Poster Pocket Plants

30 Jan

Poster Pocket Plants


Poster Pocket Plants are an idea by two artists from Toronto. They cut into the thick layers of illegal advertising posters, peel it back, fold it over, staple it, and fill it with soil and plants. Easy enough and you end up with a cheap, DIY green wall. Its a protest against advertisers, its slightly illegal, and a little hippie all in one. An A+ Urban Hack. One of them waxes a little deeper on his blog.

I appreciate that they have posted the ‘plans‘ online for easy replication. Looks easy enough, just use a razorblade to slash a top and side open, fold, fill, and photo. I bet you could get super arty with it. In addition to plant choices, how you cut them can make a statement too.

They have an old gallery online with lots of their work at

Taking Back the Streets of NYC

14 Oct

When your city understands that its shape and feel should be focused on people instead of cars, there is less need for us to do our DIY Urban Design hacks in the middle of the night. This video is about such a place. All the city agencies in New York have been working together to reclaim the streets from the automobile.

The changes they’ve made in just three years are incredible. Some are small improvements like just painting the asphalt differently, while others such as the protected bike lanes are expensive infrastructure projects. All together though they have a serious impact on quality of life, transit speed, the environment, as well as public healthy and safety.

The Story of San Francisco’s Sunday Streets

1 Oct

Photo by Sirgious

San Francisco’s Sunday Streets are an awesome event where the City shuts down major roads to car traffic and invites thousands of people to come play in the street. From bikers to rollerskaters to strollers, rolling down the middle of the street is an experience because of how different it feels there with the cars gone. You begin to imagine what it would be like if your neighborhood was always like this, with old folks and young out playing, feeling good and safe, smiles on every face.

“Slowly it dawns on them that they can use the main drive and the roads. For once the world does not belong to the automobile. The bicycle is king again and the rider may go where fancy dictates without looking nervously over his shoulder. You are even allowed, for a few unrealistic minutes, to reflect on how pleasant life would be if the car were banned from San Francisco.” Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/28/73

All the local stores set up booths outside selling neighborhood delicacies. They say Sunday Streets is their best day of business. San Francisco’s Sunday Streets has an interesting history though, it came to be during a time of animosity towards biking in the city.  In 2006, the SF Bike Coalition was trying to get riders some car free roads to play on in Golden Gate park on the weekends. There was opposition from the new de Young museum that didn’t want any shortage of parking. Mayor Gavin Newsom sided with the drivers and insistently blocked the car-free streets idea in the park. It took a lot of organizing and support from the Board of Supervisors to finally get the first Healthy Saturday approved, and even then it was only a very small stretch of closed streets in the park. Also, our city wide bicycle plan was bogged down in an expensive lawsuit. Every obstacle stood in the way of bringing clean and healthy transportation options to San Francisco. Then something interesting happened.

The story of Sunday Streets begins a long time ago, far far away. The idea of closing down streets for the primary purpose of bicycling begins in 1976 in Bogotá, Colombia with their now world famous Ciclovias, a weekly event where the City closes 70 miles of streets to cars and encourages everyone to come outside and play.

The amazing StreetsBlog and StreetsFilm crew went to visit Bogotá. The video above was made, along with a full length version, and it became viral in the advocate community. Eventually it was shown at the US Conference of Mayors, and they freaked out. Every city in the country began racing to be the first to host a Ciclovia. Mayor Newsom flipped his whole script and gave official City support to the crew who were starting up the Ciclovia here in SF. Where before we were fighting for every inch of bike lane, we now had national support for car free streets.

In 2010, San Francisco held nine Sunday Streets and all them are a blast. Most major cities around the world are now hosting Ciclovias as well. All it took was a well made video and and good idea to change the world. Hack Your City officially salutes the StreetsBlog crew and the visionaries in Bogotá. San Francisco’s Sunday Streets are currently part of the DIY Urbanism exhibit on display at SPUR right now. If you are one of the four readers of Hack Your City, you need to go check it out.

DIY Urbanism in Detroit

14 Sep

“Cities have always went down. It’s people who bring them back.” – Larry D’Mongo

Palladium Boots sent Johnny Knoxville (?) to Detroit to see whats up with the DIY scene out there. We’ve all seen the photoessays by them “dutch assholes” focused on the massive empty buildings, so it’s really cool to finally see the human reaction to the abandonment. This video series does a great job of showing off the creativity people employ when provided all the infrastructure. Watch the whole three part series over at

DIY Crosswalks

18 Aug

DIY Crosswalks painted during the Argentina gameSome days your city is slipping on their responsibilities and you gotta grab crew and do it yourself. An ‘Urban Repair Squad” in São Paulo did just that by painting their own crosswalks on several dangerous intersections. Problem is São Paulo is home to 11 million people, it’s impossible to find a time when the streets are quiet enough to do some guerrilla urban design. So when would all of this mega city be preoccupied indoors? Futebol! Worldcup!

During the different Brazil games, these activists skipped the matches and instead made their city a better place.

Poppin Bottles

Crosswalks are one of the cheapest ways to improve safety in the city. All you need to do is slap some paint down and cars can tell that this painted piece of property is parceled for pedestrians. The more visible and distinct the crosswalk, the more noticeable it will be for drivers, and the safer your grandma will feel crossing the street.

