The Omnibus Roundup – Public Architecture, Public Occupation, TreeKit, Tappan Zee and Harvest Dome

Sites of public architecture projects designed under the Department of Design and Construction’s Design Excellence program

Omnibus fans rejoice: once again, Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times‘ new architecture critic, shows his passion for design in the public interest. His latest article profiles exemplary public architecture that, over the past few years, has transformed the landscapes of underserved areas of New York. Kimmelman applauds the recent effort and attention paid to design by Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, and cites the stewardship of David Burney, Commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction since 2004, as responsible for the “dozens of new and refurbished libraries, firehouses, emergency medical stations, police precincts, homeless processing centers and museums [that] have been designed by gifted and occasionally famous architects.”

From Tahrir Square to Wall Street, the important role that public space serves in acts of public assembly and protest has permeated recent political discourse. Storefront for Art and Architecture, an organization committed to advancing innovative positions in architecture and the built environment, is calling on “architects, artists and citizens at large to offer their ideas for enabling acts of communication and action between the civil society and the structures of economic and political power.” Work submitted for Strategies for Public Occupation will be exhibited in a pop-up exhibition at Storefront in December and added to an ongoing archive of proposals. Submit your ideas by December 1st for a chance to win first prize: “the possibility of a new world order.”

New York Magazine’s Fall Design Issue is a paean to the contemporary urban form. The bi-annual issue focuses on ideas, big and small, that have transformed cities and have had reverberating effects on urban thinking across the globe. Notable figures share their favorite recent urban projects, gems such as the Cheonggyecheon Stream project in Seoul, where a large urban park has been developed in the place of an elevated highway, with echoes of the site’s former natural landscape. After surveying great ideas from abroad, the feature ends with an article encouraging New York to reclaim its former spirit of urban innovation by drawing on these international examples and applying some of their lessons locally.


Status of street trees surveyed in Western Queens as of October, 2011

TreeKit is a new project of the Open Space Institute that encourages New York City residents to become active participants in their community by measuring, mapping and managing all the street trees in New York. Volunteers comb their neighborhoods, surveying and keeping a detailed inventory of the trees, and signaling cases that require the attention of tree care professionals. The final, comprehensive map will surely be a valuable resource to anyone engaged in maintaining or studying our urban ecosystem, and the TreeKit team hopes to build the tools they’re developing for broader application in the collaborative management of green infrastructure and living systems. Follow updates on TreeKit on their blog or learn how to help them map trees at

The Tappan Zee Bridge, which connects Rockland and Westchester counties across the Hudson River, was built to last roughly fifty years, — it is now 56 years old, and it shows. The deteriorating state of the bridge, and its $100 million of repair costs annually, have raised concern amongst New York officials and residents for years. Now there’s new hope for the Tappan Zee — or, more accurately, for its replacement. This week, the Obama administration included the bridge on a list of 14 infrastructure projects to be “fast-tracked” for expedited review and approval, as part of a job creation program focused on infrastructure investment spearheaded by the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The federal DOT approved the project with the stipulation that earlier plans be streamlined and cost-cut, which means the potential for dedicated mass transit routes is off the table (a decision that Second Avenue Sagas finds particularly discouraging). Construction might start as soon as 2013. Read more here.

Since its founding in 1894, the Van Alen Institute has produced more than 2,400 design competitions that have engaged an international community of architects, student designers, educators and civic leaders. Now, as part of their recent digitization efforts, you can peruse that archive from the comfort of your home. Viewable in the archive are historical competition programs authored by designers such as Ernest Flagg, Gordon Bunshaft and Antoine Predock. The trove of material also spans entries from landmark competitions in the 1990s and 2000s, including nearly 100 selected entries from the Envisioning Gateway competition and submissions from influential contests such as The Parachute Pavilion and Urban Voids: Grounds for Change.

Harvest Dome under construction


Harvest Dome: The Harvest Dome is an upcoming art installation by Amanda Schachter and Alexander Levi composed of “discarded storm-snapped umbrellas, littered seasonally throughout Manhattan, assembl[ed] into a giant light-gauge spherical dome, and float[ed] on the waters of the Inwood Hill Park inlet, during the Fall 2011, as a physical revelation of the city’s accumulated waterborne debris.” Youth volunteers from Inwood Community Services are helping to build this ambitious structure, which will be on view at Inwood Park through November 13th. The Manhattan Community Arts Fund invites you to the Open House opening for Harvest Dome on Sunday, October 23th.

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge: On September 29th, the Buckminster Fuller Institute released its annual challenge to find solutions to the planet’s most widespread and urgent environmental, social, economic and political challenges. The deadline to enter the competition is Monday, October 24th; the first prize winner will receive $100,000. Click here for more information.

And don’t forget the Red Hook Film Festival, previewed in a forum post published earlier today.


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.