Center for Architecture to present ‘Reset: Towards a New Commons’ with Focus on NYC, SF & Cincinnati




Contemporary American society has become increasingly fragmented, with people separated both physically and socially based on ability, age, income, and belief. This fragmentation is built into the urban fabric of cities, suburbs, and rural areas, which wittingly and unwittingly isolate certain groups from larger communities. A host of colliding crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, embedded structural racism, and deepening political polarization, have only exacerbated these divisions.

The negative impacts of social estrangement extend, but are not limited to, the isolation of aging populations and people with disabilities. Cities, suburbs, and rural areas wittingly and unwittingly separate certain groups from larger communities through spaces designed according to age, needs, or income. Rather than designing specific spaces for specific needs, Reset: Towards a New Commons considers how spaces may be designed for all, addressing the need for barrier-free environments and practices rooted in Universal Design. The exhibition will explore how architecture can address this while helping to create communities that foster inclusion, cooperation, and mutual assistance in the broadest of terms.

Reset: Towards a New Commons aims to foster more diverse and inclusive solutions to building community. Rather than designing specific spaces for specific needs, the exhibition considers how spaces may be designed for all, addressing the importance of barrier-free environments and practices rooted in “Universal Design.” The majority of the exhibition will be dedicated to four projects developed by interdisciplinary design teams—one focusing on New York City, one on Cincinatti, Ohio, and two in the San Francisco Bay Area—which envision environments that encourage new modes of living collaboratively, with special attention paid to ameliorating the divisions of age, race, and ability.

Reset: Towards a New Commons will present several case studies that demonstrate how designers have helped foster community, many of them focusing on specific target groups—isolated religious communes, parents-to-be, people with disabilities, or seniors with dementia. In order to prompt designers to think beyond these examples and envision radically different environments that promote a broader and more holistic approach to inclusion, the Center for Architecture issued an RFP in early 2021 to solicit proposals from interdisciplinary teams.

Prospective teams were invited to submit proposals for environments throughout the United States that encourage new ways of living collaboratively while considering cross-generational living and designing for different abilities. The call asked for proposals that operate beyond the individual unit, addressing environments of multiple scales and exploring ideas of process and policy around one or more of three typologies: living (both permanent and temporary housing), healing (healthcare facilities, caregiving and elder care spaces), and gathering (public realm interventions).

Here are the four selected Teams:

Block Party: From Independent Living to Disability Collectives – Berkley, CA
Javier Arbona, University of California, Davis (Davis, CA)
Irene Cheng, Cheng+Snyder; California College of the Arts (San Francisco, CA)
David Gissen, Parsons School of Design, The New School (New York, NY)
Rod Henmi, FAIA, LEED AP, NOMA, HKIT Architects (Oakland, CA)
Jerron Herman, Artist and Dancer (New York, NY)
Georgina Kleege, Author; University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
Chip Lord, University of California, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)
Brett Snyder, AIA, Cheng+Snyder; University of California, Davis (Davis, CA)


Decolonizing Suburbia – Cincinnati, OH
Andrew Bruno, RA (New York, NY)
Alessandro Orsini, Architensions, Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (New York, NY)
William Prince, Parc Office, Parsons School of Design, The New School (New York, NY)
Nick Roseboro, Assoc, AIA, Architensions (New York, NY)
Sharon Egretta Sutton, PhD, FAIA, Parsons School of Design, The New School (New York, NY)
John Vogt, Parc Office (New York, NY)


Aging Against the Machine – Oakland, CA
Neeraj Bhatia, THE OPEN WORKSHOP, California College of the Arts (Oakland, CA)
Todd Levon Brown, Environmental Psychology Program, CUNY Graduate Center (New York, NY)
Ignacio G. Galan, Barnard College, Columbia University (New York, NY)
Lindsay A. Goldman, Grantmakers in Aging (New York, NY)
Karen Kubey, Pratt Institute, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (New York, NY)
Annie Ledbury, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (Oakland, CA)


Reclaiming the Commons Through Play – New York, NY
David Burney, FAIA, Pratt Institute (New York, NY)
Caitlin Cahill, Pratt Institute (New York, NY)
Nilda Cosco, The Natural Learning Initiative, North Carolina State University(Raleigh, NC)
Jerrod Delaine, Pratt Institute (New York, NY)
Deborah Gans, FAIA, Gans and Company (New York, NY)
Robin Moore, The Natural Learning Initiative, North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC)
Nancy Owens, LEED AP, Nancy Owens Studio (New York, NY)
With: Neighborhood Safety Initiatives of the Center for Court Innovation

Since we are in New York, we were keen to see where we would be heading ~ and found ourselves in East Harlem. Reclaiming the Commons through Play worked with young people from three NYCHA housing communities ~ Johnson, Jefferson and Wagner Houses. ‘Through Play‘ will showcase their stories and future ideas for their community by creating a map of East Harlem portraying different historic events.  One of the historic events showcased are the events surrounding The Young Lords,      and one of the featured pieces in this exhibit is a film about East Harlem.

Behind the scenes,

The above image is a behind-the-scenes picture taken of Brendon Valerio, resident of Johnson Houses, directing Kate Levy, film maker, on their collaborative documentary and reimagination of NYCHA in East Harlem. This joint project of Neighborhood Safety Initiative of the Center for Court Innovation and Team Play! ~ a group of designers and community based researchers who will be exhibiting at the Center for Architecture as part of Reset: Towards a New Commons.

Reset: Towards a New Commons will be on view from April 14 through September 3, 2022 at Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, NYC. An Opening will be held on Thursday, April 14th from 6-8pm. Proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination for attendees ages 5 and up, with photo ID for adults is required to attend. Face masks are also required.

The exhibition is co-curated by Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University, and Juliana Barton, independent historian and curator. Exhibition Designer, Natasha Jen, Pentagram.

Sponsors: Reset: towards a New Commons is made possible through support from a grant from the Ford Foundation; Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation; and is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; The exhibition is also supported by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.