Ten years ago, the Architectural League launched a new conversation on citymaking. From week to week, Urban Omnibus would look closely at our physical city — at the systems that order it, the ways we understand it, and all of the exciting projects underway to make it more knowable, sustainable, beautiful, and equitable. We would celebrate design not as the heroic creation of singular monuments but a range of creative transformations of the form and function of our environment. And we would approach the city not as a collection of buildings, a summation of land values, or a problem with a solution, but as the product of our collective work, work that we must advance, interrogate, and celebrate.
Today, we’re celebrating our own work at Urban Omnibus over the last ten years, charting the complex interactions between urban space and social life. Through almost 1000 published features, we’ve explored places and projects from Anable Basin to Weeksville (with detours as far as London and Yonkers). We’ve seen the city from the perspective of everyone from architects and planners to DJs, priests, and building supers. We’ve looked at housing from beach bungalows to towers in the park and the policies that underlie their forms. We’ve catalogued the design of public buildings from libraries to restrooms, and traced the systems that structure the city, from gas delivery to trash collection and zoning. We’ve followed transformative changes for the city from the development of Freshkills Park to the future closure of Rikers Island. And we’ve sustained inquiry into designs that make room for people with non-normative genders and sexualities, and the city’s overlooked infrastructures of crime and punishment. We’ve built a resource for learning about the city’s past and a platform for imagining its future.
So much has happened over the last ten years. Our articles have won awards and become books, experiments we’ve profiled have become institutions, and pipe dreams have become projects (while others remain in the realm of the imagination). There is so much we never anticipated. In our early excitement about new digital technologies, we didn’t yet imagine the threats to our privacy and autonomy. Hurricane Sandy brought environmental vulnerability home, as climate change accelerates with consequences tangible and terrifying. Rampant inequality and violent acts of intolerance by individuals and our own government imperil the promise of pluralism that is the ideal of city life. So much has changed all around us.
To both new and perennial challenges, we bring our unchanging qualities: We don’t churn along with the news cycles, or publish articles that start with “How.” We present the overlooked, unexpected, but always relevant stories about the city we share, and we do it with love and care. Ultimately, we hold fast to the conviction that through critical inquiry, inclusive discussion, and creative action, we can make the city better.
One other thing doesn’t change: We are not-for-profit, independent, and accessible to all. You’ll never see ads, paywalls, sponsored content or clickbait here, and everything is free to be reused. Urban Omnibus is a core component of the programming at the Architectural League, sustained through the generosity of the League’s members and supporters. As we celebrate this anniversary, we’re asking you to help further our work for the next ten years. A small collective effort could have a transformative impact. If only half our readers gave just ten dollars, UO could be financially self-supporting for years to come.
We’re so grateful for your readership, and for your support. Happy new year, and see you next week!
The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.