Damon Rich, founder of the Center of Urban Pedagogy (CUP) and co-founder of design studio Hector, and Kate Orff, founder of SCAPE, have been honored with 2017 MacArthur Fellowships. Awarded annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to individuals across a range of fields, the award gifts its fellows a no-strings-attached $625,000 stipend over five years. Unlike other awards, its fellows aren't selected based on an existing body of work so much as "extraordinary originality" and "a marked capacity for self-direction," according to the Foundation's website. Rich certainly demonstrates both. Trained as an architect at Columbia University, in 1997 Rich founded CUP, a New York City-based nonprofit that develops programs to help community development organizations and public school students address public policy and social justice issues like zoning, tenants' rights, infrastructure design, and more. From 2008 to 2015, Rich served as the chief urban designer and director of planning for the City of Newark, New Jersey. During his tenure, he worked with local advocacy groups to redevelop the city's waterfront as an accessible urban parkway dotted with environmental installations, a process still embroiled in city politics. He also formed a coalition of city-wide organizations to revamp Newark's obsolete zoning and land-use regulations for the first time in over fifty years. In 2015, Rich co-founded the design studio Hector with Jae Shin. The firm is currently involved in the redesign of Mifflin Square Park in Philadelphia in addition to ongoing work in Newark and San Francisco. As part of the Philadelphia project, Hector has formed a coalition of local advocacy groups and city agencies to inform the final design, which may incorporate a Buddhist temple, a number of public eateries, and ongoing community programming. Forming these kinds of coalitions has become the backbone of Rich's work. "This is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Philadelphia, with Cambodian, Laotian, Vietnamese, and Bhutanese residents, and many more from a range of backgrounds," Rich told The Architect's Newspaper (AN). "Design groups need to have the cultural competence to treat people like they're people, and bring the spirit and identity of the place into physical form." Rich also serves as an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University's GSAPP program, where he teaches architecture and urban design. While he didn't specify how he would use the award, Rich reflected on what it might mean to the next generation. "In public sector work, I'd hope to be one voice standing up for our often beleaguered municipal planners, and encourage youth that this is a career path they might want to be a part of," Rich said. "I hope this award points to the fact that even though planning departments are very old technologies, there's still a fundamentally exciting and engrossing potential in any forum where we come together and shape the places we live in." Kate Orff is the first landscape architect to ever be awarded the MacArthur prize. Her work at SCAPE has risen to great prominence, with upcoming commissions including participation in the U.S. Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. Her emphasis on ecological stewardship, however, sets her apart from peers. Orff cares deeply about the effects of climate change on the urban fabric, as well as the long-term effects design can have on biodiversity and ecosystem wellness. Her approach also puts some of this responsibility on the users of public spaces, encouraging park-goers and community members to participate in environmental stewardship. One cornerstone project that helped put Orff's work on the map was a collaboration with photographer Richard Misrach. In 2012, the two set out to document and quantify the outfall of industrial sites along a chemical corridor known as the "American Ruhr" in the Lower Mississippi River Valley. The resulting book, Petrochemical America, examines the environmental, economic, and public health consequences of pollution in southeastern Louisiana. SCAPE's project for President Obama's Rebuild by Design competition after Hurricane Sandy proposed a series of oyster reefs on Staten Island's North Shore that would act as wave breakers and water filters, as well as serve as an outdoor classroom to educate youth on marine and coastal ecology. Most recently, SCAPE has completed a design for Lexington, Kentucky's Town Branch Commons. Their design highlighted the site's underlying porous limestone in a linear park that stretched through the city. "I really feel we need to mobilize and understand the best available science, apply it to the built environment, and to anticipate the next 50 years or the next 100 years," Orff said in her feature on the MacArthur Foundation's website. "I think we have a huge role to play, not just to beautify but literally to reset ecosystems, to reconnect people to each other through these social spaces that also can perform ecological services."
Posts tagged with "Damon Rich":
This week, AN accompanied members of the American Institute of Architects NY Chapter and AIA New Jersey on a boat tour of the Passaic River to examine the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the city of Newark and to discuss recovery efforts ranging from design solutions for rebuilding to resiliency strategies. Newark, like other parts of the Tri-state area, was hit particularly hard by the super storm and will serve as a point of discussion at the Post-Sandy Regional Working Group's workshop on July 9th with urban planners, developers, stakeholders, and architects from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. This expedition along the Newark waterfront will help inform the larger conversation about resiliency that has been spearheaded by the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIANY) and the AIANY’s Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee (DfRR), which has culminated into the Post-Sandy Initiative.
