Parks & Public Space

Fellows ↓
Events ↓
On August 18, our Forefront Fellows went on a retreat to Newburgh meet with local community leaders and city officials, and discuss challenges facing the city's immigrant communities.
On August 10 we were joined by Sharon Davis, Michelle de la Uz, Brad Lander, Gita Nandan, and Andrea Parker as they proposed leveraging development in Gowanus to expand the neighborhood's green infrastructure network and preserve the area's cultural assets.
On July 18, our Forefront Fellows met for the second event of the Fellowship to explore design projects that aim to foster agency and the integration of migrant communities in urban spaces.
On June 20, for the first Forefront roundtable of the year, we were joined by Doug Saunders, author of Arrival City, which inspired the German Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale and this year's Forefront program theme, and Max Hadler, Senior Health Advocacy Manager for the New York Immigration Coalition.
On May 1 we were joined by Eloise Hirsh, Sam Schwartz, Margaret Tobin, and Deborah Marton offered a retrospective on caring for New York City’s public assets from the fiscal crisis to today.
On February 16 the Forum hosted a tour of the Public Design Commission Archives! Some of the highlights included a maintaining budget from Robert Moses, and some rather peculiar street signs!
In the last two weeks, New Yorkers have taken to the streets to defend our city’s values of diversity and inclusion. In this turbulent political climate, public spaces like Times Square are critical to our democracy: as places where people can safely speak their minds and agitate in defense of their families and neighbors.
Our third Fellow spotlight session will feature five fellows working on projects impacting the city in a myriad of ways. While it is hard to find a common thread between the group, all in some way deal with the topics of civic technology, equity and public space.

DUMBO Waterfront

Event ▻ Tours
On November 2, the Urban Design Forum featured an exclusive behind the scenes look at the latest two development sites on the DUMBO waterfront: Empire Stores and One John Street. Click for a full recap and photos from the tour!
The Lowline is a plan to use innovative solar technology to illuminate an historic trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of New York City. Join us for a tour of the Lowline Lab, a long-term open laboratory and technical exhibit designed to test and showcase how the Lowline will grow and sustain plants underground.
Our fifth Forefront Urban Experience Design event explores how crowdfunding technology is changing the way we build our cities. The evening will bring together two very different civic projects made possible by equally different crowdfunding platforms.
For Garvin, a great city is a dynamic, constantly changing place that residents and their leaders can reshape to satisfy their demands. Looking at several North American and European cities, from New York to Seattle and Paris to Madrid, Garvin examines how these cities have adapted and transformed over time.
On June 15, the Urban Design Forum invited Tara Pham, Co-founder and CEO of CTY; Oliver Schaper, Practice Area Leader in Planning & Urban Design for Gensler’s North-East region; Sam Schwartz, President, and CEO of Sam Schwartz Engineering; Claire Weisz, Founding Principal at WXY architecture + urban design, and moderator Jill Lerner, Principal at Kohn Pedersen More
On May 25, the Urban Design Forum invited Kate Ascher, Partner at Buro Happold; Margaret Newman, Associate Principal at Arup; Paolo Santi, Research Scientist at MIT Senseable City Lab; and Catherine Seavitt, Principal of Catherine Seavitt Studio, to participate in our second roundtable on the future of transportation in New York City. After a brief More

Shanshui City

Event ▻ Chinese Ascent
On July 20, the Urban Design Forum invited Ma Yansong, founding principal of MAD Architects, and Michael Sorkin, founding principal of Michael Sorkin Studio, to discuss Ma’s “Shanshui City” design philosophy. At the age of 39, Ma has already garnered international acclaim for his imaginative buildings and unorthodox urban design. His work draws inspiration from More
  Over the last 30 years, more than 200 million people have migrated from the countryside to China’s cities, and officials plan to relocate another 250 million rural residents over the next decade. 55% of China’s population is now living in cities. What are the consequences of this vast urban shift? On May 6, the More

Governors Island Tour

Event ▻ Tours
In June 2013, Fellows of the Forum for Urban Design toured the first phase of construction on Governors Island. Led by Jamie Maslyn Larson, Principal of West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture, and Leslie Koch, President of the Trust for Governors Island, the Fellows took a sneak peek at over thirty acres of new More

