|The Thirteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2011|
Joseph Audeh Proposal
I’m important. The world’s great civilizations developed around me.
In the past, people were more aware of their location in relation to
me. They had to be. Now cities are a burden for me. I’m required
to sustain populations, yet I’m a receptacle for what is not needed.
I have many colors—clear, blue, green, brown, gray, black—but I’d
prefer just a couple. My uses are as much practical as they are
cultural. I can be found in the Hindu tradition of abhisheka, the
Islamic ritual of ghusl al-mayyit, and the Jewish practice of taharah.
I am sacred, but I’m no priest. Kids like to throw me around in
balloons. Sometimes they mix me with bubbles, as if I wasn’t pure
enough on my own. There are contests where I’m poured onto
t-shirts. I’m even forced to sell my body.
I’m cerebral, too. Henry David Thoreau said I was the wise man’s
counterpart. Thomas Carlyle, in “Sartor Resartus”, applauded my
‘earnest, assiduous’ look toward those with and without money. The
Swiss psychologist Carl Jung likened me to the unconscious. And
it’s true: you don’t always notice me.
I’m profane. I’m mundane. Vast is the word that’s used to describe
me frequently. Don’t say it to my face, though. I’m salty most of
the time, but I can get fresh. I’m ubiquitous, so the public
habituates to me. I’m terribly expensive to maintain on an urban
scale, so think of me in smaller situations. On the street. In your
apartment. I’m less present in the former, and mostly present in the
New York is a city that’s renowned for its tap water. The
EPA recognizes New York as one of only five large cities in the U.S.
with drinking water of such high quality that filtration is not
required. How beneficial would water—unaffected by conflict,
environmental degradation, and supply—be in cities such as Kathmandu
or Dhaka? The truth is that here, in developed countries, we are
lucky to have such access. The drawback to such availability is that
we fail to appreciate our reservoirs, our pipes, our taps.
Dependence has not necessarily engendered respect, it seems.
‘Tap City’ is a design competition that re-thinks the relationship
between city dwellers and their infrastructure. It’s increasingly
difficult for urbanites to think about the origin of their water.
And that’s the point of infrastructure. After all, they are under-
structures or sub-structures; they’re either below ground, or far
removed from our quotidian activities.
The faucets you find in your home are perhaps the handiest reminders
of our water system, but we’re more interested in public connections
to water. The drinking fountain is perhaps the most widely
recognized of these.
At the corner of West Fourth St. and Thompson St. in Greenwich
Village, on the northeast side of the McKim, Mead and White-designed
Judson Memorial Church, is the Duncan Dunbar Memorial Fountain. It
is passed by students, professors, children, park staff, tourists,
artists, homeless people, construction workers, churchgoers,
musicians, and street performers, so at times it feels like a
microcosm of New York’s diverse interests. It was once a
rejuvenating stopover for the Italian immigrant community in the
late-19th and early-20th centuries. It is now another historical
monument—dry—and another place to speed by.
It’s made of marble, has a hexagonal basin, and seems to fit into its
own nook. That nook has potential. We are asking you to create a
structure, installation, or experience around this forgotten
fountain, to devise a radically innovative proposal for the most
particular of urban design sites. The street corner is static. We
want to see mobile, changing, ephemeral. If fascination with water
is to become the norm, it must be presented in a stimulating and
adaptive manner. Think complex, not complicated; inviting, not
closed; slowing down of time, not speeding up; ongoing, not
completed; simultaneously historical and recent.
There must be a habitable space around the fountain. This can be
supplemented by an audio, visual or video component. The design
should be striking. It must be accompanied by both a 500-word
project statement and a 150-word abstract statement. The latter will
be placed alongside the installations of the finalists. While it is
easier to count expressions on word processors, these descriptions
can be verbalized as audio clips or filmed.
We no longer have to design with the ‘blueprint model of planning’.
