Tuesday, September 30, 2008


So...I decided to enter a competition this summer.

The official name of the competition is "Red Hook Bicycle Master Plan". The brief was split into two major parts. First, it asked for the design of a network of bike paths and amenities in Red Hook (Brooklyn, New York) in order to make the neighborhood "bicycle friendly" (buzz word du jour...yumyum). Second, it asked for the design of a storage facility for a minimum of 100 bikes at the Smith and 9th Street train station, just outside of Red Hook. Oh, Red Hook....

My Red Hook Rant:

One of the major problems with Red Hook is its forced separation from the rest of New York because one, it has no train station to call its own, and two, the BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expressway) literally cuts it off in one clean straight line from the rest of the city. This means the access points into Red Hook for pedestrians and cyclists are limited, and the web of one way streets doesn't exactly help.

Recently, Red Hook has undergone some major changes, including the arrival of a big blue and yellow box otherwise known as Ikea. Red Hook residents were afraid of the traffic and mayhem Ikea might bring to their usually more slow paced (comparatively, guys!) neighborhood. So far, the consensus has been that it's not too bad and there is a glimer of hope that outsiders might begin to warm up to Red Hook as a desirable place to visit or even live in. The problem is that this has happened before. Red Hook has been rumored to be undergoing gentrification for about 10 years now and well, frankly, it's not happening. If anything, it's doing the opposite. Several of its hot spot restaurants closed down in the past few years and new local businesses just aren't coming to town.

Red Hook is sort of stranded at this strange crossroads with the choice between falling back into a deserted urban nightmare and moving forward as an up and coming urban destination. But this isn't an easy choice. Red Hook residents are a prideful bunch and most of them rather keep on keepin on. But, inevitably, things change. It's just a matter of when, how fast, and in what direction. There is no reason for Red Hook to go on limping along when it has amazing potential as a thriving recreational destination. Now, some of you might take issue with that statement because why should I assume that becoming a "recreational destination" is a good thing? Won't it most likely push out the people who have been calling Red Hook home for generations? The thing is... I'm not proposing a solution to this particularly massive conundrum. I wish I could, but for now, let's just assume that attracting people and local businesses to Red Hook is a good thing.

So back to The Hook...

On the one hand, you have the single biggest housing project in the city of New York, and on the other hand, you have a public pool, a huge complex of baseball fields and the best food stands around (even Manhattanites make the trek for those tacos). You also have a waterfront! A waterfront with amazing views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Let me say it again...a waterfront! Waterfronts like this one don't come around every day. So why not use it to its fullest potential? Why not make Red Hook an enjoyable place to visit, live, and work?

Bicycles can do that.

[End Rant]

Anyway, Antonio asked me to post the fruits of my labor....So, enjoy! (I split it into three parts: this intro, the images, and the video)

As part of the competition submission, I was required to write a project statement in about 500 words. Here is what came out in my various states of delirium the day before it was due.

Making RED HOOK Bicycle Friendly:

The number one reason people give for not riding bikes is safety. If people don’t feel safe on the road, they won’t bike. So how do you change that? You give them the same respect and consideration we have so painstakingly given to cars. Bike lanes are typically arranged as skinny lanes pushed right up against parked cars. This is a situation extremely uncomfortable for all involved, the cars driving, the cars parking, and especially the cyclists who are risking life and limb. So, what if the parked cars and the cyclists switched places? What if there was a buffer in between the parked cars and the bike lane that could clearly indicate who goes where? Now the cars have no need to worry about the cyclists, and the cyclists no longer need a third eye.

Red Hook has every potential to become a prime recreational destination. With its breathtaking views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, Red Hook’s waterfront is in desperate need of exploiting. I propose the creation of series of bridges and the extension of existing piers to make a scenic loop around the waterfront. A visitor’s trip would begin at the Smith and 9th street station, traveling down the existing bike path on Columbia Street. However, instead of the current dead end, the bike path would continue through the massive parking lot and then across a series of bridges to connect back with the dock between Richards Street and Van Brunt Street. From there the path would go through the alleyway that connects to the area behind Fairway Market and then on to another bridge to complete the loop on Valentino pier. Or, at various points along this route, the visitor could cross back into Red Hook proper through the existing piers that would extend out to meet the route.

