Following forty years of official urban decline narratives, the Festival Marketplace entered US cities in the 1970s as a redemptive force of planning and design. The governments of Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City partnered with the Rouse Company to transform “derelict” waterfront sites to popular shopping destinations using historic and postmodern architecture. In 1981, the cover of TIME declared the Festival Marketplace the victor over the urban crisis: “CITIES ARE FUN” emblazoned over Rouse’s pale grandfatherly face. All the while, Newark, New Jersey, long used and abused by mainstream discourse as an icon of deterioration, drawn by the vision of reinvigorated metropolitan freedom and pleasure, waited for its Festival Marketplace. As urban and architectural thinkers began publishing books like Variations on a Theme Park using the Festival Marketplace itself as an icon for neoliberal spatial injustice, the replacing of real cities by inauthentic corporate ones, Newark, fighting for its place in the urban renaissance pantheon, waited. Today, while traditional Festival Marketplaces like New York’s South Street Seaport and St. Louis’s Union Station are declared unmarketable and in need of redevelopment by their owners, Newark still waits. This studio will take up the liberatory kernel of the Festival Marketplace to imagine what Newark has been waiting for.
Drawing on Newark’s rich post-Great Migration culture and politics, this interdisciplinary studio challenges students of architecture, planning, and urban design to use their whimsy and the tools of their disciplines towards designing inclusive cities in an age of increasing inequality. First, the studio will visit historic Festival Marketplaces to exhume their history through interviews with built environment professionals, site visits, and archival explorations. Then, thinking through community organizing, popular education, and anti-racist training, we will propose and test design and planning decisions for Newark’s riverfront at the intersection between tactical urbanism and advocacy planning, working at diverse temporal and spatial scales. Design strategies will include architecture as signs and systems, radical post-modernism, environmental justice education, urban pedagogy, cultural programs, and Plan-Build prototypes.