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Design Cycle: Urban Prototyping

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Sunday, July 21 Brava Theater Center

Join Matthew Passmore of Rebar and San Francisco’s Mission Bicycle Company in a tactile and conversational exploration of urban prototyping. Matthew will detail this emerging movement to make city design more innovative, responsive, and collaborative. The nights presentation also includes the first glimpse of the Streetscape Kit of Parts, an urban prototype kit for testing and developing bike lanes, designed in collaboration with the SFBC.

Come early at 6pm for an urban-proto-parklet party on 24th street with modular stage, Rebar Bubbleware, as well as live music and bicycle tacos. Matthew takes the stage at 7pm.

For complete details, and to grab tickets, click here. Design Cycle is an exploration of urban innovation created by Mission Bicycle Company.

Written by zoesiegel

July 16th, 2013 at 10:58 am

Driverless cars will spawn office cubes in parking spaces, big box stores downtown

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According to Harvard researchers, via the New York Times:

Harvard University researchers note that as much as one-third of the land in some cities is devoted to parking spots. Some city planners expect that the cost of homes will fall as more space will become available in cities [due to driverless vehicles]. If parking on city streets is reduced and other vehicles on roadways become smaller, homes and offices will take up that space. Today’s big-box stores and shopping malls require immense areas for parking, but without those needs, they could move further into cities.

Written by Blaine

July 10th, 2013 at 12:04 am

Posted in Inspiration,Noticed

State of the Commons

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An increasing share of the Internet’s visual resources are now locked away in private cabinets, untagged and unsearchable, shared with a public no wider than the photographer’s personal sphere…Hundreds of millions of people who have photographed culturally significant events, people, buildings and landscapes, and who would happily give their work to the commons if they were prompted, are locked into sites that don’t even provide the option. The Internet (and the mobile appverse) is becoming a chain of walled gardens that trap even the most civic-minded person behind the hedges, with no view of the outside world.


Josh Wallaert, “State of the Commons,” Design Observer, November 8, 2012.

Written by Rebar

November 12th, 2012 at 10:02 am

Rebar on the Road – Minneapolis

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For many of us who hail from the metropolitan city of San Francisco, Middle America is often unfairly referred to as the “flyover states.” In a recent visit to the architecture program at the University of Minnesota by one of Rebar’s own, Josh Berliner, this adage proved to be a thing of the past.

The new Guthrie Theater on the banks of the Mississippi brings industry and contemporary architecture together. (Jean Nouvel/Architectural Alliance, 2005)

The new Guthrie Theater on the banks of the Mississippi brings industry and contemporary architecture together (Jean Nouvel/Architectural Alliance, 2005)

The architecture of Minneapolis long spoke to the city’s historic mill and lumber industries that scatter the shores of the Mississippi River. In recent years, new public art installations and architecture have brought urban revitalization to the Mill District and other formerly industrial areas. One such project is the new Guthrie Theater. Completed in 2005, this structure honors the former Guthrie Theater and offers vantages of historic Minneapolis while embracing contemporary form and materials.

Standing Glass Fish (Frank Gehry, 1986) Cantilevered facade of the Walker Art Center (Herzog and de Meuron/HGA, 2005) Each window at the Walker Art Center is a unique portal the city

Standing Glass Fish          Walker Art Center Facade       Window of the Walker

Minneapolis-based firm VJAA was recently awarded top honors from the AIA in receiving 2012 Firm of the Year. However, heralded architecture is nothing new to Minneapolis. The Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus was designed in 1993 by Frank Gehry, with a new addition completed in the Fall of 2011. The Walker Art Center’s renovation, headed by Herzog and de Mueron and local firm HGA, was completed in 2005, but the center itself has long been a beacon of art in the community. A sculpture garden is taking shape on the open plot of land adjacent to the museum’s main building and currently features work by, amongst others, James Turrell (Sky Pesher, 2005) and Frank Gehry (Standing Glass Fish, 1986).

Frank Gehry - Weisman

Weisman Art Museum (Frank Gehry, 1993/2011)

Though many of the architectural attractions in Minneapolis are prominently displayed, there is one hidden gem in an unexpected location. John Cook and Joan Soranno, design partners at Minneapolis-based HGA, just completed the Lakewood Cemetery Garden Mausoleum this January. The exterior is a beautiful structure of granite, glass, and mosaic tiling that nestles into the rolling landscape it resides upon. The interior is a quiet and reflective space finished with deep wood, several hues of onyx, and unmatched lighting via large windows and a string of skylights.

Lakewood Mausoleum 1 Lakewood Mausoleum 2 Lakewood Mausoleum 3

Minneapolis offers a blend of contemporary architecture with classic styling that is both unique and beautiful. If you are thinking about taking a trip across the U.S. don’t just fly over the middle. Stop in for a visit – you’ll be glad you did.

Thanks for a great visit Minneapolis!

