Lighting design: a look at some of our favourite products

We share a collection of our favourite products from the world of lighting design.

Leith Furniture: One to Watch in August

Leith Furniture was established in 2012 by husband-and-wife team Jack and Danni Leith. The unique furniture produced involves techniques such as carving, gilding, and marquetry

This Fast Growing City Has Major Concerns about New Investor Tax Break

The Texas Capitol and downtown buildings fade into the fog in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

A new federal tax break encouraging investment in poor communities has some Austin officials and residents worried about potential development that could price out the very residents it’s claiming to help.

Mark Rogers, who builds affordable housing through Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation, says some residents “are sick and tired of all the investment … making things less affordable.”

Now, more investment could be pouring into the city.

Tucked into last year’s tax overhaul bill is a provision that offers capital gains tax breaks to investors in exchange for investing in poor neighborhoods across the United States. Under this program, governors designated a limited number of low-income census tracts in their states as “opportunity zones,” where investments eligible for tax incentives would take place. Although the idea for the program had been floating around for several years, the tax break’s inclusion in the tax reform bill was a surprise to many, igniting a scramble to understand what it is and how would it be regulated by various agencies including the Internal Revenue Service.

Projects that opportunity zone investment can finance are broad, according to the nonprofit Urban Institute. Through “opportunity funds,” vehicles created under the law to channel investment into opportunity zones, opportunity zone investors can finance commercial and industrial real estate, housing, infrastructure, and existing or start-up businesses, the Urban Institute says.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott submitted and designated 628 census tracts in 145 counties as opportunity zones, according to a city report. Twenty-one of those tracts are in Austin, including four the city submitted. Public and private entities could provide nominations to the governor.

The program has not yet provided guidelines requiring investors to consult and work with local officials and residents, the city says. That worries city leaders, who, despite concerns, nominated the four Austin census tracts to be considered as opportunity zones.

“[The program] could lead to supporting businesses that aren’t really assets in our community,” says Christine Maguire, the city’s redevelopment division manager. “Often, it’s not a lack of capital. It’s the lack of the right kinds of capital in fast-growing areas like Austin.”

In Austin, a city that has twice been deemed by Forbes as “America’s Fastest Growing City,” hundreds of residents have reportedly faced displacement threats because of redevelopment plans. As Next City previously reported, Austin recently became part of the initial cohort of the “All-In-Cities Anti-Displacement Network.

In a June 2018 letter to the Internal Revenue Service, the city urged the agency to craft regulations requiring investors to work with local stakeholders.

“As it stands, the City fears that these local stakeholders will not necessarily have an opportunity to work with Opportunity Fund investors, fail to meet local needs and priorities and could possibly exacerbate existing problems or impose hardship on the communities the legislation is intended to help,” the letter reads.

The letter also notes how the city’s recent growth has disproportionately impacted low-and-moderate-income people, “the very people Opportunity Zones are meant to help.”

Maguire says the city is hopeful that national advocates will be able to positively influence the way the new program is handled.

Rogers is less optimistic.

“Those folks that want to make money will feel like they’re doing a good thing by eliminating vacant land … and bringing in better-paying jobs, and the people who are there will get washed away in the tidal wave,” Rogers says.

To Rogers, the best solution is simply not to have opportunity zones in Austin.

Such development projects, “need to be done with the existing population,” he says. “I do not see these opportunity zones doing that.”


nike transforms 1885s church in chicago into basketball facility

created in partnership with the local community, the program aims to inspire chicago’s youth.

The post nike transforms 1885s church in chicago into basketball facility appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.


A Huge Win for Keeping Water Systems under Public Control

(Photo by Dokaspar)

Baltimore is poised to become the first major U.S. city to prohibit privatization of its water system and the first to do so by amending its city charter.

“Water privatization is simply unethical, immoral, and dangerous,” said Rianna Eckel, Maryland organizer with Food and Water Watch and convener of the Right to Water Coalition Eckel, at a press conference at City Hall on August 6, 2018. Behind her stood Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, City Council President Jack Young, and dozens of members of the Right to Water Coalition.

An hour later, Baltimore City Council overwhelmingly voted to approve the measure. Council President Young, who introduced the amendment, fast-tracked the bill through the legislature. Mayor Catherine Pugh signed it earlier this week. It will now go before voters on the November ballot, where it is expected to pass.

“This feels like a major victory,” says Dr. Al Hathaway, Reverend of Baltimore’s Union Baptist Church.

For many at the press conference, it wasn’t their first time at City Hall to protect of public ownership of Baltimore’s water system.

In 2014, some 50 environmental, labor, and faith-based organizers gathered outside Baltimore City Hall to demand that the city maintain public ownership and management of its water system. The coalition, calling themselves One Baltimore, formed when the city issued a public request for consultants to boost the efficiency of the city’s wastewater treatment plants and filtration systems. One submission was from the French company Veolia, which also manages the city’s free bus service known as the Charm City Circulator.

City officials maintained that they had no intention of selling Baltimore’s water system to the company, but advocates argued that such contracts could have been the first steps in a privatization scheme. The coalition gained support from elected officials. Public hearings were held to assuage advocates’ fears. The city maintained control of the system.

