Since it was constructed 100 years ago, the Grand Concourse has been the architectural and cultural heart of the Bronx. To honor that rich tradition and guide its future development, the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Design Trust for Public Space launched a competition earlier this year called Intersections: The Grand Concourse Beyond 100. The competition received close to 400 entries from 25 countries, and AN offers a preview of the seven finalists, which will be on display at the museum beginning in November.
“The Bronx has a powerful identity but it’s not expressed urbanistically,” Deborah Marton, executive director of the Design Trust, told AN. “This is a way to begin to express that identity urbanistically." Marton found the entries refreshingly free of the urban strife that has been associated with the borough for the past few decades. “This is a real sea change,” Marton said.
Holly Block, director of the Bronx Museum, expressed similar hopes for the realization of some rather idiosyncratic ideas. “These bold new visions may look like science fiction—but in fact they are glimpses of the urban future, based upon the existing character of the Grand Concourse—and are feasible given evolving technology and urban planning,” Block said in a release. “Altogether, they suggest that the Grand Concourse has the potential to become the city’s most adventurous and livable urban experiment.”
Marton saw two particular strains of urban thought in the winning entries: those that wished to broach the concourse and those that wished to tame it. The former create connections laterally across the busy thoroughfare, helping to stitch together two areas of the Bronx. The latter group seeks to widen the pedestrian hold on the public space, which Marton said may seem conventional but “it would have a profound change for the people who live there, which you cannot dismiss.” She pointed to the Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona, which is roughly the same size as the Grand Concourse but with 76 percent of its space dedicated to pedestrian uses, compared to 23 percent in the Bronx.
While the competition was designed to generate ideas, some of these concepts could take hold. The Design Trust’s past successes include visioning plans for the High Line and construction guidelines that contributed to the city mandating LEED certification in all government buildings. “DOT has already taken interest,” Marton said, referring to the city’s Department of Transportation. “They don’t have their own plan, so they figure why not see what we have to offer.”
EDAW/AECOM, New York, NY
From Speedway to Mainstreet
Nadau Lavergne Architects, Antony, France
The Grand Resource
Jason Austin, Aleksandr Mergold, Philadelphia, PA
Angus McCullough, Brooklyn, NY
P.U.M.P. (Purifying Urban Modular Parasite)
Dongsei Kim and Jamieson Fajardo, New York, NY
Point by Point Development
Christopher Ryan, Cambridge, MA
Re-vision-ing the Bronx Grand Concourse: A Community-Centered Approach
MISI Company, New York, NY