Posts tagged with "Parks":

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Brooklyn’s Domino Park blends industrial chic with careful pacing

For the first time in 160 years, a 6-acre span on the East River waterfront in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge is open to the public. Located in front of the former Domino Sugar Refinery in Brooklyn, James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) designed Domino Park to inspire curiosity about the site’s history while including new materials to balance its unique identity with performance. A unifying element in Domino Park is its artifact walk that weaves throughout the site. According to Lisa Switkin, senior principal at JCFO, “Integrating the artifact walk with custom furniture made from reclaimed wood from the Raw Sugar Warehouse creates a unique experience where people come into contact with remnants of the original refinery and have an up-close relationship with those artifacts.” Throughout the park, JFCO-designed benches, tables, and chaise lounges create texture and a sense of community. The elevated walkway is supported by beams from the refinery, while other factory elements such as columns, lattice beams, and a loading dock are incorporated throughout. Stadium-style seating made out of the refinery’s salvaged wood creates a central gathering space in front of a water feature by Soucy Aquatik. The refinery’s influence is also evident in the playground, designed by Mark Reigelman, with its many nods to factory structures. It also incorporates part of the factory’s old floors. The park is organized into three areas. Each is connected by Hanover pavers selected in a mix of finishes for durability and color, “keeping with the tough, industrial look as well as maintenance and loading requirements,” said Switkin. The most active area, in the southern end, holds a dog park, a picnic playground, a bocce ball court, and a tennis court. The middle area is dotted with lawn chairs and features a fog bridge. The recreational stretch in the north houses the lawn, a beach, the playground, and the elevated walkway. Tectura pavers were chosen for the walkway because of the manufacturer’s ability to produce the long-format precast concrete planks needed to fit the dimensions of the walkway and meet the load criteria. Introducing new lighting by BEGA, Sentry Electric, and LED Linear, along with Landscape Forms’ Ring Bike Racks and Chase Park Receptacles, JCFO was able to work with materials that are highly durable and sustainable. Switkin explained, “These products created a dynamic urbanscape to activate the neighborhood.” Master Planner: SHoP Architects and James Corner Field Operations Landscape Architect: James Corner Field Operations General Contractor: Kelco Pavers: Hanover Architectural Products, Tectura Designs Lighting: BEGA, Sentry Electric, LED Linear Furniture: Custom benches, tables, and seating steps made with reclaimed wood from Raw Sugar Warehouse, Landscape Forms' Ring Bike Rack and Chase Park Receptacle, Elkay Drinking Fountains Fog Bridge: Soucy Aquatik Playground Designer: Mark Reigelman Custom Playground Equipment: Landscape Structures
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NYC Parks Commissioner talks policy, parks, and breaking down barriers