When considering how best to store bicycles in the rather unusual space surrounding the Smith and 9th Street Station, it became clear that the only way would be to go up. The design that I conceived consists of a series of vertical conveyors with rods and hooks onto which the bikes can be mounted. The conveyors take the bikes on a variety of paths that strategically maneuver through the existing structure of beams. The length of each conveyor varies and thus so does the capacity of bikes on each one. This variance could allow for a hierarchy of needs among users; those who need their bike back relatively quickly could use the shorter conveyors, and those who have the spare time and wish to see their bike really fly can use the longer, more circuitous ones. In order to address the issue of exposure to the elements, I propose the introduction of protective pods to encase the bikes. The pods also present an interesting opportunity for funding. Advertisements could be printed on the pods as a sort of billboard for whoever might want to contribute to the cost of constructing and maintaining the bike station and conveyors.

The building component of the bike station is wrapped under and around the existing train station, mimicking the conveyors. The program of the station consists of a bike repair area, a small café and convenience store (mainly food and bicycling related items), and a changing room/shower area. The facades are kept as open as possible in order to allow for the best views of the bike conveyors. I also propose punching out some strategic apertures in the existing structure to allow for light and views of the bike conveyors, particularly as you move up through the stairs.

The Boards

The Video

Sorry for the lower resolution...hopefully it's still readable.

An older version of this video had credits, but I had to remove them for the submission (can't identify yourself)

project by: daniela covarrubias

advisor: marco marraccini

animations by: leonardo covarrubias

final cut pro master: daniel jacobs

music: silent by the field

music consultants:
hitomi inoue
daniel jacobs
antonio pacheco

head cheerleader:
zack zeidman

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Whoa-ly mother of pearl. Chicago has a lot of a lot things, all of which as super cool. Like all these dope ass road bikes we saw around town, most of them fixies. Some with PURPLE/GREEN/PINK chains!!!

Chicago really has it's biking shizz down. At least, the culture is there. And its not just confined to hipsterdom, which is good. Theres a program Chi City has that I'm going to write about soon, so stay tuned. Til then, enjoy these bikies, mikey.

So. Funking. Baller.

Casualty of War(against the automobile)

Michigan Avenue/ Art Institute

Everyone loves a green bike

The coolest bike racks i've seen in a long time

view from the bus
even old ladies appreciated the seats on these

in front of the hotel


Dead Peugot. Sad.

Wicker Basket Wednesdays.

So this last one isn't from Chicago. it's from Munich, the land of beer, brats, cold campsites, and apparently, bicycles.

Cuties, galore.

Upcycle, please.

Antonio Pacheco


Paul Newman was one of the greatest people to have ever lived, seriously. Such a baller and all-around good guy. Only since this summer had I begun to appreciate his genius and philanthropy, but I feel like it has planted seeds in my mind that will hopefully sprout and bear fruit in the future.

If more people around the world could become as charitable and kind as he was, then we will have nothing more to worry about.

A sad, but inspirational day is at hand.

Upcycle, please.

Antonio Pacheco

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Silent Shout

(Kinda curious as to what's going on in the Southeast. Pink states are just leaning McCain, whereas red ones are McCainland. Yellow is a "tossup")

I'm not bumping into the Cool Kids, and I'm extremely jealous of anyone in Chicago anytime, but I spoke with some strangers today and this is what one of them said (she is working for the Obama campaign one hour west of St. Louis, which is most likely McCain territory):

A lot of my friends are Republicans and most of them don't even want to talk about why they're voting for McCain. I'm okay with them voting for McCain, I just wish they could talk about it.

I told her about the WashU campus feeling apathetic because most people are voting for Obama, and the homogeneity leads to a false sense of security and dismissal of political discussions. The other lady I was talking to was also working for the Obama campaign and was scared because the polls are still so close. It's clear that the presidential race is very close, yet students don't really discuss issues in depth. Most people don't agree completely with Obams, why not discuss that with your fellow Democrats? The corruption of the political system that arose from the two-party system is crystal clear. If you can latch onto one side, it's easy to not have to think through and weigh everything; you don't really have to have a reason to vote for a candidate, even. Why can't we talk it out?


DJ and I gonna be all up in the Chi/OPRF for the weekend with the architecture kids, so we wont be bloggstering til at least Sunday. Hopefully, Melissa, Hitomi, and William can hold the upcycle fort down. Officially, we're gonna be touring Frank Lloyd Wright suburban households and skyscrapers in the Loop. But I think DJ and I will just spend all out time scoping out all the sustainable shizzle Chicago has going for it.

