Project: The Culture Now Project: 100 Points of Public Space
Location: Cleveland, OH
Designers: Clayton Taylor, Jai Kumaran
Year: 2011
Program: University of California, Los Angeles
Faculty Advisors: Thom Mayne, Karen Lohrmann

Project Description: The post-industrial city is a global phenomenon of the late twentieth century. Cities around the world need something to occupy the sites of old industry.

By the middle of the twentieth century, Cleveland was a thriving industrial city with a population of one million. Occupying a strategic location on Lake Erie, the city and its river were at the center of a booming steel industry. Cleveland’s decline began after World War II as global economic patterns began to shift industry and manufacturing away from the United States. The Cuyahoga River fire in 1969 was a landmark industrial accident that triggered the start of the modern environmental movement, and the advent of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act.

As a result, Cleveland’s economy and identity suffered. Since then, the city has witnessed half of the city’s population move and into the suburbs. Its industrial core, once a thriving economic zone, now divides the city. 100 Points of Public Space locates cultural opportunities in the industrial landscape by identifying, marking, and appropriating empty spaces, abandoned buildings, and existing infrastructure.

In cities like Paris, the river is regarded as a cultural object and a vital urban element. In post-industrial zones like the Ruhr Region, a cultural landscape has been updated, engaging educational and recreational infrastructure to accompany existing cultural institutions and establish new public space.

Cleveland has ignored the Cuyahoga River. Occupying a 2,400 acre valley in the center of the city, three times the size of New York’s Central Park, the Cuyahoga is crossed by a dozen bridges that support over 100,000 people daily as they move across the city. Instead of a forgotten void, the valley and river could become a cultural landscape, a civic armature connecting the diverse neighborhoods.

100 Points of Public Space exposes the opportunities inherent in the river valley. Its terrain is crisscrossed with rail, boat, and vehicular traffic, but there is no public access to observe the city or experience the valley. This project identifies new urban and cultural locations that open venues for public engagement with the city. Each point is positioned at the intersection of existing infrastructure, and activated at different times throughout the year according to program and use. Through this system, the valley can be traversed and experienced in many ways, from point to point, along existing infrastructure via new connections.

100 Points of Public Space is aimed at uniting communities, investors and civic entities in spatially, socially, and visually active modes. As such, the proposal takes on the conceptual layout of the Documenta in Kassel, Germany, which became a worldwide fount of contemporary art, transforming a city destroyed by World War II into a thriving cultural landmark. 100 Points of Public Space is a series of contemporary places, rather than a post-industrial museum, offering a field of possibilities to the surrounding neighborhoods and the entire city.

Project Background: This project is one of eight proposals presented under the 2010-2011 UCLA MArch II Suprastudio. From August 2010 to June 2011, Thom Mayne, Design Director of Morphosis, Karen Lohrmann, and a group of advisors have been leading 14 post graduate architecture and urban design graduate students in an inquiry about the dynamics of culture now. The project is going forward next year to include thirteen other universities with the hope of creating an extensive discussion about contemporary culture and the nature of American cities. Additional work and information is available for download on the suprastudio website.

Image Captions: 
Image 1: City Analysis: Observing the geography, city image, cultural climate, and local leadership a strange network of possibilities is formed.
Image 2: Locating opportunity: The Cuyahoga River Valley is at the center of Cleveland. This area has immense potential to become the connective tissue that could tie east, west, and downtown Cleveland.
Image 3: Marking the Valley; Each point marks opportune intersections of rail, road, and river, which are abundant throughout the Cuyahoga River Valley. These places are no longer useful for industry and need to be interpreted for post-industrial society.
Image 4: A dispersed park system: The 100 Points of public space are idiosyncratic and varied but collectively operate as dispersed park system integrated in the urban fabric.
Image 5: Making the connection: Unused roads, railways, and the Cuyahoga river assist people in making the connection from point to point.
Image 6: Points in context: Each point is interpreted differently throughout the river valley. Some points mark abandoned buildings or stoops, others mark bridges and optimum viewing points of the city.
Image 7: Ibid., detail.
Image 8: Experiencing the valley: The 100 point of public space interprets industrial objects for post industrial culture.
Image 9: 100 points of public space: Diagram of point variation. Each crossing of road rail and river is taken directly from the Cuyahoga, river valley.