By Adam Regn Arvidson, FASLA
The Department of Housing and Urban Development and its partners this past summer announced the 10 finalist teams for Rebuild by Design (RBD), a multistage competition to rethink development in the New York City area after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Landscape architects are well represented among the teams, of course. Most of the big names are there. But there’s another name that is probably more obscure: the Institute for Public Knowledge. This think tank, based at New York University, is essentially running phase two of RBD. It will lead the deep analysis portion of the competition, working with the design teams to help them better understand the landscape. So what exactly is IPK and what is it doing with New York?
First, RBD is not a typical competition. The ultimate goal of the program is to spend around $5 billion from the congressionally approved Sandy Recovery Fund on projects that will make the metro area more resilient to future storms (seen as more likely as a result of climate-change-driven sea-level rise and erratic weather patterns). RBD is broken into four stages. First, candidates applied to the program based on their own skills and experience; no project proposals were requested. In the second stage (that’s where IPK comes in), the 10 teams selected after stage one are developing three to five conceptual design ideas, not necessarily linked to specific places. Another selection process will winnow those to one per team, and then these same 10 teams will develop their selected project more in phase three. Stage four will see additional refinement—though no elimination of teams. Those 10 become the candidates for the recovery fund money.