The public-life think-tank Gehl Institute with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released guidelines for the design of places that promote public health. The Inclusive Healthy Places Framework is "a tool for evaluating and creating inclusive, healthy public places that support health equity.” The report specifies that the design of public spaces is integral to the physical and mental well being of local communities and proposes that these spaces are tools for fostering inclusion, accessibility, and shared social values. In the report, four principles are highlighted in the design of public spaces: Context, Process, Design & Program, and Sustainability. Context refers to data such as local demographic characteristics, socioeconomic and environmental health, predictors of exclusion, and preexisting community assets. Process refers to types of civic engagement, participation, and social capital that can be used within a region. Design & Program tackles the accessibility, diversity of usage and of users, and safety and security of the space. The last principal, Sustainability, touches on community stability, collective efficacy, and adaptability of spaces in the long term. Gehl Institute, a New York City-based non-profit that builds on Danish architect Jan Gehl’s work, rethinks how spaces change our “experiences, perceptions, and needs," and focuses on issues of social and environmental justice. The Institute wants to bring the discussion of health into the design of public spaces across the U.S. The full report can be viewed at this link.
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Depending on how things go, the Lawrence Halprin-designed United Nations Plaza and fountain in San Francisco could soon be demolished. The brick-lined open space is punctuated by a jagged, sunken fountain made of rough-shorn granite blocks and is installed in the city’s Civic Center district, an area that is undergoing redevelopment as the city seeks to beautify and enliven existing pedestrian areas. Though not designed as a commemorative work, when it opened in 1975, the fountain was dedicated to the signing of the U.N. charter, an event that took place in the Veterans War Memorial Building near the site of the future fountain in 1945. The opening marked the 30th anniversary of the signing and originally heralded the fountain as a civic work of global significance. The fountain was designed by Halprin, who worked in concert with architects Mario Ciampi and John Carl Warnecke as part of an urban redevelopment scheme for the area. At Halprin’s office, Don Carter worked as principal-in-charge for the project with Angela Danadjieva—lead designer for Halprin’s Freeway Park in Seattle—as landscape architect. The fountain was designed starting in 1962 during Halprin’s Modernist period; when the fountain debuted 13 years later, it contained a futuristic set of features, including computerized spray nozzles that could detect strong winds and dial-down in power in response, as to not spray passersby with water. Art and Architecture reports that the high-tech, Sierra-inspired fountain also came with an artful tidal pool installation inspired by San Francisco’s tides that cycled every hour. Greenery, including large trees, originally surrounded the fountain, as well. The fountain was designed according to a concept called “motation,” a method for scoring how one’s perception of the environment changes depending on the speed and motion of the observer, according to The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF). The fountain’s stacked blocks are carved with inscriptions and represent each of earth’s seven continents. The work, 165-feet long and articulated raucously as a set of stepped, interactive cascades, acts as a gateway connecting Market Street with the Asian Art Museum, the Orpheum Theater, a public library, and eventually, the Civic Center Plaza fronting City Hall. Today, the fountain is suffering from disrepair and neglect, with the tidal pools long-extinguished and most of the surrounding vegetation gone. The Civic Center BART and Muni station has recently come into the spotlight as open-air, intravenous drug use has become more prevalent within its corridors. Sandwiched between the city’s rapidly-gentrifying Tenderloin and South of Market districts, the areas above and within the station are often populated by people experiencing homelessness, a long-standing site condition that precedes even the 1975 renovations. The plaza spaces were “hardened” against this type of occupation in the early 2000s when all of the benches were removed and the fountain was briefly shut down. Starting in 2005, however, the plaza became home to a twice-weekly farmers market that continues to draw crowds. Plans are currently underway by CMG Landscape Architecture to redesign the plaza in tow with surrounding streets and open spaces as part of the Civic Center Public Realm Plan. The plan is managed by San Francisco’s planning department in conjunction with multiple local agencies and seeks to soften the area by promoting pedestrian use of the spaces surrounding San Francisco City Hall while repairing some of the planning mistakes of the past, like the lack of concessions and playgrounds in the area. The design team includes Gehl Studio, HR&A, InterEthnica, Kennerly Architecture + Planning, Lotus Water, Structus, M. Lee, JS Nolan, architecture + history, and HRA Engineering. CMG is currently soliciting public opinion on a trio of redevelopment proposals, only one of which retains the iconic fountain. The three proposals seek to redesign the space, with each presenting a different approach to shifting the overriding character of the three interlocking plaza spaces that make up the open space sequence between Market Street and City Hall. First, the “Culture