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City-Making from the Outside In

Outside In is about the creative “outsiders” who are solving the challenges of urban life for themselves—ordinary citizens, artists, entrepreneurs, and NGOs who are getting things done, boldly reshaping our city and our daily lives. As we travel around New York City exploring unique projects from rooftop farms and food co-ops to repurposed cultural venues and makeshift gathering spaces, we’ll examine how these projects can inspire collaborative partnerships with design professionals, private industry, and the public sector to transform the city.

All festival events will take place rain or shine.

Follow us! #VanAlenOutsideIn
Twitter: @van_alen
Instagram: @van_alen
Facebook: @vanaleninstitute

Makeshift Metropolis
Tuesday, October 30, 7pm
Book Club Meeting
Van Alen Institute
30 West 22nd Street

In conjunction with Archtober, Van Alen Book Club will read and discuss Witold Rybczynski’s Makeshift Metropolis. Looking back on a long career of thinking and writing about cities, Rybczynski considers trends and visions throughout the history of American city-making and asks if any of those past ideas are relevant to a nation as diverse and dispersed as the U.S. is today.


Public Private Personal
Thursday, November 1, 7pm
Van Alen Institute
30 West 22nd Street

How neighborhoods receive new development often reflects how included residents feel in the development process. Whether we’re making way for a high-rise residential tower or converting a vacant lot to a community garden, people need to feel heard. Approaches to promote and harness that listening should be a significant part of any city-maker’s toolkit. 


Michael Parkinson, AICP, Bronx Neighborhood Studies Manager, NYC Department of City Planning
Damaris Reyes, Executive Director GOLES
Traci Sanders, Director of Civic Impact, WXY Studio
Jeff Shumaker, Director of Urban Planning and Design, KPF
Moderated by David van der Leer, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute


Food Justice
Friday, November 2, Noon – 1pm
Exploration and Greens
Harlem Grown
118 West 134 Street
New York, NY

Join us for an exploration of urban agriculture center Harlem Grown.  Learn about the community effort to transform an overgrown and abandoned garden filled with trash, into an urban agriculture oasis complete with soil-based farms, hydroponic greenhouses, and school gardens. Today, Harlem Grown serves as an educational platform promoting increased access to and knowledge of healthy food for Harlem residents and providing garden-based development programs to Harlem youth. As part of this immersive, hourlong hands-on tour, participants will learn about hydroponics, soil-based farming, and composting, and of course, sample some fresh greens.


Person Place Thing with Majora Carter
Friday, November 2,  7pm
Live Radio Show
Van Alen Institute
30 West 22nd Street

Join us for a conversation between social-enterprise pioneer and Peabody Award winning broadcaster Majora Carter and former New York Times Ethicist columnist Randy Cohen in a live recording of the radio show Person Place Thing. Carter will tell us about a person, a place, and a thing that have shaped her understanding of cities and how that understanding has shaped her work. The evening will also feature the music of Big Mamou.


Flash Competition: Intervention
Saturday, November 3, 12 pm
Build: 12 – 4pm
Doors: 4:30pm
Presentations begin at 5pm
Van Alen Institute
30 West 22nd Street

$1000 will be awarded to  the winning team
$200 goes to three teams selected as finalists

More and more people are taking to the streets to create flexible, short-term design interventions. From open streets to play-streets, chair bombing to guerilla gardening, citizen-led design interventions have filled the gap in addressing local urban planning challenges. Swift, flexible, often experimental, these short-term neighborhood level projects have shifted the paradigm of how we think about city making, project development, and resource distribution. For Intervention, a fast-paced design competition, we invite interdisciplinary teams to design playful, site specific, temporary design interventions from street-furniture to infrastructural changes that can be executed with local partners to make their neighborhoods more livable, and lead to permanent change. Spectators are invited to watch the presentations and jury Q&A, the announcement of a winner and a celebration.


Desire Path
Saturday, November 3, 8:00 – 11pm
Variety Show and Party
In collaboration with NOoSPHERE Arts
Last Frontier NYC
520 Kingsland Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

To celebrate the DIY in all of us, the Desire Path Variety Show brings together a hodgepodge of pop-up performances, installations, sounds mixes, and artists for an evening of spontaneous interpretations of the notion of desire paths and paving your own way. Free Shuttle bus from the G line Greenpoint Avenue Stop. Beverages will be served. 


Make YOUR Playground
Sunday, November 4, 10am – 1pm
Design Workshop (ages 5 – 12)
In partnership with Future Planners
Van Alen Institute
30 West 22nd Street

Playgrounds are built for children, so why not allow children to become the architects of the only space in the public realm that is truly theirs? Van Alen and Future Planners present the three-hour, hands-on workshop Make YOUR Playground to turn on young imaginations and consider the multitude of priorities for playground planning. 

Participants meet at Van Alen and then walk to explore Madison Square Park’s Police Officer Moira Ann Smith Playground. Box lunch included.


My Gowanus
Sunday, November 4, 1pm
Exploration and Conversation
Union Street Bridge, Brooklyn

Join us for a tour of the Gowanus Canal and surrounding lowland neighborhood with Gowanus Canal Conservancy (GCC) founder Andy Simons to learn about how one of the most polluted water bodies in the country is undergoing a remarkable transformation. Hear about the conservancy from its modest volunteer beginnings to its role today as a robust stewardship-and-advocacy group, working to build and maintain innovative green infrastructure in the Gowanus Watershed. Participants will gain an overview of the history of the Gowanus Canal, its ecosystem, and the ongoing clean-up and related planning processes, including the Gowanus Lowlands Master Plan developed in partnership with SCAPE Studio. The tour includes visits to Sponge Park, an innovative, street-end green infrastructure installation designed by dlandstudio; views of progress on the first pilot dredging work through the Superfund; and the GCC’s Salt Lot Compost Facility and Nursery.


These programs are made possible through our Program Leadership Council, co-chaired by Andy Bernheimer (Bernheimer Architecture), Sara Grant (Murphy Burnham and Buttrick Architects), Matthew Moss (Think Construction), and Joel Sanders (Joel Sanders Architect).

Thank you to council members Ramona Albert, Elliot Berkowitz, Jennifer Bolstad, Matthew Bremer, Chip Brian, David Briggs, Jerry Caldari, Philipp von Dalwig, Koray Duman, Kevin Erickson, Lisa Frazar, Jared Gilbert, Chris Hughes, Scott Hughes, Andrew Kotchen, Drew Lang, Amy Lau, David Leven, Gareth Mahon, Michael Manfredi, Philippe Meyersohn, Michael Plottel, Ted Porter, James Ramsey, Suchi Reddy, Juergen Riehm, Carol Swedlow, Michael Szivos, Kyle Twitchell, Jonce Walker, Marion Weiss, and Stephen Yablon.

The Van Alen Fall Festival is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. City-Making from the Outside In is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.