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Transforming Space Into Place

Is the shortest distance between two points all that life is about? The City Repair Project doesn’t think so. They’re helping people imagine and create lively public spaces–starting with your local intersection.
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If you live in an American city, you know the grid. Miles of straight-ahead road and rushing traffic, bordered, if you're lucky, by a thin strip of sidewalk. Encountering another human in the grid can be a rare thing; an actual conversation with a neighbor is nearly a thing of the past.

But Portland-based CityRepair has other ideas. "The city doesn't exit for the passage of automobiles," says founder Mark Lakeman. "It exists for people."

CityRepair advocates the reclaiming of public spaces—common areas like intersections, parkways, and sidewalks—where people can meet and talk with their neighbors.

In Portland, where City Repair does its work, the first response of city officials was a resounding, "No." But citizens, it turned out, liked the idea of owning their intersections and meeting their neighbors, and city government was largely won over. Now, the Village Building Convergence, one of CityRepair's projects, has planners, citizens, permaculture experts, gardeners, and builders coming together to rethink and reclaim their neighborhood public spaces.

This video was produced by City Repair.

Building the World We Want: Interview with Mark Lakeman of the City Repair Project

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