Yesterday’s break from the 2009 New York Summer Monsoon had me itching to do what any self-respecting urbanist should: go putt-putting in Brooklyn.
For those who don’t remember, The Putting Lot is the two-month-old miniature golf course installation on a vacant lot in Bushwick. The project is the result of a design competitionin which architects, artists, and designers were asked to create putt-putt holes addressing the sustainable reuse of materials, as well as the sustainable reuse of vacant lots in the city.
The nine holes combine salvaged furniture, recycled packaging, reclaimed building components – and lots of astroturf. What ties the motley assembly together is a pop graphic sensibility (including a gorgeous sign milled by Brooklyn-based PLOT) that seems both appropriate for a miniature golf course, and curiously at home in artist-mecca Bushwick. Nine surprisingly-difficult holes snake around the lot, framing material juxtapositions with one another, but also framing interesting relationships with surrounding buildings. On my visit, a friend and I had the course to ourselves, save a father and young son who made the trip from Park Slope. The several volunteer employees encouraged us to linger after our game – in what came as a bit of a surprise, the repurposed lot is a genuinely pleasant place to sit.
All of the installations are technically and visually impressive, but the smartest installation on site is Interface Studio‘s The Living Lot. The ninth and final hole, it prompts putt-putters to drop their golf-balls into a retrieval machine that then spits out a seed bombto be carried away and dropped at random in the city. It’s the kind of non-linear thinking that could have benefitted some of the other installations: how does one expand the ideas on the site to make its lessons relevant for vacant lots across the city?
Or maybe, the Putting Lot’s wider lesson is that any vacant space can draw visitors if its reuse is clever enough. At least, that’s what supporters hope will happen for a party being held on the site Saturday afternoon. If, come Saturday morning, you see the L train packed full of Upper East Siders on their way to deepest Bushwick for a round of miniature golf… well, then we’ll really be on to something.
As with all review and opinion pieces posted on Urban Omnibus, the views expressed are those of the author only and do not reflect the position of Urban Omnibus editorial staff or the Architectural League of New York. Travis Eby is a recent graduate of the Yale School of Architecture. He loves his stoop in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.