Three weeks left to submit to Parks for the People, our student competition for the National Parks! Plus, come peruse VAI's Design Archive, our new beta online platform offering a first look at the archive's many treasures. And lots of events lined up at Van Alen Books: Thom Mayne, Matus Vallo, John Tauranac, Nicholas de Monchaux, and much more inside.VAN ALEN INSTITUTE
July 2011 Newsletter
In this Issue
  • Parks for the People: Submit by November 1
  • Browse VAI's Online Design Archive
  • Join Us Tomorrow, October 13, for Urban Interventions Launch
  • Thom Mayne's Combinatory Urbanism on October 28
  • In the Field: Upcoming Programs and Opportunities
  • This Fall, Be a Part of Public Architecture



There are three weeks to go until the competition deadline for Parks for the People—and we’re calling on design schools around the country to participate in our landmark collaboration with the National Park Service to envision the future of America’s greatest public spaces. If you’re a faculty member or student in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, planning, or related fields, there’s still time to submit a proposal for a spring 2012 design studio focusing on one of seven extraordinary national park sites.

We’ve had a great series of conference calls with leadership from the national parks, and we’ll be posting transcripts soon on our competition Q&A page. Faculty and students can take part in our final call for Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site on Thursday, October 13 at 10:00 a.m. EDT. Urge your school to propose a studio for this remarkable Pennsylvania park showcasing the early American industrial landscape, and email us for call-in details.

We look forward to your team’s submission by November 1—and to launching a new century of design excellence in the national parks!


Parks for the People


As we complete our 12th decade of projects in public architecture, we’re thrilled to announce a new online resource offering a first look at Van Alen Institute’s century-spanning historic archive. Now online in a beta version, the Design Archive makes our legacy of work in the civic realm freely accessible to the public for the first time. With more than 3,000 images, this archive previews just a small portion of the Institute’s treasures that have been digitized to date, presenting a selection of competition entries from both practicing and student designers that speak to architecture’s visionary spirit, as well as Van Alen’s formative impact on architectural education in America.

During its years as the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects and later as the National Institute of Architectural Education, VAI established deep connections to design schools around the country through its noted competition program, the Paris Prize. This major award drew submissions from young modern masters such as Max Abramovitz and Hugh Stubbins, and later became a rite of passage for twentieth-century talents including Winka Dubbeldam and Michael Manfredi. You can browse through the decades and explore high-resolution images of each featured entry, and download competition programs authored by designers such as Ernest Flagg, Gordon Bunshaft, and Antoine Predock.

The archive's trove of material also spans entries from landmark competitions in the 1990s and 2000s, including nearly 100 selected entries from the Envisioning Gateway competition and submissions from influential contests such as The Parachute Pavilion and Urban Voids: Grounds for Change.

As part of our ambitious, multi-year effort to catalog our archive and make this important collection accessible, the beta platform is a work in progress. Dig in, explore the archive, and stay tuned as we continue our ongoing efforts to preserve and celebrate this vital resource.


15th Paris Prize
E.W. Burkhardt, Paris Prize entry, 1922

30th Paris Prize
Joseph Balis, Paris Prize entry, 1937

Envisioning Gateway
W Architecture, Envisioning Gateway entry, 2007


We continue our Reading Room Exchange series of events with authors, critics, urban thinkers, and designers, kicking off tomorrow, October 13 at 7:00 p.m. as Matus Vallo, Justin Fowler, Andrea Kahn, and Olympia Kazi take to Van Alen Books’ stage to discuss Urban Interventions: From Architects with Love. Beginning in Bratislava, Prague, and Brno, the Urban Interventions Project asks designers to step out of their conventional role to offer thoughts on how to make their cities a little more successful. The result is a portfolio of future public spaces and catalogue of visual strategies for the urban environment, including essays and designs by 255 architects who spent 9,800 hours and close to $250,000 to improve their cities.

And three other evening events are on tap: On October 27 at 7:00 p.m., we welcome Nicholas de Monchaux back from orbit to discuss Spacesuit, the unique saga of the trademark twenty-one-layer spacesuit, told in twenty-one chapters that address twenty-one topics relevant to the suit, the body, and twentieth-century technology. On October 28 at 7:00 p.m., join Los Angeles architect Thom Mayne for a lesson in Combinatory Urbanism: The Complex Behavior of Collective Form. Both a manifesto on urbanism and a presentation of 12 urban projects, these works range from a 16-acre proposal for the World Trade Center site to the remake of post-Katrina New Orleans. And finally, on November 1 at 7:00 p.m., Charles Bloszies discusses Old Buildings, New Designs: Architectural Transformations. The San Francisco architect will be joined by Megan Carey of Princeton Architectural Press to consider how the quest for sustainability increasingly means fusing new and old forms.


