PreviousNext

Inclusive Urban Practices on the Rise

At the Center for Architecture by • 12/18

As Miodrag Mitrasinovic, associate professor of Urbanism and Architecture at Parsons The New School for Design, pointed out at the 12.07.13 “Cultivating Engaged and Inclusive Urban Practices” forum, many people talk about the importance of inclusive urbanism and design, but don’t follow through with it in practice. Luckily, the panel comprised five individuals who walk the walk. The event was the first of two forums presented in conjunction with the traveling exhibition “People Building Better Cities: Participation and Inclusive Urbanization.” Beginning in Bangkok in February, the exhibition has been seen in 10 cities so far, including New York. Global Studio’s Anna Rubbo introduced the panel by noting that the exhibition comes at a pivotal moment for New York City, when the mayoral election, among other events, has brought inequality and inclusivity to the forefront of public conversation. In this context, architecture, planning, design, and advocacy are making great strides to address issues of social justice through the built environment. Panelists spoke about projects that are subverting traditional top-down approaches to the creation of the urban environment and bringing a public voice to various facets of urbanism.

Tobias Armborst, assistant professor of Art and Urban Studies at Vassar, and principal and co-founder of Interboro Partners, and artist Candy Chang, whose work combines public art and civic engagement to create participatory projects, spoke about temporary installations (although with hopefully ongoing effects). Both noted during the Q&A portion of the program that temporary projects allow for bolder ideas and strategies, and motivate people to step back and think about these innovations in the scheme of addressing larger questions, beyond focusing specifically on the project itself.

Armborst’s firm, Interboro Partners, was selected to design the outdoor space for MoMA PS 1’s WarmUp concert series this past summer. Seeking a temporary plan that would have a lasting impact on the museum’s Long Island City neighborhood, Interboro interviewed local organizations and businesses about what they wanted for their own use, weaving together the museum, its visitors, and its surroundings in a way that addressed the lack of inclusivity and overlap between institution and community. Interboro then purchased things like mirrors for a local dance studio, ping pong tables for a taxi dispatcher across the street from PS 1, and chess sets for a senior center. They were used in the PS 1 outdoor space for the summer season, then distributed to the organizations that had requested them at susmmer’s end. The plan promoted more crossover between the museum and neighborhood, making steps toward bridging the gap. To many visitors, the “official” cultural institution tends to overshadow the local culture, and Interboro sought to cultivate relationships and promote understanding about the different groups that share space in Long Island City.

Chang’s participatory public art projects have included vinyl stickers on abandoned buildings inviting passersby to write what they’d like to see in these buildings, and writable surfaces with prompts like “A Confession” and “Before I die, I want to…” Residents have noted more vibrancy in neighborhoods where Chang or local groups place these installations, creating gathering spots that become both social spaces and attractions. Chang saw locals express pride in their communities and make connections when they discovered shared ideas for the future of their neighborhoods. The website Neighborland was borne out of these projects. The online platform allows people to suggest improvements to be made where they live and connect with neighbors who want the same things, building collective power to share resources and effect positive change from the bottom up.

Like Neighborland, Wendy Brawer’s open source project, Green Maps, is a platform for neighbors to connect and share information about the space they inhabit by digitally or physically mapping local natural, sustainable, and cultural sites. Any individual or group can create a Green Map for a neighborhood, opening up informational access to diverse populations all over the world. Brawer invoked specific cases, including Brazil, South Africa, and Cuba, where residents have taken the platform above and beyond to address specific social issues and promote participatory planning practices.

Mitrasinovic also instills a new population with an understanding of the intersection between design and social justice through Parsons’ Urbanisms of Inclusion program, which explores global urbanism through the lens of transformative design, research, and education. Students gain an understanding of the sociospatial tensions in a certain neighborhood, and then propose new public infrastructures that empower marginalized residents.

Shin-pei Tsay, research and development director for TransitCenter, a non-profit startup advocating for innovative transportation solutions, works on the policy and advocacy side of urbanism to address the fact that many citizens feel excluded from, and overwhelmed by, policymaking. Tsay herself felt the local, human factor was absent during her time working for larger policy institutions, and has since worked to re-insert people into the process of creating policy, even on large-scale projects. Citing street design as an example of seemingly broad policy with a very personal, human impact, Tsay noted that empowering residents to get involved at every level influences people to see their spaces in a new way and not to simply accept the negatives of their physical environment.

Refreshingly, the five panelists not only spoke passionately about their commitment to social justice through design, but also demonstrated a wealth of actionable ideas for planners, students, residents, policymakers, and others. While all acknowledged there is still work to be done, it seems that Rubbo was correct in her introduction: more and more groups are collaborating and demanding greater inclusivity and engagement in the conception and planning of physical space.

Cassie Hackel is a community development professional with a background in multidisciplinary urban studies. She is currently a research associate with Plastarc Design Metrics.

Event: Cultivating Engaged and Inclusive Urban Practices
Location: Center for Architecture, 12.07.13
Speakers: Tobias Armborst, Co-founder, Interboro Partners, and Assistant Professor, Vassar College; Wendy Brawer, Founding Director, Green Map; Candy Chang, Artist, Civic Center, New Orleans; Miodrag Mitrasinovic, Associate Professor of Urbanism and Architecture, Parsons The New School for Design; Shin Pei Tsay, Research and Development Director, Transit Center; Anna Rubbo, Founder, Global Studio, and Research Scholar, CSUD, Columbia University (moderator); and Matthias Neumann, normaldesign (moderator)
Organized by: Center for Architecture, Global Studio, and CSUD, Columbia University

Comments are closed.

