City Repair perspectives from Costa Rica

Article below by Marc Tobin, Executive Director of City Repair.

Marc, center, teaching a permaculture class in Costa Rica.

Marc, center, teaching a permaculture class in Costa Rica.

From mid January to the beginning of March I had the great pleasure of spending time in Costa Rica, which included sharing the work of City Repair. I taught in a permaculture design course, and a networking gathering, and later shared City Repair work with people at Envision festival. While I traveled, I met locals and travelers and visited rural and urban ecovillage projects.

Throughout the whole time I had great conversations with people from Central America, Europe, various cities in North America, and Australia about how City Repair’s placemaking work might be adopted to their communities.

I was pleasantly surprised to meet a number of people, from Guatemala to North Carolina, who had already heard of and been inspired by City Repair’s work.

A huge part of my trip was constantly learning form the people and places I encountered. This learning has given me some whole new windows into communities that are new to me and their expressions of place.

My trip began with five days in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. While Costa Rica is rightly known for its wild areas, most people in the country live in the San Jose metropolitan area. Walking around the city, I noticed all sorts of little differences in urban form compared to U.S. cities, from smaller building setbacks, to more open stormwater and different ways that traffic is managed.

One thing I noticed was a relative abundance of gathering places in San Jose. A Nicaraguan architect that I met later in my trip explained to me that the city of Tenochtitlan (where Mexico City now stands) had great large public plazas, which, after European contact, influenced the Spanish to bring plazas into their urban design. This led to the Spanish having more public places in their urban design than England, which in turn led to Latin Americas cities having more plazas than American cities. I haven’t had a chance to research into this history myself since I’ve been back, so I’m very curious about learning more about this.

With San Jose having a greater abundance of plazas and murals than in most U.S. cities, I got to wondering if they even have a need for City Repair there. Then I started meeting local Costa Rican community builders and “solutionary” activists from San Jose and other Costa Rica cities and rural communities, and ones from Nicaragua and Guatemala, who assured me that there is a great need there for many aspects of City Repair’s work.

Some of these community initiators are already working on projects that are very much aligned with City Repair’s vision. They saw a lot of potential value in partnering with City Repair and using our templates and process, while also retaining their own identity with their local grassroots organizations. In essence, a local organization can be both autonomous and also be the host for a City Repair “chapter”. To be a chapter, they can agree to a set of guiding principles to City Repair’s work, while having a lot of flexibility in what that looks like. In this way, it’s a network, or mycelium model, rather than a hierarchy.

To help them set this up, I am looking forward to consulting with community leaders in various cities in Latin America when I go there again next year. To support this, I will need to find funding, probably from individuals and organizations in the “global North”, in countries with greater economic wealth, who are interested in funding our consulting work with communities in Latin America. This will allow the Latin American communities to focus their own resources on their local communities, which seems most fair and practical, given the significant difference between many of these countries’ economies and exchange rates and that of the U.S, Western Europe, and Japan for example. We’ve identified some potential sources. We are also seeking help with funding for this, so if this work of bringing City Repair more broadly internationally speaks to any of you reading, and you’d like to contribute directly to this work or knows of organizations that might, please contact about it.

The template that we develop for bring this work to Latin America can also be one that we adopt to bring it to other parts of the world. For example, in Costa Rica, I dialogued with someone who works some of the year in Burma, about having me teach and consult there, especially with the Buddhist monk community. There’s a great opportunity to explore in community the commonalities between permaculture, placemaking, and Buddhism, and since I studied Buddhism, I can already see a lot of parallels.

One inspiring aspect of my work in Costa Rica was in working with people involved with rural land and community repair. While City Repair is, as is apparent from its name, focused on urban areas, we’ve also been exploring how to apply our work to rural areas. For most of my trip I was staying at a community and farm named Verde Energia, which is located in a remote hilly area between the town of Puriscal and the Pacific coast.

Verde Energia was started by folks from the U.S. who wanted to genuinely connect with and bring benefit with the local community. The site was chosen was land that was once primary rainforest, but had been cut and turned to cattle land and suffered terrible erosion. This provides a huge opportunity for land restoration to a diverse rainforest state using permaculture principles to also obtaining an economic yield. Costa Rica in general is a worldwide ecological hot spot, so there is a great leverage in restoring this land, from a biodiversity and carbon sequestration perspective.

The founder of Verde Energia, Josh Hughes, and his partners at Black Sheep consulting, are now protecting more acres at different sites in their region. They found that getting donations to restore rainforest was not working quickly enough, so they developed permaculture business plans for these sites, that restore the land, while putting in highly productive permaculture forest gardens which grow “superfoods” like turmeric, ginger, sacha itchi berry, and cacao, as well as a variety of fruit. The areas are perennial polycultures, rather than monocrop orchards.

They are able to hire locals for many aspects of the operations and pay them much more than the going rates. In our permaculture design course that I co-taught with Steve Ganister and Sara Czarnieki, we offered three full scholarships for Costa Ricans who are each engaged in projects that will help bring permaculture to more people in their communities.

