Notes From Workshop #20: The City As Art

JUNE 23, 2015

from workshop announcement:

What kinds of urban spaces provoke what kinds of responses from artists, architects, and designers? And how can those spaces be re-imagined as “urban catalysts,” enabling social and well as physical re-invigoration of a specific site with its own specific conditions? To what extent does this “call-and-response” approach represent new opportunities or new frameworks for creating art in public places?

Recent work by graduate architecture students at the Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT) have incorporated this notion of art as an urban catalyst – of art that provides an opportunity for agency – by proposing interventions that, as described by the current BSA show, are “bigger than a breadbox and smaller than a building.”  Homing in on a specific, and very much related, challenge, how can such an approach enhance a city’s overall strategy for a more vibrant, supportive, and invigorating public realm that overall is also a vehicle for agency? Presentation, discussion, and brainstorming were led by Rob Trumbour, from Wentworth Institute of Technology andArtforming, and Chris Osgood, who recently left the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics to become Boston’s Chief of Streets. 

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1. Approaches to civic innovation: Rob Trumbour, with participation by James Jarzyniecki, Mandy Johnson, Andrew LaFosse, Samantha Partington, and Liem Than
•    Students from Trumbour’s studio offered their respective thesis projects and the underlying principles in support of civic innovation
o    Trumbour set the stage for the presentations by discussing the visits he makes with his students to, e.g., New York, Big Bend National Park, and Marfa, TX, to visit the works of Donald Judd. 
o    How space helps create the constructed object. [Note from Ron Mallis: a New Yorker profile of Robert Irwin – “In a desert of pure feeling” – speaks directly to this subject: “how you can take art out into the world.”]
o    Designing space(s) that offer opportunities for two kinds of “performance”: (1) pragmatic and (2) abstract

Liem Than and Samantha Partington, “Mapping Big Bend”
Master’s student translations of what happened in places visited
Final image summarizes what they took back. Emerging and remote, scalelessness and edgelessness. 
Thesis explores how you can get lost in a landscape
Concept was translating the scale of perception and how it is lost in larger landscapes. How do we organize a space when a space is a perceptual field? 
Build out of modules. To create triangular structure
Creating different areas and boundaries

Andrew LaFosse, “Building for the Revival of Urban Art in Boston”
Thesis related to graffiti art is the true embodiment of a culture
Choose building with high visibility in East Boston

James Jarzyniecki, “Two Connections”
Two Connections The city to the waterfront and the person to the location that they are in.
Language of how people relate to the environment around them. Provide a map at the start of the project.
Emerald necklace linkage. Providing small pavilions for events or discussion. Pavilions create their own sound. Identical pavilions.

Mandy Johnson, “Spatial Performance: A Place to Dance”
Art and function in architecture
Site creates it's own rooms. Space begins to be made by the existing conditions. Abstract site mappings. Created a series of interventions that the site already began to form itself. Pragmatic elements abound for performances.
Interventions take on the look of pavilions. 
She has designed performance spaces. Spaces like this allow for improvisation or abstract performance. Breaking up the uniformity of the underpass. 

2. Democratizing the city and spaces within it: Chris Osgood
•    Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics (www.newurbanmechanics.org) focuses on innovation around engagement, economic development, the streetscape, and education. 
•    NUM runs experimental projects inside and outside of City Hall designed to
o    engage and empower residents
o    improve the experience of the city
•    Focus on innovation to provide better services to citizens
•    Funding: Direct City funding, capital budget, grant funding, partner organizations interesting in trying new things.
•    Examples:
o    Citizens Connect app: empowers citizens to contribute to maintenance of their own neighborhoods; now accounts for 28% of all service requests
o    Participatory Budgeting: 12-24 year olds get to vote on where $1 million in City capital funds go, led by the City’s Office of Youth Engagement & Empowerment
o    HubHacks permitting challenge, led by the City’s Department of Innovation & Technology: resolve permitting issues
o    Where’s my school bus?: track location of school buses via mobile app
o    Public Space Invitational: requested proposals/new ideas in three categories: public realm, City Hall itself, and “Random, Awesome Design,” or RAD.
•    City Hall has become a more inviting place: “percent of ‘fabulousness’ has increased because of artful interventions” (including Liz LaManche’s “Stairways of Fabulousness” in the building’s atrium)
o    Technology for Autism Now (TAN), a local startup: provides a range of mobile applications to support the education of youth on the autism spectrum
o    Streetscape: a range of innovations, including:
•    Parklets
•    Outfitting trucks with vehicular side guards for bike safety
•    In general, “making streets more delightful”

3. What are the big ideas/questions/challenges that came out of tonight’s APP Lab?
•    How does the work – and the approaches – represented by the Wentworth projects respond to/fit with NUM’s agenda?
•    Design interventions that generate “agency” among users:
o    E.g., the “conversation” pavilions proposed near the Charles, or the stand-alone platforms under an overpass, providing a kind of stage for however anyone wants to use it
•    What are the possibilities for a “Street Art festival?” 
•    Can artists request a space to create art from the city?

4. Ideas to build on from the workshop:
•    Contact the Community Liaison. An amazing resource for each neighborhood.
•    “Bright Side of the Road,” by Michael Moss and Claudia Ravaschiere: an installation in Ft. Point: “creating usable area through an act of guerilla urban gardening.” Can we install more of these?
•    More parklets in Boston. 
•    City to help create stages for temporary installations. 
•    How to get an "Art Permit" from a city or town? Neighborhood reps are first contacts. 
•    Different strategies for street art. Sometimes just do it guerrilla style.
•    How to figure out the stages. Things are not impossible. Let's break it down into manageable steps and get it done.
•    Explore opportunities for collaboration with/among NUM, Office of Arts and Culture, Greenway Conservancy, etc.