Why Urban Omnibus?

We have so much possibility ahead of us.

We have just inaugurated a president who wants to renew every area of our national life – including our cities. President Obama has lived in the three biggest cities in the United States, and it seems clear that he understands and cares about cities and what they mean economically, environmentally and culturally. A true focus on cities, for the first time in a generation, could be a significant part of federal policy.

In New York City in January 2009, we live in an extraordinarily vibrant place that faces huge challenges. We are more aware than ever of how fragile the economic health of the city is, and of how many New Yorkers are already suffering, or on the edge of, economic hardship. Our neighborhoods are going to feel the economic straits of the city government and the city’s households in the year ahead. Beyond our economic vitality – but inextricably connected to it – are the many demands New York faces over the next few decades specifically related to the physical city: how to adapt to climate change and minimize our environmental footprint, rebuild our infrastructure, and provide enough housing and open space to make a comfortable, civilized, just city.

But for all the challenges we face, this is also a time for optimism about the future. From the creative initiatives of forward-looking city agencies, to the self-generated experimentation and investigations of architects and engineers and designers, to the inventive entrepreneurialism of community activists, there is a lot going on in New York that can make the city better. There is a ferment of ingenuity and invention at work that can lead to new ways of generating and distributing energy, of transporting people, of making more beautiful public spaces, of rethinking how we build schools or configure our workspaces or dispose of our garbage. Artists and designers and architects are creating visualizations of the processes and flows of the city that can radically enhance our understanding of how the city works, so that we can design it to work better.

Much of this activity remains just out of sight, and we think it needs to be better known. With Urban Omnibus, the Architectural League wants to cultivate and hybridize the thousand flowers of digital media to engage a large audience in learning and thinking about design and New York City’s physical environment. We want to provide a platform for the written word and for aural and visual information of all kinds; we want the immediacy of a blog and the carefully reasoned perspective of critical writing to stand side by side.

Most of all, we want to connect people with ideas they can use.

We have so much possibility ahead of us, and so much work to do. Please join us.

Rosalie Genevro
Executive Director
The Architectural League of New York

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.