Jessica M. Coleman

Diagram Diaries

In Field Research on December 4, 2008 at 3:58 am

When I initially started at Parsons, we did a lot of diagrams. Previously, at BG my alma mater, it was very technical. It was all about Francis Ching, in a very straight forward modern outlook. Our projects had basic components: plans, sections, elevations, and a model. But it was one book that opened my eyes to the importance of diagrams, one of the “New York Five”, Peter Eisenman.

Diagrams are to architects as to lawyers to evidence. They help support your case. Or in terms of an architect, your design problem. They are self-explanatory and straight forward. This is what I discovered when I started to create retail diagrams for Newark. Although it is the largest city in New Jersey, its development as been stunted so badly that it is almost overwhelming where to start. And with policy, there are no correct solutions. I think the key to policy it to look at what did not work in the past and do the opposite.

Retail diagram of Newark

Retail diagram of Newark

At our group meeting on Tuesday, we were able to trim down our paper and presentation to the basics. Just because retail is not viable right now, does not mean that it always will be…and although the “big box” stores come with its own set of issues, Newark needs something.Towards the end of our meeting, we had a discussion about the past policy initiatives, I was explained why Newark is having  500 million leakage (from an urban planing perspective), or what I like to call

“Top 5 Fantastic Failures of Newark”:

1.Failing to provide current residents with basic retail. Such as supermarkets and drug stores.

2.NJPAC as a “cultural center”. It is so isolated and does not provide any street life that Newark desperately  needs.

3. A sports stadium as incentive…it has currently filed for bankruptcy.

4. Lack of waterfront development.Not taking advantage of its strategic position on the Passaic River.

5.Underutilization of the student population and 9-5 workforce.

Development is a tricky thing. Our client Tucker, is making a large investment in a city that has not had any in a while. Kudos to them. But is appears to me all future development is in a holding pattern until Newark becomes a place to be and the middle-class families and young professionals start to flock to the city. Honestly, this is about 5-15 years away. But all is not lost. The untapped retail constituency is already present. Hence my thesis  has been created.

Newark has a great base in terms of transportation, universities, a business center but does not utilize the potential of the spending power of students. But there is one organization that is attempting to brige the gap between its university community and Newark residents. The Rutgers Small Business Development Center (RNSBDC) to help entrepreneurs and business owners start and grow sustainable, successful small business through the delivery of appropriate training and technical assistance services and programs. The RNSBDC, less than a year old, has been successful by providing assistance to entrepreneurs.

I would want to design an urban strategy for Newark that expands this idea of accessibility to resources for residents. Unlike my initial thesis for Harlem, this does not feel forced at all and there is less struggle. It is good to be out of your element, which has been true for my policy class. Sometimes architects get so caught up in form making that the design is theoretical based, failing to serve the client. Form follows function.

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