Rather than delineate a rectangle, which used to serve as a parameter
for urban planning, we are asking you to take a space that has no
real dimension (a street corner) and intensify its relation to the
city. Given that the problem is both conceptual and technical, you
must submit at least one scanned, horizontal 11”x 17” drawing. This
is the idea that good old-fashioned pencil and paper (or graphite and
mylar), could lead to a novel form of graphic representation that
might not be available digitally. Otherwise, you are free to use
computer-rendering programs. Please make sure to document your
conceptual process, as well as any plans, sections, or perspectives
you feel are necessary to explain your proposal. We are limiting
visual submissions to five (5) horizontal pages total, all of which
should be sent as PDF or JPG files.
You will receive registration numbers, based on the time of your
submission, which should be placed on the upper right-hand corner of
each document you turn in. There should be no marks or names that
reveal the participants. You are encouraged to work in teams, as
this is an interdisciplinary subject. This project intertwines
architecture, historic preservation, environmental science,
anthropology, and experiential art, so the more varied the
participants’ backgrounds the richer the content will be. Some like
to work alone, so we are setting a minimum participation number at
one and the maximum at three.
Three entries will be selected as finalists by a panel of jury
members, including architects, professors, students, and critics.
These participants will have the opportunity to construct and execute
their projects at the corner of West Fourth and Thompson St. for the
weekends of October 8th-9th, October 15th-16th, and October
22nd-23rd, 2011. There is a total of USD2500 in prize money for the
three finalists. It will be distributed evenly among these talented
competitors. That means USD833.33 each (really). One winner will be
chosen after all three have been assembled and disassembled. There
is no tangible reward for that accomplishment; just glory. The
process and results of the competition will be documented on the
competition’s website, with live updates through Facebook and Twitter.
Usually architecture competitions adhere to a familiar script of
judging criteria—creativity, context, sustainability, budget,
feasibility, and structural integrity—and ‘Tap City’, too, uses these
as a base from which to question entries. But the Duncan Dunbar
Memorial Fountain has idiosyncrasies of its own, and that in turn,
calls for an additional set of rules. They are:
1. The installation must facilitate a five-person game (the fountain
2. The installation must force its viewers to look up (we look down
too much, and thus it’s difficult to imagine New York as surrounded
3. The installation must not be made of food (it’s wasteful).
4. The installation cannot be purely aesthetic; it should have some
5. The installation must plan for the re-use of its materials after
6. The installation must not use water (that will come later).
7. The installation must not physically touch the fountain.
8. The installation must not be larger than 19’ by 8’ (otherwise
it’s not considered temporary by the Department of Buildings).
9. The installation must have an opening large enough for a horse’s
head (both humans and horses once imbibed water from New York’s
On a scale of local to global, this effort takes a place-specific
strategy. The competition is local. Hyper-local. So much that we
will be unable to provide external funding for material costs. We
believe in communities. Try using a website like Kickstarter for
support from other friends, activists, artists, community members,
neighbors, or even your own kin.
I came across a cartoon in the New Yorker recently in which a child
and his mother were in a kitchen. He asked her, “Instead of doing
something fun that’s free, can we do something fun that we pay for?”
We do ascribe more value to things that cost more. If hundreds, or
thousands of community members contribute just one dollar each, they
will feel somewhat attached to your endeavor. We hope to replicate
this model for the rehabilitation of the fountain itself. Community
involvement produces a sense of ownership; a sense of ownership will
protect the fountain in future generations.
The competition will be publicized on Architizer, Archinect, in
various scholastic departments throughout NYU, and by conventional
word-of-mouth. Registration begins on June 15th, 2011. The
submission deadline is August 15th, 2011. Finalists will be
announced on September 15th, 2011. Installation dates for the three
finalists will be the first three weekends of October, 2011. The
winner will be announced in mid-November, 2011.
Jean Phifer [FAIA, LEED, T. Phifer and Associates; Clinical Associate Professor at NYU;]
Louise Harpman [principal Specht/Harpman; Clinical Associate Professor at NYU; co-founder of Global Design NYU;]
Maya Alexander [designer Maya Lin Studio;]
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