Recovery, Adaptation, Mitigation and Planning

Parks & Open Space

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Parks and Open Space

Department: Architecture
Community: Rockaways
Instructors: Elliott Maltby
Spring 2014

Case studies, readings, discussion, debate, site visits [when we can schedule them], exploration, observation, and design problems will focus on open space and parks in an urban context. We will begin with a brief examination of the concept of “public space” and its political implications as one frame for the semester. We have been witness to the significance of urban public spaces with the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street; these same democratic potentials can manifest themselves in more subtle ways and everyday spaces as well. This social context will be complimented by an ecological framework, with an emphasis on new ecosystem models based on disturbance, and resilience – which include humans within their scope, and understand change / indeterminacy as endemic. We will also work to invent a more dynamic set of representation practices that reflect the shifting temporal, social, political, and ecological facets of urban spaces. How can we best capture the dynamic nature of open / public space – and how might this approach compliment contemporary ecological theory?

During Sandy, it became clear was that, in addition to serving as neighborhood front yards and recreation centers, in many places, the City’s parks [and open spaces] literally served as the city’s front line of defense when extreme weather events hit, buffering adjacent neighborhoods. As the climate changes, it will be even more critical that the City’s parks [and open spaces] be able to play all of these roles.

This semester we will be adding our research and design efforts to the larger RAMP [Recovery, Adaptation, Mitigation, and Planning] Program, working [to the degree that we can, see RAMP dates below] in conjuction with the other classes. Starting with the Averne and Edgemere neighborhoods, supported by the knowledge and challenges posed by Sandy, we wil speculate about the future of the Rockaways, and the ways in which parks + open space can contribute to the resiliency of the area. In addition to your own research, your designs will be informed and shaped by the research being done in the RAMP studio.

A park will be the organizing element of the design assignments: and will include a small scale urban intervention, and a neighborhood [or regional] open space strategy. The projects will emphasize individual work, however, we will take advantage of possible overlaps and intersections, when and where they present themselves, to link projects. Ecological site research and socio-cultural factors will be function as groundwork for the design process. We will be working with the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance.

While we will focus on the Rockaways as a site for intervention, we will use New York as a whole as a site of investigation. As we meet on the eve of a new administration, we have the opportunity to assess Bloomberg’s legacy and to identify the gaps and challenges that need to be addressed. A number of“world-class” parks were completed during Bloomberg’s 12 years, however some neighborhoods still do not have access to quality open spaces. [This January, Newsweek ran an article with the headline: “DeBlasio’s Battle for Equality starts in the Parks”.] As we will read in the pivotal work by Galen Cranz, park design and investment has historically reflected the pressing social issues of its time, and often, society’s understanding of the relationship of nature and cities. We will also look at a few of the many interesting controversies such as the two previous incarnations at Federal Plaza [Tilted Arc and Martha Schwartz’s design] and the 1961 incentive zoning that created a range of public space typologies connected to skyscrapers, [otherwise know as POPS, privately owned public spaces]. Two structured debates will focus on [1] public private partnerships, and [2] backstage / frontstage spaces.

Erin Buchanan


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Sarah Serpas


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Acacia Dupierre

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