Unpaving Paradise in Cincinnati

by Franke James

University of Cincinnati poster designed by Shawn Tubb. Illustrations by Franke James.

Franke James at the University of Cincinnati

On May 18th and 19th, I’ll be speaking at the University of Cincinnati as part of their Climate Commitment 101 lecture series. My main talk will focus on Paradise Unpaved, and how nurturing your inner Alice-in-Wonderland can win over City Hall.

My whimsical, but very serious thought, is this: What would our cities be like if we asked more Alice-in-Wonderland questions that challenge the powers that be, conventional wisdom, and the old ways of doing things? I hope I can inspire the students that it would lead to creative solutions. Ones that can be environmentally sustainable, aesthetically pleasing, and also nourish the hearts and minds of urban dwellers. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

I’ll also be leading two hands-on art workshops and doing booksignings at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, the University of Cincinnati bookstore and Park + Vine. (See the chock-a-block full agenda below.) I’m looking forward to meeting everyone — and I’m bringing along some colorful bookplates for the booksignings. If you are going to be in Cincinnati, please drop by one of these events and introduce yourself!

Credit for the organization of my visit goes to several people at the University of Cincinnati, including Mary Beth McGrew, University Architect and Chair of PACES (President’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability), Shaun Finley, Program Manager, Environmental Sustainability Asst., Deanna Stevens, Executive Staff Assistant, Utilities & Facilities Business Affairs, and to Shawn Tubb, University of Cincinnati graduate student and the PACES Coordinator.

Shawn Tubb was the main point person I dealt with. Shawn hustled the funding for my visit (no small feat in this economy), organized the events, and also designed the poster above. I was quite fascinated by his skill in arranging all of this so seamlessly, so I asked him what his plans are after graduating. He is planning a career in preservation architecture and sustainable design, combining his degrees in filmmaking, architecture and urban design. I think Shawn is well on his way to a fascinating and unique career.

Hope to see you in Cincinnati!


Agenda: Monday, May 18

12:00pm – 1:00pm: LECTURE
Paradise Unpaved
How nurturing your inner Alice-in-Wonderland can win over City Hall
Franke James, artist & author, speaks about her art and environmental activism
A Climate Commitment 101 Lecture and Book Signing
MainStreet Cinema (on UC’s West Campus)

3:30pm – 5:00pm: WORKSHOP
Six Tools for Climate Change Art
How to instill passion and motivate change through art
Hands-on workshop + discussion with Franke James
College of DAAP 5430 (on UC’s West Campus)

7:00pm – 8:00pm: BOOK READING
What is a Green Conscience?
And do you have one?
Book Reading + discussion + booksigning with Franke James
Joseph-Beth Booksellers (2692 Madison Road, 513.396.8960)

Agenda: Tuesday, May 19

12:00pm-1:00pm: WORKSHOP
What’s Bothering Your Green Conscience?
A lunchtime creative workshop + discussion
Park + Vine (1109 Vine Street, 513.721.7275)

More information at University of Cincinnati Sustainability
Download U of C poster pdf

Franke’s snapshots of UC campus:

University of Cincinnati photo by Franke James.

University of Cincinnati photo by Franke James.
University of Cincinnati photo by Franke James.

See my May 26/09 post for an excerpt of my presentation:
How Alice in Wonderland thinking can win over City Hall

7 Responses: 5 Comments and 2 Tweets

  • This looks absolutely astounding! I have let those I know in Cincinnati!

  • janis says:

    I read your article and saw your video on green driveway. I am interested in knowing the outcome, now 2 years later, from the city. Are we allowed to do this now? I would like to do the same. I can’t believe the city will not allow such an exercise where the home owner, at his/her expense, will better her home and her environment. The process in getting permits is laborious in itself. I feel handcuffed and yet we pay high prices in houses and house taxes. Would appreciate your comments and updates

  • Franke James says:


    Good to hear that you want to build a green/permeable driveway! There is lots of information on my site that can help you.

    How to Build a Green Driveway: [Index of articles]

    Paradise Unpaved [visual essay]

    Are Grass Driveways the new trend? [August 2008]

    The main person I dealt with for City approval was Eric Jensen. When I spoke with him in August 2008, he indicated that people would have an easier time getting approval now that we’ve “paved” the way. I suggest you call the City and ask for yourself.

    Let me know how it goes. Please send a photo if you do build one.

    Franke James

  • Sue and Dennis says:

    Hi Frankie..we heard you on Fresh Air this am.. we are interested in the turf pavers. Where did you get them and how much were they? This is a relatively urgent request b/c we have a driveway with the asphalt removed sitting waiting for the pavers to come and redo it… we REALLY want an alternative… long story… and you may be able to save us in the nick of time.
    Sue & Dennis

  • Franke James says:

    Hi Sue,

    Good to hear that you heard about our green driveway through CBC’s Fresh Air!

    My site has tons of info on how to build a green driveway. We chose to use PermaTurf (manufactured in the USA) and Eco-Lawn (drought-tolerant grass seed from Ontario) but there are similar options by other companies. I heard that there is a similar product to PermaTurf that is made in Canada, but I have not checked it out or done any research on it. The price was comparable to interlocking brick.

    Please take a look at my Green Driveway articles which include lots of information on where we got the PermaTurf, why we chose it, how we built it as a DIY project etc, etc. The questions after each article also contain some great nuggets.

    If you only want to read one article start with this as an overview:
    Are Green driveways the new trend? (August 2008)

    Good luck! If you build one please send me a photo.


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