Posts tagged place
Creative Pulse: Budapest



A walk along the Danube shows off the beauty of Budapest and will capture your attention immediately, but the creative pulse will inspire and stick with you for a long time. Beyond the architectural delights lies a hungry, emerging creative scene. The rise of nationalism and media censorship threatens to stifle this artistic growth, but the younger generation isn't moving away or giving up on the scene they have worked so hard to create. Welcoming and entrepreneurial, those connected to the scene are eager to show off all that Budapest has to offer. These designers, musicians, brewers and entrepreneurs are making waves.


  • Drink a beer at a ruin pub

  • See a film at one of the best arthouse cinemas

  • Take a soak at a bathhouse

  • Pop in and linger at a cafe



Creative Pulse: Wellington



Close-knit, relaxed, and a little bit kookie, Wellingtonians are constantly fueled by fantastic coffee and inspired by the nature surrounding this quaint city. You might be surprised that in a city of only half a million you will simply never run out of cultural experiences ranging from museums, to music venues to self-organized events and salons. Maybe it’s something in the water (or the wind) but Kiwis describe the arts scene here as both supportive and inviting.


Best (Hidden) Bars in Japan

Japan is full of secrets and hidden gems. No one wants to spill the beans on their favorite local bars and cafes, and for good reason! Often they only seat 3-7 people. There's charm in the fact that these bars are a bit private, subtle, and hard to find because when you find a spot you love you won't be disappointed. Hint: don't stick to the ground floor.

A few of the best:


  • A cocktail bar lit by only candlelight playing quiet house music. (We were sworn to secrecy!)

  • Yuki's will make sure your experience at The Bar Straight is both friendly and impeccable. Head up the elevator and down a hallway in Kyoto's Gion neighborhood.


  • Bar Huddle, a friendly tiny bar in Setagaya.

  • Abe will make you feel at home in his Golden Gai 8 seater, Bar Asyl. He's written descriptions of each whiskey bottle and happy to explain his preferences.

  • Little Soul Cafe: A record-spinning Shimo-Kitazawa hangout.


  • Bar Azzurri: a 4th floor cocktail lounge open 24 hours a day showing any soccer match you want to see.

  • Love Jazz and Vinyl? bird/56 should be your go to. 

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A look inside Ho Chi Minh City's emerging creative scene

Linh Nguyen’s influence on the creative community in Ho Chi Minh City is palpable. The first venture he opened, Saigon Outcast, filled a gap the city didn’t know it had: a space for people to congregate, to create, to feel inspired, and to feel at home. He has since opened two additional unique venues in restored, creative spaces: Rogue Saigon, and SOMA Art Café.

Linh Art Vietnam

A few days after we first met and interviewed Linh, we spent an evening at Saigon Outcast. Kids scrambled up the climbing wall, a group of artists focused intently on their live model session, a graffiti artist painted the entrance wall, and friends sipped on beers at picnic tables…this was all happening at the same time. Everyone relaxed, treating the space as his or her own. A fellow patron explained, “Linh’s places are such amazing hubs. I felt like even though I didn’t know anyone, I could go there and something would happen or a nice conversation would spark.”

Finding space to share art, music, and creative thought can be hard to come by in a city infamous for having exhibits, shows, and entire venues shut down by the government. Opening places like this is financially risky, pouring effort into hosting a concert that might be shut down at the last minute is not for everyone. But Linh’s passion for creating platforms where people don’t have to feel intimidated to share their work and opportunities for expression inspires him to continue to pursue these venues. The young creative community is "really hungry and restless but shy. They seem like they've been suppressed and they have so much to prove and achieve and get their name out there. They have so much energy. Really, they are very passionate. But they need encouragement and places to work.”

Saigon outcast

Beer garden meets alternative events space, graffiti, climbing wall, craft beer, live music, flea markets... 

