syracuse

It’s a beautiful fall day, and bicyclists are now riding down a new path past our red bollards in Syracuse, New York.

Syracuse was once a thriving cog in the machinery of America’s industrial heartland. It’s now part of the nation’s Rust Belt—with a shrinking population, unraveling city fabric, diminishing social services and a crumbling infrastructure, among many problems. It’s also home to one of country’s top-ranking colleges—Syracuse University.

For the last several years, my studio and I have been working on this 3½ mile Connective Corridor project. Now partially constructed, it will ultimately link the university campus with the city’s arts and cultural venues and downtown businesses. Pentagram’s brilliant signage campaign “Use Syracuse” are making their way down the Corridor, as are our red bollards and light poles. It’s an experimental approach that’s never been tried before, so I’m eager to see what happens over these next few months as people interact with it. Early reports are encouraging. If the results continue to be positive, this model could provide a solution to other post-industrial cities.

What do I mean? Well, with money scarce, implementing a big urban master plan simply wasn’t viable. But Julia Czerniak of CLEAR, a landscape architect who teaches at the university, led a team that conceived the Corridor as a lightweight, low-cost framework on which needed urban development could be created over time by many different players. The Corridor is a kind of horizontal scaffolding designed to leverage what’s already there and catalyze new economic growth.

Her groundbreaking vision for a different kind of urban development process resonated with many of my own ideas, so it’s been incredibly exciting to be a part of it. In upcoming posts, I’ll share how we implemented some of our approaches, including: discovering what’s already working: modifying and refining what's found; and adding only things that are understood to be missing.

So, why are those bollards and trash cans red? Stay tuned...