Taking on today's challenges
In order for our cities to be successful, the challenges of today - climate change, resource distribution, economic inequality, and social justice - must be addressed. As designers of the public realm our practice is structured to seek out potential solutions, to test and ultimately to evolve ideas that will contribute to tackling these challenges. We believe by learning from our collective past, smartly utilizing technology, forging tools for tomorrow, and questioning the boundaries of what has yet to come, we can impact and alter this future. We hope to evolve as implementers of a transparent public realm and definers of regenerative environments.
We work with communities to find a path to the future they envision. For example, in the Fairmount neighborhood of Newark, NJ, we devised innovative strategies to develop a self-sufficient center for the community that supports their creative and entrepreneurial endeavors and promotes health and wellness. The goal was to create a new paradigm for economically challenged neighborhoods that allows residents to self-develop and to be able to invest directly in their community.
Along economically challenged retail corridors it is common to have housing units sealed off above active storefronts. In periods of downturn, landlords remove building cores and residential entrances to maximum retail square footage on the ground floor. Without an entry and stairs, these upper floors are often unoccupied, a major untapped housing source. Typically, renovation of these properties comes at a high cost, which is compounded by revenue loss during construction. rePLACE’s EX.0 Skeleton unlocks these dormant housing units without losing retail income – a low-cost housing solution that is scalable.
In The Death and Life of Great American Cities Jane Jacobs wisely observed that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” In today's context, achieving this aspiration is dependent on recognizing the economic realities that underpin every contemporary development project. In other words, doing good is good for business. An understanding of the financial feasibility of development helps us to find creative solutions that balance intent and reward. We strive to make every project have a positive impact in a community while also ensuring a fiscal return on investment.
We don’t start a project with a preconceived solution rather we use research to help us to find a solution. Our main research tool is deep mapping, which combines quantitative and qualitative data to describe place. This methodology shows traditional geographic data with overlays of other critical information like demographics, health, ecological, and economics. This information is combined with historical information, insights gathered from community outreach, photographs, 3-D models, and experiential information. The aggregation of all this information reveals hidden patterns, opportunities, and new possibilities that cannot be found with a traditional urban design approach. Deep mapping allows us to have a fuller understanding of place, time, and potential.
rePLACE Urban Studio is working with the New Jersey Performing Art Center for the creation of a mixed-use Cultural District. The NJPAC Cultural District will be a 7-acre mixed-use development that includes performing art space, galleries, retail, hotel, centralized parking, fitness amenity, and over 1000 residential apartments. Part of the overall Waterfront Redevelopment Area, the NJPAC Cultural District aspires to not only improve east-west connections to the Passaic River, but also to reopen historic city streets and strengthen north-south connections through Downtown. The team officially parcelized the plan with the state of NJ, allowing for the successful transfer of land from the state to NJPAC.
Every city has underused, vacant, sealed off, and forgotten places. These areas are opportunities to revitalize a neighborhood. This forgotten urban fabric is often layered with unique features that tell the story of its rich social, commercial, and cultural past. Re-opening these spaces to the public unlocks economic, social, and ecological opportunities and is a powerful way to enliven the daily urban experience.
We don’t start a project with a preconceived solution rather we use research to help us to find a solution. Our methodology shows traditional geographic data with overlays of other critical information like demographics, health, ecological, and economics. This information is combined with historical information, insights gathered from community outreach, photographs, 3-D models, and experiential information. The aggregation of all this information reveals hidden patterns, opportunities, and new possibilities that cannot be found with a traditional urban design approach. Deep mapping allows us to have a fuller understanding of place, time, and potential.
Our projects address past developments that erased entire blocks and prioritized cars over people. For these projects, we seek solutions that restore the lost fabric and promote new density with the goal of enlivening streets and making places where people want to spend time. Carefully crafted design is essential to making vibrant and sustainable 21st-century cities.
This Fall we are beginning the prototype of The Environmental Conditioner (EC), a new type of domestic appliance designed in response Global Cooling Prize’s projection that a rise of global temperatures and the size of middle class will lead to an exponential growth in the climate impact of air conditioning over the next 30 years. The zero-carbon proposal taps into the rapidly growing global resource stream of used EVBs. The systems-based approach and technological flexibility of the design is matched with a global market viability to ensure that the EC can be scaled to address the imperative of new cooling solutions at the household, neighborhood, national, and global scale.