It might have been the first time that the works of Jay-Z, Malice, and Nas were evoked under the great dome of Columbia’s Low Library, but given the trend among young academics to cite rap alongside Socrates, it’s probably won't be the last. That the quotes were used in the panel discussion called “Suburbs, Cities and Crisis,” spoke to a slightly skewed perspective of discussing the suburbs within the confines of Manhattan. The panel discussion was held last Saturday by GSAPP and Temple Hoyne Buell Center to compliment the the Foreclosed exhibit at MoMA. CUNY’s Setha Low was joined by Robert Fishman of University of Michigan, Superfront’s Mitch McEwen, and Newark’s Urban Design Chief Damon Rich. McEwen compared Jay-Z’s “exalted freedom” within housing projects to that of Nas’s lack of hope impressions. Given the content, it might seem safe to believe McEwen was referring to conditions in the inner city, but she pointed out that the “suburb as ghetto” isn’t that far from current reality. She noted Parisian suburbs are experiencing the trend, but so are the Oranges of New Jersey. The show at MoMA responds to demographic and economic trends that were exacerbated by the foreclosure crisis. “Architects are repositioning to undo this violent work that we as architects and planners have undertaken,” said Rich. “The built environment helped create the crisis.” Rich also addressed criticism that Forclosed show was too theoretical. “It takes a theory to makes something happen,” he said. Later when the discussion opened to the floor, the general consensus was that theoretical work done at the architecture school often gets dismissed by the schools of economics, business and international studies—the very audiences architects need to engage. “How do we hitch them so that we do connect reality to theory,” he asked. “If the folks in development told us what research to do we wouldn’t have parametrics,” quipped McEwen. Fishman said that perhaps developers should have paid more attention to work coming out of architecture schools. “The economics didn’t take into consideration that the demographic movement was going back to the core,” he said. He added that the subdivisions promoted sprawl, and while they may have been cheap to build, developers never factored in eventual transportation costs. Quite often when developers do consider design a factor it's not always top notch. He cited advertising for Toll Brothers that trumpet “award winning design” but never tell you what award they won. Low encouraged the theoretical approach provided it kept in mind "the people holding the bag" of the foreclosure crisis. "There's a material reality that ripped us apart," she said.
The Brooklyn-based Center for Urban Pedagogy is a unique organization that brings real meaning to the often overused word “design.” Founded in 1997 by Damon Rich, the organization has evolved to engage art and design professionals—artists, graphic designers, architects, and urban planners—with community-based advocates, researchers, and policymakers. Tomorrow night, CUP is once again hosting an annual benefit party that is always one of the best celebrations around. It only costs $35, and, as CUP says, offers “good people, food, music, fun, and a great cause.” You'll also get acquainted with CUP's recent projects like the Sewer in a Suitcase, the Affordable Housing Toolkit, and more. This year, the party will be held at the Old American Can Company at 232 Third Street near the Gowanus Canal.
The Queens Museum of Art opened its latest exhibition Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center on Wednesday with a discussion of the mortgage foreclosure crisis in the city’s five boroughs. The event featured the exhibition's designer Damon Rich, founder of the Center for Urban Pedagogy and now urban design director for the city of Newark; policy expert Sarah Ludwig; community organizer Michelle O’Brien; and urban historian Kenneth Jackson—all tip-toeing around the museum’s famed New York panorama. For the exhibition the panorama—which includes every mapped block in the city—has been fitted out with orange triangles, their one-inch legs set above every block with three or more recent foreclosures. These foreclosures, according to museum director Tom Finkelpearl, depict a landscape of “displacement,” and the speakers addressed the origins of this crisis in the creation of redlining by the Home Owners Loan Corporation in the 1930s. The speakers emphasized that the current foreclosures and the predatory lending practices that led to the problem have overwhelmingly taken place in neighborhoods with large populations of African Americans and Latinos. The orange placeholders, for example, cut a huge swath through Bedford Stuyvesant and Brownsville/East New York to East Flatbush. Jackson, contemplating the sea of triangles (representing over 13,000 foreclosures) in Brooklyn, described the magnitude of the problem, but pointed out that New York has been less affected by the crisis than cities like Detroit and Dayton, Ohio, because of its relatively vibrant economy and large population of renters. The exhibition itself details the history and material culture behind the current crisis, curated by Rich and Larissa Harris as “an experimental site for learning,” and will be open until September 27.