Over the next three months, The Architect’s Newspaper will feature a series interviews with Susannah Drake, founding principal of DLANDstudio, and leading public space advocates about the meaning, design, and development of public space. Up first, New York City Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell Silver will discuss New York's Parks Without Borders initiative to make parks and open space more accessible. Borders are a hot topic in our current politically volcanic world. Some are geographic, most are political, and many have to do with resources and strategic control. Robert Frost’s poem titled Good Fences Make Good Neighbors is often misinterpreted as suggesting that defined boundaries between people or societies are positive. In practice, defined borders can lead to violence, social isolation, inefficiency, and habitat loss.  The classic phrase, “living on the other side of the tracks,” was taken to the extreme in the United States after World War II as new highway systems, elevated transportation structures, slum clearance, and dehumanized public housing towers transformed cities across the United States. Today, cities including Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis are working to break down physical and perceived boundaries to make a healthier living environment for all. In New York City, the efforts of three groups, one public and two nonprofit, demonstrate how smart urban planning and design can make the city healthier, safer, and more democratic by improving underutilized public lands. Mitchell Silver, commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, is the visionary behind the city’s Parks Without Borders program. As a native New Yorker who spent his formative years in the city before traveling the country and the world as a planner and thought leader, his vision as head of the public parks agency has been to expand the availability of park space by breaking down physical barriers, jurisdictional boundaries, and site lines into city parks. AN: What is the origin of the Parks without Borders program? MS: The origins came from two sources. Growing up in New York, I was always bothered by the big berm that separated Flatbush Avenue from Prospect Park. The road seemed like a raceway defined with so many fences and barriers. Through professional and personal experience, I encountered different forms of public space around the world and saw far fewer barriers. Public space was seamlessly connected to the city. Of course, fences are needed for sports and steep slopes but in many cases, they are unnecessary. When I became commissioner of the Parks Department, I remembered something that Frederick Law Olmsted said about parks: “The sidewalk adjacent to the park should be considered the outer park.” What I recognized was that the sidewalks around parks, such as Fort Greene Park and Prospect Park, were under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department but felt separate. The land from the park to the curb should feel like part of the park. The public realm should be seamless. The public doesn’t know or care who owns the land. The New York City Police Department needed to own the idea of crime prevention through community design. I submitted the idea to the Mayor as part of OneNYC and through a partnership between City Planning, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection, and our agency, and a $50 million pilot was launched. There were two components: $40 million was dedicated to eight showcase projects, determined through the extensive public process that received over 6,000 nominations. In addition, $10 million was dedicated to parks and playgrounds across the city already under development to enhance the park design.   The key principles are to make a seamless public realm by rethinking the edges, entrances, and adjacent spaces of parks across the city. Open space should be open. Growing dense urban centers need vital public space for all races, genders, and ages across the board. What barriers have you met in implementing the project? Resistance encountered? As with all projects of this nature, we met with all of the community boards via borough board meetings and held public meetings in each of the five boroughs to explain the program and ask the public to nominate a park for the program. We communicated our theory that good uses tend to push out bad uses. In other words, plan for what you want to see and not what you don’t want to see. Feedback was split along demographic lines. Older people perceived fences as safeguards and that reducing the height of fences and opening up parks invited crime and homelessness to take over. But we have had early success. At McDonald Playground in Staten Island where Parks Without Borders money was dedicated to a Community Parks Initiative project, the community was initially concerned about lowering fences. The park feels so open now that people ask if we added more land. And, while the plan for Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn is greatly supported by the community, there has been resistance related to the planned removal of some large, invasive, non-native trees, and the mounds constructed in the 1970s as part of the project. What is the schedule of implementation? Over 20 parks are in the pipeline. The showcase projects will be completed by 2020. They include Prospect Park, Seward Park, Jackie Robinson Park, Corona Park, Fort Greene Park, Faber Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and Hugh Grant Circle. How does the program align with other DPR/Administration initiatives? NYC Parks is advocating for Equity, Access, Placemaking, and Healthy Living. One of the programs, Walk to a Park, is intended to reduce the time it takes to get to a park. Reducing barriers and moving entrances helps increase access to parks. DPR planners conducted a thorough planning process examining the location and attributes of parks across the city and determined where residents might be underserved. Using GIS, they mapped a five-minute walk from parks, playgrounds, and trails across New York City and then used the analysis to prioritize capital expenditures. Does the DPR Parks without Borders program impact all communities across NYC regardless of demographics? Yes, with multigenerational, ADA access. At McDonald Playground, a woman hugged me suggesting that I changed her life because she can now sit with her daughter in a quieter area of the park and watch the kids play ball. She said I extended her life.  Beyond physical fences and walls, what other kinds of borders have you seen in your time as commissioner? Rules create barriers. We don’t want to engage in anti-planning which can exclude rather than include people. Including more people in more existing parks is one example. Anti-planning, or planning to prohibit a certain group is not fair. For example, some of our playgrounds have a sign that states: “Adults prohibited unless accompanied by a child.” That means a senior citizen is prohibited from using a public space or must walk to another park that doesn’t have that rule. To address this inequity, NYC Parks in 2017 evaluated all city playgrounds and installed new signs at locations that would allow adults in a park or playground, but only prohibited adults in fenced off areas where children’s play units were located, like swings, slides and climbing structures. This one change allows more adult New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy green space like sitting under a tree or using a comfort station.   As a planner what is your perspective on borders that might exist because of climate or geographic lines that are mapped but not always perceived by the public? Rockaways? In places where public safety is an issue such as around water, clearly there need to be rules and physical barriers to keep people safe. Environmental conditions can also require limited access. For instance, the habitat for piping plovers needs to be protected by limiting beach access. This reduced the walk score but was an important trade-off. In natural areas, controlling beach erosion is important. Sometimes these barriers are jurisdictional, particularly in coastal areas. New York City is doing a better job than in the past. What is your perspective on urban and transportation design decisions in the direct post-war period, in the '60s and today in relation to race, demographics, and urban living? White flight of the '60s, urban renewal with its characteristic superblocks, and highways dividing neighborhoods were not the highlight of good planning. Cities were perceived as unsafe and as a result, many parks were surrounded with high walls to create defensible space. Now Parks Without Borders is changing this situation by moving from defensible space to open and inclusive space. Prospect Park is a great example. Programming by the Alliance activated the park. They designed for what we want to see rather than what we don’t want to see. There are so many users in our parks that space needs to be very inclusive. Our parks are our outdoor living rooms and reflect those that use them. While DPR does not have purview over public housing, it would be great to get your perspective on the landscape of housing projects in New York City as well as their overall relationship to the city. The “tower in the park” model is somewhat right. The park part is not right. Residents assume that the landscape is off limits because it is fenced off. Design organizations are now engaging NYCHA Tenant Associations about opening-up the green space within the NYCHA housing campus. For example, some NYCHA Houses have converted open space to community gardens, so the trend of better using NYCHA green space is moving into the right direction. Digital access to information creates places where people collect in the city. Beyond these spheres are dead zones that might be considered another form of border. Are there any efforts by DPR to expand digital access? I’d love to see WiFi in parks. We currently have charging stations at some beaches and WiFi in some parks. Lack of funding for maintenance and operations is an ongoing issue for public space. How will Parks Without Borders impact maintenance needs of parks? Maintenance practice of 21st-century parks warrants reexamination. More funding and more staff are welcome but aren’t the answer. We need to be innovative with resources. The agency is now using a zone approach with analytics to optimize the work of maintenance crews. We are also employing new design approaches and adding horticultural staff. One example is having park cleaning seven days per week. This seems like an addition, but the change is cutting down Monday absences because those crews were not unfairly burdened with the weekend trash. This created a better team ethos. Utilization of staff is as important as getting more staff. Working smarter with specialized teams with more training that can troubleshoot issues system-wide (catch basin team, green infrastructure team) is helping. Any final words? With limited resources we are forced to think about what is important and how to be innovative, which I base of the 3 S’s of management: You must have the right organizational structure to achieve your vision and mission. You must have the right systems in place to be successful. You must have strong management and operation standards across the five boroughs to function as one agency.  
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Shirley Chisholm State Park is coming to Central Brooklyn next summer

