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You’ve Got Jail

Fifteen architects and designers will advise design of Rikers Replacement jails
In October 2019, the City Council approved a controversial Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application for the $8.7 billion plan to construct four new smaller jails to replace the Rikers Island complex. Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx would each get a community jail building that the reformists and their supporters in the Mayor’s Office for Criminal Justice (MCOJ) called “smaller, safer, and fairer.” “This is part of a once-in-many-generations opportunity to build a smaller and more humane justice system that includes four facilities that reflect the City’s commitment to dignity and respect,” the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) said at the time. “The new facilities will offer better connections to and space for those detained and their families, attorneys, courts, medical and mental health care, education, therapeutic programming and service providers.” In addition to the Borough-Based Jail Program (BBJP)’s larger urban ambitions of moving the detention facilities off of Rikers and closer to the communities where inmates come from, on February 4, the DDC issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a pool of design-build teams that will propose schemes to dismantle and build new facilities across the four selected boroughs. AECOM and Hill Engineering have already been tapped to help envision and implement a design-forward approach to the new sites. When The Rikers Island Jail Complex Replacement Act was passed in 2018, it was made clear that design, quality, past performance, and qualifications would be the priority rather than simple budget concerns. The DDC and the MOCJ, in conjunction with the NYC Department of Correction (DOC), announced an independent peer review committee of architects and designers yesterday that will assist in the selection and design that will help select the teams from the RFQ, provide guidelines for the RFP, and participate in architectural review that will “ensure high-quality design submissions that balance aesthetics, functionality, cost, constructability and durability.” Several of the reviewers have been involved in the BBJP process already, having served on the Justice Implementation Task Force’s Working Group on Design. Below are the Peer Review Panelists:
Dominick DeAngelis, RA, AIA, Vice President of Architecture and Engineering, NYC School Construction Authority Mr. DeAngelis is responsible for the design of $18 billion of construction over the next five years that will create 57,000 seats in 87 new schools or additions, and upgrade 1,840 additional NYC public schools. Wendy Feuer, Assistant Commissioner for Urban Design + Art + Wayfinding, NYC Department of Transportation Ms. Feuer’s DOT office makes streets attractive and welcoming for all users, and publishes a street design manual for City agencies, consultants and community groups. She has been a public art peer for the federal General Services Administration’s Design Excellence program for over 15 years.  Erik Fokkema, Architect, Partner, EGM Architecten Mr. Fokkema has expansive experience in the Netherlands in institutional facilities, as well as private residential and public buildings. He is an expert in building operations, making the complex simple, and designing humane and user-friendly buildings.  Mark Gardner, AIA, NOMA, Principal, Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects New York-based architect Mark Gardner’s experience scales from buildings to interiors to product design, and he works to understand the role of design as a social practice. He is an expert and strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in architecture and design.  Rosalie Genevro, Executive Director, The Architectural League of New York An architectural historian and urbanist, Ms. Genevro has led initiatives at The Architectural League addressing housing, schools, libraries and topics such as climate change. She is a frequent contributor on the City’s building environment. Samantha Josaphat, RA, Founding Principal, Studio 397 Architecture Ms. Josaphat’s portfolio includes architecture and interior design of higher education projects, as well as large- and small-scale residential projects, to which she brings impressive knowledge of the City’s building regulations. She is President of the New York Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects. Purnima Kapur, Urbanism Advisors, former Executive Director, NYC Department of City Planning Ms. Kapur was a key architect of the City’s groundbreaking Mandatory Inclusionary Housing regulation, which has led to five Integrated Neighborhood plans, and has been integral to the redevelopment of Brooklyn over the past two decades via projects including the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Waterfront, Downtown Brooklyn and Coney Island. Bruce Kuwabara, OC, OAA, FRAIC, AIA, RIBA, Partner, KPMB Architects One of Canada’s leading architects, Mr. Kuwabara’s diverse portfolio encompasses cultural, civic, educational, healthcare and performing arts projects in North America and Europe. Luis Medina-Carreto, Project Manager, Press Builders Mr. Medina is an expert in New York City construction management and methods, with a reputation of bringing projects to completion on schedule and on budget in the City’s complicated building environment. Gudrun Molden, Architect, Founding Partner, HLM Architects Gudrun Molden comes to the City from Norway with extensive experience in detention facility architecture in an urban context, including Oslo city center and Åna prison in Norway. Nancy Prince, RLA, ASLA, Chief of Landscape Architecture, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation Ms. Prince establishes the design aesthetic and vision for the Parks Department’s large and varied portfolio of projects. Prior to entering public service, Ms. Prince spent years designing New York City’s parks and playgrounds. Stanley Richards, Executive Vice President, The Fortune Society With decades of experience in the criminal justice field, Stanley leads Fortune’s management, direct service programs, fundraising and advocacy work to promote alternatives to incarceration and support successful reentry from prison. Annabelle Selldorf, AIA, Principal, Selldorf Architects Ms. Selldorf founded her practice in New York City over 30 years ago. Her firm’s broad expertise has been applied in cultural, educational, industrial and residential projects throughout the United States. Lisa Switkin, FAAR, ASLA, Senior Principal, James Corner Field Operations Ms. Switkin has helped to reshape New York City’s public spaces for 20 years, including the design and delivery of the High Line, Brooklyn’s Domino Park and the public spaces at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17. Andrew Winters, AIA, Head of Development Services, Sidewalk Labs While serving as Director of the Office of Capital Project Development under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Mr. Winters oversaw the development of public assets such as the High Line, East River Waterfront and Brooklyn Bridge Park. More recently he has overseen the planning, design and construction of the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island.
