Posts tagged with "public space":

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What Baltimore can teach us about the future of public monuments

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.
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Six of America's newest and grandest public spaces

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.
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Snøhetta responds to Times Square pedestrian incident

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.
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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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Talking public space with Jan Gehl in Mexico City

Mexico City is the largest city in North America and has been around since the 14th century, when the Aztecs settled the area. Many layers of history, culture, and development both private and public can be seen in its rich architecture and urbanism. Crumbles of pyramids abut Spanish cathedrals and huge modernist housing blocks, foregrounded by spectacular parks, statues, and fountains from the various periods in the history of the region. However, along with the complex history comes a complex city. The organizers of CoRe Foro Urbano CDMX 2016, a two-day summit of experts from the development, policy, design, and transportation sectors, cited this complexity and a perceived lack of leadership among the Mexico City's many stakeholders as the impetus for getting together and addressing its multi-faceted challenges. The main initiator of the conference was Kaluz, "a diversified conglomerate of companies active in the following sectors: industry, construction materials, and financial services." They worked with the Planning Commission of Mexico City and the Delegacion Cuauhtmoc (the local borough government) to realize the forum, which is organized into four panels: Mobility, Public Space, Citizenship and Responsibility, and Zoning and Diverse City. It was not structured as lectures or talks, but more of a series of roundtable discussions that were aimed directly at the problems of Mexico City, and how each can be addressed with real solutions. This is part two of our series, "Urbanism in Mexico City," reported live from the discussion.  Mexico City has an abundance of public space and is a leader in this way. For residents and the government, it is an important part of the city and includes parks, plazas, fountain squares, or large sidewalks along the boulevards. The city even has a Public Space Authority and a Program for Neighborhoods and Community Involvement. Architect and author of Cities for People Jan Gehl, in his keynote, railed against the excesses of modernist planning, including its out-of-scale urban developments such as Brasilia, and its lack of human-scale interaction at street level. He showed images of cold, haunting modernist schemes and juxtaposed them with their supposed goals, such as the creation of erotic space. He also pointed out that the car had an adverse impact on cities, "totally overwhelming" them. He cited Jane Jacobs as a prominent voice in criticizing this era. In 1961, she published her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, only one year after Gehl graduated from architecture school. Gehl said that over the last 50 years we have finally learned how to design cities. However, he cites the Piazza del Campo Siena in Tuscany as the best public space in the world, which was made over 700 years ago. But it has the 12 human-scale, people-oriented qualities that Gehl seeks, which bring protection, comfort, and enjoyment. Today, Gehl says that we need a lively, livable, sustainable, and healthy city. Ethan Kent of the Project for Public Spaces said that public spaces were included on the Habitat III New Urban Agenda, the document that sets forth a path for thinking about the 21st-century city and how it will be formed. He noted that a place is best when it has ten or more uses. "There is more support for public spaces here than anywhere else I have been," Kent said. He explained his theory of place-led development that comes from engagement with the users to define the program at the outset. Architect Tatiana Bilbao is interested in designing not only for those coming to shop or pass through an area, but those who live nearby. These intended publics, says Muller Garcia, secretary of environment for Mexico City, must be properly programmed, but also cared for by those who feel ownership in them, in order to make sure the targeted publics are the ones who end up enjoying them. Francisco (Pakiko) Paillie Perez of derive LAB noted that while we need rules and regulations to assure access for all people, those laws come with many territorial designations that are dangerous, especially because it is not always clear who makes these rules and what ends they may serve. As for the private sector, developer Guillermo Buitano pointed out that while it is possible to make private places public, developers should look past their own projects to determine their sphere of influence. Amy Kaufman of AK Cultural Planning suggested that the strength of public space is that it can gather a range of people into one vibrant place that reflects the culture of the community through the engagement of artists who can enliven spaces through a process-oriented approach, much like Kent's place-led development that starts with program. For Mexico City, the public space needs to be safe, says Perez, and that means cutting down on attacks on women, and also on moving the informal vendors into the street and off of the sidewalk. All in all, Mexico City is in good shape for public space, and with people focused on keeping them that way as the waves of change inevitably alter the city.
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Zaha Hadid Architects and Patrik Schumacher openly feud over public housing and privatizing public space

