A straight-forward, standard-issue park just won't do for the uber-trendy, graffiti-covered streets of Miami's Wynwood Arts District. Instead of merely carving up green space within the artsy district, Tony Cho, a local real estate broker and developer, launched an international design competition to turn a parking lot into a public space worthy of its distinguished neighborhood. The Miami Herald reported that 238 submissions from 23 countries were received for Cho's competition, and, lo and behold, the only entry from Miami came out on top. After all entries were reviewed, the blind jury selected a proposal by local artist Jim Drain, and Roberto Rovira and Nick Gelpi, both professors of architecture at Florida International University. The Miami-based team beat out the competition with "Wynwood Greenhouse," a plan that is obviously a lot more than a standard-issue greenhouse. Underneath a familiar glass canopy, which is actually made of aluminum, the designers have created a multi-functional park with native grasses, flowers, green walls, a paved pathway, and moveable seating. At the center of the scheme is an old oak tree that is currently on the site and will appear to break through the aluminum structure that will rise around it. When complete, the 14,000-square-foot, privately-run public space will be able to accommodate farmers markets, fashions shows, and art installations. And at night, the "greenhouse" will glow with LEDs. If Cho can raise $1 million for the park, as he expects he can, it should open next year.
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It seems like just yesterday that Los Angeles opened its first downtown Parklet, a sparkling new design on Spring Street by architects utopiad.org, designers Berry and Linné, and builders Hensel Phelps. But a few weeks ago that design (already getting a little shabby from weather and use) was rammed and badly compromised by an errant motorist, leaving it closed, and leaving downtown without a parklet to speak of more than two years after the city’s parklet program began. According to CBE Los Angeles, the driver had moments, earlier been, kicked out of a club nearby and commandeered a friend's car using its keyless ignition. The suspected drunk driver side-swiped several parked cars before hitting the parklet. Three people sustained injuries from flying debris during the incident and were hospitalized. LA Department of Transportation (LADOT) spokesperson Lisa Martellaro-Palmer told AN that the city is in the process of rebuilding the parklet, and that the fix will happen “in the near future,” although the timeline has not been determined. Its sister parklet, about a block north, remains intact. So far, there are seven more parklets and plazas moving ahead in the city as part of the LADOT's People Street Program. One of them is downtown, on Hope Street.
Cleveland last year unveiled a plan to revamp Public Square—a space that, as its name suggests, is meant to serve as a civic space for the city’s downtown. Now an $8 million grant could make that ambitious project shovel-ready by the end of this year. The Cleveland Foundation announced its donation Tuesday, gifting $7 million outright and withholding $1 million until Cleveland’s Group Plan Commission can raise an additional $7 million from nongovernmental sources by Halloween. That would bring the total amount raised to $15 million, or half of the $30 million needed. The design, courtesy of New York’s James Corner Field Operations and locally-based LAND Studio, knits four fragmented quadrants of public space together into one 10-acre park with spaces for art, ice-skating, and picnicking. That would require the city to close a two-block stretch of Ontario Street, and restrict a section of Superior Avenue to bus traffic only. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Steven Litt reported, the foundation formally announced the gift by a bronze statue of Moses Cleaveland, the city’s founder, who planned the downtown area with Public Square at its center in 1796. If enough money comes through in time to break ground later this year, the goal is to complete work by the spring of 2016, ahead of the Republican National Committee convention in Cleveland that summer.
