Bridge Backtracks. Brownstoner uncovered the above historic view of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1903 back when transit and pedestrians dominated its traffic flow. StreetsBlog also noticed that the bridge has lost quite a bit of capacity as trains were removed in favor of cars (down significantly from its 1907 peak of 426,000 crossings a day). Also be sure to check out the super-high-res photo over at shorpy.com. Library Life. Robert Dawson lamented, "These are brutal times for public libraries," in a piece for Design Observer. With funding in short supply, he argued that the library is more than a room full of books, but a true "American Commons." Crowd-Sourced. The Institute for Urban Design is prepping for the first annual Urban Design Week this September with a crowd-sourced assignment to improve New York City. Running through April 30 and called By the City / For the City, you're invited to share your ideas via this handy online form. (via Polis.) Architecture Queen. The Philippine Star reports that newly registered architect Shamcey Supsup was crowned Miss Universe-Philippines. The magna cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines won over 39 other (non-architect) contestants. Supsup's next stop is Sao Paulo, Brazil where she will take on the world, T-square in hand. (via Archinect.)
Posts tagged with "public space":
Could 2011 be the year of the pedestrian in New York? Under the guidance of DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, NYC sidewalks will continue their slow march into the street next year as the city launches a major expansion of its "pop-up café" pilot program across its five boroughs. The first pop-up café tested out in Lower Manhattan this year proved successful enough that Sadik-Khan has expanded the program, planning for up to 12 sidewalk extensions. The concept is simple: street space is limited and valuable. To that end, New York has been evaluating whether the highest and best use for street space along narrow sidewalks is storing cars. Like a glorified Park(ing) Day spot made (semi-)permanent and held on high, these pop-up cafés invite pedestrians to imagine their city in new ways. In fact, the concept draws its inspiration from such pedestrian interventions. San Francisco began a Pavement to Park initiative incorporating their own version of the pop-up café, called a "parklet," several years ago, drawing upon the success of the Park(ing) Day event and pedestrian plazas in New York. California-based RG Architecture designed New York's pop-up café based on their parklet designs in San Francisco. New York's first pop-up café, recently put in storage for the winter, consisted of a six-foot wide wooden platform spanning about five parking spaces. The space accommodated 14 brightly colored café tables and 50 chairs. Sadik-Kahn says the concept is not only an innovative approach to urban design, it's also good for business. Each pop-up café is sponsored and maintained by adjoining shops and the benefits are tangible with up to 14% increases in business when the cafés were installed. "The Pop-up Café has been like night and day for our business, transforming a loading zone full of trucks into an attractive space that makes our storefront much more visible and accessible to potential customers," said Lars Akerlund, owner of Fika Espresso Bar, in a release. "This green oasis has really opened up the street, drawing more foot traffic and making the whole area more appealing." While each pop-up café is paid for by private businesses, the space is treated as public. Simply relaxing and enjoying the city is free and encouraged. The city is accepting applications for next year's pop-up cafés through Friday, December 3.
A formal dedication for a creative urban intervention called ARTfarm brings flowers and greenery to a formerly barren step street in the Bronx. Architects Valeria Bianco, Christian Gonsalves, Shagun Singh, and Justin Taylor designed and built the project with help from Architecture for Humanity and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Drawing inspiration from a nearby farmers' market, ARTfarm recycles wooden cabinet doors and crates into 59 planters for a variety of plants and transforms a concrete and stone stairway into a lush tiered garden. ARTfarm received $5,000 in funding from the New York Department of Transportation Art Program, pARTners. The program seeks to transform New York's public realm through art and design to create a safer, more inviting streetscape. “From concrete step streets to chain link fences on ordinary street corners, we’re bringing art to streetscapes citywide to redefine these in-between spaces,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan in a release. “With the help of our local partners, New Yorkers are rediscovering slices of neighborhoods near and far through colorful artwork that makes these places more attractive, welcoming destinations for everyone.” ARTfarm was built by local school children, community residents, and Architecture for Humanity volunteers and will be in place for eleven months. The installation is located on Step Street at 165th Street and Carroll Place in the Bronx.
