February 8, 2011
by Rebecca Parelman Center for Architecture Foundation

Event: StudentDay@theCenter — Urban Design Studio
Location: Center for Architecture, 02.03.11
Educator: Heather Zusman

Students present their urban neighborhoods, addressing needs of various inhabitants.

Catherine Teegarden

Sixth-graders attending the Math and Science Exploratory School (M.S. 447) took their “exploration” to the Center for Architecture for a StudentDay@theCenter Urban Design Studio, a program that was tailor-made to fit their semester’s theme, “Sustainable New York.” Influenced by Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030, the theme brought students to the Queens Museum of Art to visit the Panorama of NYC and to the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. These field trips helped them garner the skills necessary to complete their final project: a blueprint envisioning sustainable, mixed-use development for Public Place, a six-acre brownfield and former gas plant on the Gowanus Canal.

In the Urban Design Studio, students became urban planners for the day by designing a city block within an imaginary NYC neighborhood, keeping in mind the importance of compatibility, accessibility, light and air, and the needs and desires of its residents. Each student group was assigned a particular user group — families, workers (commuters), business owners, and the elderly — and was responsible for the plan and design of a neighborhood that would benefit that group. Once the students determined the features and buildings to include in their neighborhood, along with its general layout and scale, they got to work. Conceptualizing what their prospective users would need, students developed plans that featured subway stops adjacent to their local factory to benefit workers’ commuting time; libraries, parks, and malls for families; and a nursing home and hospital complex for the elderly constituency. After placing their neighborhood section within a standard city block, students justified how and why their design arrangement best suited their community’s needs. The Urban Design Studio experience will ultimately serve as a skill set for M.S. 447, which will become instrumental when students are designing and developing their vision for Public Place at the end of the semester.

The Center for Architecture Foundation offers Student Days throughout the year to K-12 school groups. Programs are adapted to meet the abilities of different age groups. For more information, and to learn about ways to get involved, visit www.cfafoundation.org or contact Catherine Teegarden at cteegarden@cfafoundation.org.