The Open Streets movement is a wildly popular tool in the Tactical Urbanist's arsenal. The concept is simple: shut down city streets to automobile traffic for a day so pedestrians and cyclists can fully utilize our most plentiful public spaces. Cities from New York to Los Angeles now celebrate their open spaces with programs that are about to kick off for the summer season. Here's a roundup of some of the top programs around the country. The first open streets event made an informal debut in 1965 as “Bicycle Sunday” in Seattle and the movement was later popularized in Bogota, Colombia as the Ciclovía. Today, cities across the United States and the world hold their own open streets programs, inspiring citizens to rethink how public space is utilized in their own hometowns. The Open Streets Project has collected data about open streets programs around the world, making information about upcoming events or starting your own event in a new city very easy. In New York, the open streets program is called Summer Streets, and will take place three days this summer. Summer Streets has grown to be one of the country's most popular events, with a scenic route that spans from Central Park to the Brooklyn Bridge. Summer Streets 2014 will take place over three successive Sundays in August, closing roughly seven miles of Manhattan's normally car-choked streets for people to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Check out upcoming open streets events below or check the Open Streets Project website to lookup programs in other cities. Mark your calendars now! Arizona Cyclovia Tucson – Sunday, November 2th Silent Sundays – Every fourth Sunday of the month California CicLAvia – Sunday, October 5th Ciclovia Salinas – August Oaklavia – Saturday, July 12th Open Streets Santa Cruz – Sunday, October 12th Santa Barbara Open Streets – Saturday, October 25th District of Columbia Rock Creek Park – Every Saturday and Sunday Georgia Atlanta Streets Alive – Sunday, September 28th Illinois Evanston Streets Alive – Sunday, September 28th Kentucky 2nd Sunday Kentucky (The country's only statewide program)— Sunday October, 12th Massachusetts Circle The City – Sunday, September 28th SomerStreets – Sunday, July 27th New York Summer Streets – Sunday, August 2nd, 9th, and 16th Westchester County Bicycle Sundays – Sunday, September 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th Oregon Sunday Parkways—July 27th, August 24th, September 28th Texas Siclovia – Sunday, September 28th Washington Seattle Bicycle Sunday – Sunday, July 6th and 13th Seattle Summer Streets – Saturday, August 9th and 16th Spokane Summer Parkways – Friday, July 18th
On Monday, dozens of designers, planners, and community organizers packed the amphitheater at the newly opened LEESER-designed BRIC House in Brooklyn's rapidly-growing BAM district. The attendees were there to hear the details of the latest Request For Proposals (RFP) from the Design Trust for Public Space, The Energetic City: Connectivity in the Public Realm. The Design Trust has launched pivotal projects before, like their Five Borough Farm that is helping to redefine urban agriculture in New York City. This time, the group is seeking new ideas for public space and, according to a statement, "develop new forms of connectivity among the diverse people, systems, and built, natural, and digital environments of New York City." At stake is the future of public space in New York, along with seed funding that could provide research fellows and eventually a publication of ideas from the winning proposals. Chin said at the launch event that the Design Trust takes the long view, and that winning proposals could move on to future phases with higher budgets and potentially much more lasting impacts. "Public space is all around us, yet for so many New Yorkers it remains invisible and unchangeable. The Design trust is committed to unlocking the potential of NYC's public spaces. With The Energetic City, we will continue to push for design innovation," Chin said in a statement. "We're open to revolutionary ideas that change ways that public space is conceived in many different areas, ranging from sustainable design, transportation, and communication to art, product design, and technology initiatives. We want to help ordinary and extraordinary citizens make a difference in their own communities and in the life of their city." Chin has asked interested parties to look closely at a particular public space in New York City and how ideas revolving around "connectivity" can help to create a more sustainable and equitable city. The Energetic City initiative is open to public agencies, community groups, and, this year, individuals—a first for the Design Trust. The deadline to participate in the RFP's first phase is June 30. Chin highly recommended that interested groups and individuals coordinate their proposals with Rosamond Fletcher, Director of Programs at the Design Trust, to make sure the RFP process goes smoothly. Read more info about the RFP and submit your proposals on the Design Trust website.
Boise, Idaho–based architects CTY Studio and design company Ecosystems Sciences have won an RFP to design a new public sculpture for Boise's soon-to-be-renovated City Hall Plaza. Both the sculpture and the plaza are expected to be completed by fall 2015. The $200,000 sculpture, called Terrain, Civics, Ecology, will be made up of nine 20-foot-tall steel panels, arranged in a circle to create an enclosure that pedestrians can walk through. Abstracted silhouettes of the area's cottonwood trees and their leaves—Boise is known as the "City of Trees," and the most significant is the Cottonwood—will be cut into the slates, changing their profiles as people pass by and with the shifting sunlight. Integrated lighting will make the sculpture glow at night. "The longer I looked at it, the more I enjoyed it. It kept surprising me," was one of the public comments, according to Boise Weekly. City Hall Plaza is being renovated by local engineering firm CH2M Hill. Its public art has been a long time coming—almost four years in fact. Two previous RFQs failed to produce a winner, but this team's plan finally resonated with a jury made up of local officials and residents. "We wanted to not only incorporate an ecological consciousness, but establish a civic identity for the plaza," said CTY partner Dwaine Carver. "It's really about Boise," added Zach Hill, principal at Ecosystems Sciences. "The idea is to really showcase City Hall's importance to the city." Which is a good thing, considering City Hall and its plaza have never been the civic magnets that the city has wanted.
