Below are a collection of greatest hits from past OHNY Weekends. By no means is it a complete summary of all the great experiences and activations produced during this annual festival, but it does address some of the major topics and tips covered in the Public Engagement Guide. We hope you find useful lessons and inspiration in this range of experiences and activations offered by OHNY partners through the years.
Brooklyn Navy Yard:
Building a Destination
The experience offered by the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2019 ticked many of the boxes for a great OHNY destination: it’s a normally closed site that opened its doors for the Weekend, it showcased the inner-workings of the city’s industry and infrastructure, and it offered a wide range of activations. The Yard coordinated with its tenant businesses and artists to open studios and factories, featuring more than 50 for open access exploration, reservation-only tours, and Factory Friday experiences. Visitors could choose to explore at their own pace, or attend more structured timed tours and workshops. The Yard also created a map and guide to help visitors navigate the labyrinthine complex, with staff and volunteers strategically positioned to help with wayfinding, and worked with on-site food purveyors, as well as bringing in food trucks and other pop-up vendors, to create a space for visitors to explore and recharge.
Behind the Scenes
While thousands of New Yorkers visit the Met Opera every year, this long-time OHNY partner has been very creative in considering how they can host the public in their behind-the-scenes areas during the Weekend. In 2016, the Met Opera offered guided tours of the costume collection, the set building shop, and the rehearsal rooms to showcase the people and process behind creating a world-class opera production. And of course, no visit would be complete without bringing visitors onto the stage, one of the most awe-inspiring experiences of the Weekend. The Met Opera is also well known in OHNY circles for their thoughtful and effective utilization of volunteers, making sure that they all get the chance to experience the same wonders as the visitors.
While most factory and production facilities offer reservation-only tours due to space and safety constraints, during several past Weekends the artist-run studio Brooklyn Glass has made use of their large facility and classroom space to offer an open access experience that walks visitors through the process of glass blowing and neon tube making. By setting up demonstration stations, visitors can walk through at their own pace, ask questions of the artisans, and see the full production process. Brooklyn Glass also opened their storefront to sell pieces crafted by the artisans the visitors had just met and engaged with.
How Do You Get to Westbeth?
Practice, Practice, Practice
Westbeth Artists Housing is an architectural and artistic landmark that has offered a variety of Weekend experiences to engage visitors. In 2019, visitors were able to explore the dramatic atrium of Richard Meier’s adaptive design and visit the dozens of artists that opened their studios for open access. Westbeth’s staff also offered guided tours, which they had rehearsed and honed since they first participated in the Weekend in 2016. The tours shared a thoughtful narrative of Westbeth’s history and architecture, were well-paced and made good use of space, and took visitors to areas of the building that even Westbeth residents can’t normally visit. Though this was a special OHNY Weekend experience, it gave the impression that Westbeth hosts these tours 365 days a year.
LILAC Preservation Project:
Interest to Engagement
A rare 19-year partner of OHNY, the US Coast Guard Cutter Lilac is the last surviving Coast Guard steam-powered lighthouse tender. This historic ship is run by dedicated volunteers, who share their interest in studying and maintaining an 89-year-old vessel, and that authentic enthusiasm and deep commitment is felt by visitors each year. Founder Mary Habstritt has remarked on the value of the engaging and surprising conversations she has had with visitors over the years, and some guests have even gone from OHNY participants to Lilac volunteers.
Nanotronics: Smart Factory Friday
Located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Nanotronics makes advanced optical inspection equipment used in the manufacturing of electronics—really high-tech stuff! Under the roof of their 1865 former machine shop is both R&D and their manufacturing line, where visitors on the first publicly offered tours of Nanotronics’ space in 2021 saw robotic CNC cutting machines at work and met the engineers, designers, and machinists that bring their products to life. The building itself is a great example of adaptive reuse, and the tours also brought in architects from ROGERSPARTNERS to highlight the office and factory modules they designed and built inside the “Smart Factory.”
Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant: Expert Insight
Revealing the city’s infrastructure is one of the founding goals of OHNY Weekend, but it’s not just about providing physical access, but expert insights from the people that make the city work. NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has hosted tours of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, and its striking “digester eggs,” led by DEP staffers, during many OHNY Weekends since 2009. Since they began participating in OHNY Weekend, DEP has gained skill and expertise in hosting the public, and has utilized that experience to craft special tours offered at other times of the year, including their wildly-popular Valentine’s Day tours.
TWA Flight Center:
Project in Progress
Over the course of a decade, OHNY Weekend visitors were able to witness this “project in process” as this modernist masterpiece was transformed from an abandoned airline terminal into a new hotel. Starting in 2012, the Flight Center hosted “first-look” walk-throughs with architects and Port Authority managers about the future plans for the building, which had ceased receiving passengers in 2001. In 2015, before construction began to repurpose the building into a hotel, these tours were some of the most popular events of the weekend, with thousands of people trekking out to JFK to not only view the building, but share memories, bring souvenirs from their TWA travels, and some even donning their TWA uniforms. In 2021, OHNY again hosted tours of the new hotel with Lubrano Ciavarra Architects.
Minetta Lane Residence:
Building a Home
Architect and contractor Adam Kushner has invited the public into his home on OHNY Weekend for nearly a decade, allowing visitors to see the progress of transforming this West Village townhouse into his “ideal urban home” for him and his family. Seeing projects go from design to construction to completion is a central feature of OHNY programming, but rarely have visitors been able to see this process so intimately, and in a private home rather than a large commercial or civic project. In 2020, with in-person visitation precluded by COVID, Kushner created a video tour that has served archival and promotional purposes and conducted a live Q&A over Zoom as a way to augment the virtual experience with direct visitor engagement.