DESIGN IN SOCIO-POLITICAL URBAN SPACE: EXPLORING THE ROLE OF THE DESIGNER IN THE CONTEXT OF THE HIGH LINE BY: JULIA BOROWICZ
Source: The Inside Track On New York City’s High Line –NPR files, photo by Iwan Baan
Aim of paper: To look at the role of design as a spatial practice within socio-political urban space, the effects of design in access to space, and the way design can serve to maintain, promote or alleviate exclusion. This paper will look at the varying roles and conceptions of the designer of urban space and propose alternative modes of designing. The High Line as a public space, created through the ‘revitalization’ of an old piece of industrial infrastructure and ‘regeneration’ of an ecological habitat and neighborhood, serves as an informative site to evaluate in the urban context. The discourses that shape the space, the narratives around the conception and design of the space, as well as the broader economic context, land values and funding frameworks illustrate complexities and real limitations around designing inclusive public spaces. Practitioners must contend with the broader social, economic and political realities of a site they are designing. Nonetheless, it is imperative that new mentalities are formed, and new structures realized, that address the shortcomings of current design practices and further, ones that counteract current inequities in access to space, skewed conceptions of public, and limited notions and misrepresentations of ecological practice that favor a romanticized narrative around nature. Such detrimental processes serve to objectify the site, and in effect eradicate its history. In order to address the above issues, I intend to look at theoretical frameworks and scholarly texts on different conceptions of design, and designing of public space, explore the critiques of the High Line, and propose an alternative design praxis. I will ground my critique of how design in the socio-political realm can exacerbate exclusion through a case study of the High Line. This paper will begin by outlining a call to broaden the realm of design and architecture. Second, it will introduce the two main design narratives around
the High Line and their corresponding discourses: the “grassroots” or “bottom-up” design approach, situated in an analysis of land and economic rationales, and the “formal” design practice by the leading design team James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. The third part of the paper will explore and expand existing critiques of both these narratives, and the High Line as a designed public space in the urban context. Finally, the paper will conclude by proposing an alternative design practice and a more nuanced notion of the designer. BROADENING DESIGN In attempting to tackle initial questions, Traganou’s complex conception of architectural scholarship and push for a more nuanced and interdisciplinary architecture and design studies is instructive. Her conception of such a scholarly discursive space includes urban and cultural geography, vernacular studies, spatial anthropology and media and culture studies (Traganou, 2009). Further, as Traganou suggests, Victor Margolin’s reinterpretation of design studies complicates traditional ideas around the design studies as a discipline and thus makes room for new modes of thinking about architecture and city spaces. Traganou reinterprets design studies as an attempt to remap the intellectual domains of human knowledge and account for cultural studies and other theoretical and practical scholarly pursuits that factor in the production of urban space and built form (Traganou, 2009). What is ultimately critical is to expand the field of architecture from simply a form-giving practice, to include an ethical mandate within architectural practice. The mandate envisioned here is one that takes the role of the architect as inseparable from that of the citizen (Traganou, 2009) and cognizant active participant in giving shape to built form –form that has a direct effect on human subjectivity, inclusion and public discourse. Félix Guattari’s Three Ecologies provides an instructive analysis
for contextualizing design practice in the urban context. In Mostafavi’s piece ‘Why Ecological Urbanism? Why Now?’ the concept of the ‘ecosophic problematic’ developed by Félix Guattari is an essential component of envisioning an ecological design practice that has as its very foundation, for creative imagining, a deep connection to the vulnerability of our ecosystems and the environment (Mostafavi, 2010). The ecosophic problematic supplants the Western rational thinking “subject” with the Cartesian thought a contextual human existence that engages with the lived territories of its daily life (Mostafavi 22, 2010). This methodology takes on an integral ethical and aesthetic element that forces critical engagement as human beings, and practitioners, with the environment, social relations and human subjectivities (Mostafavi, 2010). Further, I would argue, an integral ethical-aesthetic approach must engage with the relations of production and inequities made visible through examining struggles that emerge on different scales and in concrete urban spaces. This approach to landscape architecture can be seen as particularly innovative and progressive because in its comprehensive nature that necessitates action on a global scale (Mostafavi, 2010), it does not fail to recognize the individual viewer’s aesthetics and participatory experience of the landscape. I would argue however, that the focus on human subjectivity is not adequately represented or symptomatic of the design quality of the High Line, a project that Mostafavi claims mirrors such thinking (Mostafavi, 2010). Although, the scope of envisioning from the global to the local needs to be inherent in a vision of landscape architecture, Mostafvi’s praise of the High Line as a project that is both ethical and aesthetic as well as attune to social relations and relations of production that produce inequities in access and human subjective experiences of space, is questionable. Therefore, the focus on scales, manifest in space, are rather superficial and act in a way that obscures lived realities within socio-political contexts of urban spaces such as the High Line. However, Guattari’s Three Ecologies, nonetheless provides
a key framework for understanding design as situated within the political system, he terms Integrated World Capitalism, which is increasingly delocalized and deterritorialized. Thus, what is required is an entire new mental ecology; design practice holds the potential for cultivating a dissensus that is a requisite for such an endeavor (Guattari, 1989/2000). Conley reiterates the idea within Guattari’s Three Ecologies that individuals or a collective with agency and influence over our built form and thus in a “position to intervene on people’s psyches” are architects, urban planners, artists, educators and many others (Conley 138, 2010). Individuals within these fields cannot ignore the ethical imperative that is enveloped in their position and must not hide behind supposed “transferential neutrality” (Conley 138, 2010). Thus, design practitioners are in an optimal position to work towards creating a necessary fracture or fissure within conventional practice and thought, to carve out new spaces for individual as well as collective human subjectivities to be formed and reflected. In effect, making room for new ways of envisioning, experiencing, and engaging in space. Here, ethics and aesthetics must go hand in hand to create space that compels engagement and is sensitive to and perceptive of unique human experience and subjectivity. As Guattari argues, this will enable spaces that are programmatically negotiable rather than reliant on prescribed use or canonical foundations. In this sense, space is always open to negotiations and the process of becoming, as it remains open to varied participants who participate in its production. Is such open and negotiable space effective in highly prescriptive and stratified socio-political and economic urban context? Can it hold the potential for true intervention in the case of the High Line? As will be explored further in the paper, it cannot be assumed that programmatically negotiable or open space will automatically allow for greater use, access and alteration of space by various social groups equally, but rather, what is required are the institutions and planning methods that allow for greater participation in design while being cognizant of differences in knowledge, skills, resources and capital between groups.
