Before we begin, you can still submit ideas to improve New York City in the By the City/For the City competition until this Sunday, May 8th.

I went to chat with Anne Guiney and Brendan Crain, executive director and program coordinator for the Institute for Urban Design in New York City to ask them more about IfUD’s ambitious project, By the City/For the City. As written previously, By the City/For the City is a two-part crowd-sourced competition asking New Yorkers to re-imagine their own city. What I discovered is that even the design portion, which will begin after current idea gathering phase, is an open call. They prefer submissions that are visual of course, but anybody can propose a design intervention. The ideas will be compiled into a book that will be distributed at the first ever, Urban Design Week this September and the 10 most provocative projects (as selected by a pre-eminent jury) will be recognized.

Anne is a firm believer that “everyone can answer” questions about the public realm and that “New Yorkers are really sophisticated” when it comes to urban design issues. She hopes that By the City/For the City can broaden the scope of issues for residents and designers, while making explicit the value of design-based thinking. And although a self-confessed newbie at social media, Anne intrinsically sees the potential of crowd-sourcing beyond its digital capacities. “The composite picture is much more valuable than the individual,” she says.

Brendan has been closely monitoring the ideas coming in. “As New York is so massive,” he says, “It probably comes as no surprise that the most popular categorization for the ideas submitted so far has been transportation (34% of all ideas–next most popular is  Green Space with just 22%). While many of these ideas have been focused on traditional concepts like expansion of the subway system or the addition of new bike lanes, we’ve had several great suggestions from people that push the boundaries of how we think about getting around.  Schemes for everything from  slides and  ziplines to  trebuchets and  hot air balloons have been proposed across the city.” Brendan thinks these ideas raise an interesting question: what if your commute could actually be fun? Something you looked forward to? Each suggestion presented on its own may be out there, but collectively, we can see a crowd-sourced sentiment emerge, potentially presenting an interesting challenge for designers (like you!).

So go ahead and tell By the City/For the City, wouldn’t it be great if…