And maybe we''ll throw a Flosstradamus/Kid Sister/Cool Kids/A-Trak show into that 312 Goose Island mix. You know?

Chicago has been a special place for me since I went there for the first time two years ago. It's definitely the coolest city in the country (sorry, LA?) and I take most of my musical/fashion/intellectual/environmental cues from the chicago scene. It's a city with purpose and conviction, in spite of social inequality and segregation. And there's that vegan soul food place on the South Side I really want to hit up.

Damn, it's good to come home again.

Upcycle, please.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008


This is a cool article/organization/ concept. I think the intersection between prefabricated architecture and social activism is interesting. I dont know, however, if that statement is contradictory to past posts on the topic. I think the application of prefab architecture is interesting here for its social significance, but I think it's a slippery slope between doing something charitable and... well, doing something charitable. That is, are these container houses good enough only for poor people? Or is there a bigger lesson here about living with less and finding happiness through the sort of economy of means people in Juarez are forced to live with?

Hopefully the latter. Either way, it's awesome that people are creating a way of comfortable houses for people who work hard and need them.

Upcycle, please

Antonio Pacheco


Another pro Obama post? well, sort of. Here's a cool poster I got from Andrea's blog. The event was last night, but I kind of just think the poster is really sweet. There have been so much really good graphic design coming out for obama, it's pretty amazing.

It's probs because the kids who like him are... well, kids? Creative ones with computers and whatnot.

Not robots.

Upcycle, please.

Antonio Pacheco

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


We have a new contributor! Laura Dominguez. I worked with her this summer at the G and she's really cool. She LOVES clay soil and goes to Columbia in New York. Shes interested in historic preservation and trees.

She's also pretty snarky especially via text message, so watch out. Please welcome her to the Upcycle Diaries by reading her post. It's reallyreally good!

Upcycle, please.

Antonio Pacheco

Why the Environment is Allergic to John McCain

Like any other self-respecting Californian, I have been a proud progressive since day one, so when Antonio asked me to write a diatribe against the Republican presidential candidate, I was more than happy to oblige. As the days leading up to the election are winding away, I’m finding myself more and more concerned about the outcome. Poll numbers are far too close for comfort, and the presence of a certain mayor-turned-governor on the campaign trail is making me increasingly nauseous. At this point, nearly every issue maintains a life-or-death urgency, but I feel that there is one matter that is far more ominous than the others, one that has the potential to devastate us entirely. Given the subject matter of the Upcycle Diaries, you can imagine what that might be.

I love trees. Not to be overly tangential, but I’m a huge fan. I like to think that a piece of my life began with a tree. On the Earth Day before I was born, my hyper-liberal mother bought me a ficus tree as a “welcome to the world” gift, thereby ensuring that my first lesson about environmentalism as a toddler would be: “Trees are friends. They clean our air, provide us with a nice breeze, and serve as a home to cute, fuzzy animals. Never ever do bad things to trees.” 20 years later, my tree is exponentially taller than I am and still going strong. Over the years, I have developed a true affection for trees in general, particularly when I wander around Northern California in Yosemite and Big Sur. I think that they tell fascinating stories about the character of the environment around them, and their resilience stands as a testimony to the natural world’s power to overcome the disasters that befall them. When I’m feeling particularly idealistic, I like to think that trees evoke a great sense of humanity within us, that somehow their longevity reminds us of how little we matter in the whole scheme of things. Not to say that we humans are not important. It’s just that we are such an itty-bitty piece of good old Terra Mater’s plan for the universe.

Why mention this at all? If we are so insignificant, what does my personal affinity for trees have to do with anything, especially with the upcoming presidential decision? Because if this crazy election is one thing, it’s personal. It’s not a secret that people of all walks of life feel deeply invested in the outcome because, let’s face it, we’ve hit rock bottom. Name any sector of American life, and someone will tell you why it’s a complete and utter disaster. You don’t need my overly sentimental attempt at shameless manipulation to make that perfectly clear. The environment simply cannot survive with the status quo, but with the tanking economy, it’s reasonable to fear that Mother Nature might stay on the backburner. For a lot of people, global warming is not quite as frightening as foreclosure. To me, it’s a different kind of worry. My concerns about paying off student loans do not frighten me in the same way that our national disregard for the environment does because the former does not reveal a fundamental backwardness in our general consciousness. So this is where John McCain comes in.