The Institute for Rational Urban Mobility is hosting the just-announced vision42design Competition calling on architects, designers, and transportation gurus to re-imagine one of the most iconic (and congested) streets in New York City—42nd Street. Submit your plans today to transform the street into a world-class boulevard complete with a high-quality public spaces and a light-rail tram. In addition to the $10,000 winner's prize, the jury’s top selected projects will be featured in The Architect’s Newspaper. For more info and to register visit the competition website. Registration Deadline: Sept 8, 2014 (Midnight) EST
Blair Kamin convened a panel of designers at the Chicago Architecture Foundation last Wednesday for a discussion around themes explored in his recent series “Designed in Chicago, Made in China,” in which the Chicago Tribune architecture critic assessed the effects of that country’s rapid development on urbanism and design. “It’s often said that architecture is the inescapable art,” Kamin said to lead off the talk. “If that’s true then China’s urbanization is the inescapable story.” Joining Kamin were Jonathan D. Solomon, associate dean at the School of Architecture at Syracuse University; Thomas Hussey of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Ralph Johnson of Perkins + Will; and Silas Chiow, SOM’s China director. The event was part of the Tribune's "Press Pass" series. If you haven’t read Kamin's series, you should. It examined contemporary Chinese cities and some U.S. designers thereof, giving special attention to trends in three categories: work, live, and play. Photographer John J. Kim illustrated with visuals. “In regards to street life and public space,” said SOM’s Hussey, “there can be a lack of an attitude towards it.” Long Chinese “megablocks” in Shanghai’s soaring Pudong district facilitate an urbanism not on the street, which few Americans would find walkable, but it has given rise to a kind of vertical urbanism within mixed-use towers and urban malls. Hussey pointed to SOM’s plan for a new financial district in the port area of Tianjin, China’s fourth largest city, which seeks to restore the street life present in Chinese cities before rapid modern development. And while Chinese cities are growing up, they’re also growing out. Ralph Johnson of Perkins + Will reminded the audience that in the absence of property taxes, Chinese municipalities make money for new development by selling off land. That creates a ripple effect of rising property values and a pressure to sell that is devouring arable farmland. That trend’s not likely to slow down, said SOM’s Silas Chiow, since part of China’s national strategy to turn the largely manufacturing nation into a consumer country is to continue its rapid urbanization. That pressure helped produce China’s enviable mass transit systems and light rail connectivity, but also a homogeneity of design that some have called dehumanizing. Height limits, uniform standards for south-facing units and other design requirements that by themselves improve standard of living can breed sprawling, cookie-cutter developments that are easy to get lost in. Still, housing projects in China don’t carry the social stigma that they do in the U.S., commented a few panel members, in part because they’ve brought modern amenities to so many. Where China’s urbanization goes from here, however, is an open question. Images of smog-choked skylines remind some of Chicago in 1900, but the situation is not a perfect analogue. For one, the problem of carbon pollution is far more urgent now than it was then, and its sources far more potent. “Will China be the death of the urban world,” asked Kamin at the panel’s close, “or its savior?”
The jostle of potholes notwithstanding, motorists might find nothing unbalanced about Chicago’s public streets. But the Active Transportation Alliance points out while nearly a quarter of the city is in the public right-of-way, cars dominate practically all of it. Citing the city’s Make Way for People initiative, which turns over underused street space to pedestrians, the group released 20 proposals Wednesday, calling on City Hall to create car-free spaces from Wrigley Field to Hyde Park. Their full list is available here. It includes a protected bike lane and landscaped seating area on Dearborn and/or Clark Streets, from River North to the South Loop; a pedestrian plaza on 18th Street in Pilsen, created by a dead-end at Carpenter, Miller and/or Morgan Streets; closing Milwaukee Avenue through the square of Logan Square; and closing portions of the vibrant retail corridor on 26th Street in Little Village to vehicle traffic. “Our hope is to jump-start conversations that lead to further study and the creation of car-free spaces,” writes the Active Transportation Alliance. The civic group said the list is inspired partly by places like Navy Pier, Times Square in New York City, and existing pedestrian plazas like Kempf Plaza in Lincoln Square. A spokesman for Chicago’s Department of Transportation told the Tribune that the agency “agrees with the concept,” but wouldn’t weigh in on any of the Active Transportation Alliance’s specific suggestions just yet. The Make Way for People initiative's so-called “complete streets” have gained traction among urban planners for their inclusion of pedestrians, bicyclists, and green space within the standard two- and four-lane roads that cater almost exclusively to cars. New York has overhauled dozens of public streets and plazas in recent years. Chicago designers, including North Center-based Altamanu, have worked with the city in recent years to draft plans for pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets from Mayfair to the lakefront.
