DANCE THE SPACE: BRYANT PARK

By
Ekin Barlas







! Ekin Barlas



A thesis
submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for
the degree of Master of Architecture
School of Architecture
Pratt Institute

JANUARY 2010










DANCE THE SPACE: BRYANT PARK
By
Ekin Barlas











Received and approved:


_______________________________________________Date_________________
Thesis Advisor

1
INTRODUCTION
The difference between public and private space is very clear: A public space is an open-
gathering area, which is accessible to all citizens, at any time. A private space is a closed-
controlled area: one is not allowed to get in unless the owner provides access. However,
today it is not possible to make a clear distinction between public and private space. There is
couple of fundamental reasons why the notions of ‘private’ and public became so intertwined.
The privatization of public spaces and the emergence of the POPS after the 1961 Zoning
Resolution make this line between ‘public’ and ‘private’ blurry.

The balance between the public and private realm has shifted historically. In the late 20
th

century, when the population in the cities started to grow, people started to head towards the
low-density neighborhoods. This flow from the inner-city streets to the suburbs started the
rapid decline of intermingling in public spaces (Besser).
However, there are also political, economical and social reasons why socializing in the public
spaces is not tempting for the public anymore;
1) Prevalence of security, especially after the terror attacks
2) Need of the technological integration into the daily day life
3) Economical attribution to the government.

The notion of security is one of the most important reasons of absorption in the contemporary
community. There is a huge influence of the mass media on privatization of the public space.
The media is using extreme examples of over-hyping violence to increase their ratings. That
creates paranoia in the public, making people seek for a redundant protection. They don’t
want to be a part of large gatherings. They don’t want to go to the places where they don’t
feel highly protected and safe. The fact that the planning for the redevelopment of Ground
Zero has been the most spectacular urban design media event in history (Herzog), strengthens
the theory about the relation between violence and the public attraction.

Another big change in the contemporary public space is the notion of privacy. Since the
global terror attacks, security cameras and security personnel have been a part of the public
space. This prevalence of the security, created a chilling effect on free speech in the public
and the expression of the controversial views (Besser).


2

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Sibley, D. (1995), Geographies of Exclusion, Routledge, London.
S


The Grove, LA. (Flickr) With the rise of the suburbs, a new kind of public space, pseudo-
public space was born. In them, people are limited to some degree, but on the other hand,
these spaces provide them security and exclusiveness.

However, it was the 1961 Zoning Resolution, which brought in a whole new dimension to the
discussion of semi-private public spaces. In 1961 Zoning Resolution, privately owned public
spaces were introduced to the City for the first time. It was a written pact, explaining the trade
between the public and the plaza. In his book ‘Privately Owned Public Space: the New York
City Experience’, J. Kayden explains this pact as ‘a bonus device that has been established to
encourage the setting back of buildings from the street line, in order to bring more light and
air into streets surrounded by tall buildings, as well as to create more usable open space’. The
program encouraged private developers to provide spaces for the public within or outside
their buildings by allowing them greater density in certain high-density districts: Emergence
of the POPS. Since its inception, the program has produced more than 3.5 million square feet
of public space in exchange for additional building area or considerations such as relief from
certain height and setback restrictions (Kayden). Manhattan has 503 privately owned public
spaces at 320 office, residential and community facility buildings, principally concentrated in
the downtown, midtown, upper east side and upper west side districts of the borough of the
city.

4

Private Property Line: These little signs embedded on the ground show that there is a line
–literally-. One small step over the line and one is in the private property. If one crosses the
line, needs to follow some rules.

WHY ARE THE PUBLIC SPACES IMPORTANT?
Public spaces played a fundamental role throughout history. They build up the basis of the
metropolitan culture by making shared experiences such as concerts, political protests,
performances and free speeches possible. They have always been an essential part of the
settlements. Public spaces such as parks, sidewalks, streets and privately owned public spaces
are areas where accidental and planned encounters among all types of people occur, the very
interactions that make cities such a crucial part of social life (Kayden).
The privatization of the public spaces seem to be harmless at some level, but in a larger scale,
the idea of shutting people off from their free zones means shutting down the forum in which
public life is acted out, meaning the loss of basic democratic right. The privatization of public
spaces will prevent the citizens to gather around in a free, neutral environment. This
prevention will make the interaction of different social classes impossible. This results in
creating a bigger gap and a tension between the social-economical classes. Public space has
long been recognized for its importance as a social safety valve, a place where different
classes and ethnicities can mix, ultimately creating a more peaceful (and ideally, more equal)
society through their interactions in public parks, markets and streets (Kowalski). The danger
of privatization is that it destroys the unitary and leads to polarizations, that will do harm to
the peace in a community.
S
Los Angeles is the best example of the result of years of economic and social marginalization
and segregation: a city polarized between Hollywood glitz and luxury housing developments
of the whites who own and manage it, and the ghettos and barrios where Blacks and Latin
American immigrants live (Foundation). In 1965, the Watts Riots, which was the result of the
tension, caused the death of 34 people and $47 million dollars in damage to large swaths of
the city (Wikipedia).
So what is privatization? Privatization is the transfer of assets of service delivery from the
government to the private sector. Privatization runs a very broad range, sometimes leaving
very little government involvement, and other times creating partnerships between
government and private service providers where government is still dominant player
(Foundation).

