A ton of plywood, a willing patron and an innovative architecture professor have joined forces to create what arguably might be New York’s most beautiful sidewalk. Lower Manhattan architect Richard Garber, an assistant professor in the New Jersey School of Architecture at NJIT, took first place last month in a competition to design, develop and build a visually pleasing and utilitarian construction site walkway.
The walkway will be on view through March of 2008 at the MTA Fulton Street Transit Center, John St. and Broadway, Manhattan.
(ATTENTION EDITORS: To interview Garber and his students, call Sheryl Weinstein 973-596-3436.)
The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Alliance for Downtown New York sponsored the contest. The task was borne from the frustrations of lower Manhattan pedestrians like Garber who navigate daily a seemingly endless labyrinth of construction projects spilling onto walkways at and around the World Trade Center.
Though on view in New York, the state-of-the art plywood walkway, began life at NJIT. Garber and his students constructed the piece at school’s new “Fab Lab.”
“Materials and design costs, but not labor, ran about $30,000, said Garber, founder and principal of GRO Architects, NY, NY.
“This was a challenging project,” he said. “The New York State Department of Transportation wouldn’t allow building on city sidewalks until a pilot project—mock-up—was made. Such things are costly not only in terms of money, but space.”
NJIT’s Fab Lab, however, saved the day. Garber and the students constructed the mock-up and used various engineering equipment from the lab. The convenience of having such a facility on campus, allowed the pioneers to cut their final pieces in record time. A professional company eventually assembled the model for its current New York address. Earlier, the students constructed a pilot mock-up in the basement of the architecture school which enabled them to impress the judges enough to win the contest.
“We have a forward-thinking dean,” Garber added. “Urs Gauchat immediately saw the pedagogical value of the project and allowed me to use the facilities and offer the work as a student research project.
“The Fab Lab was the perfect venue for this project,” he continued. “Learning took place as students dived into the design and construction of a real world problem.” The industrial-sized space got a good work-out because it was large enough to accommodate a project of this size. Its on-campus location was perfect for convenience, as students meandered in to work between classes. The project also enabled students to use computer-assisted design skills and state-of-the-art software available at NJIT.
What’s next? Garber said he hopes his walkway will be used on other construction sites. As an educator and licensed architect, Garber’s work engages the way design computing has expanded beyond representation-based documentation to include analysis, simulation, and digital fabrication. These new modules allow architects to better understand how virtual ideas might be realized. Garber holds architectural degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Columbia University.
Participating NJIT architecture students: Erin Ross, Wayne; Adam Brillhart, Southampton; Greg Capone, Paterson; Justin Foster, Marlton; Michael Genauer, Cherry Hill; Ninett Moussa, East Rutherford; Lauren Page, Hillsborough.
Others are: Patrick Candalla, Scott Corey, Philip Lee, recent NJIT grad Chris Booth; Eric Felczak; John Im; Shahed Syed; Mathew Staudt and Joseph Lozito.