[beforeafter] [/beforeafter] New York City has been adjusting to its new Mayor Bill De Blasio, who took office at the beginning of the year. The new mayor has been slowly revealing his team of commissioners who will guide the city's continued transformation. As AN has noted many times before, De Blasio's predecessor Michael Bloomberg and his team already left a giant mark on New York's built environment. With little more than paint, planters, and a few well-placed boulders, Bloomberg and former Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan's street interventions have been some of the most evident changes around the city. Whether it's at Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza, above, or at Snøhetta's redesigned Times Square, these road diets shaved off excess space previously turned over to cars and returned it to the pedestrian realm in dramatic fashion as these before-and-after views demonstrate. As we continue to learn more about our new Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, take a look back at 25 of the most exciting road diets and pedestrian plaza conversions across New York City from the Bloomberg era. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Allen and Pike Streets in the Lower East Side. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Holland Tunnel Area. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: St. Nicholas Avenue & Amsterdam Avenue. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Allen and Pike Street in the Lower East Side. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Harlem River Park Gateway. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Herald Square. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Harlem River Park Gateway. [beforeafter] [/beforeafter] Location: Broadway at Times Square. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: 12th Avenue West at 135th Street. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Holland Tunnel Area. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Louis Nine Boulevard. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Delancey Street in the Lower East Side. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Prospect Park West. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Broadway at Times Square. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Broadway & West 71st Street. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Union Square. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Columbus Avenue. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Union Square. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Water and Whitehall Streets. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Union Square. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Randall and Leggett Ave. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Grand Army Plaza at the entrance to Brooklyn's Prospect Park. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Location: Hoyt Avenue at the RFK Bridge. All photos courtesy New York City Department of Transportation.
For the past five years under the leadership of Janette Sadik-Khan, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) has re-appropriated underused street space as public plazas for pedestrians. The Bloomberg Administration–initiated projects have been well received in neighborhoods like Herald Square and Tribeca; however, some of the less affluent neighborhoods who would like to have a plaza have been hindered by the cost. Each plaza is sponsored by local businesses and fundraising for construction and regular maintenance can seem a daunting task. Until now. Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that NYCDOT launched a plaza assistance program for neighborhoods currently inhibited by the space's price tags. Instituted after an $800,000 grant acquisition from J.P. Morgan Chase, the program will give financial instruction to local sponsor groups and provide maintenance workers at subsidized costs. Expanding the current program into the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership, a collaborative effort by NYCDOT and the Horticulture Society of New York, will allow public plaza initiatives to reach lower-income areas of the city. Although the current program creates plazas of inexpensive materials chosen by their communities’ budgets, partially alleviating sponsors of the continued cost of care will encourage more hosts to apply. “We can’t have a public space program that’s only in areas that have the financial resources to do it,” commented NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in a press conference about the expansion at Corona’s Plaza in Queens. “It can’t be only in areas with a business improvement district. We actually have to have a public space program that works in every single community.”
From Los Angeles to Chicago, city governments across the nation have been following San Francisco’s early lead and popping up parklets on their streets, mini sidewalk-side public parks for rest, small group gatherings, and people watching. This summer, Boston joined in on the trend, installing its first parklet in Mission Hill in September and another in Jamaica Plain at Hyde Square. While these spaces have seen success in other cities, the Boston Globe reported that the Boston parklets have shown disappointing usage during what should have been their prime season. Although no scientific surveys have been collected, observations from nearby business owners, community members, and the Globe staff have indicated that these new whimsical spaces in Boston are not seeing much traffic. Boston Transportation Department planning director Vineet Gupta admitted that the city government was expecting a lot more of a parklet embrace from the community, but assured that the low usage during this fall’s debut is only a side effect of the newness of the streetscape change. Each parklet cost around $15,000 to $25,000. “This is true for parklets; it’s true for bike lanes; it’s true for bus lanes—it’s true for any innovation in the transportation world,” Gupta told the Globe. “Initially, you don’t see the kind of use that one would hope, but things pick up.” However, Boston officials are now wondering whether they should go back to the drawing board on the design and placement of these small public spaces. In San Francisco, a parklet’s success often depends on the community’s need for public seating and the site’s distance from a full-scale park or public plaza. In Chicago, some parklets have been planted with water retaining vegetation and installed in flood zones, creating a dual community benefit. Even elsewhere in Massachusetts, a Lexington parklet was first created as a bike corral to gauge public opinion. Gupta commented that the Transportation Department plans to conduct official public surveys next year for solutions to increase Boston parklet popularity. “In many instances from around the country, it’s a little bit of a learning process, and each location is unique,” he said. “We’re learning and we’re going to make modifications if necessary.”