The Thirteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2011
Berkeley Prize 2011

Joseph Audeh Proposal

Tap City

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


I’m interesting.

I’m water.

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

used to).

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

by water).

3. The installation must not be made of food (it’s wasteful).

4. The installation cannot be purely aesthetic; it should have some

informational component.

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

drinking fountains).

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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