Believe it or not, today is the fourth anniversary of Urban Omnibus. On January 7th, 2009, we began a journey that has taken us to every corner of New York City in search of innovative, informational, and inspiring approaches to making this city just a little bit better. In the past year alone, we’ve explored how sewers reflect natural hydrographic systems, learned about new approaches to supporting manufacturing in Greenpoint and at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, contemplated dystopian futures of the real estate market, visited abandoned islands and active factories through photography, and argued for forward-thinking investment in resilient infrastructure. And, 200 features since our first, we’ve still got a whole lot of discovery ahead of us.
For us, presenting these projects and perspectives is about more than highlighting great work happening in New York City. It’s about connecting our readers to information and inspiration, across disciplines and neighborhoods, and thereby encouraging a diverse group of urban enthusiasts to take their interests and curiosities further, to be engaged citizens. Understanding the choices that have determined the form and experience of the city is a necessary step towards establishing one’s own principles and priorities, and insisting on good choices going forward. The work showcased on Urban Omnibus demonstrates what we consider to be exemplary ways of interpreting or intervening in the built environment that, when taken together, articulate a set of principles that lie at the heart of what we call “the culture of citymaking.”
But you can’t define a culture and encourage impassioned citizenship through principles and online communication alone; you need to experience the city itself, explore its shared spaces, and engage with its inhabitants, whether at the town square or in your local bar. With that in mind, in 2013 we will re-launch our popular live events series. These will take the form of field trips and meet-ups to points of interest in the five boroughs. (Of course, live events also means parties, so start getting ready for our third annual fundraiser, to be held in May.) And they will also include live discussion sessions as well as lectures and panels, starting this coming Thursday, when the League is partnering with Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Cooper Union’s Institute for Sustainable Design to present “The Future of Zone A: New York Neighborhoods on the Frontline of Climate Change.” This event will drill down into green infrastructure, real estate interests, and the vulnerability of coastal, urban communities — topics introduced on UO in features like Making Connections and The East River Blueway Plan.
Later on, in the spring, we’ll be taking our group discussions on the road, raising questions about building types typically maligned in contemporary urban discourse – such as the “towers-in-the-park” typology prevalent among mid-20th century public housing projects – with residents, architects, and affordable housing advocates. A series of on-site discussions in each of the boroughs will culminate in an event at the IDEAS CITY 2013 StreetFest on May 4th.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll also host our second annual competition for evocative non-fiction writing. And we’ll be intensifying the ways we mine the multi-platform work of The Architectural League, in concert with the rich array of weekly features released on archleague.org. Amid all of these special projects, of course, are our weekly features and regular posts to our forum. In the next month alone, readers can look forward to learning about a proposal to repurpose an abandoned Bronx train station into an access point for the Bronx River Greenway; finding out the fates of a series of sites that were vacant in 1987, when the League launched its influential design study Vacant Lots; and examining student work on the topic of aging in New York City. Our forum posts will continue to recap relevant events, round up the latest news and suggestions of things to do in this great city, and report on issues of interest to our readers.
As always, we couldn’t do any of this without the support of readers like you. So, if you like what you’re reading, please consider making a donation or becoming a member of the Architectural League today. And please don’t hesitate to get in touch with ideas of topics you’d like to know more about, projects you’d like to share, or just suggestions of things you’d like to see on Urban Omnibus.
— Cassim Shepard, Editor, Urban Omnibus
and Varick Shute, Digital Editorial Director, The Architectural League
The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.