Deutsche’s conception of the city as a social form, is critical for extrapolating the means through which design intervention, that is both ethical and aesthetic at its core, can be merged with constructing spaces in the city that make visible present injustice in access to space and the ‘urban realm’. The city as social form suggests that the meaning attached to urban space is a part of the ongoing processes of social production. As conceived by Deutsche, “the notion that the city speaks for itself conceals the identity of those who speak through the city” (Deutsche 53, 1996). In building city spaces for singular fixed purposes determined by experts, or employing language of fixed meaning or most advantageous use through design, the potential for marginalized groups to exert their identities, meanings and contestations in space is denied and further, their right to such spaces, rejected (Deutsche, 1996). Building on the central idea of city as social form, as proposed by Deutsche, an examination of Keil and Boudreau’s work on urban political ecology and its conception of urban metabolism is instructive for a deeper understanding of the interconnections at work in the urban context. Urban political ecology is based on the idea that the forces that lead to the domination and exploitation of nature and domination and exploitation of humankind are interwoven and manifested in the urban. Keil and Boudreau draw on the work of Lefebvre, to argue that liberation must take place in the urban societies in which we live, while equally being cognizant of the natural metabolisms that are inherently part of our existence and culture (Keil and Boudreau, 2006). Thus, of primary concern in urban political ecology, is the way in which metabolic and material relationships that constitute the natural and social come together in the urban context (Keil and Boudreau, 2006). Further, Swyngedouw and Heynen argue, inherent to this is the interconnectivity of social process, material metabolism and spatial form as it shapes the urban landscape of our cities today. The urban is the site of the most visible physical and socio-economical ramifications of current metabolic transformations and prevailing political ideologies (Keil and Boudreau, 2006). We will return
to this idea and take a closer look at the dynamics surrounding the High Line. As evident through the urban political ecology discourse, our ideas and treatment of nature has a direct effect on nearly all aspects of everyday life in the urban context. Thus, understanding the prevailing ideologies in our contemporary cities, and in New York’s West Chelsea neighbourhood in specific, is fundamental to understanding the various narratives around the design of the High Line. McEntee highlights the conception of “nature as culture”, identifying it as a relevant paradigm for reading the design of the High Line, the narratives that surround it as well as part of the impetus to challenge our designers and landscape architects, who through their practice, propagate certain cultural ideals (McEntee, 2012). Further, it illustrates how we see and design ‘nature’, what such design reveals about broader cultural values, and the role of nature in the present urban context. As McEntee argues, by building on the theory of social constructivism, nature emerges as something that cannot be separated from knowledge systems that are culturally rooted nor can it be taken outside of historic language, ideologies and aesthetics that continue to inform our reception of certain forms of nature (McEntee 1-2, 2012). The Picturesque conception of landscape and nature has been pervasive in our societies for centuries and the cultural values it holds continue to inform the design and reception of many green spaces including the High Line. This is problematic, for “the repetition of a singular landscape genre develops an expectation of a particular experience of nature, limiting the phenomenological and imaginative human experience from a landscape and the richer texts developed from its reception” (McEntee 2, 2012). Further, it propagates an image of nature as something separate from human beings and plays into the narrative that pits nature against the evolving, modernizing culture and city. Further, this allows for objectifying the space, as a space devoid of people, transgressive and ultimately with no history (McEntee 2, 2012).
DESIGN NARRATIVE ONE Through examining the High Line, a picture emerges of how the environment, actors, land, zoning and economic forces within which design occurs facilitate specific objectives and affect design projects in the urban context. The High Line was created from an industrial relic, an ecologically vibrant and disused rail line. The West Side Line was built in the 1930s to transport goods from the west side piers to downtown warehouses, factories and meatpacking plants in a safer, more efficient and economically profitable manner. The trucking industry eventually led to its obsolescence with the last shipment being conveyed in 1980 (Foster, 2010).
