The Omnibus Roundup – Open Cities, Candela Found, Playgrounds, “Cities,” Huxtable and Erasure

As our Twitter followers have no doubt noticed, members of the Omnibus team are currently in Washington, DC for Next American City’s conference Open Cities: New Media’s Role in Shaping Urban Policy. It has been two days of thought-provoking conversation about such topics as “Living Local in a Digital Age,” “Data-empowered Citizenship,” “Technology for Social Equity,” “New Media and Mass Transportation” and “Social Media and Local Transit.” Our own Cassim Shepard sat on the panel “City as Subject” along with Fast Company‘s Rick Tetzeli and freelance writer (and Omnibus contributor, more often seen on GOOD and Fast Company) Alissa Walker. We’ve heard from US Deputy Chief Technology Officer Beth Simone Noveck, James Anderson from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Cities of Service, and Marta Urquilla from the White House Office of Social Innovation & Civic Participation. We have heard about Code for America (a project familiar to regular Omnibus readers), the Microsoft Open Government Data Initiative, the US Initiative and Give a Minute. Stay tuned for more follow-up about the event, but in the meantime, check out #opencities on Twitter to get a taste of the conversation.

Candela Structure via

The now-found Candela Structure via

Remember the Candela Structures? In June, Kirsten Hively introduced us these “buildinglets” which were originally constructed for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens. Hively, along with Paul Lukas had started a website and exhibition in honor of the structures and the mysteries surrounding them, one of which has recently been solved. There were initially three structures at the time of the World’s Fair, but by 1966, one of the structures had been removed, and no one seemed to know where it had gone. Recently, Hively and Lukas received a photograph of the missing structure which is now serving as a cabin in the Adirondacks. As more questions get answered, updates will be posted on Hively’s blog Catasterist.

The potential for turning everyday actions into viable energy resources is being tested through revolving doors, dance floors and sidewalks. And now a playground in Gangtok, India has installed equipment that generates energy through its use, which is then used to power the lights in the playground. The city plans on updating all of their parks with the new equipment, which, in conjunction with solar energy installations, will make them energy self-sufficient — and, in some cases, will provide excess to help power nearby restaurants and businesses.

Radiolab, an excellent public radio program that investigates “big questions” where “the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience,” has dedicated its latest episode to “what makes cities tick.” Radiolab hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich explore the sounds, rhythms, personalities and appetites of cities around the world and talk to some of New York City’s Sandhogs — the people who build the tunnels we saw earlier this week in Stanley Greenberg’s photography. Check out the sounds and stories in “Cities” and then head to 92YTribeca on Tuesday night to hear Krulwich, Lewis H. Lapham, Jeffrey Inaba and Andrew Dolkart discuss the same incredibly broad topic in a panel hosted by Studio-X, Lapham’s Quarterly and C-Lab.

Manufacturers Hanover Trust via SOM | Ezra Stoller

Manufacturers Hanover Trust via SOM | Ezra Stoller

“It’s time to stop worrying about whether New York has enough ‘starchitecture’ and consider the ways in which we are destroying or sabotaging the architecture we already have through neglect, ignorance, disfigurement, willful disregard and the sacrosanct belief that nothing takes precedence over the investment opportunities encouraged by Manhattan’s stratospheric real estate values.” This week in the Wall Street Journal, Ada Louise Huxtable calls attention to a problem facing the preservation of many mid-20th century modernist structures — the need to retain the relationship between interior and exterior, inextricably linked in the glass-walled structures representative of the materials innovations of the time. Huxtable’s focus is the removal of a 70-foot Bertoia sculpture from the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company Building at Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street, the facade — but not the interior — of which is protected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. “The Bertoia sculptures are gone, and the interior seems destined to be stripped of everything that defined it and made the city a better place. The building has been irrevocably impoverished, and the destruction promises to be complete with its conversion to generic commercial space. As a landmark, it becomes a travesty.”

207 Acres by Heather L. Johnson

207 Acres by Heather L. Johnson via CHRISTINA RAY

Heather L. Johnson first came to our attention through her delicate embroidery work about New York City infrastructure, which we discussed with her in our interview Ever-circulating Fluids and Continuously Moving Parts. Next Thursday, November 11th, Johnson’s latest exhibition opens at CHRISTINA RAY. In Erasure, Johnson uses embroidery, drawings, and paintings to explore “a poignant moment in the history of late nineteenth-century Hudson County, New Jersey, where long-forgotten insane asylums and penitentiaries once existed amidst violence and political corruption.” Erasure will be open through December 12 at 30 Grand Street.

Last week, Laura Forlano talked to several leading professionals in Service Design, giving an introduction to the emerging field. On November 10, another leading professional in the field, Marc Stickdorn, will give a talk as part of the Service Design Performances Fall 2010 Lecture Series at Parsons The New School for Design. “This is also Service Design Thinking” will be a further explanation of techniques and concepts of the field, which will also be a part of the first Service Design textbook to be published in December by Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider.


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.