people for urban progress, indianapolis, indiana

People for Urban Progress (PUP) is an Indianapolis-based 501c3 non-profit organization that promotes and advances public transit, environmental awareness, and urban design. They stand for project-based urban progress.

The initial inspiration for founding PUP? “In July 2008, we (Maryanne O’Malley and Michael Bricker) wondered what would become of the iconic RCA Dome roof material once the stadium was demolished. Upon discovering that the fabric was headed to an Indiana landfill, we began working with Sabre Demolition and Shiel Sexton Powers & Sons to negotiate an alternative solution. Our proposal, and subsequent partnerships with the Indianapolis Parks Department and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, secured the preservation of 13 acres of material, nearly 90% of the total amount.”

The photograph(s) was taken and composed by Kevin Klinger as a record of a review of his Ball State University graduate studio’s work as hosted by PUP on February 11, 2011. Reviewers included: Michael Bricker (PUP co-founder and co-executive director), Wes Janz, Dick Luton, Wil Marquez, Paul Puzzello, and Donna Sink.

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disposal alternatives organization, indianapolis, indiana

Disposal Alternatives Organization was founded in 2008 with a two-fold mission to provide ethical appliance recycling options while creating green jobs for people who need an opportunity or a second chance. The DAO website states: DAO, in Chinese philosophy, means “the correct or divine way” and includes the visible process of nature, by which all things change.

DAO accepts: major home appliances of any age or condition, TV & home stereo equipment (including big screens), small consumer appliances, metal & plastic scrap, mattresses & box springs (with fee), pallets, computers & accessories, office equipment & some furniture, medical laboratory equipment, orthopedic appliances & prosthetic devices, lawn equipment, water heaters & furnaces, and bicycles.

In my recent experience, I telephoned DAO to schedule a pick up of a refrigerator and mattress. Two days later, Andre and D came by in an unmarked straight truck with an undersized dolly. There was no charge for the refrigerator, a $20 charge for the mattress. Andre told me that the refrigerator’s metal and plastic parts would be recycled.

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[re]dress distress, indianapolis, indiana

“[Re]Dress Distress: A Systematic [Re]Purposing of Urban Decay,” a master’s thesis completed by Derek Mills at Ball State University in 2009. An overview of Derek’s thesis was included in the “small architecture BIG LANDSCAPES” show held at the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana during the winter of 2010.

As stated by Derek, throughout the Rust Belt, many thousands of long-vacant structures sit alone, boarded up. Indianapolis is a leading contributor, with approximately 10,000 abandoned houses. This proposal explored the potential of the “gone” architectural stock of West Indianapolis. Talking with a local resident led the author to a “turnkey moment … I came into the conversation with Antoine influenced by my preconceptions about urban decay … but left with a memorable personal connection that went far beyond any purely academic concern. As a result, I recast my design knowledge first as a ‘person’ and then as an ‘architect.’” Four hierarchical and interdependent approaches were proposed. “Transfer” anticipates 100% material reuse. “Soft Demolition” reuses raw wood framing for small pavilions. “Band-aid” rehabilitates parts of houses through the use of new enclosure systems, and “Architectural Transfer” introduces a “plug-n-stay” manufactured kit to revive abandoned houses.

The thesis report: [Re]Dress Distress: A Systematic [Re]Purposing of Urban Decay


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bus shelter

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wall component

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921 Tremont, Indianapolis, Indiana

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bread-baking oven, braddock, pennsylvania

A borough alive, then, in Pittsburgh’s shadow. Braddock circa 1875 was home to Carnegie’s first steel mill, the Edgar Thomson Works. It was home to the country’s first Carnegie Library, opened in 1889. In the 1920s, the population was 20,000+.

A place gone, now, notable for being among the first to go. According to John Fetterman, the borough’s mayor, Braddock 2008 “has lost 90% of everything it once was and remains in a rapidly deteriorating state of disrepair.” Allegheny County’s poorest community also has the highest asthma rate in the region, maybe the country. Less than 3,000 residents remained in 2000, a drop of 70%. Police officers starting pay: $8.12 an hour, no benefits. The mayor’s take-home: $110.22 per month.

A voice plainspeaking. John: Braddock is “gentrification proof . . . We’re making the most of the hand that we’ve been dealt. . . How do you create something sustainable within a community that is not? . . . If the architecture is in place, the community can come back.” When asked what success in Braddock looks like, Fetterman is not interested in “success or failure . . . [Braddock] is a work in progress with certain milestones . . . the only metric [is to reduce] the number of homicides to zero as a way to measure improvement in quality of life.”

A new vocabulary. Malignant beauty. Family Dollar moms. Get Whatever You Can Moms. Destruction Breeds Creation. Create Amidst Destruction.

A life, alive, again. Braddock, October 2008, Distress Too Tour. John gives us a walk.

12:50 PM (from my camera’s timer). An urban garden. Three acres nurtured by Grow Pittsburgh. As stated by Miriam Manion, the executive director of Grow Pittsburgh, “If you can green Braddock, you can green anywhere.”

12:55. A smaller urban garden.

1:06. Artist live/work spaces. Conversion of St. Michael’s Catholic School and the Ohringer Building. Artist spaces, a 2700-square-foot flexible space, and the city’s only gallery now downtown.

1:11. A bread-baking oven. Conceived by Ray as a wood-fired oven shared by the public. Recycled brick, cinder block, leftover stones . . . materials destined for the landfill, now producing herb-spiced breads and pizzas, hosting open-air book readings.

1:13. An orchard. Thirty-eight trees in a grove planted by the Regent Square Civic Association, Fall 2007. Intended to “reinforce the impression that this is a neighborhood where people live.”

1:16. A house. Formerly a 2-story car dealership, complete with concrete ramp for cars. Think Le Corbusier. Think Villa Savoye. The owner, Fetterman’s sister, is scraping plaster off a wall.

1:36. A mosaic. “The Pond” by local sculptor James Simon, 2008. Assisted by local teenagers (including Brittany, 14, Jason, 15, and Cameesha, 17) employed by the Braddock Youth Project.

1:41. A downtown life. John’s home. A warehouse conversion, $2,000 purchase price, with extra living space on the roof in two shipping containers, final conversion price = $30,000.

It takes less than one hour to appreciate this approach, the smallness, the nearness, the connectedness.

Wes, leaving: “John, we’re energized by what’s happening here. What do you need help with? What would you like us to work on?”

John, staying: “I’m not in a position to ask anyone to do anything. You tell me what you want to do, what you think needs to happen, and we can probably help you make that happen.”

Asking myself, what should be done in a place where a mosaic, a grove, an oven are the answers, the solutions? Can I think this small? Act this small? Wondering, how to get involved? Remembering the recent questions/insights to me about the “scalability” of onesmallproject and how I fight that urge, resist that opportunity to get bigger, to replicate in one place what “worked” in another place, not wanting to float among places and lives with a toolkit of solutions. No desire to be that “professional” and “successful.” Still . . . why not another oven?

For more: First Name Basis (Part 1) @ Design-Altruism-Project

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deconstructing flint, michigan

This report, written by Wes Janz in 2007, overviews the decline of the physical infrastructure–primarily houses–in Flint, Michigan and suggests three strategies for minimizing, even slightly, the amount of waste hauled to the landfill when a house is demolished. Commissioned by the Genesee Institute, funded by the Ruth Mott Foundation. See: Deconstructing Flint

Boarded Houses

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Burned Out, 628, 702, and 706 East 3rd Street

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Burned Out Houses

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Melted Vinyl Siding

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Mattress, 61 4th Street

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House Falldown

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House Falldown

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