Central Brooklyn will soon be the home of New York City’s largest state park, which will be opening next summer according to 6sqft. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the first phase of Shirley Chisholm State Park, a 407-acre piece of land on Jamaica Bay, will be finished by mid-2019. Named after Brooklyn native Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress, the new parkland will include 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, an amphitheater, and more on top of two former landfills. The project will open up 3.5 miles of waterfront with areas accessible for kayakers and beach-goers. The initial build-out will also include a bike path that will connect the former landfill sites at Pennsylvania and Fountain Avenues, allowing visitors to easily approach both sides of the park to take advantage of the educational facilities and comfort stations placed throughout. The massive project falls under the governor’s “Vital Brooklyn” initiative, a $1.4-billion plan that funnels the state’s financial resources to community-based health programs, affordable housing, and recreational spaces in the neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Bushwick, Flatbush, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, Ocean Hill, and East New York. For the park project, planning began 16 years ago when the site remediation process started to make way for the landfill sites’ potential future use. In 2002 the NYC Department of Environmental Protection installed over 1.2 million cubic yards of clean soil and planted 35,000 trees and shrubs. Over time, a diverse ecosystem of coastal meadows, wetlands, and woodlands has grown, resulting in the area as it exists today. The first phase of the park’s construction will use $20 million to open up the restored site and create a new waterfront. Next fall after the park opens, public meetings will be held to discuss the second phase of the design, which may include the amphitheater, an environmental education center, and a cable ferry.
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Dallas approves construction of a new 3-acre park in former downtown parking lot