(ABOVE) Source: The Inside Track On New York City’s High Line –NPR files photo by James Shaughnessy (LEFT) Source: The Inside Track On New York City’s High Line –NPR files, photo by James Shaughnessy
In 1999 CSX Transportation assumed ownership of the High Line. In August 1999, Robert David and Joshua Hammond, two individuals from the neighborhood, met at a High Line-focused community board meeting at Penn South in Chelsea. Based on their description, there were only a handful of people, about twenty, at the meeting, which was centered on a presentation by a representative of the Regional Plan Association (RPA), commissioned by CSX to do a study on potential feasible reuse options for the High Line. According to David and Hammond no one at the meeting was interested in saving the High Line apart from them (David, 2011). Yet, the RPA study revealed that turning the High Line into a park was the most feasible and appealing way of reusing the site and this served as a catalyst for David and Hammond. As a result of coming together at the community meeting and having a similar aspiration for maintaining a city artifact, the two came together to form the Friends of the High Line (David, 2011). What is important to note within this narrative of bottom-up design is that despite the seemingly modest beginnings, the main protagonists had the social and economic capital to head this project. As Hammond describes he had a number of resources and contacts at his disposal. A key initial resource was a private, available office space. Further, a number of contacts were crucial to the instigation of such an initiative (David, 2011). One such useful contact was Gifford Miller, a former college friend elected to City Council on the Upper East Side who provided Hammond with information on the meeting. Another friend from college Mario Palumbo, a lawyer got involved and provided his firm’s services pro bono to get The Friends of the High Line legally incorporated as a non-profit, and his friend Phil Aarons, who was a developer working in City government under the Koch administration at New York City Economic Development Corporation to further provide key resources and knowledge (David, 2011).
Furthermore, at a recent NYU panel discussion, Hammond stated that making an argument for the project’s benefit in economic terms, using projections to show how it might drive real estate values, attract tourists and boost local businesses, was a crucial factor in winning official support. However, Jerilyn Perrine, of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council responded tellingly, “I think it’s dangerous to equate economic values to purposes like this. It leaves other communities behind” (Vande Stouwe, 2013). Moreover, if the projections of economic value a project will have on its surrounding urban context, becomes the main tool for deciding what public spaces get built, low-income communities and disadvantaged groups stand little chance of gaining similar aesthetic and innovative urban spaces. Thus, unable to “compete with the ‘star power’ of causes like the High Line” [they] will inevitably be left behind” (Vande Stouwe, 2013). Further, another question is to what extent low income communities living near the High Line actually gain from the aesthetic, innovative, green space of the High Line. What kind of invisible exclusions does such an economic argument, as well as design process, produce in this site and context? To gain a greater understanding of the economics behind the project and the resulting effects on land, the following provides a breakdown of the costs the High Line and the revenue it has generated. The construction of the first two sections of the High cost $152.3 million. $112.2 million came from the City, $20.3 million from the Federal Government and $400,000 from the State. The remaining funds will be raised privately by Friends of the High Line, which to date has raised $44 million (“High Line Project Profile”, NYEDC 2012). As illustrated by Kristina Shevory in a New York Times article, the first two sections of the High Line have led to an estimated $2 billion in new developments. Since construction started on the High Line, the five years alone have seen 29 new projects being built or under way in the neighborhood. More than 2,500 new residential units, 1,000 hotel rooms and over 500,000 square feet of office and art gallery space (Shevory,
2011). Between October 2008 and June 2009, the median list price for a home in the vicinity of the High Line rose from $870,000 to $1,300,000, coinciding with the opening of the section one (McEntee, 2012). As of September 2013, the median list price is $ 1,537,600 (“Chelsea Home Prices and Home Values”, Zillow, 2013). In addition, understanding the new zoning introduced in the area reveals further funding strategies and economic dynamics. In 2005 a rezoning of the West Chelsea area was approved and the “Special West Chelsea District” was introduced. As William Menking explains, in The Architectural Review, the Friends of the High Line succeeded in creating such a zoning arrangement with the City that allowed private property developers adjacent to the High Line, to increase their profits by adding floors to their properties, in exchange for contributing to the park’s development (Menking, 2011). As Menking argues, one need only look to Bryant Park to see a similar model and “the role that these building and their clients play in shaping Manhattan’s urban milieu” (Menking 26, 2011). Further, apart from serving the public, the High Line also serves as a frontage, to create and maintain high property values, for surrounding developments and their developers. Thus, as Menking concludes, “this architecture comes at a price and it’s too early to tell whether it will remain open to the public or turn into something entirely new and only viable for anyone but the extremely wealthy” (Menking 26, 2011). The image on the right illustrates these trends, highlighting the precipitous growth generated by the High Line and the “architectural theme park” that continues to develop around it (Davidson, 2009).
