University of Michigan

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, MI


Lecture: Alexandros Washburn, Department of City Planning, New York City

By lacroixa
Feb 17, '12 2:39 PM EST

Alexandros E. Washburn is the Chief Urban Designer of the New York City Department of City Planning. He leads a design studio within the agency whose responsibilities include the design of public projects at various scales, city-wide urban design policy development, and design review of individual projects seeking approval under the City's Uniform Land Use Review Process. In effect, his studio serves as the "design eyes" for the agency charged with planning the sustainable growth of New York City and the constant improvement of the city's quality of life.

Alex believes that an urban designer must work at the intersection of policy, finance and design. An architect by training with a degree from the Harvard GSD, he comes to urban design through a diverse career in Washington and New York, where the experiences of policy and finance combined with a high design practice.

He developed policy expertise on Capitol Hill, where he worked as Public Works Advisor for Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late United States Senator from New York. With a passion for public space, Senator Moynihan was the only politician on Capitol Hill to maintain an architect on staff, putting into practice Thomas Jefferson's famous dictum that "design activity and political thought are indivisible".

Alex developed expertise in finance as the President of the Pennsylvania Station Redevelopment Corporation, which he founded to launch the transformation of the James A. Farley post office into a new train station for New York. During his tenure from 1996 to 2000, he raised $822 million for the project, led the award winning design and secured all necessary approvals for the project which continues today.

In 2001, Alex became a partner at W Architecture and Landscape Architecture in New York City. The firm's designs for waterfront public space, such as Harlem Piers, and sustainable adaptations of buildings and transformations of brownfield sites won national design awards in architecture, urban design and landscape architecture.

In 2006 Alex was asked to join the Bloomberg administration and revive the Urban Design Division at City Planning, which had flourished a generation before under Mayor Lindsey as the Urban Design Group. In the role of Chief Urban Designer, he has built up a world-class design studio with associate urban designers and urban design interns who come from around the globe to work in New York City. His studio faces the daily challenges of designing in a way to grow New York's population, make the city sustainable, and always improve civic life by improving public space.

In his "spare" time, he has written a book on the on the nature of urban design with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, and it is currently in publication. Alex lives with his family in the Red Hook, Brooklyn, and he commutes by bicycle across the Brooklyn Bridge every day.

Lecture Title: IN PUBLIC urban designing nyc