Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Tonight: Downtown Alliance of Lower Manhattan (NYC) Book release on their Re:Construction public art program

There's a lot of construction in Manhattan.  Manhattan sidewalks are known for the construction sheds, "tunnels," put over sidewalks, to allow pedestrians continued movement through the space.

Left: image of the Walking Men public art installation by Maya Barkai at 99 Church Street.  Photo by Lynn Trimble from the Stage Mom blog.

The Downtown Alliance is the business improvement district for Lower Manhattan.

To mitigate some of the negative visual effects of construction projects, in 2007 the Alliance introduced a public art program for the construction walls, called Re:Construction.

The program is funded by Community Development Block Grants, which ultimately come from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

From the website:

This initiative channels the energy of Lower Manhattan's rebuilding process by recasting construction sites as canvases for innovative public art and architecture. Each project uses standard construction barriers to embrace the ongoing nature of Lower Manhattan's redevelopment with original and whimsical design. The Downtown Alliance works closely with public and private developers to produce each installation.

Traditional road/ construction barriers given a  makeover as part of the Downtown Alliance's Re:Construction public art program.  Photo by Lauren Van Haaften-Schick.

Karin Bravin and John Lee and their BravinLee Programs are the curators for the program.  Bravin and Lee run a gallery in the Chelsea district ("Q&A With the Re:Construction Initiative’s Karin Bravin," Flavorwire).

Tonight the Downtown Alliance is releasing a book, also titled Re:Construction, documenting projects from the past 7 years.


6:00 pm to 8 pm
7 World Trade Center, 10th Floor
Contact the Downtown Alliance to be added to the list of attendees 

Another Downtown Alliance placemaking initiative: improving construction sheds

The Downtown Alliance is involved in another construction mitigation measure that will add significant value to the streetscape.

Streetsblog reported in 2010, "Coming Soon: Ped-Friendly “Urban Umbrellas” for NYC Sidewalks," on a design competition to create a more attractive sidewalk shed, which the Buildings Department aimed to make standard practice for new construction projects.

The winning entry, called "Urban Umbrellas," was developed by a team consisting of Young-Hwan Choi, who created the initial design; and Sarrah Khan, a professional engineer, and Andres Cortes, a registered architect, from from the New York-based design firm Agencie Group (NYC press release).

Integrating placemaking into construction projects

Both programs, the Re:Construction initiative and the urbanSHED International Design Competition, are examples of how to integrate placemaking into infrastructure projects (such as discussed yesterday in the immediately preceding entry).

Re:Construction's art projects are temporary, even if construction projects last for years, because ultimately, the "public gallery" or display media (construction barriers) is up only as long as it takes to complete the project.

Sidewalk shed, Manhattan.  Image from Inhabitat.

The urbanShed program seemingly is temporary, because eventually even construction sheds are removed when projects are finished, but because construction sheds are a semi-permanent feature of NYC's built environment, it will have a different kind of long term impact on the perception of the streetscape and sidewalk environment.

Both are impressive initiatives that add verve to what might be otherwise grim streetscapes. 

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