Connector” plan aims to connect the three “flex” plazas with two runs of general-purpose open spaces lined with gridded street trees. The proposal would modify Halprin’s fountain in order to transform it into a kids’ bouldering playground. A pair of larger playgrounds would ring the Civic Center Plaza in the scheme, with collections of kiosks and pavilions scattering the site. The “Public Platform” plan aims to resignify the plazas’ function as space for protest and political gatherings by creating a more open plaza at the fore of City Hall that will be flanked by lawns. Here, fewer trees would be present while new concessions structures are to be consolidated in larger buildings at key entry points to the main square. In this scheme, the plaza fountain would be replaced with a new interactive waterwork. The “Civic Sanctuary” scheme proposes to reconfigure the plaza areas into lawns while garden rooms and a sculpture gardens ring other areas of the site. The scheme—geared toward preserving the historic elements of the plaza complex—would retain the water fountain, though plans call for removing some of the taller stone elements of the installation. The fast and loose proposals raise questions regarding the care—or lack thereof—being taken with the Halprin-designed fountain as plans are being made for the future of the UN Plaza and surrounding spaces. Charles Birnbaum, president and CEO of TCLF, described the fountain as having a “high degree of integrity” and as a “slam-dunk landscape architecture contribution for the National Register of Historic Places.” Birnbaum explained that planners are mistaken to casually call for the elimination of a piece of high civic art via a public opinion survey and that the work was among the most intact of Halprin’s surviving San Francisco works. The fountain is eligible for the National Register and is actually located in an existing historic district, but under a designation that does not include the 1970s-era changes to the area. As a result, efforts to hastily rework the Civic Center’s public spaces threaten to sacrifice one of San Francisco’s major civic art works in lieu of seemingly generic and temporary sculptures. Further, the salad bar approach presented in the schemes—individual elements of from each of the proposals are also up for consideration, allowing the schemes to be mixed and matched—leaves much to be desired for Birnbaum, who would rather see more thoughtful community engagement for the site. Halprin—the “father of public engagement” according to Birnbaum—was known for artful collaboration with clients and users in his efforts to find responsive approaches for his often-interactive works and landscapes. For now, San Francisco will continue to collect public input through the summer so that the design team can generate a singular proposal for formal consideration.
The weekend before I left for Venice, I caught the eye of a guy on the street near my apartment in Brooklyn. After we passed each other, we turned around to check each other out. It wasn’t until I got home minutes later, and logged onto one of my geo-social “dating” apps, that I received a confirmation of our interaction: “What were you looking at, boy?” typed the same guy on his phone, now 700 feet away from my house. This encounter collapses two different modes of cruising, the historically perambulatory practice of searching for sexual encounters, which, in the digital age, is shifting more and more to mobile devices. The variant practices and habits of cruising form the subject of the Cruising Pavilion, an off-site group exhibition curated by Pierre-Alexandre Mateos, Rasmus Myrup, Octave Perrault, and Charles Teyssou held during the vernissage of the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale. Cruising is a covert act that takes place in plain sight. Cues like locked eyes, a turnaround glance, winks, gropes, all signify consent to approach one another. Its signals formed in reaction to bourgeois fears that homosexuals openly forging social connections would upend normative gender relations and, thus the reproductive order. Public restrooms and parks, historically and to this day, are examples of cruising sites: arenas charged with intrigue and hormones. Cruising Pavilion’s curators contend, however, that the parameters of these spaces are evolving due to the advent of apps like Grindr, which use mobile devices to map sexual partners by proximity. At the same time, cities like Berlin have become destinations for sex tourism where clubs and bars recreate the cruising experience in “dark rooms” or bath houses designed with labyrinths and other programmatic devices intended to provoke drifting, encounter, and niches for physical activity. Frequent cruisers shape their physical environment to encourage interaction and to evade persecution. In this way, the story of cruising space is one of persistence, something that the works in the show touch on through the artists’ and architects’ range of interpretation and representation. The Cruising Pavilion curators designed their exhibition space as a dark room to sexually frame the works on display–a tactic that is sometimes successful, but in others, doesn’t facilitate more erotically nuanced reads of conventionally presented works, especially in absence of wall text. But to over-explain and force a singular narrative would hush the pluralistic modes of sexual communication that this exhibition celebrates. It’s a jolting counterpoint to the official Biennale program, curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects, whose chosen theme, Freespace, came with a manifesto that omits sex altogether. The Cruising Pavilion is located in Giudecca, a southwestern spit of land known for Il Redentore, Palladio’s 16th-century Catholic church. Some 100 yards away is a less well-known