Browsing All Posts filed under »Writing«

Writing: What A Bunch Of LEGOs Can Teach Us About Civic Participation + Innovation.

February 28, 2012

Our Work, Writing

Public Workshop’s Alex Gilliam originally wrote the following article for the Guggenheim Museum’s BMW Lab|Log. It has been republished at Next American City and One evening about a year ago, staff members at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, did something a bit unusual as they prepared to close the Lego building area for the […]

Can #teendesignheroes Be Creative Role Models For Adults + Subversive Agents Of Change?

July 4, 2011

Our Work, Writing

I woke up with Michael Jackson blaring in my head this morning, a rare occurrence on a weekend morning that I can only attribute to a memorable moment on the second to last day of our design-build workshop and learning lab with my #teendesignheroes. Feverishly design-building our telephone booth porch with only a few hours […]

A Few Thoughts On The Merits Of Using Play To Accomplish Great Things.

May 24, 2011

News, Writing

Recently, Bea Beste, an education entrepreneur who has started a number of schools K-12 schools in Berlin, asked me about the basic ideas behind Public Workshop. Bea was particularly interested in the role that play serves in our approach and work. Play is so embedded in Public Workshop‘s work that I rarely talk about it as […]

National Building Museum Fellowship Update #5: Prototype Done, Almost Ready To Build.

February 24, 2011

News, Writing

Hesitant learners? Uninitiated collaborators? Contentious issues to discuss? Nascent designers who are used to talking and planning rather than doing? What happens if you gather your group and quickly build the space in which you are going to meet, collaborate, learn and discuss, before you actually do those things? Instead of spending endless hours talking about […]

National Building Museum Fellowship Update #4: The Model Home City=Model Home Owner?

January 20, 2011

News, Writing

Can a building toy help homebuyers make better decisions about the style, location & financing of their house while teaching children how to be better community planners? Apparently H.O. Stone and Company, a prominent real estate developer in Chicago from the mid-19th to mid 20th century, thought so. Manufactured in 1928, their Model Home City […]

National Building Museum Fellowship Update #3: The Lone Ranger,Design Educator + Instigator?

January 7, 2011

News, Writing

One portion of the National Building Museum’s impressive building toy collection that I have been particularly interested in during my Field Fellowship at the Museum, are the instruction manuals. How do toy manufacturers describe design and what do they do to help others build great things? How can we learn from this to teach better […]

National Building Museum Fellowship Update #2: The Merits Of Missing Pieces.

December 9, 2010

Things We Like, Writing

Truscale Blocks with 1 distinct piece, 1948 Artificial stone Elland Company, England [1695] Let’s get one thing straight, despite the manufacturer’s claims that their Truscale Blocks are amusing, interesting, attractive and absolutely bubbling over with unlimited possibilities for building, they are not. For many reasons, Truscale Blocks are truly remarkable but aesthetically and functionally, they […]

What Snowstorms Can Teach Us About Learning, Civic Engagement & The Design Of Cities.

December 8, 2010


Learning From Snowstorms: Originally published on on 13 May 2010. ‘When it snows, children take over the city: they sleigh, throw snowballs, make snowmen and are more visible than ever. But what a city needs for its children has to be more durable than snow.’ It is hard not to adore this quote by […]

National Building Museum Fellowship Update #1: Construction Toys Make Better Boys?

December 8, 2010

News, Writing

The Constructioneer Metal Building Set No. 4 with 19 distinct pieces, 1947 Metal and rubber Urbana Manufacturing Company, Urbana, OH [1521] Construction Toys Make Better Boys. And girls, learning, buildings and cities? I think they do. Every year the National Building Museum (here) in Washington, DC offers one accomplished practitioner or researcher the opportunity to […]

Things We Like:Placing Trampolines In Sidewalks, Allowing Us To Play & Exercise Everywhere.

May 5, 2010

Things We Like, Writing

‘When it snows, children take over the city: they sleigh, throw snowballs, make snowmen and are more visible than ever. But what a city needs for its children has to be more durable than snow.’ -Aldo Van Eyck A few months ago I wrote about my visit last summer to the rather amazing Kolle 37 […]

Things We Like:Dancing,Choreographed Trash Trucks…Projects Celebrating How Cities Work.

