Streetscapes, Sidewalks and Skyscrapers, Oh My!: Urban Design Events in New York

| September 15, 2011 6:00 AM | Updated: December 1, 2011 1:00 PM

This season, New Yorkers can embrace the city as a space of architecture, urban design and development. Here are some of the highlights:

The Ford Foundation Building, one of architect Kevin Roche's most famous works, is known for the stark contrast of atrium greenery against the glass facade. Flickr/digitizedchaos

Architectural Boat Tour

Chelsea Piers
Dec. 4/11, 2011,  2:15 p.m. – 5:15 p.m

Enjoy a 360-degree view of the Manhattan skyline on a leisurely cruise through the Hudson, East and Harlem Rivers. From Chelsea Piers, guests will board a 1920’s-inspired yacht — appropriately called the Manhattan – and spend about three hours sightseeing from the water. Guests will have unobstructed views of Brooklyn Bridge Park, Gracie Mansion and the Cloisters, among others, and will cross under all 18 city bridges. Tickets are $75 adults, $40 children and include complimentary hors d’oeuvres.

Building the Met: Kevin Roche and the Metropolitan Museum of Art Master Plan

Museum of the City of New York
Dec. 6, 2011, 6:30 p.m.

Presented in conjunction with Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment, architect Kevin Roche and Lawrence A. Fleischman, chairman of the American Wing at the Met, discuss Roche’s visionary plan and design for additions at the Met, including The Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing, the Lehman Wing and The American Wing.

The interior of the Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park. Three architectural models of skyscrapers in Hong Kong are on display in the above exhibit. Flickr/Mr. T in DC

A replica of the Commissioner's Grid plan for Manhattan from designed in 1807. It was adopted by the city in 1811.Wikimedia. This image is in the public domain.

The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan
Museum of the City of New York

Dec. 6, 2011 – Apr. 15, 2012

For the 200th anniversary of the Commissioners’ Plan for New York, the 1811 document that first outlined the Manhattan grid, the Museum of the City of New York will present an exhibition that draws attention to the evolution of the grid over two centuries. Given the grid’s history of reinvention,  the Architectural League challenged designers to envision creative solutions for our streets, sidewalks and public spaces. The top 10 submissions  will be featured in an exhibition.

Toxicity and Building Materials: Transparency and Disclosure
Lend Lease, 200 Park Ave.

Dec. 7, 2011 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

The Urban Green Council highlights the initiatives of Healthy Building Network and Perkins & Will, two groups working toward full disclosure of the products found in construction materials. Speakers will also discuss how these materials affect the environment and our health. Tickets are $15.

Urban by Nature: Healing the Landscape/Architecture Divide in NYC
Museum of the City of New York

Dec. 8, 2011 6:30 p.m.

Urban designer Diana Balmori  and architects Joel Sanders and Geoff Manaugh lead a discussion on New York City’s successful and failed attempts to bring nature’s flora and fauna to the land of concrete and steel.

The Unfinished Grid: Speculations for Manhattan
Museum of the City of New York

Dec. 10, 2011, 4:00 p.m.

Presented in conjunction with The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan,  Greg Wessner of the Architectural League joins prominent architects and designers to discuss the potential possibilities that exist for improving NYC’s iconic grid.

Context/Contrast; New Architecture in Historic Places
Brooklyn Historical Society

Oct. 6, 2011 – Dec. 31, 2011 11

The exhibit highlights the architectural diversity of four Manhattan locations — South Street Seaport, Soho, the Upper East Side and Brooklyn Heights– where contemporary buildings stand alongside historic architecture.

The Skyscraper Museum

July 27, 2011 – Jan. 2012

The Skyscraper Museum’scurrent exhibition is a survey of the world’s tallest modern skyscrapers, featuring buildings completed after 2001 or expected to top out by 2016. The installation includes original renderings, models, photographs and films of 48 giants that are at least 1,250 feet — the height of the Empire State Building.

Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment
Museum of the City of New York
Sept. 27, 2011 – Jan. 22, 2012

This exhibition is a retrospective of Roche’s architectural treasures in New York City and beyond. Five decades of original renderings, photos and models by Roche, the Irish architect behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Ford Foundation Building, will be on display.

The City Atlas

The recently launched City Atlas  is a web resource that utilizes user creativity and community engagement to solve our city’s urban and environmental challenges through a series of interactive maps. Among the six maps, My Block NYC captures personal accounts of life through user-uploaded video. SeeClickFix identifies and locates user-reported issues like potholes and downed wires.

Previous Events:

Architecture and Design Film Festival
Tribeca Cinemas

Oct. 19 — 23

This film festival, dedicated entirely to the built environment, features 31 diverse films and documentaries on topics ranging from the office cubicle to urban life in Austria. Among this years most topical films are Detroit Wild City, addressing Detroit’s structural collapse, and Pool Party, featuring the urbanization of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Various talks and panel discussions will accompany the films. Tickets are $13.

Living With History: Restoring, Redesigning, and Reviving New York’s Landmark Interiors
Museum of the City of New York

Oct. 22, 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

A symposium presented by the Museum of the City of New York will explore how preservationists balance authenticity with modernity when restoring New York’s landmark buildings. Panelists include the designers who rehabilitated Gracie Mansion, the Beacon Theater and Brooklyn’s Wyckoff Farmhouse. Reservations are required and tickets may be purchased in advance at $25 for museum members, seniors and students and for $35 for non-members. For more information please call 917-492-3395.

Beyond the Super-Square: At the Corner of Art and Architecture
Bronx Museum of Art

Oct. 28 — 30

This three-day conference, presented by the Bronx Museum of Art,calls attention to an influential style of modernist architecture that stemmed from Latin America in the 1970s.  The weekend opens with an architectural IQ contest, followed by a day of discussions with panelists from Harvard, the Museum of Modern Art and Parsons, among others. The event closes with a bus tour of modern architecture sites in the Bronx. Tickets for the bus tour are $30.

New York City Moxie: Manhattan Since 1980
The Center for Architecture

Nov. 4 at 6:00 p.m.

Thirty years ago, New York City could be a pretty scary place. The Bronx was burning, violent crime rates spiked and the subway system was decorated with graffiti. “Building Back 30 Years of Growth in New York City,”an exhibit opening on Nov. 1 at the Center for Architecture, examines how cleaning up the streets in some cases meant re-imagining the very infrastructure of the city. On Nov. 4, Alexander Garvin of AGA Public Realm bStrategistsand Donald Elliott of Butzel Long will present five examples of successful large-scale redesign projects that helped turn the city around. Free for AIA members, $10 for non-members.

Urban Design since 1945 — A Global Perspective
The Cooper Union
Nov. 17 at 7:00 p.m.

Architect and urban design professor David Graeme Shane will discuss global urbanization after World War II. The talk, at The Cooper Union, comes following the release of Shane’s second book of the same name, which looks critically at the development of our world’s mega-cities. Tickets are $10 and can be reserved by e-mailing


  • Evy Mayer

    I find this column very interesting. What I don’t like is the timing. You announce an event, Architectural Boat Tour, which happened three days ago. This is something I would have liked to have gone to. This is frustrating, and it’s not the first time this has occurred in this column.

  • Hannah

    Evy – the article was published on Oct. 17 at 6:00 am. The boat tour was on Oct. 18. Maybe you should check the site more often.

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