site: the Garden of Eden, named after Frederic Eden, an Englishman who founded it in 1884. By the early 1900s, it had become Venice’s premier cruising grounds, frequented by the likes of Jean Genet. It’s now in private hands and serves as a progenitor to the Cruising Pavilion, located along the same shoreline in a double-height warehouse. It takes a while for your eyes to adjust when you walk into the space from the unsympathetic Venetian sun: it’s pitch black—save for low-lit red light bulbs, a nod to the lighting design often used in dark rooms. The exhibition opens with a wheat-pasted sign reproduced from the defunct New York BDSM club Mineshaft, open from the mid ‘70s to ‘80s. This dress code was posted on the club’s door alerting patrons to the rules to follow when inside: No cologne, no suits, no ties, and no dress pants, among other maxims. Even the Cruising Pavilion’s original font is derived from scrawls in cedar planks in the West Side Club, a former New York sauna, a gentle nod to past sites of cruising. The curators made full use of the leftover Icelandic pavilion from a past biennale. Luckily, it fits with their theme. Two giant towers – each two stories and made from standard issue lumber – rise from floor to ceiling. Narrow stairs take viewers up and down different platforms where work is on display. The tight turning radius to transfer from stair to platform reminded me of one of the devices used in dark room labyrinths to generate encounter between patrons. In one such instance, I was confronted by Ian Wooldridge’s readymade sculptures. Square, tubular brackets made mostly of steel rise from the floor like little automatons. They’re braces used to anchor urinals in drywall, but formally, and under the glow of the red light, they read like sex dungeon infrastructure. Each is tricked out with a cross-brace to support a suspended metal ring used to guide pipe conduit. Located waist high, the rings suggest other potential functions. Speaking of holes, Andreas Angelikdakis presents what could be considered an IKEA of dark room design. His sculpture Cruising Labyrinth, is a sheet of ¾” plywood painted black with a simple glory-hole cut out. Takeaway instruction sheets advertise “Every hole has a goal!” so one can make and install their own dark room configurations. Sex is more difficult to read in works that, at first, seem like pin-ups of simple architectural plans. Etienne Descloux’s drawings, DR01 – DR07, could be mistaken for banal axonometric studies of small pavilions, but he drew these dark room studies as portraits of his friends with whom he collaborated–a gesture that renders the client-architect relationship more intimate and erotic. Another axonometric diagram for a speculative bathhouse to accommodate gender-neutral patrons called S H U Í, accompanies a video used to pitch it to investors. The video subverts the derivative hetero-normative narrative common in advertising for luxury condos, in which straight, white couples gaze out from their new 40th-floor balcony at the city below. S H U Í Bathhouse User 1: Ylang Ylang, by Jon Wang and Sean Roland, instead, presents a gender non-specific Geisha wandering a city at night and into/out of staged wellness environments. It’s a bit of a myth that Grindr and other dating apps are the first technologically disruptive forces for cruising. Emergent technologies have been creatively co-opted for sexual functions for years. These “hacks” and innovations are evident in the show, if not explicitly stated. A vintage French Minitel machine is installed in Cruising Pavilion’s entry in an incoherent timeline of cruising communications. France’s telephone modem-driven computer device launched in the 1980s was the site of gay chat rooms and two-way communication. Diller Scofidio + Renfro offer a conceptual predecessor to GPS-driven cruising in their Blur & Blush book printed to document their Blur building, a pavilion in the 2002 Swiss EXPO cloaked in a mass of fog. The “Blush” portion of the project was never realized, but the architects proposed that visitors wear coats outfitted with electronic lighting and vibrating sensors that responded, algorithmically, to the proximity of others who had given similar answers to a questionnaire. The architects thus engineer connection between strangers in an obscured environment not unlike cruising grounds. Andrés Jaque’s Intimate Strangers documentary picks up the torch and traces the rise of Grindr from its early days in 2009 as “Near Buddy Finder” to its present platform where users have splintered into hyper-specific “tribes” of interest and identity in an app now crowded with advertising. Visitors can watch it on a laptop on an inflatable mattress, one more nod to the raw interior spaces of dark rooms. Nearby, Prem Sahib and Mark Blower document similar spaces in a series of photographs of Chariots, a London gay bathhouse that was closed and demolished to make way for a 30-storey luxury hotel, a common tale in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods like the city’s newly tony Shoreditch neighborhood. It turns out that both the digital space of Grindr and the urban spaces of historically queer neighborhoods are both becoming highly commercialized, perhaps at the expense of a community who can no longer afford, but will always find, its freespace. Aestheticizing the cruising experience, as the curators have done with their dark room-inspired installation, risks a similar commodification. But Cruising Pavilion’s mirage-like appearance at this year’s Biennale would have had less public visibility under white fluorescent lights, and its presence filled a void at the official exhibition that, surprisingly, lacked explorations of queer space. Where the project drifts next is unclear, but let’s hope it brings more people into the dark.
