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Hudson Valley Initiative

The Hudson Valley Initiative was a five-year curricular initiative facilitating 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.

The Initiative worked 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 pursued 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.

In addition, the Initiative facilitated the production and exchange of knowledge between students, faculty and local leaders in the Hudson Valley in order to support further research, advocacy, planning and design across disciplines, and geographic and political boundaries, actively contributing to the future of the region. See below a selection of publications and studio work completed under the umbrella of the Initiative.

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

Research and Community Design Projects

In Newburgh, the Hudson Valley Initiative 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 assisted 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


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)