Opening Saigon Outcast with a small budget in 2012, Linh and his friend Ha, found an inexpensive piece of land and pulled together containers and an old VW camper van in an artful way. “When I opened Saigon Outcast, it was for myself really. I didn’t know there was a demand for this type of space…but clearly there was." Immediately, the space filled with artists, skaters, and friends. Saigon Outcast became known as a destination for graffiti art, music, and collaboration: “The first couple years we had so many graffiti artists on the walls so that when it peels, you can see the layers of all the previous art works.” Today, Saigon Outcast hosts events most nights of the week, from drawing classes, movie screenings, farmers markets but many also stop by for a beer with friends.

Rogue Saigon

Rooftop specialty beer and music venue. 

Looking for a new place to host concerts (after receiving noise complaints from Saigon Outcast) Linh opened second venture. “The craft beer scene boomed a few years ago, but there weren’t any craft beer spots. At the same time, we didn’t know how long we would have Outcast because of noise complaints with our music. I needed to move the bands somewhere else, so I opened up a place that could have music and great beer!" Located on the top three floors of an old building, Rogue Saigon is a perfect spot to sip on one of the local craft beers on tap and overlook the city below.

Soma Art Cafe

Organic (and local) coffee and art gallery featuring up and coming artists.

“Saigon is really small. We know each other. There are only five galleries in Ho Chi Minh right now and they are all booked out with really famous artists selling their work at high prices. Soma is different, we feature up and coming artists who might not otherwise have a place the show their work." Situated in a beautiful building in District 2, Soma is a fantastic place during the day to have a delicious cup of brewed coffee with a friend. Stop by at night for art openings and a cocktail!

What’s Next for linh?

Linh hopes that he inspires other "business to do the same and to open spaces here for sharing creativity." Promoting music and arts in Ho Chi Minh drives Linh to keep working. He has observed that young artists lack confidence, and hops to set up more opportunities for mentorship with foreign artists. In the music scene, he wishes there were venues that could host international musicians. There used to be two: Cargo and Outcast, but with Cargo closing and Outcast's neighborhood growing, they've recently they have had to turn away amazing acts (such as Damien Rice!). "Right now we’re depleted of our capital since we work alone. But until I get it out of my system, that’s what I want to focus on."

Stop by one of Linh's three hangouts and stay tuned, we're certain Linh will have more up his sleeve! 




Best Neighborhood Bars in the World

We've chosen our favorite watering holes to get a feel of the neighborhood. We'll keep this list updated, in alphabetical order.

Belgrade: Polet on Cetinjska St.

Brooklyn: Freddy’s Bar & Backroom

Budapest: Szimpla Kert

Yes, this will be on every list you find...but this bar is a perfect spot regardless of the time of day.

Christchurch: Smash Palace

Hanoi: Bia Hoi Ha Noi

Ho Chi Minh City: Saigon Outcast

Kyoto: They're secret (email us and we’ll share a favorite)

Leipzig: Bayerischer Bahnhof (when in Leipzig, drink Gose)

Oakland: The Kingfish Pub

Prague: Zlý Časy

Tokyo: Asyl

Warsaw: Zacny Pyrkot

Wellington: Golding's Free Dive

Best Dive Bars in Oakland, CA

Here at Place Makes, we enjoy a $7.50 Hazy IPA at Drake’s Dealership as much as the next person. But sometimes you just want to walk up to a bar, order a $3 beer (and depending on your mood, a whiskey to go with it), and listen to a bartender talk about what Oakland was like “back in the day.” Here are the best five spots for cheap beer, good stories, and a host of local characters. 

5 Best Oakland Dive Bars

1) The Kingfish

If I only had one watering hole in Oakland to recommend, it would be The Kingfish. It’s hard to beat the combination of cheap drinks ($5 for all draughts and most cocktails), free popcorn, shuffleboard, and plenty of outdoor tables to post up and watch the Warriors. Don’t forget to order a late night hotdog from Casper.