THE PROJECT OBJECTIVE
The thesis will focus on Bryant Park, one of the most striking contemporary examples of
privatized public spaces. The park is increasingly given over to private interests. For two
months each year, the lawn is not available to the public, as tents for the ‘Mercedes-Benz
New York Fashion Week’ an invitation-only event, swallow up the park.



The challenge was to create a design that will allow Bryant Park to host private events
without shutting it off to the public completely. The new parametric layered topography will
allow the park to sponsor all kinds of different activities happening at the same time; it will
facilitate occupation.
6

Diagram shows the connection between West Wing Reading Rooms and the Park

This layered, sequenced structure touches the New York Public Library in a way that
manipulates it’s privacy by letting the visitors read their books outside of the building, in
between the trees of the Park. With this new design, the visitors can climb into the trees, even
walk on the roof of the structure while a private cocktail party is happening underneath. The
thesis essentially deals with overlapping of two distinct notions: private and public.
The main objective of the thesis is to design an imaginary structure on this iconic park of
New York, which will make it possible to test the interaction of different functions. Is it
possible to make them work together or most importantly, what will happen if they ‘have to
work’ together.

THE SITE: BRYANT PARK
Bryant Park is located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City and bounded by Fifth Avenue,
Sixth Avenue, 40
th
Street and 42
nd
Street. Although it is a part of the New York City
Department of Parks and Recreation, it is actually managed by a private not-for-profit
corporation, the Bryant Park Corporation, which makes it the ideal site for this project.


Site Analysis of Bryant Park

7
Since Bryant Park is managed by private corporation, it is not getting any tax money from the
government. For that reason the Park needs private activities throughout the year to support
itself. However, in 2009, Bryant Park lost its most popular activity, The Fashion Week Tent,
which was providing the biggest income. Since 2009, Lincoln Center, which has a long-term
contract to rent the Damrosch Park, is getting all the money from the events sponsors, which
is $17.2 million dollars.
On the other hand, Bryant Park, which was the iconic previous host of the event for years, got
only $2.6 million dollars in 2008. The non-profit Bryant Park Foundation was using the
money to manage and renovate the park. However, the world-famous event outgrew the
space. Although moving the private event from Bryant Park to another place was good news
for the public, the economical results are not that thrilling.

DESIGN PROCESS


8
DANCE & ARCHITECTURE
Public spaces shouldn’t be considered as a static notion; time and movement are part of the
equation. Dancers and the architects share the same concern: they both manipulate the space.
The development of dance and architectural design are related directly to space, time and
rhythm. The kinetic, collective and ecstatic movement of the body can be related to an
architectural language for shaping the space. The project objective was to create a layered
topography that connects the Public Library and the Park on a different layer. This layered
structure should also be able to create different spaces in different scales and different
features, in itself. To design such a layered structure, a system based on profiles was
considered. However, the profiles should be connected in such way that the whole structure
should act like one complete system, which supports the idea of the ‘ continuous inter-action
of the different functions’.
Since the focus was to design a new topography that will allow the public and private interest
to use the space at the same time, in different layers, a dance term ‘Canon in Dance’, is used
to generate a design tool to create an architectural language.


‘Cano in Dance ’ is a composition in which the dancers begin one after another, at regular
intervals, successively taking up the same subject.

CONCLUSION


9
Bibliography
Bessei, Bowaiu. intellectual Piopeity: the Attack on Public Space in Cybeispace. S
Naich 2uu1. 17 Apiil 2u1u <http:¡¡bessei.tsoa.nyu.euu¡howaiu¡Papeis¡pw-public-
spaces.html>.
Founuation, Reason. What is Piivatization. 2uu6. 2S Naich 2u1u <ieason.oig>.
Beizog, Lawience A. Retuin to the Centei: Cultuie, Public Space anu City Builuing in a
ulobal Eia. Austin: 0niveisity of Texas, 2uu6.
Kayuen, Ieiolu S. Piivately 0wneu Public Spaces: The New Yoik City Expeiience . New
Yoik: Wiley, 2uuu.
Kowalski. The Nilitaiization anu Piivatization of Public Space. 24 Nay 2uu1. 16 Nay
2u1u
<http:¡¡eveiything2.com¡usei¡kowalski¡wiiteups¡The+Nilitaiization+anu+Piivatizati
on+of+Public+Space>.

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