From The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance


 RWA Visits Handel Architects


On November 7, a group of students in the Shore Corps Program at Rockaway Waterfront Alliance (RWA) took a trip to visit Handel Architects, an architecture, interior design, and planning firm founded in New York City in 1994. This trip was organized at the courtesy of Michael Arad, one of the lead architects at the firm, who led a similar tour with an RWA group back in 2012.

The high-school students in the program are learning about urban planning and architecture in New York City. With Program Assistant Daniel Borrero, the teens have explored urban planning and architectural history from ancient times through the modern era, and have explored a variety of urban planning projects currently taking shape in New York City. These included, for example, Mayor de Blasio’s Zoning for Quality and Affordability and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing initiatives, PlaNYC, Vision 42, and, close to home, the Far Rockaway Rezoning Plan. In small groups, the students researched these various initiatives, and discussed the effects they would have on neighborhoods.

The visit to Handel Architects bolstered the students’ urban planning knowledge. Arad is the designer of the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center. Before taking the group on a tour of the site, Arad explained his vision for the memorial: “It was very important to me that the Memorial be free and easily accessible to the public. I wanted it to feel like a public park. I remember after the attacks when I visited Washington Square Park at night, that a group of strangers had gathered around the fountain in solidarity and prayer. That is what New York City is about, the possibility for people to gather in public places to express their emotions and show their strength. I wanted my design to reflect that.”

Upon visiting the site, the students were able to see what he meant. The 9/11 Memorial is accessible from all sides for free. The students expressed their wonder at being able to visit such a proclaimed place in a way that felt natural. “We entered right from the street… I almost didn’t realize we were here!” expressed Farmata Dia, a student from Scholars’ Academy. That experience built on the ideas the students had discussed in class, such as the preservation of public space for community members and methods of integrating public projects with the surrounding streetscape.

Back at the office, the group was treated to a light lunch and a tour of the office. Some highlights included a discussion concerning the plans for a new high rise building in Long Island City, a sneak peek into the intricate 3D modeling computer work, and, everyone’s favorite, the 3D printing machines for physical models. At the end of the day, the group took a quick look around the Oculus transportation hub before heading back to Rockaway with new ideas in mind.

RWA would like to give a special thank you to Handel Architects, especially Michael Arad and Volunteer Group Coordinator Maria Mercedes, for making this trip possible.

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