Lost and Found: New York City’s Small Urban Spaces

The studio will study some of the many small urban spaces that can be found scattered throughout Manhattan, Boston, and other inner city areas throughout the U.S. They have the potential to enrich daily life for millions of residents, workers, shoppers, and visitors in numbers far beyond the higher profile destination parks such as New York City\’s Central Park or waterfront parks. Whereas residential neighborhood parks are typically empty during the weekdays and dominated by youth-related recreation activities, the plazas and small downtown parks can serve a broad and diverse constituency in need of moments of respite throughout the weekday and weekends. This studio will explore the dynamics that first created, then failed, and eventually left these important spaces stigmatized by a general public who fears and avoids them as repositories of society\’s ills. We will study the general causes of their failure as public spaces, ranging from sponsorship and public process (or lack thereof) to location and design with more specific assessments on those selected for the studio\’s design. Light reading, case studies, field visits to successful public spaces, and interim design exercises will help guide the studio\’s critical design thinking, and rationale for final concepts. Issues of context, content, scale, and form will be investigated along with more specific explorations into ways in which lighting and architecture, as well as digital, video, and other contemporary technologies, can be employed in the design process. The central question around which all design concepts and dialogue will revolve will be: What role should these new spaces play in the urban environment and how can their designs reach for and reflect 21st century aesthetics, culture and technology without compromising time-tested open space design principles and public processes?Studio work will demonstrate innovative ways in which the fusion of these seemingly opposite forces can create provocative public spaces that inspire, delight, and, ultimately sustain those whose lives they touch. Participation by students from all GSD programs is welcome and will enhance the design dialogue. One unfunded field trip to NYC will be included in the studio requirements.