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Posts Tagged ‘planning’

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is one of my favorite cities on the planet. (disclaimer: my planet consists of the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Ireland, which are the only countries I’ve been to)  Still, I went to college in Pittsburgh and I like it a whole lot. Last month, the Carnegie Mellon Creative Writing Department flew me up to their fair city to be the Distinguished Alumni Reader in the Adamson Visiting Writers Series.  It was early February and very, very cold – as in about 5 degrees when I landed.  The cold, clear air made for some great window seat photography.

Obviously, I was drawn to shots of the downtown gathering around those three rivers, but then, as the plane flew out to land at the airport, I was struck by the patterns of subdivisions in the snow.  The contrasting landscapes made me think of two things. First, The Geography of Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler – a book I read as a text in a class I took at Carnegie Mellon. Second, my own essay (of course!) Rowing through the Ruins, which is about taking that class – Reading the Built Landscape – and rowing down the Allegheny River every morning. Think about the different experiences one might have in either of these cityscapes, what each one might do to the soul.

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I have to hand it to the Times Free Press – for a city the size of Chattanooga, it’s a darn good paper. I subscribe and they include enough articles relevant to this blog to keep me posting for a long time.  (I’m also reading an excessive amount about the Vols and some local gal who is apparently a finalist on that craptrain known as American Idol, but I guess they have to sell papers somehow.)

Anyway, this was the front page story yesterday. I’m impressed by the reporter’s attention to detail and her willingness to give residents of the Harriet Tubman housing development a voice.  The Tubman homes look almost exactly like the projects which were across the street from my junior high school and are described in “17th and Jo Johnston” – an essay in my book.  Those units were ultimately torn down and replaced with Hope VI Housing.  The new units are less dense and certainly appear more habitable, but they can’t serve as many people and, as the TFP reporter makes abundantly clear, tearing down anyone’s home brings up some complex issues.

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I am not any sort of photographer, but I do enjoy taking pictures.  I have found that carrying my little point-and-shoot helps me to be an observer. I frequently focus my shots on, well, not so much “architecture” as physical space, and when I’m walking around on any given day, I find myself thinking about how we move in space and what we build there.

This is all a long way of saying that I hope to have a weekly photo posting on this blog which will focus on what we build or how we use it (lots of latitude for interpretation there).  For the next several weeks, I’ll be posting shots from my book travels.  Today, I give you two (two! it’s your lucky hump day!) of the Adams Morgan Metro station.  I took these  late at night on Feb. 5 – the last day of AWP.  I’d been in the station twice every day during the conference and thought it was rather bleak, but the wine good humor of the WVU MFA 10th Anniversary gathering, caused me to see the Metro in a different way.

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