Posted April 7th 2011 at 5:15 pm by
in 3. Portraits of Place, Txt-Urbia

Txt-Urbia: Urban Theory in Five Cities

Here’s a snapshot of our Portrait of Place series on Txt-Urbia. Inspired by Marshall Berman’s book, All that Is Solid Melts Into Air, we explore five cities across the country, using urban theory to frame our journey.  Join us on Txt-Urbia for the full series.

Alameda, California

Archive postcard from Alameda Chamber of Commerce courtesy of

Michael Nicoloff ponders the multiple “portraits” of Alameda, California.

“…A quick scan of the snappy appellations given to [Alameda] reveals that there’d be enough portraits to go around one way or another.  Alameda, home of newlyweds and nearly-deads. Coney Island of the West (70 years ago), but now Staten Island with palm trees. Or the popular bumper sticker that states ‘Alameda: Where Hipsters Come to Breed.’ Um, where am I, exactly?”

Read more about Alameda.

Miami, Florida

Photo by BryanSereny on Flickr.

Hector Fernando Burga provides a teaser to his series in Miami, Florida.

“We are a mash-up of cities, people, urban classics and real life fragments shaped into a form for an audience that we don’t even know. But by bearing our contradictions and making them productive we will explore the problems of authorship, accountability and access that define an ever-increasing conversation about cities in the web. Who is included and excluded in this virtual city? Who does it belong to?”

Read more about Miami.

Capitol Hill Neighborhood, Seattle, Washington

Photo by Mark Harrison from

Karen Johnson unveils a light rail construction site moonlighting as a stage for urban theater in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

“Across the street from my favorite Seattle burger joint sits a massive, ketchup-tinted wall lining two city blocks. A couple stop their afternoon stroll to look into  the fortress through a Plexiglas pedestrian window; a bouquet of wilted carnations lie at the foot of an 8-by-8 bottle cap mosaic portrait—ode to a recently departed neighborhood personality; at stage right, college students brush past a series of playfully arranged wooden stars showcasing work from five local artists. Bursting with color and action, it’s easy to forget that this urban canvas was built with a functional purpose: to stand tall as the construction wall to a $1.9 billion light rail excavation site in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.”

Read more about Capitol Hill.

Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood, San Francisco, California

Photo courtesy of the blog Pondering Pig.

Andreas Levi contemplates literature and the meaning behind cities in the heart of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco.

“I am sitting upright at a small table with two chairs in the late afternoon in the early part of the 21st century.  One of the chairs is empty.  There is a sign next to the table that reads “Conversation Table:  Sit here if you enjoy meaningful talk with new friends.”  I am in a cafe, which is also a bed and breakfast, which is also an art gallery, which is also a “peace center” offering both “private and shared fun bathrooms.”  The name of the cafe is the Red Victorian, and it is located at the very heart of the Haight-Ashbury district.”

Read more about Haight-Ashbury.

South Side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Photo by Jamin Bogi.

Jamin Bogi recounts fixing up his house in Pittsburgh’s South Side:

S&S Candy & Cigar, at 2025 E. Carson St., on Pittsburgh’s South Side, has been selling its strange mix of nostalgic candy, such as Charleston Chews, and tobacco products, like imported cigars resting in walk-in humidors, for over forty years. You can pick up a pound of gummy bears there, and some Romeo y Julieta Churchills as well. My lips pucker at the thought of either. Two weeks ago, winter weather iced some water that had gotten in the walls and a giant slab of mortar and brick sheared off, sending a dumpster’s worth of rubble onto the road and exposing the building through to the interior.”

Read more about Pittsburgh.

Post by Hector Fernando Burga and Karen Johnson. TXT-Urbia is a collaborative blog project focused on reading, writing and changing cities. Their Portraits of Place series (Neighborhoods in Transition) is inspired by Marshall Berman’s All that Is Solid Melts Into Air. Join the dialogue.

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