How do you rebuild after a natural disaster? This question was the call to action at the fifth edition of the MEXTRÓPOLI Festival of Architecture and City that took place March 17 to 20. The four-day city-wide event was presented as an active reflection to rebuild since last September’s major earthquake that struck central Mexico. Coincidently marking the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the natural disaster in September last year hit hard on the same day three decades prior–at least 40 buildings collapsed, wreaking havoc in the Mexican states of Puebla, Morelos, and in the Greater Mexico City area. At MEXTRÓPOLI, temporary built environments activated Mexico City’s public spaces to promote reflection of those events and fuel sustainable future building. Twenty pavilions designed by institutions such as UNAM, Ibero Puebla, Anahuac University, Querétaro, Sci-Arc, and Maristas took up at Alameda Central, the oldest public park in the Americas located downtown, adjacent to the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The goal? To inspire sustainable and preventative practices, and to demonstrate potential sustainable architectural futures. Architect Elias Kababie, Taller Paralelo Arquitectura, Michigan Architecture, and students from Colectivo Seis collaborated to design Pabellón ( ), a brick pavilion, with financial support from Masonite. The ephemeral structure is described by Kababie as a built testament to what local people felt in the aftermath of the quakes. “It creates an experience based on what we felt when everything was demolished,” explains Kababie. The structure itself was the very first built project for Colectivo Seis, who are only in their second year of college. As the story goes, on the first night of building the pavilion, the students and Kababie assembled the bricks made by a local factory and craftsman. The bricks themselves are made from locally-sourced clay, baked, and dried. Initially, they tried laying each brick one by one. Eventually, they made a rig that allowed them to stack eight bricks at a time. What took six hours to build on the first day took only one hour on the second. The trace of their handiwork lingers, with the red ochre-hued dust marking anyone who enters the pavilion. From the outside, the pavilion looks fortress-like, a cubic construction of six tiers of stacked brick on all four sides. Visitors were invited in by Kababie and the students through the periwinkle Masonite door into a narrow, tubular passageway. Once inside, onlookers are pleasantly surprised to find an undulating series of brick laid out to form the negative space of a circular sphere, or, if you will, an inverted oculus. The stacked formation encourages sitting and climbing, as well as spectacular views of the heart of Mexico City. Aptly dubbed, Pabellón ( ) is formally a parenthesis. Conceptually, it is a theoretical interpretation of the meaning of “collapse,” what students from Colectivo Seis described as the continuum of material and emotional rubble that was left behind after the quake. These experiences are collectively housed between the empty parentheses, the material manifestation of the symbolic namesake, the pavilion. “It’s a metaphor for the current situation. When you have this perfect brick wall that when you walk outside, you don't realize that there’s a greater structure, an emptiness that came about through the earthquakes. It’s still there and it hasn’t been fixed. We wanted this to be a point to talk about those aspects of our lives and that is still going on and many of us don’t realize it,” explained Alonso Varela of Collectivo Seis. This collective experience is not only expressed in concept, but also in practice. Kababie proudly reflects on their experience as completely collaborative, a project completed by a group from beginning to end as a group. “Having that extraordinary shared journey, the idea of idea of changing the conversation through bricks, through a situation, with a door that you go through, in a specific place as a specific project—it was an amazing idea.” You can find more videos of Mextropoli, Pabellón ( ), interviews, and other footage of the festival as a story highlight on AN's Instagram story highlights.
Opposition to Foster + Partners-designed Apple flagship store in Melbourne is mounting, as local politicians petition the Victoria state government to withdraw planning permission without significant revision to the store’s design. Criticism of the Apple store stems from worries that the two-story, pagoda-inspired pavilion, composed of glass curtain walls and metal cladding, is not contextual with the bulky and deconstructivist character of LAB Architecture Studio’s Federation Square. Moreover, the construction of a new flagship store entails the demolition of the Yarra Building, a three-story structure that is home to an organization that promotes and celebrates Aboriginal culture. Its replacement with a commercial structure is perceived to run counter to the civic role of the urban campus. Opened in 2002, Federation Square is a 7.9-acre civic precinct located in the center of Melbourne. The complex is renown for its fractal composition and diverse cladding materials, which include zinc, a range of sandstones, and glass. One year after opening, the city-block-sized development became the most awarded project in the history of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. Federation Square has evolved into an integral component of Melbourne’s cultural scene, and is home to a number of public institutions, including the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the National Gallery of Victoria. Since 2016, Apple has eyed Melbourne’s Federation Square as a site for a new flagship store. Foster + Partners is a longstanding collaborator with Apple, designing numerous stores as well as the company’s new Apple Park campus. Advocates for the new Apple store view the project as a financial boon for Federation Square. As reported by ABC, the regional government estimates that the flagship store will deliver an extra two million visitors annually and create 250 construction jobs, as well as 200 permanent positions. Additionally, the Foster + Partners proposal includes a 5,380-square-feet extension of public space towards the Yarra River. Outside of design complaints, criticism has also been lodged at the state government for their lack of public consultation during the planning process. Citizens for Melbourne, an advocacy group for public space composed of many architects, characterizes the demolition of the Yarra Building and the construction of the Apple store as a back-door corporate takeover of public space. Interestingly, architect Donald Bates, whose practice Lab Architecture Studio was responsible for designing Federation Square, supports the idea of the Apple flagship on the plaza. Peter Davidson, the former co-director and designer of Lab Architecture Studio, has not yet commented on the alteration of Federation Square. The construction of Apple Federation Square is set to begin in 2019 and finish in 2020.
