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How to start urban composting in your building

Dirt is great stuff: You can grow things in it, which means that in the future when the only thing left is climate change, zombies, and Terminators designed to look like Kardashians, it will be a kind of wealth. So you should probably be hoarding it like a Ron Paul fanboy hoards gold. The cool thing is that, unlike gold, you can produce your own dirt -- even if you live in a city.

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Paris had the High Line before the High Line was cool

Oh, New York. You think that you've got a cool new idea, but always (always!) Europe beats you to it. NYC’s been getting all kinds of excited about its High Line park, an abandoned train platform converted into a wonderland of local plants, awesome places to sit and people-watch, and hibiscus ice pop vendors. But at TreeHugger, Alex Davies points out that NYC is just a couple decades late to the elevated park party. For almost 20 years, Parisians have been enjoying a stroll above city streets on the Viaduc des Arts. And just like the High Line, the elevated …

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Photographer turns unrelenting boringness of suburbia into art

Jason Griffiths is an assistant professor of design at Arizona State, and apparently living in the middle of all that desert sprawl got to him after a while. In the early aughts he jumped into a car, drove all over the country, and made a discovery so banal it’s practically a tautology: Suburbia is the same everywhere. Except, because he's a photographer and he's been steeped in design thinking and this is what artists do, Griffiths managed to turn his sojourn into a book called Manifest Destiny: A Guide to the Essential Indifference of American Suburban Housing. It's a collection …

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Karaoke and the power of ‘bottom-up self-organization’

Photo: sfreimarkCross-posted from This Big City. Government agencies and marketing bureaus across the globe strive to find ways to get people into parks and using public spaces. Some spend millions with extravagant firework spectaculars, while others import international music acts or host an almost continuous string of farmer's markets and craft fairs, many of which fail to deliver a certain je ne sais quoi. But in a not-so-pristine park in Berlin, an Irish guy named Joe draws crowds of more than 3,000 people ... with karaoke. Which got me thinking, can karaoke transform our public spaces? It seems an odd …

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Mexico City cuts crime by banning cars

Banning cars from Mexico City's Centro Historico and replacing streets with pedestrian pathways has increased nighttime foot traffic and decreased crime, say local business owners. Before the street got pedestrianized, neighborhood business owners used to strike "unspoken" agreements with the local thieves, says Rogelio Murrieta, who owns a printing business on Regina. "The thieves who were from this area they went to other areas, they didn’t rob people from here," he says. "We’d give them something, support, and they respected us. It was a purchase basically." Increased security in the area has also helped, and the historic district still has …

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The city speaks — and artist Candy Chang finds fresh ways to listen

Photo:Randal FordThe house was a nightmare. "It had been collecting dust and graffiti since Katrina and there was something very shabby and Brothers Grimm about it," says Candy Chang, an artist and graphic designer who lives just a few blocks from the place in New Orleans. But where others saw blight, Chang saw an opportunity, and armed with a few buckets of paint, she transformed the derelict house from a symbol of the community's decay into an emblem of its collective aspirations. With permission from the property owner and neighborhood groups, Chang turned the front wall of the house into …

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IKEA to design an entire neighborhood

Exciting news for those whose entire house is populated by IKEA furniture (we know you're out there): the Swedish furniture company is going to be building an entire neighborhood in London. We know. It'll be like living in the IKEA store! With a Swedish meatball shop on every corner and 24/7 access to lingonberry jam. (There will also be a floating cocktail bar. That’s not an obscure IKEA store joke. There will just be a floating cocktail bar.) IKEA is planning some smart features for the 26-acre, 1,200-home neighborhood. It'll be mixed-use and feature underground parking. The company also says …

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Infographic: World’s tallest buildings OF THE FUTURE

(click to embiggen) Buildings are getting to be so tall that the Council on Tall Buildings came up with a new name for their most extreme versions: Megatall. This is density taken to an extreme that may not be all that helpful. For one thing, people, goods, and water have to be moved all the way to the top of these things, and that requires a lot of energy. In addition, above a certain height, structural elements take up more and more of a building's interior space, reports Sun Joo Kim at SmartPlanet. Here's the full list of the world's …

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In praise of the humble pothole

Photo: Topsy Qur'etThis may be the "most wonderful time of the year" for holiday music fans, but it's a terrible time to drive: Constant freezing and thawing and the pounding of holiday traffic create craters in the asphalt large enough to swallow a Cooper Mini, leaving us to pick our way through a minefield of potholes.  But who says that's such a bad thing? Potholes are a perennial topic of griping in cities worldwide, given their tendency to damage unsuspecting vehicles, threaten bicyclists, and impede all modes of traffic. We debate their origin ("Did they really start in ancient Rome?"), allow them a …

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Cities: Not quite as awesome as we like to think

Photo: David Graham If you Google the term "a scholar and a gentleman," the first result to pop up is a picture of Witold Rybczynski -- or it would be if there were any justice in the world. Rybczynski is an architect, author, and professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania. He has written a dozen or so books on technology, architecture, real estate -- even a natural history of the screwdriver. He knows The City like it's nobody's business. So it was notable when, in a blog post a few weeks back, Rybczynski opened a can of Jedi-style …