Earlier this month, the Van Alen Institute announced Future Ground, an international design competition that is hoping to attract fresh strategies for reusing the many vacant lots that dot New Orleans. The competition is seeking submissions from landscape designers, architects, planners, public policy wonks, and pretty much anybody in the business of shaping urban environments and is supported by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), which owns more than 2,000 vacant lots.
There are somewhere around 30,000 empty lots and abandoned structures throughout New Orleans today, most of them left by Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city in 2005. As the 10-year anniversary of the storm approaches, Future Ground is looking to create design and policy strategies capable of adapting to changes in density, demand, climate, and landscape in New Orleans over the next half-century in an effort to turn these abandoned landscapes into lasting resources.
There’s a game of musical chairs and commissioners happening in New York City politics right now. With former Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) chair Meenakshi Srinivasan now heading the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), Mayor de Blasio has nominated Margery Perlmutter to fill the vacant role. Perlmutter—who would go to the BSA from the LPC where she is a commissioner—is a registered architect and a lawyer who focuses on land-use issues. The mayor also announced two new picks for LPC commissioners including Adi Shamir Baron, the former executive director of the Van Alen Institute, and John Gustafsson, chairman of the Board of the Historic House Trust of New York City.
This week in Venice, the New York–based Van Alen Institute convened a group of leaders at 13 top architecture firms to brainstorm ideas that will guide the non-profit institution with an increased international perspective. The group will meet twice a year “to identify and investigate issues facing cities internationally, and to guide the impact of the Institute’s public programming, research, and design competitions,” according to a press release from Van Alen. The goal is to find topics that the institute can explore more deeply in its ongoing efforts such as Elsewhere: Escape and the Urban Landscape exploring our relationship with urban life.
Brooklyn-based Young Projects have been announced as the winner of the annual competition to design a Valentine’s Day themed installation in Times Square. Times Square Arts, the wing of the Times Square Alliance responsible for public art programs, worked with the Van Alen Institute to select this year’s design, which will go on display in early February.
The Van Alen Institute has announced three finalists for its competition Ground/Work, which called on emerging designers and architects to reimagine the institute’s New York storefront. In celebration of Van Alen’s 120th anniversary, the competition furthers the institute’s ambition to bring innovative architectural ideas into the public dialog by reframing the organization’s relation to the street.
Young designers were invited to consider the Van Alen’s shifting role within New York City through the redesign of its physical space, integrating all of its functions and creating a more visible and accessible presence on the ground floor of 30 West 22nd Street. From over 120 teams, representing more than 350 young designers up to ten years out of school, three finalists were selected: Collective-LOK, EFGH, and Of Possible Architectures.
Parks for the People
The Octagon Museum
1799 New York Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.
Through November 30
Parks for the People presents student ideas of how to reimagine our national parks as natural, social, and cultural destinations. Teams from City College of New York, Rutgers, Cornell, Florida International University, Kansas State, Pratt, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Washington competed in a semester long studio, engaging questions of the preservation, sustainability, accessibility, and technology in 21st century national parks. The National Parks Service, Van Alen Institute, and the National Parks Conservation Association sponsored the competition, which ultimately declared the teams from City College, for their work on the Nicodemus National Historic Site in Kansas, and Rutgers, for their project at the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Pennsylvania (above), the winners. All seven entries, each representing a different region of the country, will be on view at the Octagon Museum in Washington, D.C.
An interesting trend to hit landscape architecture in recent years is borderless fountains, where water flows flush with the pavement. If so inclined, visitors can kick off their shoes and stroll though damp pavers. Such fountains can be found by Field Operations with Diller, Scofidio + Renfro on the High Line, Digsau’s Sister Cities Park in Philly, and Field Operations’ recently completed plaza fronting New York by Gehry. The trend seems to speak to city dwellers need to touch water.
Olympia Kazi has resigned as executive director of the Van Alen Institute one year and a day since the opening of Van Alen Books, possibly her most visible contribution to the 100-year-old organization known for its engagement with pressing urban issues through competitions, exhibitions, research, and public programs.