Monday, January 31, 2011

The Attack of the Collaborative/Co-Working Spaces Continues: General Assembly

Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Last week the NYTimes did a profile on General Assembly a techie start-up co-working space that has the feel of a university. A gathering space for New York's tech entrepreneurs. Check out the General Assembly site here.

My colleague and friend Engin Erdogan is an interaction designer in New York and paid a visit to General Assembly last week and described it like this:
"Co-working space meets startup training in real time. They describe it as, space is infrastructure, like hardware. Programming (educational opps for startups) is software. When you bring them together, you have a loosely guided place where there is bunch of synergy between people working with similar constraints, lots of opps for exchanging knowledge. They are selective about their startups (e.g. funded ). "

With so many of these shared real estate resources going online in the last year it is easy to imagine a not so distant future where entire central urban districts are filled with small hubs that support a myriad of different tribes. Large corporations no longer have a need for the adjacency and density of urban real estate. But small ventures thrive on this environment and the more they pool together to share resources and a common synergy, the more they thrive. The city will be owned by the small and nimble business in a matter of decades.

Thanks to Engin for sharing his experience at General Assembly.

More to come from other co-working/collaborative environments in SF and NYC in the days to come.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Parking Space Meets Civic Space

Iwan Baan Photography from

Maggie Steber from

The much anticipated Miami Beach parking garage designed by Herzog and de Meuron was featured this week on the, and it highlights the use of the space for a black-tie wedding ceremony and other short term spectacles like open air yoga classes, wine tastings
and dinner parties.

The parking deck has a few tricks up it's sleeve that make it perform well as both a garage and a public space. First, it has high ceilings, in some places 34 feet! Next, it has removable parking barriers. A unique open staircase and sculptures help make it inviting, and it even has a boutique clothing store tucked into the fourth level!

In the midst of creating more civic spaces from all sorts of infrastructure that are usually reserved for automobiles and trains (SF Pavement to Parks, Sunday Streets SF, The Highlineand the many parks it inspires) it's exciting to see this phenomenon tackle the motherlode of underutilized, unfriendly typologies, gigantic parking decks. As the owner points out in the article: “This is not a parking garage,” Mr. Wennett said. “It’s really a civic space.” It is amazing to think that something as mundane as parking could be made premium, $4/hour instead of the usual $1.

While most parking garages are not blessed with all of these assets or a $65 Million budget and world-class design, it is exciting to imagine the copycats that may emerge in the future and make the blight of so many city centers into an inhabitable space for people, not just cars.

Michael McElroy for the New York Times from

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Themed Restaurant Changing Every 30 Days!

Yet another example of adapting a space and keeping the public interested by constantly refreshing and inviting participation! The concept for What Happens When, a proposed restaurant in New York City's Cleveland Place, is a great example of how to build a certain amount of spontaneity and evolving energy into a dining experience that will keep the public coming back. The temporary restaurant installation will evolve its theme along with the cuisine, interior and even the custom composed music will evolve every 30 days!
After all, this is New York, where even big hit restaurants are lucky to stay open more than a year or two is lucky. Staying relevant is key. Even better, they are doing by working around many of the budget and leasing constraints that impede many restaurants. Best of all, they are allowing Kickstarter contributors to participate by suggesting one of themes that will define the experience over the 9 months it exists.

I think the potential of this evolving, participatory premise is summed up best by the prompts on their Kickstarter site:

What happens when you actually get to make the restaurant you've always wanted to make?

What happens when you do it without the big investors, long leases and fancy furniture?

What happens when you begin from the most fundamental thing that ties us all together: sharing food?

And what happens when you get to do it over and over again? While sharing the process with the very people who come to your table?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Brewery in the Pharmacy

Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

Whether or not you like chain stores or the rapid expansion of Duane Reade into neighborhoods like Brooklyn's Williamsburg, you have to admire the company's efforts to adjust their offering in small ways to accommodate the needs of each neighborhood. I love this mini bar they have set up to bring a new offering, a beer bar, to the Williamsburg neighborhood. The NYTimes article today by Stephanie Clifford shows how they have plugged a small local beer-focused tap room that lets locals fill Growlers with their favorite suds. It's an odd hybrid, but it makes the standardized offering of a chain store a bit more locally relevant.

Pointing to some other examples around NYC, the article points to some of Duane Reade's other efforts: "In some residential areas of Midtown East in Manhattan, for example, the stores sell cut flowers and, over the holidays, they sold fresh-baked pies. In the Bronx, Duane Reade carries more items from Goya, a brand of Hispanic foods, than it does in other areas, and has 40-foot-wide sections of African-American hair products in Harlem and the Bronx."

Large companies increasingly recognize the need to stay relevant in an economy where we are increasingly supportive of the local as opposed to the convenience of the standardized.

Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Accelerating Pace of Reaching the Audience

I obviously haven't written much as I have been feverishly getting set up with PERF Apparel!

But the whole experience of launching this has given me a new appreciation for the pace by which the online world allows me to reach a targeted audience. If I were to have opened a shop selling these shirts in 1989 it would have taken me weeks and tons of expensive marketing, but today after a few days of work and some hosting fees, I reached an audience of 9000 in 3 days! A link to my site was posted on and within days several other blogs were posting as well.

All that being said, the physical world version of retail does have it's edge as I have been answering a lot of emailed questions and strategizing how to refine the pitch to be as clear as possible when you can't more easily understand the shirts by experiencing them in person. If only there was a retail space that had the speed of online, and the tangible of In Real Life..

And watch it go:

the post from

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Laser Cut Shirts!

At the risk of veering off topic from the dialogue of this blog, I want to introduce my new project, laser cut t-shirts! Please visit my site PERF Apparel. I am selling them via Etsy which you can get to on the site.

I have been working on these for a few years on and off again, and I wanted see what interest there is, so I . I suppose the DIY and on-demand nature of laser cutting fabrication technology, as well as the collective, grassroots craft of Etsy lend themselves a bit to the nature of New Public Domain, but apologies for the self promotion. It's exciting to see what type of interest there will be in this new form of expression in apparel!