Source: Justin Davidson, “Elevated –The Twin Pleasures of the High Line: A Petite New Park, and a District of Lively Architecture” New York Magazine, 15 June 2009
(LEFT) Source: James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Published on Friends of the High Line (http:// www.thehighline.org) ( BELOW) Source: James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Published on Friends of the High Line (http:// www.thehighline.org)
Source: Jennifer Willims, ‘The High Line Effect’ The “High Line Effect”: the international phenomenon in which global cities, having seen the transformation of a previously derelict stretch of train tracks into a thriving public space, seek to recreate its powers of resurrection by building one of their own (Zara, 2013)
(LEFT) Source: James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Published on Friends of the High Line (http:// www.thehighline.org) (BELOW) Source: James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Published on Friends of the High Line (http://www.thehighline.org)
DESIGN NARRATIVE TWO
An exploration of the narrative and language employed by the “formal” designers of the High Line reveals important ways in which meanings and ideologies, that reflect and shape cultural values, become attached to designed spaces. The following provides an account of the team statement and design objectives. The Field Operations-led (FO) team comprises a design collaborative with Diller, Scofidio and Renfro, Olafur Eliasson, Piet Oudolf and Buro Happold. It is a design team made up of landscape architects / urban designers/ architects/ horticulturalist/ artist/ and lighting designers. According to the team statement the design team, as a collective, “brings together seasoned technical expertise with innovative design thinkers that move fluidly in and out of disciplinary boundaries” (FO and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, n.d.). The design for the High Line was inspired by the overgrown nature, beauty and melancholic feel of the space. Once an instrumental part of the urban fabric the design team transformed it into “a post-industrial instrument of leisure, life and growth” (FO and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, n.d.). The objective here was to reorder the relationship between plant life and pedestrians reengaging the two through the strategy of “agri-tecture” merging organic and built form, and accommodating “the wild, the cultivated, the intimate and the hyper-social” (FO and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, n.d.). Further, as stated by the team “providing flexibility and responsiveness to the changing needs, opportunities, and desires of the dynamic context, our proposal is designed to remain perpetually unfinished, sustaining emergent growth and change over time” (FO and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, n.d.). The actual possibility for change and user adaptation will be explored further.
Returning to McEntee’s analysis of the Picturesque conception of nature and landscape, it is evident that the cultural values and language that inform such a narrative are employed in the formal design of the site. Representations of the High Line as pristine, authentic, wilderness, as documented by photographer Joel Sternfeld, and imbued with the language of melancholy, as used by the formal designers allows for a certain iconifying of the site that pays homage to such Picturesque notions of nature (McEntee 2, 2012). James Corner in an interview for inhabitat states that the Friends of the High Line were “instrumental in creating this distinct image around the High Line – they established an aura that projected an idea that this was in fact a post-industrial artifact maintaining a sense of melancholy and other-worldliness in a city context that, by contrast, was ever-evolving and modernizing”(Corner, 2012). This serves to objectify the High Line, an artifact outside of and separate from the urban context that is in flux and modernizes externally. The result is a burying of agency exerted on and by the site itself, in creating particular socio-political and economic structures and realities in space.
The High Line, despite being predominantly disused, had evidence of guerilla gardening, artist performances, and informal contraptions allowing access between buildings. Moreover, homeless people established residence on the High Line prior to its redevelopment (Foster, 2010). There were a number of advocates, including Joel Sternfeld a photographer documenting the existing instances, reverberations and continuations of life on and of the rail line, that made a strong case for leaving and appreciating it as-is, seeing value in the design and programmatic informality of the space (Foster, 2010). However, another conception for the space prevailed.
CRITIQUE A political ecology perspective illuminates some of the consequences of restoration projects under the banner of ecological urbanism, raising questions around social justice, access and “aesthetic experiences of urban nature” (Foster 317, 2010). Ecology, examined through its socio-political dimensions, reveals embedded power gradients that exist between social groups over various scales and within specific spaces (Foster, 2010). Source: High Line. org
Friends of the High Line envisioned a natural pedestrian walkway and such a vision gained support from the City Planning commissioner, Mayor Bloomberg, a number of City Council speakers, state and federal officials, in addition to several well-known celebrities. Thus, the emergence of a significant capital accruing, urban redevelopment project had unquestionably sprouted. Design, not nature, is the focal point of the aesthetically stimulating experience of the High Line (Foster, 2012). Such engagement envisioned, allows the weaving through a paired down, natural habitat that permits little of the former wildlife, and promotes the gaze, upon one another and the city inhabitants below (Foster, 2012). What is woven into the narrative of the park is an emblematic, representation of New Yorkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s industrial legacy. Yet this heritage is one that is removed from the former menacing uses, side effects, and inhabitants. As described by Foster, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Rust, old cobblestones, and obvious signs of former industrial activity become aesthetic signals of authenticity without the hazard of possibly encountering people once associated with such a worldâ&#x20AC;? (Foster 332, 2012). Thus, also eliminating through strict surveillance, security and patrol the potential hazard of encountering the homeless or destitute, those who are victims, unfortunate externalities of the capitalist system. Surveillance and security are important components of the High Line. Since its opening a strong narrative around the park as a runway to see and be seen has emerged and become embedded. Further, in a more explicit manner, the examination of surveillance within the park indicates not only the monitoring of the public and governing of public behavior, but also the treatment of the High Line as an exceptional space towards which a disproportionate level of city resources is allocated, giving rise to questions of equity (Foster, 2010). Thus, moving forward, in anticipation of similar ecological restoration projects, as Foster argues, there is a need for an exploration of the ways in which such spaces can function as capital aggrandizing apparatuses and apparatuses of social control.
