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  • Uptown’s Proposed Shared Street at Argyle: How ADDING Uncertainty Can Make Our Side Streets Safer

    shared street


    Anticipating City Made festival this weekend, when Andersenville will turn Clark between Argyle and  into an open air market and street party for two days has us wishing that some of our city’s streets could always be a little more integrated.  Anyone who’s ever attended a block party or recalls a childhood game of kickball knows the illicit thrill of being standing around in the middle of car territory.


    Chicago’s Brings Shared Streets to Uptown

    Much to our delight, the lines between “car space” and “people space” are going to be permanently blurred in Uptown soon, as plans go forward to turn Argyle (between Broadway and Sheridan) into a Shared Street.  Implementing the design will begin next spring.  Curbs will be removed, the area re-paved in brick and people will be encouraged to walk, stand and sit in the former car zone of the street.  Why is this a good idea?  Why would the city be shelling out $3 million to take away all the those nice safe distinctions?



    Come See us at City Made!

    Were you just tapping your toes, looking for an opportunity to come down and meet the moss team? Well here’s your opportunity. We’ll be showing some of our lovely faces (as well as displaying some of our furniture) at the City Made festival this weekend.


    CityMade-Email Image

    CityMade-with map


    Moss Will Be At the 2nd Annual Andersenville City Made Fest This Weekend


    The festival hours are:

    Saturday, September 20th and Sunday, September 21st

    from noon until 9PM

    Clark Street between Argyle Ave & Carmen Ave


    Moss will only be sticking around our booth until beer o’clock (that is, 6PM when most of the visitors are so happily inebriated that they aren’t interested in architecture anymore).


    The event is open to the public (suggested donation $5 at the gate).


    We’ll be showing a selection of our fine furniture made in Chicago from reclaimed materials. We will personally be on hand to answer questions, talk about design and enthuse about our neighborhood’s fine features.


    furniture for citymade


    Find out more about the whole City Made Festival here. Although City Made IS a local beer festival it isn’t ONLY a beer event! We hope you’ll visit other purveyors of local crafts and objects besides ourselves. Here’s a full list of the City Made vendors for 2014!


    Another One Bites the Dust: the Tiny Tragedy of Teardowns in Chicago Neighborhoods

    tear down

    Walking to work this morning I noted yet another pile of construction debris on the foundation of a former house just around the corner from moss HQ.


    Seeing an old house demolished always seems like a small tragedy. It’s true; some older buildings certainly HAVE outlived their useful lifespan, are in poor repair or structurally unsound.  Sometimes the change in a neighborhood’s needs calls for higher density – a 6-unit building instead of a single family home.  But still, our take at moss is that you should always think carefully before you knock a building down.



    The Great Strip Mall Debate: There Really Are Pros and Cons, But Chicago Doesn’t Need Any New Ones

    strip mall


    The strip mall question has re-emerged in Chicago news feeds in response to Alderman John Arena (45th) who wants to ban any new strip mall construction in the Jefferson Park business district.


    So the question re-emerges.  Are Strip malls a miracle of convenience or a blight on the urban landscape.  One thing is certain – they are A LOT of parking area.  Arena asking the City Council to designate a zoning overlay district requiring that new commercial buildings be adjacent to the street, have street facing windows and push any parking to the rear.  In other words, he’s banning strip malls.  DNAinfo has been following the idea as it develops.  Arena is quoted supporting his proposal,


    “The purpose of the designation is to protect the existing, pedestrian-friendly shopping district we have in downtown Jefferson Park,”


    Colleen Murphy a pro-strip mall resident counters,


    “A strip mall is better. You can pull in and find a spot and find what you need and go on your way.”


    That convenient access IS indeed the point of this staple of the car culture.  Strip malls were created to support a car centric way of life and emerged in the same time period as the newly ubiquitous american automobile.



