As the city grapples with the crumbling infrastructure of our superannuated subway system, we too have been contending with deferred maintenance of our Omnibus. Nine years on, our digital tracks were wearing out. Like any other infrastructure project, we’re behind schedule, have put in lots of overtime, and are still making some fixes, but we couldn’t wait to come back. Today, we’re thrilled to introduce a new site and a new identity, the better to provide access to our deep archive and to share new perspectives and proposals for our urban environment in the years to come.
We hope you like it! Our new kit of parts, courtesy of our designers, Athletics, feels just right. The resemblance to Colorforms — the toy set of simple, colorful vinyl shapes that can be arranged and rearranged into figures, landscapes, and patterns — is coincidental, but appropriate. They resonate, in how they were made and how they work, with how we like to look at citymaking. Colorforms are a creation that’s both intentional and accidental, amateur and expert. The kit was conceived in 1951 by two young artists, Harry and Patricia Kislevitz, in their apartment on 29th Street, but it’s usually identified with the maker of its logo, eminent graphic designer Paul Rand. It’s an enduring design from an unlikely source, an accessible and adaptable tool, open to multiple and unexpected interpretations.
Urban Omnibus launched in January 2009, when the inauguration of a new president brought great possibility. These are more trying times, in which we seem to be moving backwards, rather than forwards. Intolerance, inequality, and irresponsibility — toward each other, the environment, and our collective future — are on the rise. But the fundamental fact of urban life is that there is no escape from each other. We’re all in this together, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s a growing culture of “opting out” in cities — the technological utopia of seamless delivery of laundry, groceries, and people from one private environment to another, with minimal human interaction, is just one manifestation. But urban life takes place in public, and inconvenience, controversy, and conflict go hand in hand with inspiration, exchange, and delight.
At Urban Omnibus, our concern is with the environment we share and that we make together, in many different ways, in order to thrive as individuals and as a society. We’re renewing our commitment to learning from the past, exploring diverse perspectives, and employing our creativity towards making a better future, in the collective, ongoing, and vital work of citymaking. These principles guide our new series on the infrastructure of the city’s criminal justice system, and the features we’ll continue to present every week. To keep abreast, sign up for our weekly newsletter. To tell us what’s on your mind, or your thoughts on the new look, please be in touch!
The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.