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How to cure a city of its self-esteem issues

How to cure a city of its self-esteem issues

November 1, 2017   |   Design Thinking, Experiential, Identity

You know someone like this: smarter and more attractive than they believe they are, a compelling personality you know could succeed if they could only shake the negative perceptions they have of themselves.

Poughkeepsie looks out on a glorious stretch of water, two architecturally beautiful bridges and an ancient mountain chain. It almost sounds like San Francisco, doesn’t it? It also has 300 plus years of history that include a stretch as New York’s capital, when this state ratified the US Constitution, beautiful little neighborhoods filled with pristine, historic houses, and a Main Street that, if revived, would rival any I’ve seen. Still, while Poughkeepsie often feels on the verge of a breakthrough, it’s trapped in the process of dusting off its backside and trying again.

The Upper Landing, a small stretch of land along the Hudson River and just under the Walkway Over the Hudson, is a fascinating property for many reasons, one being it is a microcosm of Poughkeepsie’s history. One of the earliest settlements in Dutchess County, the Upper Landing began as a mill site (begin in this case starts ten thousand or so years after the beginnings of Native American history there). It served as homestead, commercial dock, Revolutionary War depot and industrial hub. Throughout the 20th century, Central Hudson had power stations on the site (and still does).

But during that century, the Upper Landing was largely abandoned, and what was left of the property – originally more than 100 acres, now 2.7 – was filled with refuse, broken concrete, twisted rebar, and overgrown weeds.

The Dyson Foundation, which half a decade ago decided to fund an effort that resulted in Walkway Over the Hudson, saw the property as a perfect opportunity to continue their vision for waterfront revitalization along the Hudson. What looked like an industrial wasteland to most looked like a riverside park to them.

We couldn’t be more thankful for their vision. Our task was to help you know where to go (train station to the left, Walkway elevator straight ahead), to create an engaging walk through the park that told something of its history and pointed out interesting details of its environment, and to give the park an identity, because part of having good self esteem is knowing who you are. And in its latest incarnation, this property is Upper Landing Park. The gallery below shows examples of logo, signage, pavers, gate design, and a timeline wall.

Any job is made substantially easier with the support of a great organization and we have had no greater client in our ten-year history than the Dyson Foundation. Great and talented teams are also invaluable, and this project had that with: Tinkelman Architects, Eileen Travis (landscape architect), Mike Duffy (project manager) and Kirchhoff Construction. It was a pleasure working with all of them, combining our ideas, and seeing it happen.

Our hope is that in creating something beautiful, in reminding Poughkeepsie that it has both good looks and a history to be proud of, the city can recognize how much it has to offer and do the great things we know it can.