The Center for Urban Pedagogy‘s (CUP) playful and informative 2006 video The Water Underground is now available in full online at Places. The 24-minute piece examines and explores New York City’s water supply, treatment and waste infrastructure, its history and prevailing controversies—the students interviewed engineers, plant superintendents, construction workers, marine biologists, urban divers, educators, and environmental justice advocates. Working in partnership with the Lower East Side Ecology Center, CUP worked with students at City-as-School and through the Parks Department’s RECYouth program to research and produce the video.
(via Urban Omnibus)
The excellent “Fast Trash” exhibit—featuring Roosevelt Island‘s signature pneumatic vacuum tube garbage disposal system—closed this past weekend. A series of public programs including screenings, walking tours and even musical theater helped to make the exhibit, curated by architect Juliette Spertus, into a real must-see. The video above, which featured at Gallery RIVAA, doesn’t provide the larger international and infrastructural context of the full exhibit, but does provide a look at the history and operation of the pneumatic tube system. It also offers the reminder that no matter how elegantly designed the disposal system, garbage is not pretty.
The “Fast Trash” exhibit is a gift that keeps on giving: two excellent organizations are holding awesome-sounding garbage-focused events at Gallery RIVAA on Roosevelt Island this weekend, piggybacking on the last week of “Fast Trash”‘s run. On Saturday, May 15th, the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) will screen two documentaries on New York City waste disposal: the rare and intriguing-sounding 1979 documentary Collection and Disposal, a Job for the Birds, and CUP’s own 2002 Garbage Problems.
Focused on New York’s garbage glut, Robert Machover and Catherine Pozzo Di Borgo’s “Collection and Disposal” asks where NYC garbage will go when the landfills reach capacity. Through informal interviews with the sanitation workers who each lug 6,000 pounds of trash every day, the documentary gives a glimpse into the challenges of hauling and planning for the future, and reveals some insider garbage slang on the side.
Picking up where “Collection and Disposal” left off, 2002’s “Garbage Problems” finds that three decades later there’s still no clear solution to the city’s garbage crisis. The documentary, CUP’s first-ever Urban Investigation, uncovers some of the dirty politics of putting together a comprehensive waste plan for the city.
The screening will be followed by a presentation from garbage historian and environmental planner Benjamin Miller on the prospects and challenges of implementing a citywide pneumatic garbage transport system.
And on Sunday, Urban Omnibus hosts a meet-up on Roosevelt Island to explore the Island on foot with landscape architect Donald Richardson, who worked on the its 1969 master plan. The walk will be followed by a guided tour of the “Fast Trash” show with its curator, architect Juliette Spertus. Both of these events sound incredibly interesting to us. Two great days to spend on/learning about “The Island Nobody Knows.”
Saturday, May 15, 5 – 7pm
527 Main Street, Roosevelt Island
F train to Roosevelt Island
FREE | Seats very limited, RVSP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Urban Omnibus Meet-up
Sunday, May 16th, 2010, 2pm
Roosevelt Island, meet outside the F train stop
The New York Times features a long-term partnership between the National Park Service and the US Army Corps of Engineers to restore the rapidly disappearing salt marsh islands in Jamaica Bay, the 26-square-mile lagoon bordered by Brooklyn and Queens. Now comprising 800 acres altogether, the series of islands in the Bay spanned more than 16,000 acres a century ago. As part of a larger project to restore parts of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary, and especially Upper and Lower New York Bay, the Army Corps is importing rock, clay, sand, and silt dredged from the widening of the Panama Canal to shore up Jamaica Bay’s islands and help re-establish plant and animal habitat.
The article also offers a good, brief environmental history of Jamaica Bay, including early 20th century plans to make it into a major seaport and mid-20th century top-down conservation efforts that led to the creation of Gateway National Recreation Area, along the bay’s coast, in 1972. Still, over half of the bay’s salt marsh has been lost since the 1950s, and many migratory birds and fish species have disappeared. Contributors to environmental degradation have been contamination from waste treatment plants, historic landfill waste seepage, highway runoff and airplane fuel from jets at JFK Airport.
Current restoration work has started on one island, Elders Point, where the Army Corps estimates that 42 acres of wetlands have been restored, with another 34 acres expected by the end of the year. Another restoration effort on the island called Yellow Bar Hassock is being prepared.
The NYC Department of Environmental Protection‘s Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is already home of some of the most distinctive architecture in the City, the onion-dome digesters designed by Polshek Partnership Architects, as well as a lovely and serene Nature Walk designed by artist George Trakas. Not bad for a sewage plant along one the country’s most polluted waterways! And now the facility is adding another jewel to its crown: a Visitor Center, also designed by Polshek and featuring an indoor-outdoor fountain designed by artist Vito Acconci, is opening tomorrow. This will be the first visitor center for a public infrastructure facility in New York City. It’s exciting, and the exhibits should be very educational, given the scope of the operation—the plant treats more than 250 million gallons of wastewater daily.
After this weekend, the Center will be open Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 4pm.
Saturday, April 24 and Sunday, April 25, 2010
Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant
329 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn
Garbage on Roosevelt Island—the 147-acre strip of land lying in the East River between Manhattan and Queens—is disposed of through a remarkable system of underground pneumatic tubes that was constructed in 1975. The Island’s 14,000 residents empty their trash into a series of garbage chutes which are emptied into the pneumatic pipes several times daily, carrying it at 30 miles per hour to a transfer station at the end of the island. There it is compacted by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), sealed into containers, and loaded on a truck for private export to a landfill outside the city. This Automatic Vacuum Collections System (AVAC) collects and exports more than ten tons of waste daily.
