Exhibition on Transforming South Street Seaport To Be Launched by AIA New York

Compelling proposals to change the face of lower Manhattan will be on display at the Center for Architecture in New York. “South Street Seaport: Re-envisioning the Urban Edge”, is an exhibition from July 17 through September 20, 2008 that showcases 37 prospective designs resulting from the third Biennial Ideas Competition launched by the Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) of the AIA NY. This competition encouraged participants to envision new connections, both material and metaphoric, to Manhattan’s contemporary urban fabric.

“South Street Seaport: Re-envisioning the Urban Edge” provided a rare opportunity for students and young professionals in the field of design and architecture, and who have completed their education at the undergraduate or graduate level within the past 10 years, to engage the ongoing evolution of the South Street Seaport.

Preserving waterfront history
Continuing its recent tradition of selecting sites tied to New York City’s waterfront, ENYA partnered with the Seaman’s Church Institute (SCI), whose headquarters have been in the Seaport neighborhood since 1832. With SCI functioning as a hypothetical client, participants were asked to consider the area’s past before suggesting interventions to its future.

Principal design elements of the contest included a community center for the SCI and gallery space to house their collection of maritime art and artifacts, as well as open space usage that would preserve the neighborhood’s intriguing history. Unlike previous competitions that have asked entrants to consider building on terra firma, this competition required the design of a new pier over the water south of the Brooklyn Bridge.

“ENYA’s Biennial Competition program provides an important opportunity for emerging architects from around the world to proffer their suggestions about what the future face of New York City might look like,” commented Carolyn Sponza, AIA, LEED AP, Vice President for Professional Development with the AIA New York Chapter. “As an ideas competition, many of the selections break the mold of traditional thinking about urbanism and engagement with the city—often resulting in proposals that tread the boundary between the accepted and radical.”

Global perspectives on the Seaport
The competition jury included highly influential designers and critics form New York, including Nina Baniahmad, Sara Caples-Jefferson, Kate Kerrigan, Eeva Liisa Pelkonen, Michael Sorkin and Calvin Tsao. The exhibition curators are Anne Leonhardt, Joel Melton, and Sean Rasmussen. Models of the four winning entries will be displayed along with the 37 proposals selected by the jury. More than 200 participants entered the competition, representing a broad spectrum of domestic and international architects, landscape architects, urban designers and planners, and graphic artists from 13 countries.

Opening party, walking tour and more
In addition to the opening on July 17, other events will include a symposium, walking tour, and lecture. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication that contains highlights of the best entries, critical essays by noted architectural writers on architecture Michael Sorkin and Ann Buttonwieser, and proposals by NYC high school students involved in an architectural design studio program.