“Superior design is an essential element for creating the City’s more humane and more equitable justice system,” said DDC commissioner Lorraine Grillo in the panel’s announcement press release. “These buildings will be important civic structures, reflecting the ambition of the City’s justice reforms, ensuring the dignity and well-being of those who are incarcerated, work and visit them, and integrating into the city centers where they are located,” the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice director Elizabeth Glazer added. Workshops and community feedback have informed the process, including an emphasis on using community space, and the public meetings will give citizens the opportunity to give input on the ground floor sections. However, some feel that the city has not done enough to listen and reach out. A series of lawsuits are pending against three of the four facilities. Activist and neighborhood groups in Manhattan claim that the city did not reach out to the community, namely senior citizens living at the nearby Chung Pak center, and that the city knew about Native American human remains in the area that could be affected. The suit was filed by Neighbors United Below Canal and the American Indian Community House. A lawsuit in the Bronx claims the de Blasio administration failed to consider alternative sites, ignored environmental impact reports, and went around the required public review processes. In Queens, Queens Residents United and the Community Preservation Coalition make similar claims about top-down planning and lack of engagement with residents of the neighborhood. The DDC is proceeding with the projects, a spokesperson for the department told AN, while Nick Paolucci at the NYC Department of Law told AN that, “This litigation is ongoing. We stand by the city and its approvals for this important initiative.” “Our borough-based jails plan is the culmination of years of collaboration between the city, local elected officials, and the communities they represent,” City spokesman Avery Cohen told Court House News. “We will vigorously defend our work in court as we move forward with our commitment to close Rikers Island and create a justice system is that is smaller, safer, and fairer.” The fight is far from over. The RFP guidelines will be reviewed by the City Planning Commission, NYC Department of City Planning Design, an Advisory Group appointed by the City Council and affected Borough Presidents, and the Public Design Commission, who will also review the final proposals as the massive project moves through ULURP.
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Building (Tiny) Bridges

San Jose debuts tiny house community for the homeless
Over three years in the making, a San Jose, California, pilot community composed of 40 ultra-tiny houses that will provide temporary shelter to Californians transitioning out of homelessness. Dubbed the Mabury Bridge Housing Project, the village is located on a vacant parcel of land owned by the Valley Transit Authority and is one of two tiny house clusters planned for California’s third most populous city. The second community, located on Caltrans-owned land, is slated to open to residents later this year. Like the rest of California, San Jose, the county seat of wildly affluent Santa Clara County and the de facto capital of Silicon Valley, is in the midst of a homelessness epidemic. As of January 2019, the number of people sleeping in their cars, on the streets, and in shelters within San Jose city limits had increased by 42 percent to 6,172 when compared to 2017 when the last Department of Housing and Urban Development-mandated homelessness census was taken. The current number is likely higher. Built by a small army of Habitat for Humanity volunteers at a cost of $6,500 each, the micro-homes—or “emergency sleeping cabins,” as San Jose officials have dubbed them—measure a mere 80-square-feet, and two are slightly larger to accommodate residents with disabilities. Each single-occupancy living space is equipped with air conditioning/heating units, a twin bed, desk, and shelving. Laundry, shower, and storage facilities are located on-site along with a shared kitchen and ample communal space for socializing and stretching out. A community garden and resource center equipped with computers and job boards are also available to residents. The compound, which includes on-site parking, staff offices, and around-the-clock security, is fenced-in to “control foot traffic in and out of the site,” according to the pilot website. HomeFirst, a San Jose-based nonprofit dedicated to lifting people out of homelessness, is the community’s operator and provides residents with resources beyond temporary housing including healthcare assistance and career training. Residents at Mabury Bridge Housing Project are limited to 60-day stays as they continue down the path to self-sufficiency with the ultimate goal of securing permanent housing. As the Mercury News explained, the “unconventional” community located off of Mabury Road in the shadow of the Bayshore Freeway and opposite the yet-to-open Berryessa BART station to the northeast of downtown San Jose, “offers a mix of stability and compassion for those trying to stay afloat in spite of the region’s chronic shortage of affordable housing.” The Mercury News explained that officials aim to house roughly 120 permanent housing-seeking residents each year, rotating 40 people out—and into permanent housing—every four months. San Jose Inside also noted that two residents have already moved on to permanent housing since the community first opened. Yet at the grand opening ceremony in late February, an event attended by California Governor Gavin Newsom and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, only eight of the community’s 40 cabins were occupied due to restrictions, including background checks, placed on eligible residents, who must be part of Santa Clara County’s rapid rehousing voucher program and actively be seeking permanent housing. Although the community has only been open for a little over a month, there’s been an early struggle in finding qualified people in need to populate the community. “People get lost in the system,” Jacky Morales-Ferrand, housing director for the City of San Jose, told the Mercury News. “And, that’s actually one of the benefits of creating these interim sites, because as we create housing opportunities for people to move in, we know that we can connect them very quickly.” In total, the pilot program on Mabury Road cost roughly $2 million, a sum that includes the 40 volunteer-built cabins, site development, and building out the community’s various support structures. “It's a question of scale. It's a question of capacity. It’s a question of resolve, and so I just want you to know that we are resolved to scale programs like this,” said Newsom at the grand opening of the community. “The state vision to solve this crisis will be realized at the local level, project by project.”
