Saturday, May 15, 2010

Building Deconstruction Lives in The Braddocks, Pennsylvania

I'm not the only New Yorker who is spiritually invested in Braddock. Last month I spent a few afternoons with the women of Transformazium, a group of Brooklyn transplants on a mission to create an artist's enclave in North Braddock, PA. I imagine they heard the call from Mayor Fetterman, who sees Braddock as a community for artists and sustainability advocates like myself. (Braddock and North Braddock are distinct municipalities in many ways, but share local resources and challenges.)

The team was in the midst of deconstructing a small structure attached to a church they'd purchased through Allegheny County's Vacant Property Recovery Program. The program also allowed them to acquire the vacant lot across the street from the church, which is being converted into a recreational area for the community of both Braddocks. These events are important because human and material resources are recirculated throughout the local economy.

1. Local resources are being preserved and fewer materials are being shipped to landfills

2. Local resources are being reused. Among other things, the reuse of building components reduces the demand for newly manufactured materials. The bricks and wood will be used in the construction of the recreational area. These medium and low embodied energy materials, which also include sand, concrete, cement and glass, rank high on the list of materials to salvage.

3. Local human resources were used. A Braddock-based demolition company assisted with the deconstruction project.

This is sustainable development in action at the most local level.

Church and vacant lot acquired by Transformazium

Interior of church being soft stripped before renovation

Wood stripped from interior and attached structure

Experienced construction worker from local demolition company

Worker loading bricks for transport to vacant lot

Bricks from church to be used for recreational area project

You can get more information about this project at Transformazium's website:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Harlem-to-Pittsburgh: Search, Seek and Employ

Upon graduation in August, I will be looking for a place to call home. Slippery Rock, PA has been good to me for the last 8 months, but I'm ready to spread my wings and hit the big city- PGH! Well, maybe not Pittsburgh proper, but some of the lesser known and shrinking communities surrounding Pittsburgh.

#1 on the list is the borough of Braddock. I've visited Braddock many times, and it reminds me of Harlem about 20 years ago. So much potential, yet so much destruction. The demolition companies can't knock the vacant and abandoned homes down fast enough. The population has shrunk from 20,000 in the mid-1970s to just over 2000 residents today. The building stock is largely vacant and uninhabitable, beyond repair and should be removed. A deconstruction project is due, rather than demolition. The resources- brick, stone, wood- are irreplaceable. But why would anyone care about the neighborhoods of it most vulnerable citizens? Why would anyone care about a hydraulic arm smashing into the side of the house next to yours? Well, I do. I see the beauty of Braddock, what once was, and what is yet to be. Yes, call me sentimental, but I feel for the structures being destroyed. I know they have generations of stories to tell. Every brick placed knows a song, an intimate moment, a whispered prayer....

But hopefully those who remain are there to stay and will share some of those moments with me. Please join me on the final leg of my journey to from Harlem, NY to Braddock, PA. I'll be posting some images and more stories and quite honestly, I'd love the company.

Check out some sites if you want more information on Braddock, PA Braddocc Braddock Films

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Youngstown, Oh, OH, Ohio!

Youngstown, OH:
We're in the midst of finals this week.  But it was so beautiful out, we took a drive to Youngstown, OH, one of the largest shrinking cities in the midwest United States.  The initiatives to save Youngstown are happening in part with the help of the community itself.  Hear! Here!

This very quaint structure is obviously abandoned and beyond renovation. We didn't get close enough to see what was inside, but judging from its exterior, there may not be a lot to salvage.  The wood is rotting and stones and front door appear to be in decent shape.  Funny thing is that the chimney bricks look new!

There is a green wall growing on this side of the home (not the large weed in the middle but smaller vines are weaving their way along the the bottom edges).  It may be worth it to make a trip back to see how much more will grow along this exterior wall, if the home is still standing.  Maybe one of us will get the nerve to get closer to that window and take a peek inside.  *note to selves-wear boots*

Saturday, May 1, 2010


From trashy to treasured is our motto. We are rurban explorers, more comfortable in urban environments, but at ease in rural outposts. We're in search of pre-demolition projects across the county in an effort to collect precious resources and divert them from the nation's landfills. Recycling's a great thing, but the idea of simply reusing something is more sensible, more fun and more delicious. We see treasure where others see trash. And for the record, we're not anti-demolition, just ant-destruction. We'll be posting thoughts, travels and the things that catch our imaginations throughout this journey.