Written by Rebar

March 1st, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Posted in Inspiration

Año Nuevo Island Restoration Project Update

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Work has begun once again on the Año Nuevo Island Restoration project! Rebar, in collaboration with Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge and expert habitat restorers GoNative, began prepping for Fall work on the island in early October. Last week the team moved 160 Eucalyptus logs out to the island. Local landowners were more than happy to allow the Eucalyptus on their land be removed and the Año Nuevo team was pleased to be able to repurpose this invasive species. These logs will be utilized in the construction of the last part of the habitat ridge. The ridge is itself thriving habitat for a number of bird species on the island, and it acts as both a physical and visual barrier between the habitat of the pinnepeds on the island and the Rhinoceros Auklet, a listed bird species of concern. Since the first planting last year, the indigenous flora on the island has done quite well; however, a small bit of replanting is also planned for this year to round out the restoration effort and to establish a long-lasting habitat for a healthy and biodiverse Año Nuevo Island.

For more info on the Año Nuevo Island restoration project look for our previous post or our even earlier post – and be sure to visit the restoration project blog.

Check out the below videos of the log move and look for future updates as the project continues!

Written by Rebar

October 25th, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Growing Power

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Awesome organization, founded by former pro-basketball player and MacArthur genius grant recipient Will Allen:

Growing Power is a national nonprofit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities.  Growing Power implements this mission by providing hands-on training, on-the-ground demonstration, outreach and technical assistance through the development of Community Food Systems that help people grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner.

Info on the organization’s programs, including aquaculture and bees,

Written by Blaine

June 22nd, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Chile Tsunami Relief

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Our friends and collaborators at Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge are leading a relief effort for the small (and easily overlooked) Juan Fernandez Islands, off the coast of Chile. This chain of islands, where Oikonos conducts an ongoing habitat restoration project, was recently devastated by the tsunami that followed the utterly enormous Chile earthquake.

Yes, despite the prevailing presentation of events, there was a tsunami.

Isla Alejandro Selkirk, one of the Juan Fernandez chain

Isla Alejandro Selkirk, one of the Juan Fernandez chain

Robinson Crusoe Island experienced particularly intense and deadly devastation. A group of journalism students from Chile and the U.S., who visited that remote island, have produced a video that gives a window into the culture of the island and the destruction visited by the recent tsunami. You can watch the video below.

Oikonos has set up a relief fund for the Juan Fernandez Islands.You can donate by clicking here.

100% of donations go directly to on the ground island relief efforts.

Tsunami Relief for Robinson Crusoe Island from Más a Tierra on Vimeo.

And here is the post from the journalists:

“In the spring of 2006, as a combined group of American and Chilean journalism students, we traveled together to Robinson Crusoe Island, four hundred miles off the coast of Santiago, Chile, to document life on this small and isolated island.

In the ten days we spent recording and photographing the people of the island, each and every one of us was struck by their unique way of life and the resolve with which they carve out their existence in such a remote place, rich with history but severely lacking in resources that we often take for granted.

And so it was with great sorrow and shock – in the days following the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the Chilean mainland in February 2010 – that we began to hear news trickle in about Robinson Crusoe Island.

According to reports, the island’s emergency warning system failed, and a giant tsunami took the residents by surprise, covering nearly two miles of the island and reaching 300 meters up from the natural coastline. When the ocean retreated, it took with it nearly all of San Juan Bautista, the coastal settlement that the island’s 650 residents call home.

What few community resources that served the people of Robinson Crusoe Island before the tsunami hit are now completely wiped away: the school, community center, fishing boats, supply stores… and many, many homes.

As you can tell from the stories and lives highlighted on this site, the fragile yet resilient community of Robinson Crusoe Island is a special place in this world, and its people need our help in rebuilding their lives. Anything you can give to help these families would be a tremendous help. Oikonos, a 501 c 3 non-profit, has set up a donation fund to directly support the people of Robinson Crusoe Island. All of the money they receive will go specifically to the people of the island, to rebuild their homes, their school and their livelihoods.

Please take a moment to do what you can, and explore this site to learn about the unique and wonderful lives you are helping to rebuild.

We thank you for your open hearts”

Relief Efforts

1. Donate to the cause. Please give what you can. Go straight to and send some tax deductible dollars. 100% of your donation goes to the island.

2. Spread the word. Email your friends, colleagues and family members. Twitter and Facebook the story. Many of you work at major news organizations. Use your connections to get this written about, blogged about and talked about. A little effort goes a long way.

Written by Matthew

March 6th, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Designing Ecology: The Año Nuevo Island Restoration Project

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Aerial view of Año Nuevo Island, off the coast of Santa Cruz, California

Aerial view of Año Nuevo Island, off the coast of Santa Cruz, California.

Rebar is very excited to be collaborating with Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge, an extraordinary international conservation biology non-profit organization, to design some habitat restoration elements for Año Nuevo Island, a marine environment heavily altered by human intervention, and one of only four island systems off the coast of California.

From 1872 through the 1940s, Año Nuevo Island was an operative Coast Guard lighthouse station, and it seems like it was a pretty cushy gig: In addition to a steel frame lighthouse, island infrastructure included a Victorian mansion, outbuildings, an elaborate non-native garden, a cistern and a rail system. In 1948, an automated buoy replaced the lighthouse, the island was effectively abandoned by humans, and the “natural” world began its inexorable reclamation process. But the island still carries the evidence of successive human interventions: The lighthouse has collapsed into a rusting steel hulk, the cistern has fractured. The Victorian home is actually faring pretty well, under the circumstances.