The recent deployment of a mobile security robot to the sidewalk outside of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (SPCA) San Francisco chapter has raised questions over what role robots will play in the urban fabric in coming years. The SPCA’s K5 Knightscope security robot, a 5-foot tall, 400-pound ovoid on wheels that can go up to 3 miles per hour, was rented to dissuade local homeless residents from setting up encampments in front of the shelter’s building. Renting the robot only cost $7 an hour, compared to the $14 dollar minimum wage in San Francisco. The Mission District shelter first unveiled the autonomous rolling guard in early November, using it to patrol their parking lots and public sidewalks. Jennifer Scarlett, the S.F. SPCA’s president, told the San Francisco Business Times that the robot’s job was to prevent the homeless from congregating in the area. “We weren’t able to use the sidewalks at all when there’s needles and tents and bikes, so from a walking standpoint I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment,” said Scarlett. Renting an autonomously patrolling robot, especially one that takes up three feet of space on the sidewalk and is designed to shoo people away, has riled up public space advocates and drawn charges that the SPCA is engaging in hostile design. The issue of robots clogging public right-of-ways had grown so contentious in San Francisco that lawmakers recently passed an ordinance limiting the number of robots allowed to roll around the city’s public areas. The clash between autonomous robots and the urban environment reached a fevered pitch in 2017. The same K5-model of security robot caught criticism for plowing over a toddler in Palo Alto, drowning itself in a Washington D.C. fountain, and getting beat up by a drunk man in Mountain View. Even the SPCA’s robot was reportedly pushed over by angry homeless encampment residents at least once. reportedly also “terrified” dogs coming in and out of the shelter.
Often, architectural space is defined by requirements which are totally arbitrary and alien to the discipline of architecture itself. This lecture will focus on architecture and its medium, the three-dimensional space, not in a closed, clearly defined way, but instead in an experimental way that opens up various approaches for defining and thinking about space. Working titles such as atomized space, incidental space, ornamental space, and fluid space, among others, are used to describe architecture in the most distant and abstract way: only with words, deliberately without any images or references, and purely by the effort of thinking to trigger projects - working on the essence of architectural space itself. Christian Kerez was born in 1962 in Maracaibo, Venezuela and obtained his degree in architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. After extensive published work in the field of architectural photography, he opened his own architectural office in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1993. He has been appointed as a visiting professor in design and architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich since 2001, as Assistant Professor since 2003 and as a full professor for design and architecture since 2009. In 2012-13 he led the Kenzo Tange Chair at Harvard University, Cambridge. He participated in the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2016 with the project "Incidental Space." This lecture is sponsored by The Ornamental Metal Institute of New York with support from The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union. 1.5 AIA and New York State CEUs. The event is free and open to the public. General public should reserve a space. Please note first come, first seated; an RSVP does not guarantee admission as we generally overbook to ensure a full house. All registered seats are released 15 minutes before start time, so we recommend that you arrive early.
