Productive Sidewalks in New York City

1Schermafbeelding 2015-08-21 om 12.18.06

Achieving Critical Insights about Multiple and 

Temporary Uses of Space and Changing Policies.

This PhD-project aims to research ‘new models of productivity of urban sidewalks’ within the contemporary urban landscape. Sidewalks play, as collective spaces, a significant role in the transformation of the urban fabric in dense urban conglomerations. The fact that those sidewalks have a productive character linked to an economical development is often overlooked. New research is required to investigate the changing role and meaning of that productive character and the multiple and parallel temporary uses of space.

The main focus of the research will be on commercial and industrial activities on sidewalks of different New York boroughs with a high ephemeral character. In the city of New York these productive mechanisms played a historic role in the definitions of the identity of places. At the same time, one can detect recent societal, entrepreneurial and governmental conditions changing the way collective spaces are read, designed and used.

The objective of the PhD research is to achieve new critical insights in the transformation of contemporary collective spaces, studying the changing meaning and role of the productive character of sidewalks related to multiple and parallel temporary uses and appropriations.

The research seeks to identify and understand the changing mechanisms behind the planning, design, policies and use of the city’s sidewalk by a comparative analysis of different cases. It will also assess and develop design-approaches to guarantee a more solid social, economical and environmental sustainability.

The research will be a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods: literature study, field observations (developing in situ case studies with a specific focus on the detection, description and evaluation of temporary and/or informal overlap scenarios within the productive urban landscape), interviews with key actors and asses and explore possible intervention strategies at the intermediate scale.

The result of this doctoral research will generate fundamental and innovative knowledge with long-term practical applications on architectural and urban spatial design of collective productive spaces, starting from the case of New York though providing insights for similar cases and scenarios. The research results can be used and applied on other similar dense metropolitan urban contexts to improve spatial qualities and contribute to new models of productivity and sustainability.

PhD project, Hannes Van Damme (prom. prof. Kris Scheerlinck, co-prom. prof. Yves Schoonjans, co-prom. Michael Sorkin)