Art Works Blog

Building Blocks: Mayor's Institute on City Design Convenes in NYC

April 14, 2010
Washington, DC

During an afternoon session of the Mayor's Institute on City Design, the participating mayors visited several sites in New York City that were of especial interest in terms of urban design, including the Hudson River Park,  Westbeth Artist Housing, and the High Line. Photo by Story Bellows

Rocco?s in New York City this week sitting in on sessions of the Mayor?s Institute on City Design (MICD). A partnership of the NEA, the American Architectural Foundation, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, MICD comprises a series of two and one-half day-long symposia on city design organized around presentations and roundtable discussions. Participation is limited to fewer than twenty participants---half of them mayors and half a resource team made up of outstanding urban design and development professionals. At each meeting, the mayors present design challenges currently facing their cities, such as waterfront redevelopment, downtown revitalization, and the design of new public buildings, such as sports or arts facilities. Following each presentation, mayors and designers identify issues, offer suggestions, and discuss alternative paths toward a solution.

The seeds of MICD came from a January 1985 letter from Charleston, South Carolina Mayor Joseph Riley (a 2009 National Medal of Arts honoree) to Jaquelin T. Robertson, the University of Virginia's Chair of Architecture. Mayor Riley suggested that an institute be created in which mayors would meet with prominent designers to discuss design challenges facing their cities. A subsequent joint visit to present the idea to NEA Design Director Adele Chatfield-Taylor resulted in the NEA's Mayors' Institute on City Design (MICD).

Since the first institute hosted at the University of Virginia in October 1986, more than 600 mayors and 400 design professionals have participated. Mayors who have attended credit the experience as transforming the way they look at their cities. As one past participant noted, ?You realize that a lot of the problems you?re facing are the same as what other communities are facing. You?re not out there alone.?

Five more mayors will experience the transformative, empowering effect of the institute over the next two-and-a-half days. Participants include Mayor Carl Brewer of Wichita, Kansas; Mayor George K. Heartwell of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Mayor Lori C. Moseley of Miramar, Florida; Mayor Joseph C. O?Brien of Worcester, Massachusetts; Mayor Dayne Walling of Flint, Michigan; Mayor A C Wharton, Jr of Memphis, Tennessee; and Mayor Jay Williams of Youngstown, Ohio. Check back with the blog to hear more from New York.

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