The Omnibus Roundup – pianos, street fairs, eminent domain, and the Future of the City

The Gates? Waterfalls? Those don’t make music! The latest large-scale public art installation to hit the five boroughs is a collection of sixty colorful pianos, a collaboration between artist Luke Jerram and the charity organization Sing for Hope. An accompanying website lists the pianos’ locations and encourages visitors “to upload and share videos, photos and stories about their encounters with the city’s pianos.”

A more established summer street presence is the New York City street fair. But for many, the scene is far too familiar — regardless of location or day, you can expect to see the same street fair replicated over and over again. That’s why the Center for an Urban Future asked 25 leading urban thinkers to rethink these public events. The resulting report, New Visions for New York Street Fairs is available for download here and includes interviews with people familiar to Omnibus readers: Deborah Marton, David Byrne, Sean Basinski, Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, and Leslie Koch, just to name a few. Read the report and then check out WNYC’s interview with Center for an Urban Future Director Jonathan Bowles in which he shares his thoughts on what can be done to revitalize the experience.

Street fair by FLICKR user kevin h

Photo by Flickr user Kevin H.

New York’s highest court has reversed a lower court ruling from last year, clearing the way for Columbia University to use eminent domain to secure the land for its planned $6 billion, 17-acre expansion. Writing for the Citizen’s Planning and Housing Council, Harold M. Shultz offers a comprehensive briefing on the subject (right-click here to download pdf).

The Infrastructurist‘s Melissa Lafsky has an excellent two-part recap of the Atlantic’s Future of the City conference, featuring high-powered speakers from the White House, Brookings, Volkswagen and, um, Richard Florida. The highlight, apparently, was HUD secretary Shaun Donovan’s simple, clear and persuasive argument that “We need affordable housing near workplaces.” Lafsky continues: “If anything, he argued, the economic crisis has highlighted that when Washington fails to address our sprawl epidemic, all the problems that result – obesity, congestion, foreign oil dependence – share a common element: There is a fundamental mismatch between where we live and where we work. Whatever we do to address these problems, he stated, the U.S. must find a way to attach housing to jobs.” Reading this, it sounds as if Secretary Donovan is in favor of a Country of Cities. Bring it.

Obviously, the distance between where we live and where we work is not the only malady fueling this epidemic: we also need better ways to move. For some inspiring tales of innovation in sustainable transport from around the world, check out a new exhibition that celebrates the first 25 years of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP is headed up by public transportation missionary and former mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa) at the Center for Architecture, Our Cities Ourselves. Read Fast Company’s take on the show here.

PALO Arquitectura Urbana

Stacking the Deck: PALO Arquitectura Urbana’s proposal for La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Roundup keeps you up to date with topics we’ve featured and other things we think are worth knowing about.

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