Journalism about Cities

Since the end of 2018, I have been working as a freelance journalist, writing about urban design, planning, and development, mostly in the DC area. My articles cover a range of topics, from mobility planning to gender inclusivity to development explainers.

Drawing in Cities

For about two years, as a hobby, I have been teaching myself to sketch architecture and urban scenes. I’ve enjoyed it very much, and it has helped me develop an appreciation not only for buildings and spaces but for visual art in general. It’s also helped me keep a record of places I’m lucky enough to visit, including counties I toured on my way going to Jordan.

Here is a brief selection of some sketches I’ve made over the past year, some for more practical and other for more artistic purposes.

Who runs your street? Different governments overlap, so Arlington is simplifying.

Commuters may soon see safer bicycle lanes and pedestrian facilities in Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, though the details are up to you. So why weren’t they there before? Blame the unsteady balance that our many levels of government strike as they work together to maintain and plan every street in the region.

Arlington County recently acquired Fairfax Drive and 10th Street N., a thoroughfare through Clarendon and Ballston, from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). In the past, it had been difficult for Arlington to coordinate with VDOT. Now, the county can take initiative and Fairfax Drive may soon see the results.

Though it’s not obvious, the roads you use every day are owned by an overlapping patchwork of governments, regulatory bodies, and private interests. This isn’t a story of tyrannical state governments imposing their will upon localities, but of intergovernmental coordination that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

Read more on my article published with Greater Greater Washington.

Placemaking in Providence

As part of my work with Armory Development in Providence, I explored the post-industrial neighborhood along the banks of the Woonasquatucket River and developed a set of maps to help with placemaking in this unique urban environment.  Please take a look at the maps at This Link

Amman Volunteer Station Mapping

Riding public transit in Jordan can be very confusing.  Although buses run fixed routes, it is hard to learn what those routes are. Unlike in the US, the government does not publish official maps of the various bus routes, and almost no marking exists at street level.  The clearest indication of where a bus might be headed is usually a young man, leaning out of its door, hollering the name of the destination – but even then, intermediate stops are ignored.  Ma’an Nasel, a local nonprofit, has helped solved this problem by publishing خطوطنا / Our Lines, an unofficial map.  Volunteers rode buses, figuring out where they went, and the data was gathered and publicized.

Although Ma’an Nasel addressed this issue, to an extent, within Amman, the intercity Jordanian lines can still be quite mysterious to outsiders, particularly those who do not speak Arabic.  Seeing this opportunity to contribute, I collaborated with Ma’an Nasel and led a group of volunteers to gather information and produce maps of Amman’s major intercity stations.  I indexed the various lines radiating from the capital, gathering information on fares and hours of operation, and began synthesizing the information into user-friendly maps to assist Ammanis and visitors in making use of the country’s extensive intercity network.

To view a draft of the map of North Station  (the final versions will be produced in collaboration with an Amman-based graphic design firm), see this link.

In Wildness is the Preservation of the World

This quotation, which I found attributed to Henry David Thoreau in the writings of Aldo Leopold, is the name of the anthology I assembled.  This anthology is a collection of some of my favorite passages, and the passages that have most influenced me, from my readings on urbanism and geography in the past year.  It’s released Creative Commons, so please print copies as much as you’d like. I’d rather not say more, though, and let the collection speak for itself at this link.

Housing Code Violations in Providence

In the fall of 2016, I worked Professor Yesim Sungu-Eryilmaz at Brown University, along with data provided by the City of Providence and assistance from Professor Rachel Franklin, to analyze the spatial properties of recorded housing code violations in Providence, RI.

I hope that this will become an ongoing project, but at the end of last semester I assembled a finished product, or at least a draft of one: a poster and academic write-up for submission as part of my introductory GIS class with Prof. Franklin.  The poster is available here and the essay is available here.  Please contact me if you’re interested in any further details!

My First Map

At the beginning of my Geographic Information Systems (GIS) class, September 2016, I made my first map.  The assignment was to show which states, within the continental U.S., we had visited or lived in.  I put together this choropleth shading the Lower 48 according to my level of experience with each state.

In my submission for the class, I described the scale (from lightest to darkest blue) as follows:

1 - Never visited
2 - Brief airport layover
3 - Driven through OR A few hours in one town/city
4 - Overnight visit OR saw more than one town/city
5 - Week-long visit OR multiple visits totalling >1 week 
6 - Multiple visits totalling > 1 month
7 - Lived for a season
8 - Lived for several years
9 - Home

 

Since making this map, I’ve learned a lot about how I could have improved it.  I’ve learned how to add a title, neatline, compass, insets, and legend; I’ve learned how better to use color so levels can be more easily distinguished; I’ve learned how to acquire and incorporate spatial data that might be of interest to someone who isn’t me.  But this is still the first map I made with GIS, and so I’m uploading it to my website as a point of reference.

I hope that the map will become increasingly dark blue over the coming years.

Unfixed Maps for Unfixed Geographies

In the fall  of 2015, I enrolled in a class in Brown’s English department titled Poetic Cosmologies.  One of the strangest classes I’ve taken, it took up questions of materiality and temporality, particularly in literature.  My final paper discussed a phenomenon at play in several of the course’s readings and in communities around the globe: the unfixity of the land beneath us.  How can we understand geography, not as a constant, but as subject to change?  How does this inform our knowledge of settlements, of spaces, and of poetry?

My paper is available at the following link: unfixedmaps.

Overlaps in Transportation

In April of 2016 I submitted, as my final project in my Modern Standard Arabic course, an analysis of the public transportation networks of Amman, Jordan.  I focused on the recent history of the system and the complexities resulting from the interplay of public, private, and nonprofit organizations.   Unfortunately, I haven’t yet translated the essay into English – please email me if you’d like to read it in this language, and I’ll do that!

Find the essay at this link: overlaps-in-transportation.