Search results for "nypl"

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Kubrick Takeover

LinkNYC kiosks will display iconic film director’s photos of old New York
Beginning this Thursday, LinkNYC kiosks around the city will feature images from the Museum of the City of New York’s (MCNY) extensive photography archive. The aptly named campaign, Summer in the City, is a partnership between the Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT), LinkNYC, the city’s free Wi-Fi kiosk system, and MCNY. Images will be displayed from the Museum’s current exhibition, Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs. Passerby on the street will be able to catch a glimpse of the old New York through the lens of the iconic film director. Kubrick’s photographs highlight his formative years as a photographer (before he became a film director) for Look magazine in New York City between 1945-1950. The photographs focus on and capture the pathos of everyday life of the city, from street scenes to sporting events. The LinkNYC kiosks can be found dotted all over the city. Since Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the program in 2016, more than 1,650 Links are active across all five boroughs and have replaced the old pay phones with sleek kiosks that feature free Wi-Fi, phone chargers, and digital displays for advertisements and in this case, art. It’s not the first time that LinkNYC has featured art on its kiosks from MCNY. Previous "exhibitions" on the kiosks include historic photos of women who influenced New York’s political history for Women’s History Month and "On This Day in NYC History" information. The MCNY and LinkNYC partnership is one of many programs that disseminate New York City’s history; others include the NYC Space/Time Directory from the New York Public Library, an app from Urban Archive that made more than 2,500 images of old New York available on-the-go, and a Civil Rights & Social Justice Map from the Greenwich Village Society.
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Publishers Pulpit

Storefront honoree makes the case for expanding the domain of architecture books in New York
The Storefront for Art and Architecture held its yearly spring benefit on May 7 in the beautiful 19th century Celeste Bartos Forum in the New York Public Library. The room, with its spectacular 30-foot-high elliptical dome of iron and glass, supported on four springing arches, is one of the city’s most dramatic rooms. The Storefront’s benefit always honors a member of the art or architecture community, and in the past, has honored Olafur Eliasson, Archigrammers Michael Webb and Dennis Crompton, Storefront's founder Kyong Park, Lebbeus Woods, Mary Miss, and Tom Mayne. This year it honored artist Mary Ellen Carroll and book publisher Lars Mueller. The publisher has a reputation for creating beautiful and important books on architecture, and in his acceptance speech, he made an impassioned plea for the “domain” of books. Mueller shared his speech with A/N and we publish it here:
Thank you for the honor. You are honoring a rare species, one which I represent here tonight: that of the independent publisher. Independent imprints used to be the backbone of publishing. Not anymore. In the field of architecture, you will hardly find a handful of them in the United States. I am proud to be recognized for what I do. To publish books with the best architecture schools of this country, with bright scholars, leading institutions like the Storefront for Art and Architecture or the Chicago Architecture Biennial, also with independent editors and authors, is a privilege and counts, even more, when we consider the location and the size of the publishing house. Why should relevant American content be detouring through tiny Switzerland? Ok, it is because of me—but also because of the lack of alternatives. Small presses have been forced out of business or have merged with bigger companies. Small-scale publishing, as part of the diverse book culture we have grown up with, is regarded anachronistic in the present time. This puts me in attack mode. If my business plan doesn't match the standards, it is not necessarily the business plan that is wrong. In my eyes, it would make a lot of sense, in this city and elsewhere, to preserve and strengthen existing structures in the book domain, and help to create new ones, knowing that the medium is far from dying out. This necessarily brings me to the precarious situation of bookstores in New York City. Why do we let them die? How can we give them up if we all confess that many of the most beloved and beautiful books in our bookshelves were unexpected encounters in bookstores? It is difficult enough to convince young professionals of the investment of both time and money in books—and more so if we inhibit the analog experience of sudden encounters. Therefore—if I had one wish—it would be for a landlady or a landlord who would take pleasure and pride in hosting the best-curated bookstore for art and architecture in this city. With her or him, I would gladly share the honor given to me tonight.
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Year in Review

The good, the bad, and the ugly: Best preservation stories of 2017
In the trenches, preservation can feel cyclical—historic buildings are defended and saved, others destroyed, and public appreciation grows for once-loathed styles (looking at you, Brutalism). This year’s brilliant adaptive reuse projects are worthy of their own list, but we chose to highlight the epic sagas—new landmarks, victories against out-of-scale development, priceless buildings pulverized, and the controversies that will shape preservation debates through next year and beyond. (See the rest of our Year in Review 2017 posts here.) New York City is losing its modernist public spaces 2017 was rough on New York City's modernist landscapes. In June, bulldozers unceremoniously demolished a landmarked Sasaki fountain and plaza at the Citicorp Center—a move that was sanctioned by the city without input from the public. Over in Battery Park City, officials are considering a total redesign of Machado Silvetti and Hanna/Olin's Wagner Park, a public postmodern marvel. Out in Brooklyn, the Parks Department is set to replace a rare public commission by landscape architect A.E. Bye in Fort Greene Park with a bland promenade. At least no one here is turning Brutalist landscapes into climbing walls...

Lawrence Halprin’s Freeway Park slated for major overhaul

Seattle’s Freeway Park, a pioneering work of modernist landscape architecture by Lawrence Halprin and Angela Danadjieva that's widely recognized as the world’s first freeway cap park, is undergoing a series of wayfinding-oriented renovations. Nonprofit park stewards Freeway Park Association (FPA) hired Seattle-based landscape architects SiteWorkshop to add a bandshell, new restroom facilities, a food kiosk, a playground, and even a bouldering wall to the Brutalist landscape. The interventions are meant to soften the verdant but austere park, a move that some say runs counter to Halprin and Danadjieva's original design intent. New York Public Library interiors landmarked The New York Public Library’s (NYPL) main branch in Midtown Manhattan is a definitive New York building, but until recently, its splendid interiors were mostly unprotected. That changed this summer when the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) added the Rose Main Reading Room and the Bill Blass Catalogue Room to its roster of interior landmarks. (The exterior of the Carrère & Hastings–designed building was protected 50 years ago.) Now, the structure is slated for extensive remodeling by Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle, who debuted a master plan for the changes in November.

