Layered SPURA / City Studio

Visual urbanism, engaged pedagogy and long-term community collaborations to make space for dialogue 

Forty years ago, New York took ownership of a parcel of land on the Lower East Side for “slum clearance” and urban renewal – the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA). Few renewal projects have been so contested, and it remains the largest undeveloped city-owned parcel of land south of 96th Street. The hopes, memories and meanings of this place are intertwined with the history of housing and politics on the Lower East Side and in New York at large. Many communities claim this site and imagine divergent futures for it.

A new form of engagement and collaborative exhibition creation to make space for dialogue in the city

SPURA with a new exhibition, Layered SPURA : Spurring conversations through visual urbanism, at the Aronson Gallery, Sheila Johnson Design Center @ the New School

For six years, Gabrielle taught City Studio : SPURA for the Public in the Urban Studies department at the New School as a way to develop a new form of community-engagement and collaborative creation to better understand and make space for dialogue on a contested urban site.

Through deep collaborations with local activists and organizations including Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), the Pratt Center for Community Development, and City Lore and its Place Matters project, we developed a series of collaborative neighborhood-based exhibitions, which made space for dialogue in a neighborhood where this kind of space was sorely lacking.

The course considered this contested site and its history, while stressing engagement with the community planning process and the multiple Lower East Side communities. The class challenged students to understand histories of housing in New York City, theories of urban development and community participation, and asks them to engage in archival, ethnographic, visual and participatory research. Students developed careful and creative methods for researching SPURA and finally stretched that research to new realms by collectively making exhibitions which posed questions and help envision this site’s future.

The CNN Next List made a great video about our Layered SPURA project, addressing the history of the area and Buscada’s visual urbanist approach in creating dialogue between communities.

Watch the short video of the Layered SPURA : Spurring conversations through visual urbanism 2012 exhibition @ the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons The New School for Design. This new exhibition curated and designed by Buscada celebrates four years of our work on the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area and spurring conversation about what’s next for SPURA!

January 23 – February 25, 2012, the Layered SPURA / City Studio project celebrates four years of work on SPURA with a new exhibition, Layered SPURA : Spurring conversations through visual urbanism, at the Aronson Gallery, Sheila Johnson Design Center @ the New School.

In February 2009, Gabrielle and her students curated “Visualizing SPURA”, using many media to allow visitors to make their voices heard about the future and everyday life of this complex site. The 2008 City Studio included: Anastasia Ehrich, Savannah Foster, Kara Gionfriddo, Winhkong Hua, Evan Iacoboni, Samantha Lewis, Rachael London, Hannah Lyons, Gabriel Tennen, and Samantha Washburn-Baronie.

In February 2010, the second exhibition in the series opened, “Exploring SPURA”. This exhibition continued to challenge viewers to see SPURA in a new way, and to contribute their own knowledge of the site. The 2009 City Studio included: 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.

The SPURA City Studio continued in the fall of 2010, with a new range of projects by new students, exploring the new possibilities for development and organizing on the SPURA site — as it was once more considered by Community Board 3. The 2010 City Studio included: Matthew Fujibayashi, Joshua Guerra, Jaclyn Hersh, Sohee Kim, Corey Mullee, Amy Nguyen, David Privat-Gilman, Ian Pugh and Matthew Taylor. “(Re)Visiting SPURA” opened at the Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Art Center in April 2011.

Fall 2011 sees five new additions to the City Studio : Zach Fried, Candace Kiersky, Stephanie Messer, Brittney Williams and Alex Wood.

In Fall 2011, Buscada & four years of City Studio students were in residence at Creative Time’s Living As Form in collaboration with Temporary Services & Bik van der Pol. Many people came to the SPURA booth and on our walking tour to talk about SPURA’s layered past and future! Find out more about the event

Exhibited at:
common room, 2009 + 2010
Abrons Art Center, 2011
Creative Time’s Living As Form, 2011
Aronson Gallery, The New School, 2012