Joni Mitchell, Dallas has heard you. The City Council of Dallas has decided to un-pave a 3.2-acre parking lot—in place since 1921—and put up a paradise in the form of Pacific Plaza Park. Nonprofit Parks for Downtown Dallas has been trying to swap hard top for green space in Dallas for several years. The group originally proposed donating $35 million to the city to fund the construction of four new parks in Downtown, including Pacific Plaza, with the caveat that the city would match them with $35 million to get the job done. When for-profit 4P Partners proposed building an underground parking garage topped with a park on the site, located off Pacific Avenue, Parks for Downtown Dallas decided to shift around their funds and provide one hundred percent of the construction costs for the park. This move helped expedite the project. HKS Architects, whose offices are located in One Dallas Center adjacent to the site, also made a donation for the park’s construction. Landscape architecture, planning, and urban design firm SWA Group was tapped to design the project in early 2016. They approached the park from the perspective of the neighborhood, holding two public “envisioning sessions” to gauge the needs of the community before they began their designs. The main desires were for social connectivity and, of course, access to nature. With this in mind, SWA allocated an acre of open green space as the central portion of the park, flanked by rows of shade trees intended to buffer the park from its bustling surroundings. Live oaks original to Aston Park, a small park already on the site, will be absorbed into the landscape to preserve existing foliage. Walking paths weave through the trees and encircle the green space. A 670-foot-long stone seating wall, deemed the “thread,” helps stitch the various spaces of the park together. Additionally, a halo-shaped structure anchors the southwest corner and provides an opportunity for seating, shade, and socializing. Construction on the park is scheduled to begin in early 2018 and is expected to last 12 to 18 months. Although it has been a long fight to get Pacific Plaza Park underway, Parks for Downtown Dallas is still pursuing its proposal for three other parks in the Downtown as well. “Quality ‘green space’ is an asset wherever it is found,” said Chuck McDaniel, SWA Dallas managing principal. “During the next few years, there will be a chain of parks throughout downtown Dallas that will work together to cool the air, enhance the aesthetics of our city, and make downtown an even more livable and walkable place.” To learn more about the Pacific Plaza Park and the Parks for Downtown Dallas organization, you can visit their website here.
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One Connecticut town swaps a derelict mall for a 14.4-acre, community-centered green space

Malls, those slumbering gray boxes marching across the American suburban landscape, are steadily going extinct. Back in 2014, the New Yorker published “Are Malls Over?” in which Rick Caruso, CEO of Caruso Affiliated, was quoted as saying, “Within 10 to 15 years, the typical U.S. mall, unless it is completely reinvented, will be a historical anachronism—a 60-year aberration that no longer meets the public’s needs, the retailers’ needs, or the community’s needs.” The article continues, “Caruso flashed grim photos of their facades. He lingered on a picture of a deserted food court; you could practically smell the stale grease. ‘Does this look like the future to you?’ he asked.”

Even just three years later, it is difficult to imagine the “traditional” mall having a place, even in the most quintessential American suburb, 10 years from now. But while clearly the malls of the 1970s through the ’90s are not the future, the great irony here is that Caruso specializes in developing malls—luxury outdoor malls, such as the Grove in Los Angeles and the Americana at Brand in Glendale, California. And indeed, just as quickly as those once-ubiquitous beige shopping centers are being torn down across the U.S., shinier, flashier moneymaking entities are popping up in their place. The Mall 2.0, it seems, is an artificial landscape sans Sbarro and JCPenny’s, with a plethora of vaguely European structures and simulated boutique experiences in their place. Already, it feels like it’s time to reflect on whether or not these new “shopping experiences” will fare any better than their forebears.

However, in Meriden, Connecticut, a town located halfway between New Haven and Hartford, city leaders took an alternate route: transforming a former mall into a resilient 14.4-acre park replete with pedestrian bridges, a 2,150-square-foot amphitheater, a remediated landscape with a flood-control pond, and even drivable turf to accommodate food trucks and farmers markets. More radically, there are future plans to reduce the downtown infrastructure: “The downtown will go back to two-way traffic, like it was in the ’50s,” said Vincent Della Rocca, project manager at La Rosa Construction, a local family-owned business that helped create Meriden Green.

The $14 million project was no simple feat, involving an extensive overhaul of a formerly blighted area that locals called “The Hub.” In the 1950s and ’60s, the city began developing the space to bolster economic development, and in 1971 the Meriden Mall was built on the site. In the process, the Harbor Brook—technically three different brooks—was obstructed by a maze of underground pipes. The mall closed and in 1992 and 1996 flooding caused by the blocked water streams caused $30 million in damages to the downtown area. The city took possession of the property in 2005, and it was deemed a brownfield site. A Hub Site Reuse Committee was formed and began making plans to transform the area, creating the Site Reuse Plan in 2007.

Years of approval processes and funding grants later, the City of Meriden’s design team, engineering firm Milone and MacBroom, and LaRosa Construction broke ground in November 2013. Due to it being a former brownfield site, there were many unforeseen obstacles, such as underground oil tanks that had to be removed. The brook was exposed and diverted, “the site was cleaned, foundations were crushed, and six inches of topsoil were placed,” explained Della Rocca; additional landscaping included adding drainage channels, pedestrian bridges, and concrete pathways.