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Seoul’s semi-basement dwellers get financial boost from the city after Parasite

Hot off the staggering success of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite at the 92nd Academy Awards, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is extending a helping hand to those living in the city’s cramped and famously flood-prone semi-basement apartments. As reported by English-language daily the Korea Herald, a total of 1,500 households living in semi-basement apartments, or Banjiha, will be eligible for up to ₩3.2 million (approximately $2,654) to invest in new flooring, improved HVAC systems, air purifiers, smoke detectors, and other items that are in need of replacement or altogether lacking in Seoul’s halfway-subterranean homes. According to the Los Angeles Times, there were over 360,000 semi-basement apartments in South Korea as of 2015, with a majority located in the country’s ultra-dense capital region. Many of the units were originally built as bunkers in the 1970s—an era when military tension with North Korea was at a boiling point—and later converted into ultra-cheap rental units with little regard for comfort or safety. Although a more affordable option compared to high-rise apartment blocks that a majority of Seoul residents call home, Banjiha are dark, damp, poorly ventilated, and often too compact to support the number of people living in them. Seventy-eight percent of Seoul’s semi-basement dwellers are in the bottom 30 percent income bracket, per city statistics cited by the Korea Herald. The Banjiha upgrade initiative, spearheaded by the city in partnership with the Korean Energy Foundation, will begin accepting applications from households in March with plans to expand the range of applications eligible to apply in subsequent years. The financial aid is being dispersed as a larger effort to help low-income Seoul residents improve and boost efficiency in their aging, with priority given to semi-basement apartment dwellers. Featured prominently in Parasite as the primary residence of the scheming Kim family, Seoul’s semi-basement apartments have garnered a significant amount of attention since the film’s release. As detailed by AN in a recent article, Bong used the built environment—specifically two very different modes of housing, the dreary semi-basement apartment and the ultramodern, quasi-suburban luxury home—to propel the film’s pointed social commentary. “Banjiha is a space with a peculiar connotation... It’s undeniably underground, and yet you want to believe it’s above ground,” the Times quoted Bong as saying following Parasite’s premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. “There’s also the fear that if you sink any lower, you may go completely underground.” While the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s Banjiha-earmarked financial aid program won’t lift semi-basement dwellers fully above ground, it does function as a life preserver of sorts, helping to prevent thousands from sinking even further. Just call it the Parasite Effect.
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When They Go High, We Go Low

Manhattan’s subterranean Lowline park flatlines
Manhattan’s Lowline, a planned underground park project that stretched the concept of adaptive reuse to exciting and seemingly impossible new extremes, is no more. As first reported by Crain’s, funding for the estimated $83 million subterranean green space that would have been tucked deep beneath the Lower East Side within the long-abandoned Williamsburg Trolley Terminal has essentially dried up. This has forced the project to go “into dormancy” as Signe Nielsen, a landscape architect and member of the Lowline’s board of directors, explained to Crain’s. “We were unable to meet all of the benchmarks that were required, one of the most significant of which was to raise a substantial amount of money.” The Underground Development Foundation, the park’s nonprofit fundraising arm, launched two successful Kickstarter campaigns during the park’s early years, raising $150,000 in 2015 and $223,506 in 2015. As Crain’s notes, $3.7 million had been secured by the nonprofit after the project’s attention-grabbing launch in 2011—the same year that the second section of the High Line, a project that also famously harnesses New York City’s dormant transport infrastructure, opened to enormous fanfare on Manhattan’s far West Side. But public filings show that by the end of 2017, the nonprofit possessed little under $10,000 in funding. In 2016, the year that the Lowline received the formal green light from the city to proceed with the ambitious project, the foundation had $815,287 on hand. Obviously, such a visionary undertaking—one that involved reimagining a derelict subterranean space and employing emerging solar technology to reactivate it as a lush, community-centric park—came with a steep price tag. Regardless of fundraising struggles, the Lowline, which would have been New York City’s first underground park, was still slated for a 2021 opening as of last year. In a prescient 2016 interview with Fast Company, former Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen noted there was a chance that the Lowline would never be fully realized, going on to say that such a risk was ultimately positive. “This is all upside,” she said at the time. “There’s a chance to take the unbelievable advances in technology and the creative spirit of New York and harness it to create a public space that no one could have imagined.” Speaking with AN, Lowline co-founder Dan Barasch mirrored Glen's earlier sentiments on the benefits of risk-taking while also suggesting that the Lowline is, in fact, “not over” despite the current absence of a fundraising-driven pulse first reported by Crain's. “It's going to get done,” Barasch said, going on to explain that the team is open to exploring other hidden spaces in New York and beyond that are ripe for rediscovery and reactivation. And the Lowline's current home on the Lower East Side certainly isn't out of the question for future work. Barasch expressed his frustration with the de Blasio administration and the “fundamental lack of public funding” for bold, risk-taking projects like the Lowline. Barasch mentioned a greenery-filled underground park in Seoul that's quite similar to the Lowline but benefited from greater public support from the city's government. “This was a project that always needed the city to be behind it,” he said. “We're going to wait for an administration that has the imagination and capital that a project like this requires.” While the Lowline may never see the light of day under the current mayoral administration, this isn’t to say that it failed to provide the curious public with a taste of what was (supposed to) come. From October 2015 through February 2017, the Lowline team operated the Lowline Lab, a non-subterranean space described as a “long-term open laboratory and technical exhibit designed to test and showcase how the Lowline will grow and sustain plants underground.” Free and open to the public during the weekends, the Lowline Lab welcomed 100,000 visitors over the course of its existence. The lab was housed in what was once part of Essex Street Market, and is now the Essex Crossing mega-development. The idea for a public space that made use of the old Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal was first conceived as the Delancy Underground by Barasch and James Ramsey in 2009. When the Lowline launched two years later, the duo envisioned it as an obvious inverse of the wildly popular—but controversial—elevated High Line. It would, however, ultimately been an entirely different, more futuristic creature. At 1.5 acres compared to the High Line’s 6.7 acres, the Lowline would have placed a greater emphasis on innovation and technology as well as on fostering community engagement.