Edward Durell Stone gem gets a comprehensive rehab

Halfway between Chicago and Denver along Interstate 80, Grand Island, Nebraska is perhaps best known as the home of the Nebraska State Fair, but it also hosts an important work of modern architecture. Designed by Edward Durell Stone in 1963, the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer documents the lives of Europeans who first settled in Nebraska. Recently, the museum underwent a comprehensive renovation and rehabilitation, led by Lincoln, Nebraska–based BVH Architecture. Snøhetta takes on the AT&T Building   Architects took to the streets to protest changes to the AT&T Building, Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s iconic postmodern tower. Among other changes, the Snøhetta-led redo would glass in the building’s signature 110-foot-tall arched stone entryway. Denise Scott Brown, Sean Griffiths, Adam Nathaniel Furman, Paul Goldberger, and others took to AN‘s pages to weigh in on the design (TL;DR most folks think glassing in the base is a bad idea). Thanks to activists’ efforts, the pomo marvel on Madison Avenue is now up for landmarking. OMA menaces Gordon Bunshaft's Albright-Knox addition When it was revealed that OMA would design an $80 million expansion of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, preservationists were concerned. OMA's concept design—new galleries and parking organized around a huge class lobby—would eliminate Gordon Bunshaft's suave 1962 addition to the Buffalo, New York museum. Over protests, the museum is now raising money for the project, which it has dubbed AK360 (perhaps in reference to the assault on good taste). Helmut Jahn's Thomson Center still imperiled  Designed by Helmut Jahn and completed in 1985, the James R. Thompson Center is the hub of Illinois state government in the City of Chicago. From the moment it was constructed, its vertiginous interior has turned heads and sparked debate. Today Governor Bruce Rauner is keen to see the building either demolished or converted into a private property. This year saw the premiere of Starship Chicago: A Building on the Brink, a new documentary on the oft-misunderstood building.

Louis Kahn’s endangered floating concert hall is headed to Florida

This summer it looked like Louis Kahn's concert-hall-on-a-barge was headed to the scrap heap. The 195-foot-long boat, dubbed Point Counterpoint II, was commissioned as a floating venue for the American Wind Symphony Orchestra (AWSO) for the Bicentennial, and it's traveled the country's waterways ever since. Despite its design pedigree, longtime owner Robert Austin Boudreau struggled to find an owner for two decades, and was going to chuck the boat if he didn't find a suitable buyer. In early December, the Hudson Valley's Daily Freeman reported that Boudreau sold the vessel to a consortium of Florida businesspeople. This winter, it will be restored in Louisiana and will eventually dock in Lake Okeechobee, about 50 miles west of Palm Beach, Florida. Master plan for The Alamo stirs debate A $450 million plan for the treasured historic site of The Alamo in downtown San Antonio is causing a stir. Architects, planners, professors, patriotic preservationists, and the public are in disagreement over a rejuvenation scheme that looks to open up the plaza but relocates a historic cenotaph in the process. House of Tomorrow is saved  The House of Tomorrow, the first residence to be clad with a glass curtain wall, is set to receive a much-needed update from a team of Chicago firms. Originally designed by Chicago architect George Fred Keck for the city's 1933 World’s Fair, the 12-sided glass-and-steel home sports an open floor plan, also a rarity for the time. After the fair, the early modern home was moved to Beverly Shores, Indiana, to be incorporated into a vacation village that was never completed. Now, Indiana Landmarks is spearheading the renovation of the National Register–listed property in collaboration with chosen firms. Monument removal After white nationalists provoked violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and amid a national climate of heightened bigotry, cities and towns across the county are re-evaluating their public monuments. With little fanfare, under the cover of night, the City of Baltimore took down four Confederate monuments in August. After protests, New York City established an independent commission this fall to review the city’s public monuments for "symbols of hate." Should these monuments be saved in the name of history? Or should they be altered—even destroyed—because they no longer positively embody contemporary values?
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Checking In

New York Public Library gets new master plan by Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle
Here's what the main branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL) could look like after renovations by Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle. At last night's Board of Trustees meeting, NYPL revealed a master plan by the two firms for the lion-flanked Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.
Under the $317 million plan, there will be 20 percent more public space in the building, much of it derived from repurposed staff and back-of-house space. Among the changes, storage and former staff rooms will be converted into research, exhibition, and education rooms, including a new Center for Research and Learning, a space for high school and college students to learn how to use the research library. Outside, an entrance on 40th Street and new elevators will welcome visiting groups, while new elevators near 40th Street will replace back-of-house rooms. A cafe will replace a map storage area that is now closed to the public. “We have developed a master plan that inherently adheres to the logic of a Beaux-Arts building,” said Mecanoo Founding Partner Francine Houben, in prepared remarks. “Our changes are both subtle and clever—to direct the flow for different user groups, for example, or to improve the quality and function of currently underused spaces.” The building will be adapted around its historic interiors, including the landmarked Rose Main Reading Room and Bill Blass Public Catalog Room, as well as Astor Hall, and the Maps, Periodicals, and Genealogy reading rooms, which are un-landmarked. In some corners of the city, the re-location of the seven floors of stacks is the most controversial aspect of the plan. The master plan doesn't include a definitive plan for the 175,000-square-feet subterranean rooms, but Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle will conduct a study to explore possibilities for the space, with public input. The NYPL says the stacks, which are filled with circulating books while the Mid-Manhattan Library is being renovated, don't meet present-day standards for housing delicate research material. "The stacks should be used for their original purpose, which is to hold books," said Charles Warren, president of advocacy group Committee to Save the New York Public Library. Warren, who attended last night's trustees meeting, said the stacks are crucial to library researchers. Fragile research materials are held in climate- and light-controlled storage under Bryant Park, and books in the stacks can make it to the Reading Room in less than 30 minutes, while books off-site take at least one business day to reach the library. A library spokesperson confirmed that the timing won't change post renovation. "I'm a little troubled [the NYPL] has thrown the door back open to other crazy, expensive options to re-use the stacks," he said. "The plans are unacceptably vague, but at least they're exploring the question with an open mind." The public will get to hear about the master plan next week, on November 20 at 5 p.m. in the Schwarzman Building’s Celeste Auditorium. Instead of stamp-ready plans, the plan is a roadmap for the design, which is still in development. Back in 2015, the NYPL Board of Trustees unanimously selected Dutch firm Mecanoo and New York's Beyer Blinder Belle to renovate the Schwarzman Building as well as the Mid-Manhattan Library across Fifth Avenue. Work has already begun on the latter building, which will reopen as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in early 2020, while renovations to the Schwarzman Building will wrap in 2021. This story has been updated with clarifying information about the stacks.
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From the Archives

Instead of ads and porn, LinkNYC kiosks will now show photos of old New York

Beginning last Friday, select wifi kiosks in New York now feature scintillating pictures of the city from decades past. It's LinkNYC porn, but for buildings.

In partnership with LinkNYC, the city's wifi kiosk system, the Department of Records and Information Services is displaying dozens of historic photos on LinkNYC screens in the five boroughs. The images correspond to the blocks where they're displayed, so a person at Henry and Clark streets, for example, would see a black-and-white picture of the port in what is now Brooklyn Bridge Park. The New York Times reports that most of the photographs on display date from the 1890s through the 1970s, and the project will be up through the end of the year.

LinkNYC is taking residents' suggestions for where the archival images should be displayed; readers can tweet @LinkNYC to have their voices heard.

The program is the latest in a slate of apps and maps that disseminate New York City history online. This year, Urban Archive geotagged and released over 2,500 images of old New York that users can access on the go. Built in collaboration with Brooklyn Historical Society, the New York Public Library (NYPL), and the Museum of the City of New York, the app pings users with archival images when they're near a historic site in the database, prompting reflection on the changing city. Separately, the NYPL launched the NYC Space/Time Directory, a “'digital time-travel service' that combines the library’s map collection with geospatial tools to illuminate the city’s messy and beautiful development over more than a century." Downtown, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) debuted its Civil Rights & Social Justice Map, an interactive tool that reveals key downtown sites where marginalized people have fought for equity, dignity, and representation.

