Aminah Ricks

Aminah Ricks

Founder & Creative Director
Italian Piazzas Perform

On a typical midday afternoon in springtime, this is a scene seen across the country – casual and spontaneous public life.

What is the secret to Italian piazzas?

Our friends at NextCity, attempt to share this secret in an in-depth article that examines how urban planners look to Italian piazzas in order to learn and replicate the success of attracting people to spend time out of their homes, in a communal way.

Hint – it is not just the beautiful architecture that does the trick.  Learn more here


Photography Credit: Aminah Ricks



Make a Wish Upon a Tree in Potrero Hill

Some were new; some were old. All were personal.

In January 2014, I visited San Francisco and discovered a small, dense neighborhood on a steep hill.  It became a fast favorite, Potero Hill.  Together, my husband, daughter and I, standing outside on the street, discovered a tree filled with small hand-written notes tied to the branches like ornaments.

Some were new; some were old. All were personal.

We had no idea who started this creation. There was no signage, no credit taken. Just tons of notes filled with things each writer was grateful for, simply expressed.  How wonderful.

We immediately found a pen and paper and wrote our joint note.  With surprise and pleasure a year later almost to the date, the tree still stands. The notes are more plentiful. Some damaged by rain but the majority, surviving in the ideal Bay Area climate.

This small and modest tree stands as a huge and enduring testament to the vitality of community life, the desire we all have to connect – and to the fun and creativity a city can experience in free yet priceless ways.

Why not consider starting a similar tree in your neighborhood?


Photography Credit: Aminah Ricks

Jean-Michel Basquiat | The Unknown Notebooks



April 3–August 23, 2015 

The Brooklyn Museum is excited to present this in-depth survey of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s rarely seen notebooks.  Learn about his motivations, inspirations and conceptions prior to creating his legendary artwork.  

Filled with “poetry fragments, wordplay, sketches, and personal observations ranging from street life and popular culture to themes of race, class, and world history” this exhibit is a must-see if you are in the New York City/Brooklyn area.

Painting Credit: Untitled – Jean-Michel Basquiat

Photo Credit: Brooklyn Museum Catalogue Cover

Living Roof by Renzo Piano

Sitting in a packed classroom at the Università Degli Studi Roma Tre in Rome, Italy five years ago, I was first introduced to the Living Roof project built by Renzo Piano.  Seeing the work in a simple slide show, I appreciated the boldness and majesty of his design and its significance to our cities. Recently, while living briefly in San Francisco, I was able to fulfill the dream that erupted that day — to see this green roof with 1.7 million living plants.

Renzo Piano is one of my favorite architects and urban planners.  On the day I visited this landmark, there were grey clouds and minimal color in the sky.  Yet this could not dimmer my enthusiasm.  It was a joy and privilege to try to imagine all the details that went into the design of creating an entire ecosystem that will live for years to come.

It is beautiful, sustainable, literally and conceptually green. It contributes to making our urban cities healthier.  I hope he inspires more living roofs on this scale, all over the world.

Read more on this phenomenon here

Seeing Havana with Fresh Perspective

Seeing Havana, Cuba through the lens of Ethan Kent provides a fresh perspective on a city that works for the people, through the artful and sensitive urban design.

We see children playing in the streets, outdoor markets, large middle median walkways and piazzas. All cultivate and reinforce the idea of community.

A sense of community is the pulse of any city that hopes to motivate its citizens towards their best selves — independently and together.

Look at Havana again. Perhaps we can learn something from a city that is not yet car-centric. Instead, it stands as a champion of pedestrians and life unfolding outdoors.


Photography Credit: Ethan Kent

Bella Roma | Beautiful Rome

In homage to one of our favorite cities, we share this stunning video love note from the NY Times.  It highlights many of the reasons we love Rome.

In onore di una delle nostre citta’ preferite, condividiamo questo video del NY Times che serve come una lettera di amore, sottolinenado tante delle ragioni per cui amiamo Roma.

Photo Credit: NY Times

From Ideas to Reality – Market Street Prototyping Festival

Whether you are walking quickly down the street rushing to work or strolling to meet a friend, you may get an epiphany of what the street is missing.  What would make this stretch of street more enjoyable to traverse, less annoying? What would engage, connect and inspire you and your fellow pedestrians?

The San Francisco Planning Department and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts have collaborated on a project that allows residents of the city to address these questions and more.  Fifty prototypes for Placemaking were selected and will be brought to life on Market Street April 9-11th.  Even if you will not be in San Francisco, it is a worthwhile activity to take a close look at these creative prototypes and see if any would work in your area.

The target area for the winning prototype will become a permanent part of downtown Market Street that is undergoing a 5-year renovation.

Festival Details

Photography Credit: Studio 1500

Walk Score – What is yours?

No two cities are alike.  Neither are all the neighborhoods within each city.  Going further, depending on your particular address within a neighborhood, your walkability and ease of access to public transportation, the grocery store, bank and favorite coffee shop determine your quality of life or lack thereof.

Walk Score is an impressive algorithm that generates a score of walkability by address.  If you live in Canada, Australia or the United States, all you have to do is plug in your location.  Find out if you live in a Walkers Paradise now.

Visit Walk Score

Slowing Down for Unexpected Beauty

Living in cities, we find ourselves often in a rush, on the go, lots to do, and with little time to do it all.

However there are the moments, when by some fortunate chance, we do stop…or at least slow down, we discover beauty is in front of us.  It makes you smile; it makes you feel lucky.

Coming across the photography of Ben Fractenberg – who for over a year, found beauty in worn down, old posters within the New York City subway system –  is a visual treat.  Share these photographs.  Spread the fortune.

Roam your city.


Read in his own words, his experience and observations on this photographic find in


Photography Credit: Ben Fractenberg

Elevating City Life