Arts, culture, and sophisticated design ideas are key ingredients to making great cities. This week the NCC hosted an event in its Urbanism Lab called The Art Of City Building. Dov Goldstein, a principal at Lord Cultural Resources and Mark Robbins, CEO of the American Academy in Rome talked about their experiences with these key ingredients in making vibrant cities.
Toronto’s Hearn Generating Station. Image from Illuminato.
Each speaker gave a short presentation highlighting their experiences where arts and culture have changed cities. Some of the more interesting examples included the use of Toronto’s Hearn Generating Station as a venue for cultural events including for Luminato this June, and Mark’s work in support of reinvigorating downtown Syracuse when he was dean of the architecture school there. He commissioned some excellent architecture projects, and his work was chronicled by The Architect’s Newspaper. Examples include the Syracuse University School of Architecture by Gluckman Architects, and the Syracuse Center for Excellence by Toshiko Mori.
Syracuse’ School Of Atchitecure plays a role in reinvigorating the city. Image from Gluckman Tang Architects.
One project Mark worked on that was of particular interest to me was the sustainable homes competition that he organized for Syracuse in 2008. I hadn’t heard about this competition and it’s very much similar to one I participated in in Chicago in 2004.
Factor 10 House was one of the homes that was constructed in the Chicago competition and it was selected for an AIA top ten award. Working on that was the beginning of my interest in sustainability. I completely agree with Mark that competitions of this type can contribute greatly to a City. In Chicago it was initiatives like this that helped build that City’s reputation for green building in North America.
One of the sustainable houses resulting from a design competition in Syracuse. This one was designed by architect Richard Cook. Image from Dwell.
In any discussion of reinvigorating a city, New York’s Highline inevitably comes up. Dov brought some new (to me, at least) information to the table, though. I was not aware of the extensive rezoning along the high line that enabled its creation, and spurred development along its extent. The Highline as spawned other people oriented infrastructure projects even in New York which I was aware of, but not how interrelated they are. The proposed Low Line and Bjarke Ingels’ Dry Line are two of these.
Bjarke Ingels’ Dry Line is a recreational amenity for New York that doubles as a flood protection barrier.
An informal discussion and audience questions followed the presentations. One of the better questions that was discussed, at least for me as an architect, had to do with whether architects are ‘multidisciplinary’. I really appreciated Mark Robbins’ answer. He firmly asserted that they are, by necessity. Architects have to join together art, craft, and psychology [and other disciplines]. Typically the issue is the clients, who tend constrain projects. Mark pointed toward his involvement with the well known Mayor’s Institute on City Design, describing it as being about educating the clients of design. He intimated that it provides an opportunity for Mayors to admit that they rely on others to guide building projects because they understand so little about the issues. The main goal of the institute as he put it is educating Mayors to become better design clients.