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Queens Chronicle

New design ideas come after looking back

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Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2012 12:00 pm

A designer, an architect and an architectural historian convened at the Noguchi Museum on Sunday to give a panel discussion relating to the museum’s ongoing exhibit “Civic Action” during a program titled “The Story of Ravenswood.”

“Civic Action” features the work of four artist-led teams tasked with envisioning new models of urban development for the Queens waterfront between Newtown Creek and Bowery Bay, which spans Long Island City, Ravenswood and Astoria.

The results of each team’s efforts went on display at the museum last October, and will be on view through April 22, after which the second phase of the exhibit — large-scale models and works relating to the teams’ plans — goes up at Socrates Sculpture Park on May 13.

The exhibit marks the first time the Noguchi Museum has engaged with architects and urban planners in such a direct way, according to Amy Hau, the museum’s director of administration and external affairs.

“It’s a very exciting time,” Hau said of developments that are ongoing in the area, including Cornell’s incoming tech campus on Roosevelt Island. “Change happens. We’re just trying to keep in step with it.”

On Sunday, the representatives from three different teams explained the process that led to their projects. For all three, understanding the history of Ravenswood was a key part of the design process.

“There are very few people in New York City as a whole who’ve ever even heard of Ravenswood,” said Amelia Black, a design researcher with a master’s in design criticism from the School of Visual Arts. Black worked on the team led by artist George Trakas, whose contribution to the exhibit is one of the most simple but also most compelling: plans for a walkway built with existing but long disused pieces of boardwalk and bulkhead that would wrap around Con Edison and Trans Canada, connecting the shoreline from 36th Avenue to Socrates Sculpture Park.

For Black, studying the waterfront’s history led to the revelation that waterfront access has long been a dream of Ravenswood residents. Black said deeds of mansions that existed along the river in the mid-1800s included provisions for a public promenade.

But in the late-1800s and onward, the rise of manufacturing blocked the public’s access to a great deal of the waterfront. Digging deeper into manufacturing history was key to Nina Rappaport, an architectural historian who worked with artist Natalie Jeremijenko. Their project includes designs for vertical urban factories and a network of zip lines to transport goods (and people) from building to building, as well as ideas for how to use waste from one manufacturer to fuel another.

While many of the ideas on display in Civic Action might strike some as unlikely or infeasible, as a whole the exhibit has functioned as a kind of design incubator.

“Some of the ideas have been very much embraced by our elected officials,” Hau said. “We’re definitely trying to carry out those conversations.”

“This is just a first step,” she added.

‘Civic Action’

When: Through April 22 (related public talks

on Sunday, April 8 and May 13)

Wed.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Weekends 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Where: Noguchi Museum, 9-01 33 Rd., Astoria

Tickets: $10

(718) 204-7088/noguchi.org

Welcome to the discussion.