Members of the One Baltimore coalition stayed in close contact. In 2016, most became part of the Right to Water Coalition, a group formed to support water affordability measures in Baltimore. The coalition also worked to stop the city from placing properties on tax lien sales over unpaid water bills. They also began lobbying Council President Young to introduce income-based water billing to combat the rising price of city water bills, and to set up a water ombuds office to address billing concerns for the hundreds of Baltimoreans who receive incorrect water bills each year.

Coalition members and organizers started hearing heard stories of the dangers of corporate involvement in public water. News from Flint, Michigan captured headlines — Flint hired Veolia in 2015 to address the potability of the city’s drinking water and to produce a report that said the water was safe to consume. In Fall 2016, an attorney filed a lawsuit against Veolia and Texas firm LAN, alleging that Veolia knew the water there was poisoned.

Another health crisis was brewing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In October 2016, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority accused Veolia of “grossly mismanaging” the city’s water system from 2012-2015. A lawsuit there was settled out of court earlier this year.

Baltimore advocates also learned that in 2014, the city of Bayonne, N.J., entered into a 40-year agreement with another French company, Suez Environment, and a Wall Street firm, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), to manage the city’s water system. The corporations promised a four-year rate freeze, but instead, they upped rates by 28 percent in the first three years.

In late 2017, the organizers learned that lobbyists were pitching Baltimore’s elected officials on the same kind of deal — a 50-year agreement with Suez and KKR.

“I think I screamed in my office, an expletive that is not fit for print,” says Eckel.

Eckel explains that these kinds of leases make it very difficult for the city to pass affordability ordinances — and could usher in a host of new problems.

“It was really horrifying to think that all of the work our coalition had done could be out the door because of Suez,” says Eckel.

The fight to keep Baltimore’s water system public was back on.

“It was like we had to start it up all over again,” says Hathaway. “We knew we had to be taking a much more proactive approach, a major structural change … something that would mean we could stop these threats.”

Hathaway says what moved him to fight water privatization, first as a member of One Baltimore and then as a member of the Right to Water Coalition, was the effect it could have on labor. “The real energy came from the stories of members who worked for the Department of Public Works,” he says. “You heard their stories of working overtime, extra work they did, getting up at night to have to deal with line breaks.”

As president of City Union of Baltimore, a chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, Antoinette Ryan-Johnson says she has 534 members of her local union chapter that work for the agency in charge of Baltimore’s water system, the Department of Public Works.

“The fear is that if water was privatized … our members could lose their jobs,” says Ryan-Johnson.

Eckel points to research in support of those fears. A survey of 10 privatization contracts found that after private entities took over a system, water companies reduced their workforce by 34 percent on average. But she says not all residents are empathetic to the plight of these city workers.

“Some people in the community really feel like [the Department of Public Works] has really caused harm and has really wronged so many people in the city that, why should we protect them as a public utility? Why shouldn’t we let a corporation come in and have their shot,” Eckel says. “So many people have said to me, it can’t be worse than what it is now.”

Well, according to a Food and Water Watch study, private companies actually charge close to 60 percent more for water than their public counterparts. In June 2018, Middletown, Pennsylvania brought a lawsuit against its former solicitor and former financial consulting firm for advising the town to enter into a 50-year agreement with Suez Environment for raising water rates by 11.5 percent.

Baltimore is already experiencing an affordability crisis. Another study by Food and Water Watch shows that by 2019, half of all Baltimoreans won’t be able to afford their water bills, which have increased by 33 percent since 2015.

The Department of Public Works says the extra funds are necessary to finance court-mandated repairs to Baltimore’s to the aging sewage system. By some estimates, these repairs will cost two billion dollars.

Advocates in other cities are already hoping to follow in Baltimore’s footsteps.

Aly Shaw of the Pittsburgh Our Water Campaign says lead levels in her city are finally going down after Pittsburgh regained public, democratic control of the water system. That Baltimore’s charter amendment would outlaw not only selling but also leasing the public water system to a private company under a public-private partnership, Shaw says, is crucial.

“We’re asking our own city council follow Baltimore’s lead,” Shaw says. “We simply cannot afford to risk our public’s health again by entering into another public-private partnership.”

Eckel attributes the presumed success of the charter amendment to the support of a diverse coalition, including groups like the AFL-CIO that have opposed her group on environmental bills.

“Everyone is impacted by water,” she says.


studio FH uses eucalyptus poles and rubble stone to build the batwa settlement in uganda

built pro bono, the eighteen structures provide a new home for over 100 people of the marginalized batwa group, who lives in great poverty ever since its eviction from the forest.

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nuro & kroger deploy self-driving cars for grocery deliveries in arizona

starting on august 16th 2018, nuro and kroger officially begin piloting autonomous deliveries of groceries in scottsdale, arizona.

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students in india fight plastic by sending back waste wrappers to manufacturers

'please help us savour your products without guilt, by introducing eco-friendly packaging.’

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gad.line +studio’s chinese village activity center sits under a zig-zag roof in steel and timber

aiming to create an open and lively gathering place for the villagers of dongziguan, china, gad.line +studio has completed an activity center based on the design language and local materials of the country’s rural parts. the center is built in two floors, with a first level open to the outside, and a second level that […]

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ida & billy proposes a ring with vernacular roof to embrace korean memorial park

the main notion the proposal for yisabu dokto park is to link up several volumes within the site to unify them as a collective entity.

The post ida & billy proposes a ring with vernacular roof to embrace korean memorial park appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.


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Architect Mahmood Fallahian

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