    More than a Rubber Stamp: a Guide to Green Building Certification Programs

    rubber stamp

    Most, if not all, of our clients come to us looking for a strong ethic of sustainability to underpin their project, so dealing with green certifications is often of interest.   Some of them are far more relavant to our clients than others.  Here is a rundown of some of the important green certifications you might encounter in your green building project.


    50 Years On, the Wilderness Act Should Remind us that We Need to Value All Nature

    wilderness tree


    Did you “get away” this weekend? Labor day weekend is traditionally celebrated outside – whether it be grilling in the back yard, picnicking in a city park, heading for a lakefront cabin in one of our neighbor states or aiming for a little slice of America’s wilderness preserved in our state and national parks and wilderness areas.


    Wilderness Act Turns 50

    This September marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act – a perfect reminder of the amazing resource of preserved open space that have at our disposal.  With 84 million acres of national park alone (that’s a quarter acre for every American) there’s a lot of land set aside for un-developed use.  We tend to think of this as pristine wilderness – protected from human intervention and that was certainly the stated intent of setting it aside in the first place.



    Our Green City: The Green Legacy of the Burnham Plan

    burnham plan


    Do you know the name Daniel Burnham?


    His is probably the name that come to mind most quickly in connection with Chicago’s urban planning and green spaces.  All the residents of our city “live inside the Burnham Plan.”  So before you head out to enjoy some of Chicago’s glorious green space, watch a fireworks display off Navy Pier or swim at a city pool during the upcoming holiday weekend, spare a thankful thought for this important slice of our City’s history.



    How Green Is Our City: Chicago’s Urban Green Space

    Chicago parks


    Did you know that Chicago has the oldest and largest park district in America?  With 8,100 acres of park land managed by the city and 12,429 acres (including land managed by the state and county), 8.5% of the land area of Chicago is park space open to the public.  It’s something to be proud of and celebrate – and certainly many of our citizens will be appreciating the parks during the upcoming labor day weekend.  We thought we’d take a moment to celebrate the park system that we have … and wonder how we can improve it.



    Dear Divvy, Thanks for Getting People up on Bikes!


    Being an office of greater and lesser bike aficionados, everyone at moss owns and rides [at least one] beloved bike of their own but that doesn’t mean we don’t find Chicago’s young bike-share program very interesting.


    Since it kicked off last June, Chicago’s very own share bike program has facilitated 2.3 million bike trips and done a lot to raise the visibility of biking here in the city.  While it may not be quite as pervasive or heavily used as New York’s Citi Bike program (an older sibling of Divvy which started a few weeks earlier last summer) Divvy continues to grow with demand for new stations far outstripping the ability of Alta Bikes to supply (partly due to the bike manufacturing companies bankruptcy woes earlier this year).



    Who’s Riding Divvy?

    Chicago’s share bike program is still growing – another station expansion is planned for next spring and will bring the whole Divvy system up to 4,750 bikes.  Hopefully increasing the station range and density … as well as continuing to improve and promote itself … will keep its user base growing.  Divvy has plenty of room to expand among female riders (as women currently make up 31% of members and take only 21% of trips).  We’ll be watching eagerly to see how it grows.



    How We Operate: What Moss Brings to Every Project

    motivations 4


    When you hire an architect – you’re engaging the services of a professional designer who will help you think about the big picture of your design needs, problem solve your layout and help you navigate the permit process – but that person also has motivations of their own that will affect the outcome of your project.  They have their own strategy.  Whether they are designing a residential remodel or a new sky scraper they want to use your project to make the world a little more interesting.


    Don’t worry.  Your architect’s agenda is going to make your building better.


    The profession of architecture attracts passionate people who want to make the world better through buildings.  But, as we’ve mentioned before, we need YOU to come ask us to design you a building.  What makes each project great is the collaboration between clients needs and designer’s vision that makes a unique design.


    That’s (NOT) Garbage: Reduce, Reuse … DIVERT Waste

    compost recycle trash


    If you’re alarmed by the possibility of burying 42 Giza Pyramids of trash in American landfills every year (per Tuesdays’s post: That’s Garbage: Talking Trash About Waste Generation), what can you do about it?   The “three R’s” we learned about in school still pertain today and before we even talk about recycling its important to put in a little PSA about the importance of keeping waste out of both the trash can AND the recycling bin.