One of the world's top architecture firms has entered a public row with one of its partners. On November 17, Patrik Schumacher, a partner at Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) and renowned proponent of parametricism, took the stage at the World Architecture Forum in Berlin to deliver a speech that shocked some: Attacking government regulation and bureaucracy, he described an eight-point plan that called for the privatization of public space, the elimination of government-issued land use policies, and the abolishment of all social, affordable, and public housing, among other similar goals. In the speech, he decried how such laws, regulations, and practices stifle architectural creativity and development while giving tenants of public housing unfair access to city centers. "All top-down bureaucratic attempts to order the built environment via land use plans are pragmatically and intellectually bankrupt," he said, according to Dezeen. Schumacher has made similar statements in the past, though with less forcefulness. Last August, he told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that "We at ZHA see society’s development differently and I’m willing to talk about my optimism for more market-based organization processes and entrepreneurial solutions to societal problems. Solutions to maybe what we can perceive to be certain economic statements and stagnation in recent years." Earlier this morning, ZHA published this letter, which AN has reproduced below:
Open letter from Zaha Hadid Architects November 29, 2016 Patrik Schumacher’s ‘urban policy manifesto’ does not reflect Zaha Hadid Architects’ past—and will not be our future. Zaha Hadid did not write manifestos. She built them. Zaha Hadid Architects has delivered 56 projects for all members of the community in 45 cities around the world. Refusing to be confined by limitations or boundaries, Zaha did not reserve her ideology for the lecture hall. She lived it. She deeply believed in the strongest international collaboration and we are very proud to have a hugely talented team of 50 different nationalities in our London office, including those from almost every EU country. 43% of architects at ZHA are of an ethnic minority and 40% of our architects are women. Zaha Hadid didn’t just break glass ceilings and pull down barriers; she shattered them—inviting everyone of any race, gender, creed or orientation to join her on the journey. Embedding a collective research culture into every aspect of our work, Zaha has built a team of many diverse talents and disciplines—and we will continue to innovate towards an architecture of inclusivity. Architects around the world are calling for the profession to become more inclusive. The national and international press have also done a very good job highlighting the critical issues of housing and the threats to vital public spaces. Through determination and sheer hard work, Zaha showed us all that architecture can be diverse and democratic. She inspired a whole new generation around the world to engage with their environment, to never stop questioning and never—ever—stop imagining. Collaborating with clients, communities and specialists around the world who share this vision, everyone at Zaha Hadid Architects is dedicated to honouring Zaha’s legacy, working with passion and commitment to design and deliver the most transformational projects for all. Zaha Hadid Architects  (Copyright © Zaha Hadid Architects)
It remains unclear exactly who authored the piece, or who among the firm's members, trustees, partners, etc. pushed for its publication. AN  will continue to cover this story as it evolves. UPDATE: Oliver Wainwright of the The Guardian has tweeted this:   UPDATE: “Come out Patrik, come out from under that table!” cry protesters at Zaha Hadid Architects’ London office
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SO-IL wants you to remember that interiors used to be public

The following essay is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, Solid Objectives... Order, Edge, Aura, to be published in early 2017 by Lars Muller Publishers. For more on the The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, see here.