The New Gown in Town

Event ▻ Next New York
In December 2012, fellows of the Forum assembled to discuss plans for one of New York City’s key new development projects: the CornellNYC Tech campus on Roosevelt Island. The Forum met with Andrew Winters, Director of Capital Projects for the university, to review the master plan and proposed architecture. Situated just north of Four Freedoms More

Low Line Breakfast

Event ▻ Next New York
In September 2012, the fellows of the Forum gathered to debate the viability of the Low Line, a proposed underground park underneath Delancey Street on New York’s Lower East Side. The pair behind the park, James Ramsey and Dan Barasch, are exhibiting a prototype of a new technology that filters light from the surface underground, More
Spontaneous Interventions: design actions for the common good was first presented as the exhibition of the U.S. Pavilion at the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale (Fall 2012). It documents the nascent movement of designers acting on their own initiative to solve problematic urban situations, creating new opportunities and amenities for the public. Provisional, improvisational, guerrilla, More

New Public Spaces

Event ▻ NY-LON
On February 28, Forum Fellows and New London Architecture members gathered for a breakthrough live video session to discuss the cities’ new public spaces. Peter Murray, Chair of New London Architecture, was joined by Daniel Moylan, Deputy Chairman of Transport for London; Victor Callister, a City of London representative; and Edward Jones, architect responsible for More
On November 2, the Forum convened four figures who have radically reconfigured the New York City urban landscape under Michael Bloomberg: Daniel Doctoroff, former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development; Janette Sadik-Khan, Commissioner of NYC DOT; Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of NYC Parks; and Adriaan Geuze, Principal of West 8 and Designer-in-Charge of Governors Island. Doctoroff opened More
Urban Design Week was a public festival created to engage New Yorkers in the fascinating and complex issues of the public realm, and to celebrate the streetscapes, sidewalks, and public spaces at the heart of city life. At its heart was By the City/ For the City, a crowdsourced design project that gathered more than More

Four Freedoms Park Tour

Event ▻ Tours
On September 7 2011, Forum members trudged through mist and mud at the site of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island. The park was the proposed capstone project for Welfare Island when rechristened “Roosevelt Island” by Mayor Lindsay in the 1970s. Lack of city funding and political will More

Next Urbanism

Event ▻ Public Programs
On July 27, the Forum hosted Bjarke Ingels (BIG) and Craig Dykers (Snøhetta) to discuss new visions for the practice of urban design, with Monica Ponce de Leon (Taubman College) moderating the conversation. In their recent work, both architects demonstrated a dedication to working with constituents to shape the form of new public spaces. Mr. Dykers More
In 2011 the Urban Design Forum invited architects, planners, artists, designers, and students around the world to participate in By the City / For the City, a collaborative re-imagining of New York City’s public realm.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Tour

Event ▻ Tours
On June 1, Michael Van Valkenburgh, lead designer of the park, and Regina Myer, President of BBP, led members through the playgrounds, lawns, and piers of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Beginning at Pier 6, Michael Van Valkenburgh confronted the challenges of integrating the nearby neighborhoods around Atlantic Avenue into the park while maintaining a sense of More
The Urban Design Forum and the Times Square Alliance kicked off 2011 by hosting a conversation with three designers of the future Times Square on January 27. Tim Tompkins (Times Square Alliance) opened the evening by presenting the timeline of Times Square in the last thirty years, from a crime-infested neighborhood into the overcrowded commercial More
On August 19, the Forum hosted an exclusive tour and discussion of the recently re-designed Lincoln Center and Alice Tully Hall led by Elizabeth Diller and Daniel Brodsky. Elizabeth Diller began the tour in the lobby of Alice Tully Hall, a sculptural concert hall and university building for the Juilliard School that was recently completed More
Proposals ↓

Station Alliance

Proposal ▻ Maintaining
New York has a history of successful public-private partnerships for public goods: Central Park Conservancy, the High Line, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Business Improvement Districts to name a few. The Station Alliance believes that with support of and partnership with the private sector, we can give New York’s subway stations the innovation and investment that will make them safe, welcoming and inspiring.
The NYC subway system is a vital part of New Yorkers’ daily lives, but the public’s experience with it is too often ugly, brutish, and not short enough. While proximity to a great public realm in New York is the single most important factor for value in the city (location location location), the demeaning environment of most of our public transit infrastructure is alienating, and represents a missed opportunity to create an environment that is valued by the public and thereby well maintained.