2) The Alley

Part karaoke bar, part dive, and part cocktail lounge, The Alley is an Oakland watering hole like none other. Writer Kimberly Chun described it as being designed by “a drunken Walt Disney”, and we can’t say we disagree. Order a martini (best deal in town), take a seat close to the piano, and prepare to be transported to the 1920s. Feel free to request a song, but you better not ask for the latest pop hit. You’ll want to sing a tune from the Great American Songbook, with something by the likes of Cole Porter or George Gershwin.

3) George Kaye’s

George Kaye's is a great spot to watch a ballgame in peace. I've never seen more than seven people in this bar, but there are always two or three folks eager to shoot the shit with. Craving a rant about how terrible the Oakland A's are, or how invincible Steph Curry is this year? This is your spot.

4) Heart & Dagger Saloon

Heart & Dagger always has good vibes. It even has a spacious outdoor seating area to sip on a reasonably priced, $4 Lagunitas brew. On a Friday or Saturday night it's always full, but there's never a wait to grab your next beer. After hanging outside, head indoors for a game of billiards and put a quarter in the jukebox to play your favorite tune. 

5) The Ruby Room

The Ruby Room is known for its late night dance parties, and I’ve certainly enjoyed a few. However, my preference is to grab a seat at the bar around 8pm, well before the place fills up. Bring a buddy, grab a $3 High Life draught, and bask in the Ruby Red glow (literally) of this funky hole-in-the wall. 

Honorable Mention: Telegraph Beer Garden, The Avenue, Merchant’s Saloon

Creative Pulse: Vietnam

The easiest way to spark debate (or argument) in Vietnam is to ask someone if they prefer Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. In addition to the deep, historic, political divisions between the largest cities of the North and South, each place also has its own modern, cultural identity.

Despite these differences, there is a palpable energy and excitement that can be felt in both cities. From graffiti artists touring the countryside to entrepreneurs taking risks to promote local artists, there’s an inspiring  generation determined to build a creative culture across the country.

Most visitors spend a day or two in each city and leave. That is a mistake. These are cities to be savored. Whether it’s a world class cocktail bar in an seemingly abandoned building, or some of the best street food in Southeast Asia, there are surprises around every corner. Grab a coffee or beer outside of a local spot, sit on a tiny red chair, and watch the world go by.


  • Check out any one of Linh Nguyen’s three venues (Saigon Outcast, Rogue Saigon, SOMA Art Café, and check out the work of local artists around Ho Chi Minh City

  • Make friends while drinking bia hoi (at your own risk) and eating ribs in Hanoi. It’s an acquired taste, but an experience you shouldn’t miss.

  • Spend a quiet afternoon drinking coffee and writing at one of the many creative cafes. You’ll be sure to overhear an exciting conversation about someone’s next artistic endeavor.

Gap Filler: Placemaking, Design, and Rebuilding in Christchurch

I have to admit, as a designer passionate about the role of design in place making, I was excited to visit Christchurch and see how the city has redefined itself in the past 7 years following the devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. As a visitor, I felt inspired walking around, witnessing the creation of public parks, active street art festivals, and delightful moments of design that encourage tourists and locals to explore in new ways.

Gap Filler's The Pallet Pavilion, 2012-2014 (credit: Maja Moritz 2012)

Gap Filler's The Pallet Pavilion, 2012-2014 (credit: Maja Moritz 2012)

We quickly discovered an amazing organization, Gap Filler, behind so many of these installations and creative events in the city. Gap Filler describes their organization as “a creative urban regeneration initiative that facilitates a wide range of temporary projects, events, installations and amenities in the city [Christchurch].”

Co-founder Coralie Winn, and two others “began the initiative in response to the very first quake we experienced way back in September 2010. We did a one-off (or so we thought) project that involved turning a vacant lot into a colorful, quirky garden with borrowed plants, furniture and more. We hosted live music, outdoor cinema, poetry and more over two weeks. The response was pretty amazing, so we then did a second, very different project (which actually disappointed some who wanted more of the first project) before the February 2011 quake wreaked havoc on the city, taking 185 lives and changing things forever.”