The design of interiors has come to embody a line of egocentric thoughts. It purports to put our body—and possibly even our soul and individualistic existence—at its center. Womb-like sensations arise, promising warmth, safety, and other prenatal comforts. How do we sufficiently swaddle or cushion the self for it to survive our savage reality? The interior becomes a pure haven for the spirit, something that seems increasingly public. We create mobile cocoons, shielding ourselves with screens, headsets, and blank stares. We eschew or minimize contact with others. Absurdly, even though technology has seemingly brought the outside world in, our devices have diminished points of contact with it. The public realm is contained, compressed, and trapped behind thinner and thinner layers of glass. The exterior is powered up or down with the swipe of a finger. While this notion of interior design evokes thoughts of monastic disconnection, of dwelling in a shielded totality, we would like to consider its opposite: the interior as a locus for a new collective condition, an inside that fosters exchange. After all, it is mostly in the perceived comfort of our interiors that we let our guards down and allow for connections to occur. Up until modernity, humanity experienced its interiors—even those of the dwelling—as a public domain. The living room was a place for conflict and exchange. Even our beds were shared. Given this, let us regard the interior not as a space created by protective surfaces and moods, but rather as a porous field defined by realms and structures. Otherness will trickle in and a productive contamination will ensue. Beyond mere spatial definition, a new exchange must be fueled by content. This collective interior demands activation by things: Volumes and objects, elements that supersede their functional obligations to play suggestive and symbolic roles—think of the Kaaba, the Butsudan, the kitchen table, and the parliamentary mace. We see this as the vivid place that sociologist Bruno Latour depicts wherein “each object gathers around itself a different assembly of relevant parties. Each object triggers new occasions to passionately differ and dispute. Each object may also offer new ways of achieving closure without having to agree on much else.” In the place of comfort, the new interior instead offers devices of contestation and the promise of an active public. In order to accommodate differences, an architecture of the interior will be assembled with character-filled structures and objects that trigger discursiveness, to fuel the fire, the textures taking on qualities of the outside, rupturing and destabilizing. Think of sublime volumes, endless depths, infinity pools, and fillets. Think of Andrei Tarkovsky, the rain inside, cobblestones in the living room, and sand in the bathtub. The interior as a space of contestation might recoup some of the scope architecture has forfeited to the creators of soothing mood boards and Pinterest boards. As layered and fleeting realities of the exterior return indoors, condensed and redirected, they might unsettle the insulated, comfortable individual in pursuit of a more vital collective interiority.
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Municipal Art Society's "Public Assets" summit explores who truly owns public space

This year's Municipal Art Society Public Assets summit (taking place November 15) focuses on the most important issue facing New York City in 2016: Who owns and controls public space? But unlike past MAS summits, which were little more than sound bites on the glory of the city and pay-to-play advertorials, this one begins with a provocative and on-point statement:
A healthy, dynamic, and inclusive city depends on the protection and promotion of what is collectively ours—parks, open space, libraries, museums, streetscapes, infrastructure, views, and other intangible resources—upon which our quality of life depends. We will be asking the questions: “What are public assets? Why do they matter? Who decides?”
The day-long event, which is open to all MAS members, features several of the city’s most important urban thinkers including Adam Gopnik, Michael Sorkin, Fran Lebowitz, architecture professor Diane Lewis, and many more. This the first major initiative of the Society’s new director Gina Pollara and as she strives to make it once again a relevant public voice for the city.
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Giant pooing pigeon and design by Zaha Hadid to be part of crazy golf course in London