When I return I want to more deeply engage in traveling and learning from local communities around Costa Rica. One of my greatest learnings and impacts on me was from the local culture. There is a type of social “warmth” and interest in social connection that I found in Costa Rica, among the Costa Ricans, and among a lot of the foreigners who have sense located there. In the U.S., if I am facilitating a group of strangers, I might have to lead a bunch of team building exercises with them to get them to engage in ways that seem to be more of the mainstream norm in Costa Rican culture. There’s also a lot of pride in the biodiversity and nature in the country, in a way that seems to be one of the main pieces of national identity. For me this was somewhat of a welcome contrast from the U.S., where it seems that only a small subset of the population connects their national identity to healthy diverse landscapes, and where patriotism in the U.S. often has a more militaristic and competitive association. In the U.S., to be proud of place on a national scale is imbued with having to better than or over someone else. In Costa Rica, on the other hand, I encountered locals who seemed to me to take a lot of national pride in the abundance of diverse plants and animals like monkeys, sloths, and toucans.

Both the socially open attitude and celebration of natural abundance tie in with the national slogan of “Pura Vida”, meaning “pure life”. One way I see “pura vida” is in appreciating the magic of life, as expressed in the people and nature around us. This is different than the approach that I often see in the U.S. of dissatisfaction with one’s current reality and needing things to be more and different. In the U.S. the norm is often “we will be happy sometime in the future, once we have the biggest and best [fill in the blank]”, whereas the pura vida approach is one of reminding ourselves to choose to celebrate life itself, in it’s pure essence, and that is possible to do in any moment.

Some of my new Costa Rican friends warned me to not fall into the trap of being a northerner on tropical vacation who only sees their country as some sort of paradise, while not engaging in the real pressing social and environmental issues that they face. This is very important, as there are many environmental and social threats and challenges there. I’ve committed myself to including the voices of some of these local activists and writings they recommend into future courses and consultations that I participate in. I have a long ways to go in my own understanding of the place and culture, so rather than try to pretend I’m an expert on that any time soon, I will work to make prominent space for those who are deeply engaged in that work, and humbly learn.

After the permaculture course, I led workshops and providing one on one mentoring at an event called NuSeed, put on by a great organization called NuMundo. Numundo’s work is to provide virtual and in person connection, networking and visibility for sustainable community projects through ought Latin America. These include urban community garden sites, rural permaculture farms, yoga centers, eco-solutionary hubs, ecovilages and intentional communities. NuSeed is their big annual in person networking, education, and mentoring event. There was an incredible group of change agents there from around the world. Teaching them about City Repair’s work had a great social leverage effect, because they are all generally leaders of organizations themselves. I can’t even keep up with all the follow up on the many exciting ideas for collaborations that came out of that event.

We then took that energy and community that we had built at NuSeed into the Envision Festival, where we held a social and environmental networking space. This space provided an ongoing place for anyone at the festival to drop in and engage in meaningful conversations around important projects, while drinking cacao from a local permaculture farm. I connected a lot of people to City Repair in this space. This is one example of the work that City Repair has a long history with, of bringing opportunities to get involved with deep service work into events where the overall focus is on revelry. On the other side of the same coin, City Repair is great at bringing the fun to the hard work of placemaking.

Overall, throughout the entire trip, it was amazing to see the enthusiasm and joy that people got from connecting with others from different parts of the globe and different cultures, but with a common care for the earth and people. I realized that the power of the joy in this kind of working together is far greater than the forces of separation, cultural division and scapegoating that has been recently so obviously manifesting in U.S. politics and many other places in the world. People will find a way to make friends and allies across all kinds of barriers, and while that might not get nearly as much press as the divisiveness, that connection is happening every day, around the world, in many small ways that do add up to greater global awareness and connection.

Some of the early epiphanies for City Repair came from Mark Lakeman’s travels into the jungle in Latin America. After 20 years, there is a new way that this important cultural and geographical cross pollination is happening, and I feel honored to be part of that.

All of this adventure was possible because the rest of the amazing City Repair admin team in Portland: Mark L, Ridhi, Kirk, and Priti, along with the incredible City Repair volunteers, kept a dizzying array of City Repair projects and services thriving that whole time. That team deserves so much admiration and support for consistently keeping the home fires burning, of Portland based administration, placemaking, VBC, and volunteer engagement, which provides a solid core for any of our efforts to share our work with more of the world.

PRESS RELEASE: Closing Reception & Design Charrette: Argyle Village

Saturday, December 17, 2016 - 11:00 am to 2:00 pm

Parking lot at Pacific Northwest College of Art

511 NW Broadway, Portland, OR 97209

Portland’s design community, the media, and the general public are invited to an outdoor reception and design charrette in the parking lot of the Pacific Northwest College of Art this Saturday, from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm. This event is both a celebration of the successful completion of 14 “sleeping pods” supported by the City of Portland, and the launch of the planning process for “Argyle Village,” a new village community proposed for the Kenton neighborhood that will employ all 14 pods.

This will be the only chance to tour all 14 pods and speak with the designers and houseless people who collaborated to design them. It will also mark the beginning of the site development process for “Argyle Village,” a proposed village community for the Kenton neighborhood.

The pods were designed and constructed by volunteers from PSU’s Center for Public Interest Design, City Repair, the ReBuilding Center, Open Architecture, and the following firms: SERA Architects, Holst Architecture, Mackenzie, SRG Partnership / Howard S. Wright, William Wilson Architects, Scott Edwards Architecture, LRS Architects, Communitecture, MoMaMa, Mods PDX + Shelter Wise, and Architects Without Borders-OR.