Rebuilding the ChristChurch Cathedral started this year and is expected to take 10 years.

Rebuilding the ChristChurch Cathedral started this year and is expected to take 10 years.

The Cardboard Cathedral (a church literally made of cardboard) opened in 2013 designed by architect, Shigeru Ban.

The Cardboard Cathedral (a church literally made of cardboard) opened in 2013 designed by architect, Shigeru Ban.

Throughout our time chatting with friendly Kiwis at the many fabulous cafes throughout the city, we heard so much appreciation for the creative and empathetic approach Gap Filler has taken in bringing joy to the city. But, unsurprisingly, we also learned that rebuilding a city is complicated, emotional, and downright difficult.

Frustrations with Rebuilding

Many creative projects that felt “good” at first seem to have lost their charm among locals. The container mall, the weaving in and out of orange cones, and the innovative Gap Filler projects, now often feel like a sad reminder of what 7 years later, is still not in great shape. A barista at a café summed up a mindset we heard over and over. “People like to call [Christchurch] creative, but I just want it to be the way it used to be. I’m just really ready to get back to normal.”

Gap Filler's giant spray paint cans in Christchurch's East Frame.

Gap Filler's giant spray paint cans in Christchurch's East Frame.

Gap Filler’s Coralie Winn understands this mentality. “We tend to be the target of negativity from a small section of the community here, who see our work as a waste of time, messy, 'gypsy'-like and having run its course. To say it another, and possibly overly-simplistic way, temporary stuff has served its purpose and it's time for a proper city now. I think this sort of attitude wouldn't be the case if more of Christchurch was rebuilt by now and the rebuild wasn't taking so very long. People vent their frustration our way, as they are annoyed about the state of things.”

Gap Filler isn’t just about post-quake revitalization. It’s about responding to the needs of Christchurch. Coralie explains Gap Filler’s approach:

“Placemaking, DIY urbanism, whatever you wish to call it is known throughout much of the world. But in Christchurch, temporary urban activations or interventions tend to be understood as a post-quake thing and struggle to shirk that connection. We've done projects that respond to what have identified as needs or lacks in the city. I guess we are hoping that in time, tactical urbanism or placemaking, will be better understood as a useful, purposeful practice.

Greening the Rubble car park installation in Gap Filler's community car park, Good Spot.

Greening the Rubble car park installation in Gap Filler's community car park, Good Spot.

"Gap Filler brings creativity, provocation and participatory projects to the city in the context of a rebuild that has not been especially consultative and very top-down and heavy handed. The projects we undertake have certainly changed as the city has evolved. To that end, now that we are nearly seven years from the disaster you will find our projects these days have a much higher design aesthetic than many earlier ones. This evolution was based on public feedback. Our projects in the last two years have often used the public realm (i.e. Council owned land like footpaths) or walls of buildings rather than ex-demolition sites as they did a few years ago. Such sites were usually privately owned, which made the whole process faster. Working with local or central government to access public land is much slower. Examples of such recent projects are Super Street Arcade, Open City, DiversCity (comprising Ping Pong and AyoAyo - a mancala).”

What’s next for Gap Filler? 

We can’t wait to return to Christchurch and see the latest Gap Filler projects. Coralie provided an exciting vision for the future and their switch towards a social enterprise model:

“We've not readily identified as a social enterprise thus far and that's for a number of reasons but now, we do. We are increasingly needing to undertake paid work to ensure we can continue as funding for our work has changed as time passes.

We have recently begun work in the East Frame, five blocks of prime central-city land to be developed as part of the government's master plan for the rebuilt city. This land will have town houses and apartments for 2000 people built on it over the next 8 years. We're leading a temporary space activation program on this land, enabling all sorts of groups and people to do projects here, as well as delivering some of our own. This work is paid and it's also part of a permanent development being led by the country's largest building company, Fletcher Building and this case, their Fletcher Living division. Fletcher Living has been required by the national government to enable temporary, community uses of the land so that’s where we come in..

