New York’s quixotic quest to turn traffic-choked streets into pedestrian paradise took another step forward today, when Transportation Alternatives released the winning entries in its Designing the 21st Century Street competition.
The contest, which drew more than 100 entries from 13 countries, challenged designers to reimagine sidewalks and avenues that could safely accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, trucks, and cars on the same “complete street”—a notion gaining traction in other nations and cities, but one that has until very recently eluded New York’s car-centric transportation planners.
Coming on the heels of the Design Trust for Public Space’s Grand Army Plaza competition, as well as the popular PARK(ing) Day, Transportation Alternatives’ competition focused on the intersection of 4th Avenue and 9th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a wide-street crossroads plagued by speeding and reckless driving.
“We asked entrants to thread the needle of safety and mobility while designing world-class public space,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, in a statement. “Given that this intersection is one of the city’s most problematic crossings, each of the winning designs could serve as a template for countless streets across NYC.”
The jury—which included Danish planner-about-town Jan Gehl, New York City chief urban designer Alexandros Washburn, and architect Laurie Hawkinson—selected three winners. Rogers Marvel Architects was recognized for its entry Streets for Everyone, which focused on integrating infrastructure, turning 9th Street into an urban stormwater swale that filters runoff on its way to the Gowanus Canal. The design also places bike lanes in the middle of the street, offers “flex lanes” that can be claimed as neighborhood social space during times of low traffic, and revamps an adjacent overpass as a covered plaza with sheltered bike parking.
Somerville, Massachusetts-based Steven Nutter took honors for Shared Space, an entry that looked at fine-grained boundaries between different user groups. The plan widens 4th Avenue to allow for street trees on each side and a wider, mixed-use median with container-planted trees. Street life is focused on 9th Street, with widened sidewalks, bike paths, lighted bollards, and benches that create a more intimate scale.
Finally, Philadelphia-based team LEVON’s entry boldly resurrects the street as public domain, adding civic space, markets, gardens, leisure zones, and water areas. A heavy dose of green—in the form of street trees, gardens, and other organic elements—cuts down on the heat-island effect while providing new spaces for social use. In a nod to urban efficiency, all of the project’s elements are organized around a single, flexible module—one that is exactly the size of a parking space.