Home » Popular Culture » Recent Articles:

Poll: Will the St. Louis Rams Exit Their Lease?

It’s 2012 and looking forward one of the big stories this year will be what happens when the Edward Jones Dome won’t be in the top 25% of all NFL facilities. The lease allows the Rams to exit after the 2014 season if the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission doesn’t keep the facility in the top quarter. It seems universally accepted the dome won’t be in the top quarter and the decision will be made within months. The Rams will be 20 years into a 30 year lease and they will have an out. Will they take the out?

ABOVE: Edward Jones Dome as seen from The Laurel Apartments

Will the Rams go back to Los Angeles to take up residence in a new football facility planned there?

Los Angeles Stadium at Grand Crossing will be the first stadium built specifically for the NFL in California and will reflect the California lifestyle, with an outdoor environment, ample parking, plenty of room to tailgate, expanding the NFL game-day experience and great views for all fans.

Sitting at the crossroads of four counties, the Los Angeles Stadium will provide access to over 15.5 million people, playing host to 75,000 fans each Sunday. (Source: losangelesfootballstadium.com)

What kind of city would build a football stadium without a team? Oh right, we did that hoping to win an expansion team. The Rams will have the option to become an annual tenant rather than getting locked in for another decade. Frankly, they’d be foolish to agree to another decade.

As an annual tenant they could stay until the new LA stadium is finished. But the Rams isn’t the only team LA might try to lure:

The three teams which used to play in Los Angeles but moved elsewhere (the San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders) have all been rumored to be open to moving back. The Jacksonville Jaguars and the Minnesota Vikings, have also been identified by [stadium developer] Roski and others as possible prime tenants of the new stadium. However, the city of Santa Clara, California has since approved a ballot measure that will allow the 49ers to build a new stadium in Santa Clara, and the Raiders could be allowed to occupy that stadium as well. (Wikipedia)

This is the topic for the poll (right sidebar) this week. Happy New Year!’

– Steve Patterson


Matchbox Didn’t Make a ‘Suburb’ Playset

December 24, 2011 Featured, Popular Culture 7 Comments

Christmas means different things to different people, to me it means family, friends and food. Especially food!

ABOVE: Christmas 1972-ish with me (right) and my brother Randy (left)

In my early years it also meant Matchbox toys!

ABOVE: My Matchbox cars and other toys displayed on my bed around 1972.

Each year I’d get more cars & trucks and eventually I got the Matchbox City & Matchbox Country playsets.

ABOVE: My Matchbox playsets

I never thought about it at the time but neither represented where I lived, a suburban 1060s subdivision in Oklahoma City.  When I was young Oklahoma City was the largest US city based on total land area. Where we lived was very suburban, but not a suburb. Our driveway had room for nine cars — three wide by three deep! We had no sidewalks.

ABOVE: MatchBox City (left) and MatchBox Country (right)

Our subdivision was once a farm, the abandoned farmhouse was behind my best friend’s house. It has since been restored and occupied. The Matchbox country was the idealic place though. I suppose where we lived was peaceful countryside decades earlier.

Of course the playsets were designed for toy cars so it’s to be expected they are all about roads and parking.

ABOVE: Highway loop around the tall building in the center of the Matchbox City
Shopping in the Matchbox City is via a mini shopping center, above, to a multistory department store
ABOVE: I'm missing the bridge to the Matchbox Country but I had written "slow one (to?) way bridge" on an approach

I wonder what a Matchbox Suburb playset would have looked like? Would it have been one large parking lot? Would the housing have been behind gates? Would they have offered variations such as Matchbox Suburb (Streetcar Edition) or Matchbox Suburb (Exurban Edition)?  I think a Matchbox City (Urban Renewal Edition) would have been interesting. Kids could have bought various Matchbox trucks to demolish buildings and construct highways. Hmm, I guess I’m glad they didn’t have that.

Happy Holidays everyone!’

– Steve Patterson


Can Urban Planners Learn From Steve Jobs?

I’ve been a Macintosh fan since first using an SE/30 in a college computer lab in the late 1980s. I’m also a huge fan of Steve Jobs, the Apple c0-founder who died last week.

ABOVE: Apple.com homepage became a tribute to co-founder Steve Jobs

In watching old videos and reading quotes since Wednesday I began to think some of what Jobs was saying could be applied to Urban Planning. Specifically to public participation.

“It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That’s what we get paid to do. “So you can’t go out and ask people, you know, what the next big [thing.] There’s a great quote by Henry Ford, right? He said, ‘If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me “A faster horse.” ‘ ” (Fortune)

We do tend to ask people what they want and we get the faster horse type of answer. Still, you can’t ignore the end user.

“I think really great products come from melding two points of view—the technology point of view and the customer point of view. You need both. You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new. It took us three years to build the NeXT computer. If we’d given customers what they said they wanted, we’d have built a computer they’d have been happy with a year after we spoke to them—not something they’d want now.” (Inc Magazine)

But focusing solely on the customer won’t create the best product.

“But in the end, for something this complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why a lot of people at Apple get paid a lot of money, because they’re supposed to be on top of these things.” (Businessweek)

In the past architects & planners would come into areas and completely redesign it (Urban Renewal). In the backlash to Urban Renewal the opposite has happened — the few remaining residents were the only persons to have any say about what an area should become.

To Steve Jobs design wasn’t just superficial:

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.” (Fortune)

Steve Jobs, however, was far from being a Jacobsonian urbanist. No, the Jobsian planner is very much a Californian. Steve Jobs’ last public appearance wasn’t an Apple keynote — it was a presentation to the Cupertino City Council for a new Apple building & campus not from from their longtime campus nearby.

