Hey, guess what?? I got it, I’m finally here blogging!! Got my computer working right again. Thanks for you patience everyone.
Today was an industrious day, pun intended. We explored the blue-collar side of New York, tapping into the industrial history of the Brooklyn and Queens sections of the city and the restoration going on in these neighborhoods.
The day started with a pleasant surprise to be escorted along the waters of Gantry State Park by the designer himself, Thomas Balsley. He was instrumental in our assessment of the site and explained much of the history of the neighborhood, its function as a major import/export hub for the area, and how that history played into his company’s vision for the park. I was especially taken by his explanation of William White’s theories of human interaction and socialization. The way in which people interact, or not, is many times a result of their interaction with the landscape around them. The dog park example is relevant because it shows that people who would otherwise not be engaged with each other have now found a common interest and a social bond. The same can be said of the fishing pier or the playing fields. These common “grounds” bring residents out of their homes and into an interactive community setting. I am very excited to see what the next phase of the promontory hill will bring for neighborhood interaction.
I was very excited to see the Brooklyn Grange in action first hand. I had only seen it once before via Skype with the co-founder Anastasia during my studio this past January. We were designing a permaculture garden for an urban area of campus, Southwest Residential Area, which is all hardscape, and planters or planter beds would have to be used. We Skyped with the farm about urban food production, rooftop gardens, irrigation issues and much more. That day she took the computer out the door to show us the beehives and the rooftop was covered in snow and the wind was whipping! To see it active today with children learning about urban sustainability was much more inspiring. Although it is a costly endeavor, the Grange is proof that it can be done, and done well, serving the needs of the community and educating the next generation about urban renewal.
I found the Newtown Creek presentation today by Kate and Chunqi really professional and thorough. Great job! I am a big fan of the designer George Trakas. He created a waterfront and an island at the campus pond at UMass, as well as an intricate pier setting at Dia Beacon, one of the options for tomorrows self guided tours. I became a fan of his because of his passion, and I use the word strongly, to get people to reconnect with the water, not only visually or figuratively, but literally touching the water. I saw much of that same language today in the Newtown Creek Nature Walk, the steps leading right down into the water, the seating walls that step down to the very edge of the pier, and the cylinder steel “footings” that jut upward at strategic locations. Although this site was signature Trakas, I was not as enamored by it as his other work. The noisy and smelly setting from the garbage and reclamation all around the outer banks made the site unredeemable, at least until that is changed. It is not a place I would want to stay for any length of time.
My sound clips are from the Oko Farms and the Brooklyn traffic at the Flushing Street triangle (where the gas station is). They show a sharp contrast in the sounds of the city in that one is quiet and meditative blocking out the street noise just outside the fence, and the other is right in the middle of a busy intersection of three streets in the middle of the day. These sound clips remind us that aesthetics and artistry cannot be the driving force behind design, it must also be about how people experience the space. The sounds of the city play a crucial part in design decisions, whether to utilize and augment existing sounds, or block them out with strategic design.