Urban Interventions



October is Architecture and Design Month in New York City, meaning 31 days of tours, talks, exhibitions, and films that bring together lovers of the built environment. Our architecture tour with blogger John Hill, co-presented with Open House New York, is already sold out, but we invite you to two events we're thrilled to be hosting this month, both tailored to the young design minds among us.

Van Alen Books opens its doors to budding architects on Saturday, October 15 at 12:30 p.m. Visitors will gather on the store’s step installation for a reading of This is New York, the charming children’s classic by Miroslav Sasek. After the reading, families share their own impressions of the city, creating a picture book to illustrate places of personal importance. RSVP is required to

Meanwhile, don’t miss another family-friendly event: On Saturday, October 29 at 1:00 p.m. we feature a reading of modern furniture-themed Goldilocks and the Three Bears: a Tale Moderne, by award-winning author and illustrator Steven Guarnaccia. This hilarious tale features three hipster bears who leave their '50s style split-level house, only to find a visitor wreaking havoc on the family's modern masterpieces. Come for the reading, then join us for a drawing activity: Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear have a chair of their own—why not you? Bring out your inner furniture designer and draw your ideal chair on the store's steps. RSVP here.


This Is New York



Our Brown Bag Reading series has been great fun, offering a lunchtime respite of inspiring conversation. Bring a bite and join us at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays as we continue on October 19, when San Francisco-based Anne Fougeron showcases residential, institutional, and mixed-use work in her firm’s recently published monograph. Then on October 26, the inimitable John Tauranac presents his latest collaboration, New York from the Air: A Story of Architecture, sharing stories behind the making of this stunning work with aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. We'll see you soon at lunch!


New York from the Air

In The Field


The Buckminster Fuller Institute seeks “bold, visionary, and tangible” proposals for the 2012 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. The Institute supports scientific design aimed to improve human welfare and world ecosystems, and challenges architects to envision strategies addressing the issues besetting society today. Designers have until Monday, October 24 to enter submissions that will focus on a well-defined need of critical importance, integrating innovative ideas for materials, tools, designs, or services with pressing social, economic, environmental, policy, and cultural issues. Winners are awarded $100,000 to implement their ideas, so buckle down and start thinking outside the geodesic dome. You can download the application here.


Fuller Challenge


The Department of Transportation is asking New Yorkers to weigh in on biking. In the ongoing push for a bike-friendly NYC, the DOT is following in the footsteps of cities like London and Boston to launch a bike-share program this fall, and they want citizen input. New York City Bike Share will network a thousand bicycles at over 400 docking stations throughout the boroughs. Check out the interactive map on the DOT’s website to suggest station locations, and help shape the city’s sustainable transit future.


NYC Bike Share


Riverscaping/Alles am fluss is an international organization exploring the relationship between people and the river, now seeking proposals for a design/build competition on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. The project will uncover new approaches to riverscapes through public art, architecture, and environmentalism, on both the intimate and regional scales. Based at specific riverside sites, Riverscaping asks entrants for a strategy that will connect all four locations while remaining attentive to the unique characteristics of individual communities. A $2,000 Experimental Honors Design Award be granted to international teams or individuals, while the four $7,500 Design Build awards are open only to teams from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Click here for more information and to enter; the deadline is December 12.



Join Us


At Van Alen, we believe in the power of public architecture: Design competitions that reshape our world. Debates that bridge the design and policy divide. Projects that inspire public participation. Ideas that fuel the civic imagination. As a member, you'll join our diverse community of designers, planners, policy-makers, and urban thinkers—anyone with a passion for the public realm. Of course, current supporters already enjoy the 10% members’ discount at Van Alen Books, along with complimentary VAI publications, special members-only events, and more. Join us today by signing up here.

As always, it’s easy to keep in touch with Van Alen: Browse our home page at, find us in your in-box via our monthly newsletter, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.



Van Alen Institute’s ongoing programs are made possible through the generous assistance of our individual contributors and partners, and are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and by Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund and Seed Fund. We gratefully appreciate their assistance, and acknowledge the generous support of the following organizations:


Van Alen Institute promotes innovative thinking about the role of architecture and design in civic life. Among our activities are design competitions, lectures and symposia, exhibitions, publications, research and advocacy. Our programs engage a broad constituency of people in New York City, the nation, and around the world who participate in shaping the designed environment, from architecture students to emerging and established professionals to the interested public. For more information, please visit


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