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In the fall of 2008, Janette Kim and Kate Orff, co-directors of the Urban Landscape Lab at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), and Glen Cummings, founder of the graphic design firm MTWTF, began collaborating on research into different models of ecological interpretation.
One of the first steps was to develop a seminar for undergraduates at the Barnard and Columbia Colleges Architecture Program that used podcasts as a medium to read the political ecology of New York, along one of the city’s diverse spines: the 7 train. The 7 Line is a physical, urban transect through New York City’s most diverse collection of human ecosystems.  Affectionately called the International Express, the 7 line runs from Manhattan’s dense core, under the East River, and through a dispersed mixture of residences and parklands, terminating in downtown Flushing, Queens, the nation’s most ethnically diverse county. Click on the links below to play the podcasts through your browser or here to download the podcasts and listen during your next 7 train commute. Throughout the summer we will organize tours, publish new maps, podcasts and interviews, and expand to cellphone and social networking venues.
Listen to 12 current episodes below, download MP3 files, or download the M4A slideshow versions to watch in iTunes. From Flushing Station to 42nd Street, more germs ride the #7 line each day than people do in a year. Off the grid and hidden in plain sight, U Thant Island is made from the leftovers from the 7 line’s Steinway tunnel and is home to NYC’s cormorant population.
Back in the day Queens Bay was NYC’s raw bar, home of the largest oyster population on the East Coast.
The expansion of Manhattan’s East River parks mean a real estate boom for the indigenous East side squirrels.
From 5th Avenue to Times Square, the price of real estate is directly related to what size dog you keep.
Calvary Cemetery, one the largest urban necropolises in the nation, has an ecology and chemistry all its own.


New Yorkers have tried dozens of techniques, all unsuccessful, to control the population of the urban freeloaders otherwise known as Rock Doves. The urban chicken occupies two spots in Queen’s Corona Park, the egg-maker for suburban farmers and the heavy in backroom cock-fights.
This former ash dumping ground became the site of the 1964 World’s Fair, and is also the site of some fishy and fowl activities. Kate Orff is a registered landscape architect and an Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at Columbia GSAPP.
Thank you to Karen Fairbanks, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Professional Practice and Chair, Architecture at the Barnard and Columbia Colleges Architecture Program; and Gavin Browning, Programming Coordinator at Studio X. The views expressed here are those of the author only and do not reflect the position of Urban Omnibus editorial staff or the Architectural League of New York. Footer TextUrban Omnibus is the Architectural League's online publication dedicated to defining and enriching the culture of citymaking.
The pilot and development phase of Urban Omnibus was made possible by the Rockefeller Foundation.
Read below for their introduction to the project and a self-guided podcast tour from Times Square to Flushing.
These podcasts were created by students in a seminar on urban ecology at the Barnard and Columbia Colleges Architecture Program. We are working to initiate further dialogue with educators and community activists throughout the city. Interviews with John Mattera, Parks & Recreation Librarian, NYC Dept of Parks and Recreation and Dr.


A look at what goes in, what comes out, and what we should know about the dead in New York City.
Aquatic New Yorkers strap-hang in decommissioned cars which have been used to build reefs around Manhattan Island. Audio footage of Owen Taylor is from Leonard Lopate, December 21, 2006, and of Martin Edmund and Charlie Johnson from Cockfighters: The Interviews by Stephanie J. He is a partner at MTWTF (Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday) and a lecturer in design at Yale University School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut. She is principal of All of the Above and teaches at Barnard College and Columbia University GSAPP, where she is director of the Urban Landscape Lab. Ongoing support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, the membership and board of the Architectural League, and readers like you. Janette, Kate and Glen felt the need to suggest an alternative that treats the city and its complex ecosystems as a national park, challenging the preconceptions that divorce theories of environment and ecology from the experience of architecture and the built environment. By mapping the complexity, biodiversity, conflicts, and potentials of our urban ecosystems Safari 7 aims to unpack the role of architecture and the related disciplines in the construction of networks, spatial patterns, enclosures, grounds, rituals, and policies that are the city’s life support mechanism. Interviews with Donald Karatzas, Author of Jackson Heights: A Garden in the City, Ed Westley and anonymous residents.



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