Urban Design Studio II, Fall 2018
Lee Altman, Justin G. Moore (Studio Coordinators); Wendy Andringa, Jerome Haferd, Christopher Kroner, David Smiley (Studio Faculty); Michael Murphy, Liz McEnaney, Nans Voron (Expert Advisors); Niharika Kannan, Sofia Valdivieso (Research Assistants)
Narratives of the Hudson River Valley often begin with the histories of pioneering European settlers that started making their marks on that landscape over 400 years ago, supplanting indigenous peoples, or of the American revolutionaries who did the same 175 years later. In the early 19th century waterpower from tributary streams yielded new factories with new residents and dramatically changed life in the Valley. Transportation infrastructures – the Erie Canal in 1812, the Hudson River Railroad in 1849, and the ever-growing network of roads and bridges, brought industry and economic prosperity to the region and to the Empire State. Each of the region’s resources is in some way marked by its proximity and accessibility – or lack thereof – to New York City, a global “capital of capital” and the undisputed core of the American Northeast “Bos-Wash” megalopolis.
The prosperity of the region and its small cities, however, was and remains precarious. After decades of industrial growth in the Valley, early and mid-20th century changes to transport, industry, and demographics have decimated Main Streets and farming districts. Cities such as Newburgh, Kingston, and Poughkeepsie slowly shed population, jobs, investment, and the social networks necessary for community well-being. Mid-century responses to change were often equally destructive, when struggling neighborhoods – typically low-income and minority communities – were subject to demolition in the name of “renewal”. At the same time, local farms struggled to compete with factory farms and nationally scaled agribusiness. While some places have managed to stage “comebacks,” income, employment, education, and real estate data show that disparities continue to increase, both in the Valley, and nationally.
Today new “pioneers”, often white and middleclass, are finding their way up the Hudson River to cities like Beacon and Hudson, looking for places of opportunity: access to resources, the promise for growth, and a higher quality of life at lower costs. At the same time, people who have lived in the Valley and its cities for generations and those who live there by necessity rather than by choice, are also striving to make their cities better places to live, work, and thrive. This variety of people, purpose, and perspectives makes the region both diverse and dynamic, but can also manifest itself in challenging inequalities. A place’s identity can shift quickly from high-crime inner city to a postcard picture of “sustainable” pastoral life, local organic farm-to-table bliss, within commuting distance of New York City.
The Hudson Valley region and the city of Hudson were the subject of the urban design studio at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation in the 2018 fall semester. This publication shows a summary of the students’ designs, each proposing a new way of approaching questions of urbanization, community investment, and long-term change. Working in the city of Hudson and Columbia County, student teams have developed proposals for urban design strategies that draw on a range of topics and illustrate visions for improved spaces, places, services, and opportunities for the region’s residents, economy, and environment. The semester-long studio’s research and design work engaged with the multiple and often conflicting voices, communities, and agencies that make up any social agglomeration.
Central to the studio is the idea of a situated practice, building on the knowledge and expertise shared by local actors and stakeholders, as part of an effort to build lasting partnerships. We hope these projects can contribute to ongoing conversations, and that the work can promote more collaboration and communication between all those seeking equitable change in their community and across the Hudson Valley region.