Meriden Green opened in September 2016, with future plans to build a new train station and a mixed-use commercial and residential building nearby. It is a soothing green space that brings families and community events to mind. Hanover Pond and the brook that feeds into it offer charm and respite in addition to their crucial flood-control functions.

It’s an optimistic project and one that simply makes good sense—the idea that green spaces offer the type of future-proofing no amount of luxurious shopping can ensure. “Today, ladies and gentlemen, is more than just the opening of a park, it’s more than just a grand flood-control measure,” Mayor Kevin Scarpati said at the opening. “This is the start of a new downtown; this is the start of a new Meriden.” And, if others take note, the state of the new suburban mall, as well.

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Parks Without Borders discussion series in NYC will explore innovative ideas for parks and public space

Today, NYC Parks announced the launch of a new Parks Without Borders Discussion Series that aims to explore new ideas for parks and public space. Continuing through 2017, the conversation will expand on topics from NYC Parks’ Parks Without Borders Summit of last spring. Hosted by commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, the discussion series features park and public space leaders throughout the United States, with topics such as new park design, peacemaking and engagement, building greener parks, healthier communities, and more resilient neighborhoods. The series will be held on the third floor of the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park. “The Parks Without Borders Discussion Series is the first of its kind, and we are excited to welcome so many esteemed guests. Conversations about improving our cities and public spaces are crucial to progress and change,” said Silver in a statement. The debut events will take place January 18, February 9, and March 9. January 18, “The Seamless Public Realm,” will host Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Jayne Miller, superintendent of Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, Jane Rudolph, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation for Arlington, Virginia, Silver, and Lynn B. Kelly, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks as the moderator. Thursday, February 9, “Rethinking Public Space,” will bring Justin Moore, AICP, executive director of NYC Public Design Commission, Signe Nielsen, commissioner of NYC Public Design Commission and principal at Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, and Rudolph as the moderator. Thursday, March 9, “For the Love of Cities,” introduces Peter Kageyama, author “For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places,” and Silver as the moderator. NYC Parks is working to find innovative ways to develop public spaces, using the discussion series to inspire creative conversations about how to strengthen and improve the parks system. “Great parks make a great city, and at this series we will have the chance to hear from some of the greatest parks leaders in the country,” said Kelly in a statement.
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This master plan calls for a brand new city to alleviate China’s water issues

Chicago-based UrbanLab has a knack for combining water infrastructure with architecture and landscape to find new urban forms. In the 2014 Venice Biennale, the studio presented the Free Water District (FWD), an urban-scale multiuse, multi-environment development that would encourage industry through a controlled, but free, use of Great Lakes water. In its latest commission, UrbanLab has been asked to address an even more complex urban situation in China.

The Yangming Archipelago in Changde, Hunan, China, will be a new district that will accommodate 600,000 people in five square miles. Changde is part of a larger program in China to implement large water-infrastructure projects in order to improve urban water quality. At the heart of the project is an island-filled lake, which will act as an ecological, as well as a social and cultural space. The Yangming Archipelago also includes a dense system of public transportation and housing, integrated into eco-boulevards.

Eco-boulevards, a concept that can be found in many of the studio’s proposals, put water at the center of urban improvement. The idea is based on case-by-base performance-based infrastructural landscapes. These rich boulevards would come in many forms and sizes, but they would all function as more than a space for vehicular movement, providing social, ecological, and energy amenities. The boulevards would traverse the city with integrated water-filtration and water-retention technologies,a space for vehicular movement, providing social, ecological, and energy amenities. The boulevards would traverse the city with integrated water-filtration and water-retention technologies, a space for vehicular movement, providing social, ecological, and energy amenities. The boulevards would traverse the city with integrated water-filtration and water-retention technologies, both passive and active. The stitching of nature to the larger urban environment would connect formerly disparate parts of the city with a common civic space.

