The Omnibus Roundup – Commutes Revealed, Teachers Housed, Prisons Recycled, Design for Governors Island, Paint a Mural and Pet a Robot

Glowing Commuter Routes for “America Revealed” | image by 422 South

The inherent elegance of New York City’s transportation network might not be obvious to everyone. So, we’re lucky that creative minds, like those of the animators and designers at 422 South, can make us marvel at the complexity of our urban systems. For the PBS series America Revealed, which “explores the hidden patterns and rhythms that make America work,” 422 South has overlaid the familiar New York City street grid with glowing blue bus routes, and green (LIRR), red (MetroNorth and NJT) and purple (Amtrak) trains, and flecked New York City’s waterways with orange ferries. Using the same system of GPS-based data collection and bespoke software, they also made an equally impressive visualization the journey of a Domino’s Pizza delivery route in Manhattan, and the supply and distribution chain of all the ingredients that comprise each pizza. Read more at Curbed New York and The Creators Project.

Fast Company reports that Newark has just broken ground on a mixed-use downtown redevelopment, designed by the firm of Newark native Richard Meier, that attempts to tackle education, affordable housing and economic development together. The scheme includes plans for three new charter schools with housing specifically intended (and priced) for teachers, a population that will, in turn, spur economic growth by patronizing badly needed retail downtown. Indeed, the prevailing wisdom for downtown revitalization has been for some time to build exactly this type of medium-density, walkable development with a vibrant mix of residential, commercial and community uses. But while public subsidies for such developments often require affordable housing, the standards of affordability are generally defined by metrics such as “area median income” rather than by prioritizing a particular professional category at risk of displacement or otherwise disinclined to move downtown. It’s a different story in the UK, where “key worker housing” programs aim to ensure that public sector employees who provide an essential service, like nurses, teachers, police officers or firefighters, can make rent. Might Teacher’s Village pave the way for similar sector-specific housing developments in New York City? We’ll have to wait and see.

Since the repeal of the mandatory minimum sentences under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, New York State’s prison population has declined from a peak of 71,472 in 1999 to about 55,000. With fewer prisoners, the state needs fewer prisons. So, according to The New York Times, the state is putting closed prisons on the market, prompting the question, “how does one repurpose a prison?” Some of the properties do have some enticing amenities for the creative developer: the Staten Island facility, for example, boasts 69 acres of waterfront land, a two-story gymnasium, a baseball diamond and an open-air pavilion. The architectural exercise of designing the ideal prison has a long history, but reprogramming an existent one puts a new spin on the old problem. On BLDGBLOG, Geoff Manaugh suggests turning part of one into “an architectural research center, its very setting the most intense spatial lesson of your time spent writing and studying there.”

Paper sculpture by Yumiko Matsui, photo by Gustavo Rocha

Yumiko Matsui creates miniature paper worlds that reveal nuances of the built environment invisible at human scale or at risk of being lost to urban change, such as in her whimsical take on Coney Island that she shared with Urban Omnibus readers a couple years ago. More recently, she’s turned her detail-oriented, whimsical eye toward Tokyo’s Akasuka neighborhood, creating tiny urban street scenes that maintain the atmosphere she remembers from her youth. Read more and see images of her work at Inhabitat.

The winners of the 2012 Partners in Preservation popular vote have been announced! The New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Congregation Beth Elohim, both in Park Slope, will each receive $250,000 in grant money for restorations and the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum in the Bronx will receive $155,000. Check out the coverage, as well as profiles of each site, at Untapped New York.


SUPERFRONT is inviting young designers to enter the design charrette Public Summer: Library of Immediacy as part of its Public Summer program. The competition is to create a semi-enclosed public space on Governors Island to be constructed using materials donated by Materials For the Arts. The winning team will receive an honorarium of $500 and a construction materials budget of $1500. In order to level the playing field, all entrants will receive the complete brief detailing site and program at the start of the charrette and all entrants will get the same two hours to complete their design. The competition will be juried by Vito Acconci of Acconci Studio, David Benjamin of The Living, Scott Hughes of Robert Silman Associates, Mabel Wilson of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and Urban Omnibus‘ very own Cassim Shepard. A Public Summer site visit will be held on Governors Island from 10am to 2pm on Saturday, June 9th. The competition takes place Sunday, June 10th, from 11am to 1pm. Be sure to register by next Friday, June 8th; details are available here.

A 20-foot-high, 60-foot-wide wall in Greenpoint will soon be a canvas for artists to “capture the beauty and uniqueness of an industrial waterway.” The Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC) has put out an open call for mural proposals on the TnT Scrap wall on Newtown Creek. Requesting that proposed murals “integrate ideas about the community, the beauty of the creek, recycling and/or the importance of maritime industrial usage,” the BAC reminds potential muralists that the artwork should be designed to last for years. Read the entire brief here. (via Curbed)

This summer, Eyebeam Art + Technology Center will be hosting Surface Tension: The Future of Water, an exhibition from Dublin’s Science Gallery that takes on the (bleak) future of Earth’s water. Alongside the dynamic artworks that “explore the complex tensions surrounding the future of water” is a lab in the gallery space to which visitors are invited to bring their own water samples and test their water quality. Opening as part of this weekend’s World Science Festival, the exhibition will run through August 11th, with an opening reception tonight at 6pm. More information about the exhibit available here, or take a look at Gothamist‘s visit to the show here. For a complete listing of World Science Fair events, click here — though many of the talks and panel discussions are sold out, there will be plenty of opportunities to join some of the festival’s informal outdoor events this weekend, including Science on Site at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Innovation Square in Downtown Brooklyn (complete with Robot Petting Zoo), urban stargazing under the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Ultimate Science Street Fair in Washington Square Park.



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The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.