Venezuelan-born artist Carlos Cruz-Diez has completed work on a new art installation at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles that utilizes blocks of pastel-colored paint to activate the crosswalks connected to the museum. The installation was developed by the Broad with the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation and the artist himself as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (PST), an ambitious multi-venue exploration of Latin American and Latino art currently taking place across the Los Angeles region. The installation, titled Couleur Additive, was installed along the four crosswalks located at the intersection of Grand Avenue and 2nd Street in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the crosswalks connects the Broad to the Disney Concert Hall located on a block north of the museum. Cruz-Diez is a highly-regarded figure in the Kinetic-Optical art genre, an experimental color theory-based form of artistic exploration initially developed in the 1950s. Cruz-Diez, who recently turned 94 years old, developed his approach based on the assumption that the perception of color in the human eye constitutes an autonomous reality that changes based on position, time, and perspective. His works, according to Ed Schad, assistant curator at The Broad, create art “through and around” the side-by-side collision of the installation’s green, orange, yellow, and blue hues. Schad’s team undertook great pains to comply with the City of Los Angeles’s permitting process for the installation, which required that the paint be applied in such a way as to retain the original sidewalk striping in its entirety. As a result, the paint swatches exist independently from the typical white crosswalk striping. The paint itself was applied by student-artists from the nearby Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, a complex designed by architects Coop Himmelb(l)au. Joanne Heyler, founding director of The Broad said in a press release, “Carlos Cruz-Diez’s practice challenges the traditional relationship between art and the viewer, and between the viewer and the urban environment,”adding, “His new work Couleur Additive activates the public space around The Broad, embracing Grand Avenue and bringing the museum out into the daily life of pedestrians and our visitors, highlighting the ideas of an important Latin American artist whose career has spanned seven decades.” The public art installation will be featured alongside explanatory materials displayed inside the museum and in conjunction with educational workshops put on by Learning Lab, an arm of the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation. The installation is on view through the year and into 2018.
With little fanfare, under the cover of night, the City of Baltimore took down four Confederate monuments last week. The removals may be read as a response to the violence in Charlottesville, but the city's decision marks a decisive new chapter in public commemoration, one that goes much deeper than the nightly news. The monuments depicted Confederate soldiers, generals, (white) women of the South, and one Supreme Court justice best known for his role in the Dred Scott decision. The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument (1903) and the Confederate Women's Monument (1917) were both put up by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, while the Lee-Jackson Monument was erected in 1948 by the Baltimore Municipal Arts Society with $100,000 from a 1928 bequest by local business executive J. Harry Ferguson. The statue of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney was given to Baltimore in 1887 by William T. Walters, who commissioned a copy of an 1871 statue of Taney on the Maryland State House grounds. Since last Wednesday, all four bronze monuments have been sitting in an city storage yard under cover of blue plastic tarps. For the past week, curious neighbors, activists, and news crews have toured the four empty stone plinths full of questions about the past and the future. How did these monuments end up here? How did the monuments affect Baltimore while they stood, and what do we do now that they're gone? It might seem odd to see Confederate monuments in Baltimore when Maryland remained part of the Union throughout the Civil War. Thousands of Marylanders fought for the Confederacy but thousands more fought for the Union, including over 8,700 black men in six Maryland regiments of U.S. Colored Troops. But slavery was still legal in Maryland until nearly the end of the war, when the state passed a new constitution in 1864. Former Confederates and their allies quickly returned to political power. Maryland did not ratify the 14th Amendment and 15th Amendment to the Constitution (what one historian called his "favorite Civil War era monuments") until well after they came into effect: 1959 (for the 14th) and 1973 (for the 15th). Across the country, efforts to remember the Civil War first appeared in cemeteries. Between 1865 and 1885, 90 percent of Confederate monuments contained some form of funerary design and a majority (70 percent) stood in cemeteries. (Confederate monuments still stand in southwest Baltimore's Loudon Park Cemetery. That all changed after the end of Reconstruction. When the federal government retreated from protecting black voters from the growing threat of violence by white neighbors in the 1870s, most monuments were stripped of their funereal designs and semi-public settings and moved decisively into the town square. Between 1885 and 1899, only 40 percent of new monuments used funerary designs, and towns increasingly chose to locate monuments in public places (like streets and courthouse lawns). From 1900 to 1912, the nation witnessed the erection of 60 percent of all Confederate monuments built before World War I. Of those, only 25 percent used funerary design and 85 percent were located in public areas. This dramatic move—from private sites of mourning to public sites of celebration and honor—reflects the success of a ''reconciliationist'' memory of the Civil War that focused on the bravery of soldiers and generals while avoiding any discussion of slavery or the unfinished work of emancipation. In the last chapter of Black Reconstruction in America, W.E.B. Du Bois noted the role historians at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore had played in rewriting the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction around themes of "endless sympathy with the white south" and "ridicule, contempt or silence for the Negro." In his landmark 2001 book, Race and Reunion, historian David Blight observed that "[a] segregated society, demanded a segregated historical memory." The white supremacist politics that accompanied the rise of "Lost Cause" memory make it impossible to avoid comparing monuments to other strategies designed to exclude African Americans from urban space. During the same period white Baltimoreans put up Confederate monuments, the city enacted the nation's first racial segregation ordinance in 1910 and, in the wake of the ordinance's legal defeat, white residents created a patchwork of racially restrictive housing covenants. The Confederate Women's Monument was located in Bishop's Square Park near the southern entrance to Guilford, an exclusive suburban enclave established in 1913 and developed by a company that pioneered the use of racially restrictive covenants. It is important to remember, however, that the context for Baltimore's Confederate monuments (and the new empty plinths) is more than just the social history of racism and the "Lost Cause." Whether they stand in a private cemetery or on a public street, the meanings of monuments are shaped by the surrounding physical context. All of Baltimore's monuments have seen radical changes over the decades including the physical relocation, the demolition of surrounding buildings, and the reconfiguration of street grids. The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument once sat in the center of Mount Royal Avenue, flanked on both sides by Victorian rowhouses, until the rowhouses were cleared away and the road dramatically widened for the construction of I-83. In 1959, construction of ramps for I-83 forced the Union Soldiers and Sailors Monument to move to the southeastern corner of Wyman Park Dell. The new site may even have been selected to provide "balance" to the Lee-Jackson Monument located on opposite side of the park. The map below depicts the present-day location of two of the four monuments in Baltimore: The way people use the urban landscapes surrounding the monuments has also evolved. When Baltimore's Confederate monuments were built, the people who sought permission for their installation, raised money for their design and production, and planned the dedication ceremonies often lived nearby. They wanted their neighbors to see the structures—whether their neighbors wanted to see them or not. In 1887, the statue of infamous Chief Justice Roger B. Taney was just a few hundred feet from the home of the statue's donor, William T. Walters at 5 West Mount Vernon Place—one of the the dozens of large townhouses facing on the four squares that surround the Washington Monument. But, by 1890, the neighbors also included over 11,000 African Americans living in the city's 11th Ward, which began just one block west of the park. Around the turn of the century, hundreds of Confederate veterans gathered around Mount Vernon Place to march up to Mount Royal Avenue for the dedication of the Confederate Soldiers Monument. Residents on or near the route included the former home of Confederate General Lawrason Riggs (where his widow flew a Confederate flag from the window as the parade went past) and Confederate officer McHenry Howard who spoke at the ceremony. But less than 100 years later, the center of Confederate memory had moved to the suburbs. The Baltimore chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans was re-established there in 1981, and a city that once welcomed celebrations of Confederate memory slowly began to turn against it. Since the 1950s, Confederate groups had organized an annual celebration for Robert E. Lee's birthday at the Lee-Jackson Monument. Celebrating Lee's birthday on the third Monday in January took on a new meaning after the federal government adopted Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national holiday in the 1980s. In 2008, Johns Hopkins refused to rent the group the meeting hall they had used for years. Four years later, members of the Homewood Quaker Meeting House, located just a five-minute walk from the statue, began organizing a silent vigil calling on the group to "Change the Date." In June 2015, protestors used the Lee-Jackson Monument as the backdrop for a press conference calling on then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to remove Baltimore's Confederate Monuments and the Taney statue. Community members gathered there again on Sunday, August 13, a day after activist Heather Heyer's death, for a rally and march in solidarity with Charlottesville. The speakers called on Mayor Catherine Pugh to take down the city's Confederate monuments. When activist group Baltimore BLOC called for direct action to take down the Lee-Jackson Monument (#DoItLikeDurham), the city responded quickly. A little over twelve hours later, all four monuments had been taken down. What monuments or statues best represent the city today is still to be determined, but these four monuments will surely be remembered long after they were taken down. As some Baltimore’s own Frederick Douglass remarked in 1884: "It is not well to forget the past. Memory was given to man for some wise purpose. The past is … the mirror in which we may discern the dim outlines of the future."
Eli Pousson is the director of preservation & outreach at Baltimore Heritage where his work includes the Explore Baltimore Heritage website and app, as well as ongoing research about Baltimore's civil rights heritage. Pousson wrote this piece as an individual and not on behalf of Baltimore Heritage.