Source: Photos by Ray Olivares
Thus, practitioners must be wary of the mechanisms used within ecology discourses that in fact displace existing ecologies and deepen inequality and social polarization. As McEntee explores, “the High Line wilderness grew over a time when Chelsea was also in a ‘culturally wild’ state… Its wild neglect and avoidance by the hegemonial guard signified the space symbolically as a site where the known social conflicts could play themselves out” (McEntee 54, 2012). Surveillance and exceptionality of the space result from the history of the site, inseparable from, and conflicting with, ‘regeneration’. More, “remembering a story about the human wild is not the kind of history that a neighborhood undergoing gentrification behind the theatrics of new park development wants to tell” (McEntee 54, 2012). This part of the story, one of neglect of the surrounding area, has largely been omitted from popular narratives of untouched wilderness. By the mid-1990s the neighborhood was undergoing major changes, with high-end clothing boutiques and galleries moving in. In line with capitalism’s focus on productivity and utility, the site was established as holding the potential, through redevelopment, to generate added value to the neighborhood and community. The result, is that such “actions in any wild environment quickly halt any further successional processes that would eventually progress the space into true habitat” (McEntee 55, 2012). As McEntee does in her work, deconstructing culture, and more specifically the semiotic relationships that inform it, enables a reading of the High Line that reflects meanings that are constructed and embedded in complex interactions in space. This contextualization reveals the specific motivations, values and power relations that are privileged (McEntee, 2012). The construction of an idealized version of nature is enabled through a highly maintained and regulated public park, leaving little of the “wild” aesthetic so frequently evoked. Further, “in its neocapitalist ability to shape redevelopment adjacent to the space” the High Line also
dictates the style of the “urban pastoral” providing particularized views of the landscape and selective images of the city (McEntee 78, 2012).
ALTERNATIVE DESIGN PRAXIS
Urban political ecology as a theory and praxis is particularly relevant in terms of envisioning a more equitable design practice. It poses questions around the production of the built environment as it relates to specific socio-ecological configurations and the inherent power relations that inform distribution. Heynen et al assert, therefore, that it formulates a schematic for political projects that are “radically democratic in terms of the organization of the processes through which the environments that we (humans and non-humans) inhabit become produced” (Heynen et al 2, 2006). Building on Lefebvre, Heynen et al argue that the embodiment of capitalist social relations, as well as broader, ecological relations, is the urban –the space where cultural and material production of modern life occurs (Heynen et al, 2006). In the context of New York City, and all capitalist cities in general, “nature” takes principally the form of commodity (Heynen et al, 2006). This is important when thinking about the ecological narrative that has shaped the High Line and the socio-economic outcomes manifest in struggles over land and land value. “The material production of environments is necessarily impregnated with the mobilization of particular discourses and understandings (if not ideologies) of and about nature and the environment” as is evident here (Heynen et al 7, 2006). Building on Marx, human metabolic relation with nature, shaped by labor, is constituted by the particular social relations through which the metabolism of nature is sanctioned (Heynen et al, 2006). This means, “under capitalist social relations, then, the metabolic production
of use values operates in and through specific social relations of control, ownership, and appropriation” mobilizing nature and labor for the production of commodities, and ultimately, the creation of exchange value (Heynen et al 7, 2006). Therefore, urban political ecology seeks to bridge ecology and political economy in order to address the constantly shifting relations between society and resources, as well as inherent class and group negotiations within this dialectic (Heynen et al, 2006). Heynen et al argue for a more comprehensive and systematic method for approaching uneven ecological change, the related social dimensions, and the inherent spatial patterns of uneven environmental amenity distribution in the urban context under capitalism (Heynen et al, 2006). Such an appeal represents the need for more equitable planning agendas. However, there is a critical gap in planning and design disciplines between equity planning or planning and designing for justice and aesthetic physical planning and design. Yet, as argued by Hanna Mattila, aesthetic environments or aesthetically well-designed urban spaces can produce a form of welfare for the inhabitants of such spaces. Thus, it is vital to explore how such spaces are produced, the social processes that produce them, and the economic and political forces that give rise to their specific locations in the urban context. Well-designed, aesthetic urban space with its corresponding welfare is not evenly distributed in our urban environments (Mattila, 2002). Further, in order for aesthetic environments to have a mandate of equity or justice, the conception of aesthetics must be broadened and the role of design practitioner as an autonomous authority in production must be abandoned. Thus, as argued earlier, the process of designing urban space must be seen precisely as a process, with multiple actors, identities, and subjectivities. Returning to Deutsche the city must be seen as a social form. In describing it as such, “implicitly affirms the right of currently excluded groups to have access to the city—to make decisions about the spaces they use, to be attached to the places where
