Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Reclaiming our cities' public spaces

"That's public space. Nobody can us it." That was one Portland city official's response when Mark Lakeman and his neighbors first began building unauthorized gathering places in their neighborhood in 1996. To Lakeman, an urban designer, this seemed like a a fundamental misunderstanding of public space. Together with his neighbors, he formed the City Repair Project, a volunteer-run nonprofit that set out to change the way Portlanders think about the places where people come together. Starting by redesigning their own intersection, the group went on to organize neighbors, build benches, and paint streets throughout the city. Now, neighborhoods around the country are trying out City Repair's methods, and the city of Portland even passed an ordinance allowing neighborhoods to build gathering places in street in tersections! [ more ]

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spring Break!

A week without meetings! What could be more heavenly? Like taking vacation, it introduces a mini-mental-health break into the schedule.  At Walker we’ve been looking at ways to improve the balance in our lives at the office, and one of the things that get us all down is meetings. Especially those days where you’re scheduled for meetings all day long, and find yourself at 5:30pm wondering when you are going to possibly be able to follow-up on all the emails and phone calls that accumulated while you were in meetings, never mind when you’ll be able to address all the great ideas that came up during those meetings. As the days and the meetings pile up it can get suffocating.

Enter Spring Break. The rule is that there will be no meetings scheduled for the whole week and only critically important meetings should occur. Two weeks before Spring Break we had to set up a meeting for training that would only be offered once a quarter and I thought it might be the beginning of the end of the sanctity of that week, but it ended up being the only thing scheduled. There were some impromptu discussions, but for the most part everyone honored the Break, and the result was wonderful. Things got done. People unwound. A calmer atmosphere prevailed.

And like vacation, everyone came back feeling a little more relaxed and on top of things. It was a simple gift to each other. Needless to say, Summer, Fall, and Winter Breaks have already been put into the calendar. Try it and watch your company breathe.