Invitees to the reception include the residents of Dignity Village, Right2DreamToo, and Hazelnut Grove, students and faculty from PNCA, PSU's School of Architecture, supporters of the Village Coalition, Portland’s design community, and the general public.  

The Partners On Dwelling Initiative is sponsored by the Village Coalition, a coalition of urban villages and their allies in and around Portland, including Dignity Village, R2D2, and Hazelnut Grove.

For more information, visit:



PRESS RELEASE: Panel: The Future of Portland’s Tiny House Village Movement

Saturday, December 10, 2016 - 11:00 am to 12:30 pm

Mediatheque at Pacific Northwest College of Art

511 NW Broadway, Portland, OR 97209

Portland's tiny house village movement extends back more than fifteen years, with the founding of Dignity Village, a self governing membership-based community in NE Portland composed of formerly houseless residents. Saturday’s panel discussion is a chance for attendees to understand thePartners On Dwelling (POD) exhibition in its historical context and learn more about the social ingredients necessary for a self governing community, the benefits of living in a small village, the legal and political impediments to establishing additional villages, and the solutions that professional creatives can offer to major social problems.

Panelists will include Mark Lakeman (cofounder of The City Repair Project, Principal at Communitecture), Andrew Heben (Program Manager atSquare One Villages and author of the book Tent City Urbanism), Vahid Brown (Housing Policy Coordinator for Clackamas County and cofounder of the Village Coalition), Sergio Palleroni, Director of Portland State University’s Center for Public Interest Design, and leaders from the houseless community. It will be moderated by David Bikman, a volunteer member of the Village Coalition.

The POD exhibition is taking place in collaboration with PNCA, a major hub for creative innovation, and co-sponsored by Portland State's Center for Public Interest Design. The exhibition's intent is to illustrate the impact that thoughtful design can have on public perception of housing insecurity. By demonstrating how easy it is to build a safe, affordable, and attractive community for Portlanders in need, the POD Initiative hopes to catalyze the construction of similar clusters of tiny homes throughout the city.  The POD Initiative is an invitation to Portland's creative class to direct their passion and expertise toward the challenge of providing low cost, abundant housing to all who need it.

Invitees to the panel include the residents of Dignity Village, Right2DreamToo, and Hazelnut Grove, students and faculty from PNCA and PSU's Schools of Architecture and Social Work, supporters of the Village Coalition, local architecture firms, and the general public.  

The POD Initiative is sponsored by the Village Coalition, a coalition of urban villages and their allies in and around Portland, including Dignity Village, R2D2, and Hazelnut Grove.

For more information, visit:

Village Coalition: An uplifting opportunity

Article by Michelle Hess, a City Repair intern , Village Coalition Organizer, and Pod Designer.

As a Village Coalition intern with City Repair, I’ve had some uplifting opportunities to participate in events aimed at addressing houselessness in Portland. The Village Coalition is a group of organizers, individuals, and houseless villagers joining forces to come up with inventive solutions for the city’s growing houseless population. The coalition meets every other week with updates and to share resources for various projects and events. These meetings often run the gamut of emotions for me, from sadness and frustration when hearing accounts of camps being uprooted by recent sweeps, to heartwarming hopefulness when successes and victories are shared. Overall, it restores my faith in humanity to be in this room with so many people dedicated to making change.


On October 1st, I attended a design charrette hosted by PSU’s Center for Public Interest Design to come up with creative tiny houses (termed PODs by the city for permitting purposes) that could be combined to form houseless villages around the city. Attendees included architects, designers, houseless villagers, activists, and interested community members. As a designer, I thought it was a wonderful mix of people. Members of the houseless community were able to voice their needs and concerns for housing directly to architects and designers who can help create the plans and models needed to build pods for the houseless. In the end, each table presented their design solutions. This charrette was the first step in what will eventually be an exhibition of built PODs in December. The PODs will be displayed at various parks around the city to help familiarize the public with the houseless village model and challenge some of the existing perceptions regarding what houseless shelters can look like.


On October 9th and 11th, I also participated in a women’s shelter build, which took place at Castaway in NW Portland. Four 8’x8’ PODs are being built and will be donated to area churches for use as shelters on their property. The 9th was the first day of the build and, despite the rain, there was a great crew of volunteers. It was inspiring to see everyone work so well together. I was grateful for the more experienced carpenters who were willing to teach the rest of us the basics and keep things moving. I love to build things, but rarely have access to tools and materials, so this build felt extra-rewarding. It was a great opportunity to use my abilities and work with the community to build housing for women in need. On the first day, we started with an empty parking lot and piles of lumber, and ended with four framed shelters! The other build days were during the week, and expectedly slower, but when I was there on Tuesday, the shelters were sheathed and ready for siding, and roofing was underway. There were even plans for dog houses to be made out of scrap material, for occupant’s companion animals. This project is ongoing and has been relocated to the Rebuilding Center, but will hopefully be completed soon.

Call for Placemaking Interns!

We are recruiting interns, or volunteer organizers, for our 2017 Placemaking season. This role will support our direct services to communities we're helping to create permaculture gardens, natural buildings, and intersection repair. We have released our Request for Proposals (RFPs), otherwise known as Placmaking Applications, so the work has already begun!

