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2014 Durst Conference: From Port to People: Reinventing Urban Waterfronts

The Center for Urban Real Estate (CURE) at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) of Columbia University

Friday, April 25, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (EDT)

2014 Durst Conference: From Port to People:...

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From Port to People: Reinventing the Urban Waterfronts

For centuries, ports and harbors have played a seminal role in the development of commerce and cities. They evolved as a means of defense and of transportation—for both goods and people. Waterfronts were intense zones of use, dominated by piers, warehouses, markets and manufacturing workshops. Industrialization and increases in trade only reinforced the significance of water access, and harbors became an even more important asset of cities.

Over the course of the last half century, however, changes in shipping and trade have fundamentally reshaped the physical relationship between port areas and the cities that grew up around them. Advances in land transportation, new technologies for cargo handling, and the physical space required by containerization made many inner-city port facilities obsolete, drastically reducing the number of people whose livelihoods are made along the shore.

These changes have been felt by cities around the world, some as early as the 1960s and 1970s and some only more recently. Yet despite the disparity in time, the challenge has been the same: how to reclaim the waterfront for development, recreation or culture in a way that synthetically reconnects it to the city and the people it serves. Doing so is not a simple matter of physical planning; it often involves overcoming the challenges of contaminated lands, reluctant neighboring communities and environmental regulation that closely circumscribes what can be built (or rebuilt) in or along the water.

The reactivation of redundant “working waterfront” lands occurred first in industrially advanced countries in Europe and the US, in cities such as New York and London. Containerization left central city dockyards and piers silent, and the second half of the twentieth century saw ambitious—and not always successful—efforts to repurpose them. Today, similar changes are taking place in rapidly industrializing and growing cities in the Eastern Europe, Asia, and South America. The different stages and nature of such transformation processes will be the subject of the one-day symposium From Port to People: Reinventing Urban Waterfronts, which will look closely at the experience of waterfront redevelopment in four cities: Istanbul, Mumbai, New York, and Rio de Janeiro.

As early as the 1970s, New York spearheaded waterfront redevelopment, revitalizing parts of lower Manhattan through development projects such as Battery Park City and the South Street Seaport. Since then, other parts of New York’s formerly working waterfront have been rezoned from non-residential uses to mixed-use, and redevelopment is taking place at a fast pace. Spurred in part by the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, Rio de Janeiro is moving ahead with a wildly ambitious plan to redevelop a major segment of its urban port zone—including the construction of underground roadways, new rail lines and significant new commercial development. Istanbul is likewise moving forward on significant waterfront projects, including the recent privatization of one of its former commercial ports as part of an effort to create a new district for tourism. In contrast, Mumbai’s waterfront has long been overlooked as part of the city’s development plans—though the opening of a new subway along the eastern side of the city has focused attention on the potential of the city’s eastern waterfront.

The symposium will consider these realized, ongoing, and planned waterfront revitalization projects, investigating the challenges and opportunities that waterfront development presents for planners, developers and cities. Focusing among other areas on governance, finance, transportation planning, and design, panelists will explore what these waterfront cities can learn from each other in an effort to identify solutions and ideas that can help ease the exciting transition along the waterfront “from port to people.”

Conference schedule

Welcome & Conference Goals
Mark Wigley, Dean, Columbia University GSAPP
Kate Ascher

Cities on the Water: A Historic Overview
Studio-X Directors will present their respective cities in the context of their waterfront history, ports and harbors. The presentations identify and locate the sites of current port redevelopment projects that are of primary interest, and introduce the different issues at play.
Mumbai:   Rajeev Thakker
Istanbul:   Selva Gürdoğan
Rio de Janeiro:  Pedro Rivera

Urban Mobility: Access to and from the Waterfront
The first panel discusses the link that exists between waterfront uses, infrastructure and development. Creating access to the waterfront plays a crucial role in the implementation and success of redevelopment projects, bringing people to and from jobs, recreation, and living—particularly in areas with no pre-existing infrastructure. How do you connect people from both the city’s heart and outlying areas to the old and new waterfront and beyond? The panel will examine issues of job access, infrastructure, governance, and management.
Facilitator:   Tom Fox
Istanbul:   Haluk Gerçek
Mumbai:   Pankaj Joshi
New York:   Helena Durst
Rio de Janeiro:  Verena Andreatta


Envisioning & Financing Development
In this panel, real estate developers will examine the strategies that guide their investments in waterfront developments. How are they different from typical developments? What are the risks? How have waterfront developments been financed? How do local regulations (e.g. coastal zoning laws) influence investment strategies? The panel will compare the underlying economic context, finance mechanisms, and development approaches in the four cities.
Facilitator:   Vishaan Chakrabarti
Istanbul:   Serdar Bilgili
Mumbai:   Surendra Hiranandani
New York:   Paul Januszewski
Rio de Janeiro:  Gregory Vaca


Identifying the Legal and Regulatory Framework
The first panel sets the stage by discussing the various political challenges and legal hurdles that frame waterfront development, identifying the factors that impact the speed and nature of waterfront projects. What are the different levels of government and types of oversight involved in the planning and implementation of redevelopment schemes? Issues of governance, development rights, land-use regulations and ownership will be covered.
Facilitator:   Jesse Keenan
Istanbul:   Ulaş Akın
Mumbai:   Sulakshana Mahajan

New York:   John Alschuler

Rio de Janeiro:  Vitor Hugo dos Santos Pinto

From Port to People: Shaping Public Space
It is people who create successful urban spaces. How do we design waterfronts for the public’s access, use and benefit? What is the role of community and cultural heritage in the creation of new urban conditions? The panel will discuss various strategies proposed by designers and planners that enable the activation and transformation of these waterfronts to benefit more than just the development community alone.
Facilitator:   Geeta Mehta
Istanbul:   Sibel Bozdogan
Mumbai:   P K Das
New York:   Regina Myer
Rio de Janeiro:  Washington Fajardo


Now What? Planning for the Future
Having discussed a wide range of issues and case studies, this last panel explores ideas and lessons that may be transferred from one place to another. How might the experiences of an ‘early adapter’ like New York or an ‘innovator’ like Rio help structure thinking about waterfront developments still in very early stages, e.g. the eastern waterfront in Mumbai? How do specific local contexts hinder or limit such transfer of ideas and knowledge?
Facilitator:   Kate Ascher
Istanbul:   Alexis Şanal
Mumbai:   Rahul Mehrotra
New York:   Richard Plunz
Rio de Janeiro:  Shawn Amsler

Closing Remarks
Vishaan Chakrabarti, Columbia University GSAPP

Please note that registration does not guarantee a seat at the event.

When & Where

Columbia University
The Italian Academy
1161 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027

Friday, April 25, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (EDT)

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The Center for Urban Real Estate (CURE) at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) of Columbia University


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2014 Durst Conference: From Port to People: Reinventing Urban Waterfronts
New York, NY Events Conference Business

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