Elastic Ground

Presented in partnership with The School of Design Strategies at Parsons The New School for Design

Opening Reception: December 18, 2012 from 4:00-6:30 pm
Exhibition Dates: December 18-26, 2012 (closed Dec. 24 & 25)
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 12-6pm
Location: 120 Essex Street (inside Essex Street Market)

The exhibition Elastic Ground presents alternatives to standard commercial ideas for the ground floor of the urban development area dubbed SPURA – situated on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City.

The displays of this exhibit are scale models and statements created by students in the Urban Design “City Studio” studio/seminar course with Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss at The School of Design Strategies at Parsons The New School for Design, in partnership with Artists Alliance Inc. This cross-disciplinary seminar is focused on architecture, urban design and urban studies.

Over the course of the Fall semester the students explored the ground floor as an elastic category of public space offered to the present and the future. New York City firmly supports its ground floor as the foundation of public space. The students’ propositions explore the ground floor not as something plain, two-dimensional and arbitrary, but as a place with an organic relationship to public use.

Each proposition is based upon the urban studies method developed by the School of Missing Studies. This method was developed in cities marked by abrupt change, by scouting for urban knowledge that naturally occurred among residents. In addition, the class utilized interviews conducted by the Dutch artist duo Bik van der Pol with specific residents of the Lower East Side, from artists to urban planners and designers. These were used to parlay individual desires into common visions. The discussions from the interviews were then translated by the students into distinct scale models for each of the ten urban blocks of SPURA development to explore the possible experience of the ground floor.

The proposals are playful: they range from vertical gardens, bicycle “mountains”, and public “bathtubs” to “canyons” of office structures and porous housing. All materials used for the models are recycled from packaging and waste materials found in wood shops and stores.

SPURA urban development is currently the most contested ground for direct public engagement in the design and future of a significant New York City space, and the subject of one of the longest negotiations between government, investors and community.

This exhibit is the result of a collaboration between The School of Design Strategies at Parsons via its City Studio, and Artists Alliance Inc., a non-profit organization located on the Lower East Side in New York City as part of their Art (Inter)Actions program, an educational & outreach initiative that directly engages with the local community. Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss is the founding principal of NAO based in New York. He was previously architect and urban researcher for Herzog & de Meuron Architects in Basel, Switzerland.


Cuchifritos is FREE to the public and handicap accessible. Located inside Essex Street Market at the south end nearest Delancey.

Cuchifritos Gallery & Project Space is a program of Artists Alliance Inc, a 501c3 not for profit organization located on the Lower East Side of New York City within the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center. Cuchifritos is supported in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. This program is made possible by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. We thank the following for their generous support: Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New York City Economic Development Corporation and individual supporters of Artists Alliance Inc. Special thanks go to our team of dedicated volunteers, without whom this program would not be possible.