positive signage

In the ASLA policy committee discussion this morning, we had a rousing discussion about how to update the billboards policy, especially with the proliferation of electronic signage and supergraphics.

Our consensus was that signs (of all sorts) should reinforce a sense of place. Banners, bus shelters, other street furniture, bus wraps, sidewalk stickers, and billboards all add to visual clutter of cities (and highways). There are notorious examples of billboards causing a public nuisance, such as the traffic jams in Chicago at the Dennis Rodman billboard.

There is a place in the built environment for graphics and signs, but the status quo in which outdoor advertisers do what they please, and regularly flaunt the law, should not be tolerated. I certainly see a stark distinction between commercial speech and what the first amendment protects. I’m glad that there are folks mobilized to fight billboards and even studies providing solid justification for the removal of all billboards.

Up in the Owens Valley, I’ve been struck by the saturation of bill boards on the Piute-Shoshone Reservation in contrast with the billboard free remainder of the Valley. While I applaud the entrepreneurial spirit of the tribe, I really question if their gains outweigh the blight? This is a clear example of the social and environmental justice aspect of outdoor advertising exploiting lower income and politically disenfranchised areas.

To finish with a good example of environmental graphics, below is the Greenpix Zero Energy Media Wall in Beijing.

Re-Mix urban form studio

Inspired by Geoff Manaugh’s fantastical description of his studio, I figured that it was worth sharing details about the MLA studio that I’m co-teaching with Kristine Miller (who has a new book on Gertrude Jekyll going to press as I write this post). Okay, this studio isn’t up in the clouds like Geoff’s, but we have a chance to do good. We’re partnered with Juxtaposition Arts, who’s founders – Roger & Deanne – just returned from a year at the GSD thanks to a Loeb Fellowship. That means they will be hosting an upcoming Brunner Loeb Forum, and our studio will be part of the process of getting that event off the ground.

Here it is:

Re-Mix Urban Form Studio


In this challenge based, service-learning urban design studio, students will investigate the role of the street (as defined not just the gap between buildings or between destinations but as a place in itself) and it’s role in shaping the urban experience. This course will take as its special focus the West Broadway neighborhood in North Minneapolis. We will collaborate with our community partner, Juxtaposition Arts to develop proposals for public and private spaces, streets, pedestrian systems, and public infrastructure. Our studio is timely: the West Broadway Alive! planning study has been adopted by the City of Minneapolis as the official plan to initiate the revitalization of North Minneapolis. In this context, the studio will critically explore what additional urban design opportunities are available in North Minneapolis.

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Klobuchar MN Energy Summit – PART II

12:30 continuing the live blogging. part I is here

Panel II: Made in MN

Prof Paul Vaaler – Carlson School- moderator. Gotta have a compelling narrative/be cool to get traction

Michael Roman – 3m: better living through chemistry and material science – wind films, reflective materials, LEDs, ethanol osmosis membranes, glass bubbles to save weight on cars, high capacity transmission lines.

Steve Tourek – Marvin Windows: stories that connect people with new windows (family owned, 100-years, HQ in warwick MN employs 75% of folks in that town) half of all employees in MN. Jobs are mostly in small businesses.

Most architects and customers don’t want to pay extra $$ to get better performance and so spec clear glass single-pane windows. Opportunity to retrofit older buildings with new products. We don’t need to wait for new technology – the existing

Durability is an ignored factor in the sustainability discussion. new window tech include high performance frames/sashes, switchable glazing and new films. As a private company, they managed to not lay off any staff, by accepting lower profits and salaries and energy efficiency programs.

One criteria doesn’t fit all climates for tax credits and a big flaw with current tax rebates versus energy star.

Steve Van Tassel – packet power. Interpreting energy bills for consumers. wireless smart power cords to track usage. now deploying to data centers – a huge energy user 1 1/2% of energy in US and waste 1/2 of energy because of poor management.

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Klobuchar MN Energy Summit (part-I)

Blogging live from the UMN Regional Competativeness & Energy Efficiency Summit – updated through out the day. (for a top b-school, you’d expect the auditorium to have outlets – might run out of battery power – nice irony with the topic).


Senator Klobuchar has some great anecdotes about renewable energy enterprises around MN, including jumping on solar panels, and a bed and breakfast in sw mn that features a wind farm tour package. So where are there jobs?

Expanding assistance for rural areas – costs rural folks $300-$400 more a year for their energy and their income is less the us urban folks.

Renewable energy is the new space race with the same potential for spin-off technologies and economic benefits as the race to the moon.

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a pending green civil war is a fallacy

The NYTimes looks at the supposed battle between conservationists and developing renewable energy. This is a none starter, IF, the renewable energy projects get sited on disturbed lands like old mines and fallow agricultural lands. The LandArt Generator Project showed that you could generate more energy on the same footprint of all the existing coal mines with solar power. The other study is from AWEA that looks at the area required for wind to power the US. Both these studies show how little land is required.

In the mojave and other deserts of the southwest, there are lots of fallow agricultural land and former mines that already have the supporting infrastructure and would not generate additional disturbances. But American companies love to build on green field sites as part of the pioneering spirit – it’s harder to clean up somebody’s mess, then to create your own.

Area required to power the world with solar

Area required to power the world with solar

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