March 3, 2010

News, Writing

Can a really smart dance company help us see the inner workings of our cities more clearly? In the midst of the tidal wave of chatter about redesigning and rebuilding cities, it is often quite easy to forget or simply miss the beauty, and the importance of the everyday. On the most basic level without […]

Project: Waller Creek Is For Lots Of People Making An Amazing Cake Of Waller Creek + Eating It.

February 22, 2010

News, Writing

And Brainstorming And Then Eating The Cake Too. Oh my goodness. Last weekend was one the most amazing design-build adventures I’ve ever been a part of. Mind you, it was cake and we didn’t get to do any sort of ‘built’ imagining of possibility on the cake itself but: 1.The number of people who participated […]

Writing: What If We Turn Austin Into A Continuous Playground And Outdoor Gym?

February 21, 2010


Install recumbent bicycle benches at CAP Metro Bus stops? Outdoor stair climbers on Congress Ave.? In-ground trampolines on Guadalupe? Criss-crossing balance beams on 2nd Street? Concrete ping pong tables at intersections throughout town? Climbing boulders on East 5th Street? Let’s face it, many of you would consider me quite out of my mind if I […]

Writing: Establishing Value And Relevance In Architecture.

February 18, 2010


From the Public Workshop project archive: In 1976, a major earthquake devastated much of Guatemala. Fred Cuny, an American disaster relief expert, tried something novel in the world of disaster relief: instead of building new houses for and giving them to displaced Guatemalans, he and his staff trained them to build their own. They trained the Guatemalans to build earthquake-resistant houses and then helped these new master builders train others in villages throughout the region. After this humanitarian crisis had passed, much to the horror of Fred Cuny and his team, these master builders were murdered or forced to leave Guatemala by the government. These master builders were seen as community leaders and a threat to the dictatorial power structure because not only were they helping build homes, but by sharing their knowledge they were helping build stronger communities. The carpenters were valuable to their communities. Save for people such as Sambo Mockbee, Maurice Cox, or Brian Bell can we say the same of architects?

Writing: 5 Steps for Rebuilding the Profession of Architecture.

February 7, 2010


From the Public Workshop vault, by Alex Gilliam, May 2008. 5 Steps for Rebuilding the Profession of Architecture In 1976, a major earthquake devastated much of Guatemala. Fred Cuny, an American disaster relief expert, tried something novel in the world of disaster relief: instead of building new houses for and giving them to displaced Guatemalans, […]

Things We Like: A Small But Interesting Exhibit Of Architectural Toys In Philadelphia.

January 14, 2010


Last week Public Workshop had the great pleasure of spending time in Philadelphia talking to a number of different organizations and people about future collaborations and possibilities. Having helped start the Charter High School For Architecture And Design and taught at places such as the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is a city that is very […]

Writing: What if we transformed our street-use culture by Making Austin Weirder?

October 6, 2009


What if you and your neighbors decided one day to turn your street into grassed- over park, replete with pony rides, an oompah band and vegetable gardens? When presented with such a possibility, most would laugh derisively or mention something along the lines of, ‘Have you lost your ever-loving mind?!’. In many respects, this is […]

Writing: What If Austin Used Mimes To Encourage Better Street User Behavior?

September 30, 2009


If you missed last week’s post, the first installment of this two part series, click (here) How about a brief quiz to start things off, shall we? 1. Which would cause drivers to be more careful and drive conservatively when passing through an area with a substantial deer population? a. A high-tech flashing sign with […]

Writing: What would happen if we removed Austin’s stop signs, stoplights and traffic signs?

September 22, 2009


Carnage, chaos and fender benders galore? How about slower traffic, less accidents, safer streets for children and wait for it, no more text messaging while driving? That’s right, in a never ending quest to make our streets safer and more predictable, we may have actually made them more dangerous and so mind numbingly easy to […]

Writing: Public Workshop’s Ten Suggestions for Creating A Stellar Comprehensive Plan For Austin, Texas.

August 10, 2009


How do we as a city take advantage of the tremendous opportunity that is the crafting of Austin’s new Comprehensive Plan to make an even better Austin than the one we have today? Below you will find Public Workshop’s Ten Suggestions for invigorating the Comprehensive Planning process, for taking full advantage of this unique occasion. […]