Spread the word about Parks for the People, our student design competition for the National Park Service, plus Design Speed Dating on September 10, a bounty of upcoming events at Van Alen Books, our Park(ing) Day Book Exchange, and more opportunities inside.VAN ALEN INSTITUTE
September 2011 Newsletter
In this Issue
  • Parks for the People: Call for Studio Proposals
  • September 10: Design Speed Dating is Back!
  • Fall Event Series at Van Alen Books
  • Park(ing) Day Book Exchange
  • Get Back to School with The Public School
  • In the Field: Upcoming Programs and Opportunities
  • Make the Most of Van Alen Membership



On August 12, Van Alen launched Parks for the People: A Student Competition to Reimagine America’s National Parks. We’re thrilled to be partnering with the U.S. National Park Service for this landmark competition to creatively rethink our national parks’ connections to people and their role as revered natural, social, and cultural destinations.

We’re calling on faculty and students at design schools across the country to bring their unbounded creativity to imagine what national parks can be in the twenty-first century. Today, our parks are facing unprecedented challenges—shifting demographics, climate change, and economic constraints. How we plan and design in response to these changing imperatives will have an enormous impact on how successful we are at creating welcoming, meaningful, healthy, and enduring public places that last well into the future.

How can you participate? If you’re a faculty member in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, planning, or related disciplines, we invite you to submit a proposal to reimagine one of seven national parks across America in a Spring 2012 design studio. If you’re a student, let your school leadership know about the competition, and help research your school’s chosen park site. A design studio this fall is not required to enter the competition—we welcome proposals whether they’re developed with students in seminars and symposia, or whether they’re based on faculty research. The deadline for submissions is November 1, 2011.

From this pool of proposals, seven finalist teams will be named in December (one for each national park site) and develop their designs during Spring 2012 studios. The winning teams will be nationally celebrated next summer and contribute to the Park Service’s legacy of design excellence.

We’ll soon be announcing a schedule of conference calls for participants to speak directly with park leadership at each site, so check the competition website for updates, and follow the project’s Twitter feed. And most of all, join us! Spread the word to your fellow students, faculty members, research fellows, and program directors to create our nation’s next generation of extraordinary public spaces.


Parks for the People

Civil War Defenses of Washington
Civil War Defenses of Washington, Washington, D.C.

Biscayne National Park in Miami, FL
Biscayne National Park, Miami, Florida

San Juan Island National Historical Park
San Juan Island National Historical Park, Friday Harbor, Washington


Calling emerging designers: Our action-packed portfolio review series returns on September 10 at our seasonal Open House Brunch from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. You won’t want to miss this edition of our round-robin reviews that pair four young designers with established critics for lightning-fast feedback on their portfolios. Critics for this round are Stephen Cassell (Architecture Research Office), Diane Filippi (San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association), Signe Nielsen (Mathews Nielsen and NYC Public Design Commission), and Suzanne Stephens (Architectural Record). Take this opportunity to boost your career profile, hone your presentation skills, and mingle with Van Alen’s network of designers and supporters. To be considered for a coveted spot at the table, submit your portfolio as a PDF attachment, 5 MB maximum, to vai@vanalen.org. And to all our members and friends, please join us for brunch—sponsored by City Bakery! Be sure to rsvp at rsvp@vanalen.org.

Design Speed Dating


We've had a great summer at Van Alen Books, packed with special events, book launches, and our Brown Bag Reading Series every Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. (If you missed out, catch up with photos on Facebook.) This fall, we continue our lunchtime reading series, starting on September 7 with John Cary, who presents the national impact of public-interest design in his book The Power of Pro Bono.

We're also thrilled to continue last year's popular Reading Room Exchange series, to be held at the bookstore on Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Browse our event page for a full list of upcoming programs.

If you're a student, we've got great news: We're offering 10% off all purchases at Van Alen Books to students during the month of September. Tell your friends, and bring a valid student I.D. to start saving today! And if you join Van Alen as a student member, you'll save even more, with 20% off in September and 10% off year-round.

