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Photo: EdiliziAcrobatica.
A construction worker has a great view from Santa Croce in Florence.

So many different kinds of jobs in the world! Today’s story is about construction workers with specialized talents that might just as easily have gotten them hired by the circus.

Rebecca Ann Hughes has the story at Apollo. “Beneath the celestial vistas of Parma Cathedral’s frescoed dome, two men swing like trapeze artists from ropes crisscrossing under the roof as though in a circus tent. They seem to be attempting to join the swirling vortex of angelic limbs in Correggio’s scene of the Virgin’s Assumption above them. But they are actually members of EdiliziAcrobatica, an Italian construction company specializing in rope access building interventions. On this occasion, the company has been drafted in to repair a bell in the cathedral.

“EdiliziAcrobatica’s team has rock-climbed up and abseiled down some of Italy’s most significant historic monuments. The company has worked on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Siena Cathedral, and the Roman Forum, to name a few. It has also intervened in banks, apartment blocks and various other public and private buildings. Suspended from ropes, the acrobatic technicians can perform a whole range of tasks, from the waterproofing of roofing to welding – all the necessary tools in bags and buckets attached to their harnesses. To watch the team at work is a breathtaking and nail-biting experience. From street level, they are minute figures poised on the roof of Parma’s dome to replace copper panels damaged by rain or casually dangling above the waters of the Arno to repair a leaking fountain on the Ponte Vecchio. …

“The building company didn’t choose to specialize in these acrobatic techniques just for the spectacle. Rope access, a construction work-at-height technique that started to become popular in the 1980s, comes with a multitude of advantages over traditional scaffolding, as Riccardo Iovino – who founded EdiliziAcrobatica in 1994 – explains via email.

“At the forefront is safety. Workers are attached by two ropes, one for safety, and ropes can also relay equipment. Although founder Iovino was, as a skipper, at home shimmying up and down rigging – and was thus inspired to adopt the technique professionally – EdiliziAcrobatica’s workers are not expected to have a mountaineering or caving background. The company assists the construction workers – who are overseen by specialist surveyors – with training and obtaining the required permit for rope access work. Thus, suspended from the side of a building, EdiliziAcrobatica’s technicians can carry out restoration work, paint walls, clean windows, replace gutters and repair unsafe elements of a building in total safety.

“That’s not to say that these strict safety procedures dampen the thrill of the work. Enzo Spitale, who began as an acrobatic builder and now acts as coordinator overseeing the team in Italy, returned from his interview 10 years ago thinking it was all completely mad. But he now says his employment at EdiliziAcrobatica was a life-changing opportunity. Dangling from a Renaissance dome or a medieval bridge, ‘you feel one step away from the sky,’ Spitale says. ‘It is unique and unimaginable for those with their feet on the ground.’

“This aspect of the job comes with its own risks. ‘It is always important, as I remind the new company recruits, never to lose concentration at work,’ says Spitale. ‘We are suspended from ropes several metres off the ground, we have to pay attention to what we are doing and not get distracted by the clouds!’ “

More at Apollo, here.

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Photo: Welling Court Mural Project
New York City recently sought proposals from qualified nonprofit organizations to install artwork on an ugly sidewalk shed or fence.

There’s a lot of construction and renovation going on in New York City these days, and many otherwise interesting buildings are obscured by scaffolding and green plywood fences. Fortunately, the city is always looking for ways to bring culture to unlikely places and to engage artists.

Michelle Cohen writes at the website 6sqft, “On September 12, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs announced a search for applicants for a new pilot program called City Canvas, Archpaper reports. The program was designed to beautify New York City’s visual landscape by installing large-scale–and temporary artwork on its endless construction fences and 270 miles of sidewalk sheds. The protective construction structures are an everyday eyesore for New Yorkers, but current building codes prohibit altering them. The City Canvas program circumvents that ban by allowing select artists and cultural institutions to add visual art to the visual affronts.

“There are two main objectives for the new initiative. First, to improve the experience of strolling through the city’s streets for residents and tourists alike by turning the ubiquitous fences into beautiful works of art, and second, to increase opportunities for artists and cultural institutions to get recognized for their work and to create art that represents the surrounding community. …

“During the pilot period, which will run for the next 24 months, the city is seeking proposals from at least one qualified nonprofit organization to install artwork on at least one ugly sidewalk shed/fence.” More.

The winning applications were announced November 28 at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) website: “DCLA, in partnership with the NYC Department of Buildings and the NYC Mayor’s Office, is excited to announce two cultural organizations selected for the City Canvas pilot. ArtBridge and Studio Museum in Harlem will each work with local communities to transform protective construction structures into spaces for temporary art installations. First installations are anticipated in Spring 2019.”

Well, it’s a drop in the bucket, but I can’t wait to see what emerges.

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Massachusetts Avenue in East Arlington is shrinking. After contentious debate, the town decided to widen the sidewalks, add barrier islands in the street, and new plantings and benches.

The job is not done, but in spite of construction and less room for vehicles, the traffic doesn’t seem to have increased — one of those counterintuitive results that designers tout. The goal is to make the street more pedestrian and bike friendly and allow more community activities on sidewalks. Through the tree committee, John has been involved with the beautification side of things.

