from village to city, we are what we throw away

We clothe our discarded items in different forms and colors, but our built environments always have small places and features devoted to what we throw away.

This observation is nothing profoundly new, or empirically established. But this fundamental element of daily life creates a legible catalog of best practices followed by residents, municipalities and private contractors.


Two photos here tell the story. I have many others from around the world, but these two—above, from Findhorn, Scotland, and below, from a Seattle alley—show variations of access, style and color.

Note, particularly, the Scottish example, punctuating the otherwise mundane with color that suggests, “this is not such a bad thing, after all”.  Note, also, how despite the vegetation of the Pacific Northwest, the Seattle receptacles still somehow control the scene.


My personal take-away is that, in the instances shown here, mandating more fencing or enclosures for garbage and recycling containers would detract from the spontaneous delight of placement and expression.

Others may disagree on aesthetic or environmental grounds.  However, any such naysayers risk denying the wonders of the photogenic in favor of an unduly imposed regularity, better saved for another day.

Images composed by the author in Findhorn, Scotland, and Seattle. © 2009-2015 myurbanist. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy.

For more information on the role of personal experience in understanding the changing city, see Urbanism Without Effort, an e-book from Island Press.

a postcard of a modern urbanist’s nightmare


In 2010—with “six postcards not to send to an urbanist“—I began a series of entries with often ironic messages about urbanist trends.

Three years later, in the era of activated alleys and reclaimed, underused urban space, it’s time to try again.

The above photograph would have had little significance to city dwellers of old. Plain and simple, the alley was closed. Today, however, in the era of active alley spaces, social events and renewed, scaled retail venues, a dedicated urbanist might ask, with emotion, “but why”?

Such are the ironies of new connotations in a changing world.

observing everyday expressions of climate nearby


I find that often, an excess of verbiage in a blog post detracts from an urban image. In cases where a natural setting blends with the built environment, the best summation is within the reader’s review and contemplation.

So, I will offer just one observation: Even without a devastating storm, our structures are easily overshadowed by daily expressions of climate nearby.

Image composed by the author. Click on image for more detail. © 2009-2013 myurbanistAll Rights Reserved. Do not copy.

looking through windows of who and where in the city

Nothing has become more symbolic of city resurgence than hybrid “third place” venues, where in neighborhood settings, social and work lives merge by both night and day.

For me, this assertion is most interesting with illustrated detail. Photographs, I learned, tend to emphasize not only social activity and technological tools, but also the relationships of each to the city– visible through windows nearby.

Consider the three Seattle portrayals below. All show the merger of a public/private venue, technology and neighborhood from vantage points located both without and within.


Images of Seattle, Washington composed by the author. Click on each image for more detail. © 2009-2013 myurbanist. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy.

decoding messages of protest, urbanist style


Convenient angles of view in the city present legible messages, with existing materials, without the need for more.

In this case, an eager urbanist can stand in one place, and read the very words he desires.

No graffiti required.

Image composed by the author. Click on the image for more detail.