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City of Toronto to build 21-acre park over downtown railroad tracks

Toronto Mayor John Tory has announced plans to protect 21 acres of downtown real estate for the future Rail Deck Park. The park will be placed on top of an existing rail corridor. According to the city, this may be the last opportunity to create a public park for the city's expanding downtown population. According to the Ontario Ministry of Finance, greater Toronto's population is projected to increase by over 2.8 million, or 42.9 percent, in the next 25 years. The population of downtown Toronto is expected to double. Public improvements like this proposed park take an important step toward preparing the city for a long-term population boom. This announcement comes as part of Toronto's TOCore initiative, which is set up to ease downtown into this more populated future. TOCore is a long-range plan to create infrastructure and amenities to accommodate a significantly higher population density. Among the planned improvements are more options for bike commuting, new community facilities, and, of course, new parks. "Great cities have great parks. As Toronto grows, we need to take bold action to create public space and make sure we build a city that makes future generations proud,” said Mayor Tory in a press release. “This is our last chance to secure a piece of land that could transform the way we experience our city.” The park will be built on what is now Toronto's western rail corridor, on a site that spans from Blue Jays Way to Bathurst Street. No other details are available yet. Toronto will follow in the footsteps of Chicago's Millennium Park, Philadelphia's University City, and Hudson Yards in Manhattan by capping a rail yard to make room for new development.
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New York City and NYCEDC announce conditional approval of world’s first subterranean park

Last week New York City deputy mayor Alicia Glen and New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) president Maria Torres-Springer announced that the city has selected the Lowline to officially occupy vacant trolley tracks under the Lower East Side as the world's first underground park. Conceived by James Ramsey of raad studio and Dan Barasch, the Lowline will use a custom solar array to channel natural light into the windowless space, which sits adjacent to the J/M/Z lines at Essex Street. (The Architect's Newspaper toured the Lowline Lab, the park's freakily lush demo and educational space, last fall.) At the Lab, an above-ground solar array refracted onto a paneled canopy provides different light intensities to grow everything from pineapples to moss. Since its opening, the lab has hosted 2,000 schoolchildren and 70,000 visitors, an early indication of its potential popularity (it is slated to operate through March of next year). Last fall, NYCEDC, in conjunction with the MTA, put out a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) to develop the Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, a 60,000-square-foot space below Delancey Street between Clinton and Norfolk streets, under a long-term lease. The RFEI stipulated that the developers must implement a community engagement plan that includes quarterly Community Engagement Committee meetings as well as five to ten design charettes; complete a schematic design to submit for approval in the next 12 months; and raise $10 million over the next 12 months. "Every designer dreams of doing civic work that contributes to society and to the profession. Over the last 8 years, we just stuck to what we thought was a great idea that could make our city and our community better. We're thrilled to move ahead on designing and building a space that people will enjoy for generations to come," Ramsey said in a press release. Principal Signe Nielsen of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects is landscape designer for the project, working with John Mini Distinctive Landscapes. The Lowline's creators and backers hope that the park will showcase adaptive reuse possibilities for vestigial spaces, as well as provide the densely-populated neighborhood with additional green space. “We couldn't be more thrilled for this opportunity to turn a magical dream into reality," said Barasch, the project's executive director. “The transformation of an old, forgotten trolley terminal into a dynamic cultural space designed for a 21st century city is truly a New York story. We know with input from the community and the city, we can make the Lowline a unique, inspiring space that everyone can enjoy." (Courtesy raad studio)
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City of Baltimore to open design competition for McKeldin Plaza

The City of Baltimore is hosting a citywide design competition to seek proposals for the redevelopment of McKeldin Plaza in downtown Baltimore. The call follows plans to demolish the existing McKeldin Fountain later this year and the Department of Planning will supervise the open competition.

This follows years of talk about redesigning the plaza, which is currently dominated by the 1982 Brutalist concrete McKeldin Fountain. The fountain stands adjacent to the Inner Harbor area and memorializes former Baltimore mayor Theodore McKeldin, who was instrumental in  revitalizing the harbor area in the 1960s.

The Waterfront Partnership recently released plans for “Inner Harbor 2.0,” which will improve the area with new green spaces and pedestrian connections using Brooklyn Bridge Park and Waterfront Seattle as precedents.

 

McKeldin Plaza is an important fixture of Downtown Baltimore, and a designated free speech zone that was the focal point for the city’s Occupy and Black Lives Matter protests. In addition, the fountain is a historically significant holdout from the Brutalist movement, and its design attracts tourists and office workers from the surrounding area.

The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore supports redevelopment of the plaza into an open space, while many local artists, designers, and architects support its preservation as a public art piece.

The fountain itself has fallen into disrepair, and according to the Downtown Partnership its mechanics are prone to expensive breakdowns that leave it non-functional for months at a time. However, maintenance and enhancements could also go a long way toward revitalizing the plaza while preserving the fountain.