A pop-up crazy golf course for London's Trafalgar Square has been proposed by a group of artists and designers. Curated by Paul Smith, the project is part of this year's London Design Festival. Each hole offers a unique take on the theme of “Cities of the future” and will feature designs from the late Zaha Hadid, Paul Smith, Mark Wallinger, and London-based practice Ordinary Architecture. Permission from the Mayor’s office to use Trafalgar Square has already been secured, however, the project is currently in the process of gathering funds ($175,000 is the target figure) via its Kickstarter page. If achieved, the golf course will stay in London from 16-22 September, coinciding with the Festival itself while being "futuristic, functional, fun and free for the public to play." https://ksr-video.imgix.net/projects/2414867/video-660215-h264_high.mp4 The golf course will reside on the steps from the National Gallery overlaying them with colored stripes, topped by a neo-classical clubhouse that reflects the museum, while also having a turf roof and putters for columns. Prizes and gifts for those who fund the project are also on offer. For $100 you can receive a limited edition scarf designed by Paul Smith, while for $36, you can the chance to name the giant "pigeonhole" designed by Charles Holland and Elly Ward of Ordinary Architecture as well as a mug with the pigeon on it. Speaking of naming the pigeon, Holland told AN that he would name it "Pigeon McPigeonface" if given the chance. His and Ward's oversized pecking pigeon will swallow the golf ball (if putters can successfully time their shots) and eject it out over the hole after it travels through the pigeon's digestive system. According to Holland, designers were given free reign when creating their crazy golf hole and said that inspiration for his design came from the "giant anthropomorphic structures often seen at world fairs." "We looked at giant figurative pop objects, symbolism and the idea of creating retrospective symbols," he said. "We wanted to create a fantastic creature/sculpture, something that was contextual to the square. When you think of pigeons, you think of Trafalgar Square and them being gritty, urban vermin.... So I think the fact that ours has got one leg is pretty appropriate!" "It’s educational and scatological," continued Holland. "I always quite like scatological art... I enjoy [its] crudeness. It could also be seen as an egg, from a distance it's quite ambiguous." As for the scale, Holland said the pigeon was befitting to the "realm of crazy golf" that contains "surreal versions of things, an undersized windmill for example." Festival director Ben Evans said: “If you do a project in Trafalgar Square it’s quite a challenging public space and you need to find something that engages a wide group of people because there are a million people passing by each week. We want them to stop and say ‘Wow, what’s that?’ Speaking of Hadid's design, Evans added “It will be poignant because of Zaha’s death but I think what she’s done is stunning." “She’s done a number of things for the festival over the years and the company are keen to ensure all of the projects that were in development go ahead. For us, this is an opportunity to celebrate and honor her.”

The project meanwhile states that: "It is one of the few opportunities to use this prime location for cultural activity, and we are confident that there will be enough people who share Paul Smith and the London Design Festival's enthusiasm to enable its success."

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P.R.O. Public Practice exhibit at the NYIT Old Westbury campus closes this weekend

For design and architecture enthusiasts in the New York City area and Long Island, it’s your last chance to see the architecture exhibition Public Practice at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) Old Westbury campus before it closes after May 1. The solo show features models and drawings by Brooklyn-based architecture firm, Peterson Rich Office, also known as P.R.O. The exhibit is hosted in the NYIT architecture gallery and holds six P.R.O. conceptual projects that the firm created over the past four years. P.R.O. co-founders Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich are visiting professors at the university. The school invited them to produce both an exhibit as well as a lecture under the theme of public practice. The projects address design in the context of small public spaces and propose temporary and adaptable installations for parks, sidewalks, plazas, and more. The concepts are “experiments in public space: quick, small-scale design exercises that engage issues related to the public realm in and around New York City,” explained Nathan Rich. “Each proposal is adaptable to multiple sites, and intended to generate dialogue about public space within its built context. They address specific urban conditions, but could be installed in a wide variety of spaces.” The six P.R.O. projects all feature two renderings as well as a ¼ scale 3D printed model. The models rest on mirrored tables “that reflect the public space around our designs, inviting viewers to consider how they might be a part of the work,” said Rich. There’s Stoop (2016) that considers the stoop as means of transition between public and private space along New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) fences. “The stoop, a common space for interaction, is precisely the mediator between the public and private realms that is lacking in NYCHA campus planning,” Rich said. “At a time when affordable housing is very much in the public discourse, we decided to use this familiar form to think about how we can chip away at the edges of public housing superblocks, and start to think about integrating them back into the urban fabric.” There’s also Brooklyn Cloud (2012), conceived as a temporary traveling exhibit for downtown Brooklyn spaces that cannot be developed. “As a reaction against the static, sculptural designs that are more typical of architectural installations in public spaces, we conceived of this installation as a series of white air dancers: nylon tubes powered by high velocity fans.”
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Pinkwashing Zion Square