We hope that our work on this land, although temporary, will have a permanent impact. So we will be doing fewer projects per year and more collaborative, paid projects such as one we have coming up out at the airport to make their public realm space work better for its users and for the airport, too. We really hope to infuse the values behind what we do into more and more projects.

To summarize I want to use a word you won't know. Kaitiaki tanga. It's te reo Māori for custodianship or care-taking. Māori, like many indigenous (and I might just say, more enlightened peoples!) don't see themselves as owners of any land but rather custodians. We see ourselves as a kind of creative custodian of the land or spaces we use, taking on the risks but making empty land contribute positively to the city and allowing its citizens a chance to participate by making something on that land and ultimately making the city a place that they want to be.”

We’re inspired by Coralie’s participatory approach. If you are too, please check out their website and consider donating at

Gap Filler, Super Street Arcade (credit: Erica Austin 2015)

Gap Filler, Super Street Arcade (credit: Erica Austin 2015)

Street Art + Synergy: a conversation with Sage from Dragon School

Plan some extra time in Oakland’s Chinatown because walking through Downtown Oakland’s streets inevitably means stopping to look at exquisite street art. If you look closely, you’ll notice most of the murals in this areas are signed, “Dragon School 99.”


We were curious what this meant, so reached out to their executive director, Sage. We were lucky enough meet with him during a Sunday afternoon session of Dragon School.

Dragon School is a nonprofit that, in their words, “provides youth and artists a unique place to experiment with street-art and show civic pride. Dragon School's method re-imagines the neighborhood as a shared culture of art, where unity is strengthened by diversity. We are a multi-cultural, independently operated non-profit. Dragon School is community engagement on the purest level.”


Sage says that Dragon School celebrates “Oakland’s rebellious spirit” while at the same time “creates a sense of joy when people walk by and see whimsical art on their buildings.”

Creating sense of place: at its heart, Dragon School is a beautiful, synergistic collaboration between businesses, youth, artists, and community. Sage told us that this culture of synergy is Dragon Schools’s secret sauce—truly celebrating and uplifting an authentic spirit of Oakland’s Downtown/Chinatown community. They’ve recently expanded beyond Chinatown to West Oakland and East Oakland.

In creating these murals in collaboration with the community, they’re also drawing more people to areas of Oakland they might not otherwise explore. Sharing art in this way creates new opportunities to create opportunities to inspire resident and visitors of the area alike.

Best Local Shops in Oakland, CA

Oakland has some of the highest rates of retail leakage—i.e. people who live in Oakland and spend their dollars outside of the town. It's unfortunate because there are so many great places to shop (in addition to the many amazing restaurants, cafes, and bars). So get your wallet ready! You'll notice that many of these shops also act as venues, art galleries and community gathering spots. Just some of why we fell in love with this East Bay city.

Some of our favorite spots to shop:

1.     Viscera

Come here for American-made clothing and accessories with a story. Ari is amazing - pop in to see (read: buy) her products, and stay to chat. She knows all about Oakland's small-business world, even going as far to organize get-togethers with other shop owners, community happy hours, and more. Read our interview with Ari here.

2.     Laurel Bookstore

Across the way, Laurel Bookstore is one of those places you really want to stick around — so, give your Amazon Prime a break, and go buy a book.

3.     Show & Tell Concept Store

This store feels like a community space (it is), hosts events, and sells goods that are social responsible. They’ve recently moved locations, so be sure to double-check your map first!

4.     SoleSpace

As they say, this “shoe store and ArtsLab,” sells shoes and clothing during the day, and is an art gallery and performance space.

5.     FLAX Art & Design

Supplying bay area’s artists with materials for over 80 years, FLAX is a family-owned community staple. FLAX moved its flagship to downtown Oakland in 2016! 