From a highly anticipated river revitalization project in Chicago to a completely repurposed mall site in a tiny Connecticut town, projects revolving around public spaces are always feel-good stories. Who doesn’t enjoy a new, clean space to people-watch? Or better yet, catch some July 4 fireworks? The Architect's Newspaper picked six completed projects that exemplify what a good public space entails. Chicago's redeveloped Navy Pier The first phase of Chicago’s popular tourist destination, Navy Pier, is now complete. James Corner Field Operations is the lead designer on this multi-year project, along with collaborators nArchitects, Gensler, Thornton Tomasetti, Fluidity Design Consultants, Buro Happold, and graphic designers Pentagram. The design includes an extensive renovation of the exterior public promenade, and this first phase includes a Wave Wall, a glass info tower, a new plaza near the base of the pier, and new Lake Pavilions that act as boat ticket kiosks and shaded rest areas. Phase III for the Chicago River: Chicago Riverwalk The recent completion of Phase III of Chicago’s downtown riverfront redevelopment featured a new mile-and-a-half public park, the Riverwalk. Led by Chicago-based Ross Barney Architects and Watertown, Massachusetts–based Sasaki Associates, the Riverwalk is divided into separate “rooms” between the bascule bridges and has a large interactive water plaza. Previous phases led to new development along the water, including restaurants, bars, and the River Theater, a staircase-ramp bridging upper Wacker Drive and the river. This latest development is part of an overall goal to completely overhaul the Chicago River, with an aim of a clean, swimmable river by 2040. The long-delayed Los Angeles State Historic Park finally opens to the public The completion of the Los Angeles State Historic Park caps off a two-decade-long saga for local and state officials and residents. The current iteration of the park has been in development since 2005 and is the first California State Park in the City of Los Angeles. It is located on a multi-layered historical site that originally housed an indigenous settlement home to Los Angeles’s Tongva indigenous community. The park sits along a broad, gently-sloping plane that connected the Tongva’s main settlement in the vicinity of today’s Union Station with the Los Angeles River, roughly one mile away. Cleveland's latest 10-acre downtown park As a part of an effort to connect Cleveland’s public spaces to Lake Erie, the city’s downtown now has a new civic space—a 10-acre park designed by James Corner Field Operations, the team behind the wildly successful High Line Park in New York City. It also includes a café designed by New York–based nARCHITECTS. The design sees four smaller traffic islands in between the wide lanes of Superior Avenue (now restricted to public transportation) and Ontario Street (pedestrian-only now). Astor Place improvements—complete with the Astor Cube The much-beloved spinning Astor Cube (formally known as The Alamo) is back at Astor Place, a plaza that has also undergone a redesign from New York-based WXY and the city’s departments of Design and Construction (DDC), Transportation (DOT), and Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks). The plaza now features a 42,000-square-foot pedestrian-oriented streetscape, a reconstruction that was completed as part of an effort to upgrade infrastructure in the city and provide city dwellers with more public space as the city becomes denser. “We have now made the plaza space more welcoming for pedestrians and we have brought back distinctive elements—like the iconic Cube—that have long made this such a special gathering place and gateway to the East Village,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg at the ribbon cutting ceremony. From derelict mall to community-centered green space in Connecticut Cities looking to repurpose defunct mall sites can take a pointer or two from a city in Connecticut. In Meriden, a town halfway between New Haven and Hartford, city leaders transformed a former mall and brownfield site into a resilient 14.4-acre park complete with pedestrian bridges, an amphitheater, a remediated landscape with a flood-control pond, and drivable turf for food trucks and farmers markets. It was an expensive ($14 million) and extensive overhaul, but is one that has brought back green space to the community.
When a car plowed through the ever-busy Times Square in Midtown Manhattan on Thursday, 22 people were injured and one was killed. However, things could have been much worse. The security bollards in the Snøhetta-design pedestrian plaza held strong and stopped the driver, Richard Rojas, from killing and injuring more people. His car came to a stop on two wheels, after being wedged upward by a 3-foot-tall bollard, manufactured by Calpipe Security Bollards and installed last fall as part of the plaza redesign. In response Craig Dykers, Founding Partner at Snøhetta, released the following statement:
Times Square is one of the densest and most visited places in New York and the world. One of the key challenges of transforming this congested vehicular district into a place for people was making Times Square more comfortable and natural to walk through, while securing it against unpredictable tragedies like the one that took place in the Square yesterday. We offer our sincerest condolences to the family of the victim and we wish a healthy recovery to the injured and those affected. In our work to make permanent the pedestrian plazas in Times Square, we managed a successful collaborative process with the city and specialized consultants to be sure pedestrians would be safe in the Crossroads of the World. Our method has been to protect the plaza areas while also using design elements that don’t overwhelm the public experience. We wanted to be sure safety measures did not define the public space while also creating highly effective protective features in the most populated areas. Bollards, in connection with other integrated security features, form the basis of the security design for the plaza. These elements allow for fluid and intuitive circulation between the plazas. This was a fundamental concept of the redesign as a whole, which focused on reducing visual and physical clutter and confusion in the Square, creating a simplified surface that allows people to move comfortably and naturally through the space. Without these considerations more people would have been affected by this tragedy so we are grateful to everyone on the team for designing these preventative measures. We will continue to analyze the character of this event alongside our partners connected to this work to further minimize the impact of any future situations without interfering with the open, vibrant and unique character of Times Square.
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.