The Omnibus Roundup – edible lawns, anarchical traffic lights, Union Sq. redesigned and “human sculptures” on Wall Street

Artist, designer, gardener, writer and Rome Prize Fellow Fritz Haeg spends his days questioning the land-use assumptions in our cities and how the space which is being neglected can be fully activated. ASLA’s The Dirt recently interviewed Haeg about the second expanded edition of his book Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn. Haeg argues that ripping out front lawns and replacing them with gardens of fruits and vegetables can “ignite a chain reaction of thoughts that question other antiquated conventions of home, street, neighborhood, city.” He re-imagines the space between the front door and the street, a visible public-private space, as a new kind of personal farmland. Check out the interview on The Dirt, and take a look at what Haeg told us about Edible Estates in his League lecture from December 2008.

Gerald Frug has been named the recipient of the James Stirling Memorial Lectures on the City, a bi-annual competition held by the Canadian Centre for Architecture and the Cities Programme at the London School of Economics. The Harvard Law professor, who has written about urban governance for Urban Omnibus, is the first non-architect to be named Stirling lecturer, which according to Frug, “says something important both about the current state of thinking about architecture and urban studies more generally.” Law and urban governance are fundamental to how designers observe, engage and intervene in the built environment of cities and the CCA’s awarding of this memorial lecture to a legal scholar demonstrates the architecture community’s increased awareness of this fact.

Traffic Lights via Flickr user Tasuki

Can a decentralized system of traffic lights somehow create a systematic traffic flow? Stefan Lämmer, a professor at Dresden University of Technology in Germany, and Dirk Helbing, a professor in Zurich, Switzerland, who works with the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, have designed a system of self regulating traffic lights with the goal of reducing congestion. The key was to allow the lights to switch from green to red in a more organic and traffic responsive way, as opposed to following a regular programmed pattern. Lämmer and Helbing tested their algorithms in a computer-simulated version of the city center of Dresden, and found delay times could be reduced from 10 to 30 percent. Their paper doesn’t mention road rage, but if the system works, it’s safe to assume reductions there, too!

The pedestrian plaza via Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation

Transportation Nation reports on the official completion of the redesign of the sidewalk and streets in Union Square. (Learn more about the redesign here.) The rehab includes the addition of a bike lane, changes in the traffic pattern, and a new pedestrian plaza  to the east side of Broadway between 17th and 18th streets. Gothamist has more on the reaction to the changes from pedestrians, cyclists and business owners on the Square. According to NYCDOT the  pedestrian plaza costed $500,000 to build. Jennifer Falk, the executive director of the Union Square Partnership, said that it will cost about $100,000 a year to maintain.

Most of the Omnibus team is up at the American Academy of Arts and Letters gearing up for tomorrow night’s sold-out Beaux Arts Ball. For those of you who already purchased your tickets, we’ll see you there! If you haven’t got tickets or can’t otherwise make it to the Ball, there are plenty of other events to keep you occupied this weekend…

This year’s Maker Faire is taking place in New York for the first time on Saturday and Sunday. The annual conglomeration of the “growing DIY movement of people who look at things a little differently.” The Faire is landing in the New York Hall of Science in Queens, where, on the grounds of the 1964 World’s Fair, an Moonisphere constructed of recycled cardboard will be built to the scale of, and at roughly scale distance from, the World’s Fair Unisphere. Brooklyn Based has a rundown on the festival which will feature: Jet Ponies and an Electrocution Seesaw (both from the Gowanus-based art ensemble, Madagascar Institute), a demonstration by the authors of the Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, a large-scale ‘yarnbombing‘, and countless other projects (full list here).

At sunrise on Sunday and sundown on Monday cheoreographer and artist Willi Dorner will lead viewers through the streets of Lower Manhattan around Wall Street where a troupe of dancers and performers will be turned into “human sculptures.” Part of the French Institute’s “Crossing the Line Festival,” the perfomance is meant to intensify and explore the relationship between the human form and urban form.

This week the New York Times on its Cityroom blog asked readers to submit their own remixed versions of Milton Glasser’s iconic “I ♥ NY” logo which he created pro-bono for the city more than thirty-years ago, as a means of promoting tourism. Two of the submissions came from none-other than Glasser himself, which he submitted unbeknownst to the Times using a pseudonym, and which the Times finally revealed last night.


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.