Beyond the archive, urbanists can now access maps to prepare for L-mageddondiscover the city’s noisiest neighborhoods, learn about future skyscrapers, and find the internet's favorite kind of architecture.

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Main Reading and Catalogue Rooms

The NYPL's two grandest rooms are now New York City landmarks

Today the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) added two stunning rooms in the main branch library to its roster of interior landmarks.

The New York Public Library’s (NYPL) main branch in Midtown Manhattan is a definitive New York building. The structure, built on the site of a former reservoir, commands a block-wide slice of 42nd Street between 5th and 6th avenues. Architects Carrère & Hastings spared no detail, especially on the inside, where a happy Beaux Arts explosion of arched windows, rosettes, ceiling murals, skylights, and brass chandeliers have sheltered writers and learners since 1911. It’s officially known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, and its grand interior is mostly unprotected.

One of the best-known rooms, the Rose Main Reading Room, was designated today, as well as the Bill Blass Catalogue Room. These spaces will join the main entrance and primary public spaces that lead up to the main rooms as interior landmarks. (The building's exterior was protected 50 years ago.)

The designation comes in the middle of a renovations spell at the library. With architects at the Dutch firm Mechanoo, the NYPL has just started work on the Mid-Manhattan Library, an adjacent branch, while renovations on the Schwarzman Building by the same architect have yet to be announced. The Schwarzman Building's main room and catalogue room, both on the third floor, re-opened to the public last year after extensive revamps that brought a dead-on replica of the original sky mural to the catalogue room.

The LPC convened in July to discuss those two rooms, but held off on a vote at that meeting. Although seven parties spoke in support of the designation last time, there was no public testimony at today’s meeting.

In a unanimous vote, commissioners affirmed the importance of library's signature rooms—and not just for the architecture. “The details, the ornament, the ceiling paintings, all of that is so remarkable,” said Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron. In her estimation, the two blocks of interior space create a “rare condition” that makes the two rooms an "extraordinary and singular civic space and reminds us what civic space actually is, which is a place and ethic that honors and elevates the spirit of the individual and the collective.”

For one volunteer advocacy group, however, the designation doesn't go deep enough. The Committee to Save the New York Public Library (Save NYPL) wants the commission to consider 11 other rooms—essentially the whole building—for landmarking, and has submitted a petition with 2,000 signatures to the LPC for consideration.

Save NYPL, the same group that campaigned against the library's proposed Norman Foster renovation, cited how Carrère & Hastings knitted the rooms together via decorative motifs. In his testimony, Save NYPL President Charles Warren claimed that “[a] piecemeal approach to interior designation does not adequately respect this design and leaves some of New York’s most sublime manifestations of Beaux-Arts interiors unprotected.”

As precedent, he pointed out that the interiors of McKim Mead & White’s Boston Public Library are completely landmarked. 

In a phone call with The Architect's Newspaper (AN), Warren noted the effort all stakeholders took to get to today's vote, and he confirmed that Save NYPL will re-submit a Request for Evaluation to the LPC for the other rooms in the hopes they will be considered (calendared) and designated. He praised today's vote but explained his group's decision on the grounds that only full landmarking can protect the building. "The library claims it is a great steward," Warren said, "but they've carried out some changes that are questionable" like installing track lighting in the carved wood ceiling of the Gottesman Exhibition Hall, and removing the perimeter skylights in the Celeste Bartos Forum. Though the monumental exterior is recognizable to most New Yorkers and beyond, the building's all in the details. Save NYPL's vice president, preservation activist Theodore Grunewald, asked the LPC to preserve the reading room's pneumatic tubes, among other less-than-obvious—but still significant—features. In a prepared statement, NYPL President Tony Marx evaluated the LPC's decision. "The New York Public Library applauds today's vote to officially designate the Rose Main Reading Room and Bill Blass Public Catalog Room as New York City interior landmarks. For over a century, we have been proud, dedicated stewards of these architectural and civic treasures, and will continue to preserve and protect them with the respect and care that they require and deserve. We thank the Landmarks Preservation Commission for partnering with us in our mission to ensure that these beautiful, unique rooms inspire visitors now and for generations to come."
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Radical Bodies