The lighthouse stattion, 1953

The Coast Guard lighthouse station, circa 1953.

The house, circa 2008

The house, circa 2008.

The Lighthouse, circa 2008

The Lighthouse, circa 2008.

Our client: The Rhinoceros Auklet. Photo by Frank Balthis.

The Rhinoceros Auklet. Photo by Frank Balthis.

The current ecological dynamics of the island have substantially degraded the habitat of two burrowing seabirds, both of which are state-listed “species of concern” — the Rhinoceros Auklet and the Cassin’s Auklet. The marine terrace soil that composes the center of the island is rapidly disappearing due to extensive landscape alterations during the “lighthouse” era, natural erosion, and sporadically high California sea lion densities. The approximately 300 breeding Auklets that rear their young in underground burrows depend upon undisturbed soil and soil-stabilizing vegetation. If left untouched, the habitat for these Auklets will degrade further until it is no longer a viable breeding ground. This is where we come in.

Led by Oikonos, a cross-disciplinary team of ecologists, habitat restoration experts, artists, designers and government agencies are collaborating to restore the degraded habitat for these nesting seabirds. Once the habitat has been successfully protected from marine mammal incursion, the team will rehabilitate the native plant community to reduce erosion, provide sustainable Auklet breeding habitat and, ultimately, increase the biodiversity of this unique island ecosystem.

Room for improvement: The current Nest Module design.

Room for improvement: The current Nest Module design.

The Año Nuevo Island habitat restoration project includes two main design elements. To separate the sizeable sea lion population from critical bird breeding areas, Rebar is designing and constructing a series of Habitat Walls at strategic locations around the island. In addition, to facilitate the seabird species nesting and breeding while the native flora restoration is ongoing, Rebar will develop a system of Nest Modules to replace the current human-made modules, which are constructed from plywood and PVC plastic piping.

To develop the Nest Modules, we are teaching a interdisciplinary design course through the ENGAGE program at the Center for Art and Public Life at the California College of the Arts. The course will be taught through the Ceramics Department with Nathan Lynch, the department chair, a very talented artist and, as you can see by his fine art work, just the perfect artist for a bird habitat project such as this.

We are excited to harness the design talents of CCA students to help solve this challenging design problem. We will also be investigating the role of the artist and designer in helping structure or mediate interpretations of “nature” and “restoration ecology” within a broader framework of the environmental movement, human interactions with natural landscapes, ideas of wilderness, the nature preserve, national parks and so forth. Basically, it’s another look at how human imagination and systems of regulation, organization and control are implemented in the landscape. It’s very Rebar.

We’ll post more as the project develops.

Until then, please check out the Año Nuevo Island Restoration Project website.

Stay tuned!

Written by Matthew

January 8th, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Gifts that give back

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It’s not generally our habit to recommend products or put together holiday gift guides. Rebar’s art and design practice is rooted in creative re-purpose and re-use, waste stream reduction, and the development of urban and social abundance through sustainable, ecologically-sensitive means. That often means looking for ways around the consumer culture this season so encourages.

That said, it seems this year the recession has got more than a few people looking for creative, non-traditional gifts. We figure, why not play along? Here are a few fun ideas that fit our ethos.

The gift that breathes

Kamal Meattle on TED: How to grow your own air

This TED Talk explains how with proper maintenance a few particular plants can vastly improve the air quality of an enclosed space. Sure, seven or eight plants per person sounds like a lot, but most people don’t have a need for completely fabricated air in a sealed-up bubble, just better air in homes and offices that increasingly house more chemical and airborne particulates. Even a few plants will help clear the air, brighten a space, and live well beyond the holiday season.

If you were wondering what to get us as a housewarming gift for our new Rebar studio space, bring on the Money Plants!

The gift that feeds

California CSA Fall Bounty

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is super-trendy right now, and with good reason. Not only does subscribing to a local farm’s yield on a weekly or monthly basis get you a wide range of delicious, interesting fruits and vegetables (or even meats!), it connects you to the land and food supply, and gets you moving in the kitchen. Tough economic times mean more eating at home, but that doesn’t have to mean a return to Ramen and frozen dinners.

Locate a participating farm in your area using Local Harvest‘s finder tool.

If you’re intimidated by the task of cooking, consider splitting the box or preparing meals as a group. In other words, build a community around food. It’s one of civilization’s great traditions.

The gift that grows

Charitable gifts are always popular and especially satisfying when you can see your donation make a direct impact in your community. San Francisco’s Friends of the Urban Forest offer just such an opportunity with their Tree Tributes: a $25 donation goes directly toward planting a new street tree in the City, commemorated with a lovely dedicated card.

The fun part is how the City transforms after such a gift, every tree in sight becoming a new friend and inspiring the thought, “Could that be my tree?” And why not? Nothing better than having a friend on every block.

Season’s Greetings!

Written by Rebar

December 18th, 2009 at 3:45 pm