To apply for the position, email a letter of interest and resume to We'll be reviewing applications as they come in and are building a team of 3 to 5. Below are the position details: 

Organization Name, Address, phone number:
The City Repair Project
840 SE Alder Street, with a move to 1421 SE Division Street mid-winter.
307-287-0005 (Supervisor Phone)

Internship Title:  
Placemaking Intern

Supervisor Name, position title, phone and email address:
Ridhi D’Cruz
Associate Director

Kirk Rea, Volunteer Coordinator, Placemaking Community Organizer
307-287-0005 (no text)

Organization vision statement
The City Repair Project fosters thriving, inclusive and sustainable communities through the creative reclamation of public space.

Organization mission statement:
City Repair facilitates artistic and ecologically-oriented placemaking through projects that honor the interconnection of human communities and the natural world. The many projects of City Repair have been accomplished by a mostly volunteer staff and thousands of volunteer citizen activists. We provide support, resources, and opportunities to help diverse communities reclaim the culture, power, and joy that we all deserve

Internship is unpaid, but we are exploring grant funding.

Internship Description
The Placemaking Intern assists in the following areas with facilitative leadership and within a larger team that provides direct service to communities implementing placemaking projects using intersection repair, permaculture gardening, and natural building. To read a personal reflection of a past intern, click here.

General Responsibilities

  1. Archival and documentation work including:

    1. Cataloging  past placemaking sites, government departments (eg: ONI), neighborhood coalitions, sister nonprofits/ community-oriented partners

    2. Systematize past, present and future partnership-building opportunities on google spreadsheets

    3. Support with program management for 2017 VBC Placemaking program

  2. Community Engagement

    1. Identify and outreach to potential/ interested new partners, especially marginalized groups

    2. Help host informational, culturally-responsive, and educational community engagement events, presentations, and workshops

    3. Work directly in the field and on-site with the communities City Repair serves

  3. Community Outreach

    1. Publicize events online and in-person

    2. Identify and attend tabling opportunities at fairs, conferences, and community building events hosted by sister organizations etc.

  4. Communications

    1. Support with the creation of the placemaking site component of the Village Builder Event Magazine

    2. Upkeep placemaking-related information on the website including

      1. FAQs

      2. Galleries

      3. Maps

  5. Peer-mentoring and collaborative leadership

    1. Co-create learning goals and areas of growth for the intern to pursue their passions and build their skill set

    2. Take on tasks through guidance and self-direction. We will co-create a work plan to meet learning goals.

    3. Write reflections on experiences.

10-15 per week, commitment expected through early-June, with summer 2017 extension an option. Thursday are consistent meeting and workshop days. Occasional weekend workparties. A schedule can be made to fit changing schedules, especially due to class.

    Rolling deadline. We are hoping to hire 3 to 5 interns.

Welcome our new intern, Kamron!

Say hello to Kamron, our newest intern working on our Pollinator Pathways Initiative!

Kamron is currently studying Community Development at Portland State University because his passion is in understanding how human society and the natural world meet and how to blend those two parts more seamlessly as well as how people use and create space.  

Growing up in a suburban town, he felt the disconnection between the natural world and home.  Seeing subdivisions cut into forests and wetlands made him wonder how could these two be more integrated rather than divided.  In high school, his dad helped him discover some of the healing properties of stinging nettle, Urtica dioica specifically for allergies. Since then he became fascinated with the connection plants and people.

Kamron grew up in the Portland area and enjoys being in the wilderness, hiking, camping, backpacking, running, and eating.  He has a background in ecological restoration and education.  Working with native plant species he realized the holistic qualities of these plants- restoring the health of the soil, water and air as well as providing food, shelter and medicine for animals including humans. Some of his experience includes working/volunteering in native plant nurseries, on various ecological restoration projects in the Portland area, maintained City of Portland swales, rider surveys with Trimet, and working on a trail crew.

He expects to further explore topics such as urban planning and design, land use, permaculture and ecology.  He can see himself working on projects where ecological restoration, urban planning, ethnobotany and permaculture meet, but ultimately the future is unknown. Tomorrow is a mystery!

Send him a hello by emailing

Charles Eisenstein on "Interbeing"

This article, written by Taz Loomans, is originally posted on her blog site, Blooming Rock, where she posts news and musings about sustainability, urbanism and architecture, as well as leading a monthly book club meet up on the those topics. 

“The definition of love is self love, expanding the definition of self to include other.”

This captures the essence of what philosopher and author Charles Eisenstein had to say at the First Congregational Church in Downtown Portland last month. Eisenstein’s talk served as a shot in the arm for weary activists in the audience of the event organized by The City Repair Project.

Eisenstein began by lamenting the world we live in. It “is set up against the path that makes our hearts sing,” he said. For one it measures the kind of work that men do and invalidates the work women do. “The entire world we’re accustomed to,” he continued, “is an outgrowth of the mythology of separation and well being comes from the domination of the other and nature.” The world as it is emphasizes the separate self where growth means the conversion of nature into products and human relationships into services.

As a counterpoint to the separate self narrative, Eisenstein posits the concept of “interbeing”, which can be understood in his example of the rain forests. If we think of ourselves as existentially connected to the rain forests, then if they hurt, we hurt. It hurts because what is happening to the rain forests is happening to us, he says. Essentially, interbeing asks us to “love every being on this planet as we love our own children.”

