In June 2018, I got to live the urbanista dream–presenting at the Queens Museum’s scale model replica of New York City, the Panorama. As a speaker at the 2018 Open Engagement conference, I led participants through an hour-long virtual tour of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, as we walked above all of New York. Talking #SPURA at the panorama (“In the Same Room without Screaming”) was everything I hoped it would be – amazing to talk about collaborative public art practices and the depth of history, activism, and the long search for justice in that space.
Looking down, finding those few blocks at the end of the Williamsburg Bridge, we could still see, frozen in time, the many parking lots now being built up, the parking lots which had once been 14 square blocks of tenements demolished through urban renewal, the brutal policy championed by none other than the creator of the very panorama we stood on, Robert Moses. Being able to point out those tiny parking lots in the bottom right of this picture really helped make the point for all of us how complex and storied each one of the many blocks of this vast city are.
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The CNN next list TV show and blog made a great video about our recent project Layered SPURA. The video talks about the history of the area and then visual urbanist approach taken by Buscada in creating dialogue between communities in the area.
Getting interviewed on a cold February morning by the CNN crew.
The Layered SPURA / City Studio project, headed by Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, explores this complex site using a hybrid approach of pedagogy, art and research, and involves long-term collaborations between Lower East Side community organizations and students in Bendiner-Viani’s City Studio, a part of the New School’s Urban Programs. The Layered SPURA exhibition, a culmination of four years of student, faculty, and community collaboration which appeared at the New School’s Sheila Johnson Design Center in Winter 2012, does not suggest solutions for a place beleaguered by top-down planning, but rather hopes to spur new conversations amongst people with different points of view about SPURA’s past, present and future.
Find out more about this project : Layered SPURA
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Our 2010 Urban Encounters festival at Tate Britain this past June was a great success, and I thought it worthwhile to reflect on our intentions for this year’s event.
This organization, co-founded by myself and Paul Halliday, and now a Buscada project as well, addresses the dialogue and practice of visual urbanism.
This year’s main event, Urban Encounters: Routes and Transitions at Tate Britain on 29 May 2010, was inspired by the multiple meanings of these words : routes and transitions. All of the talks will soon be available for download and listening on iTunes U through Tate Britain, but meanwhile, a short explanation of the intentions an interests behind this year’s main event.
We were particularly interested in both embodied local routes, as well as global flows and the individuals who experience both of these kinds of movements through space – as well as through time.
The other part of this theme – transitions – was been inspired by our interest in change – and its relationship to the city, as well as the city-dweller. What does a still (or even a moving yet finite) visual medium have to say about change? about the change of landscapes? the change or transitions or adaptations made by people themselves, traveling these global and local routes in the processes of migration and life otherwise? Are there traces that can be found, or new geographies made through the visual?
The panels addressed these routes and transitions through three major themes –
Global Routes: Personal & political addressed global routes / global flows of capital, colonialism and war, as they intersect with personal routes and connections through space and time.
Making Transitions: Practice & location considered the ways in which migrants and migrant stories inhabit, and create, locations – from front rooms to municipal buildings, housing developments or the space of radio waves. This panel asked how the process of “making space” is a part of the movement between nations and neighborhoods?
The Remembered Road: Archives & pasts explored the way in which archives from the official to the personal can be read, re-read, or reinterpreted, to find the traces of different kinds of migrant, and mobile, histories – and to understand cities’ multiple pasts.
There are some enormous questions here, and some thrilling answers and provocations were posed by our speakers’ work.
Yet, a mix of dialogue and practice is at the heart of Urban Encounters – we encourage dialogue amongst our panelists as well as with our audience. In building the field of visual urbanism and we hope that you will engage in a dialogue with us. I hope that those of you who were not able to join us at the event will listen to the podcast when it becomes available – and for those that were able to join us at this or past years, please get in touch to continue the dialogue here, via facebook, twitter, or email at info [at] urbanencounters.org.
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An exhibition by students of the City Studio at Eugene Lang College, the New School & Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, in collaboration with SPURA Matters.
The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) is the largest undeveloped city-owned parcel of land south of 96th Street, and it has been a contested site since it was cleared for “renewal” more than 40 years ago.
Please join us at a new exhibition by the New School’s City Studio, Exploring SPURA, which delves into the experience of living at SPURA now – the resources and restrictions – as well as the stories of today and the experience of the SPURA diaspora, displaced many years ago. The exhibition springs from the City Studio’s research in the community and hopes to continue encouraging productive conversation about the site’s future.
The question of SPURA is a timely one, as plans for its development are in discussion once more at the Community Board. Come join the conversation!
The 2010 City Studio creators of Exploring SPURA are: Sarah Charles, Jamie Florence, Leijia Hanrahan, Anke Hendriks, Lila Knisely, John Lake, Claudie Mabry, Katie Priebe, Adam Schleimer, Kaushal Shrestha, Emily Winkler-Morey and Hannah Zingre. Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani is the professor and exhibition curator.
The City Studio course of the Urban Studies department, Eugene Lang/New School explores the life of a small urban space, through archival, ethnographic, visual and participatory research. SPURA Matters is a visioning project for the SPURA site to get people talking about SPURA’s future. It is a collaboration between Good Old Lower East Side, Pratt Center for Community Development, and Place Matters/City Lore.
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