5 questions with…urban change-maker Richey Piiparinen

Richey Piiparinen is dedicated to improving this city—both its people and its landscape. A resident of Cleveland’s Near West Side and a writer for Rust Wire, he’s studied urban planning and psychology with hopes of developing the city’s social and psychological capital through the reuse of vacant land and structures. He helped begin the W. 83rd St. Project, a pilot project that was part urban art therapy and part architectural reworking. Now, he’s hoping to use these experiences in his work as a researcher with the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

Find out more about Piiparinen, including his favorite unexpected spot in the city.

1. What’s on your iPod?
Don’t have one. But my laptop is littered with Pavement, Bob Dylan, Wilco and various old-school, harmony rock like the Band, the Beatles, etc. I like it thought-provoking and heart-tugging.

2. What’s your favorite spot in Cleveland and why?
The deserted spots of the Industrial Flats that hug the Cuyahoga River. I like to jog there and see the old railroad bridges that are Cleveland’s best pieces of public art. Their aesthetic drips Cleveland: its history, its people. It is also a place that is ecologically rich—the birds and fish and foliage. The area really is a place of boundaries between the city and nature, the past and future, developed and fallow.

3. If you could only take three books with you to a deserted island, what would you take?

  • Lewis Mumford: A Life by Donald L. Miller. I consider myself a writer, an urbanist, and a lover of the built form. Mumford is the man here.
  • Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. When I first started writing, Henry Miller was a big influence on me. His early books broke down structure and let it loose.
  • You are Not Alone by Jermaine Jackson. I haven’t read it. Didn’t even know Jermaine Jackson (of Jackson 5 fame) wrote. But considering the circumstances of the proposed physical hypothetical that is posed—a deserted island—well, thought it may help.

4. What one word would you use to describe yourself, and what one word would your friends use to describe you?
Me: Doubting—I am inquisitive by nature.
My friends: Certain—I often tend to regurgitate my inquisitiveness into a particular worldview.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve University?
The cultural history of the campus and the surrounding area is something that is palpable in the air. It gets my creative juices flowing.