Where can you attend a conference keynoted by architect Rem Koolhaas, sample locally brewed kombucha under a colorful canopy, take a flashlight tour of metal plates engraved by Italian masters, see Chinatown by bike, check out a new mural by Mary Heilmann, and leave with a rooftop garden ready for planting? The Festival of Ideas for the New City, a collaborative initiative announced today by the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the hundreds of downtown New York organizations that have signed on to participate.
“Three years ago, when we moved to the Bowery, we witnessed a dramatic transformation of this neighborhood,” said New Museum director Lisa Phillips at a press briefing held this morning at the institution’s SANAA-designed home (which somehow manages to look even cooler beneath a steady drizzle). Conversations between Museum staffers and neighboring organizations including the Architectural League, the Cooper Union, the Drawing Center, and Storefront for Art and Architecture soon developed into the two-year planning process for a festival that would, according to Phillips, “harness the power of the creative community to reimagine the city.”
Artists, writers, architects, engineers, designers, urban farmers, and the public are invited to take part in the free festival, which will run from May 4 through May 8 in locations around downtown Manhattan. Things kick off with a three-day slate of symposia, lectures, and workshops exploring “big ideas that change the course of a city.” In addition to Koolhaas, the organizers have secured computer scientist Jaron Lanier and Antanas Mockus, a former mayor of Bogotá, Columbia, to give keynote addresses. Other panelists include architect Elizabeth Diller, Urban Genome Project founder Pedro Reyes, and Pennsylvania politician John Fetterman, who was recently dubbed “Mayor of Rust” by The New York Times Magazine. “Interestingly enough, he’ll be driving here, which I think is kind of great,” said New Museum curator Richard Flood at today’s press briefing.