City As Living Laboratory
A groundbreaking experiment with science learning through public art was undertaken through a collaboration between NewKnowledge.org, Mary Miss Studio, and the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities at Hunter College. The experimental science learning installation conceived by artist Mary Miss and a host of scientist advisors was called City as Living Lab for Sustainable Urban Design. The project was installed at Montefiore Park on New York’s Broadway between 137th and 138th Streets for three months in fall 2011 and was the subject of intensive study under the direction of psychologist John Fraser and the team now working at NewKnowledge.org
The installation was conceived as a test “hub” for exploring science interpretation about sustainability as part of the city experience. It achieved this by presenting facts that challenge what a more sustainable future might be, thereby eliciting public dialogue. The installation sought to research strategies for stimulating informal science learning on public streets. The project revealed new ways of considering the city as a democratic space that can encourage science learning and suggested new ways of considering how the general public reasons through the implications of emerging science data related to sustainable cities.
NewKnowledge.org is pleased to be collaborating with Mary Miss Studio and the CUNY institute for Sustainable Cities on the National Science Foundation funded City as a Living Lab for Sustainability in Urban Design
This innovative experiment joining public art and science turned the city itself into a living laboratory in which passers-by could actively explore New York’s relationship to the local environment. Read more
Rethinking Science Learning
Science learning is a lifetime endeavor, and for most people, very little of it occurs in the classroom. This project considered a more expansive view of how and where people engage with science learning. Read more
The Kit of Parts
The “kit of parts” arose out of a unique collaboration among scientists, artists, and urban designers. As passers-by entered Montefiore Park, they engaged in a dialogue with everyday street features as the city explained itself. Read more
The CaLL experiment asked about the role of public art as stimulus for science learning and increasing community engagement with the great environmental challenge of “greening” the 21st century city. Read more
The City as Living Laboratory experimental installation opened at Montefiore Park in New York City in September 2011 as part of the Institute for Urban Design’s annual Urban Design Week, and remained a public experience through December 2011.
The experiment at Montefiore Park grew out of an emerging understanding that concepts about urban sustainability might best be taught by the city itself. Throughout our lives, we learn about science in classrooms, science centers, and museums, but we also learn in informal, unplanned and unstructured ways as science concepts and learning present themselves in our daily lives. Cityscapes offer a tremendous opportunity to promote science learning. The Montefiore Park experiment allowed the streets and urban infrastructure to reveal technologies for urban sustainability in ways that were both democratic and accessible, and that sparked questions, dialogue, and ultimately, engagement.
CaLL, through its Kit of Parts that transformed a park into a science playground for all ages, gave a voice to the street, unveiling the hidden infrastructure that makes life in the city possible. It also laid the groundwork for thinking about how that infrastructure could be transformed in ways that bring the city and its citizens into a healthier relationship with the natural environment. CaLL was an opportunistic effort to test the hypothesis that engagement with public art in an everyday setting can increase science engagement by not simply transferring information to passers-by, but by stimulating learning and thinking about the local and larger communities they inhabit every day.
This research project was made possible through National Science Foundation grants # 1240641 and 1115217.
What Did the Art Community Think?
Niels Van Tomme, Curator, Critic and Director of Arts and Media, Provisions Learning Project
Eleanor Hartney, Art Critic
Tom Finkelpearl, Executive Director, The Queens Museum of Art
Patricia Phillips, Dean of Graduate Studies, Rhode Island School of Design