The last time I posted a blog entry was well over a month ago…there is a reason for that…

1.  New life events, the most dramatic being a new job.  I have left a ‘pure’ urban planner role migrating over to a community relations role in a different work setting.  AND I no longer have to do the unsustainable 40-miles each way hell commute anymore (unsustainable environmentally, physically and mentally!).  Interestingly enough, I am more of a planner in some ways now in that I now get to interact with community issues even more so and I am a bit higher on the food chain with the ability to make an impact.

2.  The realization that I do not have the time nor the inclination to turn this website into something akin to harder hitting issue focused blog (just take a look at the FYI section to the right to get a feel for what that type of website  looks like).

With that said, this blog is going to go through a ‘restructuring.’  I use that word because in the last two years my personal and professional lives have been through a major overhaul, and with pretty good results!  I am still fleshing out the details in my mind but I want to focus more on the essence of my hometown and pretty much any other place on the planet I will end up.  One thing I do know is that the look of the page has to change.  I want something much more sleek and beautiful (no offense free WordPress template).

Side note:  Can I just mention that I cannot believe this blog still gets daily hits.  I expected flatline WordPress analytics!  Ha!  Thank you to all who stop by probably wondering why the place was growing a bit stale.

So stay tuned for a restructured Wicked Urbanity.  If you have any idea or suggestions please feel free to email me at wickedurbanity [at] gmail dot com.

With much love,

Vanessa Nicole


Women’s History Month: Zaha Hadid, Architect

As  the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize for Architecture, Zaha Hadid is known for her innovative architectural designs.  Born in  Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, Hadid’s  studied mathematics at the American  University of Beruit and began her architectural studies at the Architectural Association of London in 1972, graduating in 1977.  Only two years after graduation, Hadid set out  to establish her own design firm, Zaha Hadid Architects. From that time, Hadid has gone on to design many projects in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia that have international recognition.  A few of her completed projects are shown below

Nordpark Railway Station  – Innsbruck, Austria
Zaha Hadid - Innsbruck - Nordpark Cable Railway 13
Source: archidaisuki0002 (Flickr)

BMW Central Plant  – Leipzig, Germany

BMW, Leipzig - Germany
Source: bene office (Flickr)


Research Sources

Event: Amplify Baltimore – 2nd Quarter

For those following the Amplify Baltimore initiative, the second event is being held this coming Saturday. Check out the flyer below for more information. To register for the event, click here.

Women’s History Month: Beverly L. Greene – Architect & Urban Planner (1915-1957)

Senior Portrait circa 1936

Photo Credit:  University of Illinois

Born Chicago, IL, Beverly Loraine Greene is believed to be the first registered African-American woman architect in the United States. The only child of a lawyer and a homemaker, Greene attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign going on to earn a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in architectural engineering in 1936 and a Master of Science (M.S.) in city planning a year later. In December 1942, Greene registered as an architect with the State of Illinois. She was 27 years old at the time.

Upon finishing her graduate education, Greene returned to Chicago and was hired by the Chicago Housing Authority, breaking the racial and gender glass ceilings at the agency. In 1945, Greene moved to New York City to work on the development of Stuyvesant Town a private housing complex on the east side of Manhattan. Greene did not believe she would be able to work on the project due to her reading about Stuyvesant Town “not allowing Negroes to live in the development” however, she was hired to work on the development, only to leave soon after to accept a scholarship from Columbia University to study city planning. Greene received a masters in architecture from Columbia University in June 1945.

During her career, Greene worked for several noted architects including Isadore Rosefield, Edward Durell Stone and Marcel Breuer. Below is a list of projects Greene worked on during her career:

Project Location Year
Christian Reformation Church (now Christian Parish for Spiritual Renewal) New York City 1956
New York University New York City (c) 1956
Sarah Lawrence College Theater Bronxville, NY 1952
United Nations Headquarters Paris, France 1950s
Unity Funeral Chapel New York City 1954
University of Arkansas Theater Fayetteville, AK 1951

At the age of 41, Greene died on August 22, 1957. A memorial service was held for Greene at Unity Funeral Chapel, one of the projects she designed.


African-American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary, 1864-1945 (New York: Routledge, 2004)

“Beverly Greene,” Jet Magazine, September 5, 1957

Greene, Beverly Loraine (1915-1957) –

Mitchell, Melissa, “Research Project Spotlights African-American Architects from University of Illinois

“Woman Architect Blazes a New Trail for Others,” Amsterdam News, June 23, 1945



Women in Architecture & Urban Planning – My Ode to Women’s History Month

Inspired by Faith Dow, the blogmaster of Acts of Faith in Love in Life post on Women’s History Month, I have decided during the month of March I will highlight women urban planners and architects. Off to do my research now…will bring back oodles of knowledge starting next week.

