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Monday
Jun102013

Town Square Initiative: New York

This project, called “Reframing the Spaces Between: From Blight to Bright Reimagining the Allen Street Pedestrian Mall,” is a candidate to win a Place by Design award in at this year’s SxSW Eco conference, and we’re looking for your vote! Please click here to vote, and note that you can vote multiple times for a single entry.

The Town Square Initiative is a yearlong volunteer effort in which Gensler designers set out to unearth and re-imagine unexpected open space in cities around the globe. All 43 Gensler offices were invited to participate in the conceptual project, in which we challenged our designers to identify open space in the city and reimagine it as a town square.

Gensler New York’s design of their future city.

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There are over 5 million square feet of unused space in New York City...

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... WHY WASTE?! Can these spaces be better utilized? We think so!

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We focused on THREE MAIN IDEAS: resiliency, community, and sustainability.

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The future of New York City must be designed for resiliency!

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Our existing energy grid is connected one dimensionally and has been unchanged for decades. Any disruptions in the chain spells disaster, as demonstrated by Hurricane Sandy.

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Why not design those unused spaces as means of generating alternative energy? Thus supplementing our existing energy grid with multiple energy sources!

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We see a future New York even more connected with its communities ...

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... bringing people together by creating opportunities to meet, contemplate, and enjoy the outdoors. Our design for these new public spaces combine lush greenery, cycling lanes, and seasonal amenities to create a truly diverse urban experience.

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This will be the world’s first crowdsourced park! Using a simple smartphone app, the community determines the layout of the park from a menu of plug-in systems!

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Transitioning from a car-based city ...

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... into a community-oriented one!

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Designing for the future also means designing sustainably.

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Imagine a New NEW YORK, one in which sustainability is seamlessly incorporated into public space design.

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Every plug-and-play module serves a dual purpose: one for community activities, the other for harnessing nature!

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Incorporating composting, water collection, solar collection ...

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... linking the park to surrounding buildings ...

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... allows resources to be shared in times of emergency ...

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... while creating a cleaner and more efficient city for everyone.

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Imagine a New NEW YORK!

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Eric Tan one of Curbed Magazine’s ‘Young Guns 2013,’ is committed to developing innovative, socially responsible, and sustainable design solutions for a rapidly growing world with diminishing resources. Contact Eric at eric_tan@gensler.com.

Reader Comments (8)

This is a fascinating project. I am curious to know more about the integration of the park with the surrounding areas. The buildings which border Allen St. appear pretty closed-off & uninviting. Would this be a formidable barrier to naturally accessing the space on-foot? Curious to know if this came up and what was said about it.

Also - a side note with regards to the organic waste recycling component. I lived in Brooklyn for several years and my household separated organic waste to compost. The only collection in our neighborhood was located at a church several blocks away. As others in the neighborbhood learned about the collection, we found the bins would frequently be too full to add to. I know a lot of New Yorkers are eager for municipal composting - so I imagine a public receptacle would become filled quite quickly between pickups.

Overall - I love this park concept!
06.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKyle Quilici
Kyle, thanks for the wonderful comment! Many cities have a big organic waste problem...most of the organic waste in our cities is generated by commercial activities (ie: restaurants and supermarkets). Most of it can be recycled into nutrient rich fertilizer / ammonia and even be extracted for methane, but it is not. Although our composting system is only in its preliminary design phase, by incorporating them into our urban infrastructure, we can potentially reduce tons of waste going into our landfills in addition to reducing the amount of noisy/smelly/lumbering garbage trucks that wake everyone up in the mornings!
06.11.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric Tan
Most of it can be recycled into nutrient rich fertilizer / ammonia and even be extracted for methane,As others in the neighborbhood learned about the collection,but we found the bins would frequently be too full to add to.
Thanks for sharing this information in your article. After reading this blog I came to know that your idea is very unique and fresh.
I see what you are trying to achieve with this concept but think of the security implications.

There are no fences or protective barriers along the mall. What would protect the visitors from getting clipped by a passing car/truck/bus/bicyclist? Who would mind the pools and ensure no one drowns? Who would clean the sandy 'beach' areas? Who would ensure the sites weren't vandalized and damaged? What about the noise level from the crowds mere feet from residents trying to sleep/rest peaceably in their apartments on either side of the mall?

I live on Allen Street. It is a heavily, HEAVILY trafficked street with vehicles and I assure you I cannot see this concept working unless strenuous safety measures were put in place (measures that would probably make most of the design unfeasible).
@ Allen Street Neighbor, the project is still in its concept phases, so of course not every detail has been worked out, but here are a few answers to some of the concerns you may have. I also live near the Allen Street mall and know that it is a place in need of revitalization.

1) The regular sidewalks we walk around on everyday do not have fences, people seem walk along them just fine. Our office is along 6th avenue, a busy very thoroughfare, people walk on the sidewalk just fine without the need for fences.

2) The pools will just be wading ponds / fountains (1 feet deep), negating the need for a lifeguard. Many parks have fountains and Central Park even has a lake...I don't believe there are lifegaurds in the ponds/lakes of Central Park and don't believe that drowning is a common occurance at Central Park.

3) Just like every park in the city, there will be a maintence crew staffed by the parks department to clean and maintain the space. Vandalism is obviously a concern, but just like anything else that is built in the city, its up to everyone including the community and police to make sure that vandalism doesn't occur. I also believe that communities tend to protect things that they are proud of and have a sense of ownership to.

4) Regarding the noise issue, we will be setting opening times and closing times (similiar to what the HighLine has currently)
09.5.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEric
I love the completed redesign of the Pike Slip sections of the mall. They are heavily used by local families and seniors. There is a magical group of Chinese people who get dressed up and do partner dancing to Chinese music in the evenings, on some days. Lots of picnicking and newspaper reading and just relaxing goes on all the time

There are two problematic aspects, unfortunately. The maintenance schedule is inadequate to the amount of garbage that accumulates daily. Walking through the piles of garbage that line the path and fill up empty spaces in the plantings,is unpleasant and depressing. Sort of ruins the whole space. Either the parks dept. should step up the cleaning schedule or maybe a neighborhood clean up crew could be organized for this area, by one of the CBOs nearby.

And - skateboarders, who have their own newly designed park under the Manhattan Bridge, directly across the street, have succeeded in completely destroying many of the (formerly) lovely curving benches. The benches need to be replaced with a design that is skateboarder-proof. Or we need a sign that says "no skateboarding on the furniture please, you selfish morons!"

Other than that, it's beyond lovely.
Why rejuvenate the median, when you could have focused your efforts on the sidewalks on both the side of the street itself. Is this just another case of designers forcing their ideas down the community. And to make this sustainable you just went down the list of all the sustainable strategies and employed all of them. Kind of lame don't you think.
01.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterChaseme

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