One of the issues that gets raised when a major disruption like this is afoot is the effect on small businesses. Neighbors are making a point of shopping local, hoping that Arlington merchants won’t suffer.

And to make sure residents don’t forget how important that is, there is an amusing signage campaign — signs saying that “Businesses are [fill in the blank] during Construction.”

For example, “Businesses are Opalescent during Construction.” Other Mad-Libs-type adjectives used are Quirky, Colorific, Radiant, Prismatic, Harmonic, Niblicious, and Excellent.

Below, I include a couple of the signs. And I tried to show how the project is coming along — the wide sidewalk, the plantings, the bench. I look forward to seeing how the residents begin to make use of their new public spaces.

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Not sure how I learned about this story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but I knew right away it would be good for the blog. It seems that enterprising neighbors of some vacant urban land started a garden on it 35 years ago, always wondering what would happen if the owners ever turned up.

Reporter Paul Hampel writes, “Joe Spears was ready to give up the farm. He had no legal claim to the plot of land in Kinloch, after all. Spears was just one of several dozen people who, without any official clearance, had been planting and harvesting greens, okra, melons, beans, tomatoes and peppers for the past 35 years on about nine vacant acres abutting North Hanley Road.

“When an executive from one of the largest construction firms in the Midwest approached the amateur farmers in the fields last fall, it looked like a good thing was coming to an end.

“ ‘We were never trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes,’ Spears, 70, of Rock Hill, said … ‘It wasn’t our property. And it wouldn’t be right for us to make a scene when the rightful owners told us to move on.’

“The rightful owner, Clayco Inc., explained that the minifarms lay in the path of the planned expansion of NorthPark Business Park, the company’s massive development … Then came a proposal that caught the farmers, including Armstead Ford, by surprise.

“ ‘Clayco offered to give us another place to farm,’ Ford, 75, of Northwoods, said. ‘I was hopeful but skeptical.’ …

“Clayco president Bob Clark allayed those concerns when he announced that the company was relocating the farmers to 8 acres in Berkeley that they had asked him for, just across North Hanley Road from the old farm.

“And the farmers won’t have to capture rain in barrels or haul in water to the new site: Clark, 56, was throwing in an irrigation system, along with a building on the property that has running water, electricity and restrooms.”

Read the rest of the story here, and check out the other photos.

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When Suzanne was two, she and John used to watch a TV show with a theme song that went like this: “Stop the pigeon, stop the pigeon, stop the pigeon — now!”

One day we took the train to New York City, and in spite of the fact that Suzanne never saw pigeons where we lived, she took one look at the city’s official bird and started singing, “Stop the pigeon!”

So unlike many people, I have some good feelings associated with pigeons, and I am getting a big kick from the pigeons I photographed near city hall yesterday.

Someone with a sense of humor has decorated the barrier around the construction site for the  new Government Center T stop with pigeon portraiture.

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I was all set to blog about Providence PuttPutt, an artist-inspired, Kickstarter-supported pop-up entertainment for kids when I found out it was scheduled to last only for the summer and has just closed. Sigh.

So, sticking to a small-pleasures, quality-of-life theme, we turn once more to Denmark, where biking made a big jump in one year.

 at StreetsBlog Network writes, “For years the bike commuting rate has remained roughly steady at just over a third of trips. Then last year the city’s bike commute mode share increased from 36 percent to 41 percent. Meanwhile, driving declined 3 percent as a share of commuting trips.

“The unexpected increase had a lot of people baffled. But Mikael Colville-Andersen at Copenhagenize thinks he knows what happened …

What has happened is that 17 huge construction sites fell out of the sky all at once. Not something that happens every day. In addition, most of central Copenhagen — between 2012 and 2013 — was under further construction because of the upgrading of district heating pipes under many streets that had to be ripped up. …

Driving was rendered incredibly difficult. Copenhageners, being rational homo sapiens, chose other transport forms. Public transport has increased, too, but the bicycle is clearly the chariot of choice. It’s no surprise at all why cycling is booming.

“There you have it,” Schmitt adds. “If you want to improve cycling in your city, make it an awesome place to bike, sure, but don’t forget make it a terrible place to drive. ”

More here.

Photo: Mikael Colville-Andersen 
Biking in Copenhagen

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I’m not sure where I first read about Studio H, but I think you will be interested in this high school that engages students in hands-on construction from design to delivery.

The website explains: “Studio H is a public high school design/build curriculum that sparks community development through real-world, built projects. Originally launched in rural Bertie County, North Carolina, Studio H is now based at REALM Charter School in Berkeley, CA.

“By learning through a design sensibility, applied core subjects, and industry-relevant construction skills, students develop the creative capital, critical thinking, and citizenship necessary for their own success and for the future of their communities.

“Over the course of one semester, students earn high school credit and have the opportunity to design, prototype, and build a full-scale community project. Our students have designed and built some crazy chicken coops for families in need, and a 2,000-square-foot farmers market pavilion.”

More here.

Photographs: http://www.studio-h.org

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