they live, to refuse marginalization” (Deutsche 53, 1996). There are at least two reasons for this. Designing flexible urban spaces not only conceives of multiple uses and publics, it allows ongoing alterations, anticipating new identities and groups whose right to urban space may be hindered or questioned. The ideas and conception around aesthetics must be questioned to the extent that there is no single definition of aesthetic quality. The culture and experience of the dominant group in society are privileged in design and production of urban space and thus become the mechanism for defining a universal norm of aesthetic experience and practice (Mattila, 2002). Further, building on Iris Marion Young’s (1990) work on cultural imperialism, Mattila argues that equitable aesthetic design must look beyond questions of distribution to include the context and social relations in space such as production, the relationship between public and private and social structures that give rise to advantage and disadvantage (Mattila, 2002). Are current relationships and partnerships between public and private an effective and feasible means of creating aesthetic spaces that do not conform to hegemonic idealized public spaces that follow dominant, capital informed distribution? Questions of power are central in design in the urban context where exploration or power relations, structures and overall institutional organization are manifest. As Matilla argues: “the fair distribution of aesthetic welfare can be eventually best achieved - if one wishes to express it in terms of distributive justice by distributing more equally the rights to design the city” (Mattila 137, 2002). Such redistribution not only reasserts the right of marginalized groups to urban space but also allows them, through participation and design, to restore their histories, often erased in capitalist, profit-driven production of revitalized space. The work of Victor and Sylvia Margolin is further instructive for more socially equitable design practice. As V. Margolin and S. Margolin argue, there has been an abundance of investigation, theorizing and resources put into design for the market that cuts across a number of
disciplines and fields and not nearly enough on design for social need. Although design for market and design for social need, need not be mutually exclusive, what must be acknowledged and addressed is the way in which the needs of marginalized, vulnerable populations cannot be met solely by the market as they do not represent a class of consumers in the market sense (V. Margolin & S. Margolin, 2002). As explained by V. Margolin and S. Margolin “social workers tend to follow a model of generalist practice, a six-step problem-solving process that includes engagement, assessment, planning, implementation, evaluation, and termination. The entire process is conducted in a collaborative manner with the Client system” (V. Margolin & S. Margolin 26, 2002). This model could be useful for design practitioners as it works with everyday users of space and is attune to their multiple environmental and social domains. As such envisioning a design praxis that recognizes the right to design the city and applies a comprehensive model for inclusive generalist practice generates the potential for the emergence of spaces that defy current forms of exclusion. Returning to Deutsche, what emerges from the above case study and critique, is that capitalist space, drawing on Lefebvre’s abstract
space, “is, at once, a means of production, an object of consumption and a property relation. It is also a tool of state domination, subordination and surveillance” (Deutsche 75, 1996). However, participation in design can transform into a spatial praxis, which Deutsche quotes Edward Soja to define as “ ‘the active and informed attempt by spatially conscious social actors to reconstitute the embracing qualities of social life’. Against aesthetic movements that design the spaces of redevelopment, interventionist aesthetic practices might –as they do with other spaces of aesthetic display –redesign these sites” (Deutsche 78, 1996). Such a spatial praxis “approaches the city in the cautious manner of the cultural critic described by Walter Benjamin. Confronted with the ‘cultural treasure’ –‘documents of civilization’ –Benjamin’s critic
unveils the barbarism underlying their creation by brushing their ‘history against the grain’ ” (Deutsche 79, 1996). Thus, as Deutsche argues, it is critical to examine the language and the ideologies behind revitalization that inform the ‘history’ of a site in formal representations of it. Upon closer examination, the discourse of pristine, authentic wilderness reveals itself to be skewed representation of the rail line’s history and its surroundings. The consequence of distorting a site’s history may result in misrepresentations of various “others” who occupied the space, broader forces that are intrinsically part of the evolution of the space, and political spatial considerations that are placed outside of the realm of profit and utility (Deutsche, 1996). In reflecting on the High Line as an illustration of hard infrastructure ‘regeneration’ and theoretical soft infrastructure ‘generation’, several criteria should be considered—as a designed public space, as a medium for cultural values, and as a case study for revealing the role and responsibility of the designer. The concern around the obligation of the designer is directly related to either an evaluation of stated goals or an articulation of inherent criteria for the production of public space. In the latter conception, the onus is not simply on the designer but rather on the broader public. As such, requiring a new mentality, or mental ecology to use Félix Guattari’s term, one that abandons the false capitalist ‘consensus’ for a dissensus that generates ‘dissident subjectivities’ around reordered political and social practices and solidarities that necessitate higher standards of inclusion and equity (Guattari, 1989/2000). For if one accepts that our designed spaces are a medium for cultural values, ideologies and subjectivities, it is essential that we challenge ourselves and our practitioners to broaden design to encompass more nuanced experiences and belonging that move beyond simplistic and formulaic notions of beauty and utility.