Other folks have taken DIY crosswalks even further. Banksy was the first I remember, using the zebra stripes to get revenge on someone. Old Banksy

While other groups have used crosswalks to raise awareness of their importance in the public realm.

More crosswalk art can be found at Web Urbanist.  I found out about this all from Good.

DJ Kool Herc

19 Jun

Dj Kool HercHe was a young Jamaican American and he just wanted to throw a party. His uncle had given him the best sound system in the neighborhood, yet he had no venue to play at and he was broke. What Kool Herc chose to do could have been done anywhere, but because it happened in New York, he forever changed the world.

Kool Herc brought the party to the people and set up his sound in the streets.

“To accommodate larger crowds, Herc moved his parties further up Sedgwick Avenue into Cedar Park. He had seen construction workers hooking up power by tapping the light posts, and so he started doing the same. “I had a big Macintosh amp. That thing cost a lot of money and pumped a lot of juice. It was 300 watts per channel. As the juice started coming, man, the lights start dimming …  The results shocked the borough.” Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, pg 78,  by Jeff Chang.

“At dusk a van rolled up with Kool Herc and his crew. His boys dragged a couple of portable tables into the schoolyard through a hole in the fence, while Herc unscrewed a plate in the base of a light pole and hooked a heavy industrial extension cord into an outlet inside. Soon crates of records, large speaker cabinets, and Dj equipment were set up and Herc started getting busy. ” – Hip Hop America, pg 26, by George Nelson.

He hacked the city and fathered the global movement of hip-hop.

Kool Herc had that hacker mind state though, he was the first DJ to buy two of the same record and play the break over and over, turning a five second snippet into a five minutes of something brand new. He also custom built his sound to be louder than any of the other local djs in the Bronx. Yet the act of hacking into the city’s hidden innards and demanding that it serve him, a young black man from the Bronx ghetto in the 70’s, is why Kool DJ Herc is the godfather of Hack Your City.

DIY Bike Lanes

4 Jun

(This post was originally written last year)

Is your city taking away bike lanes? Are they too slow installing them where you, the riders, know they need to be?  Paint them yourselves.

“Do-it-yourself bike lanes are illegal, perhaps dangerous, potentially damaging to the cause of legitimate bike advocates everywhere and really, really effective.” – Dan Koeppel

Like the best architecture, DIY bike lanes are an in your face statement. They demand to be dealt with, to be used, to be talked about on boring blogs. Like the best of art, they incite. DIY bike lanes are political vandalism, protest signs in the trench war between cars and people.

“This morning I rode the bootlegged Bedford Ave bike lane while listening to pirated music and wearing knock off Converse shoes.” @jenniferdaniel (via @noneck

The beat behind the Bedford Bike Lane Battle is that Bloomberg bowed to bellyaching believers and blew off the belabored bikers from Brooklyn driving them ballistic till they brandished buckets and brought the bike lanes back.  Apparently Bloomberg okayed the removal of some bike lanes that lead directly to the Williamsberg bridge. He gave this asinine order to secure some support from a certain powerful local Hasidic Jewish community. Local politics are impossible to generalize, yet the funnest headline had been that the group wanted the bike lanes removed due to beautiful girls on bikes tempting the faithful. The Williamsberg hipsters immediately painted back the bike lanes. The battle continues, yet the painting of your own bike lanes is what interests us the most. Stay tuned for a ‘how to’ post.

Another example, here is San Francisco during the morning rush hour.


They get busy down in LA as well.

Urban Swings

3 Jun

(This post was originally written last year.)

Reading about Akay’s Urban Swings a decade ago was the first time I saw the connection between graffiti and urban design. He took concrete drills and went wild on the city just like any kid with a can of spray paint. His act of installing swings was just like regular graffiti in that it had vandalism, aggression, destruction, and creation all in one. Yet when he was done with his ‘violence’ he left something that benefited the people in the city, he left it better than when he found it. I never went to Sweden to check them out, yet I’m sure they made people stop and have a little fun. It was also probably a blast for him. I bet even the city workers who took it down were a little hesitant, kind of like taking a child’s toys away for some inane adult reason.

“Everytime something is done on the street there is a level of interaction involved. Maybe its not the interaction we hoped for or expected, but every project is an invitation to respond. Even if the response is someone taking down what has been offered up.” – Akay

That’s the same experience with architecture, especially urban design. Once the artist or architect is finished with their design and it gets built, they give up control. It’s up to the people who run across it to give it meaning. Sometimes it is not the meaning that the designer had in mind. Sometimes it grows to be completely inappropriate for the space and people that have to deal with it. Waiting for market forces or political will to change the design to a more fitting use could take forever. That’s the whole reasoning for DIY urban design. A few folks who notice the inappropriateness can go and make small edits to mitigate or fix the problem. Just like how a graffiti wall will slowly be covered up by better and better art, revisionist urban design can edit spaces and places, slowly making them more enjoyable, livable, and useful.

You can read more about Akay’s 65 swings in Stockholm and his other projects on Wooster.

Here are folks swinging in San Francisco.

Also in London.

(06/03/2010) And a brand new one from Paris.