I’m Guessing the Competition is Over??

If you have read this blog before (thank you, both of you aside from my mom) you would be aware of the fact that I entered a competition with a studio-mate from LSU this past spring. We worked on this for a solid two to three weeks and were quite pleased with our results.  We felt very strongly that we had a winning design – or at the very least, one that would place. We were both hoping for some valuable exposure from the competition Therefore, we were extremely upset when we realized that we had been, for lack of a better term, robbed of our entry fee of $50 as well as the time we had spent on the competition.

The OSA, otherwise known as the Outdoor Space Alliance of North Brooklyn, were the hosts of the ‘competition’.  They are currently the sponsors of an outdoor concert series that has evolved from Sundays down at the ‘Cool Pool’, aka McCarren Park Pool to having it’s very own space along Kent avenue in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The concerts (typically free) tend to make money hand over fist selling beer and food. Having a bit of insider information in regards to this, I know they never lose money throwing these events.

The competition itself was a call for ideas of how to organize and design the space they had been allotted into the best situation for that space to host weekly events that can accommodate approximately 7,000 people at a time.  Since at least half of the shows each season are free, people tend to come and go as they please. This brings the daily attendance rate up closer to approximately 20,000 people each show. So, long and short of it, they have plenty of resources to have covered every aspect (expense-wise) of the competition.

Well, they never posted the results. They took about 15-20 entries that I saw, cashed in their entry fees and never responded to anyone about who won. Let’s say there were 20 entries…this would put the entry fee total at $1,000!! Emails to the website went unanswered which is really a shame. A lot of people put some serious time and effort into those entries, I know we certainly did. I won’t even get into the fact that layout this year did look rather similar to what we suggested. Those who ran the competition should have at least refunded our entry fees let alone acknowledge the hard work that was put into the entries. Anyhow, here was our entry.  My partner was my good friend and studio-mate Thomas Cross, aka TC who is currently working in China.  Image

Image

As usual, click to enlarge.

Link

Bjarke Ingels at TED

This is one of the most fascinating 20 minute talks I have seen in a long while. 


Oh, by the way…I have been absent because I have been working on a local competition with a friend from my studio at LSU.  I will post it in a couple of weeks after they announce the winner.  More soon!

A Sea of Blue

I apologize dear readers (both of you) for being away for so long…I was lucky enough to acquire some freelance work that tied me up for the past 5-6 weeks.  It was great to work and actually watch money go into my account as opposed to the opposite.  So, without further adieu, back to things:

Have you ever stopped to wonder why all sidewalk sheds and scaffolding tend to be blue?  If yes, then you are definitely awake because we are certainly surrounded by a shit-ton boatload of it! According to the NY Times, “there are an estimated 6,000 sidewalk sheds in the city, covering more than one million linear feet, according to the city” with it “estimated that 30 percent of Broadway, between 59th Street and Houston Street, was sheathed in scaffolding.” That is a sea of blue!

Fine, I rescind my statement that they are all blue but they are still all fugly!:

Apparently, one of the reasons for so much blue is the fact that “Fueling the growth has been a city regulation, Local Law 11, a thorn in the side of building owners that requires exterior examinations of buildings of more than five stories every five years, an act that almost always requires the installation of a sidewalk shed as work is competed overhead.”   SO, obviously we are going to be surrounded by these things let’s rethink them and how they can improve the aesthetic of the city.

To begin, why is it all the same color?  Is there a regulation stating so?  Is it done for safety, making blue the unofficial warning to watch out for falling construction objects and leering men with a ton of testosterone?  I asked around and called a few places and found out that actually there weren’t any regulations regarding the color of the wood separating  construction sites from the public.  The responses I received actually ranged from the un-engaged “You wanna know what? Why? Oh.  Uhhh, I think it was the paint we had left over from a job the week before.” to a fervor not unlike that of a fan of SEC football “of course we have a specific blue!  With that many blue’s you have to set yourself apart! Can’t you tell the difference between our Royal Blue and (other company)’s blue?”.

Uh, no.

So, I began fixating on them.  And that was no fun.  There are so many other things to look at on a block than construction areas.  99% of that time the other items are far more interesting to look at.  The more and more I thought about it the better (at least in my opinion) my ideas for these spaces became just SO much more incredible than what was going on. In fact, I was, simply put, AN OUTRIGHT GENIUS for coming up with these ideas.  I was ON FIRE when it came to these items, En Fuego folks…EN FU-AYYY-GO!  So, of course, when I got in I began to research these ideas on the web and like any decent idea, it had already been done…to a point at least. Take a look at this site and then a look at this one.  The Urban Umbrella idea by Agencie is fantastic and should serve as an example of more creative ways we can design our city than a piece of plywood painted blue.  The topic has been broached but I must say I have never seen any of these prints (from the first of the two links) around town?  This post about them is from September 2010.  Have they already come and gone? I am sure the initial investment is going to be greater than a scrim that was one color but it will last just as long and, if the rental price is not too different than the monochromatic version, should be a desirable item.

