The Omnibus Roundup – Holiday Hiatus, Year in Review, Tech Campus, ElectriCity and the Google Zeitgeist

Christmas lights in Dyker Heights | Photo by Flickr user WallyG

The holidays are upon us. And while we busy ourselves this week with buying urban-themed gifts for loved ones, we are also planning to take a little extra time in the first days of the new year to do some Omnibus brainstorming, housecleaning, and party-planning. So we will be back in full force on January 9th, just in time to celebrate our third birthday, preview an exciting new line-up of features, forum posts and special projects for 2012, and invite you officially to our second annual benefit party, which will take place on February 28th. Mark your calendars! And don’t forget your pens, pencils or laptops while you’re enjoying some holiday downtime — the deadline for our Unfinished Grid essay competition is just a little over a month away!

Meanwhile, yuletide cheer is once again broadcasting itself on the built environment of New York. Beyond the many iconic Manhattan landmarks and events to choose from — the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, Big Apple Chorus performances by the South Street Seaport tree tonight and tomorrow, ice skating in Bryant Park, the New York Stock Exchange’s own tree — make some time to treat yourself to some of the most festive urban explorations the outer boroughs have to offer, starting with the famous lights of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.

Another staple of the holiday season is the reflection on the year coming to an end through best-of lists and year-in-review recaps, and the architectural and urban affairs press is no exception to this tradition. Over on The Atlantic Cities, Nate Berg lists his top ten examples of long-form urban journalism from the past year. On Grist, Greg Hanscom profiles the year’s major urban trends, from what the census tells us about younger Americans’ preference of cities over suburbs to how Occupy Wall Street might inform politicians in 2012. TIME magazine’s list of the top 10 green buildings of 2011 includes some uplifting examples such as the school in Greensburg, Kansas that was completely destroyed by a tornado in 2007 and rebuilt this year according to the highest sustainability standards. But when 2011 is remembered by future historians, it will be for the range of protest movements which ignited in cities across the world. The New Yorker‘s Elissa Curtis rounds up the year with commentary on twelve poignant images capturing Twelve Months of Protest.”

On Monday, Mayor Bloomberg announced the winner of the city’s $100 million competition to build an applied sciences and technology campus on Roosevelt Island. After weeks of deliberation and negotiation, Cornell University and Technion Israel Institute of Technology were chosen to build an innovative network of research and lab facilities. The Bloomberg administration labeled this project as a “new land grant,” affirming their belief that this partnership will foster economic growth, develop the city’s research and development sector and attract high-technology entrepreneurship to the metropolitan area. Early projections argue that the Cornell campus will generate over $23 billion in economic activity in the next thirty years and will create over 20,000 jobs. The first phase of the new campus is expected to be constructed by 2017. Read more of the coverage at DNAinfo and Curbed.

While the performing arts center at Ground Zero is seemingly indefinitely paused, students at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Utah College of Architecture and Planning took on the program as a studio problem this past semester. The challenges of the site, even if we ignore the budgetary and political constraints for a moment, are daunting. The students had to take into account the site’s emotional, as well as infrastructural, demands. And their scheme had to accommodate 100,000 square feet of program on 30,000 square feet of land. Check out The New York Times article and accompanying slideshow.

Google has released its annual year-end Zeitgeist report for 2011. While some of the results are less than surprising (Apple made it to the U.S. top ten twice with the iPhone 5 placing 6th and the iPad2 placing 10th) and some are a little unnerving (how did Ryan Dunn make it to 3rd?), they get more interesting when filtered by region. The top three searches for the New York region are (in descending rank order) MTA, NJ Transit and Hopstop. New Yorkers are seemingly obsessed with transit (as are we). Rounding out the top ten for NYC are the DMV, Con Edison, Hurricane Irene’s Path, the NYCDOE, EZ-Pass, the Brooklyn Public Library and, oddly, the Williamsburg bowling alley Brooklyn Bowl. Read more at Gothamist or explore this year’s Zeitgeist for yourself.

ElectriCity exhibition at the New York Transit Museum

The New York Transit Museum has organized a fascinating exhibit that dives into an aspect of the city’s rail system that many of us take for granted: its energy supply. The third rail isn’t just a metaphor for sudden death, it’s part of a complex infrastructure that powers the subway and commuter trains. Designed by Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, the exhibition uses the powering of trains to explain the science of electricity more generally, from generation to distribution. The show is a great destination for kids, and just might inspire a new generation of young people to ask questions about where our energy comes from and to demand alternatives. ElectriCity: Powering New York’s Rails is on view at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn through December 2016. Read more of the coverage at The New York Times.

Macy’s department store employee cleaning up piles of debris after the Christmas shopping rush. | via Gothamist

On a lighter note, if you think that the Christmas shopping rush is bad now, take comfort in the knowledge that it has never been good. This week, Gothamist has unearthed some 1948 photos documenting the shopping and its aftermath of the holiday rush at Macy’s.


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.