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(E) Rijeka's Memorial Bridge in New York
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  08/31/2003 | Culture And Arts | Unrated
(E) Rijeka's Memorial Bridge in New York


Rijeka's Memorial Bridge in New York

Bok Nenad,

You may find this article of interest...
(short reference on Rijeka's Memorial Bridge)

Hope all is well,



by James S. Russell

In Oslo, parts of a new opera house erupt in an angled
topography, creating on its waterfront site a dramatic
frame for views. In London, a new city hall appears to
have plunged into the South Bank of the Thames like a
sleek, oval meteorite. An exhibition at Manhattan’s
Van Alen Institute contends that these, as well as 18
other projects from cities worldwide, are the new face
of public space ("OPEN: New Designs for Public Space,"
runs through October 31st. Van Alen Institute, 30 West
22nd Street, 212-924-7000).

Discussions of the "public realm" almost inevitably
induce snoozing. Isn’t America content with the
largely privatized places it inhabits (which also
often induce snoozing)? Haven’t people shown they
prefer the sanitized security-patrolled mall to truly
public crowded urban sidewalks? "OPEN" has a lot of
prejudices to overcome. This exhibition is either a
nostalgic wake for an idea on its last gasp – or a
stimulating reinvention of, as Van Alen puts it, "how
we live in cities today."

While the designs avoid the tried and true, the
public-space debate is framed by executive director
Raymond Gastil and exhibition curator Zoë Ryan in
terms that are too traditional. Certainly there should
be places to stage protests, for example, but this
does not make a compelling case to officials (protest
targets) or taxpayers (who are usually disinterested
until they find themselves participating in protest).
Americans don’t readily engage in the "ballet of the
streets" romanticized by Jane Jacobs, but we do use
and need public places in ways we fail too often to
recognize. In this respect, "OPEN" stimulates.

With the exception of the handsome and dignified
Memorial Bridge in Rijeka, Croatia, by 3LHD, there is
almost nothing here of the traditional urban
embellishments that have long defined public-realm
design. The exhibition implies that plazas, parks,
boulevards and street furniture are old hat.

Some examples on view reinvent the idea of public
space. The A13 Highway Project in London, by de Paor
Architects, uses a series of artworks to animate the
eddies of dead acreage left over from freeways. In the
subterranean corridors of a subway in Korea, Cho Slade
has carved a tiny but inviting play space. Will anyone
be tempted to explore the undulating city-block-sized
landscape of pylons that Peter Eisenman has designed
as Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews? It’s a
space that may serve its purpose by its very
uninvitingness. Even the interpretive center, insisted
on by local officials, is essentially invisible,
buried under the field of markers.

Some of these projects – most of which are not located
in the U.S. – seem near desperate efforts to engage
the public. The interlocking geodesic blobs floating
in the Mur River in Graz, Austria, certainly put the
pedestrian bridge in a new, if distinctly Martian
light. (It’s by the artist/designer Vito Acconci,
whose work exemplifies the attention-getting means by
which Graz is trying to pump itself up as Europe’s
2003 City of Culture.) Ponte Parodi, a proposal by the
Rotterdam-based UN Studio for Genoa, Italy, roofs a
multilayered activity-laden pier with an elaborate,
manmade green topography. The Oslo Opera House, by
Snohetta Architects, which will open in 2005, also
falls into the undulating roof realm. But it evolves a
proven prototype, the Sydney Opera House, which
succeeds superbly as public space and urban icon.

Then there are some exhilarating yet hit-and-miss
attempts to create something new. The fractalized
surfaces of Federation Square, in Melbourne, are
gratuitously decorative, but behind the
hyperventilating facades is a large, ambitious and
successful public/private effort. (It was completed
last year by Lab Architecture.) With a colorfully
stepped plaza and a long arcade enclosed in a 3D
polygonal fretwork, it draws downtown Melbourne across
a vast railyard to a riverside park. A spectacular
counterpoint to the handsome Beaux Arts waterfront of
Liverpool is the Fourth Grace, a faceted,
multicolored, robotic cloud that crouches menacingly
at the river’s edge. This concoction is by Will Alsop,
whose brightly colored blobs on stilts long seemed
winsome. Grace is exactly what seems to have gone
missing here, as Alsop’s work moves in an increasingly
obsessive, hyperbolic direction.

A far more traditional – yet quite effective – use of
public space is represented by a number of poignant
international projects: The Favela Bairro project
carves out recreational and gathering spaces of a kind
that would be taken for granted in most developed
cities, yet they are blessings indeed in the dense
homemade slums of Rio de Janeiro. On paper, Bogota’s
Alameda El Provenir is an ordinary 11-mile bike and
pedestrian trail. Little about it signals the presence
of "Design!" Instead, its power derives from the
creation, by Felipe Gonzalez of MGP Arquitectura y
urbanismo, of a unifying and welcoming public armature
in an urban and rural landscape of unplanned
indifference. Such projects do what public space used
to do when poverty and lack of air conditioning made
the streets an extension of (or stand-in for) the
living room.

The relevance of these and similar projects to
contemporary America is not obvious until you
encounter Walter Hood’s work in Macon, Georgia. Hood
has transformed a neglected boulevard of park blocks
by weaving a skein of new activities into them after
an intense and solidarity-building collaboration with
residents on neighboring blocks.

Who needs public space? Teenagers do, for example, but
swarming 16-year-olds do not a public place make. In
Europe, many shopping streets, squares, and plazas are
busy enough and diverse enough that kids can hang out
in a genuinely public place, be part of the life of
the city, and yet have a bit of privacy. In America,
kids’ lives are either scheduled every moment or not
scheduled at all, leaving ample time to hang out in
what acts as public space: convenience-store parking
lots or mall concourses.

If you think of the possibilities in how people use
these places, not just how they are designed, you can
imagine a new view of public space emerging. The work
of such art photographers as Thomas Struth and Andreas
Gursky, make peculiarly monumental art out of
contemporary places of assembly: rock concerts,
blockbuster museum shows, the vast anonymity of the
atrium hotel. One can see a kindred spiritedness
around the edges of much of the work exhibited,
suggesting that public space works best when it opens
possibilities rather than when it coerces engagement.
The most important contribution of the work on view,
however, is to blow away the smoke of do-goodery that
itself obscures the evolving possibilities of the
places urban people share.

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