Senator McCain has attempted to build his campaign around the idea that he, the man, is a maverick for the people. He’s not afraid to be unpopular, to go against his own party, to get the job done, because he KNOWS what is right and real. Hm. I wonder what that would be like, you know, having a president who doesn’t pay attention to the polls because he knows the right course. Moving on. John McCain maintains that he is a friend to the environment, a regular John Muir, who incidentally was familiar with McCain’s political idol, Teddy Roosevelt. He speaks about transitioning the energy economy away from oil into the realm of wind and solar power and biofuels. Unlike many of his Republican compadres, he even believes that global warming is a real thing, supporting a cap-and-trade system for companies and a national reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. If we take him at his word, we might be willing to say that, when it comes to the environment, Senator McCain is certainly not the evilest of them all, that he might even be a semblance of that maverick. Yet over the last week, bloggers have been ignited against his congressional record on this issue. Comparisons to Oklahoma senator James Inhofe, Congress’s biggest environment-hater, abound, as reports surfaced regarding McCain’s absence at crucial votes for renewable energy. Interestingly enough, when he did manage to make it to the Senate Chambers for a vote on clean energy incentives, he somehow voted ‘nay’ rather than ‘yay’ (8 times). See here, for example. Truly fascinating from a man who insists that his administration would work to end our foreign oil dependency and promote environmental stewardship. Go team.

Of course, John McCain seems nice and cuddly when held in comparison to his lovely running mate, the ever-so-kind Governor Sarah Palin. You might as well say goodbye to the Alaskan wildlife and landscape right now. Actually, Palin doesn’t believe that humans are the cause of global warning, thank you very much. In choosing a woman who would sacrifice the health of her own state to Big Oil (she fully supports drilling in ANWR), Senator McCain upheld the conservative attitude of indifference bordering on hostility towards the environment, as if eight years of George Bush wasn’t enough of an affront to the natural world. Palin also opposes the inclusion of polar bears on a list of species threatened by climate change, and she has fought against federal protection of sea lions on behalf of the Alaskan fishing industry. Now why would a woman who also serves as Chair for the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission be so heartless? It’s simple: she fails to understand the underlying relationship between humans and the natural environment. As a staunch advocate of a literal interpretation of the Bible, she clearly maintains a philosophy that grants mankind supremacy over nature, rejecting the notion that the fates of the two are fully intertwined. But don’t forget, Sarah Palin has respect for life. It’s not okay to abort innocent fetuses, but the baby polar bears have to fend for themselves. Tough luck.

This election is not just about policy changes; it is about radically revitalizing our national identity as we make our way through the 21st century. The solutions are absolutely available, from the little ways that we can help in our homes to the grand plans for overhauling our energy sources. So why is it taking so long? This isn’t like our other problems; a $700 billion bailout is not going to re-grow the polar ice caps. So enter the visionary.

You might not agree with Barack Obama on every account – I know that I don’t, even though I’ve supported him since his keynote speech in 2004 – but it’s nearly impossible to deny that he has changed our modern understanding of politics. As Time Magazine put it in the September 1st issue, he is simultaneously a Black Man, a Healer, a Novice, a Radical, and the Future. Yes, he has policies that he plans to implement upon taking office, but he offers the country something beyond that. He challenges us to see beyond ourselves, daring us to imagine the world as it should be, regardless of the limitations before us. He embodies the optimism of humanity, the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. His brand of politics reminds us that time has moved on without us, that we have fallen into a stalemate of old ideas. His approach may not be perfect when it comes to the nitty-gritty of his plans (including some funny flipping on offshore drilling), but it is his underlying promise of change that makes me believe that he can lead us towards sustainable development and widespread environmental protection. In the end, it doesn’t matter if the people on Capitol Hill change their minds if the American people fail to see how their actions impact one another and the world at large. And American egotism is so 20th century, don’t you think?

So please vote! Please?
Laura Dominguez


Wait. Really? Of course, I firmly believe that drilling for oil anywhere is an absolute crime against humanity and nature, but really, Democrats? What a cowardly, spineless bunch, these senators and representatives. It has been said again and again that drilling offshore/ in Alaska would not immediately impact gas prices for at least, ten years. And even then, the effects would be slight and temporary. And yet, the senate feels the pressing need to so easily and quickly give into public pressure for an expansion of oil production.

Right now, as a nation and as citizens of the world, we need, above all else, leadership. Leadership is at least a two fold process: one must know how to listen, as well as how and when to speak. The latter includes knowing how and when to speak out against what's popular, especially if it is wrong and backward.