ABOVE: Site plan for proposed Apple "spaceship"

The site was the former headquarters of Hewlett-Packard, all existing buildings would be razed:

Notwithstanding Jobs’ emphasis on heavy landscaping and subsurface parking, Philip Langdon has criticized the proposal in urbanist circles for its fenced, office park setting of glass and the auto-centric suburbia of old. Familiar architectural critics have also cross-examined the premise of London’s Foster+Partners’ design. The Los Angeles Times’ Christopher Hawthorne termed it nothing short of a “retrograde cocoon,” while Paul Goldberger in The New Yorker last month questioned whether the building’s enormity would leave Jobs’ last contribution to his company as the least meaningful of his career. (The Atlantic w/video) 

Cupertino doesn’t have a small-block street grid but even one existing through street would be removed. So I’m not suggesting we emulate this campus plan — please don’t. Instead, think about his approach to design. Thinking about the user experience — making it simple and intuitive. A direct pedestrian path — not a complicated journey from A to B.

– Steve Patterson


Bank of America Thinks I’m a Cubs Fan (I’m Not)

I’m not a baseball enthusiast but I do root for the home team, the St. Louis Cardinals. After all, I live downtown about a mile from Busch Stadium.  I can even hear the home run fireworks. So you can imagine my shock when I opened my mailbox Wednesday:

ABOVE: Really!?!

Now I realize Charlotte NC is a long way from both St. Louis and Chicago.  They have the minor league Charlotte Knights, but no major league team.

ABOVE: Inside of mailer, click to view as PDF.

I had to look up to be sure the St. Louis Cardinals have always been in St. Louis:

The Cardinals were founded in 1882 as a member of the American Association called the St. Louis Brown Stockings. The club quickly achieved success, winning four AA pennants in a row in 1885–1888. St. Louis played in an early version of the World Series, the first two times against the National League’s Chicago White Stockings, now named the Chicago Cubs. The 1885 series ended in dispute, but St. Louis won the 1886 series outright, beginning a St. Louis-Chicago rivalry that continues today.  The American Association went bankrupt in 1892, and the Browns moved to the National League, leaving much of their success behind for the next three decades. The club changed its name to the “Perfectos” in 1899, before adopting the “Cardinals” name in 1900. (Source)

So no living person working at Bank of America should be confused.  St. Louis did have the Browns, but they moved to Baltimore in the 1950s to become the Orioles. What about the Cubs?

William Hulbert, president of Chicago’s club, the White Stockings, signed multiple star players, such as pitcher Albert Spalding and infielders Ross Barnes, Deacon White, and Adrian “Cap” Anson, to join the team prior to the N.L.’s inaugural season of 1876. (Source)

As I thought, the Cubs have always been in Chicago.

Wrigley Field is 300 miles from Busch Stadium and nobody would confuse one with the other. Wrigley Field is in zip code 60613 and Busch in 63102, pretty distinctive. Somehow Bank of America got very confused. A couple I know, who are big Cardinals fans, got the same mailer at their home in the 63104 zip code.

I want to set the record straight, I’m not a Cubs fan.

– Steve Patterson


Music Videos & Lyrics on Urbanity

Popular culture often influences society — Leave it to Beaver set an expectation that was different than The Cosby Show (homemaker vs professional mom), for example. Although these are more a reflection of what existed than influencing.  Yet I can’t help but think the Brady Bunch, Soap, The Jeffersons and other 70s shows influenced me.

Long before television, music has played a role in societal attitudes.  With music videos these setting can project positive or negative images about certain places. I couldn’t think of any video set in the parking lot of a big box store but videos in urban settings are numerous.  One of my favorites is Doo-Wop (That Thing) by Lauryn Hill.  This video shows a block party in 1967 on the left and the 33rd anniversary block party on the right.


Should have been 31 years, not 33, in 1998.  The imagery is great though, I love the use of the buses as backdrops.

The lyrics to songs also bring up imagery in our minds. I’ve excerpted parts of a few songs that came to mind, the links are to the full lyrics.

Living for the City – Stevie Wonder (YouTube)

His hair is long, his feet are hard and gritty

He spends his love walking the streets of New York City

He’s almost dead from breathing on air pollution

He tried to vote but to him there’s no solution

Living just enough, just enough for the city…yeah, yeah, yeah!

Downtown – Petula Clark (YouTube)

Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city

Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty

How can you lose?


The lights are much brighter there

You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go

Downtown, things’ll be great when you’re

Downtown, no finer place for sure,

Downtown, everything’s waiting for you


Dancing in the Street – Martha and the Vandellas (YouTube)

There’ll be dancin’, they’re dancin’ in the street.

This is an invitation, across the nation,

A chance for folks to meet.

There’ll be laughin’ singin’, and music swingin’

Dancin’ in the street

Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell (YouTube)

They took all the trees

And put them in a tree museum

Then they charged the people

A dollar and a half just to see ’em

Don’t it always seem to go,

That you don’t know what you’ve got

‘Til it’s gone

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot

Little Boxes – Malvina Reynolds (YouTube)

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes made of ticky tacky

Little boxes on the hillside,

Little boxes all the same,

Theres a pink one & a green one

And a blue one & a yellow one

And they are all made out of ticky tacky

And they all look just the same.

Turn your volume up to 11 and enjoy some music this weekend.

– Steve Patterson