Eisenstein acknowledged that the paradigm of the separate self still dominates the world we live in, but it’s weakening and breaking down. “We are in between stories, the old story is breaking down. Just look at marriage as an institution, for example. It’s no longer what it used to be in so many ways.” He went on to say that, “something similar is happening at a collective level and many of us are entering into a bewildered stage. Though the old story is still dominant, it is hollowing out; our work is to help hollow out the core.” This is both hopeful and daunting to the people trying to make change.

And how do we do the work of hollowing out the core? It’s not by just participating in work that is having a large scale impact. We can do the important work of “disrupting the story of separation” by working at whatever level we are at. Eisenstein coached activists not to worry about scaling up their efforts but to do what they are doing well, no matter how small the scale is. “If you trust the story of interbeing, your job is to do your task well, whatever you’re doing, on a family level, on a local level or a national or global level. Maybe it will scale up, maybe it won’t. Or maybe it’ll take a more mysterious path that you can’t know in advance,” he says.

Eisenstein also advised the audience to take heart and be patient with the struggles they face. Because we are in between stories, what’s next has not become apparent yet, and all we have for reference are the old institutions, which are slowly crumbling. “There are not yet new institutions to welcome us, we’re trying to build new institutions without a guide book,” he acknowledged and that’s why it’s hard! But he urged people to not give up and keep the faith that their work, no matter how small, has an impact somewhere else. Eisenstein cited the work of Sheldon Aldridge and said that any change that happens in one place creates a field of change somewhere else.

To find out more about what Eisenstein’s philosophy, check out his most recent book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.

Charles Eisenstein.

Charles Eisenstein.

Open internship to support houseless communities

Village Coalition Internship

Since the founding of Dignity Village (pictured above) in the early 2000’s, we have been supporting houseless people with design support, community builds, policy advocacy, and giving a spotlight and platform to community members. We recently helped Right 2 Dream Too (R2DToo) design  their new village (shown at the bottom of this document) and are an active member of a Village Coalition which is crafting design and policy to aid the creation and implementation of houseless villages in Portland.

We are looking for an intern to join the City Repair team to support our houseless support initiatives. We have a large need for program support through December as we work with a multi-organizational Village Coalition and there is a probability of extending the program through our June 2017 Village Building Convergence. As this program has started with deadlines quickly approaching, a highly flexible and adaptable nature is required. 

While this is an unpaid internship, it is an amazing opportunity to work in placemaking and with houseless communities to innovate our society’s responsive systems to creating shelter for everyone. Additionally, as an educational non-profit we will train you in any relevant skill you want to learn or hone within this program.

Skills employed in this program include:

  • Houseless and Affordable Housing Advocacy

  • Community Built Facilitation and Designing

  • Program and Event Management

  • Collaboration and Conflict Resolution

  • Sustainable Urban Planning

  • Diversity and Equity

  • Administrative Duties


Specific tasks or outcomes of this internship include:


  • Attending Village Coalition meetings and possibly sub-committees

  • Tracking city council decisions on emergency housing and houseless villages

  • Aid planning community events, such as teach-ins, presentations, and gallery exhibits

  • Write articles and reports for City Repair and Village Coalition

  • Represent City Repair to community partners and citizens


Additional skills that can benefit the program include:


  • Construction and building experience

  • Architectural design training

  • Permaculture design

  • Graphic design

  • Fundraising and grant writing

  • Public Speaking


City Repair holds dear equity, consensus, shared leaderships, and earth care in our service to the community and to our own collective. We encourage applications from candidates with diverse backgrounds, particularly those from historically underrepresented groups, whose professional and personal experiences will help us work toward our vision of a just and healthy world.


Applications for the Village Coalition Intern will be reviewed on a rolling basis with the position open until filled. If you are interested please email a cover letter, resume, and three references (preferably combined as a single document) to Kirk Rea, Volunteer Coordinator and Placemaking Community Organizer at With questions call 307-287-0005 (no text).

Right 2 Dream Too's new location in dreamscape.

Right 2 Dream Too's new location in dreamscape.

Right 2 Dream Too's new location base map.

Right 2 Dream Too's new location base map.

Connect the Park Blocks on 8/20

On Saturday, August 20th, City Repair will transform O'Bryant Square in downtown Portland, at SW Park Ave and Washington Street. Known as "Paranoid Park" or 'Needle Park," this one-block zone has a bad reputation and an old-drab design. This event will re-envision what this park can look like and what activities can be engaged in on a regular basis by doing a one-day temporary placemaking event. Partner's shaping the space include Friends of O'Bryant Square and Oregon Humanities.

Volunteers are needed to help set-up, engage activities, and take down the space. Click here to sign up here. Many hands are needed!

This transformation is a part of "Connect the Park Blocks" a one-day open street fair route along NW and SW Park Ave - from NW Hoyt to SW Market. This event will allow people to walk, stroll, jog, and visit local business between the North and South Park Blocks and be clear of parked cars and vehicle traffic. We envision a Park Avenue that is an active space open and welcome to everyone. This project will also promote the Green Loop concept. Hosted by Better Block PDX, Oregon Walks and the Green Loop Project, the goal is to increase foot traffic and build community! RSVP here!



