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Hudson Valley Initiative

The Hudson Valley Initiative (HVI) facilitates applied research into the complex spatial, ecological, and economic opportunities of this vast region. Extending several hundred miles north from Manhattan Island, touching five states, the region includes nine counties, 13 cities and over 200 villages and towns, and its watershed covers over 13,000 square miles. The status and future of this area deeply affects the lives of millions, from New York City to a broad swath of the American northeast. By serving as the GSAPP clearinghouse for urban design, architecture, landscape, preservation, and planning work, the HVI enables substantive contributions to the long term health and viability of the region.

Historically, the Hudson Valley contributed to the feeding, building, educating and housing of innumerable individuals and communities but since the Second World War, deindustrialization has cut deeply into economic health and social mobility. Population decline, job loss, and social inequality plague many towns and cities, and the disparities of wealth and poverty are glaring. Making the situation more difficult, there are many worthy yet conflicting visions, plans, and proposals from local and sub-regional organizations. The Valley’s cities and towns, including Poughkeepsie, Beacon, Newburgh, Kingston, Hudson, and surrounding towns and counties, often operate in isolation from one another, and the regional needs and capacities do not fully inform the public imaginary or professional practices. More recently, economic opportunity has extended north from New York City, providing fuel for jobs, housing and culture but with development comes difficult questions of power, equity and knowledge. Ensuring long-term benefits to a greater cross-section of the population is both necessary and difficult.

The Initiative works with non-profit organizations, community groups and local municipalities to advance the communities’ goals and enhance GSAPP students’ educational experience through real-world collaborations, both in the classroom through studios and seminars and beyond the classroom through applied research and design projects. The Initiative pursues projects that improve the built and natural environment by expanding social impact design, taking research and scholarship beyond the classroom, and providing community leaders and citizens with tools, techniques and knowledge to help build resilient communities. Students can participate in these projects as research assistants or community design assistants.

In addition, the HVI facilitates knowledge exchange between students, faculty and local leaders in the Hudson Valley by convening regular meetings that act as open forums for discussion on planning and design issues.

Want to work with us? Contact Director Kaja Kühl to discuss your organization’s needs and ways in which we can contribute within our curriculum and beyond.

Envisioning A Green New Deal In The Hudson Valley

Fall 2019 Urban Design Studio II in the Hudson Valley
Working in the Hudson Valley, the Fall Urban Design Studio at GSAPP operates at the regional scale and asks students to enter the discourse of urbanization beyond cities to engage unevenly dispersed socio-spatial ecosystems at multiple scales. As part of a GSAPP-wide collaboration “Public Works for a Green New Deal,” students worked closely with local stakeholders, elected officials, organizations, non-profits, community groups, and planning and design professionals to envision just and equitable pathways towards decarbonizing the region. Download the studio publication.
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Research and Community Design Projects

In Newburgh, the Hudson Valley Initiative is collaborated with Scenic Hudson and the City of Newburgh to develop the Lots of Ideas Toolbox, a guide for city-owned vacant lots as part of the city’s comprehensive Open Space Plan. The toolbox describes different options and mechanisms for design, stewardship, programming and long-term maintenance of these lots. As part of this project, the team installed a pilot at 191 South Street to test ideas and collect feedback from residents. Together with Newburgh residents, we surveyed vacant lots to publish the map below of all city-owned vacant lots. #lotsofideasnewburgh
191 South St Outreach September 2018.JPG
City-Owned Vacant Lots in Newburgh
191 south street
191 South Street Community Park
Community Members offering ideas for vacant lots during Newburgh Open Studios, September 2018
191 South St Pop up Community Building Day October 2018_3.JPG
Newburgh Free Academy Students build prototypes during a Community Building Workshop, October 2018
Page 20
Ideas For Vacant Lots: Sample page from Toolbox
The Hudson Valley Initiative is assisting the Eutopia Foundation in framing the design parameters to establish a community at Wally Farms, in Columbia County. The Foundation seeks to develop space and opportunity for like-minded individuals to form a community that addresses the challenges of climate change by drawing on the arts, sciences and practice to develop and share innovative solutions that respect all beings. The 2018 report documents research and design scenarios and explores models of environmentally, economically and socially sustainable living which supports exchange among Foundation targeted populations including artists, makers, scientists and innovators. In 2019, HVI continued its collaboration with the Eutopia Foundation towards implementation.

