Posts Tagged ‘Newark Riverfront Park’


Damon Rich talks about the planning approaches that recently earned him a MacArthur Fellowship.


Damon Rich describes himself as a designer who uses the tool set of a community organizer. Rich says his goal at his design firm, Hector, with partner Jae Shin, and at his previous post as a founder of the Center for Urban Pedagogy, is to “[assemble] constituencies, trying to connect people so they can better exert political influence.” As a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship grant recipient, Rich will get a chance to see how an infusion of money ($625,000), translated through broad-based grassroots urban planning, can pull policy levers to make urbanism more equitable, healthy, and vital.

With Hector, his goal is to go into a neighborhood and uncover design elements that can offer multilayered meanings and associations to meet a wide range of needs. “I’m really excited to keep on finding ways to design things that really become social objects and social symbols,” Rich says. At the Newark Riverfront Park project, designed by Lee Weintraub, FASLA, during Rich’s tenure as the planning department director for the city of Newark, New Jersey, the color orange is used prominently in a boardwalk. The color references local schools’ heraldry and Newark’s municipal neighbors, East Orange and West Orange. It also works because it’s a neutral hue across local gang turfs. After it was built, a yoga instructor who teaches classes there complimented Rich for selecting this color because (unbeknownst to him) orange represents the water chakra.

Rich practices largely in the urban planning tradition, but he’s not careful about disciplinary lines. At the Center for Urban Pedagogy, he created users’ manuals for the city, working with marginalized communities that most need civic jargon translated into plain language. “I Got Arrested! Now What?” explains in graphic novel format how the justice system works, while “Vendor Power!” uses nearly wordless IKEA-like diagrams to show street vendors (who may be recent immigrants who don’t read English) how to comply with vending rules. Clear explanations of the city’s form, use, and regulations are part of his responsibility to (more…)

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