Wednesday, July 22, 2009


There's a wonderful organization in Portland called "City Repair." Their goal is to turn space into place. That is to say, to turn the physical space where people live into a place to which people feel connected, feel invested, feel a sense of identity and belonging. City Repair does this by helping neighborhoods organize the transformation of intersections and street corners through murals, benches, bulletin boards, and more.

I think the concept is brilliant and essential now more than ever. My generation is especially transient and tends to have very little connection to the place in which the live. We are far more likely to find our community online or in clubs or causes that are rooted in ideology or hobby than in our local neighborhood. Because of this we often never meet our neighbors and pay very little interest to issues that effect the area in which we live. We are more likely to expend energy on the plight of a people halfway across the world whom we have never met than we are for the homeless man on our street or the family experiencing foreclosure on the other side of it.
Yet just as we become aware that we are connected to the entire world, we are also becoming more aware that to be sustainable, we are going to have to start living more locally. This means relying upon the people and the land physically surrounding us, which means getting to know and love the people and land surrounding us.

But even beyond the economic and environmental reasons to appreciate place, I think a person's soul benefits by having a physical place in which to belong. Personally, I always feel a sense of peace when I return to a city in which I have lived for many years. We know who we are by what we see reflected in the world around us. If we look out our window and see an unknown void, we feel that emptiness inside ourselves. If we look out and see place that we hate, we feel that loathing inside. But if we look out and a place of beauty that we love, perhaps we will also feel that inside. I think this is what City Repair is trying to do.

An intersection by my friends' house

A tea stand with free hot water, tea, and mugs (also a bucket to place dirty mugs)

A hut for the local free community newspaper (The Bee)

Place is a great topic for my transition to Seattle, which has a huge public arts (particularly sculpture) program designed very much to create a sense of identity within the city.


Elana said...

I love this post! It makes me miss Portland more than ever!

Dave said...

The intersection here has just been repainted. I bike through this place whenever I go to work, purposely. It's great for the soul!

Landon said...

It's Dan!

Damn, do I miss Portland and the people there.