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New City Critics: Year in Review

Six emerging critics took on conversations about race, place, capitalism and belonging, in criticism, urbanism and New York City.

In 2022, we launched New City Critics with The Architectural League to empower new voices to challenge the ways we understand, design, and develop our cities.

Our inaugural cohort includes Oscar Perry Abello, Alicia Ajayi, Sophonie Milande Joseph, Emma Osore, Calil Arguedas–Russell and Sabina Sethi Unni.

In workshops with guest speakers, including Monxo Lopez, Mabel Wilson, and Emily Badger, and with one another, they each strengthened their critical voices on issues facing the built environment. With our Fellows, we led public discussions on the state of criticism with local visionary publications, like Hell Gate and The City, and with national critics Christopher Hawthorne and Anjulie Rao.

Fellows published new writing in Urban Omnibus that shows how community banks help sustain New York City neighborhoods, speaks with Black Haitian urbanists about navigating multiple identities, and explores the voids storms and plans have left behind in the Rockaways.

Featured Works in Urban Omnibus

From an uptown bank to an upstart jerk chicken joint, Fellows made spaces of city life venues for critique. Others looked to the metaphysical spaces defining our professions and identities; their questions the same: Whose places are these? Why don’t more exist? How is space shared, and what constitutes ownership?

Sabina Sethi Unni challenged notions of improvement, resiliency, and what a thriving place looks like, from the coastlines of Queens.

“I think planners could do more to trust people’s judgment and expertise. If there are benches and tables, trust that people are going to take out the trash.”

Sabina Sethi Unni in an interview with Urban Omnibus

Oscar Perry Abello deployed ground-level accounts from ground-floor storefronts to showcase the placekeeping role of community banks.

“Little banks played a big role in building this big country, and building big cities, and building almost everything.”

Oscar Perry Abello speaking to Urban Omnibus about the piece

Alicia Ajayi, Emma Osore and Sophonie Milande Joseph as the in-between writing collab, shed light on a common experience among Black urbanists.

Through conversations with urbanists working in Port-au-Prince, New York, and amid their diasporic orbits, the piece invites us into the uneasy spaces in-between what is deemed past and present, professional or personal, and developed or developing.   

“It was just so special to work alongside other people: Black women, writers, brilliant thinkers, interdisciplinarians trying to figure it all out.”

Emma Osore alongside Sophonie and Alicia, on learning collectively and putting it into words

Join the Capstone on October 30

New Conversations: Writing the Future

Join us to celebrate the inaugural New City Critics cohort in a conversation on the future of urban criticism.

What kind of criticism will bring about the city we want to see?

New City Critics is a partnership between Urban Design Forum, The Architectural League of New York, and Urban Omnibus.

Images by Sam Lahoz, Sarah Nicholls, Eric Hairabedian, and Sophonie Milande Joseph, adapted with permission by Urban Design Forum.

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