APPENDIX MAPPING: VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF PAPER
BIBLIOGRAPHY Design Literature
*Corner, James. Interview by Jill Fehrenbacher. “INTERVIEW: Architect James Corner On NYC’s High Line Park” Inhabitat 26 June 2012. Web. 12 October 2013. This interview reveals key narratives around the design of nature as envisioned by one of the chief formal designers. As such it provides material for a critique of the design and an opportunity to understand current ideas circulating in the field of landscape architecture, which should be further challenged and explored. *David, Joshua and Hammond, Robert. High Line –The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Park. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux This book provides a detailed outline of the “bottom-up” design process. It is important for understanding the motivations and processes that informed this design narrative. It also provides valuable insight on the history of the rail line and the procedures around getting a public project such as the High Line approved and eventually designed and constructed. DiSalvo, Carl (2009) Design and the Construction of Publics. Design Issues, 25(1). DiSalvo, Carl, Thomas Lodato, Laura Fries, Beth Schechter & Thomas Barnwell (2011) The Collective Articulation Of Issues As Design Practice. CoDesign 7( 3–4). pp. 185–197 *“James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro.” High Line. Accessed October 22, 2013. This source provides the team statement and design objectives for the High Line. It is useful for understanding the ideas behind the design of the site and for analyzing the discourse employed by the “formal designers” of the High Line. *Margolin, Victor. & Margolin, Sylvia. (2002). A “social model” of design: Issues of practice and research. Design Issues, 18(4). The work of V. Margolin and S. Margolin is informative for developing a more equitable model for design. They develop a framework based on the
social workers’ generalist practice model. It is useful for design practitioners as it works with everyday users of space and is attune to multiple environmental and social domains. Margolin, Victor. (1995). Design History or Design Studies: Subject Matter and Methods. Design Issues, 11(1). Margolin, Victor. (2007). Design, the Future and the Human Spirit. Design Issues, 23(3). *Mattila, Hanna. (2002) “Aesthetic justice and urban planning: Who ought to have the right to design cities?” GeoJournal 58 (2-3) pp. 131-138 Mattila argues that aesthetically well-designed urban spaces can produce a form of welfare for the inhabitants of such spaces. Further, she contends that well-designed, aesthetic urban space with its corresponding welfare is not evenly distributed in our urban environments. She develops a compelling framework for a more equitable design practice and introduces the notion of “the right to design the city”. As such, her work serves as an invaluable tool for envisioning a more inclusive, alternative mode of designing. *Menking, William (2011) New York’s future is being shaped by a Faustian pact between private developers and not-for-profit charities The Architectural Review, May 2011. pp. 25-26 Menking’s piece describes the new zoning regulations that were passed surrounding the High Line. He provides thought-provoking commentary on possible ramifications of the funding model that this zoning allows for, drawing comparisons to Bryant Park. Morrish, W.R. & Brown, K.R. (1995) “Infrastructure For The New Social Compact” in Writing Urbanism. Ed by KelbaughD. & McCullough, K (2008). Routledge. pp.138-154. *Traganou, Jilly (2009) “re: focus design Architectural and Spatial Design Studies: Inscribing Architecture in Design Studies.” Journal of Design History 22:2 pp. 173-181 Traganou’s complex conception of architectural scholarship and push for a more nuanced and interdisciplinary architecture and design studies is instructive for expanding the notion of aesthetics and the role of the designer. Traganou reinterprets design studies as an attempt to remap the intellectual domains of human knowledge. As she argues, what is ultimately critical is to expand the field of architecture from simply a form-giving practice, to include an ethical mandate within architectural practice.
Communal Resistance + Political Dimensions
Harvey, D. (1989) From Managerialism To Entrepreneurialism: The Transformation In Urban Governance In Late Capitalism. Geografiska Annaler, 71B: 3–17
*Deutsche, Rosalind. “Uneven Development: Public Art in New York City” in Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics. Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts; MIT Press. 1996 pp.49-107
*Heynen, Nik, Maria Kaika, & Erik Swyngedouw “Urban political ecology: politicizing the production of urban natures” in In the Nature of Cities: Urban political ecology and the politics of urban metabolism Ed. by Nik Heynen, Maria Kaika and Erik Swyngedouw. Routledge, New York. 2006. pp. 1-19
Deutsche’s conception of the city as a social form, is critical for extrapolating the means through which design intervention, that is both ethical and aesthetic at its core, can be merged with constructing spaces in the city that make visible present injustice in access to space and the ‘urban realm’. She also calls for restoring the history of urban spaces that are often obscured in redevelopment and thus making visible the experience and lived realities of those who are marginalized in society and whole marginality is often exacerbated with such projects. Lefebvre, Henri (1991) The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Desfor, G. and Keil, R. (2004) Nature and the City: Making Environmental Policy in Toronto and Los Angeles. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press *Guattari, Félix. The Three Ecologies Translated by Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton. London and New Brunswick, NJ: The Athlone Press Guattari’s Three Ecologies provides a key framework for understanding design as situated within the political system, he terms Integrated World Capitalism, which is increasingly delocalized and deterritorialized. What is required, he argues, is an entire new mental ecology and design practice holds the potential for cultivating a dissensus that is a requisite for such an endeavor. Harvey, David (1973) Social Justice and the City. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers Harvey, David (1993) “The nature of environment: dialectics of social and environmental change”. In R.Miliband and L.Panitch (eds) Real Problems, False Solutions. A special issue of the Socialist Register. London: The Merlin Press Harvey, David (1996) Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers
This piece reveals how in the context of New York City, and all capitalist cities in general, “nature” takes principally the form of commodity. Heynen et al argue for a more comprehensive and systematic method for approaching uneven ecological change, the related social dimensions, and the inherent spatial patterns of uneven environmental amenity distribution in the urban context under capitalism. Keil, Roger (1995) “The environmental problematic in world cities”. In P.Knox and P.Taylor (eds) World Cities in a World System. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press *Roger Keil And Julie-Anne Boudreau “Metropolitics and metabolics: rolling out environmentalism in Toronto” in In the Nature of Cities: Urban political ecology and the politics of urban metabolism Ed. by Nik Heynen, Maria Kaika and Erik Swyngedouw. Routledge, New York. 2006. pp. 40-61 Keil and Boudreau’s work on urban political ecology and its conception of urban metabolism is instructive for a deeper understanding of the interconnections at work in the urban context. They draw on Henri Lefebvre’s work to argue that liberation must take place in urban societies. Further, they outline the urban as the site of the most visible physical and socio-economical ramifications of current transformations and prevailing political ideologies. Keil, Roger (2003) “Urban political ecology”, Urban Geography, 24(8): 723–738 Keil, Roger and Graham, J. (1998) “Reasserting nature: constructing urban environments after Fordism”. In B.Braun and N.Castree (eds) Remaking Reality—Nature at the Millenium. London: Routledge Ranciere, Jacques Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. Ed & Trans by Steven Corcoran. Continuum International Publishing Group, London and New York. 2010.
