“CITY OF the Future: A Design and Engineering Challenge” was a 2008 national competition sponsored by the History Channel, IBM, and Infiniti. The competition challenged eight invited teams of architects, landscape architects, and engineers in three metropolitan areas (Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Atlanta) to develop visions for their select city 100 years hence. The principal question: “What discoveries and infrastructures might come to define the American city in 2108?” Each team was given one week to work collaboratively on their vision and then install a threedimensional display of their work in three hours in a major public venue and before an esteemed jury. School of Architecture + Design faculty members, Laurel McSherry and Terry Surjan, and architect Galia Solomonoff, created a work, entitled ‘Janusian Projections,” that considered the role of Washington’s latent hydrologic conditions in future city building. Depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions and using the image of Janus, the Roman god of transitions and progressions, the face had the ability to simultaneously see into the past and into the future. Modern-day Janusian remnants include two popular namesakes: the month of January, and the caretaker of doors and halls: the janitor. The students’ vision for Washington, D.C. explored Janusian translations (region/locale, static/dynamic, above/ below, tension/compression) in the form of a proposed “J” Street. Legend maintains that the omission of J Street from the original city plan was to reduce redundancy and confusion owing to the similarity of the letters “I” and “J” in 18th century written English. Varying in width, depth, and program, their proposed ‘J Street’ –– a north/south tending civic landscape, or common ––reasserted the role of the D.C. citizen in local, national, and regional affairs. The City of the Future Competition coincided with the launch of the History Channel’s 13-episode series “Cities of the Underworld,” which examined foundational infrastructures (conceptual and actual) of some of the world’s most memorable cities. The Virginia Tech team’s public venue –– the rotunda of Washington’s Union Station –– was juried by both the public and an esteemed panel including David Childs (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill/ New York), Bradford Grant (School of Architecture and Design, Howard University), David Mongan (American Society of Civil Engineers), Harriet Tregoning (Washington, D.C. Office of Planning), and Jess Wendover (American Architecture Foundation’s Mayors’ Institute on City Design).
Contributors: Laurel McSherry and Terry Surjan