by Nancy Schneider (May, 2012)
Cities oftentimes are planned in a linear manner by policy makers, city officials and city planners. But the lines are getting blurred. What about the more abstract ideas of what it means to belong and live in a city? Questions such as: Who will live here and how do we treat social capital as a resource? Where will people live, and how will people move about most efficiently? What services will people need? Where will people work, and is the city supporting entrepreneurial thinking and investment? In what types of efforts will investment be made? What should really be in our toolbox to know who and what belongs in a city?
These types of questions were touched upon at the What Belongs in A City panel discussion held at the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building of the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art on Sunday, April 1, 2012.
Panelists included: Moderator Diana Lidd of Next American City; Toni Griffin, Professor of Architecture and Director, J. Max Bond Center, Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York, CUNY; Tony Smirsky, co-founder of Megawords magazine; Quilian Riano, an architect and writer based in Brooklyn, New York; Camilo José Vergara, a Chilean-born, New York-based writer, photographer and documentarian; and Dre Urhahn, originally from Amsterdam, who works with creative partner Jeroen Koolhaas under the title Haas & Hahn. Together they have worked on a variety of documentaries and other expressions of art. Their work in Rio and São Paolo, Brazil, bringing outrageous works of art to unexpected places, painting enormous murals together with the local youth in the slums of these cities, has now brought them to Philadelphia to work on < A HREF="http://www.phillypainting.org/" target="_blank">Philly Painting.
The panel was held as part of the Zoe Strauss exhibition at the Museum. Zoe Strauss is an installation artist and photographer who recently completed "Under I-95," a 10-year-long project that culminated in an installation of photographs under interstate 95 in South Philadelphia. Ms. Strauss is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Public Art Project.
The presentation began with Toni Griffin who identified herself as the Planner of the group and shared her project "is the city Just - our American legacy" which highlighted the challenges of Detroit, Newark and Washington, DC, among others. She said, "Architecture alone is not the answer for cities," as she shared slides of many architectural examples in cities that cut people off from neighborhoods, surrounding areas and the outside, such as unnecessary walls, small or nonexistent windows, and elevated walkways keeping people off the street. Many of the problems in cities today are still leftover from city exodus and suburban sprawl, which started in 1930 and 1940s. Policymakers have contributed to segregated communities, NIMBYism, and isolation.
Highlights of the presentation included Quilian Riano, who spoke about the whOWNSpace project, which began in Brooklyn. Developers often receive exemptions from rules related to density or height in exchange for providing public space. However, this public space afterwards may not be accessible or identified as public and is then lost as a resource to the community surrounding the property.
This project will be used to:
- REVEAL conflicting rules and ownerships in the increasingly privatized and commercialized spaces that make up the contemporary neoliberal urban condition;
- QUESTION those rules and the current state of our "public" space; discussing the intentions and conditions surrounding our open spaces;
- ADVOCATE FOR AND PROPOSE uses and designs that encourage community activist use of urban open spaces in accordance to the Call to Action for the Rights of Neighborhoods; and
- INTERVENE in urban spaces, turning ideas and research into material action examines the rules around privately owned public space.
The whOWNSpace Project began by mapping out the public spaces. Interestingly, many of the spaces were not available for public use, and when members of the group tried to access the space, they were not permitted. The group is legally challenging the city to gain access.
The final speaker, Dre Urhahn shared incredible images of the Favela Painting Project in Brazil.
Areas transformed to colorful artistic expressions have, in some cases become tourist attractions
Rio Cruzeiro: a concrete structured originally built to hold up the hillside is transformed into river art.
The artists' first permanent work on U.S. soil, entitled Philly Painting, will be in Philadelphia at three locations: the 13th street corridor owned by Goldman Properties; North Philadelphia at Lehigh and Germantown Avenues; and in Manayunk on the face of industrial buildings running parallel with I-76.
According to two.one.five magazine, funding for this project, at just under $500,000, has been provided by The Knight Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Goldman Properties and The Manayunk Development Corporation. The artists hope to be done by the end of 2012.