Landscape + Ecology Literature
*Conley, Verena A. “Urban Ecological Practices: Félix Guattari’s Three Ecologies” in Ecological Urbanism. Ed. Mohsen Mostafavi and Gareth Doherty. Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Lars Muller Publishers. Baden, Switzerland. 2010 pp. 138-139 Conley reiterates the ideas within Guattari’s “Three Ecologies”, arguing that design practitioners are in an optimal position to work towards creating a necessary fracture or fissure within conventional practice and thought, to carve out new spaces for individual as well as collective human subjectivities to be formed and reflected. This piece sets up a useful framework for envisioning a broader conception of aesthetics and design that also has an ethical mandate at its center. Cronon, W. (1991) Nature’s Metropolis. New York: A.A.Norton6 *Foster, Jennifer. (2011). “Off track, in nature: Constructing ecology on old rail lines in Paris and New York”. Nature and Culture 5(3): 316-337. Foster raises important questions around social justice, access and aesthetic experiences of urban nature. The political ecology framework she employs reveals the embedded power gradients that exist between social groups over various scales and within specific spaces such as the High Line. *McEntee, Patsy. (2012) Deconstructing The High Line: The Representation And Reception Of Nature In Post-Industrial Urban Park Design. Thesis, University of Colorado Denver McEntee highlights the conception of “nature as culture”, identifying it as a relevant paradigm for reading the design of the High Line, the narratives that surround it as well as part of the impetus to challenge our designers and landscape architects, who through their practice, propagate certain cultural ideals. Her thesis also provides an in depth look at the changes in the Chelsea neighborhood and the discourses that present in ‘regeneration’. *Mostafavi, Mohsen. “Why Ecological Urbanism? Why Now?” in Ecological Urbanism. Ed. Mohsen Mostafavi and Gareth Doherty. Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Lars Muller Publishers. Baden, Switzerland. 2010 pp. 12-51 Mostafavi’s essay introduces the concept of ethics and aesthetics drawing
on Guattari’s “Three Ecologies”. He calls for action on a global scale, while recognizing the individual viewer’s aesthetics and participatory experience of the landscape. His piece develops an interesting argument for ecological urbanism but ultimately fails to capture the lived realities within socio-political contexts of urban spaces.
Economics + Reports + Media
*Davidson, Justin. “Elevated –The Twin Pleasures of the High Line: A Petite New Park, and a District of Lively Architecture” New York Magazine, 15 June 2009. Web. 20 October 2013. This piece features an effective info graphic that depicts the recent “architectural theme park” that has sprouted around the High Line and continues to grow. *New York City Economic Development Corporation, “High Line Project Profile” (March 1, 2012) Web. 2 November 2013. This source provides a breakdown of the costs involved in the construction and maintenance of the High Line. *Vande Stouwe, Lynn “Following the High Line” Planetizen, 13 December 2010. Web. October 26 2013. This article provides a summary of an NYU panel discussion. This discussion was relevant because it addressed the shortfalls of making arguments for a project’s benefit in economic terms and the danger in equating economic value with public space development. *NYC Planning Department, “Special West Chelsea District Rezoning and High Line Open Space EIS Chapter 9: Neighborhood Character” Web. 2 November 2013. This City Planning Report documents the zoning changes in the West Chelsea neighborhood. *Shevory, Kristina. “Cities See the Other Side of the Tracks” New York Times, 2 August 2011 Web. 20 October 2013. This article reports on the economic development in the neighborhood and
provides a breakdown of profit generated from the construction boom that occurred in the first five years of the High Line’s revitalization. *Zara, Janelle “Capturing the Essence of ‘The High Line Effect’ at Robert Mann Gallery” ARFTINFO, 22 October, 2013. Web. 2 December 2013. This article describes an installation of photo collages by Jennifer William called “The High Line Effect”. This work is a commentary on the development frenzy around the park. As such it illustrates how the environment, land, zoning and economic forces within which design occurs affect design projects, and the far-reaching consequences of design on the urban milieu. *Zillow. “Chelsea Home Prices and Home Values”. 31 October 2013. Web. 13 November 2013. This resources provided up to date data on home prices in the area and the an analysis of change over time.