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Sunday, October 28, 2007

What Came Before After

Part of the Urban Design program at City College last year was a class on the anthropology of space and place. Taught by Setha Low -- whose books I reviewed here and here -- the class was equal parts theory and practice; readings about the subject followed by research and field observations for a public space in the city. The team of which I was a part looked at Jacob Javits Plaza in Lower Manhattan's Civic Center area. Designed by Martha Schwartz, the plaza is known as being the site of Richard Serra's Tilted Arc, a curved wall of cor-ten steel that bisected the space and was removed only eight years after its supposedly permanent installation.

I'd written critically about the plaza design in the past, though this class gave me the opportunity to look at the success (or lack thereof) of the design from the point of view of use, in relation to design. This weekend I decided to reformat the final paper for the web and post it on my web site. So I give you Jacob Javits Plaza: Reconsidering Intentions. It's a fairly long paper, but one I'm particularly proud of. If you make it through it all, hopefully you'll find it worth your while.


An abstract of the paper might read:
This paper attempts to determine the success of Jacob Javits Plaza through the framework of the current design's historical relationship to what came before, via a historical analysis, a three-part mapping analysis of the space (seating population, movement, and use), and using internet “discussions” about perceptions of the space and the plaza design. These analyses follow histories of the Federal buildings that created the plaza; the selection, installation, and removal of Serra’s sculpture; the “in-between” period when temporary planters and furniture occupied the space; and the selection, installation, and reaction to Schwartz’s plaza redesign.


  1. amazing, with two consecutive posts (this and the sauna) you just helped me enormously with two imminent deadlines
    always a source of inspiration and information

  2. While I can only imagine how I helped, and with what exactly, I'm pleased nevertheless. Thanks.


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