The Omnibus Roundup – Awards, Apps, Floods and Stuff To Do

It’s awards season… and while the worlds of design and urbanism may not be able to claim anything as glamorous as the Oscars or the Grammys, the Municipal Art Society manages to bring a mix of style and substance to a range of awards in the urban realm. One of these is the Brendan Gill Prize, an award established in 1987 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and presented annually to the creator of a “work of art, book, sculpture, film, musical composition, or architectural design, accomplished the previous year, that best captures the spirit and energy of New York City.” Previous recipients include Louis Malle (For Vanya on 42 Street), Sufjan Stevens (for his musical The BQE) and Jeanne-Claude and Christo (For The Gates). This year the prize went to Michael Van Valkenburgh for his firm’s design of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which he discussed in this Omnibus video piece last year.

Another prize administered by the Municipal Art Society is the Jane Jacobs Medal, created by the Rockefeller Foundation and awarded to two living individuals — one for lifetime achievement and one for new ideas and activism — whose creative vision for the urban environment has significantly contributed to the vibrancy and variety of New York City. Some previous recipients of the Jane Jacobs Medal include Barry Benepe, co-founder of Greenmarket, Alexie Torres-Fleming, founder of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ) in the South Bronx, Damaris Reyes, Executive Director of Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), and Joshua David and Robert Hammond, co-founders of Friends of the Highline. If you know of a dedicated urbanist who fits the bill, submit your nominations at through February 25, 2011.

311 responses in New York City communities. Screen grab from

311 MAP
New York’s got its latest app. As part of an ongoing effort to marry government responsiveness and crowdsourcing technology, the City unveiled an interactive map charting 311 calls across New York neighborhoods this week. From, New Yorkers can now chart which communities are the most vociferous by how many 311 requests have been made in the last 5 days (apparently it’s Washington Heights with 4974 to 6216 requests). Advanced search options let the user narrow down to complaint types, and hone in on the street level to find exactly the spot your neighbor is bemoaning, for example, lack of trees. The map still seems to be getting its kinks worked out, but is already a fun, if slightly voyeuristic, tool to navigate NYC problems.

Imagine if instead of street-viewing your old house or new neighborhood you could see your favorite Bansky in Google Maps. Born of an unlikely partnership between Red Bull, Brazilian ad agency Loducca and street art, Street Art View collects and maps images of street art around the world. Crowdsourced photographs of graffiti and murals are uploaded on to the SAV site, where visitors can plan their next street art outing, or forgo it entirely. Currently most of the site’s content is in Brazil, but users have tagged twenty or so pieces in New York City, and hopefully more is to come.

Rendering of Interboro's intervention at PS1

Rendering of Interboro’s intervention at PS1

Interboro Partners, Architectural League Emerging Voice of 2011 are making their mark in New York architecture this year. This summer the Brooklyn-based firm will transform the courtyard of MoMA’s PS1 as winners of the museum’s annual Young Architects Program. Entitled “Holding Pattern,” their scheme fuses recycling with community participation. Interboro asked local business owners if there was “something [they] needed that we could design, use in the courtyard during the Warm Up, then donate in the fall, once the Warm Up is over?” Culled from their conversations is a hodgepodge of recreational objects, like benches, mirrors and ping-pong tables assembled under a canopy of tensile ropes strung from PS1’s walls. From the renderings, Holding Pattern looks like it will be a YAP success, once the weather does in fact Warm Up.

“We could expect the FDR Drive to be underwater. We would expect the water lapping around Wall Street. We could see vital infrastructure, hospitals, sewage treatment plants, communication conduits all paralyzed by flooding with seawater, which is very corrosive.” This calamitous prognosis comes from Stony Brook Oceanography professor Malcolm Bowman in a WNYC article diving into consequences of sea level rise in New York City. To avoid a future of large scale flooding (as in the summer of 2007 when rainfall shut down most subway lines), experts predict infrastructural solutions for the far future like storm surge barriers and canals, but say the City should act first on small steps like installing water pumps and preparing citizens for evacuation. So, New Yorkers, get your blow up rafts ready.

Local Motors is calling for entries for an Experimental Crowd-Derived Combat-Support Vehicle. In conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the competition seeks to develop a new process for military-relevant vehicles that “will be able to transport items and/or people around quickly and efficiently in a potentially hostile but mobile environment.” Check out the competition brief for more details on what “military relevance” actually entails and then interpret this slightly dystopian design challenge as you will.

TO DO: City Scherzos, Graph Theory, and Roads to Nowhere
This Sunday night, UnionDocs is hosting a screening of rare city symphony films, including Philips-Radio (Industrial Symphony) by Joris Ivens, Rien Que Les Heures by Alberto Cavalcanti and One Second in Montreal by Michael Snow.

Also on Sunday, Neil Freeman, an Omnibus favorite who generously donated a piece of art for our first annual Party + Auction earlier this week, will be giving a lecture on some “awesome math” alongside fellow presenters Anthony Graves, an artist from Brooklyn, and Bjarke Ingels, an architect from Copenhagen. Ingels and his firm BIG are currently “bringing some Danish urbanism to Manhattan” with their bold scheme for a new kind of skyscraper on West 57th Street.

And next Tuesday, the Museum of the City of New York will host a conversation on the future of public works in New York. Roads to Nowhere: Public Works in a Time of Crisis, invites New York Times transportation writer Michael Grynbaum, Joan Byron, director of the Sustainability and Environmental Justice Initiative at the Pratt Institute, and others to address the fate of projects like the 7 line extension, the Second Avenue line and Moynihan station in the throes of the “great recession.” More incentive to attend? Mention Urban Omnibus or the Architectural League and get a reduced price ticket. The talk will be held at 6:30 at 1220 Fifth Avenue.

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.