Sep 7, 2010

This Summer's Playful Urban Engagements

Back after a long break despite many many projects that deserved to be written about this summer so much more than they were and more than I will here. The summer began with the not-completely futile effort to engage the land-use and zoning process by testifying at a hearing of the New York City Council on the New Domino development. That project will continue in other forms in relation to the Domino site and many others and built lots of useful alliances, including with the old-school provocateurs at Ex-Static Press and Urbanum Tremendum, who are just issuing a downloadable, mystical ode to the theory, practice, and meaning of graffiti writing, In-Krylon-Not-Sharpie.

Harvard GSD issued its crucial tome on Ecological Urbanism, which defines an emerging field of research and practice that makes sustainability in architecture and urbanism as seductive and intellectually engaging as the subject deserves to be and must be to exercise a compelling influence. It will be the subject of a discussion on September 24 at the Van Alen as a part of its new Reading Room series, launched earlier in the summer with a talk with Sharon Zukin, Rosten Woo, and Samuel Zipp on Manhattan Projects: The Rise and Fall of Urban Renewal in Cold War New York and CUP's new book Street Value: Shopping, Planning and Politics at Fulton Mall, another must read.

Speaking of which, CUP's latest Making Policy Public pamphlet, Immigrants Beware, focuses on the particular dangers to immigrants of getting caught in the criminal justice system. It's downloadable for free as a PDF. A close friend of mine who has been defending people threatened with deportation for many years was excited to be able to use this to explain the law to his clients. Their new project on Community Benefits Agreements also looks promising.

Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu of So-Il's Pole Dance project for WarmUp was the most playful winner of the Young Architects Program that I can remember. This is Kyra Johannesen's dance piece choreographed for the installation.

Cassie Thornton and Christopher Kennedy created School of the Future in a park next to a BQE onramp and turned this odd, neglected place into an extraordinary site for community outreach, an elementary school classroom, experimental arts education for adults, and lots and lots of playful moments and potluck feasts. I walked there frequently in the early afternoon for a break and was unable to tear myself away from the discussions.

A valuable show and series of talks on the long-term policy influence of the Lindsay administration, despite its ostensible failure to prevent the city from falling into crisis, at the Museum of the City of New York and the Center for Architecture. Don't miss the upcoming September 15 talk, Who Broke New York? John V. Lindsay & the Fiscal Crisis, featuring a heavy-duty panel of experts on the 1970s fiscal crisis, New York's recovery, and the lessons for today's lawmakers.

Socrates Sculpture Park had a wonderful series of installations for its annual summer show that were captivating explorations of material and site.

The Living Pavilion on Governors Island by Ann Ha and Behrang Behin installed a curving archway composed of recycled upside-down milkcrates planted with shade-tolerant liriopes to create an intimate shelter. I had the pleasure and good fortune to participate in a crit of Behin's amazing GSD engineering thesis project a few years ago, advised by Hashim Sarkis, which rethought the idea of a carbon-neutral city in the Arabian peninsula. It's great to see him collaborating on projects like these and working for the renamed Polshek Partnership office, now known as Ennead.

A rolling Mason Jar Cart designed by Janette Kim and Josh Draper and manned by Christopher Kennedy for Groups and Spaces to explore and share knowledge of artist groups and spaces in communities.

Swell, a great show by architect and curator Jacqueline Miro and Tim Nye on California surf art at Nyehaus Gallery, Friedrich Petzel Gallery and Metro Pictures.

Assemblyman Joe Lentol and Joann Kim fear the flying water balloons.

A water-balloon fight on India Street attended by Assemblyman Joe Lentol of the state's 50th district, who has been extremely helpful in supporting the light-art festival I'm producing in Greenpoint on October 2nd, Bring to Light, along with the indefatigable Stephanie Thayer of the Open Space Alliance and our new David Yassky, Steve Levin, representing the 33rd district in the City Council, with the tireless help of his Brooklyn Community Board 1 constituent service assistant Rami Metal. You can help support it as well on Kickstarter.

The Assemblyman looking brave in the face of battle.

The Assemblyman was on hand to raise money for another project happening the same weekend, Greenpoint Open Studios, a celebration of local artist studios, workshops, and apartments, open to visitors for one weekend this fall, October 1-3. You can donate to this great project, organized by Joann Kim, who also put together the temporarily ill-starred Greenpoint Food Market, at IndieGoGo.