Take note of new fall hours at the store: We’re open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with extended hours on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Our shelves are stocked with new titles every day, so stop by to check out our ever-changing selection!


Van Alen Books


The annual adventure known as Park(ing) Day NYC takes place Friday, September 16, and we’re using the opportunity to make books bloom on the street. We’re claiming the parking space in front of Van Alen Books on 22nd Street to host an architecture book exchange: Bring a book (or a few) you’d like to donate to the exchange, and take a book for your reading pleasure! We’ll have lots going on in the bookstore and on the sidewalk, so please join us as we help turn New York’s curbside spots into people-friendly public spaces.

Park(ing) Day 2010
Park(ing) Day at Van Alen in 2010


As part of this month’s Thursday evening series at VAI, the Public School of New York brings us Graham Harman, philosopher and author of The Quadruple Object. On September 8 at 7 p.m., Harman explores the traditions of continental philosophy and radical ways forward in his session “New Paths from Husserl and Heidegger.” And on September 15 at 7 p.m., author and co-director of punctum books Eileen Joy explores alternatives to traditional humanist reading strategies in her class “Toward a Speculative Realist Literary Criticism.” Both events are free and open to the public.

The Public School

In The Field


Join the Institute for Urban Design for the much-anticipated public realm festival Urban Design Week 2011. Kicking off with a launch party at the BMW Guggenheim Lab on Thursday, September 15, the festival includes more than 30 events in six days across New York City, including lectures, tours, block parties, urban actions, and more. As part of the festival, on September 16 at 7:00 p.m., we're hosting an event for the new issue of SLUM Lab magazine at Van Alen Books. Check the festival’s full schedule here, and don’t miss the U.S. premiere of Gary Hustwit’s film Urbanized on September 20.


Urban Design Week 2011


March 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the demolition of the first of the Pruitt-Igoe high-rises at the legendary public housing project in St. Louis. Pruitt Igoe Now seeks ideas from the creative community worldwide to reimagine 57 acres where the project once stood, aiming to re-invigorate the abandoned site. In the spirit of that original St. Louis competition—to which Eero Saarinen's Gateway Arch stands as witness—this competition imagines the site as a frontier in a community showing signs of stabilization after decades of decline. Submit your ideas by March 16, 2012.


Pruitt Igoe Now


CIVITAS is calling on architects, landscape architects, urban planners, students, and artists to create concepts for Manhattan’s East River esplanade. Seeking to jump-start the transformation of the East Side’s waterfront pedestrian experience, the design ideas competition Reimagining the Waterfront solicits spatially rich schemes for this narrowly confined area. A well-integrated mosaic of new landscape, architecture, sculpture, and lighting can help this important site achieve its potential as a destination for residents and visitors of all ages. Registration opens on September 15, and the deadline for submissions is January 15, 2012.


Reimagining the East River Waterfront


The James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation will award Fitch Mid-Career research grants of up to $15,000 to mid-career professionals who have an academic background, professional experience, and an established identity in the fields of historic preservation, architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, environmental planning, architectural history, or the decorative arts. The Foundation will consider proposals for the research and/or the execution of preservation-related projects in any of these fields. Applications must be submitted in PDF format by September 15. Learn more about the grant program here.


Fitch Foundation

Join Us


Now is a great time to support Van Alen Institute, as we present our fall program of readings and events at Van Alen Books, launch our national design studio competition Parks for the People, and look toward a series of new publications on tap later this year, including our book Gateway: Visions for an Urban National Park. Our current supporters are already enjoying the 10% members’ discount at Van Alen Books, along with complimentary VAI publications, invitations to members-only events, and more. Plus, you can put your support of public architecture on display with your very own Van Alen membership tag! Join us today by signing up here.

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


Membership Tags

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. 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 www.vanalen.org.


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