Parsons School of Design Street Seats 2019 Returns with Its Pop-Up Public Seating Space
Earlier this month, Parsons School of Design unveiled this year’s Street Seats, a sustainably designed temporary public park for New Yorkers in the heart of The New School’s urban campus. This is the fourth iteration of the project.
The Street Seats program reclaims portions of New York City streets to provide safe, attractive seating areas for members of the New School community and the public, giving them a place to sit, socialize, and observe the neighborhood and street life from a fresh perspective. This year, varying levels of seating and table areas provide the public with distinctive views of the surrounding environment, allowing them to have a comfortable and enjoyable experience.
Since 2016, Parsons’ BFA Architectural Design program, part of the School of Constructed Environments, has collaborated with the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) on the project. This year’s Street Seats was created by students in the course Design Build: Urban Public Space, taught by Eric Feuster, an adjunct faculty member. The students “knew the value of creating a beacon for the university, as there is no other outdoor space to meet up at our urban campus,” said Feuster.
The 19 student participants started with 12 proposals and then worked in groups to arrive at a single design, taking into account the users of the park, its context, and a variety of environmental factors. Flora Ng, was one of those students and the primary photo documenter for the project.
“This class is a legacy that will continue on in the history of our university, and I am very proud to be part of the legacy, which is where different students from different departments bring their own vision and ability to creating something that is beyond just for themselves, but for everyone to enjoy,” says Ng, a Strategic Design & Management student who graduated in 2019.
This year’s project, which will be in place for seven months, occupies a 40-by-6-foot space along the curb of 13th Street near Fifth Avenue. The space holds a number of movable folding tables and chairs and planters containing grasses, flowers, and other plants.
The seating, tables, and fences are made of naturally rot-resistant Western red cedar; the red canvas that covers the seats and tables previously wrapped The New School’s water tower.
“The canvas was heading for the landfill, but we ended up using it to upholster part of our park,” said Feuster. “The pattern creates a hyper graphic for the school and may be the first design that is The New School through and through.”
The Street Seats team used strategically placed LED lights powered by solar panels to highlight the plantings and canvas. Batteries capture energy from sunlight during the day and release it through energy-efficient LED strips at night.
“We teamed up with Shayne McQuade, the founder of Voltaic Systems, early on in the semester to build a great solar-powered lighting system,” says Feuster. “Our lighting is more than a feature of the design — it becomes the design at night. The backlit canvas seats appear as glowing volumes, and the angled planters are all lit by strip lights, highlighting the native plantings and the park’s strong aesthetic.”
A wide variety of grasses, plants and flowers including Early Goldenrod, Smooth Blue Aster, and Echinacea will be used to enhance the environment and provide changes in color throughout the growing season.
Street Seats will be open through mid-November, when it will be dismantled and reconstructed at a local community garden.