Also amazing: Oaktown Spice Shop, Oaklandish, Esqueleto, Umami Mart, Two Jacks Denim, Crown Nine

Best Creative Cafes in Vietnam

Cafes are central of Vietnam's creative scene. They are a place to work, a place to collaborate and are places where poetry readings, open mic nights, art galleries, and musicians come together.   

Tang Tret Cosmos Cafe, Hanoi

Hop up to the second floor to find a cozy nook to make your own.

SOMA Art Cafe, Ho Chi Minh City

In District 2, this graffiti art clad venue not only makes a mean coffee, but also features up and coming local artists. 

Manzi Art Gallery, Hanoi

This art gallery and cafe in Hanoi in an old French Villa where you can enjoy your drink while seeing art from leading Vietnamese contemporary artists.

Mockingbird Cafe, Ho Chi Minh City  

In what may look like a rundown apartment building from the outside, leads up 4 flights of stairs to this wonderful little cafe.

Tranquil Books & Coffee, Hanoi

Leave you shoes downstairs and sneak on up to the second floor to find a silent retreat. Swing by in the evening for their open mic, piano night, or movie screenings! 


More Biased Bests

Woods Bar and Brewery

Our first Friday night in Oakland, we wandered along Telegraph Avenue, peeking in bars, restaurants, and shops. Gathering on the corner of 17th Street, a raucous brass band played a tune on the street and marched right into Woods Brewery. We couldn’t help but follow.

The band played all night long, and as each hour and beer passed, people of all ages became increasingly energized to get out of their seats and dance with everyone around.

Since that Friday night, we’ve come back countless times and have never been disappointed. Whether it’s a jazz trio, New Orleans style brass band, or 15-person funk group, their music curation has a way of getting people to dance and make friends with complete strangers.

Tired of sitting at the same bar each weekend but don’t feel like paying a cover at a crowded dance club? Shake up the routine and go to Woods Brewery on Telegraph and 17th. The beer is solid, empanadas tasty, and you’re guaranteed to make new friends dancing along to some of the best live music this side of the bay. You won’t regret it.

Octopus Literary Salon

Oakland, CA

A gem in Oakland. Come here for inspiration and to share your work.

Octopus Literary Salon in uptown Oakland has all parts of the creative process covered: come to get inspired, to collaborate, create, and to share your latest creative endeavor. 

It's both easy and difficult to describe this place. Octopus Literary Salon is part cafe, part gallery, part music venue, part new/used bookstore, and more.

The Alley

Part karaoke bar, part dive, and part cocktail lounge, The Alley is an Oakland watering hole like none other. Writer Kimberly Chun described it as being designed by “a drunken Walt Disney”, and we can’t say we disagree.

Order a martini (best deal in town), take a seat close to the piano, and prepare to be transported to the 1920s. Feel free to request a song, but you better not ask for the latest pop hit. You’ll want to sing a tune from the Great American Songbook, with something by the likes of Cole Porter or George Gershwin.

If you come on the right night, you might just find a favorite Alley regular leaning against the piano. Close your eyes and his voice will make you think Frank Sinatra has come back from the dead.

Temescal Brewery

Amongst the wave of new breweries popping up in the East Bay, Oakland’s Temescal Brewing stands a cut above the rest. Mouth watering IPAs and Pale Ales are one reason they are a local favorite, but it’s their focus on fostering a sense of community and collaboration that caught the eye of Place Makes. Whether it’s providing space for local Oakland businesses during their “Shops Sale”, providing space for fundraisers during Queer First Fridays, or hosting a recent launch party for Undertone Mag (a new magazine for women of color), or the whimsical ambiance (an outdoor patio complete with a colorful @slowcoolassault mural, and indoor steeting with @merylpataky “no jerks” neon piece, and paper shaped by @bboowwsss), Temescal Brewing is the ideal place for a creative meeting of the minds.

Our Favorite Beers:

  • Guava Boat: Pale Ale with Pink Guavas (5%)

  • Through the Fog: Scotch Ale (5.6%)