In addition to the painted scrims and the soon to be everywhere Urban Umbrella, I found myself envisioning what was an enormous series of public projects all taking different approaches, so to speak, and forms.  I saws murals, projections, photographs and sculptures all over the walls separating us from the construction sites. If done properly and in the right area, one could even project a series of images or films. The goal however would have to be an attempt at an ArtSpace as opposed to AdSpace.

Nothing sold over here folks but engagement with your urban landscape.

Another thought would be to create an interactive type of game that children of all ages could play.  I can still remember the sheer elation that finding Goldbug in Richard Scarry books used to bring me when I was learning to read.  Why not a city-wide “Find Goldbug” campaign?  An NYC specific character could be created and away that project goes!

  Why can’t we add color to this city where color can actually find a place?  There is already so much concrete and rarely a variety of color. Unless, of course, you count the 4 different shades of blue around construction areas.

A final issue I wanted to mention is with this sea of blue there is no identity created.  No matter what the building that lies behind the protective walls looks like all character is temporarily erased and it has become an anonymous fixture in NYC’s urban landscape.  It isn’t even providing the purpose that wrapping paper would because it is so droll.  Why couldn’t a building’s character or identity be realized through slightly more site-specific installations or scrims?  I know I am getting into an expensive series of ideas here in addition to asking an already stressed industry to spend more money when it is desperately seeking ways to reduce expenditures but it would create jobs, quite a few if you think about the entire process that a scrim with a different design would go through to create.  Too many to discard the idea immediately, that is for certain.  Dwell.

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‘Missed Connections’ Park of Williamsburg

When I lived in the hipster capital of the planet (aka Williamsburg, Brooklyn), I passed by a particularly dismal spot everyday.  It was on my way to the subway and was fenced off and therefore, severely under-utilized.  This area is the area under the BQE where Metropolitan Avenue and Rodney Street (aka the off ramp for the BQE, aka what then turns into Meeker Ave after one crosses Metropolitan Avenue) converge. As shown in this map:

Courtesy of Google Earth

And a bit more detailed in this map:

Courtesy of the City of New York (Click to make larger)

The place itself looks like this:

and

and then some

and then some more

ok, that’s enough.

After studying the area (having lived there for a year and a half and worked there for about 5 years was very helpful as well to have a feel for the neighborhood) I surmised that the majority of subway riders for the Metropolitan/Lorimer stop came from the area represented in the second map (above the pictures).  However, those who would pass by the new area every day lived in the following area:

After doing some research (which was actually quite fascinating if you are (like me) into stuff like that…can you name the 5 busiest subway stations in NYC in order? ) I discovered that this particular subway stop served over 4.3 MILLION passengers in 2010.  That breaks down to over 12,000 per day. That is a lot of people going to and from work without many places to grab coffee and a quick bite (notice I said QUICK) nor is there anywhere to secure your bike that is out of the elements.  In fact, the only place to legally secure your bicycle is this spot:

I count approximately 6 bikes here.  Not a very inviting option for the person who wishes to ride their bike to and from the subway.

So I got to thinking: where can we service all of these people by giving them a spot to stop and grab their morning coffee on the way into work or grab a quick dinner after they return from work? What can the mothers and nannies who bring their children around the corner to the Jaime Campiz Playground get out of this new area? What about the dog walkers over at the Macri Triangle?  Where can we create a bike valet to increase ridership and reduce the city’s carbon footprint?  Enter “Missed Connections’ park.  I named it ‘Missed Connections’ because of all the subways, the L line has the highest rate of ‘Missed Connections’ on Craigslist. They certainly are a horny shy lot out there in Williamsburg.

So, what used to look like this:

Would now look more like this:

Perspective of 'Missed Connections' Park (click to enlarge)

What used to look like this:

After you add in the bike valet, murals that rotate constantly allowing different street artists a venue to express their vision and the food trucks there at all hours of the day you have a spot that has been born out of what was previously fenced off and impossible to even traverse! I imagine it to look more like this than the above:

What I would hope would happen is that commerce in Brooklyn itself would benefit in a number of different ways.  Money that might otherwise find its way into Manhattan’s pocket when the Williamsburg resident makes their way to work or for dinner when the day is over.  The Bike Valet idea would become popular allowing spaces to be sold much like commuters in the suburbs pay for their parking space at the train station.  Why not? Your bicycle would be out of the elements and guarded the entire time it was there. It provides an interesting crossroads for all inhabitants of the neighborhood both young and old, new and old school to interact.  The space could turn into a number of different things as it is essentially raw and can be turned into just about anything…a farmers market, a food truck gathering, a bike valet, a meet-up spot for monthly Missed Connection parties when the weather is warm or simply, a place out of the sun on a hot day.  It would not take much at all to get the area ready for people to inhabit it in those ways, I bet it could happen on an afternoon with the proper amount of volunteers!  The rest of the underpass is used as parking for cars, why not create bike parking and begin setting an example that we can get around with out bicycles much cheaper, faster and cleaner as long as we are given a safe infrastructure to do so within.

My initial two cents, more to come…