When the Freedom of Information Act became law, many of my comrades from the struggles of the sixties sent away for their files. For a number there was a terrible outcome: The files were empty. How terrible to think of yourself as a dangerous enemy of the state only to discover you’d been completely beneath its notice! Slightly similar feelings arose when I received a note from the director of media affairs at the Israeli Consulate General wondering if I would be interested in covering a just-announced architectural competition for the redesign of Jerusalem’s Zion Square, a Mandate-era public space in West Jerusalem that has, since the 1930s, been a commercial center (the eponymous Zion was a cinema) and the go-to site for a wide variety of demonstrations, including mass rallies by both right and left. The competition is intended to refresh the site as well as to rebrand and repurpose it, “From Protest Square to Tolerance Square.” As the press release elaborates this false—even invidious—antithesis, “Zion Square, which drew demonstrations and protests, will become a square of tolerance and mutual respect.” Apparently my old pieces denouncing the fraudulent “Museum of Tolerance” (currently under construction on the site of an historic Arab cemetery not far away) and originally to have been designed by Frank Gehry (who wisely backed out) hadn’t made it to my dossier! Perhaps I have no dossier! Let one be opened and let my protest against this grotesque undertaking be the first page! This isn’t the first time there’s been an effort to reconsider the square. In 2006, the Jerusalem Foundation proposed to rebuild it and to rename it Rapoport Plaza, “in honor,” according to the Jerusalem Post, “of the Waco, Texas, tycoon who pledged two million for urban improvements,” including a colossal Cor-ten sculpture by Ron Arad. Although this scheme disappeared quickly, the funkiness and formal incoherence of the time-altered place has been an enduring source of dismay to bien pensant planners, concerned with its failures as a streetscape. The design brief for the new effort at transformation is couched in anodyne architectural language and calls for an “innovative, creative, and sustainable” solution to create a “beating heart of the city” that will become the “focal point of the city’s cultural activity,” supporting a “heterogeneous” “target audience” of “residents, tourists, and visitors” while attentive “to the needs of a diverse population, including children, seniors, and those with disabilities.” Concealed behind these “universal” categories is the more salient fact that this transformation will further ratify and reify steps already taken to shut down the square as a political space. In 2012, after the opening of Jerusalem’s light rail, the municipality signed a contract with CityPass, the system operator, which “prohibits the train being stopped by a roadblock.” This smooth-sailing clause has been enabled by, among other things, the government’s ongoing denial of any permits for demonstrations by anyone in Zion Square, through which the tram passes. In formulation and practice, here, tolerance is equated with prohibition and silence, with restrictions on speech rather than its encouragement. The competition organizers attempt to divert attention from this effective intolerance by a vaguely formulated dedication of the project “in memory of the 16-year-old stabbed during last year’s Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem.” As a further marker of the particular species of exclusionary tolerance hovering over the affair, the adjudicating jury is made up entirely of Jewish Israelis, including the Likudnik mayor of Jerusalem, three highly placed municipal officials (two current, one former), four architects, and the mother of Shira Banki, the girl murdered by an unrepentant, settlement-dwelling, Haredi homophobe, who killed her shortly after his release from a 10-year prison term for having stabbed five people at the 2005 Pride march (he knifed another six in 2015). What a sad exploitation of grief to serve such a cravenly elastic idea of tolerance. But the self-congratulatory propaganda that seeks to use one form of ostensible liberality to mask a far more endemic repression is, alas, an old story. For many years, Israeli officialdom has been working hard to celebrate its welcoming attitude toward gay tourists. According to a  much cited op-ed by Sarah Schulman in the New York Times in 2011, the government launched “Brand Israel” in 2004, a marketing campaign aimed at men aged 18 to 24 (posters galore of buff boys on the beach), which was expanded a few years later in a $90 million ad blitz to brand Tel Aviv as “an international gay vacation destination.” The strategy has been widely described as “pinkwashing” for the calculating effort to universalize gay “solidarity” in order to obscure Israel’s attitude towards more intolerable forms of identity. As Jasbir Puar and Maya Mikdashi wrote in the e-zine Jadaliyya in 2012, pinkwashing functions to help the Israeli state “gloss over the ongoing settler colonialism of historic Palestine by redirecting international attention toward a comparison between the supposedly stellar record of gay rights in Israel and the supposedly dismal state of life for LGBTQ Palestinians  in Occupied Palestine.” The ploy is even more fundamentally invidious: Makdsashi argued in an earlier piece, that this focus on gay rights—or women’s rights—serves to displace attention from the larger question of political rights and calls out the canny, if racist, Israeli self-promotion as advertising “a safe haven for Palestinian queers from ‘their culture.’” Conspicuously absent in the PR announcing the architectural competition is any acknowledgement of an earlier attack in Zion Square, the attempted lynching (a word widely used in the Israeli media) of four Palestinian teenagers by a Jewish mob in 2012, which resulted in the near death of 17-year-old Jamal Julani. The incident was itself marked by its own particular version of “tolerance”: As a headline in Haaretz put it, “Hundreds Watched Attempt to Lynch Palestinians in Jerusalem, Did Not Interfere.” That the organizers of this competition have chosen, in effect, to so narrowly celebrate a particular form of intolerance with the commemorative dignity of a refreshed architecture only demonstrates—like the opposition it offers between “protests” and “mutual respect”—that intolerance will not be protested here.

