This studio, the second in a series, speculates on the future of life in the public realm of New York City, where a paradigm shift is swiftly approaching. With the impending arrival of vehicle automation and the predicted decline of personal vehicle use, the fundamental code of the street is being challenged. We will examine one of the world’s most storied thoroughfares—Broadway—through two concurrent and overlapping preoccupations. First, for more than 100 years, the problem of organizing and controlling vehicle traffic has remained the dominant force that brings order to life in the street. That paradigm is over. This studio places all forms of mobility—not just vehicles—at the center of the urban public realm. Second, increased urban density and the hardening of the street surface have traditionally suppressed biological, hydrological, and vegetative realms. We reject any presupposition that the city’s surface cannot be biological, and we aim for a permeable, vegetal city that brings benefits to public accommodation and ecosystem health. Through these combined agendas, the studio will thoroughly reimagine the intersection of Broadway and Columbus Avenue at Lincoln Center.
As New York’s most singularly theatrical public space, Lincoln Center offers a continuously entertaining public spectacle in spite of changing demographics and uncertain fiscal prospects. But on the street, vehicle traffic strangles an irregular, illegible void at the foot of the city’s most dynamic public square. As Lincoln Center’s institutions evolve their relationships with changing audiences and the city at large, we can provoke another kind of civic life through design. Here, the trope of “performance” is especially potent. In this studio, we’ll commit to discussing matters of material or ecological performance only alongside their reciprocal spatial and cultural implications, with the knowledge that exploiting this endlessly rich intersection of terms accrues spaces we’ve not seen before. Through a commitment to radically adapting the field condition of the city, we’ll work back and forth, telescopically, between material properties and cultural energies that could reorder the street and those that can reshape the neighborhood, with potentially profound implications for the city as a whole.