Up until recently the Brutalist design of the fountain matched the nearby Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, which was demolished in 2015. The theater was designed by John M. Johansen and opened in 1967, remaining in use until 2004. After its owners chose not to renew the lease on the building in favor of the newly reopened Hippodrome Theatre, the building fell into disrepair. A new high-rise residential and commercial space is now under construction on the site. Since the demolition of the Mechanic, McKeldin fountain is the only example of Brutalist architecture in Baltimore.

The fountain has its share of defenders, including Baltimore’s City Council president, who introduced a bill to block the demolition last year.

A Change.org petition calls for the postponement of demolition until a new design is approved. Others—including the fountain’s designer—are against the demolition entirely and want to preserve the site.

The Downtown Partnership plans to move forward with the demolition in Summer 2016 pending approval of permits. The fountain and the skywalk across Light Street were recently closed to pedestrians.

The architecture firms Ayers Saint Gross, Mahan Rykiel, and Ziger/Snead will oversee the project and finalize designs. Details about the public competition are still taking shape. 

 
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Toronto’s ambitious plan for a linear garden under the Gardiner Expressway is made of 55 “outdoor rooms”

Toronto’s waterfront is separated from the city by the elevated Gardiner Expressway. While access underneath is relatively easy, it isn’t a pleasant transition. Torontonians, however, can expect some changes to their waterfront corridor as 10-acres of new public space and a mile of multi-use trail are being built under the highway. Project: Under Gardiner was designed by city planner and urban designer Ken Greenberg with Marc Ryan and Adam Nicklin of PUBLIC WORK, an urban design and landscape architecture studio in Toronto. The new park is slated to open in 2017. The scheme is strategically placed along a portion of the expressway that connects numerous destinations—including the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, Fort York (an historic military site and museum), BMO fields, and the CNE fairgrounds—as well as a string of high-rise neighborhoods. The project is conceived as a series of 55 "outdoor rooms” formed by the structural bays of the Gardiner. While it is a continuous park, each section or “room” will have a distinct atmosphere and will lend itself to particular activities and programs, including gardens, art fairs, playgrounds, and public markets.  In addition to multi-use park space, the project boasts a 1,640 foot connection to a prominent GO train station, a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists over Fort York Boulevard, and an urban theater at Strachan Avenue to accommodate public programming and year-round performances. Like the High line in New York and The 606 in Chicago, Project: Under Gardiner uses existing conditions as a catalyst for new urban engagements, while also adding significant public space to an underused portion of the city. “The re-imagination of this stretch of vacant land under the Gardiner has the potential to connect 70,000 residents to a linear spine of diverse active and passive spaces and place,” explained Paul Bedford, Former Toronto Chief Planner. “It links our past with our future and establishes a totally new way for city hall to embrace transformative city building.”
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Seattle Park Proposal to Cap I-5 Unveiled

Take note. The Seattle waterfront plan is getting a lot of competition. Last month, we saw an opposing proposal to the James Corner Field Operations plan rejected by city council and put on the ballot for next summer. The project—Initiative 123—calls for reinforcing a portion of the Alaska Way Viaduct that runs north-south along the western edge of Seattle as well as building a new section. These two pieces would create a mile-long, High Line–style park. Now a Seattle- and Idaho-based firm, Patano Studio Architecture, is proposing an $800 million project to the east as part of a larger conceptual plan to expand the Washington State Convention Center. The project would cap Interstate 5—a highway that runs through multiple neighborhoods such as downtown Seattle, South Lake Union, and Capitol Hill—and build a park on top. The architects describe the highway built in 1962 as a "savage scar of roadway" that forever divided the city. Their project would cap a 2 mile long section of the the highway running from Lakeview in the north, south to downtown. The resulting 45 acre park would feature plants, trails, and community spaces, and be adjacent to affordable housing. Toward the downtown end, the park would run over a proposed 20,000 seat NBA / NHL arena that would also double as additional customizable convention space for the Convention Center. The arena would be an alternative to Chris Hansen's proposed NBA / NHL arena in SoDo. The concept, if accepted, could take about 5 years to build. "In our mind, the old guard way of thinking and planning the city is one project at a time," Christopher Patano told the Seattle P-I. "I think what we're finding is this one-piece-at-a-time approach is not producing a cohesive result. It's not producing a city that functions the way the people of Seattle want it to function."