Weaving Together, Community Event 7/31

Brought to you by City Repair/VBC, Don’t Shoot PDX, and Speaking the Unspeakable® Facebook event page with current updates:

At VBC 2016, we embarked on a journey of weaving together, asking questions to explore what it will truly take to confront oppression. There are no easy answers or solutions, but what was clear is that these conversations must continue. 

With recent events around the country, the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the Dallas 5, and so many more over the years, we are a nation rocked with grief, in all its many phases and stages, including denial, resistance, and deep mourning. Hearts tender from scars ripped open reveal the weeping wounds of this nation. 

“Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight & continue to pull back the veil.”

Let us come together and hold each other tight as we hear each other’s voices, songs, poetry, and words. Let us feel each other’s sadness, grief, anger, rage, and unfounded hope. Let us speak, cry, hug, and dance. Together.

We continue to ask the question of what will it take for us to weave together as community across the many ways we have been divided against each other, and within ourselves, to confront the oppression that is intended to keep us separate. This history etched into our bones will not define us, but inform us. This painted skin we wear will be seen for what it is, skin deep. This life we are living is ours. We are the keys that will unlock our future. Together we will be as relentless as the ocean waves crashing upon the shores to reshape the landscape of our lives, to advance justice that we may know peace.

Join us in Weaving Together…

Holladay Park
Between NE 11th Ave and NE 13th Ave on Multnomah Street. 
4 – 7 pm

3:30p – Gather Together
4:00p – Opening Circle
4:20p – Community Heart Share and Speak Out
4:50p – Small Group Rap Sessions
5:15p – Collective Harvest
5:30p – Community Heart Share and Speak Out
6:00p – Closing Circle
6:30p – Clean-up

~*~*~ Flow of the schedule may change ~*~*~ 
*** Portions of the evening will be Live Streamed ***

You are invited to bring a picnic and share in food together. Please, no alcohol. 

We are gathering in peace and love, with honesty and courage. We are weaving together. We are sharing our hearts and challenging our minds. We are naming our experience and being witnessed. We are creating a safe space for the full expression of our humanity.

We are going on a journey of deep listening, of being in connection with each other, of sitting in the fire of discontent and not turning away. We are inviting an exploration to see where this question we have asked will lead us – What Will it Take for Us to Weave Together to Confront Oppression? Let’s release any expectations or attachments to how far we travel, what the terrain will look like, or the specific ground we will cover. 

More than anything, people need to be heard, with deep listening, full presence, and an openness to step outside of our beliefs, our boxes, and our comfort zones. The request is that we suspend judgment, allow for difference, and invite vulnerability. 

Base assumptions we are working from:
~ Racism, sexism, & classism are real and woven into our human experience in modern times
~ This ism schism is intrinsically connected to a "power over" belief system
~ The effects of colonialism are still playing out today
~ Life as it has been must change
~ People joining together will be powerful in creating meaningful change

…Join us…


Summer Volunteer Opportunities

Here are some briefs for our summer projects. Besides supporting a few intersection paintings, City Repair is designing and building ephemeral placemaking, or tactical urbanist, installations. We’re looking for volunteers to help with the planning and capacity building (meetings + team designing) as well as the day of work such as installing, activating programming, and take down. For any interest please contact Kirk at so we can plug you in.

1. Oregon Walkways: Connect the Park Blocks
Aug 20th. Event runs 10 am to 4 pm plus build out and take down.

This event organized by Better Block PDX will shut down traffic downtown between the North and South Park Blocks to reimagine the space as being more geared toward foot traffic and community building structures. To support the initiative City Repair will design and build a structure that will support sustainability initiatives and community building programming. This may reflect work we’ve done at Earth Day Festivals in town.

NEEDS: 1) pre-event planners ASAP 2) day of building volunteers (save the date!)

THEMES: Tactical Urbanism, Community Building, Urban Design, Houseless Rights, Natural Building, Appropriate Tech

2. Oregon Walkways: Cully Camina
September 18th. Event 11:00am – 4:00pm plus build out and take down.

We are thrilled to team up with the Cully Neighborhood for Oregon Walkways: Cully Camina, the pilot in a new series of pedestrian-focused open streets events. Cully Camina, held Sunday, September 18th,, will encourage participants to explore the Cully neighborhood on foot and use the streets for play. City Repair will be designing and building natural-materials into beacons along the route and leading some activities.

NEEDS: 1) pre-event planners ASAP 2) day of building volunteers (save the date!)

THEMES: Tactical Urbanism, Community Building, Urban Design, Equity and Anti-Gentrification, Natural Building, Appropriate Tech

3. Permaculture Team - Pollinator Focus

We have a working team that supports getting our communities plant donations by both growing our own and asking for plant donations, while also offering permaculture consultations and aiding workparties. We are already looking ahead toward the next VBC, especially as we are proud to announce we received a grant from the Community Watershed Stewardship Program to develop pathways of stormwater managing and habitat building plantings. We will be doing outreach at events like Sunday Parkways (7/24, 8/21, 10/2) and will begin raising plants and modifying landscapes early autumn.