While it was nearly hot enough to fry in egg in Times Square Tuesday, things have since cooled off a bit, and not simply because the temperature dropped back into double digits. Today the city's Department of Transportation began installing in the public plazas Molly Dilworth's 18-month installation, "Cool Water, Hot Island," which will not only prettify the eight newish plazas with an abstracted heat map of the city but also reflect some sunlight, making for a more comfortable experience. Meanwhile, DOT along with the Department of Design and Construction announced that it had selected Nordic knockouts Snøhetta as the lead designer for the long-term transformation of the square. The selection of Snøhetta is not exactly a surprise, as it is one of the eight firms in the city's Design + Construction Excellence program, from which DOT had already said it would make its choice because it streamlines the design process as the firms are prequalified. Yet it was Snøhetta's experience outside the city that helped win it the commission. “It is a classic New York story that reconstruction of the ‘Crossroads of the World’ will be led by a firm with an international reputation for creative vision and excellence,” DDC commissioner David Burney said in a statement. Snøhetta's preference for public art, landscape design, and sustainability may have played a role in its winning the commission. Still, the nature of the project is rather new to the firm, most of its successes having come through buildings such as the Library of Alexandria and Oslo Opera House, though both are incredibly public in their nature, so Snøhetta should prove a good, and certainly interesting fit, as its work at Ground Zero has shown. Joining the Oslo- and New York-based firm on the design team are WXY Architecture and Design, Weidlinger Associates (engineers), Mathews Nielsen (landscape), Billings Jackson Design (industrial), and Bexel (audio-visual), all of whom are Excellence program participants. The design work is just beginning, with no time line or budget yet set for its unveiling, according to a DOT spokesperson, though the plan remains to begin construction in 2012. The firms will be responsible for improving the pedestrian experience in the plazas as well as the infrastructure for the various events held in Times Square throughout the year. "Our goal is to improve the quality and atmosphere of this historic site for pedestrians and bicyclists while also allowing for efficient transportation flow for the betterment of the city,” said Craig Dykers, head of Snohetta's New York office and its co-founder. And in more Molly Dilworth news, online art gallery Art We Love is selling a series of seven prints for 15 bucks a pop.
Today is Park(ing) Day LA. It’s the third year that the City Of Angels is participating in this transformation of metered parking spots into temporary microcosms of park-like environments -- some replete with bench seating, grassy areas, and fresh food off the grill. San Francisco-based art and activist studio, Rebar, created the idea in 2005 as a comment on the lack of quality public spaces as well as to promote social interactions and critical thinking among urbanites. And the meters? Organizers are continually plunking change into the metal coin collectors while the parks occupy the parking spot. Some highlights include: •Everything Gardens at 3147 Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village will be occupying a spot from noon to 6 p.m. This is a place to stop if you’re interested in learning about drought tolerant gardening. •Osborn Architects are holding up a spot at 100 N. Brand Boulevard in Glendale from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. They’re sharing their dream of greener pastures for tomorrow. •A cool pocket pasture is located at Local Restaurant in Silver Lake, with design by green meme. Also features real goats! •For Westsiders, Mar Vista Community Council will be setting up park at 3631 S. Centinela Avenue in Los Angeles. Find them from 3 p. m. to 6 p.m., when they’ll be turning a decommissioned fire station into a Community Center.
Today Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, George Clooney, and Justin Timberlake came out for the opening of Michael Rotondi's new Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Hollywood, right next to Grauman's Chinese Theater. Ok, it was their wax likenesses, but the way they mingled with the waxy Hollywood crowd, it was often hard to tell the difference. The building, originally designed on spec, has an impressive folded zinc facade that wraps around an irregular courtyard; another needed public space in a place with so few of them (one of the best ones is right next door in front of the Chinese Theater). Our next issue will feature a full critique of the building, so make sure to check it out. Here are some teaser pix to get you interested. None of the celebrities are real. Or are they?
I’m a Times Square avoider. It’s too crowded, clogged with slow moving tourists, for me to get where I need to go without being so frustrated that I swear to never return. On rare occasions, I succumb to the charm of the lights, but those moments are usually glimpsed from a distance, down a street corridor or out the window of a cab. But yesterday, on my way to an event in midtown, I chose to go through Times Square to see how it had changed since Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan’s recent street closure plan had been implemented. While I don’t think anything will persuade me to visit Times Square with any regularity, the mini plazas created by the closure of Broadway from 47th to 42nd streets go a long way in improving the place (Broadway from 35th to 33rd Streets in Herald Square was also closed). The increase in public space makes it much easier, and more pleasant, to walk through. The cheap lawn chairs—which look oddly right there, though they are already sagging from all the use—give people a place to relax and hang out, so that the square feels like a giant, and highly animated, street party. Sadik-Khan deserves credit for recognizing the potential lying under our feet and tires as well as the pent-up desire for public space in New York. The spaces are not designed—just some orange barriers and the chairs—so it will be interesting to see what DOT will do to make the plazas permanent. DOT is obviously making these improvements with very little money, but I hope that Times Square will get something beyond the standard-issue planters used elsewhere. It is a special place, special enough that I only need to pass through it a few times a year.