How three choreographers impacted the art world, public space, feminism, and more
While the creative cross-pollination between Lawrence and Anna Halprin has been in the limelight in recent years, the Radical Bodies exhibition (at the New York Public Library Performing Arts branch) and catalog places much deserved attention on Anna Halprin’s impact as choreographer, performer, radical teacher and activist, as well as that of ‘two' of her students—Simone Forti and Yvonne Rainer. The Radical Bodies story anchors around their encounter on Halprin’s dance deck in 1960 and presents a bi-coastal tale of three women choreographers whose radical visions of bodies impacted and entangled with the art world, political activism, and the cultural shifts between the Cold War and Vietnam War, civil rights and feminist movements. The exhibition presents photographs, videos, and documentaries, and original scores and drawings by Halprin, Forti, and Rainer. Each of the co-curators—Ninotchka D. Bennahum and Bruce Robertson (both of UC Santa Barbara) and Wendy Perron (formerly with Dance Magazine)—has contributed an essay to the catalog. Bennahum’s essay foregrounds Halprin’s commitment to an “ethic of repair.” Perron discusses the non-dualistic, post-human, and playful currents throughout Simone Forti’s work. Robertson addresses Yvonne Rainer’s relation to minimalism and “play with objects and bodies.” In their introduction, Bennahum and Roberson point out further links between Halprin, Forti, and Rainer: their diasporic experiences translated into activism; their challenging modernist dance doctrine; abandoning narrative and exploring improvisation; acknowledging different identities, bodies and species of movers. Each relocated dance from the theater to alternative spaces and challenged boundaries between dance, performance, sculpture, time-based media, and activism, feminist critique, and political protest. The exhibition draws our attention to the importance of the dance deck, the relation Forti and Rainer, in particular, had to “the downtown NY scene in the 1960s,” their “actions in public spaces.” The dance deck, designed by Lawrence Halprin with Arch Lauterer, is sited in the forest steps away from the Halprin residence. While mimicking proscenium stage proportions, the deck presented a radically different working environment, enveloping movers in the sounds of wildlife and no mirrored walls. Workshops here cultivated a literal getting in touch with an “organic” understanding of bodies in continuity with the environment. After Rainer’s experience improvising in the wild on Halprin’s dance deck, she, not surprisingly, sought out an alternative environment in which to practice and more regularly and informally present work. The flat floor and non-hierarchical space of the Judson Church gym became the “deck” of the east coast where the downtown community saw and participated in experimental performances. Photographs in the exhibition make evident overlaps within the 60s downtown community between choreographers, visual artists, and composers; between west and east coast; and between those affiliated with pop, fluxus, minimal, and conceptual art. In addition to Rainer sipping drinks with Andy Warhol, we see visual artists Carolee Schneemann, Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Morris as participants and authors of hybrid visual art-dance works. Forti’s Slant Board (1961) materializes the hybridizations of minimal sculpture and task-oriented choreography (and has been reconstructed in the exhibition where you are invited to performed it). Such minimalist sculptural objects and readymades also emerged in Rainer’s work, such as Room Service (1965). Video footage of her Continuous Project-Altered Daily (1970) shows a playful collision between human and material objects, and slow relinquishing of authorship, indexing a cultural shift towards participatory and ‘open’ works. One artifact in particular—a listing similar to Richard Serra’s List of Verbs (1967-68)—caught my eye: Rainer’s List of Actions, Score for WAR (1970). It reads: … Infiltrate                                                                         escalate unite        (converge)                                                   sweep subvert                                                                           pursue liberate                                                                           remove capture                                                                           swell… Slippages between scores, instructions, poetry, sculpture, and choreography appear throughout the show, linking these three artists to their cultural moment. The exhibition and catalog also highlight actions in public spaces linking their work to urbanism and political activism. Halprin’s Blank Placard Dance (1967), in which a procession through city streets by performers carrying blank protest signs, was an important step towards civic engagement performances central to Halprin’s current work. Rainer’s Trio A With Flags (video), Street Action, and WAR (all from 1970) responded to the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and to arrests for desecrating the flag. These works nod and wink to Emma Goldman’s statement: “(i)f I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” Performances from Halprin, Forti, and Rainer initiated both the west coast and east coast exhibitions. Forti’s improvisation was full of witty allusions comparing species of fish to the behavior of politicians. At the UC Santa Barbara Rainer performed Concept of Dust (2017), literally a “Continuous Project/Altered Annually,” layering older choreographed fragments with her deadpan reading of recent news. These prepared audiences for the climax—Halprin’s Paper Dance from Parades and Changes (1966-7). The New York performance was particularly eventful given that its last New York appearance in 1967 led to her being issued an arrest warrant for public indecency. The slow undressing and re-dressing of the dancers, while far from shocking today, remains both an exquisite and politically poignant work. New York’s Jody Arnhold can be credited for bringing Halprin’s “radical bodies back to the scene of the crime.” Along with Simone Forti and Yvonne Rainer, she was radical, rebellious, visionary, and pro-actively dismantling hierarchies. They modeled engaged citizenship as a participatory choreography in public space, and there is no better time than the present to be reminded to get off our asses and dance, dance, dance. Radical Bodies: Anna Halprin, Simone Forti, and Yvonne Rainer in California and New York, 1955 - 1972 is on view at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center through September 16, 2017.
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From Broadacre to Agronica