NEEDS: 1) team members for working group 2)tablers and activity leaders for outreach events

THEMES: Pollinator Habitat, Watershed, Permaculture, Group Work, Fundraising, Direct Community Service

4. New Headquarters Construction

We are currently moving into a new HQ at 1421 SE Division Street and will have have workparties on either Thursdays and Saturdays throughout the summer. We’ll confirm dates through newsletters, but also keep an eye on our Facebook Events or our website’s calendar. Work will include landscaping, office remodeling (carpet removal, wall demoing) and some supply moving. Our next workparties are this Thursday (7/7) from 5 pm to 8 pm with and Saturday (7/9) meals provided. Please RSVP to

THEMES: Retrofitting with Sustainable Practice, Permaculture, Construction

Besides just giving back to the community through your service, here's an option to gain benefit from volunteering through the PDX Time Bank:

PDX Time Bank is a community of members who share their services with one another. At its most basic level, time banking is simply about spending an hour doing something for somebody in your community. That hour goes into the Time Bank as a Time Dollar. Then you have a Time dollar to spend on having someone do something for you. Create an exciting relationship with your community, neighbors and friends! In the world of time-stressed schedules, the PDX Time Bank is an answer to nurturing a little more of what you love to do in exchange for what you don't know how, want, or have time to do -- created through the power of sharing the community wealth of talents. 

To join, go to and submit an application by clicking "become a member". Besides trading services individual to individual, organizations like City Repair can give time dollars to folks volunteers who provide services.

Doors of Love, for Orlando

At the beginning of July, City Repair contributed to a community built art installation of 80 donated doors with messages of love and hope after the mass shooting in Orlando, FL. The Doors of Love were installed at the Portland Pride Festival where anyone could write or paint messages of support or express feelings being brought on by the tragedy. The installation was then moved to City Hall and will be up through July 15th. 


Heather takes Portland: Post-VBC reflections on Placemaking and “Community”

Story and photos by Heather Liang, a City Repair summer intern, who is studying "Growth and Structure of Cities" at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. 

“What if I went to Portland for the summer?” –me, May 9th , 2016 1:02 am.
“omg how am I in Portland? How did this happen?” –also me, May 29th , 2016, 12:10 pm.

Landing in Portland at the end of May, I had no idea where to begin exploring and discovering the city that would be my home for the next two months while I interned with The City Repair Project. Of course, I was excited, but I was also wholly terrified. Having planned the whole trip in less than 3 weeks, and not knowing anyone in the city, I had no idea how to navigate public transportation, which obligatory tourist sites to visit, which streets to stroll, what art to see, how to meet people, and whether or not I would be able to feed myself. Over a month in and a great deal of those anxieties still remain, but I have learned that I can make pretty passable Chinese food, and more importantly, I have met some of the most incredible and inspiring folks through City Repair.

“Portland is one of those cities you can immerse yourself in and feel comfortable.”

Starting to work with City Repair just days before the Village Building Convergence opened was the true definition of hitting the ground running. After a quick crash-course from the core team, I found myself in the full swing of VBC, on a completely unexpected and foreign adventure.

Between visiting placemaking sites around the city and helping out at the central venue, I met folks from all walks of life coming together to learn about and celebrate permaculture, sustainability, art, community, and personal and collective growth. I engaged in and witnessed so many genuine connections and valuable conversations about the nuanced processes involved in the change and growth of our city spaces.

In college, I am majoring in Growth and Structure of Cities, studying the ways in which built environments impact aspects of social environments and vice versa. My academic interests drew me to City Repair’s initiatives to reclaim and transform public spaces to benefit the growth and development of the city. Approaching VBC (and Portland) with this framework in mind, I was – and continue to be – in awe of the existing interconnectedness between physical and social environments here, and the sheer force of the collective community effort aiming to strengthen that connection. I think that the placemaking sites perfectly demonstrate this effort. By allowing people to take ownership of and transform their physical environments, the inception and creation of these sites foster a certain sense of camaraderie, not just between people in the neighborhood, but also between people who come out to create and maintain the sites.

“It takes a village,” and that’s exactly what we have.

A professor and mentor of mine has an aversion to the word “community” because he thinks that it has been overused to a point of vagueness. He encourages us to unpack what “community” means whenever we feel the itching desire to use the word, which in Cities classes is often. As a result, I have become pretty sensitive to this word. Unsurprisingly, “community” came up often during VBC – it is, ultimately, what folks came together to find and to build. By bringing together people with common interests to collaborate with, learn from, and engage with each other and their surroundings, VBC provided a framework that encouraged small and large communities alike to flourish and grow.

What I found most impressive about VBC, and what I am convinced makes Portland so unique, is the willingness that people have to connect with others. Everyone seemed so friendly and genuinely willing to listen to one another and put work and heart into each other’s projects, which seems to be what ultimately makes possible not only these projects but also long-term change. Maybe that is the key to “community”.

Light Straw Clay Building Retrofit

Over the first weekend of April, City Repair volunteers continued to help make sustainability history! We joined a workparty for the first permitted Light Straw Clay retrofit in Portland. Thanks to Communitecture for the original design and for Wolfgang, June, and Frances for leading the build!

Check out photos from the event with thanks to photographer Amit Ziman!

Note the long black tube which is a tumbler to efficiently mix the clay and straw. 


This article was originally published on Blooming Rock Development's website by Taz Loomans, an architect, City Repair adviser, writer and advocate for sustainable building practices and community-oriented design living in Portland, Oregon. 