Right now, no one is telling us we're wrong. The politicians speak of change and of curbing our oil addiction. But they dont ever say anything of any real substance, none of them do. And this represents a serious frustration because how can we move past the decadence of the last 60 years of american history and culture without a plan? Without a backbone? Talkingpoints and buzzwords will not solve any of our problems. Not to mention that our oil addiction is but a symptom of what's really wrong. No one is willing to say that the environmental/economic/oil/housing crises are all based off of the fact that american culture and economics are fundementally flawed on the most basic of levels. A society cannot be sustained through economic, social, and environmental inequality. It is doomed to collapse or fall into despair. The country is going through such terrible economic woes because of these inequalities. The longer these situations go unchanged, the more amplified the inequalities become.

And yet, no one in Washington or anywhere else is really willing to stand up and say we're wrong or much less, offer solutions. Or is it that no one in washington or anywhere else is really willing to listen? Because listening means acknowlegment of the inequalities we perpetuate against ourselves every day. And such acknowlegement demands action. And action is just another word for change. And so, we choose to remain ignorant and comfortable, sedated by the individualized notions of security and happiness we associate with cars, homes, and lawns.

Upcycle, please.

Antonio Pacheco


holy shizzle. this is really amazing. Such a beautiful song. please watch it.

If robots can cry, then maybe there's hope for John McCain?
No, probably not. Crying comes standard only on robots made after 1974.

It's much too early in the day to be rocked so profoundly.

Upcycle, please.

Antonio Pacheco

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I bought this bicycle today at a thirft store in St. Louis, Society of St. Vincent's on Forest Park Parkway. It was $45, kind of a steal. But not really? because its missing a pedal, doesnt have brakes and the tires are pretty worn out? Anyway, it's gonna be some sort of long term project that I'll be working on. Hopefully, it'll help me sort my life out.

I sold my bike because I felt like I needed to walk for a bit. You know, take it easy. Slow down. And that's been going well, but I think actually having a bike will help me not get frustrated with the slowness that is walking. But the fact that it's broken is sort of reassuring? idk. I'll explain later.

Upcycle, please.


Thursday, September 18, 2008


I found these pipes today on my walk home at that big church on the corner of Wydown and Skinker. There was some construction being done on the sidewalk and im guessing these pipes came from there. They're really beautiful. I wonder how old they are. Obviously, they're pretty old and in that sense, timeless and beautiful. They're a testament to the St. Louis of old, the clay city that was built up from the mud of the Mississippi so long ago. They are also a testament to the changes the city is undergoing, perhaps from clay to cement. From tradition to something new, something more sterile and with less implication. Or more.

These pipes remind me of the fragility of the cities we live in and how quickly they can fall into disrepair and agony. They also remind me of the history of this place and the way in which technology can put things into perspective so easily. No one would ever lay clay pipes today; they're probably not even made anymore. But this city's veins are made of clay and dirt and muck. And no matter how much concrete gets poured, every so often, after a big storm or flood, the clay will make its presence known.

Upcycle, please.
There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Antonio Pacheco

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


A few days ago, I talked about the sweet tin can I found in North St. Louis. Well, we threw some beans on that. and now, they're sprouting! We're in the process of making at time lapse. But this is all we have now. The sequence of pictures takes place over the course of TODAY. it was pretty amazing how a lowly black bean can so quickly go from dormant protein-filled pebble in the pantry to an exuberant little seedling with a bright future. It makes me hopeful, in a way, that things can so quickly go from dormancy to life.

Upcycle, please.

Antonio Pacheco


I'm 1000% against the use of PVC pipe in any situation . BUT maybe today is a little different. DJ and I found a box full of cut up pipe PVC pipes on the top floor of the architecture building. We've managed to steal some away to our desks in studio and we're trying to figure out what to do with them.

They look like this:

DJ likes to use them as pencil holders and whatnot:
And that seems to work.

I kind of want to grow stuff in them, maybe something to compliment our rusty tin can black beans? I was thinking of maybe drilling smallish holes in the walls of the pipes and using those spots to grow chives or grasses? a la strawberry pot?

But really, I want to find a use for them that is a bit more dynamic; I want them to do more than simply hold things. Do you have any ideas? Please leave ideas as comments. Don't be scared. We have lots of them/ are willing to experiment. I feel like this could be a great opportunity for some real upcycling, yeah?

Upcycle, please.

Antonio Pacheco
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