Group Members | Urban Homesteading

group3_1Clockwise from bottom center: Wendy van Kessel, April De Simone, Alberto Salis, Gabrielle Andersen, Ferhat Topuz, Braden Crooks.

Alberto Salis

Alberto Salis was born and raised in Oristano, Italy. He achieved his undergraduate degree in Architecture and Construction Engineeringfrom UNIFE (University of Ferrara). Because an interest in broader urban themes developed in those years, after graduation, Salis decided to join the European Master in Urbanism, a participatory post-graduated program by universities- IUA Venice, TU Delft, KU Leuven, UPC Barcelona. Within the two-year program, Salis started to travel abroad, away from the Italian context, fulfilling his interest in exploring new different realities. In the last two years, his work assessed issues related to post-globalized urban environments, such as the Commons, food safety, r-urban strategies and sustainable connectivity.

Braden Crooks

Braden Crooks received his undergraduate degree in Landscape Architecture from The Pennsylvania State University. While there, he became a passionate urbanist, artist and student activist. After graduation, Braden continued to pursue community and environmental advocacy by founding Groundswell; A Community Environmental Rights Initiative. On November 8th, 2011, Groundswell passed a Community Environmental Bill of Rights banning Fracking by a popular vote in State College, PA  –the first successful popular vote on such an initiative in the country. As he continues his studies in New York, Braden plans to expand his work as an organizer, urbanist and thinker; catalyzing creative change in the world around him.

Joshua Barndt

Joshua Barndt is a professional community-based artist and curator with a specialization in mural making, documentary video, and sculptural installation. He completed his BFA in 2008 in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts at Concordia University in Montreal. As a community artist, Barndt coordinates participatory public art projects with youth and adults in under-served neighborhoods in Toronto. In 2011, Barndt was recognized for his exceptional work in this area, receiving the Toronto Arts Foundation’s first ever Artists for Community Engagement(ACE) Award. As an emerging curator, Barndt specializes in facilitating art projects that activate the public realm with a focus on the material (e.g., use of recycled materials), social (e.g., engagement of specific communities), and spatial and temporal contexts (e.g., site-specific interventions) of the urban environment. As the program director of Whippersnapper Gallery, a radical government funded emerging artist centre based in Toronto, Barndt has curated over 18 exhibits and public art projects. He has additionally played a key administrative role in multiple emerging arts organizations in Canada. These roles include; Co-Director of the Art Matters Festival 2008 (Montreal), Coordinator of Youth Week of Art and Activism 2009 (Toronto), and the Executive Producer of Late Night in the Bedroom from 2009-2010 (Toronto).

Gabrielle Andersen

Gabrielle Anderson received her undergrad BA in Environmental Design, Policy and Planning with a minor in Sustainability Studies from SUNY Stony Brook University. Born and raised on Long Island, she focused her work on “Brain Drain.” “Brain Drain” is a phenomenon prevalent on Long Island in which the “brains” (those aged 18-34) cannot afford to live where they grew up based on high taxes and are forced to leave and move some where more affordable, decreasing the growth and creating a loss in tax revenue which may lead to decreased public works which can lead to many other things. After graduating from Stony Brook University, Gabrielle worked with a non-profit organization, Sustainable Long Island. The focus of this non-profit is in several categories: Community Revitalization, Food Equity, Brownfield Redevelopment, Environmental Justice and Advocacy. During Gabrielle’s time at Sustianable LI, she focused on community revitalization, brownfield redevelopment and environmental justice. The culmination of these activities has since led her here to the MS in Design and Urban Ecologies at Parsons The New School for Design.

April De Simone

April De Simone has over 15 years of experience in productively launching and developing for-profit, non-profit and government projects. Ms. De Simone’s professional, volunteer and personal experiences enhance her effectiveness in targeting the most efficient frameworks that maximize the full potential of blended value impact initiatives.

Continuing to advocate for social innovation, Ms. De Simone launched, and currently chairs the New York Metro Chapter of the Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA). Since 1998, SEA continues to serve as the “go to” hub for a diverse pool of stakeholders committed to using progressive methodologies to promote social impact and change. With a network comprised of chapters across North America, SEA bridges in-depth resources and opportunities to a vast and growing network of dedicated entrepreneurs and organizations that demonstrate how social ventures are catalysts for change.

Ms. De Simone is also a founding partner of two social hybrid ventures launching in 2013 (kreatealamode & Access the Change). kreatealamode stems from a previous venture, Urban Starzz, and uses consumer lifestyle purchases to create economic, educational, and community growth. Access the Change focuses on engaging a wider community of stakeholders to define their place of value in the ecosystem of social innovation.

A graduate of New York University, Ms. De Simone has been recognized for her leadership and dedication in empowering individuals and communities and is actively involved in various boards, initiatives, and ventures that employ innovative capacities that scale social impact. Most recently, Ms. De Simone was nominated as a candidate for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Economic Council Initiative. In addition, she currently is a graduate candidate at The Parsons School of Design, Design and Urban Ecologies Program.

Wendy van Kessel

Wendy van Kessel grew up in a little town in the Netherlands, Langenboom. Her father is a farmer, so her roots are agricultural. After high school she moved to Eindhoven, to start studying architecture. Her interest in urban design started to evolve during an internship after she got her bachelor’s degree at the Eindhoven Technical University. Starting to think about the “higher-scale” and the definition and meaning of architecture within that scale made her interests grow in the influence of social, environmental and ecological factors. Therefore, she decided to start her graduation program in both architecture and urban design and planning. Currently, she is participating in the Atlantis Exchange Program, an exchange program that is part of her graduation program, allowing her to study at Parsons the New School for Design this semester (Spring 2013).

Ferhat Topuz

Ferhat Topuz is an architecture student from The Netherlands. He was born and raised in The Netherlands but his roots are in Turkey. His parents moved from Turkey to the Netherlands when they were about 15 years old. After high school, Ferhat started an undergraduate program in Rotterdam. During this period he moved to Antwerp in Belgium for an internship of six months in the Antwerps Architecten Atelier. After moving back to The Netherlands, he finished his undergraduate program and started his graduate program in architecture at the Technical University of Eindhoven. While studying in the program, he got interested in the influences of policy on the urban scale, especially the issues now in the Middle-East between Palestine and Israel, and decided to participate in the urban orientated exchange semester at Parsons The New School for Design.


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