Charles Waldheim on the "profound implications" on urban farming for cities today
The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) has partnered with urbanNext to share articles on common topics every two weeks. This week, we’re pairing the urbanNext article below with AN’sTravel through space-time with the NYPL’s new map tool.”
The agrarian and the urban are two categories of thought that have more often than not been opposed to one another. Across many disciplines, and for many centuries, the city and the country have been called upon to define one other through binary opposition. Contemporary design culture and discourse on cities are, by contrast, awash in claims of the potential for urban agriculture. Enthusiasm for agricultural production in and around cities has grown through an increased environmental literacy on behalf of designers and scholars. Equally this renewed interest in the relation of food production to urban form has been made possible by increased public literacy about food and the forms of industrial food production and distribution that characterize globalization. This renewed interest in food production and consumption has been shaped by a variety of authors and interests, but has been most forcefully felt as a call for more renewable or sustainable agricultural practices associated with local food production, reduced carbon footprint, increased public health, and the associated benefits of pre-industrial farming techniques including increased biodiversity and ecological health. These tendencies have been most clearly articulated through the so-called ‘slow food’ and ‘locavore’ movements. While much has been written on the implications of these tendencies for agricultural production, public policy, and food as an element of culture, little has been written on the potentially profound implications of these transformations for the shape and structure of the city itself. Much of the enthusiasm for slow and local food in the context of urban populations has been predicated on the assumption that abandoned or underused brownfield sites could be remediated and repurposed with productive potential. Equally, this enthusiasm for urban agriculture has been based on the rededication of greenfield sites peripheral to the city, focusing valuable ecological assets on food production rather than suburban sprawl. While both of these remain viable and laudable goals, they shed little light on the implications of such transformations on the shape and the structure of urban form. For those interested in the city as an object of study and subject of design, this suggests the need for further inquiry into the possibilities for an agricultural urbanism. This essay proposes a history of urban form conceived through the spatial, ecological, and infrastructural implications of agricultural production. In the projects that form this tentative counter-history, agricultural production is conceived as a formative element of the city’s structure, rather than being considered adjunct to, outside of, or inserted within traditional urban forms. While this may remain an alternative or even marginal counter- history, it may be useful as architects and urbanists grapple with the implications for urban form attendant to their renewed interest in the agricultural. This alternative history of the city seeks to construct a useful past from three urban projects organized explicitly around agricultural production as inherent to the economic, ecological, and spatial order of the city. Much of the enthusiasm for slow and local food in the context of urban populations has been predicated on the assumption that abandoned or underused brownfield sites could be remediated and repurposed with productive potential. Equally, this enthusiasm for urban agriculture has been based on the rededication of greenfield sites peripheral to the city, focusing valuable ecological assets on food production rather than suburban sprawl. While both of these remain viable and laudable goals, they shed little light on the implications of such transformations on the shape and the structure of urban form. For those interested in the city as an object of study and subject of design, this suggests the need for further inquiry into the possibilities for an agricultural urbanism. This essay proposes a history of urban form conceived through the spatial, ecological, and infrastructural implications of agricultural production. In the projects that form this tentative counter-history, agricultural production is conceived as a formative element of the city’s structure, rather than being considered adjunct to, outside of, or inserted within traditional urban forms. While this may remain an alternative or even marginal counter- history, it may be useful as architects and urbanists grapple with the implications for urban form attendant to their renewed interest in the agricultural. This alternative history of the city seeks to construct a useful past from three urban projects organized explicitly around agricultural production as inherent to the economic, ecological, and spatial order of the city.
Many projects of 20th-century urban planning explicitly aspired to construct an agrarian urbanism. Often these agrarian aspirations were an attempt to reconcile the seemingly contradictory impulses of the industrial metropolis with the social and cultural conditions of agrarian settlement. In many of these projects, agrarianism offered an alternative to the dense metropolitan form of industrial arrangement that grew from the great migrations from farm village to industrial city in the 19th- and early 20th-century cities of Western Europe and North America. The agrarian aspirations of many modernist urban planning proposals originate in the relatively decentralized model of industrial order favored by Henry Ford and other industrialists as early as the 1910s and 20s. Following Ford’s organizational preference for spatial decentralization, industrial organizations tended to spread horizontally and abandon the traditional industrial city. In part as a response to the social conditions of the Depression era, agrarianism came to be seen as a form of continuity between formerly agrarian populations based on subsistence farming and the relatively vulnerable industrial workforce of the modern metropolis.By mixing industry with agriculture, many modernist urban planners imagined a rotational labor system in which workers alternated between factory jobs and collective farms. Most of- ten these new spatial orders were understood as vast regional landscapes, and their representation conflated aerial view and orthographic map. The emergence of these tendencies in the twentieth century might be read through three unbuilt projects advocating a decentralized agrarian urbanism: Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Broadacre City” (1934-35), Ludwig Hilberseimer’s “New Regional Pattern” (1945-49), and Andrea Branzi’s “Agronica” (1993-94) or “Territory for the New Economy” (1999). [1] While these projects were produced decades apart by three very different authors, taken collectively they illustrate the implications for urban form of agricultural production as inherent to the structure of the city. These projects also form a coherent genealogy of thought on the subject of agricultural urbanism as Branzi explicitly references Hilberseimer’s urban proposals, and Hilberseimer’s work was informed by familiarity with Wright’s urban project. Each of the projects presented their audiences with a profound reconceptualization of the city, proposing radical decentralization and dissolution of the urban figure into a productive landscape. The dissolution of figure into field rendered the classical distinction between city and countryside irrelevant in favor of a conflated condition of suburbanized regionalism. From the perspective of contemporary interests in urban agriculture, both tendencies offer equally compelling alternatives to the canonical history of urban form. Implicit in the work of these three urbanists was the assumption of an ongoing process of urban decentralization led by an industrial economy. For Wright, Hilberseimer, and Branzi, the decreased density produced through the new industrial logic of decentralization came to depend upon landscape as the primary medium of urban form. These suburban landscapes were embodied and fleshed out with agricultural lands, farms, and fields. These projects proposed large territorial or regional networks of urban infrastructure bringing existing natural environments into relationship with new agricultural and industrial landscapes. Broadacres / Usonia In the depths of the Depression, lacking reasonable prospects for a recovery of his once-towering stature as the dean of American architects, Frank Lloyd Wright persuaded his lone remaining patron to fund a traveling exhibition of Wright’s conception of an organic American urbanism. Broadacre City, as it was referred to, consisted of a large model and supporting materials produced by student apprentices at Taliesin in the winter of 1934-35. While the premises underpinning the project were evident in Wright’s lectures as early as the 1920s and fully informed Wright’s 1932 publication The Disappearing City, the Broadacre model and drawings were not debuted until a 1935 New York City exhibition. Subsequently, the traveling exhibition toured extensively and the remarkably durable project was further disseminated in subsequent publications including When Democracy Builds (1945) and The Living City (1958). [2] Broadacre City offered American audiences the clearest crystallization of Wright’s damning critique of the modern industrial city, positing Broadacre as an autochthonous organic model for North American settlement across an essentially boundless carpet of cultivated landscape. Eschewing traditional European distinctions between city and countryside, Broadacre proposed a network of transportation and communication infrastructures using the Jeffersonian grid as its principal ordering system. Within this nearly undifferentiated field, the county government (headed by the county architect) replaced other levels of government administering a population of landowning citizen-farmers. Wright was clearly conversant with and sympathetic to Henry Ford’s notion of a decentralized settlement pattern for North America and the closest built parallel for Wright’s work on Broadacre can be found in Ford’s instigation of what would become the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). As an autonomous public agency, TVA was charged with the construction of hydro-electric dams and highways along the Tennessee River in the electrification of an entire region as a seeding process for future urbanization. [3] Enjoying ownership of one acre of land per person as a birthright, residents of Broadacre (or Usonia, as Wright would come to refer to it) were to enjoy modern houses set in relation to ample subsistence gardens and small-scale farms. This basic pattern of variously scaled housing and landscape types was interspersed with light industry, small commercial centers and markets, civic buildings, and of course the ubiquitous highway. In spite of the project’s extremely low density, most of the ground was cleared and cultivated. Occasionally this constructed and maintained landscape relented in favor of extant waterways, topographic features, or other pre-existing ecologies. Presumably the extrapolation of Broadacre City from its chiefly middle-western origins to the margins of the continent would have been accomplished with varying degrees of accommodation to local climate, geography, and geology, if not cultural or material history. The status of previously urbanized areas existing outside of Wright’s Broadacre remained an open question; presumably these would be abandoned in place, again following Ford’s lead in this regard. Wright’s critique of private ownership, conspicuous consumption, and accumulation of wealth associated with cities was no small part of the explicit social critique offered by Broadacre, as the worst of the Depression forced bankrupt family farmers to flee their mortgaged farms in the midwest for protest in the east or California in the west. Ironically, given his anxiety over the corrosive effects of accumulated wealth and speculative capital, Wright found in Ford’s notion of regional infrastructure the basis for an American pattern of organic urban development. Wright’s Broadacre provided a respite from the relentless demands of profit associated with the industrial city, even as the American city was well on a course toward decentralization, driven by the tendencies of Fordist production. The New Regional Pattern / The New City Another modernist architect/urbanist grappling with the impacts of decentralization on urban form was Ludwig Hilberseimer. Born and educated in Karlsruhe, Germany, Hilberseimer worked with Mies van der Rohe at the Bauhaus until the rise of fascism precipitated their emigration to Chicago and the Armour Institute of Technology (later IIT) in 1938. While Hilberseimer is most notoriously known for his earlier studies for totalizing rationally-planned schemes of modern urbanism from the 1920s such as Hochhausstadt (Highrise City, 1924), Hilberseimer quickly abandoned those schemes in favor of projects that explored decentralization and land- scape as remedies to the ills of the industrial city. This was evident as early as 1927 in a sketch titled “The Metropolis as a Garden-City.” [4] Hilberseimer’s work over the course of the 1930s was clearly influenced by European precedents for the garden-city and evidenced a strategy for the use of landscape and mixed-height housing in a low-density pattern. This is a pattern that would continue to appear in his work in the U.S. over the ensuing decades. Particularly formative in this regard was Hilberseimer’s project for Mischbebauung (Mixed-height Housing, c. 1930), the principles of which would inform the balance of his career. Hilberseimer during this period was committed to the inevitable decentralization of the traditional city as the resultant of industrial policy. This tendency was evident to Hilberseimer as early as the 1920s in Henry Ford’s decision to relocate industrial production outside the city of Detroit in the previous decade. By the 1940s, Hilberseimer’s notion of the “settlement unit” took clearer form through anticipating the development of an interstate highway system and articulating precise relation- ships between transportation networks, settlement units, and the regional landscape. Hilberseimer’s interest in an organic urbanism for North America was further fueled by civil defense imperatives encouraging decentralization in the years following the war. [5] In the wake of Hiroshima, Hilberseimer adapted his proposals to anticipate the construction of the interstate high- way system as a civil defense infrastructure and an extension of Fordist production logics. In this context —– and conversant with Wright’s Broadacre City as well as the progressive TVA project and its proponents in the Regional Planning Association of America —– Hilberseimer developed his “New Regional Pattern” as a strategy for the urbanization of a low-density North American settlement pattern based on regional highway systems and natural environmental conditions. Hilberseimer disseminated his proposals through a publication: The New Regional Pattern: Industries and Gardens, Workshops and Farms (1949). The principles and analysis informing Hilberseimer’s project was published prior to the project itself in The New City: Principles of Planning (1944) and was disseminated a decade later in The Nature of Cities (1955). [6] As with Broadacre, the “New Regional Pattern” was organized around the distribution of transportation and communication networks across an essentially horizontal field of landscape. Within this extensive horizontal territory, housing, farms, light industry, commercial buildings, and civic spaces formed vari- ously scaled networks across a field of decentralized distribution. The organizational pattern of “New Regional Pattern” did not defer to the abstraction of the grid, but was informed by the natural environment; topography, hydrology, vegetation, wind patterns, among others. It conflated infrastructural systems with built landscapes and found environmental conditions to produce a radically reconceived settlement pattern for North America. While Hilberseimer’s exquisite drawings (many are the uncredited work of IIT colleague Alfred Caldwell) did not make an explicit case for the kind of ecological awareness apparent in contemporary landscape urbanism, they clearly inflected urban infrastructure to ambient environmental conditions. [7] In this regard, the project offers a profound critique of traditional nineteenth-century urban form, as well as the architectural and urban practices associated with that that persisted into the twentieth century. Agronica / Territory for the New Economy The work of the Italian architect and urbanist Andrea Branzi might be found equally relevant to the emergent discourse on agrarian urbanism. Branzi’s work reanimates a long tradition of using the urban project as a social and cultural critique. This form of urban projection deploys a project not simply as an illustration or ‘vision,’ but rather as a demystified distillation and description of our present urban predicaments. In this sense, Branzi’s urban projects can be read less as a utopian future possible world, and more as a critically engaged and politically literate delineation of the power structures, forces, and flows shaping the contemporary urban condition. Over the past four decades Branzi’s work has articulated a remarkably consistent critique of the social, cultural, and intellectual poverty of laissez-faire urban development and the realpolitik assumptions of much urban design and planning. As an alternative, Branzi’s projects propose urbanism in the form of an environmental, economic, and aesthetic critique of the failings of the contemporary city. Born and educated in Florence, Branzi studied architecture in the cultural milieu of the Operaists and the scholarly tradition of Marxist critique. Branzi first came to international visibility as a member of the collective Archizoom Associati (mid-1960s) based in Milano but associated with the Florentine Architettura Radicale movement. Archizoom’s project and texts for “No-Stop City” (1968-71) illustrate an urbanism of continuous mobility, fluidity, and flux. While “No-Stop City” was received on one level as a satire of the British technophile of Archigram, on another level it was an illustration of an urbanism without qualities, a representation of the ‘degree- zero’ conditions for urbanization. [8] Archizoom’s use of typewriter keystrokes on A4 paper to represent a non-figural planning study for “No-Stop City” anticipated contemporary interest in indexical and parametric formulations of the city. Their work prefigured the current interest in describing the relentlessly horizontal field conditions of the modern metropolis as a surface shaped by the strong forces of economic and ecological flows. Equally, these drawings and their texts anticipate current interest in infrastructure and ecology as non-figurative drivers of urban form. As such, a generation of contemporary urbanists has drawn from Branzi’s intellectual commitments. This diverse list of influence ranges from Stan Allen and James Corner’s interest in field conditions to Alex Wall and Alejandro Zaera-Polo’s interest in logistics. [9] More recently Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara’s project “Stop-City” directly references Branzi’s use of non-figurative urban projection as a form of social and political critique. [10] Branzi’s urban projects are equally available to inform contemporary interests within architectural culture and urbanism on a wide array of topics as diverse as animalia, indeterminacy, and genericity, among others. Branzi’s “No-Stop City” proposed an explicitly nonfigurative urbanism. In so doing, it renewed a longstanding tradition of non-figurative urban projects as a form of social critique. In this regard, Branzi’s “No-Stop City” draws upon the urban planning projects and theories of Ludwig Hilberseimer, particularly Hilberseimer’s “New Regional Pattern” and that project’s illustration of a proto-ecological urbanism. [11] Not coincidentally, both Branzi and Hilberseimer chose to illustrate the city as a continuous system of relational forces and flows, as opposed to a collection of objects. In this sense, the ongoing recuperation of Hilberseimer, and Branzi’s renewed relevance for discussions of contemporary urbanism render them particularly relevant to discussions of ecological urbanism. Andrea Branzi occupies a singular historical position as a hinge figure between the social and environmental aspirations of modernist planning of the post-war era and the politics of 1968 in which his work first emerged for English language audiences. As such, his work is particularly well suited to shed light on the emergent discussion around ecological urbanism. Branzi’s “Agronica” project (1993-94) illustrated the relentlessly horizontal spread of capital across thin tissues of territory, and the resultant ‘weak urbanization’ that the neoliberal economic paradigm affords. Agronica embodies the potential parallels between agricultural and energy production, new modalities of post-Fordist industrial economy, and the cultures of consumption that they construct. [12] More recently in 1999, Branzi (with the Domus Academy, a post-graduate research institute founded in the 1980s) executed a project for Philips in Eindhoven. These projects returned to the recurring themes in Branzi’s oeuvre with typical wit and pith, illustrating a “Territory for the New Economy” in which agricultural production was instrumental in deriving urban form. [13] Branzi’s ‘weak work’ maintains its critical and projective relevance for a new generation of urbanists interested in the economic and agricultural drivers of urban form. His longstanding call for the development of weak urban forms and non-figural fields has already influenced the thinking of those who articulated landscape urbanism over a decade ago and promises to reanimate emergent discussions of ecological urbanism. [14] Equally, Branzi’s projective and polemic urban propositions promise to shed light on agrarian urbanism, and its potential for shaping the contemporary city and the disciplines that describe it. While this brief pre-history of agricultural urbanism raises more questions than it answers, and may do little to convince contemporary readers of the efficacy of organizing the city in this way, it seems a useful (if not necessary) exercise in understanding the broader implications of contemporary food culture for the design disciplines. In this regard, it is significant that each of the three architect/urbanists presented here as pursuing an explicitly agricultural urbanism did so as part of a broader critical position engaged with economic inequality, social justice, and environmental health. Wright, Hilberseimer, and Branzi, each in their own way, embodied a longstanding tradition of using the urban project as a form of social critique in which the production and consumption of the city, its economy and ecology, are available as tools of analysis and critique. While Wright, Hilberseimer, and Branzi were responding to different economic and ecological contexts, each of them found the urban project an effective vehicle for critiquing the form of their contemporary cities, and the economic, social, and political orders that produced them.

