The Omnibus Roundup – Infrastructure, Railways, Parking Apps, Brownfield Fail and Calls for Submissions

Tickets are still available for next Tuesday’s Urban Omnibus Party and Auction — don’t miss it! Tickets start at $25; $30 at the door. Buy yours today. Stay tuned for a preview of the works included in the silent auction…

Intelligent Infrastructure

Also next week, an impressive collection of minds from technology, government, architecture and academia will convene for a conference hosted by the Economist entitled “Intelligent Infrastructure: the Architecture of Progress.” We’re not only excited about this event because the title manages to cluster some of UO’s favorite words, but also because we will be on hand to report on the proceedings. Of particular interest to Omnibus readers will be talks by Frank Gehry, Saskia Sassen, Carlo Ratti, Thom Mayne, Petra Todorovich, Jaime Lerner, Liz Diller and Cas Holloway. Check out a full list here. Stay tuned!

The Infrastructurist offers some historical perspective on the $53 billion high speed rail plan announced yesterday by Joe Biden. The piece compares the administration’s proposal to FDR’s study for a national expressway system that eventually became the interstate highway system. The new plan would be implemented over the next six years and aims to cross the country with a network of connecting rail corridors operating at different speeds: core express, regional and emerging (we question a passenger’s eagerness to hop aboard the “emerging” train from New York to Boston). Of course, such a large investment has been met with scrutiny in Congress, so we will keep our eye on how the debate between budget concerns and infrastructure priorities plays out.

“Cities thrive because they host quality conversations, not because they have new buildings and convention centers,” writes David Brooks in a column praising Edward Glaeser’s new book The Triumph of Cities. Brooks cites Chicago as an example of a vital city fueled by updated housing stock, incentives to small business, strong leadership and — crucially — face-to-face political communication. In an age of global information flows, Glaeser argues for the increased need for dense city centers where creative citizens can clash and collaborate in person, generating ideas and productivity. But the social implications of density and diversity go beyond its financial yield. As an insightful UO commenter notes, many of the complex dynamics Suketu Mehta discusses in this week’s feature reflect the kinds of complex processes Glaeser analyzes.

Complain excessively to no one in particular and apparently the powers that be will do something about it. Parking, seemingly everyone’s go-to rant, is now being sensored on Roosevelt Island. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation is creating a smart phone application that alerts drivers to parking spaces near their destination. As an article in Capital magazine points out, cities are already laced with sensors, detecting everything from noise pollution to temperature to red light violations. Sure, it sounds a little Orwellian, but municipal governments are looking for new ways to translate crowdsourced urban data into programs that will increase the efficiency and comfort of navigating the city. First step, finding a parking spot.

New York’s Brownfield Clean Up program is largely ignoring the lower income and minority neighborhoods it was intended to aid, according to the watchdog group Environmental Advocates of New York (EANY). Instead of allocating tax credit to developers for resuscitating sites in areas with incomes below the poverty line and in neighborhoods with large African American and Latino populations, funds are largely going more economically stable communities, as detailed in EANY’s analysis.

Hester Street Collaborative | Mall-terations

Hester Street Collaborative (HSC) and parent firm Leroy Street Studio get some much deserved attention in a Change Observer piece that explores their partnership as a paradigm of architecture for public good. Hester Street has had its hands in many public space projects around New York, like the Allen street “mall-terations” and People Make Parks. HSC interfaces between community groups and public agencies to realize design/build initiatives in neighborhoods traditionally underserved by architects, making them a perennial Omnibus favorite.

If last month’s Omnibus interview with Nevin Cohen of the Five Borough Farm project piqued your interest, read the Design Trust for Public Space’s project update. A post on their blog recaps the conversations from a December workshop on the current state of urban farming and gardening and future plans for urban agriculture. The workshop touched on everything from the goals of the farmers to how they evaluate their success, and generated one-on-one discussions to expand the resources of the Five Borough Farm.

Friends of the Pleistocene (authors of “Geologic City”) are looking for brief writings and visual essays “plumbing the geologic depth of ‘now'” for their upcoming book, Making a Geologic Turn. As explained on their blog, this “geologic turn” is evident in the artists, philosophers, and cultural commentators who prove that geology is “not only an area of scientific study – it’s also a condition of daily life.” Intrigued? Visit Friends of the Pleistocene for more information.

Connections: The Gowanus Lowline is design ideas competition for Brooklyn’s Superfunded Gowanus Canal. Sponsored by the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation and juried by a commanding panel of architects and urbanists, Connections invites “speculation on the value of urban development of post-industrial lands, and the possibility of dynamic, pedestrian-oriented architecture that either passively or actively engages with the Canal and the surrounding watershed.”

If you missed last weekend’s Chinese New Year festivities, or just want to relive the joy of bringing in the Year of the Rabbit, check out Flavorwire’s New York City’s Chinese New Year Parade in Photos.

Chinese New Year Parade | Photo by Aaron Colussi | via Flavorpill

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.