The Omnibus Roundup – BlockParty 2012 Countdown Edition

If you haven’t bought tickets for what promises to be a phenomenal BlockParty next week, do it now! This party is going to be a blast — and there will be some awesome art up for auction. In case you were wondering, the title of this fête is meant to evoke the spirit of neighborly comraderie among urban enthusiasts — not to indicate that we’ll be barbecuing and bouncy-castling on a street closed to cars near you. One of the things we love about this event is the chance to revisit the work of some of the creative individuals whose projects or perspectives we’ve featured on the site, many of whom have generously donated beautiful works of art to the silent auction and many more of whom will be there with us next Tuesday to celebrate the culture of citymaking. Please join us for drinks, light fare and art in the Youth Center of Old Saint Patrick’s on Mulberry Street, part of the complex of buildings we explored last week with Monsignor Sakano.

As we prepare for that event, our roundup will be a little compressed this week. But, of course, we can’t let the week go by without calling out a few things we’ve been reading or hearing about. Starting with some adaptive reuse of the ubiquitous yet almost obsolete urban communication system… the payphone.

John Locke’s Payphone Libraries | Images via Locke’s blog.

Phone booths elicit a certain amount of nostalgia for a time when they were a real piece of infrastructure helping to shape our day to day lives in the city. That time is gone, but the phone booths remain. John Locke of the Department of Urban Betterment has a plan for the adaptive reuse of the disused phone booths as pop-up libraries, asking the question “is the payphone an anachronism or an opportunity?” Check out John Metcalfe’s interview with Locke on The Atlantic Cities.

Earlier this year we looked at some proposals to increase Manhattan’s land mass, connecting Lower Manhattan to Governors Island, designed by students in Laurie Hawkinson’s Speculation Studio, but plans to expand Manhattan to alleviate pressures on real estate and traffic is not new. Check out this proposal from 1934 in which the Hudson River is filled in to connect Manhattan to New Jersey, providing Manhattan with an extra ten square miles and a subterranean network of roadways, mail tubes and pedestrian paths to complement the existent subway system. Apparently the $1 billion dollars it would have cost precluded any serious research into the proposal. Check out more of the coverage at Gothamist and Architizer.


In The Architects’ NewspaperKatherine Fung reports on how New York has begun to insist on innovation and design excellence in its waste infrastructure, referencing such favorite Omnibus topics as the Newtown Creek wastewater treatment plant, the new recycling facility in Sunset Park and the potential of vacuum tubes to contribute to our waste removal system.

Last year the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) unveiled a new link in the waste chain. In partnership with HousingWorks, the DSNY is now recycling textiles as part of a new program called Re-FashioNYC. Within the first year they’ve recycled 50 tons of unwanted clothing, shoes, linens and clean rags and, with more than 1000 inquiries awaiting processing, the city seems to be clamoring for the new service. Read more of the coverage at the Freshkills Park Blog.


Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao has been honing his craft for ten years now, producing large scale panoramas of four New York City boroughs, soon to be all five with the completion of his next project documenting Staten Island. The newly renovated South Street Seaport Museum is hosting an exhibit that showcases his highly detailed, time lapsed, semi-fictional scenes of everyday life in the big city. Check out the coverage and get more information about the show on the Lens blog of The New York Times.

Last week’s feature made a strong case for understanding mapping’s spatial, political, social and environmental implications. This coming monday, the Van Alen Institute, in partnership with the Austrian Cultural Forum, is hosting a roundtable discussion on “the questions of urban mappings and participatory public discourse on the city.” Moderated by Olympia Kazi, the panel will include Christine Gaspar, Sophie Hochhäusl, Prem Krishnamurthy, Bart Lootsma, William Menking, Nader Vossoughian and use Sophie Hochhäusl’s book Otto Neurath – City Planning: Proposing a Socio-Political Map for Modern Urbanism “as a departure point to discuss the role of urban mappings in architecture and urbanism both historically and in the present.” Monday, February 27th, at 11 East 52nd Street.

In our series “On Criticism,” several young writers took under consideration questions of architectural criticism, its current implications, forms and even relevance. An upcoming four-part series at the Center for Architecture will examine some of these same questions through the lens of the digital revolution’s lasting impact on publishing. “Architectural Criticism Today” is the first installment in the series. Moderated by Julie Iovine of The Architect’s Newspaper and featuring James Russell of Bloomberg, Cathleen McGuigan of Architectural Record and Justin Davidson of New York Magazine, the discussion will focus on the changing role of architectural criticism within the discipline. Monday, February 27, 6-8pm at the Center for Architecture. More information and tickets 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.