Tweet-for-Treat! We'll be at Samsung 837 on 98.29.16 giving away free ice cream!
Archtober Tweet-for-Treat! Editor's Note
Borinquen Court affordable and senior housing center in The Bronx, by Red Top Architects.
Aging in Place Policy Pulse
A rendering of J. MAYER H. und Partner, Architekten's latest project, XXX TIMES SQUARE WITH LOVE.
Jürgen Mayer H. Speaks on Reactivating Public Space in Times Square and Beyond At the Center for Architecture
FIGMENT: What Is This? Why Is Nothing for Sale? Why Is Everyone Smiling? by David Koren.
Oculus Book Review: FIGMENT: What Is This? Why Is Nothing for Sale? Why Is Everyone Smiling? Book Reviews
Dark Space: Architecture, Representation, Black Identity by Mario Gooden, AIA.
Oculus Podcast: Dark Space: Architecture, Representation, Black Identity Podcast
1 - Grafting an Expansion on a Landmark
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
The AIANY COTE Awards recognize results-oriented achievements in the urban context. Deadline 09.16.15
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“EXTRA-ORDINARY: New Practices in Chilean Architecture,” through 09.03.16.
On View On View
Classifieds Classifieds
Lower Manhattan Then map.
Mapping Lower Manhattan Center News
“Tentolana” by Tom Krizmanic
Imagining Olana’s Summer House Reports from the Field
AIA New York State’s 2016 Design Conference
Come, Collaborate: AIANYS 2016 Design Conference AIA News You Can Use
DOB NOW Continues Expansion Policy Pulse
Malik Knight, a second-year student at Philadelphia University, volunteered to assist students in developing their projects over the two week studio.
When Does the Education of an Architect Begin? Learning by Design
A spread from the winning student journal sofA.
2016 Douglas Haskell Award for Student Journals Recipients Center News
The Center for Architecture's annual Golf Classic took place at Winged Foot Golf Club.
Architects Teed Off at Winged Foot Reports from the Field
1 - Prescription for Practicing in the 21st Century
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
09.16.16: Call for Entries: AIANY COTE Awards 2016
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“EXTRA-ORDINARY: New Practices in Chilean Architecture,” through 09.03.16
On View On View
08.02.16: At the AIANY Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s “Layered: Data and Representation in Infrastructure and Design,” speakers discussed how data can be accessed and used to inform design decisions and engage in policy discussions. (l-r) Luc Wilson, Associate Principal, Director, KPF Urban Interface; Shannon Mattern, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Media Studies, The New School; Ben Wellington, Ph.D., Quantitative Data Analyst, Two Sigma; Visiting Assistant Professor, City & Regional Planning Program, Pratt Institute.
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
Fast Forward From the Executive Director
AIANY Welcomes New Policy Coordinator Policy Pulse
Rendering of a possible Queens waterfront.
A Century of Zoning A Closer Look
Mario Gooden, Principal, Huff + Gooden Architects; Professor of Practice, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation
Oculus Book Review: Dark Space: Architecture, Representation, Black Identity by Mario Gooden Book Reviews
Students from The Neighborhood School pose with their model of One World Trade Center during a visit to SOM’s office where the model is now displayed.
Learning By Design:NY Students Visit SOM Learning by Design
1 - Festive Façade for Supportive Housing Project
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
09.16.16: Call for Entries: AIANY COTE Awards 2016
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“EXTRA-ORDINARY: New Practices in Chilean Architecture,” through 09.03.16
On View On View
07.20.16: Susan Szenasy, Hon. AIANY, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of Metropolis, toasted the magazine’s 35th anniversary at Seaport Studios.
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
Chilean architect Smiljan Radic presented insights into his very personal creative process.
Notes on Smiljan Radic At the Center for Architecture
DOB NOW Policy Pulse
Center for Architecture Announces 2016 Walter A. Hunt, Jr. Scholarship Winner Center News
"EXTRA-ORDINARY: New Practices in Chilean Architecture" reviewed in Wallpaper.
Center Mentions Center News
1 - Shhhhh. It's Still a Library
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
09.16.16: Call for Entries: AIANY COTE Awards 2016
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“EXTRA-ORDINARY: New Practices in Chilean Architecture,” through 09.03.16
On View On View
07.12.16: The Center for Architecture kicked off the New York City inauguration of "House Housing: An Untimely History of Architecture and Real Estate" with a conversation between Patric Derrington, Marc Holliday Professor and Director of Real Estate Development Program, Columbia GSAPP; Reinhold Martin, Director, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, Columbia GSAPP; and Lissa So, AIA, Founding Partner, Marvel Architects.
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
Alex Alaimo, AIA, AIA National Associates Committee, interviews AIANY and Center for Architecture Executive Director Benjamin Prosky.
YOUNG ARCHITECTS WANTED! From the Executive Director
Special Citation: ARE Instructors
Annual Meeting 2016 At the Center for Architecture
Lobbying Law: Amnesty Period Ends Soon! AIA News You Can Use
Closing Keynote: Understanding Neighborhood Change: Voices of a Gentrifying New York by
Eleven Years of Progress: FitCity 2016 Policy Pulse
Speakers of Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants: Critical Challenges for Sustainable Urbanization
Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants: Critical Challenges for Sustainable Urbanization From the Desk of the President
15th Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia
More than a Building: The 15th Venice Architecture Biennale Reports from the Field