Gowanus Lowlands

Proposal ▻ Maintaining
Gowanus Lowlands is a community-based vision for a network of parks and public spaces centered on the Gowanus Canal and connecting to the surrounding watershed. The Lowlands seeks to ensure the community has a key role in leveraging these changes and investments to shape a watershed that is accessible, active, and clean for all.

Gowanus Field Station

Proposal ▻ Maintaining
The Gowanus Field Station embodies hands-on learning: it is an outdoor classroom designed to also be a storm-water “eco-machine” that will host a green roof, sit next to a bioswale, capture rainwater for reuse, and use a vegetated rain garden to clean sink water before discharging to the canal.

Stitching Gowanus

Proposal ▻ Maintaining
The current pedestrian experience of the Gowanus is streets ending abruptly into viewless dead ends and dark corners with no sense of the canal beyond. Our solution very practically addresses connectivity and circulation over the Gowanus by literally stitching the banks of the canal together through pedestrian bridges.
In Williamsburg, there is a tremendous opportunity to cap the trench of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and build an open space amenity for the South Side Williamsburg community. This is not a tunnel and not a “Big Dig.” Instead, it is a thin deck capping the BQE that could benefit over 160,000 people in the surrounding neighborhood, which is a primarily low-income and Hispanic area.
Partially elevated and partially subsurface, the greenway would extend 3.5 miles from Rego Park to Ozone Park and would serve 140,000 residents within a ten-minute walking radius and an additional 250,000 people within a mile.
There are countless paved areas of our roadbed that are sitting idle, devoid of beauty and serving little purpose. By thoughtfully designing these spaces to mimic natural systems, Greenstreets require minimal care and have a low burden on our maintenance infrastructure.
When developing new parks and open spaces citywide, the City should explore the use of tax-increment financing (TIFs). TIFs set aside future increases in property taxes to subsidize development. The increase in property value is substantial--at Hudson River Park, the value of adjacent properties jumped over 100% from 2003-2007, 20% of which can be directly attributed to park development.
Municipal budget structures and political cycles favor new construction and inadequately fund park maintenance. Though a state of good repair may be less sexy than a ribbon-cutting, thriving open spaces provide long-term social benefits like community resilience and improved public health.
Our overriding priority must be the public arena, the actual public space itself, the space we all own. And one department or commission should be responsible for its design, coordination and development. We need a Commissioner of the Public Realm, a Coordinator of the City Surface, a Director of Public Space!

