Transforming Our Public and Privately Owned Public Spaces
The students in my visual and information design 3 class were assigned a Poster Design project each charged with the task of reimaging seating in a public space (park), this also included Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS). They then visited their selected sites, observed visitors experiencing the space; came up with a theme to recreate seating that would be interpreted as a poster. All wrote an essay defining the visitors experience and the space redesign. Some themes from assigned readings, online resources, website links plus a short film featuring Chris Holmes, user-experience researcher discussing his teams work with the Municipal Arts Society new POPS website. Such resources will enable them to further hash out themes for their design of the poster and seating, and essay, along with photos documenting site visits. From this a series of poster and seating sketches were developed, along with examples of material. The final designs reflect a broad a mix of diverse themes and critical thinking. For example, students like Kelly McCrossin and Russell Howe chose the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center; (formerly Reebok Climbing Wall), which is a POPS site.
These two students chose reclaimed wood for seating which perfectly compliments the swath of greenery that covers living plant wall designed by the award-winning firm Todd Williams Billie Tsien Architects. In contrast Daniella Shin’s waterfront environment the Chelsea Cove of Hudson River Park she created, “My Adobe,” a multifunctional bike stand with a table crafted from bamboo. Riders can easily access Wi-Fi to check email, or relax to drink water and eat or read while taking in the scenic views of the Hudson River. Jennifer Coppola selected the Highline; one block away from the waterfront in trendy Chelsea neighborhood this elevated pedestrian concrete style boardwalk stretches from 14th Street to 23rd street offers visitor’s majestic views of Jersey City and NYC landscape. Concerned by the lack of adequate sitting inspired Jennifer to consider adding more seating to make for a better visitor experience.
A few other students, Katia Bourbon and Nicole Abesamis worked on Paley Park a respite from the city. This small three-sided privately owned-public space located at 3 West 53rd Street. Upcycling seating made from automobile tires inspired Kytzia; the chairs cushions are bright green grass, retrofitted with legs made from reclaimed wood. Nicole crafts anthropomorphic shaped rock seating meant to invigorate Paley Park with organic spatial design, as if designed by nature. Both students disliked the Bertoia wire mesh side chairs which reminded them too much of lunch hour scene from Mad Men television show. Yet, they kept the theme of the streaming waterfall muffling the hustle and bustle of midtown traffic. Socrates Sculpture Park, is located in Long Island City in Queens, two students Jane Choi and Kelsey Bryden introduced seating resembling iconic symbols of the parks existing sculpture—transforming the parks urban decay to a more family friendly place. Each student wrote a 500-word essay describing the location, observation of seating, the functionality and social interactivity, and the spaces architectural design team. My goal was to get the student’s to look at the seating as an object; allow the object to define the space with the visitor in mind. There were concerns with concept development and not use history as a way of interpreting the reimaging. The student’s research along with what they wrote was not meant to be part of the poster text; but it did become a part of the process of solving the problem. And the writing helped them to see the larger context of the problem and shaped their design thinking. They framed the writing process in terms of experience (the user and visitor). Some of the essays focused on the outdated mode of furnishings, drab ambience or lack of eco-friendly materials; others on the lack of public art or poorly designed signage. My hope that the students understand the necessity for maintaining public spaces and how this has a profound effect on their daily lives of living and working in an urban environment.