    Stop Waste BEFORE it Hits the Bin

    Odds are you’ve already heard the lecture on keeping disposables out of your life … but if you’d like a clever and information packed refresher, take 20 minutes and watch The Story of Stuff to remind yourself of the benefits of reducing and reusing and the general perniciousness of the consumer economy.



    That’s Garbage: Talking Trash About Waste Generation

    trash pyramid


    Trash.  We all generate it, but do we think about it other than to “take it out” weekly?


    In Chicago we generate 657 pounds of trash per person every year.  According to the EPA, the US generated 251 million tons of trash in 2012 (thats Municipal Solid Waste alone).  For reference, that is 42 times more than the Great Pyramid at Giza.


    Ancient Trash Cities 

    Speaking of the Egyptians, creating garbage is a universal human tendency dating back to our earliest records of civilization.  In fact .. weathered monuments aside,  our earliest records of civilization are just that … garbage.


    How We Operate: Finding Beauty in the (Honesty of) Reclaimed Building Materials

    wood collage


    In the collage above are just a FEW of our favorite uses of reclaimed wood in moss projects (from top left): Bowling Alley BenchBegyle Tasting RoomBrewBar Pastoral2 Sparrows, and Erie Street Loft.


    It is a truth pretty universally acknowledged that designers like REAL materials – we wince at the sight or suggestion of veneered stone walls, laminate surfaces and vinyl siding.  The concept of “Honesty of Materials” – using a particular material both for function and aesthetic at the same time, rather than covering one thing with another – is a favorite concept of modernist architects but by no means unique to them.  John Ruskin made the same point in his Seven Lamps of Architecture in 1849, this way:


    “To cover brick with plaster, and this plaster with fresco, is perfectly legitimate… But to cover brick with cement, and to divide this cement with joints that it may look like stone, is to tell a falsehood; and is just as contemptible a procedure as the other is noble.”


    To that end, few things are more noble than incorporating beautiful, minimally finished elements of solid wood into our designs.  We are particularly partial to sourcing reclaimed wood and we use it in nearly every application: flooring, shelving, counter tops, wall surfaces, furniture, and art pieces.



    Today, Let’s Drink to Clean Water … and Then Do More to Protect Our Water Supply

    drinking water sketch


    Monday’s Chicagoist headline, “It’s Okay to Drink the Water, Chicago,” is accurate but perhaps a little dismissive of the larger issues about drinking water which should be raised in all our minds by the recent drinking water scares topping news across the country.


    This weekend’s public drinking water ban in Todedo, Ohio follows the ongoing “severe, extreme, and exceptional” drought (if the California State website ca.gov/drought/ doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what does).  These come on the heels of continuing commentary on communities with nitrate-laced well water and generally antiquated standards of clean water which don’t regulate 99% of chemicals used within the US today.


    And on top of that … there’s sewage flowing into the Chicago River again today.  Just as there was on 7 days last month and 11 the month before that.





    If They Build it We Will Park – So Why Require More Parking With Every New Construction Project?



    Bring on the predictable outrage, folks, but we’re about to do it … we’re about to say … There is WAY too much free parking available in Chicago.  We should stop building more of it!


    For all the hoopla over the (admittedly) terrible parking meter deal made by Mayor Daley and regardless of the sticker shock of downtown parking lots, we live in a city of neighborhoods lined  by on-street parking and with chunks of largely un-used parking lot which may fill up for certain occasions but stands empty most of the time, heating up the city (paved area contributes to the Heat Island Effect) and looking about as beautiful as missing teeth in the urban fabric.


    Despite possessing a healthy (though improvable) public transit system Chicago continues to stay stuck in car-centric thinking too much of the time.  One clear example of this is the zoning codes mandate for minimum numbers of parking spaces to be provided for all new residential and commercial developments.