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The Ignored Realm

Rem Koolhaas sets a global non-urban agenda with Countryside at the Guggenheim
In both pre-Christianity Rome and China, the countryside was a place of retreat where those seeking respite from the bustle and grime of the city would go for rest, relaxation, and creative inspiration. The Chinese founders of Taoism called this freedom and wondering Xiaoyao, while Roman philosophers referred to time away as Otium: and idealized existences—from off-the-grid hippy utopias to the peaceful bliss of Arcadia—have continued to crystallize in the natural landscapes of the rural. Contemporary ideas around wellness, mindfulness, ayahuasca startup retreats, and glamping at Burning Man fill the same role in our society as a full-circle return to pre-industrial, pre-capitalist, nature-centric lifestyles that are paradoxically a product of our neoliberal consumerist culture and sold as an antidote to it. This lineage, from the beginning of western civilization and ancient eastern philosophy to 21st-century marketing culture, is just part of Rem Koolhaas’s ten-year transcultural, transhistorical research and analysis of non-urban territories, or what he calls the “ignored realm.” On view at New York’s Guggenheim Museum through August 14, Countryside: The Future is a project of Koolhaas, AMO director Samir Bantal, and Troy Conrad Therrien of the Guggenheim. The show fills the museum’s entire main rotunda. It is meant to upend traditional notions of the countryside by investigating the places where the influence, as well as the oddities, normally associated with the urban can be found outside the city. If, at one time in the not-so-distant past, the countryside was an idyllic place where each human had a role, Koolhaas posits that the “romantic” landscape of creek beds, hillsides, and family farms is now unrecognizable as a stable, human-centered place, but rather a hyper-efficient, inorganic, non-place where Cartesian technological systems define life. The show reverses course on much of what we have come to accept as the baseline for thinking about development. Take that famous statistic: by 2050, 70- to-80 percent of humanity would live in cities. “Are we really heading for this absurd outcome, where the vast majority of humanity lives on only 2% of the earth’s surface, and the remaining 98%, inhabited by only one-fifth of humanity, exists to serve cities?” Of course, Rem is not the first person to do research on the rural. But he has the resources (5 partner schools and AMO), the storytelling ability, and the platform (an entire museum in NYC) to reorient the conversation, as he has on other topics such as cities, Dubai, and toilets. The exhibition starts outside the museum, with a tractor next to a small, high-tech indoor tomato farm under pink lights that illuminate passing pedestrians. In the lobby, a requisite hanging sculpture in the rotunda is made from a bale of hay, an imaging satellite akin those used by Google Maps, and an underwater robot that kills fish threatening coral reefs. Land, sea, and even space are all implicated in this broad survey of the rural, as this sculpture sets the tone for the rest of the show, which launches into an outpouring of information. It is reminiscent of OMA/AMO publications Content, Volume, or the Elements exhibition and books, as visitors are greeted by a wall text of 1,000 questions posed by Koolhaas. Nearby is a table showcasing publications that provided context: The Red Book and the Great Wall, The Future of the Great Plains, Golf Courses of the World, and a German publication about Muammar al-Gaddafi. At the core of the show, the Guggenheim’s iconic ramp houses a set of themed vignettes. ‘Political Redesign’ is a catalog of ‘heroic’ 20th-century geopolitical operations, ranging from the founding of several United States federal agencies during the Dust Bowl, to German Architect Herman Sörgel’s plan to unite Europe and Africa by lowering the level of the Mediterranean Sea and building a bridge over the resulting span. Stalin’s Plan for the Transformation of Nature and the evolution of the Jeffersonian grid from squares to circles are also highlights. Countryside then moves away from these governmental models into more polyvalent experiments with nature, technology, politics, planning, and preservation. Many of these we might normally associate with the urban, such as the anarchist community in Tarnac, France that was raided by police in 2008 but is now home to an informal university hidden in the forest. There are also glimpses of rural China, most beautifully Taobao Live, Alibaba’s live streaming channel that allows sellers in the countryside to broadcast their produce and foodstuffs to audiences in the cities. Arcosanti, afro-futurism, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative are among the other kaleidoscopic ways that the narrative extends beyond industrial farming into a host of other social and political spheres. Working through contemporary preservation methods, proposals, and scenarios, including a curious example from Siberia where valuable mammoth tusks are becoming exposed in the ground by climate change and creating new economies for local, amateur “archaeologists,” the exhibitions closes on ‘cartesian euphoria,’ a kind of paranoiac-critical reading of the technologies and systems that are rearranging nature and politics in the countryside, complete with a full-scale installation of a PhenoMate, a cutting-edge farming tool that uses machine learning to identify which plants in a nursery bed photosynthesizing the most, and selectively breeds stronger strains without genetic modification. The show operates politically in a context where the countryside, and those who live in it are a marginalized group, at least culturally. Urban elites deride rural areas as many things, most out-of-touchedly as “fly-over states.” After a decade or more