This article appeared as "Notes Towards a History of Agrarian Urbanism" in urbanNext, and was first published in Bracket 1 [on Farming], 2010.
[1] Frank Lloyd Wright, The Living City (New York: Horizon Press, 1958); Ludwig Hilberseimer, The New Regional Pattern: Industries and Gardens, Workshops and Farms (Chicago: Paul Theobald & Co., 1949); Andrea Branzi, D. Donegani, A. Petrillo, and C. Raimondo, “Symbiotic Metropolis: Agronica” The Solid Side, ed. Ezio Manzini and Marco Susani (Netherlands: V+K Publishing / Philips, 1995), 101-120; and Andrea Branzi, “Preliminary Notes for a Master Plan,” and “Master Plan Strijp Philips, Eindhoven 1999.” Lotus, no. 107 (2000): 110-123. [2] The principles underpinning Wright’s Broadacre project were published in 1932 in Frank Lloyd Wright, Disappearing City (New York: W. F. Payson, 1932); and subsequently reformulated as When Democracy Builds (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945). For an historical overview of Broadacre’s influ- ences and contemporary reception, see Peter Hall, Cities of Tomorrow (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), 285-90. [3] For an overview of the Tennessee Valley Authority, see Walter Creese, TVA’s Public Planning (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990); and Peter Hall, Cities of Tomorrow, 161-3. [4] For an overview of the origins of Hilberseimer’s interpretation of the garden city, see David Spaeth, “Ludwig Hilberseimer’s Settlement Unit: Origins and Applications,” In the Shadow of Mies: Ludwig Hilberseimer, Architect, Educator, and Urban Planner, ed. Richard Pommer, David Spaeth, and Kevin Harrington (New York/Chicago: Rizzoli/Art Institute of Chicago, 1988), 54-68. [5] Hilberseimer and Caldwell advocated for decentralization as a civil defense strategy in the wake of Hiroshima. See Caldwell, “Atomic Bombs and City Planning,” Journal of the American Institute of Architects, vol. 4 (1945: 289-299); and also Hilberseimer, “Cities and Defense,” (c. 1945) reprinted in: In the Shadow of Mies: Ludwig Hilberseimer, Architect, Educator, and Urban Planner, ed. Richard Pommer, David Spaeth, and Kevin Harrington (New York/Chicago: Rizzoli/Art Institute of Chicago, 1988), 89-93. [6] Ludwig Hilberseimer, The New City: Principles of Planning (Chicago: Paul Theobald & Co., 1944); The Nature of Cities: Origin, Growth, and Decline, Pattern and Form, Planning Problems (Chicago: Paul Theobald & Co., 1955). [7] For a detailed account of Hilberseimer’s professional relationship with Caldwell, see Caroline Constant, “Hilberseimer and Caldwell: Merging Ideologies in the Lafayette Park Landscape,” CASE: Lafayette Park Detroit, ed. Charles Waldheim (Cambridge/Munich: Harvard/Prestel, 2004), 95-111. On Caldwell’s life and work, see Dennis Domer, Alfred Caldwell: The Life and Work of a Prairie School Landscape Architect (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997). [8] Archizoom Associates, “No-Stop City. Residential Parkings. Climatic Universal Sistem,” Domus 496 (March 1971): 49-55. For Branzi’s reflections on the project, see Andrea Branzi, “Notes on No-Stop City: Archizoom Associates 1969-1972,” Exit Utopia: Architectural Provocations 1956-1976, ed. Martin van Schaik and Otakar Macel, (Munich: Prestel, 2005), 177-182. For more recent scholarship on the project and its relations to contemporary architectural culture and urban theory, see Kazys Varnelis, “Programming After Program: Archizoom’s No-Stop City,” Praxis, no. 8 (May 2006): 82-91. [9] On field conditions and contemporary urbanism, see James Corner “The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention,” Mappings ed. Denis Cosgrove (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), 213-300; and Stan Allen, “Mat Urbanism: The Thick 2-D,”CASE: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital and the Mat Building Revival, ed. Hashim Sarkis (Munich: Prestel, 2001), 118-126. On logistics and contemporary urbanism, see Susan Nigra Snyder and Alex Wall, “Emerging Landscape of Movement and Logistics,” Architectural Design Profile, no.134 (1998): 16-21; and Alejandro Zaera Polo, “Order out of Chaos: The Material Organization of Advanced Capitalism,” Architec- tural Design Profile, no. 108 (1994): 24-29. [10] See Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara, “Architecture as Framework: The Project of the City and the Crisis of Neoliberal- ism,” New Geographies, no. 1 (September 2008): 38-51. [11] Ludwig Hilberseimer, The New Regional Pattern: Industries and Gardens, Workshops and Farms (Chicago: Paul Theobald, 1949). [12] Andrea Branzi, D. Donegani, A. Petrillo, and C. Raimondo, “Symbiotic Metropolis: Agronica” The Solid Side, ed. Ezio Manzini and Marco Susani (Netherlands: V+K Publishing / Philips, 1995), 101-120. [13] Andrea Branzi, “Preliminary Notes for a Master Plan,” and “Master Plan Strijp Philips, Eindhoven 1999” Lotus, no. 107 (2000): 110-123. [14] Andrea Branzi, “The Weak Metropolis,” Ecological Urbanism Conference, Harvard Graduate School of Design, April 4, 2009.
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Urban Wanderlust

