ENYA Has High Hopes for High Bridge

The “High Bridge” exhibition, currently on view at the Center for Architecture, features the results of the fourth biennial international design ideas competition hosted by the AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA). The opening and book launch on 11.11.10 brought together the volunteers who spent more than two years planning the competition, exhibition, and publication with winning team members and other entrants, local professionals, and Highbridge community members.

A panel discussion, moderated by ENYA Volunteer Najahyia Chinchilla, Assoc. AIA, featured the competition winners, who traveled from Philadelphia (Keith VanDerSys of PEG office of landscape + architecture, who won the ENYA Prize), Paris (Julien Boulley and Tetsuya Kawano, 2nd Prize), and New Mexico (Yekaterina Yushmanova and Kristina Guist, 3rd Prize and Student Prize, respectively). Each entrant presented his/her vision for the future of the historic High Bridge that spans the Harlem River between Upper Manhattan and the Bronx.

The proposals were mostly landscape-based, featuring improvements to the parks on both sides of the river (and up to the Croton Reservoir for the Student Prize). It was interesting to see that all of the winners chose to preserve the High Bridge — either by creating a structure next to or above the existing bridge (2nd and 3rd Prize), or simply by adding program to the bridge (ENYA and Student Prize). The projects provided gallery space for the theoretical clients, Artists Unite and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, but they also created environments that would elevate the bridge itself to a work of art. It was very refreshing to see such respect for the history of the site.

One of the goals for the ENYA competition program is to bring focus to a place that is underused and often overlooked, and to engage and inspire the community to imagine the possibilities for the future of the site. Boulley explained that neither he nor his partner had been to NYC before. The highlight of their visit was seeing the site in person (in addition to checking out the High Line). ENYA and the Center for Architecture Foundation completed an after school program with 5th graders from a local public school. Their cell phone tour is available in the current “Building Connections 14” exhibition. Katya Crawford, a professor at the University of New Mexico who used the competition for her studio (with very successful results), is now working with the committee to take the exhibition to Albuquerque when the show is over at the Center. And Elizabeth Lorris Ritter, chair of Community Board 12’s Park and Cultural Affairs Committee in Washington Heights, invited the committee to present the competition to the community board.

Having helped organize three of the four competitions, I am very proud to be a part of this program as it continues to grow and impact the built environment.