A Visioning Process For Oakdale

In Hudson, the Hudson Valley Initiative worked with Friends of Oakdale Lake to develop a Vision for Oakdale Lake in order to improve ecological conditions and recreational opportunities at Oakdale Lake for all Hudson residents and in particular youth participating in Hudson Youth Department summer programming. The vision document describes 8+1 Design Actions, each can be pursued separately, depending on available funding or community support. Together they transform this local public park. #OakdaleLake
03_August 2018 Workshop with Summer Camp at Oakdale Lake Hudson.JPG
Summer Campers designing a Nature Trail at Oakdale Lake, August 2018
August 2018 Workshop with Summer Camp at Oakdale Lake Hudson.JPG
OAK workshop sharvi.JPG
Community Workshop, October 2018

Fall 2019 Urban Design Studio - The Climate Crisis: Envisioning a Green New Deal in the Hudson Valley

The Fall 2019 Urban Design Studio at Columbia University GSAPP explored the Hudson Valley’s rural/urban socio-spatial ecosystems to address the global climate crisis as part of a school-wide collaboration “Public Works for a Green New Deal.”

Faculty Team: Kaja Kühl (Coordinator), Anna Dietzsch, Jerome Haferd, Liz McEnaney, Justin Moore, Shachi Pandey, Raafi Rivero, David Smiley, Dragana Zoric


Each year, several design studios and seminars across all disciplines at GSAPP situate their curriculum in the Hudson Valley and is communities. The resulting projects speculate with new ways of approaching questions of urbanization, community investment and long-term change. 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.
Each Fall semester the Regional Urban Design Studio at GSAPP examines the Hudson Valley, reaching north from New York City and including territory as far as the Erie Canal and Great Lakes. The studio explores new industries, tourism, food systems, education, mobility and economic development to enable regional actors and stakeholders to prosper. The Regional Studio is also premised on the practice of Urban Design as interdisciplinary, collaborative and research-based. To this end, the studio process includes the intensive participation of local officials, organizations, non-profits, community groups, planning and design professionals and other educators. Below are samples of the student work in the past five years.
The Newburgh Path

Ross Brady, Anais Niembro Garcia, Nans Voron, Ye Zhang

MOVING IMAGES Urban Narratives and Regions in Newburgh, New York and the Hudson River Valley Fall 2014 Urban Design Studio

Spring 2018: Historic Preservation Studio in Newburgh
Re-thinking Heritage Tourism in Newburgh proposes strategies to leverage and preserve Newburgh’s varied built environment, including recognized and under-recognized heritage assets, to foster pride of place and encourage the development of Newburgh as an attractor, both internally and externally.
Spring 2017: Historic Preservation Studio
Past as Prologue: Preservation as a Tool for Social Inclusion explored the evolution of Poughkeepsie’s Main Street by mapping and analyzing current physical and socio-economic conditions, and developing policy and project proposals that utilize preservation as a tool for social and economic inclusion. By understanding the role heritage plays within urban dynamics, students sought to examine how preservation can generate positive long-term outcomes for the diverse Main Street community. Click to download a PDF of the full studio report.
Summer 2017 Workshop: Hudson Valley

2017 Summer Workshop: Hudson Valley

Justice in Place:
Downtown Regeneration in the Shadow of Urban Renewal in the Hudson River Valley
August 1 - 18, 2017

View documentation of the research here.


Past and Current Research Assistants, Community Design Assistants & Volunteers
Betsy Daniel (MSAUD ‘18) Donovan Dunkley (MSAUD ‘18) Sofia Valdivieso (MSAUD ‘18) Lorena Galvao (MSAUD ‘19) Greg LeMaire (MSAUD ‘19) Aura Maria Jamarillo (MSHP ‘19) Whitney Bayers (MSHP ‘19) Shouta Kanehira (MSAUD ‘19) Shuo Yang (MSAUD ‘19) Carolina Godinho (MSAUD ‘19) David Mauricio (MSAUD ‘19) Gabriel Vergara (MSAUD ‘19) Sharvi Jain (MSAUD ‘19) Alex Wong (MArch ‘19) Alaa Marrawi (MSAUD ‘19) Shivani Agarwal (MSAUD ‘19) Alicia Laryn French (MArch ‘19) Huiwon Hong (MSAUD ‘19) Angela Crisostomo (MSAUD ‘19) Maria Palomares Samper (MSAUD ‘19) Dhanashree Reddy (MSAAD ‘19) Adi Laho (MSAUD ‘19) Mary Allen (MSAUD ‘20) Victoria Vuono (MSAUD '20) Grace Alli (MARCH '20)