New app transports you through NYC's historic cityscape with archival photos
Finally, a digital archive of historic New York City photos that geolocates to your smartphone! This new app mines the digital collections of three NYC cultural institutions, placing the images onto an interactive map of the city. Working with Brooklyn Historical Society, the New York Public Library, and the Museum of the City of New York, Urban Archive has made accessible over 2,500 images from all five boroughs (sorry New Jersey). The newly formed nonprofit's ambition is to create apertures into the city’s urban history in a multi-dimensional digital platform that both informs and entertains the public.  This democratization of images has the potential to allow communities to articulate untold urban histories in a new forum of public engagement. The app has a sophisticated interface that, among other features, sends push notifications when you walk pass a historic building, giving new agency to urban explorers and history enthusiasts. The app also has curated walking tours of certain neighborhoods and a popular side-by-side photo generator that produces images you can share on social media. To "check-in," you need to be within 150 feet of the chosen location. "Certain check-ins may unlock achievements within the app, so no short cuts are allowed!" Urban Archive says on their website. While the available database is still in beta testing, Urban Archive continues to sort and geotag some 50,000 additional images, encouraging other institutions to share their collections. The Urban Archive iOS app requires an iPhone running iOS 10 or later. No iPad or Android versions are available yet.
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Mapping NYC

