Brooklyn’s grandest public space at the top of Prospect Park has always been a work in progress. Grand Army Plaza, an oval-shaped public space composed of monuments ringed by an inner and an outer roadway, was built as the main entrance to the park in 1866, serving as a buffer between nature and city and happened to be the confluence of some of Brooklyn’s busiest avenues. Over the years, a monumental archway was added, fountains came and went, and eventually the roads were widened until the lush plaza was effectively cut off from the surrounding Prospect Heights and Park Slope neighborhoods. Last week, however, after months of construction to tame the out-of-control roadways, a group of civic leaders and officials gathered in what was once a busy street to celebrate the newly reclaimed plaza.
Navy Pier has launched an international search for a team to re-envision its public spaces. The multi-tiered process includes a RFQ for design teams, followed by a selection 10 teams who will be asked to supply additional information about key members. Five finalists will receive will be asked to submit design proposals, and given a $50,000 stipend. The winning team and design will be selected in mid February. Read More
There’s nothing that’ll kill the buzz on your birthday faster than rumors of the Rapture coming on the same day. But we think John Chase, the beloved urban designer of the City of West Hollywood, would have handled it in stride. Chase, the oft-celebrated “King of Public Space,” was a tremendously outspoken presence in planning and politics and was responsible for transforming the scruffy city into one with attractive public spaces that are both progressive and respectful of the city’s past.
To remember the late urban designer, de LaB, a group of Chase’s friends, family, co-workers, and collaborators, is leading a walking tour on the anniversary of his birthday, Saturday, May 21, across the city. Architects and city leaders will guide the participants through various projects and share their memories of Chase and discuss his urban spaces. Stops include Formosa 1140, Plummer Park, The MAK Center, Habitat 825, Holloway Park Veteran’s Memorial, Sierra Bonita Affordable Housing, 8140 Sunset Boulevard, and West Hollywood City Hall, among others. The tour will conclude (hopefully with the world still intact) with drinks at one of Chase’s favorite places in the city, Barney’s Beanery.
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.)
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.
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.
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. Read More
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: Read More
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? Read More
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. Read More