A month-long exhibit on the AVAC, its history and its value as a model for future waste management operations opens today at Gallery RIVAA on the Island, with an opening reception this evening. The show, called “Fast Trash,” has been curated by architect Juliette Spertus and the design firm Project Projects (which also designed the signage and visual identity of Freshkills Park). “Fast Trash” includes explanatory diagrams, video interviews with DSNY engineers who maintain the system, and a selection of drawings produced through a collaboration between the Center for Urban Pedagogy and students from the Child School, exploring what garbage collection might look like in a future without roads. The show will also celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1960 master plan developed for the Island by architects John Burgee and Philip Johnson. A related panel discussion at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service called “Comparative Garbage Collection Strategy and Urban Planning” will take place on May 6th.
FAST TRASH: Roosevelt Island’s Pneumatic Tubes and the Future of Cities
April 22–May 23, 2010
Opening Reception: Thursday, April 22, 6–9pm
Gallery RIVAA, 527 Main Street, Roosevelt Island
Gas Works Park in Seattle, WA is located on the 19.1-acre site of a former Seattle Gas Light Company coal gasification plant. The plant opened in 1906 and closed in 1956 when the City switched to natural gas. The site was abandoned for several years until the City purchased it in 1962; a design combining elements of historic preservation and park design was commissioned from landscape architect Richard Haag in the early 1970s.
The design was remarkable, especially at the time, for retaining and showcasing original infrastructure of the abandoned gas production facilities. (The site now hosts the last extant remnants of coal gasification plants in the US.) Various industrial facilities within the park were converted for new uses: the boiler house, which provided steam for gasification and compressors, became a picnic shelter; the pump house, which pumped gas throughout the facility and to customers, became the play barn; the smoke arrestor hood outside the pump house became a play structure for climbing.
An early brownfield reclamation project, the site’s soil and ground water were cleaned up through bioremediation before the site could be opened for public use. Per state and federal requirements, waste was also removed and/or capped, and air in a portion of the site was sparged to remove benzene. The park opened in 1975 and has been well used and loved since; today it hosts one of Seattle’s largest Fourth of July fireworks events.
As part of its waterfront redevelopment plan, multi-governmental agency Waterfront Toronto is currently in construction of Sherbourne Park, a $28 million storm water treatment facility and public park, near the Lake Ontario shore. Much of the water treatment infrastructure will be visible to park visitors, making more transparent the purification process through features like an ultraviolet treatment pavilion, dramatic channelizing sculptures and biofiltration beds.
The facility’s design has been led by planning, urban design and landscape architecture firm Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg and illustrates, like Freshkills Park, the increased level of collaboration that is becoming more common around large infrastructure projects between engineers, landscape architects and planners.
There are two park sites in New York City that are also sited atop water filtration plants, though neither showcase water filtration quite as prominently: Riverbank State Park sits atop a wastewater treatment facility, and the in-construction Croton Water Filtration Plant in the Bronx’s Van Cordlant Park sites a golf course and green roof atop a drinking water filtration facility.
(via The Dirt)
Bay Area environmental artist Mark Brest Van Kempen makes work that reflects on the relationship between human and natural systems. Since the 1980s, Brest van Kempen has combined architecture, infrastructure and ecology in a series of projects at varying scales. At the gallery scale, his installation Cleaning System (2000) monitored the passage of laundry wastewater through a filtration pond with plants, tadpoles and fish before it was channeled outdoors to water plants. At the public scale, from 2002-2009 he designed and implemented a multi-component public art project for the Seattle Department of Parks & Recreation‘s Ravenna Creek Project, tracing the historical and present-day flow of the Ravenna Creek under the city’s streets through the use of signage, viewing stations and daylighting vaults.
He is currently at work on two noteworthy public projects: a signage and sculpture project interpreting the ecology and history of the Rockridge-Temescal Greenbelt and Temescal Creek in Oakland, CA, and an interpretive artwork to complement public tours fo the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant.
James Corner Field Operations (FO) and Perkins+Will have been selected as the lead designers of the Atlanta Beltline, a 22-mile loop of parkland, trails and light rail to encircle the core of the city and revitalize derelict rail easements. The $2.8 billion Beltline project purports to create and connect to over 1200 acres of parkland, underwrite the remediation of several brownfields, construct 5,600 affordable housing units and create 30,000 new full-time jobs over its 25-year course of development. This is a huge project knitting together open spaces, transit, bridges, tunnels and historic preservation sites; the two firms will manage 19 others in the development of a comprehensive master plan. FO, of course, has experience mapping out ecological rescue missions for undervalued urban spaces, the High Line and Freshkills Park both featuring prominently in their portfolio.
This is also not the only southeastern megaproject being designed by FO; it is also currently at work on a master plan for a comprehensive upgrade of Shelby Farms Park in Memphis. At 4,500 acres of wetlands, fields and forests, Shelby Farms is one of the country’s largest urban parks. Not unlike Freshkills Park, the proposed plan will incorporate new entrances, pathways and facilities, including renewable energy and plant nurseries, to amplify existing trails and infrastructure.
(via Creative Loafing)