or the architectural world focusing on cities and urban areas as the main spaces of inquiry, Rem’s turn to the countryside —most likely born from a desire to look where most others are not— and his ability to show the public that the so-called hinterlands are a place where not only are some of the most important agricultural, industrial, and social mechanisms of society operating, but it is also where many of the interesting intersections of experimental politics, economics, engineering, and social relationships are taking place. To ignore the rural because we don’t agree with the politics of those who live there, or think that their culture is not sophisticated is not only missing out on experiencing a countryside beyond a luxury faux-rustic retreat, but it is also disregarding the fact that the countryside and the city are and always will be inextricably linked, as elucidated by a brilliant provocation that cities have become stuck in “frivolity,” while supported by complex, managed landscapes in the countryside. For example, urbanites underneath London’s ArcelorMittal Orbit leisurely eat ice cream brought in from factory farms in the outskirts. It is also a show with a decidedly top-down lens on the countryside. Some will not like the relative lack of representation of small-scale communities in the show, but the acknowledgment of systems and technology is an important way of seeing these territories. Had the curators included more grassroots narratives, it likely would have watered down the larger, geopolitical stories being told, and the show is better off for staying focused on larger-scale issues rather than getting into the folk aspects of the countryside, which would be more predictable and less compelling. Countryside is definitely a magazine- or book-on-the-wall type of exhibition, but not in a bad way. The texts are snappily written in typical Koolhaasian style, and there are not too many complex maps or charts, making the exhibition feel more like a journalistic analysis of what is interesting about the countryside, not necessarily a theoretical treatise or prescriptive path forward. It could be read as a transformation of the museum into a publication, a curatorial strategy that upturns not only our ideas about the Guggenheim but about how to leverage a hyper-didactic exhibition into an aesthetic experience.  The show is literally distorted by the Guggenheim’s double-curved surfaces, spiraling ramp, and constantly shifting vantage points, with a string of text spiraling around the underside of the ramps like a dizzying thesis statement, always to be revisited. If there is a sticking point, it is that the aesthetic of the exhibition will be familiar to many, as it harkens back to previous OMA/AMO publications. Koolhaas has long collaborated with Dutch graphic designer Irma Boom, who created a custom Countryside typeface for the show, which resembles both handwriting and her Neutral typeface used throughout. In an exhibition that is really a publication, typefaces matter, and the familiar layouts and fonts make the exhibition seem more like the work of a signature architect or firm, not a global coalition. No, but seriously, folks, go see the show! Taschen has published an accompanying publication, available for 24.95 online or at the gift shop.
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BRINGING BACK WALKING

Downtown Los Angeles’s Broadway Street may soon go car-free
Los Angeles City Council Member Jose Huizar first began his Bringing Back Broadway initiative in 2008, which has gradually revitalized several of the early 20th-century movie palaces and long-underused commercial buildings along Broadway Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Now that many of those buildings are occupied with retail spaces, hotels, concert venues, and restaurants, Huizar recently introduced a motion looking into the feasibility of making the entire 1.5-mile stretch a pedestrian-only zone. “A car-free Broadway,” Huizar explained in a Twitter thread, “would bring a measurable increase in pedestrian traffic to the many new retail stores and theaters in the corridor.” By prioritizing pedestrian, bike, and bus traffic, Huizar argued in an attached statement, the economic development triggered by the original Bringing Back Broadway initiative would increase while reducing the number of car-related deaths in the area. He has also argued that the project is particularly feasible in light of the ongoing LA Streetcar project, a separate initiative that will provide an above-ground public transportation option that would intersect with preexisting transit systems, and which has already received approximately $1 billion in funding.
Huizar ended the statement with an analysis of all of the elements the redesign must consider, beginning with “accessibility options related to parking, residential and commercial loading/unloading, ADA, fire and safety, and private events.” The motion would also include the further preservation of the historic buildings along Broadway, and would continue to fill empty storefronts with public amenities. While Huizar's L.A. Streetcar project garnered the approval of over 73 percent of Downtown residents when it was first proposed, it is unclear as of yet how the motion to ban cars from Broadway will be publicly received. Car culture famously built Los Angeles, and there are virtually no other permanent examples of a similar move in any other part of the city. The closest precedent is CicLAvia, a nonprofit event that temporarily closes major thoroughfares to motor vehicles throughout the city to make them accessible to foot and bike traffic, which has received increased popularity since it was first inaugurated in 2010. The proposal follows last October’s announcement that San Francisco’s Market Street would be going car-free, and it is predicted that several other cities across the country may follow suit in their historic centers.