In the meantime, check out these neat looking buildings designed by women architects

Aqua – Location: Chicago – Designed by Jeanne Gang
Aqua, Chicago
Source: wjcordier(Flickr)

MAXXI/Museum of XXI Century Arts – Location: Rome – Designed by Zaha Hadid
The MAXXI - Museum of Contemporary Art of the XXI Century
Source: Francesco di Capua (Flickr)

Charm City Blues – Time for A Civic Xanax

Baltimore, Maryland  DSC029075-6
Source: Tim Shahan (Flickr)

As a native Baltimorean, I feel completely qualified to say this:  Baltimore, you have self-esteem issues.  Its time let go of those issues.  You need some civic therapy and then a dose of town pride on a daily basis.  Let me explain.

During my time in high school and college, I have listen to (many times unwittingly) other native sons and daughters trash Baltimore.  A few examples of this civic/self-loathing included statements such as:

“There are so many haters here!  I need to move to {fill in the blank supposedly less hater filled city}”

“Its boring here”

“This {fill-in-the-blank} university (in Baltimore) is wack.”  My thought:  For some reason  the people who would say this would stick around for all 4 or 5 years at the ‘wack’ uni and get a degree which is surely benefiting them today.

My theory for this overall down-spirited attitude towards one’s hometown is manifestation of low civic-esteem.  Baltimore, a medium-sized historically maritime town, sits in between a lot of ‘bigness’ if you will.  40 miles to our south is the Capital City  of the U.S.A. and arguably the world (though the D.C. is 30 square miles, give or take, smaller than Baltimore that federal seat business is a lot to compete with). 90 miles north is Philadelphia, which from this Baltimore girl’s perspective is a huge Baltimore it reminds me of home so  much, the good and the bad.  200 miles to the north is New York City and well..its New York baby!

So in the middle of all this ‘bigness’ is Charm City.  While strategically located and historically important, not a capital city, not the financial epicenter of the country, contained by 90 square miles. Take that, mix in a bunch of ‘urban issues’ of crime, the problems with the education system, lack of employment opportunities – depending on what strata of society you are in, and what many consider a lacking substantial entertainment scene, especially during the night hours, you get a population that feels like the red-headed stepchild of the east coast. Enter the complaints about haters, ‘being boring’, and ‘wack’ colleges.

I have always been an action-oriented person so to hear these complaints about my fair city, grates on my nerves.  Essentially, the people who make these complaints are the people who do not feel the need to improve the situation they complain so much about.  With that said, if you are from B’more and you feel this way, here is a preliminary five-point blueprint to become proud of our city.

Become educated on the history of Baltimore

Get  to the library or just type in ‘Baltimore history’ in your favorite search engine and begin learning about Baltimore’s history.  Pretend like you are in the 3rd Grade again and take the obligatory elementary school trip to Fort McHenry.  Tour our local historic-focused museums.  When you become educated of the rich history of our city, you will become very proud.  Trust. 

Do Something!

Complaining isn’t an action-oriented activity people.  Flapping your lips to your friends isn’t going to get you very far.  As the saying goes ‘Be the change you want to see.’  A few ideas just to get those neurons firing in your brain:  volunteer/become a committee or board member for organizations focused on improving a particular slice of city life – environmental, social, small business, housing, etc.  Become an active member in your neighborhood associations.  Show up to a City Council or Planning Board meeting to stay informed about the issues.

Say Something!

Via the written word.  Write a letter editor for one of the media outlets about the good taking place in your neighborhood. Become a citizen report if you so desire.  If you are an organization, report on your good deeds within your host community.   A recent example is this story about the Morgan State U Football Team shoveling snow for homeowners in the adjacent New Northwood neighborhood.  This story received a ton of press.  We need more of these stories.

Create Something!

Start your own thing.  Whether it be a community group, special interest group, online community/activist activity, etc., this is a way for you to make a mark on improving the City’s quality of life.

Becoming a walking booster club for the City

After you do all this learning, doing, saying and creating….then you can start talking.  Especially to when you go out-of-town.  I work in the DC metro area and I talk about Baltimore quite a bit.  When I visited Connecticut last Christmas, I talked up Charm City like it was nobody’s business.

And for the love of God, stop complaining about haters.  I get so tired about hearing that term.  Its played out, find another term to use.  ‘Haters’ are going to be wherever you go.  Get over it and keep it moving.

There is your Civic Xanax folks.  Take once daily with our municipal water supply that is so clean companies bottle it to sell as ‘spring water’.

How the West Was Lost

Considering the economic climate as of late, check out this great Tedx talk by economist and author Dambisa Moyo about how economic policies enacted over the last half-century have impacted the U.S. and the world.  Enjoy!