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Parsons School of Design Environmental Design projects taught by Jean McClintock Gardner

Identifier: PC-02-05-01


This small record group documents two New York City-based projects taught by Parsons School of Design professor Jean McClintock Gardner in the early 1970s. One project focused on the Southern Boulevard Redemption Area in the Bronx, the other on Union Square in Manhattan. These projects involved original research and urban rehabilitation design proposals by students in the Environmental Design Department (now the School of Constructed Environments).

Materials include a grant application, an audio recording, a press kit and publicity records, and student research in the form of data sets, interview summaries, design proposals, drafts and final reports, and maps.


  • 1972 - 1974



.1 Cubic Feet (11 folders)

1 Analog Recordings

Language of Materials


Scope and Content of Collection

The collection consists of documentation on two courses offered by the Environmental Design Department of Parsons School of Design during the early 1970s. Files on the Union Square Project are more comprehensive than the Southern Boulevard Redevelopment Project.

The bulk of the records pertain to urban planning research and proposals centered on the area of Union Square in the borough of Manhattan and a neighboring retail area along East 14th Street, a few blocks from Parsons School of Design's campus. Proposals include a rehabilitation of the Union Square subway station, rehabilitation of Union Square Park, and improvements to the facade of the flagship S. Klein department store (known informally as Klein's), one of the primary retail establishments bordering the park. Files include a reel-to-reel audio recording, quantitative data and interviews recorded by student observers, black and white photographs with captions of design proposals, drafts of student-authored reports, a publicity packet created by Parsons School of Design and newspaper clippings and neighborhood merchants' association newsletters.

The Southern Boulevard Redevelopment Project is documented by a grant application submitted to the United States Office of Education. The grant proposes an urban rehabilitation planning project for the neighborhood, where together with the community and planning boards, Parsons students would have reclaimed an abandoned lot and created a sustainable Environmental Education Center/Greenhouse. No student work is associated with this project.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from The New School Archives. Please contact:

Historical Note

The Environmental Design Department of Parsons School of Design grew out of the Interior Design Department, covering the disciplines of interior design, urban design, and product design. Under the chairmanship of Allen Tate, which began in 1970, the department focused on the study of "man's psychological, physical and aesthetic needs as they apply to the spaces in which he lives and works," according to contemporary catalog copy.

The Union Square Project was a 4-credit studio course open to third (final) year students and underwritten by a local department store, Klein's, whose now demolished flagship store bordered on Union Square Park. The course description in the 1972-1973 Parsons School of Design catalog begins, "This studio will study a community problem: the clarification of the 14th Street/Union Square subway complex and its above ground connections." 14th Street/Union Square is a transit hub with intersecting underground subway lines and above ground bus lines traveling along a major thoroughfare with numerous retail establishments. In addition to Klein's, other stakeholders included the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the McCrory Corporation, the 14th Street Association, and the Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies. The New School for Social Research's Center for New York City Affairs also supported the project.

The Southern Boulevard Redevelopment Area Environmental Project was offered during the Fall and Spring 1974-1975 semesters. The 1974-1975 course catalog describes the elective, open to second and third year students, as a United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW, now Department of Health and Human Services) financed project to "design an open space environment that includes a Greenhouse/Environmental Education Center." This project was based in the Hunt's Point neighborhood of the southern Bronx, an area that was economically devastated during the 1960s and 1970s. Southern Boulevard is a major thoroughfare.

Jean McClintock Gardner, the teacher of both these classes, is an activist, writer, teacher, and consultant on sustainable design issues. She began teaching in the Department of Interior Design at Parsons School of Design in 1968 and has taught at the school over almost all of the intervening years. In 2018, she is an associate professor of social-ecological history and design in the School of Constructed Environments. Gardner is author of Urban Wilderness: Nature In New York City (1988) and co-author, with Brian McGrath, of Cinemetrics: Architectural Drawing Today (2007).

Gardner received an AIA Committee on the Environment Award for her teaching and a special citation from the New York City Chapter of the AIA for her work as an urban ecologist, author, and educator in both the architectural field and in the public realm. Gardner was part of a team led by David Rockwell to commemorate 9/11. The group exhibited their project, "The Hall of Risk," a participatory center for conflict resolution, at the 2002 Venice Biennale. Gardner's current research focuses on design pedagogy and its relationship to the creation of present ecological problems, such as climate change. She has served on the jury of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, as well as organizing a conference on Water and Hydro-Fracking with the Baum Forum.

Organization and Arrangement

Arranged chronologically by project.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Jean McClintock Gardner, 2011.

Related Materials

Additional documentation on the Environmental Design Department in the early 1970s will be found in the David C. Levy records (PC.01.04.01). Color images of students working on the Union Square Project were used to illustrate the portfolio section 1973-1974 Parsons School of Design course catalog (PC.05.01.01). Photocopied documentation from Environmental Design student Kathy Madden will be found in the Parsons School of Design academic departments, programs and schools records (PC.02.01.01).

Jean McClintock Gardner discusses her career in an interview that forms part of the Michael Kalil oral history project (PC.07.01.05). Environmental Design alumna and Union Square Project participant Nancye Greene discusses her experiences at Parsons School of Design in an interview that forms part of the Parsons School of Design Dean's Office oral history project (PC.07.01.03).

Guide to the Parsons School of Design Environmental Design projects taught by Jean McClintock Gardner
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
April 5, 2018
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