2011 | RAVENSWOOD/CALL: IF ONLY THE CITY COULD SPEAK

Long Island City, New York

We propose creating a “City as Living Laboratory District” in Long Island City – specifically in the neighborhood around the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park. Borrowing on a historic name for the Long Island City area, we propose calling the project district “RAVENSWOOD/CaLL.”

This initiative establishes the area surrounding those two institutions as a district of innovation that supports collaborative projects between artists, scientists and other experts addressing issues of social, economic and environmental sustainability. This alternative development scenario builds on the precedents established by Noguchi and the museum as well as the laboratory-like nature of Socrates Sculpture Park founded by Mark di Suvero.  It also recognizes the ad hoc, heterogeneous nature of the area; it’s often hidden ecology, the history of manufacturing, the presence of small scale artisanal fabrication and artists.

IF ONLY THE CITY COULD SPEAK is the project we propose to activate the Ravenswood/CaLL district. It will roll out in phases opening up the possibility of conversation between the city and its inhabitants.  Each phase will itself manifest through a process of   repurposing.  The phases are:

  1. Activate the Program: Big Allis Stacks

To begin, we will use the “Big Allis” stacks to visually identify the district, repurposing them as performance gauges that measure and make visible our city’s consumption of water and energy and its production of pollution and waste. The wide visibility of the stacks will announce to the city at large how its environment is changing.

  1. Mark Out Territory: Poles

We will mark out the territory of the RAVENSWOOD/CaLL district by repurposing the vertical infrastructure of the street – utility poles, lamp posts, and signs – with the iconography of the red and white banding of the Big Allis stacks. These vertical pieces, fixed with actual “speech bubbles,” can serve as points of conversation about the city, reveal the history of the neighborhood, and identify locations for future projects. These icons on the street will let visitors know they have arrived at a new kind of “Research Zone” in the city.

  1. Creative Re-Purposing: Examples

We will continue with a series of projects that further demonstrate the concept of re-purposing everyday elements of the city. Projects may include:

  1. Testing construction scaffolds – ever-present throughout New York City – as supports for vertical green spaces or “weed walls” in the city;
  2. Creating “slices of park” against the endless blank industrial walls of the district; and
  3. Appropriating trailer truck containers as incubator studios to develop ideas and projects that then move out into other parts of the city to demonstrate these new ideas.
  4. R/CaLLabs – utilizing the existing container space in Socrates Sculpture Park as a neighborhood meeting space to invite, engage and develop dialogue between residents, visitors, artists, local experts, and impassioned amateurs on issues affecting the neighborhood.

These phased projects would jump start collaborations by multiple artists that will aggregate in the area, making it a destination for seeing and interacting with new ideas about the city. Their work may occur as programs, performances or projects that look at the transect of the city: air, rooftops, wall surfaces,streets,sidewalks and vacant lots, the waterfront and river as well as the above and below ground infrastructure. History, social issues, housing are only a few of the possible issues to be addressed.

The Ravenswood / CaLL cultural trust will facilitate and administer collaborative projects, providing a permitting and approvals process that is streamlined.  It will maintain relationships with city agencies to ensure ethical and quality projects while relieving the city of oversight and maintenance.  Ravenswood / CaLL will work with and be made up of local stakeholders, institutions and agencies