Pop-up Park Bench Shelters: Helping The Homeless

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Trying to stop the homeless from taking shelter on the street by placing strategic spikes in the ground might be absurd, but the attitude isn’t unique. (After all, forcing the homeless out of cities before major global sporting events could even be called something of a tradition.) Last year, one advertising agency decided to point out something even more absurd: The fact that people have to sleep on benches in the first place.

In 2013, Canadian firm Spring Advertising approached the RainCity Housing and Support Society, a local shelter and advocacy organization in Vancouver, with an idea for modifying bus stops and park benches. Instead of trying to discourage the homeless from sleeping on them, they’d welcome them to stay.

As a result, the creatives ran a campaign with park benches that folded out like airplane tray tables into miniature shelters. By day, one version of the benches read, “This is a bench.” But at night, the dark revealed a different message: “This is a bedroom.”

Rob Schlyecher, Spring’s co-founder and creative director, explains that the campaign was intended to draw attention to the lack of housing and mental health resources for Vancouver’s homeless population. The city has a particular problem with homelessness because it’s the one of the few areas in Canada that doesn’t freeze in the winter, he notes.

But Schlyecher also has a very realistic sense of where the campaign falls in the spectrum of housing solutions. It’s a small action, he says, part of a program the agency has run since its inception, called “strange acts of kindness.” This year, Spring is forgoing awards ceremonies and donating the money that would have been spent on travel to local charities instead.

“The advertising industry doesn’t really give a lot back to the community, and we felt like we wanted to change that,” Schleyer says. “We’re not doing very much. We’re not Mother Theresa. We just feel that when we’re not using our skills to sell products we’d like to use them to help people.”

Thank you for reading.

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The BIQ: World’s first algae powered building

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Does it make sense to power buildings with algae? That’s the question that arises with the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) building, in Hamburg, Germany, which has now been operating for more than a year.

The panels are 0.78 inches thick and cover about 200 square meters in total. They’re filled with algae from the Elbe River and pumped full of carbon dioxide and nutrients. When sunlight hits the 129 “bioreactors,” photosynthesis causes the microorganisms to multiply and give off heat (the water goes to about 40 degrees C). The warmth is then captured for heating water or storing in saline tanks underground, while algae biomass is harvested and dried. It can either be converted to biogas, or used in secondary pharmaceutical and food products.

A prototype building, BIQ is being monitored by the Colt Group, which hopes to market the system, created by Splitterwerk Architects and Arup. Wurm says they’re pleased so far. “It’s producing more heat than we thought,” he says. “We optimized the performance after introducing a new set of pumps at the beginning of the year.” Surveys show the people in the 15 apartments are also content, as well they might be. They have no heating bills and plenty to show off to visitors.

Algae power has the additional advantage of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere, though the amounts involved are not huge. Wurm says each square meter of panel reduces emissions by eight tons a year, which includes two tons sucked up in the green gunk and six tons left unproduced by generating energy using dirtier methods. The building currently reduces overall energy needs by 50%, and Wurm says 100% is achievable. Combined with solar panels to power the pumps and heat exchangers, the building could be completely self-sufficient.

Wurm says we’re likely to see the first full-blown commercial applications on data centers, which of course are particularly energy hungry, and require a lot of cooling. That’s another advantage of algae: it provides natural shading as it absorbs sunlight.

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Disarm – Turning Weapons Into Instruments

Pedro Reyes uses sculpture, video, and performance to explore the boundaries between the individual and the group, between ordinary experiences and extraordinary moments of interaction. His socially engaged practice seeks alternative methods to restore a peaceful society through pedagogy and participation.

He wants people to think about the availability of guns in the United States, and the impact that has in Mexico. At the University of South Florida in Tampa, he recently held a series of workshops and a performance, using theater to encourage a discussion about guns. It’s called “Legislative Theater,” a style of performance pioneered in Latin America in the 1960s to influence social change.

In Tampa, Reyes called his project “The Amendment to the Amendment.” Specifically, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms. Reyes asks his actors and the audience to consider if there are possible changes that might improve the amendment

Reyes believes art should address social issues like gun violence, even when they’re difficult and controversial. “We have to be allowed to ask questions,” he says. “If you are not allowed to ask questions, you are not free.”

Reyes also addresses the issue of gun violence in another way, by using guns themselves. His first project began in 2007 in the Mexican city of Culiacan. As part of a campaign to curb shootings, the city collected 1,527 guns. He used them to create art.

“Those 1,527 guns were melted and made into the same number of shovels,” he says. “So for every gun now, there’s a shovel. And with every shovel, we planted a tree.”

Find out more at http://www.pedroreyes.net

The Street Store: Hang Up and Help Out

The Street Store: Hang Up and Help Out

The world’s first rent-free, premises-free, free “POP-UP clothing store” for the poor, found entirely on the street and curated by you. The Street Store is a unique concept which allows people from all over Cape Town to drop off clothes and shoes that they no longer need. Then, set up in an innovative ‘on-the-street-shop’, these clothes will then be available for the homeless and disadvantaged. A store made just out of posters. It’s where you “hang up” donated clothes and drop shoes into “boxes”, and then the homeless help themselves.

To get involved and implement The Street Store in your own community, find out more at http://www.thestreetstore.org

Phyto Kinetic: Urban Jungle Garden-Roofed Buses

Phyto Kinetic: Urbam Jungle Green-Roofed Buses

How would you like to be transported to work in a moving garden? If Marc Granen has anything to do with it, you may be able to. The landscape artist, who is based in Bescano, Spain has developed a green roof for buses called Phyto Kinetic. Since green spaces are so valuable for human environments, and since cities just don’t have a lot of open space, Granen came up with the idea of using areas that already exist to create that green space, even if they are on four wheels. In a city like New York that has thousands of buses, adding the Phyto Kinetic system to each one would create over a 100,000 square meters of air-purifying green space in the city. www.marcgranen.com