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Old Town Roads

Rem Koolhaas goes country at the Guggenheim
After spending decades devoted deconstructivism and an unapologetic sense of urbanity, Rem Koolhaas is switching things up. The Pritzker winner, widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in architectural thinking today, has shifted his gaze into uncharted territory—the countryside. “In the past decades,” Koolhaas said in a recent press statement from the Guggenheim, “I have noticed that while much of our energies and intelligence have been focused on the urban areas of the world—under the influence of global warming, the market economy, American tech companies, African and European initiatives, Chinese politics, and other forces—the countryside has changed almost beyond recognition. The story of this transformation is largely untold, and it is particularly meaningful for AMO to present it in one of the world’s great museums in one of the world’s densest cities.” Koolhaas’s newfound fascination with non-urban areas will culminate in Countryside, The Future, on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from February 20 through the summer of 2020. The exhibition will highlight urgent environmental, political, and socioeconomic issues in a collaboration between Koolhaas and AMO, a research and design think tank within the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). Drawn from original research on the rapidly changing rural areas across the globe, the exhibition will fill the Guggenheim rotunda with an immersive, multi-sensory installation based on work by Koolhaas and AMO, as well as the Harvard Graduate School of Design; the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing; Wageningen University, Netherlands; and the University of Nairobi. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Koolhaas and AMO have been laying the groundwork for the show for the last few years. Countryside, The Future will mark Koolhaas’s most striking departure from the ultra-urban to the decidedly non-urban, lumping the rural, remote, and wild into the broader category of the “countryside.” A selection of global case studies will address topics such as artificial intelligence, human-animal ecosystems, political radicalization, and other phenomena that are drastically changing the Earth’s landscapes. The exhibition will make use of imagery, film, archival material, and more to create an immersive and captivating view of the countryside.
Countryside: The Future will be accompanied by a schedule of public programs to be announced closer to the exhibition and posted at guggenheim.org/calendar. AN will follow the exhibition’s opening next week with a full review.
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Cultural Lensing

Access for All aims to inspire New York through São Paulo's urban design
From an urban design perspective, São Paulo, Brazil, Munich, in Germany, and New York could not be any more different—they exist on separate continents, have vastly different densities, and utilize space in their own distinct ways. So, what, you might ask, could these cities possibly have in common? The answer, according to Andres Lepik and Daniel Talesnik, is more than you think. Access for All: São Paulo’s Architectural Infrastructures, which opened this week at the AIA New York’s Center for Architecture, sets the stage for comparison between São Paulo and its peer cities across the globe. Curated by Talesnik, a trained architect and Bauhaus expert, the exhibition was originally presented at Architekturmuseum Der Tum under the direction of Lepik. Although São Paulo has a significantly greater population density than Munich, Talesnik felt that the German city had plenty to learn from the Brazilian city’s avid use of public space. For decades, the megacity of 12 million has seen a growing investment in public infrastructure in order to ease its open space shortages and respond to the demand for cultural and recreational programming. Access for All presents a selection of these projects since the 1950s, organized into three categories: large-scale, multi-programmatic projects; open public spaces; and projects located along the iconic Paulista Avenue. The exhibition comes 10 years after Lepik’s curation of Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement at the Museum of Modern Art, which highlighted architectural projects on five continents that aided underserved communities. Lepik’s research was an appropriate precursor for a case study in São Paulo, a city deeply affected by economic inequality, high crime rates, traffic congestion, and public health hazards. Talesnik views the selected projects as microcosms of urban life. From the pedestrianized Minhocão highway to the multi-story SESC Pompeía cultural center, the projects are analyzed through sociocultural impact rather than formal characteristics, highlighting the dynamic relationship between the built environment and its inhabitants. In its new home at the Center for Architecture, the exhibition intends to teach New York a few lessons. The large infographic at the start of the exhibition has been stripped of its “Munich” column and replaced with a “New York” column to compare and contrast figures alongside São Paulo’s. At the exhibition’s opening, visitors wanted to know what exactly New York might take away from the São Paulo method. Figuring out that mystery is one of Lepik’s and Talesnik’s favorite parts of the exhibition: “Who knows,” Talesnik laughed. “But we’re certainly curious.” Access for All is on display through May 23.
