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Rec Room: Alex Smith: Public Urban Architecture

January 22, 2010


Alex_Smith-small.jpgArchitecture blogger John Hill, the mind behind the influential Archidose, recently shared his opinion on some of America’s best urban public architecture. In talking about the Urban Land Institute Award, Hill discusses some of the best pieces of urban open space architecture across America as potential competitors, and, for those of you in New York, a great chance to go out and investigate some of the best architecture in America.

In the past year a great example has cropped up in New York City, adding to more than a decade’s worth of public architecture hosted by P.S. 1 and MoMA. This urban space is the High Line, I’m sure most everyone has at least heard mention of the newest public park on the lower west side of Manhattan, but if you haven’t actually been to see it and stroll along it, I definitely encourage you to take a trip over there. The park itself is on a former elevated train track that was taken over by weeds, and wild plants before a group of locals gathered together to turn it into a public park uniting many of the neighborhoods on the lower west side and inevitably helping to revitalize the whole area. Since it opened in June of 2009 the High Line has become a popular spot for runners, families and sun bathers taking advantage of the parks benches and lounge chairs. Diller Scofidio + Renfro and James Corner Field Operations, designers of the High Line, incorporated the park into the city by creating a system of percentages. Each portion of the High Line has a different combination of hard surfaces (benches, walkways, running paths, and seating areas) and soft surfaces (planting beds, trees, and marsh like areas). Most of the success of the High Line comes from its active engagement of the city around it, with sitting areas overlooking streets below, passing beneath the newly built Standard Hotel and through the Chelsea Market, segments meant to resemble woodlands and grasslands that change with the seasons, and stairs and elevators all connecting down to the streets below. The success of the park itself has even encouraged the Whitney Museum to build a new wing at the Gansevoort Terminus.

The High Line adds a permanent public architecture space to the growing tradition of temporary public spaces out at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, Queens. Since 1998 the exhibition space has been dedicated to new art and, during each summer, new young architects. Through the Young Architects Program, P.S. 1 and MoMA select one of a list of nominees suggested by architecture deans to design an outdoor experience to inhabit the space throughout the summer. In the past decade these spaces have hosted concert series, held bars and water features all while creating a interesting architectural space for New Yorkers. Since its inception the program has highlighted many firms that have later risen to become highly acclaimed firms in the architectural field. Last year’s winners, MOS, played on the theme of the Warm Up concert series being played there to create “Afterparty”, a space of large conical tents that used water to create cooling spaces. The YAP winner for 2010 will be selected later this year and the exhibit will be in place this summer, for those of you planning to be in New York this summer I encourage you to head out to P.S. 1 and experience one of the most innovative rotating architectural spaces in America.

The recent trend toward creating public urban architectural spaces can be seen across the U.S. and is one of the best new trends in the past decade of architecture. For those of you not in New York, look for public spaces opening near you. Some of the best include Millennium Park in Chicago, the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, the Marsupial Bridge in Milwaukee, and South Pointe Park in Miami Beach.

Bio: Alex Smith is an intern at Guernica. Read her last recommendation “here”:http://www.guernicamag.com/blog/1466/rec_room_alex_smith_invictus/.

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