There’s a fine essay by Herbert Marcuse—written in 1965 as part of the volume A Critique of Pure Tolerance—on the subject of “repressive tolerance,” in which he describes how the idea of tolerance acquires a particular valence depending on the circumstances of its promotion. Marcuse elucidates the conundrum of the ideal of tolerance in an environment of violence and “total administration” in which the exercise of nominal democratic liberties (voting, demonstrations, letters to the editor) serve to reinforce the ability of the system  to pursue its own bad ends.  In effect, tolerance—the enlargement “of the range and content of freedom,” something devoutly desired as an ultimate good—is made the instrument by which all it strives for is ignored. “Tolerance” becomes a fig-leaf for intolerance. Such unquestioning is used to make dissent meaningless, purging truth-seeking by offering effective equality to any value at all under the guise of an impartiality that reinforces the status quo. The Jerusalem government—through this competition—seeks to create an advertisement for its own warped idea of tolerance rather than to enable the thing itself. As Marcuse put it, “When tolerance mainly serves the protection and preservation of a repressive society, when it serves to neutralize opposition and to render men immune against other and better forms of life, then tolerance has been perverted.” No designer of conscience should participate in this awful sham, which only insults the memory of the victims—and the heroes—of Zion Square.
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Fordham Plaza, one of New York's busiest transit hubs, is now one of the city's most pedestrian-friendly

The NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) recently unveiled the redesigned, ultra pedestrian-friendly Fordham Plaza. Vision Zero's mandate to reduce traffic-related injuries and fatalities guided the $34 million renovation of the north Bronx transit hub. Bounded by Webster Avenue, East Fordham Road, and East 189th Street, the Grimshaw Architects–designed Fordham Plaza now boasts fresh plantings, as well as stationary and movable seating elements to provide a respite for the nearly 80,000 pedestrians per day that travel along Fordham Road. True to the plan released in 2014, the plaza features a new market canopy, kiosks, a cafe, and—rare for New York—a public toilet. The redesign was carried out in collaboration with the NYC Plaza Program, a NYC DOT program that has spearheaded the creation of 69 plazas, 16 of which are in development or currently under construction. A 40 percent reduction in asphalt created more space, and more safety, for pedestrians at Fordham Plaza. The plaza now sports shorter pedestrian crosswalks, "direct" crosswalks that discourage jaywalking, and a 25 percent increase in pedestrian-only space. These interventions should improve access to Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus, right across the street. Fordham Plaza primary program is transit: 12 local and express bus lines, as well as the fourth-busiest Metro-North station. Bus stops were redesigned to improve pick up, drop off, and the loop-around, especially around East 189th Street and Webster Avenue, that guides buses off towards Westchester County, Manhattan, and all over the Bronx. OneNYC Plaza Equity Program will provide the Fordham Road BID with funding to maintain the plaza. $10 million came from a U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant, and $2 million from the state Department of Transportation.