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Troubled waters

Greece floats plan for refugee-deterring sea wall
The Greek government has announced plans for a floating barrier in the Aegean Sea, meant to slow the movement of asylum-seeking migrants arriving on the country’s North Aegean Islands via boat from mainland Turkey. Envisioned as a sort of buoyant maritime version of the Trump Administration’s U.S.-Mexico border wall, the netted blockade would stretch 1.7 miles off the northern coast of Lesbos, Greece’s third-largest island and home to the notoriously ill-equipped and overcrowded Moria refugee camp. Per Reuters, the barrier could potentially extend over nine miles if the initial segment is found to be an effective deterrence tool by Greece’s Defense Ministry. Plans call for the floating wall to rise above sea level by nearly two feet and be topped with flashing lights so that it's visible in the dark of night. While there’s currently no clear start or completion date for the estimated $545,000 undertaking, The New York Times reports that the search for private contractors to erect the barricade is underway and a selection will be made within three months. Government officials are confident that a floating sea wall will successfully thwart refugees attempting to reach Greece’s northeastern islands, pointing specifically to a barbed wire-laden land barrier built along Greece’s northern border with Turkey in 2012 that officials believe has produced desirable results. “In Evros, physical barriers had a relative impact in curbing flows,” Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos explained to Skai Radio when the proposal was announced late last month. “We believe a similar result can be achieved with these floating barriers.” Although Panagiotopoulos is confident in the plan’s efficacy, the very idea of a refugee-blocking floating fence in the Aegean Sea has been met with swift condemnation from humanitarian groups and former government officials alike, many of which have criticized the idea as being potentially dangerous and likely ineffective—after all, small vessels carrying migrants can simply navigate around the barrier. “The idea that a fence of this length is going to work is totally stupid,” said Greece's former Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas. “It’s not going to stop anybody making the journey.” “This proposal marks an alarming escalation in the Greek government’s ongoing efforts to make it as difficult as possible for asylum-seekers and refugees to arrive on its shores and will lead to more danger for those desperately seeking safety,” warned Massimo Moratti, European research director with Amnesty International, in a press statement. “The government must urgently clarify the operational details and necessary safeguards to ensure that this system does not cost further lives.” Amnesty International notes that roughly 60,000 migrants, largely from war-torn Syria, arrived in Greece by sea in 2019, nearly double the number of arrivals in 2018. From January through October 2019, the International Organization for Migration recorded 66 deaths along maritime migration routes in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
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HOLLYWOOD MOMENT

Hollywood Walk of Fame reveals a pedestrian-friendly master plan
When tourists visit Los Angeles with little information aside from a guidebook, their first stop is often the Hollywood Walk of Fame. An approximate 10 million out-of-towners flock to the 1.3-mile stretch of Hollywood Boulevard annually in the hopes of finding their favorite celebrities’ names among the more than 2,500 brass stars. The built environment around those stars, by contrast, has left visitors feeling underwhelmed about their Hollywood experience. With bonds secured from the local Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA/LA), a new master plan for the area has recently been revealed as part of City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell's Heart of Hollywood initiative that was first announced in October 2018. “Hollywood is an iconic destination known the world over,” said O'Farrell on his website, “but it is also a regional economic engine helping create good jobs and healthy neighborhoods. I’ve been working to ensure that Hollywood evolves into a future worthy of its rich history with a priority focus on its residents, businesses, and its signature entertainment industry, as well as its rightful place as a world tourist destination.” Global design and architecture firm Gensler presented plans for a more pedestrian-friendly version of the 15-block tourist destination. Beyond necessary repairs to the sidewalks, which have been badly damaged by decades of neglect, the main planning proposal addresses the area’s lack of unified signage, greenery, and street furnishing. Under the proposed plan, street parking and driving lanes would be significantly reduced to make room for more pedestrian activities, including sidewalk dining and outdoor performances, and will even establish five “event plazas” adjacent to the area's most popular tourist attractions, such as the Pantages Theatre and the Hollywood Highland Center Mall. Though there is currently no construction date set, Gensler is working with the city to further develop the master plan design, to be presented to the public throughout 2020 for feedback. The renovation of the Hollywood Walk of Fame is just one of many attempts to make Los Angeles a more pedestrian-friendly city in response to recently increased densification. Last November, local architecture firm RCH Studios presented their master plan for Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade that would similarly create room for unimpeded pedestrian traffic, street performances, and other related outdoor activities.
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The Title is a Mad-Lib

Akon finalizes deal to build a cryptocurrency city in Senegal
On January 13, pop singer Akon confirmed via tweet that his 2,000-acre, cryptocurrency-powered city in Senegal would soon break ground. The project was first announced in 2018, and the smart city will rise near the capital of Dakar, on a plot gifted to Akon by President Macky Sall. Oh, and Akon City will run on ‘AKoin,’ a proprietary cryptocurrency, as a trial run for whether digital currency can be better integrated into Africa as a whole. The new city is being pitched as sustainable, and when complete in 10 years, will be the first LEED-certified project in Africa. Because the project is being touted as a tourism city, SAPCO, the state-owned tourism agency, is co-developing the project with Akon. While the designer for Akon City hasn’t been announced yet, from the renderings, the aesthetic seems to borrow heavily from the biomorphic, parametrically-designed structures found in other smart city proposals. At the heart of the development will be two sculptural, interlocking towers with a large void between them, reminiscent of Zaha Hadid Architects’ recent work in Beijing. A large manmade lake and promenade will front a curvy center and will join undulating glass tower complexes. While concrete details about the city’s makeup are sparse, the project will reportedly feature a mixture of residential and commercial areas. According to CNN, Akon City is only a five minute drive from Senegal’s new international airport, which opened in 2017. The project is being rolled out in phases, with the second phase set to begin in 2025. While it may seem far-fetched, integrating blockchain technology into city building has been gaining traction in recent years—though none of the projects have been successfully realized yet. Tom Wiscombe Architecture and Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC) are designing a 100-square-mile city powered by Bitcoin-competitor Ethereum in the Nevada Desert, and The Orbit in Ontario is expanding a town that was an early adopter to cryptocurrency into a full-fledged smart city.