Travel through space-time with the NYPL's new map tool
The past few months have been a blessing to New York City map lovers: Cartography fiends can browse future skyscrapers, prepare for L-mageddon, and discover the city's noisiest neighborhoods or hidden civil rights histories. Now, the New York Public Library (NYPL) has unveiled what could be—for history nerds, at least—the mother of all maps: The NYC Space/Time Directory, a “digital time-travel service" that combines the library's map collection with geospatial tools to illuminate the city's messy and beautiful development over more than a century. The project's first map takes 5,000 street maps from across the city and folds them into one interactive database that spans a century, from 1850–1950. Maps by Decade aggregates maps from the NYPL collection, an improvement on the library's previous georectification tool, the Map Warper. The NYC Space/Time Directory, which includes more than 8,000 maps and 40,000 geo-referenced photos and counting, is supported by a grant from the Knight Foundation. Ready to time travel? A click on The Architect's Newspaper's home neighborhood of Tribeca shows six maps from 165 years ago. The user can transpose a ward map from 1852 onto present-day streets, or view the same map in the NYPL's digital collections, or take the map for a spin in the Map Warper, below: Better yet, the project is all open source. Users can access each map's geospatial data, and the source code for Maps by Decade is on GitHub. For those who wish to collaborate on more mapping projects, Hyperallergic reports that NYPL’s Space/Time Directory Engineer Bert Spaan is organizing IRL meetups around the city to make more maps using the library's resources.
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Housing Works History

A new online archive reveals how HIV/AIDS activism shapes New York
Most New Yorkers know Housing Works though cheerfully crammed thrift stores where vintage blazers, crystal candy dishes, and nice books can be had for good prices. Yet the storefronts are infrastructure for a larger mission: As its name suggests, Housing Works provides housing and social services to homeless New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS. A new project by a Columbia curator teases many stories out of the documents stretching back to its founding in 1990, when the city had few of supportive housing for an estimated 13,000 homeless citizens with HIV/AIDS. Housing Works History is a meticulous digital archive that covers the organization from its founding 27 years ago to its work today in a multimedia timeline that's as elegant as it is thorough. Timed to the 30th anniversary of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), the grassroots group and Housing Works precursor that formed in response to government inaction around HIV/AIDS, Housing Works History speaks to the past and future of supportive housing in New York for the most marginalized groups. That housing, and the activism that made it happen, shaped the city subtly but profoundly. "Focusing on physical spaces gave me a way in, a way to talk about the history, the stories, and the different voices from those spaces," said Gavin Browning, the curator behind Housing Works History. Drawing on his academic background in urban planning and his work at Columbia University (he's the director of public programs and engagement at Columbia University School of the Arts, and the inaugural director of Studio-X), Browning's project provides a forum for a distinctly New York story. Inspired by oral history and the Howard Zinn–esque bottom-up approach to historiography, Housing Works History sorts each significant event, program, or housing milestone chronologically along with links to important court rulings, scanned newspaper clippings, photographs, video, and other ephemera, grounded by parallel timelines of diagnosis and infection rates. The juxtaposed timelines, Browning said, help connect data to lived experience to "expose an archive that wasn't being seen or used, or really acknowledged. Most people don't know this history, and how it's connected to the development of the city. It's really essential New York City history." A click on the year 2000 brings viewers, via archival footage, to the Housing Works Gay Pride parade float, and to the organization's stewardship of two brownstones on West 130th Street, a project started by community group Stand Up Harlem. The project is a platform for collective voices that have shaped the organization and the movement it foregrounds, as well as a window into how a social movement shaped architecture and design in New York. Long abandoned, those brownstones were transformed into supportive housing for substance users. Designed by architect Benjamin Kracauer, the Stand Up Harlem House opened in 2008 and provides 16 units for single adults and families affected by HIV/AIDS. The design connects two adjacent brownstones but moves entryways to the garden level, providing streetscape continuity while allowing for greater accessibility. In addition to the timeline, Browning collaborated with Laura Hanna to shoot five original films featuring the architects, activists, and Housing Works employees behind five of the organization's housing projects. In one, Browning interviews, roundtable-style, a Stand Up Harlem resident, Desi Glazier, program director Ivan Gonzales, a Housing Works attorney, and Kracauer. For the spatially-inclined, there's a map, too, that organizes the group's projects and significant sites. Housing Works History, Browning said, was influenced by Group Material's 1989 installation, AIDS Timeline, which used media, artifacts, and ephemera to document AIDS's evolution from its roots as a health issue to one that shaped LGBT and dominant culture. Close to home, the project grew from a 2012 project Browning curated with Karen Kubey in New York. Living Room: Housing Works Builds Housing explored the group's activism and advocacy that led to the construction of 170 units in three neighborhoods for its target population. Despite his work, Browning isn't employed by for Housing Works; he obtained project funding from the Graham Foundation. Though the website officially debuts today, Housing Works History's official launch party is next week at the New York Pubic Library's main branch (details here). Browning sees the project as a "stepping stone" for other's work—he hopes, for example, the work could inspire others' academic research or ground perspectives on today's struggles for equity and visibility.
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Checking In

Inwood has questions as city quickly prepares to develop new library with affordable housing
"This entire process feels like window dressing for decisions already taken." So read a guerilla message plastered on design boards at a recent library visioning session in Inwood, a neighborhood at Manhattan's northern tip. The city announced last month that it will sell the Inwood branch library, on busy Broadway, to a developer who will build all-affordable housing and a new library on-site. The New York Public Library (NYPL) said that after the demolition, the rebuilt Inwood branch would be the same size and provide the same services. The Robin Hood Foundation, an antipoverty nonprofit, is putting $5 million towards the project to match the city's contribution. Although the housing would be privately developed, the city would maintain ownership over the library. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) expects construction on the new building to begin in 2019. To prepare for changes, HPD has organized three visioning sessions about the library's future. The first was held last Wednesday night, and attracted about 60 people: HPD planner Felipe Cortes noted that the crowd was mostly older and whiter, an observation reflected in the number of stickers on the respective English and Spanish-language design and programming visioning boards. Residents were asked to express their preference for a new building at 115, 145, and 175 feet in height with 90, 110, and 135 units, respectively. Not included: an option to preserve the building, which dates to 1952. At the session, some residents felt the project was moving ahead too fast, and that public input would not substantially impact the city's plans; similar concerns were voiced earlier this month at a Manhattan Community Board 12 meeting, DNAinfo reported. "Bill de Blasio is too eager to cave to developers," said resident Sally Fisher. "It's like the city put a 'For Sale' on Inwood." She wondered where teenagers and children will congregate once demolition is underway. The impending sale follows two others that the city has authorized in Brooklyn Heights and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, both of which have sparked community outcry. (Brooklyn Public Library is a separate system from the NYPL, which covers Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island.)  For the Inwood deal, it's not yet clear who will own the deed—HPD says those details have yet to be determined. The library, one of the most-used in the system, is in dire need of repairs and upgrades. Pointing to a water-damaged drop ceiling, library manager Denita Nichols said that the building is showing signs of wear and tear, and the full renovation 16 years ago has not kept pace with changing technology or current community needs. Nichols said library, which is one of the few open seven days a week, has to accommodate quiet study spaces and more social spaces. "I would love to see a flex space with a culture center—that would really be great to me if it happened," she said. NYPL will continue to do community outreach around the project before any design decisions are made.