Recap: Ideas City Festival 2015 and Its Puzzling Foam Booths [PHOTOS]

Posted on: June 1st, 2015 at 10:12 am by

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Photo: Lori Greenberg

This past Saturday, the Ideas City festival attempted to make “The Invisible City” visible.

Founded by the New Museum in 2011, Ideas City tries to address key challenges and opportunities facing cities around the world. This year, the theme was “Invisible Cities,” focusing on questions of transparency and surveillance, citizenship, expression and suppression, and key civic issues.

With the festival and accompanying talks taking place around the Bowery, we stopped to discuss issues such as affordable housing, climate change, the preservation of community, recycling and garbage with some thought-provoking groups who were represented at Saturday’s event. Some of our favorite conversations were with City Atlas, the Center for Urban Pedagogy, the Fixers Collective, miLES, the Manny Cantor Center and Laura Nova, CityLore, The Sketchbook Project, the Center for Genomic Gastronomy with Edible Geography, the Lower East Side Ecology Center, The Lodge Gallery, Art in Odd Places, Materials for the Arts and the Institute for Public Architecture. (Long list, but yeah, we tend to talk a lot.) We also sampled some great local foods, provided by the Hester Street Fair.

As much fun as we had, we were puzzled by the block of Bowery between Stanton and Rivington Streets (home base of the New Museum). While the other blocks had vibrant displays, and plenty of crowds, this particular area hosted bright white booths, which were nearly all empty (granted, we got there a bit late in the day – it was the weekend, after all – but we were there a good few hours before the festival ended). On closer inspection, the booths were composed of styrofoam, much to our dismay. From a creative point of view, let alone an environmental one, this was a huge miss in our eyes. With all of the talk of climate change and the environment in the air, combined with the fact that so many of the groups represented had an environmental focus, it was a pretty questionable idea to create an entire block’s worth of display booths out of one of the most toxic and non-biodegradable materials out there. Plus, the display was pretty ugly.

Although it put a damper on our mood, we did enjoy the rest of the festival, and we felt that Ideas City generally had the right, well, ideas. But guys, next time get a couple of eco experts to weigh in on the design decisions.

Gallery of images below. (All Photos: Lori Greenberg.)

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