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Watching the Watchmen

The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project wants to curb surveillance abuses
Without a suspicious eye or an advanced degree in software engineering, it can be nearly impossible to keep abreast of the evolving role surveillance technology has had in the law enforcement of the built environment. Biometric databanks, facial recognition cameras, cell phone trackers, and other watchful devices have been quietly installed throughout our major cities with shockingly little public disclosure and virtually no discussion with privacy advocates. New Yorkers deeply familiar with their city's streets, bridges, and subway system may still be largely unaware of the more than 9,000 surveillance cameras currently installed on top of them under the watchful eye of the New York Police Department (NYPD)—and those are only the ones either publicly disclosed or visible enough for the public to spot on their commutes. Their targets, their prejudices, and the malpractices they engender all remain shrouded in secrecy, resulting in discriminatory injustices too numerous for any member of the common public to challenge. With prior experience as a lawyer, technologist, and interfaith activist, Albert Cahn founded The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.), a 501(C)(3), non-profit advocacy organization and legal services provider based in New York City in 2019 with the goal of addressing local officials’ growing use of surveillance technologies and serving the victims of surveillance abuse. Within the last year, S.T.O.P. has already stepped in to litigate against many recently uncovered abuses of surveillance technology and databanks; including the NYPD's misuse of mobile device forensic tools (MDFTs) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA)'s use of facial recognition surveillance technology in the Times Square/Port Authority Subway Station. AN spoke with Cahn to learn about the extent to which surveillance devices have already become a common element of the urban fabric, and what organizations like S.T.O.P. can do to lessen their grasp on our personal information. Shane Reiner-Roth: How did your nonprofit begin? Why was surveillance chosen as a central issue? It came out of my prior work as a legal director for The New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a nonprofit organization that has worked for more than 25 years to defend constitutional rights.  In that role, I saw the alarming array of high-tech tools deployed by the NYPD that were disproportionately targeting that demographic. It seemed like there was an urgent need to make that our top priority. How do you determine an “impacted community?” Here in New York, the discriminatory habits embedded in surveillance systems mirror those found in more traditional forms of law enforcement. In other words, our group has observed the same patterns of policing that occur in physical spaces using analog techniques being replicated by digital techniques, including identity tracking systems and comprehensive databanks. The Gang Database, for instance, is a confidential record organized by the NYPD that lists over 42,000 New Yorkers as suspected gang members, about 99 [percent] of which are people of color. Oftentimes, the impact of these newly developed systems can engender forms of harassment just as significant as through conducted through stop-and-frisk. The people who are being constantly monitored may not know their lives are under a microscope. We’ve seen technology originally developed for the US military, including StingRay phone tracking towers and Counter-IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) equipment, deployed throughout the city without public disclosure. The public was not only uninformed of their presence, but they also didn’t learn the extent to which these technologies were potentially retaining their data, and they certainly didn’t have a say in how they were dispersed across the city. How do surveillance systems present (or conceal) themselves within NYC’s infrastructure? One of the most difficult parts of surveillance work is that much of the infrastructure is completely opaque to the New Yorkers being monitored. And even if they’re visible to the naked eye, we can’t know by looking at them if they’re running facial recognition, biometric analyses, or any other invasive methods of surveillance.  New York City has the largest investment in anti-terrorism surveillance technology in the country, yet nearly all of it goes unreported. Yet following the initial investment in the physical infrastructure of the city, there's a relatively low cost to add additional layers of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and surveillance technology on top of it. A common example is the ALPR, a device embedded into many of the city's bridges to reads license plate numbers and store them in a database that allows the MTA to charge drivers for crossing. How is the surveillance situation different in various parts of the world? We see cities all around the world grappling with this issue. The issue in China has become well known, in which its citizens can be automatically penalized for behavior its government doesn't find agreeable in the form of automatic reductions through their WeChat accounts. Suddenly, the wheels of a justice system are not only driven forward by AI, but they make it almost impossible to disagree or contend with what the algorithms decide. On the flip side, you have countries like Sweden that intentionally limit the data stored in their license plate reading systems. Their authorities have made it clear that they did not install their system for privacy breeching, even though they could use it to make personal information available to the police, they self-imposed limits as a matter of law through automatic image cropping.  Do you feel there could be a version of surveillance that is morally just? Like any form of law enforcement, advanced forensic systems can, of course, have potentially equitable outcomes—we have seen extreme cases such as with DNA matching to exonerate innocent people, for instance. The problem comes in when it's embedded in our infrastructure without the proper safeguards—when they collect data that is simply inappropriate to collect in a free society. How can ordinary citizens protect themselves against unwarranted surveillance when navigating the city? It's often the case that the people who have the time and money to invest in protecting themselves against surveillance are those who are also least vulnerable to its effects. The clients of mine who may be struggling financially or are undocumented are usually not able to invest the same level of resources. While individuals can always increase their odds of maintaining privacy by improving the security of their digital identities, none of us will be able to protect our privacy until we reform the laws and enforce better police practices. We need systemic reform to be truly secure in our privacy and reverse racial injustices perpetuated by unregulated surveillance infrastructure. Do you hope to broaden your work beyond New York state? There are already so many amazing activists operating throughout the world fighting the same battles we do in New York City. While S.T.O.P. will always be based here, we have offered advice on potential litigations strategies beyond our city and will continue this service in the future.