I don’t like starchitects. But I was very sad to hear about the death of Zaha Hadid yesterday. At 65, it was too soon, considering architects tend to mature and do some of their best work late in their careers. (For example, Frank Lloyd Wright received the commission to design the Guggenheim Museum when he was 76 and designed the Price Tower when he was 85.) Dame Hadid had a lot of great architecture still left in her, and it is a true loss for the world never to see it.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about Hadid. I stand in awe of her, her amazing career and her sheer strength to reach the heights she did in a very white male dominated profession. And yes, even I, a person who decries random forms for buildings at the expense of people’s experience of them, am moved by the sexy shapes of her buildings. My favorite Hadid building is the Sackler Gallery in London, which is breathtakingly sexy.

But Hadid did not make it easy to like her. CityLab reports that she said, “it was ‘not my duty as an architect’ to take actions over the deaths of the migrant workers Qatar during the construction of the Al-Wakrah Stadium.” She was also criticized for taking commissions from abusive regimes, such as the Heyder Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan, which she did unapologetically. I consider this lack of acknowledgement of social responsibility from Zaha a blind spot for her and a blind spot for the profession as a whole. Both her designs for Al-Wakrah and Heyder Aliyev got much critical accalim for their groundbreaking aethetics. But no matter how tempting it is, it is impossible to separate formalistic design achievement from its social implications and while Hadid got much praise for her design, she has also received much criticism for turning a blind eye to the larger social impacts of her work.

Hadid wasn’t an activist in her architecture per se, but she was a very successful activist in just being who she was, an Arab Muslim woman starchitect. Hadid is the only solo woman honored with the highest prize given an architect – the Pritzker Prize. If you look at thePritzker Prize laureates of the past, you will mostly see photos of white and Asian men. Kazuyo Sejima is the one other woman honored by Pritzker, in partnership with her male colleague Ryue Nishizawa for the work of their firm Sanaa.

Hadid didn’t like to harp on the importance of being a woman of color in a field of white men. CityLab quotes her, “‘I used to not like being called a woman architect. I’m an architect, not just a woman architect,’ she told CNN in 2012. And yet: ‘Guys used to tap me on the head and say, ‘You are okay for a girl.’ But I see the incredible amount of need from other women for reassurance that it could be done, so I don’t mind that at all.'”

For me, as an Indian Muslim woman architect, Hadid’s stardom in architecture has been incredibly important and inspiring. Regardless of how I feel about some of her stances, seeing a brown woman playing with the big boys like Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhas and Norman Foster and reaching the very top of the profession matters a lot.  It shows what’s possible for someone like me. We’re not all going to be Zaha, but just knowing that it’s possible for a minority woman to reach such heights is a huge step towards having more women, and more women of color, excel and achieve great things in architecture.

It was no cake walk for Hadid. She faced a lot of sexism along every step of the way on her rise to the top. She was known to be a difficult boss, unrelenting and uncompromising. In the very competitive and cut-throat world of starchitecture, her femaleness and race made her a target for more biting criticism than if she were a white man.

Stephen Bayley’s profile on Hadid for The Spectator is an example of how she was disliked for “deliberately creating buildings that ignore their context, have “questionable functionality” and are usually over budget,” as reported by Dezeen. Every starchitect I know of does just this! Do Gehry, Koolhas, and Foster buildings fit into their context, have greater functionality and come under budget more than Hadid buildings? No. Than why was she singled out for these things and told that “architecture would be better off without her”, as Bayley claimed?

Perhaps it’s because she was a woman leader. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook says in her book Lean In, “our entrenched cultural ideas associate men with leadership qualities and women with nurturing qualities and put women in a double bind. We believe that women are not only nurturing, but they should be nurturing above all else. When a woman does something that signals that she may not be nice first and foremost, it creates a negative impression and makes us uncomfortable. If a woman is competent, she does not seem nice enough. If a woman is really nice, she is considered more nice than competent. Acting in stereotypically feminine ways makes it more difficult to reach for the same opportunities as men, but defying those stereotypes and reaching for those opportunities leads to being judged as undeserving and selfish.”

And thus, it was not an easy road for Hadid. And perhaps her early demise may have partially been caused by the very difficult path she took in life. She was called a diva, a bitch, and hard-hearted. She had her blind spots for sure. And I certainly didn’t agree with all of her viewpoints. But she persisted. She overcame. She pushed through the gargantuan hurdles posed by architecture for women and women of color. And she made it to the top of the mountain. And by doing so, she opened a door that was sealed so tightly shut that no one knew it even existed. The door to women and women of color to reach the very top of the architecture profession. For this and her bold architecture, I, for one, think architecture is a thousand times better off for having Hadid.

Photo Credit: Photo “by James Mitchell – FlickrLondon Aquatics CentreCC BY-SA 2.0,″

NOW RECRUITING VBC 16 Hearth Collaborators!!

The theme of the 16 Annual Village Building Convergence (VBC) is "Weaving Together: What Will It Take?" We aim to have a robust evening program that contains educational and entertainment options for our audience. Over the past 16 years we have had the pleasure of hosting numerous musical and artistic acts all of sizes, backgrounds, and genres. We create a beautiful and inspiring place, where people are free to move and choose from several different workshop and entertainment options. VBC is a family and community-based event, and we aspire to create a diverse and empowering place for many types of experience.We encourage all interested parties to apply to be a part of our evening program and help create VBC16 to be a memorable community gathering! 

Learn more about the Village Building Convergence and apply for: 

Deadline for all applications is March 10, 2016