On January 26, 2017, the Regional Plan Association, in collaboration with Guy Nordenson and Paul Lewis of Princeton University, launched a competition for architects, designers and planners to demonstrate visually how policy changes, new investments and changing patterns of growth could transform different areas of the New York City metropolitan region.
The competition is part of RPA’s fourth regional plan, A Region Transformed, a comprehensive vision for the tri-state region that will be released later this year. The design initiative is made possible by the generous support of The Rockefeller Foundation.
Innovative physical designs will play an essential part in refining the ideas in the regional plan and communicating these ideas to a wide audience. Visual designs can show, for example, how communities could adapt to rising sea levels and the threat of future storms, or how underutilized suburban shopping centers and industrial parks could be transformed into vibrant residential and commercial destinations. Renderings and models can be used to demonstrate how communities might accommodate population growth while reducing the segregation that too often serves as a barrier to opportunity.
Developing place-based designs that address issues of equity and sustainability are a central focus of the competition and A Region Transformed. Much of our region faces a crisis of affordability; a majority of families in the region have seen their real incomes decline. Half the households in the region spend more than a third of their income on rent. By 2050, 2.3 million people, including many of our most vulnerable residents, are expected to be living in areas at risk of flooding. These challenges are captured in detail in RPA’s diagnosis of how the region has changed over the last generation, Fragile Success.
The competition will be structured around four geographic corridors that together represent the full range of policy and design challenges to be confronted in A Region Transformed. The four areas are: the Highlands Corridor, extending across the region from the Delaware River to Northern Connecticut; the Bight/Ocean Corridor, stretching from Atlantic City, N.J., to Montauk, N.Y.; the Triboro/City Corridor running along a proposed passenger rail line linking Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx; and the First Ring Suburban Corridorcomprising communities from Port Chester and White Plains, N.Y., through Paterson, Montclair, Rahway and Perth Amboy, N.J.
“Visual models will make it possible for more people to understand the recommendations for building resilience in their communities that are proposed in the new regional plan,” said Sam Carter, Managing Director for Resilience at The Rockefeller Foundation. “For more than a decade, The Rockefeller Foundation has been committed to building resilience in communities globally, using the power of design to drive creative thinking and engage communities in solving the complex problems we face.”
“The fourth regional plan is a once-in-a-generation means to think about the future of the region, and this competition is fundamental to envisioning and designing that future,” said Paul Lewis, associate dean of the Princeton University School of Architecture and a director of the competition.
Tom Wright, President, RPA, said: “Design plays a fundamental role in the planning process, allowing us to better understand our world and its potential. This design competition reflects the central role that creativity plays in our work and the importance of having as wide a range of input as possible in developing our research and recommendations. Creative design will play a pivotal role in ensuring our future success, from developing ways to adapt to rising sea levels to finding new uses for abandoned industrial areas, to expanding housing in ways that reduce segregation.”
A distinguished jury of architects, designers and planners will select four teams to take part in the competition, with each team working on one of the corridors in collaboration with RPA and Princeton University team. The six jurors are: Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Modern Architectural History, Columbia University, and Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art; Maxine Griffith, Executive Vice President for Government and Community Affairs & Special Advisor for Campus Planning, Columbia University; Mary Margaret Jones, Senior Principal and President, Hargreaves Associates; Mark Lee, Founder and Principal, Johnston Marklee; Annabelle Selldorf, Principal, Selldorf Architects; and Karen Seto, Associate Dean of Research and Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies at Yale University.
The forthcoming regional plan will propose investments and policies to expand the metropolitan region’s shared prosperity, improve health and quality of life, enhance our environmental resiliency and bolster our governance. RPA’S three previous regional plans, developed in the 1920s, 1960s and 1990s, made detailed recommendations for the region’s growth, infrastructure, environment and social equity. Many of those proposals have been adopted around the region, from the creation of Hudson Yards to the construction of New York’s Second Avenue subway to the conversion of Governors Island into an urban park.
Final designs will be included in A Region Transformed and in a public exhibit.