Preview | IDEAS CITY 2013

IDEAS CITY is a biennial festival that explores the future of cities around the globe with the belief that arts and culture are essential to the vitality of urban centers, making them better places to live, work, and play. Transforming downtown Manhattan, the festival showcases the creativity and dynamism of individuals, institutions and projects that explore or improve urban life. IDEAS CITY was founded by the New Museum in 2011 (as the Festival of Ideas for the New City — regular readers of Urban Omnibus may remember our 50 Ideas for the New City poster campaign from that event, or this recap of the festivities by Caitlin Blanchfield), and is organized in cooperation with an executive committee consisting of the Architectural League, Bowery Poetry Club, The Cooper Union, The Drawing Center, NYU Wagner, and Storefront for Art and Architecture.

This year, IDEAS CITY 2013 wil take place from May 1-4 and will include a two-day conference, a day of workshops, the IDEAS CITY StreetFest, and the presentation of over 100 independent projects and public events. The theme of this year’s festival is Untapped Capital, an examination of under-recognized and underutilized resources that can be harnessed as catalysts for change.

As a proud partner organization for the festival, and in keeping with this year’s theme, we here at the Architectural League and Urban Omnibus will launch two projects at IDEAS CITY: Little Free Library / NYC and Typecast. Read on for a taste of what’s in store at IDEAS CITY 2013, or explore what the League has planned in more detail in this week’s League online feature about the event.

Little Free Library / NYC

Little Free Library / NYC
The Little Free Library movement places small book shelters in neighborhoods and is based on the premise of “take a book, return a book.” Established less than three years ago, Little Free Libraries now sponsors over 5,000 libraries worldwide.

PEN World Voices Festival and The Architectural League of New York have partnered to bring Little Free Library to New York City and facilitate an informal exchange of books in the city’s public spaces. Ten teams of architects and designers were selected by a jury to each design and install a Little Free Library in collaboration with a host community organization. The libraries will be installed on May 4th during the IDEAS CITY StreetFest. As part of the PEN World Voices and IDEAS CITY Festivals, a walking tour of the libraries will take place during the Streetfest. To see sketches of the planned designs and hear more from the selected design teams, or for more information about how to visit these Little Free Libraries during the IDEAS CITY StreetFest, visit



Photos (clockwise from top left): Ben Stechschulte, Cameron Blaylock, Amani Willett, David Lang, Anna Beeke

Typecast is a long-term, research-based investigation into a variety of building types to question what it means for a site to assume an architectural “type,” and to identify the ways in which these classifications have become stale, overly simplified, or misunderstood — how they have been typecast. Our first inquiry will focus on the isolated superblock apartment buildings known as “towers-in-the-park.” While the deficits of this typology are well known, its particular assets and latent potential have not been fully explored. The launch event for Typecast will take place at The Architectural League of New York / Urban Omnibus tent at the IDEAS CITY StreetFest and will include a pop-up exhibition showcasing a series of commissioned photographs of five specific sites — Co-op City in the Bronx, Sea Rise and Sea Park East in Brooklyn, Todt Hill Houses in Staten Island, Electchester in Queens, and Smith Houses in Manhattan — as well as figure-ground drawings, and a preliminary set of questions that set the research agenda. In keeping with the Festival’s theme of Untapped Capital, we hope to first acknowledge the physical and cultural presence of these sites in New York, and then to develop an understanding of the social capital embedded within them. This will lay the groundwork for future plans to acknowledge, support and grow existing assets in sustainable and productive ways.

The four day festival is packed with events bringing new, great ideas to the forefront of the discussion about cities and urbanism. For more information about the many other projects, the full schedule, or to buy tickets, visit

Schedule of Events

Wednesday, May 01
Keynote Address: Joi Ito, Director of MIT Media Lab

Thursday, May 02

Ad Hoc Strategies




Mayoral Panel: The City and Untapped Capital

Friday, May 03

The Old School in Little Italy is transformed into an educational hive for animated discussion and problem solving, presenting a diverse line-up of workshops that explore Untapped Capital, such as how to rethink unused spaces in the city, how artists can provide vital consultation for commercial development, and how to build bicycle generators.

Saturday, May 04

Set up around the Bowery and Sara D. Roosevelt Park, dozens of architects, poets, technologists, historians, community activists, entrepreneurs, and ecologists share their ideas of Untapped Capital and invite participants to actively shape their city, including the Architectural League’s Little Free Library / NYC and Typecast.


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