Floating Islands

Proposal ▻ Next New York (2013)
A network of artificial islands is a productive, attractive, and cost-effective approach to create ecological infrastructure and new public space. Just as the great Aztecs produced agriculture on floating chinampas, or Bangladesh created societies around floating gardens, or just as Thailand’s floating markets attract tourists and drive the local economy, floating islands could be the future of open space in New York City.
Publications ↓
News ↓
Fellows in the News
Madelyn Wils praises the Whitney's proposal for a permanent art installation on Pier 52 for reflecting the area's artistic history.
Fellows in the News
Susannah Drake is helping stitch two parks in South Williamsburg to improve health, green space and commerce in the neighborhood.
Fellows in the News
Michael Sorkin scrutinizes the privatization of public space and proposes using the private money for Pier 55 to transform the parking lots on Pier 40.
Fellows in the News
Vishaan Chakrabarti and Enrique Norten are transforming the Bears & Eagle Stadium in Newark into a mixed-use development to connect the city.
Fellows in the News
Leni Schwendinger kicked-off reSITE's 2017 conference, In/Visible City, with a walk-through Prague at night to demonstrate how after-dark strategies can yield various equitable benefits.
Fellows in the News
Deborah Marton argues that expanding Citi Bike to the Bronx would create a more accessible and equitable city.
Fellows in the News
Tim Tompkins praises Once Upon A Place as their most timely installation in support of the country's immigrant and refugee communities.
Fellows in the News
Tom Wright argues for building essential energy, environmental and educational facilities on Rikers instead of runways from LaGuardia.
Fellows in the News
Jamie von Klemperer is designing Echelon Seaport, a mixed-use development to revitalize the Boston Seaport with a commitment to public space and activity.
Fellows in the News
Christopher J. Nolan details the dilemma between preserving the original path leading up to Belvedere Castle and designing a more accessible incline to meet federal requirements for access for disabled people.
Fellows in the News
Michelle Delk and Matt McMahon are transforming the historic Willamette Falls in Oregon City, reconnecting it with the public for the first time in 150 years.
Fellows in the News
MaryAnne Gilmartin, Michael Manfredi and Marion Weiss praise the design of The Bridge at Cornell Tech for encouraging serendipitous interactions while also being sustainable.
Fellows in the News
Ankita Chachra and Skye Duncan were on the GDCI Core Project Team for the Global Street Design Guide setting "a new global baseline for designing streets."
Fellows in the News
Justin Garrett Moore and Keri Butler announced the Public Design Commission's winners of the 2017 Excellence in Design Awards, including work by many of our Fellows.
Fellows in the News
Ken Greenberg gave a walking tour of Toronto's "the Kings" to show the benefits of relaxed zoning laws on the community.
Fellows in the News
Carlos Arnaiz is redesigning the Pasudeco Center, an iconic sugar mill in the Philippines, into a mixed-use community hub.
Fellows in the News
Peter Walker won the first 2017 Richard Brettell Award as recognition for his fundamental and essential role in the arts in the life of the University of Texas-Dallas.
Fellows in the News
Nancy Owens is working on the renovation of Astoria Park, which includes essential infrastructure maintenance, such as erosion control and fixing the drainage system.
Fellows in the News
Juliette Michaelson and Tom Wright from RPA, with Guy Nordenson and Paul Lewis of Princeton University, are hosting a design competition to transform four corridor geographies within the NY-metro region.
Fellows in the News
Justin Davidson reviews the redesign of Astor Place by Fellow Claire Weisz as a "distinguished" and "self-effacing" design providing a profusion of possibilities for pedestrians.
Fellows in the News
Elliott Maltby and Gita Nandan from Thread Collective offer a field guide to fences throughout New York City to show how the barriers we use define our spaces and ourselves, from the mundane to the maddening.
Fellows in the News
Milton Puryear is advancing the development of the Brooklyn Greenway, a 14 mile route connecting neighborhoods parks along the Brooklyn waterfront.
Fellows in the News
Stephen Whitehouse is transforming New Jersey's Southwest Block 12 from a parking lot into a resilient urban park with storm-water storage.
Call for Ideas
How can we use design thinking, creative financing, new technology, and community organizing to maintain our physical and social infrastructure?
Fellows in the News
Adam Lubinsky facilitated the development of the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan, a local effort to preserve affordable housing stock, open space, and the community's cultural heritage.
Features
Christopher Beardsley sat down with Kathryn Gustafson, Rob Rogers, Marion Weiss, and Skip Graffam to discuss their visions for renewing the National Mall.
Features
While the Museum of the City of New York celebrates 200 years of the Manhattan grid in its current retrospective, Stanton Eckstut recalls how he did things differently in Battery Park City.
Features
Diana Balmori shares her recent work in Sejong, Korea and New York City and reflects on our changing understanding of urban nature.
Features
Will a tech campus accomplish just what Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s 1969 plan could not—endow the island with an identity beyond a clever housing scheme and integrate it into the everyday lives of New Yorkers?
Features
Urban design was charged with elevated responsibility as the towers tragically fell on September 11, 2001. Ten years later, Vishaan Chakrabarti, Alex Garvin, and Peter Walker reflect on the Ground Zero's reconstruction.