. In our efforts to read this character through the everyday buildings around us, we look for recurring meaningful patterns. Traditions in vernacular architecture may last for generations, but they do change over time as social, economic and technological conditions change. To follow these changeable patterns, researchers have sorted vernacular buildings into sets of types, based on form, which demonstrate their evolution across time and space.
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Site Analysis: Hawkins Court, Sarasota, Florida

Hawkins Court calls to mind Dutch woonerven, which allow autos to travel at foot speed through pedestrian space, as well as the (also Dutch) principle of “shared space,” in which all road users are given equal status and lines, signs, and signals are removed, is more applicable. Despite being only three blocks from Main Street, Hawkins Court manages to conjure something of the idyllic neighborhood vibe associated with the early days of suburbia and Small Town, USA.
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