The Omnibus Roundup – Bike Share, Lights Out, Subway Power, UDW and Reflecting the Stars

Suggest a Bike Share Station | via

New York City is joining the bike share club! Learning from the mistakes of other pilot programs across the country, NYC Bike Share will open big with 600 stations and 10,000 bikes. The city has chosen Alta Bike Share, of the successful Capital Bike Share program in Washington D.C. and the New Balance Hubway program in Boston, to run the program. Annual membership will cost “less than one monthly MetroCard” and will stretch from the Upper West and East sides down and into Brooklyn, according to an op-ed Janette Sadik-Khan wrote for The Daily News. Best of all, the Department of Transportation has launched a website on which New Yorkers can request docking stations at specific locations — the response has been impressive, with suggested spots already blanketing the city (see screengrab above). Some people are thinking creatively about how to implement these stations (2nd Ave. Sagas suggests activating disused bus stops) and bike share demonstrations will be held throughout the fall (including one in DUMBO tomorrow, Saturday September 17), with plans to launch the network sometime next year. Read more of the coverage at The New York Observer, and, of course, Streetsblog.

“I don’t know of any architects out there who want to kill birds,” said Brendan Owens, vice president of the Green Building Council, but that’s exactly what’s happening. Everybody loves glass. More specifically, everybody loves having big windows in their offices and homes. But the growing number of glass towers across the city are killing birds. New York City is in the path of the Atlantic flyway and every year 90,000 birds die flying into buildings. Solutions range from angling or curving glass to treating windows with netting, patterning or ultraviolet reflectivity that only birds can sense. Or, you can turn out the lights. Just under 100 buildings, including the Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center and the Time Warner Center, to name a few, are taking part in the Audobon Society’s Lights Out New York program. According to the Audobon Society, “In the dark, and especially in foggy or rainy weather when birds fly at lower altitudes, the combination of glass and light becomes deadly.” The buildings will turn out their lights at night during major flyover times to prevent the loss of any more bird lives. Read more coverage in the Times.

Photo by Varick Shute

Running the subway uses a lot of energy. Stopping trains expends a lot of energy, mostly in the form of heat. What if we could recapture the energy lost by stopping trains and return it to the subway system’s electrical grid? Vycon Energy is putting forth a plan that will ostensibly do just that. By using flywheels, energy will be harvested and returned not only to subway cars, but potentially to the city’s larger power grid. Read more at Fast Company and Inhabitat.

Chances are, if you’re reading this site, you’ll want to check out The Atlantic Cities, a new online project of The Atlantic that’s all about understanding the way we live, work and play in our urban environments. According to the introductory article by site editor Sommer Mathis, the site has four main goals: to offer reported features about the past, present and future of cities; to deliver news reports about current events in cities around the world; to facilitate a big-picture, ideas-based conversation about urbanism; and to tell these stories using a variety of media. Read more of The Atlantic Cities here.

National Design Awards 2010 | Photo by Richard Patterson

This week Michelle Obama teamed up with Tim Gunn to present the National Design Awards, put on by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Architecture Design winners Architecture Research Office (ARO) are perhaps best known to Omnibus readers for their work with Guy Nordenson on the 2007-2009 Latrobe Prize Fellowship study On the Water: Palisade Bay, which was one of the motivating forces behind MoMA’s exhibition, Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront. ARO’s project in the exhibition, “A New Urban Ground,” a collaboration with dlandstudio, sought to mitigate the flooding of Lower Manhattan due to rising sea levels by breaking up the edge of the island and reimagining sidewalks as soft infrastructure. Other NDA winners include typeface designer Matthew Carter, who received the Lifetime Achievement award; Seattle-based Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, the recipient of the award for Landscape Architecture; and author, editor and educator Steven Heller, who received the Design Mind award. Read more about the National Design Awards here.

Over on Places, Mimi Zeiger offers the third essay of her fine series “The Interventionists Toolkit.” In this installment, Zeiger ponders the challenges of evaluating the authenticity and effectiveness of certain interventionist tactics, such as urban agriculture projects, mobile food trucks or ephemeral marketplaces, when corporate or institutional interests either generously expand their reach or cynically co-opt their principles (depending on whom you ask). She adapts the architectural methodology of post-occupancy evaluation to grassroots efforts at local or temporary urban improvement, but finds that measuring impacts can be as slippery as identifying the agenda behind any strategy of urban change. Read the full piece here.


URBAN DESIGN WEEK  Earlier this week, Institute for Urban Design Executive Director Anne Guiney told us about the inspiration and intentions behind Urban Design Week, six days of events dedicated to celebrating and increasing understanding of the public realm of New York City, currently underway. The Week kicked off last night with a launch party at the BMW Guggenheim Lab, and between now and September 20th, there are plenty of events to choose from. Today is Park(ing) Day, an annual event that invites urban dwellers to transform auto-focused street space into people-friendly public space. Other social occasions include the launch party for the People Make Parks toolkit, an exhibit opening at Studio-X on urban design mixed media representations, and a street vendor picnic in the Financial District hosted by the Design Trust for Public Space and the Street Vendor Project. Talks include Cities in History, a conference exploring the development of urban identities; a discussion with Chris Ward of the Port Authority on the security and design concerns of the World Trade Center memorial; and the concluding debate for City Sessions on the “practice of tactical urbanism and socially active design.” GOOD will be hosting a presentation on design solutions for quality of life in cities to celebrate their new initiative, GOOD Ideas for Cities. For those interested in getting their hands dirty, check out Drawing the City (exactly what it sounds like); 72 Hour Urban Action, a public workshop in anticipation of an upcoming live-action design-build competition; Architecture for Humanity’s call for ideas on how to redesign the Manhattan Bridge Skatepark; and an illuminated version of the “Insert ____ Here” project created by and artists Eve Mosher and Paul Notzold. Or tag along on some walking tours: Women and the Brooklyn Bridge highlights contributions women have made and continue to make in shaping the bridge, and our friends at Elastic City will lead participants on a walk that creates musical scores from graphic features of downtown Manhattan. The week wraps up with the New York City premiere of Urbanized, a new documentary film by Gary Hustwit (of Helvetica and Objectified fame). If you’re not exhausted yet, check out the full list of events at

Reflecting the Stars

REFLECTING THE STARS  Last month, filmmaker Ian Cheney spoke with us about light pollution and the disappearance of the night sky in dense urban environments. This month (and next, as long as the LED lights hold out), take advantage of an opportunity to see the night sky recreated in the Hudson River through “Reflecting the Stars,” a light installation that projects the starscape onto the deteriorating posts of Pier 49. The lights twinkle throughout each night, but visitors can also press buttons to highlight constellations that, without the ambient city lights, would otherwise be visible overhead. This is the first New York City project for Jon Morris of the Windmill Factory, who developed the installation both to raise awareness of the disappearing night sky and to give urban-dwellers a rare opportunity for stargazing in the middle of the city. The installation will be on view through October 25 and, according to the project’s website, special events are in the works in conjunction with Climate Week NYC, which runs from September 19-26. Find out more here.

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.